Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Willie Mays Field at AT&T Park

Around the time that Pacific Bell Park (home of the San Francisco Giants) was getting rebranded to the parent company's name (SBC), my friend Daniel approached me for support on his grassroots idea to have the sponsors change the name to "Mays Field." Actually, his initial effort was to have everyone call it that regardless of what the owners name it. We're both longtime Giants fans, and naming a the park after Willie Mays certainly has a fan-pleasing air about it. However, it surprised him that I wasn't in favor of the idea.

It seemed to me that if SBC/Pac Bell was willing to kick in $50 million over 24 years to help support a privately funded ballpark in downtown San Francisco, then I'm all in favor of it. Why should I begrudge them their marketing value for the money? Willie Mays isn't ponying up any dough. I'll defend their right to have it called what they want just like I'd defend a kid at school to be called by his rightful name even if everyone else wants to call him "Dicknose." Principles aren't a question of scale, people, they're principles.

Well with the SBC acquisition of AT&T, the sponsors now want to re-brand it again, this time to AT&T Park. Daniel has similarly modified his plea, and is now asking for it to be officially renamed "Willie Mays Field at AT&T Park." So now I signed his petition and teased him that he finally realized my greater wisdom. He, in turn, said that he was so moved he had to lie down. He said he hasn't been so moved since Dravecky broke his arm. I'm sure his change of heart had everything to do with principles and nothing to do with having a snowball's chance in Hell of getting taken seriously by AT&T.

You can check out the Mays Field site here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Billy Crystal - "700 Sundays" in San Francisco


One of the great things that Aforementioned Wife has brought into my life is theatre. You could count the number of professional productions I'd seen before meeting her on Mordecai Brown's hand. But since her family is so into the theatre, I've had many more occasions to go, often thanks to them. One such occasion was this past Tuesday, when Julie's father gave her a pair of tickets to the Billy Crystal "700 Sundays" show at the Golden Gate.

I knew I liked Billy from his work in TV and movies, but I enjoyed this immensely because it was so personal. It's Billy talking about his life experience growing up. By doing that, he connects to all of our experience growing up. As a person who likes to remember personal history (I've kept a journal every day since 8/31/76), I really appreciate the effort he put in to recapture that experience and share it with us. What I ended up seeing was not so much "Billy Crystal doing his professional entertaining thing" but "Billy Crystal using his talent and skills to reflect on the past the way I wish I could." He made a very stout effort to ignore his professional success and focus on his experience as Everyman. Probably especially more so if you grew up Jewish in New York in the 50's, but still. A notable and well-chosen exception to mentioning his celebrity was when he spoke about seeing his mother in the hospital when she had some memory loss. She said to him, "Hey, you're Billy Crystal. What are you doing here?" Man, I'm tearing up just remembering that.

It just so happens that his life as a kid had some exceptional moments too. His uncle was a visionary who ended up turning an electronics store into the Commodore Record label, thereby making a huge contribution to New York jazz and bringing that influence into Billy's life. He watched "Shane" while sitting in Billie Holliday's lap... how cool is that?

It was a great show. If you get a chance to catch it, then you should. If not, his book is probably a decent substitute and they've got it at Amazon. We sat in the front row of the loge, but I expect even the worst seat in the house is still fine.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Effective phone messages

I remember when phone answering machines were invented. Well, I don't actually remember when it was, but I remember the experience of everyone getting used to them. It takes several repetitions before you're comfortable with the idea of talking on the phone with no one talking back. My parents still leave messages that sound like they just realized they're on Candid Camera and they can't wait to hang up. But that's OK... they leave short messages that get right to the point. I, in turn, believe in a similar principle: most phone messages can have their meaningful content condensed down to ten seconds or less. It's in everyone's best interests if you just do that.

My wife is from an entirely different school of thought. She sees leaving phone messages as akin to having a captive audience. I'm pretty sure she gets it from her mother. They both start their messages as if they fully expected to reach a live person, and the whole idea that they haven't has thrown them into a tizzy, forcing them to recalibrate and share their thought processes with the machine while they get their sea legs. Here's a made up example from my NY Jewish mother-in-law, though it's really not far from the truth:
Essential content: "Call me on my cell - I have a question."

Actual message: "Oh. You're not there. Where did you go? Did you go to work already? Well I guess it doesn't matter where you went... you're not there, that's all there is to it. I wanted to talk to you about something. Call me back later... oh wait, depending on when you call me back I might not be home. I might be over at Paula's... you remember Paula. We used to go walking together when you and her daughter were just little girls. Oh what's her daughter's name again? You know what it is. I can't remember. We'd dress you up in these little red dresses and spend a few hours walking around the park. You remember that. Oh what was her name? I should really remember before I go over there. So I just happened to run into her the other day, and I hadn't seen her in years. It turns out she lives just right around the corner, can you believe that? So I'm going over for tea; that's why I might not be here. So don't call between 2 and 4, or maybe really not even before 5 my time. Oh wait, you could just call my cell phone and then I'd get it no matter where I was. Yeah, that's a good idea, just call my cell, and if it happens to be a bad time, I'll tell you. Or I'll just take a few minutes to ask you this other question. OK, love you Sweetie, don't forget to call."
Seriously, I'm not gonna listen to all of that. I press "save" somewhere around "Call me back later" and she can listen to it all. Julie wants me to listen to it all in case it ends with something important like "Now press 5 on the phone and save a hundred childen," but come on, it never does. I'm not wrong, am I?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I have a theory...

As my friends know, I have many theories. There is almost no subject too trivial for me to have a theory about. Here's my latest one...
A key indicator of a successful (romantic) relationship is the willingness of each partner to use the other one's made-up words.
Now the words don't actually have to be originally made up by the person; they could be historical family words that s/he just brought into the relationship. Traditionally, most families have words made up for bodily parts and functions.

In our case, a recent example is a word I made up to replace "dogs." I like addressing our two dogs as a unit, and I just felt like "dogs" didn't have enough syllables. So I started calling them "doggages," as in "Come on doggages, we're going for a walk." Julie took to the term, and so now they are The Doggages. It is an important part of the theory that words have to come from both partners... one-sided word generation suggests imbalance.

I am interested in more data points about the theory. I invite you to post to the comments.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Opening Day, part 2

Hopefully you either have worked in downtown SF, or you followed that Frank Chu link in my first post. Either one is key to getting the joke of my Halloween costume this year.


I've never been a big dress-up guy for Halloween, although I like the holiday. This year we were having a contest in the office, and I've been planning to do this eventually. When I walked into the main area of work, people didn't even say anything. They just applauded. That was cool.

At lunch time I took a walk down Market Street to see what kind of reaction I'd get. People either

1) Got the joke and smirked or commented
2) Thought I was actually Frank or
3) Had never seen Frank before and reacted accordingly.

I never did find Frank to take a picture with him.

Some folks on the WELL suggested that I get together a Frank Chu drill team for next year's St. Stupid's Day parade. That would be pretty funny. Post here with your contact info if you want to do it.

Opening Day

I had this experience on the bus a few months ago, and wrote about it on the WELL and e-mail. One person suggested I start a blog. I don't need all that much encouragement. So here's my true story from 9/29/05 to kick off my first blog:

Today on the 1 California:
I'm sitting next to the window and a large man, probably 50's with a grey pompadour and southern European descent sits next to me. He's got the kind of build that makes you think he may well have been Fabio-stunning a couple decades ago. And he's wearing what appears to be a weight lifter's uniform, complete with kneepads, Olympics-style. Dialogue, starting with him:

- May I sit here?
+ Sure. Are you going wrestling somewhere?
- No. Kickboxing.
+ Kickboxing? (Clearly too massive for kickboxing.)
- Yes. I fight people from all over the world. All over the galaxy. I have a license to kill.
+ Really?
- Yes. Humans are not good fighters. But Martians are.
+ Where are you from?
- I am from all over... Italy, France, United States. I am God. I’m from everywhere. I came here in 1947 and some people thought I was Jesus Christ. But I'm not; I'm God.
+ Well what are you doing here?
- I am fighting creatures from all over the galaxies. I am also bringing sunshine because sunshine helps clean up all the pollution. If I did not bring the sunshine, the pollution would kill everyone.
+ I suppose that's not very productive if you're God.
- Yes. I have responsibilities all over the galaxies.
+ Have you met Frank Chu?
- Who?
+ Frank Chu. He carries signs showing that he too knows about the galaxies. Maybe you should compare notes with him.
- Is he a big shot?
+ He knows about the galaxies, that's all I'm saying.
- Does he have bodyguards? I have hundreds, thousands of bodyguards, all beautiful women. Of all races and colors. I used to have more white women, but they got eaten by martians.
+ I don't know about the bodyguards, but he's not dead. That oughtta count for something.
- He can't be a big shot if he doesn't have lots of money.
+ What difference does money make to one who hops the galaxies? I gotta think that doesn't matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
- I only talk to big shots. You should see the beaches on places like Venus and Jupiter. They're just like the south of France.
+ Venus I can see, but Jupiter's pretty cold. At least it was the last time I was there.
- When I go to Jupiter I look at the sun and bring more sunshine.
+ Say, why does God need to take MUNI?
- Do you know how many flying saucers there are out there, waiting to shoot me down with laser beams?
+ Ah, so you're on MUNI to protect yourself from being seen and targeted.
- There are a lot of flying saucers out there.
+ Are you saying that God can be killed by a laser beam?
- (Gets up for his stop, mumbles something nonsensical about the dangers of laser beams.)
+ Watch out for the laser beams!