Nov 17/11

Today, something different: let's talk a bit about baseball.

I guess the Cards won the World Series this year. I don't have time to follow baseball any more, but I played it and watched it when I was a kid.

The Americans often refer to baseball as the "national pastime", rather than the "national sport". The difference between the two descriptors seems subtle, but is very meaningful.

Baseball is a pastime. You need lots of time to play it, and lots of time to watch it. Unlike soccer, hockey, football, or basketball, baseball is not played on a clock. The pitcher can look around behind him, toss the ball to the basemen, or just eye up the batter, whenever he wants and for as long as he wants. After a pitch, the batter can back away from home plate, bang the dirt off his kleats, do a few warm-up swings, then return for another pitch. Often, the game stretches into darkness. Then, bats and moths stray lazily into the light and back out again. You can hear the crickets all the while.

Baseball is about the setting: it's a two-to-three hour slow motion film of what life is meant to be in America. There are minutes of nail-biting tension and explosive action, but those are soon reabsorbed by the banter of the fans, the buzz of the insects, and the light breeze of a warm summer night.

Here's Derek Jeter, shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Derek Jeter Home

Nov 18/11

Are you a David Duchovny fan? I am. No matter what he does now, he'll always be Mulder to me. I don't have time to follow him any more, but from the little I do hear, I get the distinct impression he's moved away from the Mulder role. His return in X-Files: I Want to Believe(2008) was a welcome surprise.

Duchovny was perfect as Mulder. As Chris Carter himself pointed out, he underplayed the character. The low-key, matter-of-fact, non-judgemental way Mulder dealt with the phenomena on X-Files from 1993 to 2002 redefined "belief". To Mulder, nothing was impossible. It followed that something totally bizarre didn't warrant an emotional reaction.

I never saw even 10 percent of the X-Files episodes, but I hope to. It's easy to get stuff like that now, if you can find the time.

Mulder, wait for me. I'm coming back to join you and the gang as you track down the truth. I know it's out there.

David Duchovny Home


"I'm leavin'...never to come back again
So call your shawty and tell'm you've found a new man
The one who's so so fly
The one to keep you high
Have you singing all night, like that.... Oh-oh, oh-oh...."

You know, Jesse McCartney won me over. He just kept coming up on the top 20, singing Leavin'. I'm not a fan of that style of music - or that style of singing.

Right style or not, Jesse McCartney has a great voice - especially for that sweet, young style of love song. (Not to mention, the song itself is great.)

I still don't know what "shawty" means. But that song - and, later, - How Do You Sleep? taught me some of the young generation's notions about love.

Mobility is an important theme in both songs: either someone is being told they should leave, or someone already did. In How Do You Sleep? Jesse comments that he's trying his best to move on, but can't yet.

I think nowadays, young people are constantly on the lookout, afraid they're missing a chance. They know and expect the world to always be changing, so the mobile phone they have - though it might have been the "fly" one last month, when they got it - may no longer be the one to have. Computers, clothes, and even boyfriends and girlfriends are the same. People define themselves by their possessions, and expect other people to do the same. For young people - whose worlds are constantly changing - the everyday threat is that everyone's moved on, but you didn't notice. Somehow, you didn't get it.

As I've resignedly pointed out many times in this blog, I've never known when to "move on". Seven of my eight computers are old (often given to me in a box by someone who'd "moved on" to a better system). My cell phone is from '98. I've been married for sixteen years - since I was young.

Jesse, you bring me that sweetness of youth, without the stress of being left behind. I don't think you meant to do that for this 40-year-old, but you did so anyway. Thanks. In return, you're our face of the day.

Jesse McCartney Home

Nov 20/11

I don't know much about cooking. However, I know enough to know Wolfgang Puck. I've even bought his coffee at the supermarket. The few minutes I've seen him on TV, he's caught my attention as a charming host. While writing this, I dropped in on him at - I recommend you do the same.

Most of my friends in the restaurant business tell me there's no money in it. But cooking is an art: people love it. And also there's the other two ingredients about art: talent and communication.

I watch cooking shows out of fascination, but not just for the process. I know I'll never be able to taste the difference between a great sauce and one that's just OK. To me, the charisma of the chef is even more important: a great chef is a host, too.

Wolfgang Puck is an artist because he can draw me in to a world that's unfamiliar to me, and make me want to stay longer. That connection he makes with you, regardless of how much you know about his art - that's what makes him great, in my opinion.

I read in
Wikipedia that Wolgang Puck has been called "the greatest chef in the world." I think for that, he earns his place as our face of the day.

Wolfgang Puck Home

Nov 21/11

Oh, my god, Magnum!

From 1980 to 1988, it was Magnum, P.I. With its Ferrari, its beautiful backdrop, and its truly lovable characters, the show had more than just Tom Selleck - although he, by himself, was quite a bit. Higgins, however, was the other dominant personality, and much more memorable: I've always heard people talk more about him than about Magnum.

Magnum, P.I. was good drama - in the true sense, rather than the modern sense. Although it wasn't a comedy, it was very funny. It was the kind of show that could relieve you from a bad mood, then you were sorry when it finished.

I never saw more than five episodes from start to finish, but often walked in on it while others were watching. I saw enough to know it was solid.

Magnum, you were on many people's fridges all over North America in the 80s. Now you're on my website; what could be next? We're still waiting for Higgins to get mad at you again, after the next commercial.

IMDB was a source for this article.

Thomas Magnum Home

Nov 22/11

What rain!

The snowfall warning turned into a rain warning. First, they forecast 50-60 mm overnight; then they took the number away, leavning only the warning up. I guess they don't want to admit how much we might finally get.

This is west coast winter as it's meant to be: windy, wet, and warm. It's also a hazardous time for power outages and for houses to spring leaks. They often happen at windows.

Believe it or not, we had glorious sun for a few hours this morning. On Friday morning I dug out our driveway so we could leave for Vancouver. Sunday I had a snowball fight with our kids.

Ten years ago, we didn't have "winter" here - what I mean is, we didn't have snow at all. Or else, it would come for one wet night and be gone by morning. Winter months were grey and rainy, punctuated by calm periods in which mist would hang in the darkness that persisted days on end, the sun rarely seen. Five years ago, winter started coming; we've had snow and ice, with frequent driveway shovelling, ever since.

People here are split about the snow: some moved here just to escape it, while others love it.

To our face of the day: here's Bobby de Niro. He's a rare person who can change as quickly and decisively as our beloved west coast weather.

Robert de Niro Home

Nov 23/11

Okay, I've got news: earlier in the day, it was sunny and 10 degrees. However, last night was an awesome windstorm...stronger, I think, than I've known, although it wasn't as long as some. It went from full strength to normal in about an hour, somewhere between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning. We were lucky.

Now, it's lightly raining and mild. You can get a whiff of the ocean. A mile east of here, you always can, but not usually from my house; I'm on the other side of the hill. That ocean smell at night... it's soothing. Peaceful.

We're in the presence of greatness tonight: Tim Curry. He's a constant inspiration to me. In my dreams I've rocketed off to outer space to repent for a life of outrageous excesses.

Looking good, Tim.

Tim Curry Home

Nov 24/11

Me and Bobby D.

My mother listened to Bob Dylan for hours when I was a kid. His music seemed dreary back then, and she was often in a dreary mood when she listened to it. She said he was a genius, but at age eight I didn't understand that. Two albums that she played often were Highway 61 Revisited and Slow Train Coming.

Highway 61 Revisited, I think, is classic Dylan: his unique poetry proclaims observations about people they never knew were true, and often don't want to face. Dylan doesn't look for the worst in people, but he calls it as he sees it, and it's pretty hard to hide from Bobby D.

Slow Train Coming is a religious album in which he embraces Christianity. My mother was an atheist when she listened to it the most. I think it might be his best album, and maybe the best gospel album ever made. Dylan examines (figuratively, of course), his own path to Jesus and questions "how long" other people can deny Him. I think "When he Returns" might be the best song of the album. Dylan sings it - rather than the talking style he sometimes uses - and actually sings it pretty hard, but with very good results, I think. He hits some pretty high notes, and spot on. Dylan can sing, even if his singing talent isn't what he emphasizes.

The first Dylan video I ever saw was for "Tight Connection to My Heart" off Empire Burlesque (1985). His charisma saved it; its low-key absurdity was characteristic of music videos of the time. That video might be the only time Dylan ever managed to be middle-of-the-road as an artist.

Later, a friend of mine had Infidels in his car. I particularly recall "Jokerman", which I think may have featured Mark Knopfler guitar lurking in the background. A couple of places it sure sounded like it, anyway.

My mother once said "The genius of Bob Dylan is that he can put into a simple phrase something everyone knew but no one could put their finger on." For that moment, she was Bob Dylan.

From an ever-fan, Mr. D: here you are as a young man. Who'd have thought then, you'd be our face of the day?


Bob Dylan Home


What's the Frequency, Kenneth?

I had no idea, the first time I watched that video, how it would blast off (though when I saw the bass player's pants, I suspected something). I watched it over and over again, transfixed by the four musicians, the bare warehouse floor, and the intoxicating music.

I knew the larger meaning of the song although "I couldn't understand" a lot of the lyrics. Intergenerational communication: it's hard to get the frequeny of the incoming signals. But like the old AM radios, you can hear noise, so you hope that if you tune it just right, the message will come in clearly.

The video, itself, is a statement. It's shot in a warehouse with only three walls (not even four!) and no ceiling - just rafters and a corrugated roof. It showcases the minimal setting, focusing several times on the electrical cords crisscrossing the bare concrete floor. Michael Stipe wears a blue T shirt, and he even goes without hair.

For me, the video has two themes: excellence and minimalism. By refocusing towards those two goals, the Americans can re-achieve their greatness. They've got to get rid of everything they don't need, and play to their strengths. REM - out of Athens, Georgia - can show them how.

Michael, you're our face of the day.

Michael Stipe Home

Nov 26/11

Let's talk about our new cover girl: Joanna the Mad. Her title intrigued me from the instant I read it. The idea of a beautiful, "mad" woman is tantalizing.

Madness, by itself, is an alluring topic to me. Since madness is completely subjective, a person's definition of it is self-describing.

Let me give you an example: there's a famous ski hill about 60 km from here. For many people I know, skiing is an important - even defining - part of their lifestyle.

I, on the other hand, never go skiing. To me, spending a few thousand a year to drive up a big hill where it's minus 5 degrees (while it's probably about plus five down here) for the weekends - now that's madness. If I have leisure time (which is rare), I'd rather go out in my backyard, maybe with a glass of wine or sherry, and do a few chores.

"You never go skiing? That's madness! You don't know what you're missing!"

(But I do know.)

To Joanna: I don't want to make any decisive statements about her, because I think sources from the 1500s are pretty hard to research these days - I don't have time to do it, anyway. However, if you read about her, it seems she inherited tremendous power but was allegedly plotted against first by her husband, next by her father, and finally by her own son. Essentially, they wanted her power and possibly had her branded "mad" to justify taking it.

If she really was usurped by any or all of those three men, is taking her side. We welcome her and we salute her.

To all others out there who won't conform, we likewise welcome you and salute you. Pursuing art may be madness, but perhaps it's just akin to pruning your apple tree on December 30, a perfect ski day.

Joanna, you're now the Queen of - and our face of the day.

Wikipedia was a source for this article.

Joanna the Mad Home