Saturday, April 30, 2005


Last night L and I had a very adult night. Not a XXX "adult" night, but a grown up adult night. We went to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with a partner at work and his wife. This was one of the most grown up nights I've ever had. The car was valeted, the dinner had a wine chosen to accompany it, and we sat in a box at the CSO. I felt like one of those old people, you know, like 35 or something.

Anyway, all was not lost. First, as we were sitting through the first part of the performance (I am resisting calling it the first half both because of the sports reference, and because the post-intermission part was 20 minutes longer than the pre-intermission), I was thinking "this sounds like cartoon music." I looked in the program and saw that it was the music from a ballet, which may well have been the cartoon of its time (although, to be frank, Swan Lake is no Tom and Jerry). Anyway, score one for the good guys. I can pay enough attention to hear a cartoon being played in front of me. Second, the flute was a major instrument in the piece, and there were a bunch of flute solos. This guy was no Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame), but he was pretty damned good.

The way these boxes work at the CSO, you sit in a little stall, not unlike the stalls used to breed veal, with eight chairs in it. The chairs are not afixed. They are also of varying heights, so when you are in the front row, you have a normal chair, and by the fourth row you are in a high chair (but nobody feeds you). Although it is tradition in boxes to rotate seats (apparently), I stayed in the third row the whole time. From there I was watching the conductor, who I will hereby refer to as Rasputin. He was Russian. He was very into the music. He was into the music in EXACTLY the same way the schizophrenic homeless guys on the el platform are into the music in their heads. EXACTLY the same way. In fact, he conducted the first piece with a tiny little twig. The second piece was barehanded. It was really something.

By the way, the Chicago Sun-Times reviewed the same conductor and same pieces from the night before. Now, I knew it sounded good, but apparently the conductor, Gergiev "is a truly distinctive conductor, an outsized personality who brings an electrifying passion for music to the podium." I think I said that. He is also described as "indefatigable." I have no idea what that means, so I assume I also said that. The performance itself (and I assume Friday was the same as Thursday) was a "sophisticat[ed], shapely, highly colored performance [and] was a persuasive argument for Gergiev's vision that plunged far beyond the surface glitter of Stravinsky's ballet and Rachmaninov's symphony." OK. I didn't say that. As for the second half of the performance, the Sun-Times review says that "the fast, dance-filled second movement brought to mind elegant, self-possessed beauties rather than gushing girls, and the adagio movement's rapturous themes carried hints of quiet introspection. This was Rachmaninov at his best, lustrous and ardent, but ultimately lean and lithe." I cannot disagree with that...

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Last night I had the opportunity to watch the Cubs. I normally don't get to do that because most of their games in Chicago are day games. Anyway, the Cubs lost 11-9. If it is true that every team will win 40 games (out of 162) and every team will lose 40 games, the diiference among teams is that remaining 82 games. Good teams go 50-32 in those games. Bad teams go 32-50. Of course, it is hard to tell which games are which. Still, when Carlos Zambrano starts and you score 9 runs, you have to think it is one of the 82. Not good to lose those.

Meanwhile, I am still getting used to Bob Brenly as the Cubs color man. Last night there was either no outs or one out, runners on first and second, and the Reds number five hitter was up. Brenly says "well I guess we can expect a bunt here." A successful bunt would leave runners on second and third, with either one or two outs. In either case, the Cubs would then walk the six hitter to load the bases (either to keep the double play in order or to have a force at every base) and pitch to the seven hitter. At that point, the question you have to ask yourself is this: do you want your five hitter trying to drive in runs, or your seven hitter? For everyone in the world EXCEPT Brenly, the answer is the five hitter. I guess this is why Brenly is no longer a manager.

Monday, April 25, 2005


Today a Japanese elevated commuter train derailed and hit a building, killing 57 (so far). This is a story that could easily have happened anywhere with elevated trains. Bad stuff. Electrified rails, height, speed. Bad stuff.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Today a Yahoo! story about Benedict XVI included the following quote, "South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu called Benedict a 'rigid conservative' out of step with the times. 'We would have hoped for someone more open to the more recent developments in the world, the whole question of the ministry of women and a more reasonable position with regards to condoms and HIV/AIDS,' Tutu said."

First, I thought the Anglicans left because they didn't want to deal with Rome anymore. Why is Tutu commenting on the Church now? I mean, the Anglicans have their own issues, not the least of which being that Prince Charles does not appear to believe, and has expressed a desire to *not* be the Defender of the Faith should he become King of England. Maybe Tutu should be focusing on some of those sorts of issues, rather than judging Benedict's time as Pope the day after it begins.

One of the things that has amazed me about this process is that non-Catholics all over the place have been talking about what sort of Pope we should have, and expressing support for different people. Really, the doors to the club are open. If you are already baptized, there is pretty little to becoming Catholic. However, if you are not in the club, this doesn't really have to do with you. Besides, Popes don't appear to only spend their time on American issues. It turns out that there actually important issues that the other BILLION Catholics in the world encounter that are not big issues in the American Church. Thus, it is unlikely that a Pope will be elected or not based on whether Christ was made man for "us" or for "us men." Oy, let's give Benedict a chance before we get all Tutu on him.

For the second time since I've had this blog, and author has left a comment after I mentioned their book. This time David Block, author of Baseball before We Knew It says:

"As the author of "Baseball before We Knew It," I can assure you that my book does not say that baseball originated in France. The reviewer apparently did not read the book very carefully. In fact, baseball originated in England. There is considerable evidence that a game called baseball, complete with pitching, batting, fielding and baserunning, was played in England beginning in the early 1700s."

I am glad to give Mr. Block's comment more prominent display, since it seems to me the review I commented on was not fair to his thesis. I realize that all three of my adoring readers should know what this book is really about.

As a side note, God bless google, without which there is no chance on Earth that either of the authors I have received comments from would ever have found this blog...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


This morning on the el, my car was very clean, with no stray garbage or grafitti, except that someone had etched into a window the words "Motherfuck China." I cannot even fathom what beef someone who etches grafitti into windows has with China...

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Today I finished The Iliad by Homer. It is OK, but it does not keep the sort of narrative pace that would become necessary 3,000 years after it was written. It is super gory though. Anyway, the most surprising thing is that the entire book is about Greeks and nobody is names Gus, Nick, or Costa. What are the odds of that?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


I am listening to the Yankees at the Red Sox. Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams just hit home runs for the Yankees. I am listening to the Yankee feed (WCBS). The guy is super excited about the home runs. Fenway is so silent, it sounds like he is doing the game from a studio, reading the ticker tape.

By the way, I think the Yankee broadcast has more little, quick commercials in the inning than any game I have ever heard. While Ronny would be talking about his hair, the Yankee announcers are dropping little ads constantly.

"That pitch looks a bit high."

"Yes, and when you need new tires, go to Queens tires, in Rockaway."

"And that pitch is strike two."

"Absolutely, by Verizon Wireless."

I bought the MLB package that allows me to listen to streaming audio for every game all year. Good deal for $15, I think. WGN plays no commercials, but some of the other stations do. WCBS in New York just ran a commercial for 1-800-LAW-CASH. Have a lawsuit? Don't wait for a settlement! Get cash today.

WEEI in Boston just had an ad for a holiday special game. I was trying to figure out what holiday they were talking about. It turns out it is "Patriot Day" in New England. I think it is April 19.

This really is surprisingly fascinating.

By the way, it ought not be a surprise that Ron Santo can't remember to speak into the microphone, and that it is all the more evident in streaming audio over the web.

Yesterday it was reported that Sammy Sosa told a Dominican newspaper he would retire before he turned 40. Today he says he didn't say that and what he really said was that he would not play until he was 47, like Julio Franco. Yeah, this is a small thing, not like walking out on your teammates at the end of the year. Still, Sammy is "misundersttod" more than any player I have ever seen, and it only ever happens when he perceives negative buzz about a comment he's made.

Get used to it, Baltimore. All Sammy quotes should be taken with a grain of salt for at least a week after they are made.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


There are a number of things in today's New York Times I would love to discuss, including Rich and Kristof op-ed pieces about the future of the Church. I will not bother with them. At the end of the day, they are not understanding that the Church is not an American institution. It does not respond to the flavor-of-the-month mentality that prevails in the U.S., and its leadership is not generally American in perspective. In fact, the sort of US/UK/Canada English-speaking axis is largely Protestant, and largely foreign to people in the Vatican who make decisions. To the extent Rich and Kristof fail to acknowledge this, their analysis is irrelevant.

In the book section, there were two things that beg to be discussed. The first is the review of the book Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure. The author is Giles Foden. The book is apparently about a Briton during the First World War sent to Africa to seize Lake Taganyika from the Germans. Apparently he was sent to Africa with two enormous wooden boats that he had carried over a 6000 foot mountain and to the lake. The Germans already had two boats on the lake. The lake mattered not one iota for the war effort. As such, it makes sense that they sent the man they sent, since he was (apparently) insane. Apparently he wore a khaki skirt in the jungle, since that was "good for the heat," and carried a large supply of laxatives for the Africans. Sounds right up my alley. By the way, this is the story on which The African Queen was based.

The second interesting review is of a book called Baseball Before We Knew It. The author is David Block. He makes the argument that baseball is from a French game. There is an entire genre of historical investigation that looks for references to "base ball" in old newspapers, laws, etc. However, none of that, including this book, shows that people in the different parts of the world knew of the games so referenced. It is not rocket science to throw an object, hit it, and run like hell. Just because someone in medieval Europe did this does not make it the same game as baseball. That is the next step in this historical investigation.

Friday, April 08, 2005


My beloved Illini made the men's college basketball final four. I knew that L's sister and her husband had tickets to the two rounds of games in Boogie. They had very graciously offered the first round tickets to me several times. However, I did not want to discuss those tickets with them because I was afraid I would jinx the Illini. Once the Illini beat Arizona (see a couple of entries ago), I knew that I would have absolutely no choice but to go to Boogie.

As (bad) luck would have it, L was actually in San Antonio during the final four game. Therefore, my buddy K got The Call to see if he could slide down to boogie for a few days. He and his wife have three small, rambunctious children. Therefore, he needed to minimize his out-of-town time. This meant an early morning trip to the suburbs on Saturday to roll down to Boogie, and an early Sunday morning trip back. Should have been no problem for a person with the sense to go to sleep. I, of course, realized Friday at 10:00 that I needed to clean up before L came home from San Antonio. Thus, did I get about three hours of sleep on Friday night.

We were in Boogie by noon on Saturday. A combination of law breaking and light traffic made for great travel. We had lunch with L's parents, stopped by L's sister's house, then rolled downtown for the game. Stupidly, we thought it would be like a Bulls game. Orderly, ordered, and with parking available close in. In fact, it was much more like Mardi Gras. It took us about half an hour to get *away* from the dome to find a place to park. It took us another half hour to get a couple of oil cans of beer for pregame festivities. At that point we had noticed two things. First, there were a lot of redneck, hillbilly, asshole Louisville fans, and second, there were really long lines headed toward the dome. We decided we had better go wait in some line, just in case.

The drunken, redneck, hillbilly Louisville fans made themselves evident to us as we stood in line waiting to get into the game. The first stuck his face in mine and started chanting "OVERRATED!" Now, I have to say that generally you wait until you are actually playing (and beating) a team before starting this chant. This is a good sign that this inbred hillbilly redneck may have not been from the Louisville Scholars Academy. He cleverly followed that up by saying that the Illini played a weak Big (11) Ten schedule, and that Louisville was "Big East, baby!" Now, this was really funny, since after the Illini ended their season for them, the Cardinals are Big East, but they played in Conference USA last year. Conference USA is a much worse conference than the Big East. When I pointed this out to him, he got all red in the neck and wandered off to bother some other Illini fans. Oh, by the way, the line we were in led to nowhere. It was a fenced in line that went for a block and simply opened on to a street. Oh boy.

L's sister and L's dad had both told us we needed to keep an eye out for Sister T. She is the principal at the high school that L and all her sisters went to. K and I agreed to do this, then promptly forgot it. What are the odds we would run into this nun in a crowd of 47,000? Keep in mind that K and I were both exhausted (already), excited, and giddy from our beers. Thus, when we stumbled out of the faux line and almost ran a nun over, I felt compelled to ask her if she taught at High Style Academy (name changed to protect the innocent). This nun was in front of us, and she glanced back at me and said "yes" very curtly. She was already headed in the other direction. Not to be deterred, I asked her if she knew L's family. She glanced back and curtly said "yes." She did not stop run-walking though. I yelled out to her that I was L's husband. The nun waved, without looking back, and broke into a jog. K and I are pretty sure she had somewhere to be...

K and I found another line to stand in. I was starting to feel like we were in the Soviet Union, where people would stand in line to buy things without knowing what was being sold. The rationale was that if it was worth standing in line for, it could be resold if you didn't like it. Anyway, K and were trying to figure out why our line was not moving. There were rumors that 45 minutes before tip off the doors had not yet opened. Then, as we slowly, slowly moved forward we realized that people were climbing a fence. Apparently line controls had been set up, but there was nobody there to control the crowd. It was a dangerous situation, with people trying to climb these fences. Eventually the crowd lifted the fences and passed them backwards into the street. It was total chaos and very dangerous. K and I both miracuously were at our seats for tip off.

I have a number of things to blog about. However, I will do this one now because it is short and HIlarious. Last night our church had a memorial Mass for John Paul II. The new associate pastor gave the homily. It was not good. The high point was when he said, "Young Karol worked for a time as a miner -- he worked in a mine field."

I almost fell out of my pew laughing. That's right, Father, mine fields are populated by miners, who get very dirty in their jobs because they are underground...

Friday, April 01, 2005


As the media enters the Pope John Paul II Death Watch (cue theme music), they are showing retrospectives of the Pope's life. I am watching one of them on PBS right now. I don't think I ever realized what a fascinating life he led. However, the funny thing is that the Communists were apparently happy that he had been made Cardinal of Krakow, since he was a "philosopher" and would not be interested in affairs of state. Wow, was that a bad gamble.