August 14th, 2007

Pan Flash

I mean no disrespect to those of you who work on elaborate web content when I say what I'm about to say. You have to do what people will pay you to do. That said, however, let me take a minute of your time to register how much I hate the sort of Flash-happy content, much of it advertising, that has prevented me from ever seeing the results of the improvements that my ISP supposedly keeps making. In fact, I'm pretty sure that my experience of using the internet is slower than it was five years ago, largely because of those attention-grabbing boxes. I'm not opposed to seeing ads, necessarily. I actually find some of the ones that Gmail turns up highly amusing. What I can't stand, though, are those moments when my computer slows to a crawl because a series of stupid loops has drained it of the capacity to handle the tasks that matter to me. This is why I've made a vow never to purchase anything that I learn about through animated content, Pitchfork-pitched products included.

Hearing Voices

My recent spate of baseball watching has me thinking about how important the sportscasters I listened to as a child must have been to my sense of the world. Aside from my immediate family and perhaps WOR radio's John Gambling, they were the speakers I heard most. As is so often the case with childhood memories, their voices are tangled up with much that seems far removed from their scope. I distinctly recall taking greater interest in Little House on the Prairie -- a show I watched regularly in elementary school -- because Merlin Olsen, who played Michael Landon's friend, was the color commentator for NBC's Sunday afternoon NFL broadcasts. I also remember having the feeling that Little House on the Prairie was actually taking place in California, because the light looked so similar to the sort that would play across the field at West Coast stadiums. In a way, I was right.

The reason I'm writing this, however, is not Merlin Olsen. Phil Rizzuto, shortstop for the New York Yankees during their most storied years and, afterwards, the longtime color commentator on their broadcasts, just passed away. Rizzuto wasn't one of my favorite television personalities. Even as a grade-schooler, I found his meandering stories wearisome. And I came to loathe the sound of his voice advertising The Money Store, a fixture during afternoon commercial breaks on Channel 11, one of the stations I watched most between the end of school and dinnertime. But that doesn't mean that his voice wasn't important to me. The fact that I can hear it now, as I type this, with perfect clarity, indicates how much a part of me it will always be, like it or not. I can hear Phil as distinctly as I hear my own father, which makes sense, because my father always seemed to have Yankee telecasts on when we still lived in Pennsylvania. I'll sign off, then, with a respectful "Holy Cow!"

Times Square, July 1987

Yesterday I linked to my second LJ entry ever, in which I mention the trip I took to NYC with my host brothers Markus and Christian from Germany. We stayed at a dive off of Times Square and, to someone who had spent a good deal of time in the city growing up, spent much of our visit within a few blocks from our hotel. In addition to having conversations with homeless men sporting extra pairs of clean socks, cocaine vendors and teenage prostitutes -- the latter being Markus's idea -- we saw Jaws III in a bargain house where the floor seemed to be coated with thick, pink goo and posed uncomfortably in the heat for photographic souvenirs.

That's my Harvard Model U.N. shirt from December, 1984, which was -- and is, though it now fits my like a "baby doll" -- one of my most treasured possessions, both because it feels thinner than the cloaks Galadriel passed out to the Fellowship of the Ring and because my mother washed it early on in a load full of red things, giving the fabric an eery rose glow. Those of you who have seen me wrinkle my face in various biologically inherited ways when confronted by something bright or annoying -- more or less the same, in the world of Bertschdom -- will recognize my expression. I didn't really notice at the time, but I can tell in this photo that Markus still has the well-developed arms of the Speerwurf participant that he once was, despite the intervening months of smoking and drinking. I guess the body is more resilient at eighteen. Not to mention the hair. I do miss my golden locks.