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Archive for January, 2006

Got to be Kidding Me….

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

Look, I think it’s absurd that taxpayer money is spent on baseball stadiums. It helps out a few very wealthy people at the expense of entire communities. However, I don’t think that people should try to fool themselves into thinking that the latest generation of ballparks (Camden Yards forward) aren’t profoundly superior to their predecessors. In the course of reading a Baseball Prospectus article by Neil deMause I came across this argument, which is hinted at by deMause here (subscription required):

The bigger problem here, though, is the assumption that new stadiums always amount to improvement of “fan enjoyment.” For the Mets, who play in one of the last surviving multipurpose concrete bowls, maybe so. For the Yankees, who’d be moving from a historic ballpark with great sightlines to one with an upper deck about 30 feet further from the action, and where the city itself estimates ticket prices would be $12 higher than in the current park (bleacher seats would go from $10 to a projected $21), not so much. And if revenue-sharing cash were used to tear down Fenway Park and build a cookie-cooker “retro” mallpark, you’d see John Kerry calling for a filibuster.

New stadiums are very good for things like cupholders and having your choice of salsa flavor on the nacho platters. As far as being able to see a ballgame goes, though, they often leave something to be desired.

And made outright by deMause here, where he compares Safeco Field to a minimum security prison:

At least, there’s a ballpark in there somewhere. Wrapped around a near clone of Camden Yards (here the grandstand extends around the rightfield section instead of left, and in place of the brick warehouse, one gets a view of the doomed dome) is a profusion of scoreboards, message screens, Jumbotrons, and advertising signage the likes of which humankind has never before seen. Strips of message board ring the main grandstand along the front of the thirty-six-dollar club seats, revealing such vital information as the results of the inning’s previous batters and the radar-detected speed of warm-up pitches. The center field bleachers rest atop an enormous rotating billboard, which changes every inning, while the scoreboard in left-center alternates between listing the out-of-town scores and running advertisements for the exquisitely named Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. Hovering over center field is an enormous video board sponsored by the web-broadcast company Real Networks-which promptly malfunctions, leaving a large square dark space occluding its crystal-clear replays and computer-generated animations for much of the game. For the ears, there are the latest stadium-friendly hits piped over high-fidelity speakers, punctuated by earthshaking blasts of steam whistle from passing Amtrak trains, echoing off the underside of the retractable roof. The full effect is like that of the progeny of a baseball stadium that’s been mated with a pinball machine.

And it’s a creature with a minimum-security prison in the heritage somewhere, as well, which becomes clear the first time I venture out to explore the park’s interior. Climb one of the few staircases that link the upper and lower decks at Safeco, and you will pass two levels accessible only via narrow doors, with ushers posted as guards. These are the suite and club levels, off-limits to the general public. I peer in through the gun-slit window of one to catch a brief glimpse of a sign proclaiming it the Honus Wagner Suite and a clutch of well-dressed people who probably would have Honus Wagner thrown out on his duff if he showed up, fresh from flinging lumps of coal at railcars to strengthen his arm. Then I hurry on to the lower concourse-where, despite the team’s promise that one can shop for stir-fried pepper steak and Jay Buhner inflatable bones without missing any of the game, I miss large swathes of the game, since the side open to the field is packed with standing-room fans who make it impossible to make out more than a patch or two of green.

Riiiggghhttt.

I don’t think I’ve heard anyone, anywhere, with the possible exception of Detroit, complain about the “ballpark” characteristics of any of the new parks. Even in Detroit, where you have a fair amount of residual affection for old Tiger Stadium, you still have a lot of people who prefer Comerica. Virtually everywhere else, including Seattle, you find that baseball fans like the new stadiums (which is different than saying that the stadiums were a good investment). deMause is apparently of the opinion that the baseball experience should have frozen at about 1932. Even that’s not quite right; I can only assume that deMause has seen lots of baseball games, being a baseball writer, but it seems from his essay almost as if he had never been to a major league (or even a minor league) park, but instead had watched games only from the grandstands in an Iowa cornfield, with Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones standing by. The idea of advertising at a ball game! It’s positively plebeian!

I haven’t been to as many parks as I would like (about a dozen) but Safeco compares favorably with all but one or two. There are good reasons to oppose taxpayer funded stadiums (very good reasons), but to argue that the stadiums themselves are not, as a rule, better than their predecessors is a step too far.

Movie Blogging

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

Blarg. I have successfully slogged through our archive searching for every post on the movies. They are now collected here, and will shortly be linked to on the sidebar.

God, you don’t realize how much blather it is until you sift through it all…

Reforming A Broken Voting System

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

Make sure to check out the terrific series of posts Fact-esque has put together (1,2) on America’s voting system. There are a variety of serious problems with the integrity of the voting system, and e-voting without a paper trail is a particularly bad. Here’s the thing: even if the elections are run with perfect integrity, every close national election with no means of verifying votes will be an utter fiasco. Because you do you know the vote was counted fairly? You don’t. Democracy simply can’t work if people don’t trust the system, and if we continue down this road we’re going to have a post-election conflict that makes 2000 look like a 20-second pillow fight.

Cantwell

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

I’ve generally been a pretty big fan of hers, but I have to admit: voting for cloture on Alito was pretty appalling.

Koufax and the Fraud Caucus

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

The Koufax nominations for best post are up. I’m happy that this post of mine was nominated; it’s one of my favorites. There are lots of good posts here, of course. I’d like to put in a word for Mark Schmitt’s classic “Miss America Conservatives.” Two great points–that Republicans who vote to preserve popular social programs while also voting to make it impossible for the federal government to fund such programs in the long run should be held in far greater contempt than Republicans who are at least consistent and honest, and that one can’t have much respect for Republicans who are across-the-board reactionaries except on some issue that actually affects them personally–in one, both brilliantly made.

And today, of course, we’re seeing another element of the fraud caucus rear its disreputable head: nominally “pro-choice” Republicans who couldn’t be happier about Sam “the Constitution does not protect a right to abortion” Alito being confirmed for the Supreme Court, or who even continue to think that women being maimed or killed by back-alley abortions is hi-larious (with the implicit but wisely undefended assumption that liberals are silly to think that abortion will really be banned much of anywhere when Roe is overturned, despite the fact that abortion would automatically be illegal in more than a dozen states.) Ha ha, “uteri twitch”–what a card! Probably a lot funnier if you don’t have one, though…

Rhythmic Admirer of the Millennium

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

Assrocket.

Can’t they bother to at least make up plausible lies? Although I agree that the “whatever the numbers say” line is a nice touch. Maybe I’ll take out a personal ad on that basis. “Whatever the numbers say, I make $5 million a year! Plus Canadian citizenship! Come and get it, ladies!”

54 GOP Senators: Roe Should Be Overturned

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

It’s official.

I’m not sure what to say at this point. It’s good, if merely symbolic, that the Dems were relatively unified in rejecting the most reactionary Supreme Court nominee in decades. Politically, it was a very good pick by Bush: as conservative as a nominee could be without ever having a serious chance of being rejected. And obviously I stand by my claim that Miers would have been vastly better. Ultimately, a re-elected Bush was going to do a lot of extremely bad things; this is one of them. If the Dems want to stop Antonin Scalia from being the median vote on the court, they need to re-capture the White House; otherwise, if Bush doesn’t egregiously screw up there’s not much the Dems can do with their current caucus.

Oscar Context

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

A question: if Brokeback Mountain wins, will it be the best film to win Best Picture since Annie Hall in 1977? That would be my tentative assessment, although I think most people would disagree. My guess is that three movies would be most cited: the Tolkien thing, Unforgiven, and Schindler’s List. All of which are actually good movies, I think, but also a little overrated, so granting that it’s idiosyncratic I think Brokeback is the best of the lot. (Schindler’s List is a good comparison, in the sense that it probably would have won virtually irrespective of its quality but had a reasonable case anyway. I certainly like Brokeback more, though–I can’t imagine Lee filming anything like the awful final act of SL. Or hiring John Williams for a serious picture.)

To ask a more snark-ready question: in the same time period, what’s the greatest (negative) gap in quality between a winner and one of the nominees since 1970? I would probably go with 1990–granting that GoodFellas is a notch below the also-robbed Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, Masturbates With Camera Dances With Wolves…ugh. Rocky and Ordinary People are at least watchable middlebrow schlock. I’ll let Rob make the case for 1995; embarrassingly, I haven’t seen Babe. I suspect that Chicago beating The Pianist ranks up there, but since I haven’t seen the former I can’t say for sure.

I still need to see a few things before submitting an alternative list for this year’s Oscars, but I will cite the biggest omission: Jeff Daniels (The Squid and the Whale) from best actor.

Betting Brokeback

[ 0 ] January 31, 2006 |

I had been thinking that betting Brokeback for Best Picture would be nearly as safe as betting on the onset of summer, but 1/6 is pretty steep. Were I a betting man, I might put down just a bit on Heath Ledger at 9/2.

No serious surprises, as far as I can see. It’s a fair enough job when the best picture noms include two of my probable top five. Should have my 2005 top ten prepared by the end of the week, although I still have to see Munich and Match Point.

Bresson and Vigo

[ 0 ] January 30, 2006 |

Like me, Roy was introduced to Robert Bresson by means of the sublime Au Hasard, Balthasar (which I saw last year.) Like me, he found it a remarkable, haunting picture; unlike me, he is capable of writing effectively about it, so I turn it over to him. As he suggests, it made me anxious to check out more of his work. I saw two that were revived at the Film Forum (alone, but with no celery or notebooks–I’ll have to work on that) last year. Pickpocket was terrific; I was a little disappointed in Mouchette–similar thematically to AHB but not quite as rich–but still very powerful.

In other art-house wanker news, since somebody brought up L’Atalante in comments, I should pass on via frequent commenter Jay a free link to Vigo’s Zero De Conduite, which I hadn’t seen but is as amazing as you’d expect. If that’s not good reason to oppose draconian American copyright laws, I don’t know what is…

Military Exercises

[ 0 ] January 30, 2006 |

Budding Sinologist has some brief thoughts on what military exercises demonstrate about the competence of the People’s Liberation Army and the ROC military.

Finally on Target

[ 0 ] January 30, 2006 |

Good to see that Target has finally fired a pharmacist who wishes to interpose her beliefs between drugs she is professionally bound to dispense and the health of her customers. As I have argued before, what’s particularly odious is that fact that these derelitctions of duty are framed as acts of high principle. This, of course, is silly:

I completely agree. It absolutely violates my core beliefs to see how the beef industry is run in this country. So you know what? I don’t apply for jobs with ConAgra. You know what else violates my core beliefs? The operation of the tobacco industry. Guess where I don’t work? Kirkland & Ellis. Hey, maybe I should get a job there and pull a Bartleby. If enough of us did that, we could totally sink the tobacco industry — they’d have no more lawyers to defend them!

Choosing not to use Plan B because you (erroneously) believe it to be an abortifacient is an act of principle. Resigning your job because you have to do things that violate your personal sense of morality is an act of principle. Demanding to be paid even though you’re not willing to do your job, conversely, is pretty much the antithesis of principle. Being a person of “principle” or “conscience” does not involve a world where there are no hard choices and other people bear the entire burden of your subjective judgments. And, of course, they’re taking their fight to make not doing your job a civil right to the courts. I certainly hope that–despite icoaste’s justified fears–the Thoscalito court won’t be able to rejigger civil rights law so as to make these laughably frivolous claims that being asked to do a routine part of your job violates “civil right” more sustainable.

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