The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Pirates fans protest!

A bunch of Pirates fans are planning to walk out during the 4th inning of Saturday's game against the Washington Nationals in protest of the incompetence of the management and the indifference of the ownership, who are dead-set on ensuring a 15th consecutive losing season. While it's probably more effective just to boycott the stadium, this might be a way to exercise some frustration. Fans' initial hopes to have this protest become a media event, unfortunately, have been squashed by the news that the team has gotten FSN Pittsburgh, who has the rights to broadcast the game, to agree not to show or mention the protest on the air. (This means no good footage of the protest on Sportscenter.) And because the radio broadcasters work for the team, you can bet they won't be mentioning it, either.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

modernism and design

While in DC we also hit the great Modernism: Designing a New World exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery. This exhibition was put together at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Corcoran is the only place it's coming in the US. As a specialist in modernism, I've seen my share of modernism exhibits, but most of them are focused on art--the recent Dada show at the Smithsonian comes to mind. This one was largely centered on modernism in daily life: kitchen products and even model kitchens, Neutra's houses in LA and Le Corbusier's designs for cities, the Ballet Mecanique, Frank Lloyd Wright's chairs, etc. What I've always kind of realized but never in such a clear way is just how much modernism--which we often think of, in retrospect, as being a movement dedicated to the alienated, solitary outsider rebel artist, was in its time a much more COLLECTIVE phenomenon: the Bauhaus were about designing affordable, mass-producible objects and environments for working-class people, for instance, and of course the Soviets and the fascists used the aesthetic appeal of modernism to mobilize and ultimately control masses of people. I'm thinking more and more that the notion of modernism as a movement of alienated outsider rebels was created in the 1940s and 1950s in response to what many modernists saw as the horrors, the tragic effects, of the aestheticizing of the daily life of the masses along modernist lines. But these 1920s and 1930s modernists really thought that the combination of smart design, the new technologies of the machine age, and a devotion to cleanliness and light would create (again in the terms of the Corcoran's exhibition) a utopia.

hot day in dc

hot day in dc
Originally uploaded by Mantooth
The baby, too, loved the zoo, and stayed cool.

DC zoo

DC zoo
Originally uploaded by Mantooth
When it's hot in Washington, it's REALLY hot. And sticky. I took my boys and their cousin to the National Zoo on Monday in the 95 degree heat, armed only with some sunscreen and two bottles of raspberry lemonade. The pandas were "in hiding"; or, more accurately, they were "beyond where a hot guardian wanted to walk"; but the pygmy hippo was genuinely cool.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Originally uploaded by Mantooth
Watching the rafters on the Youghiogheny from a bridge on the Ohiopyle bike trail.

pearl district

Originally uploaded by Mantooth
After a dip in Portland's popular Jameson Square fountain, it was back to urban loft life.


Originally uploaded by Mantooth
Boy #2 has now learned the basic physics concept of fluid dynamics--liquids move down via gravity. So he now can use a sippy cup. His brother mentors him in this.

rose festival "tall ships"

Originally uploaded by Mantooth
Boy #1 was very excited to find that Portland's Rose Festival brings pirate ships up the Willamette.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

cafe du jour

Another trip to Cafe du Jour this weekend. We've only been there once, but had fond memories of it, as the food was good, the outdoor space beautiful, and the service competent. It hasn't changed, I'm pleased to report.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

the green zone

Rajiv Chandrasekharan's IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY, a history of the Coalition Provisional Authority under Bremer and of the Green Zone (now called the "International Zone") in Baghdad, is pretty much what you'd expect: a story of people who really can't make a decision that actually works out, and who stay in charge not because of their competence but because they are just bullies. Chandrasekharan made the rounds of the talk shows (kudos to Jon Stewart for making it de rigeur for writers of serious current-events books to appear on talk shows) and his book is much like the public personality he showed on the air: friendly, energetic, immersed in research without being stuffy or esoteric. The book is as breezy as a story of a disaster like this can be, and benefits immensely from--really, it couldn't have existed without--Chandrasekharan's ability to get former CPA officials to talk to him. Many of them were Bush believers, and one suspects that mosst are still Republicans, but boy, they really make the case that the occupation and setup of the government was misbegotten, not just cursed with "mistakes in execution."

My other guilty-pleasure reading for the month is much guiltier: Crystal Zevon's I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD: THE DIRTY LIFE AND TIMES OF WARREN ZEVON. It's a long book consisting almost exclusively of oral-history excerpts, bits of Zevon's diaries, and the like. She only adds an interstitial note now and then. One thing I've learned is that I'm glad I was never married to Zevon. He seems like a nightmare. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s he was an epic alcoholic, and one wonders why Crystal was so raw in this book--he was just brutal to her, constantly blacking out from drinking and hitting her in the face--when she doesn't come across all that well in her decision-making. But oh, Zevon, what a train wreck. And even when he finally sobered up he was no picnic. It's a good read, marred, unfortunately, by some of the worst copyediting I've ever seen from a major publisher. Aaron Copland is repeatedly referred to as "Aaron Copeland," Zevon is said to use both "Halliburton" and "Haliburton" suitcases (it's not like that name is an obscure one these days!), and one of the most famous songs of Jackson Browne, "For Everyman," is spelled both as that and as "For Every Man"--within two pages. Someone should lose their job over this. I'm looking at you, copyediting desk of the HarperCollins trade division.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Andina didn't disappoint. The food was as good as ever, and although it's one of the anchors of the slightly pretentious Pearl District of Portland it wasn't as snotty as one might expect. They have original dishes (Andean appetizers that I've never seen before, done extremely well) and they do a great job with traditional things like cebiches and lomo saltado. But what did it for me this time was the service: we arrived at about 6:30, with two small children who were already an hour and a half past their bedtimes and on the verge of crashing. This is a fancy little place that wants you to linger and order many courses, so this looked bad. But we ordered appetizers and entrees and mentioned that we wanted both simultaneously b/c the children were on East Coast time, and the wait staff had everything out in ten minutes. It was unbelievable, and made the dinner a success. (My wife was VERY skeptical about my idea to go out for dinner the night we arrived.) So bravo, Andina.

Unfortunately, we didn't have entirely good restaurant experiences. My wife got food poisoning at the new Hawthorne branch of what used to be (15 years ago...) one of my favorite Portland places, the Bridgeport Brew Pub.

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