Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Remember when "million dollar smile" was a figure of speech?

I volunteer in a homeless shelter, and plenty of the folks I see there have lousy teeth. It's no surprise. They're poor. Many live on the streets. They haven't always led the healthiest of lives. They've abused drugs. They've abused alcohol. Their diets may not be the greatest. They've been in prison. They've been in fights.

Some have no teeth at all.

One fellow - an older guy - has a terrible underbite, and, while most of his lower teeth are missing, he does have a set of protruding lower fangs. His condition can only be described as disfiguring, and I'm sure it has impacted every aspect of his life. On top of that, I suspect he's in pain. Having that degree of underbite can throw your entire body off.

I've never spoken with him. I've only seen him come through the foodline, where there's no time to chat with anyone. I suspect he grew up in a rural area (I'm thinking in the South), where there likely would have been poor or no access to dental care. I may be wrong (and I may be being judge-y) here. If he comes into the Resource Center, where there's often an opportnity for a convo, I might find out where he's from. (A lot of our guests like to chat.)

I thought of this fellow when I read about Thomas Connolly, DDS, who, from his offices in NYC (SoHo: think edgy) and Beverly Hills (think buckets o' money), outfits
his patients with "million dollar smiles." Literally.

Dubbed the "Father of Diamond Dentistry" by Rolling Stone - perhaps the only dentist to be dubbed anything by Rolling Stone - Connolly has a lot of well-known patients. 
[He] reconstructed Post Malone’s smile with 18 porcelain veneers, eight platinum crowns and two six-carat diamonds replacing the singer-songwriter’s upper canines. Just diamonds.

The total cost: $1.6 million. (Source: NY Times)
That was back in 2021, when diamond dentures weren't so much of a thing. Fast forward, and Connolly and his team "now perform diamond dentistry almost daily."

Post Malone is by no means the only big name patient Connolly's worked with. 
[He] has reconstructed the mouths of the rappers Gunna and Lil Yachty, the professional boxer Devin Haney, the baseball pitcher Marcus Stroman, the Hall of Fame basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and others.

Admittedly, I've never heard of Gunna or Devin Haney. But those other Connolly patients are big names. (Amazingly, I have heard of Lil Yachty.)

And then there's the biggest of the big names, even if the biggest of the big names is only a two-letter word.

Yes, Ye - once known as Kanye West - hired Connolly to create the "six-figure titanium structure" that Ye began showing off a short while back.

You don't have to pay a milion dollars to get in a Connolly chair:

Full diamond teeth range from $100,000 to $2 million, and porcelain veneers with diamond insets from $10,000 to $75,000.

I'm guessing those $100K diamond choppers aren't much higher in quality than cubic zirconium. But $100K is still a lot to pay for a set of teeth. 

And I'm not going to criticize veneers. A while back - a long while: maybe 20 years, maybe more - I got veneers for my front teeth, which were chipped so badly that the bonding my dentist kept trying never held. I can't recall what I paid, but it was a lot. ($7K for four sticks in my mind.) So $10K in 2024 for a veneer with a diamond inset doesn't sound outrageous pricewise.

But dental diamonds? 

Sorry, but that does strike me as outrageous. As does having a multi-million dollar mouth. 

I guess it's a logical extension of the gold grills that rappers started sporting nearly twenty years ago. And even variations on the gold grills theme have been around for, like, forever. Archaeologists have discovered Etruscan "golden dental appliances" from the seventh century BC. 

And those modern grills have been sporting diamond inlays for a while now. Full diamond teeth though, that's something new. 

I don't get it. But I'm not supposed to.

Connolly insists that:
“This is not a gimmick...We changed the profession a little bit and pioneered something that was catching on and made it a little more mainstream.”

I guess "a litle more mainstream" doesn't mean full-blown mainstream...And, of course, it will never become mainstream among us old fuddy-duddies, just happy to be hanging on to our own teeth.

But spending more than a million dollars on your mouth does seem cra.

Much as I'd like to, I'm not going to engage in the sophistry of arguing that the money could be better spent on, say, dental work for the fellow with the underbite and fangs. Rich folks, celebreties, can do whatever they want with their money. And if they want to keep Dr. Connolly and the engineers and jewelers he works with employed, so be it.

Still, I can't help but think of the guys I see day in, day out, who'd like to have a few good teeth in their heads.

Just sayin'...

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Art of Bankruptcy

Louise Blouin and her then-husband John MacBain made a fortune in the rather unglamorous classified ad biz. They started out in Montreal with a car listing publication, and took it from there. 

Where they took it to was New York City, where they decided that they wanted to get beyond the lucrative but pedestrian and rather déclassé world of selling classified ads. They wanted to run with the big dogs, the rich dogs, the art world dogs. 

So the couple invested $13.5 million in La Dune, a splosh place on Long Island, and started getting serious about the game of lifestyles of the rich and famous. This was back in the late 90's, when $13.5 million still seemed like a lot to pay for property, apparently enough to get you in with the rich and famous.
Soon enough, the MacBains were sending invitations to prominent figures, including the financier Stephen A. Schwarzman, the diplomat Henry Kissinger, [painter Ross] Bleckner and the fashion designer Calvin Klein.  (Source: NY Times)

And who doesn't like a free meal served up at a splosh house on Long Island? Thanks to their largesse, the MacBains became salon-istas.

But snobs are snobs, and Ross Bleckner - and I'm betting some of the illustrious others they tried swanning around with - were a bit snarky about the parvenu MacBains.

Mr. Bleckner noted that it was hard to say no to these luncheons and dinners, because Ms. Blouin would provide a list of five available dates.

"Me and Calvin would be hysterical, laughing about it,” Mr. Bleckner said. “How do you get out of five dates? What were we  to say — ‘I’m going away for the whole summer’?” 

Note to Mr. Bleckner (who claims to be a friend of long-standing to Ms. Blouin): look down your nose all you want at Louise Blouins unsophisticated, perhaps even crass, beginner's invites, but "me and Calvin?" Seriously, "me and Calvin?" Tsk, tsk.

The MacBains ended up splitting, but Louise Blouin went deep into the art world, getting involved with art aucitons, art consulting, art publications. She set up the Louise Blouin Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to creativity and the arts. 

Post divorce, Blouin became romantically and professionally involved with one Simon dePury, a Sotheby's alum setting up an art consultancy+. He admits he was enamored in part by her moola, but, like Mr. Bleckner, Mr. DePury had a bit of the snide in him.

“Her power and success, not to mention the Marie Antoinette splendor of her lifestyle, were aphrodisiacal,” he wrote

With friends like this...

Anyway, it was pretty heady stuff. All this hobnobbing - artists! machers! oligarchs! - and a "net worth [which] was once estimated by The Times of London to fall between those of Madonna and the Queen of England."

And then, all of a sudden, it was all arse over teakettle, and Louise Blouin found herself tumbled into bankruptcy court, ordered to get rid of her Long Island manor, site of so many of those Marie Antoinette-y parties.

La Dune, which sits on four acres along Gin Lane in Southampton, N.Y., comprises two grand houses, a sunken tennis court and two swimming pools. It has a combined 22,000 square feet of interior space, with 19 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms, a home cinema and two gyms.

The property had grown in value over the years, and Blouin had added to it, tearing down a modest guest cottage and building a new one that gave the main manse a run for its money.

Blouin was hoping La Dune would go for a figure well in excess of $100M. (A comparable property had just sold for $112M). You might be asking yourself why a property that was purchased in the lates 1990's for $13.5M would need to sell for an order of magnitude greater, but there was the tab for the guest cottage and other property improvements. 

Alas,Blouin had taken out mortgages on it to fund her art world ventures. So she owed a ton o' money.

The judge order her to take an offer of $89M - buyers sure can smell desperation - and she's now underwater on the property.

Given the opportunity to continue to dish, Bleckner had more to say about Louise Blouin:

 “She was fun, she was beautiful, she was a great hostess,” he said. “Of course, I never really understood where the money was coming from.”

Meow! 

 “I haven’t made many mistakes,” Louise Blouin said soon after her compound in the Hamptons was sold out from under her in a bankruptcy auction. “You can’t judge someone because they have an issue once in their life. I’m sure Steve Jobs didn’t have a perfect track record.”

Well, it doesn't sound like her issues were all of the "once in a lifetime" variety. A decade ago, an art publication she helmed was failing and she was sued by a couple of employees she stiffed. She lost the suit, but has only paid them ten percent of what they're entitled to. Blouin also lost a suit brought by a printing company she failed to pay. And the there's a teensy problem with the IRS.

Given her general attitude towards business, it's not all that surprising that Blouin has gone bankrupt:

“The arts, for me, is philanthropy,” Ms. Blouin continued. “It’s not a business. So that’s how I perceive it. It’s helping others. It’s philanthropy, helping others through the arts. How do you use the arts for the creative process? How you use the arts for neurology and the development of your senses and all these things? It was never a business.”

"It was never a business?" Tell that to your creditors and the IRS. 

We hear yet again from the talented Mr. Blackner, this time about Blouin's attitude towards money.  

“She never seemed to be stressed. There are people who can live with a crushing level of debt and it doesn’t seem to bother them, because they just keep borrowing other people’s money to make more money. But in this case, that didn’t happen.”

For her part, Blouin claims that she's been victimized by predatory lenders, et al.

“This story actually needs to be told,” she said, “not for me, but for others, because it’s becoming more of a sport involving people that make money and work hard for it and others that steal money and work less hard for it.”

I suppose you have to have (metaphorical) brass balls to forge your way to the upper echelons of the cut-throat NYC art world, not to mention the cut-throat social world of the Hamptons. And Louise Blouin seems to be endowed with quite a set of (metaphorical) brass balls. 

To hell with bankruptcy, her failed businesses, the IRS. 

“I am one of the most successful women in the world,” Ms. Blouin said. 

Is it me or does she sound like the Trump on the art world? 

Monday, April 22, 2024

When the rains come

Visiting Dubai is not on my bucket list. 

Too hot. Too politically repressive. Sure, women can vote and drive, but...You can go to jail for throwing an F-bomb. (WTF?) I believe that poppyseed bagels are outlawed. There's the weird indoor skiing thing. And what's with those artificial, palmtree-shaped islands in the harbor? 

So, I was never going to go to Dubai anyway.

Still, I occasionally cast an eye on what up in the Emirates, and was, thus, fascinated by the recent floods there. Talk about what up. 

We're used to flooding stories in the news in the US, in the news locally. Just last summer there were dire floods in Vermont, and in Leominster in Central Massachusetts. When we have major storms, especially in the winter, spots along the shore are frequently flooded. Waterfront Boston gets flooded, too.

But Dubai is in the desert.

Yes, I know that it does rain in the desert. After all, my sister Kath spends half the year in Tucson. (Just not the months when they get torrential rains.) But this rain in Dubai, well, was of stunningly biblical proportions. Seeing all those snorkeling cars, all those highways turned to rivers. Just plain weird. 

While meteorologists had, a few days earlier, predicted the heavy rains, and they do get some crazy storms, the magnitude was somewhat unusual. 

On average, the Arabian Peninsula receives a scant few of inches of rain a year, although scientists have found that a sizable chunk of that precipitation falls in infrequent but severe bursts, not as periodic showers.

U.A.E. officials said the 24-hour rain total on Tuesday was the country’s largest since records there began in 1949. But parts of the nation had experienced an earlier round of thunderstorms just last month. (Source: NY Times)

So why now?

Initial speculation was the cloud seeding - goosing the atmosphere to get a bit of rain to increase the water supply - had run amok. But that was quickly discounted. (Sort of discounted. But, anyway, seeding is not likely to have caused the big kahuna of a storm Dubai experienced last week.)

Then there's global warming, which is a maybe yes/maybe not so fast proposition:

In their latest assessment of climate research, scientists convened by the United Nations found there wasn’t enough data to have firm conclusions about rainfall trends in the Arabian Peninsula and how climate change was affecting them. The researchers said, however, that if global warming were to be allowed to continue worsening in the coming decades, extreme downpours in the region would quite likely become more intense and more frequent.
Then there's the fact that even though modern Dubai is a relatively recently designed and manufactured city, it wasn't built for floods. 

Cities in arid regions often aren’t designed to drain very effectively. In these areas, paved surfaces block rain from seeping into the earth below, forcing it into drainage systems that can easily become overwhelmed.

I'm about 100% unlikely to ever experience flooding in Dubai.

Still sort of fascinating to know that if I were planning a visit, I might want pack as if I were going to Venice in the rainy season, bringing along a raincoat that actually repels water (not all do) and a pair of rubber boots.

Who knew? 



Thursday, April 18, 2024

How sweet is this or what?

Okay. I wouldn't want to live next door to or across from Smith & Agli's Potbelly Manor, let alone live there. Frankly, it's an eyesore.
My house color palette is more subdued. I spent my early years in my grandmother's chocolate brown with yellowy-cream trim decker, and the rest of my childhood in a house that was charcoal gray with a yellow, and later red front door. My adult life has been spent in red brick buildings and, for the last 3+ decades, granite with (at present) a battle ship gray door.
I can't imagine living in a house painted a crazy (IMHO) color. 
I like a lot of stuff inside the house, but outside? I'm a keep it simple, keep it flora, kind of gal. The houses I've lived in all had grass, trees, bushes, and flowers. At Nanny's, we had a birdbath in the back yard; when we moved to our own house, we had a swingset, sandbox, and clothesline out back.
There was nothing in either frontyard other than grass, trees, bushes, and flowers.
My small condo building has a tiny "frontyard," with a Chinese dogwood, a bunch of plants, and a small bird bath/fountain. There's no backyard to speak of, but what's there, on the concrete slab, are plants, an outdoor settee and chairs, and a large bird bath/fountain.
I've never lived with statuary, objets - stuff - in the yard.
Of course, as a child, I wanted statuary, objets - stuff - in the yard. 
My favorite yard in the world was a couple of blocks away from the house of my Chicago grandmother's house. On our bi-ennial trips to Chicago, the first item on the agendance once we got settled in at Grandma's was to get my father to take us to the "Elf House." Its yard was full of elves/gnomes: sitting on swings in the trees, playing card games on toadstool tables, standing there smiling at us. Now this was a yard to die for!
But once I hit the age of aesthetic reason, my preference turned to nothing much in the frontyard, and what's there can be a riot of color if it's flowers, and subdued palette for anything else.
Which is not to say I'm not plenty enamored with Smith & Agli's Potbelly Manor.
First off, there's the color scheme, which looks like it should be located next door to or across the street from Barbie's Dreamhouse. Then there's all that glorious junk: "buoys, lobster traps, and nautical curios."
If this had been anywhere near me when I was a kid, I would have been perpetually pestering my father to walk or drive by so I could ogle it. 
But beyond the eye-popping color, beyond the frontyard riot, Smith & Agli's Potbelly Manor is "a nonprofit pig rescue dedicated to improving the lives of pigs and other farm animals in Rhode Island."
Owners Audrey Agli and Liz Smith put it plainly: They simply love pot-bellied pigs.

“They’re the smartest, most lovable animals,” Smith said.
“They really aim to please you,” Agli added. (Source:  Boston Globe)
While they're only housing a couple of them at the moment, over the years, Agli and Smith have cared for hundreds of potbellied pigs. Turns out that these porcine cuties "are the most throwaway animals."
One problem is their size. People buy them thinking that they're little cuties, - hypoallergenic! affectionate! litte guys! And then those potbelly pigs grow to somewhere between 50 o 150 pounds. 
Keeping the resident two potbelly pigs company are a couple of steers, a few goats, a llama, a bunch of pigeons, a dozen rabbits, ducks, and chickens, and eight cats. (No dogs? What are they thinking? I don't care how cute and affectionate those potbelly pigs are, they're not doggos! Sure, one of Smith and Agli's piggos is a therapy animal, but, let's face it, most dogs are therapy animals.)
But doggo quibble aside, how sweet is this story, how sweet is this house?
Agli and Smith are a couple of women of a certain age (my age or thereabouts, I suspect) who've spent the past 40 years together, and who are spending their golden, retirement years giving shelter to unwanted animals. (One of their steers was found wandering around Providence.)
Running Potbelly Manor isn't easy. It's pretty much a 24/7 operation that stays afloat with the help of donors and volunteers. You can virtually tour the place, meet the animals, and make a tax deductible donation here
What a sweet little story, what a sweet little purple house. When I was a kid, this would have been a house and yard to die for - especially if they'd added in a couple of card-playing gnomes.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Fake obituary pirates? These guys ought to be walking the plank

I am a long-time reader of obituaries. 

It's genetic.

I believe I inherited the obituary-reading gene from my father, an avid reader of  the "Irish sports pages," and I've taken up the cause. (Unlike my father, who was a regular wake and funeral goer, I don't attend one unless I knew the person or someone in their family really well. Other than the four years he spent in the Navy during WWII, my father's entire life happened in same neighborhood, and he knew a lot of people. Plus back in the day, wakes and funerals were more of a thing. I went to more as a kid than I do now, that's for sure.)

But I do read obituaries, and every once in a while I look in on the family undertaker, O'Connor Brothers in Worcester, which is located in the parish I grew up in, and where most parishioners "went out from." Over the years, O'Connor's remit has expanded beyond the mostly Irish-Americans they once took care of. (When we shopped for my mother's casket 20+ years ago now, there was an emerald green one on offer, with a shamrock emblazoned on the satin insert). Now I notice a lot of Vietnamese names, Greeks, Albanians, Hispanics. They take care of a lot of African-Americans, too. But they still do plenty of locals, so I've been able to inform my sibs when a neighbor has died. Of course, most of that generation is gone, so now it's us.

Thus, I was recently able to let my sister Trish know that one of her high school classmates had died at the age of 65.

On occasion, I graze through the obits on Athy's website, as well. I went to high school with one of the Athy's, and they seem to have cornered the market for the order of nuns I had throughout my schooling. Most of the retired nuns in "my" order live in a retirement community in Worcester, and once in a while I come upon some nun I had back in the day.S

Sometimes I google an obituary for someone I see mentioned on the news or on Twitter. And, of course, I read plenty of obituaries of prominent people in The Globe, The Times, The Washington Post. 

I'm the curious type. (Or it is nosy? Or is it morbid?)

Most obituaries, whether they were published in the local newspaper or on a funeral parlor's website, end up on Legacy.com, a long-time obituary aggregator. 

But of late I've noticed that there are a whole raft of sites that come up, rando sites that aren't the usual obit sources: funeral parlor, local newspaper, and Legacy.com. 

The one I've encountered most frequently is echovita, which is always "sad to announce" that someone has died. Sometimes they publish parts of the public obituary verbatim, but sometimes they freelance a bit. I read that they've listed someone's pets as "close friends" without bothering to say that they were her dogs. Another obituary claimed that a young person who died in an accident had been murdered. Spin off versions of that obituary embroidered the story, making the young person (a Georgetown undergrad) a famous actor or singer. There've also been obituaries written for folks who are still live.

Sometimes the click-bate obituaries overdramatize a situation - everything's a tragedy, whether there is anything tragic beyond the sadness of loved ones - and use quite florid language. Some of the ones I've seen sound like they're written by someone who's not fluent in English; some of the ones I've seen sound like they were written by a poorly skilled bot. Some are, in fact, written by AI. (Bad AI, not good AI.)

Families aren't happy when the obituaries they've lovingly crafted get bowlderized. Friends stumble across the crazy obits and end up confused. They may leave a condolcence note that the loved ones never end up seeing. 

Echovita and other online obit companies make money off of the sales of memorial trees, flowers, or candles. And by running ads on the obituary pages, whether the ads are something the decedent's family approves of or not.

The memorial trees, i.e., seedlings, do get planted, but I don't know how flowers or candles work. Maybe they just show a bouquet - kind of like an NFT - or a lit candle, to show that someone cares. The seedlings get planted mostly. Less scrupulous companies just pocket the cash.

One of the problems is that, when people opt to plant a tree, they're cannibalizing donations to a charity that the family has listed.

Anyway, it turns out the "obituary pirating" has become quite a thing:

Obituary pirating, where people scrape and republish obituaries from funeral homes and websites like Legacy.com, has been an ethically dubious business for years. Piracy websites are often skilled enough at search engine optimization to rise to the top of search results, and they use the resulting traffic to charge a premium for digital ads that appear next to text lifted wholesale from funeral homes, local newspapers, and other authorized obituary publishers. Occasionally, these pirate sites go a step further, manipulating bereaved people into buying sympathy gifts like candles or flowers and pocketing the money. (Source: Wired)

Some of the crazily concocted obituaries - they're "shoddy," they're "janky" - have begun showing up on YouTube, narrated by English speakers, Urdu speakers, other language speakers. Far afield from the territory beyond which anyone would be interested in the obituary of, say, someone who had grown up in the Main South neighborhood of Worcester.

And, in fact, there aren't a ton of viewers looking at any one of these "shoddy," "janky" video obituaries - often showing a narrator sitting in his home, showing "corny slideshows or candles and photos of the deceased surced from social media."

But it's a numbers game. It can be lucrative if there are enough views in the aggregate.

Despite their shoddiness, the obituary YouTube channels are sometimes amassing enough followers and views to meet YouTube’s Partner Program requirements and start making money off advertisements. 

These bogus obituaries are plenty distaseful and insensitive - I'd like to see these pirates walk the plank - but they're probably not illegal. 

They used to say "sex sells," but I guess "death sells," too.  

Me? My reading will stick to checking out O'Connor Brothers and Athy's to see who's checked out, and reading an occasional newspaper obit. 

Guess I'm just old fashioned that way. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ohtani's misinterpreter

Like every other baseball fan in America, I was hoping against hope tha phenom Shohei Ohtani, the 21st century's answer to Babe Ruth (Ohtani's a slugger who also pitches), would sign with my team. Alas, and not surprisingly, in December Ohtani inked a 10-year, $700M deal with the Dodgers. It makes sense. They're West Coast, closer to Ohtani's native Japan and in an area with richer Japanese culture than you'll find in Boston. And, unlike the Red Sox, the Dodgers are willing to spend the big bucks to get the players they want. (C.f., Mookie Betts. Sigh.)

I dislike the Dodgers almost as much as I despise the Yankees, so I'm hoping they never win a World Series. Still, you have to admire their desire to shoot for that particular moon - especially if you're a fan of the sort of team that refuses to play the money game. (C.f., Mookie Betts. Sigh.) The sort of team that refuses to play the money game, other than when it comes to raising ticket prices, which they've done the past couple of years despite last place finishes. 

But. I. Digress.

Ohtani has been much in the news of late.  There was the pre-signing speculation. The big buck contract. The first games of the season, featuring the Ohtani Dodgers, which were played in South Korea. (There's growing interest in baseball in both Asia and Europe, and MLB markets mightily in both regions to boost brand awareness and sell stuff. A lot of stuff. Ohtani, of course, tells a great story in Asia.)

But there's also a not so great story involving Ohtani.

In late March, word began drifting out that Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani's trusted interpreter and all-round sidekick, was involved in some major league improprieties of the gambling variety. While the Dodgers were off in Seoul playing the San Diego Padres:

...reporters began asking about suspicious wire transfers from Ohtani’s account that had surfaced in a federal investigation of an alleged bookmaker. Mizuhara never informed Ohtani what was happening, Ohtani later told reporters. (Source: NY Times)

Originally, there was great concern that Ohtani himself might have been involved in the gambling. Despite the fact that Major League Baseball seems just fine with gambling now that sports betting is legal - the betting sites do all sorts of advertising during games, and MLB makes oodles of money selling their data to the the tech outfits that work hand in glove with the online betting parlors (as do the other professional sports leagues) - athletes betting on games is strictly verboten. 

Over 100 years ago, the Chicago White Sox turned into the Chicago Black Sox when players were found to have thrown the 1919 World Series. And players aren't allowed to bet on games even if they're not playing in. Pete Rose, a Hall of Fame caliber player of near-yore, was banned from baseball and the Hall of Fame for betting on games he wasn't involved in. 

MLB so didn't want any whiff of gambling, any taint around showpiece player Shohei Ohtani, who the League (and the Dodgers) are banking on.

Fortunately, as it turns out, Ohtani had nothing to do with any gambling. All he's guilty of is getting duped by someone who was his main man, his go-to, his friend. And Ippei Mizuhara has, not surprisingly, been fired by the Dodgers (and likely unfriended by Ohtani on any social media). And (as of April 11th), Mizuhara has begun negotiating a plea deal.

Mizuhara was plenty slick and able to pretty easily take advantage of Ohtani's lack of English, lack of famliarity with America, and supreme focus on playing baseball. Mizuhara was allegedly "able to change the settings on Ohtani’s bank account so Ohtani would not receive alerts and confirmations about transactions."

And Mizuhara, as it turns out, is an all purpose liar, and not just a thief who siphoned $16M out of Ohtani's bank account to cover his gambling debts

While the team was still in Seoul, and just before the Dodgers dumped him, the Dodger brass had Mizuhara speak to the team.  

He told the team that he had a gambling addiction and was deep in debt, and that Ohtani, his close friend for years, had paid the debts.

While Ohtani doesn't speak (much) English, he understands enough to recognize that Mizuhara wasn't telling the truth. He confronted his interpreter, who confessed that he'd stolen the money. Mizuhara now been charged with bank fraud, and has a mighty combo of Feds -  the IRS criminal division, DHS, a California-basedUS Attorney - crawling up his ass. 

Thus the plea negotation.

The good news is that Shohei Ohtania was not involved and has not been gambling. And some quasi good news in that it doesn't appear that Mizuhara bet on baseball. 

Still, $16M is an awful lot of gambling debt.

And $16M is an awful lot of money not to notice seeping out of your bank account. I'm pretty sure that moving forward, given that Shohei Ohtani is worth an awful lot more money than he was when Ippei Mizuhara began robbing him blind, there will be a few new safeguards put in place to keep something like this from happening. 

As it happens, there's an interesting local side note. Mizuhara was originally brought into the big leagues by the Boston Red Sox who hired him to translate for Hideki Okajima, who pitched for the Sox and was a member of the 2007 team that won the World Series. (Ah, those were the days.) Mizuhara later returned to Japan, which is where he met up with Ohtani.

Meanwhile, I'm rooting for Ohtani to have a fine year, up until the post-season, when I hope the Dodgers do a playoff nosedive. I hope he doesn't let the crimes of his misinterpreter impact his game. 

Monday, April 15, 2024

Patriots' Day 2024

I have always loved Patriots' Day, and I can't say why any better than I did ten years ago when I wrote this post

A big part of my affection for Patriots' Day is that the Red Sox always play at home, and have an early (11 a.m.) start time. One of my favorite things to do is get tickets for that game, make my way out to Fenway - threading my way through growing Boston Marathon crowds and the security checkpoint (instituted post the 2013 terrorist bombing), seeing the wheelchair race leaders speeding through Kenore Square - and then making my way back home, fingers crossed after a good game.

Alas, good games have been in short supply of late in Red Sox Nation, and ownership is increasingly and royally pissing me and a whole raft of other lifers off. The final straw came when, after yet another sub .500, last place season, they had the colossal nerve to raise prices.

So getting Patriots' Day tickets this year was a big NFW. And I'm mad at the Red Sox for making this the case. (Thanks for nothing, Red Sox owner John Henry.)

Nonetheless, I hope it's a beautiful day for a ball game and the Marathon.

I'll work my shift at St. Francis House, then - as long as the weather is reasonably good - I'll wander around taking in the sights: the runners, the Swan Boats, the tourists, the buds on the trees. Maybe I'll even make myself a sausage-and-peppers sub to make up for not getting one at Fenway. Maybe I'll top it off with some Cracker Jack, maybe even a Sports Bar. (Sports Bars are a not particularly good waxy chocolate covered slab of vanilla ice cream. I'll indulge if I can find somewhere to buy a single bar. They're definitely not worth buying an entire boxfull, unless I can find someone to unload them off on.)

And somewhere along the line, I will celebrate by reciting one of the few poems I know by heart, Ralph Waldo Emerson's Concord Hymn, which commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which ignited the American Revolution. 

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.*

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.
Happy Patriots' Day to all who celebrate. (And my sympathies to those who don't.)


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*Obviously, the current bridge is a replica.