The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Tuesday observations:

1. When I read this New York Times piece about ABC's Alias, I finally realized that—suggestions early in the series to the contrary—the writers of the show actually have no master plan at all. They're making it up as they go along, and they're not even sophisticated enough to be looking more than three or four episodes ahead. In fact, given the silly, convoluted story lines about Sidney's family and friends, I might as well be watching an actual soap opera. And if I were watching General Hospital or something, there'd at least be some real chance that one of the major characters, though inevitably in jeopardy, would actually die. The world of Alias, on the other hand, is an amazingly danger-free place for the lead characters.

Kim at Fresh Hell apparently had a similar reaction.

(P.S. Still, I love that Sidney Bristow so much that I'll keep watching until ABC pulls the TiVo remote from my cold, dead hands.)

2. If you're a tornado buff like me, you'll want to be reading as a meteorologist and a fifth-grade science teacher blog a week of storm chasing (link via Kottke). They start on Monday in Oklahoma City.

I've always wanted to do some serious storm chasing. Why didn't I sign up this year for a storm chasing tour?

3. Japanese vending machines are way cool (link via LYD).

4. If only I had an extra $500,000 or so, I could finally purchase the Morris Louis of my dreams (link via Modern Art Notes). (Actually, though, I'm not sure this is the Morris Louis for me. If I'm going to surrender myself to a Color Field painting, and—gosh—I really want to, there might as well be a lot of C-O-L-O-R, huh?)

Monday, April 26, 2004

Happy Blogiversary to Philly's own Artblog. Over the past year, Libby and Roberta have alerted me to so many local art happenings and provided so much insightful commentary that I almost sorta feel like I know what's going on. Best wishes and thanks to Artblog.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

On Friday, I made my annual trip to the Smithsonian Craft Show, produced by the Smithsonian Women's Committee (it's hard to believe there are still women's "auxiliaries" in this day and age, huh?). This year, in part because I was otherwise occupied on Thursday, I decided against making a long D.C. weekend of it. (Actually, maybe the real reason was that I couldn't get a Saturday-night booking at my favorite D.C. hotel. I know there are many other places to stay, but I'm a creature of habit.) So I spent a good chunk of the day on various trains.

All the traveling to and fro was worth it, though. The Smithsonian Craft Show is surely the nation's top exhibition of studio craft, and there's always something new and different to see. For instance, this year there were:As always, I spent too much money. I bought an exquisite, large ceramic piece by Hiroshi Nakayama (scroll down to see a different piece), whose work I couldn't resist in February. Nakayama's work looks like stone, and my piece is a sort of enormous bagel with a single, significant dimple. I also carried home a glass lamp by Melanie Leppla (mine is like the example on the left). Leppla, of Waitsfield, Vermont, produces little Japanese-inspired glass lamps. What's really striking is that the lamp is entirely glass—right down to the tiny legs.

I was also sorely tempted by some of the pottery of Jim and Susan Whalen, of Horse Shoe, North Carolina. I'm sure if I'd had a third arm, or had driven my own car, I'd own something like this now. As it turned out, the lost opportunity to purchase one of the Whalens' pots meant that I felt—wrongly, I'm sure—that I had a little extra money to use in this year's online auctions. Just a few minutes ago, I clinched the deal on some tiny, abstract glass pieces by William Couig. Last year, the online auctions weren't patronized too heavily. The action was fierce, though, this year, and there were fewer bargains to be had. I'll have to remember that for 2005. (Lesson: I should just spend my money at the show.)

Having spent so much money on, um, non-essentials, I'll probably have to spend the next month eating beans and rice. I'm a bad man sometimes.
Steve from The Sporting Life has posted another set of questions posed by an Atlanta sports talk radio station. I don't like these questions as much as the last set, but they may prompt me to write a quasi-interesting thing or two.

What's the most historic sports moment you've witnessed in person? Well, I've been to a lot of sporting events, from high school to professional, but I've been racking my brain to think of something that might be described as "historic." I was at all of the 2001 men's NCAA basketball tournament's first round games in New Orleans, so I saw both No. 11 seed Temple's improbable (as well as No. 7 seed Penn State's) arrival in the Sweet Sixteen that year. (Temple ultimately lost in the Elite Eight to Michigan State.) One other, equally weak contender happened recently: when I saw the Flyers defeat the Devils in Game 1 of their NHL playoff series. Neither is that "historic," huh? I guess I'll have to try harder.

In the NFL, would you rather see your team have a "guaranteed win" on its home schedule or a game vs. a good team? Steve's answer to this question is pretty good. Since we're talking about "my" team, I guess I'll have to take the guaranteed win. Obviously, if I had no particular attachment to the teams, I'd be looking for a competitive game....

As an adult, have you been to a museum? If so, which one(s)? Does this question even make sense on sports radio? I've probably been to nearly as many museums as sporting events. It would take me quite awhile to list them all. Am I a bit of a weirdo because I like art and sports? Maybe so.

When's the last time you took a swing at a baseball (softballs don't count)? Junior high, I guess. At some point, I became so nearsighted that I deemed it unsafe to try. Oh, and embarrassing. That, too.

Have you ever bought a significant piece of art or memorabilia? I have lots of high-end craft pieces, but they probably don't count as "art." When I win the lottery, I'll buy a Donald Judd or Morris Louis piece. Until then, my biggest purchase is a sort of sports memorabilia—a print of a portrait of George Brett (click through to Image 13) by noted Kansas City photographer Nick Vedros.

Your most "sissified" moment. Oh, gosh. This question assumes a gendered view of the world that I can't really get behind. That said, I recently watched the World Synchronized Figure Skating Championships on Lifetime Television, and it didn't feel like my most macho moment ever.

Name an un-guy-like thing to do. Again, I have some qualms about the assumptions about gender implicit in the question. Still, not paying child support seems like a particularly un-guy-like thing to do.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

You can learn all about the haka, the Maori dance associated with the All Blacks, New Zealand's rugby team, at this awfully cool site.
Some of my favorite, recent posts from some of my favorite blogs:

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Today's adventure: I made my first trip to Citizens Bank Park, the new home of the Philadelphia Phillies. Sadly, the Florida Marlins spoiled the party (my party?) by clinching a sweep of the Phils, 9-7. A lowlight of the game: A bench-clearing brawl occurred in the second inning when the poor control of Phillies starter Brett Myers caused the Marlins to think he was taking potshots at them. And, as always seems to happen when I'm at a game, Phillies manager Larry Bowa managed to get in an umpire's face....

The Phils had a real chance to win. In the bottom of the ninth, there were two men on base when slugger Jim Thome came to the plate. It was an exciting at-bat, but Thome eventually struck out to give the Phillies their third out. I'll remember the end of the game, by the way, because many fans spent the ninth inning chanting "Let's go, Flyers." The Fly-boys, of course, start a playoffs series against the Maple Leafs tonight.

For weeks, I've been hearing how there isn't a bad seat to be found in Citizens Bank Park. Well, let me tell you, that's wrong. One bad seat is located in Section 139, Row 31, Seat 1. That's in left field (the Phillies actually advertise this as a baseline seat, but it's totally in left field), and it's close enough to smell the grass. But the seat gives you a crazy, cockeyed view of the game. Unsurprisingly, you have no idea what's going on at the plate; more surprisingly, you have no idea what's going on anywhere in the infield. In fact, when you try to focus on the infield, you're likely to get only a pretty good view of the third base coach's side. Even on the rare occasions that the action was in left field, I couldn't see what happened when the fielder got excitingly close to the wall. Perhaps worse, seats in that section of the stadium don't offer any real view of the new, snazzy scoreboard. I was stuck squinting at the much smaller boards on the first base line. And most irritating of all, on what was a hot, 80-degree plus day in Philly, I spent the entire game watching as people streamed up and down the aisle next to my seat, searching for sodas, beer, and restrooms.

Most of the people below me actually spent the entire game in the sun. I wonder if being that much closer to the left-field grass was worth it....

Happy Land Run Day!

(Oh, and Happy Earth Day, too, if you want to celebrate something obscure.)

Monday, April 19, 2004

My big adventure of the weekend wasn't that adventurous. The flatmate and I made a stop at the Tenth Annual Philadelphia Furniture & Furnishings Show—which features handcrafted objects for the home. (I also saw some familiar arts-and-crafts-show exhibitors, like my favorite spoon-maker Norm Sartorious. If I ever have an extra $2,000 or so in my pocket, I'm definitely buying a spoon.) Incredibly enough, I managed to keep my checkbook in my pocket, and I walked away carrying nothing heavier than a program. (Mom will be so proud!) I was sorely tempted, though, by the furniture of Scott Grove. Grove's work is contemporary, but it's not the clichéd postmodernist furniture that we continue to see at so many shows. (That stuff just screams 1985.) Grove produces pieces that are textured, yet have clean lines. Nearly every piece is adorned with carvings, often geometric, that just ask to be touched. If I actually owned a home, I'm sure I'd be saving up my pennies to buy a Scott Grove table or two. Or three. Oh, and I'll need a pinball-machine-turned-table from Maxwell Furniture, too. Ok?

I was also drawn to the work of metalsmith Yates Spencer. In fact, I've been kicking myself for not picking up a pair of art deco-style bookends that he is offering as a limited edition. Each bookend consists of three slightly different curves that end at different heights along the book-edge. The design is simple but elegant. In fact, it'll take all my fortitude not to call or email Spencer this week to order a pair.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

What did I do during the long silence? Probably too much. I worked long hours, started a diet (ready excuse: I'm too weak to blog), endured what was one of the longest patches of gray, rainy weather in memory (I've got to find a sunnier place to live), had yet another mid-life crisis. But I had a lot of fun, too:

  • On April 8, I managed to take in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs series between my Philadelphia Flyers and the evil defending champions, the New Jersey Devils. The result: Flyers 3, Devils 2. In some ways, it was the ideal game for a fan. There wasn't too much pressure, as it was just the first of a seven-game series. Plus, the Flyers jumped out to an early lead, and the fans could play in the stands. I certainly enjoyed the "Mar-ty, Mar-ty, Mar-ty" chants that we used to taunt Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. Still, the game got tense and exciting at the end, with the Devils scoring two back-to-back goals right after the Flyers scored their third goal deep in the final period. The Fly-boys held on, of course. And best of all, the Flyers went on to take the series yesterday.

  • Once again, I served as the commissioner for my office's March Madness contest (it's not a pool, as there's no gambling [although there are prizes]). Embarrassingly enough, I actually won this year. Of the 63 games, I correctly picked 44—way better than the pitiful 33 I managed to pick last year. I didn't have UConn winning it all, though, as I felt I had to be a good Okie and pick Oklahoma State. It's a lot more fun to be the commissioner, by the way, when you're winning. I got to write the most delicious, devilish email updates to my co-participants. (I'm sure there'll be hell to pay later.)

  • On February 28 (actually, a few days before the long silence began), I went to Baltimore for the American Craft Council's show there. It was an incredible show, with an exhibit hall full enough to occupy more than an entire day (there were over 700 artists there). My checkbook definitely saw some action. Here's what I brought back:
    • I picked up a couple of mugs from Eileen P. Goldenberg, a Bay Area potter whose work first attracted me and my credit card at last year's Smithsonian Craft Show. I was too stingy to purchase one of Goldenberg's vases, but that's definitely on my wish list.

    • I purchased a clay stack of pillows, crafted by Carey Reynolds of Boulder, Colorado. You can see the pillows on her home page (as well as in the online gallery at her site). Reynolds explained that she actually sews the pillows (it's typically a stack of three small pillows), pours clay over them, and then fires the result in a kiln. The pillows, of course, burn away, and the end result is—somehow—a mixture of the hard and the soft.

    • I couldn't resist purchasing something from Hiroshi Nakayama (a piece of his work, "Ceremonial Vessel," is at the top of the linked page), a potter who produces beautiful pieces of high-fire stoneware. Saying I purchased a vase doesn't really give the right impression. It's actually a horizontal, almost log-shaped piece—which might, I suppose, function as a kind of bud vase. What attracts me to Nakayama's work is how it seems to have been carved from beautiful rocks, not made by a human potter. By the way, I'm hoping to catch Nakayama sometime this weekend at the Smithsonian Craft Show. I hope my checkbook is prepared.

    • I also bought a turquoise-y raku bottle by Vermont potter Bob Green. (I wonder why there are so many high-caliber potters in Vermont.) I wasn't familiar with Green's work, but I was drawn to the pieces in the striking blue-green finish, which he said was new. That finish is designed to look like a broken eggshell (sort of), and it's broken up by bronze-y, coppery veins. I wish I could link to a representative picture for you, but I haven't been able to find one.
  • I slipped off to New York at the end of March. An old friend and I saw Aunt Dan and Lemon, starring Lili Taylor and Kristen Johnson; Sea of Tranquility, starring Dylan Baker and Patricia Kalember; and Carnival Knowledge, which is less theater than a behind-the-scenes look at the sideshow. As for the first two, I'd have to say I enjoyed the performances more than the plays. Johnson, in particular, was good as a sort of sexy neo-fascist(!). Sea was playing at a beautiful theater, the Atlantic, that I hope to visit again. Both of those shows are gone. But if you're in New York and have a real interest in cotton candy and freak shows, you might give Carnival Knowledge a try. I found it fun, if a bit too corny.

  • I've been watching lots of USA Network's Nashville Star, the American Idol clone that features country music. I enjoyed last year's Star, and—ahem—picked eventual winner Buddy Jewell at the start. This year, I'm convinced the winner will be either George Canyon or Brad Cotter. Although I tend to like Canyon's more traditional style, I think Cotter (who often sings in an earnest, almost—ewww—Collin Raye-like way) might be a smidge more talented. It's funny that Cotter is doing so well, because he wasn't even among the 10 original finalists chosen by the Nashville Star judges; he was an 11th pick chosen by viewers. In fact, I think this year's judging crew made some major mistakes. I'm convinced that Mississippian Richie Jones was one of the two or three most talented contestants, but the judges eliminated him at the earliest opportunity. Hmph.

  • I listened to the audio version of Jhumpa Lahiri's novel The Namesake. I think reading the novel might have driven me a little bit nutty because it's so filled with page after page (cassette after cassette?) of finely-observed descriptions. I kept being amazed at how rapt I was, given the slow, slow pace of the plot. I'm not saying the novel isn't good; it's just that the entire novel, which details the immigrant experience through the experiences of the first American-born member of an Indian family, could be summed up in an unsurprising sentence or two. Somehow, though, Sarita Choudhury's reading made the novel seem downright transcendent. Choudhury, who starred in Mississippi Masala, read the author's descriptions as if they were the only things that mattered, and I never truly got irritated by the long arc of the gentle plot. I'd listen to anything that Choudhury read, and I highly recommend The Namesake.

  • I'm currently reading Ruth Ozeki's My Year of Meats. I tend to be interested in Japanese things, so the story—of a Japanese-American documentarian making episodes in the United States of a silly show for Japanese television—appeals to me. I doubt the beef industry is too pleased with the book, which focuses attention on the chemicals used in factory-style livestock farming. But it's the not-so-political part of the plot that has me enthralled. It's about love and dignity, and it's been fun to see how the plot—finally—brings two women from different parts of the world together for a common purpose. The book is serious and almost-farcical all at the same time. That's got to be a tasty combo, huh? Yep.
  • Saturday, April 17, 2004

    The Fifth Sentence Meme (via Crescat Sententia and Darren Barefoot):

    1. Grab the nearest book.
    2. Open the book to page 23.
    3. Find the fifth sentence.
    4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

    Well, here's what I got: The old man must have been delighted to learn that his son hadn't succumbed to the epidemic of Hegel-worship which was infecting almost every institution in the land. That's from Karl Marx: A Life by Francis Wheen, and the "old man" was Karl Marx's father.
    Three things grabbing my interest today:

    Friday, April 16, 2004

    There's no Friday Five this week, but—as penance for my long silence—I'll do last week's today:

    1. What do you do for a living? I'm an attorney, although not one who represents clients. I have the most difficult time explaining what I actually do to others. I'm not even sure my family and lawyer-friends get it. That's (my) life, I guess.

    2. What do you like most about your job? I enjoy the legal research and writing that is a big part of my job. I also get to feel like I'm performing a public service.

    3. What do you like least about your job? It can be re-re-re-repetitious.

    4. When you have a bad day at work it's usually because there's too much to do and too little time to do it.

    5. What other career(s) are you interested in? If a genie would allow me to practice any other profession, I'd opt to be a professional poker player. (Really.) Or an artist who paints big abstract works.


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