The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Sign of the Apocalypse #184

Goodness gracious. Couldn't the New York Yankees and first baseman Jason Giambi just have said he was out because of an "intestinal ailment" or something? Did we really have to know that Giambi has an intestinal parasite? Ewww. Too much information!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


The Women's Quarterfinalists

I know the weather has been bad, but how on Earth did the men's draw get ahead of the women's draw at Wimbledon? However it happened, the women's quarterfinalists were only today set. Let's see (finally) how I did with my picks:

Serena Williams - In four matches, Serena Williams has barely broken a sweat. I said it was unthinkable that Serena wouldn't make the quarterfinals, and I was right.

Jennifer Capriati - Capriati's matches have been a bit tighter than Serena Williams's—but not by much. As I thought, Capriati got by Nadia Petrova in the Round of 16. At this point, the interesting question is whether Capriati can get by Serena into the semifinals. I still don't think so.

Amélie Mauresmo - Yes! I'm three-for-three. Mauresmo was, by far, the best player in this section of the draw, and she hasn't really been tested. We should still be talking about her later in the week.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - Rats. As I've already mentioned, Kuznetsova was my big disappointment, losing in the first round to a qualifier. I rebounded, though, by making Paola Suárez my back-up choice. Sure enough, Suárez has come through. Can I get partial credit?

Lindsay Davenport - Davenport's results have been stellar. I'm so proud of her. (Ok, maybe she wasn't really doing it for me. Hmph.)

Venus Williams - Venus, as everyone knows, lost in the second round to Karolina Sprem. When it happened, I made Sprem my new choice for the quarters. The Young Croatian did just as I expected. More partial credit, please? (As the top half of the draw was still catching up, Sprem lost today to Davenport in the quarters.)

Alicia Molik - Ay, caramba! Two misses in a row. How disheartening. Molik lost in the third round to Tamarine Tanasugarn. Tanasugarn lost, in turn, to Ai Sugiyama. For what it's worth, I had Sugiyama in the Round of 16. Truthfully, though, I didn't think she had the potential to be a Wimbledon quarterfinalist this year. I was wrong.

Maria Sharapova - I'm pretty proud of this pick. I was right to suggest that French Open champion Anastasia Myskina couldn't win two Slams in a row, and I was right to pick Sharapova to emerge instead from this section of the draw. You may recall that I put Sharapova in the semifinals, and—well—Sharapova took out Sugiyama today to vindicate my pick. Now if she can just make the final, I'll look like a real pundit.

In the end, I managed to pick five of the eight quarterfinalists. My two early back-up choices, Suárez and Sprem, came through, too. Only Sugiyama didn't have enough of my respect. All in all, I'm pleased.

As for the rest of the tournament, I'm pleased to report that I can almost completely stick with my original picks (those who've already earned their spots are listed in blue):

Sign of the Apocalypse #183

Celine Dion and Anne Geddes are collaborating (link via Fresh Hell). And if that's not enough, the collaboration of creepy music and creepy baby photography will honor the "moving, tender and unbreakable bond of love that exists between a mother and her baby."

I'm sure to have nightmares now.

Monday, June 28, 2004


The Men's Quarterfinalists

The men's quarterfinalists have been set at Wimbledon. Let's look back at my picks and see how well (or not) I did:

Roger Federer - I didn't have many doubts that Federer would make it to the quarterfinals, and he hasn't disappointed me. The big surprise in this section of the draw was the early departure of No. 13 Paradorn Srichaphan, who lost in the first round to the big-serving Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic took the place I had for Srichaphan in the Round of 16, but he couldn't trouble Federer too much there. In fact, Federer hasn't lost a set in the tournament. He'll be our champion, right?

Lleyton Hewitt - I had Hewitt in the quarters, and he's safely through. He's looked awfully good, too, losing only a single set (to No. 9 Carlos Moya). I can't see Hewitt getting by Federer, but I don't see many other players who could stand in his way right now. It's good to see Hewitt in the thick of things again.

Guillermo Coria - Let me just pause a second while you chuckle. [Insert laughter here.] Yes, I had Coria, the consummate clay-courter, in the quarters of Wimbledon. I just didn't know what to make of this section of the draw. But—believe me—I never seriously considered the possibility that the eventual quarterfinalist would be Florian Mayer. (I considered nearly everyone else!) What is he? No. 66 in the world right now? I thought I was prescient to have picked Mayer to win in the first round over Wayne Arthurs. I definitely wasn't prescient enough to put the young German into the quarters.

Sebastien Grosjean - Yessss! I saw Grosjean emerging from this section of the draw, and—darn it—I was right. Aw, shucks. But it's hard to take too much credit. Grosjean has a serious grass-court game, and there was simply no one else in his section of the draw who could compete. Like Federer, Grosjean hasn't lost a set.

Tim Henman - Henman has looked like hell for most of the tournament. He could've easily lost in the first round to a clay-courter and in the third round to No. 32 Hicham Arazi. He looked good today, though, in taking out last year's finalist, Mark Philippoussis. I still expect Henman to reach the semifinals but no further.... I simply don't think Henman has the mental toughness to win it all. Harsh? Probably so. Accurate? Probably so.

Mario Ancic - Ok, you've got to give me props for this pick, right? I mean, wow. I picked an unseeded player to make the quarterfinals, and it actually happens? I don't know if I'm more proud or amazed. As I said from the outset, the seeded players in this section just didn't seem likely to advance. Incredibly enough, I picked the right non-seeded player to advance instead. Woo hoo!

Rainer Schuettler - Much to the chagrin of the Rainer Schuettler fan page and to me, Schuettler lost in the third round to No. 30 Vince Spadea. I think Schuettler was probably just exhausted after having to go five sets in each of the first two rounds (against Robin Soderling and Greg Rusedski, two excellent grass-courters). Anyway, the quarterfinalist actually ended up being No. 12 Sjeng Schalken. I did have Schalken reaching the Round of 16, so I can't be too bummed about his success.

Andy Roddick - I didn't think I could be wrong about this pick, and I wasn't. Roddick hasn't lost a set.

So, I managed to correctly pick six of the eight quarterfinalists, including one of the two unseeded players. I'm pleased as punch (what exactly does that mean, anyway?) with that. And only the Coria pick looks completely outrageous from today's vantage point. As I said, though, there's no way I would've ever picked Florian Mayer in that section of the draw.

I guess I could take this opportunity to change my picks for the rest of the men's tournament, but I'm not going to. I still see it this way:What a good men's tournament we're seeing.

Tomorrow, the women's quarterfinalists ought to be set—finally. Assuming we don't have another rainout, I'll look at my picks for the women's draw tomorrow night.

Sunday, June 27, 2004


Viva Las Vegas

I'm really taken with American Casino, the Discovery Channel's reality-show/soap-opera that follows life at Green Valley Ranch Resort. It's incredible that so many seemingly-not-so-perfect (ok, let's just say it: they're flawed) people manage to keep things running at a Las Vegas casino-resort. I particularly enjoy rooting against the egocentric vice president of hotel operations, Michael Tata. And how can a viewer not love the emotionally needy director of marketing, Wayne Shadd?

But what I really want to talk about is the theme music: Dread Zeppelin's cover of Elvis's "Viva Las Vegas". I can't get the Dread Zeppelin cover out of my head, and—strangely—I don't ever get tired of it. It's the coolest version of the song I've ever heard. Not all agree, however. What appears to be the definitive online list of "Viva Las Vegas" covers is kept by Nick Christenson, and he's partial to the cover by the Dead Kennedys.

I'm sure everyone else is doing this now, too, but I'm jonesing to visit Vegas and—especially—the Green Valley Resort.

Ah, Sweet Vindication

A few months ago, I confessed that Applebee's boneless buffalo wings were my favorite food. At last, I've found someone else who thinks they're "the best ever." That sauce just can't be resisted, I'm telling you.

By the way, if you're curious about audioblogging, my fellow buffalo-wing devotee does the audio thing on his site.

I can't even bear to hear myself on the answering machine. I don't know what it would take to get me to try audioblogging....

Saturday, June 26, 2004


Gasp! This isn't about tennis.

Friday, June 25, 2004


First Look Back

It stopped raining at Wimbledon, and play in the remaining first-round matches was completed yesterday. That means, of course, that I can take my first good look at how my picks did.

How did my first-round picks do? I equaled my performance at this year's French Open, correctly picking 45 of the 64 men's first-round matches. (To conserve my sanity, I don't pick every first-round match on the women's side.) That works out to just over 70%, and I'm pretty pleased with that. It doesn't match my all-time record, though: At last year's U.S. Open, I correctly picked 47 (73%) of the first-round matches.

Once, just once, I'd like to correctly pick over 80% of the first-round men's matches. It's good to have goals...

How are my projected quarterfinalists doing? On the mens's side, all eight of my projected quarterfinalists survived the first round. (As I write this, some are already into the third round, while others have their second-round matches to play today.) I can't be unhappy about that.

I haven't been as successful with my women's picks. One of my final eight, Svetlana Kuznetsova, fizzled in the first round, losing (in a three-set match) to qualifier Virginie Razzano. As Kuznetsova had won on the grass at Eastbourne, and as her section of the Wimbledon draw was pretty darn weak, I thought she was a fairly safe pick. Her absence makes a weak section in the draw even weaker, and I guess I'll fill it with clay-courter Paola Suárez. If it's not Suárez, the quarterfinalist might be Luxembourg's Anne Kremer, who upset #19 Fabiola Zuluaga in the first round (as I'd predicted).

The big news from Wimbledon so far, of course, has been the second-round departure of former champion Venus Williams to up-and-comer Karolina Sprem. I suggested in my original picks that Sprem might be Williams's biggest challenge. And despite the scorekeeping boo-boo by the umpire, who has been (understandably?) excused from further duties, Sprem earned the victory. In fact, I like her chances so much that I'll make her my new pick for the quarterfinals.

How'd I do with the projected first-round upsets? I picked five first-round upsets on the men's side, and I was right about four of them. Woo hoo! I correctly picked Thomas Johansson over #29 Nicolas Kiefer; veteran Wayne Ferreirra over #28 Ivan Ljubicic; Mario Ancic over #33 Luis Horna; and Alexander Popp over #15 Nicolas Massu. Woo hoo, again! I was only wrong about one. Qualifier Olivier Patience could not upend #9 Carlos Moya. Patience did, however, extend Moya to five sets.

I picked two first-round upsets on the women's side, and I was right about only one of those. I'm pretty proud of the one I got right, though: Kremer's upset of Zuluaga. Kremer is coming off a long stint away from the game due to injury, but she's suddenly playing very well. I also predicted that #26 Lisa Raymond would fall to Japan's Shinobu Asagoe. But, nope, it didn't happen (and as I said from the outset, I didn't "mind being wrong about that one.")

What first-round upsets didn't I predict? On the men's side, the biggest shocker was big-serving Ivo Karlovic's win over #13 Paradorn Srichaphan. Karlovic has definitely got the grass game (I didn't think his recent form had been that awe-inspiring, though), but Srichaphan was coming off a win at Nottingham. I was confident that Srichaphan would win, and I was wrong. Sigh. I also failed to predict Dmitry Tursunov's upset of #19 Marat Safin, former champion Goran Ivanisevic's win over #31 Mikhail Youzhny, Jan-Michael Gambill's upset of #23 Max Mirnyi, and Xavier Malisse's win over #16 Jiri Novak. (I did have Youzhny-Ivanisevic as a tasty first-round match-up, though.)

I failed to predict many first-round women's upsets: Magui Serna's win over #30 Eleni Daniilidou; Milagros Sequera's win over #22 (and former champion) Conchita Martinez; Virginia Ruano-Pascual's upset of #24 Mary Pierce, who had just won at 's-Hertogenbosch; Arantxa Parra Santonja's win over #29 Dinara Safina; qualifier Tatiana Panova's upset of #28 Emilie Loit; Gisela Dulko's upset of #23 Jelena Dokic; Katarina Srebotnik's win over #16 Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi; Sandra Kleinova's upset of #6 Elena Dementieva; and Marion Bartoli's win over #17 Chanda Rubin. Golly! In my defense, though, I had four of these nine matches (Serna vs. Daniilidou, Pierce vs. Ruano-Pascual, Smashvnova-Pistolesi vs. Srebotnik, and Rubin vs. Bartoli) as tasty first-round encounters. I'm trying to focus on that.

How'd my other miscellaneous picks do? Not so well, actually. I thought five qualifiers would win their first-round matches, and not a single one of them did. Three other qualifiers actually did win; I just didn't have them. Sigh. I was right, though, to suggest that lucky loser Julien Benneteau and wild card Greg Rusedski would win. I might've been bolder in such picks: Two other lucky losers actually prevailed, as did one other wild card. Speaking of wild cards, I'd like to applaud the effort of Jonathan Marray, who took excellent grass-courter Karol Beck to five sets (losing 10-8 in that ultimate set). Would it be vain to point out that I had the Beck-Marray match as a tasty first-round encounter? If so, forget I mentioned it.

On the women's side, my most important miscellaneous pick worked out: Martina Navratilova actually did advance beyond the first round. Good for her.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004


I even liked The Hogan Family.

I'm not entirely sure why I'm telling you this, but I think Jason Bateman's the man. Read this 100% true Fametracker audit if you don't know why.

Yes, I watch team handball.

Apparently, Michlt of RiverTide is as ready for the Summer Olympics as I am. He's already put together a useful list of essential Olympic websites. If only clicking and surfing were an Olympic sport, I'd be headed to Athens very soon....

P.S. You can learn about team handball—and you really want to, right?—at the International Handball Federation's website.

Who was that angry, dancing doctor?

People leave the strangest things in books that end up in used bookstores, according to a cool Wall Street Journal story (link via Bookslut). For instance:
Erin Thompson, who enters new buys into the Strand's computer, found a key in a book and wears it on a string around her neck. Ephemera drift up on her desk: the Louths' hand-drawn family tree. An ink sketch dated 1901 -- hidden in a 1969 Christmas card -- of a horse pulling a plow. A doctor's prescription pad with the following notations: "Wednesday -- mambo, lindy, spins. Thursday -- rumba or tango. At work -- angry. Really got angry. How to use?"
And then there's the apartheid activist's 1985 rap sheet that fell out of a used book. "I'd always have a book with me when I got arrested," the activist says.

Now that I'm no longer a poor grad student or a poor law student, and actually have money to buy new books, I miss these joys of shopping at used bookstores. You never know what you'll find in a 75-year-old book about what once passed for sociological theory.

Wimbledon Blues

I'd hoped tonight to assess how I fared in the first round with my Wimbledon picks. I always enjoy an opportunity to berate myself publicly about my poor tennis prognostication, you know? Unfortunately, with the tournament already behind because of rain, today's entire program—I guess that should be programme—was washed out. So tomorrow, a full four days into the tournament, there will still be more than a few first-round matches to play.

A complete rain-out at Wimbledon is a sad, sad thing.

Catching Up

Old home week continues here at the Garden. First I noted the return of Shattered Buddha. Now I see that another one-time standby from the blogroll, Cooped Up, has an update. And it's an update that's bound to make you feel good.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Three Quick Links (and a Lagniappe)

I'm spending all my free time, of course, watching TiVoed coverage of Wimbledon. Still, three non-tennis items have managed to capture my attention:

  • CBC is celebrating its seven decades of Olympic coverage with a collection of old radio and TV reports. I particularly enjoyed a piece from 1976 that asked whether the network was devoting too much attention to the Montreal Games.

  • Are contented people catty because they're happy? Or are they happy because they're catty? A piece in Sunday's New York Times Magazine got me to thinking (link via The Kitchen Cabinet). Hmmm....

  • Libby Rosof of Philly's Artblog describes her vacation in Alaska. She begins:
    As soon as I stepped off the plane in Vancouver, I knew this was a different kind of city than Philadelphia. The airport had a sense of place, and some of what created the sense of place was the artwork.
    You'll definitely want to see Libby's photographs.

  • And, well, this is tennis-related, but I have to point out this NYT article on South African Wayne Ferreira, who set a record today at Wimbledon by appearing in his 55th consecutive Grand Slam Tournament. The 32-year-old defeated Croatian Ivan Ljubicic. (And, hey, I correctly called that match!)
  • Sunday, June 20, 2004


    My Wimbledon Men's Picks

    Well, gosh. Making my picks for the men's draw was exhausting. I never felt like I got into a rhythm, and well over half of the first-round matches struck me as unusually tough to pick. That bodes well for an exciting tournament, I think, but it probably doesn't bode well for my success rate. Oh, well.

    Here's my list of projected quarterfinalists:

    Roger Federer (seeded #1) - I'm pretty sure Federer, the world No. 1 and the defending Wimbledon champion, will advance to the quarterfinals. Still, I'm already salivating over a powerhouse Round of 16 match-up against Paradorn Srichaphan—who just won on the grass at Nottingham. Also in this section of the draw: Michael Llodra, the winner today (over Guillermo Coria) at 's-Hertogenbosch. And if that's not enough for you, Federer will also probably have to get by former Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, who made it to the final at Nottingham. It's an impressive section of the draw, huh?

    Lleyton Hewitt (#7) - Is Hewitt the Jim Courier of the day? Will we look back on him as a player who rose brilliantly to the top but who just couldn't stay there? Maybe so. Still, Hewitt's had a good year, and I see him getting by the likes of Marat Safin and Mikhail Youzhny.

    Guillermo Coria (#3) - Undoubtedly, this pick will be Exhibit A at my sanity hearing. I've spent an enormous amount of time today thinking about just this one section of the draw. It's a puzzle. There are many players in the section who could conceivably be the quarterfinalist: #14 Mardy Fish, #17 Jonas Bjorkman, #28 Ivan Ljubicic, Karol Kucera, veteran Wayne Ferreira, Arnaud Clement. Hey, I'm not even willing to count out up-and-comer Yen-Hsun Lu. Complicating all of this is Coria. The consummate clay-courter has never made it past the first round of Wimbledon, and—just a couple of weeks ago—he burned out early at Queen's Club (losing to Lu!). Yet this past week, he somehow made it to the final on the grass(!) at 's-Hertogenbosch. I have low confidence in this pick, but Coria strikes me as slightly more plausible than any of the other contenders. If Coria bows out early, the unseeded Clement is my back-up pick.

    Sebastien Grosjean (#10) - Grosjean was a semifinalist last year at Wimbledon. This year, he reached the final at Queen's Club. He's the class of this section of the draw, and he'd be my pick even if the top seed in the section, Juan Carlos Ferrero, were in top form.

    Tim Henman (#5) - As odd as this sounds, Henman's 2004 season has been all about the clay. So far. Without much competition, expect Henman to reach the quarters and beyond.

    Mario Ancic (unseeded) - None of the seeds in this section—#16 Jiri Novak, #20 Tommy Robredo, #25 Dominik Hrbaty, and #33 Luis Horna (who became a seed after Davíd Nalbandian's withdrawal due to injury)—inspires much confidence on the grass. Novak is the best bet of the lot. Two unseeded players, though, strike me as better choices. Of those two, I like Ancic's chances a bit better than Karol Beck's. The young Croatian has had a good grass-court campaign, and the Wimbledon draw was sweet to him.

    Rainer Schuettler (#8) - This pick ought to make me popular at the Rainer Schuettler appreciation page. It's not going to be easy for anyone to survive this section of the draw, which contains several good players—including #12 Sjeng Schalken, #30 Vince Spadea, Greg Rusedski, and Thomas Enqvist. If Schuettler can get by Robin Soderling in the first round and Rusedski in the second, he ought to be the quarterfinalist.

    Andy Roddick (#2) - There are some difficult matches to predict in this section (lucky loser Stefano Pescosolido vs. injured Dennis van Scheppingen, anyone?), but none involves Roddick. I like Roddick's chances to advance easily into the second week. By the way, I'll be curious to see how young French qualifier Richard Gasquet does on the grass. Could this be the first of many significant Wimbledons for Gasquet?

    As for the rest of the tournament:And the miscellaneous picks:

    First-round upsets: I've picked several: T. Johansson over #29 Nicolas Kiefer; qualifier Olivier Patience over #9 Carlos Moya; Ferreira over Ljubicic; Ancic over Horna; and big-serving Alexander Popp over #15 Nicolas Massu.

    Other tasty first-round matches:
  • Youzhny vs. former champion Goran Ivanisevic;
  • Coria vs. South African Wesley Moodie;
  • Bjorkman vs. Raemon Sluiter;
  • #27 Robby Ginepri vs. qualifier Janko Tipsarevic;
  • Beck vs. wild card Jonathan Marray;
  • #21 Juan Ignacio Chela vs. Lars Burgsmuller; and
  • qualifier Andy Ram vs. #22 Andrei Pavel.

    Qualifiers and wild cards most likely to be remembered: I'm picking first-round wins for the following qualifiers: Julian Knowle; Patience; Jamie Delgado; Jan Hernych; and Gasquet. I also see lucky loser Julien Benneteau advancing to the second round. And, unsurprisingly, I like the chances of Rusedski, who received a wild card, to advance beyond the first round.

    I am so ready for a couple of weeks of good tennis....

    Wimbledon Picks—The Women's Draw

    Well, I finally tore myself away from baseball long enough to look at the draws for this year's Wimbledon, which begins tomorrow. Here's what I see for the women's quarterfinals (as always, these are in the order you'd see them from the top of the draw to the bottom):

    Serena Williams (seeded #1) - She didn't have the French Open of her dreams, and everyone's questioning whether she has the commitment to (continue to) be a tennis superstar. Still, barring the unthinkable, she'll reach the quarterfinals. As I've said already, I think the special Serena seeding was justified. Unless Jennifer Capriati can stop her, we should see Williams late in the fortnight.

    Jennifer Capriati (#7) - I like the idea of the possible Capriati-Nadia Petrova match in the Round of 16, but J-Cap ought to survive that. Can Capriati beat Serena at two Grand Slam tournaments in a row? I wouldn't bet on it....

    Amélie Mauresmo (#4) - Mauresmo's loss to (at-last-resurgent?) Daniela Hantuchova in the semifinals at Eastbourne, as well as her spectacular failure to capitalize on the depleted draw at the French Open, cause me to have some doubts. And then there's the complication in this section of the draw posed by Mary Pierce, who took the title yesterday on the grass at 's-Hertogenbosch. Indeed, I see a Mauresmo-Pierce match in the Round of 16, but I have to give Mauresmo the edge over the aging, inconsistent Pierce.

    Svetlana Kuznetsova (#8) - Fresh off a win at Eastbourne, Kuznetsova looks to be invincible in this section of the draw. There's simply no one else with the game to compete with her.

    Lindsay Davenport (#5) - Davenport, in my opinion, is in the twilight of her career. Happily, the twilight probably includes another appearance in the Wimbledon quarters. Still, if Davenport's knee is bothering her (and there's no good way to know since she hasn't played since the injury flared up in the Round of 16 at the French Open), I'll take Vera Zvonareva (#12) as my back-up quarterfinalist. Zvonareva looked good at this year's Eastbourne, and her game is not in the sad shape that some have suggested.

    Venus Williams (#3) - I won't quibble with the decision to make Venus the third seed. In the past four years, she's won Wimbledon twice and been a finalist the other two times. Still, it's hard not to have the feeling that she won't win another Grand Slam tournament—ever. I hope I'm wrong about that. Still, so long as she can get by up-and-comer Karolina Sprem in the second round, Williams ought to make this year's quarters and beyond. By the way, if Sprem pulls the upset over Williams, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see her in the semis. Really!

    Alicia Molik (#27) - Since I've been so predictable in my picks so far, I guess this one comes as a bit of a surprise. Or does it? The top seed in this section of the draw is French Open finalist Elena Dementieva (#6). Dementieva, as well all know too well, has a serve that would be an embarrassment at a municipal park. Plus, she's probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after choking so terrifically at Roland Garros. The remaining seeds in the section are Molik, Ai Sugiyama (#11), and Chanda Rubin (#17). Rubin has been away because of an injury and isn't a smart pick. That leaves both the veteran Sugiyama, who has a decent Wimbledon record, and the big-serving Molik. Between those two, I'll go with Molik—whose form was so good on the grass at Birmingham.

    Maria Sharapova (#13) - This is a very interesting section of the draw. It includes four young, talented Russians (Sharapova, #2 Anastasia Myskina, #20 Elena Bovina, and Maria Kirilenko); Eastbourne finalist Hantuchova; and Ukrainian qualifier Yulia Beygelzimer (I just love that name!). For me, it comes down to Sharapova and Myskina. I doubt that Myskina can put two outstanding Grand Slams back-to-back, and Sharapova's win at Birmingham demonstrates that she can play on the grass.

    What does the rest of the tournament look like?How about some miscellaneous picks?

    First-round upsets: As always, even though I'm sure there'll be some first-round upsets, they're particularly hard to predict when there are 32 protected seeds. I am picking Anne Kremer—who's returned to the circuit after a long layoff due to a wrist injury—to pull a first-round upset over #29 Fabiola Zuluaga. And I like the chances of Shinobu Asagoe to upset #26 Lisa Raymond, too. (I wouldn't mind being wrong about that one.)

    Other tasty first-round matches:
  • S. Williams vs. Jie Zheng, who did so well at the French Open;
  • Magui Serna vs. #30 Eleni Daniilidou;
  • Pierce vs. Virginia Ruano-Pascual;
  • Catalina Castaño vs. Martina Navratilova (I think Martina may actually win a round);
  • #16 Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi vs. Katarina Srebotnik;
  • Russian teenager Vera Douchevina vs. #21 Magdalena Maleeva; and
  • Rubin vs. Marion Bartoli.

    I'll post my men's picks later today.

    Happy Father's Day!

    Saturday, June 19, 2004


    Phillies 4, Royals 2

    Yes, three ball games in three days. This is exactly what I thought my adult life would be like. Why isn't it like this all the time?

    Seat quest: The flatmate and I sat in the outfield again, a couple of sections over from last night. (To be precise, we were in section 104, row 15, seats 1-2.) The view was still pretty good. I won't hesitate to sit in the outfield again, but—surely—the perfect seat is closer to the infield?

    Friday, June 18, 2004


    Royals 10, Phillies 4

    Confusion reigned (for me, at least), as the flatmate and I caught tonight's interleague game between the hometown Phillies and my beloved Kansas City Royals. My heart was torn, you know? Anyway, the Royals had all the offense tonight, and—well, honestly—it's hard for me to feel too bad about that.

    Update on the quest for the perfect seat: We sat in the outfield tonight (section 106, row 18, seats 6-7, if you're keeping score), and the seats weren't half bad. Normally, I wouldn't want to sit that far away from the action, but I'll happily concede that The Vault is good to those in the cheap seats....

    Update on the game: I wasn't the only blogger at the game....

    Thursday, June 17, 2004


    Phillies 6, Tigers 2

    I made the trip out to Citizens Bank Park today for an afternoon Phillies game. It's time for interleague play, so I got to see a rare Phillies-Tigers matchup. (My beloved Kansas City Royals will be here in National League territory tomorrow.) It was a pretty good game, and the Phillies won, 6-2. (A Phillies win always makes for a good game, of course.) I thought the outcome was more decided by a handful of Detroit pitching mistakes, but the sportswriters are giving credit to Jason Michaels, who—although we typically see him as a pinch hitter—started the game in the outfield. He was impressive on both offense and defense. A catch he made in the third inning ought to be a SportsCenter highlight....

    In the long run, I'm sure, I won't remember the game for the action or the final score. I'll remember the humidity. It has rained so much in Philadelphia lately (it even sprinkled some during the late innings) that I'm starting to regrow the gills I thought I'd left in New Orleans. It's humid and rainy every darn day. Today's humidity was truly noteworthy, though. We're talking terrarium-quality humidity. It's June, of course, and that means it's also hot in Philadelphia. All this heat and humidity combined to leave me drenched in sweat. For the entire game, every square inch of exposed skin on my body was covered with moisture. Now I know, I think, what it's like to be Aquaman.

    I can't ever remember enjoying a post-game shower so much.

    P.S. Although I didn't plan this (when I placed several ticket orders back in February, some Phillies ticket agent apparently did), I sat in exactly the same seat I had on May 6. It's a good seat, but I still think the sight lines from that section are poor. The quest for the perfect seat continues....

    Wednesday, June 16, 2004


    Can you stand a little pre-Wimbledon news?

    You can't accuse the Wimbledon seeding committee—this year, anyway—of favoring Tim Henman, the U.K.'s best player. In the seedings, announced today, Henman is only seeded fifth. I'm flabbergasted. Currently, Henman is at No. 6 in the ATP's world rankings. But he's clearly one of the top three or four players in the world on grass. And he's currently playing phenomenally well, having somehow reached the semifinals at the French Open a couple of weeks ago on his worst surface, clay. I expected Henman to get a seeding as high as No. 3 at Wimbledon. And although he's not really one of my favorites, he deserves a seeding that high. Outside of world No. 1 Roger Federer and world No. 2 Andy Roddick, who else might be a contender at this year's Wimbledon? There's only one obvious answer to that question: Tim Henman.

    Why the seeding committee showed such restraint is puzzling. It would have been so easy to bump Henman up. Why keep world No. 3 Guillermo Coria, who is a great clay-court player but only a so-so grass-court player, as the third seed? I can't come up with a good reason. It's defensible to keep world No. 4, David Nalbandian, as the fourth seed; Nalbandian, after all, is a former Wimbledon finalist. I can even accept seeding Nalbandian higher than Henman. But there's simply no way that Coria is a better bet at this year's Wimbledon than Henman. No way.

    And it's not as if the seeding committee was afraid of straying from the world rankings? Former champion Lleyton Hewitt, who's currently ranked No. 10 in the world, was named the seventh seed. Mark Philippoussis, a finalist at Wimbledon last year, is the 11th seed—despite his ranking as the world No. 19. Jonas Bjorkman, a good grass-court player but one who has never made it further than the quarterfinals, was seeded 17th, a full 10 places above his world ranking. American Robby Ginepri, currently ranked No. 34 in the world, got a significant bump; he'll be the No. 27 seed.

    And on the women's side, the committee—faced with the absence of the world's top two players, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters—felt confident enough to name Serena Williams as the top seed and sister Venus Williams as the No. 3 seed. The sisters are currently Nos. 10 and 8 in the world, respectively. Those seedings are defensible. But it would be just as defensible to make Henman the tournament's No. 3 or No. 4 seed.

    I just don't get it.

    P.S. On the bright side, seeding Henman so low may make for a super-exciting second week. For him to win, he'll now—probably—have to beat both Federer and Roddick. Just the prospect of those kinds of matches is getting me in the mood for the turf. Yum.

    Happy Bloomsday!

    And a very special Bloomsday it is.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2004


    Nah, this doesn't make sense....Or does it?



    GreenGourd is a radioactive squirrel!!


    (Warning prompted by Solonor's Ink Well)

    Highlight of My Day, Part II

    Shattered Buddha, an old friend from Blogistan, is up and running again (link via PaperFrog). I couldn't be more thrilled. Welcome back!

    Highlight of My Day

    Tyler Green's review of the new Gabriel Orozco show at the Hirshhorn Museum made my day. Orozco is a sculptor, but the show is of his photography. Green was not impressed. He writes:
    Perhaps it's reassuring that a prominent contemporary artist has moments where he makes art that only a high school student could be proud of, but it's not reassuring that a major museum thought we deserved to see them. Not everything An Artist makes is of equal merit, and this show proves that. Completism in exhibiting any artist can indeed be a vice.
    Hee. And then there's this:
    Too often in this show, Orozco's contextual twists are childish. My favorite example is Cats and Watermelons, a photograph of a stack of watermelons in a supermarket. Orozco placed cans of cat food on about a dozen of the watermelons, so that the cartoon drawing of a cat on the cans of the cat food were looking back at the photographer. Snap. If your eight-year old did that and then ran across the grocery store, pulled on your shirt and said, "Daddy, daddy! Come look at what I did!", it would be kind of cute. Orozco is not eight.
    I hope to get to the Hirshhorn in the next couple of months. When I do, I'll let you know what I think of Orozco's photographs....

    Update: Orozco collector Greg Allen responds to Green's review.

    Monday, June 14, 2004


    Wait—Three More Monday Links

    1. Convincing evidence that Nickelback is "a lazy, talentless bunch of wankers?" You decide (link via Darren Barefoot). P.S. Whatever your feelings about Nickelback (if any?), this is incredibly cool. Go look/listen. Really.

    2. Do some people actually read poetry at the beach? Who are these Coppertone-scented fans of meter? (link via the always-brilliant Bookslut)

    3. Waddling Thunder reviews Coke's new low-carb product, C2. I'm waiting for the inevitable taste comparison with Pepsi's low-carb product, Pepsi Edge. How about it, WT? Anyway, as WT's analysis implies, these two low-carb products surely can't last long. There's simply not a large enough group of potential consumers out there who thought regular sodas were too fattening yet who wouldn't buy actual diet sodas. After all, diet sodas aren't half bad anymore....

    Speaking of sodas that didn't last—gosh, is my mind drifting tonight or what?—I've been jonesing lately for the short-lived Pepsi Kona. I thought it was downright tasty. Maybe I should just pour some coffee in my favorite soda?

    Monday Morning Miscellany

  • Andy Dehnart describes how he freed himself from the phone company. Sounds interesting, huh?

  • Jane Ellen of Hoosier Musings is enjoying farm stand season in Indiana. Living in the metropolis, I'd almost forgotten what it's like to be able to buy fresh produce on the side of the road. And now, I absolutely have to find a way to get myself some fresh strawberries. Yum.

  • Danah Boyd of Apophenia has announced her happy separation from RSS.

  • J.M. Branum, one of my favorite Okie bloggers, has been sampling Oklahoma wines. He's a fan, including—strangely enough—of a jalapeño wine. Wow. I'll have to try to find that on my next visit to the home planet.
  • Sunday, June 13, 2004


    No Worries, Mate

    Fresh from Australia, Only Connect reports that there's an unnerving—for an American, anyway—lack of, well, structure Down Under. For instance:The whole, delicious post, including a quite spot-on diagnosis of Australian-rules football, deserves your attention.

    No, Vern Yip hasn't been visiting.

    As my four-and-one-half (or is it three-and-one-half now?) regular readers will immediately recognize, I made some drastic, long-overdue changes to the look of the Garden today. I'd been dissatisfied with "the look" for a long time—essentially since the first week of the blog's existence—but it always just seemed like too much work to do anything about it. Thanks, though, to some of the recent changes to Blogger, I managed to select a new look and incorporate most of my blogging idiosyncrasies in just a couple of hours.

    I'd appreciate any feedback, pro or con, that you might have. It wouldn't surprise me at all if there are still a few things not working quite right. I'm also a little bit unsure about giving titles to each and every post: Does that hurt or hinder the reading experience? (Compare the current home page with, say, the archives for May.) If you have any thoughts, let me have 'em, ok?

    Vacation pics that I actually wanted to see...

    Steve of The Sporting Life has posted some of the beautiful pics from his Alaskan adventure. This is my personal favorite. (The runner-up is here.) I'm more jealous than ever.

    Saturday, June 12, 2004


    Aqua Velva Enhancement

    Those very words jumped from the screen at me this morning, and I wished that I'd been at Love Park yesterday to see it for myself. Artblog has the skinny.

    Email Bankruptcy

    I've decided that Larry Lessig's declaration of email bankruptcy makes a lot of sense (link via Apophenia). I'm not even a quasi-public figure, and I certainly don't receive the 200 non-spam pieces of email a day that Lessig does, but I have fallen desperately behind. Even relatives and close friends complain about my response (non-response?) time.

    So, following Lessig's lead, I'd like to sincerely apologize to all my email creditors. The simple fact is that I'm going to have to start fresh. If, however, I owe you email and you'd still like a response, email me again and I'll try to get back to you within a reasonable time. It obviously would be foolish for me to make promises, but I'll do my darnedest, I swear. And with the benefit of this fresh start, I hope to be a better email correspondent from now on.

    Do you think I'll get away with this?

    Friday, June 11, 2004


    When Taking a Tea-Towel Is Symbolic

    I can't really imagine what it would be like to be a judge of one of the major literary contests. And I sure can't imagine doing it while still holding down a full-time job. Katharine Viner, who just finished as a judge of this year's Orange Prize, has written about the exhausting experience (link via AJ's Daily Art News). After the judges first met, Viner panicked:
    I left the meeting slightly hysterical, convinced that there was no way I would ever finish these novels - 46 in six weeks in the first batch, although I would read 71 in total - and certain that my swotty fellow judges would. So at 2am that night I realised I needed to make a schedule. Weekends were best - say, six novels - and then a couple in the week, in the odd spare evenings or on the bus.
    I am just a slug, I guess. Viner's been reading eight novels a week, and I can barely find time to read one novel every month or so! Viner's essay, anyway, is a treat. I particularly appreciated this description of one of her low points:
    I had a run of books about nothing. These were usually by authors from the US, who have attended prestigious creative writing courses, often at the University of Iowa. They are books with 500 pages discussing a subtle but allegedly profound shift within a relationship. They are books where intricate descriptions of a man taking a glass out of the dishwasher, taking a tea-towel off a rail, opening out the tea-towel, then delicately drying the glass with the tea-towel, before pouring a drink into the glass, signify that he has just been through a divorce. At one point, I rang a friend and shouted at her, "I wish some of these bloody writers would write about Iraq!" Or anywhere with a bit of politics or meaning.
    Anyone who reads much contemporary fiction can surely sympathize. The Orange Prize, by the way, went to Andrea Levy's Small Island.

    Friday Non-Five

    I had one of those weeks, and I haven't had nearly enough time to blog in complete thoughts and sentences. Sorry. Here's a bit of what's been on mind, though:

    1. Hmmm, it's surely no accident that the producers of Avenue Q didn't announce this news before the Tony Awards. I wonder how many more out-of-town votes would have gone to soon-to-tour Wicked if it'd been clear that Q wasn't going to hit Philly, Dallas, Seattle, or, well, anywhere but Vegas.

    Update: Today's New York Post, I see, is also suspicious.

    2. "Shouldn't CHOCOLATE cereal be sold by a CHOCOLATE monkey?" asks The Goatbelt, who recently wondered down the supermarket cereal aisle and found some very puzzling boxes.

    3. Tom Franck explains (hilariously) why J.K. Rowling's sports innovation, quidditch, would suck in real life. Here's a taste:
    If you were an avid quidditch fan, your most common feeling would be one of non-satisfaction. Essays by sports columnists attacking the rules would be commonplace. The better team would often lose and the winning team would often have hollow-feeling victories. There would be numerous tales of the seeker who lost the game for his team when he foolishly caught the golden snitch, not realizing his team was down by more than 150 points at that second. The fan outrage would dwarf all complaints about the BCS polling, Amateur boxing judging and World Cup penalty shootouts combined.
    If you like that—and you ought to read the whole thing—you may also appreciate Franck's take on the original Iron Chef: The show suffered from too much hometown judging, especially by "culinary critic" Asako Kishi. Hee.

    4. I enjoyed this New York Times piece explaining how curators at the Museum of Modern Art are using models to plan the experience of MoMA-goers when the museum reopens in November in its expanded home. I wish I had a job that involved miniature Matisses, Judds, and Flavins!

    Wednesday, June 09, 2004



    One by one, apparently, my favorite bloggers are headed to Alaska. I'm so jealous. I watched all those seasons of Northern Exposure, even the post-Rob Morrow episodes, and what do I have to show for it?

    Wednesday Topics

    Sunday, June 06, 2004


    Dear Casual Fan:

    I'm sure the last several days have been puzzling for you. First, you get two women's semifinals that were downright ugly. Then I gave you a women's final in which one of the players, Elena Dementieva, was too nervous to serve or hit groundstrokes or, well, do much of anything else. As a champion, well, Anastasia Myskina just didn't have to do too much. She didn't screw it up, though, did she? Can you just focus on that?

    Today, I gave you a five-set match, but—I admit—you only got a set-and-a-half or so of actual tennis. For the first two sets, one of the finalists, the unseeded Gaston Gaudio, seemed too nervous and too self-consciously unworthy to be competitive. During the third set, though, with a little boost from the crowd's wave (why, oh, why do the French still do the wave?), Gaudio actually put some beautiful tennis together. That third set? I hope you'll remember that.

    I doubt you'll remember the fourth set, and that's probably a good thing. At 1-1, Guillermo Coria suddenly started to cramp. Of course, this wasn't obvious to anyone watching at the time, and I'm sure some of you thought he'd just decided, improbably enough, to throw the fourth set. Coria "suffered" so stoically that it was hard to know what to think....

    Well, even if it wasn't spectacular tennis, you got a dramatic fifth set. Some ointment given Coria by the trainer took hold, and he suddenly started to play decent tennis again. Just decent, I know. Neither he nor Gaudio could get any real momentum, and Gaudio actually faced two match points. In the end, Gaudio conquered his nervousness a wee bit better than Coria could conquer his ailment. It may not have been a good tennis match, but it was, at least, dramatic in the end. Wasn't it? Maybe? Come on, you can give me that. Anyway, wasn't Gaudio's unadulterated joy at winning the title worth all that you sat through for three-and-a-half hours?

    Still, I realize that some of you may have given up. After the dreadful women's semis, and the dreadful women's final, and the dreadful first hour or so of the men's final—well, it's hard to blame you for tuning out. I just hope you haven't given up on me for good. The fresh grass of Wimbledon is only a couple of weeks away, and there'll be second chances, of sorts, for nearly everyone who let you down on the clay at Roland Garros. Remember how thrilling it is when those serve-and-volleyers get their games going? We can have high drama and good tennis together again, I swear. Please?

    Your faithful(?) friend,

    Friday, June 04, 2004


    Friday Non-Five (or what's on my mind this fine Friday)

    1.) I take full responsibility for jinxing NBC and forcing the all-Russian, Myskina-versus-Dementieva French Open women's final onto the network. And if you happened to catch either (or, bless you, both) of the women's semifinal matches, you have my condolences. Those were the two absolute worst Grand Slam semifinal matches I've ever seen. First, Elena Dementieva managed to win in straight sets over Paola Suárez, 6-0, 7-5, despite serving like a newbie and choking throughout the entire second set. Then, Jennifer Capriati handed Anastasia Myskina a spot in the final, losing 2-6, 2-6, and committing so many unforced errors that Myskina just had to remain upright to "earn" the spot in the final. It was an awful, awful day.

    I doubt tomorrow's women's final will be any better. If Dementieva was nervous yesterday, wait until she's in a Grand Slam final. Expect Myskina to win in noncompetitive, straight sets (6-3, 6-4?). Yawn.

    2.) The travel section of The New York Times today visited Guthrie, the first capital of Oklahoma. In my opinion, if you're in the neighborhood of Oklahoma City, Guthrie is worth a day trip.

    3.) Speaking of the Times, I sure enjoyed this piece on the restoration of the modernist home of John and Dominique de Menil. The construction of the house created an uproar in Houston in 1950. I've been fascinated by the Menils ever since I visited the Menil Collection in Houston.

    4.) I really, really, really want to go to Iceland (link via Kottke).

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004


    Wednesday Morning Thoughts

  • All those French Open upsets yesterday have NBC bumming, I'm sure. What do you think the ratings would be for an all-Russian Saturday final between Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva? (I'm not predicting that, but it's far from unthinkable.)

  • Costa of The Critical 'I' explains those lousy TV ratings for the Stanley Cup series.

  • Any good friend of Canada ought to be paying attention to the parliamentary election, which will be held on June 28. This page is a good place to start, and I'm also enjoying BlogsCanada's E-Group Election Blog.
  • Tuesday, June 01, 2004

    What's on my mind today? Well....

  • Steve of The Sporting Life is headed to one of the 10 states I haven't visited, and I'm completely jealous. In fact, just a few days ago, I was visiting the Fairbanks Convention and Visitors Bureau website. Really. All I need is a good reason to go. Do you have one?

  • For her cool, cool, cool senior thesis, a Princeton student used sophisticated mathematical models to analyze how The New Yorker selects its short fiction (link via ArtsJournal's Daily Art News). One conclusion: male fiction editors have a greater tendency to select stories about male characters who are supported by female characters. Wish fulfillment much? Also, and this won't be a surprise to anyone who ever glances at The New Yorker, its fiction tends to be set in New York and the mid-Atlantic states. Yawn city.

    One of the coolest aspects to the senior thesis is that the student-researcher had to read 442 stories to build her database. I miss being a student!

  • The group blog de novo wants to expand, and it's going to use a Survivor-style competition to select a new participant. Blogger Survivor ought to be fun to watch.
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