Friday, April 29, 2005

Responsibilities to The Married Guy

A couple years ago I had a very good friend get married. I didn't get to see him as much after that, even though before hand we'd hung out all the time. Though, in all fairness, we had been roommates with almost identical schedules. Anyways, after he got married, his wife made me wear pants around the apartment, so I decided to find a different roommate. Stupid modesty.

Well, he didn't get to spend as much time with the guys after that. We were always fighting with his wife over visitation, but the court kept taking her side, and soon enough we only had him every other weekend and 4 weeks during the summer.

After that, another good friend got engaged, and I started to worry. It seemed to me like soon I'd be all alone. With Brendan and Joel of course. But the three of us would be all alone. With Gavin. Ok, so there wasn't really any impending aloneness. But I wanted the married guys to know what they could expect from us single guys. I figured, if they had a solid commitment, maybe a contract, from us bachelors, then we'd be able to get more quality time.

So I took the liberty of writing up a little contract. Since I'm getting married in a month, I felt it was appropriate to post here.

Declaration of the

Responsibilities of The Married Guy’s Friends

The undersigned Friends of The Married Guy shall hereby provide the following:

1. A bachelor’s party to groom’s specifications.

2. Drunken revelry at the wedding.

3. Equal division of all remaining bachelor possessions.

3. Consistent shaking of heads and clucking of tongues as The Married Guy leaves to spend time with The Wife.

4. A night of cards (minimum, once a month) and various other opportunities for escape. All requiring illicit behavior and late hours of the night.

5. A haven for the release of foul gasses shall be provided for The Married Guy, away from The Wife. Presence of other foul gasses is probable.

6. Vicarious Liability for Married Guy’s actions away from The Wife, so as to prevent marital tensions.

7. Harassment; consistent, profound, deep and rife with sexual innuendo; often spurred by jealousy.

8. Persistent refusal to recognize that the obligations of marriage are more important than Action Flicks and Football.

9. Consistent reminders to the Married Guy that his absence in viewing the aforementioned Action Flicks and Football was not appreciated.

10. The Bringing of Alcohol, Crude Language, and Dirty Jokes into close proximity with The Family.

11. Consumption of leftovers produced by The Wife.

12. A forum for discussing the correlation between credit card balance and sexual satisfaction.

13. When The Child is born, gifts and respect shall be provided for The Wife. The Married Guy shall receive further reminders of previous freedoms he can no longer enjoy.

14. Questions regarding married life, which shall be directed to The Married Guy

15. Interpretation of his answers as signs of persistent marital anguish.

16. When The Child reaches such age as deemed appropriate, education in all things crude shall be provided by The Married Guy’s friends. Inappropriate behavior shall be taught regardless of gender.

16. If ever arises a situation in which The Married Guy faces The Wife’s wrath, lies and assorted cover shall be provided by The Married Guy’s friends.

17. If ever arises a situation in which The Wife desires to speak to The Married Guy alone, no hints shall be taken and no privacy given.

18. The Married Guy’s friends shall recognize that The Married Guy’s life is now in the public domain, and they shall request as much previously confidential information from The Married Guy as they see fit.

19. Innuendo regarding feminine procedures in specific connection to The Wife.

20. A place on the couch shall be provided for The Married Guy at all times.

We, the undersigned, recognize that from this day forward this contract recognizes the special obligations of The Married Guy’s friends, and we do swear to uphold to the best of our abilities these responsibilities.

I've got soul but I'm not a soldier

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I Still Think "Highschool" Should Be One Word, Not Two

This past weekend two friends from highschool came to visit me. Well, ok, they came to look at schools, but they crashed at my place, and hung out with me the rest of the weekend. It was a really great time. Even though I hadn't spoken to one of them for a long time, I was able to just launch comfortably into conversation - there was no awkwardness what-so-ever.

Why is this the case? How come I could feel so comfortable with these two, who I hadn't seen in ages, and whom are on very different career/life paths than I am? Especially when I am not nearly so comfortable with many of my peers, that is, my fellow law students. I mean sure, there are lots of my fellow students who I am completely comfortable with, but normally that has come over time. With these two highschool friends, it didn't take a minute. We just were immediately comfortable.

How can it be that where I came from seems to matter so much more than where I'm going?

Continental drift divide

Friday, April 22, 2005

A Hard Knock On Our Schools

Why do we have elite learning institutions? Could this possibly be a huge mistake? Does it make sense to group the best and brightest together?

Some would say that it makes perfect sense. When you put all the best together, you can give them the best teachers and challenge them all at a higher level, raising the ceiling on what they can achieve. Perhaps another reason it makes sense is because the brightest will all challenge each other. When you put two smart people together, they'll have smart conversation, and explore new ideas - the interaction will be at a higher level because both of them are at a higher level. If you put a smart person with a dumb person, the smart person will be held back because the level of discourse will have to be at the lower person's level.

But maybe these arguments aren't really that good. Because if we put all the smartest together, and expose them all to the same teachers, we're creating a high-level group of people who all have the same ideas. If we diversify, putting some smart people here, and some there, and mixing them up, then we'll get a group of people who have very different ideas and ways of approaching the world. If we have many different approaches, then we're likely to find more and better solutions to more problems. Moreover, in our current society, we've bred our intellectuals from the same pools - and so while we do have a number of high-level institutions that would "mix it up" a bit more, the people teaching at those schools are more-or-less interchangeable. They've come from the same institutions and such, simply trading back and forth. Professors at Harvard went to Yale, and Yale professors to Harvard, and professors at both were classmates at Stanford, and so on. It seems to me that what we really have is a very large pool, instead of several different ones. Thus, the intellectuals of the next generation are getting the same training everywhere, and we've completely undercut any diversity of thought. And without diversity of thought, we'll only be able to pass on a limited way of thinking to the next generation, and so on and so forth. We'll become intellectually myopic and reach academic stagnation.

The second argument - that putting two smart people together leads to a higher level of discourse, also seems to be pretty weak. First of all, the challenge of explaining high-level thinking to lower-level individuals may lead to a better development of that thinking. When you have to explain the basics you come up with a stronger position than if you're dealing with standard assumptions. Lower-level individuals will likely need the basics explained, whereas higher-level individuals will likely gloss over standard assumptions, creating holes in the ultimate conclusions.

More importantly though, basic economic thought tells us that shrinking marginal returns are a reality. The lower-level individuals have more to gain from high-level thought than the high-level individuals do. Say you've got two somewhat hungry people. One is at a fullness of 10 and one is at a fullness of 3. There's only one piece of pizza. The person who is more hungry (the person at the lower fullness), is going to value that pizza more. It might move him to a fullness level of, say, 5 or 6. The person at level 10 isn't going to need the pizza as much, and would probably only move up a little on the fullness scale - say to 11. So basically, the pizza has more value to the lower-level person.

The same idea applies to the intellectual situation. A lower-level person has more to gain from education than a high-level person would gain from that same education.

So wouldn't we be better off as a society if we didn't separate out our high-level intellectuals? Aren't we really hurting ourselves by creating an elite group of people who all think the same things? Wouldn't it be better to have a large group of people who have diverse ideas? And is it better to have a handful of super-intellectuals while everyone else is left at a low level? Wouldn't we be better off if instead society had a sizeable group of some high-level individuals and lots of middle-to-high-level individuals?

Maybe we should rethink the way we do education. Of course, most of the high-level individuals at the premier schools will disagree with me. And they'll probably all respond exactly the same way.

Well, I'll be as high as that ivory tower that you're livin' in

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Thoughtoids

It seems to me that the best kind of boy is a tomboy.

I like that Mr. Dykhoff (Chris, not Dan) has been playing the name-that-song game. He's always trying to figure out what song and artist I'm quoting at the end of a post. He's doing ok. Others should feel free to play the game too. It makes me want to get high-quality quotes.

One of the things that I've been thinking about lately, prompted largely by discussions I've had centering around posts on this site, is the phenomena of conflating desire and thought. Very often you will hear people use the phrase "I think such-and-such". The fact of the matter is though, very rarely does this phrase imply that any actually happened. "I think that the government should lower taxes" could indicate that the individual actually has come up with a list of reasons why they think lowering taxes would be beneficial, however, it seems more likely that this statement actually stands for the proposition that the individual wants their taxes lower. The two, of course, aren't mutually exclusive, and in fact reasons generated by honest thought are likely to induce desires for the same. However, it seems too often people forget to do the rational thought part of the analysis, and so give conclusory statements with no real rationale to speak of. I'm thinking especially of the people critical of the conservative nature of the Catholic Church. I've heard plenty of "I don't think birth control should be a sin" and "I think women should be allowed to be priests" without having heard any reasons laid out. Again, it seems this is people jumping to the conclusion (birth control should be a-okay). based on what they desire (I want to use birth control). At no point has any real thinking entered the equation. This isn't to say that there aren't good reasons for some of these things (the women priests arguments seem the strongest to me), but my problem is that people are forgetting to even stop and consider the reasons. People are confusing what they want with what they think.

My friend Kajsa is coming to visit this weekend! I have a paper to work on, but I should be able to find some time to hang out and do cool D.C. stuff. That excites me.

There's some really interesting testimony going on in the Michael Jackson case. Anyone else following it?

Finally, do people ever stop and wonder if their world-view is all askew? Because even if your reasoning is sound, couldn't you be starting with rotten premises? Couldn't you just be totally off in the way you view the world, and the things you accept as true? Sometimes I just need to ask myself these questions. Why do people disagree with me? Did I get my reasoning wrong? If my reasoning is correct, which it seems to be, is it my way of looking at the world that is wrong? How can I know if my way of looking at the world is wrong, when the only perspective I have to judge that by is my own? And these questions don't often get resolved, except to say that I'm pretty sure that my perspective isn't off. When I ask myself if I'm just totally wrong, the answer always comes back no. But sometimes, it's good to check. Everyone should. I'm afraid very few people really do.

You close your eyes and hope that this isjust imagination

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I Think, Therefore Ich Bin.

So we've got a new Pope. He's from Germany. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict the XVI. And I'm really excited about this guy. Because he's an academic. A thinker.

It seems many people aren't too excited - they're afraid he's too conservative, and they were hoping for a Pope who'd "modernize" the church, and change Its teachings on birthcontrol and abortion and same-sex marriage and such.

It doesn't look like Benedict XVI will do that. But, what he probably will do, is put forth, in an accessible and intelligent way, the rationale behind the Catholic teachings. Because our new Pope is a man who knows those reasons, who understands them and believes them. The Catholic Church has a reason for teaching that birth control, divorce, and same-sex marriage (and all the others) are sins. The Church doesn't just pick doctrine willy-nilly. I look forward to having a leader who can expertly voice the Church's rationale.

One of the interesting things about all those who wanted a more liberal Pope, who would change doctrine, is that these are typically people who have their minds made up about those doctrinal issues. For example, people who wanted the Pope to change the birth control teaching feel that birth control shouldn't be classified as sinful. But how often do these people actually know the reasons behind the Church's teaching? How often do they confront the underlying issues that give rise to the Church's position? How often do these people even put forth any reason for wanting the teaching altered? In my experience, very, very, rarely. The people who want the teachings changed aren't people who have thought about it - they're people who simply don't want to be told that they're sinning.

For most people, when they say "I think the Church should change it's teaching on such-and-such" what they really mean is "I want to do such-and-such and not feel bad about it." Hopefully having an intellectual Pope will confront this sad phenomena.

We wouldn't have to eat Kraft Dinner

Same Address as Before (We're Not Moving After All).

My friend Zhubin wrote an interesting post Monday. I suggest you read it. Especially since this post is largely a response.) It's all about the recent incident at NYU where a homosexual student asked Justice Scalia if he sodomized his wife. I'm not going to touch that issue here, though it makes for an interesting conversation. Generally, though, I think such a question is in horrible taste and shows a complete lack of respect for a man who deserves a great deal. Setting that aside now...

Zhubin suggests that the student's strategy is a bad idea, that it isn't working, and that the movement needs to stop being so concerned with confrontation. I'd agree with Zhubin, but I think he gives way too much credit to the progressives fighting for gay rights, homosexual marriage, etc.

See, I'm not convinced that there really is a movement to speak of (to Zhubin's credit, he never expressly identifies such a movement, though he does use general terms such as "left" and "progressives" to classify a large group of people into a common thread). Zhubin does an excellent job comparing and contrasting what this student is attempting with the civil rights movement. But I want to suggest that the reason there's such a contrast is because the homosexual movement isn't really about civil rights.

::Gasp!::

Ok, yes, people, go ahead an act with utter horror and what-have-you. But I've yet to see where any fundamental rights - on par with the rights garnered by the civil rights movement - come into play with the homosexual movement (I realize that isn't the best phrase, but for sake of economy and clarity, it's what I've settled on - if anyone can find something better, let me know and I'll be happy to use it).

Yes, there are some noble goals to the homosexual movement, such as the opportunity for equality in the workplace. But there's nothing that rises to the level of access to basic public spaces/services (such as schools). And, most essentially, no one has ever been denied the right to vote - the basic participation in our democratic society - because of their sexual orientation. The civil rights movement fought for fundamental civil rights. The homosexual movement simply doesn't rise to that level.

Moreover, much of what is behind the homosexual movement is contestable - whether or not homosexuals should have the right to marry is a debatable question - both sides put forth reasonable arguments. Whether or not African-Americans should be allowed to get higher education... well, there's simply nothing of value to be said in opposition. I just don't see an accurate parallel to the civil rights movement.

But also, I'd like to look at the idea of "strategy". Zhubin suggested that this student, and those like him, had not chosen a wise strategy. Looking at the landscape of the discussion, however, I don't see any strategy. "Progressives" (though there are certainly progressives who don't favor same sex marriage, etc.) can't agree on a cohesive position, much less a course of action for achieving that position. And I think part of the reason for this is exactly the point I made above - reasonable people can disagree over what, in this context, is a legitimate claim.

I think the lack of a strategy contrasts very directly with the civil rights movement, which seemed to have very cohesive strategies. Yes, people fought over which strategy to adopt, but there were definite camps (MLK vs. Malcom X for example) (my history may be off here, but this seems a reasonable gloss to put on it). The civil rights movement enabled strategies because people knew what they were trying to achieve. The homosexual movement doesn't enable strategies because there isn't a cohesive vision.

Finally, I really get irked when people draw comparisons between the homosexual movement and the civil rights movement, especially when they invoke the name of Dr. King. Interestingly, when the student compared himself to Dr. King, Zhubin took offense to this too. Zhubin is the first "progressive" I've encountered who has balked at the parallel. It was good to see, and I think it indicates a level of awareness. Zhubin's distaste was for stylistic differences, which he was right to see. But I think that there are also differences of substance, and this is why most people are not comfortable with such a comparison.

There simply is something different between the homosexual movement and the civil liberties movement. I'm just not convinced that the homosexual movement is really about civil rights. Or that there's really a "movement" at all. Zhubin closes his post with the line to the effect of "maybe it's time for progressives to sit down and think of a new strategy." I'd like to suggest that maybe it's time for progressives to sit down and reevaluate the issues.

All dressed up in drag inside a Gucci body bag

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Of course.

Finals are approaching. Naturally, my laptop broke. Craptacular.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

LOL in Silence

Have you ever noticed how when people responses to humor change with the setting? If you watch a comedy alone, you'll smile a lot, maybe chuckle once or twice. If you watch it with a bunch of friends, you'll probably all laugh out-loud quite a bit. And if you see it at the theater you'll probably laugh so hard that you'll be gasping for air.

What causes this phenomenon?

The same question applies to the related question of perception - when you're in a big group things seem funnier than they do in smaller groups.

My senior year of college I made a short film. It was, I thought, a pretty even split between romance and drama, with a strong humorous undercurrent. But there weren't any moments in the movie which struck the funny bone. There were big jokes. No place where I felt people would actually laugh.

But when it was first screened for a large group (ok, that was the only large group screening), everyone in the audience laughed - out loud - quite a bit. And I was surprised. Ever since I've wondered why this happens. Very few people have laughed out loud during private screenings. How can this be explained?

Anyone have thoughts on this matter? Why do people react differently to humor when in different sized crowds?

Turn in your teasing comb and go back to highschool

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tuborg - The Beer of Danish Kings

How busy is too busy? This has been an extremely hectic week for me. I had mock trial competitions on Monday and Thursday, both of which took a huge chunk out of my day - from about 3 to 9. Not only did they take time, but I was generally very busy throughout, trying to help my students prepare, get them to the trial, make sure they had rides home, take notes on their performances, etc.

I also had all my regular classes. And my joint degree application was due today. It isn't completely finished - long story short: through no fault of my own, the things I need from Georgetown Law haven't made their way to me so that I can submit them to Georgetown. The essentials are submitted, and hopefully there won't be any problems with the delay - they should accommodate their own, right?

I also have a bunch of other things to take care of - I'd go into it all, but I'm trying to avoid this becoming a "journally" blog (this post is already walking a fine line). The point here is that I'm busy. And though I should be enjoying all the stuff I'm doing - I like my classes, mock trial was fun, I've got a wedding in 6 weeks to be excited about - I don't actually feel like I've really been getting the full enjoyment from anything.

Normally I can live in the moment, and love life. Lately I've enjoyed myself, but the experiences haven't been as vivid as they normally are. And maybe that means I'm too busy. Because I should be able to appreciate every experience, but when there are too many, none of them gets appropriate appreciation.

I talk a lot about living a life of rich experiences, fulfilled by listening to life itself. Part of the trick to living a life full of experiences is not over-filling. When you crowd too many experiences into your schedule you never get the real value of any of them.

It reminds me of "Three Stooges" syndrome. On an episode of The Simpsons Mr. Burns gets a check up at the Mayo Clinic. (The title of the post, naturally, comes from this episode). They test him for every known disease, ailment, and condition. And they discover that he has all of them. Even a little bit of "hysterical pregnancy."

However, because he has so many, it turns out that he's completely healthy. The doctor explains the situation using oversized novelty germs and a miniature door, which represents the door to the body. He piles the germs up and attempts to push them all through the door at the same time, at which point they all become jammed tightly in the opening, with none of them successfully entering. Mr. Burns leaves, convinced that he's completely indestructible.

Living a life focused on experience can be much the same way - you want to seize as many opportunities as you can, to live your life to the fullest. But if you try cramming too many different things into your life, the experiences get jammed up, and none of them can really affect your life to the fullest. It's a good thing for diseases. Not so much for experiences.

It's time to get back to living right. And it starts with a night off - I've earned a break.

You ate our chips and you drank our coke
Then you showed me Mars through your telescope

Best. Band. Ever.

Rilo Kiley is the greatest band ever. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Ok, ok, it's completely an exaggeration. But that doesn't change the fact that they're one of most enjoyable bands I've heard lately.

Rilo Kiley would qualify as an indie/rock/alt-rock/alt-pop/punk group. Though I tend to be over-inclusive in my music classification.

I first came across them this summer, listening to the Freedom Rock show on Cities97, out of Minneapolis. Freedom Rock is an hour long showcase of new, foreign, and independent music. Rilo Kiley's song "Portions for Foxes" was featured on several evenings, and I liked it so much that I went to check out more of their music.

Initially, I loved everything I heard of theirs. I've cooled to some of it after having accidentally over-exposing myself. It's still all very good music, and some of their songs never got old. "Portions for Foxes" would probably make my top 20 songs list. There are others, too, which I would definitely recommend. "Teenage Love Song", "The Frug", and "Glendora" top the list, with "A Man/Me/Then Jim", "It's a Hit", and "Papillon" following close behind. There's a ton more - they've actually had several albums released, and the fact that they haven't gotten more mainstream play is really shocking. Once you hear them, you'll agree.

Anyways, the point of this blog isn't just to recommend them. It's also an open invite to their concert on the 14th of May. It's at First Ave. in Minneapolis. I'll be home, and Laura, Rachel, and I are already planning on going. Anyone else who wants to join us should let me know ASAP. We'll be getting tickets soon. They're $12. It should be a good time.

The song quote, of course, is from "Portions for Foxes".

There's blood in my mouth 'cause I've been biting my tongue all week

Yank Me, Red Sucks.

I am so freaking sick of the Red Sox and Yankees. They're always playing on national TV. It's gotten too, too ridiculous. Tonight, for example, was the home opener for the brand new Washington Nationals. They've been playing really well, had a terrific pitcher starting, the freaking President of the United States of America throwing out the first pitch, and, oh yeah, they're a brand new team which has generated an amazing amount of interest - both locally and nationally - and provide a terrific and exciting sports story.

Maybe it's just me, but that seems a hell of a lot better than Yankees vs. Red Sox, take 9,423,622. Or whatever number they've gotten to. In all honesty, I've stopped paying attention to those two teams. I guess this makes me just like the rest of the country!

Hey you jerks in Boston and New York - go away! Nobody cares any more. And anybody with a good head on their shoulders never really did. Especially about you Boston. You're just a bunch of pathetic whiners who finally got their day in the park. Your fifteen minutes is over. 14 minutes too late. Go away.

And shame on you, ESPN. Nobody cares any more. Have you stopped looking at your ratings? Didn't you know that a smaller number means fewer people are watching? Sports Center ceases to be a highlight/news show when you cover only the greater Fenway area (which, it seems, consists of only the ballpark and that one local bar just down the street where all of Boston gathers to drink away their 16 collective brain cells). ESPN, you need to show more highlights, from all the games in the league. Because you already showed us the Boston/NY game. We don't need - or want - the highlights from what we've already seen. We want the stuff we haven't seen yet.

I sincerely hope neither of those teams makes the playoffs this year. But that probably won't happen. In fact, they'll probably both make it. And then we'll have a dozen more documentaries devoted to each team. I fully expect that if the Red Sox make the playoffs they'll actually have to forfeit a game because too many of their players will be busy filming credit card commercials.

We've had enough of these two teams. This is what I've been preaching since moving out to D.C. Nobody cares any more. We want something new. Someone new. Because this has gotten ridonkulous. I am completely sick of the Yankees and Red Sox.

Maybe if we just ignore them they'll go away.

And it's all your fault I screen my phone calls

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Best. Twins Blog. Ever.

I love Batgirl. It's an amazingly fun blog. You should all read it. As the site claims, "Less Stats, More Sass." It doesn't fail to deliver. Once you get past the penchant for semi-irritating player nicknames, she writes some of the most fun sports commentary available. She's creative, witty, and deliciously biased.

She updates almost daily, provides reviews of games, and other insight into the Twinkies we all love. Mostly though, Batgirl is just good fun. The link is permanently in the sidebar. Go check it out. I'm still laughing from her latest post.

... light saber noises when he pees... ! Classic!

Went to a dance, looking for romance

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Silence is Mediocre

You know that quiet kid, who sits in the back of the class, and doesn't talk very often? The one who seems really smart, and if you could just coax her out of her shell she'd be the star of the mock trial team?

Yeah, why did you think she was smart? Was it because she was so different from the rest of the showboating loudmouths in the class? Was it because she didn't toot her own horn? Was it because she always seemed to listen?

Because you know what? She wasn't the star of the team. Sure, she held her own, she did well in fact. But it was the loudmouth who took center stage. The loudmouth was the one who made you proud. Who surprised everyone with their stunning performance. Who saved things for your team.

Better to keep quiet and let them think you're an idiot than open your mouth and remove all doubt?

Not from this coach's perspective.

We could have gone all the way to the Great Wall of China

Monday, April 11, 2005

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

It's getting to that point in the year when the end is approaching. Since I'll be leaving D.C. for Minnesota, I'm trying to ration my consumption, so that things run out just as I'm ready to go. I don't want to have to buy more of anything, and then end up with too much when I leave.

I think I'm set on laundry detergent, and my ramen supply looks good. The trick will be making it through April on just 2 rolls of toilet paper.

This trailer stays wet and we're swimming in debt

Thoughtoids

One of the great things about wearing headphones is that I can sing along without having to listen to myself.

My roommate disagrees.

I got a rare opportunity to see the Twins today, when their game against the Bitch Sox was on ESPN (yes, I'm stealing the name "Bitch Sox" from Batgirl. They normally don't get any love until the end of the season, when it becomes apparent that they'll be in the playoffs. This year is a little different though. Just as I predicted. Santana looked great once he got into a groove, and it's just generally good to see baseball showing someone other than the Yankees and Bastard Sox (my proposed name for the Boston Sox team). Of course, those two teams will have three televised games this week. Ricockulous.

Marvelous Patric has begun a new comic about his new job. You can get to it by clicking on the "My New Job" link on the Marvelous Patric site, or link to it here.

This looks to be an immensely busy week coming up. My students have their mock trial competition on Monday and Thursday evenings, plus I've got a full slate of classes scheduled (with an additional make-up class thrown in, just for fun!). No promises on posts, but hopefully there'll be something up. Keep an eye out. There's a few more I'm planning to get to before my finals schedule starts at the end of the month. When that hits, the posts will probably thin out significantly. Such is the life of a student.

And, as one last thought: I've been putting those little song quotes at the end of my posts. I like doing it, and hopefully people can recognize most of the songs, and, if they don't, they should feel free to solicit more information - almost every song quoted is a song I listen to (and often am currently listening to at the time of quoting), and would recommend. I've noticed, however, that it's really hard to quote instrumental music.

Have an awesome-ish week!

Everything was fine until membership lost its privileges

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Miss Viola Swamp

When I was in the 7th grade, in Mr. Slavik's (Mista Slavik's) English class, we read the Tripod trilogy. Ever since, I've harbored a secret (and previously unrevealed) desire to direct a movie version of each of the three books. It looks like someone beat me to it: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0447711/

In some ways, this makes me sad; the odds aren't real good that I'll be tapped to direct. Especially since they've already named a director.

But in some ways, this makes me really excited. In just two years these books should come to life on the big screen. I love good Sci-Fi movies, and if the books are any indication, the film should be terrific. I have to wonder if they will cram all 3 books into the one film, or if they're looking at a derivative work, or if they're planning long term, but taking it slowly, just developing the first story? I guess time will tell.

Anyways, for some reason the Tripod books popped into my head this evening, and got me thinking about all manner of old memories - particularly from that 7th grade English class. I decided that I wanted to try to find my old teacher (who would still be really young actually - he was in his first year of teaching when I had him). Unfortunately I couldn't find any listing of him at my old school, or anywhere in the district. Does anyone know what happened to Mr. Slavik?

Asking that question, strangely, makes me remember another book which I haven't thought about in a long time: Miss Nelson is Missing. Ah, these are quality memories. It's times like this I loathe being so far removed from the people I grew up with - I could really use someone to reminisce with. It really is true: the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young. Baz Luhrmann, you are a wise man. (Yes, that's a Suncreen Song reference).

Back to my question though, does anyone know what happened to Mr. Slavik? His first name was Steve, right? Would anyone be willing to help me look into this? Siblings at the middle school? Friends with parents who work at the middle school (coughKajsacough)? I'd really like to shoot Mr. Slavik an e-mail, or a phone call, or something. He had more influence over me than any other teacher I've ever had, and I'd like to see how he's doing and let him know how much I appreciated him. Ok, let's find him. Mr. Slavik is missing.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Check it Out!

Joel Schou, friend, artist, euchre aficionado, has finally gotten a working website up! The link will be permanently up on this site, but I'd suggest you bookmark it yourself.

Though it isn't completely finished, it has some terrific stuff. He's got a journal, a look into his studio and the artistic process, and best of all, images of his artwork! He's an amazing up-and-coming painter, so jump on the bandwagon while there's still room. Soon enough, Joel will be a big-name artist. I'd wager half of my worth on it (let's see, $119 dollars... and, 34 cents. Minus the loans, divided by two... Half of a negative is still negative, right? Wait, if I'm betting a negative, does that mean my debt doubles if I win?).

Anyways. Go to his site. - joelschou.com - Look at his artwork. Read about his process. Gain insight into his psyche. Taste his soul. But just one taste - you don't want to spoil your dinner.

I'd like to be under the sea

Rolling On the River

I've learned quite a bit from my students. I've learned how to teach. I've learned what it's like to have a large group relying on you. I've learned how to grade (and flunk) people. I've learned to help others succeed. But, without qualification, the single most excellent thing I've learned has been inner-city slang.

Of all the interesting words and phrases, my favorite is the word "roller." Pronounced "rolla", I've come across it several times in my teaching - it seems to be the "in" word among African-American highschool-aged youth in the DC area. Or at least Dunbar High.

The first time I heard the word I was teaching my students about homicide - the different classifications, the corresponding punishments, how to hide the body, etc. In order to familiarize them with the various types of homicide I had them perform skits acting out them out. The theme of the skits was, appropriately, Clue. Each of the groups randomly drew two Clue characters, one of the Clue rooms, a Clue murder weapon, and a type of homicide. They then had to put all of those into the skit, and the class had to guess each of the variables.

Putting together the skits was a challenge for some of the students.
"Hey dawg!. I'm sorry, I'm sorry - I mean - Hey Mista Novak!"
"Can I help you Ron?" (Ron is one of my favorite students, though he's quite rambunctious and often gets off task very easily. He's also got a terrific sense of humor, though little sense of when it is appropriate.)(Can you see why I like him?)
"Yeah, man. ... How'm I s'possed ta do a negligent homicide with a wrench?"
"Well Ron, you have to act out negligent behavior that results in someone getting killed with a wrench. It's a tough task, but I think you can handle it."
"Like, what if I were like, throwing it up in the air - say like we was playing football with it? And then it comes..." [and he acts this out] "like up," [a rolled up tube of paper in his hand, arcing over his head] "and it's like spinning in the air, and he goes to catch it" [he twirls the paper and leans as if to make a diving catch] "and comes like, crashing down on my man's head," [he drops the tube of paper on his own head as he flings himself forward into a desk, which he then bounces off of, into the black board, and then onto the floor.]
"Yeah Ron, I think that would work."
"Aw man, I got chalk on my jersey. I outta frickin' negligent homicide this blackboard."
"Um, Ron?"
"'sup Mista Novak?"
"Nevermind."

Most of my students had never seen the movie Clue, and none of them had ever played the game, so they were unfamiliar with the characters. I had typed out descriptions for them to follow, picking just a couple of traits which the students could work with. For example, Colonel Mustard was described as "a man's man. Formerly in the military, proud and tough." The students had no trouble exaggerating those few characteristics, and most of the roles came across loud and clear.

The best - and the class favorite - was the part of Miss Scarlet. The description read something to the effect of "Greedy. A seductress. Very womanly." Several of the guys in my class drew that role, and they laughed it up quite a bit. One of the young women in the class had also picked that part, and she played it well. Just before this Miss Scarlet was about to clob Mr. Green over the head with a lead pipe, Ron interrupted with a surprise commentary.

"Man, she's playin' a rolla', and she is a rolla!"

The class burst out laughing. I was baffled.

"What's a roller?"
A bunch of the class responded with the same question, "You never heard of a rolla, Mista Novak?"
"No, I've never heard of a roller."
"Man, listen to him - he says 'roll-errr' like some old English man. 'Roll-errr!'"
"Dawg, Novak, I don't think we can tell you what a rolla is."
"Yeah, you don't wanna know. We don't wanna take away your innocent-ness."
"Seriously, I don't think you're going to take away my innocence if you tell me," I replied, "I want to know, just tell me. What's a rolla?"

My weak attempt to sound like them drew more laughter.

Ron decided to answer my question. "Well a rolla, I don't know how to describe it - it's like - it's like she been with that guy, and that guy, and that guy," as he pointed to fictional guys that the student had "been with." "You know what I mean by 'been with' Mista Novak? I don't mean no like, she seen him a couple times I mean like -"
I cut him off, "Yes Ron, I know what you mean."

That was my first introduction to the word 'rolla'. I had some lingering questions about the word, but I never knew how to approach the subject with my students, and so just kept them to myself. The thing I really wanted to know was if guys could be rollas too, or if it was only the ladies.

Today, I found out.

I overheard part of a conversation between Ron and a female student in the class.
"Ron, you such a rolla."
Excited to have my answer, I interrupted, "Oh! So guys can be rollas too!"
" 'Course," answered Ron, "How'd you know 'bout rollas Mista Novak?"
"You guys told me all about them, remember?"
"We did?" Ron seemed genuinely puzzled, "Why would we tell you 'bout rollas?"
"Because I asked. We were doing those homicide sketches."
"Oh yeah, I 'member now! And she [pointing to the student who had played Miss Scarlet] was all like, throwin' herself at that guy."
She protested, "I was not! That was the characta!"
Ron was about to respond, but I cut him off. "That's all I wanted to know though. I was just wondering if guys could be rollas, or if it was only the ladies."
"Oh yeah, guys can be rollas," Ron answered. "Girls can be a rolla. Guys can be a rolla. Anyone can be a rolla."

He smiled. "Even you could be a rolla Mister Novak!"


Big wheel keep on turning,
Proud Mary keep on burning

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Happy Birthday Laura!

Today is the birthday of the beautiful, intelligent, tall, wonderful, beautiful, talented, creative, beautiful Laura Guetter. Happy birthday Laura!

3 years ago Laura was deprived of an hour on her birthday, because it fell on the Sunday when we switched to Day Light Savings Time. Hence, every year forward she gets an extra hour for her birthday - and she can add it either before or after the day. It's only fair. Especially since it'll probably happen again. And no one should be deprived of a birthday hour. And that applies double to Laura, because she's so all-around awesome. And beautiful. :-) Happy birthday babe!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Spring is in the air. Wait, no, that's just smog.

Where there are monuments, there will be tourists. Where there are tourists, there will be pigeons. Where there are pigeons, there will be children paying no attention what-so-ever to the monuments.

It's spring in D.C., slowly turning into summer. The weather is gorgeous - 79 degrees today - and tourists are starting to flow into the city. This week and last were the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which actually means we have a lot more tourists than normal. But people come from all over the country - the world really - to see the famous cherry trees in full bloom. The trees were a gift to the US from Japan. They're planted all around the tidal basin, which, for those unfamiliar with D.C. geography, is the large pond between the Jefferson monument and the rest of the National Mall.

Today I walked down to the Jefferson to take some pictures - of the cherry trees and of the monument - and I was a bit disappointed that there weren't more flowers on the trees. We've been in Cherry Blossom Festival mode for a good week and a half and most of the blossoms on most of the trees are just starting to open. Some trees, however, are already in full bloom, though they're few and far between. Disappointed as I was in the flowers, I was heartened by the tourist-watching, which has never been better. Because they were all there to see the flowers they would group, en masse, around the few isolated trees with blossoms. I'd be walking along, pass a tree, another tree, another tree, then suddenly a crowd of 50 people all circling around the same six-inch diameter of a single tree, trying to take pictures of their loved ones - and only their loved ones -with nothing in the background but the blossoms.

"Ok, ok... Jerry! Move to the right 8 inches and puff up your chest and do that Egyptian thing with your arms."
"Oooh! Thomas, this one has flowers! Take a picture of this one!"
"Hmph. Now this is a cherry tree. I don't know why we wasted our time with all those other damn trees."

This followed by 6 more lonely trees, and another crowd attempting the same charade.

I do love living in an international city though. I heard several different languages today. And though I'm not able to speak anything besides English (and some horrible, horrible German)(horrible in the "I'm very bad at it" sense, not the "little children cover your ears" sense), I'm pretty sure I was able to understand most of what was said.

"Ok, ok... Jerry! Move to the right..."

You're such a delicate boy in the hysterical realm
Of an emotional landslide, in physical terms

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Wishy-Washy Need a Patron Saint Too

A new AP poll suggests that Americans think the next Pope should be more liberal. It's a good thing they got this poll out in time, because now the Church knows that Americans like their priests married, their couples divorced, and their sex with prophylactics. I'm sure they'll vote accordingly.

Seriously, I don't even understand why they took this poll. Americans make up only 65 million of the 1.1 billion Catholics around the world. Yes, the Cardinals should take into consideration the American issues with the Church when voting for the next Pope, but they sure shouldn't choose a Pope based on American opinion. This is just another example of American hubris. Most Americans think the Church should pick a Pope who will "modernize" the Church, to reflect American preferences. But the Catholic Church is a global institution and anyone with an ounce of sense would say that the Cardinals should chose a Pope who will best serve the issues facing the world. Too many Americans think that the US is the be all and end all. It's truly shameful.

Finally, I'd like to say that I wouldn't mind a new Pope who were more open to discussion of certain issues, such as women in the priesthood. But I certainly don't want a Pope who will step in and suddenly declare that women can be priests. If a church can spin on a dime like that then I question their devotion to Truth. When a church acts it should do so slowly and carefully, it should seriously consider and debate and pray over the issues. It is better to forbid that which is permitted by God than to permit that which is forbidden by God.

Yes, hopefully there will be some change in the Church. At minimum I hope for open discussion of married and women priests. But hopefully change happens for the right reasons - because the Church determines that those things are permitted by God - and not for the wrong reasons - because Americans want a "modern" church.

What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular. The Catholic Church maintains that is more important to be right than popular, especially doctrinally. Polls are of the exact opposite ideology, suggesting that change should happen because it would be popular. I'm confident that the Church knows the difference. If only Americans could learn it.

This is a place where eternally fire is applied to the body

Monday, April 04, 2005

Bidder Up!

Gotta love eBay. Yesterday I saw a report which said that the house from A Christmas Story had been sold on eBay. Can you imagine having the winning bid?

"Hey, my bid won!"
"What did you win?"
"It's a major award!"

That has to be one of the stranger items ever sold on eBay. But it certainly isn't the most bizarre. Now, everyone has their personal favorites, but I'm convinced my favorite is the greatest eBay sale ever.

I didn't actually see the bid, but I read all about it. I don't remember the exact title, but someone sold, for a sizeable fee, a service called something like "Kick Your Butt." The provider promised to fly to wherever the bidder was from (the bidder had to pay for the plane ticket), find them, and, completely unannounced, beat them up. It was apparently a very popular item. Gotta love eBay.

I'll buy ... your tchotchkes, Sell me ... your watch, please

Year of the Twins

One final pre-season post about this greatest of teams. We all know that I picked them to win the World Series, we all know that I think this is the year they enter an elite crowd. This post is all about why.

What is it that makes this year the year of the Twins? What is so different from last year? How can we be special when there were no big free agents coming Minnesota, no star-studded additions? How can we be as good as other teams who went out and collected more all-stars?

Well, I'll tell you. (He's going to sing.)(Bonus points for anyone getting this reference)

Ok, so I'm not actually going to sing. But, if you would like a season preview in song, I suggest you check out Batgirl, who has put together a most amazing multimedia presentation. Genius. The file you need to download is a bit large, but worth it. Genius.

On to the post topic!

Why '05 is the year of the Twins:

First, while there may not have been any shiny new acquisitions for the Twins this past off-season, that doesn't mean they weren't active in the free-agent market. Most important, they signed Brad Radke to a two-year contract. For a small market team to keep one of the top AL pitchers (#4 in ERA last year, #3 in opponent's OBP, #2 in walks allowed) is a big deal. Combine this with the fact that they actually beat out a competing bid (Red Sox), and the move looks even more significant. But they didn't stop at Radke. The Twins locked several players from the past into contracts, choosing to build on the foundation they had already laid.

Looking to that foundation can make a Twins fan very excited. Last year the Twins led the American League in team ERA. They had one of the best bullpens in baseball, and 2 of the best 4 pitchers in the league, including Johan Santana, Cy Young award winner. This year, Santana is healthy at the start of the season, looked amazing in spring training, and is set to continue his dominance. Tack on Radke, and we've got two pitchers no team wants to face back-to-back in a playoff series. But our rotation doesn't stop there. Last year, in his first year as a starter, Carlos Silva won 14 games, and should be able to build on that this coming year. Kyle Lohse had several rough outings last season, but what many forget is how brilliant he looked when he was on. Like Radke, Lohse was often a victim of low run support, and one bad inning was often his downfall. Look for him to be more consistent this year. Finally, the pitching staff, without a free-agent signing, did see a major addition. Joe Mays, former all-star, is back from an injury. Mays threw incredibly well in spring training - 3.68 ERA - and nailed down the 5th spot in the rotation. He was hoping to do better, and nearly did, but his competition was stiff. Now, spring stats don't matter, but Mays looked great, and if our fifth starter is throwing that well we'll clearly have one of the best rotations in baseball. I don't care who the Yankees or Red Sox added, the Twins rotation can compete.

But it isn't just the rotation. Our bullpen, a big question mark at the beginning of the season last year, proved to be one of the strongest in the game. Joe Nathan is a power closer, who can throw tremendous heat. His slider hits 90. That's insane, and practically unhittable. Leading up to Nathan is a series of power pitchers, and should any one of them find difficulty this season we've got several young arms waiting in the minor leagues, ready to step up and take a spot. On most teams Scott Baker and J.D. Durbin would already be in the show. With the Twins, they'll have to wait their turn. The bullpen should be at least as strong as last year, and the Twins will again compete for the best team ERA in the AL. Our pitching is just that good.

But pitching isn't the only game the '05 Twins can play. We all know what a tremendous defensive team they are. Sure, they've lost some key defensive players in Dougie, Guzman, and Koskie. The fact of the matter is though, this version of the Twins doesn't contain any defensive slouches. Morneau has proved more than capable at first, and will make all the plays he needs to. He's far from Dougie, but he's even further from being a defensive liability. Cuddyer has taken over for Koskie at third and proved to be a worthy replacement - he's more green, but by the end of the season we won't know the difference. Cuddyer might not be an upgrade, but neither is he a downgrade. Finally, the biggest defensive question mark, is Jason Bartlett, our rookie starting shortstop. Can he fill the hole left by the strong-armed Guzman? The answer, I feel, is that hole and more. Guzman lacked, significantly, for range. He was quick and had a strong arm, both of which are important at shortstop, but he was unable to move side-to-side like Bartlett can. Fewer balls should get through the infield with Bartlett. He's also been working hard on his throws, learning how to play the position at a major league level. We've been spoiled in the past with an amazing defense. This team isn't as strong, but they're still good enough to be one of the best in baseball.

Defense and pitching has been the recipe for success the past three years, and this year is no different. Except that this year, the Twins can hit too. Of the players we've lost in the last year - Doug, Guzman, Koskie, and Henry Blanco at catcher - only Koskie was offensively an asset. He's been replaced with Cuddyer, who should produce roughly at Koskie's pace. Doug has been replaced with Justin Morneau, who, as we saw last year, can hit with tremendous power. As he works his way into the season - expect a slow start, coming off a winter and spring limited by assorted ailments - he'll become a huge asset. Guzman was replaced with Jason Bartlett, who can hit - for average and power - and will probably be able to steal a base or two. Guzman was an offensive let-down, with a paltry on-base-percentage. Bartlett will step into the number 2 spot in the order, get on base and knock home runners in a way Guzman never could. Shortstop is becoming a hitting position in baseball, and now the Twins have one who fits that bill.

And finally, Joe Mauer will bring his golden touch to the lineup. He's young, there are doubts about his stability. But when I look at this kid I see Roy Hobbs, complete with the uncanny maturity and grace that surround the natural. Mauer was born a veteran, and will someday be looked at as one of the greatest to ever play the game. This year, he's the Twins number 3 hitter - behind Bartlett and in front of Morneau. He'll have 100 RBI and 100 runs. He'll hit for average, he'll hit for power. He's taking the spot of last year's offensively anemic Henry Blanco, and immeasurable upgrade.

With new and improved hitters in the 2, 3, and 4 spots, the Twins lineup is better than it's been in a long time. People might point to the youth, but these three are surrounded by veterans who will help them throughout the season, and that youth won't hold them back.

But what about the rest of the division, you say? They've all improved too.

"Ha!" I say. Detroit, a little. Cleveland, maybe. Chicago? Doubtful. Anyone thinking these teams will challenge the Twins is delusional. Detroit improved 29 games last year, from their dismal '03 season. Cleveland improved 12. But both haven't proved themselves to be competitors - they both improved against a weak division. Remember what happened to the Royals? In '03 they looked good, and everyone said they'd challenge for the AL central title last year. They were a trendy pick. But did they? No, they looked like fools. I see the same happening with these teams - they won't slide as far as the Royals, but the improvements of last year won't be replicated, and the Twins will run away with the division - and the best record in the AL.

But surely the Yankees and Red Sox are better? Again, I say "Ha!" Last year the Twins were a foot from taking game 2 in Yankee stadium, heading back to MN one game from sweeping the series. The next two losses were heartbreakers. The bounces fell for the Yanks. Last year the Twins took the season series from Boston, 4 games to 2. I'm convinced the Twins were better than the Red Sox, they just didn't get the chance to prove it.

But that was last year, aren't the Yankees and Red Sox better this year? And maybe they are. But the Twins still improved more. Just ask Peter Gammons. He'll tell you exactly what I said in that previous post. Maybe we can't really pick the Twins over the Sox or Yankees - but they're just as good a pick as either one. There isn't really a favorite in the bunch. Anyone who tells you the Sox or Yankees are better than the Twins doesn't really know their baseball.

Or better yet, ask Jayson Stark. He's even more confident in the Twins than Peter Gammons. And the man knows his baseball. Or check with ESPN's top baseball analysts. Of their 7 most respected (and knowledgeable) experts 4 have the Twins winning it all, 5 have the Twins winning the AL, and 6 have the Twins winning the Central.

Face it people, we're the favorites. And that proves true in two senses. The people who know baseball think we're going to win. And everyone wants us to.

'05: The Year of the Twins.

You thought you'd found a friend
To take you out of this place

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Preview of Baseball '05

I know I've written my share of posts discussing the holidays I don't like, the holidays I don't understand. This post is all about a holiday that isn't, but should be. When I'm president, I will make this day, Opening Day, a national holiday. Baseball is just that important.

Workers should be free to go to the park, even though their team is playing a day game. School children should run the basepaths of their neighborhood diamond, freed from the shackles of learning (I doubt I'll use that phrase again). Our heroes should be paraded in front of a national audience. CBS should play The Sandlot, The Natural, and Field of Dreams back-to-back-to-back in a continuous loop, and ABC should play the same three in reverse order. Americans should take a day to relax, grab a 'dog and a beer, root for the home team, and speculate on the season to come.

So it is with great joy that I kick off my first pre-season speculation post!

First, a disclaimer. I don't know the answers. Despite my uncanny success in predicting past winners for all the major sports titles, you should not use my predictions as gambling advice. Or at very least, you shouldn't get angry and litigious after betting your car on my picks. I've looked into baseball a bit this year, and I know what some others are saying, but I'm just a punk kid with too much attitude who loves the game. And keeping that in mind, here are my predictions.

National league

East: I like the Marlins. They picked up Carlos Delgado in the off-season and already had a terrific core. They won the World Series two years ago and they looked good last year. With a strong group of young pitchers they could go far. It's tough to pick against the Braves, who always manage to win, but this is finally the year someone else takes the division crown.

Central: Just like last year, the Cardinals bats will power them to the top of the Central. The Cubs should give the Cardinals a better push than they did last year, but St. Louis will hold off the charge. They've added Mark Mulder from Oakland's staff which should bolster their pitching, and their amazing offense will keep scoring runs all the way to the play-offs.

West: This is the division I most dread predicting. I liked the Dodgers, but they lost some key players in Adrian Beltre and Steve Finley, and I don't think that they'll be able to overcome those loses. The Giants are always a strong, deep team, but Barry Bonds is out for an extended period, and while they have people to fill the holes, I think that loss is too significant to overcome. I also think that this is the year that age takes its toll on the Giants, and before the end of the season a whopping (and exaggerated) 19 of their players will be on the DL with rheumatoid arthritis. This leaves me looking at the Padres as my favorite team in the West. I've been keeping an eye on them the last couple of years as they've slowly put together a good group of players. This team has developed together, much like the Twins, and I think this is the year they grab hold of West.

Wild Card: Again, it's tough to pick against the Braves. And so I won't. I also like the Cubs, but I foresee a marvelous choke in the last week or two of the season, extending the Braves play-off run.

MVP: I'm going to go with Albert Pujols, who I like because Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Delgado, both of the Marlins, will be in competition for the same votes. If either one of them rises significantly ahead of the other look for Pujols to be upset in the MVP race.

Cy Young: Tim Hudson of the Braves. Hudson is a terrific pitcher who took position as the ace among aces on Oakland's staff. Moving from the AL to the NL should help him even more.

Rookie: Another tough call, especially given my limited knowledge. I'm taking Garret Atkins, on the premise that it is easier for position players to win rookie of the year honors. He's filling a hole left by a long-time veteran (Vinny Castilla), and if he steps up that'll make it look all the more impressive.

American league

East: I sure like Boston, defending World Series Champions, but I sure like New York even more. The Yankees should be the more dominant of these two giants, winning more consistently the games they should. This is an improving division - the Devil Rays and Baltimore both look better than last year, and should both pose more of a challenge to the East's top tier. The Yankees will handle these obstacles better with their all-business approach, and Boston will have to settle for second.

Central: It's a good time to be a fan of the Minnesota Twins. They're set to win their fourth-straight division title. Much has been made of the improved Indians and Tigers. Both teams improved significantly from the year before, but look for both to disappoint. Cleveland improved 12 games from '03 to '04, and Detroit picked up a whopping 29 games from their '03 total. Adding even another 10 games to either total (which would put Cleveland at 90 and Detroit at 82) would be a tremendous feat, and one I don't foresee happening. Remember, the Royals saw tremendous improvement in '03 but back-slid last year. All three of those teams should hover around their '04 totals. The same goes for the White Sox, who may fall even further than they did last year. The team is trying to transition from being a power team to a speed and defense model, an uncertain process. They've got a good manager in Ozzie Guillen, but I don't think their plan will take this year, so look for them to slide into fourth, not far behind Detroit. Cleveland should land in second, but they'll be a good dozen or so games behind the Twins.

West: I like the Angels. I'm never confident about picking the AL West, because with only four teams they play more games against each other, giving each team more of a chance to carve out their own place. Seattle, Oakland, and even Texas could all get hot and make a push, but I see the Angels repeating.

Wild Card: Boston. They're too powerful, and they've spent too much money, to miss the playoffs. They'll go out an get any piece they need, to get another shot at the World Series. Now that they've ended their curse we've got a second "evil empire" on our hands, and this year they've got a firm grip on the last play-off spot.

MVP: Always a tough call, but I like one of two players. Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels will probably win the award because he's a respected veteran, but watch for Joe Mauer to get a lot of chatter when the season ends. He could be the dark horse in this race.

Cy Young: Johan Santana. This is the easiest pick in the list. He's looked dynamite ever since he regained his health last season. A full season of health could see him win at least 25 games this year.

Rookie: Sticking with the position-player theme, I'm going to give the nod to Jason Bartlett. His offense isn't in question, and offense will win a Rookie of the Year award. He'll be capable defensively, and steal some bases, both which will help his case.

Playoffs

NLS: Marlins over Padres, Cardinals over Braves
NLCS: Marlins over Cardinals
ALS: Twins over Red Sox, Yankees over Angels
ALCS: Twins over Yankees

World Series: Twins over Marlins in 5

As a closing note, I'd like to say that I know I'm a Twins fan and horribly biased, but that I've made my best, unbiased, effort in these picks. I really believe that the Twins are the best team in baseball this year. I thought they were better than their playoff performance last year (they were close against the Yankees and had bested the Red Sox in the regular season). This year the breaks will go their way. I'll probably put up another "Year of the Twins" post a little later, so keep an eye out for that.

2005 looks to be a good year. Baseball is back, strong as ever, with great storylines and players to follow the entire season. So on Opening Day, kick back, enjoy some good food, watch a baseball game, and get used to it - soon enough it'll be a recognized holiday. Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, and Play Ball!

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Some Tough Losses

I guess now we know why Bob Casey went when he did. So that the Pope would have someone to announce him.

Movie Review: Sin City

Sin City, from the very first, is the most visually stunning movie I have ever seen. It begs to be seen on the big screen, and the sight is a wonder. Filmed in black and white, the film throws in gorgeous splashes of vivid color, in all the right places. The tactic is used often, but not over-done, appropriate and effective, a sense of aesthetic intelligence rules the picture. The style is simply genius, excitingly revolutionary.

A comparison might be appropriate. For those who marveled at the visually powerful What Dreams May Come, this film provides an even more amazing visual experience. By far. That film was a child's sidewalk drawing to Sin City's masterpiece. Regardless of the film, my eyes will be saddened by the next movie I see.

While the optical effects were unparalleled, my eyes weren't the only senses rejoicing. The film was simply visceral. Maybe the sound in the theater was turned too high, but I actually felt a suddenly thrown punch. I could imagine the pain of a searing bullet. I was almost in the movie the same way a reader almost enters a novel - the action was that close.

Although the experience of the film is full, the characters, and the plot, are not. Perhaps this is a function of the material. Sin City is film noir. It plays on archetypes and cliches like a kid at a pinball game. The characters are rough sketches, as deep as a backyard wading pool. The smilies grow as tired as a narcoleptic on a double shift.

See what I mean?

The film focuses on three or four separate plots, with three separate heroes. The villains are all connected, and there is some interaction in the plots, but the viewer essentially gets three story-lines. They come out with the plot lines already perforated for the audience, and they're perhaps a bit overdrawn. The movie runs a bit long, 126 minutes - and further editing might have been nice. But the pace is perfect, and more editing may have damaged the final product. I'm willing to trust the artists on this one, but those with small bladders, be forewarned.

The shortcomings are easily forgiven when you look at what the work is trying to be. There are no attempts at depth because the film is in many ways farce. The action is over the top (and extremely violent. Those turned off by violence should avoid this film). The characters are caricatures. There is no room for subtlety - the film spells it all out. But this is precisely on purpose. Film noir is no less an artful genre than any other film style. Sin City might not rise beyond its genre, but it perfects it like never before.

I give it an A

Where does this mean world cast its cold eye?
Who's left to suffer long about you?

Friday, April 01, 2005

Be Not Afraid

God bless Pope John Paul II. I heard the suggestion that history will know him as Pope John Paul the Great, much like Pope Leo the Great or Pope Gregory the Great. I wouldn't be surprised to see this take. The man was amazing. Probably one of the greatest people to ever walk the Earth. We've been blessed.

Fooling Around or Matt Discovers He Has Six Hands

I'm conflicted about April Fools (yes, another post about a holiday). On the one hand, I like the idea of a day devoted to practical jokes. On the other hand, if people are expecting them it becomes very difficult to pull them off successfully. On the other hand, if it's tough to pull them off, then people are forced to come up with great practical jokes. On the other hand, this in no way seems to dissuade people from pulling lame stunts. On the other hand, if everyone is trying lame jokes, then I can really stand out with a good joke. On the other hand, I can never seem to think of a quality prank. I guess it all balances out, right?

And let's see... adding my two legs... I'm an arachnid!

I'm not a real doctor but I am a real worm