October 2009


In most cases, the internet is a pretty spiffy place to hang out.  But sometimes in the switch from print to digital, certain aspects of our quality of life – of our collective culture, I’d even say – are lost.  Newspaper corrections are some of the more entertaining aspects of print journalism to have fallen out of view as online readership has soared, and with that evolution a little bit of the fun disappeared…

Elena and I are on week three of “The Weekender”, which is a three times weekly subscription to the New York Times.  The paper arrives in our foyer on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, and–because we are the only people in the 10 unit building we live in to get the paper delivered–there’s never any confusion as to which one is ours.

Although I always grew up with the newspaper around, this has been my first experience as an actual paying newspaper subscriber, and I’m really enjoying it!  The ritual of grabbing it on the way to the subway on Friday mornings has been particularly joyful.  After reading what interests me on the front page, I quickly jump to page two and read one of my favorite sections: the “Corrections”.

There’s something really captivating about these short paragraphs. (There were 10 of them this morning: a really high number methinks!)  The writing is so calculated, and thorough, and the corrections themselves are usually fairly entertaining.  Aside from correcting errors from previous papers, they also serve as a sort of apology to the (hopefully) small handful of people likely offended by the indiscretion.  And it almost goes without saying that corrections provide good reading and the occasional laugh.

There were no grammatical errors to correct in this morning’s paper.  Nearly all of them were minor legal or statistical changes, or name misspellings.  And in a few cases, the Times had simply gotten people confused, an error that I’d hope a professional fact-checker or copy-editor would have caught before printing.

Take this gem of a correction, for example:

A picture caption on Wednesday with an article about the latest tradition at Yankee Stadium – throwing something resembling a cream pie in the face of the player responsible for a walk-off win – misidentified one of the Yankees shown getting creamed.  He is Juan Miranda, not Jonathan Albaladejo. (Mr. Albaladejo is the player laughing behind Mr. Miranda.)

A few takeaways from this example:

1) It’s hysterical! Just the phrase “misidentified one of the Yankees shown getting creamed” is worth repeating.

2) The description is truly meticulous.  The correction writer sets the scene, describes the reason for the creaming, briefly notes that it is a relatively new phenomenon among Yankee post-game celebrations, and even makes sure to point out that the projectile in question was not a genuine pie and was instead “something resembling a cream pie”.

3) The misstated name is, by itself, memorable: 18 letters in all and the last 10 of them spell Albaladejo.

Miranda, Albaladejo, and the "pie" in question. I can understand not being able to verify Miranda's face, as its covered in "pie" and as his jersey number is not visible, but Albaladejo is clearly standing right behind him. Come on now, factcheckers! Earn your keep!

In this other example, you wonder who actually called (or e-mailed) the Times to complain:

An article on Monday about Brandon Jennings’s season thus far as an N.B.A. Rookie with the Milwaukee Bucks referred incorrectly to a Ferrari driven by one of his teammates.  It belonged to Bucks guard Michael Redd; it was not center Andrew Bogut’s car.

1) I love the semi-colon usage; it was perfectly suited to describe the situation.

2) I do have to partially retract my previous statement about the meticulousness of the Times’ corrections writers.  The Bucks season starts this evening, four days after this piece appeared.  Therefore to refer to the article as being about his season thus far was incorrect, insofar as the season hadn’t started yet.

3) Most important was the next thought that jumped in my head.  Who called this in? The car itself was not pictured in the article, and it certainly wasn’t newsworthy on its own. Was Michael Redd making sure that people who read the New York Times were aware of his Ferrari ownership?  Was Andrew Bogut hoping he wouldn’t be seen as the type of player who would drive something so decadent to practice in St. Francis, Wisconsin?  Was it an incredibly nerdy Bucks fan who was actually aware of which cars in the practice facility parking lot belonged to certain players?  (By the way, it turns out it was a little of Column B and a little of Column C.)

See what I mean now?  These were just two of the ten corrections in today’s paper, and if I’d read it online, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure.  In their defense, when the New York Times makes corrections to articles on its website, a note is inserted at the end of the article containing the same correction text as in the print edition.  But, as a result, the corrections are hidden.  Scattered about the site, in random articles, and always at the bottom of the page, corrections can no longer be sought out and enjoyed as they are in the print edition…

…or can they?

Sweet Jesus, yes they can! (I litereally just discovered that now, hidden in a tiny little link all the way at the bottom of the main page.) There are even links to the actual articles.  Bring it on, internet! Rant rescinded.

In honor of C. C. Sabathia’s second post-season loss to the Phillies in the last two years, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on better times, both for the Brewers, and for the big fella himself…

Click on the picture! It's a time machine!

 

That is all.

Of all people skeptical of the backyard chicken fad, I’m sure I come across as an unlikely one.  So it is with great shame that I have to recommend this article in the New York Times from a few days ago:

“When Problems Come Home to Roost”

The author, Kim Severson, rightly characterizes the backyard chicken craze as a fad, like the potbellied pigs of a decade ago.  Like any fad, many people jump in head first without acknowledging the risk, commitment, or education and skill involved.  Severson rightly points out that a lack of attention to these issues by unprepared and inexperienced owners–as well as the unavoidably strange and unique biological climates that urban and suburban areas contain–often lead to some bumps in the road.  In the case of San Francisco, new diseases and other persistent health problems have emerged, and many unprepared chicken owners have begun abandoning their hens and roosters at animal shelters.  These unprepared and overly hasty owners have unfortunately given the movement a bit of a black eye.  No offense to the people featured in the article–I’m sure they meant well–but they are far from the victims in this story; the abandoned and sick chickens are.

Seriously adorable backyard hens in Toronto, Canada. Photo from torontochickens.com via http://www.blogto.com.

Personally, I grew up around chickens: picking them up from the post office at 5:00 AM in a loudly chirping, warm cardboard box, raising them, collecting their eggs, cleaning them, and butchering them.  I (with my younger brother) even won best in show for the Grant County Fair two years in a row, and have the trophies to prove it!  These were, in fact, the only two years we entered, marking a short and impressive reign in Southwest Wisconsin.

At any rate, I love chickens! They’re wonderful, intelligent, even affectionate creatures, and if I ever have the time and space to care for them, I’d do so in a heartbeat.  I do have an apartment with a private backyard in Brooklyn, and its physically able to handle a few chickens, but still I’d never attempt it here for a few reasons.

First, I’m a renter and I seriously doubt my landlord would approve.  Elena and I looked at an apartment in Red Hook where the landlord lived downstairs and had chickens in the backyard, but as the chicken owner also owned the building, the situation there was much more friendly.

Second, I’m more than a little worried about the microclimate that these chickens would be living in.  Brooklyn soils contain a lot of lead and other heavy metals, and anyone who knows chickens and has been around them knows that chickens spend a lot of time with their beaks in the dirt.

Granted we all have to start somewhere, and as far as chickens in backyards, go I’m all for this movement gaining ground.  It’s a spectacular and sustainable trend, and as soon as I am in a place to participate, I’ll do so!  Online communities such as Backyard Chickens and The City Chicken do a lot to encourage responsible urban chicken ownership, and more and more cities are realizing that they are beneficial creatures that should be legalized.

It’s clear that we’re headed in the right direction, and this I applaud!  But clearly, more education is necessary.  We saw this in tomatoes as well, just this year. The blight that affected the tomato crop this year was partly blamed on too high a demand for seedlings by too many amateur gardeners growing heirloom varieties for the first time.  This problem, I would surmise, has partly the same roots as the chicken diseases we’re seeing emerge.

So, please, if you’re planning on gardening or getting chickens for the first time next year, do your homework! Do more than you think is necessary, or even sane!  I’ve seen far too many tomatoes planted in the hard soil of full-shade tree pits in New York, and it really does sadden me every time. There are plenty of skilled gardners and urban farmers dying to warn you about that kind of thing, and you have to listen to them.  Thanks!

Derrick Rose, sporting the Los Bulls jersey in a game versus the Miami Heat last season.

The 2009 season will mark the second consecutive year that a handful of teams in the NBA will honor their Hispanic fan base by donning Spanish language jerseys.  A few baseball teams established this great idea before the NBA got in on the act.  Personally, I think its a nifty idea, even if the cynic in me assumes that (like any alternate jersey), the primary reason for these nights is to boost jersey sales.

However, I think these jerseys may seem a little less patronizing if they actually translated the team mascots.  “Los Bulls” sounds like Chris Farley in SNL translating “El Nino” as “The Nino” a few years back.  And while that joke is mildly amusing, I doubt the NBA was aiming for something more significant than an unoriginal SNL joke.  What they were really after was a tribute to Hispanic players in the NBA and to the latino fans of NBA basketball.

I mean seriously: “Los Bulls”?

Although “El Heat”, “Los Rockets”, “Los Mavs”, “Los Suns”, and the “Nueva York” Knicks (which, of the group, makes the most sense) are also getting in on the act, I’m using the example of Los Bulls to illustrate the linguistic problems with these jerseys.

First of all, in English there are never definite articles in front of team mascots on jerseys.  The Mets, even if they are referred to as “The Mets”, never put both words on their jerseys.  It would look phenomenally silly and aesthetically cumbersome.  Can you imagine a jersey that says “The Diamondbacks”?  That’s simply too may letters.  As it stands, the team rarely even uses the entire word, instead using jerseys that say “D-Backs”, which from a distance can be a little problematic for obvious reasons (think “g” instead of “ck”).  At any rate, simply on those grounds, the “Los” in Los Bulls makes no sense.

The second and more important issue is the laziness involved in not bothering to translate the mascot?  When the the Giants and Brewers do this in baseball, they use “Gigantes” and “Cerveceros” respectively: creating jerseys that are just as freaking sweet as they are thoughtful.

Brewers shortstop JJ Hardy sporting the "Cerveceros" jerseys. The San Francisco Giants wear "Gigantes" jerseys for the same event.

In the case of the Bulls (or the Heat or the Suns, etc) there exists a straightforward translation.  In the case of the Bulls, its Toros.  Its simple, would look elegant on a jersey, and would actually look like serious tribute to Latino players and fans, not just something an unpaid intern came up with between goggle-chat marathons.

It would be one thing for a team to not do this if their mascot was not as easily translatable. The Astros, for example, is practically a made-up word.  No simple translation exists for it in Spanish as far as I know.  However, I am confident that there are possible Spanish translations for teams like the Suns and the Heat, and, as I’ve said before, definitely the Bulls.

Hopefully, in coming seasons, the NBA will class up its act and follow suit, but for now, its just bewildering and strange to envision Eduardo Najera wearing a jersey that says “Los Nets”.

In the meantime, if anyone would care to enlighten me as to the NBA’s rationale for these decisions, I’d love to hear it.  Seriously, I would.  Given the way that ESPN Deportes lists MLB teams translated but keeps all NBA teams in English, I’m assuming there’s some lame legal explaination behind it, but that would just be speculation.  For now, I’m pining for the day that I can buy my very own Milwaukee Venados jersey (a guess, by the way, with the help of the internet).

There are few things that make opening your most prized bottle of beer more inevitable than carrying forty pounds of cat food/litter nearly a mile–after a long day of data entry.  So, after quickly catching my breath, taking off my coat, and putting some chickpeas in the pressure cooker, I reached deep into my refrigerator to unearth my bottle of New Glarus Bohemian Lager.

Yes, in a fridge that contains a bottle of the Dogfish Head 120-minute IPA and a Founders Breakfast Stout, I chose a Bohemian Lager.  Not a oak-aged imperial barleywine, or a weiss beer brewed with grains of paradise, saffron and dry-hopped with amarillo hops, or even a 2002 vintage of some high-gravity Belgian nonsense that you can’t even buy in the states; instead, I was saving a single bottle of a simple, Czech style lager, brewed in the traditional style of the Pilsner Urquell brewery in Pilsen, Czech Republic.

Granted, this beer is part of New Glarus’ coveted “Unplugged” series of beers, which, according to the label, is “a very limited edition and we make no promises to ever brew this style again.”  So, considering my love for Czech pilsners, New Glarus beer, and the fact that this beer would most likely only be brewed once, I delayed the inevitable for months before finally succumbing this evening.

As for the beer itself, the brisk (but not effervescent) carbonation, the billowy head of foam (great retention, by the way), and the nose provided all you’d ever expect from this style.  The beer itself is not as crystal clear as most Czech lagers, but this may have been a result of the beer having been lagered in unlined oak casks (a rarity in modern brewing, even in Central Europe).  I do mot mean to be dramatic or overly hyperbolic, but as for the taste, it instantly reminded me of this scene:

More specifically, the malt character was excellent: very bready and light (think baguette, not pumpernickel).  It tasted, actually, like barley, which was refreshing and familiar.  As Czech lagers go, its closer to the more roundly balanced, almost amber-colored Budvar (aka Czechvar in the U.S., tragically) than the classic, sharp Urquell.  The difference is subtle, but impressive, and this beer nailed it.  The piney and peppery Saaz hops are there, but they’re neither screaming, nor cowering; they are, in fact, announcing themselves courteously.  Unlike the vast majority of American craft-brewers–who often can’t resist to cascade-ify their versions, making them too hoppy, like a lagered pale ale–Dan Carey, New Glarus’ brewmaster, has created a beer that is understated to a fault. Vyborne!

As I’ve written previously, brewing a traditional czech pilsner in the United States is a risky endeavor.  The extreme beer types will be unimpressed by the lack of innovation, and the newly converted former bud light drinkers will have difficulties teasing out the complex subtleties of a beer like this.  Strangely, it’s a style without an audience.  In 1915, this beer would have flown off the shelves, but in a time after prohibition and the resulting abundance of mass-produced “pilsners”, the style has been, more than any other, left behind.  That is why I’m savoring this beer so much, as the odds of it making a repeat appearance anytime soon are slim.

Where (some of) the magic happens.  The brewery, despite large demand, only distributes in the state of Wisconsin.  As their bottle-caps proclaim: Drink Indigenous!

Where (some of) the magic happens. The brewery, despite large demand, only distributes in the state of Wisconsin. As their bottle-caps proclaim: "Drink Indigenous!"

As the beer itself is already long-gone, and difficult to come by, I’m not going to even bother grading it in my quest to find the best U.S. brewed pilsner.  Pislners are inherently available, easy drinking beers.  The kind you drink when you’re more interested in your conversation than getting drunk.  So, the NG Bohemian Lager, a beer that’s both expensive and hard to come by will have to be excluded on a technicality.  While I seriously doubt that I’ll find a better tasting pilsner or one that tugs so strongly at my memories, it fails in the proletarian sense.  Whichever pilsner is crowned champion, it will have to be one that (in the region where it’s brewed and distributed) it’s always around, and at decent price.

Sorry, Dan and Deb.  Let’s all hope the fine people of Wisconsin start demanding this beer again, and you can get it into your regular rotation.  Na Zdravi!