‘Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics’

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Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, September 23, 2018, 10:45 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I fell asleep with the TV on last night, which is not unusual, and it awakened me this morning, when I wanted to sleep longer, because, in a semi-conscious state, I got irritated.

Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

He wasn’t the first to say it. Twain credited it to Benjamin Disraeli. He said it enough times and was suitably famous to receive credit for it, even though he didn’t actually try to take the credit.

Mark Twain (Pixabay)

What got me ruminating were references to football games. In the third quarter, according to the glib promoters of ESPN SportsCenter, Oregon had a 99.3 percent chance of winning the Ducks’ game against Stanford.

Stanford won, of course.

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The recent hurricane that weakened its way through the Carolinas to the point where it was a breeze when its remnants tottered through here was described by prominent politicians repeatedly as “a thousand-year rain event.” By the way, I don’t mean to downplay the suffering experienced by more than a million fellow residents of the Carolinas. It was a devastating storm. The crawl across the bottom of the Fox News screen said that 500 million people were without power. How that storm cut the lights out on parts of India and Brazil is beyond me.

Three years ago, in the Midlands of this state, hardy citizens (no doubt subsisting on hearty soup) experienced “thousand-year flooding.”

The silver lining is that we must be good to go for the next 2,000 years, at least.

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It’s a statistic. It must be true.

I really prefer descriptions of the poetic beauty of sports – whether it’s a ball (football, baseball, basketball, golf, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, etc.), a race car or a hard right cross – to descriptions of algorithms and sabermetrics.

Some people are obsessed with such numerical puffery. Many of them play “fantasy sports.” Somewhere there are fantasy weather leagues, I expect. (“I’m deactivating the Tropic of Capricorn this weekend because I’m playing a hunch on the Indian Ocean.”)

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I love baseball, but I don’t have a clue what all the acronyms and initialisms mean. (Strictly speaking, an acronym must be pronounced as a word, but an initialism or an alphabetism is just a collection of letters derived from the first letters.) “Scuba” (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) is an acronym. AFL (American Football League, or, American Federation of Labor) is not.

Some are used because they are deemed acceptable by society and the actual words are not. People say “that’s B.S.” because “bullshit” is deemed as too harsh. Why? It’s not actually cursing, apparently. Some people apparently think it won’t bring with it a demerit from the Almighty.

“A sign from above … on the wings of a dove” (Pixabay)

God knows. He (or She, or an omniscient spirit that transcends gender, or It, which would not be popularly accepted) probably doesn’t care. Oh, He cares, I suppose. He gave us this wondrous occupation of the universe, and if it brings with it enough rope to hang, well, I expect He/She/It is justifiably preoccupied with Syria, suffering, sunlight and many words that do not begin with “S.”

In college, I was always an essay-question, not a multiple-choice or true-or-false, kind of guy. Hence, today, many years later, I write essays.

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If the sons of bitches (SOBs would, of course, be acceptable to a God with a lot less sense) would just let us know what the letters mean by using the full name on first reference, then I might care. As it is, I am frequently assaulted by the confusion of all the new lies, damned lies and statistics.

“But, don’t forget, Elroy, Smithers ranks higher in PQX, TLZ, and BADASS than Bumstead.”

Right. Gotcha.

Sometimes, on assignment, I ask what an ASPIRE grant is. Or a QUIKSTART program. What, pray tell, do the letters mean? Invariably, the people who have been talking about it for five minutes haven’t a clue.

“Let me get back to you on that.”

I expect some people who spout statistics don’t actually know what they mean. Me? At least I admit it.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

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What do jury duty, a broken tooth, a peanut butter shake and Lindsey Wilson have in common? Me!

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 20, 2018, 11:40 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

I had jury duty but wasn’t selected. Since every day, I put together arrest reports and talk to law enforcement officers about various crimes, I suppose this is hardly a surprise.

In this part of the state, Florence, which hit the Carolinas coast as a hurricane but staggered through here like a tottering drunk, luck was with us. My electricity didn’t ever go out.

Who ever broke a tooth while eating a soggy bowl of Raisin Bran? It happened while I was writing about a football game at 1 in the morning. My first thought was, I’m suing Kelloggs because there’s a human tooth in this box of cereal. Then I realized it was mine. Sorry, Kellogg’s. I only thought it for a few seconds. I’m not in pain. I don’t even bleed when I brush my teeth. It’ll be next week before my dentist tells me what has to be done about this.

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I had a checkup on Wednesday. I’ve lost 12 pounds. I felt about the same way about the scale that I did about the cereal, but I’m glad whatever I’m doing has worked. Sweaty football sidelines must have something to do with it. I celebrated on the way to Lake Greenwood (to shoot a video) by enjoying a peanut butter shake on the way. Thus have I probably lost 10 pounds now. I’ve never understood how a person can gain more weight than what a fattening food weighs. I don’t doubt the science. I accept climate change, too.

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West Nile Virus has appeared in the county at both ends, in the southern (“Southeast Quadrant”) end by a person and in the northern end by a dead bird. They’re spraying the pusher mosquitoes who spread the poison. West Nile cannot be spread by human contact, so I don’t have to worry about falling in love, which has happened as recently as a decade ago.

Tonight there’s a candidates’ forum for those who seek to join the school board in District 55. My plan is to stop off at Clinton Middle School, which is here in District 56, to shoot a few photos of the high school tennis match, on the way.

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I’ll miss the Presbyterian College football home opener because it conflicts with the NASCAR race in Richmond, which duty calls me to watch on TV. I’ll get another shot next Thursday night, when a school in Kentucky called Lindsey Wilson College plays the Blue Hose as a replacement for Stetson University. PC’s scheduled game with the Hatters was doffed by Florence the Rapidly Diminishing Storm last Saturday.

The opponent this Saturday night is Bluefield (Va.) College, which is across the state line from Bluefield State (W. Va.) College. The team venturing here is known as the Rams. The team arriving Thursday night is known as the Blue Raiders. Lindsey Wilson College is named after the late son of Catherine Wilson, whoever she was. The school has been around since 1903 and started requiring four years to graduate in 1986.

I hope Lindsey Wilson brings Blue Raider Bob. He’s the mascot, according to Wikipedia.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Who’ll Stop the Rain?

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 13, 2018, 1:55 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Florence is coming to town. In fact, it looks like it’s going through Florence (the city) on the way.

Not Florence Nightingale. Not Aunt Florence. They are both no longer with us. Hurricane Florence is very much alive, but I hope it’s on its deathbed by the time it reaches here.

It’s apparently going to go crazy near the end. The best “prediction” – hah, it wasn’t too long ago it was going to churn up through the Atlantic without hitting land – is that it will hit the North Carolina coast, catch its breath, hemorrhage energy as it staggers across the state line, turn inland (thus bringing havoc to its namesake), wrap around Columbia and totter just a bit west of here before returning to the Tarheel State via the mountains, and leave its crooked path of principal destruction in the Carolinas.

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I’m still hopeful it won’t be too bad. If it is, oh, well. Oh, hell.

I had a busy day doing the same thing over and over on Wednesday. Presbyterian College’s football game was first moved to Deland, Fla., home of its opponent, Stetson, and then canceled. Rather than switch location, the high schools switched days. Laurens District High School was first and most decisive. The Raiders’ game against Wade Hampton moved to tonight at 7. Laurens Academy announced it would remain on Friday. I spread the word on GoLaurens.com. Then I got an email asking me to delete this because now the Crusaders were thinking about switching to Friday. Then I got an email that they were going to move to Thursday at 7 p.m. Clinton High School stuck with Friday until about dusk on Wednesday, then moved to Thursday at 7:30.

Multiply this across golf, tennis, volleyball, cross country in varsity, junior varsity and middle schools, not to mention events of other kinds, businesses, classes, and God knows what else.

(Monte Dutton photo)

This meant, for a while, that I was writing about Laurens football tonight and Clinton tomorrow. This is no longer the case for I have the excellent excuse of being unable to be two places at once. It will be a busy night, though, and tomorrow night I won’t know what to do.

Georgia State is at Memphis. Hum, baby. Who am I kidding? The Red Sox are at home against the Mets. The Odd Couple is on TCM. The picture will be frozen on DirecTV.

Uh, don’t tell me … I’ve nothing to do. Then again, my walls have no flowers.

I’ve got new batteries in my flashlights. I hope that storm loses a lot of starch. I hope enough people hang around Clinton to keep the electricity running or restore it without much loss of contact with the outside world.

But I really can’t do that much about it. My house is on a hill. It’s not going to flood. A tornado? Uh, hope not. I hope my only exposure to the wind is hearing it howl.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Bumping Along in a Crazy World

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, September 6, 2018, 1:15 p.m.

By Monte Dutton

Not much of me has been literary in recent days.

Oh, there has been beauty in my world.

The Red Sox’ seven-run eighth-inning rally and Brandon Phillips’ ninth-inning home run against the Braves was, as Dennis Eckersley is fond of saying on TV, “a beautiful thing.”

Yesterday I shot a video on, of all things, football games while standing in front of Horseshoe Falls on the Enoree River. The games involved Laurens County teams, but that side of the river is either in Union or Spartanburg county. I’m not sure which. They come together right about there.

(Pixabay photo)

I just took a break to play my guitar. I’ve already edited several obituaries, advanced the Touchdown Club meeting and written a NASCAR column. I deserved to play Roger Miller songs for 15 minutes. “Dang Me.” “Kansas City Star.” That and figuring out a song by New Riders of the Purple Sage.

I reckon there’s probably some beauty in purple sage.

(Pixabay photo)

Last week I bought some new sneakers, so I didn’t have to make a decision about whether or not I was going to buy Nikes. I don’t have any to burn. I’ve just never had luck with Nikes. The last pair I liked were given me by a track coach nearly 40 years ago. They were silver and lavender. At that time, I wouldn’t have dared do anything but run in them. It’s obvious how long ago it was because I then ran.

But, you know, I might have just bought a pair of Nikes for the hell of it. I don’t have anything for or against Nike but the University of Oregon’s football uniforms.

That was not as fate would have it, and I like the Skechers.

Soon I’m going to buy a kind of camera that has probably, sometime, somewhere, somehow been used to take a photograph of Colin Kaepernick.

Bottom line: I’m buying a camera. I bought some shoes.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Don’t Even Try to Put All This Together

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Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, August 23, 2018, 10:11 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Two days ago, I ate at KFC for the first time since the horrible commercials started. I bought a three-piece, Original Recipe, Big Box Meal. It was all dark meat. I like white meat.

I deserved that.

Why do I hold silly commercials against restaurants where people work hard to make a modest living?

I’m still not quite ready to go to Sonic again. I feel badly about it.

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When I’m on assignment, I’ve grown fond of taking notes on small notepads. I think it’s because, early in the morning, I watch too many Columbo reruns. I use a pen instead of a pencil, though.

That Barney Rubble. What an actor.

The only baseball team in the big leagues that has not lost at least four games in a row during the season is the Boston Red Sox. Last night they clobbered the Indians at Fenway to stop the bleeding at three. The lead over the Yankees is nine again. All is well, at least until the getaway afternoon game today.

Monte Dutton photo

I won’t belabor this point because many people do not root for the Red Sox.

As you may have suspected, I do on account of my late father, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Bill Lee, Fred Lynn, Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Jim Lonborg, Dwight Evans, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Mike Timlin, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi.

At least.

One reason the Red Sox won last night was undoubtedly the fact that Yaz turned 79. Undoubtedly.

Here in town, it’s the Clinton-Laurens game. Up the road, it’s the Laurens-Clinton game. My policy is writing the home team last, so, this year, it’s the Laurens-Clinton game because it is at Wilder Stadium.

It’s Friday night.

Both teams made the playoffs but not much else last year. Neither looked like a juggernaut in preseason scrimmages.

For a night, it won’t matter. The old grounds will be packed. I played in this game when they were new grounds. Was that only yesterday, or was it 43 years ago?

It depends on how you measure.

 

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

Folks Are So Mad They Could Just Spit

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Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, August 5, 2018, 10:22 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

People seem habitually, chronically and incurably mad at one another.

They are divided into warring camps. My theory is that everything is slowly becoming a sport. My team is made up of incredibly gifted student-athletes who will follow up a national championship by huddling up to cure cancer. Your team, on the other hand, streamed across the Mexican border, bearing guns, knives and controlled substances.

If I do not understand, at least I know the subject matter. I have an exalted view of athletes who play at my alma maters. Alma mater. Mama. Many years as a journalist have taught me to root for the story, not the team, but I mostly keep myself and my academic mamas at a professional distance. At least I try.

I am incapable of loving a New York Yankee. A Yankee can only earn my grudging respect.

But politics is not sport, or, it didn’t used to be. The country has no middle. The blue has no baby in it. The red blazes. It never darkens into crimson or lightens into pink. No states are purple. They just crash into each other at the middle, the blue oil, the red water.

Social media aggravates the trend. In some ways, it’s freedom to the extreme. On Facebook, people regularly yell “fire!” in a crowded theater. Thankfully, it’s not a real theater. They post personal attacks that they would never make face-to-face. And even though we’ve ever met, they invite me to make a charitable donation for their birthdays, but that’s probably a mostly different set of people.

It’s not just sports. It’s not just politics. We should be so lucky.

To me, it’s a little ridiculous to rate things like food and beer, simply because people have different palates. One man’s perfect beer is another’s bucket of horse piss. If you don’t believe me, read the ratings.

Barbecue! I’m surprised there’s been no armed conflict for the land between Memphis and Kansas City.

Hot dogs! Sneakers! Wine! Weed! Choice! Life! Life of Choice! Choice of Life!

Social media is a great way to keep in touch. It’s a way to learn how people have changed and aspects of their personalities one didn’t recognize when they were allegedly close.

People like to look, and more and more don’t like to click.

I like Twitter better because there’s less room to be mean.

The Barrie Jarman Adventures (Gabe Whisnant photo)

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which is available for sale here.

(Steven Novak cover)

 

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.

A Perpetual Edge Inevitably Dulls

(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, 10:27 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

The world is in a haze, and it has nothing to do with the West being in flames.

The West is always in flames. It’s the figurative and literal reason for the haze. I have become inured to wildfires.

I’m inured to Russian interference, cops shooting the wrong guy, powerful men trading assistance for sexual favors, mass shootings, around-the-clock news and sports, and The Simpsons on TV somewhere.

Nothing surprises me except the strangeness of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries showing one Christmas movie after another in the middle of July. Hallmark must have gotten inured to replays of Columbo, Diagnosis: Murder and Monk.

Our current president has become so unpredictable, it’s predictable.

The summer haze is a short social-media video that keeps running over and over. Soccer players grimacing. Politicians screaming. Farmers Insurance knowing a thing or two because it’s seen a thing or two.

That’s my me, too movement. So many things matter that nothing matters.

Madness has become normal. If you don’t believe me, read your Facebook feed.

(Monte Dutton photo)

It’s hard to maintain passion because passion has become normal.

All of a sudden, little things mean a lot. Last night I was editing an obituary that had a small typo. The deceased reportedly once enjoyed riding around the county with her husband in their motorhome. Apparently they were as close to homebodies as travelers can be. I changed “county” to “country” and laughed for thirty seconds.

If the government put puppies and kitten in cages, no one would stand for it.

 

If you become a patron of mine, you’re supporting writing like this as well as my mostly NASCAR blogs at montedutton.com. If you’ve got a few bucks a month to spare, click here.

(Steven Novak cover)

Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.

The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.