1. I take my Scrabble-playing seriously, and I’ve expressed my rage here before about the Scrabble Parliamentarians having dumbed down the game and devalued the “Z” and “Q” when they added QI and ZA (among other non-words) to the playable list. But I’m a rule-abiding guy, and I sucked it up, and moved on with learning the new words. But enough is enough, I think, with this latest rule change: Proper Nouns Come Into Play in Scrabble Rule Change. What?!?! How will this be judged or enforced? Answer: It won’t be. “Mattel said there would be no hard and fast rule over whether a proper noun was correct or not,” the article notes. “A spokeswoman for the company said the use of proper nouns would ‘add a new dimension’ to Scrabble and ‘introduce an element of popular culture into the game.'” Oh, sure. Right. That makes sense. I can’t wait to play MXQIGIJZN, which was the name of my next door neighbor when I lived in Kansas. You didn’t know him? Well, that’s too bad. He’s a legitimate proper noun, so that means I can play his name. Let’s see . . . two triple words, two double letters, plus a bingo, that’ll be 217 points. Next! That just seems really, incredibly stupid and insulting to me, fundamentally damaging the elegance of a proven, beautifully-designed game. Enough’s enough. Scrabble forward progress stops for me right now. I am officially a Scrabble Luddite. Ugh! (Double letter, double word, 18 points).
2. I lived in the Washington, DC suburbs in 1974 when the Washington Capitals hockey club took to the ice the first time. They were one of the southernmost National Hockey League (NHL) teams in the nation at that stage, and there wasn’t a whole lot of pent-up anticipation and interest in the sport as best I could see. But the marketeers of the day did a good job whipping up enthusiasm, including all sorts of promotions targeted toward school-aged kids, and they captured my attention and held it, and the Caps have been the one and only hockey team for which I’ve ever held a manly sports crush. Which has been even more futile than my life-long love of the Kansas City Royals, as the Caps have zero Stanley Cups, compared to the Royals’ one World Series title (now a quarter-century old). So I’ve been trying real hard not to notice how good the Caps are this year, what with having locked up home ice for the entire playoffs, with a franchise-record number of points, and still a few games left in hand. Last year around this time, I let my excitement get the better of me, and I gloated, and, well, a fortnight later, the Caps had gone home for the year, once again foiled by their post-season arch-nemeses, the Pittsburgh Penguins. And I knew it was my fault. So this year, I’m also trying really hard not to notice that the Caps actually swept the Pens in their regular season series. Swish swish, goes the little broom in my head, but I put it back in the broom closet after chastising it for its unacceptable presumptuousness. So this year, I’m not noticing anything about, nor expecting anything from the Caps. I’m just going to read this nice magazine now, and hope that someone will let me know if the Caps finally succeed in bringing home the Cup this year. Then I will gloat.
3. I posted a few days ago about my old wolfy buddy Jason Martin’s spectacular “Schenectady Song.” This week, he’s in The New Yorker, hanging out with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French first lady, watching a military poodle salute. Excellent! Siriusly!