Archives : October 2004

2004 October 4

Black Sky

The Discovery Channel ran a documentary last night on Burt Rutan and SpaceShip One -- Black Sky. I've watched part of it; the rest is on Tivo; it's pretty good. And woo!  space!  So: heads up. I'm sure they're going to run it again.

So I saw a suggestion somewhere that the next space prize (will it be called the "Y Prize"?) will come complete with a television reality show. To which I say, about time. If we can have reasonably interesting reality shows of people building goofy motorcycles, I demand equal time for people building motherf!@#ing spacecraft.

2004 October 6


Is it insomnia when you're too wound up to sleep, even though it's so late it's early? I've never had trouble with sleeping, but for some reason imagined that insomniacs felt tired but couldn't sleep anyway.

I finally got to sleep something after 5:30 in the morning, and three and a half hours later now I feel tired.

I even was asleep for a while, woke up out of a very vivid dream, and was surprised to discover it was only 2:30 in the morning.

Maybe actually the last time I was at my computer at four thirty A.M. was when I got wrapped up in a computer game and didn't go to bed until dawn. That was at least long enough ago that I was unemployed and had my own place, so nearly a year. But "staying up until dawn even though I meant to go to bed" feels like a very different thing than "went to bed but couldn't get to sleep". The former is an irrational-rebellious reaction I sometimes have to being unhappy about something or other. I'm not sure what *this* was.

While waiting to get sleepy, I finished Pratchett's new one, Going Postal. It's really good -- con man Moist von Lipwig is possibly his most striking character yet. (Though I'd argue that "most striking" is probably not the same thing as "best", which would have to be Samuel Vimes. The best character story for the best character would then probably have to be his best novel, and that would be Night Watch. I think. I used to say Small Gods was his best, on the basis of tautness and elegance of development of theme.)

Monday night I was out at the Lizard Lounge for a free 9th-anniversary show by PAN 9, an artists' collective. I actually went to see Fluttr, but it turned out that they weren't going to start playing until after 11 pm, and that just seemed too late for a school night. So I hung out for a while with Amelia and Sean and Erica and Anne and Anne's man whose name I should know but can't remember, and caught the first few acts. There was an experimental art video, a poetry reading (which didn't entirely suck, but it was not my thing), a standup comic, and maybe something else I'm forgetting, and then they had an intermission at 10:30 and I decided it was time to bail.

Last night was Amy's craft night/open house, which turned into VP debate watching. Good company, but a 90-minute debate is in fact longer than my attention span, at least by the rules of modern political debates, where the object is to see who can look more confident and in control without saying anything you didn't plan on. Actual discussion of issues doesn't really enter into it, and you'll drive yourself crazy if that's what you spend your time looking for. That's for nerds on public radio or political magazines.

2004 October 21

That unfamiliar feeling is . . . VICTORY

I have a question for the Red Sox Nation. I can't really count myself as a real Sox fan, considering I've hardly watched more than a few Sox games ever, have never been a baseball fan, have only lived in Boston for a couple years, have never been to Fenway, and basically am Canadian. I got swept up in the ALCS somewhat to my surprise, so I can hardly imagine my own reactions can be representative.

So my question is: Are the Sox still doomed to choke next week? When you contemplate the Red Sox winning the Series, do you still have that lump of lead in your belly that knows they will crush your hopes? Or does a historic ass-pounding dished out on the Yankees -- the Evil Empire of lore -- does that mean that all bets are off? Is anything possible in this brave new world, or are the Sox only finding new ways to float you up off the ground while lining up a pulverizing boot to the nads?

Do you even care about the World Series at this point?

An article today on Sox celebrations in the Dominican Republic pointed out that David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, and Sammy Sosa are all from that country. I will have to remember to point this out next time somebody tells me that a World Cup of Baseball wouldn't be viable.

Yankees at the Bat

Bwahaha. Peter David rocks

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Red Sox fans that day
The series, three to zip, with surely one game left to play.
For the Yankees were their daddy, and the Red Sox Nation wept
At the prospect of their team being ignominiously swept

A faithful few would hold up hope, but certainly the rest
Had given up the hope that sprung eternal in their breast.
“If only Lady History could be made into our bitch
If we could turn the tables on the Yankees for a switch.”

2004 October 25

"When can their glory fade?"

One hundred and fifty years ago today, October 25, 1854, into the valley of Death rode the six hundred. At the battle of Balaclava in the Crimean war, the 13th Hussars of the British Army under Lord Cardigan made perhaps the last famous cavalry charge in history, along a suicidal mile length of valley defended by not one but three Russian artillery batteries. The intended order was for them to attack a different target, but the general was on high ground, and did not realize that down in the valley, Cardigan could not see the one he meant. Cardigan queried the order, but when it was confirmed, he mounted and bravely rode. This was the Charge of the Light Brigade.

NPR had a bit on it when I was in the car heading up to New Hampshire (went hiking in Franconia Notch, and it was a gorgeous day), which was interesting both from a military-history and a literary perspective. It turns out that while the Light Brigade itself was more than decimated -- 1-2 hundred out of 600 killed, plus almost all the horses -- they actually succeeded at capturing the guns they went after, and their suicidal bravery so impressed the Russians that apparently you couldn't get Russian troops to stand against British cavalry for six months after. Literarily, NPR had an actor read Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade", and then played a hundred-year old recording of the actual brigade trumpeter playing the actual trumpet he'd sounded that morning at Balaclava. It was so ridiculously glorious I nearly cried. I'm not entirely sure I understand it, but this sort of voice from the past always chokes me up. "Flanders Fields" often does the same thing.


Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
    Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
    Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
    Rode the six hundred.


Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
    All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
    Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
    Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
    Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
    Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson

They haven't faded quite yet.

2004 October 27

There was this baseball game

I just got back from the Burren, where I went on the theory that the whole point of something like this is to watch it in the middle of as many people as possible. Game Four of the 2004 World Series -- it doesn't sound right. Since when do the Red Sox win anything in less than seven games?

It was nuts.

It started at the end of the eighth inning, which seemed bold for Sox fans, but people couldn't help themselves. Through the ninth, every St Louis strike, every out, was met with louder and louder reactions, and after the final one it took five minutes at least before people slowed their screaming enough to hear the person standing next to you. I don't think I've ever been in a happier room. There must be a couple thousand people just in Davis Sq, wandering around cheering at random, high-fiving strangers and pointing at the moon. The eclipse floated overhead like a god-for-truth sign of Divine favour.

More people were flowing in as I left, I think faster than people are going home. Cars are cruising around honking rhythmically, and the cops have closed off Elm St. Every third person is on a cell phone, either crouched over with it jammed against one ear and a finger in the other, or with it held up just to hear the noise. I can't figure out if having a winning sports team actually means any damned thing at all, but I can't stop grinning.

It's a good night to be a Bostonian.