Thursday, July 29, 2010

Behind my Twitter feud with @dylanohernandez

I've never been in a blood feud before. This is fun.

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@hankschulman) have been amused and/or annoyed with the barrage of insults between me and Dylan Hernandez, the Dodgers beat writer for the Los Angeles Times.

Some background: Dylan and I are good friends. He used to write for the San Jose Mercury News, and as soon as I met him I knew he was going places. He's a talented writer who speaks Japanese and Spanish, which naturally makes him an attractive commodity in the baseball-writing world. That the Times hired him when he was relatively young was no surprise.

I mentored Dylan some when he was at the Merc, answering a lot of questions about the job and guiding him when he asked. We've stayed good friends since he left the Bay Area.

As for the feud, it began when the Giants played the Dodgers in Los Angeles in April. I was eating a couple of Dodger Dogs in the press box before the game (shaddup!) and Dylan, as a lark, Tweeted a wise-ass comment about my eating habits. I Tweeted a wise-ass response. Dylan had just gotten onto Twitter while I already had more than 2,000 followers and noticed a spike in new followers after our little exchange. So he came to me and said, "Let's insult each other on Twitter all weekend so I can pick up more."

I thought he was kidding, but Dylan is a bulldog reporter and wouldn't stop. He kept Tweeting jokes about my food intake, and I had to respond with insults about his height (hey, we didn't have a referee to say, "No punches below the belt." Dylan started to enjoy the repartee and his rising Twitter base.

The thing has taken on a life of its own. Not only does Dylan maintain a steady barrage of fat jokes, his acolytes have taken up the cause. A few mornings ago, Dylan Tweeted, "I'm eating breakfast, or as @hankschulman calls it, "fifth dinner." The subject then turned to cake, and one of his followers wrote, "At @hankschulman's house, there is no such thing as a piece of cake. There is only whole cake." Another wrote, "@hankschulman is married? To a woman? I can't imagine cake gets through the front-door threshold in that house."

I howled out loud at the "whole cake" line. There really must be a bunch of folks in Twitterdom who think I weight three and a half bills. Truth is, I'm not as overweight as folks think, and Dylan is not the inebriate and life-hating nihilist that I have suggested in some of my Tweets.

Some folks are annoyed with the feud. One Tweeted that Dylan and I should get a room. Another said he was de-following me because the insultweets were cluttering his inbox. I'd like to think it adds a little spice to the Dodgers-Giants rivalry.

And I dare say I'm winning by the most objective standard -- Twitter followers.

@hankschulman 3,680
@dylanohernandez 2,213

Wrap that in a rasher of bacon and eat it, Dylan.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hide the women and children -- Mom now has email

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the first moon walk, or, for you nut jobs, the 41st anniversary of the day Neil Armstrong pretended to walk on the moon in a New Mexico sound stage.

It was highly appropriate, then, that today I watched my 77-year-old mother send her first-ever email, because I honestly thought I would pilot a rocket ship to Mars before this ever happened.

Some senior citizens embrace technology. Not at my parents' house. My mom and dad welcomed new technology like the clap. I had to buy their first CD player. If you visit my old room you can touch an actual working eight-track player. All my old tapes are still there, too. I guess my mom assumes I'll someday have an urge to listen to "Funktion at the Junction" again.

Anyway, there is this wonderful device called the Mailbug, which is sold by a South Bay company. It's a simple electronic device whose sole purpose is sending and delivery emails. It has a full keyboard, a small LED screen and a dial-up modem that connects to your phone. One recent morning, while I was drunk, I decided Mom should have a Mailbug, mainly so she could communicate with her grandchildren. They, of course, can respond through their iPod Touches or the laptops that their private school required my sister to buy.

It was a magnanimous gift on my part, for now I've provided Mom another medium she can use to complain how infrequently I call her.

I set it up today and showed her how to use this fairly foolproof device. There is no button on the Mailbug that can cause a hard drive to self-immolate, or worse, send my embarrassing baby photos to a distribution list of thousands. You can write an email, read an email and send an email, no pictures, just words.

I discovered a problem almost immediately. My mother has 2-inch fingernails, because you never know when you'll have to gouge the eyes out of a felon who barges into Edna's Hair Salon on Santa Monica Boulevard and demand that each septuagenarian hand over her lottery scratcher money.

Mom is as hunt-and-peck typist, and with her nails each peck sounded like a shotgun retort. That's not something I'll have to worry about much because, as she will tell you, I won't visit her enough to be bothered by her typing anyway.

She'll get the hang off it. She's a smart woman, though so technologically behind I imagine in the near future I will spend hours reminding her how to send an email that would take you or I 2 minutes to write. The bigger issue is what I have unleashed. All those complaints about her sore legs and indigestion and how she had to wait 40 minutes for the doctor and how it really might be a good idea if she took up driving again (God help us) now will be converted into binary zeroes and ones and sent through the ether, dropping into my and my sisters' inboxes as daily, or even hourly, nagmail.

Don't get me wrong. We love Mom, and ever since Dad passed 2 years ago she has gotten very lonely. We know we are all she has. I'd even love to set up a personal computer with a camera in her living room so she could enjoy video conferences with her grandchildren, but she'd be Miss Jane Pittman's age before she understood how to operate it.

Now that Mom has email, I can't wait for her to start getting spam. She'll be aghast the first time she pops open an email titled, "Enlarge your penis." She'll phone me and ask why somebody would send that to her. I'd explain the concept of spam. Then she'd hang up and forward it to me with a note asking if it was something I might be interested in.

God bless the Mailbug -- I think.

Friday, July 2, 2010

An old scribe's lament

As the great 19th century entertainer Lili Von Shtupp once sang, "I'm tired."

I'm wondering if I'm getting too old for this game. Yesterday, I rose at 5 a.m. after a few hours sleep and caught a flight to Denver. When I got to my hotel I had just enough time to order room service and take a half-hour nap before cabbing downtown to get a rental car and driving to Coors Field, where a long night's work was waiting after the Bengie Molina trade.

I was gassed. I really wanted to sidle up to a player who trusts me and say, "Look, I know you guys still have that amphetamine-laced coffee in the back. Howsabout you bring me a cup, and next time you commit an error I'll blame it on shoddy groundskeeping?" I got through the day, but it was tough, and I'm a little surprised my stuff in the paper today was as lucid as it was (shaddup!).

I'm in decent shape for 50 and a guy my size (shaddup Dylan Hernandez). I know I could stand to lose a few pounds and say "no" to the sexy siren song of a voluptuous buttermilk doughnut bar. As my friend Gonzo always used to say under his breath when he saw a real fatty, "Hey, mix in a salad once in a while."

As I was struggling to keep my eyes open in the press box 3 hours before game time, my competition bounded in. Andy flew in an hour before I did with just as little sleep but reported he had plenty of time for a workout in the hotel gym before he did a great phone interview with Bengie Molina, wrote a couple of blogs then came to the ballpark. He was still there when I left. If I had more energy, I might have strangled him and thrown his corpse into the humidor where they keep the baseballs.

Andy is a hell of a reporter, a terrific blogger and one of the funniest guys I know. He is also 15 years younger than I am. Sometimes at work I look at him and see the Energizer Bunny. Then I look in the mirror and see a lot of bags under my eyes and wonder how much longer I can do this.

Thing is, I love this job and can't imagine doing anything else. Well, that's a lie. If a casting director approached me and said, "You! You're the only man who can play Cameron Diaz's love interest in my next movie, and she gets naked A LOT," I'd turn in my Chronicle pass key so fast I might injure the security guy I threw it to. Other than that, there is nothing better than chronicling a team through a baseball season with all the attendant metaphors for life: the ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies plus all the free gum I snatch in the clubhouse. Please don't tell Murph.

In a tremendous gem of casting, John Sayles picked the great writer and documentarian Studs Turkel to play Hugh Fullerton in the baseball movie "Eight Men Out." In the film, Fullerton is the gumshoe reporter who breaks the story that the 1919 Chicago White Sox (or Black Sox) threw the World Series against Cincinnati for money.

I looked it up. Terkel was 76 years old when that movie was released in 1988. Maybe in those days a guy that old could be a baseball writer, but not now, not with the blogging and the Tweeting and the post-9/11 travel.

I do have something to shoot for. The great and wonderful Bob Stevens was the Chronicle's full-time Giants writer from the time they moved to California in 1958 through about 1978. That's 21 seasons. This is my 13th season as the Giants writer for the Chronicle. If I can hang in there for another eight, I'll catch Bob for longevity. He was a wonderful man, and I know what he would say from beyond if I did catch him: "You fat bastard. You think you're as good as I was?" No, not really. I'm sure he would be just as supportive to me in the afterlife as he was in real life. He was one of the nicest men I knew.

It's a lofty goal. My only fear is that when I achieve it I'll have to ask Miss Diaz to hold my arm up so I can accept the congratulatory handshakes.