The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Hammer Time

Adrian Annus, whose performance in the Olympic hammer throw thrilled me, has been disqualified for a doping violation. How disappointing. There were several doping violations in this year's throwing events: The gold medalists in the women's shot put and the men's discus were also DQed. It's getting harder and harder to be a fan of events where doping disqualifications are so common....

What's it like to get bumped up to a gold medal because of a doping disqualification? Well, as you'd suspect, it's not entirely fulfilling. Koji Murofushi, the silver medalist in the men's hammer throw, says he's pleased to have won the competition, but—naturally—he wishes he hadn't gotten his gold medal after the fact. "To be honest, I wanted to receive it directly on the podium," he says. And, of course, as some of Murofushi's other comments suggest, there's the stigma of being at the top of a sport that's tainted so thoroughly.

And you've really got to feel for an athlete like Turkey's Esref Apak, who got "bumped up" to the bronze medal with Annus's disqualification. He didn't even get to enjoy the medal podium at all. His success will be a footnote to the competition. That's got to take some of the honor out of the, um, honor.

The throwing events are beautiful. Successful throwers have to be powerful, yet they must also be capable of technical delicacy. It's always a thrill for me to watch a big, bulky, muscular athlete step into the ring and perform a well-timed, elegant, spinning throw. Unfortunately, it's impossible to watch these events now without wondering how many of the top athletes are cheating.

I'm beginning to think that sports scientists must find a way to test athletes, and get the results of those tests, before the competition. That way, fans could be sure they were watching a clean competition, and the winners wouldn't have to receive their medals a week or two later in the mail.

Monday, August 30, 2004


What I would've said then, only now it's now.

During my self-imposed exile from Blogistan, I missed a lot. And I'm only slowly catching up. Here's a little of what I would've blogged about:
  • Michael Bierut of Design Observer conducted a sort of Graphic Design Olympics (link via Kottke), and the Munich Games came out on top. If I were a judge, I'd have to go with Bierut's silver medalist, 1968's Mexico City Games. Something about those concentric circles and stripes captured the time and place of those Games. By the way, the comments to the Design Observer post are literate and worthy of attention, too.

  • The longlist for the Booker Prize was announced (while I was engrossed in men's volleyball), and the nominees are a real puzzle. After a quick, early look at the nominees, I've decided I might read Nadeem Aslam's Maps for Lost Lovers. Otherwise, my Booker-related reading may be limited to this cool Booker-niche blog started by the guys of 3AM Magazine (link via Bookslut).

  • During my recent trip to Utah, I chickened out on visiting Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson's environmental art project that's about 15 miles from the Golden Spike National Historic Site. The National Park Service people made it seem a little too rugged for me and my rental car. Happily enough, From the Floor made the trip for me a few days ago. Check out the informative posts and evocative pictures here, here, here, and here. This is a highly, highly recommended series of posts. (By the way, the pictures in the first post—click on 'em—really brought back the experience of driving out to the Golden Spike Historic Site. I had a lot of fun that day.)

  • In a book (check out the customer reviews), Lisa Whelchel—yep, she was Blair in Facts of Life—advocates some, um, innovative approaches to discipline (link via Bookslut). According to Whelchel, a little hot sauce and hair pulling never really hurt anyone.
      You take the good, you take the bad,
      you take them both and there you have
      The Facts of Life, the Facts of Life.
  • Sunday, August 29, 2004


    My U.S. Open Men's Picks

    This ought to be an interesting U.S. Open. As I was poring through the men's draw last night, I was struck by how many really provocative first-round matches there are. I'm not talking about potential first-round upsets (more on that later) or matches between big names. I'm talking instead about matches where the two players are so evenly matched that I could imagine either moving on to the second round. Take Dmitry Tursunov vs. Mariano Zabaleta or Igor Andreev vs. Fernando Verdasco, for instance. Gosh, those two matches made me think. And there are others, too—Sargis Sargisian vs. Alex Corretja; Florian Mayer vs. Flavio Saretta; Karol Kucera vs. Xavier Malisse. The first round, particularly in the top section of the draw, is just filled with matches like these. And, sigh, in each of these instances (and others), I'm just not all that confident about my pick. How could I be? Matches like these will surely take a toll on the accuracy of my first-round picks. Still, they ought to be fun for the fans walking around the outer courts at Flushing Meadow.

    Here's how I see the men's quarterfinals:

    Roger Federer (seeded #1) - Federer has had a couple of surprising losses lately—to Tomas Berdych at the Olympics and to Dominik Hrbaty at Cincinnati. And Federer has drawn a wily veteran, Albert Costa, in the first round. Although it's not inconceivable to me that Federer could lose in the early going, I don't really see anyone in this section who might actually defeat him. And with a few early wins, there'll probably be no stopping the world No. 1.

    Andre Agassi (#6) - Agassi has had some eye-popping losses this summer. Jürgen Melzer defeated Agassi in Toronto, and Gilles Muller took him out most recently at D.C. In between, though, Agassi won the Tennis Masters Series event in Cincinnati. Since Agassi always seems to get motivated for the Open, I'm guessing (and hoping) we'll see the Agassi more like the one who beat Lleyton Hewitt in Cincy. If not, someone like Olympic champion Nicolas Massu might be the quarterfinalist.

    Carlos Moya (#3) - With a friendly draw (a wild card in the first round, a qualifier or a lucky loser in the second) like the one Moya faces, plan now to see him in the second week. I give Paradorn Srichaphan only an outside shot at being the quarterfinalist.

    Mardy Fish (#26) - Would you take a look at that? No. 26. Don't let it be said that I always went with the favorites this year, ok? The top seeds in this section of the draw are Tim Henman (#5), Gaston Gaudio (#9), and Nicolas Kiefer (#19); the unseeded Thomas Johansson needs to be considered, too. Gaudio, one of the best clay-courters in the world, will be lucky to outlast fellow countryman (and phenom) Juan Monaco in the first round. (I'm actually picking Gaudio to lose in the second round to Johansson.) Kiefer will be lucky to get by Greg Rusedski in the second round. (Once again, I'm actually thinking that Johansson will ultimately be the player to take out Kiefer.) That probably means I should go with Henman. His post-Wimbledon results have been dreadful, though. That leaves me with either Fish or Johansson. Fish beat Johansson earlier in the year on a hard court, so I went with the American. Confidence in this particular pick: Low.

    Juan Ignacio Chela (#17) - This pick is probably going to seem odd, too. David Nalbandian is the top seed in the section, but he's been injured. Seb Grosjean is in the section, but I doubt he'll make it past Tommy Haas in the second round. As nutty as it may seem, I'm going with Chela. Confidence in the pick: Even lower than low.

    Lleyton Hewitt (#4) - Hewitt has had a great summer, and I fully expect to see him in the second week. It's good to have him back. He should be careful, though: If he wants to get to the semis, he'll have to get by Chela (who, oddly enough, beat him on a hard court this year at Indian Wells). Hee.

    Vince Spadea (#23) - I should just say that 23 is my favorite number and leave it at that. But, really, this pick makes sense. Juan Carlos Ferrero (#7) is the top seed in the section, but last year's runner-up has had an abysmal summer. Rainer Schuettler (#11) hasn't looked impressive on the hard courts this summer either. That leaves Spadea. Confidence in the pick: Low again, I'm afraid. If the quarterfinalist isn't Spadea, look to Joachim Johansson instead.

    Andy Roddick (#2) - Here's one pick I can really be confident about. Book Roddick for the semis, please.

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

    First-round upsets: As I foreshadowed above, I—shockingly—haven't picked a single seed to go down in the first round. You can be 100% sure, of course, that I'll be wrong about that, especially because there are several tasty first-round matches involving seeds. When I looked back at my picks, though, I realized that I'd gone with the seed in every instance. How boring of me!

    Although I didn't actually pick any of these, there are several matches where the seed could go down in the first round: In addition to matches I've already mentioned, I like the chances of:

  • Todd Martin against Fab Santoro (#31);
  • Jarkko Nieminen against Andrei Pavel (#16);
  • Younes El Aynaoui against Taylor Dent (#21);
  • Radek Stepanek over his Davis Cup doubles teammate Jiri Novak (#25);
  • Robby Ginepri against Agassi;
  • Ivo Karlovic against Henman;
  • Dennis van Scheppingen against Nalbandian;
  • Tomas Berdych (who vanquished Federer at the Olympics) against Jonas Bjorkman (#32);
  • Tomas Zib against Ferrero; and
  • Thomas Enqvist against Marat Safin (#13).

    With so many potential first-round upsets, you must be asking why I didn't pick a single first-round upset. The answer: I'm obviously chicken.

    Other tasty first-round matches (I mentioned most of these in my intro):

  • Federer vs. Costa;
  • Tursunov vs. Zabaleta;
  • Andreev vs. Verdasco;
  • Sargsian vs. Corretja;
  • Mayer vs. Saretta;
  • Kucera vs. Malisse; and
  • Rusedski vs. Cyril Saulnier.

    Qualifiers and wild cards most likely to be remembered: I think a handful of qualifiers will advance to the second round. Marcos Baghdatis, fresh off some success at the Olympics, should handle Olivier Mutis; up-and-comer Potito Starace should defeat Alexander Popp; in a battle of qualifiers, Paul Goldstein should defeat Takao Suzuki; and Alexander Peya should beat wild card Bobby Reynolds. I also like the chances of—egad—a lucky loser: Janko Tipsarevic, who lost to Peya in qualifying, should be better than wild card Amer Delic.

    As for the wild cards, the USTA has awarded those primarily to players who have absolutely no shot at winning a match. Most probably have no shot at winning a set. I'm not going to name names, but I've got to wonder if this is the best use of limited tournament space.... Still, I do like the chances of one wild card: American Alex Bogomolov, Jr., should defeat Stefan Koubek.

    I'm sad to see the Olympics go, but it's awfully good to have some quality tennis to ease me into autumn.

    My U.S. Open Picks—The Women

    I have no doubt that my picks for this year's U.S. Open will be my least successful ever. I've simply been distracted by the Olympics. Happily enough, tennis is now an Olympic sport, so I've had some reason to think about the likes of Nicolas Massu and Tathiana Garbin. But truthfully, I think I might have an easier time handicapping the women's air rifle or men's field hockey.

    I've got to give it a try, though. I always do. So 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):

    Justine Henin-Hardenne (seeded #1) - Henin-Hardenne has barely played this year, but she won convincingly at the Olympics. In fact, she won so convincingly that I think she's the clear favorite at the Open. I certainly don't see anyone in this section of the draw who might keep her out of the quarterfinals.

    Svetlana Kuznetsova (#9) - The top seed in this section is Wimbledon champ Maria Sharapova (#7). Sharapova hasn't impressed lately, though, so I decided to go with Kuznetsova. Amy Frazier (#21) has a shot, too.

    Anastasia Myskina (#4) - Myskina looked good at the Olympics, and she should get past Paola Suárez to the quarterfinals.

    Lindsay Davenport (#5) - The cutest tennis journalist on the planet is picking Davenport to win it all. I think there's some wishful thinking going on there, but, hey, I hope he's right. I don't have Davenport going all the way, but we ought to see her late in the second week—well past an expected Round of 16 date with Venus Williams.

    Jennifer Capriati (#8) - Capriati isn't a genuine threat to take the title; she just hasn't done anything lately to give anyone, including herself, any confidence. Nevertheless, I like her chances to get by Ai Sugiyama in the Round of 16.

    Serena Williams (#3) - Yes, sigh, I'm going with the top seed in a section again. (Hey, I picked Kuznetsova. Isn't that enough "bravery" for one tournament?) Truthfully, I gave some thought to picking Aussie Alicia Molik, who has had a tremendous August. It's the U.S. Open, though, and Williams will surely be motivated to de-stink-ify her 2004.

    Vera Zvonareva (#10) - This is probably just me being rebellious. The top seed in the section is Elena Dementieva (#6), and—believe me— I didn't want to pick Dementieva. Her game drives me nuts. She lacks confidence, and she lacks a serve. I just don't understand how she can be a Top Tenner, but she is. And if she can get by Dinara Safina in the first round, and she ought to, we'll probably see her in the Round of 16 against compatriot Vera Zvonareva. As far as I can tell, the two Russian women haven't met in sanctioned play, so I'm going with Zvonareva on the basis of her good recent results.

    Amélie Mauresmo (#2) - Mauresmo sure didn't look good in the Olympic final against Henin-Hardenne, but I think that says more about Henin-Hardenne than Mauresmo. Mauresmo is in a weak, weak section of the draw, and she ought to sail into the second week.

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

    First-round upsets: Since the Slams moved to seeding 32 players, I just don't know how to pick first-round upsets in the women's draw. I look at the matches, and there's just not enough talent to make the first round that interesting. In fact, I see only two first-round upsets. I like Marion Bartoli's chances to upend Meghann Shaughnessy (#32), and I give veteran Conchita Martinez the nod over Maria Vento-Kabchi (#31).

    Other tasty first-round matches: Although I don't see that many seeds leaving in the first round, several are involved in interesting opening matches. Here are those, plus a few other tasty first-round meetings:
  • Maria Kirilenko vs. Elena Likhovtseva (#25);
  • Jie Zheng vs. Nadia Petrova (#14);
  • Mary Pierce (#27) vs. Emilie Loit;
  • Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi (#24) vs. Shinobu Asagoe;
  • Karolina Sprem (#18) vs. Jelena Kostanic;
  • Daniela Hantuchova vs. Sandrine Testud;
  • Dementieva vs. Safina; and
  • Jelena Dokic vs. Nathalie Dechy (#28).

    I'll post my men's picks (much) later in the day.
  • Saturday, August 28, 2004


    Gasp—actual reporting here at the Garden. Sort of.

    One of the reasons I just couldn't blog during the Olympics was fear. I've continually been afraid I'd learn the results of events before I could get home to my TiVo to watch for myself. So just in case I wouldn't learn about some Olympic controversy, I gave up Jason Kottke for the fortnight. And, of course, The Sports Economist was way too risky. Oh, and Darren Barefoot had to go, too. He'd surely be blogging about Canadian Olympians. And I didn't even feel safe looking at Bookslut or Philly's Artblog. After all, you never know when a Olympic story will be so big (ahem, Paul Hamm) that everyone will be talking about it.

    Part of the problem, too, was that I was TiVoing so much of the coverage that I couldn't watch in anything close to real time. Crazily, I didn't watch the women's team gymnastics final until the night after it actually occurred. Hey, give me a break! I got behind. There's a lot of rowing that has to be watched, too, ok? So, anyway, that meant I had to give up watching TV news, listening to NPR, or having casual small talk with co-workers. I had to be in my Olympic cocoon, you know? I'm not kidding! For two weeks, I haven't even read anything but day-old newspapers. One day this past week, I saw a headline on a fellow train passenger's paper. For my entire commute, I berated myself for letting myself get outside my very own news blackout.

    But I want you to know I was thinking about you. In fact, so I'd have something to blog about, I decided to do a little sleuthing. Olympic commentators often like to point out some of the strange Olympic events that have taken place since 1896. Yes, there used to be tug-of-war contests between nations. In 1900 in Paris, male swimmers competed in underwater swimming. Four years later, in St. Louis, divers (plungers?) competed in something called the "plunge for distance." And don't you wish cricket and croquet were still Olympic sports? I do.

    Every four years, though, sportswriters and broadcasters trot out something truly disturbing—that live pigeons were used as moving targets in an Olympic shooting event held in 1900. (See here, for instance.) Broadcasters often tell that story in a well-look-how-far-we've-come, wasn't-the-early-Olympics-awfully-quaint kind of way. Four years ago, though, I noticed that David Wallechinsky took the story about the live pigeons out of his authoritative The Complete Book of the Olympics. (I wasn't the only one who noticed, by the way.) In the 2004 version, the story still wasn't there. I had to know. Did pigeons lose their live in the name of the Olympic movement or not?

    Getting the answer to my question was strangely easy. I just emailed Wallechinsky and asked. A few hours later, the answer was in my inbox:
    Dear Jimmy,
    I eliminated live pigeon shooting from my book because I determined that the winners received cash rewards and thus it did not meet the existing criteria to be included as an official Olympic event. Thanks for reading my book carefully enough to notice the change.
    Yours sincerely,
    David Wallechinsky
    So there you have it. Yes, the live pigeons suffered, but it probably shouldn't count as a blot on the Olympic record.

    Would someone please tell Bob Costas for me?

    I get sappy about the Olympics.

    Just as I anticipated, I spent the past two weeks—day and night, I assure you—watching the Olympics. (Thanks heavens for digital cable and my new super-sized TiVo unit.) Last night, for instance, I was up during the wee hours watching the 50 km racewalk. Tasty. I'm not sure how I'm going to cope without plenty of team handball, modern pentathlon, field hockey, badminton, swimming (yes, I even like the mainstream stuff), and track and field to come home to. I suppose I'm lucky to have U.S. Open tennis, which begins on Monday, to sort of ease me back into non-Olympics life.

    When I was a kid, there wasn't any event bigger for me than the Olympics. In 1976, when I was nine, my parents had the gall to plan our family vacation during the Montreal Games. I was not amused and forced some concessions: We stopped our camper early enough every night to set up a TV and an antenna. Like the rest of the United States that year, I fell in love with Nadia. Unlike the rest of the United States, I did it from an over-the-cab camper on my Dad's burnt-orange pick-up truck.

    In 1980, I fell in love with the Olympics all over again. This time, of course, it was the Winter Olympics that had me. And, yes, I believed in miracles. I still do. I was pretty devastated when American athletes had to boycott the Summer Games that year. I felt then that the boycott reflected a real misunderstanding of the Olympic spirit. I'm pretty sure now, by the way, that the 13-year-old me was right....

    I'm obviously not a kid anymore, and I have quite a few Olympic moments in my memory banks. But I still get goosebumps when watching athletes at their transcendent moments—when it's going to be decided whether or not they'll reach their dreams, whatever those dreams might be. This year, I was thrilled by Michael Phelps and Paul Hamm; by hammer thrower Adrian Annus; by a 14-year-old Malaysian platform diver who just missed qualifying for the semifinals; by beach volleyball (something that I just really took to for the first time this year); and, mostly, by the stories of hard-working, yet-not-so-prominent athletes—especially those in "obscure" sports—who somehow found their way to Athens this year.

    So, in a sense, this is an apology. If there'd been more hours in the day, I would've blogged about my Olympic experience this year. But with a full-time job, a full-time puppy, and a full-time flatmate—well, there are only so many hours in the day. I decided to just wallow in the Olympics, and the wallowing was a lot of fun.

    Back when I was a kid, my mom would always have to cheer me up after the closing ceremonies. There were occasionally some tears (mine, not hers). After the Winter Games, she'd tell me the Olympics would be back in the summer. This was back, of course, when the Summer and Winter Games occurred in the same year. I knew I could wait a few months for something special. After the Summer Games, though, I just didn't think I could last four whole years. A little part of me is going to feel like that tomorrow night. Now, at least, I'll only have to wait two years before the next Winter Games.

    It's easy to get used to transcendent experiences—even vicariously.

    Thursday, August 12, 2004


    Two Quick Thoughts

  • Will Baude, the keeper of Crescat Sententia and a vocal opponent of allowing reader comments at the blog, explained his views again today. Basically, he thinks comments aren't that vital because readers can just as easily interact with the blogger via email or by writing posts on their own blogs. As Daniel Moore persuasively explains, though, comments also allow readers to interact with each other. Some of the best conversations I've read (and had) in Blogistan have been in the comments to good posts. Obviously, Will is entitled to run his site any way he wants. But I'm sure Crescat has a ton of interesting readers, and I think we're missing out on some awfully good Crescat-inspired conversations.

  • I continue to be fascinated by the uproar in Germany over the government's spelling reforms. In an interesting pro-reform post, Scott Martens of A Fistful of Euros puts the whole controversy in linguistic perspective (link via Crooked Timber). If you've been following the story, you'll want to read what Martens has to say.

    Oh, and if you want to see an excellent conversation among bloggers and blog-readers, go no further than the Crooked Timber post mentioned above. Without commenting, those readers would've never had that lively conversation.
  • Tuesday, August 10, 2004



  • Via Will Baude at Crescat Sententia, here's an insider's view on the excitement at the 2004 National Scrabble Championships over the eventual champion's use of the word LEZ. I first mentioned that story a few days ago. The insider, by the way, is tournament Scrabble player Nicholas Tam. I spent a good chunk of time today at Nick's Café Canadien, reading really interesting posts about Scrabble loopholes, the CBC, the hype about Gmail. Highly recommended!

  • Since I'm offering updates today, I should also mention Waddling Thunder's follow-up to his excellent original post on the politics of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. The pork-pies intrigue continues....

  • This is only marginally an "update," I guess, but I have mentioned Cirque du Soleil repeatedly lately. And, of course, my attention is rapidly being diverted to the Athens Games. So it just makes good sense for me to note that Cirque representatives are now in Athens to scout talent (link via AJ's Daily Art News). Coaches, keep an eye on your gymnasts, synchronized swimmers, and divers.
  • Sunday, August 08, 2004


    Weekend Reading

  • There's a revolt brewing in Germany over, of all things, spelling reforms (links via Arts & Letters Daily). When I took German in high school, I thought all those long words, not to mention the ever-present ß, were charming. May they return in full force! I do feel sorry, though, for schoolchildren who've been learning the new system for several years. Living through all these back-and-forth changes could easily make you a bad speller for life....

  • It's news in Jackson, Tennessee, that a local high school student wears a skirt when she plays volleyball, softball, and basketball (link via Jim Romenesko's Obscure Store). The girl, who prefers skirts for religious reasons, spurred a rule change by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association.

  • Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Tanya Barrientos was taken aback by a recent Vatican announcement that there'll be no, um, sexuality in the afterlife:
      I mean, we're all going to have plenty of unstructured time up there. After harp class, heavenly chorus car pool, and yet another supper of bread and fishes, I certainly hope we aren't all going to wind up on a sofa watching endless reruns of Touched by an Angel (but not there).
    This is all the more curious, in Barrientos's view, because the Vactican position is that the afterlife will be gendered ("so don't expect male angels to ask for directions," she quips).

    We better stock up now, I guess.
  • Saturday, August 07, 2004


    Which of the Humours am I?

    You are Melancholy. Melancholics are often gifted, even prone to genius. You are deep and thoughtful, but this can lead to your being too introspective, to the point of moodiness and depression when you find flaws within your self. You strive for perfection in all things, most especially your self and your immediate world. You are sensitive to the needs of others, and loyal to your friends, but can be hard to please. Melancholics do well in the arts, science, and math.

    Which of the Humours are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    (Quiz-taking prompted by Do Thy Research.)

    Friday, August 06, 2004


    Four Earths

    According to the Ecological Footprint Quiz, if everyone lived like me, we'd need a whopping four(!) Planet Earths to get by (link via Ms. Frizzle). If that sounds bad, and it really does, it turns out that my ecological footprint is actually a "mere" 18 acres. The average American's footprint is 24 acres. How'd I manage that? Well, I rarely drive, and I don't eat as many meat products as I might.

    I wish I could say I might be able to do substantially better, but I'm fairly pessimistic. I can't really control where the food I have access to is grown, and I doubt I'm going to be able to afford eco-friendly shelter anytime soon. Sigh.

    T.G.I.F. Review

  • My favorite news story of the week involves the 2004 National Scrabble Championship, which just concluded in New Orleans. During the third game of a best-of-five final, eventual champion Trey Wright (who was ranked a mere 28th by the National Scrabble Association) played a word, LEZ, on a special list of words deemed unacceptable because the tournament was to be televised. An "emergency meeting of the Scrabble Advisory Board" was called, and Wright was forced to take the tiles off the board. He managed to take the third game, and the title, nonetheless. (You can read the tournament's own commentary on the third game here.)

    Who would've ever thought the Scrabble Advisory Board would need an emergency meeting? Imagine it!

  • Waddling Thunder, who's currently working in the U.K., has a long post at Crescat Sententia on the politics of Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. That may sound obscure, but it's one of the most delightful posts I've read anywhere for some time. Go read it.

  • Long Pauses demonstrates that indie music shop employees are pretty much the same everywhere. They take seriously the right things in life. Maybe a little too seriously....

  • Matt Haughey notices that extreme sports seem, suddenly, to be passé.

  • Yellow-banded millipedes from the West Indies are invading South Florida in startling numbers (link via Shattered Buddha). Among the strange highlights in a story filled with strange details: Monkeys at an area animal attraction have started rubbing the millipedes on their fur to repel insects. That's a tip you won't hear on Queer Eye.
  • Thursday, August 05, 2004


    My Summer Top 10

    Because it's August and there's not much to blog about, Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes proposes "some frivolous, pointless, silly fun." Count me in. Green—that's Mr. Green, not Green as in me—posted a list of his 10 favorite artists and a one-word statement about what he likes most about each. His list is pretty interesting, and it caused me to think about Charles Sheeler one slow, August afternoon this week. There can't be anything wrong with that, huh?

    Green urged other bloggers to compile their own Top 10 lists, and I can't resist a challenge like that. So here's a list of my ten favorite artists; accompanying each name is my one-word summary of what I like most about the artist's work.

    1.) Pablo Picasso. Ideas.

    2.) Morris Louis. Color.

    3.) Donald Judd. Spirituality.

    4.) Wayne Thiebaud. Whimsy.

    5.) Jackson Pollock. Action.

    6.) Richard Diebenkorn. Geometry.

    7.) Mark di Suvero. Angles.

    8.) Juan Muñoz. Humanity.

    9.) Mark Rothko. Boldness.

    10.) El Greco. Perspective.

    I was tempted to put George Bellows on my Top 10, but I couldn't decide what the one-word description should be (psychosexual, maybe?). Anyway, Bellows gets an honorable mention.

    Update: You can find links to other Top 10 lists here.

    Tuesday, August 03, 2004


    A Crop of Tuesday-ness

  • Henry Farrell of Crooked Timber examines the economics in (not of) fantasy novels from Tolkien to China Miéville's The Scar. Farrell appreciates Miéville's fantasies (versus, say, Tolkien's) so much because they:
      reintroduce the economic and the political into a genre that sometimes tries to run away from them. Fantasy all too frequently harks back to a never-never land in which exploitative economic relations, clashes of interest and the like, never take place, or are airbrushed out of the picture. This isn't an unmitigatedly awful thing; a bit of escapism here and there is quite harmless. But fiction that takes society - and the forces underlying different kinds of social organization - seriously, is fundamentally more interesting.
    Wow. That's thought-provoking stuff. Would Tolkien's Middle Earth be more interesting if the reader could discern how its residents support themselves?

  • How do you decide when it's time just to give up on an unfinished book? Caleb reached that point this week, after 500 pages, with Charles Dickens's Bleak House. The last straw for him was when he "flipped back to read the 'Introduction' . . . and found it more interesting than the book itself." Yeah, that's disheartening. Naturally, having decided to abandon the project, Caleb is now suffering from book guilt, wondering if the last 200 pages would've somehow made Bleak House worthwhile....

    Caleb's blog, Mode for Caleb, is new, but I've found it to be pretty darn compelling. Caleb is a doctoral student in American history, and he's writing his dissertation on the ideals of American abolitionists. He's smart, and he has interesting things to say. I'm already a fan.

  • Is it just a matter of time before newspapers abandon comics? One cartoonist seems to think so (link via Kottke). I'd be sadder about this if there were actually funny strips in my paper....
  • Monday, August 02, 2004


    Pop Quiz

    As you may recall, I recently enjoyed (another) Cirque du Soleil show. Did I find the show so compelling because:

    (a) as this Toronto Star piece suggests, Cirque reinvented the circus with "dazzling acrobatics and gymnastics," while leaving behind the "animal acts and tawdry sideshow displays" (link via AJ's Daily Art News);

    (b) Cirque "engage[s] [the] imagination," as its vice president of creation (is that a title or what?) told the Star;

    (c) North American culture now "resemble[s] Cuba before the revolution," honoring "extravagance and spectacle," making what was once "a minority taste . . . part of the charmed circle of bourgeois taste";

    (d) of some combination of the reasons mentioned in (a), (b), and (c); or

    (e) of something else entirely?

    Your answer should take the form of a single, well-written essay. You have 50 minutes. Your grade will depend on the persuasiveness of your argument. The use of "dazzling acrobatics" will, of course, earn you bonus points.


    Sunday, August 01, 2004


    August To-Do List

    1.) Write a review of Patient Man, the new CD by Nashville Star winner Brad Cotter.

    2.) Watch lots of coverage of the Olympics (while, probably, ignoring the Garden). Accomplished!

    3.) Describe what it's like as a Mozilla Firefox user in an Internet Explorer world.

    4.) Pull together, at last, another a post of favorite photoblog pics.

    5.) Think of something interesting to write about, while avoiding the pitfalls of writing about (a) what everyone else is writing about and (b) every little inane thing that pops into my mind.


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