Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Year in Media and Cities, 2009

Still inspired by Jason over at, I'm continuing my practice of cataloging some of the things I’ve done and the places I’ve been over the past year. You can find 2008's list here. 

Here we go with 2009.

Cities I’ve attended, spending at least a day and a night in each locale
Manhattan, New York
West Orange, New Jersey
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Baltimore, Maryland
Honesdale, Pennsylvania
Cleveland, Ohio
Detroit, Michigan
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Skokie, Illinois
Chicago, Illinois
Washington, DC
Missoula, Montana
Kalispell, Montana
Glacier National Park, Montana
San Francisco, California
Berkeley, California
Yosemite National Park, California
Bronx, New York
Jerusalem, Israel

Movies I’ve seen on the Big Screen
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler
The Class
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Star Trek
The Hangover
The Hurt Locker
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
500 Days of Summer
Inglourious Basterds
Brief Interviews with Hideous Men
A Serious Man
The Shining
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Movies I’ve seen on the little screen
Burn After Reading
The Big Lebowski
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
The Departed
Death Wish
Blue Velvet
North By Northwest
Baby Mama
Darjeeling Limited
The Graduate
The Dark Knight
Gunnin’ for that #1 Spot
The Hammer
Dirty Harry
Step Brothers
Waltz With Bashir
Rachel Getting Married
Being John Malkovich
The Way We Get By
Lost Highway
Donnie Darko

Books I’ve read
Ender in Exile
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Seven Seconds or Less
Baseball Prospectus 2009
God Save The Fan
White Teeth
On the Road
The Corrections
Going Deep
Armageddon in Retrospect
A Farewell to Arms
The Breaks of the Game
A Fraction of the Whole
When You Are Engulfed in Flames
The Machine
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
Best American Sports Writing 2009
The Discomfort Zone
I Drink for a Reason
The Soul of Baseball
60 Stories
Sporting Events I’ve attended 
Wednesday, January 14
New York Knicks 128, Washington Wizards 122
Madison Square Garden

Monday, February 2
Los Angeles Lakers 126, New York Knicks 117
Madison Square Garden
Kobe Bryant set a Madison Square Garden scoring record with 61 points

Wednesday, March 4
New York Knicks 109, Atlanta Hawks 105
Madison Square Garden

Wednesday, March 25
Los Angeles Clippers 140, New York Knicks 135, OT
Madison Square Garden

Thursday, April 30
New York Yankees 7, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 4
Yankee Stadium

Wednesday, May 13
Tampa Bay Rays 8, Baltimore Orioles 6
Oriole Park at Camdem Yards

Thursday, May 14
Los Angeles Dodgers 5, Philadelphia Phillies 3, 10 innings
Citizens Bank Park

Wednesday, July 1
New York Yankees 4, Seattle Mariners 2
Yankee Stadium

Sunday, July 5
Oakland Athletics 5, Cleveland Indians 2
Progressive Field

Monday, July 6
Kansas City Royals 4, Detroit Tigers 3
Comerica Park

Tuesday, July 7
St. Louis Cardinals 5, Milwaukee Brewers 0
Miller Park

Wednesday, July 8
Atlanta Braves 4, Chicago Cubs 1
Wrigley Field

Thursday, August 27
Arizona Diamondbacks 11, San Francisco Giants 0
AT&T Park

Thursday, November 19
Syracuse Orange 95, California Golden Bears 73
North Carolina Tar Heels 77, Ohio State Buckeyes 73
Madison Square Garden

Tuesday, December 1
New York Knicks 126, Phoenix Suns 99
Madison Square Garden

Monday, December 7
New York Knicks 93, Portland Trailblazers 84
Madison Square Garden

Saturday, December 19
Los Angeles Lakers 103, New Jersey Nets 84
Izod Center

TV Seasons I’ve watched
The Wire
Seasons 1-5

Mad Men
Season 3

Flight of the Conchords
Season 2

Arrested Development
Seasons 1-3

The Simpsons
Seasons 3-5

Bored to Death
Season 1

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Season 5

The League
Season 1

Sit Down, Shut Up
Season 1

Each new episode of: The Office, 30 Rock, The Simpsons, Parks and Recreations, Modern Family, Community
Plays I’ve attended
Saturday, July 11
Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue presents The Oresteia

Monday, December 6
Broadhurst Theatre

Concerts I've attended
Wednesday, February 11
Brett Dennen
Webster Hall

So, on average, I've:
  • visited a new place every ~18 days;
  • seen a movie on the big screen every ~21 days;
  • seen a movie on the little screen every ~13.5 days;
  • read a book every ~15 days;
  • attended a live sporting event every ~21 days;
  • watched a season of TV every ~21 days (not including all the partial seasons);
  • attended a play once every six months;
  • attended a concert once every 12 months;
  • and composed a blog post once every ~4.2 days (including this one).

It's been a busy year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I'm about four weeks late with this, but happy Blog-iversary to me. Once again, we'll celebrate by reviewing some of the highlights of The Daily Snowman from year two to three in this, the 185th Post Spectacular.

Here we go:

Best Embedded Videos


Best investigative Series
Abandoned Car Watch, Parts One, Two and Three
Bakery Logo Plagiarism

Best Photos


(Both from here.)

Best Sentences
  • "As times passes and first-hand knowledge of these wars fades, these memorials play a huge role in determining how the wars themselves are remembered."
  • "His barber made some type of mistake, and his head said, 'Except to Win.'”
Most Prominent Recognition of The Daily Snowman
Sorgi on Deadspin
Gunnin' for That #1 Spot on Ball Don't Lie

Best The Simpsons Posts
The Highly Literate Simpsons
The Simpsons' New Intro

Best Post
A Quick Lesson on Being Interesting
How The New York Times Does Business

Best Weekly Paragraphs
"Made in America"--America, made. In many ways, the story that comes together in the pieces of this book is that of people taking up the two elemental American fables--the fable of discovery and the fable of founding--and making their own versions: their own versions of the fables, which is to say their own version of America itself. Who knows if it is John F. Kennedy delivering his Inaugural Address or Jay Gatsby throwing one more party who is more truly invoking John Wintrhop's "A Model of Christian Charity" from three centuries before? Is it Frederick Douglass or Hank Williams who has the most to tell us, not to mention Jefferson's ghost, about the real meaning of the Declaration of Independence? Doesn't Emily Dickinson, within her own Amherst walls, invent as complete a nation--loose in the wilderness in flight from all forms of restraint, be they those of God or man--as Ahab on the quarterdeck or Lincoln at the East Face of the Capitol?


Scott McCloud, in his cartoon treatise Understanding Comics, argues that the image you have of yourself when you're conversing is very different from your image of the person you're conversing with. You interlocutor may produce universal smiles and universal frowns, and they may help you to identify with him emotionally, but he also has a very particular nose and particular skin and particular hair that continually remind you that he's an Other. The image you have of your own face, by contrast, is highly cartoonish. When you feel yourself smile, you imagine a cartoon of smiling, not the complete skin-and-nose-and-hair package. It's precisely the simplicity and universality of cartoon faces, the absence of Otherly particulars, that invite us to love them as we love ourselves. The most widely loved (and profitable) faces in the modern world tend to be exceptionally basic and abstract cartoons: Mickey Mouse, the Simpsons, Tintin, and--simplest of all, barely more than a circle, two dots, and a horizontal line--Charlie Brown.

Best Movie Reviews
Wolverine's Origins Are Surprisingly Boring

Best Reading/Books Posts
The Changing Reader
Universal Authorship

Best Jewish Posts
Chabad Throws the Best Telethons
Old Jews Telling Jokes

Best Travel Posts    
Taking a Hike
Tour de Midwest

There've been about 6000 visitors to the site in the last year. Even though Ariel gets that every time he mentions Pearl Jam, I'm really quite overwhelmed by your support.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Paragraph of the Week

From Ariel Levy's "Either/Or" in the November 30, 2009 issue of The New Yorker:

Unfortunately for I.A.A.F. [International Association of Athletics Federations] officials, they are faced with a question that no one has ever been able to answer: what is the ultimate difference between a man and a woman? "This is not a solvable problem," Alice Dreger said. "People always press me: 'Isn't there one marker we can use?' No. We couldn't then and we can't now, and science is making it more difficult and not less, because it ends up showing us how much blending there is and how many nuances, and it becomes impossible to point to one thing, or even a set of things, and say that's what it means to be male."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reviewing Avatar

[Spoilers for Avatar ahead.]

I'm not sure that this is necessarily a good practice[*], but I've fallen into the habit of reading some pretty detailed reviews of most of the TV programs and movies I watch (if you're interested, Alan Sepinwall's TV review blog is comprehensive and excellent--and, as a bonus, he's a Jersey guy). The crucial difference between reviews for movies and for the type of reviewing most often done for TV shows is that movie reviews generally are written for people who have not yet watched the film, while TV reviews usually are meant for already-watched programs. I go out of my way to not read movie reviews before I see the film in question, because not only would this exacerbate the second question enumerated in the footnote below but it would also cause me to see the movie itself with the perspective of a reviewer. Avatar proved to be a weird movie to me.

Describing a movie through writing that the reader hasn't seen is a somewhat futile exercise even under the most fortuitous circumstances. (This is what is so--intentionally--frustrating/cool about the dozens upon dozens of pages of descriptions of fictional movies in Infinite Jest.) But Avatar is more problematic in this regard than just about any other movie I can think of. As has been well-documented, Avatar's plot is almost completely derivative--the watcher has seen this plot before, and she knows how it ends. And yet the visual beauty of the film is so stunning that watching it becomes a very powerful movie experience. But if the main selling point is the visual aspect, what's there to say about it?

It's the literal job, of course, of a group of reviewers to find something interesting to say about movies that the reader hasn't seen, and you can judge for yourself how well they succeeded (hint--the good ones manage to say something more than "Looks pretty, recommended"). More promising is a detailed analysis meant for people who've already watched the film. But even here, the story-telling flaws are so obvious--Stephen Lang's colonel character is flat, with no believable motivation; the heavy-handed narration is often superfluous and distracting; etc., etc.--that they don't really warrant mentioning. There's still room for more creative excursions, using the film as a starting point. (Personally, I'm waiting for Bethlehem Shoals to elaborate on his theory that Avatar is an allegory for the NBA.) But these types of writings don't really fit in with the classic genre of movie reviews.

So what's left? I managed to hold a ~40 minute conversation centered around Avatar with the three friends I attended the movie with during our subway ride home. In retrospect, the most insightful points we made were hyper-focused analyses of small details. For example, we noticed that the repeated use of the phrase "I see you" really cheapened what could have been a meaningful line. The great lines of movie history--think "I drink your milkshake" in There Will Be Blood--are great because they're meaningful in the context of the moment. In Avatar, Cameron seems to favor the brute-force method: if the line isn't sufficiently expressive, repeat it throughout the movie until the audience realizes that it's supposed to be important. But is this a crucial point to note when discussing the film? Probably not--the movie is still well-worth seeing, and yet this specific story-telling failure pales in comparison with the more obvious deficiencies. In the end, this analysis might still be worthwhile even if it's not crucial, because the insight about "I see you" both deepens in a small way the my understanding of this film and is transferable to other films.

Sometimes I'm glad that I'm not a professional reviewer.

I have second thoughts about this type of habitual review reading because it elicits two main questions: 1. Is each episode of Community, for example, really so crucial that I need to read a review of it (the episode)? (Follow-up to question 1: Shouldn't I spend my time reading things more important and lasting than reviews of a decidedly mediocre sitcom?) 2. Am I becoming reliant on reviewers to think through my TV and movies for me? I think it's probably worthwhile, though, because reading well-written and thoughtful reviews provides a sort of crash-course in reading the movies and TV shows that the reviews review. I'm going to leave for another time the question of whether becoming a better TV watcher is a worthwhile goal.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Paragraph of the Week

From "Robert Kennedy Saved From Drowning," by Donald Barthelme:

For Poulet, it is not enough to speak of seizing the moment. It is rather a question of, and I quote, 'recognizing in the instant which lives and dies, which surges out of nothingness and which ends in dream, an intensity and depth of significance which ordinarily attaches only to the whole of existence.'

I usually refrain from commenting on these paragraphs, but this idea seems especially interesting in comparison to Don Gately's approach to suffering in Infinite Jest: in brief, that great suffering can be overcome by recognizing that each individual moment is tolerable.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy Belated

Besides for the twin facts that it is no longer cool and that it at times seems to exist solely to allow people to communicate about their pretend farms, the real problem with Facebook is that it cheapens birthdays in all kinds of ways. Facebook takes all the effort out of remembering someone's birthday. Remembering the birthday of a friend used to mean something. No longer. Also, it's almost impossible to remember the birthday of a person who has held out on this whole Facebook fad. I'm sure there are more reasons why Facebook has ruined birthdays. And I'm aware that this is fairly well-trod ground we're treading here.

But I bring it up for a very specific reason: I missed my own blog's birthday this year. The Daily Snowman's blog-iversary is December 3. I completely forgot. Maybe I should make a Facebook profile for this blog.

I'm taking a moderately important test next week. Sometime after that, I'll compose a more festive blog-iversary post.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Paragraph of the Week

From a recent Knicks Knation blog post by Frank Isola about the changing game experience of Madison Square Garden:

But what do you expect from the Garden, which no longer acts or resembles the Garden of old? They have a group of people who are constantly firing T-shirts into the crowd. It begins right before tip-off and never ends. They do that in Memphis, and for good reason. Such antics should be beneath MSG. And do we really need to hear the public address announcer tell the crowd to “Stand up and cheer for your Knicks?" What in the good name of John Condon is going on over there?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Happy Repeal Day!

Repeal Day, as always, is December 5. That is tomorrow.

Celebrate your freedom, America.