Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bottom 10 List

At the Portland Trail Blazer fan website, they have a list of the 10 Most hated NBA Players. Their list has a few surprises for me. It goes as follows:

10) Zach Randolph
9) Paul Pierce
8) Manu Ginobili
7) Kevin Garnett
6) Carlos Boozer
5) Ricky Davis
4) Bruce Bowen
3) Stephon Marbury
2) Shaquille O'Neal
1) Kobe Bryant

This list seems oddly anti-Celtics to me, especially coming from a pro-Blazer website. (I don't think there's any real rivalry between Portland and Boston.) My personal list - regardless of whether or not I think that these 10 players are hated by the public in general - would go as follows:

10) Mike Bibby
9) Zach Randolph
8) Carmelo Anthony
7) Gilbert Arenas
6) Ron Artest
5) Bruce Bowen
4) Carlos Boozer
3) Stephon Marbury
2) Kobe Bryant
1) Allen Iverson

Monday, April 20, 2009

1 Famous Philosophy Major (Who Was a Girl!)

I still have a long backlog of posts that I've been working on, but since most of them are just about my unusually strong dislike of Zack Snyder and David Brooks ("Zack the Hack?" "Brook-y the Crook-y?" "Old Blood and Guts-less?"), I figured that y'all might be more interested in this:

Katharine Hepburn
photo: Katharine Hepburn at Bryn Mawr in 1953
In many ways, Katharine Hepburn was the epitome of the New England aristocrat, the product of generations of Yankee ingenuity and liberal arts education. She could trace her genealogy back to King Louis IX of France and (possibly) to James Hepburn, the 4th Earl of Bothwell and consort to Mary, Queen of Scots. Katharine was born in 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut. Her mother was Katharine Martha Houghton, a leading suffragist, co-founder of Planned Parenthood, and glass manufacturing heiress. Her father was a urologist from Virginia who insisted on his daughters having active and athletic lifestyles as children. As a young woman, Katharine was a champion figure skater, golfer, and swimmer.

True to form, the House of Hepburn was not without tragedy or trauma: In 1921, Katharine's brother Tom hung himself at the age of 17, leaving his body for his sister to find. Katharine's family tried to cover-up the suicide, saying that Tom was just re-enacting one of the dangerous stunts he had seen his younger sister perform.

Katharine attended Bryn Mawr college outside of Philadelphia, where she double majored in philosophy and history. She was known as a trouble-maker there, smoking cigarettes and breaking curfew to swim naked in the pond. She graduated in 1928, and moved to Baltimore to begin her stage career.

Hepburn was throughout her life an outspoken feminist and critic of the institute of marriage. She was briefly a member of the Communist Party, and, later in life, became an atheist. She holds records for Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (12) and for wins (4). In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Katharine Hepburn as the greatest female star in the history of American cinema.

Katharine Hepburn Quotes:

"If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun."

"If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married."

"Enemies are so stimulating."

"Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should just live next door and just visit now and then.

Katharine Hepburn's 1947 Speech Against HUAC

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Are They Building In There?

Yesterday was the first actually nice day in Chicago, warm and sunny. It is still warm today, but it is also kind of overcast, a little heavy and humid. But at least it is starting to feel like Spring, finally, although I'm sure that now that I've said that it will snow or hail or something like that.

So this morning, R.A. drew my attention to this article on Jezebel regarding the "therapeutic techniques" practiced at the Mount Bachelor Academy outside of Prineville. From Jezebel, we linked to the original article on, "An Oregon School for Troubled Teens Is Under Scrutiny." From this article:

students [of the Academy] say staff members of the residential program have instructed girls, some of whom say they have been victims of rape or sexual abuse, to dress in provocative clothing - fishnet stockings, high heels and miniskirts - and perform lap dances for male students as therapy.

Jezebel has more anecdotes relating to the sexual and psychological abuse reported to go on at the Academy.

I'm no expert on these type of rehab institutes or the techniques that they use. But, growing up in Bend, I did have acquaintances who had undergone so-called "wilderness therapy" rehab programs, and I had heard stories of extreme physical abuse such as forced starvation and dehydration that went on in the desert of Eastern Oregon. And I don't want to be a part of an unproved accusation, but a rumor's not a rumor that doesn't die.

And a lot of scary things have happened out there in the past.

So I wanted to learn a little bit more about this situation. In the Time article, it says that Sharon Bitz, the executive director for the Mount Bachelor Academy, told The Bend Bulletin:

that school officials have never instructed students to act in a way that would "sexualize them," and that the students' costumes came from their own dorm rooms and were chosen by the students. "We would never ask a student to give a lap dance," Bitz told the paper.
OK. So I went to the Bulletin's website. Which insists that I pay a fee to see their fine pieces of journalism. But I do get the headline from Wednesday that reads: "Mount Bachelor Academy Serves Students Effectively, Safely." I would like to know the contents of this article. (I'm not going to pay eight bucks a month for access to the website.) Also, growing up in Bend taught me to be, shall we say, "skeptical" of the Bulletin's journalistic integrity and their interest in "protecting" the community. So if they say that the Academy is effective and safe, please forgive me if I am inclined to believe the opposite.

And then there's this. On Huffington Post (not exactly the most objective of, um, "news sources"), the author of the Time article, Maia Szalavitz, posted a follow-up piece. She says:

For the article, I interviewed more than ten students, two unrelated parents and a current employee who describe bizarre, abusive, one-size-fits-all "therapies" that are neither educational or therapeutic. Most of the teens I spoke with say they had witnessed or were personally made to perform lap dances or other sexualized activity in front of dozens of peers and staff. The school's management denies all allegations of wrong-doing.... I think it's very difficult to argue that sexual humiliation, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and isolation from family (kids are only allowed one ten-minute, monitored phone call every other week for months on end, no calls if they are punished) is an effective treatment for ADHD, depression, addiction or any other form of teen misbehavior or mental illness.
Here here. And then there's this:

Mount Bachelor is part of Aspen Education -- believed to be the largest chain of teen residential programs in the U.S. Aspen, as part of CRC Health, which is owned by Bain Capital, was seen by advocates as much more sedate and less given to wacky practices than clearly "out there" programs like those associated with the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP or WWASPS). At one WWASP school, for example, teens were kept in outdoor dog cages.*

Aspen Education runs wilderness therapy, residential rehab, and weight loss programs across the U.S., including SageWalk, which is the program that I had heard the most about, and Youth Care of Utah, where a resident died in 2007. Bain Capital is a private equity firm that was founded in 1984. One of its founders was - get this - Mitt Romney. Another "key person" involved with Bain Capital includes Fraser Bullock, Brigham Young '78, who is also an "area seventy" within the Mormon church.

The Jezebel article addresses the sexism and sexual traumatizing that has been reported at the Academy, and the cruelty that is involved in the all-too-common act of blaming the rape victim for what happened to her. I have two other issues I would like to raise.

The first is the role that "humiliation, deprivation, and isolation" play, or ought to play, in rehabilitation, especially youth rehab. Not coincidentally, these are the same psychological concepts that are used in military boot camps. The idea is that you break down the subject, that you strip away their orientating ideas around which they define themselves, their family, their tastes, their pride, their addictions (chemical and otherwise) their sense of self, and replace them with what you want to be their foundational concept. In boot camp, this is the military. In these rehab programs, however, it is always some permutation of the idea of God.

Take AA's twelve-step program, for example. Key to this program is "admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion," and then "recognizing a greater power that can give strength." And in order to be able to admit that one cannot control one's self, it helps to be shown over and over and over again that one is too weak to control one's self. (AA accomplishes this through public confession, admission of guilt, and promise of amends.)

The best way to convince someone that they do not have the power to control their own "compulsions" is through constant humiliation. Isolated from their usually self-orienting signifiers - family, money, branded products, TV, water, food, hygiene - it's easier to make people feel humiliated. (Latin humiliare "to humble," humilis "lowly, humble," literally "on the ground," from latin humus "earth." Says Jane in the Jezebel article, "They told me I was dirty and I had to put mud on myself for being raped.") And if you can convince someone that they're unable to control themselves, than you can convince them that they must recognize a higher power that has authority over them.

These are the best methods for cultivating soldiers, for breaking down individuals and making them malleable and willing to follow orders. And, as Jezebel points out, that's how cults work. But, as Szalavitz says, "it's very difficult to an effective treatment for ADHD, depression, addiction or any other form of teen misbehavior or mental illness." Furthermore, these techniques should force us to ask ourselves under what circumstances we would allow any human being, let alone a child with behavioral or mental issues, to be humiliated. Regardless of the effectiveness of the sort of re-education programs used by Aspen Education Group, and I think that the statistics show that they are not, the question that needs to be asked is to what end should someone, either a parent, a teacher, a pastor, or any other trusted authority figure, go in order to "save" a child. (Or, as Aspen says, "Rescue Your Child for $45o a Month!")

OK, I am going to stop there for now. The other issue that I would like to talk about is why the culture (and the topography) of the western U.S. allows cult cultures to develop, from the Rajneeshees to the Mount Bachelor Academy. It has something to do with how much space we have. It actually makes me think of The Scarlet Letter, where everyone knows everyone else's sins, and you are forever branded. The West provides the opportunity to escape the panopticon, which serves to regulate everyone's actions. But, of course, once we are free from one form of control, we automatically make a new one for ourselves.

Mount Bachelor Academy, near Prineville, Ore.
This picture is from the Time article. The key phrase here is, "PRIVATE PROPERTY - NO PUBLIC ACCESS."

*I wish that Szalavitz would stop referring to the Academy as "Mount Bachelor." They're not affiliated with the ski resort. I bet that Mount Bachelor's going to have to do some damage control over this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baseball Saturnalia

If the playoffs started right ... now ... the AL slate would be Seattle, Kansas City, Toronto and Baltimore.

How awesome would that be?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Theater Cricket: Private Lives by Noel Coward

Last week, R.A. and I went to see Private Lives, written by Noel Coward and playing now through May 3 at the City Lit Theatre in Bryn Mawr, on the Far North Side. The Theatre's address is 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, which happens to also be the exact same address for the Edgewater Presbyterian Church. I was quite taken aback at this, and, when we first arrived, I was convinced that we were in the wrong spot. But we weren't; the City Lit Theatre happens to be inside the Edgewater Presbyterian Church, which also happens to be the home of the Rogers Park Montessori school. Function follows form, I guess.

City Lit is an acting company that has been in Chicago for 30 years now, and, according to their website, at one point was "the only theatre in the nation devoted to stage adaptations of literary material.." Their blurb goes on to say that they have "presented a wide array of voices, from classic writers such as Henry James, Edith Wharton, Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Colette, and P.G. Wodehouse to such contemporary writers as Alice Walker, W.P. Kinsella, Lynda Barry, Raymond Carver, Edward Albee and Ruth Pwarer Jhabvala." Given this list, City Lit's production of Private Lives definitely falls under the former category: It was a performance filled with witty repartee, champagne flutes, 1920's art decor sets, fake cigarettes with fake cigarette smoke, and lots of British accents. It all struck me as weirdly anachronistic.

Noel Coward wrote Private Lives in 1930. He had been traveling in China when he came down with the flu, and he wrote the play over the course of four days, while he recovered. The plot follows former spouses Elyot (played by Don Bender) and Amanda (Cameron Feagin), two divorcees out on their respective second honeymoons, Elyot with the young and flighty Sybil (Maggie Kettering), and Amanda with the strong-chinned and flat-footed Victor (George Seegebrecht). Lo and behold, both couples are honeymooning at the same hotel in fashionable Deauville, Normandy. They're even sleeping in adjacent rooms. Quelle coincididence!

Hilarity ensues. The three acts of the play are driven both by dialogue and action as the comedians run about the stage, hiding behind shrubs, bolting in and out of rooms and, at one point, engaging in a surprisingly violent domestic fight. The stage belongs for the most part to Cameron Feagin, who is able to convey both Amanda's cynicism and anger as well as her sense of humor and love of life. I got the feeling that Amanda is Coward's favorite character in the play; he wrote the part for his close friend Gertrude Lawrence, and in a story of rivalry and one-upmanship, it is Amanda who inevitably keeps coming up on top. Coward himself originally played the part of Elyot. Ideally, Elyot ought to be Amanda's equal and rival, witty and urbane but also more than a bit disappointed with life, and just a touch sadistic. Unfortunately, Don Bender plays him more as a lech and a drunkard, filled with too much impotent rage and not enough quiet spite. And as for the younger belle and beau, Sybil and Victor, I never really got a feel for either of them. The characters are designed to be overpowered by their older, wiser, craftier counterparts, but these two seemed a little too willing to be used and manipulated.

The set and the costumes were designed to give the audience some kind of sense of the roaring twenties, all art-deco patterns and pastel colors. The costumes are all flowing dresses, white tuxedos, and elegant bathrobes. And, as the two couples traipse across France, staying in luxurious Parisian apartments and swapping partners and then swapping them again, I began to think to myself, "What in hell do these people do for a living?" There is a fifth character in the play, the French maid Louise, played by Shawna Tucker, who is constantly plagued by hay-fever and the middling French of her employers. But apart from Louise, no one else seems to work for a living.

A typical American concern, I know. But as the sounds of semi-trucks and ambulances pierced the unfortunately thin theatre/church/school walls, I wondered why City Lit decided that now, what with unemployment being at a 25-year high and all, was the time for this play that is strikingly unconcerned with questions of labor and capital, where wealth and luxury are both taken as givens. Even more puzzling is why director Terry McCabe did nothing to try to point out these discrepancies between the fantastic world that Amanda and Elyot inhabit and our own. It felt a little bit like being told to eat cake, or maybe to have a Bombay Sapphire martini.

Of course, I may be missing the essential point altogether. Private Lives was written in 1930, at the dawn of the Great Depression. It was immediately popular with both the critics and the audiences in New York. It has continued to be popular, winning Tonys in 1970 and 2002.* It has made successful run after successful run on Broadway, and maybe the reason for that is its essentially escapist attitude towards life and its hardships. It seems as if, in hard times, Americans seek out images and representations of beauty, wealth, and luxury. Or, at least, they just don't want to be reminded of their own private lives.**

* The 2002 performance starred Lindsay Duncan as Amanda and Alan Rickman as Elyot. I would pay a lot to see that.

** I preferred the January production of The Marriage of Figaro at the Greenhouse Theatre in Lincoln Park, a play which has kind of the same screwball elements as Private Lives but also contextualizes them within the themes of money, sex, and power.

Friday, April 10, 2009

5 Thoughts On a Thursday Friday

I started this posting yesterday afternoon, and am just now finishing it today. It's one of three or four longer postings that I've been sitting on for a while now. Hopefully I will get to the others sometime soon.

1) Eliot says that April is the cruelest month, but I say that's a load of crap. April is much nicer than August, November, December, January, February, or March. That puts at just at or maybe even a little above average in my book. Really, "The Wasteland" should start: "April is the cruelest month, except for all those other months that are even worse..." I don't know. Maybe it's an English thing. What with the rain and all.

2) Speaking of The Lost Generation, buy me this book.

3) Last night On Wednesday, R.A. and I went to The Empty Bottle to watch Jason Webley play. Jason has the most fun-per-pound of any musician that I have ever seen. Every time that I have seen him he has been a one-man show (although I guess that he has a band that he tours with from time to time) and he plays the guitar, accordion, jug of coins, and there's lots of clapping and stomping and shouting. It's actually kinda hard to compare him to anything... Maybe like Dick van Dyke from "Mary Poppins" if Bert were way more into Thanatos and numerology.* Either way, Jason rarely comes to Chicago, so we need to get to work to make sure that he comes back soon.

Also, my high opinion of Jason Webley has nothing to do with the fact that I got to hang out with him after he played at Bard one time, and that R.A. and I drove him to the Kingston bus station the next day.

4) How about those Tar Heels? I have come to believe that the "madness" in March Madness is due to the fact that the betting formats are set up so that someone like me, who barely follows college basketball and picks a little more than half of the match-ups correctly through the first four rounds, can end up second in his pool just by getting lucky in the Final Four.

Also, I love this video:

Ten minutes of Obama talking to some dude from ESPN about his bracket picks. I like the video because I get the feeling that Obama is barely tolerating the fact that he has to do this. You really start to get this impression around 8:11, when he starts talking about the NATO summit. As in, "This is fun, but I should really be going and preparing for the NATO summit."

5) "It was hard to imagine someone so beautiful could be real. I was afraid that he might disappear in a sudden puff of smoke, and I would wake up." - Bella Swan

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye." - Miss Piggy

* Come to think of it, maybe Bert is always already into those things. He's kind of like a crazy hobo who magicks unsuspecting little bourgeois kids into the nether-realms. What the hell is that show about, anyways?!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reading For Our Next Session

It's late, but before I forget, I wanted to say that you should all read David Brooks' column, "The End of Philosophy." I have a lot of opinions regarding this article, mostly revolving around my theory that David Brooks was always picked on during games of "Red Rover" in elementary school. What a douchebag.

My Daring Picks for 2009

AL West:

Angels 92-70
Athletics 82-80
Mariners 74-88
Rangers 67-95

The Angels have this division wrapped up by the end of July. However, their complacency lets the AL East leaders distance themselves from the Halos. The A's make a late run in the first week of September, and get the lead down to 4 before they choke. Feel-good season for the M's, who are finally able to get out of the basement.

AL Central:

Twins 88-74
White Sox 86-76
Indians 85-77
Tigers 78-84
Royals 68-94

The division that no one wants to win. It's neck-and-neck-and-neck-and-neck through the first half of the season, with the Sox having a lead between 0 and 2 most of the way. Age catches up with the South Siders, however, and by August the Twins are up by 4. The Sox sweep the Tribe in September, and are posed to make a run at the division, but they drop 2 out of 3 to Detroit on closing weekend.

AL East:

Rays 101-61
Red Sox 97-65
Yankees 87-75
Blue Jays 82-80
Orioles 73-89

The Bronx Circus returns with New Yorkers turning on Joba, A-Rod “hurt” on and off again throughout the season, and C.C. Sabathia quitting in August to go find Jesus. The Rays come out of the gate on a tear, and are up 5 on the BoSox by the All-Star Break. Boston keeps its cool, though, and lets Tampa take the division in exchange for the Wild Card and some much needed rest down the stretch.

NL West:

Diamondbacks 88-75
Dodgers 87-76
Padres 75-87
Rockies 74-88
Giants 59-103

Another division nobody gives a damn about. L.A. Leads for most of the way, with the press fawning over Manny and Joe. In July, however, with a 2-game lead over Arizona, Ramirez remarks during a press conference that he “wishes he were playing for a team that had a chance.” L.A chokes down the stretch, losing 7 out of 9 on a road-trip through DC, Pittsburgh, and San Diego. They rally to sweep the Rockies before losing to Arizona in a one-game playoff.

NL Central

Cubs 94-68
Cardinals 85-77
Brewers 82-80
Pirates 76-86
Astros 75-87
Reds 73-89

At the end of May, the Cubs are the consensus best team baseball. Then, oddly enough, they play sub .500 ball for June and July. It's a weak division this year, though, and the Cubs pretty much take September off. Lou Piniella has so much time on his hands he co-writes “Red Rum,” about his 1990 World Series championship with the Cincinnati Reds.

NL East

Phillies 95-67
Mets 94-68
Braves 82-80
Marlins 76-86
Nationals 55-107

The Braves lead the division through most of May, but falter during inter-league play and are completely out of the picture by August. It turns out that it is ridiculously easy to hit home runs out of Citi Field, which gets re-named “The People's Glorious Bank of the Homeland Field” in June. Both the Phillies and the Mets surge in September, with New York winning nine of their last 11, but Philadelphia sweeping Houston to take the division.


Tampa Bay needs five to oust the Twins in “The Battle of the 'Domes,” and the Sox beat the Angels in four. Arizona shocks the world by beating the champion Phillies in four, and the Cubs sweep the Mets, setting up a date with the team that eliminated them in '07.

Boston gets the re-match they've been waiting for all season, and the opportunity to show why they stopped playing in August. It's a match-up of two great defenses, but the Red Sox rotation and bullpen just proves to be too deep. Boston in six.

The NLCS is also a great series. The teams split the first two in Wrigley, but the Cubs take two in Phoenix, setting up an elimination game 6. In the top of the 8 with two outs, Soriano loses a pop-fly in the lights. Arizona goes on a rally, winning 4-2. They win game 7 8-1 to advance to the World Series.

The World Series reports dismal viewer ratings. The biggest storyline is that the D'Backs have a pitcher named William Jennings “Billy” Buckner. The Diamondbacks have half the payroll of the Red Sox, and it shows. Boston wins in five.

Nobody cares.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Will I Never Learn?


1. n. an ancient Hebrew unit of capacity equal to about 1012 or later 1112 bushels or 100 United States gallons (378 liters)

2. n. 9th–8th? century b.c. Greek epic poet

3. v. to succeed despite idiocy.

3. n.
An apologist, fanatic, and staunch defender of a sports team or organization, usually from her local region, who is attached to that group with kamikaze-like loyalty.

I am currently in 14th place in my NCAA bracket. 14th out of 15. I'm still not out of the running, however, thanks to the "madness" of college basketball's betting format. In fact, I could still finish as high as third if North Carolina beats Villanova and then goes to beat Michigan St. in the final.

Of course, now that I've told you, it's not going to happen.

But how did I get to this dismal position to begin with? Well, it's got a lot to do with the fact that I had both Washington and UCLA in the Round of 8. And even though I don't have any Pac-10 teams in the Final Four, throughout my entire bracket I had them going 9-6, when in reality they went 6-6. And I even had Arizona losing in the first round.

On an entirely unrelated note, I finished dead last in my Fantasy Football league this year. Even though I had my team packed with 5 players from the Seattle Seahawks and 3 more from the San Francisco 49ers. I finished last even in spite of having Kurt Warner on my team, for Christ's sake!

But now the NBA is getting ready for the playoffs. I am totally psyched. The Trail Blazers are going to sweep the Rockets in the First Round and then upset the Lakers in 6 to get to the Conference Finals.

I guarantee it.