31 March 2008

I'm not sure why, but I had an uncontrollable urge to post a link to this article today.

I also enjoyed reading this list of the top 100 all-time hoaxes. The only one that I've been fooled by was the Hotheaded Naked Ice Borer (#9 on the list). Some of my favorites include Nixon for President in '92 (#6 on the list), the Arm the Homeless charity drive (#23), the Tasmanian Mock Walrus (# 44), the Nat Tate memorial (#60), and the closure of all of LA's highways for a month (#92).

I have to admire some pranksters for their tireless efforts: one man airlifted hundreds of tires into the crater of a dormant volcano and then lit them on fire to scare nearby townspeople (Mount Edgecumb, #14), and another man transported horse manure by gondola to make it appear that horses had ridden through Venice's water-bound Piazza San Marco (#78).

Some entities seem to make for good pranks. The old Soviet Union was an easy target; their reported purchase of two Connecticut newspapers is number 28 on the list. Euro Disney is another easy target (case in point: its reported purchase of the Eiffel Tower (#93)), and the two were combined when it was announced that Lenin's body would be put on display at Euro Disney (#68).

24 March 2008

Today's random but possibly meaningful discovery: when you type the search term "Wikipedia" into Google, the first three subsidiary pages to appear—at least this morning—are Commodity Market, Denzel Washington, and Chitty Bang.

23 March 2008

I was inordinately pleased to see this article in the New York Times Magazine discussing Obama's candidacy from a biracial perspective. It's a charming essay, even if most of its points about "the future of race in this country, the paradigm and paradox of its simultaneous intransigence and disappearance" aren't exactly new. Along with the recent piece about Obama's mama, it helps me own up to a fundamental fact: I relate to Barack Obama. I know that I'm not alone in this—the guy is a blank screen—but until recently, it always made me feel a little silly. But should it? I'm not going to rehash my own life story, or Obama's, but I can't help feeling that this is the first presidential candidate in history with whom I have anything in common. (Well, I guess a few of these guys went to Harvard, too...but you know what I mean.)
I really enjoyed yesterday's New York Times crossword, which contained the lovely crossing of HAPAX (as in hapax legomenon, which, believe it or not, was the first answer I filled in) with JELLOSHOT (clued as "jigger that jiggles"). As Rex Parker, my favorite crossword blogger, writes: "That's the alpha and omega of the college experience right there." Amen.

18 March 2008

If you've ever wished that someone would finally get around to writing a vampire slash fic starring Sufjan Stevens, the Vampire Lestat, and Claudia Gonson of the Magnetic Fields, brother (or sister), this is your lucky day. (Thanks to the AV Club for the tip.)
Dodgertown is closing up shop. It's probably impossible to describe what Dodgertown meant to me, even though I was only there for a day. I was 10 or 11 years old, the age when you're old enough to understand a sport and young enough to keep all the idealism and sense of fantasy that are necessary to be a true fan. The place was like heaven - perfect weather, the whole town painted Dodger Blue, and players so close you could talk to them (I was too shy, of course, which is probably just as well, since I don't know what I'd do with a Darryl Strawberry autograph these days). In the outfield, instead of bleachers, fans sat on a grassy hill right behind the fence. I watched a game between the Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds, and when we got bored, my brothers and I got up and started throwing a ball to each other. After the game, we went to the beach and swam. I always vowed I'd go back.

A few years ago, the Dodgers drew up plans to move their spring training facility to Las Vegas, and I was crushed. Those plans fell through somehow, but by that time I realized I'd never be able to go back to the Dodgertown I knew as a kid. Sure, I still like sports, and every year I predict the Dodgers will win the World Series, but I can't live the simple fantasy that Dodgertown represented. If were to go back, I'd wonder about the sanity of the fans, and I'd also think about the racism that black baseball players faced during spring training in Florida in the 1950s and 60s (well documented in the new biography Clemente by David Maraniss). Still, it would have been nice to sit on the grassy hill with a picnic lunch and a baseball glove one last time.

17 March 2008

I love my school. For the second year in a row, spring break corresponds to the first week of the NCAA basketball tournament. Let others go to Cancun; I'll spend some quality time watching upsets on TV.

Slate has a wonderful March Madness article by some guy who has developed a formula for determining when a lead is "safe" in men's college basketball. I'm sure plenty of sports geeks (myself included) are combing the internet for games that violate the formula, but there aren't many out there - it seems like it's pretty accurate. The best part, though, is now we have reason to keep watching games even when we think that games are out of reach - we'll want to figure out the exact time when the lead becomes Safe.

13 March 2008

I really enjoyed this list of the 100 best closing lines from novels. (Even more nominees can be found here.) It's too bad that they restrict the list to fiction, though, because some of my favorite closing lines are from memoirs. From Seven Pillars of Wisdom: "In the end he agreed; and then at once I knew how much I was sorry." And from The Kid Stays in the Picture: "Resolve: Fuck 'em, fuck 'em all."

It's also strange that they nominate the closing lines of all of Updike's Rabbit novels except for Rabbit Redux, which may have my favorite last line of any contemporary novel. ("He. She. Sleeps. O.K.?") The last sentence of Atonement probably also deserved a nod. Any other nominees?

10 March 2008

This article, bumped off the top of the NY Times most-emailed list by the Spitzer story, deserves a lot of attention. So many adolescents devote their energy to sports on the belief that it's their ticket to college, when in reality the number of college scholarships that are passed around are far fewer than the number of college athletes. In this day and age of lottery scholarships, it's a lot easier to get a scholarship with a 3.0 GPA, and it might just be a better idea to spend your high school years studying rather than traveling to elite competitions.

The other interesting part of the article is the fact that scholarship money is rarely apportioned equally among athletes on a team. This is mind-boggling to me. I can't think of any easier way to insert discord into the locker room than to give the athletes differently sized scholarships; I've spoken with former athletes who have confirmed that this does actually affect team chemistry. While I'm not likely to be a college coach anytime soon, I'd advise anyone who is to avoid giving your athletes reasons to hate each other.
This Eliot Spitzer business is an especially bitter pill to swallow. Spitzer, more than any other politician in the past decade, was able to take on the most powerful people in the country and hold them to account for the wrongs they committed against the general public. His crusades against white collar criminals belied the idea, so prevalent these days, that government is by its very nature slower and more incompetent than private industry. I suppose my dreams about working in a Spitzer-led Justice Department aren't very likely to come to pass.

05 March 2008

According to Gawker, attending a crossword puzzle convention is nerdier than playing Dungeons and Dragons:
This year's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament had a joke from Will Shortz about an obscure word for "needle case." It had contestants gasping at a story about leaving one square blank. It had cosplay. And crossword contestants asked aloud why ESPN doesn't cover their tourney.
Personally, I thought that the etui joke was pretty funny. (As funny as an inside joke, anyway, than the umpteenth Gawker reference to Julia Allison or Tinsley Mortimer.) But maybe you had to be there...