Monday, July 30, 2007

Tropic of Hockey

We got our promised rain Sunday, so I sat out on my balcony in my pajamas and finished reading Tropic of Hockey. It was recommended in an IPB thread awhile back by Heather B. of Top Shelf as a nice change from fussing over the ridiculous amounts of money professional athletes make. And I'm very glad I read it, because it was exactly that. At a time when there are pros being paid $10 million a year to do something they supposedly enjoy and claiming that all they want is an offer that's fair--and I'm not taking a shot at anyone here, because I'd take what I could get too, at least to an extent--it's nice to hear about people who travel thousands of miles just because they have a passion for something. And I do think that Bidini genuinely took pleasure in finding this other world of hockey, so to speak, that we normally don't hear about in North America. In a way I wish that this had been a bit more academic and analytic in its scope. Particularly in looking at the shameful and almost imperialist way the American and Canadian expatriates and visitors Bidini encounters behave. But setting that aside, it's a breezy, nice read by a man who obviously loves hockey.

And now, if you sensed some caveats coming down the pipe, you aren't mistaken. My main problem is that the book is as much about Bidini as it is about hockey, and while that would be fine if I liked Bidini, I really don't. Of course, I find most people obnoxious when I read these kind of books--see my similar whining about Julie & Julia--so that might not be saying much. Part of the problem here is that I don't find him particularly funny when he's trying to be funny. I don't really care if he showers at the rink or if he "find[s] something disconcerting about a fellow who will stand unclothed in front of you and carry on a conversation as if he'd bumbed into you at the frozen-food section of the supermarket." Honestly, I think that's one of those things where you can do as you please, but either way it's not so interesting that I want to read about it in a book. Really though, it's bigger than that, because this issue he has with chatting with naked men fits right in with a theme of the book that I don't like.

I love hockey. Clearly. If I didn't I wouldn't be reading this book. I like the speed and the precision and the hitting and all that. I like the players who are willing to lay out in front of a shot or take a hit to make a play. I don't think fighting should be outlawed and I don't want remove the hitting from the game (unless it's to the head). But what I'm not such a fan of is the machismo, and accompanying undercurrent of violence, that pervades the sport. I think that's a big part of the lamentation over visors and the anxiety over Europeans, with their "soft" style of play taking over the Canadian game. And it's in evidence again and again in this book.

Bidini doesn't think much of the British accent because it's unintimidating sounding to his ears. Now, I would bet we're not talking about a rougher lower-class accent here, but a posher, Oxbridge-y one. The kind of accent that seems soft. When a temporary (British) teammate seems insufficiently threatening, Bidini writes, "I made a note to tell Tom that, in order to piss off one's opponent, there are more effective words than, 'pal.' 'Fag ass fucker,' for instance. It was the least I could do." Bidini doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who would advocate calling an opponent, say, a kike or a spic, so I think it's telling that this particular--and equally ignorant/offensive--suggestion is somehow acceptable in his mind.

In the following chapter he writes about how he was surprised when his regular team played against an all-gay team and they were tough, intense players. But even after having this experience, which he describes as an eye-opener, and theoretically seeing the error of his ways, he's still prepared to make such suggestions. And here's what confuses me: Bidini knows that this macho attitude is stupid, unhealthy even. He acknowledges how detrimental it can be. And yet he's too often a participant in it. He goes along with it--at times takes part in it. Maybe it's because I'm a woman, or because I've never been particularly competitive, or because I'm pretty far left on social issues, but that's something I just can't understand.

When Bidini focuses on the countries he's visiting and the hockey he's witnessing and participating in while there, he's got an extremely enjoyable book. It's interesting, and at times delightful. When he veers off that subject, things become more troubling. So in the end, this book was a bit of a double-edged sword for me. It reminded me of the reasons I like hockey, yes. But it also reminded me of an aspect of hockey culture--and that of various other sports--that I like even less than the money that gets thrown around.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Do people actually do things with their weekends?

At work Friday we were talking about how it was nice that it was supposed to rain this weekend because rain makes it totally acceptable to sit on your couch all weekend doing nothing. Of course there hasn't been a hint of rain, but I sat around all day anyway. Not on my couch though because I only have airconditioning in my bedroom. It seems a bit odd to say that Buffalo weather can spoil a person, but growing up in Buffalo has left me feeling totally unequipped to deal with New York summers. Buffalo summers are like a particularly fabulous apology for the snowy winters (which I enjoy anyway) and feature weather in the mid-70s with low humidity.

I actually did get quite a bit done today. I went food shopping and made mashed potatoes. I also used our juicer to squeeze my own orange juice which is a lovely treat. I can't be bothered to do it very often and I always forget just how much better than the storebought stuff it really is. Pyramus was being particularly needy this afternoon, and stared at me the whole time, baffled as to why I would prefer doing such a thing rather than sit down and cuddle him. I felt pretty good about the whole thing.

I also called the Nikon people to whom I sent my camera over a month ago for repairs. I've been worrying that it got lost in the mail because their customer service site says that they'll email you once they receive the camera. As it turns out, that's a huge lie. What they actually do is send you a letter in the mail, and while they supposedly sent me one, I certainly never received it. So I approved the charges, but I don't think I'll have it in time for my trip to Montana (next week).

We're going to Glacier Nat'l Park, which is exciting, but I don't think I'm really in good enough shape for the hiking my father has planned. I have bad ankles to begin with and I sprained my left ankle (the worse of the two) a couple times this past winter--the second time pretty badly. Which makes me feel particularly ridiculous because both times I did it by tripping over things in my living room. Anyway, it still doesn't feel totally right, but for the last month it has been at a point where I can do pretty much everything I normally do without pain. But I got even more out of shape than I normally am in the time it was bothering me, and now trying to get back into shape is frustrating me to no end. If only I were one of those people who enjoys working out.

And this post has been even more self-indulgent than is my norm, so apologies for that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance

I've suddenly developed a thing for So You Think You Can Dance. In theory I know it's totally annoying, and yet there I am watching anyway. I actually torrented all the old episodes so as to be caught up. I'm so lame. So anyway, today's episode was the first one I actually watched on the television.

And that Wade Robson dance was so cheesy that I'm more than half wishing I hadn't. Seriously, the peace signs and the spraypainted words on the shirts, the obnoxious as all get out John Mayer song, the scream, flashing the audience a peace sign at the end of the routine? The absolute cliche of it all. I'm sure a stupider dance could be put together, but this was plenty bad enough. And the shirts. I almost hate to harp on them, but they're like a particularly silly summer camp art project.

And in case anyone is dying to know my opinions, I think Pasha is adorable, Lacey and Sara are totally likeable, Danny is flat out too good for this show, and contemporary dance simply has to be more diverse and interesting than it appears to be on this show. Doesn't it? Also, I feel like I'm totally missing the Sabra thing. She just bores me.

Wait, okay, I need to say more on this Danny thing. I think the judges and their "break down these walls" schtick are full of crap. God forbid someone comport themself with a bit of dignity and reserve and, shock of shocks, subtlety. Apparently that needs to be chipped away at until you get the same over-emoted, smack you in the face acting that most of the contestants do, both when performing and when standing in front of the judges.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Went out to dinner with a couple friends today, and because Kir and I have been wanting to see what all the fuss is about we went to Pinkberry for dessert. So...I'm still not entirely sure what all the fuss is about. Perfectly decent as far as frozen yogurt goes (I'm not the biggest fan as a rule), but nothing I feel the need to wait on line for. It's a slick looking place but small and cramped enough that it's quite warm inside. So not an entirely pleasant experience. The yogurt has a nice, tart taste and the fresh fruit is great. I think everything is better with fresh kiwi. I'm not wild about the texture though. It's very light, but not in an airy or particularly satisfying way. Oh well.

Fred Astaire Brings Sexyback

Ok, so the whole bringing sexy back thing got incredibly old a long time ago, I know. And what's more, I would really, really not choose "sexy" as an adjective to describe Astaire. But I was puttering around YouTube and found this and it was really too fun not to post.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Anyway, I went to see Hairspray yesterday night. I was a bit iffy on it because I wasn't sure about John Travolta. I don't mean all the boycott-the-film-'cause-Scientology-is-anti-gay stuff. I tend to agree with Travolta's point that he's playing a woman, not a gay man, even if he is in a role traditionally filled by a gay man. Now, obviously, I think that Scientology is totally insane. And I find the rumors about Travolta having an autistic son who doesn't receive the proper treatment due to Scientology downright disturbing. The reason I wasn't sure about him though was more that I found it hard to picture him doing the same role as Harvey Fierstein (I've never seen the original movie with Divine). But as it turns out, he was really good. Not camp, which is certainly a change, but believable and likeable as a damaged woman. I'm not sure if it makes sense to be believable in a movie where none of the other characters are, but there you have it.

The movie as a whole is just a lot of fun. Infectious, really. Which is an ever so appealing word for what's mostly a good thing. It's the sort of movie--and musical for that matter--that I always think I should find obnoxious: flashy, good-hearted, naive. But I really enjoyed this one, and figure it's just good escapism. And Michelle Pfeiffer makes a very good evil bitch.

In other news, it's rather difficult to type with a cat sitting on your chest, head-butting your hands and rubbing her little wet nose all over you. She's purring like a little engine though so I feel too guilty to move her. Such a sucker.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Explosions and Con Ed Suckage

So, as many have no doubt heard, a steam pipe exploded near Grand Central yesterday evening. I work a couple blocks up from Grand Central but happily was already downtown by the time it happened. My rather less fortunate boss had to evacuate our building, walking down quite a few flights of stairs. The only real effect it's had on me was that my morning commute--I normally take the 6 to Grand Central--was fucked up, with the train taking forever to come and a bit more walking then usual. So I was late to work, but that's not the sort of thing you're going to get in trouble for given the circumstances.

The sidewalk is (mostly) open in the area around my building but Lexington is closed to traffic and they've dug into the road in various places, I assume to work on the other pipes. And just south of me the sidewalks are (mostly) closed as well and they don't want people going into the area. My grandmother works in that area and her office was closed today and is closed tomorrow. Anyway, they claim that there is asbestos in the debris but not the air, and the heat and humidity will prevent it from becoming airborne. I'm not particularly concerned. I do find it interesting though, that they have nevertheless outfitted the many police officers on the scene with these lovely pink masks. Of course most of them aren't actually wearing the masks, just carrying them around.

As usual, when the unusual happens, the incompetent Con Ed appears totally unprepared for it. We got an email in the earlier part of the day saying that due to the heat and the explosion the building would have to go into energy saving mode to help prevent blackouts. I was actually rather glad that this meant turning the airconditioning down because the office has been frigid the last couple days. Less happy though that it meant shutting down half the elevators. Our elevators are a constantly discussed pain in the ass to begin with. Around lunchtime or 5 o'clock you're frequently stuck waiting for 10 minutes for one to come and then when it does come it's completely full and you have to wait for the next one. So losing half of them really sucks. I ended up with a very short lunch. Fucking Con Ed.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


My 13-year-old cousin stayed with me Saturday evening to Sunday evening, and I think it went well. She's going through a rough time family-wise at that moment through no fault of her own, so I wanted her to have a nice time. One of the things we did, at my boss's suggestion, was go to see the Poiret exhibit currently going on at the Met. Interestingly, in an exhibiition hall on the ground floor, off the new Greek and Roman galleries, as opposed to in the Costume Institute space.

I actually read about Poiret fairly recently in the New Yorker which was good as my cousing travels through museum exhibits much more quickly than I do, so I didn't have time to do all the reading and slow looking that I normally do. It also meant I didn't have anyone to chat to while looking. I wanted to say un-witty things like, "my god, you'd need to be an absolute stick to look ok with a roll of fabric on your hips," and, "that coat would make a normal person look like a tank." Then again, it's hardly news that if one is going to wear something with very little structure they ought to be quite thin.

Still, the work I liked best was that which still had a real shape to it, while not going to far into the "oriental" look he was so influenced by. While the Met did a nice job of presenting his innovations, particularly in showing through projected images how some of the clothing was draped, I think you still came away--or at least I still came away--feeling as though you were looking at costumes. For all the practicality of getting rid of restrictive undergarments, the clothing still doesn't feel as though it would work for your typical woman. Then again, I suppose that's why his popularity declined once women became more active.

Still, one has to applaud that kind of devotion to beauty, even if it doesn't seem like clothing that is as functional as one might hope. Of course, the dresses Poiret was replacing don't scream functional either.

Beyond that, my cousin and I rented some movies, ate out, and did the whole girly manicure/pedicure thing. It didn't rain as it was supposed to, but it was nevertheless to hot to go for the long walk I normally would have liked. I don't quite know why being out in the sun is so draining, although I'm sure there's some kind of biologic reason for it. So now I'm home, typing away with one of the cats sacked out on my lap and enjoying the quiet. I love having a roommate and have not been liking this only-person-in-the-apartment thing generally, but I do have to admit as much as I prefer living with people, and as much as I liked having my cousin visit, tonight I'm really enjoying the peace and quiet of having the place to myself.

Friday, July 13, 2007

This will not be interesting.

Hey, you can't say I don't believe in giving people fair warning.

When I was younger my father used to have what he referred to as "get-it-done days." These essentially consisted of my sister and I bitching and whining and saying, "Mommm, Dad's being a jerk," while my dad proved us right. Well, this week has been a "get-it-done week" for me. I think I've mentioned before that housekeeping is not a strength of mine. Wendy is, of course, much better at that and extremely organized to boot. I'm the sort to just toss stuff all over the place, she's the sort to put everything in drawers which she has labeled with her labelmaker.

So anyway, I did a ton of dishes, cleaned out the fridge (moldy cheese, brown lettuce, etc), organized the cabinets (Wendy's fond of keeping little tupperware containers with 5 pita chips and such which she then forgets about), did laundry, vacuumed, etc., etc. Joy.

Yesterday was my birthday, which turned out to be very nice. I had lunch with my department at work and a good dinner with a couple of friends and a rather shocking number of people wished me a happy birthday, including a couple of friends I really wouldn't have expected to remember. Not because they're bad friends (they're wonderful friends) but because I haven't seen them recently so I wouldn't have remembered in their place. I'm shit at that though.

Meanwhile, since last night, the people who live across the hall from me have had something beeping in their apartment. Fortunately, I can't hear it from my bedroom so I didn't know about it until this morning, but it totally made me late to work this morning while I searched all over trying to figure out what could be beeping in my apartment. I finally concluded that it must not be in my apartment and was about to walk out the door when my doorbell rang. Turns out it was someone who lives one floor up and across the hall from me (seems like a nice man), hoping I had some idea what was going on across the hall from me as the people who live there didn't seem to be home. I've never even met the people who live across the hall from me, so I hadn't the faintest idea. It's still beeping as of 3:30 this afternoon.

Beyond the cleaning and the birthday stuff, I've mostly spent the last few days sitting around reading, watching Doctor Who on the TiVo and, nearly as good, watching videos like this one on YouTube:

In other news, I have thus far managed to avoid killing Wendy's plants (although the aloe is looking even cruddier than usual), my parents may be adopting a second cat although we're not sure what they're current fairly bitchy cat will think of that (Wendy thinks she's found my mother's kitty soulmate), and my 13-year-old cousin is spending part of the weekend with me, so everyone cross your fingers and hope that goes well.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

In which Masterpiece Theatre disappoints me.

I love Masterpiece Theatre more than a sane 22-year-old should. Because we are not-so-secretly 80ish cat ladies, Wendy and I once seriously considered not going to a party on a Saturday night so we could watch Masterpiece's Casanova on TiVo. Thus I was delighted to find that my TiVo had recorded the ITV miniseries of Docter Zhivago as shown on Masterpiece Theatre. I mean, I was slightly concerned to see that Keira Knightly, who would have been a teenager when it was filmed, was playing Lara, but excited none the less.

I grew somewhat more concerned though, when Russel Baker informed us that this version, "emphasizes the carnal nature of the story." I'm sorry, I think Knightley is, and was at the time, a pretty girl, if not Julie Christie pretty. I just find it hard to see 17-year-old Keira Knightley was that sexually alluring. Granted, I'm not a guy so maybe I'm just missing it. But I really just don't understand it. Knightly also isn't the actress that Christie was (and is).

Two other problems rapidly presented themselves. One was that the acting was frequently less than spectacular. Not only on Knightley's part--she plays Lara the same way she plays ever other role--but on the part of others as well. The other issue is that the whole thing is so damn British seeming. It's incredibly hard to see this as taking place in early-20th century Russia. I constantly found myself thinking, nope, just not buying it. The actors and the production itself just seem to scream Great Britain.

Now, I don't want to make it sound like I think the David Lean version is a perfect movie. It's glacially slow and has plenty of issues. To my mind it has one particular strength that would make it worthwhile no matter what. That being the fact that it's a breathtakingly beautiful movie. There are constant moments--a young Zhivago looking out of a frosted window, sweeping mountain vistas--that remind you not only how beautiful film can be, but how beautiful the world can be. There are frames that are just indescribably beautiful.

I don't expect a tv miniseries to be able to manage that. But nevertheless it can't help but be disappointing how very, very far it is from that. On a whole I can't say I'm glad to be watching this. Probably won't finish it, I don't think.

In other news, that guy from Love, Actually who runs off to America to get laid by the British-accent-loving American girls is played Pasha. He's crap in this.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


This was linked to on a forum I frequent. I'm not always sure what I think of Olbermann. I love a smartly constructed rant, but he doesn't do it for me all the time. And lets face it, they're hardly going to change the world. But there are some times that he hits it out of the park.

Will he get what he wants? No, of course not. But sometimes it's good to see someone say it so eloquently anyway.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Personal Matter

So I was perhaps a bit optimistic about my emotional state yesterday. I found the whole day more than a little miserable. I'm still not as distraught as some Sabres fans seem to be, but then it would probably take the death of a family member to get me to that point. I still like Regier and am still willing to wait and see how the team performs next season. But I will say that being all, "oh, I'm reading this really depressing book, so at least it'll provide perspective," was pretty damn stupid. Because between the book and the emotional beating of seeing the team Sabres fans have so adored for the last two years lose both captains, I'm feeling pretty wrecked. Also, I really wish my roommate wasn't out of town because if she was here we'd watch Midsummer Murders and chat and I'd feel better. But enough of this whining!

A Personal Matter is a wonderful novel. Just truly great literature. It's one of those books that reminds you that most of what you read is not great. But it also kind of made me feel like bits of me had been put through a blender.

One of the toughest things for me to read is always disgusting physical descriptions of people. Now it's perfectly possible that I am just incredibly inobservant, but I never look at people and see this. There just seems to be such a visceral level of disgust for the human body. I'm not complaining; it's vital to the book. But it was a particularly difficult aspect of what was a trying read. At the same time, the novel had moments of incredible beauty and clarity. And the greatest of these, for me, was when Bird, the protagonist, first sees his damaged son.
My son has bandages on his head and so did Apollinaire when he was wounded on the field of battle. On a dark and lonely battlefield I have never seen, my son was wounded like Apollinaire and now he is screaming soundlessly...

Bird began to cry. Head in bandages, like Apollinaire: the image simplified his feelings instantly and directed them. He could feel himself turning into a sentimental jelly, yet he felt himself being sanctioned and justified: he even discovered a sweetness in his tears.

Like Apollinaire, my son was wounded on a dark and lonely battlefield that I have never seen, and he has arrived with his head in bandages. I'll have to bury him like a soldier who died at war.

Bird continued to cry.

--A Personal Matter, Kenzaburo Oë

It's just an absolutely perfect passage.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


So, I had some family stuff today, and then I wanted to get away from my computer and not obsess over all this NHL free agency crap. Which was better for my health. Although I find that since I've been expecting the worst case scenario I'm actually quite calm about it all. Which is good as there is still plently left to happen.

First off, let me just admit that at the box office I asked for "that rat movie at 12:35." Seriously Pixar people, name your movie something I know how to pronounce! I don't like feeling stupid while buying a ticket to a childrens' movie of all things.

Anyway, it's actually a very traditional story, with all the cutting edge inventiveness being confined to the animation. And that's fine. I don't need people to reinvent the wheel every time they tell a story. Although I do wish this one had been a tad less predictable. I still think Bird's best work to date is The Iron Giant, which was a combination of traditional and computer animation. That one just felt more emotionally "true" to me.

On the one hand, it's thrilling to see what computers can do. On the other hand, when I'm watching these Pixar movies, I keep catching myself thinking, Wow, computers can do that now? and that's not really how I want to spend my movie watching time. It's almost easer to suspend disbelief while watching traditional style animation, pre-computer graphics movies like Sleeping Beauty (1959) or The Sword in the Stone (1963) which look wonderful but in an entirely different, less full of bells and whistles kind of way.

All of which makes it sound like I'm criticizing Pixar and that's really not the case. Ambivalent though I may be about computer animation--for the record, I do like it, I just don't want to see the demise of traditional animation--I am not at all ambivalent about the standards of excellence Pixar obviously embraces. I mean, have they produced one movie that's even mediocre, much less bad? I don't think so. That's pretty damn impressive. If only it would inspire others to set similar standards.

And in other news, I'm currently reading Kenaburo Oe's A Personal Matter. If nothing else, it's a good reminder that a hockey team's star center signing with the Philadelphia fucking Flyers is not actually that depressing. The Flyers though? I hope he spends the next 8 years sucking.