Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Awesome book. I had trouble getting into it during the first 10-15 pages but after that I was hooked. And I loved it. It's very rare that you get to read two great books back to back the way I had with People of Paper and The Namesake.

Many of the scenes and story lines really hit home with me because of the whole theme of leaving home, adjusting, having issues with how "home" does or doesn't define you, etc etc.

At one point with about 100 pages left in the book, it hit me that I knew how it was going to end. I was half thrilled and half disappointed. For someone like me (who never looks ahead into the story of the movie or book) to be so sure of how such a great book would end made it all feel cheap, cliche. Luckily, I was dead wrong, and the book went off on its own the way it should've been.

Again, what a great book, and this isn't even the one she won the Pulitzer for (see Interpreter of Maladies, which I will most definitely check out at some point).

Next up: Probably Flicker by Theodore Roszak, which is supposed to be the next film that Darren Aronofsky is going to make. He already wrote the screenplay for it and the book clocks in at just under 600 pages.


Friday, October 27, 2006

World Series on Fox

One thing I do NOT like about the broadcast (besides Scooter) is the computerized strike zone that they show on certain close pitches. In case you missed it, it's a square on the screen shown over the instant replay. As the ball crossed the plate, it marks a dot that tells viewers whether or not the ball was in the strike zone.

Two problems here:

- All it does is upstage the job the umpires do out there. It's not easy to umpire, and most of them do a good job. All this does is make the casual baseball fan that, "hey look, he messed up again, that was a strike. Wow, they miss a lot of calls."

- The reason the first problem happens so much is because the strike zone on the screen is wrong. I have no idea how they came up with it, but it isn't the rule-book strike zone. Which would be wrong anyway, because that's only in the rule book and is never enforced - kind of like how tar is cheating if a pitcher uses it. The "rule book" strike zone is from the knees to the bottom of the letters. A few years ago they tried to enforce the high part of the zone, but it didn't work. It did, however, spawn this network of computer zones in certain ballparks to grade umpires on whether or not they were following the new strike-zone rules. Most of them don't.

The strike zone has, over time, morphed into what you see today. Is it always the same? No. Does it depend on who the particular umpire is? Of course. That's part of the game, you will never get rid of that. It's what distinguishes a good umpire from a bad one.

Now, this is what I don't like about the computer zone shown on Fox. It ignores all this detail that I'm talking about and when the casual fan sees it, he or she thinks, "oh that's cool, I can see whether it was really a strike or not," therefore missing out on the nuance and history that is imbued in all things baseball.

That is all.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia

I really loved this book. It isn't for anyone, granted, but I really love this book.

It had been a while since I had read any good fiction (or any fiction at all) and this is just what I needed. A love story, a war story, a book about writing and the life that comes with it. A book from a Latino writer who thinks and writes in English. Very very heavily steeped in the magical-realism of Marquez, of Cien Anos de Soledad. But I liked it. I loved it.

Granted, I just finished it a few minutes ago, but it's like nothing you've ever read. This is what I wanted to feel after seeing The Fountain.

More on that later...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Andres Nocioni

A great little article on my favorite Chicago Bull, Chapu.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Memory Games

This story is interesting, not only because of the memory issues that are going on—the mystery of them, but also because this weekend I was walking over to Mindy’s and it happened to me, albeit briefly.

I was walking on a street I know well, thinking about things, random things. I kind of got lost in my thoughts when I looked at the couple ahead of me, then stopped.

Where am I? Where am I going? I’m walking somewhere, but where?

It took me a couple of seconds to recognize where I was and where I was going. It was pretty scary there for a few seconds though.

Practice—not talent—makes for greatness

An interesting article about the idea of talent vs hard work. I for one subscribe to the idea that talent, if existent at all, is secondary. I know it's cheesy and overly optimistic, but I've seen it in my own life and try to use it to achieve my goals.

I sucked at baseball when I started playing. I was awkward and had a horrible first year. But I worked hard and got immensely better. The trick is to not look at the hard work as a means to an end—the goal is too far ahead and too distant for that to work—but as something you enjoy doing. Something that fills you up inside. Having that as the motivating force can keep you working hard until one day you realize you're pretty good. Maybe even great.

Anyway, read the article.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

More on The Fountain

In case anyone was waiting (*) for my review of Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, which I got to see an advanced screening of thanks to the Chicago International Film Festival on Monday, let me just say that I'm putting together a rather long piece about the whole experience. It'll take a while though.

As a preview though, let me just say that it's like nothing you've ever seen before, at least visually. As for the story and everything, it's surprised me and it's intricateness takes a while to digest, which is what I'm currently doing.

Did I like it or hate it, as most audiences have so far?

As weird as it may sound, I still don't know yet, which should tell you a lot about the movie.

If anything, you can't say Aronofsky isn't original, that's for sure.

Kiddie Porn Ring Thwarted

This is just plain fucked up. A six-month-old child being sodomized? What the fuck is going on in the world?

Letter aims to scare immigrants from voting

This reminds of the stuff done in Florida and Ohio during the Presidential elections. The saddest part is that the person responsible will never be held to it and it will eventually blow over. Hell, if it happened during the Presidential race and it blew over, this will be nothing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

National Novel Writing Month

Is this November and I've just joined the site. The goal being to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

I had heard about it a year or two ago and meant to join but never did. It's an excellent way to force some deadlines on yourself and get some writing done.

Soriano as a leadoff man?

Terrible idea. But according to the Sun Times it may happen:

With Piniella on board, Hendry will quickly try to furnish his superstar manager with a star-studded team. Sources said the Cubs have identified potential free agent Alfonso Soriano -- whom they view as a center fielder and leadoff hitter -- as their primary target in rebuilding a team for Piniella.

Horrible. And as a CF?? Are you kidding me? Why would you compromise your defense and have a guy that will strike out this much in the leadoff spot? He hit 46HRs for christ's sake! I do like that it would mean Murton is in LF, and I realize Soriano's BB/K numbers were better last year, but still. This is crazy talk. The only thing he has a leadoff man should is SBs, that's it.

I rather have Pierre out there.

Bears Game: I cannot believe what I just saw


Great article on a new Chicago Bull

Check out this sweet article on Thabo Sefolosha. He seems like a perfect fit for the defensive-minded Bulls and—like Andres Nocioni, Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon, and Kirk Hinrich—his youth is offset by his international, professional experience.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Duke lacrosse case

After reading this, it's pretty clear the guys are innocent. That DA really sucks.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Fountain Tomorrow

As part of the Chicago International Film Festival, they're showing a special screening of Darren Aronofsky's new film (Requiem for a Dream, Pi), The Fountain.

I'm really excited because I've been tracking this film for a long time and it doesn't come out until November. Also, Aronofsky himself will be there to receive an award so I'll try and see if I can get a picture or something of the guy.

I'll post on how it all went tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Good Ad idea

Here is a good idea from the people at 7-11 to get some mass exposure without getting into people's faces the way so much advertising is trying to today.

They have partnered with the White Sox to start home weekday games at 7:11 as opposed to the usual 7:04 start time.

Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman 7-Eleven, said the company has been trying to develop sponsorships with other teams and entertainment venues. The Chicago area was targeted because of its more than 180 7-Eleven stores.

"Every time the media announces the game's start time it will be a gentle reminder of our sponsorship," Chabris said.

Not bad, keep the creative ideas coming.

Sanctions on N Korea

Haven’t we seen this before? Didn’t thousands of innocent people die in Iraq because of sanctions? Doesn’t the UN realize that the leaders of these countries could care less what happens to their people? The leaders, those who have power and money, will still have whatever they need, all sanctions would do is cripple the people of N Korea and destroy the country—which would necessitate some rebuilding later on.

Sound familiar?

Monday, October 2, 2006

The Bachelor: Rome

It pains me to say that I saw the first 16 minutes of the show after turning the TV off after the intro. "No way I can put up with these girls, with this show." But something about the show just drew me back in for those 16 minutes.

It's an annoying show. It features a rich guy with no personality who can have whatever and whomever he wants. Hot girls (they aren't all hot, which was surprising, I guess that's subjective though) that have distorted views on relationships (since they are clearly desperate, either for a man or attention). And it features the typical tourist version of Rome.

And still we watch.

Why do we watch that which we hate? Or why did I, anyway, for those 16 minutes? Tough to put a finger on it, but it definitely starts with the girls. That's one thing. You get to see some real-life conniving and pretending, which is fun when it's not directed towards you.

But I think the clincher lies in that deep dislike for these girls. They have it all (for the most part) except for "true love." And that's why they want it so bad. They don't even care what the guy is like, not even what he looks like. All they know is that he's an Italian prince (which they took some liberties with here, since he grew up in the States and lives in NY, he won't be able to smile knowingly as the girls are awed by the wealth of what they'll see in Rome) and that they all want to be princesses.

Did I mention some of these girls already are princesses?

So why watch that?

Because none of them are going to get what they want. They will all cry and will all be disappointed. Some will slut it up and still not get what they want, which we love to see when we aren't the guys being sluttified with. One girl will get picked, and she's the one that's in for the greatest letdown.

And that's why I watch those 16 minutes.

Not that I feel a need to explain myself or anything.

Pre-9/11 Debates are Aggravating Me

I'm really getting sick of all the shit that is going on now after the Bob Woodward book has come out. Democrats saying that Bush didn't do enough, despite Dick Clarke's warnings. Republicans saying Clinton didn't to enough.

Blah blah blah.

Enough already. The reality is that no one in any position of authority expected anything of the magnitude of 9/11 to go down. People further down the totem pole did think something like this could happen. But the way things were structured just didn't allow for this warning to move up the chain of command properly.

This is the reality. The rest of it is politics. All we can hope for from our politicians is that they fix the system that was exposed during and after the attacks and to pledge their best to prevent it from happening again.

This blame game is making me sick to my stomach and we haven't even started the serious campaigning.

And people wonder why people don't vote.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Baseball Season is Over

At least for the Cubs it is. I'm excited for the postseason, so to close the book on the Cubs, here's what I think needs to happen to fix the mess for next year.

Starting rotation

Clearly the biggest problem this season. We need guys with experience, guys that won't walk, and guys that will pitch a lot of innings so that the bullpen isn't hammered like it was this year. And hopefully they'll be good pitchers too.

Right now all we have is Zambrano, Hill, and Prior, assuming Prior is healthy by then. Wood, I think he comes back, will be a reliever. So that means we need two solid starters. Where are they going to come from? Probably not from the minor leagues, at least not right away. Maybe they'll go get a big free agent and then have some spring training competition between Marshall and Guzman. Even so, it would be good to have a premium pitcher to go along with Wade Miller.


Probably the area I'm least concerned with, with the exception of the closer. Will it be Dempster? Or maybe Wood? Either way, we have some great arms here: Howry, Eyre, Wuertz, Novoa (who pitched better later in the season), Ohman, and Aardsma. As long as they can get some decent rest between appearances, they will be fine.


This is where the biggest change needs to be made. All I have to say is OBP. There are only a few guys that are OBP players: Murton (if he even gets to start next year, which I think he should), Theriot (same as Murton), and D Lee. The smartest move would be to trade Jaque Jones (if you really want to get an outfield bat) somewhere. Try to hold on to Pierre, though it looks unlikely. I think that if Pierre leaves, we'll have Theriot leadoff and play second.

The infield is messy. Aram at 3B (he'll stay), D. Lee at 1B, and Izturis at SS. Who plays 2B? Cedeno or Theriot? Theriot is a more experienced 2B and showed more with the bat this season. What do you do with Cedeno then? I say make him polish his hitting at AAA. He isn't as far along as Theriot is with the bat, plus Theriot draws walks and can steal some bases.

My ideal lineup:

CF Pierre
2B Theriot
1B Lee
3B Aram
RF Jones
C Barrett
RF Murton
SS Izturis