The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Sunday, January 30, 2005


Survival Report

I bet you wondered if I'd survived the blizzard of '05. Well, I did. And I actually survived it in style. I'd planned to spend the weekend in New York with an old friend, but—as I watched more and more of the Weather Channel—I began to have doubts that I'd make it. Actually, I was scared. My friend was more confident: He said if he could travel 1500 miles to get there, well, then I could manage 100 miles. He was right, darn it.

I made it to Penn Station right on time (thanks, Amtrak) on Saturday morning, and it hadn't started snowing in Manhattan. The streets were fairly empty, apparently because all the sensible people heeded the blizzard warnings and were in their homes, nursing hot beverages. The taxi drivers were still out, though, and I've actually never had an easier time getting a cab. In a few minutes, I was at the hotel, and—in another 10 minutes—my friend was there from LaGuardia.

We quickly went up to the room, looked out, and it was already snowing. And not just the light snow that you'd expect at the start of a snow shower. It was S*N*O*W*I*N*G. We'd just made it.

For the next 20-plus hours, it snowed and snowed and snowed. (We got about nine inches near the hotel.) And until Tuesday morning, when I headed back to Philly, we got to live in a postcard-perfect winter wonderland. Snowy streets. Theaters filled with cold patrons and their coats, gloves, and scarves. Stores full of patrons tired of their hotel rooms. Oh, and there was room service. I've come to realize that nothing makes a blizzard more palatable than room service. Highly recommended.

Among the highlights of my New York weekend:
  • We caught Election Day, an off-off-Broadway musical that (sorta) sends up our current blue-state/red-state divide. Ian Kahn, whom you may remember from an episode of Sex and the City, starred (the musical closed today) as the president. His and many of the other performances were quite good, although—as this review rightly indicates—the musical has some real, um, problems. I actually nodded off near the end of the first act, and I find that's pretty hard to do when there are people singing and dancing just a few feet away. It was so bad that I became fixated on marginal issues, including just how poor the costuming was. Why is the president wearing such a bad suit? Hey, that TV anchor guy would never wear a purple tie. The Wyoming governor's boots are a tragedy. You get the idea. Just how small was that costume budget, anyway?

  • Much better was the American debut of Irish playwright Aidan Matthews's Communion, which we saw on its closing night. Communion revolves around Jordan, an Irish medical student who has gone home to die. He's cared for by his bipolar brother, his devoted mother, and a strange neighbor who enters Jordan's room (which is the only set) via the fire escape. A priest visits regularly, giving, at the close of the second act, one of the most interesting, beautiful masses I've ever heard. I'd go to church more often if I could hear pieces like that. Anyway, I loved the play, with its lessons about learning to live with those you love, and I wish I could see it again.

  • Something else I'd definitely see again is Hurlyburly, which just opened to positive reviews. (We saw it a few days before its actual "opening.") You may be familiar with the story, either from its first production 20 years ago or the 1998 movie, but it's enough to say here that it follows a group of 1980s-era drugged-out, self-absorbed men who work on the fringes of the L.A. film industry. Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, and Parker Posey are wonderful in their roles. (Wallace Shawn, who always seems to play a caricature of himself, was, um, not so wonderful.) The play is (too) long, but I got caught up in the good acting and the frenetic activity that swirls around Hawke's character as he tries to make sense of life and, just maybe, make a true, human connection or two.

    The next time a blizzard is headed my way, I'm telling you, it's room service for me.
  • Wednesday, January 19, 2005


    Things you apparently need to know.

    Only two of my four-and-one-half regular readers are sports fans, and those two aren't even tennis fans. So I hope they'll all forgive me for yet another post about tennis. I'll get back to blogging about flags and my dry cleaning—so far, those are two separate subjects—soon enough.

    But I absolutely know that many sports fans around the world are thinking about tennis when the referral logs for the Garden are filled with queries like:Even knowing this, I was puzzled this week to find that about a bazillion (ok, two dozen) Googlers landed at the Garden with a single question on their mind: Is Camille Pin pregnant?

    Pin, you may recall, was the unfortunate first-round Australian Open victim of Serena Williams. I was working in the apartment when the match was televised here in the States, and I didn't pay much attention at all to Pin herself. According to, though, she was striking:Wow, I'm sorry I didn't pay better attention.

    So, in case you came here out of curiosity, I have no idea if Pin is or if she isn't. Your Google search landed you here simply because I've both previously mentioned Pin and used the word "pregnant" (but never in relation to one another!). I also don't have any snazzy pictures of Lleyton Hewitt, or any other tennis player, for you. I do like the word "shirtless," though. Worst of all, I don't have any idea whether your favorite player is gay.

    Bummer, I know.

    P.S.: I'm still glad you stopped by.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005


    My Australian Open Picks—A First Look Back

    Just like last year, the Australian Open organizers plowed through the first round in two efficient days of tennis. A handful of second-round matches have been completed, too! I wish someone at the U.S. Open would take a lesson....

    How'd I do with my first-round picks? I'm pretty darn proud of myself. Of the 64 first-round men's matches, I correctly picked the winner in 46 (71.2%). That's just one shy of my record (set at the 2003 U.S. Open). So I guess I should just shut up about how hard it is to pick the Australian Open since it's practically in the off-season. Ok. Consider me shut up. (As always, I didn't pick every first-round women's match. There just isn't enough time in my life.)

    How are my projected quarterfinalists doing? Not bad so far. Unsurprisingly, all eight of my women's projected quarterfinalists survived the first round—as did seven of my men's quarterfinalists. The lone exception is, of course, #5 Carlos Moya, who was upset by Spanish qualifier Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in four sets. There's no way I could've ever predicted that. Garcia-Lopez came into the tournament as the 106th-ranked player in the world, and he's only played in one previous Grand Slam. (He went 1-1 in the 2004 French Open.) I'd barely even heard of Garcia-Lopez before the upset (I picked him to win a round at the 2004 French), and I guess that's not all that surprising either. In the new ATP media guide, Garcia-Lopez didn't even merit a page of his own; he's in the back with "other prominent players" like Mariusz Fyrstenberg, Petr Pala, and Stanislas Wawrinka. Very big names, you know?

    It's obviously too early to be all that happy with my quarterfinal picks. It's more than possible that half of them will be gone by the third round. After all, I did put players like Feliciano Lopez, Guillermo Cañas, and Patty Schnyder in the quarters. I'm sure some or all of them will manage to disappoint me.

    The loss of Moya, though, leaves a pretty significant hole in my draw. Not only did I have him in the quarters, but I saw him as a likely semifinalist, too. I'll be bold, I guess, and put Thomas Johansson (#30) into the quarterfinal spot left vacant by Moya. As for the vacant semifinal spot, well, I guess I'll do what I should've done at the outset: I'll go with the higest seed in the quarter: Marat Safin. What? You say there are no second chances in tennis prognostication? Get real. And get your own blog.

    How did I do with the projected upsets? On the women's side, I picked three upsets, and I was right about two of those: Petra Mandula did handle #30 Flavia Pennetta, and and Ana Ivanovic did "upset" #32 Iveta Benesova (who, I'm sure, will recede into oblivion like a good—er, bad—32nd seed should). I'll take two out of three anytime. Unfortunately, that success will have to be tempered by the fact that I failed to predict two other upsets—#24 Mary Pierce's thrashing by Stephanie Cohen-Aloro and Martina Sucha's win over veteran Ai Sugiyama.

    On the men's side, I also went two-for-three. (Unfortunately, no one has to buy me an ice cream.) Both #19 Vince Spadea and #21 Nicolas Kiefer went down in five-set matches (to Radek Stepanek and Olivier Rochus, respectively). Obviously, I didn't manage to pick the upset of Moya, but I'm absolutely pleased with the picks I made.

    How'd my qualifiers and wild cards do? On my projected draw, I put six qualifiers into the second round, and five of those (Takao Suzuki, Marcos Baghdatis, Tomas Zib, Janko Tipsarevic, and Jean-René Lisnard) came through for me. I should've been even bolder, though, because six of my missed first-round picks came at the hands of qualifiers, wild cards, and lucky losers. I'm not really kicking myself about any of these—except, perhaps, for not picking French phenom Gael Monfils to upset American Robby Ginepri. In my defense, though, I had that match as a tasty first-round match-up.

    I'll stop now before my ego gets too big. (Too late.) Anyway, there's more than enough time for my picks to make me look foolish.

    Monday, January 17, 2005


    Expect low-scoring and lightly starched blogging today....

    I intend to spend this holiday with a bucket in one hand and a brush in the other. The grime has taken over my apartment, I tell you, and today I'm going to fight back a little. Actually, it may be time to bring in some professionals. I'll know better after today, I hope.

    Anyway, expect light blogging from me today. Here are a few quick links to get you going:
  • In Vermont, a boys' high school basketball game recently ended in a score of 5-2. No points at all were scored in the second half. "I've never had a player hit a game-winner in the second quarter before," said the winning coach. Obviously, there's no shot clock in Vermont high school basketball.

  • There's new proof that people in love truly are struck dumb by emotion (link via Marginal Revolution). Believe me, I've been there.

  • Youngpup wittily charts the half-life of an idea.

  • New York lawyers working in a small Delaware town "were forced to 'ship clothes for two months'" because no dry-cleaning facilities were offered by their hotel (link via Waddling Thunder). Wouldn't it have just been easier to phone up one of the local dry cleaners? I bet one of the 22 corporate attorneys on the legal team could have even negotiated delivery service....

  • Gosh, I hope it's true that Coca-Cola is going to launch a coffee-flavored cola this year (link via Population Statistic). If so, Pepsi just might respond by bringing back its short-lived Pepsi Kona. As I've mentioned before, even though it's been years since I had one, I still find myself craving the nectar of the gods that was Pepsi Kona.

  • Ms. Frizzle decided that Major League Baseball's steroids scandal created a teachable moment for her seventh-grade science students.

  • Sunday, January 16, 2005


    My Australian Open Men's Picks

    As I begin to write this, the action in Melbourne begins in only two hours. Talk about cutting things close. Before the other Slams, I usually take a good part of my Sunday looking at the men's draw. With the Australian, though, the time difference means I have an early deadline. So let's get right to it. As always, I'm starting at the top of the draw. Here are my projected quarterfinalists:

    Roger Federer (seeded #1) - How could I possibly have picked anyone else? Federer is dominating the men's game right now. It's almost inconceivable that anyone else could take the title, isn't it? Pencil him in now for the final.

    Feliciano Lopez (#24) - This section of the draw is a real puzzle. All of the seeds in the section, save Lopez, are either sick or injured. Ordinarily, I would've gone for #8 Andre Agassi or #11 Joachim Johansson, but Agassi has a torn tendon, and Johansson's hamstring is so bad that it was widely expected he'd pull out. The remaining seed is #29 Taylor Dent, but he dropped out of last week's event in Sydney with the flu. It's impossible to make a good prediction without knowing just how these players are feeling today. Agassi, I know, apparently played fairly well on Friday in an exhibition against Tim Henman, but can he hold up over several matches? I just don't know. In the end, I just decided to punt and go with Lopez, who had a pretty good 2004. My confidence in this prediction is low, however.

    Marat Safin (#4) - Speaking of puzzles, what am I to think of Safin? Will the Safin who's the two-time runner-up show up, or will it be the Safin who stunk up the Hopman Cup recently? I'm guessing—and, yes, it's a guess—that Safin will have his mind right for the Slam. If so, he's the man to beat in this section. Keep an eye out, though, for Olivier Rochus, who has been tearing up the circuit in 2005.

    Carlos Moya (#5) - In my mind, this section comes down to a third-round match between Moya and Thomas Johansson, who stunned us all by winning the Australian in 2002. I've gone with Moya, even though he lost in the first round of the Sydney warm-up, because he's generally the more consistent of the two.

    Guillermo Coria (#6) - Is it Coria or #9 David Nalbandian? Coria. No, Nalbandian. Coria? Nalbandian? No, Coria. That's what I sounded like when I was thinking about this section of the draw. Nalbandian has the easier draw: Coria has to get by Tomas Berdych in the first round and, probably, Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third. Still, I think his chances of doing all that are good, and he's 3-0 against fellow countryman Nalbandian.

    Lleyton Hewitt (#3) - It's so good to have Hewitt back at the top. He won at Sydney last week, and he has a real here shot of overtaking Andy Roddick as the world's No. 2. My favorite tennis writer, Jon Wertheim, seems to think that #15 Mikhail Youzhny will be the quarterfinalist. I'm not even sure the young Russian will make it to the third round. The quarterfinalist is Hewitt. Really.

    Guillermo Cañas (#12) - Remember, you heard it here first. Cañas can play on hard courts, and he has a 4-1 edge over Tim Henman—his main competition for the quarters.

    Andy Roddick (#2) - Sweet Jesus, this is a sweet draw for the American. I'd be shocked if he didn't reach the quarters and beyond.

    As for the rest of the tournament:

    Semifinals: Federer vs. Moya; Hewitt vs. Roddick.

    Final: Federer vs. Roddick.

    Championg: Federer. (Who else?)

    And the miscellaneous picks?

    First-round upsets: I like the chances of:

  • Justin Gimelstob against #10 Gaston Gaudio;
  • Radek Stepanek against #19 Vince Spadea; and
  • Olivier Rochus against #21 Nicolas Kiefer.

    (Will you buy me an ice cream if I go three-for-three with these picks?)

    Other tasty first-round matches:

  • Federer vs. Fabrice Santoro;
  • #22 Ivan Ljubicic vs. Luis Horna;
  • the hamstrung Joachim Johansson vs. Sjeng Schalken, who's coming off a bout with mono;
  • Robby Ginepri vs. French teen phenom (and wild card) Gael Monfils;
  • Xavier Malisse vs. #16 Tommy Haas;
  • Robin Soderling vs. #20 Dominik Hrbaty;
  • Coria vs. Berdych;
  • #25 J.I. Chela vs. Wayne Arthurs;
  • Florian Mayer vs. James Blake;
  • Arnaud Clement vs. Hewitt;
  • #14 Seb Grosjean vs. Michael Llodra; and
  • Jonas Bjorkman vs. Greg Rusedski, in a battle of the geriatrics.

    Qualifiers and wild cards likely to advance: I don't have any wild cards, including Monfils, surviving the first round. Several qualifiers will hang around for a bit, though:

  • Takao Suzuki should handle Jan-Michael Gambill;
  • Marcos Baghdatis, everyone's favorite player from Cyprus, should defeat fellow qualifier Federico Luzzi;
  • Tomas Zib should easily defeat wild card Yeu-Tzuoo Wang;
  • Oliver Patience should upset Rainer Schuettler;
  • Janko Tipsarevic should beat qualifier Daniele Bracciali; and
  • Jean-René Lisnard should handle qualifier Oliver Marach.

    I don't have any qualifiers making it very far into the tournament, but I'm keeping an eye on Zib and Tipsarevic.

    Whew. It took me about an hour to write this, and the first matches start in only about an hour. If my picks do startlingly bad, can we blame the early deadline?


    My Australian Open Picks—The Women

    The first Grand Slam of the year—the Australian Open—begins Monday in Melbourne. As I say every year, this is a difficult tournament to pick. The rest of the Slams occur within a few months of each other, and fans get an ongoing sense of whose game is in top form. The Australian Open, though, is suddenly upon the tennis fan: It's been four months since the U.S. Open ended, and it's another four months before the players are on the red clay at Roland Garros. Who's in top form? Who knows? The players don't even seem to know. That's why the Australian Open sometimes throws us some quirky results. Be forewarned.

    Anyway, 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):

    Lindsay Davenport (seeded #1) - Why is Davenport the No. 1 player in the world? She didn't win a Slam last year, and she didn't even make it out of the round robin at the Tour Final. She was even thinking in 2004 about retirement. The answer, I think, is just that Davenport is consistent. She's always in the mix, even when she's (almost inevitably) struggling with some injury. This time around, Davenport is coming off a bout with bronchitis. She says she's better. If she's right, she could go a long way in Melbourne. With so many of the top names (Henin-Hardenne, Clijsters, Capriati) out, and so many others (the Williamses, among others) iffy, this may well be Davenport's last best chance to win another Slam.

    Venus Williams (#8) - This is no easy section of the draw. Williams will need to get by Eleni Daniilidou in the first round, #27 Anna Smashnova in the third round, and then she'll probably face Australian phenom Alicia Molik (#10). (I think there could be a great third-round match between Molik and fellow Aussie Nicole Pratt, by the way.) I like Williams's chances to be the quarterfinalist, but I wouldn't be all that shocked if she made an early exit.

    Anastasia Myskina (#3) - Myskina somehow lost to a Chinese qualifier at a tune-up event, and that surely doesn't bode well. But I just can't say that I like the chances of anyone else, including Nathalie Dechy (#19) and Francesca Schiavone (#14), in this section of the draw.

    Patty Schnyder (#12) - Elena Dementieva (#6) is the top seed in this section. As much as I dislike her serve (which she's allegedly been working on), and her lack of mental toughness, she would probably be the smart choice if she were healthy. The latest reports say she's still suffering from the Australian summer heat, though. That opens things up for Schnyder and #20 Tatiana Golovin. I expect a crackerjack match between those two in the third round: The winner, who'll probably be Schnyder, will be the quarterfinalist.

    Svetlana Kuzenetsova (#5) - No one in this section is likely to keep the U.S. Open champ out of the quarters. (I am looking forward to a third-round match between #17 Fabiola Zuluaga, who announced her arrival at last year's Australian Open, and #9 Vera Zvonareva. I'll take Zvonareva in that one, but I don't think she has the game to take down Kuznetsova, too.)

    Maria Sharapova (#4) - As you'll see, I'm predicting that Sharapova will be in the mix late into the second week. The expected quarterfinal match with Kuznetsova (Wimbledon champion vs. U.S. Open champion) might even be the match of the tourney.

    Serena Williams (#7) - This section of the draw is so weak that even an unfocused Williams ought to emerge. After the butt-kicking that 2004 gave Serena, though, I doubt very seriously that she'll be unfocused in Melbourne. Watch out, ladies.

    Amélie Mauresmo (#2) - Mauresmo's toughest match before the quarters might be her opening match against Samantha Stosur, who just made it to the finals of the event in Sydney. (Ok, Stosur was the beneficiary of two separate withdrawals there.) The other seeds in this section—#16 Ai Sugiyama, #21 Amy Frazier, and #32 Iveta Benesova (who the hell is Iveta Benesova?)—don't inspire much confidence.

    What does the rest of the tournament look like?

    Semifinals: Davenport vs. Myskina; Sharapova vs. S. Williams.

    Final: Davenport vs. Sharapova.

    Champion: Davenport.

    Interested in some miscellaneous picks?

    First-round upsets: I'm going to take Nicole Pratt over #23 Jelena Jankovic; Petra Mandula over #30 Flavia Pennetta; and Ana Ivanovic over #32 Benesova.

    Other tasty first-round matches:

  • Davenport vs. Conchita Martinez (it's a shame that these two veterans drew each other in the first round).
  • Daniilidou vs. V. Williams.
  • Stephanie Foretz vs. qualifier Michaella Krajicek, the sister of former Wimbledon champ Richard Krajicek.
  • Kuznetsova vs. American qualifier Jessica Kirkland; and
  • Stosur vs. Mauresmo.

    I'll post my men's picks later in the day (but before the opening matches start in Melbourne).

  • Friday, January 14, 2005


    Fight the Gray!

    I'm still fighting the January blues a little bit. It's just been so unendingly gray here. A little bit of sunshine would go a long way right about now. The weather forecasters aren't offering any, though, so I decided to find some needed color in some of my favorite photoblogs. Here are my gray-Friday photoblog picks:
  • "Candyhand (Montreal)," Matthew Hollett, Non*Glossy: Do I like the colors or the candy? It's probably both. I have such a sweet tooth, you know?

  • "Drums," Justin Ouellette, Dean Martin would've loved the wallpaper.

  • "Polyfoon Stokje," Herman Horsten, Herman's Wereldkeuken Photoblog: Hey, I have that Mano Negra album.

  • "Working Sunset," Rannie Turingan, Photojunkie: I'd give quite a bit for a sunset like this right now.

  • "Yellow Revealing Green," Sam Javanrough, Daily Dose of Imagery: This abandoned wall seems to be coming to life.

  • Thursday, January 13, 2005


    I'm blogging through the January blues.

  • Someone asked a very pertinent question yesterday during an online session with a Washington Post managing editor responsible for the comics page: How many letters do I have to write to get 'Beetle Bailey' cancelled?

    What a good question. Unfortunately, the editor answered by indicating that Beetle Bailey is popular. How can that be? And why exactly is there so much dreck on newspapers' comics pages anymore? Garfield? Dreck. Cathy? Dreck. Family Circus? Dreck. Peanuts reruns? Dreck. Heathcliff? Dreck. Sally Forth? Dreck. I could go on and on and on. There are so many fun, quirky strips available now: I'm thinking of strips like Bizarro, Pearls before Swine, Non Sequitur, The Quigmans, etc. Yet whenever I pick up a newspaper, it's the same boring stuff—comics that haven't included any new ideas in years. Oof.

    I'm curious if there are any blogs devoted to newspaper comic strips. A quick search didn't reveal any, yet it seems like a topic that would be fun to write about and that would be interesting to a large number of readers. I did find sites like Don Markstein's Toonopedia, but no blogs where you can find reviews, up-to-the-minute news, and the like. Maybe I should start one.

    Anyone know of any sites I should know about?

    (Hat tip: Poynter Online.)

  • Vexillologists, take note: Zanzibar is flying a new flag today. It's pretty darn attractive.

    As I've suggested a time or two before, I'm fascinated by flags. I'm a little bit embarrassed about that, and I figure it pretty much confirms my status a nerd. I haven't yet joined the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) or attended one of its annual conferences, though. I wonder what kind of people join NAVA and whether a flag convention would actually be any fun. Hmmm....

  • If you're at all interested in Cuba, you should definitely check out Darren Barefoot's wonderful photos from his recent trip. Highly recommended.

  • Wednesday, January 12, 2005


    Today's Topics: Seersucker Suits, Poop, and New Jersey

  • What are you going to do if your buddy calls up and says Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is in town and wants to meet you? Well, duh. If you're author Poppy Z. Brite, and the city is New Orleans, you're obviously going to end up tagging along as Thompson shops for a seersucker suit. (He actually bought two. Matlock would be so proud.) And, oh, by the way, your buddy is historian Douglas Brinkley.

    Brite has the best life.

    (Random aside: HST's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 is one of my all-time favorite books.)

  • Sign spotted by Lip Schtick at the Oklahoma-UConn basketball Monday night: Huskies eat their poop. That story is even more fun to relay because the 25th-ranked Sooners upset the 12th-ranked Huskies, 77-65. Go OU!

  • British Columbian Darren Barefoot gets a little nervous when he receives phone calls from "strange parts of the United States," including Delaware(?) and Nebraska(!). His call display recently said he had a call from what he says is:
      the scariest state of all: New Jersey. New Jersey, the home of mafia goons and garbage dumps, if you’re to believe popular culture. And, as a Canadian on the other side of the continent, what else do I have to go on?
    Happily, this particular phone call had a happy end. I'm thinking, though, that Barefoot's next New Jersey call may be from the goons at New Jersey Travel & Tourism. They'll make him repent, even if they have to resort to some Atlantic City gambling and a week at the shore.

    Too funny.

  • Tuesday, January 11, 2005


    Regime Change

    If you want to lose weight, don't fret so much about which particular diet is the best one, say nutrition experts (link via Marginal Revolution). Instead, you should focus on which diet regime you'll be able to follow.

    Last year, as you may recall, I vowed to drop 20 pounds. And I did. Just like those darn "nutrition experts" suggest, I found a regime that worked in my life and then stuck with it. I now have a larger breakfast than I once did—a bowl of cereal, a cup of yogurt, and a piece of fruit—and that gets me going. Lunch is a salad, a small entree (often chicken), some cottage cheese, and crackers. (You wouldn't believe how important those crackers are to me. Dry wheat crackers suddenly became the food of the gods.) At dinner, I have a tastier, yet-nothing-crazy entree, a salad (and actual non-lowfat salad dressing), and some vegetables. And every day, I allow myself some kind of sweet treat: It's nothing major, usually just 100-150 calories, but I found that a daily reward of some kind was absolutely essential for me. Since losing the weight I wanted, I've increased—oh, so slightly—the portions I allow myself for dinner, and I'm more tolerant of an occasional splurge. I don't feel deprived, and I've held a steady weight for many months.

    I haven't really said much about New Year's resolutons here this year. Last year, I ended up trying to slim myself down. This year, I think I'll work on slimming my budget down. I wonder what the "nutrition experts" have to say about that....

    Gosh, I went on and on about myself there, didn't I?

    Monday, January 10, 2005


    Satan's Laundromat Visits Philadelphia

    I haven't put the Garden spotlight on any of my favorite photoblogs in a long time. Here's a good excuse to change that, though. Mike Epstein, of Satan's Laudromat—which, as you probably know, usually features urban decay in New York—has been in Philly. We have some striking urban decay of our own.... For starters, see here and here.

    I'm particularly taken with this set of photographs, entitled "South Street Philadelphia," because this is the neighborhood where, of all things, my doctor's office is located. And the daily train commuter in me really appreciates this folio. I find the top photograph especially appealing because of the way it showcases the beauty and the ugliness of the Philly skyline.

    Highly recommended.

    The Garden tries to be a welcoming place.

    1.) One of the first blogs I ever read, Ignatz, is back after a long hiatus. Attorney Sam Heldman is the proprietor of Ignatz, and he used to write, entertainingly, about law and politics—topics I don't touch here. Heldman promises now to write less about the stuff that makes him grumpy and more about fun things. So far, the fun things have mostly been musical. Whatever Heldman writes about, though, it will probably be worth your attention and mine....

    2.) None of my four-and-one-half regular readers is an attorney, so this will probably end up just being a reminder for myself . . . but my buddy and fellow Oklahoma attorney Jim Calloway has a new blog focusing on law practice management. I don't have a law practice, and I don't manage much in my life very well, but I've learned a lot from Calloway over the past few years. I'll be reading.

    Sunday, January 09, 2005


    I used to be a sports sociologist, you know?

  • At Slate, Daniel Engber explains how the Dallas Mavericks, using his theory, attempted to harness the power of the home-court crowd to disrupt opponents' free-throw shooting (link via The Sports Economist). The Mavericks gave up after three games, but Engber thinks he's on to something. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was....

  • I've been reading an article—Matissa N. Hollister's "Does Firm Size Matter Anymore?"—in the new American Sociological Review. Really! I'm not kidding. I do try to keep up. But that's not my point. I put down the ASR, about halfway through the article and started to surf the web. In just a few minutes, I'm at Pub Sociology and the first post on the page is about the very same ASR article I'd just put down. Wow.

    Now I suppose that's not the most spectacular coincidence in the world. I have a graduate degree in sociology, and I'm a blogger, so it's not all that shocking that I might read a sociologist's blog where the new article I was just reading was being discussed. But this example does show how you can find intelligent discussion about just about anything anymore on the web. Fifteen years ago, I would've had a hard time finding anyone in my own graduate department who'd read a new article I wanted to talk about. Today, I accidentally stumble onto it in Blogistan.

    And just in case you were wondering: Yes, firm size apparently still does matter, if not as much as it once did. (You're more likely to make more money in a big firm than you would at a small firm—even when you're doing the very same kind of work.)

  • In a similar vein, don't be at all surprised if the guy who owns your favorite coffee shop turns out to be a famous sociologist's nephew.

  • Everyone keeps asking me who I think owns that baseball, the one used by the Red Sox to make the last out in the 2004 World Series. Now, I don't blog about legal-type things, so you'll have to find me in the real world (and, say, buy me a gin and tonic) to get my views on that. But as this post by UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh indicates, the question isn't as easy as it might seem. When he began, Volokh was sure the ball was owned by the Red Sox ("[o]f course the team owns it"); then, after he'd gotten some feedback, he entertained the possibility that the ball was owned by the Cards or by Major League Baseball itself; then, after still more feedback, he was finally more open to the idea that a player might actually own the ball.

    And, as always, since it's sports-related, Off Wing Opinion is the place to go.
  • Saturday, January 08, 2005


    Irresistible Impulse

    After a trip to the pet store, author Poppy Z. Brite couldn't help but sample the Gummi BearBQ Chewy Vitamin Dog Treats—beef, bacon, and chicken. She ended up using lots of toothpaste.


    Saturday Morning Caffeine (and a sweet spot on the side)

  • Starbucks unveils its new chocolate drink, Chantico, today. Here's an early review. Don't have too many cups this first weekend, though: Chantico is definitely not a low-calorie food.

    As this news indicates, the Starbucks menu board just keeps getting more and more complicated all the time. This cool page may help you sort it all out (link via Kottke).

  • Grant McCracken of This Blog Sits . . . has been metablogging, trying to describe the blogger's "sweet spot." Here's a taste:
      A friend at Cambridge did his thesis on the epic poem and he was particularly interested in the notion of the 'sustain.' Could the poet sustain themes in large and small over the vast architecture of a poem? And this is an issue for blogging. Some people are entirely without themes and pretty completely episodic. Others are the captives of a few mighty themes and their slavish repetition. All of us hope for a sweet spot: a body of smart and various themes that organize without compressing discourse, that give us analytic range without costing us focus, that give the blog an exoskeleton without specifying what it must look like day to day.
    I'm afraid I'm one of those bloggers who are too episodic. Where can I get some themes, anyway?

    Anyway, McCracken's entire post on the purposes of blogging is worth reading.

  • Waddling Thunder has posted several interesting things at Crescat Sententia lately. In one post, WT agrees with a theory that would-be lawyers end up in law school rather than business school because they're more risk-averse than would-be entrepreneurs. Even having thought about it a couple of days, I don't have anything to say on that subject. I'm pretty darn risk-averse, sure, but I never—not even once—viewed myself as choosing between law school and B-school. In my circle, people were choosing between law school and graduate programs in social work, the humanities, or the social sciences. When you think about it, there are actually many, many different types of people in a law school class....

    In another post, WT mentions a review of a New York restaurant where "dinner for two can easily exceed $1,000." He asks whether that crosses "the line between obscenity and luxury." I have to say yes, primarily because of the sum involved. Most Americans, even many (most?) at the upper end of the economic continuum, would view $500/meal as unthinkable. Somehow or other, it matters, too, that we're talking about goods that are (literally) consumed in an experience that would be transient for me. Would I feel differently if I were a better gourmand, better able to conjure up the memory of a delicious meal?

  • Interesting fact: In Iran, homosexuality is forbidden, but transsexualism is tolerated (link via Althouse). Discuss?
  • Friday, January 07, 2005


    Today's Quote

    "As I've become less attractive to men, so I've found myself more with women. It's what happens. Ask any woman my age [67]. More women come on to you than men. And women are fantastic. Around 40, women blossom. Women are a work-in-progress. Men burn out." —— the recently departed Susan Sontag, in a 2000 interview with The Guardian (link via Andrew Sullivan).

    Any comments on that? I'm pushing 40, and I'm wondering whether I'm about to "burn out" (hey, maybe it already happened!).

    Thursday, January 06, 2005


    Three Things for Thursday

  • Amber of Class Maledictorian perfectly captured something I felt when I was in law school:
      Why studying personal jurisdiction is depressing: it makes you realize that your legal domicile is a place you haven't lived in seven years, that you never plan to go back to, and that doesn't feel like home. No place feels like home.

  • Have you forgotten what it sounded like to buy a bottle of pop from a machine? Or to use a manual typewriter? If so, the Smithsonian has samples on the web available for you, and you can even purchase CDs like Sounds of the American Southwest (I particularly enjoyed sounds of the Chiricahua Mountain wet season), Music of the Carousel (try "Turkey in the Straw"), Sounds of the Junk Yard (try "steel saw cutting"), as well as Sounds of the Office. Very cool.

    (Links via the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette via Scrubbles.)

  • Darren Barefoot is blogging from Cuba. (He's Canadian, you know.) He says Havana is crumbling and beautiful.
  • Wednesday, January 05, 2005


    Be gentle with me today.

    I may live in Pennsylvania, and I may actually belong in New Orleans, but I am absolutely an Oklahoman at heart. So it's no surprise that last night's drubbing of Oklahoma by USC in the Orange Bowl left me feeling bad. I have a spiritual hangover. Blecch.

    I haven't felt quite this bad this since, well, January 1, 1978, when the Arkansas Razorbacks somehow upset the Sooners, depriving us Okies of yet another national championship. At least there's no one yelling "Sooey Pig" this time.

    An Auburn fan, Steve of The Sporting Life gives us Sooner fans what we probably deserve today. I hate to say it, but his post is awfully funny.

    Tuesday, January 04, 2005


    The Top 10

    It's time—past time, I suppose—to post my list of the Top 10 albums of 2004. (Last year's list can be found here.) There were several contenders for spots on the list, and that's always a good sign. Anyway, here they are, in alphabetical order:
  • Assassins, 2004 Broadway Revival Cast - One of my regrets of last year is that I didn't make the trip up to New York to see the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's quirky musical about presidential assassins. (Hey, Doogie Howser played Lee Harvey Oswald!) The cast recording is pretty special in its own right, though. I love the musical, which is a study in disaffection, and the performances on the CD are quite good. As far as recordings may go, I may actually prefer the 1991 recording by the original off-Broadway cast, but the new version features a song, "Something Just Broke," added by Sondheim after the short 1991 run. That song—a song about breaking points—seems to me to have improved the show. Even knowing the 1991 recording is safely in my collection, I see the 2004 Broadway revival cast's recording as one of the 10 best of 2004.

  • Beautiful Dreamer - The Songs of Stephen Foster, Various Artists - Had I been an executive at the record label (and, um, shouldn't I be?), I would never have green-lighted this project. It just sounds dreadful. Before this came out, were you itching to hear new versions of "Camptown Races" or "Oh! Susanna?" I sure wasn't. But the disc has some remarkable performances by Raul Malo, Alison Krauss, Michelle Shocked, Ollabelle, Suzy Bogguss, and others. Two particular highlights: Bluegrass diva Judith Edelman's rendition of Foster's "No One to Love" and Henry Kaiser's electric guitar(!) work on "Autumn Waltz." That said, be prepared to skip right over, yes, The Duhks' "Camptown Races." Some record executive should've just said no to that.

  • Confessions, Usher - Confession, they say, is good for the soul. Well, here's mine. Even though I never listen to commercial radio, I spent a couple of months in 2004 hooked up fulltime to various Philly radio stations just on the off chance that I might hear "Yeah!" or "Burn." That stuff is addictive, I'm telling you. In fact, let me give you another confession. The day that Confessions was released was one of the rainiest days of the year in Philly. That didn't stop me. At lunchtime, I schlepped 10 blocks, umbrella in the air, just so I could get the CD ASAP. It's ear candy, sure, but there's nothing wrong with that. Other highlights of the disc: "Confessions, Part II" and "Simple Things."

  • Cut 'N Shoot, Gurf Morlix - Morlix's third solo outing has a sparer, cleaner, even more down-home country sound than its predecessors, and it works awfully well. I can't get enough of Cut 'N Shoot and its palette of love songs, mostly of the done-gone-wrong variety. My favorite (one of the most-played songs on my iPod in 2004, by the way) is "Were You Lyin' Down?" Here's a snippet:
      Were you lyin' down
      when you stood me up?
      Did you leave your lipstick
      on his coffee cup?
      You've got me feelin'
      like a lonely pup.
      Were you lyin' down
      when you stood me up?
    As far as I'm concerned those are irresistible lyrics. I'm also a big fan of "Yesterday She Didn't," a song about a woman whose love varies day-to-day; "I'll Change," featuring Morlix in lonesome-howl mode, promising he'll do whatever it takes to win back a lover; and "Your Sister," which has Morlix informing (threatening?) an ex that he's going to sleep with her sister (ouch). A real candidate here at the Garden for CD of the year, Cut 'N Shoot is highly, highly recommended.

  • De-Lovely (Soundtrack), Various Artists - The movie may have been dreadful, but the soundtrack made the whole thing worthwhile. I love those old Cole Porter songs, and it's a real treat to have Alanis Morissette, Elvis Costello, Robbie Williams, Vivian Green, and others giving them the attention they deserve. The songs just sizzle. I'm receptive when Morissette sings "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)," and I really want to misbehave when Costello brings it up. Even the performances by the film's stars, especially Kevin Kline, are creditable. And the, um, topper is the disc's closing number—"You're the Top" as performed by Porter himself.

  • Hot Fuss, The Killers - I hope Gurf and Miss Loretta will forgive me, but this was the album of the year for me. One summer day, I was driving down I-95 when "Somebody Told Me" suddenly came on the radio. I had one of those all-too-rare radio moments, one of those moments when you almost have to pull onto the shoulder because all you can really do is listen. "Who is that?" I gasped. Happily enough, the DJ told me, and I quickly had the CD in hand. Soon, I was in love with the whole danceable, hard-driving album. I don't know why rock music isn't always this much fun, but it sure ought to be. I genuinely like every song on the album, so it's hard to pick favorites. If I had to choose, though, I'd probably go for "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," "All These Things that I've Done," "Change Your Mind," and the gender-complex "Somebody Told Me." Detractors say The Killers are just a faded copy of Duran Duran, but I only wish Duran Duran had produced an album this good.

  • Long Way Back Home, Gibson Brothers - Long Way was, hands down, the best bluegrass album of the year. The Gibson Brothers are a duo from New York, and they do some of those sweet brother harmonies that are still a staple of bluegrass music. Their new album spent months of the year on the charts, including a stint at No. 1, and—many months after its release—it's still the No. 2 bluegrass album. You can credit that success to songs like the Gibsons' cover of The Band's "Ophelia"; "Mountain Song," which tells a story of finding a retreat (not to mention a good view of the valley); and my personal favorite, "Satan's Jeweled Crown," a number that the Louvin Brothers helped popularize. I slightly prefer the Gibsons' covers, but I've definitely fallen for their own writing, too. A personal favorite of mine is "Dreams that End this Way," Leigh Gibson's meditation on losing a love. I saw the Gibson Brothers at a concert this year in Philly; embarrassingly, the event was sparsely attended, but the Gibsons put on a super show. If there's such a thing anymore as bluegrass superstardom, I think the Gibson Brothers are the next candidates.

  • Ollabelle, Ollabelle - Ollabelle, the T. Bone Burnett-produced ensemble named after the great Ola Belle Reed, knows what it takes to make beautiful old-time music. It apparently doesn't even take traditional material—as Ollabelle's superb cover (if that could possibly be the right word) of the Rolling Stones' "I Am Waiting" demonstrates. Most of the songs on the disc are traditional, but what really matters is Ollabelle's exquisite harmonies and the outfit's ability to transcend narrow genres. Anyone at all interested in early soul music, gospel music, singer-songwriter folk, or the blues—and particularly anyone who's a fan of all those rootsy styles—will take to Ollabelle on first listening. I sure did. Highlights of the CD: "Soul of a Man," "Jesus on the Mainline," "Waiting," and "John the Revelator."

  • Revenge, Bitter, Bitter Weeks - I love this CD, but—sadly—I bet you've never heard of it. Bitter, Bitter Weeks is actually Philadelphia-area producer Brian McTear, and I'm genuinely a fan. Last year, I named BBW's debut album to my Top 10, describing it as "a collection of deliciously bittersweet singer-songwriter near-dirges" and "sound[ing] like something written in 1973 by a heartbroken ex-hippie." BBW's new album, Revenge, is slightly less spartan than its predecessor, but I could easily use the same descriptions. This time, the songs are mostly about loss and protest, and those topics suit BBW just fine. The sober subjects aside, McTear's lyrics suggest that he's really an optimist at heart: For instance, in "Boy Takes on Tornado," my favorite track from Revenge, he advises that "it's better to play the last card in your hand." Who could argue with that live-life-to-its-fullest message? Revenge sounds to me like a soundtrack for a wise, ascetic life. It's distinctive, and it's brilliant. And you ought to hear it.

  • Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn - I grew up on songs like "You Ain't Woman Enough," "Don't Come Home A'Drinkin," and "The Pill." Somehow, 30-plus years later, Miss Loretta is still adding to an inestimable musical legacy. This album is so good, though, that I'm not sure where to begin. I'll just have to ramble. For one thing, the country legend doesn't sound at all on Van Lear Rose like she's a septuagenarian. On "Portland, Oregon," for example, a duet with Jack White of The White Stripes, the two sound like contemporaries; I have to keep reminding myself that three or four generations actually separate them. I'm also a huge fan of the album's production, done masterfully by White. To me, Van Lear Rose sounds like an album that Lynn might've released in, say, 1972 with the assistance of someone like Gram Parsons. Yeah, it's that incredible. And then there are the songs themselves, all written by Lynn. I'm especially a fan of "Portland," which affectionately tells the story of a one-night stand; "Miss Being Mrs.," an anthem of widowhood; and the title track, which explains how Lynn's father won her mother's heart. Van Lear Rose is one of the best-reviewed albums of the year, and the accolades are well-deserved.

    Near Misses:
  • Talkie Walkie, Air
  • Twenty Year Blues, The Nashville Bluegrass Band

    Honorable Mention:
  • Back in the Circus, Jonatha Brooke
  • The Dirty South, Drive-By Truckers
  • The Empire Strikes Back, Bad Religion
  • Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand
  • A Ghost Is Born, Wilco
  • Good News for People Who Love Bad News, Modest Mouse
  • Killers & Stars, Patterson Hood
  • Lonely Runs Both Ways, Alison Krauss & Union Station
  • Revolution Starts Now, Steve Earle
  • Tambourine, Tift Merritt
  • To the 5 Boroughs, Beastie Boys
  • When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog, Jens Lekman
  • Monday, January 03, 2005


    This is just so true.

    You are Palm OS. Punctual, straightforward and very useful.  Your mother wants you to do more with your life like your cousin Wince, but you're happy with who you are.

    Which OS are You?

    (Test-taking prompted by Hoosier Musings.)

    Testing . . . testing . . . testing . . .

    Although I'm rapidly aging, it was less than a decade ago that I was in law school. But I never took a single exam on a laptop, and I can't even really imagine what that would be like. Times have definitely changed, though, when the question of the day is whether exam-takers should be allowed to use hyperlinks (scroll down to entry of December 19; link via The Kitchen Cabinet). I didn't expect to be a dinosaur before I turned 40....

    Speaking of tests, Jane Ellen of Hoosier Musings began a four-day ordination exam today. I was recently re-reading my journal for the summer of 1996, when I took the bar exam, and I was reminded what a stressful time that was. A few days after I took the two-day exam, I even had a dream that I'd somehow let a cat take the bar exam for me. In the dream, I couldn't believe how stupid I'd been to have turned something so important over to a talking cat. When I awoke, I was incredibly relieved that I hadn't actually let Boo Boo Kitty answer my civil procedure questions.

    A few weeks later, right before I moved across the country to Philadelphia, I had a dream that an employer had given me some impossible task involving lots of sorting. My kind employers, however, gave me a couple of lions to help, and they actually came in quite handy.

    So far as I can remember, my dreams have been remarkably feline-free since then.

    Monday's Crop

  • A letter-to-the-editor in my hometown newspaper, the Muskogee Daily Phoenix, says the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma should begin celebrating Columbus Day. Really! I'm not kidding. As soon as that happens, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, and I will also agree to begin celebrating Anita Bryant's birthday. What kind of orange-juice cocktails should I serve, anyway? I also hear there's a frost warning in Hell tonight.

  • Tyler Green used his Modern Art Notes platform today to tell the Museum of Modern Art that it has a serious problem with strollers. I first wrote that as MoMA having a "serious stroller problem," but then I realized it might not be entirely clear whether "serious" modified "stroller" or "problem." It wouldn't have really mattered, though, because MoMA-goers seem to have an affinity for those industrial-sized serious strollers that are built on lawnmower frames. Just say no to toddlers in the galleries, ok? And watch your ankles.

  • Heather of Dooce today posted her monthly letter, the 11th, to her daughter. As you'd expect, it's mighty funny. When Leta looks back on these messages as an adult, I wonder what she'll make of this particular post's references to metrosexuals. That word seems so 2003 that I doubt we'll even be hearing it this year. What'll it look/sound like in 2025?
  • Saturday, January 01, 2005


    Punctuating Love (and, uh, poker, too)

    I've traveled a lot during the past few weeks. I've been to New York, New Orleans, New York again, Oklahoma—and that's not all. Whew. Meanwhile, some pretty significant changes have been happening in my personal life. Whew, part II. But I have had a little time to surf, and here's what caught my attention:
  • At Slate, Josh Greenman argues that it's time to adopt some new puncutation, the sarcasm point: ¡. Greenman isn't entirely serious, but I think he's absolutely onto something. (Michael Schaub of Bookslut notes that Greenman's idea isn't really new. But what is, really?)

  • Brad Parker of Where's Travis McGee? blogs about the frustrations of being the best Texas Hold 'Em player at the table. Parker, by the way, is a Tulane Law alum, and that's always good, you know.

  • Two months after her marriage, Hannah of Quare is still trying to get officialdom to recognize her by her marital name. If I ever get married, I'm definitely keeping my maiden name. (What kind of punctuation ought to have followed that sentence?)

  • Steve of The Sporting Life has a brilliant post on finding The One—even if it's the one bastard. I haven't read anything better in ages. See for yourself.

    Happy 2005!


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