Spilling out over the side to anyone who will listen


  Sunday, September 1, 2002

Is Real Madrid the Best Football Team Ever?

Real Madrid announced today that they have signed Ronaldo, the Brazilian national who led all scorer's at this year's World Cup. Madrid won last season's UEFA Champions League, and this move can only make them better. On paper, this has got to be the best football team in the world, club or national. They have Iker Casillas in goal; Roberto Carlos, Iván Helguera, and Fernando Hierro on defense; Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Claude Makelele, Steve McManaman, and Claude Makelele in midfield; and Ronaldo, Raúl, and Fernando Morientes up front. At least half of those players are the best at their position in the world. In terms of competitive imbalance, this far exceeds anything ever achieved by the Yankees

9:21:27 PM     What do you think? ()

What Was So Strange About the Carter Family?

In my list of contemporary artists who manage both effective irony and deep, genuine emotion, I omitted David Gates, the author of two brilliant novels (Jernigan and Preston Falls) and a brilliant collection of short stories (The Wonders of the Invisible World), not the lead singer/songwriter of Bread. He's also the music/pop culture writer for Newsweek, and is one of the few working journalists to interview Bob Dylan.

In today's New York Times Book Review, Gates has written a remarkable review of Charles Hirschberg's Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone. Actually, the review barely mentions the book, which Gates doesn't think is worth much, but it has a fascinating discussion of the Carter family, who are the subjects of the book. He illustrates their importance and originality using Harold Bloom's ideas about the strangeness and irreducibility of great writers, a theme that Gates expands and illustrates throughout the review. It not only makes me want to read a book about the Carter family (about whom I know essentially nothing), but it makes me wish that Gates had written that book.

7:58:34 PM     What do you think? ()

Who Am I?

Sitting in my easy chair after seeing a friend from college that I hadn't seen in thirteen years, I was reflecting on the different ways in which a person can be viewed, and I came up with the little quiz below. See how many you can get right without peeking at the answers at the bottom.

  1. I was born in rural northeastern Connecticut, near the University of Connecticut, from which my parents had recently graduated without enough forward momentum to get them any further away. My parents' decision to have me when they did was motivated by my father's desire to avoid the draft and the war in Vietnam. When I was a year old, my parents adopted a black child born to a fourteen year-old mother in Bridgeport, Connecticut because, well, it seemed like the right thing to do. Though out of college, my parents didn't abandon their vaguely hippie ways. I remember the life around me then as a chaotic blur of free love, occasional drug use, and heavy drinking. When I was five, we moved to Hartford, exchanging my brother's minority status for my own. Shortly thereafter, my parents split, and my mother, brother, and I were left stranded in a rather harsh urban environment. My brother struggled with mild learning disabilities in an unsupportive educational system; we received school lunch vouchers; our house was vandalized and broken into; we were robbed, beaten up, and worse. Now that he and I are adults, I'm in intensive psychotherapy and on anti-depressants, and my brother has largely estranged himself from the family and is struggling with the twin demons of depression and substance abuse. Who am I?

  2. Like my father, who attended the General Motors Institute and studied math, physics, and engrineering, I have a powerful, analytical mind. Math and logic have always been second nature for me. I got my first "computer" when I was eleven. It was a Hewlett Packard HP-41C programmable calculator (home computers weren't yet widely available). I learned reverse polish notation. I painstakingly typed in the code to play Hunt the Wumpus. In junior high school, we had an Apple II, on which I learned to use peek and poke. I spent the summer that I was fourteen in Buffalo with my father, where I went to a computer camp. In high school, I got a Commodore 64, on which I played games and learned to program sprites. Shortly after I got my first PC, I installed Linux on it, and learned Unix administration and Web development. Now I'm a software engineer developing J2EE applications. Who am I?

  3. My family springs from Rynold the Saxon circa 1066 in England. From him descended Robert Wentworth, who married into the Woodhouse estate in the late thirteenth century. His grandson was William of Wentworth-Woodhouse, Bishopric of London and later Lord High Chancellor of England. From these people descended the first Earl of Strafford and the subsequent Earls of Strafford, the Wentworths of Wentworth Castle, the Barons Raby, the Viscounts Wentworth, and King Edward VI. American descendents included Governor John Wentworth, the last Royal Governor of New Hampshire, after whom Lake Wentworth is named, and John Wentworth, Mayor of Chicago. In America, the Wentworths settled around New England, but predominantly in eastern Massachusetts, where they married the descendants of John Alden and Priscilla Mullens and the forebears of Reverend Jedediah Morse, the "Father of American Geography", and Samuel F. B. Morse. I am descended from the Morses and Wentworths, graduated from high school and college with honor, received a Master's degree from Yale University, and went on to become Chief Financial Officer of a national non-profit. Who am I?

  4. My mother was an English major in college, and I inherited from her an almost obsessive love for the written word, which she sought to nurture as soon as I was old enough. In high school, I read Kurt Vonnegut and Norman Mailer. In college, I discovered Thomas Pynchon and moved from him to James Joyce and then William Gaddis and Homer. As an adult, I happened upon Harold Bloom and his aesthetic and theological theories of literature. I have used him as my guide through the whole of the Western Canon, from Shakespeare and Cervantes through Proust and on to modern poets like A. R. Ammons and John Ashbery. I continue to read obsessively, and see the world filtered through its interactions with what I read. Who am I?

The answer to all of the above is me. All of the facts cited above are true, if selective in each case. People who know me from different contexts are more likely to recognize one or the other of these "versions" of me, which isn't surprising, and I'm likely to respond to them with the "version" of myself that they expect, which is a bit more surprising.

9:40:54 AM     What do you think? ()

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Last update: 11/2/03; 10:27:10 AM.


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