Wednesday, June 17, 2009

revolution within

With all that is going on in Iran right now following the country's recent controversial elections, many people are struggling to understand the historical background of these fast-changing current events. To that end, I thought it would be a good time to recommend a work that I've been a fan of for some time now: Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi.

Persepolis is an autobiographical account of an independent-minded Iranian girl (Satrapi) growing up at a time of great political unrest. But unlike most autobiographies, Persepolis is told in black-and-white comic form, which makes the story at once approachable and timeless. The book centers around Satrapi's life as part of a relatively well-educated and progressive Iranian family before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Not only does Satrapi give context for understanding what happened and how Iranian society transformed in the aftermath, but she also does a wonderful job of offering a unique and eye-opening view of what it was like being an inquisitive, punk-loving female in an often repressive, male-centric society. I actually had the pleasure of hearing Satrapi as part of a panel discussion with fellow graphic artist Chris Ware this past winter, and she was an incredible speaker—every bit as animated and full of life as her character in the books and film!

So far there have been four Persepolis books published in French; all four have been translated and compiled into one U.S. publication called The Complete Persepolis. It's a fast read, and I recommend it as an excellent addition to any bookshelf. Alternately, the book was adapted into a motion picture in 2007 (it won the Jury Prize at Cannes and was nominated for an Academy Award), so Netflixing it is certainly a worthwhile option! Although Persepolis may not delve into the most current goings-on in Iran, it will give audiences young and old a substantive background with which to begin further research into that country's recent past. &infin

Update: A new online version of Persepolis, which uses Satrapi's illustrations (with her permission), has been created to address the events of the recent election. It is called Persepolis 2.0.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

lovable losers

Oh, Mets. This season, my New York Metropolitans have found every way imaginable to lose. Forgetting to slide at home plate? Check. Thrown out at third for the last out? More than once! Missing third base on the way home? You betcha. Dropping a routine pop up against the boys in pinstripes with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and letting the tying and winning runs score in the process? Holy mother of—

But then, you have to take a step back and think of the bigger picture. Hey, we did well just to get back into that game! How many other times have we laid down and died from the third inning onward? At least the Phillies lost, too! In the broadcast afterward, you could tell that the sportscasters—several of them former Mets themselves—were literally at a loss of words for this latest, most humiliating debacle. Others were downright angry: These guys get paid millions of dollars to drop pop-ups? They'll try harder tomorrow?!

It is not easy being a fan of the New York Mets. For one thing, we've had more than our share of disastrous seasons, despite our large payroll. But for another thing, we will always, always play in the shadow of our crosstown neighbors, the New York Yankees. Sure, there are plenty of Yankee haters in the world. But most of them don't have to share the same subway car, the same cubicle, the same line at the Shake Shack, as so many of those smug Yankee fans—many of whom, i will point out, have no real reason to root for the Yankees other than the fact that they are the darlings of the baseball world. I mean, come on, how can Hillary Clinton, who's a Cubs fan first and foremost, just pick up and start rooting for an American League team once she moves to New York? It's called front-running. And it's annoying.

As I made my way into the kitchen after this incredulous loss tonight, I almost wished we could go back to the old days, when the Mets were lovable losers. We'd all just shrug and smile. This story from Wikipedia warmed my heart:

How bad were the Mets those first several seasons? Absolutely terrible. On May 26, 1964, in Chicago, they played like champions (at least for one game) and pummeled the Chicago Cubs, 19-1. According to legend, later that day a fan called a New York newspaper to get the score. He was told: "They scored 19 runs." There was a long silence, then the fan asked: "Did they win?"

Then a friend of mine, a fellow die-hard, emailed me, and of course he had some good points:

What can you do but laugh? If that wasn't the most ridiculous loss in Met history, I don't know what was, but it probably involved Marv Throneberry. The truth is, it's a simple example of who the Mets are vs. who the Yankees are. We are fated to suffer bizarre indignities, and the Yankees are fated to capitalize on the bizarre indignities that befall others. It was inevitable that at some point we would lose a game to them in ridiculous fashion. They have Jeffrey Maier catching Jeter's ball; we have Zeile's hit bouncing off the top of the wall as Timo dogs it around second. They have Rivera; we have Benitez. Even this year, it's been evident—they have Melky Cabrera delivering 100 walkoff hits, while we have Ryan Church forgetting to touch third base.

Whether we knew it or not at the time, this is what we signed up for when we became Met fans. So when we reach the inevitable confluence of our destinies, what else can we do but laugh? This is who we are, this is our heritage. We share it with each other, and we all know EXACTLY how it feels. We may be doomed, but we'll never be alone.

I guess that's the only comfort I can take right now. I know it's just one game out of the entire season. And I guess I'll get over this cruel shame that creeps in knowing that at least half of Yankee nation is laughing at you. But I suppose that's what makes true Mets fans what they are. You win some, you lose some, and then you laugh at Bobby V getting fined for his Groucho clubhouse disguise. I can't believe it's been 10 years since that happened, by the way...The good old days, already? I'm getting old.