What a Fantasy World

March 16, 2009


I would like to discuss a personal experience. I consider it personal experience, not in the sense that it was private or for that matter solitary event. In fact, we are dealing with quite the opposite here.

You might be thinking, “What are you getting at here Max? Why the pseudo-cryptic bullshit?” Which is, indeed, a fair enough question. But when you are dealing with the social wear-and-tear of being a fantasy baseball owner (which is what we are tackling here today) nothing is ever that straightforward or simple.

I have participated in fantasy baseball leagues for the last few years and I am not embarrassed to say that I buy into the stat-based hoopla. And I think I am pretty darn good at it. I make the right trades, I waive the excess baggage, and I pick up undervalued studs. I was born with a competitive streak and fantasy baseball is as good a place as any, on the Internet at least, to channel this type-A energy.

Like knitting, calligraphy, or actual baseball for that matter, fantasy baseball at its core is a hobby. But unlike more traditional hobbies, loved ones rarely care to hear about your fantasy baseball experience. I guess bringing up the fact that you snagged Carlos Delgado in the fourteenth round of your draft (oh how the once-mighty have slipped) isn’t considered an acceptable dinner conversation. Or pillow talk for that matter.
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Three world famous pastry chefs cooking up some hamantaschens for Purim 2008

I do not necessarily consider myself a religious Jew or even a celebratory kind of guy for that matter. But if I am picking and choosing my holidays with a discerning and skeptical eye, I think it is safe to say that Purim makes the cut. It is not a top five holiday (that exclusive list consists of Passover, Fourth of July, Yom Kippur, Guy Fawkes Day, and Festivus of course) but it still finds its way onto a top ten list.

Jews annually celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar (which is today’s date if you are one of those too-cool-for school non-conformists that shuns the efficiency of the Gregorian calendar and buys into that whole Hebrew calendar lunisolar thing).

The story itself, which is recorded in the Book of Esther, has the same basic narrative arc as many other classical Jewish texts – some wacko foreign hot-shot wants to destroy the Jews but the evil maniacal plan foiled and the Jews live to see another day. Yay underdogs! Yay miracles! Yay survival! And today Jews are supposed to go to synagogue, pray, and eat chow-down symbolic foods to celebrate avoiding annihilation and genocide.

And while the basic story doesn’t scream originality, the Purim account has a few out of the ordinary quirks that are worth mentioning:

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This American Baumgarten

March 6, 2009


Last May I attended the live This American Life episode, which was broadcast from New York to audiences in movie theaters across the country. It was a pleasant enough outing that included playing a riveting game Botticelli beforehand and ackowledging to myself that I sort of want to be Ira Glass. But ten months later the event was off my radar, until the recent release of the live event on DVD.

Unbeknownst to me,the TAL camera men were trying to get close up shots of me for the entire night. I guess that is what happens when you wear a red plaid shirts. That, or I just sat coincidentally in a seat that happened to be within the camera’s gaze.

Either way, I feel a tad-bit shafted if this is my fifteen minutes of fame and would prefer a do-over.

(I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague/Microsoft Paint guru Amy Asheroff for taking time out of her busy day as a 9-1-1 operator at a medical clinic in D.C. for inserting that snarky comment into the photo above.)

Weather, Revisited

March 3, 2009



When I first moved to New York, I was shocked at how frequently the weather was brought up in daily conversation. It didn’t matter if rain, snow, or even frogs were falling from the sky above; weather always seemed to be an “in-conversation.”

I didn’t get it. I considered weather-talk as the lowest common denominator of human interaction. I assumed that when you had nothing else to talk about, you resorted to weather. (“I think it’s supposed to snow next week,” “I blame this on global warming.” “I blame this on W. Bush.”)  

At the risk of resorting to sweeping generalizations, it seemed like everyone on this coast memorized the windchill factors and ten-day forecasts. Not because of an intellectual passion for climate science but this information was essential for all interpersonal functions.

I should note that I didn’t hold a disregard for weather in general. Just weather-talk. (I am an east-coast transplant. I am going to miserable during extreme weather cycles.) But instead of talking about humidity percentage, I figured my social interactions should be about more pressing topics such as Iraq, the economy, or  the evolution of my facial hair. That was the distinction between me and everyone else. Or so I thought

I subscribed to the “weather-conversation-is-fluff” school of thought from September 1, 2007 to March 2, 2009. The external circumstances concerning my conversion shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise to anyone that pays attention to the weather, which as I assume is the vast majority of New York’s 8 million residents.  

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An Appreciation of Shaqness

February 25, 2009

I officially became a Twitter-guy in early January for one reason and one reason alone. That is, to follow Shaquille O’Neal, or as he is known on Twitter, The_Real_Shaq. I use the word “follow” with a certain amount of reservation. I think “become friends with” is a more appropriate way to describe what I ideally wanted out of the situation. I didn’t specifically know what to expect out of a Twitter-happy N.B.A legend, but there was buzz, and I wanted in.

I can safely say I am thoroughly impressed with the mutually beneficial relationship that The Diesel and I have developed via Twitter. I get to keep up with Shaq’s whereabouts (Alcatraz, The LeBron James Party, the diner), and he gets to have the honor of a follower that goes by the alias EyBaumerAlright. The way I see it is a win-win situation for both parties involved.

For the record, Shaq has 169,409 followers but only follows 407 users — the lucky few include teammates Steve Nash, Lance Armstrong, and the Phoenix Suns stats guy. Maybe if this BeingBaumbastic post finds its way to Shaq, I could become #408.
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The Beauty of Uncertainty

February 23, 2009


After living in Brooklyn for 19-months, I plan on leaving New York for Los Angeles in less than ten days. There are many reasons for the big move, but this is neither the time nor the place to get into that. Since I made the decision, I have subjected myself to a string of headaches. In other words, I am still not sure that I made the right decision.

And because I need someone out there to find my disorienting emotional state somewhat amusing, I share with you my oscillating thought-process:

The anachronistic justification – I’m moving out West in the name of Manifest Destiny.

Resorting to clichés -Los Angeles isn’t even a real city; you have to drive everywhere.

Rational argument, part I – I got to move on with my life and seriously start thinking about grad-school; L.A. is the ideal place for this to happen.

Laziness gets the best of me – How does one even go about shipping boxes?

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Steroids Can be Funny

February 23, 2009

Not sure if this video just confirms or perhaps challenges the ridiculousness of the roiding A-Rod apocalypse. Regardless, it’s a pretty funny take on a saturated news story.

Just a thought a thought: maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for struggling journalists to take a literal cue from ESPN talking-head Tony Kornheiser and start their performance enhancing drug kick. And no, no, no, not cocaine or adderall but HGH. Try imagining the Jayson Blairs of the world juicing up in their free time. Like I said, steroids can be funny.

How Soon is Now?

February 20, 2009

Your BaumBastic author

The first Being Baumbastic post is not a cause for celebration. I consider it more of an explanation for the project itself.

I have never really felt inspired to write a personal blog. It’s not that I am against the blog-medium in general, and I am a big fan of internet-narcissism. (Check out my google-hits!)

I just never felt the need to have a personal blog. I can try to play the humble card and say ”I never thought my life was interesting enough to warrant a blog” but that’s not how it goes. My apathy somehow got the best of me and I never really felt inspired to start a blog.

But enough with that crippling spirit of indifference. I made a conscious decision to embrace the blogospehre. Or rather, circumstances decided to embrace me. I was recently laid off from the ole’ 9-5 and I got nothing but free time. As much as I love spending my days reading, streaming Netflix, contemplating grad-school, going on bike rides in sub-zero temperatures, and spending hours on that craigslist, I decided I need a new hobby. So here we are.

I will be completely honest with you. I haven’t really envisioned the blog’s specific theme yet. I am taking an elastic free-flowing approach and when I identify what works in terms of tone/theme, I will proceed accordingly.

For the record, I know exactly what I don’t want this blog to devolve into. That is, a journal that tracks my daily habits. (“Today I brushed my teeth five times and my gums started to bleed. God damn gums.”) Nor do I want to be that guy that just posts links to a variety of news stories and provides his two lines of personal commentary.  (Dow Jones Drops….. “Boooo Economy.”)

Maybe this is a somewhat obvious way to end post #1 one, but more to come. Think potential.