Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Big Yank: Lessons from a Tonsillectomy

As far back as I can remember, I've had some kind of throat problem. When I was a not-so-little-kid I'd catch bronchitis every year smack in the middle of hoop season. I remember one case that brought with it some bronchial spasms that pretty much prevented me from breathing and caused me to miss three days of basketball practice. Whether or not you're trying to cover 94 feet in less than 4 seconds, you kinda need to breathe in order to be alive. Thankfully for me, I didn't stop living. And I didn't miss any games either. Just practice. That time.

More recently, I've been the beneficiary of what appeared to be a chronic case of tonsillitis. Two or three times a year, I'd get some sort of sinus congestion that would drip into my throat thereby irritating my least favorite body part. Once it was irritated, my throat would stay sore for...a while. Back in August, I was diagnosed with inflamed tonsils. The day after Halloween, they were still inflamed.

It's taken me several years, several sore throats/inflamed tonsils and several visits to several different ENTs (I've moved around a lil bit and I don't have a primary care physician) but earlier this fall, I finally heard the words I'd been waiting for: "So, do you wanna get your tonsils removed?"

By all accounts that I'm aware of, doctors do tonsillectomies on adults only as a last resort. It's supposed to be painful and it allegedly takes a long time to heal. Some urban legends even say it's risky. I cared about none of those things when I heard those eight beautiful words. My tonsils, as far as I could tell, had reached the point of diminishing returns and were no longer of any positive use for me.

(Except for the part of the sore throat experience when my voice sounded raspier than Miles Davis. That part was pretty cool. For about a day and a half. Until all the coughing was a lil more important than all the cool.)

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, I went under the scalpel (or whatever tool they use to reach way into the nether regions of your mouth to yank out your tonsils) for a long overdue tonsillectomy. Since that day, I've learned a few things about what it takes to recover from The Big Yank.

1) You're gonna lose some weight. The doctors advise you to begin eating things like mashed potatoes as soon as it feels comfortable to chew and swallow. Which may take a week. Or more.

2) Drink lots of fluids...that are fortified with something. Bolthouse Farms smoothies, Sobe Lifewater, Propel and Gatorade kept me alive for the first couple of days.

3) You really don't wanna eat a lot of ice cream. Or maybe any. Your throat will be too sensitive to all that damn'd cold. For the first week at least.

4) Pudding is your friend. Somewhere in the middle of day 2, I discovered that pudding was the most soothing thing I could swallow. Applesauce seemed like a good idea, but really wasn't. Oatmeal, on the other hand, slid down nice and easily. It just wasn't as satisfying as pudding.

5) You're not gonna be able to use your tongue for a while. Stretching it just a little to scrape debris from your molars won't feel good.'re gonna need to devise some other way to

6) Shut up. Don't talk to anyone for a couple of days. (Except for your smokin' hot S.O. who has volunteered to take care of you.) It's just not worth the effort. If you've stocked up on pudding, smoothies, water and instant oatmeal, you don't really need visitors during the first day or two anyway.

7) Sleeping may be the hardest part. Getting there and staying there can be kinda unpleasant as you may simultaneously experience pain in your ears and in your throat. You can take a painkiller to aid this process. But if you're staying superhydrated, you'll invariably wake up to pee. Which will start the whole process over again. And will probably trigger the other unpleasant end of the sleeping process.

8) Waking up isn't fun either. For the first week, your throat will be hella dry, but it'll be extra hurt-y to try and swallow anything to relieve your dry mouthedness. Again, painkillers help. But they'll reduce the pain from double-you-over-spasms to take-the-Lord's-name-in-vane-exclamations. Until they kick in 15-20 minutes later and take you to that happy place where the soundtrack is provided by the Grateful Dead and Snoopy D-O-double-Gizzle.

9) Stretch. A lot. By day 3 or day 4, you're gonna start getting restless and maybe a little bed sore. Or couch sore. Unfurl that yoga mat and do a mini-routine. Your back and legs will thank you later.

10) Stay clean. Bathe and change clothes once a day. Brush your teeth and do a mouthwash treatment, too. Change your bedsheets every 4-5 days. Those will accumulate a lot of funk.

11) Read something breezy and captivating. I recommend this and this to get started.

12) Laughter is not the best medicine. Until day 3 or day 4, it's gonna hurt to laugh. Even as I discovered that, I inexplicably killed a lot of hours watching sitcoms. 30 Rock. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Better Off Ted. Parks and Recreation. On the plus side, I'm all caught up on each of those shows. Also, I've watched Michael Clayton 45 more times.

13) Work from home as long as possible. Email is your friend, too. (Although its not nearly as friendly as pudding.) You can be as verbose as you need to be using your fingers. The voice is gonna be weak for at least a week. Maybe two. Unless you host a talk show, your office can miss the sound of your voice.

Truth be told, the only thing you really truly need in order to recover from The Big Yank is time. As long as you don't do anything dumb--like eating homemade bread the day after the procedure--you'll probably be okay. The doctors are going to prep you pretty thoroughly. And it's simple enough to follow all their instructions for what to do, what not to eat, where you can expect to experience pain, etc.

As long as you do that, you should be cool. It's gonna suck for a while. But you'll eventually get past it.

With the help of lots and lots of pudding.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tax Us, Please

Germany's economy is in trouble. A bunch of rich barons want to come to its asking the German government to conditionally raise their taxes.

Crazy, right?

PRI's The World broadcast that story last night.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Facebook Strategy for Parents of T(w)eens

Since I don't have any kids of my own that makes me an expert on telling other people how to raise their offspring. Today, I'd like to share a rather simple strategy for how to govern your not-so-little person's usage of social media.

First, say a conditional yes to whatever online community they want to join. Unless, of course, it's the Little Hitlers Society or a San Antonio Spurs Fan Club.

Second, in the event that you are a member of the same community, do not require them to "friend" you. Don't even ask them to.

Third, lay down this one rule that you will not compromise on:

Once a week (or at a slightly more frequent interval of your choosing) junior will agree to sit down with you at his/her PC or Mac to review and talk about one element of his/her profile in this community: their friends list.

Your agenda for tracking that one thing (and only that one thing) should be a rational one that mirrors the most basic good parenting strategies for the physical world. You'll be looking for people you don't know. If you don't know someone who is in your son's or daughter's online circle, then ask them about said person. "Who are they? How do you know them? Why are they your friend?" If your youngin' can't answer those questions to your satisfaction, then Johnnie or Tremaine can't be online friends with the stranger. Just like you wouldn't want them hanging around with Greg Popovich in real life.

You'll need to be very disciplined during these friend list review sessions. Resist the urge to ask to see other parts of shorty's profile. Instead, if you have your own profile, share that with them and talk with them about your own experiences socializing online.

If you don't have a profile on whatever site they want to join (or if you're still something of a social luddite), then track down stories where people said something online or posted a photo that came back to haunt them in a real way. Like getting fired. Or arrested. Or dumped by the love of their life who looks just like the vampire kid from Twilight. The point of the exercise is to train junior to recognize that s/he needs to be thoughtful about his or her digital footprint. Everyone is gonna act a fool sometimes. And you ought to give your kid the space to make mistakes. But you don't want the kinda crazy thing they did seven Fridays ago to derail their Senatorial campaign in 2032. Or their shot at a college scholarship a couple years from now.

That's it. Follow that one rule and you'll create a portal into your seed's online experiences. Odds are that, if you maintain a healthy dialogue in general, Johnnie or Tremaine will share something with you that happened on Facebook that is not germaine to their friend list. Even if they don't, you're still doing your job. And that's really all you can do. Online or off.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What's In a Name?

My brother, Youngblood, and his wife are expecting their second child. As a rule, they don't know the gender of the baby. And they won't until Mrs. Youngblood pushes that sweet, screaming, poop-making machine out into this world. They've got some ideas for how they'll refer to this forthcoming bundle of joy. One of the candidates for a male baby is the name "Brendan." Of which, I'm not a fan.

Believe it or not, I've got a couple of quasi-reasonable objections:

1) It's too easy to confuse "Brendan" with "Brandon" and I suspect a person named the former would spend a good deal of his life in correction mode.
2) When the other kids start picking on him, he'll invariably be called "Brenda." (That's certainly what I'd do if I were 9 years old and I wanted to tease a kid named "Brendan.")
3) I can picture a little boy named "Brendan," but I can't imagine a grown man called "Brendan." It just feels like a short-term solution. It doesn't really...mature...very well.

I'm probably responding rather weirdly when it comes to this particular name. And, now that I've shared my objection with Youngblood (and the rest of the free and not-so-free worlds), my objection can pretty much be discarded.

Except, perhaps, for that last reason.

I don't--thankfully for the rest of the planet--have any kids. I don't have near-term plans to have any either. Which is to say that I'm grossly unqualified when it comes to debating parenting philosophies. At least from a first-person standpoint. I am--allegedly--a modestly intelligent person. And I have had, like, three whole conversations with parents and/or their offspring about parenthood. So I'll step into my arrogant pants for a moment and tell other people how they should live their lives. (Just this once.)

Arguably the biggest mistake any parent makes is limiting the concept of their "child" to the first life stage their son or daughter travels through. A baby will be a baby for a while. And then they won't be. They'll be a third-grader for an even shorter amount of time. And they'll be a teenager for far longer than is comfortable for any sane person. And then, most importantly, they will be an adult. At some point. It's an inevitability that all of us should be so lucky to endure.

In my experience, there's a wistful fetish--that is perhaps only a couple of generations old--within Western culture for a certain notion of what childhood is supposed to be about. Someone or something is always trying to protect children or preserve the integrity of the experience of being a child. And someone or something is always celebrating childhood as if it were a bubble of pure, unadulterated joy. Like there's a cultural decision to make bliss the most blissful when ignorance is the expected, accepted norm.

Which, of course, is not really the case. At every stage of development that I've observed, children/kids/juniorpoopersofpants have a lot going on mentally and emotionally. They may enjoy more moments (and/or moments that last longer) where the psychological obligations of behaving in a civilized manner do not appear to exist but, to their credit, the youngin's are not braindead or heartdeaf. They see things. They think and they feel. And they're slowly accumulating the stories on which their identities and personal belief systems will be built. They are, very plainly, adults-in-training.

That sounds kinda like a hairy, steaming pile of suck, don't it? could be. But it doesn't have to be. Childhood and adulthood are not simple, monolithically categorizable experiences. There are rites of passage that link many people together as if they're all taking the exact same steps along the exact same journey. But we don't take the same steps. And we certainly don't all step in anything that resembles the same order.

Some of us graduate from pre-school, lose all our baby teeth before we finish learning to multiply, discard the idea of the other gender as having cooties at some point around junior high, obtain a driver's license as soon as legally possible, do our first kegstand before college, do a lot more kegstands in college, survive those first three really crappy jobs, choose a spouse, push out some pantspoopers of our own, finally move into that corner office, cry when our own kids begin to remind us how far we are on our own journeys and then...well...some other stuff.

Before that other stuff happens, those bittersweet reminders are probably what trigger the fetish for childhood. The view via the rear mirror is always much happier (or, if you prefer, more painful) than the time that has passed really was. Memory, despite the complex series of chemical interactions that make it possible, is the great simplifying tool. It transforms childhood into this thing that is innocent and pure and wonderful. It dulls the awkward, irrational truth which is neither entirely bad nor entirely good.

Childhood, like adulthood, is just another thing you do that you can enjoy if you want to. You shouldn't be told what it will be or how you're supposed to experience it. The only expectations a person who is experiencing childhood--or adulthood for that matter--should have are that there will be lights and tools and people to help you learn how to use those tools as you stumble and glide along your path. You don't need anything to be dulled or amplified for your benefit. You just need the freedom to fumble...or to start the wild rumpus.

Wait...this was supposed to have something to do with a name, wasn't it?

I guess I don't know exactly what IS in a name but I do know that no parent is simply naming a baby or a child. They are, Godwilling, naming a person who will grow up. Consequently, the job of a parent isn't to raise a "child", but to train an adult. Which is probably a far scarier endeavour. Maybe that's why the persistent longing for "childhood"...persists. It looks like it is more fun perhaps because it was. Or so it seemed. And maybe that's why so many baby names are...cute.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Revolution Will Not Be...Monetized?

The Revolution, according to Michael Moore, has come. It may not be time to pick up the gun. But it is time to pursue a better -ism than the -ism that ails us at present. So, we're told via his latest film.

Whether or not you've seen Capitalism: A Love Story, here (for the purposes of this half-witted rant) is the executive summary of the film:

In the latter decades of the 20th Century--at the height of American prosperity--some combination of the US banking industry, the wealthiest 1% of US citizens and the US government all cahooted to abandon the US manufacturing core in favor of a speculation-based economy that was measured primarily in terms of theoretical paper wealth. In doing so, these cahooters manipulated the dreams of the average American to maintain their control of the country. The resulting evils the cahooters perpetrated have ushered many Americans right out of their own homes and their own jobs into...well...that's just it...the poor, dumb bastards who comprise America's working classes have been left with their thumbs to sit on and the dwindling hairs on their heads to give them shelter.

That's the movie. In a nutshell. And it gives us--the choir to whom Mr. Moore so lovingly sings--this plan of attack:

"We're mad as hell...we kinda know what we're mad about...we really wanna do something about it...but we don't know exactly what that will be...yet."

Oh, wait, Democracy. That was the answer one of America's greatest storytellers proposed to the problem of Capitalism gone wild. That and a Second Bill of Rights (as outlined in some very cool film of FDR) aimed at guaranteeing certain rights for wage-earners. While noble, that answer (rather, that plan) is incomplete. Democracy is certainly a tactic and the Bill of Rights 2.0 is certainly a clear goal. But how will we deploy the vote and what will we do once we have achieved that particular goal?

In the film, Moore challenges us to embrace democracy and to engage the most fundamentally American tools of civic participation in order to resuscitate our great nation. He also reminded us what happened when we tried that last winter in the midst of the debate over whether to begin issuing bailouts to American industries. kinda didn't work. We got overruled. And the industries--particularly Wall Street--enjoyed a cash injection from the dirty syringes we weren't done using ourselves.

It's easy to hate on Wall Street. But you know who has money parked on Wall Street? I do. So does my father. And his sister. And her neighbor. And that guy's kid's teacher. We're all, to some degree, invested in the greatest ponzi scheme the world has ever known. And while many of us suffer from the genius applied by some of our brightest engineering minds who have abandoned engineering in favor of finance, some of us are forever thankful that those same minds have made us money that we would not have "earned" otherwise.

Speculation is a great seductress and she knows we all dream of wiping our funky asses with Benji Franklin's big face. Sadly, though, speculation ain't what she used to be. Back in 1849, you could discover oil or gold or some other very tangible commodity whose value may flutuate but would never be called into question. A century and a half later, you can launch Twitter or get in on the ground floor of some other intangible, yet very cool thing that hardly anyone knows how to monetize but that everyone is sure is worth billions. Well, they're pretty sure. After all, the guy who founded Friendster is still rich, right?

There's a moment in C:ALS (brilliant pun of an acronym, BTW) where a woman associated with these striking Chicago workers talks optimistically about what the power of the people could yield. She ponders their collective potential as owners and asks, almost wistfully, "But where would we get the money?"

And that's the question that Moore really leaves us with. Rather, that's one of 'em. Sure, Democracy may be the answer. Tactically. But what do we really want to accomplish? Do we simply want good jobs? I thought the American Dream had to do with owning your piece of the pie. To do that, you need to bake the pie or buy the pie. Either way, you're gonna need some kind of investment in order to deliver a slice to your plate. The solution for the dilemma of capitalism--an economic system which is less about immorality than it is about inevitability--isn't so easy as voting the bums out of office and writing new laws to ensure that there will always be a clock for the clockpunchers of our country to...well...punch.

Let's suppose that Moore's Revolution were to happen, though. Would US factory doors swing back open to welcome US workers back to the jobs that would now be a key part of their birthright? Not exactly. Most likely, it would take time to return those facilities to a sound operational state. Time, as so many cliches have alerted us, is money. So we're back to that question: "Where would we get the money?"

Well...Moore's Revolution could always mimic the cheapest form of birth control known to wo/man: Pull Out. If those 200 workers from Republic Windows had pulled all their money out of the stock market (and possibly their savings accounts, CDs, IRAs, etc), they may have had a pool of money big enough to buy the company themselves and run it as a co-op. Maybe it would have worked. Maybe it wouldn't. The workers certainly would have controlled their own destiny. Which, I gather, is all Michael Moore asks of his America.

As for what Moore asks of us to conduct this Revolution, the film fails to unveil a concrete plan. But it does appear that a more detailed sketch of how to make the porkiest capitalists cry whee, whee, whee all the way back to their opulent homes lives on Moore's web site. The site certainly offers a deeper understanding of both the means and the ends associated with Moore's Revolution. Which makes a person wonder: isn't C:ALS just one big commercial for 21st Century Progressivism? While that may not be such a bad thing, the film does come across as a scratchy note passed between the kettle and the pot.

Hopefully, that pot has some gold in it. Or some seed money. Or something. 'Cause a broke revolution ain't gonna solve anyone's problems.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Hustle Hard

I have pretty much no interest in what this young woman vlogs about, but I really, really, really dig her hustle:

If I owned a media company, I'd want to find some way to be in business with her. i don't know what that way would be. Maybe the folks who own Jet and Essence would have some ideas. From what I hear, they could use some help.

What's Really Wrong With US Health Care?

It's not something that can be answered on the Hill.

Instead, you have to go to someplace like Lewiston, Maine to wrap your arms around the cultural mores and systematic flaws that lead to questionable consumption of medical services...among other things.

In order to get to Lewiston, you need to travel via NPR. Have a look and listen at/to part one of this brilliant series.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

40 Rock

If you've never heard of a dude called Geoff Dyer, you should google him. And you should probably start reading him. I'm just about finished with a quasi-memoir called Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It.

In a portion of the book titled, "Hotel Oblivion," Dyer writes:

It was better being forty than twenty, when one was full of fire and ambition and hope. It was even better than being thirty, when those hopes that had once animated you became a goading source of torment.

"Once you turn forty," I said to Matt, "the whole world is water off a duck's back. Once you turn forty, you realize that life is there to be wasted."

Yeah, man. That sounds about right.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

We Gon Make It

Resolved: Anything that was said (or written) last night was all just the wine talking.

Therefore: Fuck the frail shit.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Ramble On

Almost three years to the day, I'm leaving the house I moved into when I started this silly little experiment. I'm not sure if it means I'm done with this experiment. I have been, largely, a vacant landlord. And this experiment has not at all been what it is supposed to be.

Initially, I thought it'd be a way to track my own re-adolescence. It kinda was. But mostly, it evolved into that rickety hoop in the backyard. The one I mess around on to keep the skills from fading completely. Since I have been so vacant, I suppose the skills have faded. The hoop has certainly rusted. And, perhaps, it is time to take it down.

Today, I am 33 years old. I still haven't completely finished that damn'd movie. Although, there are only two pieces of paper standing between me and its vanglorious release. I am still broke. Although not nearly as broke as I was three years ago. I all likelihood...single again. Although, there's still a chance that a Liberian Girl will keep me around for a few more weeks. (I should have shared more on THAT story. And I will. Maybe.) I am also still...very much...unsettled.

There is something I should be doing in life. But I'm not certain what that thing is yet. Or, perhaps, what those thing(s) are. I used to believe I could write my way out of any problem. Maybe I still can. And maybe I'm not facing a problem so much as it's just another milemarker on the road to...wherever.

If I were a more eloquent mu'fucka...I'd have more to say. Much more. But I'm not.

So here we are. And here I am. Back to wandering. Back to the pen.


As it were. As it will be.

What'd Jack Sparrow say? Drink up, me hearties.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

We Will Know #3: Lamar

NOTE: This is the third of three. It should have been posted first so that all of the notes made sense. But this is a blog with the word "backwards" in its title, so...what did you expect? Hey...I've written something again. The world should be...well...I'd like to think it should be thankful for that. But, perhaps I'm mistaken. Anyway...enjoy!

Lamar Odom is 6'10".

If he were 6'3", he would have been hailed as the best guard prospect of his generation.

But he's not 6'3". He's 6'10". on whatever memory you have of Tiny Archibald, Kenny Anderson or Stephon Marbury and imagine if those players were the size of a power forward instead of the size of a point guard.

You'd probably paint a picture of Magic Johnson. And you'd be right. To begin with. You'd be careful to shade it with a whole lot more athleticism, though. 'Cause, believe it or not, Lamar Odom has every inch of Magic Johnson's game, but he's FAR more (and it's not even close here) athletic than #32.

What he's never had is Earvin Johnson's head. Or his heart.

Which is the twin shame of Lamar Odom.

He is the most uniquely gifted player in a sport famous for the singularity of its players' athletic freakishness. Quite possibly, he is the most uniquely gifted player in the history of this sport. (On top of everything, he's a leftie for chrissakes!)

So, of this uniquely gifted player, what would any reasonable person expect?

All-Star. All-Pro. Championships. Hall of Fame.

Would you believe Lamar Odom--save for one All-Star appearance--has accomplished none of those things?

In his decade or so in the NBA, Lamar Odom has been the most perplexing player in the league. It is the only "most" that he has achieved thus far.

Yet, here he is. Preparing to play in his second consecutive NBA Finals. Positioned--almost as if by fate--as the most important player on the Lakers roster.

Because of his flexibility and the natural fluidity of his game, he provides an all-in-one solution for every problem posed by every player on Orlando's front line. Granted, he's not going to guard more than one guy at a time, but he could guard any one of them at any time. On the other side of the ball, none of those players--when Lamar's game is on--can guard him.

But is Lamar's game going to be on?

We really have no idea. And we'ver never had any idea about his game either.

We've known about some of his off-court episodes.

The recruiting mishaps that had him committing to, like, 4 different schools before finally being allowed to enroll at Rhode Island. The drug violations that nearly prevented him from being eligible to play in the NBA.The trade out of LA. The trade back to LA. The death of his son. The launch of his clothing line. The sweet tooth that would make Willie Wonka sick.

But we've never known about his game.

We've never known whether we're going to get the 20-10-5 from him that he's given us during brilliant flashes. We've never known whether he's gonna pick up 2 fouls in the first 3 minutes of the game then spend his time sulking by the 3-point line launching shots even the Beastie Boys wouldn't advise.

We've never known what the hell we're gonna get from Lamar Odom. But we keep wanting to believe that he's gonna give us something transcendent. Because that is precisely what he is built for.

And, you would think, that's what the NBA Finals can bring out in a player.

You would think that. You would also think that Lamar Odom will be Lamar Odom.

Which is to say that you have no idea what he will be.

You will find out, though.

And you still won't know. Not exactly

We Will Know #2: Kobe

NOTE: This is #2 of 3 in a mini-series of craptacular musings on the NBA Finals. There was a tangent about Kobe restoring equilibrium to the business of professional basketball, but it was lost somewhere in the ether.

Kobe Bryant has three NBA Championship rings. He won all of them with Shaq. We know all about this.

He's also the guy who has become the inspiration for the generation of NBA superstars that followed him. Much like Micheal Jordan was.

Mike mesmerized all his little basketball-dunking brothers with what happened during the games. Most of them emulated the style of game his gifts enabled him to play, but very few took pains to understand the work that took place off the court to enable Mike to perform those daring feats on it. They wanted the reward and had no interest in the risk. Mike, more or less, encouraged that while his playing career remained active.

Kobe was one of the few to get it. He got all of it. He knew that everything that took place after the final buzzer sounded on one game, one season, one championship was just as important as all that would take place between the lines once the next buzzer sounded to signify the start of the next game, next season are supposed to bring home the championship, right? Where everyone else wanted to be like Mike, Kobe simply became Mike. Mostly.

In Mike's case, the generation that came after him was kept aloof on purpose. Mike didn't want them to learn his secrets because he didn't want them to beat him. And none of them did.

Kobe, on the other hand, almost needed all of his hoop siblings to know what he went through in order to be great. It was as if it weren't enough to satisfy his ego that they acknowledged him as a great player, he needed them to recognize him as an equally great preparer.

Probably because Kobe knew early on that he would never achieve Mike's exalted social status. Kobe doesn't have Mike's charisma. Nor does he have the benefit of landing on the NBA's moon first. Mike's flag was already there. But this is an aside.

This spring, we've heard so much about how Kobe's example during the Olympics inspired LeBron and Carmelo, among others. This is all true. There's no mistaking the difference in focus and preparation of the post-Kobe generation pre-Olympics and post-Olympics.

The result of Kobe sharing all--or nearly all--of his trade secrets has been that he's accidentally set himself up to be a Joe Frazier cutting stone for a generation of Muhammad Alis. Kobe has already bested two of the next generation's brightest hopes (D Will and 'Melo). Had the Cavs made the Finals, obviously, LeBron would have had the prime opportunity to get his Ali on. But he's didn't. D Howard has, though. And he's certainly playing like he thinks the crown fits him.

Most importantly, what each of those players has in common is that they're all entering their primes with a certain ferocity informing their play. To a great degree, they have Kobe to thank for that. And how will they thank him? By taking turns kicking the crap out of him every spring until Kobe retires? It's quite possible (particularly if you believe Bill Simmons) that this next series represents Kobe's last best hope to win a championship.

If that's the case and he loses, then how does history remember him? He won three championships. Sure. But he also lost three championships. How does that .500 record in the Finals inform his legacy?

If there's anyone on earth who ponders that question, it is Kobe Bryant. It has to be eating at him. It has to be driving him. It IS driving him. If you saw game 5 of the Nuggets series, that much is obvious.

Kobe is on the verge. Perhaps for the last time. Perhaps not. We really don't know. And neither does Kobe.

But we will know whether he'll snatch a fourth ring from history's jewelery box or not. And we will know that in 7 games or less.

We Will Know #1: Skip

NOTE: Somehow, a gchat with a my dear, PhD-having friend in Bloomington, IN turned into three semi-epic email messages from me regarding key subplots to the 2009 NBA Finals. Since I've not really been paying this thing any attention, I'm recycling those email messages. This is the first...

When basketball died in the mid-90s, it had a lot to do with the And1 phenomenon. Rafer Alston, then known to most as a HS PG/NYC Playground Legend called Skip to My Lou, was the face of And1. Eff that. He WAS And1.

He did some time in the NCAAs playing for Jerry Tarkanian's underachieving (yet thoroughly interesting) Fresno State teams circa 1997. He was drafted with some ceremony by...I don't remember who...then proceeded to bounce around the NBA carrying with him a reputation for being a servicable NBA PG who could make your team interesting, but it was long thought that he would never evolve into a championship calibre-player. In large part because he was still a fragile showboat.

Last year, with Houston, he showed signs that he might finally be ready for prime time. That the kid so many backpackers jizzed in their pants over way back in '95ish had finally grown into a real-ass NBA baller.

Fast forward to Jan '09. Orlando is on the verge of doing big things. Their starting PG, Jameer Nelson, goes down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Nelson is the classic up-by-your-bootstraps story who has made a career out of overachieving. He also served as the heart of the franchise. The season--it was thought--was over. Even a trade for a decent player to fill in would probably not offer the potential that Nelson's healthy presence would have.

Yet, here comes Rafer Alston via trade, or Skip as some still like to call him. He does more than a serviceable job. More importantly, he provides exactly what is needed exactly when it is needed during the Magic's journey through the play-offs.

It's a brilliant redemption story. And it brings to mind the speech from the closing scene of Rocky IV, "If they can change, and I can change, maybe we all can change..."

The idea here being that maybe all the so-called ills of the mid-90s streetball scene weren't so bad after all. Maybe they helped set the stage for the basketball we see being played today. By everyone from whatever NCAA team John Calipari is coaching to the 2009 Eastern Conference champions.

Without Skip...maybe there's no Steve Nash. And without Nash...well, there's certainly no NBA as we know it today.

So here's Skip's moment. And...wouldn't you know it...Jameer Nelson is talking about making a premature comeback. If he does, that's gonna eat into Skip's moment. How will he handle it? Has he really grown from the volatile schoolyards that birthed him into a mature leader? Or is he still that rascally showboat who burned up the heads of so many VCRs by his sheer virtuosity with a basketball?

We don't know yet. But we will.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Drunkard's Calendar

So...yesterday was Cinco de Mayo. Which, I believe, is the holiday that celebrates the birth of Tequila. That's as fine a thing to celebrate as any, but it got me thinking about all the other holidays that are celebrated in the US.

Sure, there's important stuff like Christmas and Flag Day, but the real holidays are the ones that call for us to bug out of work early (or not work at all), plop down at the bar (or a lawn chair in the backyard) and glug down enough alcohol to destroy four livers.

Those holidays, it might be said, comprise The Drunkard's Calendar. Which looks a little something like this:

New Year's Eve
St. Patrick's Day
Cinco De Mayo
Memorial Day
July 4th
Labor Day
Day Before Thanksgiving

If you notice anything about that list, it is probably that it is far too short. So, I'm thinking that we need to expand the Drunkard's Calendar. We need one holiday a month. At least. We definitely need less than 6 weeks between holidays. So, how about if we add:

Valentine's Day: No one really celebrates this one any way. If they do, they're celebrating it all wrong. Given the choice between flowers that are gonna die tomorrow and vodka that's gonna make tomorrow all headache-y, which would you choose? Exactly.

NCAA Men's Basketball Championship Game: It's always gonna be a Monday in April, so we give ourselves a new 3-day weekend right when the weather is turning. Besides, the game is usually kinda mediocre. If you know anything about whiskey, you know that enough of it turns mediocre into legendary.

Juneteenth: No one ever knows what this holiday is supposed to be about, but people sure do like to BBQ and play dominoes to honor it. Where there's BBQ and dominoes, cold beer can't be too far behind.

Kool-Aid Day: This apparently takes place in mid-August. All we need to do is pour some rum in it and we have ourselves another drunkard's holiday.

Repeal Day: Did you know that Prohibition was officially repealed on Dec. 5, 1933? If you can't drink to that, you can't drink to anything.

And that brings us to 13. A full Drunkard's Calendar. So full that there are more holidays to celebrate than there are months in the year. Which sounds about right.

Don't you think?

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Let Them Eat Cake

Way back when The People took to the streets of Seattle to protest the grotesqueries of the World Economic Forum, I probably said, "Right on! Give those bastards hell!"

I was younger back then. And I was rancid with piss and vineager and righteous indignation over greedy somebodies who ran the world and were the cause of all our problems.

Now, I'm older. A certain red-haired girl might even tell you I'm just old. Either way, I'm a little wiser. Perhaps, I'm just less pissy. Whatever the case, I subscribe to the Leila Dean Principle. It involves compromise. And cake.

One lump or two? (2:30) | PRI's The World

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quiet As Kept

When I filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket two weeks ago, I chalked it just like everyone else in America. Mostly, I chalked it for my favorite teams. (Specifically, I chalked it for Pitt.) And I expected the story to emerge from this year's Tournament to be about the guys who have quietly been coaching their asses off.

Mike Anderson.
Jeff Capel.
Jamie Dixon
Anthony Grant.
Fran McCaffrey.
Sean Miller.
Stu Morrill.
Jay Wright.

Some are widely thought to be rising stars. Most run exemplary programs. None have crossed the threshold into Guitar Hero territory, yet.

But--with today's below-the-fold announcement that Mizzou has extended Anderson--some of these guys might finally get their own national endorsement deals.

One of 'em--that bastard who ended the Panthers' dream--might get a lil more than that this weekend. If he does, his career won't be quiet any longer.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Writer's Guide to Alcohol

There are an infinite number of combinations of spirits you can pour into your body to make yourself drunk. However, there are only a certain number of base alcohols that can be used to create those drinks.

There's gin. There's vodka. There's tequila. There's rum. There's whisky.

(You could argue for other delicious poisons to be added to the list, but those five are all I'm dealing with today.)

During my drinking career, I've poured a little bit of each of those spirits into my body. And I've figured out how each of them works. More or less.

Gin is slow. It lingers. You won't feel a buzz right away, but when it does kick in, it tends to kick with the ferocity of Chuck Norris. That is, if you've slurped down 10-15 glasses with some gin in them. Anything short of that will kick more like...your girlfriend's kickboxing instructor. Or maybe one of the women in the kickboxing class. The Chuck Norris happens once you hit double digits. Also, the way gin lingers, it has a very cathartic effect for the digestive system. One way or another, something is coming out of you if you drink enough gin. So plan on being near a bathroom the morning after. Or as soon as the Chuck Norris happens.

Vodka is a bit like gin. But not quite as violent. It also works more quickly than gin does. If it takes you two hours to get a good gin buzz, you'll arrive at tipsy in half that time with vodka as your driver. Vodka also tends to be pretty flat. When you're vodka drunk, it'll feel pleasant, but it won't feel pleasant-er or pleasant-est. It'll stay pleasant for as long as it can, then it'll turn almost immediately to pre-hangover or even hangover. There's a reason the Russians can be some mean sonsofbitches. It ain't the communism. And it ain't the weather. It's the vodka.

A lot of folks are scared of tequila. Probably for good reason. It acts fast. Which is good if you're trying to find that good feeling quickly. The trouble occurs when you don't realize you're in the good place and you continue to search for it. You really have to let the tequila work for you. Don't work for it. Inhale a shot. Or three. Breath it out. Let it wash over you. Soak up that buzz. Then manage it. For as long as you can. Eventually, the tequila will take over. And you won't be accountable for your actions. At least you shouldn't be. 'Cause tequila is a helluva drink. The upside, if you drink tequila right, is that it leaves your system the same way it came in. The buzz builds quickly and can wear off with the same speed. Assuming you don't drink all the tequila in Jalisco, that is.

Rum is the stuff good vacations in the tropics are made of. It's very leisurely. Both in how moves through you and what it does as it moves. Rum also works in whatever way you ask it to. If you insist on speeding through it--like you're trying to relax too hard an your vacation--it'll punch fast and hard. And you'll be worn out from it before you hit day four. Rather, round four. On the other hand, if you slither into the rum--like you're lazily unwinding at the beach--it'll treat you pretty nicely for a good long while. Until you get somewhere into the 20s. Which is kinda like forcing a second week of vacation. It sounds like it'd be a good idea. But it really isn't. The downside to rum--like the downside to any good vacation--is that it ends. When it does end, sometimes you need another vacation to recover from it.

Then, of course, there's whisky. The writer's nectar. There are a variety of processes that yield a variety of whiskies. But, whichever you're drinking...they all tend to deliver you to the same delicious destination. It happens almost instantly. For the uninitiated, the natural reaction is to screw one's face up as soon as the whiksy makes contact with the taste buds. For your friendly neighborhood writer, the whisky goes down like water. Or whatever is smoother than water. If you're not used to the whisky, I'm not sure what to tell you...other than...get used to it. Which is also the best way to describe how whisky works. The buzz can be aggressive. But it doesn't have to be. The hangover can be vicious. But it doesn't have to be. Drinking whisky is very much an acquired skill. Even after you acquire the skill, though, you'll probably not master the skill. Just like you won't completely master the whisky. You can make a habit of sipping it and enjoying it. But, every once in a while, it'll get away from you. And it won't be pretty.

Such is life, though. You can blame it on the alcohol if you need to. But you don't really have to.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Me N Dilla

A long time ago, I looked like the guy in the red Sixers jersey in this video:

Big up to Lamont, Jah and Big Chris.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Streak Is Over

It's been over actually. But I hadn't made the time to acknowledge it.

To begin March, I decided that I wanted to test my creative capacity. Like, I wanted to post something new to this blog every single day of the month. Just to see if I could do it. 'Cause if I could push out something new every day in March--when I celebrate both my birthday and the time-honoured tradition of the NCAA Tournament--then I could say that I was in amazing shape. Creatively.

Then work happened. So did life. As they both tend to do. And now...the streak is over. The streak is over. Hey! Hey! The streak is over. The streak is over. Biddle bah bah. Like what he says:

Maybe there'll be a new streak. There was, if you ask Nas or Q-Tip or 50 or LL or Mobb Deep, a new Queens. So...Hey, yo, streak, get the money, long time no cash?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dumb and Dumber

For a while now, I've felt like I've been getting less and less smart. Or is it that I've been getting more and more dumber?

Either way, I'm not the only one whose brain is eroding. So is everyone else who is older than 27.

Thank goodness for that. Idiocy loves company.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I've participated in one, maybe two, exchanges about whatever it is that transpired between Chris Brown and Rihanna. I didn't raise the topic, but it has interrupted my life just a little bit.

I sincerely don't give a crap about either one of them. I don't root for bad things to happen to either of them. I just don't care what either does with any part of their life.

Like every other person who has swerved in and out of the ubiquitous conversation that lives at Twitter and elsewhere online, I've heard the gist of what happened. And what has happened since.

I've also heard a lot of people comment on it. Online. Offline. Everywhere. Many have responded with some form of breathless, outraged hyperbole.

I get that celebrities matter more than regular people. I also get that the perpetual information cycle intensifies both the volume and focus of the things that qualify as "news" today.

Sometimes, though, I think people really ought to be left alone. No matter who they are. Will Smith agrees with this. About whatever it is that went down, and all that has followed it, he says:

"This is a time where they need to be left alone and if they have things they need to work out, work it out. People should take a minute before they jump on it and judge. We don’t know nothing. If there are mistakes people make, then they should be willing to live up to the mistakes and do whatever penance they need to do. I don’t think it’s up to us, specifically the media, with such a fast hand to try to chop someone’s head off.”

Yeah....what he said.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Am Looking for Work


I have a job. It's a decent job. It pays enough. But I would like a different job. And that job is:

Director of Game Experience for an NBA Franchise

I don't care what franchise. Just give me a three-year contract. The wage can be modest. So can the benefits. I just want three years to play with. 'Cause I'd like to reinvent the fan experience for one lucky NBA franchise.

To start with, I'd dump the cheerleaders. They don't lead cheers. They're just there to be leered at. I support leering, but cheerleaders as you know them are a distraction. What if, instead of leering at a distance, you got to sit next to a chick who was cheerleader-hot for the entire game? Like she was your assigned seat mate and her job was to love the team unconditionally and help you personally enjoy the game. (Not like that, dirty.) She's gonna be the first person to leap out of her seat after a heart-stopping play. She'll boo the officials the loudest. And she may even flirt with you if you can keep your eyes out of her cleavage and focused on the court. How much would you pay for that? You don't have to answer. If you're a single dude, the answer is...a lot. I'd hire 20 or so women to be paid fans. I might add 5-10 hunky guys for my female customers if there was enough demand for it.

Next, I'm hiring a DJ for the arena. And I'm instructing him/her to create four playlists of music. One will be the songs that were most popular in (whatever NBA city we're in) from 1970-1990. The second will be the songs that were most popular in (NBA city to be named) from 1990-2005. The third will be the greatest hits of any artist who has ever come from (the NBA city in question) and/or songs about (fill in the blank). The fourth will be a fluid list that the DJ is tasked with maintaining. I don't care what's on that final list as long as it sounds like what it feels like to live in (you know the drill) and it captures the personalities of the players who are the franchise. No playlist will have more than 50 songs. And none of the songs on any of these lists will be played simply to fill a silence. All of them will be catalogued to synch up with some moment. The "our-team-is-
interested-even-though-both-teams-have-their-scrubs-in" moment. The "we-really-need-to-cut-this-lead-to-10-before-halftime"
moment. The "everyone-wins-free-tacos" moment. And whatever else makes sense.

Then, I'm gonna audit the selections of food and the status of contracts with our arena's vendors. At least 30% of any food and drink you'll be able to buy will come from some local icon. For example, if you're at a Laker or Clipper game, you oughta be able to eat In N Out. If you're in Milwaukee, you oughta be able to sip on some Pabst or some Schlitz. Pending the status of current contracts, I'd propose that we move to make at least 50% of food and beverage choices be locally relevant. If people in Atlanta prefer Papa John's to Pizza Hut, the Hawks should contract with Papa Johns.

Lastly, we're gonna identify a minimum of one seating section and a maximum of four seating sections in the lower bowl of the arena that have historically underperformed or are naturally devalued because of their presumed inferiority. Say, the section that's at a weird angle that costs 40% less on Stubhub that seats at mid-court. We're gonna take this section(s) of seats and block it off for our die-hard fans. You won't be able to buy single game tickets for these seats. Instead, you have to buy multi-game packages. In either 10-, 20- or 41-game bundles. The catch is that these seats are gonna be dirt cheap. Comparatively. If the seats are currently being sold for $80 per game, you'll be able to buy them for $20 per game. Maybe $10. Whatever pricepoint makes sense to move a big chunk of die-hards from the nosebleeds back down to the floor level.

These are just four ideas I have to demonstrate what I'd like to do in my position as Director of Game Experience. Some of them, I trust, are not new. They may already be in some stage of execution for some franchises. If you're an NBA owner and you're reading this, you can crib from this list as needed. If you'd like to discuss how I can further help prevent fans of your franchise from suffering through another sucky game experience...*cough*...*Abe Pollin*...*cough*...*Donald Sterling* me at this address.

Friday, March 13, 2009

To F-22 or not to F-22

An old saying goes that the goal of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other poor bastard die for his. Col. Cesar Rodriguez, US Air Force (Retired) made three poor bastards die for theirs.

He was, some say, The Last Ace.

That article ^^^ is about a month old and it will take you about 20 minutes to read. But it's a good one.

At the end of it, I think you'll be sold on the notion that, regardless of what it costs, the US probably ought to find a way to upgrade our Air Force to the F-22.

Unless, perhaps, there's an F-30 for us to build.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Dude Abides

And he makes movies, too.

Some pretty good ones, actually.

Jeff Dowd is The Dude.

And this is his web site.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When Yoink Goes Wrong

By now, you should probably know what "Yoink!" means. It has to do with taking something. And, in the cartoon world of Springfield, it usually signals good things for whomever does the taking.

Sometimes, the person doing the taking can actually be acting against their own self-interest. That's when yoink goes wrong.

Take Warner Brothers, for example. They spent a ton of money making a film called The Watchmen. Then they put out this trailer months ago to announce its forthcoming release:

If I had read the graphic novel, I'd probably have been excited. But it looked like someone mashed Batman with Heroes and pooped out a billion dollar film that probably wouldn't be interesting enough to pull me away from the NCAA Tournament. Maybe I'd see it on Blu-Ray.

Then, they bombarded me with this trailer:

The film was made to look like an extraordinarily cheap knock-off of Batman. It was a gross affront to my artistic sensibilities. Didn't I just watch that movie 10 months ago? How dare you lazily regurgitate something and expect me to waste my time and money on it! Shame on you Hollywood! Do better!

The second trailer turned me completely off to the film. I believe I said to someone, "After that waste of 250 seconds of my life, there is no way I will ever see that film under any circumstance."

Then, the movie opened last weekend. The homie Trey, who is a fan of the book, went to see it. He told me I absolutely had to see the opening credit sequence and he sent me this link:

Uh...holy crap. That looks like a spectacular way to spend $12 dollars of my money. In fact, I can't wait to fork it over.

But, like, why in the hell did the studio "ask" the firm that created the sequence to remove it from their site? It's not like yU+co were a bunch of pirates. They were collaborators. And they were sharing one of the most beautiful opening credit sequences to be projected into any cineplex. Also, it was free advertising.

Perhaps there's a principle involved in preventing anyone from sharing any piece of a work to which you hold the copyright. But if the act of you upholding that principle causes a person like me, who has been known to live at the movie theatre, to be so offended by the putridity of your marketing campaign that I committed myself to never seeing your film at all...isn't it a good thing that someone wants to allow the work to stand on its own?

Even if the movie turns out to be a corn-filled piece of cinematic crap, I kinda need to see that sequence on a giant screen with THX sound. And I'm going to plop down $12 at the neighborhood ginormaplex to do so. Right after the Tournament brackets are drawn on Sunday.

And the only reason I will is because I saw the opening credit sequence. Which, for reasons unknown, Warner tried to yoink down. Yoink almost went wrong for them this time. Next time, they should probably just let their collaborators share work.

Or, maybe, don't make crappy trailers for their movies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Holy Vacancy, Batman!

I moved to LA just before the Lakers abandoned the Great Western Forum in favor of Staples Center. Their move from South Central to downtown left a giant, fully functioning building sitting unused. More or less. It wasn't unused for long, though. God--or God's people--tend to fill vacancies in this world pretty quickly.

From what the Washington Post tells us today, a similar transition is underway in a Northen Virginia neighborhood I used to call home:

Wall Street and the titans of American commerce might be teetering, but at Sudley Corner Center, an aging business park just off Interstate 66 outside Manassas, the pioneer spirit is not yet vanquished. With low rents and loose zoning restrictions, Sudley Corner Center has become a draw for immigrant entrepreneurs, small specialty stores and shoppers from across cultures and socioeconomic classes.

And lately, as businesses have gone bust, leaving empty storefronts in a community whose Latino presence is strong, it is love for the Lord Jesucristo to which Sudley Corner Center's warehouselike spaces increasingly have become devoted.

I haven't visited that neighborhood since I left there in '06. all sounds about right. Even when there's less than half of enough to render unto Caeser, there's always some scrilla to spend on God's behalf.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Jerk Theory

Yesterday, I said this:
"North Carolina has just enough jerks on the team to actually win six games. Their most valuable player: Ty Lawson. It's not even close."

Today, I think it's worth explaining what I meant by the phrase "enough jerks on the team to actually win six games."

I can do that. But I'll need to tell you some things about Mr. Tar Heel first.

Tyler Hansbrough is Mr. Tar Heel. But not for his career accomplishments. No, he is Mr. Tar Heel because of his personal constitution. And here is what his personal constitution says:

"I am physically and mentally gifted. I work extremely hard. I am profoundly honest in word and deed. I obey all the rules. I defer to my teammates and coaches. I do everything the right way. I expect to be rewarded appropriately."

Tyler Hansbrough is a nice kid. That's exactly what the average North Carolina Tar Heel is. It's a living tribute to Dean Smith. A long-living tribute that also helps explain why Carolina only won two national titles during Smith's legendary tenure.

Mr. Tar Heel is a loser. He's not a loser because he is nice, he's a loser because he doesn't know how to not be nice.

Remember that famous game against Duke when he had his nose cracked open and blood gushed all over Dean Smith's court? Do you remember the look in his eye?

It looked like he was enraged. And he was. It also looked like he was stunned. He was that, too. His aghast anger drove him to behave rather crazily. As if he couldn't believe anyone would play the game in any way other than the way he plays it. For him, like the average Tar Heel, there is no other way to play. That's another part of the long-lingering tribute to Smith. And, you guessed it, it is the program's tar-splattered achilles heel.

Every winner has a little bit of jerk in him. Some simply are jerks. For those who are only jerks in part, the jerk part is what allows them to disconnect from their sense of honorable/fair play to take what they want when the moment to seize a victory arises. They may win the right way. They may win the wrong way. What matters is that they take what they want and they win.

Sometimes, you can simply be superior to everyone else and that's enough to cause you to defeat your opponents. Other times--like when your opponents are at your level or maybe even a little better--you need to know how to be a jerk in order to snatch a W.

Mr. Tar Heel doesn't know how to be a jerk. Few Carolina kids ever do. Of the ones who do, they're forced to compete against the culture of their own program in order to let their jerk out. That system--Smith's legacy--is why Carolina has four national championships since he was hired instead of, say, 12.

Let's be clear about one thing: All jerks are not winners. Just like all winners are not exclusively jerks. But when the sucker punch of life puts an opponent in front of you who wants to rip from your clutches that reward you believe you are entitled to, you can't respond psychotically. You can't operate irrationally. You have to be able to hold on to your shit. You can't let them take it from you--by force or by virtue of your own incapacity to fight back effectively.

You have to know how to be a jerk. That's what champions are made of. Just a lil bit.

And if you're Tyler Hansbrough, you need to be thankful that Ty Lawson is on your team. 'Cause that's someone who has a little bit of jerk in him.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Championship Week Thoughts

The Tournament is still several days away. Hell, we won't get final brackets for another week. But I've got college hoop on my mind:

Shame that Davidson lost in the So Con semis. They should get an At-Large. Even though they're not as a good this year as they were last year. If they don't, it's the clearest sign we'll get that the Tournament isn't as democratic as we're told to believe it is.

I love when Austin Peay makes the Tournament. Let's go Peay!

Washington is the team Notre Dame was supposed to be.

No one in the Big 10 conference can score. Except maybe for Purdue.

There are three solid CAA teams. Two of 'em made it to tomorrow's championship game. As much as I hope there's more than just an automatic qualifier, I feel like that's all the conference will get.

What are we supposed to do with Syracuse? Do we really believe in Johnny Guts?

Vermont would have been a great 15 seed. They may still be.

Butler really needs the kid who got hurt on Sat to be ready to play on the 19th.

North Carolina has just enough jerks on the team to actually win six games. Their most valuable player: Ty Lawson. It's not even close.

I haven't made up my mind about LSU yet. Or Wake Forest. But I think I have a feel for Missouri. And it ain't a good one.

Patty Mills should have just enough time to work himself back into St. Mary's offensive and defensive flow. That should make them a popular sleeper pick when they get a 10 seed.

Right now, it really looks like Terrence Williams is trying to get his D Wade on.

I want Texas to be better than they are. But it's not gonna happen. Which sucks for Abrams. He's had a great college career.

I can't tell you how happy I am that Cornell won the Ivy League (Big up to Brian Kreefer!) I hope they draw a team this year that doesn't have twin seven-footers bound for the NBA.

Gonzaga is the team Arizona was supposed to be.

So...Tyreke Evans...He's been playing well. But this Memphis team looks like it should be playing in the Big 10. It lacks the offensive competency Coach Cal's teams are known for.

We will all miss Jodie Meeks when Kentucky gets shipped to the NIT.

A new generation of coaches will make names for themselves this spring. Guys who've quietly been good coaches who just haven't added a major accomplishment to their resume yet.

If you give a crap at all about college basketball, then you should be rooting for a championship game featuring Oklahoma and Pitt. It's the best match-up on paper. You'd get two of the best big men in the country banging for 40 minutes. You'd also get two of the most under appreciated 3s checking each other. Oh...and two great college PGs calling the shots, too. Capel and Dixon are two of the best young coaches in the game. Both squads are very balanced with Pitt having more depth. Which means Pitt is the pick to win that one. If the hoop gods can arrange that final for us, I'd be a very happy camper. It is also the only birthday present I am asking for this year. So...hoop gods...make it happen. Thanks.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

judon'tno? #002

You've seen Babel, right? You know the rave scene? This one:

Anytime Babel comes on cable, I stop what I'm doing and watch just for that scene. The music supervision, sound mix and sequencing of songs is just brilliant. Maybe the very best part of a truly great film.

If you were wondering who to thank for that slice of sonic genius, I believe you'd want to acknowledge some combination of Lynn Fainchtein, Anibal Kerpel, Gustavo Santaolalla, José Antonio García, Martín Hernández and Shinichi Osawa, the artist many know as Mondo Grosso.

On behalf of all of're welcome.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Sanest One of All

Of all the pretty young girls and hungry young boys that the entertainment industry and pop culture complex has chewed up and spit out since the VCR was invented, one of the few to survive with any sanity intact has been Christina Aguilera.

Surprised? You shouldn't be.

The hydra that counts Variety, Entertainment Tonight and TMZ among its many ugly heads values appeal and marketability far more than it values talent. So, among all of the aspiring rock stars who have stood before the modern-day Medusa that calls itself Perez Hilton, it makes sense that the one who didn't transform into a desperate, stone-crazy, uber-id is the one who has some legitimate talent. The one who followed, in hindsight, a pretty logical path of personal development while all the world watched.

She was sweet, adorable and aspirational.

Then she was Redman's bottom bootch.

Most recently, she got her art on in a real way.

She is a fully-formed, seemingly rational, working artist.

Granted, there's still plenty of time for Christina Aguilera to cave in completely to the yearnings for validation that drive all creative people a little bit batty. But, for now, I think she's the sanest one of all.

It's a shame we can't say the same about...NAME OF YOUR FAVORITE "ARTIST" HERE.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Everyone's Son

No matter what you do in life, you will always be your mother's son. Or daughter. She owns you in a way that no one else possibly could.

Some mother's sons grow up to belong to someone else. To something else. Sometimes they belong to the ages. The mothers of those sons--happily, reluctantly or matter-of-factly--share their babies with those others. That thing. it is in Maureen Yancey's case...the ages.

If you know anything about J Dilla--and you really should--you've probably heard the name, Ma Dukes. She did an interview with Garth Trinidad a couple weeks back on the eve of the debut of the happiest heartbreak that has ever been pressed on vinyl.

You should listen to the interview. It's pretty telling. Mostly for the way she refers to her son. As Dilla. Same way any of us would refer to him. And it sounds just a little bit awkward tumbling off her tongue. It almost sounds like she's referring to someone she sincerely reveres, but who doesn't belong to her. As if she's just as grateful for the gift of his music as all of us are.

Well, most of us are grateful. Some of us don't have enough curse words at my disposal to effectively describe the actions of Dilla's estate. There's a war going on outside and, apparently, none of the Yancey family are safe from it.

Which is a shame. 'Cause Dilla doesn't really belong to any one of us. He belongs to all of us. To the ages.

Unless, maybe, Ma Dukes decides otherwise.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Filling Space

One of the first things I saw this morning when I logged onto Twitter was a link to a newspaper column about the 1979 NCAA Championship Game.

Apparently, there's a new book fresh off the Gutenberg that makes the case for that game--and the season that led up to it--as the moment that transformed college basketball as we know it.

I kinda see the point. However, if we're looking to identify one Tournament final as the tipping point separating the modern era in college hoops from everything that came before should probably scroll through ESPN Classic's program guide in search of a replay of 'Nova v. Georgetown in '85. I could personally make a great argument for it, but that's not the reason I'm here.

Instead, that column has caused me to contemplate the slow death of the newspaper industry. And that's what I'm here for.

The column I stumbled onto this morning is fairly well constructed. The writer is competent. Even eloquent. He makes a point. He supports it. He concludes.

And that's cool. But, to be polite, the piece seems to exist for the purpose of filling space.

I'm not mad at that. Dude had a deadline. He needed to justify his paycheck. So he did. He banged out some copy. His editor gave the thumbs up. And off to the printer it all went. As it was supposed to.

As it WAS supposed to.

Years ago, I subscribed to three different daily US papers. Two local and one national. I read, on average, half of the copy in each of those papers every day. The only section I didn't give a crap about was the Classifieds. Never bothered to unfold those.

I kept that pace up for 2-3 years. Then I moved. From a place near one shining sea to a place near the other shining sea that borders the Lower 48. I was a special kind of broke during the first year I lived on the left coast of the United States. I couldn't afford an internet connection or a newspaper subscription, but I was able to find places to hop online for free. Libraries, college campuses, the office. My news intake habits began to shift.

Fast forward to decade later...the last time I regularly read the hard copy of a daily US paper, the Twin Towers were still standing in lower Manhattan. Not reading a hard copy paper, however, is not the same as not reading a "newspaper" at all.

Now, I log onto Twitter. I follow a few different media outlets. C-SPAN, the BBC, NPR and the Wall Street Journal. As well as the feeds of several topical bloggers I dig. TrueHoop, BDL, Both Teams Played Hard. To namedrop a few.

There's also any number of news aggregation sites to take headlines from. MSN, Yahoo, Google, etc. That's on an hourly or daily basis. For more detailed discussion, there are the web sites or hard copy editions of BusinessWeek, Newsweek, Time, Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, Men's Journal, Vibe, Fast Company and Wired. Depending on what your interests are, of course.

Whatever your interests are, there isn't a lot of room available for a newspaper. Not the hard copy edition, anyway. By the time something gets to print for a daily, it's already slightly less relevant. That's not a new observation. But it hasn't become less true since it was first uttered, either.

If there's something worth reporting--or more likely if someone feels like it needs to be reported on--it will be posted somewhere online as soon as the point of the upside down pyramid is punctuated.

For those things that require lengthier consideration and analysis, there are magazines and documentaries. Weeklies, monthlies or whenever HBO wants to produce something.

There no longer is any need for people to simply fill column space. What's more, there isn't the revenue to command someone to create space that would need to be filled.

I certainly hope the guy who wrote that column I read this morning will continue to be gainfully employed. Good writers like him should be. As long as they're not simply filling space.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Simply Begin

A wise guru once told me:
"It’s often easier for one, to give advice
Than it is for a person to run one’s own life"

Consequently, I tend not to float a lot of unsolicited advice. I will take advice, though. Whether I sought it or not. Whether it was intended as counsel or not.

Last year, I heard one of the founders of this site share some of the best advice that anyone could possibly give...or receive. While discussing how he overcame certain obstacles to launch that venture (the one in the link up there ^^^), he said:

"Simply begin."

He couldn't be more right. You know that anxiety that rumbles your belly and races your head in the direction of an empty distraction or a convenient excuse? You do, don't you? It's the prelude to procrastination and the first step toward quitting altogether. Some people call it second thoughts. Some people call it fear. However you'd like to label it, it's there whenever you're wavering about doing something new.

And, if there's one thing you could ask me to tell you in that moment when you're not really sure you can do whatever it is you kinda wanna do, it's those two words I heard nearly 12 months ago:

"Simply begin."

'Cause that shit has worked really well for me.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"You come up here."

I watch hella movies. Have done so for years. When I see a movie I like, I tend to watch it over and over and over. I'm gluttonous that way.

One of my new favorites is a film called Watching the Detectives. It's an indie romantic comedy that defies convention. Here's a dope sample of the flick:

The chick is the best kind of crazy. And the dude is the best kind of apathetic. I feel like I know both of them. Really, really well. Like, maybe I've been the dude. And maybe I've chased after that chick. I think I have. More or less.

If you're not a conventional person, you kinda have to find yourself in these kinds or films. Or books. Or songs. Or whatever other debris litters the road less traveled.

You don't really get a choice.

Norms are not your friends even if a great number of your friends are normal. For them, it seems that life plots out with a certain degree of logic. You do this, you do that, you do this other thing, then something else and that's pretty much it. Granted, any one path that connects all the standard milestones in life could be lined with the coolest or most fantastic of experiences. But, if you live long enough and run across enough "normal" people, it seems utterly common that the weight of those milestones blots out just a little bit of can we say it?...the delicious insanity of life somewhere up there.

Up where the conventions aren't very reasonable. Where the milestones are jagged, upside down and sideways. Where the pieces of the puzzle don't really fit, but they do make for an interesting picture.

At least, that's what you tell yourself. 'Cause you'll probably never catch all the way up with the "normal" people striding over the grass that really doesn't need any more wear.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

My aTwiction

"My name is Tim and I have an aTwiction. It's been 20 hours since my last Tweet."

Yeah, I know. I'm not the only one who spends too much time on Twitter. I'm also not the only person who has done so at the expense of a blog.

It's a funny thing, isn't it?

Twitter requires brevity. In doing so, it challenges a person's wit. Which makes it very enticing for a writer. Some would argue. Others might condemn the site as a gross exercise in self-absorption. I'm with with former. Mostly. And I find myself on Twitter. Constantly.

That's probably an exaggeration. I don't live my entire life on there in the way some folks do. However, I've definitely written much more for my Twitter feed than I have for my Blogger blog since I opened a Twitter account last fall.

(If Twitter and Blogger were easy-to-monetize ventures, you'd have to assume that the long-form blogging platform would be taking a big L right now. It may be, but it is owned by Google, right? So things can't be all bad. Can they?)

I'm not the type to make noble pledges. I'm much more interested in just doing some shit.

I'm also interested in writing. Every which way. Every which where.

Some of it may even be worth reading. I make no promises about that, though.

Friday, February 27, 2009

His Heart Goes No Further

There aren't too many people who come from where I come from. It's simply not a large place. Nor does it produce a large number of people. Most importantly, it's not the kind of place the average person chooses to leave.

It is the kind of place where the gravitational pull of family, friends and the numbingly familiar prevents most people from wandering too far away. The ones who do wander tend to act as emissaries. They are the people who got out. The people who were a little bit bigger than the small towns that birthed them. The people who are celebrated as favourite native sons and most cherished daughters.

Norm Van Lier was one of those people. Norm Van Lier came from where I come from.

He died yesterday at the age of 61. Alone in the City of Big Shoulders, as the news reports tell it.

While the cause of his death has not yet been announced, the culprit is believed to be a heart that had faltered frequently during the later years of his life. An ironic fact given the ferocity with which Stormin' Norman was known to play. Back when he was a skinny kid dropping dimes on the playground in front of Midland High School in southwestern Pennsylvania. All the way to the Chicago Bulls, the NBA All-Star Game and a pugnacious career as a broadcaster. His heart was the one thing that all of us who know the place he came from had always counted on.

It takes a different kind of heart to escape the kinds of places Norm Van Lier and I come from. For these hearts, love is not enough to sustain them. Their valves are configured differently to direct more blood to the parts of the brain that control things like ambition and curiosity--making it impossible to be satisfied only by what is known and what is comfortable. I think. Maybe it's that their hearts have four chambers like a Bar-Tailed Godwit sailing above the Pacific Ocean and not like a simple flock of Finch ambling in search of a convenient new watering hole. That could be it, too.

What we know for sure is that Norm Van Lier's heart has stopped beating. It took him far from the place he and I come from and, in doing so, helped make the people who stayed behind in that small, steelbelt town feel just a little bit bigger than themselves.

Life there will go on. As it always has. As it always will.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

judon'tno? #001

My new favorite record, by far, is the 30th Anniversary Edition of Willie Colon y Rueben Blades' Siembra. The first cut on the album, "Plastico" is probably my favorite:

If you didn't know about this before, now you do.

You're welcome.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Super Inferiority Complex

You don't need to be a psych major (Hi, Red) or bother thumbing through any psychology textbooks to understand just how an inferiority complex and/or a superiority complex works.

If you were a psych major, you'd probably know a bit about how the two tend to compliment each other. Or, perhaps, you'd already be aware of the behaviour those complexes tend to inform--that urge to shove your competence in someone's face.

What you might not be thinking about is how a Keri Hilson song featuring Lil Wayne articulates the permanent Super Inferiority Complex that lives deep in the spinal court of hip hop culture.

I have read (and written) my share of essays about the psychology of hip hop. They tend to be grossly overwritten and hella tiresome. So, I'll get right to the point here.

Hip hop is youth culture. A significant part of the experience of being young involves proving oneself. Because hip hop is so undeniably linked to the process of growing from youth into whatever comes after youth, there will always be a natural place within the music for some emcee (or some singer) to declare who they are better than or who is not better then them.

Keri Hilson isn't the best example of the Super Inferiority Complex found in so much hip hop music. She's just the latest. 'Cause she's a real woman. And we're all supposed to recognize that.

Or, maybe, she's just fly as hell. And I needed an excuse to watch her video 17 times in a row.

Actually...yeah...I think that's what it was. The flyness. Anyway...carry on.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The New Digital Divide

While talking with Mom Dukes the other day, she used a phrase I've heard her use many times before: "on the computer."

She was trying to describe a video she had watched. She reported that she had done so "on the computer." The choice of phrase struck me as both normal and mundane. At first.

After I thought about it for a little bit, though, it occurred to me that she had pinned herself on one side of the digital divide. The side that lives somewhere in the middle of the 20th Century. The side that relates awkwardly to the hardware that has invaded their lives. The side that would probably leave their laptops behind were their homes to catch on fire. If they own a laptop, that is.

On the other side of the digital divide are the people who use words like "Google" and "YouTube" and "Twitter" as verbs. The side that relates to the hardware as if it were a car. Or a telephone. Or a TV. The side that creates the software which is used to perpetually reconstruct the framework of their lives. The side that lives somewhere in the late 22nd Century.

I know that the phrase "Digital Divide" is traditionally used to express the access gap between the people who have the resources to get online and those who cannot. But, let's be honest, that application is dated.

The New Digital Divide has much more to do with relatability. It is, simply, the difference between "getting on the computer" and living seamlessly on the interwebs.

I may or may not be late to the party with that realization. But, I'm pretty sure, it's truthier than Paul Pierce and Stephen Colbert put together.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

F**k the Spurs

I am a patriot. As a patriot, I take it as my duty to stand against all of the wicked and evil things in this world that threaten the cherished ideals on which my country was founded. Among those wicked and evil things is the San Antonio Spurs.

They are a quiet devil some patriots are not yet aware of. Consequently, I am compelled to articulate just a few of the tragic ways in which the San Antonio Spurs do harm to this Grand Experiment of ours. Here are 20 such examples:

1) The San Antonio Spurs always leave the toilet seat up.
2) The San Antonio Spurs shot Bambi's mother.
3) Ann Coulter exists because the San Antonio Spurs forgot to pull out.
4) That last slice of your grandmama's homemade sweet potato pie? The Spurs ate it.
5) It was Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room with the San Antonio Spurs.
6) The San Antonio Spurs wait until after you wash your car before they make it rain.
7) The San Antonio Spurs designed Crocs.
8) The San Antonio Spurs started the East Coast-West Coast hip hop feud.
9) The ingredient in ice cream that causes brain freeze is the San Antonio Spurs.
10) "It's not you, it's the Spurs."
11) After Fidel Castro overthrew the San Antonio Spurs, he became...the San Antonio Spurs.
12) Male pattern baldness was dreamt up by the San Antonio Spurs.
13) The San Antonio Spurs stole Christmas. And refused to return it.
14) The San Antonio Spurs are seeking an overseas partner into whose bank account they will deposit $31 million.
16) It wasn't your neighbor's dog who pooped on your lawn. It was the San Antonio Spurs.
17) When your mother broke her back it happened because the Spurs stepped on a crack. On purpose.
18) Prohibition happened after the San Antonio Spurs signed the 18th Amendment.
19) The San Antonio Spurs never leave a tip. Never.
20) The San Antonio Spurs invented cancer.