Monday, July 24, 2006

A Red-Winged Blackbird

From Searchie's entry for Sunday, the 23rd, there's a picture of a red-winged blackbird, a bird I usually see flitting from wind-bent tall grass to road signs and back when I take the back roads to work. A beautiful bird, indeed. The compactness of the red (and the tossed in yellow) is enlarged when it takes wing. Not a long flight, usually. Just catching a breeze, a few flaps, and then alighting on another resting place. A bird that elicits a smile, even a small one, as opposed to its all-black (none blacker) cousin, the blackbird.

Perhaps the landscape in Searchie's view is changing. I wish her a field of red-winged blackbirds to take her through this summer.

And who knows, there's always the yellow-headed blackbird, which takes a non-black color from a mere "tip" to a full "head". A bird for a truly great day.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Final World Cup Post (I promise)

With this YouTube item, I bid the 2006 World Cup adieu. Some acquaintances, when viewing this little Monty Python bit, noted that they saw no difference between the bit and the real thing, except that the Brazil fans made the real thing a tad more interesting. Oh well....

And Franz Beckenbauer, as expected is in both World Cup 2006 and the Monty Python video.

Flick Opines

..and while I'm handing out connection tickets, a stopover at Mr. Whisky Prajer is in order for those who haven't already visited or been pointed to that general direction by the ever-awake Michael B. from 2 Blowhards, whose take on WP was, "...reading his postings isn't another wade through someone's opinions; it's more like reading a memoir, or maybe a passage from Nick Hornby. Great sentence (re "Gidget"!): "Think of those heady, crazy days when the two of you were so insanely in love, you were convinced you weren't just beating the odds but breaking the law."

His Movie List to Date:
# 3 Raising Arizona
# 4 Kiki's Delivery Service
# 5 The Limey
# 6 Heat
# 7 From Russia with Love
# 8 The Big Night
# 9 Monsters, Inc
# 10 8 1/2
# 11 Boogie Nights
# 12 Das Boot
# 13 Gidget
# 14 The Filth & The Fury
# 15 Star Wars

Do THIS at Home

As a public service to the multitude of D-I-Yers that visit here, I must point out this fabulous entry by Isoglossia. A step-by-step instruction manual, complete with all of the necessary requisite pictures (look closely at the markings on the tools). His writing is clear, charming, and unfailingly funny. If you're a Mac user, you'll especially appreciate this creation of love. Once you're through, you'll have a highly protective colorful addition to your MacBook that you've made all by your lonesome. Cheap, I might add. The added bonus that he didn't mention, most probbaly due to modesty, is that this self-made item is almost theft proof. While other folks are schlepping their laptops in Gucci or Lands End or even Kraft laptop bags, you've got URE-OWN bag, an item (depending on the garishness of the foam or the duct tape) sure to disguise the wealth within. It almost comes with a "No Mugging" guarantee!

Sour Grapes or Is it Cattiness?

In Terry Teachout's entry today, he recounts the further adventures of his life as an uncle. I think his niece is one lucky person having such a high-energy host who's more than willing to act as one of her life tutors. Hell, I wish he was my uncle; I'd love to see NYC through his eyes. He's obviously a fine writer and opinionator; don't think WSJ would be paying him the big bucks otherwise. I usually enjoy his pieces and always find some helpful links or suggestions for books or music when I'm there.

His piece today, however, was a bit dicey for me. At one point he writes:

"I’ve been a drama critic for three years now, so you’d think I’d be used to seeing my name on the Great White Way, but the truth is that I get a huge kick out of it, and probably always will. Tonight my pleasure was enhanced by the presence of my niece, who took a snapshot of me standing next to one of the Wedding Singer posters that bears my name".

I know critics play a vital role in a Broadway play's success...or failure. But, they're not involved in any of the creative, directorial, financial, human resource related aspects of the play/musical. And yet credit is given to them. It's like showing up at your grandmother's for the Thanksgiving meal and being haled the conquerring hero for eating. For most movies and plays, I do place a lot of trust in a favorite critic's opinions (coming naturally to my Slavic paranoia kind of guydom, I would peruse a minimum of 4 written critiques, if available, before considering plopping down some money for a movie/show). But never do I think that they have anything to do with the way the thing was put together, unless of course they were involved and then I ignore thier opinion altogether. I mean, I think my kids are the greatest in the world and, yeah, I had something to do with their creation and upbringing, but, hey, don't you think so too? Yeah,...right.

So, that's why this seemingly little picture-posing that Mr. Teachout did for his niece turned my stomach. A semblance of creation is not creation.

He is a finely critiqued author, i.e., a creator. I would understand his niece snapping a photo of Mr. Teachout next to a pile of his books. But the "critic posing next to poster published criticism" thing?

Please read the article. Let me know if I should get my fingernails clipped. Meoooww!

Addendum (7/24/06): I would like to sincerely thank Mr. Teachout for his mention of this blog entry in his noteworthy Arts Journal. Frankly, it was a surprise. He noted that "...except for the stomach-turning part, I don’t disagree with anything he says, all of which is worth reading.", before taking me to task for the stomach-turning phrase I threw in. For those of you reading this, I hope the heaping of praise onto him and his blog in this entry was noticed; it made up the majority of what I had to say about Mr. Teachout. My verbal skills may not have done justice to my over-riding point, namely, that modesty is the most beautiful of garments that a hero can wear. For those who admire him seeing and reading of his feats is sufficient; self-issued p.r. is not necessary.

Well, whatever. I would like to thank Mr. Teachout for noting my comment in his entry, even if it was grist for his mill. The traffic here had a slight upturn the past 3-4 days. An unintentional benefit I certainly had not planned on.

I'll certainly still be visiting his site, which along with Arts & Letters Daily, Maud Newton, the Book Slut, and the Slavs of New York are more than enought sites to offer culled and analyzed information of what to see, hear, and touch in this excessively filled up cultural world.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Found: Another Perfectly Delicious Waste of Time

(From Krista B's Sestrunj Virtual Tourist site)

Subtitle on this picture is " Bocce is the game where they throw balls to get as close as possible to one small ball - team that comes closer wins.
How simple. How exciting!
We were observing finale of Mothers-in-law against Brides category. Guess who won?

I've been spending an overly extravagant amount of time at this site. The author of this Virtual Tourist site is a Slovenian woman named Krista B who seems to be somewhere in her mid-40's and is blessed with a good camera eye and a talent for writing English in a foreigner's dialect that makes her travel commentary insightful and hilarious. Her take on the island of Hvar and Dubrovnik are especially worth checking out.

Since this summer will be sans vacance, reading about someone else's, especially one spent in Croatia, will have to do. There's nothing like the Adriatic, the rocks, the clear-to-dark water changes, the food...

As the ever-loving wife observed on our vacation there last summer, "Croatians must be part lizard and part fish. That would be the only explanation for some of their behviour." What was she referring to? While driving up the Magistrala Highway from Dubrovnik to Rijeka, it is not odd to see a car in front of you swerve off to the side suddenly. Car problems? Hardly. As you pass by, you see the occupants gathering towels together and, as you look in your rear view mirror, they pile out and jump over the guard rail to a tiny spot of a beach. If the water's not calling them to swim with the fishes, the rocks are seranading them to lie down, relax, take in the sun, and bake like a lizard.

So, for at least this summer, I'll be clicking and reading and dreaming of the possibilities of next summer, another summer of the lizard.

Monday, July 17, 2006

One Cart Left Behind

I'm comfortable with numbers in a three dimensional, heck throw in time and make it a four dimensional world. Their value will stay the same. 7, right now, is 7, a minute from now.
In a real world example, in most cases, 23 items now are still 23 items, 15 minutes from now. Let's put a descriptive on this real world example.
Whilst standing in a foodstore line,
more definitively,
a foodstore express line,
wait, please,one more level of definity,
a foodstore express line labelled as "Up to 10 items ONLY",
23 items at the tail end of the line still are 23 items at the cashier end.
No peculiar law of physics comes into play, say Boris Karlov's Law of Diminishing Check Out.
At least in this case, matter stays as matter. No conversion to energy is made. Well, at least not at the Flotsam & Jetsam Food Emporium that I spend my money and time at.

Since numbers are difficult to misinterpret as words may be, one would think that 10 is, well, TEN. Barring an industrial accident (apologies to the gentle readers who have been unlucky), 10 is the number of digits, of fingers, of the visible counting tools available to those who cannot point with one finger and tally up to 10 items in one's head. The Flotsam & Jetsam food store used to have a 15 item express line and, cleverly I thought, reduced that to a 10 item line, thus eliminating the excuse folks had of not having evolved to the stage of possessing 12 or 15 digits. It also eliminated the need for some folks to take their shoes off in a conscious effort to dutily count to 15.
Ten. Hold up both hands and there you have it. Ten fingers. Ten things to place on the counter. With the new chip-based registers and scanning, not only are the prices of the items tallied but so are the quantities. So, one can of corn = 1 item. Two cans of corn = 2 items. The associative property of addition does not come into play when buying groceries. Neither does the commutative. And multiplication and division!? No need to worry one's head about those either. No base 12's or base 15's, although I applaud people's efforts to hoodwink those of us in line dealing with base 10.
So there you have it. A shopper, either ignorant of the power of their ten digits, or, simply rude and a person in need of being reported to their mother regarding common courtesy (Yeah, I'm talking about you, you self-reaming Toilet Part (Them's fighting words!)). He/she are wasting your time and others' and, in most cases, saying anything to them is not worth the trouble or aggravation, unless you really don't have much to do that evening and a short stay at County is just what you're looking for as a way to pass time tonight.

I have a Modest Proposal. Using the State Dept of Transporation's (DOT)weight scales program, I offer the following express lane system. No, I didn't waste precious life-savings thinking time on this. While waiting in express lines over the years, I've refined the Modest Proposal from physical punishment and embarassment of the miscreant to the most painful legal practice allowed. Hurt them where it really hurts. Their wallet.

All trucks are tagged and licensed according to the weight they are allowed to legally carry. If a loaded truck is stopped and weighed by DOT and found to exceed its allowable weight, a fine is issued. If you want to take your chances of driving an overloaded truck, fine. But if you get caught, well....

You're in a express line, limited to 10 items. You've counted them with those things at the end of your hands. You're in a rush and willing to gamble. You're checked out by the cashier. The register, an impersonal don't-care-what-your-age-your-social standing-your-religious background-your-race-your-education machine tallies the prices and the quantities.

Total cost: $45.36
Total Items: 23
Revised Total Cost: $58.36

Caught! $1 per # of items over 10. In this case, $13.

Now, here's the beauty of the plan.
That excess $13 does not go to the store. A $13 credit is tallied by the register. Each customer after receives a credit of $1 against their bill, until the $13 is fully used.
Now, of course, any customer after this fellow, Mr. Self-Reaming Toilet Part, who has a counting to Ten issue will be adding to the kitty for all customer who seem to be able to deal with the number 10.

A warning sign would be posted at the register. This program, if anything, is fair. The customer is warned. In fact, if the cashier after eying the large pile on the conveyor, in a demonstration of true customer service, may even inform Mr./Mrs. Self-Reaming Toilet Part, that they'll be paying a hefty overage charge. If he/she opts to stay, those of us in back of him will be smiling and richer a buck.

Until this program gets put into affect at the Flotsam & Jetsam Food Emporium, I'll simply leave my 7-8 items cart in the express line, right behind Mr./Mrs. Self-Reaming Toilet Part and leave, apologizing to those behind me and complaining of the lack of success of the No Child Left Behind program. Damn, I thought universal counting to ten would be possible.

Flesh on the Beach

As Lucy points out in her (new and ever-evolving) Blogzira, here, "The beach, the great leveller. Nobody looks good in a swimsuit, do they? (bar anyone between the age of 17 and 19 who hasn’t spent their life eating marsbars)".
Complete with her always-interesting take on Life In Portugal, in this case, beach life and the self-delusion running rampant thereon, she portrays our universal condition, regardless of age, sex, or lost and cluttered mental condition. Why, sometimes, the lens replaces the pen, when only a good quip is needed.

It is summer, the dreaded time of threatened Speedos wear. For shame of doing wrong, I'll not be going that swimwear route, though I will still take a peak up and down the beach before I remove any clothing, for fear of spotting Lucy with coloured pencils and paper at the ready. Hopefully, there will be enought bathers in Portugal to keep her busy.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Other Readings

Just one more hit of related writing on the World Cup.
These two from Dooney's Cafe.

Wally Hourback's World Cup, eh?

Stan Persky's The ABC's of World Cup, interesting if only for the juxtapositioning of semiotician and plumber.

The following excerpt is from a review of Paddy Agnew's "Forza Italia"

"So why is soccer so important in Italy?

"I think it matters to Italians for a combination of reasons. One is you have that whole tradition of bread and circuses dating back to the Romans," Agnew recently told CBC Sports Online. "Historically, the tradition of spectacle has always been important in Italy. It's a culture in which what goes on in public really matters, the public perception matters … and therefore spectacle matters, and by extension [soccer] matters because it is a great spectacle."

Agnew also explained that everyday life in Italy is weighted down by forte raccomandazione - systematic string-pulling where you can only get ahead if you know people in high places - and that Italians turn to soccer because it is a true meritocracy.

"In Italy, a lot of people instinctively feel [suspicious] of a guy who gets named director of the local bank or the local hospital because they don't know if he has the skills to do it or if he landed the job through raccomandazione," explained Agnew

"But in [soccer], if you get picked to play in goal for Juventus and the goalkeeper starts letting in a lot of goals, you can quickly see he doesn't have the skill for the job. You can't hide [any shortcomings] on the [soccer field]. So I think Italians care about [soccer] because, to a certain extent, there's an element of clarity to it that everyday life in Italy doesn't offer."

Spain, a short piece from "The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup" by Robert Coover.

I'll be adding some more later; still having a difficult time seperating myself from this every-four-years event.

Monday, July 10, 2006

We Won!

...well, when it comes to couch-potatoing and surrounding the globe of fire that is your standard tv set, it seems that Croatia was the country most glued to the boob tube. Croatia barely eeked out Uruguay, 16.4 to 16.2. Uruguay didn't even make it to the World Cup in Germany, but obviously the fans there are quite loyal to the roundball. Stats that would have been interesting? Worker productivity during the games and the number of restaurants that became self-service buffets when any game was on. I'm sure tourists, especially those not enamored of the Beautiful Game, in Croatia were not happy campers.

A Shame.

A veteran. A calming influence. A soon-to-be retiree honored on a world stage.
And then.....paaaffff! Like a ball hitting a nail. Head on. All of the air of the event and of France's chances came out in sudden and sad moment when Zinedine Zidane head-butted Italy defender Marco Materazzi. What a meltdown. Materazzi and Zidane were exchanging quips shortly before the incident. I'm sure Zidane has heard all of the possible vile things players shoot at each other to throw off their game. In multiple languages. Here was the World Cup final and some Materazzi bon-mots seemed to have driven Zidane past his breaking point. The French coach, studious-looking Raymond Domenech said he did not know what Materazzi said to Zidane. Whatever it was, Materazzi should have at least a share in the Golden Ball award as best player for having, with just words, eliminated a sure penalty kick goal by Zidane. As we all know, France lost the penalty kick shootout 5-3, with their fifth kick deemed unnecessary.

The funny thing about football (soccer) is that the goat of the final game, Zinedine Zidane, won the Golden Ball. It would have been one thing to award him for top player honors of the 2006 World Cup 2006, even if France lost, if he had stayed in for the entire game. But to have been red-carded on an unquestionably stupid and vicious act and to have probably cost his team the victory...the award just doesn't make sense.

On a postitive note, the much-maligned officiating was nowhere to be seen at yesterday's game. The diving was ignored and incidental fouls were brushed off if the offended team was in an offensive rush. Even on the unquestionable foul by Zidane, Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo consulted with all parties before pulling out the death card on Zidane. I thought he did a fabulous job, thus closing out the 2006 World Cup on a positive note, well at least from the refereeing point of view.

The penalty kick shoot-out? It's a passable rule when you're in the preliminary rounds. But for the final game? Awful. I was rooting for France, up until Zidane's meltdown which resulted in Italy's having a man advantage. With the limited amount of playing time left, Italy wasn't able to take advantage of that opportunity. Imagine the shock had Italy missed any of their penalty kicks? The shoot-out favors the weaker team, which France was at the end of two overtimes, having lost through ejection or injury three of their best players, Thierry, Zidane, and Ribery. Again, even though I was cheering on France to win, it would have been awful if Italy had lost in the shoot-out. I say eliminate the shoot-out, allow 3 more substitutions, including players already taken out of the game, and play on. Sudden death. Until one team scores. Might even give one of the pine-splintered backside bench warmers a chance to become an instant hero.

Wonder if Zidane will be a new entry in Socceranto? May I suggest:
Zidane: A person who dramtically falls from the highest grace in public through emotional stupidity.

As per this source (trust me on the translation), the comments made by Materazzi to Zidane, according to Zidane's brother, Rabah, were of a racial/religious nature. Zidane was born in Marseilles of Berber parents. The remark allegedly made was against Zidane's family, specifically his mother. There were reports that some Muslim web sites were calling for Materazzi's death based on the religious tones of his insults. This is getting ridiculous and dangerous. It's time for these two to make a joint appearance and try to put a quiet and final end to this boiling scenario.

Update (07/11/06):
Materazzi, as quoted in Gazette dello Sport, ""I did insult him, it's true. But I categorically did not call him a terrorist. I'm not cultured and I don't even know what an Islamic terrorist is."".

The Sun, reported it a bit differently. The English tabloid said the explosive sentence was "You're the son of a terrorist whore." What with folks' feelings runing fairly hot over there, Mr. Materazzi had better be peeking over his shoulder quite a bit.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Hornby on (English) Football

For those of you who may prefer the Read over the Game (think Keith Hernandez' "Pure Baseball" v. a real Phillies-Mets game), this book "The Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup" may be your way to appreciating the humungousnessicity (???) of football. The book is a collection of 32 stories, one for each team that qualified for the World Cup 2006 championship. As a tickler, here's a shortened version of a contribution to this book by Nick Hornby. I noticed I've been criminally negligent of posting a Nick Hornby realted entry. So, this will have to do.

A short quote from his story:
"Wayne Rooney was a teenager during the 2004 European Championships, but when he limped off injured in the game against Portugal, the team fell apart. He's very strong, incredibly skillful, and as likely to get a red card, possibly for swearing, as he is to score one of the best goals you've ever seen. (In a game against Arsenal last season, Rooney was estimated to have told the referee to f*** off more than twenty times in sixty seconds. As "foul and abusive language" is supposed to be a yellow-card offense, one can only presume that there are some really really bad words, words worse than the f-word and the c-word, that footballers know and we don't.) ".

Now if I could only figure how to be sure I'm sitting next to Mr. Hornby in South Africa in four years, cheek to cheek, watching the Red Sox English go down in flames once again at World Cup 2010.

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