Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Falling hard for you

Great story in Slate about how the new scoring system has pretty well eliminated whatever small pretense of "art" had remained in figure skating: "The hardest maneuver in figure skating -- a quadruple axel -- can get you up to 16 points with a perfect landing. But if you blow it, you'll still get 10 points -- more than you'd earn for almost any other move. To put this in perspective, you can fall on your ass trying a quadruple jump and still get almost twice as many points as you would for executing a flawless double." Hence, you're seeing a lot more falls this Olympics than ever before.

They may as well rename the sport. Figure skating? Ha, the "figures" were eliminated years ago. "Ice Gymnastics"? "Skate Acrobatics"? "Fear Factor On Ice"? It's really no different than the similarly mis-named "Freestyle Skiing", where the athletes use a ramp to launch into the air and try to execute a ridiculous number of spins and twists. The only difference is that the skiers don't have to wear a frilly costume, AND they get to wear a helmet.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Come On Feel The Illinoise

I've really gotten into the album Illinois by Sufjan (pronounced SOOF-yan) Stevens, released last summer. This is his 2nd in a series of "state" albums -- he released Greetings From Michigan in 2003. He's claimed that he will produce one album about each of the 50 states, an absurd notion but fun to imagine nonetheless.

Anyway, many of the songs aren't technically about Illinois; instead they use Illinois locations and/or events as their jumping off point. A great example is Casimir Pulaski Day, a quiet but powerful reminiscence of a childhood sweetheart diagnosed with bone cancer. (Whether it's actually true, I have no idea). The March 1st state holiday is referenced only subtly. In my Googling for info about the song, I found a link where you can get the MP3. If you like it, by all means purchase the whole disc.

The rest of the album isn't quite as direct or literal. It's often wildly experimental the best Wilco/Radiohead tradition. A couple of other favorites are "Chicago" and "John Wayne Gacy, Jr.". And I swear that "The Tallest Man, the Broadest Shoulders" sounds EXACTLY like an early 70s Yes song as perfomed by a high school jazz band and chorus. Some songs (especially the instrumentals) are notable for their long and silly titles -- my favorite of these may be "To the Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament, and It Involves an Inner Tube, Bath Mats, and 21 Able-bodied Men". It's fun to watch it slowly scroll across the iPod screen.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cheney's Got A Gun

How much does this sentence reveal about the secrecy of the Bush administration: "Vice President Cheney shot a man in the head on Saturday, and 21 hours later you had to be looking at the Web page of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times to find out about it." Good Lord, what world do these people live in?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I thought I had already seen this movie and this movie, but now I'm not so sure.