Thursday, January 29, 2004
Just a Bitter Yankee
I grew up in Connecticut, so I consider myself a Yankee. In DC, many of my friends consider me a Yankee because I come from somewhere north of the Louisiana border. I still haven't convinced some of them that our friend from Wisconsin is no Yankee at all but rather a Cheesehead. I came of age in Chicagoland, so I know from Cheeseheads (I remember once listening to the radio and hearing a parody of the winter driving advisories: "... and remember, if you can't avoid an accident, aim for something cheap or something with Wisconsin plates.")
Having experienced a few Chicago winters, I also know from cold.
The walk from my apartment in Somerville to the Davis Square T station was straight down what amounted to a wind tunnel. I took a SCUBA certification class while in high school, the open dive for which was at a quarry in Wisconsin while it was windy and snowing. After I got done with that I declared to anyone who would listen that I would never feel cold again. I'm a pretty mellow guy. There are basically two areas in which I could be considered at all "macho": weather and whiskey.
So it has taken a good deal of self control and three winters' experience not to scoff openly at the locals when they complain of the cold. This winter has been particularly cold, which means that, to my way of seeing things, DC in January is more or less what January should feel like. I've gotten used to vague intensifiers out of people, such as "so cold" or "really cold," but I've noticed something recently that has been bothering me a bit: the misuse of the phrase "bitter cold."
I've come to realize that many people seem to think that in this case "bitter" is merely an adverb idiomatically used to mean "very." This is not the case at all. Bitter cold has a very specific meaning, and when I hear somebody abuse the phrase I realize that standing before me is a person who has never actually experienced true bitter cold. When the wind blows on your face, there is obviously a chilling effect. When it is cold enough a wind, there is also a numbing effect. However, when the air and wind are sufficiently cold, there is an actual unique sensation on your face that is compellingly analogous to the sensation of bitterness on the tongue. Once you feel it, you suddenly realize, "THIS is what people mean when they talk about bitter cold!"
And from that moment on, when you hear people talk about bitter cold when it is merely stinging cold, it thuds on your ears like somebody complaining of the "freezing" weather when it's in the low forties.
You and Me Were Never Meant to Be...
I finally caved in and got myself a celphone. I can no longer claim the proud status of lifestyle luddite. I have my excuse, so don't look at me like that. My trusty Visor broke, you see, and in researching a replacement for it (when I told my parents about the malfunction, they offered to get me a new one for Christmas) I realized that, rebates included, a Treo would actually be cheaper than a good PDA.
I told you not to look at me like that!
Anyway, last night the phone was charging on my desk and it beeped at me. I looked at the screen to see a message telling me that I needed to go to the Sprint website and download a software upgrade.
I live in the future!
All you out there, reading this, still stuck in the present-- how does it feel knowing you live in my past?
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Are You Ready for Some...?
Early in the football playoffs (I rarely follow football -- to the extent of not having realized that the Patriots got good since I left the Boston area -- but when working at the cafe I always put any games on, based on the knowledge that if I don't, somebody will come up and ask why not) I found myself musing on an idea that has long sat at the back of my mind-- that of the incredible laziness of all sports films. For one thing, sports are inherently dramatic. It doesn't take much effort or imagination to set up conflict or motivation-- they already exist arbitrarily. Second, there is no real need to show the underlying dynamics with any degree of subtlety, as the screenwriter can (and invariably does) throw in a commentator (or possible full Greek Chorus of them) to explain everything.
Business was slow, so I found myself dreaming up a Dogme '98 style set of rules for a chaste football movie. First off, no announcers or commentators allowed-- anything and everything has to be shown through the actions of the coaches and players... possibly even owners, but they could not be allowed any expository dialogue. Following this, we would have a list of football movie cliches (the once-great aging star looking for one last great season, etc and etc) to avoid... but they're not important. What's really important is the ending.
At the end of the last game, clock ticking down, the team you're rooting for can't be several points behind and needing a huge offensive play to score the winning touchdown. They must either be: hopelessly behind with no conceivable hope of winning, but still soldier on; comfortably ahead after a few huge plays and exerting minimal effort to maintain their commanding lead; or (most dramatically) a few points ahead, with the other team threatening to score.
Most football movies beg the question: what's wrong with defense? Is the work of the defensive line not a drama worthy of exploring? There are films, Sam Raimi's For Love of the Game chief among them, that dramatize the defense in baseball. This is probably more palatable because it is about one man on a mound facing down the odds, an American tale of individual accomplishment. The defensive line doesn't have this same focus-- no quarterback, no pitcher, just an apparently interchangeable mass of bodies. But what is the drama of wondering whether a pitcher will pull off that most supererogatory of feats, the perfect game, to the entire outcome of a game placed on the shoulders of a few tackles?
Imagine the scene: throughout the whole movie, the opposing team's quarterback has been built up as an unstoppable force. Possibly he had been injured, and the team was relieved that they wouldn't have to face him. But in the final minutes of the game, our heroes up by one or two scant points, with the opposing team having made an incredible play to reach first and goal, he emerges-- fresh from rehab and possibly not at the top of his game, but still a terrifying presence. Possibly this happened right before the big play, thereby demonstrating that, despite our hopes, the QB is in full possession of his earlier abilities.
Now our plucky defense has to hold the line for four full downs. Even if they succeed for three, they will still have to face a point-blank field goal attempt. This is a situation rife with tension and drama! Why has it never been done? You could say that the outcome is entirely predictable, sure, but how is that any different from any other sports-based movie?
Clearly, the answer has at least something to do with the (literally) goal-oriented nature of sports, and certainly of the American attitude toward sports (see also: American antipathy toward soccer and its single-digit scores). The time-honored tradition of the underdog making good can only be fully satisfied by a come-from-behind victory. A nod here can be made to Dan Clowes' Freudian analysis of sport-- one doesn't want to side with the forbidding father of the Oedipal Triangle. Ideally, in other words, you want to be rooting for something rather than its prevention... but how true is that to the actual experience of rooting for a team? A game is exciting when your team is behind, tense and uneasy when they're ahead. Both are vital aspects of the thrill of sport, but one has been largely left unexplored.
My plan is working! I have successfully alienated any and all current readers by going months without posting. Now that I know they won't be reading, on to building an entirely new audience by writing about how much I secretly hate my friends! AH-HAHAHAHAHAAAAA!*coughcoughcough*
I rarely remember my dreams. Last night I had one that I was downstairs at Cafe Saint-Ex and some guy I'd just met was giving me a haircut. I was watching in a mirror and it looked good... so I looked away for a few minutes. The next time I went to the bathroom my head was all shaved but for random sproutings here and there. Of course, every time I looked it would be an entirely different noxious haircut. After a while of running around looking for the guy to yell at him and possibly beat him up (come to think of it, the setting may have been inspired by the bizarre almost-barfight some friends and I witnessed at the Land of Exupery last night) I gave up, found some clippers, and shaved my head all the way down to even it up.
Thinking about the dream has reminded me that this was all a subplot in some kind of drug-running scam, except I think the drugs involved may have been cold medicine. Like all memories but moreso, trying to reconstruct the plot of the dream would be as much new invention as recollection, so I'll just stop now.
I have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what to do with this here 'blog. I am in the midst, you see, of a full-blown 'blogdentity crisis. I could use it to recount random events I witness or instigate, a la Mimi Smartypants or Izzle Pfaff (two 'blogs I only know, just so you know, through friends' online communities). Or I could scribe essays on interlinked musings like Snarkout. I could search out disturbing links, post them, and rant about the general uselessness of everything like Old Man Ellis does on DiePunyHumans. I could post on the minutiae of my uninteresting life like thousands of LiveJournalers. I could cave to my fundamentally introverted nature and pen endless self-analysis, trying to suss out the reasons I have a BA from an Ivy League university yet pass my time reading comic books and making lattes for local hipsters. I even have a ream of unpublished entries recounting the latest (you know, latest at the time) developments of the whole strange drama with The Cook (The Artist Formerly Known as Record Store Girl, for those of you who need that kind of a hook). I could even do my Redfox impression and tell you about the Kale and Cannellini I cooked up the other night (finally using some of that rosemary I've had growing on my back porch for the better part of a year).
Any suggestions, including those simply to pack it in and go back to foaming milk (link stolen from the abovementioned Redfox... it made me feel inordinately proud that, aside from the post-steam swirling, I'd figured all this out by trial and error over the past year or so, all without any real instruction... the Cafe, you see, uses the milk-foaming equivalent of tossing a kid off the dock to teach him to swim pedagogical method for new baristas), can be sent to me via Email. If you don't know my address, then what the hell are you doing reading this, huh!? Where tha Hell'd you find out about this useless little 'blog? Sheez, gedda life!