Thursday, September 30, 2004

A lesson in geopolitics

From this week's political news summaries in The Economist:
Taiwan's prime minister said the island might acquire missiles to counter a growing threat from China. China called that a provocation. Singapore's foreign minister accused Taiwan of pursuing a dangerous course towards independence. Taiwan's foreign minister deplored criticism from "a country the size of a piece of snot".

Friday, September 24, 2004

Great life truths, brought to you by Ample Hills

1. An advertising consultant on NPR this morning, talking about the difference between an ad for a product and an ad for a candidate:
"Rice Krispies don't commit sexual indiscretions."
2. Career satisfaction, as described by a guy outside Fenway Park:
On the pavement of Yawkey Way outside Fenway Park on Thursday night, amid the smells of grilled sausages and many other foods, a young man on stilts wore a Red Sox uniform that said "Big League Brian" on the back.

He walked steadily, in a practiced way, next to the Hot Tamale Brass Band, which was serenading fans with "Besame Mucho" as they filed into the game between the Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles.

The temperature was 66 degrees, the clear sky was streaked with the reds of autumn's setting sun, the wind and humidity were low and a bright half-moon rose in the backdrop between buildings. The working conditions were not too shabby. "I love my job," Big League Brian said. "Nothing like walking around a bunch of drunk people on stilts."
3. Etiquette advice, this time from a big-league player:
[F]ighting Barry Bonds, mooning the media, and winning the pennant didn't come close to [Jeff] Kent's greatest moment of the year. One spring day, he strolled into the clubhouse with a cast on his left wrist. For veteran Kent-watchers, the possible causes were endless. Had he brawled with the pitching machine after getting buzzed during batting practice? Injured a tendon from excessive bird flipping?

The answer, Kent said, was that he had simply slipped and fallen while washing his truck. But witnesses soon came forward who claimed to have seen Kent fall off his motorcycle while popping wheelies on the day in question. Despite the fact that it's hard to confuse washing a truck with riding a motorcycle, Kent stuck by his story. "People are having fun with it, but it's not funny to me," he scolded. "I can't play a game I love to play, and am paid to play. When you make fun of someone washing his truck, that's sad."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Zen of Fafblog

"It's not so bad bein lost," says Fafnir. "Bein lost is like takin a vacation from knowin what you're doin."

News quiz

Okay, so which event is going to have a greater, longer-lasting effect on the lives of hundreds of millions of people?

a) Ziang Zemin steps down as army chief, leaving sole power in the hands of Hu Jintao, and thus effecting the first orderly transfer of power in the history of Communist China, or

b) Dan Rather blows a story on President Bush's National Guard service.

Which event is getting more column inches / air time?

Advantage: Big media or blogosphere? Um, I'd say neither.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

"Baseball been very, very good to me"

No doubt I should be more diligent in reading the headlines these days: but I'm sick of bad news from Iraq, disgusted with the low tone of the presidential race, worried about my relatives who live in the path of Ivan. So it's with relief that I turn to the sports pages for stories like this:
From Section 203, Row 16, the top of the right-field bleachers at Miller Park, it is hard to imagine any place on earth with more grown men wearing baseball gloves.

Seats are available behind home plate, over each dugout and down both foul lines, the prime real estate in most major-league stadiums. But this week, at this ballpark, the real action is 450 feet from home plate.

When Barry Bonds sets up in the batter's box, the fans in right field take their feet. They pound their mitts. They gauge the strength of the breeze blowing behind them. And, inevitably, they visualize home run No. 700 flying into their Rawlings.

So far, they have left empty-handed. The first pitch Bonds saw on Wednesday night, he skied to right field, and the stadium went silent. After a few anxious seconds, Milwaukee's Brady Clark caught the ball at the warning track, his back to the fence.

The Giants won the game, 8-1, and Bonds finished 0 for 4 with a walk.

"The Brewers are probably 800 games out of first, but it's a playoff atmosphere out here," said Steve Peeples, who drove from Stevens Point, Wis., for the first two games of this series against the San Francisco Giants. "Everyone's up, everyone's hollering, and we're all thinking, 'He could hit it right at me.' "

And this story, from a few days ago, was pretty good too:
As the public address announcer bellowed a high-decibel greeting to everyone in attendance Monday afternoon - "Welcome, ladies and gentleman, to U.S. Cellular Field!" - not a soul was in the stands.

The Florida Marlins and the Montreal Expos looked at one another in complete bewilderment, as if they had gotten lost on their way to a ballgame. Just when they seemed ready to pack up and leave, several teenagers came skipping down the aisles as if they had the hottest tickets in town.

They were followed closely by a couple of buttoned-down businessmen playing hooky, a number of Cubs fans from the other side of town, and a pack of White Sox season-ticket holders determined to defend their turf. No one was walking into the stadium. Everyone was running.

They came to see two teams play in a city that neither calls home. They came to help those affected by the hurricanes that forced this game to be relocated from Miami in the first place. But more than anything, they came for baseball, under a pale blue sky the likes of which South Florida has not seen in a while.

As of Monday morning, only 400 tickets had been sold, and by early afternoon, 4,003 fans were in the lower bowl. Florida Manager Jack McKeon waved to the gathering and cupped his right hand to his ear. The Expos must have felt as if they were playing for a crowd at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, only rowdier.

By the time the first pitch was thrown, U.S. Cellular Field had been transformed into a high-school football stadium. Half the crowd sat behind the home dugout, chanting, "Let's go Marlins." The other half sat behind the visitor's dugout, chanting, "Let's go Expos." The division was clearer than the border between the North Side and the South Side of Chicago.

Cubs fans railed against the Marlins for beating them in the National League Championship Series last season and battling them for the wild-card berth this season, and White Sox fans cheered them for those same reasons. When the Expos committed four errors in the eighth inning, handing Florida a 6-3 victory, the fans behind the Marlins' dugout stood and celebrated, as if they had adopted a new team. "We gave them all free passes," McKeon said.

Belated Turkmenbashi update: "In Xanadu..."

An August 11th story from the BBC:
President Niyazov of Turkmenistan has ordered the construction of a palace made of ice in the heart of his desert country, one of the hottest on earth.

It is the latest in a series of colossal building projects instigated by the all-powerful president that seem to defy the country's environment.

"Let us build a palace of ice," said President Niyazov, "big and grand enough for 1,000 people."

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Redefining the "near abroad"

I love this quote that Emma Jane found in The Guardian, though no doubt I do so for all the wrong reasons.
Russia was interested in a political solution in Chechnya, [Putin] insisted. It was going to hold elections to a Chechen parliament there shortly "and we will try to attract as many people as possible with different views to take part".

"We will strengthen law enforcement by staffing the police with Chechens, and gradually withdraw our troops to barracks, and leave as small a contingent as we feel necessary, just like the US does in California and Texas," he said.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Ils regrettent beaucoup, aussi

22-0. And in a little more than three hours. Yikes.

Moi, je regrette beaucoup

So The Economist thinks it's so cute this week with a cover line, "Je ne regrette rien," above a picture of a cowboy hat-waving George Bush. So I want to know:

  • Is this mild sarcasm (i.e, "Let's juxtapose a French phrase with a picture of notable xenophobe George Bush")?
  • Is it serious sarcasm (i.e., "Let's see how many people associate this lyric with a retreat after a disastrous war against guerilla forces in the Near East")?
  • Is it just an invitation to free associate Edith Piaf lyrics with George Bush? Me, I'm going for "La vie en rose," myself.