Movie Review: Anomalisa, The Animated Grappling of a Lost Soul

Anomalisa is a quirky little movie by Charlie Kaufman that many will feel borderline disturbed by and find easy to dismiss. The movie, entirely animated and at times to chilling effect, begins with a single voice speaking while the audience stares at a black screen. Immediately other voices join in to create a cacophony representing the internal world of Michael Stone, a writer flying to Cincinnati to give a keynote talk for a convention of telephone marketers.

With the basic plot now accounted for, the remaining action centers on following Michael’s urge to find emotional connection with women he seeks out including a former lover and two women attending his talk who have groupie-like feelings for him. Existing as a counter point to his experiences with these three woman are his wife and son who seem to annoy him at times for unexplained reasons.

The action, such as occurs, is frequently plodding. Sometimes it borders on excruciating. There is a reason over a minute of credits is taken up with the names of Kickstarter funders. Michael presents as dull as his resume. But the more we learn about what motivates him the quicker ennui turns into something resembling disgust.

We see a man who, while clearly lost if not disintegrating, seeks out women to supply him with feelings he cannot generate within himself. Rather than tending toward depression which would make sense, we observe Michael as more deeply disturbed. As a therapist I see someone who has an active need to connect but not the wherewithal to remember why he wants to.

Michael discovers 2 women attending his talk who are staying at the convention hotel. While both appear flirtatious, he makes Lisa the object of his affections. Her hotel roommate is more assured personally and sexually, but Michael is drawn to the shy, sacrificed, and awkward Lisa. We sense that he identifies with her insecurities as we witness him prey upon her vulnerabilities . The movie’s most tender scenes involve his seducing her. Here Michael reveals the most endearing aspects he possesses, even if he is cheating on his wife.

There is a problem with having an unsympathetic protagonist for any filmmaker. It takes a special person to invest their hard earned entertainment dollar trying to care about someone so fragmented that to be around him for more than minute takes fortitude. However I was captivated.

Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa”s writer director, has left me speechless with his creativity in writing such movies as Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Clearly the diffusion of identity and personality hold some special fascination for him.

The delemma for CK is creating enough buy in for the audience to ignore the urge to bolt because the lead character very struggle may cause us not care for his plight.

I had a similar tussle in what I consider the worst Coen Brother’s movie ever, Inside Llewyn Davis. Here is my review:

Any film maker willing to take the risk of not creating happy endings, has to be acknowledged for guts given the potential for the career ending impact of poor box office.

There is much creativity on display with the Kaufman’s psychological portrait. For example that Michael could buy his young son, who craves a gift from his father’s trip, an antique sex toy without there being overt malice or even a reason to call CPS demonstrates the almost psychotic range of his functioning. You have to trust me on this, but Michael is so out of it that there is a sweet innocence to this bizarre gift.

The creativity of the animation is ever-present. I noticed the sliver of reflection off of TV glass that was set near perpendicular relative to the audience. On a psychological level Michael exists in a particular kind of hell of not being able to sustain a coherent memory linked to the scraps of motivation that he does retain.

When Michael is finally able to pursuade Lisa into agreeing to runoff with him, he immediately undoes his success by being critical toward her.

And as someone who recognizes that the past, especial past traumas, has tremendous power to shape human behaviour and experience, Kaufman leaves no clues to base any theory of why Michael acts like he does.

In this way the audience can only be in the present with Michael without the advantage of being the omniscient observer, a common story telling device. Just as Michael cannot make sense of his predicament, so the audience likewise struggles. Ultimately Kaufman alludes to the existential, philosophical, and spiritual questions of human existence. Who are we if we are not our personality? What is one to do if has no explanation or narrative of who one is or what one is?

The least interesting parts of Michael’s character are the ones most recognized and prized by society. That is of being an influential writer and conference presenter.

Just as there are no easy clues for speculation the psychological origins of Michael’s problems with emotional connection, making the case for his plight being a spiritual emergence is equally difficult. Ahh existence.

When I left Anomalisa I had a very interesting hour long talk with a therapist friend. A talk in many ways more interesting than the movie itself. For that I will give Charlie Kaufman some credit. If an artist’s job is to make it their duty sometimes take the audience out of its comfort zone, Kaufman has succeeded.

My last observation is to say I would pay big money to be a fly on the wall of any therapy session Charlie Kaufman has with his therapist. What if Charlie Kaufman’s therapist was a giant fly a la Kafka? And then Charlie Kaufman made a movie about it? But don’t get me going, I think I’ll quit while I am ahead.

For more information about my psychotherapy practice go to:




Charming and Disarming: The Milk Carton Kids in concert 12/2/15 Uptown Theater Napa, Ca

My introduction to the Milk Carton Kids comes from their association with Sarah Jarosz. See my review of Ms Jarosz, a rising talent on guitar, banjo and vocals:

MCK are described as indie folk, possibly New Grass, a term I dislike but I suppose is better than Smooth Bluegrass. “Smooth” modifying any genre consigns it to the dust bin or its equivalent on any media I am using. Yet clever corporate entities have avoided this offensive category by using branding such as Unplugged via MTV and the Coffee House channel on Serious XM which to be fair are not true smooth versions of the originals. But I digress.

So with limited exposure to MCK’s performances, I was shocked to encounter a situation that reminded me of the old joke about going to a fight and watching a hockey game breakout. In this case just substitute “comedy” and “concert” and the transposition would be complete.

Making music for commerce is hard and comedy is perhaps even more difficult. To combine the two successfully puts one in a very small niche and I am not thinking of Victor Borge. No they are more akin to the fabulous New Zealand duo Flight of the Conchords. Both are groups are duos who seamlessly can riff comedically to the point where the music is almost feels like an afterthought.

It should come as no surprise that Prairie Home Companion, where MCK has guested, would be right up the Kid’s alley. Also aspects of their act have the sibling rivalry feel of the Smothers Brothers.

Although the Flight of the Conchords pair of Bret and Jamaine are proven sketch comedy masters as their HBO series amply demonstrates, the MCK’s act is actually, well, closer to Borge, in that Kid Joey Ryan has borscht belt timing at the ready any time the need calls.

One example: Mr Ryan quoted a statistics that in the last 10 years at least one person a year has been shot and killed by their dog while it has only happened once over the same time period with a cat. The difference between cats and the dogs is that the cat meant it. Ba-dahm-pa.

The easy back and forth between music and humor made me feel strangely taken care of. Like I was enveloped in a sea of good feelings that occasionally had a little bite, but no bile.

In a similar spirit as the yucks, the music was somehow relaxed even at its most fervent. At the end of each song I had the sensation of a pleasant aural state which not only lasted until the next song but also found way to build through the evening. Kind of the Napa equivalent of a well made 10 year old Cabernet with a lingering 60 second aftertaste.

Especially in their vocals Pattengale and Ryan projected emotion without ever straining. My concert companion noted they were reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel. I’d say this was especially try in the harmonies as the words were not particularly discernible.

Playing two guitars without changing their actual instruments even once (how often does that happen these days when any self respecting roadie wears out a pair of shoes weekly helping the artist pick up a different axe for every other song).  Pattengale is the show when it comes to playing. Just as Ryan has the comedic chops.

Pattengale must have the most active right hand this side of Nashville given that he eschews finger picking which is just about mandatory for the MCK’s musical tastes.

The evening ended with a cover of Roger Water’s and David Gilmour’s Wish You Were Here. Just lovely.

Milk Carton Kids are wholesome fun, but don’t be cynical and hold that against them. They even plugged the CD of their opening act, wunderkind guitarist Julian Lage, while not saying anything about their own Grammy nominated recorded work. Gotta like these Kids.

For information about my psychotherapy practice:

Welcome to The Psychology of Everything.

For long time readers as well as those who have found this site recently, welcome to The Psychology of Everything (

Formerly known as The Psychological Review of the Arts (, I felt the need to rename the site to more accurately reflect the evolution and content of my writing. I have chosen to rechristen the blog as “The Psychology Of Everything” with a whimsical nod to the Stephen Hawking biopic, “The Theory of Everything.”

The Psychological Review of the Arts came into being in January 2011 with a review of the Natalie Portman vehicle, “The Black Swan,” a disturbing character study of the human psyche under stress from multiple directions. Hence my original idea was to comment on psychological trends and motivations in movies and television.

Soon enough I began branching out by reviewing music. I listen mostly to Rock and Jazz, so these genres and concerts are the ones I comment on the most. Live theater has also come into play. As well as articles ranging from substance abuse, to topics of interest in psychology and mindfulness, even noticing the effects of age on Sf Giant’s pitcher Tim Lincecum’s flexibility and pitching motion which contributed to his subsequent decline.

I appreciate your joining me on this adventure. Feel free to ask questions or make comments as well as suggesting topics you would like to see addressed.

Writing a blog has some aspects in common with being a psychotherapist. While silences are important and need to be honored and understood, dialogue is what makes the whole process swing.

I welcome your comments.



In defense of “conscious uncoupling.”

Gwyneth Paltrow is in the celebrity news cycle again regarding her divorce from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. This time she is setting the record straight that she was not author of  the infamous term “conscious uncoupling.” She now credits the editor of her blog where she first made her divorce public.

But this time she is no longer backing away from the term as she first did after a hail of negativity following her initial announcement.

I haven’t formally cataloged the hew and cry over Conscious Uncoupling, but let me see if I can tap into why it became a furious object of derision.

  • Describing a divorce as a conscious uncoupling comes off as a little precious. Many people with complicated, angry, spiteful divorces might think, “I am barely surviving and these people sound as if they splitting up because they got a little bored with each other. Save your sympathy!”
  • In the court of public opinion celebraties often get a pass for all sorts of behaviour or else are judged twice as harsh. Here again envy could be at play. If someone can sound so civil about separating, shouldn’t they work harder at staying together?
  • Who does one root for in a conscious uncoupling? We are given no indication of who the bad guy is (let alone the bad actor, well maybe some have opinions on this topic). Judge Judy would lose all her ratings if she had to preside over cases like this.
  • For people from the East Coast there is a certain New Agey quality to the term that qualifies for a smug smack down. See The New Yorker March 26, 2014 for example of this line of attack.

And there in lies the rub. Whatever their shortcomings as human beings, their narcissism, their envied privilege, their function as repository and diversions for the public to gossip, speculate and, at times, live through their lives, Paltrow and Martin had a marriage that came to an end. We can make fun all we like, but 2 children are likely spending time between different homes.

True, struggling people won’t be sympathetic to various aspects of the money and class dressings that accompany a situation like this. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to be learned and possibly employed for the betterment of everyone.

As much as people think they know the personalities and lives of their idols, who are we kidding. Most of the time no one knows about the real intimacies and internal lives of even couples they are very close to. Do you really know what is said behind closed doors of your good friends or, say, even your brother and his spouse? I am not talking about the end stages of relationships where hurts compile so deeply and one or both parties lose all impulse control in a public and sad display.

No, I am talking about what the late psychologist and author Lilian Rubin referred to as “worlds of pain.” Just the everyday slights and misunderstandings that occur and eventually can begin to pile up in even the most seemingly together relationships. To borrow the title of an REM song sometimes, everybody hurts.

The difference in relationships that last is that commitment and love provide the couple the wherewithal to stop the the hurt piling upon pain. Or the discover such abilities in couples counseling in the best circumstances. Such couples have the skills innately or acquire them They are always using their skills for their own individual and couple benefit.

The way I feel about conscious uncoupling is that it feels like a worthy goal. Not every relationship lasts. 50% or so of marriages don’t last for all sorts of reasons. If being able to let go with dignity and respect in a relationship that was going to end wouldn’t that be a goal. Even when it hurt. If it were possible to honor what was once loving and sacred between two people, wouldn’t it be good acknowledge that feeling, sad as that may be.

I don’t mean to come across polyannaish. People have affairs, experience domestic abuse, suffer emotionally at the hands of one another. Sometimes the best we can do is to hold to the standard we wish the other could employ. Not an easy thing to do when a spouse’s attorney is turning up the heat.

My point is the spirit which animates a conscious uncoupling is a worthy goal. Even when it only takes one to fuck it up. If it is available to you get support. Get counseling form friends, clergy, or professionals. Practice. See what you can create and receive. Then move on.

Don’t let the derision of other’s keep you from finding the equanimity in agreeing to say goodbye as peaceably as one can. Elvis Costello sings a song written by Nick Lowe with a title that applies here. The song is, “What’s so Funny about Peace, Love and Understanding.” And I would add, “What’s so funny about Conscious Uncoupling” if I could add a verse.

For more information about my psychotherapy practice go to:

PS As luck and serendipity would have it just, after posting this article, I came across the latest social trend in break up management referred to as “Ghosting” although I amn sure this was covered by Paul Simon in “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

Drop a line if your are interested in my take.




Shuggie Otis: City Winery, Napa Ca 7/5/15- Review

Shuggie Otis 7/5/15 City Winery Napa.

Shuggie Otis 7/5/15 City Winery Napa.

Sometimes I get nostalgic for the experience of rock and roll of my youth. By this I mean the primal, tribal, lustful, anti-authoriterean, pure joy of early rock.

I’ll start by way of a negative example of what is not rock and roll and that is The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While understandable as an institutional way of recognizing some wonderful talents and careers, the R&R HOF is corporate and and has about as much soul as a Hard Rock Cafe.

Another example of the loss of rock spirit in Today’s world came up in conversation with a friend recently. We were in agreement that The Grateful Dead would never have made it today. It took them 4 or 5 albums before they were commercially successful. These days moneyed interests would never support such a gestational period.

So earlier today I was tour guiding some friends in Napa when we discovered ourselves in front of the old Napa Opera House, now a club run by City Winery. A sign announced that Shuggie Otis would be playing in a couple of hours. Instantly I became giddy for here was a moment of something spontaneous and potentially revelatory.

For those who don’t know, Shuggie was a wunderkind of the late 60’s and mid-70’s and who subsequently disappeared for years. At the height of his early powers he turned down a request to join the Rolling Stones on tour in 1970s. He played bass on Peaches en Regalia for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats album (most people don’t know that Peaches en Regalia was the theme song of Saturday Night Live in its earliest years, contributing a great coolness factor for this early SNL fan).

Plus he penned the hit smash Strawberry Letter 23 by the Brothers Johnson.

And then he just disappeared for the longest time. There have been the usual rumors that he became a drug casualty. In the mean time his stature has grown among  cognoscenti partly because of his hugely influential 1974 album Inspiration Information.

So with both intuition and trepidation, I purchased the least expensive seat and was immediately upgraded to the VIP section, because sales were so low. The rock and roll Gods were already smiling on me. But simultaneously I wondered if so few people were in attendance because Shuggie had morphed into a combination of contemporary casualties such as Brian Wilson, or much worse, Sly Stone. I was hoping he’d be more like Rodriguez, the wonderful American folkie who became the “Bob Dylan” of South Africa in the 1970s only to disappear from scene completely until rediscovered and resurrected decades later. See my review of the lovely documentary about Rodriguez called Searching For Sugarman.

But maybe for Shuggie, all he could do now is suck.

I am happy to report that Shuggie Otis and band were compelling while also giving pause because of the rawness and unrehearsed aspects of the show.

This blog, known as Psychological Review of  the Arts, means that plenty of quirky concert oddness must be noted. His idiosyncrasies just made Shuggie that much more endearing while capturing that original rock spirit. Actually it was much better than if he had just revealed himself to be still competent after all these years (with no apologies to Paul Simon). It gave something to chew on.

We see so many perfect concerts on Palladia these days. Most performers come across as skillful, charismatic and surrounded by very good supporting talent. In fact if one doesn’t possess these talents, one usually doesn’t make TV.

Quirky is a word I use to describe all the feelings I have for Shuggie inside (with no apologies to The Association).

He was surprising right out of the shoot. Whereas the opening act had an announcer on stage to introduce him, Shuggie wanders on stage to start his show with his mates with no audience build up. I have to feel he wanted it that way. No puffed up diva here!

The opening song sounded like the first sound check of the evening. Volumes and balances were off and Shuggie was struggling with equipment at his feet. With no explanation he stopped the show for a few minutes before the second song, getting things to his liking with help from the bassist. This is typically roadie territory and so more evidence of Shuggie doing it his way.

Still it was apparent from the first song and really for most of the concert that Shuggie didn’t particularly care to connect with audience. He slowly revealed enjoyment while performing, but his joy was personal and not particularly shared. His fragility again drew me in. It is not my business to diagnose people I have never talked to, but it felt a little Asperbergery.

This tour seems new as he announced a couple of tunes with key signatures for the benefit of the band. The last time I heard a musician speak of keys was at the end of the live recording of Fingertips Part 2 by Little Stevie Wonder.

Then at the end of the show Shuggie walks off stage for a minute. While the audience has almost finished its applause, he saunters across the stage without acknowledgement. It seemed he preferred the other side. Next he returns for a first encore just when the audience finished making noise rather than the de rigger building to a crescendo, which was possible even with the small crowd.

Strangeness continued. With the show seemingly over for 5 minutes, the bass player comes back onstage to retrieve some equipment and signals to the audience for applause which brings out Shuggie for the second encore.

There were a number of musical highlights. Shuggie’s music is disarming in how it sneaks up on you. For example what starts out as straight forward blues morphs into funk while still being true to the original idiom. Funk is a key to many songs. And then there are the stunning ballads. Shuggie’s guitar still wails even if it gets lost in the mix because unlike an Eric Clapton, Shuggie often eschews high register solos. Let’s hope the sound man can make a better contribution in the future.

At one point it just hit me that Prince did not miss out on taking whatever he could from Shuggie. Maybe Prince wound up where he did and Shuggie is where he is because while quirky is an acquired charm, charisma is instant bonding with the audience and sells the tickets.

Perhaps it is the therapist in me that is often drawn to the wounded birds of Rock. I root for the Brian Wilson’s of the world. I saw Brian a number of years ago at the Neal Young’s Bridge School concert. He had just returned to touring after many years underground. BW looks at all the kids on the stage in wheel chairs, the Bridge School being for children with very severe birth defects, and mumbles something about it being special for him to play before all these “crippled children.” Touching and a bit cringe worthy.

Being true to yourself and showing up to reveal flaws as well as incredible talent, that to me is rock and roll. Thanks for keeping it real Shuggie.

For information about my Psychotherapy Practice go to:






Review of Hand to God at Broadway’s Booth Theater 4/30/15

Hand to God is a spiffy, almost breezy, comedy in the tradition of Book of Mormon. That is, until it turns dark at the end.

Ordinarily this might be considered a blitzkrieg of a show ie popular with locals who will sustain it as long as they can, but for a tourist run who knows? The advertising in Times Square acknowledges as much. The billboard touts “No Stars and No London West End Run….pray for us.”

Thankfully the show is outrageous, irreverent and way over the top. It is keenly acted by an excellent 5 person ensemble led by Tony nominee Stephen Boyer. Boyer plays a duel roll as the timid son of a Sunday school teacher with an absolute kick ass alter ego in the form of his hand puppet named Tyrone.

Puppet Tyrone quickly comes to dominate any scene he is in. The audience quickly picks up that Tyrone is everything Boyer’s character Jason is not. With one glaring exception.

Otherwise where Jason is timid and painfully shy, Tyrone is dominant and a force of nature. From a psychological point of view Tyrone channels Jason’s id, ego and superego with insight and blazing ferocity. Tyrone comments on aspects on the musings of Jason’s psyche which the audience might only be dimly aware of. However the audience doesn’t stay dim for long as Tyrone pounds is commentary with increasingly brutal force.

It has been noted that one man’s comedy is another’s tragedy. In this case Jason has recently lost his father and Margery, Jason’s mother, is coping with life as a widow. Margery fends off the lecherous minister of her church. He has charged her with the impossible task of leading 3 adolescents into a church production whereby they make  hand puppets to act out scenes from the Bible. And act out they do. To the chagrin of teacher Margery, one student comes on to her while her giving the opportunity to act out herself. At times she uses her flairs her are as punchy as puppet Tyrone’s as when she calls out the  for example when she calls the minister out on his lame seductions by saying, “You are using the church to try to fuck me.”

But it is Tyrone who has the juiciest role. He gathers in strength and venomous observations. As Jason can’t own his own anguish and rage over the failings of his mother who tries to deal with her issues by imposing a false Up With People cheeriness on the children in her charge, Tyrone only becomes more incisive and able to call out the hypocrisy of everyone he observes. In the same spirit Margery has a moment where she perfectly zings her pestering preacher by charging, You are using the church to fuck me!”

In the climatic scene Jason is presented with a predicament not unlike Luke Skywalker fighting his father. As Darth Vader implores Luke to let his hatred flow unfettered and in so doing Luke watches his hand morph into a biomechanics facsimile of his father’s, so Jason realizes he is in a fight with tyrone for control of his own soul and identity.

Unlike Luke, Jason has not contemplated the hero’s journey a la Joseph Campbell. Jason is left with a dilemma. He can only rid himself of Tyrone if he can integrate Tyrone’s strength and power. However Tyrone has grown with rage unchecked. Jason cannot disavow Tyrone and retain Tyrone’s powers. He is left with the unsavory choice of besting Tyrone by destroying him. But the only way he can destroy Tyrone brings tragic consequences.

The clever writing asks the audience to accept the fate of each character.

Oh and the one exception where Tyrone and Jason mutual inexperience are actually in alignment. Let’s just say it involves hormone charged puppets doing what eventually comes naturally to them. New Yorkers and visitors see this show while they can and may Hand to God do well at the Tonys so it can stick around for the long run it deserves.


Downton Abbey Season 5

This being my 5th review of a season 1 episode of Downton Abbey, I’d like to give thanks for a few bits PBS got right.

First let’s hear it for keeping the preseason fawning to a minimum at least as far as hype immediately prior to the season opener. I love Laura Linney as much as the next person but at this stage of a hit shows theatrical release it is wise to avoid gilding the lily to death.

The sociological commentary on the life of the characters as representatives of their class roles was nicely inserted post episode.

People know the show and by now most people are only watching because they have been hooked, so any preamble explaining why we should like it would give regurgitation a good name.

The 5th season is a coin toss for many shows as to whether the will peak or if the fraying of plot becomes unmistakeable.  There is still room for Downton to find its downside slide even this season, but that would not be in evidence in this tight and compelling first episode.

The characters continue to evolve while wrestling with their given natures. Just when you feel Thomas is going to get his comeuppance for over playing his controlling sadistic streak he emerges victorious saving Lady Edith while involuntarily making sure that James’ goose is cooked. James is lucky in that he presumably won’t find out to what end he would owe Thomas for  aiding and abetting the consummated dalliance with an Upstairs Lady under Thomas’ watchful eye.

Lady Edith will again carry perhaps the most sympathetic theme of the year reaching out to her child born out of wedlock who is being raised by a local family. In true Downton form there is a also a whiff of infidelity being suggested between the custodial father and Edith.  Also present is the trademark Downton feature of a servant appearing at just the right moment to learn of something not intended for her consumption. In this case the redoubtable Mrs Hughes spies a ripple in the Force between Edith and the aforementioned  custodial father.

It is a testament to thew writers that a few short seasons ago I was ready to write off for being such a shit to sister Mary. And now waterworks appear to be looming as she tries for a relationship with her son in the days before open adoption.

Daisy, Mrs Patmore’s assistant who everyone seems to love, but whom I can barely understand through her mumbles, is fighting for an identity as an adult as well as a career for what we know will be the demise of this way of life that won’t last much longer. Her combo of humility and spunk must be why people root for her.

Bates and Anna after having been giving compelling stories in earlier seasons are trying to escape a dreadful subplot that has him trying to free himself of vestiges of the murder of Lord Gillingham’s valet. Nothing would make Thomas happier than to have that juicy little tidbit fall in his lap.

Carson seems to be enjoying something of a last hurrah. When it comes to protocol, he is in full command. He handles the slight of Lord Grantham being passed over to head a WWI remembrance committee with proper deference. We hope the potential romance with Mrs Hughes, alluded to last year, has legs. Mrs H is a favorite of ours because she is the epitome of decency.

Michele Dockery has made Lady Mary a fully realized character. We get her strengths and flaws. And isn’t that the point for all of us who have stayed with the show. The acting is at the level where the actors have succeeded in finding their character. Now we just depend on the seamless writing to keep the plot engines humming. With any luck the shark won’t be jumped any time soon.

Addendum to the Tim Lincecum story

Two days after my original post on Tim Lincecum of the SF Giants comes the following  story from the San Francisco Chronicle. As you will see, the gist of the story is that Lincecum is humbly accepting his role as the last pitcher to be called on out of the bullpen these days in the playoffs.

On the one hand this should not be remarkable. A cynical fan might observe, “Well for 17.5 million a year they can do with him whatever they wish! Why shouldn’t he have a good attitude?”

However ego and pride are the very attributes most players have either acquired via hard work and/or natural talent by the time they reach the big leagues. One could even make the case that ego and pride are the very qualities  that protects the player from the abyss of abject failure which lurks behind just one bad pitch or one misjudged fly ball.

In any event people relate to Lincecum as portrayed in this article because he is gracefully accepting his lot. Giant fans pull for his success because he is putting the team above his ego. In this day and age such a development is refreshing and grounding whenever one has the good fortune to encounter it.

For more information about my psychotherapy practice go to:

Tim Lincecum handling loss of spotlight with aplomb

By Ann Killion

    As Jake Peavy watches, Tim Lincecum works to stay sharp during a bullpen session Wednesday. Lincecum has not pitched in the 2014 playoffs and last appeared in a game Sept. 28. Photo: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press / AP

Photo: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press

As Jake Peavy watches, Tim Lincecum works to stay sharp during a bullpen session Wednesday. Lincecum has not pitched in the 2014 playoffs and last appeared in a game Sept. 28.


San Francisco Giants pitchers Madison Bumgarner, left, and Tim Lincecum stand in the outfield during a team workout Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, in Pittsburgh. Bumgarner gets the start against Pittsburgh Pirates’ Edinson Volquez in Wednesday night’s National League wild card baseball game in Pittsburgh.

ST. LOUIS — Sports can be so humbling.

One instant, you’re the most important player on a team. And then, suddenly, you’re not.

How athletes handle that fall in status is one of the fascinating things to watch in sports. Their humbling happens publicly, in the spotlight’s unforgiving glare. Some pout. Rage against the fates. Blame managers, media, teammates.

And others handle their demotion with grace. Sometimes the toughest moments reveal the strongest character.

We’ve seen it in the Bay Area. Alex Smith handled the loss of his starting job with the 49ers with more poise than most of us could imagine mustering. In 2010, Barry Zitowas left off the postseason roster, worked tirelessly to be ready in case he was needed, and was redeemed in 2012.

This year, it’s Tim Lincecum’s turn. In five postseason games, he hasn’t been used. One of the most popular Giants in history, one who personified the team’s championship run, has become an afterthought.

But he displays no bitterness. No anger.

“I’ve got to do my best to be a good teammate,” Lincecum said. “What these guys have been able to do is pretty special. Not to be a part of it didn’t really take any skin off my back. Because everyone did something good, something special and we won.

“That’s the ultimate goal.”

Winning pitcher, Tim Lincecum is lifted up on teammates shoulders as the Giants celebrate on the field after winning the final game of the World Series.The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.  Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle

Winning pitcher, Tim Lincecum is lifted up on teammates shoulders as the Giants celebrate on the field after winning the final game of the World Series.The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers 3-1 in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.

Manager Bruce Bochy said he wants to get Lincecum in a game. Bochy said he’s comfortable using him in long relief, to get a big out or in extra innings. But it’s clear Lincecum has become the last option out of the bullpen.

“He’s been handling it great,” said Ryan Vogelsong, who went through his own demotion from starter to long reliever when he pitched for Pittsburgh. “It can’t be easy at all. It’s a much different scale than it was for me because I didn’t have the success he’s had. In that situation, it’s hard to feel like you have a purpose.”

Lincecum has found a purpose: to be a good teammate.

“I just try to be myself, to keep the mood light,” Lincecum said. “Obviously, it’s under tense circumstances. We’ve got to remember the game is fun, and that along with the grind, we can celebrate our small accomplishments.”

Lincecum learned something from the way Zito handled himself in 2010.

“He was so composed, and showed a lot of character,” Lincecum said. “I could see what that meant to everybody. This is a huge time to be a good teammate. There’s a lot of emphasis on energy. You need to keep morale up.”


Lincecum is observing this postseason from a very different perspective: not just from a seat in the bullpen, but through the lens of experience. Now 30, this is his eighth season in the majors, his third postseason. He and Matt Cain are the old men now, watching rookies like Joe Panik and Hunter Strickland.

“It’s fun to watch the young guys shine,” Lincecum said. “It’s surreal, because you look back on what you did at a young age and these guys are doing it on an even bigger stage. And it’s hard not to be proud.”

Lincecum laughed at his words.

“I mean I’m not their dad or anything, kind of more a brotherly way,” he said. “Yeah, I’m the wise old man. I’m still learning.”

The last game Lincecum started in the postseason was Game4 of the NLCS in St.Louis in 2012. He gave up six hits and four runs that night in an 8-3 loss.

“I didn’t have a good one. I was all over the place,” he said. “They whacked me around early and I didn’t last very far. I put us in a big hole again, but we dug ourselves out again.”

Lincecum was terrific coming out of the bullpen in that postseason, pitching 41/3 innings in relief to get a win in Cincinnati in the NL Division Series and adding two masterful

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Regarding the decline of Tim Lincecum, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants

Yikes! A quick check of Wikipedia shows Tim Lincecum turned 30 this year. At the risk of sounding an old coot, how did that happen?

Properly speaking I should be analyzing Lincecum from the perspective of a sports psychologist and I will get to that but I want to start with a physical observation.

Timmy’s moniker of Freak, has everything to do the with the lithe, slight body that needed to bend the rules of physics to generate the torque which created the unhittable pitches he delivered early in his career.

As is noted frequently by San Francisco Giants announcer Mike Krukow, Lincecum has the stride toward the plate that someone 6 feet 6 inches would typically generate. And this for a guy I guess breaks the tape at 5’10”. Freak indeed.

His fondness for weed creates a secondary meaning for those going back to the 60’s when many smokers called themselves ‘freaks.’ Clearly an antiquated concept regarding pot’s status in the country these days

But I digress. My insight into the ravages of age and its possible correlation with Timmy’s  losing 4 feet off his fast ball has to do with his vaunted flexibility. A couple of years ago I noticed something in his follow through. Upon entering the majors Lincecum finished his pitch with  a leg kick that appeared to extend a foot literally above his head. Today from my same TV set the foot finishes that much below his head. The entire pitching motion remains unchanged so the actual positioning of his foot is easy to escape notice.

Others may have picked up on this but I have never read about it anywhere. So there it is, my case for a key metric that I will say accounts for his diminishing results.

As for the psychological piece I feel Lincecum has been ill served in a way a by his ability to still finish off hitters. That is, this has been the case over the last several years as well as earlier this season when it became obvious he would be lit up even in the minors. But for God’s sake this is the same guy who looked like Robert DeNiro on L-dopa in the movie Awakenings for 4 weeks in the middle of the season. After all he did chuck his second no hitter during this belle epoch.

However like an alcoholic, who after a layoff, has a drink and doesn’t go completely to pieces, this resurgence reinforced in Lincecum’s mind that he still had it.

If he could throw a no-hitter as well as make a reasonable number of hitters swing at balls in the dirt, there is no need to channel Greg Maddux and remake himself into a finesse pitcher. Heck use the picture of Maddux someone hung in his locker for motivation as a dart board.

Timmy’s downfall at this stage of his career is the legacy of his unorthodox delivery crafted by his pitching coach father. It was designed to bring blaze a fastball off of which he could throw a split, curve or change up. But without the 94+mph fastball, the other pitches became mortal for Tim and, alas, not his opponents.

Lincecum has around $17.5 million due next year. If there is a graceful way for he and the Giants to come to terms with the cruel realities I wish them well in finding it and let Timmy go out holding his head high. We all deserve to see that.

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What’s up with MSNBC Chris Hayes and his new “voice.”

Has anyone else noticed the strange change in the speaking style and voice of Chris Hayes?

This week I was startled to hear All In with Chris Hayes sounding like the  the eponymous host had been taken to the woodshed by the powers that be at MSNBC.

Gone were the good natured antics and speaking patterns of Mr Hayes that have been his trademark over a fairly meteoric rise up the news cast pantheon from talking head, to featured guest, to occasional substitute host, to “Jesus how did I get my own show!”

I suspect many listeners to cable news form their impressions of the hosts based on how much they agree with the host’s politics. Or even how willing they are to let form the basis of their water cooler discussions the next day (if that isn’t a too 20th century reference) be shaped by said host.

Rachael Maddow may be catnip to a liberal and nails on chalkboard (another 20th centuryism) to those who fancy Fox News.

This is not totally true as for whatever reason Ed Schultz vocalizations remind me of Rush Limbaugh.

For whatever reason some producer thought Chris Hayes was too puerile to be taken seriously. It is almost painful to watch him accede to a producer’s notion of what gravitas is supposed to sound like. I mean for Christ sake, Chris Matthews can “heh” all he wants, no one is telling him to knock it off.

I imagine Chris H. as having formed his on air persona and style from a fairly straight forward playbook. My fantasy is that young Chris developed a fair amount of self confidence and by the time he made it to the big time he had confirmed a combination of adages. Something like a cross between, “Be true to yourself” and “Go with what got you here.”

It’s as if he was told to repudiate his “Chris” persona in order to become a serious anchor person. The current version does not work for me. Maybe he will get better.

Good help us if audience research and polling formed the basis of this metamorphosis.

To Chris I say, Fight the Power (guess I am hopelessly routed in the last century for my cultural references in this blog segment), stick it to the man, and go back to being who you were. Don’t conform, you were alright as you were. It ain’t gonna work if you try to be someone else!

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