Tuesday, December 13, 2005

...It's Some Sort of Metal [Explicit Lyrics Version]

Not a lot of baseball news right now, so I'm indulging in a little commentary [and for those of you who might be young or easily offended, I'm using some harsher-than-usual language].

A few months ago, I had a mini-argument about irony with my BP Editor, John Erhardt (if you're a fan of Baseball Prospectus's website, you should drop John an email; aside from writing the Week in Quotes feature, he's also one of the many people who keep the website running behind the scenes). John's a rigid adherent to the first dictionary definition of irony, which is purely verbal--"the use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning," as per dictionary.com. Folks usually (and somewhat inappropriately) just call that type of irony "sarcasm." When a DMV bureaucrat tells you that you've been standing on the wrong line for the past half hour, and you say "Thank you, you're so helpful," to them in response, that's irony.

I'm a big fan of the second dictionary definition, "incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs." For example, if Courtney Love got all over some other celebrity for having no control over their life, that's irony (heck, calling Courtney Love a celebrity might be irony as well).

[Stupid aside: The Alanis Morisette song, "Ironic," actually contains no examples of irony. That in itself could be ironic under either definition of irony: if Morisette knew that there was no irony in the song, and called it "Ironic" anyway, that could itself be irony; meanwhile, the fact that a song called "Ironic" contains no irony, is definitely ironic--since you'd expect just the opposite based on the title. You could just go 'round and 'round with this all day.]

Irony is murderers being released from jail because they admit that they intentionally killed their victims. In New York, this is actually happening, because of a common prosecutorial practice of charging killers under a variety of different theories of murder--in this case, second degree murder under both the intentional murder statute and the "depraved indifference" statute. Depraved indifference means that, rather than having the specific intent to kill someone, the killer acted in such a way that he should have known it would result in someone dying (the classic example is firing a gun into a crowd--you might not be trying to harm anyone specifically, but you're acting with indifference to the lives of the people in the crowd).

Some of the time, the juries returned guilty verdicts under the wrong section of the statute--i.e., claiming that a killer was "indifferent" when there was evidence he carefully planned his crime. Some wingnut in my profession has decided that it's not fair for a fellow to be in jail for killing recklessly when he actually intended to murder someone; and an appellate court has agreed with the said wingnut.

What a great day for civil liberties! (Yup, irony again.)

I can actually see this being a fair result--if the murderer (or rather his attorney) argued at trial that his actions were premeditated. But if they argued he didn't do it, how on earth can they now come back and not only claim the murderer did it, but did it intentionally?

A somewhat different ironic twist could be found this week, in the sad story of Lillo Brancato. The headlines have read "Sopranos Actor to be Charged with Murder," because that's a pretty nifty angle--makebelieve mobster commits real-life crime.

But irony is when you're discovered, as a 17-year-old unknown, to star in a film opposite Robert Deniro and Chaz Palminteri; when the film is all about growing up in the Bronx surrounded by mobsters and knuckleheads, and finding the good sense not to follow your friends to their violent deaths or imprisonments; and then somehow, a dozen years later, being such a fuckup that you're robbing a neighbor's house, with a fellow knucklehead, and you get caught in a gunfight between your accomplice and an off-duty police officer, and the officer winds up dead, after filling you with enough lead to put you in critical condition.

That's some irony. If Brancato ever gets off the critical list, he is now a cop-killer (it doesn't matter if he wasn't the one pulling the trigger). In other words, even if he survives, his life is over.

And if he dies, I hope that in Hell they have A Bronx Tale running on a continuous loop. Maybe, with enough viewings, the idea that "the saddest thing in life is wasted talent" might penetrate his thick fucking skull, and he might start to feel some fraction of the anguish he's caused the dead policeman's family. Or not.

Thus endeth the rant. I'm a little disappointed with myself about the language. I mean, I was able to show more restraint even as the Yanks were signing Tony Womack and Jaret Wright around this time last year. But this really pissed me off, and A Bronx Tale was a really good movie. Hopefully I'll be able to go another fifteen months or so without getting R-rated on you again.


A tale of two classic movie channels: Peter Jackson's "King Kong" comes out in theaters (to near-universal acclaim), and tonight, Turner Classic Movies plays the groundbreaking, 1933 Fay Wray "King Kong" in response. In response to that, over on American Movie Classics, they play the 1976 Jeff Bridges "King Kong." The two earlier movies are not in the same league with each other--the 30's version was a classic, while the 70's version is classic only in the sense that it's more than 25 years old. That, plus the fact that AMC has commercials, makes tonight's TV viewing easy pickings.


Chris said...

OK, my definition of irony is that in attempting to do something your efforts actually bring about the opposite result, or maybe just undermine the one you intended. Like when BK Kim emplys a rigorous throwing program which actually loses him 10mph off his fastball. Maybe there are multiple definitions.

Actually, here's a great example of irony: the New York Times breaks a major story about the preznit spying on the public, a major scoop that should cover them with glory... except that they sat on it for a year because the preznit's henchmen asked him to, and now by publishing the story the Times has made themselves look stupider and less responsible than ever. That's ironic.

Chris said...

BTW, I believe that when people substitute coincidence, sarcasm, hypocrisy, etc. for irony, it's appropriate to say that such things are "ironical".

DJ said...

It could also be irony when your team gives up Ben Julianel for Ron Villone, because they need a good, lefthanded reliever...I guess I should just get off my ass and post, shouldn't I?