Previous month:
February 2005
Next month:
April 2005

zen xtra i hardly knew ye

Got a call from Good Guys ... my Karma is on its way home. They ended up replacing it. Duh.

Neal did everything he could for me ... like too many great workers, he's often better than the company for which he works. When I brought my Karma in, he checked out the repair history for that model, called service, and said "look, every single one of these ends up being replaced, why don't you let me save us all some time by replacing this now." They said no. More than a month later, they let me know their conclusion: it needs to be replaced.

So thanks to Neal for trying. Nice to know my Karma will be back soon! I never really got a chance to mess around much with the Zen Xtra that Robin got for me ... now it's up to Sara to tell us how it is, since she's going to get it, now.

the kitchen chronicles: calm before storm

The work has begun. The above is a picture of Paul, the guy in charge ... as you can see, he's already discussing important aspects of the job (he's talking to his wife about skiing this weekend). The first photo album is up, and can be seen here, or via the photoalbums on the side of the blog ... it's called "Kitchen: Before" and it shows how it looked just before they started demolishing the damn thing.

the kitchen chronicles: prelude

Tomorrow morning the guy's gonna come and start in on our kitchen. Robin did a great job of planning everything out and ordering the materials ... now our "guy," Paul, will do the actual work. I'll post progress reports here over the next couple of months. First, a few pictures of what it used to look like. Funny thing is, I don't seem to have taken any pictures of the sink, so that whole corner won't mean much to you. But I'll take some pix tomorrow morning before the demolition starts. Meanwhile, here's a few from days gone by:




fandom, home openers, and why landon is now scum

Major League Soccer begins its tenth season this coming weekend, and while that statement in itself speaks volumes about how far the league has come (many assumed it would have fallen apart by now), it also speaks volumes about how no one cares (it's entirely possible no one is reading these words because the minute they saw the word "soccer" they figured "I don't need to read this one" and moved to another website).

The San Jose Earthquakes have been a bastard stepchild of MLS since their birth. From the beginning of the league, some teams were owned and operated by the league, while awaiting a local person or group that would buy in. While San Jose has a long soccer history, they haven't yet been able to convince anyone to buy the team. Meanwhile, the structure of MLS is odd, to say the least ... the league owns the contracts of the players, unlike most other leagues where the individual teams own the players. Finally, to keep the league afloat, some people/groups are in charge of more than one franchise. All of this would seem to argue against legitimate competition ... whether chicanery is really involved or not, the impression of chicanery is enough to taint the league. MLS can fudge rosters, since they own the players' contracts ... if they want a good team in New York or Los Angeles, they might be able to do something about it that other leagues could not. Owners in charge of more than one franchise might improve one club at the expense of another.

This does not mean chicanery actually happens ... it just means there's a taint in the air. (I wrote about this in more detail back in 2001, when I covered the beginning of the WUSA for the Bay Guardian.) Suspicion is always just behind the corner, due to the very structure of the league.

Meanwhile, San Jose, ownerless, oftentimes run by idiots, has problems. Attendance is lower than you'd like, and more than once the team has been thisclose to being moved to another part of the country.

Nonetheless, in 2001, when Landon Donovan came to MLS, he was awarded to the Earthquakes. Donovan is often called the best American soccer player, and sure enough, when he joined San Jose, they went from being the laughing stock of the league to winning MLS championships in 2001 and 2003. Donovan was on loan from the German club Bayer Leverkusen, who had signed him when he was a teenager ... a young teenager, as he was still a teenager when he joined MLS. The Germans extended Landon's loan once ... eventually, he played four years with San Jose, and in 2002, while a member of the Quakes, he was a crucial member of the USA squad that made the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

Here is where the story gets ... um, tainted. Leverkusen finally called Landon back to Germany ... he said he was more mature now, and ready to take on the higher level of play in Europe. The Quakes thanked him for his contributions to their two championships, and went about rebuilding the team. But Landon didn't do well in Germany ... he didn't play much, at least. And so we started hearing hints that he wanted to come back to MLS.

Now, do you suppose he'd go back to San Jose? Well, the rules of MLS are arcane at best, and depending on who you listen to, either the Quakes got screwed or the Quakes screwed up, but whatever the case, Landon Donovan will not be coming back to San Jose. Which is fine ... I loved watching him play for four years, but things change.

The newest and finest soccer-specific stadium in the country is the recently-built Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, home of the Quakes top rivals, the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Galaxy are owned by AEG, a company that also owns the Home Depot Center, along with a lot of other sports franchises (Phil Anschutz, who I assume is the "A" in AEG, also recently bought the San Francisco Examiner.) Coincidentally, Phil is also currently in charge of the ownerless San Jose Earthquakes. He put Alexi Lalas in the General Manager's seat at San Jose ... Lalas, still one of the more recognizable figures in American soccer, played three years for Los Angeles.

OK, did you follow all of that? You've got the LA Galaxy owner in charge of the rival Earthquakes ... you've got the Quakes being run by an ex-Galaxy player ... and now, you've got a San Jose front office that, for whatever reason, has lost Landon Donovan, only to see Landon return to the league to play for ...

Yes, you guessed it. Tomorrow, a press conference will be held to announce that Landon Donovan, the so-called savior of American soccer, and the only soccer player in the world that my son would pay to see, has been assigned to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

There are many good reasons for this, and many of them are completely stink-free. But there's a taint, don't you think? And when the Earthquakes move to Houston, or Mexico City, or wherever, perhaps no one but us jaded few Quakes fans will even remember the glory years of those two championships.

But on June 25, Landon Donovan will come to San Jose for the first time wearing the colors of the hated Galaxy. And I guarantee you, the greatest player in the history of the franchise will be heartily booed the moment he sets foot on the field. Because that's what it means to be a fan ... when your fair-haired golden-boy-baby-jesus spurns you for the Galactiscum, you don't even say thanks for the memories, you just boo, long and hard.

Meanwhile, this Saturday night, I'll be at Spartan Stadium for the opening of the tenth season, just as I was at the inaugural match of MLS, also at Spartan, back in 1996. I wouldn't be surprised if this is the last season for MLS in San Jose ... if so, at least we'll go out with a boo on our throats. Welcome to LA, Landon, you scum.

dr. don rose

Word is that Dr. Don Rose died last night. Rose was a Bay Area DJ in the 70s and 80s ... perhaps it's better to say he was THE Bay Area DJ, at least on the AM side of the dial. He was easy to hate, especially if you'd been raised on the laid-back stoner raps of the FM "underground" ... Dr. Don was non-stop jokes and sound effects, like Henny Youngman on meth. He was inescapable for a long time, which bothered lots of people, but it was hard not to feel affection for his show. I have a lecture I give on rock and roll radio ... I use Wolfman Jack airchecks as the ultimate DJ, and Tom Donahue for the FM guru, but when I wanted my students to understand what a fired-up AM disc jockey sounded like, I'd just play them a few minutes of Dr. Don ... it worked every time.

Check out a 1976 aircheck here ... there's more if you wander around the site. And the next time you hear someone refer to Sacratomato, think of Dr. Don Rose.

2005 begonias

I don't talk a lot about my fantasy baseball team here ... check previous years if you don't believe me ... so you needn't fear this will become a blog devoted to that topic. In my day I was pretty obsessive, including many years helping to run [how's that, Eggs?]  leagues on CompuServe and a few years writing for fantasy tout John Benson. But nowadays I mostly just pick an ESPN team and leave it at that. This year, in honor of all the great movies I've been watching courtesy of Steve Fore's kind xmas gift set, I named our league Miyazaki, and half of our league's ten teams have gotten into the spirit by naming their teams with Miyazaki-related monikers. I've even changed my time-honored name for one year only ... this year, it's the Ghibli Begonias. As always, I don't think I can link directly to our league, but I'll try nonetheless (also as always). Try here.

So here's my team as of the initial draft ... this will change before opening day, but this is where I start. Ten teams, AL-only, standard pitching categories, but the hitting categories are Runs, RBI, OBP and SLG. 25-man rosters, three of them "bench" slots.

SP: Matt Clement, Kevin Brown, Bobby Madritch, Nate Robertson
RP: Eddie Guardado, Miguel Batista, Tom Gordon, Juan Cruz, Kiki Calero
C: John Buck, Rod Barajas
1B: Paul Konerko, Rafael Palmeiro
2B: Ron Belliard, Keith Ginter
3B: Eric Chavez, Robb Quinlan
SS: Edgar Renteria, Ramon Martinez
OF: Shannon Stewart, Johnny Damon, Trot Nixon, Terence Long, Jay Payton, Alexis Rios

Biggest surprise is probably Matt Clement. This league is a draft off of pre-ordered lists, done by position. For starting pitchers, I had the third pick ... gone were Johan Santana and Randy Johnson. That left a lot of studs ... just to list guys who went in the first round, I could have had Schilling, Halladay, Pavano, Radke, Mussina, Harden, or Buehrle. But I had Matt Clement above all those guys on my list, so that's who I got. For the life of me, I can't remember why I had him ranked so high, but oh well.

I've made my fantasy living on saves, going back to my very first team in 1987, when I got Dennis Eckersley for $6 and kept him around for the next bazillion years. Last year I rode Francisco Cordero to a 3rd-place finish. This year? Guardado's an injury risk and Batista's just as likely to go back to the rotation as to remain the closer, but oh well.

The biggest surprise for the whole league is probably that no one picked Darin Erstad. That means ten owners ... the ones I know are sharp, most of the others have good resumes ... ten owners chose 20 other guys and left Erstad stranded. I even chose Palmeiro over Erstad, and I admit I'm not sure why. The last 1B picked was Ken Harvey, who got sent to the minors, and don't you suppose Erstad's a better pick? But oh well.

Here are the first and last guys picked at each position, and then I'll shut up for the rest of the year, or close to it. We chose five SP, four RP, and two of everything else. I had first pick for CF ... each owner gets first pick on one position, randomly assigned:

SP: Johan Santana (1st pick) / Kyle Lohse (last pick)
RP: Mariano Rivera / Felix Rodriguez
C: Victor Martinez / Sandy Alomar
1B: Mark Teixeira / Ken Harvey
2B: Mark Bellhorn / Jose Hernandez
3B: Alex Rodriguez / Eric Munson
SS: Miguel Tejada / Aaron Hill
LF: Manny Ramirez / Charles Thomas
CF: Johnny Damon / Jay Payton
RF: Vladimir Guerrero / Gary Matthews Jr

more l

The following appeared on a Television Without Pity chatboard:

As it's the only full on lesbian show we've got at the moment, maybe we could show a little restraint on the pedantic nitpicking and character hostility and more support instead.
The blatant negativity isn't likely to help the show in any useful way, IMO.

Television Without Pity is a site famous for the presence of both gushy fans and snarky haters, so discussions there often have a certain intensity, although fans obviously tend to vastly outnumber the haters (who else would spend time watching and commenting on a teevee show other than fans?). More often, you'll get fans who are frustrated with certain aspects of favorite shows. Which is to say that the author of the above words isn't wrong about the negativity that sometimes rears its head at TWP, but otherwise it's very hard to take the writer seriously ... except that there are a lot of attitudes expressed that I fear are more common than they should be.

The fundamental flaws begin with the idea that fans writing on a webchat board should be concerned with "helping a show in a useful way." Back in the day, when people got together around the proverbial water cooler on Monday morning to talk about the previous night's television shows, did any of them think for a second that they were somehow charged with "helping a show in a useful way?" Of course not. They talked about their shared culture with friends. Moving the discussion from the water cooler to the Internet doesn't change that.

But the only reason I'm bothering to bring this up at all is the persistence of the extremely stupid notion that we should support art, no matter how crummy, if it meets our preconceived notions of what is necessary in the socio-cultural arena. In the case of L Word, this means we're supposed to restrain ourselves from commenting on its suckiness, because "it's the only full on lesbian show we've got." It's clear the creators of L Word are counting on this ... no matter how bad the show gets, we're supposed to be grateful it exists at all.

Something similar is happening right now in the community of American soccer fans, believe it or not. A new film that tells the story of a famous 1950 World Cup match between the United States and England is being heavily promoted in that community, with fans being co-opted into the publicity scheme of the movie. Happily co-opted, I should add ... none of them have actually seen the movie, but they don't care, they want it to be a success because soccer isn't a popular spectator sport in America and they want to "help the movie in a useful way," in the process hopefully helping soccer in general.

Underrepresented groups understandably want to increase the amount of positive coverage of their culture. This has nothing to do with the quality of a work of art. That a full on lesbian show finally exists is a good thing ... that it's The L Word is a bad thing, because The L Word isn't a good show.

l word season two so far

It's funny how you have to worry about spoilers even when you say something the day after an episode has run, because so many people are watching shows on their own schedules now.

I haven't been very kind to The L Word in the past. But Season Two is worse than Season One, so I'm not gonna be any kinder now. The awful Jenny character has become almost tolerable in Season Two ... unfortunately, the show has now taken to dramatizing Jenny's short stories, and based on those vignettes, she's a really shitty writer, so the character doesn't make me puke as often but her "art" is barf city.

So, what's good about Season Two? My two favorite characters, Shane and Alice, can do no wrong in my book, although Alice in particularly has been a bad girl lately. Honestly, if they spun off a Shane and Alice series (and got new writers), I'd watch that for sure. Also, I'm not the biggest Jennifer Beals fan, but she's done very well with her character, and since I don't like her character, it's been fun seeing her in misery. And last night's pregnant-lady sex scene was as hot as it gets ... for once, L Word was as groundbreaking as they think they are.

But, lordamighty, what a pile of crap most of the plots are this season. I'll leave the lesser ones aside and just talk about the biggest waste of time: the voyeuristic straight guy who takes secret videos of lesbians having sex while he and his friend snort and belch. If there was half a brain behind this show, I'd suggest the creators were trying to make a statement about our own voyeuristic habits as we watch hot lesbo sex on the show. But there is no evidence of any brains on this show, so instead I'll just assume it's some bizarre attempt to appeal to a broad audience, although I'm not sure how this is helping. The plot chicanery necessary to get the straight guy in a position to record all the lesbo sex was stupid enough ... now we have to sit through endless scenes of this idiot, for no reason I can come up with.

So you've got a totally unnecessary, boring and disgusting hidden-cam sex plot, you've got these terribly cheesy visualizations of Jenny's terrible and cheesy fiction, you've got the world's worst theme song (new for this season, as well) ... and last night, you had Melissa Rivers playing herself having an affair with a lesbian (who is last heard saying "I can't wait to meet your mother"). What a disaster.