The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Friday, October 31, 2003

I've made a few changes to the blogroll. I removed two sitesCooped Up and a mad tea-party—that have fallen, shall we say, into desuetude. (There's a good legal term for you.) Jeff Cooper is taking an understandable and laudable break from blogging to attend to family matters. I don't know what's up with a mad tea-party; I do know that I miss getting a steady dose of alice's wit. You can be sure that I'll happily restore the sites to the blogroll when/if they become active again.

I've added two sites that I've enjoyed for a long time. In fact, I should've added these sites ages ago. Cronaca, which I've frequently linked, is kept by an art historian with an interest in archeology. It's always entertaining. SCOTUSblog is the premier site devoted to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a Supreme Court junkie, I often hang out there. If you have any interest in the Supreme Court, you should hang out there, too.

Last week, the Friday Five took a hiatus from me. This week, I'm taking a hiatus from it: The questions, which all relate to Halloween, are just too dumb. And my answers—which would primarily be "no" and "I can't possibly be expected to remember that"—would be dumb, too. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Consider yourself spared.
As a result of an early loss by Juan Carlos Ferrero in this week's Paris Masters, Andy Roddick will be the new No. 1 tennis player when the new rankings are published next week. This should just add to the excitement in the men's game as the season-ending tournament approaches. Both Roddick and Ferrero are well-positioned to end the year as the world's top player.

Isn't it nice, by the way, to have a battle for No. 1 that truly makes sense? Maybe the women's tour will take note.

Roddick is a mere 21, but we've recently seen some younger men at the top of the men's rankings: Both Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin were younger when they first reached the top spot.

The New York Times asked several celebrities to describe a technology or gadget that they'd like to see developed (heads up via PVRblog). Of special interest to me, Martina Navratilova asked for some technology to replace tennis's poorly-sighted linespersons. We're close to having that now, I think, so maybe she should've wished for bigger things. But perhaps not as big as Moby, whose response struck me as particularly odd. Or particularly naïve. He asked for a safe, non-addictive recreational drug. Maybe I just refuse to be a visionary, but if this new recreational drug were all that, how would we keep from becoming psychologically addicted to it?

I was particularly amused by the Times's bylines for the celebs:

  • Moby is a musician.
  • Martina Navratilova is a tennis professional.
  • Margaret Cho is an actress and comedian.

    Does the Times think readers who didn't know stuff like that would actually be reading the piece? Odd.

    Happy Halloween!

    Thursday, October 30, 2003

    Southern California Brush Fires is covering the terrible story in pictures. This one is downright haunting; it's so beautiful that I started to feel guilty about enjoying it.
    Not much that's bloggable has come to my attention this week. Or maybe I'm just in a mood. Oh, well, here's two things:

  • Seventeenth-century condoms will be traveling from the U.K. to a Dutch sex exhibition called "100,000 Years of Sex" (link via Cronaca). The condoms—the world's oldest—are made of animal and fish intestines.

  • Alex Tabarrok is looking forward to the day when genetically-engineered superathletes will compete. How depressing! And don't get me started on Tabarrok's view that the "new concertos written for 12 fingered pianists will be glorious."

    Given a choice, I think I'd rather travel back in time to the days of the fish-intestine condoms than live in Tabarrok's 12-fingered future.

  • Tuesday, October 28, 2003

    I worked late tonight, so this will have to be a light blogging night. Fortunately(?), there's not much on my mind:

    1.) I enjoyed these maps showing per capita ethnic identification across the country (and, specifically, in Minnesota, if you're interested) (link via LYD's mini-blog). In this one, you'll notice the concentration of persons of Czech ancestry in a handful of Oklahoma counties. In fact, if you head to Prague, Oklahoma (we pronounce it PRAY-gue), you can find yourself some yummy kolaches. (By the way, if you're interested in the topic, I highly recommend The Czechs in Oklahoma—one in a series of books exploring Oklahoma's ethnic diversity.)

    2.) I planned to write something tonight in response to Slate's piece on the Treasury Department's marketing campaign for the new $20 bills. Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution beat me to it, though, and he said pretty much what I would've. If—like me—you're slow enough, and your thoughts aren't all that original, someone else is always bound to do your blogging for you....

    Monday, October 27, 2003

    I can't believe I'm actually younger than Ty Pennington from TLC's Trading Spaces (news link via Reality Blurred). This is either good for my ego or very, very bad. I'll have to let you know.
    How about some Monday photoblog pic picks?

  • Top cat de Fotografia, Eulina Rego, Crocante: This cat seems to have a grandfatherly sort of wisdom. I'm still allergic, though.

  • Untitled (dohyo), Jeff Laitila, Sushicam: The pomp and circumstance of sumo is beautiful.

  • a rainy day, michael singer, a visual notebook: I'm fascinated by water on pavement. Isn't everybody?

  • Untitled (carnival man), Herman Horsten, Wereldkeuken: As far as I'm concerned, this photograph perfectly captures some kind of contrast between the carnival and the people who work there.

  • Fairy Forest Mushrooms, Thomas L., Anu Rautalin: I didn't realize mushrooms looked like this anywhere in the real world. This picture also seems to evoke autumn, of course. And in that vein, Happy Halloween Week, everybody!
  • Sunday, October 26, 2003

    I'm jealous. When I was in law school, the most exotic locations I visited for interviews were Austin, Tex.; Springfield, Mo.; and Philadelphia (yawn). Waddling Thunder, though, gets to visit London. And while he's there, he eats well, too. Check out the yummy details at WT's spinoff, The Waddling Kitchen.

    By the way, there wasn't much interesting cheese in Springfield. Sigh.

    It's slippery-rail season for those of us who take the train to work. Today's Philadelphia Inquirer explains how a few leaves can really foul up a commute. Here's hoping the "traction gel" used by my commuter line will do some good.
    If you grew up when I did, you have to like a site like The Feathered-Back Hair Site, huh? Because it combines several of my favorite things, this page devoted to Debralee Scott (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) especially appeals to me.
    Are you interested in commissioning a piece of new music? If so, Meet the Composer has a brochure for you. It's called An Individual's Guide to Commissioning Music, and it's available at MTC's website in small, downloadable pieces. I was particularly interested in this part of the booklet, which indicates that I can expect to pay $14-66,000 for the concerto for tuba that I've been pondering (really!) for awhile. I better start saving up, I guess.
    Is this cool or what? Bambino's Curse: Diary of a Red Sox Fan, an entertaining and well-written blog, allows the viewer to choose among seven different page designs. My particular favorites are this one, this one, and that one.

    Saturday, October 25, 2003

    Woo hoo (part 2)! I'm still No. 1 when you search for a shirtless Handy Andy Kane. Many, many fans of Handy Andy have arrived at the Garden in the past year, all apparently hoping to see the Changing Rooms' cheeky carpenter getting some sun. Sadly, though, I still have nothing to offer them but text.

    Andy? Can't you help me out?

    Woo hoo! My alma mater (or one of 'em, anyway), Bowling Green State University, just defeated No. 14 Northern Illinois University, 34-18, in college football. Best of all, I was able to watch a BGSU football game on TV for the first time in ages. (I had forgotten just how gray the sky can be in northwest Ohio.) If there's any justice, BGSU ought to be ranked, oh, about No. 15 in next week's polls. They were ranked No. 23 in one last week.

    I've enjoyed this college football season more than most. Most of that stems, of course, from the fact that the University of Oklahoma is the top team in the country. We Oklahomans live and die by OU's football successes. Football is the one thing we get some credit for. My years go a lot better when OU beats Texas, let me tell you.

    But this year's added lagniappe has been BGSU's excellent play. Now if only Tulane's football program had a little life....

    A few things have caught my attention today:

  • A front-page Philadelphia Inquirer piece explains why there are dead squirrels on the roads right now. Autumn is a tough time of year for squirrels.

  • A chemical fog used in an installation at the Tate Modern has gotten to some docents, who claim they "are becoming disorientated" (link via ArtsJournal). (If they were Americans, they could just become disoriented, I suppose.) According to the linked article, the installation—Olafur Eliasson's Weather Project—has "provoked near-religious awe in the crowds flocking to see it." Wow. I'd hate to miss a chance at near-religious awe, but I don't make it to London very often. Update: Eliasson will have an installation—one focusing on perception—in the Philadelphia area in late 2004. I can't wait.

  • Happily, Captain Indignant is back with a post about the sushi memo that has become notorious among lawyers. CI is asking what all the fuss is about.

  • Boy Meets Boy's leading man, James, and his chosen sweetie, Wes, have decided not to be a couple (link via Let Me Get This Straight). (How will the Republic stand?) And, yes, that news comes from Wes himself via his creepily-named blog, Wesonality. [Insert your own joke here, one preferably involving Franklin—the adorable straight guy who made it all the way to BMB's final eppy.]
  • Friday, October 24, 2003

    I know I haven't been the most faithful blogger (why does that make me think of faithless electors?) of late, but you could always be sure that I'd do the Friday Five sooner or later. But not this week! The Friday Five is taking a hiatus. What a drag.

    I'll try to think of another way to work in some truly irrelevant personal details about myself today.

    Thursday, October 23, 2003

    I found my geek decade, and it's just too true. Groovy.

    Quiz-taking prompted by This Chick.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003

    Some of the more junior bloggers at The Volokh Conspiracy (they get the uglier colors, of course) are pondering Star Trek: Enterprise's place in the, well, Star Trek universe. Randy Barnett is a Next Generation man (and, inexplicably, a devotee of Voyager), while Jacob Levy—apparently drawn to the dark side—is a DS9 aficionado. As you know, I'm just nerdy enough not to be able to pass up an opportunity to talk about Trek, so here's how I'd rank the various iterations of the show:Gosh, I really went on and on there, huh?
    Waddling Thunder is wondering what he should do when someone new sits next to him in class. He writes:I'm not Dear Abby (although, truly, I ought to be), but I think this one's easy. If W.T. likes his usual seatmate, if the seatmate smells good or she's funny or he's good cover against getting called on by Professor Ego, then W.T. should definitely say something. Something like "hey, someone else usually sits there." He might even add a little shrug to guard against being looked at like an idiot. But if his new seatmate is alluring, I don't think W.T. should do anything at all—except maybe smile, think of an opening line, and practice giving out his phone number. If his conscience bothers him, he can give the little shrug when the "rightful owner" eventually shows up. Priorities, you know?

    Tuesday, October 21, 2003

    Justine Henin-Hardenne's reign—her first reign—as the world's No. 1 tennis player will last only one week. Her tug-of-war with Kim Clijsters for the top stop would be a lot more meaningful if even a fair case could be made that Clijsters is the world's best, but I'll spare you another retelling of my views on that topic. For another view, look to SI's Jon Wertheim. He concludes in this week's Tennis Mailbag that Clijsters can only lay claim to the third-best year in the women's game. (This week's Mailbag, by the way, contains a lot of other interesting stuff—including a discussion of the wisdom of Andy Roddick's decision to host SNL right before the season-ending championships.)

    Monday, October 20, 2003

    I got so far behind last week that I didn't do the Monday photoblog pic picks. Can you forgive me? Let's just move on:

  • "horse," reb, I'm missing the West. Believe me, Pennsylvania doesn't ever look like this.

  • "ice cubes ice," a human, Making Happy: When I was a kid, my Dad usually bought the ice for camping trips out of lockers just like this one. That this is one is abandoned somehow evokes an end-of-the-summer feeling in me. (Yes, yet again.) Sigh.

  • "Farewell Flatness," Alteeffour Valid?, Shoebox: This is another Western scene that perfectly suits my mood right now. Melancholy much?

  • "sheep," ?, Voglia di Terra: Hey, I just like sheep.

  • "Late night station blues..," Rod Purcell, Beautiful Daze: I always think a train station is beautiful at night.

    Is there a theme in this week's picks?

  • Sunday, October 19, 2003

 has an excellent post describing how and why we Oklahomans—and, as the post notes, there are no former Oklahomans—are so tied to the land. I'm more than a little bit homesick now.
    Bucking the trend, Matthew Yglesias looks at the upside of the hook-up culture. I'm probably too old to have a useful opinion on this topic, but Yglesias makes some good points.
    According to Chris Lawrence, "nobody with a well-developed political ideology is a moderate." And he explains why (link via I don't have anything to say about this topic (for public consumption, anyway), but it's sure an interesting read.
    I haven't been paying enough attention to tennis lately. Mostly, I suppose, I needed a break between the U.S. Open and the season-ending championships. But I'm ready again to be thinking about tennis. And it's just in time. The women now have a new world No. 1, Justine Henin-Hardenne. Thankfully, this No. 1 has actually won a couple of Grand Slam titles. It's good to have a legitimate No. 1, no?

    Meanwhile, Juan Carlos Ferrero has solidified his position at the top of the men's game. (Check out the current entry rankings here.) It'll sure be interesting to see if Ferrero is still there at the end of the year. (There's not much separating Ferrero and Andy Roddick.)

    Another item of interest is former No. 1 Lindsay Davenport's decision to have foot surgery before the season-ending championships. It would be great to have a healthy Davenport in 2004.

    Finally, I'm trying to figure out what to make of this story about possible match-fixing on the men's tour. I wish it was as unbelievable as the ATP's chief executive suggests.

    If you want to climb North Dakota's highest peak, it'll cost you $20. And you'll need to get past the owners, who sound like they belong on some daytime talk show. Useless information: I really enjoyed my pass through North Dakota last year; it seemed to be a state all about beautiful loneliness.
    If you like a good picture of giraffes or flamingos (and who wouldn't?!), check out these at Only Connect. I particularly like the contrasting poses. And, let's admit it, I have a strange fascination for flamingos.

    P.S. You've got to love a blog that takes it title from E.M. Forster. (And, while I'm at it, if you're looking for an actual E.M. Forster fan site, look no further than another site named, inevitably, Only Connect. It's well-done.)

    Saturday, October 18, 2003

    I spent the day in Amish Country at a factory outlet mall. Yes, it's come to that. So I have nothing to blog about. Except maybe this: I have a crush on Dave Matthews, whose solo album Some Devil was released last month, and I couldn't get these lyrics from "Gravedigger" out of my head all day long:Gosh, darn it. Why does that appeal to me so much?

    Friday, October 17, 2003

    I know it probably seems like I just did the Friday Five. Because I did. But here's the new one—on time and everything (gasp!):

    1. Name five things in your refrigerator. The fridge is a little bit bare right now, but there are at least five things in it. Romaine lettuce hearts. California dates. Lemon marmalade. Bottled water. Vermouth. (You're asking how I don't starve to death, aren't you?)

    2. Name five things in your freezer. Embarrassingly enough, there aren't even five things in my freezer right now. What have I got in there? Ice cubes. Sponges. Hamburger patties. Ice substitute (the stuff you take on camping trips). Sad, huh?

    3. Name five things under your kitchen sink. Wood glue. Trash bags. Window cleaner. Raid. Dishwasher gel.

    4. Name five things around your computer. Music CDs. A journal (for the things I don't blog about). A glass sculpture of a naked torso. A leather coaster. A wood box.

    5. Name five things in your medicine cabinet. Deodorant. Electric razor. Eye drops. Tweezers. Mouthwash.

    I can't believe I just spent 15 minutes doing this. I can just imagine how you feel right about now.

    Thursday, October 16, 2003

    As I've noticed before, sometimes the world just won't leave a TV viewer and her faithful TiVo alone. I wasn't clever enough to think of the problem as the TiVo time warp, though. Well done.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2003

    A few small items of interest (but not items of small interest):

    1.) PaperFrog discusses Buddha's Flower Sermon. Sometimes, a flower is just a flower, I guess. It's very interesting stuff. If the Flower Sermon doesn't grab you, kit also has news of the purple, pointy-faced frogs that we somehow hadn't noticed before.

    2.) artblog reminds us that the train stops at Dia: Beacon. I've intended for some time to take that trip.

    3.) Harley of Royals Baseball notes that today is a key date in hemorrhoidal history.

    4.) bald sarcasm gets real. And who among us can't relate?

    Tuesday, October 14, 2003

    I'm behind! Ack! Here's the Friday Five:

    1. Do you watch sports? If so, which ones? This will come as a huge shock to my four-and-one-half regular readers, I know. Yes, I watch sports. (Maybe you should've been sitting down for that.) I watch a lot of tennis, of course, but I also watch quite a bit of other sports—baseball, ice hockey, figure skating, football, etc. I'm obsessed with the Olympics, and with Olympic sports, so you'll often find diving or track and field or bobsledding on my TiVo.

    2. What/who are your favorite sports teams and/or favorite athletes? My favorite sports team is, of course, my beloved Kansas City Royals. Since I moved to Philadelphia, I've become a bit of a Flyers—and, to a lesser extent, a Phillies—fan. As for favorite athletes, my mind immediately goes to players on the great Royals teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s: George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Dan Quisenberry. Among the other athletes (past, present, and future) that I admire: Georg Hackl, Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean, Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Vinny Testaverde, Martina Navratilova, the first openly gay NHL player (may God bless him), and on and on and on.

    3. Are there any sports you hate? This question reminds me of a recent survey blogged by Costa Tsiokos of The Critical 'I'. The survey indicated that dogfighting was America's most hated sport. I definitely don't like dogfighting, but I don't think it actually qualifies as a sport. Among more "traditional" options, I have some problems with the violence inherent in boxing. Still, I'm not sure I hate even boxing; the amateur version, at least, may have some redeeming features.

    4. Have you ever been to a sports event? Um, yes. It would be easier to list the events that I'd like to attend but haven't: Wimbledon, the French Open, a Winter Olympics (I love luge and bobsledding), a game at Fenway, the curling world championships, a hurling match.

    5. Do/did you play any sports? How long did you play? I've played tennis, badly, more than anything else. I still play, of course. The most unusual sport I've tried, by the way, is curling. I took a class when I was in graduate school.

    I challenge you to read this behind-the-scenes essay by a Booker Prize judge and not come away with less respect for the process (link via Bookslut). Ugh.

    Update: DBC Pierre, author of Vernon God Little, is the winner. And he's a rogue.

    Is the end of vacation one of the most depressing states of mind or what? I'm back in Philadelphia, and I already miss New Orleans.

    Monday, October 13, 2003

    In the spirit of the season, I bring you news of, which features sophisticated carving techniques and edgy jack-o'-lantern designs. I'm a fan of the Puking Pumpkin, by the way.
    An exciting(!) eighth-place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix allowed Formula One's Michael Schumacher to take his sixth world championship. That's a record, of course. So, from now on, I deem Michael Schumacher to be an official superhero. (I have that power, right?)

    After a Formula One season that was truly competitive all season long—and what a change of pace that was—Schumacher is tired. Who could blame him?

    Finland's Kimi Räikkönen finished the season as a worthy runner-up to Schumacher.

    Sunday, October 12, 2003

    Well, I guess I wasn't kidding when I said that posting might be hit-or-miss while I was on vacation. I just got back to New Orleans, after spending several days on the Alabama Gulf Coast. I've eaten a lot of tuna, gotten plenty of sand in my swimming trunks, and played several sets of tennis (pretty badly, too). I have no idea what's going on in the world, though. What did I miss?

    Wednesday, October 08, 2003

    I don't know how I've missed it for so long, but The Sporting Life is an awfully appealing blog (link via bald sarcasm). The proprietor, Steve, shares many of my interests, and he writes about them with more insight than I ever do. (Yes, I'll get myself to the self-esteem clinic soon, I promise.) If you're interested in sports, travel, the South—add The Sporting Life to your reading.
    I'm absolutely thrilled to see that Julian Rubinstein himself commented on a post I wrote last December about a piece he did for the New York Times Magazine on Roone Arledge. By the way, if you haven't read Rubinstein's 2001 profile of John McEnroe, you're missing out. It's a treat.

    Tuesday, October 07, 2003

    My morning commute is rarely filled with sweet moments like this one described by Metro-user Lily of The Kitchen Cabinet. Romance may be dead on SEPTA.
    The new issue of Bookslut is up. The highlight for me is an interview with memoirist Augusten Burroughs. In the past few months, I've listened to audio versions of both Running with Scissors and Dry on my commute. Some authors shouldn't read their own works, but no one but Burroughs should read his memoirs. His voice is evocative, and he's awfully good at "playing" the other people in the books. If you ever listen to books on tape (or CD or MP3), these are excellent candidates.
    Just a little FYI: I'm on vacation this week, so posting may be hit-or-miss. I've left the flatmate and the rapidly-aging puppy behind, and I'm spending the week in New Orleans. It should be 80°F every day this week, so I definitely won't have to cope with autumn. And, as you know, that's a good thing.

    Update: My traveling apparently caused me to miss a very good Monday Night Football game and an R-rated ending to the Bosox-A's series (link via the Sox-hating Kate of The Kitchen Cabinet). Dang.

    Monday, October 06, 2003

    Today, I begin a new regular feature here at the Garden. Every Monday, I'm going to pick five photoblog photos to comment briefly about. I hope you'll check out the photos, and please feel free to provide a comment or two of your own.

    I've been spending a lot of my time lately thinking about photography. In my mind, a good photograph is a lot like a good poem. Its spareness forces you to experience something, to take a little bit of time to focus your senses. A good photograph asks you what it takes for you to feel something. If I'm lucky, you'll discover a photograph or two here every now and then that accomplishes that.

    Here's the inaugural Monday five:

    See anything you like?
    Local Flavor: An article in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer chronicled the cannoli war that's heating up in the area. Yum. And another article describes the Liberty Bell's new digs, which it'll start enjoying on Thursday. It doesn't get much more Philadelphia than stories like these....
    Today's Pearls Before Swine is worth your consideration—especially if you're young and libidinous.

    Sunday, October 05, 2003

    Raffi Krikorian, author of TiVo Hacks (a book I received for my so-called 40th birthday last month), has an essay at discussing which TiVo unit is the right one for you (link via PVRblog). Obviously, and I seriously mean that, if you watch any TV at all, you should do yourself a favor and investigate TiVo. There's definitely a TiVo that's right for you.
    What kind of thinker am I? Well, according to a test available at the BBC 's website, I'm an interpersonal thinker. This apparently means:According to the test, some famous interpersonal thinkers have been Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, and Mother Theresa. Interpersonal thinkers are said to make good politicians, psychologists, and teachers.

    The test result strikes me as pretty accurate, although I'd like to think I'm also proficient at logical-mathematical thinking. When I grow up, perhaps I should become a mediator.

    My quiz-taking was prompted by This Chick, by the way.

    Saturday, October 04, 2003

    Sports-and-the-Media Beat: Three Items:

    1.) Is a scandal brewing at Sports Illustrated? A photography editor is complaining that the art department has doctored photos (link via Poynter Online).

    2.) Costa Tsiokos of The Critical 'I' has the details on his tryout today for ESPN Dream Job, the sports channel's upcoming reality show. I'm saving myself for the inevitable reality show on The Tennis Channel. I've got to make my obsession with Franco Squillari pay off, you know?

    3.) Now that he's getting props from the likes of Andrew Sullivan, will Russ Deaton remember the little people like me who linked to The Bleacher Seat when it was just getting started? The Bleacher Seat's site meter has practically been spinning with all its new visitors.

    Is the monk checking the chick out? You decide.
    I can understand the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's motivation, but I wonder whether such a detailed exposé of a recent, apparently misleading obituary was truly necessary (link via Jim Romenesko's Obscure Store & Reading Room (October 3 entry)).

    Friday, October 03, 2003

    It's time for the Friday Five:

    1. What vehicle do you drive? I drive a 1991 Ford Tempo. (Don't make fun! I mostly use mass transit.) The Tempo—which I've named Tommy—is white, and it has an ugly cornflower blue interior.

    2. How long have you had it? I inherited the car from my grandfather in 1999. A few months before that, my car—a 1986 Buick Regal!—had been stolen. When my grandfather died, the family decided that I should have the Tempo. By the way, Tommy has less than 65,000 miles on the odometer. Grandpa didn't drive much.

    3. What is the coolest feature on your vehicle? For obvious reasons, I'm pretty much drawing a blank here. The engine runs, and the radio works. Most of the time, the air conditioner is fine, too. There ain't much that's snazzy about Tommy. He's all about function.

    4. What is the most annoying thing about your vehicle? This is easy. Hands down, it's the automatic seat belts. They're the early kind, with the shoulder straps that dangle out about 18 inches in front of the bucket seats when the car is at rest. (When the key is turned, the straps pull against you.) Nearly every time I drive Tommy, I get my briefcase or my packages or my groceries caught up in those dang straps—both when I'm trying to get in and when I'm trying to get out of the car. It's maddening! The seat belts drive me even nuttier than Tommy's habit of just quitting on the hottest days of the year, a problem that has perplexed half a dozen different mechanics.

    5. If money were no object, what vehicle would you be driving right now? As must be obvious from my previous answers, having a nice car isn't that important to me. When I was a toddler, I had a toy Jaguar that I drove around on the sidewalk. I vowed for a long time that I'd have a real Jag of my own one day. (Oh, there was a brief time in high school when I wanted a Saab, mostly for the seat warmer, but I got over that.) I still think Jaguars are the most stylish thing on the road, so that's my choice.

    A story in today's New Zealand Herald reviews the sex policies of teams that are about to compete in rugby's World Cup. I nearly choked on this line: Professor Gary Hermansson, sports psychologist for the New Zealand Olympic team, says there is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to sex and sport. Oh, my.

    Thursday, October 02, 2003

    Sensitive Light always features stunning photography. Today, the site has an obituary, too. Go look. You won't regret it. Even if you don't like mice (yes, mice).
    Kim of Fresh Hell has diagnosed some of the problems with TLC's onetime juggernaut Trading Spaces. Her commentary for MSNBC is witty and shrewd. Very tasty. And very spot-on. (Well, there is one thing I disagree with: I think Laurie Hickson-Smith is the best designer on the show. Vern Yip is good, but he's no Laurie.)

    If I were king of Trading Spaces for a day, I'd cut each episode in half. Changing Rooms, the BBC original of which Spaces is but a poor copy, gives viewers the same entertainment in half the time. Who has an hour to kill on a bit of fluff that spews out so many new episodes every year? Not me.

    I also think that the downward spiral of Spaces may actually say more about its fans than anything else. Spaces fans, especially its younger fans, are the kind who move from cool new show to the next. They're the kind of fans who fell in love just a few weeks ago with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy but are already over it. For these viewers, watching TV is all about continually finding something new and different; it's not about exploring the subtle variations within an established form.

    I admit that Spaces fell out of favor with me, too. But these things are temporary. TiVo snagged a couple of newer episodes for me recently, and I truly enjoyed them. That's just the way it is with shows that are on so much of the time. When you're ready for them again, they'll be there.

    Professor Jeff Cooper lauds his law students who plan to remain in Indiana. When I left Oklahoma to go to law school in New Orleans, I vowed I'd go back to Oklahoma. And I fully intended to do so. I loved Oklahoma (and I still do). Oklahoma just wouldn't let me come back. I'd interview for jobs, and my potential employers would say I was better off in Louisiana or Pennsylvania or wherever. They'd say I was the kind of person that Oklahoma needed to keep, but the job would always go to someone who'd gone to law school in-state. I had interesting offers here and there and everywhere. Everywhere but Oklahoma, that is. I never could figure out if I'd let Oklahoma down, or if Oklahoma let me down....

    Maybe if I'd studied closer to home, like the students Professor Cooper lauds, I'd be working in Tulsa or Oklahoma City right now. I wish them luck, anyway.

    P.S. I don't regret for a moment that I studied in New Orleans. That was three of the best years of my life. And, truthfully, I've had super, super jobs since law school—jobs that suited me better than just about any I can imagine. They just weren't in Oklahoma.

    Ann-Marie MacDonald's new novel, The Way the Crow Flies, nearly pushed one book columnist over the edge (link via Bookslut). Crow Flies is over 700 pages long.

    I completely enjoyed the columnist's essay. (Duh, you're saying. Why else would you be blogging about it?) I can't imagine what it must be like to have to read another novel every day of one's work life. It's probably how others feel when I tell them that my job consists, essentially, of writing a new term paper every day of my life....

    Now that J.M. Coetzee has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I wonder if the Booker Prize judges regret leaving him off this year's shortlist. I still can't wait to read Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, which is set for release in the States on October 16. Given Coetzee's new fame, everyone may be reading Elizabeth Costello this fall.

    Wednesday, October 01, 2003

    Two more things:

    Speaking of Enterprise, well, it's now officially called Star Trek: Enterprise. (Was UPN afraid that some viewers thought it was a show about the Small Business Administration?) The name change explains why my TiVo lost the show for a few days. It was still looking for plain ol' "Enterprise."

    Speaking of Boy Meets Boy, a Windy City Times columnist got some funny, behind-the-scenes stories from Wes about his final date on the show with the leading man (see "Rex Meets Wes" near the end of the column).

    This is going to sound strange, I know, but it's true. I got caught up over the weekend on my TV viewing, and it's a relief not to have that hanging over my head anymore.

    The dirty little secret of TiVo users is that—if you're not careful—you can end up watching way more television than anyone really should. You're probably watching more good stuff (i.e., programming that you like), but it's still more stuff. When you're leading a busy life, your TiVo unit can get jammed with programs that you intend, sooner or later, to sit down and watch. At some point, it begins to feel like a chore that must be done. Like when dirty laundry is coming out of every one of your hamper's pores.

    So, when I started the weekend, I had something like five Boy Meets Boy episodes, three Enterprise episodes, and a documentary (Trembling before G-d) to watch. With new episodes of Alias, The West Wing, and ER coming with the beginning of the new season, I knew I had to do something soon. So I sat down this weekend and did some serious TV viewing. It was exhausting.

    Boy Meets Boy - By the time I watched Boy, I'd heard that James—our "leading man" (yes, the show really called him that)—had picked someone named Wes and that he hadn't picked some straight boy named Franklin. It was a real hoot to finally see what these people looked like. Actually, I thought the entire show was a real hoot. Given the problems inherent in shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, it was really cool to watch a show where it was continually unclear who was straight and who was gay. (For me, life is often like that.)

    Some parts of the show were pretty laughable—and not in a good way. The entire production was so low-budget, so low-rent, that I felt bad for the cast. James, his girlfriend Andra, and the "mates" were all promised a week in Palm Springs. But it didn't look like Palm Springs to me. It looked like a house, and one that hadn't been redecorated since 1978, in the middle of a bleak desert. It looked grim. One highlight for me: Andra was overheard at one point telling the mates (I'm paraphrasing here) that she'd put on her 70s dress so she wouldn't clash with the decor in the mates' house. Too true. Even the "exciting" trips out of the compound looked like they were scripted by the author of Palm Springs on $25 a Day. "Congratulations, we've hired a rock climber to torment you today!" "Tomorrow? We've hired one dancer. Enjoy!"

    James and especially Andra were predictably angry when they were told, finally, that some of the mates were straight. And I completely didn't understand why they seemed to hold it against Franklin, who was obviously not a bad guy. How high-minded should you be if you're going to appear on a reality TV show?

    Enterprise - I keep reading about how Enterprise is in trouble, and UPN is apparently promising more action and more sex appeal (and by more sex appeal, UPN apparently means more form-fitting togs for T'Pol). I've enjoyed the first three episodes of the new season, but I'm a little bit troubled by the bellicosity of the current story arc. I just don't think Star Trek founder Gene Roddenberry, who had a utopian vision, would approve. Still, I love the characters, and I'll keep watching. I just have doubts that making the show more interesting to 13-year-old boys is the answer to lower ratings.

    Trembling Before G-d - I didn't know much about gay and lesbian Orthodox Jews before watching Trembling, and the first hour or so of the documentary was pretty interesting. It seemed to go on a little too long for me, though.

    When the weekend was over, my TiVo was empty for the first time in many, many months. Of course, it's never really empty, as I keep it set to record "TiVo suggestions"—shows that TiVo thinks, based on my viewing habits, that I might enjoy. Watching the TiVo suggestions, though, never seems like a chore. After all, I never intended to watch those shows in the first place.

    Anyway, I can face an autumn of TV viewing in good conscience now. Whew.


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