The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Saturday, August 30, 2003

I should have done this already, but I want to take a first look back at my U.S. Open picks. There haven't been any mindboggling upsets so far (alá Ivo Karlovic over Lleyton Hewitt), which—so far as my picks are concerned—is a good thing.

How good were my picks for the first round of the men's draw? I did pretty darn well, I have to say. Golly. Of the 64 first-round matches, I correctly picked the winner in 47. That's over 73%. Ahem, I'm good. And that's better than I did at Wimbledon, where I correctly called about two-thirds of the first-round matches. (For lack of time, I didn't pick all of the matches on the women's side of the U.S. Open draw. I pretty much started with my projected round of 16 and worked forward from there.)

How are my projected quarterfinalists doing? On the men's side, seven of the eight are still in the tournament. The lone exception is, of course, #24 Mardy Fish—whom I described as the "most unexpected" of my quarterfinalists. He lost to veteran Karel Kucera in the second round. I should have just gone with the odds and picked #5 Guillermo Coria as the quarterfinalist in that section of the draw. Coria is definitely the pick now.

On the women's side, I'm also seven for eight. As I predicted within my own predictions, veteran Conchita Martinez let me down. She lost to up-and-comer Alicia Molik in the second round. Molik, in turn, lost to #24 Paola Suarez. I picked Martinez as the quarterfinalist because I figured the top seed in the section, Chanda Rubin, would struggle. Rubin certainly did struggle, as she lost in the first round to Maria Vento-Kabchi. My third pick in that section would have been Suarez, and I'll take her in a match against unseeded Elena Likhovtseva for the quarterfinal spot.

How'd I do with the upsets? I picked five upsets in the men's first round. Of those, I was right in three (Karlovic over #21 Felix Mantilla; Nicolas Massu over #30 Gaston Gaudio; and James Blake over #27 Mariano Zabaleta). I was nearly right in one of the remaining two picks, as wild card Alex Bogomolov, Jr., took #16 Martin Verkerk to a fifth set before he had to retire due to cramping.

There were six other matches that probably qualified as upsets, and this set of matches actually constituted a big chunk of my first-round misses. Most notably, I didn't foresee that a qualifier would upset either #9 Sebastien Grosjean or #14 Gustavo Kuerten. I'm good, but, you know, really: It would have been nuts for me to pick Dmitry Tursunov over Guga, right? By the way, of these six upsets, I picked two of the matches—#18 Max Mirnyi vs. Nikolay Davydenko and #32 Vince Spadea vs. Flavio Saretta (I love the name Flavio!)—as "tasty first-round matches." I take some comfort in that.

How'd my qualifiers and wild cards do? As I predicted, Ivo Karlovic and Thomas Enqvist did well. Karlovic is still in the tournament, and he faces #12 Sjeng Schalken for a spot in the round of 16. (I picked Schalken as the winner in that one at the outset, and I'm sticking with the pick.) Enqvist didn't make it quite as far as I thought he might; he lost to Nicolas Massu in the second round. Wesley Moodie, another qualifier that I liked, made it to the second round—just as I'd guessed. Sadly, though, neither of my wild cards picks—Bogomolov and Jeff Morrison—made it out of the first round. They were wild cards for a reason, huh?

I hope you don't think my head has gotten too big, but I'm just about as happy with my picks as I ever have been. In the bottom half of the men's draw, I came darn close to picking every single first-round match correctly. And I could conceivably be right about 14 of my picks for the round of 16. In fact, I'm off to watch Robby Ginepri play Todd Martin for one of those 16 spots. (I picked Ginepri, so I've got to root for him over the sympathetic veteran. It's sure going to be hard to root against Martin, though.)

Imagine that you went to a dinner party, and your stylish hosts served you a single hors d'oeuvre—a pretty attractive one, as hors d'oeuvres go, but just one—on a fancy dinner plate. You'd eat the hors d'oeuvre and go home hungry, right? You might not even be able to remember if the hors d'oeuvre was any good. You'd say there wasn't enough there to know.

That's pretty much how I felt last night after I saw The Battle of Shaker Heights—the movie viewers watched Kyle Rankin and Efram Potelle direct on this year's Project Greenlight. I can't recommend the movie. I went home hungry.

Shaker Heights is only a little over an hour long; there's less substance in it than you'd get in the average episode of Ally McBeal. It's the "story" of a kid named Kelly, who's on the cusp of adulthood, I guess. (Yes, it's another coming-of-age movie.) Kelly is a little bit unhappy at home, especially with his father, but it doesn't really seem that he's all that unhappy—maybe just a little annoyed. What 17-year-old isn't, huh? We just see him ignoring his father and having a couple of eye-rolling moments with his mother.

Anyway, Kelly happens to get to know a wealthy kid named Bart and Bart's older sister, Tabby. (Tabby? Brilliant naming, huh? It came right out of the Official Screenwriter's Guide to Clichéd Rich People's Names.) Kelly falls for Tabby, but we really never know how or why. They barely interact, it seems, and suddenly Kelly's got it bad. If you see Kelly at the store, be careful: He may fall for you, too. Tabby and Kelly interact two or three times, and then there's suddenly a slice of D-R-A-M-A® between them. It's resolved, as are a couple of really insubstantial sub-plots, and Kelly moves on to whatever's next in his life.

What's wrong with Shaker Heights? Well, it's not the acting. Shia LeBeouf, who plays Kelly, is charismatic. His performance singlehandedly keeps the movie together when it could easily have fallen apart, into a series of abrupt, two-dimensional scenes. Elden Henson is good as Bart, too. Amy Smart might have been good as Tabby, but we don't get to see enough of her to get a real feel. And speaking of actors we don't see enough of: Kathleen Quinlan and William Sadler are simply wasted as Kelly's parents. They're in so few scenes, and so irrelevant to the thrust of the movie, that I'd wonder why they were even cast if I hadn't known from watching Project Greenlight that their performances were cut in editing.

I also don't think that Kyle and Efram ruined the movie. Their direction seems generally competent, if not inspired. The camera work is occasionally even pretty good. (I certainly don't think the direction is as amateurish as this critic suggests.) In the first third of the movie, there are so many tiny scenes stacked together that it's jarring. But viewers of Greenlight know that's the result of the studio's last-minute decision to insist that dramatic moments be removed in order to emphasize the "comedy." Unfortunately, this movie wasn't written as an out-and-out comedy.

And you know what? Erica Beeney's original script isn't half bad either. It's probably a bit muddled, trying to be too many different things. And several of its major elements are clichés. But Shaker Heights would definitely be a better movie if it had just been shot as Beeney wrote it.

My theory is that Shaker Heights was screwed up, mostly, by the producers and the studio. Viewers of Greenlight know that producer Chris Moore encouraged substantial re-writes, but there just wasn't enough time for Beeney to do them right. When you have a green scriptwriter and green directors, they probably need a little extra time to do things right. Here, they got less time than a normal production, and it shows. And, gosh, I'd like to have seen the "dramatic" cut of the film that Kyle and Efram submitted to the studio. (I hope it was better than the version theaters got!) Ridiculously, the studio insisted that the pair submit a "comedy," but they hadn't directed a comedy.

There's really no good reason for you to see The Battle of Shaker Heights unless you watched this season of Project Greenlight. If you did watch, the movie will sort of cap off the season of Greenlight-viewing. If you didn't watch the TV show, though, spare yourself unless you're a hardcore fan of Shia LeBeouf. As a self-contained movie—and that's how it should be judged, right?—Shaker Heights is a failure, and LeBeouf is its only saving grace.

The women's hammer throw final at the World Track and Field Championships happened Thursday, and, yes, I'm just getting to it now. (I had a rough week, ok?) Cuba's Yipsi Moreno took the gold. Moreno was the defending world champion, and she went into the contest as the best thrower of the season. The Parisian fans saw Frenchwoman Manuela Monteburn, who had the best throw in qualifying, finish third.

The Olympic champion in Sydney, Poland's Kamila Skolimowska, could only finish eighth. By the way, the hammer, like the pole vault, was only made an Olympic event for women in 2000. Silly sexism. If the male hammer throwers get little respect, you can imagine what it's like for a female hammer thrower. Still, I actually saw a picture of Moreno on BBC World News....

And while we're on the topic of hammer throwing, here are three more pictures of gold medal winner Ivan Tikhon of Belarus. (The first is my favorite.) And, since I've had about 4,000 hits (I exaggerate a tad) from Koji Murofushi fans since I first mentioned his name on the Garden, here are three pictures of the bronze medalist, too. And, for the sake of completeness, here are two pictures of silver medalist Adrián Annus of Hungary. Beefy, huh?

Friday, August 29, 2003

How about a very early Friday Five?

1. Are you going to school this year? No. I'm practically middle-aged, past it, old. Sigh. (Actually, I sometimes fantasize about going back to school to work on a doctorate.)

2. If yes, where are you going (high school, college, etc.)? If no, when did you graduate? I graduated from high school in 1984, earned a B.A. in 1988, got my master's degree in 1990, and finished law school in 1996. See? I'm old. (A little more information about my schooling is available here, in my bio.)

3. What are/were your favorite school subjects? I loved math and social studies in high school. I studied history and sociology in college and grad school because, oddly, I like(d) those things. My favorite subjects in law school were Constitutional Law and, unrelatedly, Wills & Trusts.

4. What are/were your least favorite school subjects? Well, gosh, I hated P.E. in junior high. Science classes were my least favorite in high school. (I pretty much only took what I wanted in grad school.) In law school, I didn't really enjoy Income Taxation that much.

5. Have you ever had a favorite teacher? Why was he/she a favorite? Having gone to school for so much of my life, I've had several "favorites." My most recent favorite, a law school prof, was well-prepared, organized, interested, always ready with some interesting backstory. That's really a pretty good summary of most of my favorite teachers....

Thursday, August 28, 2003

How would you like to cover California's top political story without ever using the word "gubernatorial?" At one Sacramento TV station, that's the task facing anchors and reporters (scroll down to "Terminated"; link via Poynter Online). The boss at KCRA thinks "gubernatorial" is just too foreign for viewers. Ridiculous.
Is Queer Eye a gay minstrel show? Critic Christopher Kelly says it is (link via JMBzine).
The original Project Greenlight fall guy is back in the spotlight (free New York Times registration required). And back in the director's chair. (What's different now, though, is that Pete Jones is directing himself.) I hope this means there's hope for Kyle and Efram.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Thursday's New York Times includes an article about architect John Hix and his work on the island of Vieques. Hix's designs appeal to me more than a little. I'm not sure how they'd work in my current neighborhood, though. (Be sure to check out the Times's slide show about Vieques.)
Jason Kottke convincingly (and comprehensively) explains that it's weblog, not web log. Take that, New Yorker, New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, etc.
At times this August, Blogistan has seemed pretty lonely. (I have abandonment issues, you know?) So many bloggers were on vacation, on hiatus, on hold. Happily, though, today brought the return of Joe, formerly of The Daily(?) Beallsvonian. He made the move to L.A.'s Koreatown, and his blog is now known as Deeper Shade of Seoul. It sounds like he's been eating out a lot.

Also back to the blogging (and the law-school) grindstone is alice of a mad tea-party and drink me. While Joe has been eating Ethiopian and forcing me to Google pupuseria, alice has apparently been systematically tearing through the Krispy Kreme menu. (I've said it before, and I'll say it again, but you have to head to Oklahoma's own Daylight Donuts if you want to find donut nirvana.) By the way, happy blogiversary, alice.

Harley of royals baseball is back at it, too. He makes it way too easy to be a Royals fan from afar. And now that he's on the watch again, maybe the Royals can pull themselves back into first place of the AL Central.

Finally, Lily and Kate of The Kitchen Cabinet are back from their road trip. Lily reports that cell phone service is still lacking in Wyoming. (I was out of touch for so long last summer on my trip to Yellowstone that my family wondered if I'd fallen into a geyser.)

Welcome back, everybody!

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I took a lot of pleasure in Andy Roddick's victory tonight over the evil Tim Henman at the U.S. Open. Does that make me a bad person?

Speaking of the Open, SI's Jon Wertheim had some fitting words today about another tennis farewell—that of Michael Chang.

Ernie the Attorney is a big Tracy Chapman fan. Hey, so am I. He particularly raves about Telling Stories, Chapman's 2000 album. I like that album a lot, too. But for my money, it's not her best album. I'd rank three albums higher:(It's so High Fidelity, and male, of me to have a list, huh?) Ernie also confesses that he's sick of hearing Chapman's biggest hits—"Fast Car" and "Give Me One Reason." Heresy! "Fast Car" is always a breath of something different when it comes, suddenly and, um, acoustically, onto the radio. And "Give Me One Reason" is just powerfully emotional stuff. If it doesn't bring you right back to that place in your life (we've all been there, I think) when you wanted, or needed, someone special to give you a reason to stay around, well, you're more together, emotionally, than I'll ever be. I get goose bumps every time I hear it on the radio.

Random aside: Since Ernie lives where I used to live, I bet we've been in the same concert audience a time or two....

The Bleacher Seat, a cool new sports blog, asks whether golf fans should be rooting for Tiger Woods. The answer is pretty much yes, and the rationale is that greatness—including Tiger's—is good for any game. It's hard to argue with that.

As you may recall, I've written (see here and here) about some of the spectating pleasures of rooting for the underdog. My perspective isn't really incompatible with Bleacher Seat's. After all, if there weren't favorites, there'd be no underdogs to root for.

Personal irony: Lately, I've been so annoyed with all the talk that Tiger is "slumping" (apparently, managing to win "only" about a third of your tournaments is now considered slumping), that even I—defender of the underdog—have been compelled to root for Tiger.

Monday, August 25, 2003

The men's hammer throw final at the World Track and Field Championships was conducted today, and Japan's Koji Murofushi—whom I mentioned heretook the bronze. Murofushi had gone into the championships as the best of the season, but Belarus's Ivan Tikhon was just too strong today. In fact, Tikhon had the three longest throws today.

P.S.: I tried for the longest time to find a picture of Tikhon to link to, but I couldn't find one. Doesn't that just help prove my point about the hammer throwers being underappreciated?

Update (Tues., Aug. 26): Several news accounts of yesterday's events include a picture of Tikhon. And one kind soul emailed me a link to this excellent photograph. I'll be forming an Ivan Tikhon fan club soon, I'm sure.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

By way of today's Philadelphia Inquirer, here are 100 facts inspired by the centennial of the Crayola crayon. My particular favorites are nos. 22, 33, 79-80, and 88.
With the absence of both Serena and Venus Williams, this should definitely be an interesting women's tournament. It's easy to imagine five or six women having a real chance of winning it all. Still, in the end, I see some of the usual faces making it to the end of the second week. We'll have to see, though, and that's saying something. Here's who I have in the quarterfinals (again, this is ordered from top to bottom of the draw):Here's what I see for the rest of the tourney:There's no point in picking a list of first-round upsets, because I don't think any are particularly likely. (Some will undoubtedly occur, but they'll be rarities.) As a lagniappe, though, here's a list of tasty first-round women's matches: #17 Meghann Shaughnessy vs. Karolina Sprem; #9 Daniela Hantuchova vs. Marion Bartoli; Tamarine Tanasugarn vs. Rita Grande; Barbara Schett vs. Janette Husarova; Elena Likhovtseva vs. Iva Majoli; Sharapova vs. Virginia Ruano Pascual; and Emilie Loit vs. #31 Alexandra Stevenson.

Are you ready for some ball?

It only took me all weekend, but I've finally had enough time with the U.S. Open draws to have an opinion or two. And let me start with an excuse, ok? This is a fool's game. There's so much parity in the men's game, and more and more in the women's game, that I'm bound to be wrong a lot. (I've certainly enjoyed doing the predictions, though.) Anyway, here's my list of projected men's quarterfinalists (in the order that you'd see them from the top of the draw to the bottom):Want some even riskier predictions? Well, ok:And here's my favorite part, the miscellaneous picks:I'll be back in a bit with a look at the women's draw.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

If I weren't about to become 100% engrossed in tennis—and I am—I'd be paying attention to the IAAF World Track and Field Championships. (Actually, the official name is the 9th World Championships in Athletics. But if you're like me, and you speak oh-so-unhip American English, the term "athletics" seems a little bit general for what we're talking about.) The championships, being held in Paris, got underway today.

While I'm thinking about it, let me plug some of the most unheralded of the participants—the hammer throwers. You never see the hammer throw on TV. That's true even at the Olympics, where viewers are asked to take sudden interest in the shot put and the javelin and the discus but not the hammer. The hammer throw ought to be more popular. The participants are, of course, inordinately strong. But they have to have technique, too. The combination of power with style (i.e., the art of throwing) is downright beautiful.

The qualifying for the men's world title in the hammer throw occurred today. There weren't any particular surprises. This year's top thrower, Japan's Koji Murofushi, and most of the other usual suspects made it to the final eight. The final will be held on Tuesday.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Libby of artblog has some interesting and apt comments about the new architecture in my work neighborhood. She's absolutely right that the Liberty Bell's new home resembles a chicken coop. (And isn't that just what Old City Philadelphia needs?!) If you've ever been to western Arkansas, you've probably seen those long, narrow buildings that are really just chicken (and turkey) factories. Imagine one draped in red brick, and you've pretty much got the new Liberty Bell Pavilion (as well as the new-ish Visitors Center that's just across the street). As Libby writes, there's something quite depressing about long, bricked walls that lack entrances and variety.

It's a shame that more of the architecture in the neighborhood isn't of the high quality of the new National Constitution Center's building.

Today's Friday Five:

1. When was the last time you laughed? Happily enough, I laugh all day long almost every day. A few minutes ago, I laughed when I teasingly told my flatmate that I was going to take over his bedroom, too.

2. Who was the last person you had an argument with? Well, gosh, I guess my roommate and I had an argument last weekend. On the surface, it seemed to be over something trivial, but—as with most arguments—the subject matter was just a stand-in for more important things. (We don't argue that much, I swear.)

3. Who was the last person you emailed? My most recent email was work email. (I worked until 7:15 p.m. tonight. I'm surely getting closer to sainthood, huh?)

4. When was the last time you bathed? Well, I took a shower this morning. I hope that counts as "bathing." I don't actually remember the last time I sat down in the tub and enjoyed a full-fledged bath, though. It was months ago.

5. What was the last thing you ate? I had the seared tuna at Jones, one of the coolest restaurants in Philly. I didn't have enough room for dessert.

My Roomba needs a new playmate. And I'm thinking that an iPod just might be the perfect companion. Buzzmodo certainly seems to be getting the most out of his....
Belgium loves it, I'm sure. It's going to be an entirely Williams-free U.S. Open this year.
I'm trying to imagine how I'd incorporate audio into the Garden (link via the unimaginably tasty Shattered Buddha). And when I say "incorporate it," I mean—of course—use audio in such a way that I'd never actually have to be reminded what I sound like. (It's sort of a cross between Dan Rather and purple velvet, if you must know.) Thank goodness I don't work in radio.

Speaking of the Buddha, this link to an article on a Florida billboard-updater made my day. When my mid-life crisis hits, I have a new career in mind....

Is TiVo the Apple Computers of the digital video recorder market? PVRblog's Matt Haughey considered that interesting question today. Be sure to check out the comments, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

My beloved Kansas City Royals' fourth straight loss tonight caused them to drop from the top of the AL Central's standings. The Royals now trail both the White Sox and the Twins. After the Royals led all season, this could be a downright heartbreaking September. Sigh.
Pete Sampras will—finallymake his retirement official on Monday. Fittingly, there will be a ceremony at Arthur Ashe Stadium on the first night of the U.S. Open. When I have a chance (I've only had a year to think about it, you know), I'll write something about the Sampras Era.
The cover story in this week's Philadelphia Weekly details a marriage that's extraordinarily complex in some respects but sweetly simple at its core. Highly recommended reading.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I know Roomba is supposed to be a time-saving device. I have a new one, though (yes, I finally succumbed!), and I get absolutely nothing done now. Every night, I come home and let Roomba loose in a new room. Instead of going about my business, I watch—transfixed—from a doorway, fascinated by all the random swoops and circles that it leaves in the carpeting. If I were actually pushing a vacuum cleaner, I'd at least be getting some exercise. I suppose the novelty will wear off soon.

And you know what? Roomba totally doesn't freak my dog out. I was sort of hoping she'd bark, be puzzled by it, or even run to another room. Instead, she acts like it's completely normal to have a robot roaming randomly about the room. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, my neurotic puppy has it together....

Speaking of Fresh Hell's Kim, she does the best TV recaps in the business. If anyone can make Karen Sisco and Lyon's Den fun to think about this fall, it'll be Kim.
Kim at Fresh Hell linked to this cool Q&A with Queer Eye's Fab 5. The guys come across as a little bit sensitive about the charge that the show engenders stereotypes. I've definitely complained that the show is premised on stereotypes, but the very best thing about the show is how the guys come across as genuine (actually, I've said that before, too). Carson is absolutely right that he doesn't have "to make any excuses for" who he is. And Kyan is absolutely right that a gay man should feel free to be as "effeminate" as he wants, stereotypes be damned.

My beef isn't with the Fab 5. It's with a premise that reinforces the idea that gay men are inevitably guardians of style, while straight men are inevitably clueless oafs. The truth, of course, is way more complicated than that. As far as I'm concerned, though, Queer Eye is eminently watchable, and I'll really be cheering if the guys undermine those dang stereotypes every now and again....

How do you respond when the first thing your agent says to you about a new job is this: Do you have any problem with nudity? If you're Blair Underwood, you say, "Hey, I'm not ashamed" (link via Johnny A Go Go). The new gig was a four-episode storyline on the best show on television right now, Sex and the City. And the chemistry between Underwood and City's Cynthia Nixon was palpable on this week's episode, the first of the four. Mighty tasty stuff.
You know, there are better ways to get a good wedding photographer (link via drink me).

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Joe Shmos who are gay are shmomosexuals (link via The Morning News). Apparently, Barney Frank is one.

Monday, August 18, 2003

That last post has me feeling a little bit sad. For one thing, tennis's new stud, Andy Roddick, is 20 years old, making me just about old enough to be his father. I guess this is what I have to look forward to, huh? The next big step is when I'll be old enough to be the new stud's grandfather. Sigh. No, sigh city. The second thing is this: If the U.S. Open is around the corner, then so is Labor Day, and so is September, and so is fall. Where did my summer go? (Actually, I don't think we even had one here in Philly.) I am completely not ready for back-to-school sales and colder temperatures. I should really think about moving (much) further south....
Who's the boy of this summer? Why, Andy Roddick, of course. He's won two Tennis Masters series events in a row, and he's 20-1 this summer on American hardcourts. Watch out, U.S. Open. Speaking of the U.S. Open—and, soon, that's probably all I'll be speaking about—the men's and women's seeds were announced today. (Anyone picking Lina Krasnoroutskaya? She's the No. 26 seed.) The draws will be announced on Wednesday. Sometime after that, I'll make the first of my (inevitably) foolish predictions about the Open.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Cool Picture Alert! I've fallen for another photograph, this one a surreptitious look at two cool businessmen, at Michael Clarke's Hunkabutta. I mentioned another of Clarke's photos here a few weeks ago. In fact, I've looked back so many times at that photo—a photo of an almost grungy rainbow—that I ought to just inquire about buying a print.
This morning, I stumbled across the website for The Sinclair Lewis Society. It's a sweet little site that will be appreciated by any fan (like me) of Lewis, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930. Among other things, the Society's site offers a bibliography of scholarly works about Lewis (in addition, of course, to a bibliography of Lewis's works); an interview with Richard Lingeman, whose recent biography of Lewis is still sitting unread on my nightstand; and a list of links to other Lewis-related sites. There are even some of Lewis's favorite recipes. I'm tempted to join the Society, just so I can receive the newsletter and/or have a reason to visit Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

Actually, though, I've already visited Sauk Centre once. Last year, during my Great American Vacation, I stopped in Sauk Centre on my way to North Dakota. Lewis's boyhood home was, sadly, closed on the day I passed through, but I was able to visit the Lewis Interpretive Center. I wish I could highly recommend it, but—yes, it's time for another quote from the travel journal!—here's what I wrote that day:

I was actually so disgusted with the interpretive center, which had all the ambience of a a poorly-lit mobile home, that I vowed to write a cranky letter to Minnesota's governor about the travel opportunity his state was wasting. Of course, my passion faded by the time I got to western North Dakota.... But be sure of this: My travel companion, who wasn't a Lewis fan, sure wasn't inclined to read Main Street or Babbitt after the visit. In fact, I think he was more puzzled than ever in my interest in Lewis. That's definitely not what a trip to the interpretive center should accomplish, huh?

Saturday, August 16, 2003

I enjoyed a piece on rez ball—basketball, as it's played, passionately, on American Indian reservations—that aired this week on NPR's All Things Considered. You might give it a listen.
What's up with the anthropological fascination with New Jersey schooling? A few years ago, I read (and enjoyed) Michael Moffatt's Coming of Age in New Jersey, an account of Moffatt's field work in the dorms at Rutgers. Now, Sherry B. Ortner examines her own graduating class at Weequahic High School. Her book, New Jersey Dreaming, will be released next month. Doesn't anyone ever go to Samoa anymore?
The travel section in Sunday's New York Times includes a piece by Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse on her visit to Philadelphia and the National Constitution Center. She had a good time.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Jason Kottke blogs the blackout. Or his experience of it, anyway. Check out IA's account at Patent Pending (entry of August 15), too. Andrew Raff had his blackout with some free ice cream. And, according to a Detroit Free Press editor, "There's an incongruity to working on a computer by candlelight" (link via Poynter Online).
The longlist for the Booker Prize was announced today (link via Bookslut). I'm particularly looking forward to reading two of the books: J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, the apparent favorite, and Caryl Phillips's A Distant Shore. Both will be released in the States this autumn.
Is it just me, or is today's Friday Five a little on the dull side?

1. How much time do you spend online each day? Too much! Probably two to three hours each day. It's hard to say, though, because I don't "go online" at point X and stay there until point Y. I go online for a second to look something up, and then I do something else. I blog something I'm thinking about, and then I go watch TV. I search for something cool on Amazon, and then I go play with the dog. People are like that, you know?

2. What is your browser homepage set to? Google. This is a holdover from my dial-up days, I guess. It loads fast. But it's still convenient, and it obviates the need for me to use one of those Google toolbars. I can just open a new browser window anytime I need to do a search.

3. Do you use any instant messaging programs? If so, which one(s)? Not really. In the past, I've played with ICQ, but I'd just rather talk on the telephone than type out a conversation. Does that make me so, oh, 1989?

4. Where was your first webpage located? Right here.

5. How long have you had your current website? Since November 2002. When I started the Garden, I thought I might just blog for a year. (Does this sound familiar?) Soon, I guess I'll have to figure out whether this was a one-time, one-year experiment or something more.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

I played this same game with the new Google calculator last night, but I guess I wasn't as hardcore about it: Before now, I'd never even heard of a yoctometer. I have a hard enough time remembering how many pecks are in a bushel....

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Here's another reason to check out ring fingers, I guess. According to new research on digit ratios, gay men are more likely to have significantly shorter index fingers than ring fingers (link via Queer Day). As I understand the science, both male homosexuality and low index:ring ratios are thought to be the result of exposure to high levels of testosterone in early pregnancy. If you're interested in this topic, you might check out this book review, too.
It takes a real man, perhaps one confident enough to appear in an ad for Secret, to admit that he missed the Miracle on Ice because of his commitment to men's chorus. But that's just what Professor Jeff Cooper said yesterday.

I'm teasing, of course. I've got a few chorus-like skeletons in my closet, too (so to speak). Still, I didn't miss the Miracle on Ice. Like a "good" 13-year-old boy, I watched it on TV from the living room floor of my parents' house. The Lake Placid Games were one of the first times that I paid any attention, at all, to hockey of any stripe (you don't see a lot of hockey games break out in rural Oklahoma, let me tell you). And it was sure an exciting introduction to the game. I may not have understood the offsides rule yet, but I understood the drama of it all. A bunch of pasty American kids weren't supposed to beat a time of wily Soviet veterans. I still believe in miracles, you know?

The designers asked to put together the flight attendants' uniforms for Song, the new Delta Air Lines few-frills affiliate, faced "formidable challenges." How formidable? Well, they had to use flame-retardant fabric, and open-toe shoes were out of the question. Egad! How did they cope? I can (try to) be funny, but long-time readers will know that this isn't the first time I've pondered what flight attendants wear. What could that mean?
K-Cebo helpfully summarizes nine years of internet life.
TV Guide went with two different covers this week (link via Reality Blurred). The controversial one, which showed Trading Spaces host Paige Davis wearing nothing but strips of wallpaper, appeared only in the Los Angeles area. The rest of us had to make due with a G-rated, wallpaper-less cover that emphasized Davis's, well, cuteness.
Did the Incas work in binary code? Some anthropologists think so (free New York Times registration may be required).

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Flash mobs: Pro vs. con. (P.S. What exactly does the logo depict?)
Looking for more adventures in real life? I still don't know why you'd be looking here, but try this, this, and this.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Speaking of tennis rankings, if you're interested in the subject (and, golly, why wouldn't you be?), you should check out the new men's rankings prepared by Jeff Sagarin, the computer whiz known for his college football rankings. (SI's Jon Wertheim introduces Sagarin's rankings here.) I like the underlying premise of the Sagarin rankings: The value of a win ought to be based, in part, on the strength of the opponent. But there are still some details to work out. For instance, a viable rankings scheme has simply got to value Grand Slam matches more heavily than run-of-the-mill tour matches. (See below, huh?) Why? The matches that players care the most about winning ought to be worth the most in the rankings. If that fact were recognized, Guillermo Coria—who has had, I admit, a helluva year—would not be the Sagarin No. 2. (Coria's good, but no one really thinks he's just a tiny step below Andre Agassi.) Still, I think the Sagarin method is a step, a first step, in the right direction.
I mentioned this a week ago, so my opinion won't come as a shock to you. But it's downright outrageous that Belgium's Kim Clijsters took over today as the world No. 1 in women's tennis. Let's look at it objectively, like the WTA's computer should. Serena Williams, now the world No. 2, is the current title-holder of the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, and Wimbledon. And you know what? She was a semifinalist at the only other Grand Slam, the French Open. What has Clijsters done at these big four tournaments? Well, she made it to the fourth round at last year's U.S. Open, she was a semifinalist at this year's Australian Open and Wimbledon, and she was the losing finalist at this year's French. That's not too shabby, but it's nothing close to Williams's remarkable record. Yet, somehow or other, Clijsters is No. 1. The "somehow or other" is simply that Clijsters has played many more WTA tour events—events that ought to be worth a fraction of a Grand Slam event—than Williams. Clijsters has never won a single Grand Slam singles title, and yet she's now ranked as the world's best? Puh-leeze.

I genuinely like Clijsters. She plays with a lot of heart, and she comes across as a genuinely nice person. I'd be thrilled for her if she merited the No. 1 ranking. But her current ranking tells us more about the priorities of the WTA tour (play as many Tour events as possible, please) than it does about the state of Clijsters's game.

Believe me, if Trading Spaces host Paige Davis loses her job, it'll be for excessive perkiness—and not for appearing on the cover of TV Guide clad only in wallpaper (link via Reality Blurred).
Nearly every book ends up in the remainder bin sooner or later, according to this Washington Post article (link via Bookslut). Since new books in my life have about an 18-month (and growing) wait before they rise to the top of the nightstand, I'm often able to delay a purchase until the book shows up at a site like or
I hope Lily of The Kitchen Cabinet won't mind, even though I'm definitely encroaching on her terrain, but I was charmed by this Times wedding piece about a Bulgarian woman and an Indian man who met in New York. They bonded by telling stories about the inappropriate things they wore to American events. (You don't have to be from afar to do that. You should see what I wore to work today.) Also, a really, really, really long article in yesterday's Magazine explains why Spain is the new France. (I bet MadridMan agrees.) I thought about the first third of the article was truly fascinating, but then I lost interest. I think my dog's short attention span is rubbing off on me. Maybe someone else can do the 25-words-or-less thing?
As a going-back-to-work present, Blogger has returned my archives. Reunited, and it feels so good. (Thanks to Peaches and Herb for stopping by.) Happy Monday, everybody!

Sunday, August 10, 2003

The hostage crisis continues. If you're looking for my archives, or hoping to use a permalink here, well, those things are suffering from Blogger-itis right now. I'm hopeful that this will all get straightened out in the next day or so.
I wish more sporting events would arbitrarily change the way the game is scored. I'm serious! There's nothing sacred about a touchdown being worth six points, or a tiebreaker being won at seven points, or a short program being worth half as much as a skater's long program. And this kind of innovation is really the best way to see how changing the incentives alters the substance of the play.
Before he left for his summer break from blogging, Andrew Sullivan wrote:I certainly agree that bloggers—and especially those like Sullivan and Howard Bashman, who blog so much each day—must take regular breaks. What I wonder, though, is if it's really true that bloggers can "stop thinking in longer form." It might be. In general, though, I find that my writing just gets better as I do more of it—whether that's in my blog, my offline journal, or at work. Still, I'm not in the business of writing novels or long "think" pieces, and all these concentrated bursts of writing might get in the way if I were.
So, your fantasy baseball, football, and tennis leagues don't keep you busy enough? Well, you could always try a fantasy Supreme Court league (link via How Appealing). I bet more people would sign up if the first case in the contest weren't the incredibly complicated constitutional test of campaign finance reform (small quibble: as I understand it, the campaign-finance case is the last case of the current Supreme Court Term and not the first case of the new Term).
I'm sure you've noticed this, but — in a fit of insomnia last night — I added a commenting feature to the blog. I'd wanted to do this for awhile, and I even mentioned that yesterday, but I hadn't been able to figure out how to get it to work in combination with the "check to open links in new windows" option. Well, in a fit of clarity last night, I worked it out. Or, I should say, I found someone else who'd worked it out, and I was finally able to understand what he'd done.... My thanks go to the scripting master who runs The Critical 'I'.

My great fear now is that no one will ever comment on anything. Truthfully, on most days, I get more visits from Googlers looking for the BBC's favorite DIYer. And I doubt those people will sharing their thoughts on Mr. PiBB or the Kansas City Royals. So, if you're one of my four-and-one-half regular readers, please feel free to comment once in awhile, ok?

Looking for Mr. PiBB? Check out this availability map, brought to soda lovers by a sweet, little Mr. PiBB appreciation site (link via Mr. PiBB isn't available in my neighborhood, but I'm ok with that. I think it tastes like soapy Dr. Pepper. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Denise Howell at Bag and Baggage misses her archives, too. (I'd link to the exact message, you know, but our permalinks don't work, either.)
Ernie the Attorney is enamored with a TypePad feature that allows him to have a pre-written post published at a set time in the future. This feature isn't confined just to TypePad, of course; even Blogger offers it to those who spring for the "professional" version.

I actually meant to write a little something on this topic—which Howard Bashman described as an issue of dateline integrity (cool term, huh?)—several weeks ago. In defending his practice of future-dating posts, Sasha Volokh said that he did most of his writing on the weekend, when fewer readers visit blogs, and he didn't see any reason why he should "put up a dozen posts on a Sunday." That's a good point, and I don't intend to suggest that future-dating posts is unethical. It's not. (I sure don't think it belongs in any ethics code for bloggers.) And while I wouldn't criticize another blogger for future-dating posts, it's not something I can really envision doing.

For me, blogging entails—at least in part—having something akin to a conversation with readers. That doesn't mean that all blogs should offer readers' comments (which I don't here, mostly because it interferes with a bit of html scripting for a feature that I like better), but any blogger knows that feedback is a key part of blogging. By future-dating posts, I'd be suggesting to readers that I was available for interaction even when I wasn't. For example, I might "post" about X, prompting readers to write back about X. Instead of answering the emails or posting anew about X, though, my post about Y might suddenly appear—suggesting, of course, that I'd moved on without thinking any more about X. I could probably salvage relationships with a little post-Y email, sure. But, for me, this downside of future-dating posts outweighs any advantages that I might enjoy. I'd lose some of the immediacy that's inherent in the medium.

The timing of this interesting (for me, especially), I know, but Ernie the Attorney is trying out the new TypePad blogging service. Ernie's TypePad site is looking good. And, for that matter, so is my friend dragonleg's Shattered Buddha.
Sigh. For about 24 hours now, my archives have been completely inaccessible. They're not exactly missing because I can search them. You, however, can't view them if you click on the "archives" link to the left or even if you click on a link from elsewhere. So, if you found your way here searching for a shirtless Handy Andy Kane or for information on why the Project Greenlight directors didn't want Jane Kaczmarek, there are two problems: (i) the posts that brought you to the Garden are unavailable right now and (ii) the information you sought wasn't even available here, anyway. (Handy Andy, if you're reading this, there's apparently an insatiable demand for your pecs!)

The people over at Blogger have written to assure me that they're "in the process of correcting the problem" with the archiving. Until now, Blogger has never given me too many problems, so I should probably just be generous and wait this out. I do wonder, though, why problems like this almost never seem to get posted at Status.Blogger.Com, like they're supposed to. That way I wouldn't have to waste my time, during the hours it takes for the Blogger staff to respond to emails, madly and futilely trying to republish my archives. Sigh.

Friday, August 08, 2003

The Friday Five:

1. What's the last place you traveled to, outside your home state/country? Because the question asks about travel, which probably assumes some leisurely intent, I'm going to spare you a retelling of my most recent excursions to New Jersey and Delaware. Yawn. The last time I traveled was just a few weeks ago, when I went to New Orleans. Since Louisiana is more "home" to me than Pennsylvania, though, I'm not sure this actually answers the question. The last time I traveled to somewhere other than Louisiana or Oklahoma, my original "home," was in April—when I visited Houston and, shortly thereafter, D.C. for a few days. (The last time I left the country, by the way, was over 10 years ago, when I spent some time in southern Ontario. I'm so provincial.)

2. What's the most bizarre/unusual thing that's ever happened to you while traveling? A few things come to mind, but two episodes from a trip last summer to Wyoming come to mind. Let me quote from my travel journal. (When I say "we," I'm including my flatmate/travel companion.) Here's part of the entry for July 24, the day we arrived in Yellowstone National Park:

For a week after that, I had pea-sized bruises all over the right side of my abdomen. I looked like I'd been subjected to some bizarre medical experimentation. (Our truck, by the way, also smelled of wet sulphur for days.)

Three days after being assaulted by hail, on a day we visited Grand Teton National Park, my journal included this:

The itching lasted about as long as the bruises.... Wyoming, now that I think about it, can just be downright dangerous. When I first visited Yellowstone in the early 1980s, my mother was nearly trampled by a randy buffalo. I'm not kidding. There's a reason Death in Yellowstone is one of the most popular books sold by the Yellowstone Association.

3. If you could take off to anywhere, money and time being no object, where would you go? The nominees are: India, Japan, New Zealand, and Spain. And the winner is: Japan, especially if I could go during a sumo tournament. Why Japan? I think a good traveler enjoys a little bit of disorientation now and again. Disorientation causes me to pay close attention to my new surroundings and to question my own experiences and assumptions. Of all the nominees, Japan—with the language and cultural barriers it poses (to me)—fits the bill nicely. And, of course, I'm already very interested in all things Japanese.

4. Do you prefer traveling by plane, train or car? The destination is really the key factor here, of course. But if I'm traveling domestically and time isn't particularly an issue, I sure do love a good car trip. That's probably because a car trip reminds me, deeply, of the summer vacations my family took when I was a kid. I felt so free during those trips. I also like a car trip because it gets me in touch with rural, offbeat places.

5. What's the next place on your list to visit? I'm planning a trip in the fall to the Alabama Gulf Coast. Really. It's an annual thing I do with a certain group of friends. (Yes, that's very Same Time, Next Year of us.) And it's really a good time to go to the beach. It's still warm in that part of the world, but the tourists are mostly gone. I can enjoy the beach in relative solitude, and I can have the condo's hot tub to myself. (By the way, it wouldn't surprise me if that turns out not to be my next trip. In the past two days alone, I seriously considered booking a flight (a) to Tulsa for later in the month and (b) to Tampa so that I could see this weekend's Devil Rays games against the Royals. I feel that KC needs me now, you know?)

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Say goodbye to the Canadian Grand Prix. Formula One is leaving Canada because of the country's anti-tobacco laws.
artblog is a blog about art. I guess that comes as a real shock, huh? Anyway, I like it. And not just because of its frequent focus on the Philly art scene. Take, for instance, an ongoing discussion—between artblog's two proprietors—on the current state of sculpture. It started here, continued here, and now stands here.
I find bears and the bear subculture to be truly fascinating. (If you have to ask, just skip to the next post, ok?) But doesn't an article by Andrew Sullivan about bears make as much sense as, oh, a Peggy Fleming exposé on Olympic weightlifting? Bizarre. And don't get me started on Sullivan's opening vignette, which has his potbelly being hit on at last call in a P-town bar....
As the most excellent royals baseball blog chronicles, my beloved Kansas City Royals are hanging on to just a one-game lead over the White Sox in the AL Central. Losing two of three to the Sox this week really hurt. As I write this, the Royals and the Devil Rays (come on, is that a real team?) are scoreless in the fourth inning. Go Royals! Update: Dang! The Royals managed to lose, after going into the bottom of the ninth with a two-run lead. They're only a half-game in front of the White Sox now.
Beachgoers from Ocean City, Maryland, to Daytona Beach, Florida, are dealing with water temperatures that have dropped as many as 10 degrees in just a few days. Something called coastal upwelling may be to blame. (I'd try to explain, but I didn't really pay any attention in my ninth-grade earth science class. Sorry.)
I particularly enjoyed this Washington Post article about the making of an audio book (via Bookslut's blog). If I ever write a book, I won't be able to record the audio version without undergoing therapy. I'm one of those people who can't even bear to hear himself on the answering machine.
The new issue of Bookslut is up. The highlight for me: Michael Schaub's interview with Oscar Casares, the author of Brownsville—the wonderful collection of short fiction that I mentioned here. Among other things, Casares explains how Brownsville ended up being offered in a south Texas chain of supermarkets.
Maybe it's just because I'm lactose-intolerant, but the thought of fizzy, sugary milk repulses me (link via Shattered Buddha). And now it's apparently all the rage. School administrators who offer these products to kids ought to be ashamed.
Yeah, I know. I haven't posted much lately. I don't really know why. I just haven't had any passion for blogging the past couple of days. Even worse, I couldn't think of anything to blog about. That's why you got that pathetic Brady Bunch quiz result yesterday. So lame. Maybe it's August, and I need a vacation. Who wants to go to the Grand Canyon with me?

Anyway, I'm feeling better today, and I've got the blogging bug. Let's see how long it lasts.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Which Brady Bunch character am I?It totally figures. (Quiz-taking prompted by freakgirl.)

Monday, August 04, 2003

A can of air freshener just sprang a leak on me in my living room. I think it may be a very long time before I wish to smell "the ocean" again.
I think it's probably a sad thing when a TV show convinces us that we don't even really know how to shave. But Johnny A Go Go is thinking it (Item #2), and so am I.
I'm a longtime reader of The Volokh Conspiracy, and I know how to separate the wheat from the chaff. (I can say that, you know, because I grew up in Oklahoma.) Volokhia, though, must be a very confusing place for newbies—who are faced, as of today, with 13(!) different writers. If I were a new visitor, I doubt I'd even be able to make sense of it all. And I probably wouldn't even try.
SI's tennis writer Jon Wertheim, on Kim Clijsters—who is apparently only days away from overtaking Serena Williams as the world's No. 1: I think it's a bit, I don't know, icky that a player who has not won a major and, by her own admission, isn't the best in the business can achieve the top ranking.

I couldn't have said it better myself, and I totally would have used the word "icky," too. If the WTA's computer thinks Clijsters is the best player in the world, it obviously needs to be fixed. The solution is obvious, I think: Winning Grand Slams ought to be so heavily weighted that it is impossible, or nearly so, for someone who hasn't won even one to overtake someone who is the current titleholder of, oh, two or three of them. Ridiculous.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

An article in today's New York Times mentions the recent controversies in sumo and discusses Japanese fears that foreigners are taking over the sport. It's a good piece, but I believe it has at least one error in it. (I'm suddenly Andrew Sullivan, apparently.) It states, at one point, that Japanese fans "threw seat cushions at" Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu. What actually happened (see discussion dated July 16), as I understand it, is that fans threw their cushions (or zabutons) into the air during Asashoryu's dohyo-iri, the quasi-religious ritual that grand champions perform. Traditionally, sumo fans throw their zabutons, again into the air, when something exciting happens—such as when a yokozuna is upset. Throwing cushions during Asashoryu's dohyo-iri certainly was a startling, almost un-Japanese, show of open disrespect. But what actually happened is a far cry from Japanese fans actually throwing objects at a wrestler.
Yes, bobbleheads are passé (except, maybe, unless they honor a Supreme Court justice). The trendy sports collectible is the Russian doll (New York Times registration required). The Phillies, by the way, are offering nesting dolls of five current players at the August 17 game against the Cards. But you'll have to be 14 or under to take advantage.
Padres 6, Phillies 4. Phillies 10, Padres 4. There aren't that many doubleheaders anymore in major-league baseball, so I decided I had to take this one in Saturday. After the Phils had absolutely no offense at all—except for some meaningless bottom-of-the-ninth face-saving—in the first game, they did manage to play some decent ball in the second game. Don't get me started on the Phillies' pitching, though. It's ugly.

P.S. Seven hours is a long time to spend at the ballpark, especially when you keep getting sweat and SPF 70 (yes, I'm that pale) in your eyes.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Looking for adventures in real life? I don't know why you'd be looking here, on the web. Still, try this.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Because my brain has apparently gone on vacation without my body (or maybe there really isn't anything Garden-like going on in the world today?), I can't think of a thing to blog about. I'll take this as my cue to start doing the Friday Five. I'll keep it up for a few weeks and see if I'm happy with the results. (The questions often seem a little too self-indulgent, but—well—that's rarely stopped me before.)

1. What time do you wake up on weekday mornings? That often depends on my flatmate's work schedule. I always wake up when he starts making noise. Right now, though, I'm getting up at 7 a.m. (before he gets up) so that I can be at work by about 8:30.

2. Do you sleep in on the weekends? How late? You bet. As the work week goes by, I get more and more sleep-deprived. My natural rhythms are such that I'd never get up as early as 7 a.m. (or, worse, 6 a.m.) on my own, and I often do my best work after 9 p.m. By Saturday morning, my sleep deficit is often huge. All I'm saying is don't call before noon, ok?

3. Aside from waking up, what is the first thing you do in the morning? Sheesh, that's a little personal, ain't it? I go to the bathroom, like—I presume—99.9% of the world. After that, I like to floss. (Yes, Mom, I wash my hands first.)

4. How long does it take to get ready for your day? An hour. Yes, that's a long time—especially for someone who looks, most days, like he's badly in need of a visit from Queer Eye's Fab 5. I'm just not good in the morning, and there's a lot to do. I often lose vast amounts of time in the shower. Maybe I fall asleep. I also do some stretching exercises in the morning for a bad back....

5. When possible, what is your favorite place to go for breakfast? My first thought was any Bob Evans, because the sausage gravy there is delicious. (I used to live near one that featured fried mush on the menu; sadly, those in the Philly area don't offer the mush. Yankees!) But I really love to hit Waffle House. The pecan waffles are good, and being at a Waffle House reminds me of being on vacation. That's a great way to start any day.


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