Bob Hope was so old that the guy who wrote his obituary is dead.
July 28, 2003
I'd been wanting to see a game at Wrigley for a while now and finally had the chance a couple weekends ago.
Moreso than even Fenway, Wrigley Field is all about the old timey baseball feel. Instead of a Jumbotron, there's an electromotive scoreboard for keeping track of balls and strikes and hand-turned placards for everything else. I was sitting dead center in the outfield bleachers, directly beneath the scoreboard. Whenever there was a one ball count, you'd hear an electric whine from the board laboring to display that number. During the 7th inning stretch, rows of heads popped out of the empty holes on the scoreboard to see the guest conductor lead the crowd in Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
From the outfield, you can't see any ads at Wrigley. There are two small video strips in the grandstand that show the score and have a Sears logo. Aside from that, nothing. Quite the contrast to PacBell park.
At one point, some of the rowdy bleacherfolk I was sitting near tried to start the wave. They were mercilessly heckled and revealed to be out-of-towners posing as locals. A guy in my row turned to the would-be wavers and said, "I was born 3 blocks from here and have been coming to Wrigley my entire life. So let me tell you, there's no fucking wave!" Right on.
Modern baseball park design has focused a lot on trying to incorporate the stadium into the city rather than just dump it on the side of some highway. Nowhere is that neighborhood feel more authentic than at Wrigley. From our seats, I could look straight down Waveland and Sheffield Avenues. And in addition to the folks watching from the rooftops across the street, I saw parents playing catch with their kids in the street, others flying kites outside the park. Wrigley is the neighborhood.
All this and the Cubs won. Certainly, not disappointing.
Posted at 10:47
July 27, 2003
"In this course, we will conduct an ethnographic study of the behaviors, cultural practices, and motivations of MMORPG players. The course packet will include readings that explore role-playing games, virtual community, and the construction of identity on-line. Extensive attention will also be given to methods for conducting research on-line."
Posted at 18:38
When Errol Morris talks about self-deception, he doesn't do so from a superior position of "This only happens to other people." He argues that we all self-deceive; perception easily deludes us into thinking of ourselves as protagonists in our own personal dramas. Well, maybe not Buddhists or something.
It's this sense that's lacking from Spellbound, the spelling bee documentary. There's a lot of "Man, these kids and their parents are freaks" and not enough of "And so are we all."
The kids are wonderfully dorky and the movie has great narrative tension. But instead of pulling back to show the spelling bee as just one of the many ways we create arbitrary definitions of 'smart' and 'successful', the movie tacks on some ad hoc conclusions about the American Dream. Spelling as the great American scholastic tradition and lots of Algerisms about how anyone can succeed in this Great Land.
The flipside of Errol Morris' argument about Perception: The Great Deluder is that there is such a thing as historical truth. "There's a real world in which real things happen. And in some small way, my job is to look at that world and to try to figure out what those things might be."
Andrew Jarecki's documentary Capturing the Friedmans takes a somewhat different slant. In this story about a Long Island family torn apart by a pedophilia and sex abuse scandal, the hook is that it's all on tape. The Friedmans were meticulous in recording their familial meltdown and surely there's some interesting stuff going on about the American compulsion for self-documentation.
Of course, the alleged abuse itself, that's not on film. Most likely because it never happened. There's a lot of Thin Blue Line moments with prosecutors and witnesses doing a great job discrediting themselves. But Jarecki's not coming down one way or the other, and, according to Debbie Nathan, that's part of the marketing strategy:
"While the film was in production, Jarecki told the Friedman family he thought the two were innocent of the charges. Polling viewers at Sundance in January, he was struck by how they were split over Arnold and Jesse's guilt. Since then, he's crafted a marketing strategy based on ambiguity, and during Q&As and interviews, he has studiously avoided taking a stand. Teaser ads pitch the film as a Long Island Rashomon: 'Who do you believe?' For Jarecki and his PR people, the question is rhetorical."
That ain't so cool, Mr. Moviefone. It's much more interesting to walk the tightrope between "the struggle with perception" and "the truth is out there". To wit, Errol Morris' next movie, Fog of War, consisting solely of interviews with Robert McNamara. In this LA Times piece, Morris says:
"What it does is take you inside someone's head. It's part dream, part history, part self-analysis, part self-justification, part mystery.
People say nothing can redeem McNamara's conduct during the war, and maybe that's true. But the fact is he's trying to grapple with who he is, trying to come to an understanding of himself and the world. And just because there is one voice, that doesn't mean I wasn't hard on him, it doesn't mean the voice is left alone in some uncritical way."
I can't wait.
Posted at 01:09
July 26, 2003
My adopted home state has decided to do its impression of what democracy looks like in a recently westernized Baltic country.
With all the recall talk, I had some trouble tracking down what the ballot will look like come October 7. It's not good.
According to this article there will be two questions. First, an up or down on Gray Davis. Then, if the answer is down, the election of the replacement governor.
The election of the replacement governor (who will serve until 2007) will be based solely on a first past the post vote. No redistributive voting, no ranking - just winner take all.
This is a bad system of voting in general, but absolutely retarded when the election is going to happen in less than 80 days and the field will be flooded with any random weirdo who's managed to get 65 signatures. Like the guy who's running on the legalization of domestic ferrets platform.
A lot of the commentary about the recall has been very folksy. Isn't America great? We've got accountability for our leaders and anyone can run for office.
Yeah, anyone can run. But with only 80 days to campaign, it's not going to be about who's got the best ideas for how to fix California's problems. It's going to be about who has the most money and name recognition. And, yes, these are the dominant factors in modern politics anyway, but they will be the only factors for a hyper-crowded field of candidates with no real time for debate.
Which means we're totally getting Arnold.
And I didn't move to California to end up living in Minnesota.
Posted at 21:07
July 23, 2003
You know, I have this version of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
God, in expelling Adam and Eve, kind of felt bad. He had gotten very angry, right? You know, you get angry and then you feel, "Well, maybe I overreacted."
So, God was in that kind of mood when he expelled Adam and Eve from the garden. But his hands were tied. He had to go through with it; he had made the decision. God doesn't want to constantly second-guess himself. But he thought, "I know. I'll give them self-deception. Things are going to be truly horrendous out there, but they'll never notice."
Posted at 11:32
July 20, 2003
Everything was going just fine - I'm watching the VW/iPod ad and digging on the romance between the iPod's curves and those of the NewBeetle. And the bit where the music goes distorted as the lady switches from earbuds to car speakers ... nice.
Then I wonder, "What's this song?"
The Polyphonic Spree! These people must be stopped. Sutter and I saw them when Chris' kickass band, Citizens Here and Abroad, opened up at Slim's a while back.
The Spree is a fucking army of pseudo-hippies draped in white robes that blasts the audience by having 24 people all play the same goddamn thing. And that thing is happy gospel pop rewarmed from the early 70's like some kinda 30 year-old fondue.
And man is it ever a fondue of poop.
They sell the white robes for $30 to the Spree faithful and when I asked Sutter, "Who the hell would pay for that?" He said, "Watch - one day they'll be huge and someone will be jealous that we saw 'em back in the day."
Posted at 18:17
July 19, 2003
Political outcry only works if there's a handle. Congress wasn't willing to make the larger argument that the war on Iraq was unjust. But now there's the Case of the False Nigerian Uranium and all the would-be presidents are gearing up to beat the administration with its own 16 words.
To wit, Howard Dean's got 16 Questions for President Bush. The one I found most remarkable was:
"4) Mr. President, we urgently need an explanation about the very serious charge that senior officials in your Administration may have retaliated against Ambassador Joseph Wilson by illegally disclosing that his wife is an undercover CIA officer."
The source is a Nation article and, apparently, senior officials used Bob Novak to out the wife of Ambassador Wilson. All because Wilson came out with the story that there never was any reason to believe that Iraq was getting uranium from Africa.
Posted at 17:29
July 16, 2003
When Aaron and I saw Winged Migration, he said that the music really reminded him of Nights in White Satin (extended version). I said it sounded like something else.
Last night, I heard the 8 minute version of Nights for the first time and I feel I've seen the other side. There simply isn't a more pretentious song. The song builds into a majestic orchestral surge and the breaks down into a spoken word litmag crapfest:
"Bedsitter people look back and lament
Another day's useless energy's spent
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one
Lonely man cries for love and has none."
I don't understand how this song was a hit. Moreover, I don't understand how it was a hit 3 different times in Britain during the 70's. People really couldn't find another song to make out to?
Posted at 12:25
July 14, 2003
Had a great weekend in Chicago visiting my old college roommate Jonny B.
Saw the Cubs beat the snot out of the Braves at Wrigley, powered in part by a Sammy Sosa homer that squeaked over the ivy in left field.
Got to see the Art Institute which features a great exhibit on Himalayan art, Van Gogh's Bedroom, Wood's American Gothic and the big ole' Seurat.
And I feel, with slightly more time, we would have made the trek out to Highland Park to trash PapaJon's sportscar.
Posted at 22:03
July 09, 2003
DGCopter: "I have discovered the joys of taking very cold showers and letting my fan dry me off. That's as close as I'll get to a/c."
Ah, not-so-fond remembrances of the hot, humid East Coast summers. I spent a couple in New Jersey, lying on the concrete floor of a college building's sub-basement ... the only cool spot in the entire state.
I'm still puzzled as to why everyone doesn't live in California ... I guess the parking's pretty bad.
Posted at 16:36
July 07, 2003
"I do miss sausage," a vegetarian friend confessed to me a couple days after my 4th of July BBQ.
This year's shindig featured a Salute to Sausage with 5 different kinds of sausage representing their respective homelands. We also had the Great Potato Salad Face-Off courtesy of Steve and Stacy.
And then it got cold and everyone started wearing my clothes.
There were also 2 digital cameras per attendee so the pix you see here are just the beginning. (For example, Eric's, Ev's or Willo's)
Posted at 13:57