Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Freedom Tower: An Unfortunate Mirror

The major change was to the 187-foot-high base,
which will be clad in a screen of glass prisms rather than metal panels.

The latest design for the Freedom Tower has just been released. A year ago I lamented the awful decision to make the first 20 or so stories a grim steel and concrete base. But in a regretable progression, they are now sheathing the base in a screen of glass prisms. Thus the poetic effect enhanced. The screen becomes superficially inviting while remaining impentrable at its core. A fitting monument to a unilateral, devisive administration with a knack for Orwellian double-speak. A "Clear Skies" type facade to compete for symbolic meaning with the 1776 foot spire.

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France over Spain: Thoughts on Dives

For full disclosure, I wanted France to win (which they did 3-1) and I share the consensus that, when it matters, Spain will choke.

There is a bit grumbling among Spanish fans that Thierry Henry of France (known for his tenacity to keep on his feet) took a dive in the second half that led to the set play where France took its lead. But how did Spain score in the first place? On a foul, and not a particularly hard on in the penalty box, giving them a PK in first 30 minutes. Take away the set piece and the PK, then France wins 2-0.

The prevalence of dives and their ensuing penalty kicks have been important in several games for me (Ghana against the US, Italy over Australia, the Ukraine over Tunisia). A penalty kick awarded by an official, on average is 70% certain, a set play hardly as successfully. France still had to put it in, and only by deflection did they.

There are a couple interesting perspectives on dives. Dave Eggers theorizes US mistrust of soccer is fueled by flopping , being "a combination of acting, lying, begging, and cheating." But today Austin Kelley advocates for the devil, and compellingly so.
"Far from being a sign of corruption, diving is, in certain ways, a civilizing influence. Divers are usually quicker, smaller players. As athletes get bigger and stronger, the little guy gets nudged aside. If professional fouls and brute force reign supreme, creative play and joyful improvisation will suffer."
I'm not convinced, and I blame FIFA and their officials as being too zealous to call fouls and book players. Officials can punish divers by ignoring them. There are number of great players sitting out games for lame cards (diving is a bookable offense, though not applied consistantly), and enough questionable penalty kicks to alter the final eight. The flip side is watching Brazil benefit from calls, providing their second goal against Ghana that should have been waved for a clear offsides. No one anticipates it getting better, we're merely near the end of the tournament.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

London: The Cup Runneth Over

While in London, I watched a slew of matches. Before seeing Titus, I saw the US look hapless against Croatia (3-0), and France and the Swiss frustrating draw before catching Enemies.

I got sucked into the Rooney watch as England stumbled its way out of the first round. Judy led us to the Korean dominated Nags Head tavern where Korea beat Togo. Only when we stepped out did we realize that the Korean over took all of Covent Garden as they took to the streets to celebrate. (Jason later told me of the corresponding chaos in LA). And then there were the amazing nail biters of Germany over Poland and Sweden over Paraguay, each victorious 1-0 in the final minutes.

My enthusiasm was stoked by print media adverstings and of course all the #7 & #9 jerseys.

So on returning I've continued to follow games, dispite the dearth of Cup coverage here. On top of that, my faithfulness is often met with frustration. My teams keep going down: the US, Korea didn't advance, Mexico dropped by Argentina, Australia falling to Italy, the Dutch to Portugul. On top of that, key players are sitting on the wings hardly controling games, Henry, Zidane, C. Ronaldo, Ronaldhino, Beckham, Rooney, the only stars who seem to shine are Germany's Klose and Ballack.

Perhaps the most formidable and frustrating team to watch has been the officials, doling out record numbers of bookings. They gave Ghana a win over the US with an awful PK at the close first half (it should have been a tie); Italy's PK-win in the extra time (90+) against Australia (it should have gone into over time); just now padded Brazil's win over Ghana, failing to call a clear offsides. Ghana, whom I was still upset by their US game, won me over by dominating the midfield and short game against Brazil. If only they had someone who could finish.

The other annoying persistant team is ESPN who have dominated english language broadcasts to no one's benefit. The commentary is inane and the their spastic graphics usually cover the ball the action on field. It's enough to learn Spanish.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Good To Be Home: Funny Sights

I don't like words on clothes for the most part. But last night on the UWS there was a deliciously revealing instance. Waiting to cross the street, there was a pretty, petite lady dressed mostly indescript. Except the back of her t-shirt had a small logo, mostly obscured by her bag's strap, leaving only the tag line: The Future of Adult Entertainment.


Tuesday night, during the intermission of the Classical Theatre of
Harlem's movingly Katrinafied staging of Waiting for Godot, Michael and I went to a bodega to get a cold refreshment. Ahead of Michael, this little boy, eight or ten years old is buying a bag of ice. He pays with a Benjamin. Without blinking or holding it up to the light, the counter guy takes it, hands back some change without counting it back. The kid takes the change without counting and leaves.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

London: Books & Plays [Updated]

Why some habits are hard to regain and others so easy, I'll never understand. After a few days, the trip to London with my folks is digesting in a number of ways. So I'll try to break it down.

First off, as my habit, I loaded up on complementary reading material: Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby's memoir of his football obsession; Plays 1, the first collection of plays by Caryl Churchill, including Owners and Cloud Nine; and The Complete Plays of Sarah Kane. All of which delve into the not so pleasant aspects of the British psyche.

I managed to catch two plays: Titus Andronicus at the Globe and Enemies by David Hare (after Maxim Gorky) at the Almeida.

Titus, Shakespeare's money making blockbuster, lived up to expectations in this gory production. I've only seen this production and Julie Taymor's film, but both make me marvel at some of the soliloquays inbetween the horror... in contemplating grief and violence. The one major distraction was the awful bouffant mullets forced on Tamara's son's ..not quite fitting the otherwise predominant Elizabethan staging.

Enemies was searing with intense commentary on owners and the proletariat, and a nifty bit of metatheater, fitting for Hare's Stuff Happens, regarding the Iraq War, particularly the role in government to protect or exploit civilians. All sides seem tragic and disaster is prophesied. It was also good to get out of Central London as the Almeida required.

In a coda of sorts, I just read Korean filmmaker Park Chanwook's interview in Bomb by Esther Chae. Chanwook just closed a much heralded vengeance trilogy composed of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Lady Vengeance. Chae mentions Titus among others as classic tales of vengeance and asks Chanwook to cite any Korean classics that deal with personal vengeance, to which he says there are none:
"We have tragedies related to war and colonization, but we don't have a culture where on expresses anger in an aggressive way. I didn't' have any literature to refer to. And I find it stifling that we don't have such traditions"
[Update] Ben Brantley must have been at my heels. The show I wanted to see but couldn't get a ticket for was Tom Stoppard's new play Rock N Roll that just opened. Brantley's review came out today. 2/3's down he give a mention of Enemies:
"What is to be done?" might also be the mantra of "Enemies," a new adaptation by the industrious David Hare of Maxim Gorky's 1906 drama of aristocrats and proletariats at loggerheads, which ends this weekend at the Almeida Theater.

Performed with naturalistic vibrancy by a fine cast directed by Michael Attenborough, "Enemies" oozes the juicy ruling-class angst, idiosyncrasy and moral paralysis associated with classic Russian fiction. But it also presents an array of ardent, revolution-ready factory workers. The more insightful of the fluttery aristocrats envy the workers their certainty. But it's telling that the uncertainty of the doomed upper-class characters is what feels convincing, and unsettlingly familiar.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

SuperHirn Mini!

Joe & Gretchen have this game I really love: MasterMind, but in mini-travel-small apartment size.

A couple weeks ago I was visiting and we played a couple rounds, causing me to lament how the travel version is no longer made. And in a flash, I realized I could see if there was one available on EBay. There was one auction from the UK, and Joe did the bidding for me (since I lack paypal and any history). Well we lost.

Then, like a better date when another falls through, another came out of no where (well Greece), had a "buy it now" price, and was in German to boot. So here's the good parts: it's prestine, never played; the "grading peg" hols are in a little circle; and best of all, Joe brought it over tonight.

Simply amazing how quickly it all happened, almost as amazing as having a friend like Joe to carry it out.

Interweb... mehr als nur ein Spiel

Saturday, June 03, 2006

No Title [a poem]

we love legends and myths
to exaggerate the heroic
and make it supernatural
and yet
we remain in despair
because we forget
of what we are capable


Friday, June 02, 2006

Sparks on Streets & Screens

I have seen "sparkling rain" that crackled and struck up sparks when it hit the ground.
--From Breathing Jesus

This line had just been sewn into my thoughts... I'm deep into Amy Hempel's Collected Stories now, and yesterday we had sparking rain. Well last night, since that's what happened. Is it a purely modern night time urban phenomenon, reliant on pavement and head/street lights? After pilates, I got drenched, so I had to quick run home to change to less absorbant clothes before catching An Inconvenient Truth with Josh. When I went back out, I walked without my glasses on, faced the warm rain, and caught some great lightning flashes.

An Incovenient Truth was an incredible film, accomplishing several things at once. Primarily, it lays out the threat and possible solutions to global warming with great clarity. Second, it presents a rich, layered portrait of Al Gore and how long he's absorbed this issue. Third, and I think this is paradigm shifting, I think this will lead to the politician as film subject rather than book author to herald national ambitions. The rich portrait of the person, the thorough treatment of an issue protrayed as complex and controversial, a unifying film, of nation and species. It is truely populist.

Please see this film, for yourself, for me, for our kids.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Bowled Over By Short Plays

My thumbs are sore, but that's at the end of the story.

Last night's Take 5 organized by Clubbed Thumb was a delight on many accounts. First it was a treasure hunt of guerrilla theater around the Ohio Theater: 15 plays, 70 or so minutes, scattered over 2-ish blocks. Sibyl & I hit 7 or 8 of them after some necessary preliminary strategizing and mapping. We occasionally ran from site to site... but as old people do... that awkward prance.

First on my list was Scott Adkins piece, a concise meditation on parasites and attacking toy monkeys. Sigh, how far he's traveled from the squishy cuddly sock monkey. The last two pieces were particularly fun for their spectacle... an olde tyme revival celebrate Pocahontas, complete with call and response and congregational singing. Then the finale: a seemingly ad hoc glee club and a "song against terror."

The ensuing party presented the bonus, zany treat of bowling complete with discrete lanes. It was like candlepin bowling I imagine, only with water bottle pins, and coconut/turnip balls. Sibyl and Homer both picked up some difficult spares. Then another bowler missed the pins, struck the backstop, causing the coconut to split with Homer catching the two halves. The juice sprayed over Homer, but the meat was ready to be eaten. It was from prying coconut meat from the shells that my thumbs are sore. At a certain point, my determination (and thus my thumbs) was not match for the nut's stubbornness. Mmmm coconut meat...

Fine Leather Goods

Many people know that instead of a wallet. I use a rubber band. It dates back five years when I was mugged. I developed a perverse rationale that I could just hand away my cash and potentially keep my cards if it happened again (it hasn't). But now there are several advantages: It's no bigger than it needs to be in my pocket; I'm not limited to five bills (as with a cigarette case); the postman brings me two every day so I'll never be without a replacement.

So two wallet related interactions gave me chuckles. First, another friend/vendor with Jen at the 5th Avenue Street Fair makes leather bags and footware, but none for boys. Her initial response to asking about stuff for boys, was wallets. Then Monday, since he missed my graduation cook out, Mitchell gave a present.... a leather wallet (Kenneth Cole Reaction no less).

I gave using it some serious thought, but realized that I can't stuff it into my pocket, especially without pleated pants. But I've got to keep it. So I'll use it for the cards at home that I don't carry with me. That seems fair. I used the box for another gift already.