Sunday, July 29, 2007

You gotta keep the devil down in the hole

I find it very interesting that the only two baseball stadiums – really, stadiums of any sort – that have restrictions on where you can go with your ticket beyond the obvious (luxury boxes, top of the Green Monster, home plate clubs) are in Chicago. At the atrocity that is US Cellular Field, if you have an upper deck ticket, you’re not allowed down on the first level concourse. I suppose you can get away with this when you’re World Series champs, but when you’re 13 games out in the division and a mere half-game away from the Royals’ record, it’s probably a little bit silly.

Wrigley’s is actually relevant to the park, as you can’t enter the famed outfield bleachers from the baseline/homeplate seats, mainly because the stadium’s a thousand years old and you simply can’t get there. Plus, if you could get there, everyone would just crowd in the outfield and it would be a giant cluster of epic proportions. When I first started imagining my first Cubs game, I used the context clues of most of the games at Wrigley I’d watched on TV in the middle of summer: it would be a thousand degrees, very sunny and everyone would be very drunk. While it might have been hot out in the sun, behind the home plate section of seats it was actually kind of chilly, something I simply cannot accept from a baseball game not taking place in the postseason.

Still, Wrigley was fun, but in the battle of Aging Stadiums Everyone Loves, I have to give the advantage to Fenway in a rout. Granted, when we were at Fenway it was for a Friday night Yankees game –instead of a Micah Owings/Rich Hill duel – but Yawkey Way was way above Wrigleyville and as fun as the Seventh Inning Stretch at Wrigley was, I’ll take “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway. Wrigley’s PA was also so quiet you couldn’t tell who was batting (the only Diamondbacks I could recognize were Eric Byrnes and Connor Jackson, who’s a monster of a man) unless you could see the scoreboard, which we could not for most of the game.

All in all, you could do worse than a weekend spent in Lincoln Park and Wrigleyville. And while the Green Monster is certainly cool, I'm not sure it can compare with the ivy.


Recommending or warning against a Michael Moore movie seems pretty pointless, as everyone already has their mind made up over whether they want to see it. Either they’re liberals who eat up everything he says, conservatives who like arguing against things they haven’t actually seen or people who just like movies and find his documentaries entertaining, flaws and all. I always thought the “Michael Moore Hates America” argument was just stupid, as nobody that hates America would take the time to put together the movies he does addressing issues no one else seems to want to talk about. With universal healthcare one of the issues important to a lot of the Democratic presidential contenders, Sicko is a movie everyone should probably see to start putting together their opinion on HMOs and their alternatives.

Sicko is divided into two parts, the first much stronger than the second. Before he begins a commercial for socialism, Moore just tears apart HMOs with a mix of understated snark and raw viciousness that’s a joy to watch. I’m sure there’s some good to HMOs (I don’t know if that’s actually true, it seems like the right thing to say…), but Moore makes them rather hard to support. They give bonuses to medical examiners who reject the highest amount of applications for care and the entire operation dates back to Nixon, who didn’t support the idea until it was explained that the point of the system wasn’t to actually help people, but to make money denying them care. I kind of wish the entire movie had just been this, although it would have been silly to bash a system without providing any alternatives.

Enter the commercial for socialized healthcare, which spans the globe from Canada and Cuba to England and France. Moore, to both his credit and discredit, makes it look very attractive. As much as you might want to bash the idea of government-controlled healthcare, you almost feel embarrassed when you see the confusion on the looks of the faces of countries with socialized healthcare when they’re asked how much they’re paying or why they wouldn’t just want to pay for themselves and not care about anyone else. He also manages to find what I’m assuming might be the only decent hospital in all of Cuba to get some 9/11 rescue workers treated, although it was hilarious how testimony from committee hearings on the quality of healthcare treatment at Guantanamo (originally given to defend why the prison should be open) was juxtaposed with the lack of care for the rescue workers in the states.

But the problem with Sicko comes from the fact that a good argument does not necessarily make a good movie, and Moore tried to make a better movie than he did argument. While there is some really good stuff there for why America’s system needs to change (Why isn’t our average lifespan higher? Why are all our disease rates higher than England when it rains there all the time?), the majority of the argument is made with anecdotal evidence. How do we prove that socialized healthcare isn’t a burden to the taxpayers of France? Let’s talk to one upper middle-class family, who happen to live quite the charming little life! Of course, if you go to any of the anti-Moore websites, their arguments are of the exact same sort: terrible treatment stories from countries with socialized healthcare, great stories from the States. If your course of debating is to just trade stories about individuals who got good care in one type of system and bad care in another, it will go on all day, which is why some more numbers would have been nice.

But like I said, Sicko is worth seeing, if only as a conversation starter about what should be a very important issue in the upcoming election. If a movie makes you think, research, want to protest something, want to vote and want to travel, that’s a pretty good piece of filmmaking, so kudos to Moore for that.

(A few links to go with Sicko: Moore isn’t done with the crusade yet, making his own sort of healthcare company, and here’s a massive rebuttal against the movie I haven’t read the whole way through yet. I’d research this more, but it’s almost college football season, and my brain only has so much space at one time.)


The entire NBA reffing scandal is one of the most deserved attacks on an institution in recent years. Simmons wrote a great piece on it last Friday about how sad it was the public’s reaction was “Who was it?” instead of “A ref was cheating?!”. FreeDarko had a great explanation of how I feel about the league:

“Now we're back in the center of the sports universe where we belong. It may be for all the wrong reasons, but damn it feels good. I already feel like being part of the people who prefer the NBA to other sports leagues is like being in an exclusive club. Almost similar to liking some musician that the general public doesn't give a fuck about. So when headlines are made, we band together, we know that any exposure, even negative exposure, gives us a sense of legitimacy in the world. In 2004, I had girlfriends who all of a sudden new who Ron Artest was. That justified my existence a little bit more than usual.

The only problem I have with the whole thing is the NBA acting like it is cycling when it is actually boxing. These are the two genres of sport. Cycling sports wag their fingers when scandal occurs, and the masses are supposed to collectively gasp when a wrongdoer is outed as if to say: "This could NEVER happen in our sport." In boxing sports, scandal is expected, and in some ways embraced, just as the cute puppy who knocks over an antique vase and then stares with longing eyes. We shake our heads, but then give a knowing smile. And that is where the Donaghy incident falls. The NBA is a ridiculous universe, and so a ref shaving points is just another love handle. David Stern "let me unfuck this thing up" speeches at this point are like Lou Piniella or Bill Parcells press conferences. They are like R.Kelly videos or Marlon Brando interviews. At the same time they are to be taken seriously, you just know some ill shit is going to happen, and it's all part of earth's neverending samba.”

My only quibble with this is that while I love watching and following the NBA, it’s not the same as following some great underground music act nobody knows about because the music act is probably pretty good while the NBA isn’t really that fun most of the time. When I tell people I was watching the Suns/Spurs game the night before and they respond “I don’t ever watch the NBA, is that still on?”, there’s not even a hint of anger – the kind I get when people are ignorant to Veronica, Arrested, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights and so many others – just a nod of approval: “I don’t blame you for not watching this rigged sport where the quality of play is usually terrible, as I hate it myself sometimes while I watch.”

Despite my hatred for the league some of the time, all I need to do is think about the joy of Mavericks/Warriors. Facial, anyone?


You want a bad-ass movie poster? How about this one for the Russell Crowe/Christian Bale Western, 3:10 to Yuma?

Is it just me, or have movies been pretty awesome since…mmm…Casino Royale came out last November? I’d think it was only because I was selecting films a lot better, but I’ve been using Entertainment Weekly and various film websites as guides for years now, so that can’t be it. Perhaps Hollywood is just on a nice little run.


Speaking of nice little Hollywood pictures, enjoyed Ratatouille, although I don’t think it’s nearly as good as either Toy Story or Finding Nemo. With the short at the beginning, it took forever to get into, and then the first twenty minutes or so were just slapstick chase scenes. The plot’s rather simple, yet still manages to meander to and fro from time to time, but there are a half dozen or so legitimate laugh-out-loud moments along with the prerequisite Disney-Pixar chuckles. A lot of people, and to an absurd degree, critics, loved this movie, but I feel like it might just have been an extended version of one of my favorite Disney movie scenes (Apparently you can’t find “The Chef’s Song” video anywhere on the internet not sped up, which despite the comments of everyone on the video, I do not find anywhere near “hilarious”, and would qualify as simply annoying).


I’d write more – still want to talk about SNL in-depth; seriously, read Live From New York ­– but I’ve got two more episodes left on disc three of The Wire Season One I can knock out before crashing out. If you’re unfamiliar with The Wire, it’s an HBO show about the Baltimore drug trade, covering everyone from the state’s attorney to the lowest dealer on the street. It seems everyone who watches it claims it’s the greatest thing they’ve ever seen, and after only six episodes or so, I’m nearly ready to sign off on that. If Buffy or Veronica Mars can lead to philosophy books, The Wire can probably lead to reforms in government, the education and penal systems, law enforcement and give you philosophies on life while it’s at it. Plus, the Season One intro is nearly a minute and a half long, which might set some sort of record. That would be a bigger problem if it weren’t so awesome:

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