Yankee Stadium

Yankee stadium smells like feet.

I went for the first time to a Yankees game the other night — a pretty good game that went down to the bottom of the ninth. The Yankees almost pulled it out, but lost by one. As you may know, this is the last season in the old stadium, built In 1923, and about to be replaced by a new ball park being built next door. In the reports about what athletes will miss and not miss about the venerable House that Ruth Built, one of the comments made by several is they won’t miss the smell. “Especially when it rains, the smell that comes up through the drainage system is not pretty,” said Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox in the New York Times. “It affects your sinuses, I’ll tell you that much.”

Well, even in the cheap seats, near the yellow foul ball pole in the upper decks of right field, there was a noticeable stench, as if the Bambino’s smelly old cleats were buried under my seat.

Or maybe it was the guy next to me, who talked on his cell phone through most of the game.

The Bronx Bombers may not be the only ones with a stinky NY home. The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Brandon Webb told the Times: “I think Shea smells worse.”

(And he’s not talking about my friend Tracy Shea.)

That stadium is also in its final throes. Last week, Billy Joel played two sell-out final rock shows in the stadium where the Beatles played in the 1960s. Sir Paul McCartney came out for an encore during one of Joel’s shows.

I’m told it didn’t stink.

Sublime AND Ridiculous? Absolutely!

Greetings from Mill Valley, CA.

Apologies that all my posts lately have been about work. But work is mostly what I’ve been up to lately. And that work is nothing if not challenging and eclectic.

Today, there are two videos I put together for TIME.com that could not be more different. One is the video complement to reporter Sean Gregory’s story about LeBron James, the basketball superstar who is one of the lead players on the US Basketball Olympic team. He promises to bring the gold medal back to America from Beijing, after the team’s humbling bronze medal in the 2004 games in Athens.

The other is footage Joel Stein took with a small video camera of former Fall Guy actress and poster pinup Heather Thomas [now a political activist] at her home in Hollywood. If someone told me I’d be creating a digital version of a refrigerator magnet poetry set in my new job at a venerable news organization, I wouldn’t have believed them. But there you go.

It is probably the weirdest thing I’ve put together in a long time (and I’ve been to Burning Man!). But I think it’s hilarious.

What I love about the two stories is that they both end in the same word: absolutely.

SEAN: So you’re gonna do it, you’ll win the gold?

LEBRON: Absolutely.

SEAN: Guarantee it?

LEBRON: Absolutely.

CUT TO: the backyard of a Hollywood home.

JOEL: Are you going to put those [magnets of liberal political words] on your refrigerator?


CUT TO: WordPress blog

IMAGINARY INTERVIEWER: Craig, are you loving your new job?

CRAIG: Absolutely!

Lang Lang Plays Liszt

Pianist Lang Lang, photo from TIME.com
Pianist Lang Lang, photo from TIME.com

This past Monday, TIME interviewed Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang for its 10 Questions strand. We met up with the 26 year-old phenom at the headquarters of Steinway pianos on W. 57th Street in New York, and videotaped the interview for TIME.com. The interview can be seen here and heard here and read here.

But afterwards, we asked Mr. Lang if he would play something so we could incorporate it into the video. He sat down at the piano — a concert-ready grand, tuned and prepped in advance by Steinway technicians — and played a piece by Franz Liszt: Liebestraum No. 3 in A Flat Major. It’s offered as a bonus video, and I’ve linked it here:

Iraq Journal

TIME reporter Abigail Hauslohner recently took a road trip with photographer Yuri Kozyrev and their Iraqi fixer/driver/translator Sami, to southeastern Iraq and the cities of Amara and Basra. Much of the areas in the southeastern provinces had been too dangerous and essentially off limits to journalists for the past few years — except for those traveling in a military convoy. But recent operations by Iraqi government forces have quieted some of the violence, making it safer for westerners to travel and work there.

Abigail took a small video camera with her and, coupled with Yuri’s photos, I was able to put together a video segment that shows areas not recently seen in western media.

The results of our combined efforts can be viewed at this link. The video complement’s Abigail’s article today about her trip to Al-Faw, a town just across the Shatt Al-Arab (the mouth of the combined Tigris and Euphrates rivers) from Iran.

The New New York Work Hood

For the new job at TIME, I have an office in the TIME & LIFE building on 6th Avenue just across from Radio City Music Hall.

The subway station sits under the Avenue and there’s an entrance directly into the building (something I know I’ll appreciate in the winter time).

My office faces 50th street and the adjacent building, but if I stand at the window, I can see a sliver of 7th Avenue and the sky beyond.

Not that I’ve had a lot of time to look out that window. I jumped in with both feet with the new job, and I’ve been plenty busy.

10 Questions for Tim Gunn

A weekly feature on Time.com is called 10 Questions. Readers/viewers write in their questions for famous people who agree to sit down with a TIME reporter and answer them. An abbreviated print version appears in TIME magazine, and it’s also available, in longer form, as a podcast and web video. Talk about multi-platform.

This week’s edition features Tim Gunn, best known as the fashion godfather on Project Runway (a well edited reality show that pits wannabe fashion design sensations against each other in various challenges; the show can be addictive). Gunn is formerly the chair of the Fashion Design Department at Parsons School of Design in New York, and also hosts the Project Runway spinoff Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style on Bravo. Have a look at this engaging interview.

Next week, I’ll get to meet the sensational Chinese pianist Lang Lang.


I’m an unreliable and intermittent blogger these days.

Up to my armpits in boxes after the move and busy with a new job.

I did discover my body armor and helmet while unpacking, though it’s doubtful I’ll need those any time soon. No war zones in my near future.

Will post some photos of the new ‘hood and pad soon. Promise.

Meeting Aunt Ruth

Aunt Ruth Brooks and Craig Duff

CHOLAME, California. June 8. Great Aunt Ruth tells me she remembers meeting me the one and only time we had seen each other before — at the farm where she and her family lived in Arkansas. “I looked down at you, and you looked up at me,” she said, “and I said to myself: ‘now here’s a good boy.'”

I was one year old.

43 years later, I meet her for the first time as an adult.

Aunt Ruth is the youngest of eleven children, the only surviving member of my grandmother’s family. She holds court in her rocking chair in the ranch house on the olive orchard where my dad’s cousin Peggy and her husband live. She rocks back and forth, surrounded by family, friends and children, the day after Peggy’s celebration of 50 years of marriage to husband Bud.

I’ve been looking forward to meeting Aunt Ruth for years, and I can tell when I walk in the room, that she is also excited to meet me.

I kneel down to her and sit next to her in the rocking chair, speaking in one ear, telling her how nice it is to see her. She grins, pulls my face close to hers, touches her forehead to mine. As a camera clicks, she puts a hand on my cheek.

Craig, Peggy Chase and Ruth BrooksAt 93, and after several health problems, she can’t get around much. A hearing aid in one ear compensates for near deafness, and her radiant and gentle blue eyes only see outlines and shapes. But her spirit is a vibrant force. Peggy (in the photo with us here) and a network of friends and helpers take very good care of her. As I hold her soft hand in mine, I can see she has perfectly manicured nails.

She wears long strands of yellow and red plastic beads over an embroidered sweatshirt.

We reminisce about family. I ask her if she remembers her daughter’s wedding 50 years before. “Sure I do,” she says. “I remember baking the cake.”

I tell her of my fond memories of the German chocolate cakes my grandmother — her sister Lillian — used to make.

She tells me I look like a Weaver, the surname of her clan. She looks very much like my grandmother who passed away when I was about nine.

“I’m 93,” she says. “It’s rough and a little lonely. There’s no one to turn to.”

“Certainly no one who understands what it’s like to be 93,” I say.

She smiles and grips my hand tighter. “Yes,” she says, “that’s it.”

Continue reading “Meeting Aunt Ruth”