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.

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.

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.

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. But...it 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.

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. Or...as 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 are...um...I 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 it...you 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 today...like...a 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 the...how 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.