Sunday, July 31, 2005

A Day Better than Christmas!

For us baseball fans, today is unlike any other-- baseball's trading deadline looms, ending at 4 p.m. EST.

It doesn't look like the Red Sox's Manny Ramirez is going anywhere, Alfonso Soriano has a 50/50 chance to go to the Minnesota Twins and a bevy of pitchers have their bags packed to go on to their next destination. And where are the A's and Yankees putting their chips?

As Mark Starr of Newsweek puts it, "[t]his is the week in baseball that the rich get richer and the poor get…well, maybe they get a glimmer of hope for the future. And this is the week that separates the fanatics from the fans. The fanatics wallow in the baseball fantasy. They dissect every rumor and dream of that one perfect player—or, if they are greedy, several—that can propel their favorite team to new heights. Virtually every player out there is fair game for our fevered imaginations."

That would describe me to a "t". For the majority of the day, I'll be reloading the ESPN newswire and RotoWorld incessantly, while tuned into ESPNews. I'm stocked up on cigarettes, food and Minute Maid. It will take a great deal to make me move from the couch (yes, I am wearing pants).

As Starr puts it, "we should really enjoy all those big trades now— before any are actually made. And before reality intrudes, as it so often does both in baseball and in life, to spoil all our fun."

[Update]: As Harold Reynolds just said on ESPNews, today was "very disappointing." No big trades at all, all that were traded was B-level players like Matt Lawton, Kyle Farnsworth, Geoff Blum, Buddy Groom and Ron Villone. Fanatics everywhere got COAL!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Note to Self...

Do not look to see if there is an expiration date on the bottom of the mayonnaise jar, especially when you flip it upside down and you have taken off the lid. According to the law of physics (albeit not specifically), the mayo will exit the jar. Onto yor rug. Ugh.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Krucoff!

The latest edition of Gawker Hotties has hit, this time featuring the women of Conde Nast. No comment, other than the above.

Also, on another Gawker-related note, I think this is perhaps the best, vicious, funniest putdown I've ever seen on the site, equating CBS' "The Early Show" ratings prowess with their upcoming softball game against "Good Morning America": "This should be a fun game to watch, mostly because it’ll be fascinating to see the "Early Show" folks play. A softball game involves only two teams, so how will they manage to end up in a distant third place? We’re sure they’ll find a way."


Beauty and the Beast, Respectively

So this is how I appear to others, eh? I'm never leaving the apartment again.

The amazingly intelligent gal on the left is Rachel Sklar, editor of mediabistro's FishbowlNY, a gossip blog devoted to New York media. Love the site, be sure to visit it. Met her at the mediabistro party this Tuesday, at Mannahatta.

I am such a geek for even asking the photographer for the photo. Argh. Many thanks to Brian Van Nieuwenhoven, the mb photographer and editor of the NY Post "Meet Market" review site The Lectern for putting up with me.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Harry Reid, Former Boxer, Connects With a Right Hook

The more I see of Harry Reid (the senator from Nevada and Senate Democratic leader), the more I like him.

To wit, Reid takes stock on the Senate’s 100th day of legislative business: “In the past 100 days, Republicans found time to confirm right-wing judges, to protect Karl Rove and to take up the business of their special interest friends. But at the same time, they couldn’t spend an extra day supporting our troops or helping families afford health care. It’s a record that reveals how out of touch Republicans have become. There are not many days left on the Senate Calendar, but there is still time for Republicans to stop doing the business of a radical few and to join Democrats in taking up a common-sense reform agenda that works for America’s families.”

He then goes on to list, point by point, what has been "accomplished" during this time.

Beautifully, beautifully positioned.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

So What is That "Aristocrats" Film All About?

I've been fairly intrigued by the film coming out that recounts -- via a bevy of comedians, all with their unique takes -- "The Greatest Dirty Joke Ever Told," as the New York Times calls it.

God bless Google-- Enjoy!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Why Don't People Like News?

Someone finally gets -- and says -- why there are all these polls about how everyday people don't like news, in particular conservatives.

Chicago Tribune columnist Charles M. Madigan nails it here: "The problem conservative critics have with modern news media is the same problem conservative critics have always had with news media...What they really dislike is journalism."

God bless you, Chuck.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Talk about a sleeper novel...

Over the weekend, I picked up -- and devoured -- Alex Garland's "The Coma" (which just came out in paperback). Damn good book, it's a quick read that clocks in at 200 pages. Although the book picked up some good reviews upon its initial release last summer in hardcover, it was quickly forgotten by consumers.

It's a hard right turn for Garland, who wrote "The Beach" (written ten years ago at this point-- time goes by quick) and "The Tesseract," as well as the screenplay for "28 Days Later." And it's probably his best effort to date.

Illustrated with woodcuts by Garland's father, this is the tale of Carl. As the book's publisher says: "When Carl awakens from a coma after being attacked on a subway train, life around him feels unfamiliar, even strange. He arrives at his best friend's house without remembering how he got there; he seems to be having an affair with his secretary, which is pleasant but surprising. He starts to notice distortions in his experience, strange leaps in his perception of time. Is he truly reacting with the outside world, he wonders, or might he be terribly mistaken? So begins a dark psychological drama that raises questions about the boundaries of consciousness." As Carl grapples with his predicament, "The Coma" plays with conventions, and questions our assumptions about the way we exist in the world, even as it draws us into the unsettling and suspenseful story of a lost suitcase and a forgotten identity."

Very Kafka-esque, very good-- check it out.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Augusten Burroughs Scares Me.

One of the authors I've been catching up on the past two months has been Augusten Burroughs, he of "Running with Scissors" and "Dry" fame. Have finished those two books, I'm now in the midst of reading "Magical Thinking," a collection of short stories, comprised of vignettes from his life.

What I have read sometimes scares the hell out of me. It's not his early life or his sexual proclivities. And I'm not talking about the pedophilia from "Scissors" or the rehab scenes from "Dry"-- what really scared me was something he wrote in "Thinking."
Something that takes place in the East Village as well.

After killing a mouse in his bathrub, he writes what a plumber told him: "Vermin sometimes climb up into the plumbing and get trapped in the shower head." Going along this path, he then says, "[w]hich meant that I may have been showering, may still be showering, may someday be showering with piping-hot water filtered through the carcass of a dead rat, without even knowing it."

This disturbs me more than anything Brett Easton Ellis could write, a la the scene in "American Psycho" with the rat.

And I am definitely taking a closer look at my showerhead tomorrow.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Yes, the rumor is true...

...I shaved my head last Monday.

The event was cathartic. People passed me in halls not knowing who I was. I'd wave at someone and there would be a five-second delay as they figured out who the heck I was. I'd gone from long hair, to a narrow cut, to nothing, in the space of three weeks.

Before this, I was a redhead. To go from a very distinctive hair color to the shaved-head look is a big change for me and requires some thought-- it was part of who I was and how people knew me. What would happen if I got rid of the red eyebrows I bear, a clue as to who I was?

So, this is what it is like to be like everyone else...

Anthony Lewis: Think, Floyd, Think!

Over at the New York Review of Books, Anthony Lewis gives a wonderful look at privileges and the press in his review of Floyd Abrams' "Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment." It's not Grisham, for sure, but should be interesting for anyone who ever took Journalism 101.

Abrams is -- as the article pegs him -- the "the country's leading practitioner of First Amendment law," and, of course, serves as the lawyer for the New York Times' Judith Miller in the Plame leak case He also served as Time Magazine's Matthew Cooper lawyer for the majority of the case as well, until Cooper went in a different direction just a short while ago.

While calling it "a fascinating book," Lewis raps Abrams' fingers with this: "Lawyers in constitutional cases must not let grand visions of establishing new constitutional theory obscure their first responsibility, which is to win the case for the client on any available ground. Justice Brennan used to say that the most important quality needed by a Supreme Court justice was the ability to count to five. That is, he or she must be able to stake out a position that will attract a majority on the Court. Of course any justice may rather be right, in his or her eyes, than make concessions needed for a majority. But that option is not properly open to a lawyer."

Lewis wasn't talking on his current endeavor, but his earlier cases. But it is extremely prescient given the headlines today.

In his review, Lewis makes a great point later in the article: "The issue of confidential sources cannot be resolved, I fear, in a way that satisfies the needs of both journalism and the law. There is no doubt that journalists must sometimes rely on confidential sources. The press has overdone the use of unnamed sources, and that can endanger its credibility— as the recent flap over Newsweek's Koran item illustrated. But on profound matters reporters may properly invoke confidential sources, for if they were not to do so, official wrongdoing would never be uncovered: Watergate provides a persuasive example. And if a reporter promises confidentiality, he or she must keep the promise. But it does not follow that the law must always back off from an attempt to discover the sources...

"Reputations can easily be ruined by false reports in the press. Do we really want the authors of defamatory articles to be able to hide behind alleged anonymous sources? And the argument that journalists should be given a privilege against having to testify, whether by judicial decision or a new federal shield law, courts another danger. It would risk adding to the already evident public feeling that the press thinks it is entitled to special treatment. The press does not need, right now, to separate itself further from the public. Any privilege that is won should surely be qualified, not absolute, with judges balancing the interests...and with his respectful care."

Could not recommend this article more-- fascinating, a good reminder with everything happening today.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

If I used screensavers...

...I'd download this. Really Slick Screensavers is, surprisingly, really slick. I could watch these for hours. But, I can't, because I have to be somewhere in 4 hours. Maybe I should cancel and stare some more at the screen...

(Hat tip to the indispensible Lifehacker for providing the link.)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A Jimi Thing.

The past few days, I've really been on a Jimi Hendrix kick. "Purple Haze," "Hey Joe," "Izabella," "All Along the Watchtower," "Crosstown Traffic"...all wonderful.

I can't think of too many moments in rock as great as what's found 1:52 into "Purple Haze," with Jimi screaming "Yeah!" into the second verse. F***ing great.

Poor Judy and Matt...

This is the best piece of satire I've seen in a while. Riffing on the "l'affaire Plame," Jim Shea of the Hartford Courant asks the question of "can prisons survive reporters?"

As he says there: "If jailed, a reporter will take only a few days to get to know all the other prisoners, and the guards, and their families, and the warden's secretary, and the parole board, and many, many new anonymous sources. Can you say five-part series?"


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hmmm...Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian"

On Saturday, was finally able to put Elizabeth Kostova's "The Historian" away on the bookshelf. Still not sure what I think of it, really. The 642-page novel is a tad over-rated (it's going to save the book industry!), but there are definitely some good parts.

Predictably -- after all the pre-release hype comparing it a great deal to Dan Brown's awful "The Da Vinci Code" -- it's #1 on this week's New York Times bestseller list. It focuses on an unnamed 16-year-old's quest to find Dracula after discovering a woodcut book in her father's library, which bears a sinister-looking dragon and map in the middle -- as well as the word "Drakulya." Beyond this, it's blank. A letter inside further piques her curiosity, addressed to "My dear and unfortunate successor." From there the book becomes a travelogue, mixing the daughter's current quest and her father's earlier search for the still-with-us Dracula. A full description of the book can be found on the site of the book's publisher, Little, Brown.

Publisher's Weekly gushes over it thusly: "Kostova builds suspense by revealing the threads of her story as the narrator discovers them: what she's told, what she reads in old letters and, of course, what she discovers directly when the legendary threat of Dracula looms. Along with all the fascinating historical information, there's also a mounting casualty count, and the big showdown amps up the drama by pulling at the heartstrings at the same time it revels in the gruesome. Exotic locales, tantalizing history, a family legacy and a love of the bloodthirsty: it's hard to imagine that readers won't be bitten, too."

There are certainly some good parts, but the novel still has a great deal of flaws for me-- with the largest being the it-threads-it-all-together daughter plot being extremely weak. It would have just been a stronger novel with the father moving to the forefront and re-working everything else around that...all the daughter crap is largely extraneous. I understand what the author is trying to say through all of this, but I don't think it works.

It's not that she really does anything anyway-- she just follows her father's words and is ultimately saved by another. There are some large plot-holes as well and what the novel builds to is not all that mysterious-- the careful reader would be able to guess the endgame by page 200. The ending, as others have said before me, is a bit of a letdown. Not in that the setpiece is awful, it just needed further polish. Nothing "Van Helsing" like, just a better pay-off than what is here.

As Laura Miller of Salon said, for the sophisticated reader, "it's a fine Bordeaux to Dan Brown's overcaffeinated Diet Coke." Sure, it's leagues above Brown's hack-y work...but that's damn faint praise as it is. This could have been far better.

Thank God.

No Olympics For New York City. Who the hell wanted it here anyway?

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth of July, Soldiers (And Everybody Else)!

I originally posted this over at Daily Kos today.

According to yesterday's New York Post, a New York National Guardsman -- who has served in Iraq for 6 years -- will not be college paid for, something he was promised when he signed up, all due to a snafu in New York state law.

According to the story, "Thomas Kelly joined the New York Guard for a six-year stint while still at Yorktown HS in Westchester based on a recruiter's promise that, in exchange, he would get a state college education tuition-free, said his mother, Denise Kelly.

Now, three semesters shy of a diploma and doing armored patrol with the 101st Cavalry in Baghdad, Kelly has been told that because his six years are up in November, when he is scheduled to return home, his college funding will also expire then.

Under state law, Kelly's free tuition ends when his service does. The Armed Forces has not offered him an extension -- despite the fact he had to miss an extraordinary amount of school to serve his country during a time of war.

He's "s--- out of luck," as one recruiter put it."

His plan was to graduate this fall, but his studies were twice interrupted by calls to duty-- once by 9/11 and then by deployment to Iraq in May 2004.

On the plus side, a spokesman for the state's Division of Military and Naval Affairs said he can rejoin the National Guard (ie. re-enlist for another tour of duty in Iraw) to stay in the tuition program.

How wonderfuly we treat our soldiers, eh?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

My 8-Word "War of the Worlds" Review

"Dakota Fanning annoys the hell out of me."

Simply, I can't put my finger on why this is, though-- perhaps because I'm always looking for the strings attached to her that help her convey emotion and movement.

Besides that, though, the film is fine. Not great, but good enough for a summer film. Some of the scenes are absolutely amazing, like when Tom Cruise is walking through the tree grove as victims' clothing flies everywhere. But the picture left me wanting, despite the focus of the film not being the aliens but on one "family" throughout. Such is the limitations for the scale Steven Spielberg wanted to achieve.

But, for me, the highlight was in the previews, for I finally got to see the trailer for "Elizabethtown" on a full screen. I lost my dad about a month ago and some of the emotions and words that Cameron Crowe writes in the script are nailed-- I teared up on a little on what was shown just in the preview. This is going to be a great, great film.