Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pat Tillman and Jon Krakauer Are the Best Martyr/Author Combination Since Jesus and Luke

Have you ever felt a warm tingly sensation, the Holy Spirit if you will, take over your body and let you know you're on the right path? Well that's how I felt when I stumbled upon Krakauer's new book on Pat Tillman. Unfortunately my defense of America's way-of-life has made it difficult for me to stay on top of upcoming publications. So I didn't known of this holy union until seeing it in Barnes and Noble.

And like any Krakauer book I've ever read, this one made me want to have long discussions with my friends and family about a million different things. But seeing as I don't have any literate friends or family, I've been reduced to blogging and hoping someone Googles "pear sandwich, american heroes betrayed by their country, bearded nonfiction authors" and that they like to make lots of comments.

1. Is there any more unfathomable, interesting, awe inspiring, patriotic, or cool as fuck person than Pat Tillman? A guy who lived on his own terms. A guy unmotiveated by money or attention. He never gave one interview to promote his decision to give up the NFL for soldiering. This was just something he had to do. He didn't bother seeking praise from a media and culture that was itching to dole it out, praise that would have gone way too far and probably have annoyed the shit out of me. So he quits the NFL to join the Army, and then enlists when he could have gone for OCS. This guy wanted to get into the fight. He wanted to ensure that he took the hardest road possible. It's just so unbelievably admirable.

2. Some advice I'm going to pass on to my children: don't ever guide others up Mt. Everest without using supplemental air, become a fundamentalist Mormon, or participate in the fratricide or cover up of a true American hero and expect Jon Krakaeur to let it slide. He'll find you, call you out by name and publicly shame you.

3. I'm sure I'm not the only one, but there's a survival technique I've developed for living peacefully in this world. The world can suck sometimes. Especially when we do some seriously messed up shit to each other. Like say out of some perverted view of our national self-interest, America decides to go to war to secure access to an important and dwindling natural resource, but in order to sell the war to the public our leaders pretend the war is about preventing terrorist attacks. Then later when that rationale proves false our leaders say the whole thing was about spreading democracy. So millions of people are displaced and hundreds of thousands are killed, all because we were scared into an unnecessary war that was more about making sure we got a steady supply of cheap gasoline to fuel our large trucks and SUVs.

And you can drive yourself crazy focusing on this stuff. So to make it through this thing we're doing without going nuts, to be able to smile and enjoy this life, I'll try to focus on the good parts. Like friends, family, lady love, good books and movies, Mexican food, etc. I put the infuriating parts of this existence out of my mind as best I can. But then I read something like this book, which not only brings up that most unjust of wars, but also reminds me of the disgusting level of deceit that our government engaged in when patriots like Pat Tillman died fighting for their country. And for what? Why did the people in power want to hide that he died because of friendly fire?

4. Krakauer has a few theories about why they did it. And if these theories are true then it's all doubly enraging, but I won't share those here. What I want to talk about is Krakauer's assertion that the underreporting of friendly fire is an endemic problem for the military. That's incomprehensible to me. (Assuming it's true.) By not addressing or admitting to incidents of friendly fire the military is failing to develop measures to correct it. Pretending you're not an alcoholic isn't going to help you hold down relationships or jobs. I can't understand why the military would't want to make itself a more efficient fighting unit -- one that seeks to reduce soldiers from accidently killing each other. I dunno. It's really just incomprehensible to me.

5. Apparently there was an army general or colonel that gave an insensitive interview to ESPN a few years after Tillman's death. The officer had a theory about why the Tillman family was so angry, about why they couldn't let the cover-ups and lying go. His theory was that since the Tillmans were atheist they couldn't accept that their child ceased to exist after expiring on earth. And it struck me how much sense that makes from the perspective of someone who conceives of an after life the way this officer does. It also struck me how an atheist would consider such sentiments. That atheists would see the officer's views consistent with someone unconcerned with the truth. "Of course it doesn't matter if they lied about the way he died. Let's just close our eyes and pretend he's in a better place now and move on."

And hold on for this connection, but this all reminded me of Ricky Gervais' new movie, The Invention of Lying. In that movie, Gervais essentially claims that the story of a peaceful after life is a white lie we tell ourselves to make the pain of death more bearable. I'm not going to speculate on whether that's correct or not since my Christian upbringing still makes it difficult for me to accept that the Bible is just a bunch of stories made up by people doing their best to explain the observable world as they knew it. But that was a good movie and this was a freaking outstanding book. And I'm done talking about it now. So now I'm going to work out and hopefully feel better through endorphins, texting the special lady and feeling less alone in this world (Baby, please text back this time.) and watching the Dodgers play the Phillies, since the athletic accomplishments of men I have never met but who I root for because they play from a geographical area near where I was born tends to make me feel better.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

An Explanation and Mini-Post

Family, Friends, Criminals that I've contracted to kill my family and friends:

You've probably noticed that I haven't posted for almost a month, and I think it's safe for me to assume that you've been dying to know about the adversity I've been conquering, the life lessons I've been withholding, or the supermodels I've been sleeping with, etc. But before I get into that, I need to explain where I've been.

So I've spent the majority of the last month playing Sid Meier's Civilization IV. And it's with deep reservations that I reveal this. I couldn't decide if this was one of those secrets that I should keep to myself because it's so shameful, or if it was one of the harmless concessions prideful people should make so that we can live in a more peaceful world. I'm still not sure where this lays, but needless to say, playing this game isn't something I'm proud of.

See, I've been playing this this nerd fest of a game series off and on for the last 11 years. The crescendo of ridiculousness was in 2000 with Civ II, when I spent a few months ignoring the girlfriend, showers and academic obligations in order to bring the Babylonians the glory history denied them. And after an emperor level victory of total domination, after amassing what must be the greatest score in the history of Civilization II, I realized the emptiness that comes from fulfilling one's loserish ambitions. So I swore off the Civilization series for the last 9 years. I was successful in concentrating on more noble pursuits, like drinking too much and watching endless hours of television. But on a recent trip to San Fransisco with Nix and Hari, a trip fraught with rain that kept us indoors, I turned to our host Inder's videogames for entertainment. He just happened to have Civilization and the rest, as they say, is a history of me returning home to buy the video game for myself and repeating some terrible life decisions.

But it's not like I didn't have ideas for posts in the last month. It's just that I never fully fleshed them out since they got in the way of building settlers, vanquishing my enemies and building extensive trade networks that allowed for the development of technologies at a faster rate. But since I've sworn off this silly game yet again, here's that idea:

Weekend at Bernies 3

Most of you already know that I spent the two years between college and law school trying to write a book. I called it The Great American Novel and couldn't any agent to represent it, any publisher to buy it, or any friend or family member to read it. So I gave up on the writing and instead focused on the exciting and rewarding career of being a lawyer. Sigh. But since graduating last May I've had nothing but time on my hands while I wait for this job with the Army to start. So my life has become an exercise in killing days. And I spent 3 months last fall writing short stories and outlining the next book, The Great American Novel II- Even Greater and More American, in order to get through the days without losing my mind while the rest of the world went to work. Well, the last of the rejections of that short fiction just got back to me. So that's it. No more. I've given up on putting effort into writing stuff just to have it rejected by "professionals" who have been "trained" to recognize "work" that has "artistic" merit.

But even though I'm not submitting my stories to professionals, I still have ideas that fill my head and too much time on my hands. And so I feel the need to share these ideas with the 6 of you readers. And if any of you 6 reads the comments sections, you probably noticed that the Onion basically stole from this blog when it published this story. So I'm starting to think that one of you out there has some connections in the biz, and that if I keep putting ideas on here then you'll keep stealing them and they'll keep getting published somehow. So my new business plan is to continue putting these posts on here, allow you to steal from me, and then I'll sue you and the companies that paid you.

So what's the idea that will guarantee my financial security and finally put my legal education to work? It's a movie. A fake documentary that goes behind the scenes of the filming of the big Hollywood production of the same name (Weekend at Bernie's 3 for those of you who don't understand the purpose of titles or context clues). I haven't worked out the details of the plot for the movie within the movie. I'll let the thief among you worry about why Bernie's rotted corpse is being dug up again.

But the real action is the documentary part. Of course we'll need to secure Jonathon Silverman and Andrew McCarthy to star in this thing. But I have a feeling that neither of them has any pressing engagements. There should be a scene or two with with them talking about how exciting it is to be back in Hollywood, and you can just see this excitement in their gestures and hear it in their voices. But their faces should betray an anxiousness, a nervousness that this movie will bomb just like Weekend at Bernie's 2 did and that they will have to go back to their lives of serving dinners or washing cars instead of living the good life. I think both of them have the talent to pull of the subtle anxiousness that is needed to make this aspect of the movie believable, since I felt that these men have always had some talent. But if it turns out they've lost a step or two, then the best bet is not to tell them that the documentary is actually the real film. Pretend it's some promotional thing and they'll probably be unable to hide their real fears.

But the most important part to this movie is Bernie, who isn't interviewed until about half-way through the documentary, and it turns out that he's really dead. So when he's giving the interviews he's a rotted corpse, with flesh coming off the bone and worms eating out of his stomach and all of that. But he's surprisingly articulate and has a great perspective. He'll talk about how, on the one hand, it sucks to have his corpse continually disturbed but, on the other, he understands that a man has to eat. And this whole thing is a metacommentary on the ability of the business side of Hollywood to suck the life out of anything with any artistic merit and how they'll sequel any piece of shit that's surprisingly profitable, even when the story arc to the first movie makes it impossible to credibly tell another story, but that's not important because what's important in this world is to accumulate cash so that you have a higher purchasing power than your brethren so that you can buy nicer things and go to nicer vacation spots and eat nicer food because those ends are what life is really about because it in no way makes you feel empty inside like the way a total domination victory on the emperor level with the Babylonians makes you feel empty inside, because that's a different kind of empty.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Foul Balls Make People Do Some Terrible Things

If you want to see the world at it's worst then watch what happens when a foul ball isn't caught cleanly at a baseball game.

I was at the Angel game a few weeks ago when someone fouled a ball straight back. An unathletic and overweight 12 year old was the closest person to it, but he only managed to get his fingertips on it. He was sitting at the front row of the upper deck and the ball just barely got high enough for him to touch it at all. The kid would have been risking death if he'd done any more, and it would have been the greatest catch by any fan of all time. Getting a hand on the ball was more than could be expected from a professional athlete, let alone this young kid who didn't look like much of an athlete. Yet the crowd booed. It was terrible.

Later some dad dropped his 2 year old daughter when a foul ball was hit 5 rows behind him. I mean, the man was sitting on the aisle and the ball was heading for the stairs so he did have a good shot at catching this ball. And he did end up with it. But it's just all that he did to get it. First he dropped his kid. Then he ran backwards up those steps, but he didn't make a clean catch. So the ball rolls down the steps and he bowled down after it, knocking over anyone who got in his way. Like he seriously knocked this other guy sideways, and this other guy fell into his friends. There's bodies all over the floor here, including -- again let me emphasize the point -- his toddler who may have brain damage now, all in the pursuit of something that can be purchased at a store for $4.

So yes. This is a weird and strange world we live in. But then enters your hero Sir Fantastic.

At the Angel game today I made a clean bare-handed catch of a foul ball. Except, and this part stings, I didn't get the standard round of applause from the crowd for a clean catch. I assume it's because I didn't pump my hands in the air like a jack ass. I simply took my seat with class, and am now writing to brag about it with less class.

Speaking of less class, the Jesus pictures are meant to represent my generosity and clairvoyance. I gave the ball away to some kid, and I dreamt the night before I'd catch a foul ball. Maybe this means my unconscious is in tune with the other dimensions where the relativity of time lives? I think that's how that works. Now I just need to develop and hone this superpower.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things Get Absurd

So it's happened again. The anger in the political sphere has become so absurd that it's driven me to the blog posting. So Obama bows to a Saudi King and shakes hands with a South American blowhard and America has become a groveling shell of it's former self, eh?

Ah man. Well I don't want to spend too much time writing here. It's just that here we are again with the differing standards political partisans hold their leaders up to depending on whether these leaders in the predetermined friend or foe camp. I mean, you got Bush bowing and holding hands in these pictures. And you got Nixon smiling and shaking hands with a virulent anti-American communist dictator.

Funny how the tribal warfare of our political system retards our political discussions. And by funny I mean tragic since the real question should be about how U.S. presidents of all political stripes must pay a little too much respect to the leader of a repressive political regime because otherwise we might not get that oil priced in dollars or maybe they'll stop buying up so much of our bonds.

Anyways, I guess there's also some philosophical differences in here about what it means to be weak or strong. And some people really think that showing kindness to an enemy like Chavez is a sign of weakness. God knows that when you encounter people who can't be kind to their enemies in the day-to-day world, that you know these people have serious psychological issues. Like when you got that friend who won't be nice to your other friend cause of some perceived slight and it's just so unbelievably annoying because if one of them would just sack it up and be nice everything would just wash under the bridge. But then I forget that this approach of treating those that don't like you with utter disgust was the foreign policy for the last eight years. And I forget that our previous leaders were those really insecure douchebags that never had the self-confidence to be gracious. Anyways, I hope that series of pictures above demonstrate the absurdity of this righteous anger over Obama's perceived weakness. Although I am pretty upset about him genuflecting to the pet of a foreign leader. You'd never see Churchill appease a golden retriever like this. Freaking democrats are such wussies.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Art Criticism, Life, Criticism

I was just watching Synecdoche and I'm feeling inspired. My man Phillip Seymour Hoffman put together the grandest play in human history. He did something brave and daring. And I want to join the party. To create something true. On my blog. Sigh. I know. But what can I do? I don't have another outlet. At least not until I sell my script.

It's called Motel For Dogs. It's about a dog couple who take up residence in a cheap motel after falling on hard times. But since no one is biting on the script, dog or otherwise, I can only assume that the movies people want to see are those that offer an escape from our current economic problems. And this movie does just the opposite, by looking unflinchingly at the depravity and crushing despair a down-on-their-luck dog might sink to. The couple first turns to drugs for comfort but then their habits eventually come to consume them. The climatic scene is when Freckles' (female lead) litter of crack puppies are forced to watch their mother satisfy a corrupt police dog to pay off another of Rusty's (male lead) gambling debts. I'm holding out hope that a courageous studio exec will see this as a modern day Lady and the Tramp. Fingers crossed everyone. These student loans aren't going to pay off themselves.

As you can tell I'm writing this post at 4 in the morning on a Saturday. I should be asleep but I turned down offers to go to drink, laugh and let the cares of the world disappear. Instead I wrote more of the novel I'm never going to finish and watched Synecdoche. And my God what a movie. Charlie Kaufman is a genius. It was better than an orgasm with a woman you love while eating ice cream and watching Synecdoche.

But while I was marveling at how brilliant this confusing movie was, it got me thinking about a spirited and drunken debate me and my buddies got into after we saw No Country For Old Men. One buddy, Zack, said it was the greatest movie yada yada. My other buddy, Mark, believed otherwise and said something like, “Yea? And how about the end? It’s like from Arrested Development when Maeby says 'Just stick on something nonsensical and since no one wants to look stupid people will say it’s brilliant.’”

And Mark kind of had a point then and maybe he's got a point about Synecdoche. Especially in the jumping between characters and time and Jesus I still can't process the different layers of what is real and what is the play parroting reality. Nonetheless. This movie is so good. Maybe it’s just because I see myself as a man obsessed with his own death who is incapable of ever finishing his opus or having a successful relationship with a female. Especially since, like Seymour Hoffman, these women care more about the salad they ordered than the words coming out of my mouth even while I’m saying all these things I think are brilliant. And while I'm yapping they’re wondering how they’re going to get out of this awkward food eating experience and never see me again because, let’s face it, prior experience tells them I'm also fairly disappointing in the sack. Jesus H. Absolutely brilliant. Anyways, if there’s one movie you should have seen last year then it’s this one.

Point number 2. The Office sucks now. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it. I date the show's decline to the middle of the 3rd season. Right after the merger stuff was finished, since that's when the American writers could no longer steal the story lines from Ricky Gervais' tightly wound and perfectly executed 14 episode series. So once the American Office became rudderless the writers started throwing out cheap gags that wouldn't have hooked us on the show if that's how it had started. I mean, the pull of the show was always the awkward-attention-seeking-unloved boss and the tension between a well-matched couple who because of fear didn't express their affection for each other. Those story lines were touching, and they allowed for an unforced comedy, but once the over-the-top absurdity became the central focus, well then the show became average at best. (Really, Dwight burns his feet on hot coals to get a promotion or Michael drives his car into a lake to prove a point?) In other words, I feel like The Office and I got off to a great start but now it's clear that this isn't going anywhere. And I want out. But it's so hard to get out, you know? Those times were great. Some of the best times of my life. So for now I'm still watching but I'm thinking of other TV shows I could be watching instead.

Point number 3. What Happens in Vegas was better than I thought it would be. Now I know that’s going to open me up to some criticism so let me be clear, we’re talking about baselines. I thought it was going to be absolute shiite and it was just plain terrible. But I’m only talking about that movie because of the development of Cameron Diaz’s character who (I would say spoiler alert but I'm pretty sure that anyone who would be upset that the plot to What Happens in Vegas is ruined for them has already been murdered (justly so) by their parents or significant others.) quits her demanding job because it's not making her happy. Is there any more hackneyed device these days? I mean, maybe this criticism is unnecessary since the Depression 2.0 will change my generation's mentality towards work and we won't have to deal with the overuse of this device anymore. But in case that doesn't happen I want to emphasize how common this tired story line has become by listing movies that use it:

Waitress, Waiting, Valkeryie, Dark Knight – ok so I'm having trouble proving my point here. Those first two movies definitely do it. I guess it’s too late for me to think straight but it’s true. Once you start looking for the unhappy protagonist who quits his/her job and this is portrayed as heroic and not short-sighted or childish then you’ll see it all over the place. Maybe I’ll write a comment that proves this point later but for now take my word for it.

Point number 4. So I didn’t read many reviews of Watchmen but what I did read rated the movie negatively. And that I can't tolerate! I mean, I don't know why I went for the exclamation point but it felt more appropriate than a period. Maybe it's because I didn’t read the graphic novels or anything so I came in with zero expectations. Watching the movie was my first exposure to the story line and holy Mother of God. What a story. I mean, it turns an escapist formula like comic books on its head. Moral ambiguities are generally not explored so you'd think you're going to experience the clear demarcation of good and evil with that reliable catharsis of good heroically triumphing. But then that clarity is cleverly muddled and by the end you're no longer sure who your God is. "You want to sit in a theater and forget your troubles? Fuck you. Think of the shitte you'd do if you had unchecked power. Evil lives within us all. Deal with it fatso." God it's so good.

Watching this movie also made it clear why Heroes Season 1 was so good, since it stole the good stuff from the the tightly wound and perfectly executed graphic novel series that I assume Watchmen must have been. I mean, the whole moral ambiguity of superheroes and the Armageddon as a false cleansing of evil, Heroes obviously just ripped those ideas straight off. (I assume. Until I see something that predates Watchmen that Watchmen obviously ripped off.) And once Heroes couldn’t steal any more ideas the show became rudderless and the writers started grasping at straws with lame devices and ratings fell, etc.

I guess the point of this is well done to those of you who steal others great ideas and then get really rich from them. I can't wait to see the pirated version of Synecdoche on television in 20 years. I just hope that Charlie Kaufman gets the same executive producer credit and bundles of dough that Ricky Gervais did, otherwise I'm going to be pretty livid. So in conclusion, I'm reserving judgment on whether our society is headed into moral decay where good artistic ideas are perverted by profit driven men who think only of the material goods and shapely women their thievery will secure. U.S.A.? U.S.A.? U.S.A.?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Funion Part II -- The Refunioning

After the poor reception the last Onion post got I wasn’t sure if I’d ever do another Onion themed post again. But then the hand of God interceded. So here we are.

So here are my fake Onion stories with their mini-write ups:

1. Area Woman Crazy- The article examines how this woman does objectively crazy shiite like cry during sappy movie previews. Or upon seeing a friend’s wedding dress. Or while sitting in traffic on a bad day because she’s hungry and there’s nothing to snack on in her car but she purposely deprived herself of car snacks because she’s worried her arms are getting fat. This woman also believes that the time of year in which people are born and the corresponding arrangement of stars billions of light years away influences their suitability as mates. Additionally, she’ll fly into pouty rages when her boyfriend doesn’t pay enough attention to her or sleeps with one of her friends.

2. Man Who Believes in the Apocalypse Terrible at Making Plans- The article is about how the guy won’t ever commit to anything because of the impending end of the world and how this frustrates the people in his life. His friends never know how much food to buy for the bbq, or how many to make the reservation for, etc. His family complains how obviously last minute their Christmas and birthday gifts invariably are, while his girlfriend is convinced that he’ll take their relationship to the next level.

3. Jim Cramer’s Wife Now Thinks of Jon Stewart During Sex – This one is pretty self-explanatory.

4. Law Clerk in SVU Unit Unsure if Coworkers Talking About Case or Their Own Relationships- This is another autobiographical fake Onion headline. It comes from my days in the sexual assault division at the district attorney. I used to get to the office pretty early. So it would be me and just a few staffers for the first hour and a half. While the office was relatively empty, the lady secretaries would feel comfortable talking loudly about their online dating. But this one time it seemed like they were talking about cases from the unit as well as the dating. Like they were going back and forth between potential mates' profiles and open cases? So it wasn’t clear what the hell was going on. Anyways, I want to keep things family friendly but you get the idea of where this article goes.

5. Area Man’s Friends Don’t Read His Blog- The article examines how his friends remember hearing he has a blog. “What’s the address again?” One friend asks on Gchat for the 3rd time, even though that friend will forget the answer within a few seconds. “Yea I’ve been meaning to check it out but I’ve been so busy. Since we’ve had lay-offs my work load has really increased.” Another friend says before refreshing the Drudge Report for the 10th time. “I’ll read a bit of it from time to time, but mostly I just skim it so I’ll have something to say if he asks me about a recent post. He can be pretty sensitive you know, and I don’t want to hurt his feelings.” Says a friend who used to cowrite the blog with him but now spends her days playing online Sudoku and Word Twist.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tribal Warfare

So I’ve recently come across a new blog that I think is pretty amazing. Why do I like it? First, that was very considerate of you to ask. Thank you. Second, it’s just that this other blog offers an original and interesting perspective that’s light-hearted and funny. Mostly it’s the funny. Reading that blog is a good time. It gives the people what they want. But the weird thing is that I’m an attention seeking whore. The kind of guy who’s desperately trying to make up for the peak-a-boo his parents never provided, or the dates the high school, college, and law school girls never showed up for. So you’d think I’d simply work harder to make my blog fun like theirs so I’d have a larger readership. But alas, I can’t shake this need to go a different direction and be preachy.

So today’s preaching concerns the Rush Limbaugh wanting Obama to fail business. So what’s got me in a pique isn’t even that Rush said it, despite the obvious hypocrisy after he railed against unpatriotic liberals who hated America while the last guy was in charge. (I’ve learned that rage for the hypocrisy of ideologues is a wasted emotion, much like frustration for an autistic kid who won’t mingle at a party. They’re doing the best they can with what God gave them.) What’s got me upset is the way people who should know better are talking about what Rush said. There are some articles saying it’s a good Democratic strategy to run with this, and other articles saying this is a nefarious White House plot (Drudge linked this story with the headline: “Enemies List: White House Plots Limbaugh Coverage”) to focus attention on Rush, and then there are responses to this claim of conspiracy, so basically everyone is just getting bogged down with the political aspect to this whole thing.

But what the essential focus should be, like 99% of the focus by the media and responsible people who want to improve America’s collective consciousness, is how Rush’s comment reflects the us v. them mentality that Obama is trying to move past with his call to bipartisanship. (For a prescient analysis on why Obama was doomed to fail to bring America out of its political tribalism read this guy.) So those who seek to advance human existence should focus on how Rush’s way of thinking is the dogmatic, intellectually lazy, personally vile, and one of the more detestable traits that we humans possess, traits that all people should identify and work very very hard to move past so that we can live in a more harmonious world, a world of sunshine and rainbows where we focus on the proper issues that are threatening our existence like climate change, the overfishing of the seas or the decline of primetime television.

Just look at what Rush said compared to what he could have said. Rush didn’t say (1) “I disagree with Obama’s policies and think those polices will fail.” He’s also didn’t say (2) “I know Obama is going to fail.” What Rush said, four days before Obama took office, was that he wanted Obama to fail. This means he wanted Obama the person to fail regardless of what his policies turned out to be, regardless of how that failure would affect the rest of us God fearing, NASCAR watching, apple pie humping Americans.

Since (1) is the sort of thing a well reasoned person who understands the limits of human knowledge would've said, and since no one expects Rush or any pundit to live up to that standard, there’s not much use discussing it. But even (2) wouldn’t have been so bad. I mean (2) is frustrating, since it's the kind of annoying certainty ideologues possess even though just selecting the proper metrics to determine how successful the New Deal was is a dicey affair fraught with implications of bias and selectivity (even though on balance that argument looks wrong since it counters what most regard as the historical record). But ok if Rush had said (2) like how the WSJ editorial pages say stuff like (2) then that wouldn’t have been that terrible. But Rush didn’t even say he was certain the policies would fail (regardless of how things are currently being spun). He simply said he wants Obama to fail. The enemy. The guy who is a liberal, and a socialist, and all of those evil words that make someone come in the middle of the night and steal your children and seduce your wife and feed your dog because it’s a crafty enemy and he knows how to win your dog’s loyalty.

So no matter how you parse it, what’s happening here with Obama and Rush and Rush's millions of fans who see the world the same way he does is that this is more than strategy, or a nefarious plot, and it deserves to be discussed in a less cynical manner than how it will play with the electorate. My point, again, is that human progress and bipartisanship require an open mind and an open heart, so let’s open those up people and rethink those simplistic platitudes that help define our way of thinking so we can pretend to know how best to deal with certain problems. And let’s see if we can work to overcome the prejudices we’ve developed to protect us from our perceived enemies and maybe we should give them a chance at failing on their own before we wish for any predetermined result. Because when we do wish they fail ahead of time because of these prejudices and our egotistical desire to see our way of thinking validated then we're rooting against America. And people who root against America should be peed upon and then set on fire.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Post Oscar Wrap-up

So tonight I got validation for that smug sense of superiority I feel, knowing that I’m at least smarter than the plurality of members of the Academy of Arts and Sciences and the rest of the group-thinking lovers of Slumcrapfest Millionaire. (Did you see what I did there? Slumcrapfest! Genius!)

Surprisingly, though, there are limits to my arrogance. See, I’m not suggesting that I know better than the Academy generally. I'd guess that 98% of the time they do a better job than I could possibly do on my own -- watching those obscure documentaries, weighing sound editing quality, and writing that hilarious banter before the award is given. It's just I trust collective decisions to be right more often than individual ones. My belief in the superiority of collective decisions comes from America's history and traditions, and the cultural, economic, and military dominance we’ve accrued over the years while the nations that employ more authoritarian decision making methods retard their potential, making it easier for us to invade them and secure their natural resources while pretending we're there to protect our security from a hypothetical possibility that they could give weapons they don't have to a terrorist group they don't associate with. But one of the great strengths we Americans have is the ability to recognize that the collective decision making process falters from time to time. And to help gain some perspective, to help demonstrate how terrible the collective deliberations can be, I've compiled a list of some of the worst collective decisions ever made:

1. The July 1932 Reichstag election
2. When the Crowd Freed Barrabus Instead of the Other Guy
3. Bush v. Gore
4. Awarding Slumdog Millionaire Eight Oscars, Including Best Picture
5. This one's a tie between The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and The Iraq War Resolution
7. The First O.J. Verdict
8. The High School Varsity Baseball Coaching Staff That Benched This Guy Midway Through the 1998 Season Even Though He's Obviously Clutch-City
9. Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act
10. The Alien and Sedition Act

I mean, if this list didn't do it for you, if you still think that Slumresteasyyour$11haspaidforyoutoseegoodtriumphoverevilandhappilyeverafterbecausebeautifulwomengoforstreetratseveryday Dog was clearly the best of 2008, perhaps it might help to think of films from the past that were clearly better than SDM, movies that didn't win eight Oscars. Once you see just a partial sampling, you'll realize how shitty 2008 must have been for movies and/or the people judging them to award such an average one eight Academy Awards. (The number of Oscars these films won is in parenthesis.)

The Godfather (3)
The Godfather II (6)
The Shawshank Redemption (0)
Pulp Fiction (1)
Forrest Gump (6)
Schindler’s List (7)
There Will Be Blood (2)
Goodfellas (1)
My Cousin Vinny (1)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (0?)
Cast Away (0)
The Karate Kid (0)
Kickboxer (0)
Faceoff (0)
Any one of those movies from the 80s where people switched brains and had some else’s body, you know, like the ones with Kirk Cameron and Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage (0?)
The 10 second video I accidentally made with my exgirlfirend's camera after she asked me to take a picture and I say, “It’s not blinking…wait, I think I’m videotaping this.” And she says, “What? Just hit the button again.” Even though it's hard to make out what we say because the wind is muffling the words. (0)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oscar Preview -- Best Picture Edition

So let me begin by pointing out that the Oscars are a silly affair because judging art is like appreciating class action law suits on a personal and subjective basis, but since the Oscars do provide us with an opportunity to focus on something other than the vapidity and purposelessness of life, it's not like they're evil or anything. And well, since I have an opinion and too much time on my hands I'd thought I'd give you, the American people, my much sought after take on the best picture nominees.

Slumdog Millionaire -- I could write pages of righteous indignation about this movie, so I got to be careful to be as brief as possible, and not come off as too hateful and repulsive of a person. My first point is that nominating this movie reminds me of the worst decision the Academy ever made, when it chose Crash for best picture, since the only rationale I can figure that make either of these movies appealing to the limousine liberals I imagine constitute the Academy is that the Academy members can say, "Oh, I love poor people and hate racism so if a movie depicts these issues using broad stereotypes I'll eat it up since the only personal interactions I've ever had with either of these groups was that one time my driver made a wrong turn in downtown L.A. and I threw some change at 'em out the sun roof." I just could not have been more disappointed when I saw this shiite. This is really just a formulaic movie but since its topical – “My God, when I call customer service I get an Indian person! This movie has its finger on the pulse!” – the immature love story and complete lack of character development are ignored. Like, really, the asshole older brother just totally changes tack without any inclination as to why and then he wants to die in some transparent symbolic method that your high school English teacher would give you a C for by inexplicably bathing in a tub of cash and then the lead boss decides to be the first one through the locked bathroom door so he gets shot providing us with that cathartic knowledge that evil is always punished, and all of this after Daisy Buchanan left security and money to go for love, but wait Daisy doesn’t have to worry about money since her lover answered all the questions on a game show, a game show that all of India wants to be a contestant on but our protagonist just happens to have a secret for calling at the exact right moment, and oh yea, he just happens to know the right answer to every question? Get a job Slumdog. Like really, get a job, because this movie wasn't all bad. Like when we saw how hard that kid had to scam to get by in life, that was touching, and when 99.99% of people in his circumstances would not bag the really hot girl or have any meaningful chance of social mobility and have to stay in the menial but dignified work-a-day world then well...I mean...I don't get why we Americans like it. I could see how this movie is some sort of escapism for poor Indians who dream of winning the lottery but that's not what a best picture makes. But probably the worst part of this movie has got to be those corny ass flashbacks at the end. Are audiences really that sappy that they get nostalgic for scenes that they just saw? Hey, there she is at the train station being whisked away by the bad guys for the 7th time in the last 15 minutes!! All I’m saying is maybe this movie is better than Fool’s Gold, but best picture? C’mon!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
-- So yes this movie is like Forrest Gump but I say so what? Forrest Gump rocked. I can see that movie anytime and anywhere (provided there's an outlet) so what do I care if the sequel starts Brad Pitt? At least this love story felt somewhat believable since it wasn’t some fairy tale garbage about how Jay Gatsby gets Daisy Buchanan after she banged his brother. (All I'm saying is that if Daisy Buchanan leaves Tom for Jay then we move away from high art into Fool's Gold territory, and when we start celebrating story lines that do that then I understand why F. Scott Fitzgerald drank himself to death.) And Benjamin Button is in another league than Fool’s Gold and Slumdog, and it's probably even better than the English Patient. But I haven’t seen the English Patient so I can’t be sure.

– Now we’re getting into the perilous territory of nominated movies I didn't exactly "see" or "watch" or "pay to see" or "sit all the way through" because they weren't that "interesting" or "playing near enough to my home" and because I don't own a "car" I have to see movies within biking distance. Anyways, this one is the didn't "sit all the way through" category, as I was in the theater for 25 minutes before leaving because the major dramatic tension wasn't enough to keep me from returning to my dark, empty and lonely apartment with the internet as my only friend. I mean, really, the major tension is whether this goofy-not-really-a-journalist guy is going to win in this head-to-head confrontation with Nixon? And then, during the first 11 of these two-hour interviews Nixon just creams this guy’s clock because the interview subjects are substantial policy issues that this would be journalist never seriously considered? But then, oh man, when we get to Watergate, then the protagonist studies really hard and shoves it in Nixon's face! Win for the good guys! But I mean, umm, yea? Wouldn't any monkey without a speech impediment been able to accomplish that? You have Richard Nixon spending two hours where he can't run away from the camera explaining stuff like why he directed $500,000 cash dead drops for Watergate burglars and like why did he decided to lie to the FBI, since he's on tape talking about lying to the FBI. I guess you had to live it, but if this wins best picture I’m going to be annoyed.

Milk – I didn’t see this one, but I did see a documentary on Milk’s life in college, and every scene I saw in the trailer for this Gus Van Sant version looked to be ripping off a scene from that documentary, and I know that documentary made me cry and hate people who don’t like gays, or kill gays and then serve like 5 year prison sentences. I hope that documentary wins best picture because it told an incredible story of a man who changed the world for the better and a world that wasn’t ready for him. But if Milk wins, I'm going to be annoyed that you can just rip off a 20 year old documentary and get an Oscar.

The Reader – I didn’t see this one either, but I have a feeling this one is the best of the bunch. That shouldn't matter, though, since we all know that the Academy loves them a Holocaust movie, and so the cynic in me worries the people who make these movies are doing so imagining all the awards and the income those awards will generate once the movie is done. And that irritates me, since you have to try really hard to tell a Holocaust story that won't touch and move the audience in a profound way. I mean, a 13 year-old girl’s diary is considered one of the finest books of the 20th century. So in the question of judging art and saying what’s better than the rest, these Holocaust movies just have an unfair advantage. They should be a special category, where Holocaust movies are only compared with each other and there’s one Oscar for all of them and the question is whether this particular Holocaust movie is better than the last one. So the real question, then, is the Reader better than Schindler’s List? And I can't answer that because I haven't seen Schindler's List since I was 14 and like I said I haven't seen the Reader at all but now that I think about it why is the Academy passing the buck and asking me to compare Holocaust movies anyways? Do your job Academy and I'll do mine thank you very much.

Oh yea, and I got a good Holocaust knock knock joke I learned from my friend:

Knock knock
Who’s there?
The Holocaust
(The other person here either refuses to continue the joke, or does so haltingly, expecting something repulsive to come back at them.) The…Holo-caust…who?
(Shake head disapprovingly) So you’re one of those?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Shane Battier Seems Pretty Cool or How I Backtracked on a Previous Promise and Made Another Kobe Post

The NY Times Magazine has a 9 page article on Battier that I bet this blog's extensive readership won't read because of work, family, or relationship obligations that I don't have the fortune to worry about. So let me just give you the highlights.

1. Shane Battier is a selfless player with an absurdly high basketball I.Q.

2. Battier has been an undervalued player for his career because most NBA teams focus on the individual stats that don't indicate a player's worth to the team.

3. When Shane Battier guards you then you will have an off shooting night, like Kobe's 13-32 performance against the Rockets from early January 2009.

4. Kobe hit a deep 3 with under 30 seconds left to win that game against the Rockets. It had been the one bright spot for the Lakers in a game filled with Kobe over shooting. But that's the shot the Rockets wanted Kobe to take. As their stats indicated: "Bryant had taken 51 3-pointers at the very end of close games from farther than 26.75 feet from the basket. He had missed 86.3 percent of them. A little over a year ago the Lakers lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers after Bryant missed a 3 from 28.4 feet. Three nights from now the Lakers would lose to the Orlando Magic after Bryant missed a shot from 27.5 feet that would have tied the game."

And really all of this is just a big "This is what I'm talking about" to my dad. I watched the Lakers lose against Utah with Pops on Wednesday, and I want to use the bully pulpit to say that the Rockets provide the stats that I assumed were out there. During that Utah game Kobe hit a contested 3 with under 2 minutes left. I was screaming "No" at the poor shot selection just as the shot went in. Pops laughed but on the next possession Kobe missed another contested 3 that he took early in the shot clock even though the Lakers were only down 2 and there was still a few more offensive possessions to be had.

So as I've been saying about Kobe, for some reason people just remember the tough shots that go in and forget all the missed ones. Kobe is good, obviously. And he's amazing when he's shooting in the lane or curling around the screen and shooting an open 15 footer. But we've seen how he plays against Battier or the Celtics D. As Lakes' fans there should be more indignation when Kobe's forcing contested jump shots all game because the statistics show that he's actually a detriment to the Lakers' offense when he does that.

So in conclusion, who else thinks that he probably sexually assaulted that girl? I mean, the guy is always forcing the action and doesn't seem to notice when the lane isn't open. Anyone?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Paul Krugman Tries To Set the Record Straight

So Talking-Points Memo already posted this clip but it's a good one, as Krugman explains how silly the tax cut as panacea philosophy is. He also does a good job of reminding ideologues like Pat Buchanan of how tax raises under Clinton coincided with the largest peacetime expansion of the economy in history. Anyways, I should let the clip speak for itself. The good back and forth starts at the 4 minute mark.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Changing the World One Blog Post At a Time

So I realized how this blog is becoming my virtual soapbox, and I was going write about how I should change the name to reflect that but I first wanted to check to see if I was the creator of this ingenious idea and it turns out I’m not. That’s what I get for starting a blog in 2008. I’m a man behind the times. That’s just what I do. I didn’t get a cell phone until mid 2003, and didn’t set up my IPod until 2007. But enough about my retarded technological savvy, this post isn’t about my tribulations in this interconnected and scary world, even though in future posts I will be constantly discuss ‘me’ related topics in other contexts since apparently my generation is narcissistically self-involved.

As for changing the world and standing on the soapbox, though, I just wanted to talk about a few issues in the news and make points I’m sure other people have made in many other places but since I’ve been too busy living in my ‘me’ bubble I haven’t bothered to notice.

1) I just don’t understand how people can argue for a continuation of the economic policies that have caused the erosion of the federal surplus and have coincided with the economic collapse we’re currently experiencing. I’m referring here, of course, to people who champion tax cuts as a cure-all economic solution. I mean, I do get why people hold on to simplistic catch all phrases. I understand that lay people like me, people who don’t have an informed grasp of macroeconomics, that we want to grip onto simple theories that will allow us to feel informed and engaged in public policy debates. But even with this perfectly understandable human need to feel more powerful inside of and less uncertain about this hugely complex world, I would at least hope for some semblance of reason, some sign that the scientific revolution hasn’t gone to waste. I mean, all I’m asking for is to throw out mantras that don’t match up with the observable data. So could people please stop suggesting tax cuts are a panacea and maybe acknowledge that the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which coincided with the loss of the budget surplus and largest deficits (dollar wise, not as a % of GDP) in the history of the country, and which were unable to prevent this economic collapse in the first place, maybe could you acknowledge that simply offering tax cuts as a plan to stimulate the economy isn’t sufficient because if it was then we wouldn’t be here in the first place?

2) I also don’t understand people who are upset that Obama is capping salaries of the companies that take significant government funds by claiming that the best people wouldn’t be attracted to work for these companies. I mean, I could obviously make the simple point that “Really, best people? Like the people who got us into this mess in the first place?” And I should make that point, and I guess I just did, but it’s more. We also need a fundamental rethinking over what qualifies someone to be the “best” manager of a large corporation. Obviously when these managers are obsessed with their economic self-interest and are offered eight figure salaries and nine figure compensation packages, this doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get the best people. So maybe we need the government to ensure that the compensation arrangements for managers of these behemoth corporations take stock of the long term economic health of a corporation. I’m not sure if Obama’s plan already does this or if it simply limits the managers to a six figure base salary, but maybe they should just adopt the idea I suggested above, or if they have already adopted that then please excuse me for not reading complex policy proposals, but I can be a simple minded and lazy fellow at times.

2a) Anyways, I think the trouble most people have with Obama’s move is that it comes down to philosophic principles that one has adopted in their lifetime. And for those who want an unrestricted free market, they have trouble swallowing the idea of a president setting the compensation of those in the private sector, even if that private sector has come hat-in-hand to the government for a bailout and thus doesn’t quite qualify as the private sector any longer. However, the role of the government is and should be to step in when the free market is unable to regulate itself. Just as we don’t allow the free market to dictate the rules of the road or which airplane takes off first on a runway, I think the current crisis clearly demonstrates there is a role for government to play in ensuring that managers of corporations aren’t motivated solely by their economic self-interest, especially since that interest can so easily diverge from the corporation’s and country’s economic interests. (A corollary point: it’s a simplistic view of human nature to think that the best people are only those who would work for more than $500,000 a year, since many of our brightest minds don’t appear to be motivated only by compensation, as is evinced by the quality of many people who enter public service. Perhaps managers will start to see the public service aspect in working for a corporation that the taxpayers have financed in the hope that another Great Depression is avoided.)

Anyways, the point of all of this is a) I do understand why people adopt simplistic philosophic principles for understanding complex issues of public policy but b) I don’t understand how people can repeat these simplistic philosophies when economic realities demonstrate them to be inadequate methods for understanding this world.

Also, I like to end on a joke, and I don't have one right now so I'll just have to steal a line from Mitch Hedberg until I come up with my own: "I walked by a dry-cleaners at 3:00 in the morning and there was a sign on the door that said, 'Sorry, We Are Closed.' I was like, 'Don't be sorry, it's 3:00 in the morning, you're a dry-cleaners...there is no need to apologize.'"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Nerds Back Me Up, Lebron Is Four Times the Player Kobe Is

Ok, so this is my last Kobe post for a while. Last night there's no doubt Kobe played well, hitting some clutch shots in the 4th quarter to send the game to overtime before he fouled out and the Lakers lost in the second overtime. So Kobe was the key. And like I said, Kobe's good, just not as good as the hype. Well now I found the stats that back me up.

It all comes down to adjusted plus/minus. (Without bringing up the lame arguments my brother and I get into, I finally concede he was right on this one even though I'm still not clear how using 'fractals' proved his point. However, it was an informative 10 minutes tonight while he explained what they hell 'fractals' are while I looked at pictures of them online.) So the idea behind adjusted plus/minus is that it tries to isolate an individual's contribution to a team based on the point differential when that individual is on the floor. This seems like an obviously superior measure of a player's value than scoring, rebounds, blocks, etc. because it captures the intangibles (Yes Joe Morgan fanatics, in the team game of basketball, unlike the one-on-one match-ups in baseball, there are a whole host of intangibles like defense, tipped passes, altering shots, spreading the floor, etc. that aren't reflected in the stat sheet.) and helps quantify what instincts should tell us, that defensive specialists who own the championship bling like Bruce Bowen are more valuable then scoring machines who shoot a low percentage like Stephon Marbury.

Anyways, you can check out these stats yourself even though I know you readers (Mom) aren't going to since you don't care about the NBA, but thanks for driving me to all those practices and going to my games. You were always so supportive even though I was too short for the game. Also, if you got time, could you pick me up from the airport on Friday?

Lebron's the best in the NBA and four times the player Kobe is.

Lebron being entirely responsible for the Cavs success because every other player is average or below average.

Odom is more valuable to the Lakers' success than Kobe is.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

List of Grievances

1. Drudge Report’s Global Warming Headlines

So Drudge has discovered that there’s money to be made in questioning the overwhelming consensus among scientists that man is causing global warming. And that’s not even why I’m annoyed,even though no peer reviewed scientific article (at least until 2004) has ever challenged that man is contributing to the warming of the climate. Rather, for me the bigger problem with the Drudge Report is that it has been encouraging people to think global warming doesn’t exist at all. Apparently this winter is colder than those of the past few years in some cities. So Drudge has been linking articles like these with labels suggesting this disproves global warming. That’s just annoying. I know I’m picking the lowest hanging fruit here in my post, but it’s still hanging fruit and so it needs to be picked. (Relatedly, you ever wonder if farm workers take their dates apple picking?) A) It’s winter. It’s supposed to be cold in winter. Global warming doesn't mean it's always 80 degrees. It just means average global temperatures are warmer than they used to be. You can't say, “Man it’s cold today. Global warming is ridiculous.” B) You also don’t insinuate global warming is a myth since winter 2008 is the coldest since 1999. Temperature rise doesn’t occur in a linear fashion.

Essentially, the problem with both of those arguments is they have a ridiculously narrow focus that miss the big picture, and it’s just so annoying to adopt this narrow focus when we are talking about such an important issue like the warming of the planet. Much like how ridiculous it is for Stu Lantz and the Kobe groupies to go nuts when Kobe hits a last second shot against the Rockets even though Kobe's 13-32 shooting performance made the game much closer than it should have been in the first place. We need to focus on the big picture people. That's what separates us from the autistic.

2. Jon Cornyn’s Petty Grievance

So Obama had a good inauguration speech. I especially liked it when Obama asked us to put aside our petty grievances to advance the interests of the nation. So it was especially heartening to see that Jon Cornyn doesn’t want to do that. Instead he wants to spend three hours discussing, or investigating or whatever the hell he hopes to accomplish by highlighting the link between Bill Clinton’s foundation’s donors and the possible improprieties this could create at the State Department. If there’s one thing this country needs in its efforts to move past partisanship it’s another investigation into the Clinton’s “questionable” financial affairs. Seriously, what could the angle possibly be? That donors gave money to Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation, a foundation that helps eradicate AIDS around the globe, in the expectation that his wife would be Secretary of State and then would…practice friendlier diplomacy with a country of this particular donor’s choosing? Anyways, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if we only give Jon some room here, maybe if we designate a special prosecutor, and give that prosecutor 7 years and $60 million we can find out whom Bill has been banging since he left the White House.

3. Pauly Shore’s Standup

Apparently Johnny Carson wrote a paper in college about what makes something funny. That sounds like an interesting paper, and hopefully I come across it some day. In the meantime I want to talk about something that’s easier to discuss, why things aren’t funny -- like Pauly Shore’s stand-up. So Pauly went on for an hour with only eight minutes of laughable material (the laughable stuff was self-deprecating to the state of his career). The remaining 52 minutes were racist remarks (he dropped an n-bomb and adopted an absurd caricature of what a black person sounds like) and stories about how he has had sex with women. This really isn’t a grievance on the same level as the others though. Basically I just wanted to point out that I saw Pauly in Tahoe this weekend, and that I was in Tahoe snowboarding because I’m cool and cool people snowboard, and that the temperatures in Tahoe were really warm because there’s this thing called global warming and there hasn’t been snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas in weeks.

The remaining grievances are pretty self-explanatory:

4. Those that Think God Wants them to Occupy a Certain Section of Land

5. Those that Think God Wants them to Kill Nonbelievers

6. Those that Think God Wanted them to Be President

7. Ann Coulter

8. The Happiness of Others

9. The Laughter of Children

10. Those that Put Others Down, Including Former A-List Celebrities who Are Forced to do Stand-up in Podunk Towns on Holiday Weekends, to Feel Better About Themselves

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hey Kobe, Did You Ever Get Back to Shaq about How His Ass Taste?

One of the great advances in human history is the recognition of bias, experience, expectation, etc. in shaping the way we humans perceive certain realities:

MARGE: Come on, Homer, Japan will be fun. You liked Rashomon.

HOMER: That's not how I remember it.

Regardless of the inability for people to agree on all external realities, there remain some cold hard facts that everyone should agree on no matter what: death comes for us all, kittens and puppies are cute, and Lebron James is currently the best basketball player on the planet. Yet for some reason, during the halftime show of tonight’s Mavs/Suns game on ESPN, both Avery Johnson and Jerry Stackhouse said they’d vote for Kobe over Lebron because Kobe has three rings.

I mean, it’s sometimes hard to find the right metrics by which to determine which of two basketball players is superior when they both have similar skills. And I can see how in some of those close calls, when basketball players maybe played against each other in a play-off series or two with teams of similar abilities, you might use ‘championships won’ as a tie-breaker. But we can’t do that here. Kobe has consistently played with more talented teammates and had better coaching than Lebron. To make my point, why don’t we engage in a little “thought experiment.” Let’s just assume that Kobe played on a team that didn’t have the most dominant player of his era on his team. Let’s just assume that he played on a team that didn’t have the greatest coach in NBA history calling the plays. Ok, you probably guessed where I'm going with this, the 2004-05 season when Kobe led the Lakers to an impressive 34 wins. So when it’s just Kobe, no dominant center and no Phil then Kobe can’t make the play-offs. The 2005-06 season saw the return of Phil, 45 wins and a first round exist from the play-offs. In 2006-07 the Lakers get 42 wins and another first round exit. So when it’s no dominant center and Phil it’s a team that barely makes the play-offs and forces Kobe to point fingers and demand trades. But when Bynum puts his game together and the Lakers somehow convince the Grizzlies it's in their interests to trade Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, then Kobe is the MVP and the Lakers the best in the West.

And what does Lebron do with an undistinguished coach and no dominant center or any other player of note? Well, he single handedly beats the Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. He’s also currently leading his team to the best record in the East. I mean, really, can anyone argue with a straight face that the Cavs wouldn’t be a better team if they had Gasol, Bynum and Phil? Is there any non-glue sniffing Laker fan who would trade Bynum or Gasol for any of the Cavaliers? Isn’t it just absurdly obvious that Lebron is doing the same (team record wise in the 2008 season) as Kobe is with the Lakers but with far less talent surrounding him?

Basically my problems with Kobe go beyond a mere comparison with him and Lebron. Kobe is an enormously gifted athlete who can make more forced shots than anyone else in the league, but that doesn’t make him a better basketball player. Basketball is a team game it’s not about how incredible some of your made shots look. And while less often then it used to be, Kobe still too often uses his unbelievable athleticism to attempt an ill-advised shot fading away from the basket while surrounded by three defenders instead of passing to an open teammate. It'll make the highlights when that shot goes in, but more often than not it doesn't and Kobe glares at the ref while everybody else erases the poor decision-making from their collective memory. So my problem is that there has been an overvaluing of Kobe’s talents for his entire career. I mean, the Shaq v. Kobe debate should never have been close. Kobe should have deferred to Shaq up until the 2006 season (assuming the Lakers didn't appease Kobe by trading Shaq and assuming Kobe could have learned to live with Shaq like every other teammate Shaq ever had who found they could, because then the Lakers would have done what hindsight demonstrated they should have and wrung another championship or two out of the big dog) but Kobe's pride has never allowed him to defer to anything, even the most dominant center of an era. Anyways, just to prove my point let’s look at the cold hard facts of the time those two spent together. From 1996 until 2004, for Laker games featuring O’Neal but not Bryant, the Lakers were 36-8, an .818 winning percentage. In games featuring Bryant but not O’Neal, the Lakers were 53-45, a .541 winning percentage.

So in conclusion, he even though Kobe hits some pretty difficult jumpers at the end of games like he did tonight against the Pacers, if we just focus on those moments and not the three possessions in the last six minutes where he didn’t give the bigs a touch and forced up contested shots that missed, and if we ignore the talent of his teammates and coaches in helping him succeed, or if ignore the lack of success his teams had without a dominant center, or if we look over Lebron’s depleted roster, then we are missing the big picture. Kobe is great, but not as great as many believe. Also, he really should get back to Shaq about the ass taste. It’s just rude to take that long to answer someone’s question.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

That's Weird, It Looks Like the Senate Democrats Have Spines in that Picture

So apparently the race card is a trump. I wish I’d know that when I was playing crazy 8s the other day. See grandma had played the King of Corruption, and I didn’t have any cards to play since there isn't really a Corruption suit in a regular deck and I was out of 8s. But Grandma is half-crazy and full-senile so maybe it didn't matter anyways. But jeez, if I had known that all I had to do was assert that her card play was akin to an old fashioned southern lynching to get back to Diamonds (I had lots of Diamonds) then I would have at least tried.

I would also like to make a few more points with my remaining time. Point 1- seriously? Do you Senate Democrats just always cave? I mean, this wasn’t like this was the Bush Administration placing the vote for an unnecessary war right before a midterm election or anything. This was a few old guard civil rights leaders claiming that keeping your word to block any appointment from the corruption-tainted governor who looks like Sean Astin/some guy I went to law school with who I shouldn't name since he's not really a public figure but if you knew who I was talking about you'd say "Yea, he does look like the governor" as segregation politics. You Dems really need to learn more about saving face because this wishy-washy folding in the face of criticism makes you guys appear like a bunch of spineless wussies. Point 2- really old guard civil rights leaders, you were serious? You really believe that this was an old style lynching? You really think that language is appropriate and no way diminishes the old practice of hanging black people by trees with the rope squeezing their necks so tightly that oxygen no longer pumped into their hearts and brains and then their body was left out for everyone to see all for the purpose of keeping the backward/racist/tyrannical social Southern order? You think that language in no way diminishes real claims against real racism in the future so that you guys have absolutely no credibility when you try and stop those real attempts at racism?

Anyways, so this has been a disappointing week by our nation’s leaders and it leads me, as it often does, to say U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!