The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Friday, January 31, 2003

Sumo's Asashoryu has performed his first dohyo-iri, or ring-entering ceremony, as a yokozuna. He adopted the more popular unryu-gata style, one of the two types of dohyo-iri that a yokozuna may practice. I was sort of hoping Asashoryu would opt for the rarer—I can root for the underdog in anything—shiranui-gata style, which represents offense (versus, of course, defense). After all, Asashoryu is a remarkably aggressive fighter. Superstition may have played a role, though. The most successful yokozunas of recent times have all used the unryu-gata.

Recently-retired Akebono helped Asashoryu learn the ritual.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Unemployed dentists should head to Greenland. Really.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

I hope I'm wrong, but I can completely envision the U.S. Davis Cup team losing to Croatia in the first round next month. With the exception of James Blake, the team announced yesterday doesn't inspire confidence.
Not-so-serious stuff on the sports pages: German tennis great Boris Becker, one of my all-time faves, has been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. (Nancy Richey and Françoise Durr were also chosen.) And, strangely, there will be seats behind the Green Monster at Fenway this season.
All hail the new yokozuna! Just a few days after the retirement of Takanohana, sumo has a new member in its highest rank. He's Asashoryu, the first Mongolian-born yokozuna. He's feisty, and it seems like the beginning of a new era.

Monday, January 27, 2003

One of the drawbacks of apartment living is that your neighbors, unintentionally and through no fault of their own, occasionally invade your space—usually with sound. I'm sure I've bothered a few neighbors in my time with an Einstürzende Neubauten album or two. Tonight, though, my downstairs neighbors are assaulting me with what smells like a nuclear onion explosion. And, of course, it's 2°F right now, so I can't really air the place out. Any suggestions?
I've been quiet, I know. Quite frankly, nothing much has interested me the past 48 hours or so. Yawn. I did enjoy this Philadelphia Inquirer article about Atlantic City cocktail servers who're still on the job after 25 years in the biz, though. Next time I'm in A.C.—maybe for a Steve and Eydie concert?—I'd like to spot the 55-plus, size-2, high-heeled, spiky-haired server who was featured in the article. She took my breath away.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Now that the Australian Open is over, I'll be able to focus once again on something besides tennis. I bet you're glad. Expect posts on Greenland's politics and New Zealand cricket again soon, ok?

Saturday, January 25, 2003

I don't want to fail to mention Serena Williams's Serena Slam. Serena's three-set win yesterday over sister Venus means she's the current titleholder of all four Slams. I usually root for Venus—I have no idea why, really—but Serena's accomplishment demands respect.
Today, at age 32, Andre Agassi won his eighth Grand Slam title, easily defeating Germany's Rainer Schuettler, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. This apparently means we'll see Andre and wife Steffi Graf in the French Open mixed doubles draw this year. I can't wait. And, hey, maybe they'll face Martina Navratilova....
Today, at age 46, Martina Navratilova won the 2003 Australian Open mixed doubles title with partner Leander Paes. This is noteworthy in so many ways that it's hard to know just where to start. First, I guess, the win makes Navratilova the oldest Grand Slam titleist ever. Second, it gave Navratilova the only Grand Slam title to have eluded her. And, finally, the win gave Navratilova her 57th Grand Slam title. Golly.

Friday, January 24, 2003

If it was good enough for Ben Cohen: The Philadelphia Inquirer went to ice cream school today. Would it be too easy if I just said it was sweet stuff?
Oh, dear. I don't see a lot of television commercials—I TiVo right through them—and I definitely haven't seen this one. As a member of the Yellowstone Association, I'm probably glad I haven't.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Andre Agassi is a great tennis player, and I never really need a reason to root for him. But here's one, anyway. Agassi says that if he wins the Australian Open final on Sunday, in which he'll play either Andy Roddick or Rainer Schuettler, he and wife Steffi Graf will play mixed doubles in this year's French Open. Agassi doesn't play a lot of doubles, and an on-court partnership with one of the best women's players ever would really be, um, something.
Yao Ming 2, Shaquille O'Neal 0. As I predicted here a few days ago, Yao Ming topped Shaquille O'Neal in the fan balloting for the NBA All-Star Game. By the way, if you're a fan of Yao, you owe yourself a visit to this incredible, info-packed fan site.

I'm hoping to catch a game later this season between Yao's Houston Rockets and the hometown Sixers.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Speaking of the Australian Open, I wish I'd seen American Andy Roddick's five-set win over Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui in the quarterfinals. The match lasted five hours, and the final set went 21-19. I love those sans-tiebreaker scores that stand out on the sports page—11-9, 14-12, 17-15, etc. In fact, bring back the old days when there were no tiebreakers in any set. Anymore, you can only see a good ol' 9-7 in the fifth set of a couple of the major tournaments. No more mollycoddling! (Except if I'm playing. And then it's ok if each player has a personal concierge.)
Prune Watch: Venus Williams saved my digestive tract. Whew. As you may recall, when I noticed that tennis commentator Jon Wertheim picked Daniela Hantuchova for the Australian Open final, I was more than skeptical. In fact, I doubted that she'd even make the semifinals, and I promised to eat a prune—ewww!—if she did. Well, Williams vindicated my prediction on Tuesday, defeating the Slovakian, 6-4, 6-3, in the quarterfinals.

Truthfully, I was never really that worried I'd be wrong. Women's tennis is so, well, predictable that it's always a pretty good bet that any particular non-Top 5 player won't make the semis. And a prune isn't all that scary. Or is it? Ewww!

Monday, January 20, 2003

You'd better shop [it] around. If I had a law review article ready to send out, I'd pay close attention to Eugene Volokh's advice for getting it published.
Bounced: Men's No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt was upset today in the fourth round of the Australian Open by Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui. The score was 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.

I know you're dying to know whether I'm going to have to eat a prune. It all comes down to this: If Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova upsets women's No. 2 Venus Williams tomorrow, she'll reach the semifinals, vindicating (at least partially) Jon Wertheim's prediction and dooming me to a prune. I'm not rushing to the supermarket yet....

Holy Oversight, Batman! Blogistan has a parish, and I didn't even know it. I'm not sure I can agree, though, with The Catholic Blog Reviewer that there are moral certainties about the alignment of blog text. Odd!
Intai: One of the sumo world's greats, Takanohana, has retired due to continuing problems from a knee injury. Takanohana had been a yokozuna, sumo's top rank, since 1994. Takanohana, his brother Wakanohana, and the American-born Akebono fueled a resurgence of interest in sumo in Japan and elsewhere in the early to mid-1990s. Takanohana was the last of the three to retire from the dohyo.

The retirement leaves only one active yokozuna, the Sumoan-born Musashimaru, who is currently injured. The Mongolian Asashoryu, currently an ozeki, seems certain to be promoted to yokozuna soon, however.

Takanohana has been a rikishi since I started paying attention to sumo. The sport won't be the same to me without his fieriness.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr., Day! This is an excellent time for all Americans to reflect on and celebrate our civil rights.
Something else I want to work in soon is a visit to the new Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Who wants to tag along?
I don't need much of an excuse to head for the Northwest: The commemoration of the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition began last week. There are several interesting events planned for the next three years. I wonder if I can work one or two in....

Sunday, January 19, 2003

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, I was particularly interested in an article on Shinui, a newly-influential Israeli political party that is aggressively secular; a piece on the politics of saunas in, of course, Finland; and this story, which details the legal contention of some ousted members of the recently-reformed British House of Lords that their parliamentary seats are their property.
Stop the rot. Here's an update on that story about the former New Zealand cricket captain who made silly, race-based claims about the sporting prowess of Maoris. Wisely, he has apologized. Meanwhile, however, another sports commentator has offered to carry the banner of ignorance in his stead.

And, no, I have no real explanation for how I moved from a fixation on Greenland's politics to covering New Zealand's cricket commentators. And, yes, "stop the rot" is something actual cricketers say.

Oh, my, I've been promoted. How Appealing is now listing GreenGourd's Garden among its "Especially Appealing Blogs." I hope I can live up to that. Gulp.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

I'm a little bit embarrassed to mention this, but I've been watching—and enjoying—WB's High School Reunion, an odd cross between Temptation Island and, um, an actual reunion. If you've been watching, do yourself a favor and check out Wendola's recaps at Television Without Pity. The recaps are laugh-out-loud funny, and I never say that. 'Cause I never laugh out loud. At least normally. Really. And Wendola went to the same high school as the dweebs on the show, too.
Here we go again. Another sports commentator has made idiotic claims about the mental capabilities of a racial group. This time the culprit was former New Zealand cricket captain Martin Crowe, who believes that Maoris struggle with sports that require concentration. Ugh. Get that man to a sociology class right away, ok?

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Poignant: Professor and blogger Lawrence Lessig argued the losing side in Eldred v. Ashcroft, the important copyright decision decided this week by the U.S. Supreme Court. In emotional posts here and here, Lessig reacts to losing the big one.
Tee-hee. Bookslut has a wickedly funny post today about Canadians' insecurity. But, hey, don't get me wrong. I love Canada. When I was an undergraduate, I so wished there was a way I could put together a concentration in Canadian Studies. And you'd probably be insecure, too, if you lived next door to a 500-pound gorilla.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Yes, I know you're dying for more news about Greenland: Greenland's government has, at last, fallen. This report from the Copenhagen Post suggests, though, that a senior government minister's hiring of a faith healer was only one of several factors in the crisis.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Sabotage: I've decided that I should lose 10 pounds. All those holiday sweets had an impact on my waistline, you know. But on my first day of serious dieting, Eugene Volokh had to print this recipe for Black Russian Cake. The cake sounds awfully tasty. And I have a real soft spot for coffee liqueur. Hmph.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Church and State: Greenland's governing coalition is in crisis after a senior government minister hired a faith healer to rid government buildings of evil spirits. The likely result? Other parties will form a broad coalition.

It's hard to make sense of this story from afar, as—sadly—it seems to be difficult to get political and cultural analysis (in English, anyway) about Greenland on the net. If anyone has any local perspective on the news, please pass it along.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

The tennis year kicks off on Monday with the start of the first major, the Australian Open. In quick, fun reports, Jon Wertheim of looks at both the men's and the women's draws. Wertheim sees Lleyton Hewitt beating Carlos Moya in the men's final, and he has Serena Wiliams taking out Daniela Hantuchova in the women's final.

I respect Wertheim's opinion, but I'll eat something nasty—how about a prune?—if Hantuchova even makes the semifinals.

Women's tennis has lost one of its most colorful names,'s Jon Wertheim reports. Anna Smashnova recently married her coach (and former top men's player), Claudio Pistolesi, and she won't be keeping her family name. Anna Pistolesi sounds pretty good, too, I have to say. But Smashnova was the perfect tennis name....
Yao Ming 1, Shaquille O'Neal 0. Yao certainly came across as the winner in this story. And when fan balloting for the All-Star Game is over, the score will probably be 2-0.
Ow, ow, ow. I don't know how to tastefully characterize this news story, so I won't even try. But it's definitely one reason why winter is bad. And why a man should keep it covered (link via Shattered Buddha).
Yesterday was my parents' 55th wedding anniversary. I'm awfully proud of them. I kept asking myself what a good son would get his parents on such an occasion. They deserve a lot more than I could ever give them.
Hey, I'm feeling better. In fact, I was able to drag myself into work on Thursday and Friday. I just wasn't able to drag myself to Blogistan. But I'm back now....

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

I'm spent. Or, at least, the cold medicine is. See you soon.
I'm a sucker for an awards show: Norah Jones, whose album I dissed just a few days ago here, was one of several artists who led this year's Grammy nominations with five nods. I was more pleased with the nomination of John Mayer's "Your Body Is a Wonderland" as best male pop vocal performance (it's a shame the categories don't have more words, huh?). Ditto for the nomination of Willie Nelson's The Great Divide as best country album. ("Mendocino County Line," Willie's wonderful single with Lee Ann Womack, also received nominations.)

The oddest category has to be best bluegrass album, which features Ralph Stanley's eponymous Ralph Stanley, Lost in the Lonesome Pines by Ralph Stanley and Jim Lauderdale, and Ralph Stanley II's Stanley Blues. That's a lot of Stanley, you know. That very same category has an album entitled Jelly on my Tofu by the Roland White Band. I'm a bluegrass fan, and I thought I did a fair job of keeping up with the music. But Tofu's a new one on me. I'll check it out.

He'd really rather direct: Writer Sherman Alexie, one of my favorites, has a cool website. When I have more energy, I'll have to take a closer look at it. And, hey, he's a director now.
"The grass, the grass is a tall sudden calendar." So wrote Gertrude Stein, anyway. And, no, I have no idea what it means. This review of a new collection of Stein's shorter works, however, has motivated me to try to figure out how to read Stein....
I caught one of the first episodes of Taboo this week on TNN. (I almost wrote "the new TNN." How annoying are those never-ending promos! Like we're ever going to forget that TNN was The Nashville Network.) I couldn't figure out why the host, Chris Wylde, was so familiar. Finally, I realized he was on an episode of Trading Spaces, as this article confirms.

Anyway, Taboo is the TV version of the popular boardgame. I've enjoyed playing the game, but I didn't especially enjoy watching others—who weren't even particularly good—play. Wylde has the energy of about 14 people (hey, I want mine back), and he certainly has a good grasp of the finer points of the game. He also has a gentleness with the contestants that I found endearing. (Some comic-types make lousy game show hosts because they're so dismissive of the players.) Unfortunately, in the episode I saw, Wylde couldn't infect the contestants with his energy and passion for playing. As I'm a game show nut (er, aficionado), though, I'll definitely be giving Taboo another chance.

Random comment: I miss Wylde's goatee from his Spaces days. I hope the new TNN didn't make him ditch it....

UPDATE: I see now that Squishy made the Wylde-Spaces-Taboo connection several months ago. I should pay more attention to the pop culture princess's beautiful site.
I'm under the influence of cold medicine, and sick leave, today. (I should survive.) If I can manage one burst of energy this afternoon, some actual blogging may follow.

Monday, January 06, 2003

My favorite film director is Spain's Pedro Almodóvar. (You were dying to know that, huh?) His Hable con ella (Talk to Her) seemed to be a sure thing for this year's foreign-language Oscar, but a funny thing happened. Spain didn't even submit the film as its official selection, choosing instead Los lunes al sol (Mondays in the Sun), directed by Fernando León. So now Sony Pictures Classics, Hable con Ella's distributor, is left to push Almodóvar's film for a best picture nomination. It's a longshot, that's for sure, but several critics did pick the film as the year's best. Still, with Mexico's Y tu mamá también also sure to draw some votes this year, it seems unlikely that Almodóvar will capture a rare best picture nod for a foreign language film.

I'm more curious than ever now to see Los lunes al sol, Spain's official choice. It better be a helluva picture.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

A few months ago, I read and enjoyed Language Death by linguist David Crystal. It details the startling decline and loss of so many languages around the world. Since then, I've been thinking about language loss and wondering what I—as a non-linguist—can do about the phenomenon.

Given that, it should be no surprise that two newspaper articles about language attracted my attention this weekend. The first details the encouraging resurgence of interest in Luxembourg in Luxembourgish. Luxembourgish is the Germanic language that's the national language of you-know-where; it's also heard in parts of Belgium and France. You can hear a few helpful phrases here.

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, there's also a story about a local representative of the international community of speakers of Esperanto, the universal language. When languages are dying all around the world, it seems a bit of a waste for someone to spend time learning an artificial language. But the article convinced me that the Esperanto movement remains well-intentioned.

Still, I'm a lot more interested in learning a language like Luxembourgish than Esperanto....

Friday, January 03, 2003

I'll sleep better when I know what's happening to Marshall: Fans of ABC's Alias are anxiously awaiting the next original episode this Sunday, as this entry from Lots of Co. indicates.

By the way, Michael Vartan—one of the stars of Alias—has a wonderful website.

And, yes, one more link courtesy of PCJM: In the 80s, a site devoted (naturally) to 1980s pop culture, provides this side-by-side comparison of the English and German versions of "99 Red Balloons" (or, if you prefer the rather different original, "99 Luftballons").

I had the U.S.-version of the album by Nena on vinyl when I was in high school. One side was in English, and the other was in German. I thought the German songs were a lot cooler. I wonder if that album is still at my parent's house somewhere. Hmmm....

PCJM also clued me in to Candy Critic, who provides seemingly earnest reviews of all kinds of snack foods. But how much faith can you have in a candy critic who's not sold on the Snickers Cruncher?

While I'm thinking of it, I've been wondering if the recipe for the Snickers Cruncher has changed. When it first came out, I was struck by how sweet the chocolate was and how deliciously salty the, um, crunchers were. I don't seem to get the same salty kick anymore. Does anyone have any inside scoop?

Uniform fetish?: Here's the site of a KLM flight attendant who collects stewardess uniforms. The variety—and, somehow, the sameness—in the uniforms is striking. My favorite? This 1970s example from defunct Braniff International (via Pop Culture Junk Mail).

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Be it resolved: I'll spare you the entire list of my resolutions for 2003. As with nearly everyone, mine includes vows to get more exercise and to eat more soy. More interestingly, I think, I also resolve to get back to Oklahoma more than once; to spend some quality time with my good, good friends in New Orleans; to see bluegrass pioneer Dr. Ralph Stanley in person; and to catch every major happening at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Also, although I haven't thought it through yet, I want to vacation somewhere totally unexpected in 2003....

I've really enjoyed the college bowl season this year. First, Tulane beat Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Bowl. Go Green Wave! And just a few minutes ago, Oklahoma scored a convincing win over Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
As I mentioned a few days ago, my favorite radio station—Philly's WXPN—reveals its listeners' top 50 CDs of the year over the holidays. Today, we learned that Come Away with Me by Norah Jones was the top—if, in my opinion, pedestrian—choice. The list of the entire top 50 makes me pretty proud to be an 'XPN listener.

My choices didn't fare too well. Of my five picks, only The Instigator by Rhett Miller made the list; it came in at No. 17. (My honorable mention, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by The Flaming Lips, was No. 19.)

See you in court: A New Zealand burglary victim has warned the culprit in a newspaper advertisement that she has a sample of his DNA, the New Zealand Herald reports.
It's 2003! I hope you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.


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