A squash-friendly blog for our times
Thursday, June 30, 2005
Seven Wee Observations
If you're looking for some new desktop wallpaper, you should check out a striking photo of Toronto that Sam Javanrouh of Daily Dose of Imagery has made available for use.
More than 80% of 18- to 30-year-old Italian men still live at home, according to a study conducted by the Center for Economic Policy Research. Similarly-aged men elsewhere in Western Europe, as well as in the United States, are much less likely to live at home. Italian parents, it seems, enjoy keeping their sons nearby. I wonder what the rates are for Italian-American men.... I once accidentally brushed up against one, and his mother was more than a little protective. I may still have the scar.
Graham Jeffery of Sensitive Light took some photographs at Leicester City's gay pride parade. I'm particularly taken with a photo of one butch man; he's wearing a white t-shirt, handmarked "Puff" in pink (lipstick?). Striking.
Now that Amber has finished law school, Class Maledictorian has a new name—Prettier Than Napoleon. It took me forever, but I finally remembered to adjust my sidebar link. While I'm blogging about Amber, this seems like a good time to remind my four-and-one-half regular readers that her pet project, International Kissing Day, approaches. Sadly enough, it looks like I'll be all alone on July 6. Sigh.
Eszter Hargittai of Crooked Timber recently had to prove that she'd been on a flight. Her return trip was cancelled by the airline, which said she hadn't flown on the outbound flight. In the end, all she could produce was an airline water bottle. Several times, I've been asked to prove that I'd actually been on a flight; for that reason, I always save the boarding passes until my entire trip is over. But as Hargittai points out, in these days of home-printed boarding passes, "proving" you flew isn't as easy as it once was.
Last year, on a work trip to Utah, I chickened out on visiting Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson's famed environmental art project. The rangers made it seem like a big commitment. Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes wasn't dissuaded, though, this week, and he offers a detailed report. It sounds like he got to see the Jetty in its prime.
Here's Francis Strand of How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons on the news that Spain has legalized same-sex marriage: I think you can safely say that the Catholic Church is reaping the rewards of its collusion with Franco.
Ok, I've done one good thing today.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Drama (and other stuff, too)
I promised yesterday to blog a little about my long weekend
in New York. This is probably one of those posts that only my most devoted reader (hi, Mom!) will read, but a promise is a promise. Here are the highlights:
- Doubt: I'm really not a theater geek, but I would be if I saw more plays like John Patrick Shanley's Doubt. As you probably know, the story involves suspicions by a 1960s-era nun that a priest may have done something (the obvious something) improper. Doubt, of course, is the theme. There are the doubts that the priest did anything wrong. Just as interestingly, the priest himself admits to some theological doubts. The audience wonders if that's why the nun is suspicious? But we know she just might be right, too.
The play is so well written that I didn't want the performance to end. The acting, too, was superb. Cherry Jones certainly deserved her Tony for playing the accusing nun, and I don't know how Brían F. O'Byrne didn't get one for his performance as the priest. O'Byrne's sermons—especially the opening one built around the idea that doubt can be the actual bond of a community—were riveting. If sermons in the Catholic Church were really that good, I'd convert.
There aren't many plays on Broadway that I'd pay to see several times, but Doubt is definitely one of them.
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: I was familiar with Edward Albee's story and that, combined with the three-hour running time, worked my nerves a little bit. The acting, however, was memorable. Principals Kathleen Turner and Tony-winner Bill Irwin (I'm still not sure how he beat O'Byrne, though) were quite good. David Harbour, in a supporting role, was a revelation. I'm going to keep an eye on his career.
Virginia Woolf will probably be closing soon. If you're in the area and have some real interest in the piece, it's probably worth your while.
- The Cherry Orchard: I guess I didn't get enough of this in the ninth grade. Actually, this wasn't my idea, but I didn't really object.... Anyway, this performance of the Russian workhouse, put on by the Atlantic Theater, was pleasant—but it didn't make me want to go re-read all the Chekhov classics or anything. Actually, I kept thinking that the play wasn't making me sad enough. The family, after all, is facing ruin; in the Atlantic's performance, though, it's hard to care very much. I'm not sure whether to blame the cast or the direction, but I think there's enough blame to go around. I just wasn't forced often to think about the family's plight; when I did, it seemed that everyone would probably be all right.
- The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: Of all the things I saw in New York, this was the only one that was really my idea. What fun! I'm a veteran of the spelling-bee wars, so I could sympathize with this musical populated by, well, sympathetic spelling misfits. Putnam County surely won't change your life; it definitely didn't make me think the big thoughts that Doubt did. And—quite frankly—the music isn't all that memorable. The production just keeps you smiling. That's enough for me.
By the way, I'm so glad I resisted when a Putnam County staffer approached, prior to the show, asking whether I was a good speller. Some "good spellers" actually end up on stage, (mis)spelling words. I may have missed out on my Broadway debut, but I definitely didn't need to regress to my 13-year-old self on a Broadway stage....
So, yeah, I saw a lot of theater over the weekend. During the third hour of Virginia Woolf
, I was pretty sure it was too
much theater. But I'd do it all again, really. Still, despite seeing all that "real" theater, some of the best drama I saw was on Christopher Street
on Sunday. Real life is good, too.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
I didn't really intend to take a break from blogging.
Sorry about that. I took a few days off and went to New York. I had the best of intentions—and wireless access, too, of course—but I still didn't find time for blogging. Maybe that's a good thing?
Anyway, I have a little catching up to do. Most urgently(?), I need to take a look back at my Wimbledon
picks before the whole dang tournament is over. So let's get to it.How'd I do with my first-round picks?
Wow! Of the 64 first-round men's matches, I correctly picked the winner in 51 (79.7%). That's, by far, the most accurate prognosticating I've done since I started doing picks in early 2003. My previous best was at the 2003 U.S. Open, when I correctly picked 47 (73.4%) first-round men's matches. (My low point was at the 2004 Australian Open, when I picked only 41.) So, obviously, I'm pretty darn pleased.
My only regret is that I didn't correctly pick 80% of the first-round matches. That has long been my goal
. And I'd've managed it with just one
more correct pick. So close. How could I have picked Tuomas Ketola instead of Alex Calatrava, anyway?! Hee.How did my projected men's quarterfinalists fare?
Ok, it's time to get a little more humble. On the men's side, I only correctly picked
four of the eight eventual quarterfinalists: Roger Federer (seeded #1), Andy Roddick (#2), Lleyton Hewitt (#3), and Sebastien Grosjean (#9). Of those four, only the Grosjean pick is particularly satisfying, as I went with Grosjean over the higher seed, Tim Henman. (Hey, maybe the Garden curse
of Henman worked!)
Here's the skinny on my remaining four picks:
- In one section of the draw, I picked Joachim Johansson (#11). Well, I was right to avoid the section's highest seed, Nikolay Davydenko (#8), but I didn't see that Johansson would fall in the third round to the hard-serving, hard-hitting, hard-headed(?) Fernando Gonzalez (#21).
- Like much of the tennis world, I liked the chances of Mario Ancic (#10)—who came into the tournament off a win on the grass at 's-Hertogenbosch—but the Croat didn't live up to the hype. Instead, he fell, in an upset, to Feliciano Lopez (#26). Lopez has had an incredible tournament, as he upended both Ancic and Marat Safin (#5). I would never have picked Lopez to be the quarterfinalist, so I guess I shouldn't feel too bad about this miss.
- This one hurts. I picked the unseeded Max Mirnyi to be one of the quarterfinalists, and it nearly happened. Mirnyi lost in the Round of 16 to Thomas Johansson (#12). If I'd been right, this would have been a helluva pick.
- I don't know what I was thinking, really. Somehow or other, I got it into my head that this might be the breakthrough tournament of Radek Stepanek (#14). I knew he'd have to get through former Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian (#18) in the third round, but I thought he'd manage. Nalbandian, after all, hasn't had the best year. Nalbandian, of course, is the quarterfinalist.
So how do I see the rest of the tournament shaping up? (I'll stick with my original picks to the extent possible.)
Semifinals: Federer vs.
Ancic Hewitt; Stepanek Nalbandian vs. Roddick.
Final: Federer vs. Roddick.
Obviously, this is still Roger Federer's tournament to lose.How did my projected women's quarterfinalists fare?
Ugh, this is an even more depressing story. I correctly picked a mere three
of the women's final eight: Maria Sharapova (#2), Amélie Mauresmo (#3), and Sveta Kuznetsova (#5). Things went wrong everywhere else:
- Yes, I failed to put the top-seeded Lindsay Davenport in the quarterfinals. I really thought this might be the tournament where the under-seeded Kim Clijsters finally gets her due. Clijsters will have to wait, and—oh, by the way—Davenport's grass-court game looks better than ever.
- In a particularly weak section of the draw, I thought (guessed?) that Jelena Jankovic (#17) might come through. In the third round, Jankovic fell to Anastasia Myskina (#9), who has struggled mightily this year. Myskina was the quarterfinalist. Good for Myskina, bad for my picks.
- Shockingly enough, Justine Henin-Hardenne (#7) went down in the first round to Eleni Daniilidou (hey, I had that as one of my tasty first-round matches). The quarterfinalist, as it turned out, was veteran Mary Pierce (#12). I surely didn't see that coming, but, um, neither did you.
- I thought Serena Williams (#4) would be a quarterfinalist, but she finally succumbed to an ankle injury and Jill Craybas. Serena's sister Venus took the spot in the quarters.
- Finally, in a section of the draw that I could never make myself care about, I thought the perennially underachieving Vera Zvonareva (#11) might be the quarterfinalist. As it turned out, the perennially underachieving Nadia Petrova (#8) took the spot. You know what? I still don't care about this section of the draw.
The women are already at the semifinals stage, so here's how I see the few remaining matches:
Clijsters Davenport vs. Sharapova.
Davenport's game is just looking invincible right now.Miscellany
: I usually offer a detailed analysis of my picks for first-round upsets. It's so late in the tournament, though, that that task hardly seems worth the effort. I'll just look at the big picture, ok? On the women's side, I picked eight first-round upsets of seeded players. I was right about five of those matches. I'm particularly proud of projecting that Ai Sugiyama (#23) would fall to the unheralded Roberta Vinci.
On the men's side, I picked a mere four first-round upsets; I was right about three of those matches. Darn that Cyril Saulnier for not upsetting Dominik Hrbaty!
I also picked eight qualifiers, wild cards, and lucky losers who might see the second round. I was right about five of those—including new British tennis darling Andrew Murray.
Are we caught up? Well, maybe with the tennis. When I get a minute or two, I'll blog a little about my trip to NYC.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Mets 4, Phillies 3
I'm beginning to think I'm bad luck
for the Phils.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Five More Easy Pieces
A South Korean baseball player has been busted for keeping frozen cabbage leaves under his cap. To keep cool, of course. Should that be against the rules? I don't think so! It's just smart. And weird. But definitely smart, too.
I absolutely love Paul Petroniu Marza's photo of "a happy guy". And for reasons that are unclear even to me, I love that the picture was taken in Turkey. Anyway, such joy!
Mary Duncan explains how her English language bookstore finally succumbed to the new Russian bureaucracy (link via Bookslut, of course). Very interesting.
Where should the windmills go? Well, let's check the wind map of the United States (link via Marginal Revolution).
You probably noticed it before this hilarious New York Observer piece explained it, but this is apparently going to be a "too-low-in-the-ass, too-tight-everywhere-else jeans" kind of summer for American men (link via The Obscure Store). Here's a snippet:
'Ass cleavage is really in right now,' said Antonio Jeffery, a national denim specialist at Diesel Jeans in Union Square. Ass cleavage, like regular cleavage, used to be strictly for women. Even the least careful observers of fashion will recall that a few years back, the rises on women's jeans plummeted with the stock market; at one point, pants got so low that Christin[a] Aguilera was literally prancing in assless chaps. This summer, it's the men who are artfully displaying the tops of their bottoms, as dudes, gay and straight, squeeze themselves into ever-lower-riding jeans from Paper, Prada and Levi's. Even the Gap's in on the action, selling its '1969 extra low boot fit (burnished sky)' denim.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Five Easy Pieces
Dear Lynda Carter: Your Wonder Woman jewelry has finally been found, and Jesse Metcalfe is wearing it.
The list of items most frequently shoplifted is a bit heartrending (link via The Volokh Conspiracy). There's a lot of pain underneath all those stolen pain remedies, pregnancy tests, and cans of infant formula. (By the way, do people shoplift items like Preparation H, condoms, and Monistat because they're embarrassed to face the cashier? The list sure made me wonder....)
This may sound a little bit weird, but I've been killing big chunks of time playing the CBC's online curling game (link via Curling Blog). It's seriously addictive.
Have you visited Daily Dose of Imagery lately? If not, you may have missed this stunning shot of a train passing through some beautiful greenery.
"You are already naked," Steve Jobs reminded the Stanford University grads (link via Renegade Buddha). "There is no reason not to follow your heart."
Monday, June 20, 2005
The Music Meme
Jim Calloway, my online buddy and fellow Oklahoma attorney
, handed the ubiquitous Musical Baton Meme
off to me. I certainly don't need much of an excuse to blog about music or, well, myself, so this is the perfect assignment for me. Anyway, here are the questions and my responses:1. What is my total volume of music?
As of today, I have 29.4 GB of music on my computer (and my iPod). That's really just a fraction of the total music that I own, as I'm still pretty much wedded to my CDs. Without conducting a major census, I think it's fair to say that I own over 1,200 CDs right now; I've ripped about one-quarter of them. I don't download much music, because—at some deep level—I just feel more secure in owning, um, objects. Maybe I'll eventually join the 21st century.2. What is the last CD I bought?
This is a slightly embarrassing question because I actually bought eight
CDs when I last went shopping:
If I had to recommend only one of these, by the way, it would be Emiliana Torrini's Fisherman's Woman
. I hate to invoke a cliché, but Torrini has an angelic voice. If you're curious, you can listen to several samples of her work on a recent, archived episode of WNYC Radio's The Next Big Thing
.3. What song is playing right now?
I currently have iTunes set on shuffle, and it's playing a song called "Ein seltener Vogel" ("A Rare Bird," maybe?) by Einstürzende Neubauten
—the German pioneers of industrial rock. As soon as I finished typing that, iTunes switched to one of my favorites, "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," by the Flaming Lips
.4. What five songs do I listen to a lot because they are special to me?
5. What five people will I pass the musical baton to?
- "Insensitive," by Jann Arden: You probably remember this song, which was a hit for Arden circa 1996. According to iTunes, this is the song I've played the most over the past nine months. Why? Because (a) Arden's performance is heartwrenching and (b) I once lived this song:
Oh I really should have knownThat song will always make me think of a particularly bittersweet time of my life occurring about the time of Arden's release. (By the way, Belgian singer-songwriter Jasper Steverlinck recently released an exquisite cover of "Insensitive.")
By the time you drove me home
By the vagueness in your eyes
Your casual good-byes
By the chill in your embrace
The expression on your face
That told me you might have some advice to give
On how to be insensitive
- "Sugar Creek," by Jeb Loy Nichols: You probably haven't heard this one, but it's a love song that chronicles an easy time in a, well, sweet relationship. It reminds me of a similar time in my own life. Random fact: I've seen Jeb Loy Nichols in concert more times than I've seen any other artist.
- "Come on Eileen," by Dexy's Midnight Runners: This is music from back in my day (i.e., when I was in high school). It's infectious, and it makes me smile like no other song.
- "Something about What Happens when We Talk," by Lucinda Williams: Williams, born in Lake Charles, La., and raised all over the South, has an accent that sounds exactly right to my Oklahoma ears. This song, which details a relationship built on words, gets me right in the abdomen. "But all I regret now is I never kissed your mouth," she sings. Yeah.
- "Loser," by Beck: Strangely enough, this reminds me of law school, probably because I can distinctly remember driving around uptown New Orleans in my decidedly uncool car (a 10-plus-year-old Mercury Lynx), windows down, Beck on the radio. (I also enjoy a cover of "Loser" by avant-hillbilly banjoist Danny Barnes. Really.)
Well, to avoid the chain-letter feel, I'm not going to nominate anyone formally. But, um, maybe somebody like Joe of Watching Myself Gavotte
, Steve of The Sporting Life
, or someone else will take the baton from me.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
My Wimbledon Men's Picks
It's entirely possible, I think, that the best men's match
has already occurred at Wimbledon
. During the qualifying
(!), two titans met up: Novak Djokovic outlasted South African Wesley Moodie, 4-6, 6-0, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3. Gosh, I wish I'd seen that.
And that's just what kind of tournament this is. There are many, many players in the mens' draw
who have some serious grass-court skills. Although this depth of talent may make the tournament hard for me to pick, it should be a fun tourney to watch.
Here's how I see the men's quarterfinals (from the top of the draw to the bottom):Roger Federer
(seeded #1) - According to British oddsmakers, apparently, Federer is a 4-6 favorite
to win. That sounds about right to me.Joachim Johansson
(#11) - The top seed in this section is Nikolay Davydenko (#8), who seems to have never won a sanctioned match on grass. I think the quarterfinalist will be decided in a fourth round match between Mikhail Youzhny (#31) and Johansson. I'll go with the young Swede.Lleyton Hewitt
(#3) - Hewitt, who was seeded one place below his actual ranking, can tap into his annoyance with the seeding committee all the way to the quarters. A potential match-up with Taylor Dent (#24) in the Round of 16 looks interesting.Mario Ancic
(#10) - The tall, big-serving Croatian just won at 's-Hertogenbosch
. He has momentum, and he likes the grass a lot more than the section's highest seed, Marat Safin (#5). Look for Ancic to be hanging around late into the second week.Max Mirnyi
(unseeded) - This is an odd, interesting section of the draw. Truthfully, any one of the seeds—Thomas Johansson (#12), Tommy Haas (#19), Jiri Novak (#28), or Olivier Rochus (#33)—is a plausible quarterfinalist. Mirnyi, though, just made the final at Nottingham, and my gut feeling is that the unseeded veteran will be the quarterfinalist.Radek Stepanek
(#14) - Rafael Nadal (#4) is the top seed in the section, but I don't expect the French Open champ to make it beyond the third round. In my mind, the quarterfinalist will either be Stepanek or young French phenom Richard Gasquet (#27). Gasquet just won at Nottingham, but I think Stepanek may just be a smidge better right now.Sebastien Grosjean
(#9) - The quarterfinalist will surely either be Grosjean or local favorite Tim Henman (#6). Both are fine grass-court players; Grosjean, though, won't have to deal with the hometown pressures that the mentally delicate Henman must face.Andy Roddick
(#2) - If my draw is correct, Roddick will have to get past big-serving Ivo Karlovic, up-and-comer Robin Soderling (#30), and Ivan Ljubicic (#20) to get to the quarters. It may be tough, but expect to see Roddick in the second week.What does the rest of the tournament look like?
What first-round upsets do I see?
- Semifinals: Federer vs. Ancic; Stepanek vs. Roddick.
- Final: Federer vs. Roddick.
- Champion: Federer.
I saved most of them for my women's picks
, but here are a few:
Other tasty first-round matches:
- Lars Burgsmuller over #16 Mariano Puerta;
- Guillermo Garcia-Lopez over #17 David Ferrer;
- Cyril Saulnier over #22 Dominik Hrbaty; and
- grass-court stalwart Wayne Arthurs over #32 Filippo Volandri.
Qualifiers and wild cards likely to advance:
- Jonas Bjorkman vs. qualifier Jeff Morrison;
- Jan Hernych vs. James Blake;
- Karol Beck vs. Mark Philippoussis;
- Raemon Sluiter vs. #18 David Nalbandian;
- Gasquet vs. Philipp Kohlschreiber;
- Vince Spadea vs. Nadal;
- Henman vs. Jarkko Nieminen;
- Victor Hanescu vs. Kenneth Carlsen;
- Michael Llodra vs. Grosjean;
- #15 Guillermo Coria vs. Tomas Behrend;
- Jürgen Melzer vs. Ljubicic; and
- Soderling vs. Igor Andreev.
I've picked several qualifiers to visit the second round. They include: Danai Udomchoke, Noam Okun, Arnaud Clement, Gilles Elseneer, Djokovic, and Tuomas Ketola. I like the first-round chances of one wild card, Andrew Murray. And, if he's healthy, lucky loser Justin Gimelstob should see the second round.
I'm tired of picking, ready to do some actual watching.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
My Wimbledon Picks—The Women's Draw
Yes, once again, it's time for me to make foolhardy picks
for a Grand Slam tennis tournament—this time, Wimbledon
. I'll start with the women's draw
, which is one of the most interesting I've seen. There are just so many women capable of winning a top event these days. This should be good.
Here's how I see the women's quarterfinals. As always, these are in the order you'd see them from the top of the draw to the bottom:Kim Clijsters
(seeded #15) - The quarterfinalist in this section should be decided in a Round of 16 match between Clijsters and top seed and world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport. Those same two players met in the fourth round at the French Open, and (strangely, just as I predicted) Davenport won. This time, though, I'm going with Clijsters. She seems to be fairly healthy, is coming off a win at Eastbourne, and is obviously much better than her current ranking (which is due to a string of injuries). As long as Clijsters's knee problems don't return, I think she may finally capture her first Grand Slam title.Svetlana Kuznetsova
(#5) - Kuznetsova, the current U.S. Open champ, has a great draw. I don't see anyone in the section who might challenge her. In fact, if Kuznetsova should happen to stumble early, I think an unseeded player—veteran Magdalena Maleeva, maybe—might well be the quarterfinalist.Amélie Mauresmo
(#3) - Mauresmo is such a head case that I'm reluctant to make her my pick. She's just the class of the section, though; in fact, I don't see anyone in the entire quarter
of the draw who might stand in her way.Jelena Jankovic
(#17) - As I just indicated, this is a fairly weak quarter of the draw. The top two seeds in this particular section don't seem like good picks. Anastasia Myskina (#9) is struggling, and Elena Dementieva (#6) doesn't have a game for the grass. In my mind, this section comes down to Jankovic and the veteran Amy Frazier (#28). I give Jankovic the edge in a potential Round of 16 match between the two. Strangely enough, Jankovic's toughest challenge (before the quarters) might end up being in the first round, where she faces a tough Russian—Anna Chakvetadze—who has played awfully well so far during the short grass-court season.Justine Henin-Hardenne
(#7) - The French Open champ is not my pick to win the entire tournament, but she shouldn't have any trouble emerging as the quarterfinalist. If you're looking for a dark horse, watch out for Vera Douchevina, who might well face Henin-Hardenne in the Round of 16.Serena Williams
(#4) - She'll have to get by two tough players—Marion Bartoli (#29) in the third round and sister Venus (#14) in the Round of 16—but Serena should manage. In fact, I expect the current Australian Open titleholder to be a real contender this year on the grass.Vera Zvonareva
(#11) - This section of the draw is so uninteresting, especially in comparison with the rest of the draw, that I really couldn't make myself focus on it. The quarterfinalist will probably be decided in a fourth-round match between Zvonareva and fellow Russian Nadia Petrova (#8). In my mind, that match is close to a toss-up.Maria Sharapova
(#2) - The defending champion should challenge again. Look for her to ease by Tatiana Golovin (#18) in the Round of 16.What does the rest of the tournament look like?
How about some first-round upsets?
- Semifinals: Clijsters vs. Mauresmo; S. Williams vs. Sharapova.
- Final: Clijsters vs. Sharapova.
- Champion: Clijsters.
I see a bunch
of this year:
Other tasty first-round matches:
- Lucie Safarova, fresh off the final at 's-Hertogenbosch, over #12 Mary Pierce;
- Douchevina over #19 Ana Ivanovic;
- Kristina Brandi over #21 Francesca Schiavone;
- Roberta Vinci over #23 Ai Sugiyama;
- Maleeva over #24 Shinobu Asagoe;
- Tamarine Tanasugarn over #25 Karolina Sprem;
- Emmanuelle Gagliardi over #26 Flavia Pennetta; and
- Katarina Srebotnik over #31 Anabel Medina Garrigues.
- Anna Smashnova vs. #13 Elena Likhovtseva;
- Chakvetadze vs. Jankovic;
- Frazier vs. Mashona Washington;
- Henin-Hardenne vs. Eleni Daniilidou; and
- 's-Hertogenbosch champ Klara Koukalova vs. Laura Granville;.
Tomorrow, I'll post my picks for the men's side.
This is a jelly-free post.
The Impulsive Buyer explains why peanut butter should not be used in the bedroom:
First off, the smell of peanut butter is not sexy, unless you enjoy slapping shells with Mr. Peanut. One of the few things that can make the words, 'I wanna lick your (insert body part here),' not so sexy is peanut butter breath. Also, that sentence is no longer sexy when it begins or ends with a name that's not yours....Wow. How thorough!
There's a reason why Mr. Owl bites to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop instead of licking all the way through. He knew the tongue is a muscle and it will get tired. If your tongue gets tired from licking up peanut butter, it's going to be too tired to lick anything else, like nipples and in between toes.
As I mentioned last month, Japan has embarked on a summer of casual dress. Amazingly, there's an interested group known as the Federation of Japanese Necktie Unions. (Imagine what the meetings are like.) Un-amazingly, the necktie lobby(!) is not happy about the summer of Cool Biz.
If, like me, you read Shirley Jackson's famous short story "The Lottery" in school, but then never made it beyond that, you may find this bibliography of her work helpful (link via Bookslut). I've got some catching up to do.
Pity the attendees of the Garfield High School graduation. There are 44 valedictorians, and 35 of them have opted to speak (link via The Obscure Store). I was horrified that a class could somehow have 44 valedictorians until I read in the story that another school has 58. How much of an honor is being valedictorian if you have to share it with so many others?
If you want to live a good, long time, you're going to need a steady supply of friends. Not family, mind you, just friends. (That speaks volumes.)
Friday, June 17, 2005
This week's questions from the boys at BTQ:1. Which relationship will last longer, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie ("Brangelina"), or Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ("TomKat")?
I have to go with TomKat. Tom, I know, has gotten a lot of bad publicity lately, and I'm awfully suspicious about that entire Scientology thing, but he just seems to be truly
and absolutely happy. In fact, he's giddy. Plus, Tom and Katie are now engaged
. They're going to be together for a good while. Brangelina, meanwhile, won't last: He's either a slug, on the rebound, or both; she's a bit of a nut.2. Less importantly, which will have nuclear bombs first, North Korea or Iran?
I'm no expert, but I think the answer's North Korea. Isn't there a fairly significant chance that North Korea already has the bomb?3. What is your dream car?
This is an odd question to ask of someone who (a) owns a 14-year-old Ford Tempo and (b) drives about once a week. In other words, when it comes to automobiles, I'm just not particularly ambitious. (I was tempted to say I'm not particularly "upwardly mobile." I'm sorry.) My dreams are of Mini Coopers or—when I'm really
daydreaming—of Saabs. When I was a kid, I remember being awfully impressed that Saabs came equipped with seat warmers.... If I won the lottery, I suppose I might buy something stylish like a Jaguar. I know a lot more about the subway than automobile models, though.4. What book have you read the most times?
Probably Peter Jenkins's A Walk Across America
, which I read several times when I was in high school and college. It's not great literature, but the idea of actually walking an incredible distance—and meeting regular people along the way—completely appealed to me.
The book I've re-read the most as an adult is probably Eric Wolf's Europe and the People Without History
, which played a big role in my master's thesis.5. Are you a matchmaker?
No. I'm way too self-absorbed (i.e., concerned with my own relationship status) to be fixing up my friends. I hope that doesn't make me a bad person. No, wait. Actually, I don't really care if it makes me a bad person. (See?! I am
way too self-absorbed.)
Thursday, June 16, 2005
I think I'm too tired to blog. Let's talk on Friday.
I was tuckered out after a hard day of work.
When I got to the train station at 5:35 p.m., though, passengers were being advised "to seek alternate means of transportation." There are no words more disturbing to me as a commuter.... (Happily enough, I hadn't heard them since 2003
.) Four hours
later, the power outage resolved
, I finally stumbled in my front door.
I really do need to find some alternate means of getting home, I guess. Ugh.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
I'm suddenly a media critic.
I guess much of the recent coverage
of Michael Kinsley was occasioned by the odd announcement that his L.A. Times
editorial page is going to start featuring "wikitorials." As this week's fascinating New York Times article on Kinsley
explained, wikitorials will be online editorials that readers can continually edit "to [their group] satisfaction." Does that even make sense as a concept? Why would I want to read "the opinion" of a bunch of disconnected readers, some up to mischief, some ill-informed, some with unseen agendas—especially when all these participants will actually hold widely disparate views on any difficult subject? The wikitorials will either change radically from minute to minute, or they just won't make sense at all. (You'll probably have to follow the site religiously just to make any sense of the feature.) In fact, these wikitorials may make groupthink
seem respectable by comparison.
But you know what? I've decided that bizarre ideas are what Kinsley wants
to be all about. I've been fascinated with Kinsley since his days on CNN's Crossfire
. He was so stiff on that program, so startlingly ill-suited to working on television (or, perhaps, with the show's stilted format), that I found the show riveting. I had
to watch. In fact, I watched so often that I sort of felt, finally, that I "got" Kinsley. Whether or not I agreed with him on a given day, I couldn't shake the feeling that he was more interested in getting to a policy position in an unusual way
than in being correct or informative. I decided he'd prefer to be seen by the world as innovative than wise. That's sure an odd preference for a pundit to have.
I know that characterization sounds negative, and—to a large extent, I guess—it is. But just when I'd decided that Kinsley was, at bottom, insubstantial, he helped put together Slate
, in my view, is a truly brilliant concept: It's the best possible magazine that our post-magazine era could possibly produce. It's constantly updated, as any web-era staple should be; but it's also a quality, general-interest publication that (in a more traditional format) would've fit right in 30 years ago on the coffee table. Slate
is Life Magazine on steroids, and I like it. If Kinsley's innovative-quirkiness-for-the-sake-of-innovative-quirkiness approach helped him produce Slate
, well, he can't be all bad.
Still, it's no surprise that Kinsley's new L.A. Times
gig hasn't gone smoothly. It's hard to imagine a more change-resistant environment than an establishment newspaper's editorial page, and it's hard to imagine any boss being more oblivious to such an environment than Kinsley. Consider, in this regard, this snippet from the New York Times
Michael Kinsley shook up the editorial staff of The Los Angeles Times recently, transferring four of his eleven writers, letting one go, and outsourcing some editorials to freelancers.
But many on the newspaper's staff knew what was coming because Mr. Kinsley, who was hired to oversee the newspaper's editorial and opinion pages last spring, accidentally left a Power Point document describing his plans on a Xerox machine in their office in early May. He said he had intended to share his ideas at a company management retreat.
Did Kinsley go to the Mr. Magoo School of Management or what? Just imagine what it's like to be one of his employees. He's all about innovation, so you know the changes will never
end. Plus, given his extreme focus on the bigger picture, he'll forget that he's affecting the actual lives of real employees. One day, you know, you'll find your pink slip—or, probably, the 21st-century equivalent of a pink slip—on the copy machine. Egad.
If the idea of the wikitorial is any indication, Kinsley's stint in L.A. won't be nearly as successful as his time in Seattle for Slate
. How could it be? How often can quirky innovation for its own sake lead to success? Maybe once in a lifetime? Hasn't Kinsley already been as lucky with his life-strategy as he could possibly expect?
As for what ails the newspaper editorial page, I don't think it takes a Michael Kinsley to do the diagnosis. As Timothy Noah cogently explained
yesterday at, yes, Slate
, it's silly to think that any newspaper can sustain a singular, cohesive, interesting editorial voice. A newspaper editorial is, and—worse—reads like, something only a committee could produce. Noah thinks newspapers should just abandon the editorial and devote that space to what already works on the Op-Ed page: edgy, signed editorials by writers who represent a range of worldviews. Isn't he right?Update
(6/17/05): As you might've expected, the first day of the wikitorial was a bit of a mess
. Kinsley, of course, was pleased.Second Update
(6/21/2005): After three days, the Times
had to suspend the wikitorial feature
because of the overwhelming number of "inappropriate" posts. Who couldn't see that coming? Does Michael Kinsley still think the wikitorial was a success?
Monday, June 13, 2005
I don't think this could get any *more* eclectic....
The most compelling thing I read this weekend was the New York Times Magazine piece on gay romance novels. I think I may have finally found my true calling. In my world, the second baseman always falls for the nerdy, self-conscious, bored lawyer. And they live happily ever after.
Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, the environmental art project (which I blogged about most recently here), may be returning to "normal." Record snowfall has caused the Great Salt Lake to rise, causing the Jetty—after several years of drought—to take on a more familiar appearance. Be sure to check out the pictures at the CNN.com link.
Marvin, the Impulsive Buy-er, recently test-squeegeed a women's hair removal product. You'll definitely want to read the entertaining review. The picture is a must-see, too.
Razzi's Photolog is always worth a look, and this new picture—called "Hemisphere"—will show you why.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
I won't wear a bolo to your wedding, I swear.
Dear Maurice J. McDonough High School: A bolo may well be a fashion mistake, but it is a tie. Give the man his diploma.
Life and Deatherage recommends the comic strip Brevity. It's no F Minus, but I did smile at this and this.
As Non*Glossy attests, it's already summer—even, apparently, in Montreal: Yum, watermelon.
Having killed Enterprise, UPN can now turn its full attention to ruining Veronica Mars, last year's most compelling show. What's the plan? Oh, just to deemphasize the characters we loved while making the show more interesting to viewers of, of all things, America's Next Top Model (link via The Yin Blog). Bizarre.
That I read—and am now blogging about—this wedding story from the New York Times is baffling to me. I'm definitely not in the mood for a romantic story. But the story of how Valerie Merahn and Michael Simon went from Not Dates to spouses is pretty darn sweet.
I really can't believe I wrote that.
Friday, June 10, 2005
This week's questions from BTQ:1. What is the earliest movie you remember watching in the theater? Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World
. My already-married big sister, the best big sister a boy ever had, took me. The next year, she took me to see Benji
. I was very big on dog stories....2. If you could strike one word from the English language, which word would you choose and why?
Pusillanimous. Why? 1.) I can't see or hear the word without thinking the user is pretentious. 2.) It has a really, really, really ugly sound. Runner-up word: lugubrious.3. If you were a superhero, what would be your kryptonite?
This is a tough question, for reasons that Class Maledictorian
Your kryptonite needs to be something that's somehow tied to you and your powers and which your enemies have some risk of possessing, but it should be sufficiently rare that you can still be called a superhero.
I'd like to my superpower to be logic (or the ability to know the truth), and there's only one thing that can absolutely dull that: romance. So, yes, love is my kryptonite.4. Would you rather win an Emmy, Grammy, Tony, Golden Globe, Oscar, Pulitzer, or Nobel Prize? What work would you win it for?
The Nobel Prize is surely the most prestigious, and I feel like I ought
to pick that. But for peace or literature, please. The rest of the awards—especially the prizes for economics—are pretty silly. But you know what? I'm not going to pick what I ought
to pick. I want
to win an Emmy for comedy writing, so that's my choice.
Is there anybody who'd really rather win a Golden Globe award?5. What is your catch phrase? Don't have one? Then make one up!
According to some people, I pepper my everyday speech with one catch phrase after another. But "have fun," a farewell remark, is one of my current faves. I'm also currently big on "you can mark that a bargain," which is something I first heard from a high school classmate.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
The hostage crisis continues.
Yeah, I had another bad day. It's hot, everyone around me seems to be agitated
, and I'm having transportation problems. So, in lieu of cranky blogging, how about links to four cool photographs: three destinations and, well, a goldfish?
Tomorrow is Friday. Surely I'll be in a better mood by then.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
I'm blogging through a bad day....
Is it ethical for a straight couple to marry in a jurisdiction that doesn't permit same-sex marriage? Ian Ayres, author of Straightforward: How To Mobilize Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights, has some thoughts on the new moral calculus of opposite-sex marriage.
In The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, as excerpted at Slate, David Plotz writes:
[A particular sperm bank] has something it calls—I'm not kidding—its 'doctorate program.' For a premium, mothers can buy sperm from donors who have doctoral degrees or are pursuing them. What counts as a doctor? I asked. Medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, law, and chiropractic. Don't say you weren't warned: Your premium 'doctorate' sperm may have come from a law student.Wow. Well, I totally didn't see that slam of lawyers, and particularly law students, coming. I was absolutely sure chiropractors (or, maybe, optometrists) were going to take a hit . . . but I suddenly found the zinger aimed at my very own profession. Ouch.
I guess mommas really don't want their babies to grow up to be law students....
How about a list of weeds you might encounter on your morning commute (link via Kottke)? My favorites: gazeweed, iPodpea, and kneecreeper.
At Sushicam, Jeff Laitila has an entertaining essay about an ethnocentric buffoon of a tour guide he encountered this week in Tokyo. And, of course, the photographs are nice, too.
Are ties in NHL hockey (as if that even exists anymore) really so distasteful that we must turn to overtime gimmicks to avoid them? Aren't shootouts really more about chance than—hey, here's a concept—deciding which team is better?
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Tennis and—yeah—some other stuff, too...
I haven't written anything about tennis in days, so I guess I owe the blog some final thoughts about the French Open. Gosh, do I have any final thoughts? Not really. Nothing profound, anyway. I guess it'd be fair to point out that I—ahem—correctly picked both the men's and the women's champions from the outset. But who likes to brag? (Um, me.) And I'd also like to point out how, sweetly early in the tournament, I realized that surprise eventual finalist Mariano Puerta was someone we should be watching. Correct. Does any of that make up for all those wrong picks I made? Probably not....
While I'm thinking about tennis, did you happen to catch commentator Mary Carillo's brilliant "Living Life on Clay" piece for ESPN? In the piece, Carillo—who's easily the best tennis commentator on American television today—described why she'd like her two kids to live life like clay courters. You'll definitely want to check out the entire piece, but here are some of the admirable traits Carillo sees in a life on clay:
To know that not everyone who thinks, thinks alike.To know that the ground will shift under their feet; that it pays to be flexible, and patient.That lateral thinking is often rewarded, so try to look around the corners of your problems.That small things are hard to do...but everything, everything counts.I guess I'm a true tennis fan, but Carillo's use of clay-court tennis as a metaphor for life sure struck me as spot-on.
That said—and I guess this is an appropriate observation at the beginning of the Wimbledon warm-ups—isn't Carillo necessarily saying that she doesn't like the values that grass-court tennis teaches? Again, I don't really disagree: The serve-and-volley, might-makes-right ethic of grass-court tennis isn't something I'd want kids to mimic.... But, um, will Carillo mention that during her upcoming Wimbledon coverage? Hee.
If you didn't get enough of new tennis superstar Rafael Nadal during the French Open, you might check out one of the most polished fan sites I've ever see: Vamos Rafael.
Has blogging jumped the shark? Left Coast Unitarian thinks so and offers up an "I'm blogging this" t-shirt at Six Flags. That's pretty darn good evidence, really....
In one of my most-read posts of the year (thanks, Slate), I said I found more in The Huffington Post to like than to dislike. Nearly a month later, I'm still enjoying my visits to THP. But I'm pleased to see there've been a few changes. As I said in that initial post, for Huffington to work as a blog, the site was going to have to find a way to let the reader aggregate the posts of favorite bloggers. Well, THP quickly provided that necessary feature: Now, in addition to being able to search the blog archives, the reader can easily see all of a particular Huffington blogger's posts. With that obvious feature, I can now recommend that you check out all of the entertaining posts of THP standout and Maxim UK editor-in-chief Greg Gutfield. (If you only have time to read one Gutfield post, this one is a particular fave of mine.)
I'm smitten with this Shutterbug pic of what I think are some shopping carts. Wow. I'm also taken with a Daily Dose of Imagery photograph of a colorful Ford truck.
Monday, June 06, 2005
D'backs 10, Phillies 8
It's a bad sign, you know, when the visiting team scores five runs
before you even get to your seat. Anyway, I was there today as the Phillies' winning streak ended at six games
. Even in losing, though, the Phils looked pretty darn good. In fact, they nearly pulled off an improbable come-from-behind victory in the bottom of the ninth.
By the way, summer has definitely arrived in Philly. I'm not sure if I can take any more day games until, oh, September....
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Sam offers up a Venn diagram of the British Isles (link via DarrenBarefoot.com). If you're mathematically minded but a little hazy on your geopolitics, this might be perfect for you.
At Crescat Sententia, Raffi Melkonian forwards a disturbing story about the state of American pie. Really. It's a $3.95, no-butter, no-fresh-fruit, factory-processed kind of pie world. How depressing.
Ann Althouse is nostalgic for the "beauty and innocence" that she thinks once characterized the spelling bee. Her post is a bit confused: Does she think the kids are too nerdy or not nerdy enough? How exactly did the "new success" of the bee lead to some contestants becoming "smartasses." It's not clear.
But more fundamentally than all that, what's the "beauty and innocence" that Althouse misses? Parents living out their odd fantasies through their children? Kids spending every day memorizing long lists of obscure words (when they could be learning something useful or, even, having some fun)? The all-out tension of the actual bee, which is structured so as to maximize pressure and attention on a child over and over until a mistake is inevitably made. Oof.
If there was ever any "beauty and innocence" in the spelling bee, it died long before Althouse or I were paying attention.
Ian Ayres and Jennifer Brown, authors of Straightforward: How To Mobilize Heterosexual Support for Gay Rights, have been guest-blogging at Lessig. Today, Brown got down to some of the practicalities, noting circumstances when straight people can be ambiguous about their own heterosexuality in order to promote equality. It's an interesting post; in essence, it describes how a straight person can helpfully blur the sexual categories by going into a sort of closet of vagueness. I'm definitely going to order the book. I've got to wonder, though, how these ideas fill a book. Ayres and Brown's guest-blogging has been fairly jargon-laden. Will this be 10 chapters of theory and one chapter of pragmatics? And, truthfully, wouldn't these ideas be more successful (more apt to reach a wide audience) if they were in a persuasive, um, pamphlet?
Friday, June 03, 2005
This week's Friday Spies questions were submitted by Begging the Question readers:1. From Janie Q: "How about your favorite TV show when you were a kid, and why hasn't it been remade into a movie, or if it has, how was that movie, or maybe it shouldn't be remade at all?"
When I was a kid, some of my favorite TV shows were The Carol Burnett Show
, The Brady Bunch
, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show
. But wouldn't a campy remake of Emergency!
be great? You'd just need some real firefighters, this generation's Randolph Mantooth (any nominations?), and some silly southern California emergencies....2. Stag asks: "Tell us about your favorite vacation or your fav place to go on vacation."
I love Yellowstone National Park, and I really enjoyed the trip I made there in 2002 with the ex-flatmate. Fittingly enough, I described that trip—which included a freak hailstorm and a plague of insects—in a 2003 Friday Five
(see Question #2).3. Soup inquires: "Are you a fan of Get Fuzzy?"
Regular readers know that I'm fussy (not fuzzy) about my comic strips. For me, Get Fuzzy
is too wordy (yeah, I know I'm in trouble when I don't have time to get through a comic strip), and—in the end—the payoff's not worth the effort. In other words, Get Fuzzy
is no F Minus
, which is my current comic strip fave
....4. Sebastian Haff has a burning desire to know: "[Which] celebrities [do] you think are most likely to pose in Playboy and why[?]"
This is tough, not least of all because Playboy
is way outside my area of, um, expertise. I'm thinking the most likely candidate is a just-past-her-prime B- or C-level actress who has always gotten most of her self-identity from her looks. I think I'd rather not name any actual names, though.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
This post mentions at least three forces.
A National Geographic multimedia feature lets you experience the inside of a tornado (link via Garrett Fitzgerald's Blog). Really. Admittedly, I'm fascinated by tornadoes—being from Oklahoma will do that for you—but I think you'll enjoy this, too.
"Gay is the new cousin," says Frank Paiva—who's been attending a lot of high school proms as the "gay best friend." Paiva's first-person account of spring prom season was one of the highlights of Sunday's New York Times (hat tip: Towleroad).
At The Sports Economist, the Eclectic Econoclast (since when do economists need pseudonyms?) argues that Title IX has inhibited the growth of lacrosse. I'd be a lot more sympathetic to that argument if I didn't know that university women now play lacrosse, too.... (By the way, the comments to EE's post are also worth a look.)
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