The new Pac Bell Park
March 27, 2000
Maybe you're not a baseball fan, or don't live in the San Francisco Bay Area. So you may not be aware of the fact that a new, privately financed baseball park, Pac Bell Park, has risen on a former pier 20 minutes walk from the heart of the financial district in downtown San Francisco.
It's also across the street from my office at China Basin--the one I work out of one day a week.
So, when my friend Gregg Wheatland asked me if I wanted to buy a quarter of his season ticket (20 home games), I said sure. I mean, wouldn't it be awful if I worked across the street from America's newest ballpark and never saw a game there? Well, yes it would, and as many people predicted, the park is essentially sold out.
Now 20 baseball games is 10 times as many as I've ever seen in a season as an adult. It's even four or five times as many as I saw in my most frantic year as a fan of the Portland Beavers of the old Pacific Coast League. That was the year they took (or was it almost took?) the league championship on the arm of Sam McDowell, whom Cleveland called up during the playoff series. My radio never left KEX.
So, I'll see some weekday afternoon Giants games (long lunch hour) and some weekend games, and I'll be selling at least ten of my pairs of seats (my friends the Strykowskis get their pick first) for face value, which is $23 (no scalper, he). I'll let you know what the dates are when I know. Plus, there are a few weekday afternoon games my sports-nut producer won't be joining me for, but Art Garcia already has dibs on the first one, May 25. It will be an interesting year. I'll keep you posted.
Two Multi-Part Animal Jokes
March 27, 2000
How do you put a giraffe in a refrigerator?
Open the refrigerator and put him in.
How you put an elephant in the refrigerator?
First take the giraffe out, then put the elephant in.
When the lion calls a meeting of all the animals, one doesn't attend. Who is it?
The elephant--he's still in the refrigerator.
The gazelle is thinking of crossing the crocodile-infested stream, then realizes it will be OK to do so. Why?
The crocodiles are all at the meeting.
Now, here's the second one. Really.
How do giraffes hide from their predators?
They paint their balls like berries and hide in the trees.
When do you hear the loudest sound in the jungle?
When the baboons go berry picking.
March 27, 2000
Well, as you might expect from a guy who saw 47 movies last year, Sunday was the biggest night of the year for me. I love the Oscars. Any of you ever have a ticket to the ceremony to give away or sell, I'm there. I already own a tux. I will walk to the venue if need be.
As a point of personal pride, most years I try to see all five of the best picture nominees. This was my worst year in a decade in that regard, as I missed both The Green Mile (waved off by a hyper-negative review from Fran Strykowski and its interminable length), and The Insider (just couldn't squeeze it in).
I was in an Oscar pool last year, so I shared my picks in advance. I either wasn't invited, or missed the invitation, to the pool this year, so I made my picks Sunday afternoon. I expected more of an American Beauty sweep than actually occurred. Hilary Swank surprised me with best actress for Boys Don't Cry, as did Michael Caine. He was good, but Tom Cruise in Magnolia was better. Catherine Keener was amazing in the years' most under-rewarded deserving film, Being John Malkovich. I was torn in the screenplay category, because Alan Ball clearly deserved to win for American Beauty, but Charlie Kaufman also clearly deserved to win for Being John Malkovich. I was flabbergasted when The Matrix beat out Star Wars in the sound and visual categories. God, the academy must hate George Lucas even more than it hates Jim Carrey.
Well, I could have done worse; the best film of the year, according to the New York Film Critics Circle, was Topsy Turvy, the bloated Gilbert and Sullivan biopic, that deserved the costume and makeup awards it won, and should have taken art direction as well. Sleepy Hollow for art direction? Where did that come from?
A word about the ceremony itself: I am beginning to wonder if Billy Crystal is really devious enough to take a year off every few years just to make us appreciate him more. I have seen all the major hosts in action live, from Bob Hope through Johnny Carson, to Crystal, and Crystal is, without question, far and away the best. Clever, witty, smooth and enjoyable. Sexiest man: Antonio Banderas.
Who knew Warren Beatty has been nominated 14 times, and that he has twice been nominated in four categories, best film (as producer), best director, best writer and best actor (Reds and Bonnie and Clyde)? Yes, his Thalberg award acceptance was too long and too full of himself, but if anyone deserves it, he does.
By the way, I predicted that Robert Benigni would kiss Peter Coyote when he was announced. I was so close to calling that one! Instead, he just stuck his head into Peter's space. By the way, showing the announcer--is that too weird or what?
Funny highlight of the night: Cher apologizing for dressing like a grownup and promising never to do it again.
Serious highlight of the evening, and the single best speech: Michael Caine. Why can't Americans be that gracious? He complimented each of his fellow nominees by name, and noted that the change from "The winner is" to "The Oscar goes to" which was imposed a few years ago, has never been more apt than in the best supporting actor category this year.
Well, I defy anyone to offer me written proof that they predicted the two big winners would be American Beauty with five Oscars and The Matrix for god's sake, with four. Let's see what I said about them when they were new:
I reviewed The Matrix on April 5, 1999 (aren't films released in the first half of the year supposed to do badly at Oscar time?
This movie has received almost universal terrible reviews, at least in the media I see and hear. Part of it, I think, is an innate prejudice against Keanu Reeves. There are reviewers in this country who made up their minds about him while watching Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and nothing he can do will ever change their minds.
The Matrix is a special-effects extravaganza, with a decent plot thrown in to boot. At first, it appears to be just another computer hacker film, but it quickly jumps off the tracks. Turns out we're all living in a virtual world, while our bodies sit in tanks and provide the heat energy needed to run the civilization of the aliens who have actually taken over the earth…
Go see this movie for the special effects alone. If you, like me, want to split your sides when Keanu delivers his trademark, "Oh, wow," line, go right ahead. This film proves that a flat, affectless actor can be perfect in some roles…
My crystal ball must have been a little cloudy on Oct. 11, 1999, when I reviewed American Beauty, but at least I got the movie title and the words "Best Picture Oscar" into the same paragraph. And I called it for Kevin Spacey. Finally, Annette Benning should have won.
Kevin Spacey = Oscar. Annette Benning = Oscar. American Beauty = nomination for best picture, but it will never win.
This is the strangest American film I have ever seen. It is reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard in the sense that it is narrated by a dead man, so you know, in a sense, what is going to happen (there's a refreshing narrative twist at the end). Frankly, the only way I'd tell someone to see it is if they, like me, pride themselves on having seen all the best picture and best actor films prior to the announcement of the Oscar nominations.
Otherwise, I'd have to say American Beauty is just too bizarre. There is not a single sympathetic character in the movie, and lots of mildly disturbing sexual imagery. It is a savage look at the vacuity of suburban living. Spacey does get to do an unusually funny turn when he quits his job and walks away with a great settlement. There are some very interesting film-making techniques. But I wouldn't exactly call it entertainment, and it doesn't quite rise to the level of thought-provoking, just unsettling and disturbing.
Which was, apparently, good enough for five Oscars, including best picture. Well, as Bo Goldman says, "Nobody knows anything."
See you at the movies!
What Planet Are You From
March 27, 2000
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
Mike Nichols and Garry Shandling. The funniest director ever and the head man from The Garry Shandling Show and The Larry Sanders Show, two of the funniest programs ever seen on cable. What could go wrong? Well, a lot as it turns out. First of all, every funny minute of the movie was in the trailer. Secondly, they couldn't seem to decide if it was a comedy or something else. Everyone's performance seemed a little off. Poor Mike Nichols. Well, at least it was only 104 minutes. Don't see this movie with anyone to whom you don't want to explain a vibrating penis. The sex scenes, while brief, are rather too explicit for my taste. No wonder the film vanished so quickly. Even good directors and actors make mistakes.
End of Mar. 27 column
March 27, 2000
Start of Mar. 20 column
March 20, 2000
My Week With Marlow
March 20, 2000
We picked Marlow and her friends from Columbia up on Saturday night. It was a joy to see her. Surprisingly, she spent about 45 minutes in our room just before bed, telling us all about her friends, her dorm room, her classes, the restaurants she eats in, and Manhattan. It really is a joy to have that kind of relationship with our college freshman daughter.
Sunday morning, Marlow was preparing to go with her friends to Golden Gate Park. She'd found a map on the Internet, but it was more than a page wide and didn't print our properly. After about a half hour of me searching for a better map on the Internet, Vicki said, "couldn't we just give them our AAA map of San Francisco?" Mr. "everything's better/easier" on the net had to agree. Generously, Marlow took Rae with her.
But after that, she was out until 3:30 or 4am with her friends. I got to have lunch with her alone Wednesday, and dinner with her and her friends. Vicki and I lunched with her Thursday and had breakfast with her Friday (after she came in at 4 am). Rae didn't see much of her at all after Sunday. But realistically, what did we expect?
I sent her this postcard, to arrive at school a few days after she does (don't read this next paragraph, Marlow)
It was really nice to see you, however briefly. I am looking forward to catching a brief glimpse of you in April [when Rae and I will be in NYC]. Not unexpectedly, you turned out to be a delightful young woman, clever & witty & fun to be with. You appear to be enjoying life inside and outside the classroom, and that's really important.
We took her to the airport very early Saturday morning for he flight back to New York.
What I Can Learn From My Cats
March 20, 2000
Cartoonist Ruben Bolling named one of his books, All I Ever Really Needed To Know I Learned From My Golf-Playing Cat. It was intended, of course, as a joke.
If I were Jon Carroll, or Adair Lara, or even Dave Barry, I could probably write a clever and touching essay on the lessons my two tabby cats, Champagne and Jagermeister (the boys), have to teach. And I realize one is on a slippery slope when one begins to attribute anthropomorphic characteristics to one's companion animals.
Nevertheless, sleeping 20 or so hours a day and being nonchalant--at the very least, exhibiting a general air of unconcern--the rest of the time is starting to look like a good lifestyle choice. I've never had to take either of the boys to the chiropractor. They seem to have a nearly limitless capacity to absorb pleasure and affection--but of course only on their own terms and in their own time. They are pushed into paroxysms of joy by one-sixth of a can of tuna every morning for breakfast.
And they're both good looking and go well with the furniture and rugs. Plus, they worship Vicki, my wife. All in all, I'm trying to learn to be more like my cats.
Windows 2000 Source Code
March 20, 2000
OK, this is kind of hard-core geeky, but I don't speak any computer language more complex than BASIC, and I still found it amusing.
/* Source Code to Windows 2000 */
#define INSTALL = HARD
/* printf("Welcome to Windows 3.1"); */
/* printf("Welcome to Windows 3.11"); */
/* printf("Welcome to Windows 95"); */
/* printf("Welcome to Windows NT 3.0"); */
/* printf("Welcome to Windows 98"); */
/* printf("Welcome to Windows NT 4.0"); */
printf("Welcome to Windows 2000");
system_memory = open("a:\swp0001.swp",O_CREATE);