Thursday, September 18, 2003

Ken Goodbody

Yesterday I bought a domestic-partner membership to the Shell, a University of Wisconsin gym that sits next to the football stadium. Shell access comes pretty cheaply for DPs, and it's nice of the university to throw me this bone, though it would be even nicer if the university also extended health benefits to employees' domestic partners, as eight of the 11 Big Ten schools do. But I digress.

The Shell is where I usually worked out when I was a UW grad student. That's mostly because there's a good indoor track, and I'm a runner. (The SERF is substantially cheaper for DPs than the Shell and has more sex appeal, but the SERF's indoor track is a disaster.)

I worked out last night, and it was weird being back in a gym--I used to be a 4x weekly gym queen, but at least two and a half years have passed since I last set athletic-shod foot in one. (I bought new New Balances yesterday, too.) As I ran around and around the track I passed young women puffing on StairMasters, young men preening at the free weights, and professorial types doing ab work on the mats.

Waves of nostalgia washed over me. I realized that virtually all my gym workouts have been at universities, and I flashed back to my earliest visits to the University of Chicago's Henry Crown Field House. What stirred the most vivid memory last night (did Proust ever Nautilus?) was a woman using a StairMaster and reading a book--possibly Bridget Jones's Diary, though I couldn't quite tell. I was reminded of an image that lingers from my workout days at the U of C--a line of people using StairMasters, all of them reading sweat-stained copies of The Economist. Ah, fitness.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

No Arsenio

Last night on Comedy Central's Daily Show, Senator John Edwards formally announced that he's running for president. Which didn't change anything: anyone who didn't know he's running obviously hadn't watched any of the Democratic hopefuls' debates--which, come to think of it, no one has watched.

But it struck me as significant, a major announcement from a major (okay, minor) candidate on the The Daily Show. Has the show arrived? Or did it already? I confess it's something I rarely catch, living as I do in a cable-free household. But last night I trekked to the new band's practice space--which, oddly, has cable--to watch the show.

Edwards' appearance felt strange amid the wasteland of advertising surrounding this late-night comedy staple: spots for "Girls Gone Wild" tapes and the nasty-looking video game Midnight Club II. Hell, Edwards' appearance felt strange juxtaposed with the appearance of the evening's other celebrity, Cuba Gooding, Jr. But that's showbiz. Or more precisely, that's politics which, as someone said, is showbiz for ugly people.

Mostly I appreciated how host Jon Stewart reacted to Edwards' appearance. Stewart was gracious, humble and grateful, and if he mocked Edwards, he mocked gently. And self-effacingly: the most amusing thing about Edwards' appearance was the comedy routine that followed, a long harangue by correspondent Steven Colbert to the effect that Edwards' appearance spelled death for the candidate, given The Daily Show'sinsignificance. As Colbert said to Stewart, and I paraphrase, "Jon, you're no Arsenio."

What do y'all think of The Daily Show?

Monday, September 15, 2003

The Look

Last March my friend Robin used a digital camera to capture a rare moment: Ken Burns looking smug.