A couple of dyed-in-the-red-wool Fenway fanatics -- who, by day, specialize in analyzing trends in health-care use -- wondered what happens to emergency room traffic when the Sox catapult into the playoffs. The result of their research: Last fall, while the Sox pummelled the Yankees in the deciding game of the league championship and, then, the Cardinals in Game Four of the World Series, business in the ER was as cold as Manny Ramirez's bat was hot. ''We knew if we were looking for any public event that would have an effect on health-care utilization, it would have to be the Red Sox championship games," said Ben Reis, inveterate Sox fan and Children's Hospital Boston researcher.... The researchers discovered that during the championship games, televisions were blaring in three of every five households in the Boston area, watching Curt, Johnny, and the rest of the self-proclaimed Idiots. At the same time, visits to the emergency rooms plummeted, on average, by 15 percent when compared to historical trends for ER visits on autumn evenings.
Fewer ER visits and more babies -- you know the recent Red Sox revival has been good for New England. [Sure, there are fewer visits, but do the Red Sox save lives?--ed. The reportage is unclear. On the one hand, it seems that people with chronic ailments might defer or postpone visits. On the other hand, "There was no evidence, the researchers from Children's report, of a surge in ER visits immediately after the game concluded." One has to wonder if there were fewer driving accidents, etc. while people were watching the games.]
Where is Chicago's next hot restaurant zone? We've already seen the Miracle on Randolph Street, West Division's dining surge, the South Loop's gradual buildup. What's next? Would you believe ... Hyde Park? Don't scoff. Or, go ahead and scoff. No one saw Randolph Street coming either. But Hyde Park, a largely well-to-do neighborhood (bounded by 44th Street, 60th Street, Cottage Grove Avenue and the lake) that for years has been underserved by the restaurant community, is poised to become, within a year or three, a legitimate dining destination. "I love that area," says restaurateur Jerry Kleiner. "There are 50,000 people here [44,700, according to the neighborhood's Web site], you've got the university and the hospital, and the city has been fixing up Lake Shore Drive. I thought this would be a good opportunity." And so in spring 2006, Kleiner is opening a 160-seat, 4,000-square-foot restaurant in the heart of Hyde Park. What has the dining community giddy with anticipation is the fact that Kleiner is regarded as something of a culinary pied piper. Where he goes, other restaurateurs quickly follow. More to the point, Kleiner has a track record of launching successful restaurants in neighborhoods others regard as "iffy."
Read the whole article, if you care about such things. I've heard this kind of talk about Hyde Park many times since I've been here, but Kleiner's track record makes me more optimistic than usual. Look out, Lincoln Park -- in, say 20 years, we will have closed the restaurant gap! Of course, this section of Vettel's piece brings me back to reality. It quotes Mary Mastricola, the owner of La Petite Folie, the one high-end restaurant in the area:
"The one shocker was not being able to find kitchen employees," she says. "You can get students to work in the dining room, but we ran ads looking for kitchen workers and we had kids responding who wanted $2 an hour extra because we're south. They'd rather work in higher-visibility places."
Left unspoken in the piece is why Mastricola doesn't just hire neighborhood residents beyond the student population. And don't get me started on the supermarket situation around here..... *Yes, devotees of Dixie Kitchen, or Medici, or Pizza Capri, there are some lovely places to eat around here. But a neighborhood of this size needs more than just a handful of good eateries.
[Atlanta Braves pitcher] Pascual Perez missed a start because he couldn't find the stadium, drove 100 miles on a loop freeway around Atlanta, circled the city two hours, missed his exit five times. Reds pitcher Johnny Ruffin hurt his knee watching television.
I was convinced that last one had to be a misprint, but I stumbled across this fine Peter Gammons column on Ripken that mentioned the same injury:
Cincinnati?s Johnny Ruffin was unavailable to pitch when he sat down on a couch in the players' lounge to watch television and his knee popped out of joint.
This kind of coverage was understandable with regard to a titanic bastard of a storm like Allison [a 2003 hurricane--DD], but it was only the latest in the local networks' long-standing pattern of milking every possible bit of fear and suspense out of viewers at the approach of tropical weather systems. It hardly seems to matter that computer models are roughly as accurate as a Ouija board while a storm is more than 48 hours out, or that storms like Allison are rare beasts indeed, for these days our doughty weatherpersons breathlessly report every developing tropical depression as if the End Times were upon us. Coverage increases in intensity until the tension is almost to much to take. I call it "hurricane porn." First, there's the foreplay, which (unlike in actual pornography) can take several days. It starts with Doppler radar and satellite images that grow progressively larger and, dare I say it, more tumescent as the system approaches the coast. Cloud cover grows and the winds pick up, and most TV stations will have reporters positioned along the coast in areas projected to be in the storm's path. These hardy souls eye the camera with come hither looks of dire urgency (I wish I could find screen captures of local ABC reporter Jessica Willey standing on a pier in Galveston during Claudette's rainy approach wearing a soaked-through white blouse - more than ratings were rising that evening, let me tell you). The anticipation continues to build in this fashion until landfall, which is where you get... Hot hurricane action: water crashes furiously over the sea wall, palm trees whip back and forth in an orgiastic frenzy and street signs waggle suggestively in the wind. Meanwhile, the rhythmically swaying area street lights almost seem to keep the beat for the omnipresent frenzy. This is the period where one sees the most pervasive coverage. TV stations will often interrupt regular programming in order to cut to live shots of their other reporters, who can be found "braving" the storm by standing right in the middle of the heaviest wind and rains. Speaking only for myself, I'd have a lot more respect for a newsperson who did their report from a bar, sipping a beer and leading off with, "You know, you'd have to be a real idiot to be outside on a night like this..." Maybe someday. Fortunately, the actual hurricane footage can only last so long, as most systems weaken rapidly once they make landfall. This is why television stations are so desperate for that money shot. You'll know it when you see it: a roof flying off a department store and disintegrating, or one of those aforementioned reporters getting blown into a ditch. If the networks are really lucky, they'll get film of a fireman rescuing a baby from a rooftop, or a woman pulled from her car just before it's covered by rising floodwaters. After something like that, you can't help but feel spent. Once the storm has blown inland, you can finally bask in the afterglow: blue sky shots of boats beached thirty feet above the tide line, hapless shmoes sweeping water out of their bedrooms, and the weatherman telling us it "could've been worse." That's when you light a cigarette and compare property damage with your neighbors. I'm waiting for the NOAA to extend hurricane season by a month and a half so it can include May and November sweeps.
I think this blogger actually underestimates the problem -- it's not just local news, it's the cable nets as well. See Michelle Catalano for more. Readers are invited to submit the most.... er.... pornographic moment of coverage they've seen to date. UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds believe that Katrina was worth the hype. And several commenters have pointed out that the blanket coverage probably saved lives in convincing people to get the heck out of the Big Easy. Valid arguments.... except I've been so inured to prior hurricane porn that it's now tough for me to distinguish between a genuine menace to mankind vs. some weathermen breathlessly claiming that some tropical depression could be huge. ANOTHER UPDATE: Alas, I spoke too soon about New Orleans.
It is the creation of Beloit?s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Director of Public Affairs Ron Nief. McBride, who directs Beloit?s First Year Initiatives (FYI) program for entering students, notes that "This year?s entering students have grown up in a country where the main business has become business, and where terrorism, from obscure beginnings, has built up slowly but surely to become the threat it is today. Cable channels have become as mainstream as the 'Big 3' used to be, formality in dress has become more quaint than ever, and Aretha Franklin, Kermit the Frog and Jimmy Carter have become old-timers." ?Each year,? according to Nief, ?When Beloit releases the Mindset List, it is the birth year of the entering students that is the most disturbing fact for most readers. [Most students entering college this fall were born in 1987--DD] This year will come as no exception and, once again, the faculty will remain the same age as the students get younger.?
My highlights from this year's list:
They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors. Boston has been working on "The Big Dig" all their lives. Iran and Iraq have never been at war with each other. The federal budget has always been more than a trillion dollars. Condoms have always been advertised on television. Money put in their savings account the year they were born earned almost 7% interest. Southern fried chicken, prepared with a blend of 11 herbs and spices, has always been available in China. Tom Landry never coached the Cowboys. Entertainment Weekly has always been on the newsstand. They never saw a Howard Johnson's with 28 ice cream flavors. They have grown up in a single superpower world.
And, in conclusion:
They have always been challenged to distinguish between news and entertainment on cable TV.
As one of America's most distinguished journalists, Jennings reported many of the pivotal events that have shaped our world. He was in Berlin in the 1960s when the Berlin Wall was going up, and there in the '90s when it came down. He covered the civil rights movement in the southern United States during the 1960s, and the struggle for equality in South Africa during the 1970s and '80s. He was there when the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965, and on the other side of the world when South Africans voted for the first time. He has worked in every European nation that once was behind the Iron Curtain. He was there when the independent political movement Solidarity was born in a Polish shipyard, and again when Poland's communist leaders were forced from power. And he was in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania and throughout the Soviet Union to record first the repression of communism and then its demise. He was one of the first reporters to go to Vietnam in the 1960s, and went back to the killing fields of Cambodia in the 1980s to remind Americans that, unless they did something, the terror would return. On Dec. 31, 1999, Jennings anchored ABC's Peabody-award winning coverage of Millennium Eve, "ABC 2000." Some 175 million Americans watched the telecast, making it the biggest live global television event ever. "The day belonged to ABC News," wrote The Washington Post, "&with Peter Jennings doing a nearly superhuman job of anchoring." Jennings was the only anchor to appear live for 25 consecutive hours. Jennings also led ABC's coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and America's subsequent war on terrorism. He anchored more than 60 hours that week during the network's longest continuous period of news coverage, and was widely praised for providing a reassuring voice during the time of crisis. TV Guide called him "the center of gravity," while the Washington Post wrote, "Jennings, in his shirt sleeves, did a Herculean job of coverage." The coverage earned ABC News Peabody and duPont awards.
I am not and never have been a big network news watcher, but my preference was always ABC, and the Jennings' detached, analytical demeanor was the reason. He will be missed.
[F]or most of baseball history, a "sore arm" was like a malevolent genie who visited pitchers in the night, entered their joints and corroded their futures from the inside with no explanation or recourse. Johnny Beazley, Karl Spooner, Mark Fidrych ... they all faded into anonymity before medicine could fix them, medicine we now take for granted. When you consider that almost every top modern pitcher has gone under the knife at some point -- heck, some throw harder after ligament-transplant surgery -- you realize what a lucky era we're in. So lucky that most people forget that Roger Clemens could have been one of those pitchers we never heard from again. It was 20 years ago that he and his throbbing shoulder lay on the operating table -- before any 20-strikeout games, before any Cy Young awards and before arthroscopy was a sure thing. Before Dr. James Andrews was sure he could fix him.... In June 1985, Clemens learned that a shoulder tendon and nerve were rubbing together, causing "the nerve to rise and get as big as shoelaces," Clemens said then. He tried to pitch through it but ultimately couldn't. On Aug. 23, he was told that he had a "flap tear" in his shoulder and was reportedly "devastated" by the news. The only good news was that the arthroscope, which originally had fixed knees in the 1970s, had come far enough that it could be used, instead of the more invasive scalpel, to shave down the damaged tissue. "We had very little knowledge [about pitchers] -- they hurt and that's about all we knew," recalls Dr. Andrews, who performed the hour-long surgery on Clemens. "We began to arthroscope shoulders and started being able to see what was inside. Roger was one of the early ones.".... Clemens has been such a machine for the past 20 years that many people can't (or don't want to) believe how close we were to losing him. I asked Andrews to consider what might have happened had Clemens been born just 10 years earlier and hurt his shoulder before the scalpel gave way to the arthroscope. "We probably wouldn't have been able to fix it," Andrews says sadly. "He probably would have fallen by the wayside."
The programming is broken down into short segments, or "pods," generally less than 10 minutes long, which focus on everything from style to newlywed experiences to money management to profiles of inspiring individuals. As each pod progresses, an indicator (like the one you see in QuickTime or iTunes) demonstrates how much time is left in the segment. If you've never seen your TV imitate your laptop before, that's just the beginning: The network hopes to receive a lot of its content from viewers, who are encouraged to shoot short pieces on video and upload them to the Current TV Web site. Viewers will vote on the best segments, and first-time contributors will make $250, while regular contributors will make around $1,000 per pod. At the press conference for his new cable network, Gore explained in earnest yet detached terms just how revolutionary he intends his venture to be: "I personally believe that when this medium is connected to the grass-roots storytellers that are out there, it will have an impact on the kinds of things that are discussed and the way they are discussed."
Well, Mo Ryan is certainly discussing Current TV in the Chicago Tribune -- and it sounds like Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch can rest easy for now:
For a channel that is supposed to be aimed squarely at 18 to 34 year olds and reflect their views and concerns, Current's remarkably clueless and elitist. And a fair amount of the content could be found just about anywhere else. We meet a couple of newlyweds who drive a Lexus and fight over whether to get a $1,200 icemaker (the expensive ones, you see, make clear ice, not cloudy ice). Young couples in New York City -- news flash! -- find the real-estate market daunting. We meet a couple who's just had a baby. Baby poop is, apparently, very smelly. Thanks, Current, for blowing my mind.
Havrilesky dumps on the on-air talent:
[T]he Current hosts are too sexy for their cable network. And not only do they introduce each segment with inane, bubbly comments that make it sound far more fluffy and empty than it is, but they reappear after each segment to sum up their feelings about what happened. This is why we know that watching a pod about dating in Iran makes former Miss USA Shauntay Hinton realize "how lucky I am to be free to do what the hell I wanna do! Yeah!" and watching a segment on suicide in Japan "pretty much took the wind right out of my [host Johnny Bell's] sail." Bell adds, "Not much more to say, but it's tragic." As a result, tuning in to Current TV sometimes feels like going to see a moving documentary with a semiliterate preteen who insists on recasting the entire story in the shallowest of terms the second the credits start to roll.
Hmmm.... this almost makes the hosts sound like.... bloggers. And yes, the channel has its own blog. In the interest of providing greater depth than the semiliterate preteen, check out Chip Crews in the Washington Post if you want a somewhat more charitable view of their first day. And, if they manage to hang around for more than a decade, you just know that someone is going to write a TV column that begins, "Remember when Current TV used to run pods?"
For many of us who attended Lollapaloozas more than a decade ago, the prospect of returning to this hipster music festival can make us feel a little creaky. I mean, can we really feel comfortable coming back as people whose lives of late-night carousing and multiple piercings have been replaced by late-night feedings and multiple strollers? According to Lollapalooza founder and dad Perry Farrell, the answer is a resounding "Yes!" That's because this year's Lollapalooza features a special family area called Kidzapalooza, where all children under 10 get in free with a ticketholding adult. "Since I started Lollapalooza I've had three children and I've become very aware of the fact that there aren't many family-oriented activities geared towards parents like me . . . Lollapalooza Parents," says Farrell. "Kidzapalooza gives us something we can share with our whole family--a festival with family-oriented entertainment and activities that can educate and enliven the spirits of our kids, while also giving us a place to hear great music for our own ears." It's also a way to expand the reach of the festival and test new waters for this event that is in the process of reconceptualization. But it is also a boon to rock-loving parents who thought that their minivans, Diaper Genie skills and multiple offspring had exiled them from Coolville forever.
10) The Fumble (1978). The New York Giants had a regular-season game wrapped up against the Philadelphia Eagles. Then QB Joe Pisarcik was told to hand the ball off to Larry Csonka instead of downing it himself. Herman Edwards (now the coach of the New York Jets) caught the fumble and went on to score, propelling the Eagles into the playoffs. Because of this play, in part, my father still cannot watch the Giants live. 9) The Pass (1985). Doug Flutie's 60 yeard heave to Gerald Phelan in the closing seconds of a regular season game against Miami on Thanksgiving Day. It capped an extraordinary display of offense by both teams. 8) The Tackle (1999). The Tennessee Titans' Steve McNair, on the last play of scrimmage in Super Bowl, completes a pass to Kevin Dyson at the Rams' one yard line. Mike Jones makes the game-saving tackle as Dyson tries in vain to break the plane of the end zone. 7) Mark Ingram's catch (1990). Super Bowl XXV, third quarter, down by two, third and 13 at the Buffalo 32. Ingram catches a two yard pass, breaks four tackles, and gets the first down. The Giants take the lead on that drive, which was the longest in Super Bowl history. 6) The Dunk (1983). Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma was supposed to destroy N.C. State in the 1983 NCAA tournament final. Lo and behold, an airball + Lorenzo Charles = Jim Valvano running around the court like a maniac. 5) Joe Theisman's last play (1985). Monday Night Football's introduction of it's "super-slo-mo" instand replay coincided with Lawrence Taylor sacking Theisman into the back of Leonard Marshall (I think). Immediately after the play ended, Taylor started gesticulating wildly to the Redskins bench for their trainer. ABC showed why -- the images of Theisman's leg breaking must have been replayed in super slo mo at least ten times before play resumed. I have no memory of who won that game, but I'll always remember Theisman's shin bending in the most unnatural way. 4) Michael Jordan's final minute as a Bull (1998). Strong drive to the basket for a lay-up. A steal of Karl Malone under the Bulls' basket. A a 20-footer with 5.2 seconds left, nothing but net. Having seen the final shot replay numerous times, I'm still not sure if Byron Russell fell down because Jordan faked him out or if there was a push. 3) The fourth set tie-breaker (1979). The British despised John McEnroe before his first final against Bjorn Borg. After the tiebreaker in the fourth set -- in which McEnroe fought off five match points -- the relationship turned more into a love-hate one. With the big serves in today's tennis, I'm not sure this match will ever be equalled. 2) Back to Foulke (2004). Until Foulke caught that ball, I wasn't completely convinced that the Red Sox were actually going to win the World Series (The NESN DVD, interestingly enough, shows that Foulke almost didn't hold onto the ball). The moment he caught it, I stopped caring about 1978, 1986, etc.... 1) David Ortiz's final at-bat, ALCS, Game 5 (2004). Sure, Ortiz hit more dramatic homers, but his at-bat against Loiza led to the walk-off hit than ended the greatest game of the 2004 postseason, and perhaps the greatest game ever in baseball. Loiza hada lousy 2004 season, but he pitched well that night, and Ortiz fought off five straight nasty cut fastballs before he finally muscled the game-winning single. The end of this game is #1 for another reason -- my wife finally got it. Until Game 5, Erika thought my Red Sox fandom was a particularly extreme aberrational aspect of my behavior. Fox's coverage of the extra innings -- in which there were plenty of shots of fans on both sides gnawing at anything to try to keep some semblance of emotional control -- convinced my lovely wife that this was a regional epidemic, and hardly unique to me.
That's it -- feel free to add yours. [Where the hell is the Miracle on Ice? You saw that, right?--ed. Oh, I saw it, but no one outside of the ice rink saw it live. ABC showed the game tape-delayed. And thank God there was no World Wide Web back then, because it would have been too tempting to find out who had won beforehand. As it was, my parents turned off all the radios and TVs in the house to ensure ignorance.]
James Henry Smith was a zealous Pittsburgh Steelers fan in life, and even death could not keep him from his favorite spot: in a recliner, in front of a TV showing his beloved team in action. Smith, 55, of Pittsburgh, died of prostate cancer Thursday. Because his death wasn't unexpected, his family was able to plan for an unusual viewing Tuesday night. The Samuel E. Coston Funeral Home erected a small stage in a viewing room, and arranged furniture on it much as it was in Smith's home on game day Sundays. Smith's body was on the recliner, his feet crossed and a remote in his hand. He wore black and gold silk pajamas, slippers and a robe. A pack of cigarettes and a beer were at his side, while a high-definition TV played a continuous loop of Steelers highlights. "I couldn't stop crying after looking at the Steeler blanket in his lap," said his sister, MaryAnn Nails, 58. "He loved football and nobody did (anything) until the game went off. It was just like he was at home."
Readers are free to interpret the story as an example of:
Me, I'm still trying to stop laughing.
"Two different strategies -- the French and the British," Dutch member Anton Geesink said. "The British, they explained their love of the sport. It is a love affair for Sebastian Coe, that was the difference. Love you can explain, but you can't sell it." Senior Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper said London won because of the way it sold its message in the final hours. "They delivered on the day," he said. "The presentation just had that little extra feel."
Which is not to say that the French weren't passionate -- it's just that the passion of their president, Jacques Chirac, might have been directed at the wrong targets:
The French and the British are having another food fight. It broke out Monday when the French newspaper Liberation reported that French President Jacques Chirac had labeled British cuisine the worst in Europe except for Finland's. He also was quoted as saying that mad cow disease was Britain's sole contribution to European agriculture and that "we can't trust people who have such bad food." The British press responded in reliable fashion. "Don't talk crepe, Jacques!" scorned London's tabloid Sun. "A man full of bile is not fit to pronounce on food," food critic Egon Ronay told the Guardian.... While the British are used to a cultural rivalry with the French, Chirac could have damaged his country's Olympic bid by tarring Finland with the same basting brush. London's Sun noted that although British and French International Olympic Committee members are banned from voting, two Finnish IOC members will be voting, and their ballots could be crucial.
When Jason Varitek leaped into Keith Foulke's arms Oct. 27, 2004, they weren't the only ones embracing on that glorious night across Red Sox Nation. Back in Boston, Dr. Robyn Riseberg and her husband, Doug, had a couple of beers, decided the stars were aligned, and celebrated the World Series championship in their own way. ''I will not refute that," said Riseberg, blushing slightly. Now, there's living proof. Emma Smith Riseberg, 5 pounds 5 ounces, was born June 18 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, six weeks early and with a head of hair that would make Johnny Damon envious. She is the first known baby conceived after the Red Sox won the world championship. Baby Emma already has a full Red Sox wardrobe and tickets in Section 16 from her season ticket-holding grandparents. Dr. Riseberg, a lifelong Sox fan, was on bed rest for eight weeks. ''We have Red Sox in our blood," she said. ''She gave me a run for my money, just like the Sox." There are already signs of a ''Red Sox phenomenon," according to Isis Maternity, the largest provider of childbirth education and parent services in New England. The due dates start roughly in mid-July, nine months after the Evil Empire was destroyed in four straight games, and continue through August. ''Last week we sold more memberships than we had any other week," said Jo Myers McChesney, cofounder of Isis Maternity. ''There could definitely be a little bit of a Red Sox phenomenon going on. People being fired up after the playoffs and the World Series. We have strong class enrollment for couples delivering in late July and August, and they may very well end up being higher than other months." Red Sox newborn baby clothes are flying off the shelves faster than Dave Roberts dashing for second base. ''We have definitely sold record numbers of Red Sox paraphernalia," said McChesney. ''Onesies for babies, teeny tiny T-shirts for newborns with Red Sox logos. We have definitely seen and expect to see an increase in kids named Manny."
Click here for the Globe's accompanying photo essay.
The Chicago White Sox have the best record in baseball, and their best chance in years of ending an 88-year drought of World Series championships. But here in one of America's great sports towns, hardly anyone seems to care. The team has tried almost everything to lure fans, including half-price tickets on Mondays, $1 hot dogs, and roving bands of cheerleaders who give free tickets to anyone who happens to be wearing a White Sox hat or jersey. Still, the Sox are averaging only 23,000 fans a game -- a tad more than half the capacity of their South Side home, U.S. Cellular Field. When the Sox recently faced another first-place team, the Los Angeles Angels, only about 20,000 showed up, despite delightful weather and a 2-for-1 ticket special. "I've always said that the PR department should just hand out tickets to the upper deck -- they'd at least get the money for parking," Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle says. Despite his 7-1 won-loss record, the 6-foot-2-inch lefthander says he rarely gets recognized around town.... At the heart of the Sox's troubled wooing of Chicago lies a conundrum worthy of Yogi Berra: They haven't been good enough to win, and they haven't been bad enough to tap into baseball's romance with hapless losers.... as of yesterday afternoon, the Sox led the American League's Central Division by five games. They've built their 42-21 record on strong pitching, speedy base-running and late-inning comebacks. Mirroring the South Side's rough-and-tumble image, the team consists mostly of scrappy, low-priced, no-name players. Some blame attendance problems on owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who threatened to move the team to Florida in the 1980s and was a leading hard-liner in the 1994 baseball strike, which began when the Sox happened to be in first place in their division. Some fans say Tribune Co., which owns the Cubs and two of Chicago's biggest media outlets -- the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV -- slights the Sox in its coverage. Mike North, a local sports-radio host, says the Sox get the most ink when there's a crime near their ballpark. Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath says, "We try to be as fair and balanced as we can." Many people fault Comiskey Park, which one local columnist has described as having the feel of West Berlin during the Cold War. The park, which replaced the old Comiskey in 1991 and was renamed U.S. Cellular Field in 2003, is bordered by a rust-stained concrete wall, train tracks and an interstate highway. Some of Chicago's toughest housing projects loom beyond the outfield fence. There are only a few bars within walking distance.... The Cell, as the team's ballpark is often called here, was one of the last efficient but unappealing fields built before stadiums in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and San Francisco showed how to design a park that's equal parts ballfield and tourist attraction. In response to fan complaints, the White Sox have spent $80 million over the past five years to make their stadium cozier, adding shapely awnings, tearing off the uppermost rows and, for opening day next year, switching seats from blue to forest green. There are advantages to attending a Sox game. Bathroom lines are short and foul balls are easier to nab. But many Chicagoans prefer the cozy confines of historic Wrigley Field, with its ivy-covered outfield walls, hand-operated scoreboard and neighborhood teeming with saloons. Despite a mediocre performance most of the year, the second-place Cubs have played to 98% capacity, and nearly had a sellout April 23 when they lost to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates in near-freezing temperatures with 25-mile-an-hour winds blasting off Lake Michigan. "Even if we win the World Series this year, Wrigley will still sell out next year," Sox first baseman Paul Konerko says. "But I can't guarantee we'd be sold out here."
As it turns out, last night I took my father to a pretty exciting game at the Cell -- and would have to concur that the West Berlin answer makes the most sense. The park itself is actually quite nice -- it's not Wrigley, mind you, but it's fan-friendly. However, there is simply nothing (in the way of shops, restaurants, bars, etc.) surrounding the ballpark. UPDATE: As has been pointed out in the comments, there is a double irony in all of this -- most sabermetric analysts predicted that this year's White Sox team -- built on speed and pitching -- would crash and burn.
Bob Woodward... was in the midst of the starting-gate frenzy. Places like Washington and New York attract large numbers of ambitious young people who have spent their short lives engaged in highly structured striving: getting good grades, getting into college. Suddenly they are spit out into the vast, anarchic world of adulthood, surrounded by a teeming horde of scrambling peers, and a chaos of possibilities and pitfalls. They discover that though they are really good at manipulating the world of classrooms, they have no clue about how actual careers develop, how people move from post to post. And all they have to do to find their way amid this confusion is to answer one little question: What is the meaning and purpose of my life? ....Entering the world of the Higher Shamelessness, they begin networking like mad, cultivating the fine art of false modesty and calculated friendships. The most nakedly ambitious - the blogging Junior Lippmanns - rarely win in the long run, but that doesn't mean you can't mass e-mail your essays for obscure online sites with little "Thought you might be interested" notes.... This is now a normal stage of life. And if Bob Woodward could get through something like it, perhaps they will too. For that is the purpose of Watergate in today's culture. It isn't about Nixon and the cover-up anymore. It's about Woodward and Bernstein. Watergate has become a modern Horatio Alger story, a real-life fairy tale, an inspiring ode for mediacentric college types - about the two young men who found exciting and challenging jobs, who slew the dragon, who became rich and famous by doing good and who were played by Redford and Hoffman in the movie version.
As you would expect, one Junior Lippman takes the time to respond -- but if you ask me, Brooks' point has attracted too much attention for it to be dismissed lightly -- see Elizabeth Bumiller and Tim Noah for more on this theme. Issenberg, meanwhile, has a great piece in Slate about how Felt's revelations bring to mind an excellent Watergate movie -- and it ain't All the President's Men:
Unlike the movie that made Woodward and Bernstein into matinee idols, the 1999 comedy Dick stripped Watergate of its cloak-and-dagger and left it in pigtails.... Superficially, Dick was a spoof on All the President's Men. In place of the earlier film's battle between two grand Washington institutions, Dick renders the White House and the Washington Post as sitcom offices. Heroic Woodward is played not by dashing Redford, but by Will Ferrell, with the halting inanity he brings to every role. But Dick was really a riposte to Oliver Stone's 1991 epic JFK, which trolled every nook and cranny of Kennedy-assassination conspiracy. In exploring each little question raised by the events in Dallas (including many that are settled, in the eyes of every serious scholar), Stone seeks out the most abstrusely nefarious explanation possible.... Our disenchantment with Deep Throat follows a common American narrative: What begins as conspiracy is eventually reduced to camp. Dick sends up what Richard Hofstadter in 1964 identified as "the paranoid style in American politics." The movie doesn't make light of Watergate?the gravity of Nixon's crimes isn't questioned, and his young friends are shocked by his meanness, even if he doesn't come across as diabolical?as much as it spoofs the narrative impulses that drew us to Watergate as a tale. Both Dick and the recent Deep Throat unveiling leave us to reckon with the dissonance of Watergate's importance and its minor-league cast of characters. With JFK, Oliver Stone tried to invent a story that, in its sprawling scope, could be as big as the death of a president?a counterpoint to a Warren Commission version written in a language of narrowing: lone gunman, single-bullet theory. In Dick, both heroes and villains come only in size small: They are all central-casting buffoons.
Hmmm.... paranoid style in American politics infecting public commentary... yes, that sounds familiar. Well, at least Felt's revelations will put the conspiracy meme to rest on this question. Oh, wait....
The idea that some ethnic groups may, on average, be more intelligent than others is one of those hypotheses that dare not speak its name. But Gregory Cochran, a noted scientific iconoclast, is prepared to say it anyway. He is that rare bird, a scientist who works independently of any institution.... Together with Jason Hardy and Henry Harpending, of the University of Utah, he is publishing, in a forthcoming edition of the Journal of Biosocial Science, a paper which not only suggests that one group of humanity is more intelligent than the others, but explains the process that has brought this about. The group in question are Ashkenazi Jews. The process is natural selection. Ashkenazim generally do well in IQ tests, scoring 12-15 points above the mean value of 100, and have contributed disproportionately to the intellectual and cultural life of the West, as the careers of Freud, Einstein and Mahler, pictured above, affirm. They also suffer more often than most people from a number of nasty genetic diseases, such as Tay-Sachs and breast cancer. These facts, however, have previously been thought unrelated. The former has been put down to social effects, such as a strong tradition of valuing education. The latter was seen as a consequence of genetic isolation. Even now, Ashkenazim tend to marry among themselves. In the past they did so almost exclusively. Dr Cochran, however, suspects that the intelligence and the diseases are intimately linked. His argument is that the unusual history of the Ashkenazim has subjected them to unique evolutionary pressures that have resulted in this paradoxical state of affairs.
Read the whole article to understand the explanation of Cochran et al. Here's a link to their working paper on the topic. The thing is, Cochran has also advanced the idea that, "homosexuality is caused by an infection," which is just strange.
[I]n case you were thinking of watching Risky Business after reading about it on OxBlog, I have one word for you: Don't.
Any movie with the line, "Joel, get off the babysitter" deserves better treatment than that. Heresy, I say!! Heresy!! On a slightly more serious note -- I haven't seen the movie in some years, but my memory is that it's quite a good flick. The interesting question is whether this is true because I first saw the movie when I was roughly the protagonist's age. It's possible -- not probable, but possible -- that I'm viewing this film through rose-colored glasses. There are movies that occupy a more prominent place in our personal pantheons because of when we see them, and the good memories we associate with that time. There are "generational" movies that are valued because they click on some level with one's entire peer group -- The Shawshank Redemption for Generation Y or Rebel Without A Cause for baby-boomers, for example. Readers are encouraged to debate the merits of Risky Business, or to confess the movies that they adore but recognize may not be as good as they originally thought. Oh. and this seems as good a time as any to link to Time's "All-Time 100 Movies." UPDATE: Hey, apparently this concern of mine has a name -- the Tron effect.
I'm not certain, but I think Frank Gorshin introduced me to idea of actors as real people. My little 4 or 5-year-old brain vividly seized upon the fact that the guy who was the Riddler on the 60s Batman TV series seemed to be the same guy in the wild black-white face make-up in that Star Trek show -- and boy was Bele sweaty!
Oddly enough, Gorshin played a role in my movie education -- an awareness of costume design. In the 1966 Batman movie, Frank Gorshin wore the most awesome-looking suit I'd ever seen -- it's what Gorshin's wearing on the front page of his web site. Nothing Jim Carrey wore in Batman Forever comes close to it. The moment I saw Gorshin cavorting around in it, I didn't want to be Batman anymore -- the Riddler was the guy for me. Reading the obits, I was delighted to find out in Joal Ryan's E! Online story that Gorshin's co-star loved the costume as well:
Outfit in the archvillain's question-mark-covered green body-stocking, Gorshin bedeviled Gotham City's finest--Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, respectively--with a manic energy, a hyena laugh and assorted tranquilizer guns.... Gorshin appeared in eight episodes, encompassing four cliffhanger storylines broadcast on back-to-back nights, in Batman's first breakout season. Then he picked up an Emmy nomination. Then he did the movie, teaming up with Bat enemies Cesar Romero (the Joker), Burgess Meredith (the Penguin) and Meriwether (Catwoman). Then Gorshin got a little worn out on the costume. "He didn't like the tights--I know that," Meriwether remembered Wednesday. "Back then, they were cotton and they [only] had a little bit of stretch in them...[In the movie], they gave him a gorgeous suit to wear--oh, it was wonderful."
The Riddler is dead.... or is he???????????
CBS canceled "Judging Amy," "Joan of Arcadia" and the Wednesday spinoff of "60 Minutes" while adding Jennifer Love Hewitt to its prime-time lineup ? all in search of a more youthful appeal.... CBS is convinced it can draw more younger viewers on Friday, where "Joan of Arcadia" had a puzzling decline in its sophomore season and "JAG" finished its last year. It will try two new supernatural stories: "Threshold" features a team of experts called in when the Navy discovers aliens have landed in the Atlantic Ocean. Hewitt's "Ghost Whisperer" finds her talking to dead people. "I think talking to ghosts may skew younger than talking to God," Moonves said. (emphasis added)
The Reuters account makes it clear that Moonves said this in jest, but religious conservatives might not get the joke... plus, they'll be too angry about the cancellation of "Joan" to make way for a Jennifer Love Hewitt vehicle.... particularly if Hewitt's wardrobe conforms to her stereotype. UPDATE: Yep -- Drudge has the story. Again, it's worth stressing the Reuters account ("'I think talking to ghosts may skew younger than talking to God,' Moonves joked at a news conference before the upfront presentation). I suspect this is a case where reading the quote in cold print strikes a dramatically different chord than the effect of hearing Moonves say it.
[I]n discussing the process that birthed the prequels, Lucas finally seems capable of being candid. one are the If it made $400 million then it must have been good and The kids loved it! rationalizations (both of which can be strongly supported) that he peddled while promoting Clones. Now he volunteers that his prequel story line -- derived from material he'd brainstormed over 30 years ago to inform his writing of Star Wars -- was "thin.... It was not written as a movie. It's basically a character study and exhibition piece about politics--two things that are not dramatic. [Not like] the dramatic story that was constructed for Star Wars. But I wanted to be faithful to it, so I didn't construct other stories. It is what it is." Nor did he want to consolidate Menace and Clones, either. Lucas felt that exploring "the full range of Anakin's personality" made sense if three films addressed him at three different ages. And he wanted no hint of the dark side in Skywalker until Sith. "He has to start good and turn evil," says Lucas. "You can't have a monster turning into a monster. That's not a story." Lucas believes that his biggest gamble was starting the saga with Jake Lloyd's gee-whiz kid in Menace. Even his marketing team was skeptical. "That's a little bit why it got overhyped. People [here] were nervous if it was going to break even," says Lucas of Menace's notorious promotional push. "I didn't care. I said, 'This is the story. I know I'm going to need to use Hamburger Helper to get it to two hours, but that's what I want to do.'" By Lucas' own calculation, 60 percent of the prequel plot he dreamed up decades earlier takes place in Sith. The remaining 40 percent he split evenly between Menace and Clones, meaning each film contained a lot of...filler. Or, in Lucas parlance, "jazz riffs... things that I enjoy... just doodle around a lot."
I'm glad to hear that Lucas agrees with me about the quality of his last two films... except that Lucas didn't cop to this when Episodes I and II came out. And the promotional campaign for Episode III has been just as heavy as the roll-out for Episode I. So I'm not getting close to a movie house for this one unless there's multiple independent confirmations that the movie is good. [But in the Jensen story the Star Wars-obsessed Kevin Smith is quoted saying, "Sith will not only enthrall the faithful, but it'll pull the haters back from the Dark Side."--ed. Two words: Jersey Girl.] To date I've been able to resist the siren song of Revenge of the Sith. Reading Jensen's story and thinking about Lucas' execrable "Hamburger Helper" will make it even harder to turn me to the dark side. [You'll see it at some point. It is your.... destiny--ed. Oh, go do promos for CNN or something.] UPDATE: Well, A.O. Scott praises the movie in the New York Times, but has this ominous line: "Mr. Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking - acting and writing - is remarkable." Meanwhile, Kelli nicely encapsulates my attitude towards Lucas -- and asks an interesting question: "whether to take the kids." Sith is rated PG-13. Discuss away!!
It turns out many customers are having entirely rational reactions to rising interest rates (and perhaps the new bankruptcy law). They're taking the sometimes painful steps necessary to reduce credit card debt before it gets too onerous. Perhaps MBNA was caught short because it has taken consumers so long to wake up. For nearly 20 years, consumers were schooled to believe that interest rates generally fell and that any increases were short-term blips. Now, the Fed has boosted rates seven times recently, and we've entered a period in which interest rates will likely rise or remain stable—but not fall. Credit card companies have been operating in an era of falling interest rates so long that they may have forgotten that when interest rates rise, people either seek to pay down debt or look for cheaper sources of financing.... There's another wrinkle in the complex interest-rate climate that may hurt credit card companies. Interest rates on credit cards tend to respond to moves in short-term interest rates, which means they are rising. But mortgage rates respond to moves in long-term interest rates. And those rates remain remarkably low. Since long-term rates are steady, it now makes more sense for people who need cash to turn to a home-equity line of credit rather than to an MBNA card. At the margins, some Americans seem to be using their slowly growing incomes to reduce credit card debt rather than to buy new stuff. (That could be one factor behind March's weak retail spending report.)
And while we're on the subject of consumer behavior, could commentators please stop bashing Americans for not saving enough when they are acting rationally? If the assets that Americans hold -- like equities or their houses, for example -- are dramatically increasing in value, then it makes sense that their stream of additional savings will taper off. Meanwhile, earlier this week Jonathan Bor and Frank Roylance reported in the Baltimore Sun that just a smidgen of obesity might be good for you:
Government analysts downgraded the annual death toll from obesity Tuesday in a study that is certain to bewilder a public already obsessed with dieting and nutrition. In fact, they inexplicably found that people who weigh a few pounds more than the ideal are less likely to die than those who weigh a few pounds less. Taken together, the findings will undoubtedly leave scientists and consumers arguing over obesity's true role in mortality -- though no one argues that being overweight is good for you. The latest report by scientists with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that obesity kills about 112,000 people a year, only a third of the number estimated just four months ago.... The study, which mines data from three national health surveys spanning the 1970s through 2000, also found that people who are slightly overweight actually have a lower chance of dying than people who weigh a few pounds less. The same cannot be said for people who are truly obese; they face a greater risk the more weight they gain. Health experts agree that American are becoming fatter with each passing year, leading to an epidemic of diabetes, even among children. Still, Tuesday's announcement will hearten critics who have argued that government agencies, which spend millions convincing Americans to eat less and exercise more, have inflated obesity's death toll.
The legal team here at danieldrezner.com would like to remind everyone that this report does not recommend obesity and that anyone now tempted to go order several Hardee's Monster Thickburgers are doing so at their own discretion and not with the blessing of danieldrezner.com. More seriously, check out food economist Parke Wilde for an informed appraisal of the ramifications of the CDCP study. Finally, that allegedly brain-dead American boob tube may acually provide more cognitive stimulation than previously thought. Steven Johnson explains why this might be true in the New York Times Magazine:
For decades, we've worked under the assumption that mass culture follows a path declining steadily toward lowest-common-denominator standards, presumably because the ''masses'' want dumb, simple pleasures and big media companies try to give the masses what they want. But as that ''24'' episode suggests, the exact opposite is happening: the culture is getting more cognitively demanding, not less. To make sense of an episode of ''24,'' you have to integrate far more information than you would have a few decades ago watching a comparable show. Beneath the violence and the ethnic stereotypes, another trend appears: to keep up with entertainment like ''24,'' you have to pay attention, make inferences, track shifting social relationships. This is what I call the Sleeper Curve: the most debased forms of mass diversion -- video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms -- turn out to be nutritional after all. I believe that the Sleeper Curve is the single most important new force altering the mental development of young people today, and I believe it is largely a force for good: enhancing our cognitive faculties, not dumbing them down. And yet you almost never hear this story in popular accounts of today's media. Instead, you hear dire tales of addiction, violence, mindless escapism. It's assumed that shows that promote smoking or gratuitous violence are bad for us, while those that thunder against teen pregnancy or intolerance have a positive role in society. Judged by that morality-play standard, the story of popular culture over the past 50 years -- if not 500 -- is a story of decline: the morals of the stories have grown darker and more ambiguous, and the antiheroes have multiplied. The usual counterargument here is that what media have lost in moral clarity, they have gained in realism. The real world doesn't come in nicely packaged public-service announcements, and we're better off with entertainment like ''The Sopranos'' that reflects our fallen state with all its ethical ambiguity. I happen to be sympathetic to that argument, but it's not the one I want to make here. I think there is another way to assess the social virtue of pop culture, one that looks at media as a kind of cognitive workout, not as a series of life lessons. There may indeed be more ''negative messages'' in the mediasphere today. But that's not the only way to evaluate whether our television shows or video games are having a positive impact. Just as important -- if not more important -- is the kind of thinking you have to do to make sense of a cultural experience. That is where the Sleeper Curve becomes visible.
Read the whole thing. The only troubling note I found in the piece was the admission that, "The only prominent holdouts [to more cognitively sophisticated plots] in drama are shows like ''Law and Order'' that have essentially updated the venerable ''Dragnet'' format and thus remained anchored to a single narrative line." Which is true, except that when you tally up all the "Law and Order" and "CSI" shows & spinoffs, that's an awful lot of the prime time schedule. Johnson earns my goodwill, however, by labeling his phenomenon the Sleeper Curve after this classic exchange from the Woody Allen movie Sleeper:
SCIENTIST A: Has he asked for anything special? SCIENTIST B: Yes, this morning for breakfast . . . he requested something called ''wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk.'' SCIENTIST A: Oh, yes. Those were the charmed substances that some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties. SCIENTIST B: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or . . . hot fudge? SCIENTIST A: Those were thought to be unhealthy.
It was the kind of headline that sells. "Michael Chabon's Holocaust Hoax," read the cover of the April-May issue of Bookforum. Inside, the article, by Paul Maliszewski, suggested that Mr. Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, had exceeded the bounds of poetic license in a lecture that he has given perhaps half a dozen times since 2003. In the lecture, titled "Golems I Have Known, or, Why My Eldest Son's Name Is Napoleon," Mr. Chabon recounts a version of his childhood, laced with some tall tales (saying, for instance, that he has encountered several golems, the clay monsters of Jewish lore), and tells the story of a counterfeit Holocaust survivor he'd once met who turns out to be an ex-Nazi in hiding. Mr. Maliszewski pointed out that the Nazi character was entirely fictional, and contended that Mr. Chabon had misled his listeners into believing it was real. He suggested that Mr. Chabon had "fashioned a Jewish identity for himself that incorporates - through an utter fiction - the Holocaust." The lecture's organizers have said the lecture was clearly advertised as a series of yarns. In a letter that will be printed in the next issue of Bookforum, Matthew Brogan, program director for the Jewish literary nonprofit organization Nextbook, which sponsored some of the performances, wrote that Mr. Chabon had "signaled to the audience at every turn that the narrator is not to be completely trusted." Mr. Maliszewski, he added, had "deliberately misread these signs in the hope of stirring up a scandal." In the Bookforum article, Mr. Maliszewski admits that, as a reporter at a Syracuse business newspaper, he besieged his own paper with parodic letters to the editor. Later, he became the Web editor of McSweeney's Quarterly, a job that his editor said ended when Mr. Maliszewski sent McSweeney's subscribers an anonymous e-mail newsletter full of invented gossip about other writers.
So if I understand this correctly: A writer that has frequently fudged facts for fun has fingered a fellow fabulist for fictionalizing facts for fortune, even though that fabulist foretold his fictions before his oration. [Now my head hurts--ed. If I'm going down, I'm taking people with me!] Seriously, it seems like Maliszewski is off his rocker.
Then came the 1986 World Series and the Great Buckner Collapse. At that point, I figured I'd suffered enough. I got a divorce. Amicable, but still a divorce. With a prodigious act of will, I resolved to follow the Sox -- but at an enforced distance. I refused to live or die with them. Which is how I got through Grady's Blunder -- leaving Pedro in too long -- in Game 7 of the 2003 Red Sox-Yankees playoff. It was a hard fall for Sox fans, but I came through it beautifully -- feeling delighted, indeed somewhat superior, at my partial emancipation from the irrationality of fandom (far more troubling than the pain). Thus a free man, almost purged of all allegiance, I watched with near-indifference as the Montreal Expos moved to Washington. Little did I know.
I know this is a lighter column for Krauthammer, but it's almost criminally negligent for him to go from discussing his passion for the Sox to his interest in the Nats without mentioning how he felt being on the outside looking in at the Red Sox successful 2004 season.
How could Trivial Pursuit survive in the age of Google? The Internet has rewritten the rules of the game. The old measure of the trivia master was how many facts he could cram into his head. The new measure is how nimbly he can manipulate a search engine to call up the answer. The ABC show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire included a lifeline called "phone-a-friend," in which a desperate contestant was supposed to call upon the knowledge of a smart companion. Seconds after the contestant dialed for help, you could hear the guy on the other end pecking away at a keyboard—Googling—and I thought, This is it. Trivia is dead. That's overstating it a little. Trivia lives; it's generalist trivia, the kind of fluency that Trivial Pursuit prized, that's ailing. Just as the Internet splintered trivia into thousands of niches, Trivial Pursuit has contented itself with turning out games like "90s Time Capsule" and "Book Lover's," and, more frighteningly, those devoted solely to the vagaries of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Gone is the proud generalist of the original Trivial Pursuit, who knew the most common Russian surname (Ivanov) and the international radio code word for the letter O (Oscar). In his place is the specialist, who knows every inch of Return of the Jedi. There are many of us who have a nagging fear we belong to the latter group. "What jungle planet do Wookiees hail from?" a Star Wars card asks. Let's say, hypothetically and only for the sake of argument, that I know the answer. Who is supposed to be impressed by that?
This argument is akin to Cass Sunstein's "cyberbalkanization" hypothesis from republic.com. The only problem is that Curtis contradicts his closing earlier in the piece by observing: "23 years after its American debut, the original [Genus] edition still accounts for a huge percentage of Trivial Pursuit's 80 million units sold." If memory serves, a Genus II edition was also pitched to the generalist. In fact, since most trivia games are played in person, the Internet's effect on this social institution is likely to be marginal.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.