Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Thoughts on the NBA Playoffs

I thought I was done watching the NBA playoffs when the Jazz lost the game at home to the Spurs. Utah made it further than they deserved to. They're not quite in the same league as Dallas, Phoenix, and San Antonio. Until they get a solid outside shooter -- a Jeff Hornicek clone or maybe even Jeff Hornicek himself since he's probably just as quick now as he was ten years ago -- Utah will be stuck in the second tier. And I'm still upset about the way Phoenix lost. At the very moment they took control of the series against the Spurs, they got suckered into reacting to a cheap shot and had two of their best players miss the next critical game. The Spurs are boring, and the Eastern Conference teams are weak and sloppy.

While Wendy took the boys to Fauntleroy Park, I flipped to the game. The Cavs are a one-man team, and the Pistons aren't firing on all cylinders (te he). I don't know who the Cavs coach is, but I can read lips. During a timeout towards the end of the game, here's what he said to his team:

"Listen up, guys. Here's the play. You, you pass the ball to LeBron and then get out of the way. You other three guys, you get out of the way too. Maybe one of you should set a pick for LeBron, I don't know, but the important thing is that you look scared and tentative. LeBron is The Man. LeBron, you do that thing where to take a fall-away jump shot from 25-feet away. It might go in. Then get back on defense."

It's painful to watch. If this is what I can expect from the NBA, I may have to start watching the Rat City Rollergirls. You hear that, NBA execs? I don't watch hockey or baseball anymore. You're next.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Young Republicans in Training

Max: I don't want to eat my carrots. My tummy full.

Me: If your tummy is full, you can't eat a treat.

Max: My tummy not full.

* * *

Luke: I have a tummy ache.

Me: If you have a tummy ache, you can't eat a treat.

Luke: My no have tummy ache.

Every. Single. Time.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Great Moments in Unintentional Comedy, Part I

Even though this YouTube clip is more than a year old, it's something that needs to stay in circulation. It's like Wild Strawberries or The Brothers Karamazov in that's it's just too superbly rich to grasp in one viewing. I remember when I was in church, I used to hear people say that even though they read the same passage of the Bible again and again, they learn something new each time. I feel that way about this clip. Ladies and gentleman, here it is: William Shatner's interpretation of "Rocket Man." It's a genuine wonder.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's a Miracle!

For those of you living outside the Northwest, you may have been missing a heartwrenching tale of staggering courage. An area man was last seen jogging near Cougar Mountain last Friday early in the morning. His car was found in the parking lot. When he failed to return, his wife notified police. Dozens of volunteers gave up their weekends to scour Cougar Mountain for this man, to no avail. When the poor lost soul wasn't found, our community feared the worst. The search-and-rescue operation was called off on Monday. This is the kind of story that make us upset here in Seattle. As we drink our coffee and read the morning paper, we ponder the capricious nature of others' mortality, and we debate whether to light candles.

Here, I'll let the Seattle Post-Intelligencer explain:

Fellow runners search for missing Issaquah man

ISSAQUAH -- King County sheriff's Deputy Peter Linde stood in the rain near a Cougar Mountain trailhead Sunday afternoon and shook his head.

For the third straight day, King County search and rescue teams combed an 11-square-mile area, desperately searching for Michael Schreck -- the Issaquah man and father of two teenagers who left for a Friday morning run and never returned.

Searchers brought dogs, horses and twice scanned the area with heat sensors by helicopter. But early Sunday evening, they seemed to have no more solid leads than they did two days earlier, and Linde looked at a Cougar Mountain map as though it were a Rubik's Cube.

"This guy just disappeared," he said.

It was a sad story, a tale that includes all the elements of tragedy that allow us to identify with his plight. He has children. He's white. He was out in nature, lost. Someone couldn't figure out a Rubik's cube. The story was worthy. Dozens of us gathered in the front yard of Kurt Cobain's old home to light candles. Then, a miracle:

Missing jogger turns up, and says he fell into a ravine

ISSAQUAH -- Was it an incredible story of survival or just a case of someone who didn't want to be found?

That's what some are wondering after 47-year-old Michael Schreck, whose disappearance set off a massive search on Cougar Mountain, suddenly showed up at his family's Issaquah home late Monday with a remarkable story of living off nothing but muddy creek water since Friday.

"He said he fell into a ravine and he's been unconscious since then," King County sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart said. "We're going to take his story at face value."


The statement thanked searchers and, by way of explanation, said Michael Schreck slipped off a Squak Mountain trail and was knocked unconscious. The area was part of an 11-square-mile search with no sign of the jogger, police said.

The family's statement said Schreck was beneath a log and covered with leaves for warmth. He suffered no serious injuries, they said. When deputies interviewed him about 1 a.m. Tuesday, he appeared in perfect health.

"No injuries, no bumps or bruises," Urquhart said.

This tremendous news warmed our heart cockles. Right now, we would be lighting candles in celebration if not for the naysayers. You see, after this stirring ordeal, some people actually have the nerve to question our brave hero. I guess that's what we do in our society. We build up heroes, and then when we see them standing above us on a pedestal, we look for weaknesses and paint their balls red.

This criticism is entirely unfounded. Let me explain.

It's often difficult for me to present someone else's point of view, especially when it's illogical, but I'll do my best. Some people -- in many cases embittered rescuers disappointed with their own incompetent search techniques -- claim that his story doesn't make sense. There are three main claims.

Claim 1: If he was knocked unconscious for three days, their twisted logic goes, how did he snuggle under a log and cover himself with leaves?

Look, this kind of thing happens to me all the time. When I'm riding home from work, I'll run into a tree and kind of black out. I'll wake up a few minutes later under a park bench or a pile of leaves, shake it off, and get back on my bike. Wendy is usually upset with me for not coming home when I'm supposed to, but it happens regularly. Ask her. I suppose if I got hit in the head much harder, I might be out for three days instead of thirty minutes, and then I'd be in the headlines: "Area Man Missing, Bicycle Found." I'm fairly certain the article would mention my wife and twin sons.

Claim 2: If he got injured seriously enough to knock him out for three days, why doesn't he have any bumps or bruises?

Nit, meet picker.

Claim 3: If he was really knocked out for three days and then walked five miles back home, why wasn't he dehydrated?

Fish in a barrel. Because he drank water from a creek on his way home, that's why. I agree with the hero's neighbor: "Sometimes miracles like this happen." Yes, yes, they do.

I have turned on comments so that you can pour out your heartfelt expressions in this time of joy and disbelief.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

AM Radio Days

[Prescript: There are three topics that I don't feel comfortable writing about: Music, Politics, and Sports. Music, because I realize that my taste in music is not only limited, but limited to a relatively uninteresting range of popular music. Politics, because my opinions are always more complex than I'm able to convey, so these days I come off as a Bush basher. Sports, because on some level I think sports are stupid, and this discomfort makes me uncomfortable, so anything I write is undercut with insecurity. Why do I mention this? Because today's post covers all three topics!]

After dropping my brother off at his hotel last week, I was scanning AM radio stations to pick up the end of the basketball game between Phoenix and San Antonio. Here's the thing: AM radio is scary. First, there's the bad music: "At the copa, copa cabana / Where music and passion are always the fashion..." And then there's the sports talk shows. It makes me feel guilty by association for following sports: "Hey Buck, first time caller, long-time listener. About that Raiders draft pick, I just don't think..."

Worst of all, there's the right-wing propaganda with all the Rush Limbaugh clones. You'd think these spouting chunks of manhood would lose a bit of their steam after their party took control of the country and failed so badly in so many serious ways, but these radio clowns are as cocksure as ever. Know why? Because Democrats want to take money from hard-working Americans and dole it out to people who shouldn't be in this country in the first place. That's why. If a bunch of Republicans are caught in a systematic scandal, they just point out the isolated case of the Democrat caught with money in his freezer. (Do I think all Republicans are corrupt and all Democrats are virtuous? No. I think Republicans are super corrupt and Democrats are more mildly corrupt. They're the proverbial lesser of two evils. In a two-party system, that makes me a Democrat.)

Then there was this exchange, recalled from memory so it's not verbatim:

Dickface Host: "There's been a lot of talk on the other side of the aisle about cutting and running because the situation in Iraq has become growingly difficult. Do you think we should abandon hope and bail on the Iraqi people?"

Republican Operative: "Absolutely not. We need to give the new plan time to work."

DFH: "How long before we know whether the new plan is working?"

RO: "Conventional wisdom says we can effectively evaluate the plan's effectiveness in six months..."

"Conventional wisdom" is my new favorite oxymoron.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Black Book, The Movie

I don't get to see many movies in the theat-ah these days, what with work and twins and cycling and pro football and all. So when I do break down and go see a movie, it has to be pretty bad for me not to enjoy it. We hired a babysitter and went to see Zwartboek (Black Book) on Saturday. I knew going in that the movie was directed by the same Dutch guy who had made the highly mockable Showgirls, but I heard Black Book was a return to his former glory. I imagined that Showgirls was an aberration. After all, Stephen Spielburg directed Howard the Duck, Rob Reiner directed North, and the same European guy who directed The Vanishing turned around and made the same movie in America, only he dumbed it down and tacked on a cheesy ending. So I looked at the list of available movies playing, checked out the glowing user comments, and chose Black Book over Waitress and Spiderman 3.

Before I discuss this movie, which is a schlocky romance masquerading as an arthouse film, be forewarned that I'm not concerned at all about spoilers. If you like this movie, I think there is something very wrong with you, and I don't care about ruining your experience. That said, it's the story of a Jewish girl named Rachel who is hiding underground in Holland during World War II. In an attempt to escape German occupation, she and her family try to flee south in a boat. The escaping Jews are double-crossed, and she ends up joining the Resistance and doing the Mata Hari thing in seducing the head of the gestapo to find out who betrayed her family. Only things aren't so simple...

Whenever you see a bad movie that you thought you were going to like, there are five stages of processing the catastrophe:

Denial (OK, there are too many coincidences, but Dickens does that too, and he's great. Just go with it...)

Anger (Dickens never has a heroine flash her breasts at the German head of the Gestapo and ask three times, "Are these Jewish?"...)

Bargaining (If this movie ends in the next ten minutes, Dear Lord, I promise I'll be kinder to Minette's dog...)

Depression (I'm so sad. So very deeply sad...)

Acceptance (I'm in a dark place now, but you bet your bottom dollar that the sun will come out tomorrow...)

Terrible, awful movie. I can't get it out of my head. Its qualities are, without exception, unredeeming. Don't see it.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Top 10 Baby Naming Rules

The title of this post was originally called, "My Third Favorite Poem." You see, I had read this poem on the World Wide Web of the Internet, and I swear I copied the text of the poem to the operating system Clipboard, pasted it into an electronic mail message, and sent it to myself with the Subject line, "Poem." After twenty minutes of searching while the boys tormented the furniture, I've decided that I must have imagined the whole thing and maybe experienced the poem in a dream. On the positive side, I may have imagined what I consider to be the third-greatest poem of all-time, putting me in the company of Milton and Beckett. On the negative side, I have this nagging feeling that a piece of art which once moved me is lost forever. It is at times like these when I hope for an afterlife so that I can review my life. I shall fast-forward past all the church meetings and encounters with the blue screen, and I'll stop at a time when I read this elusive poem at my computer. I hope my thoughts are part of the review, because if a review of my life ends up being recorded from a hidden camera, I won't be able to tell the difference between reading a great poem and reading a quarterly summary from Adobe's chief financial officer. I don't mean to digress too much further, for I am, in short, getting away from the topic at hand. In fact, one could argue that the topic du jour has never, in fact, been in hand. Yet perhaps this digression may find a way of moving me closer to today's topic. To be quick, Adobe's chief financial officer was named Murray. You just have to feel safe with someone named Murray.

Now, on with it! In my search for this poem that I allegedly sent to myself by way of electronic mail, I encountered something else that I had written. It is not a poem. I wrote this back when Wendy and I were debated what to name Alpha and Bravo, who have since then been renamed Luke and Max. Here it is:

10 Baby Naming Rules for Boys

1. Don't tell anyone the actual names of the babies until they are born and have already received their names. Someone will always come up with an excellent reason not to use those names, and then you have to exert confidence in the face of ridicule, which demands too much energy.

2. Names should not be overly macho (Kirk, Dillon, Buck), effeminate (Jan, Ian, Oliver), or both (Brad/Bradley, Connor/Connie, Zach/Zachary).

3. A dicey first name should have a solid middle name. The only exception to this rule is if you have a cool last name, like Brown or McGillicuddy. I dare anyone to find a name that doesn't sound great with either of these last names. Pumpkin Mcgillicuddy? It works! Jan Brown? The exception that proves the rule.

4. When in doubt, go with the common name. It's better for a boy's name to be common than unique. In one study, analysts gave identical papers to a set of teachers to read. Even though the papers were identical except for the names, boys named Michael and Stephen received better grades than Julius and Ian. People can always find deserving nicknames.

5. No New Age names (Zephyr, Sagitaurus, Jan), unless you want your pasty children to get beat up and then complain about the bullies' negative vibes.

6. No names that remind you of someone you've dislike (Darrel, Ian, Jan). I am now counting to ten.

7. Don't pick names that are too chic (Berkeley, Brandon, Ian) or too fuddy duddy (George, Barney, Jan).

8. No Utahn or African American names (LaDwayne, Tay'len, Ian). This rule is final. No exceptions.

9. The name should be versatile and dynamic (Conrad, Con, Connie, C-Rad) rather than one-dimensional and static (Jan).

10. With twins, no rhyming. Wendy's aunt named her twin boys Barry DeLane and Gary DeWayne. The only set of names more stupid than that is Ian and Jan. Unless you name your child Ian Jan: "Goodnight, Ian Jan."

Bonus Rule: For all you wisecrackers out there, names are not jokes. If you name one son Jared, don't name the other son Mahonri. The only exception to this rule is Tempus Fugit. I still have a crush on her.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Electric Bicycles and Fighting

As some of you know, Elden (the Fat Cyclist) recently heard that his wife has become quite ill with cancer, so he asked a few of his friends to help him out with his blog while he got his head and heart around the situation. He's built up quite an audience over the last few years, making for a lively blog. Elden thinks my electric bike is a funny concept, so he asked me to write about it (it's actually Wendy's bike, but that's not quite as interesting). I wrote a kinda sorta funny entry that's kinda sorta worth reading, but the comments section is definitely worth a read. A frequent commenter named Al Maviva and I get into an overblown argument as to the merits of an electric bicycle. Check it out.

There's an odd combination of absurd humor and an outpouring of affection for Elden's family.

We basically argue about the wimpiness of riding an electric bicycle. To defend myself, I made the point that latex-clad cyclists aren't exactly perceived of as manly men. I linked to this clip of two professional cyclists throwing haymakers at each other. For me, it's The Godfather of YouTube videos. I've watched it dozens of times, and it never gets old. Here's the clip.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thoughts on NBA Basketball

One of the advantages to writing a low-key blog is that it's much easier to write an entry about something that no one cares about, like basketball. I'm not concerned about losing readership -- excuse me, that should be loosing readership. I don't know exactly when people stopped spelling lose in a traditional way, but I'm not a usage facist. I'll go with it. Here are my thoughts on basketball.

Suspension Disbelief

Setting Suns? Hotspurs? There is a rule that during an altercation, no player on the bench is allowed to run onto the court. Doing so results in an automatic one-game suspension. At the end of the game, after the Suns had taken a commanding lead, an over-the-hill bench player for the Spurs whacked the little point guard for the Suns, sending him flying into the scorers' table. The whole Suns team jumped up, and two of the players -- one of them an All-Star -- ran onto the court. Automatic suspension. The mediocre Spurs player was suspended for two games, while the two Suns players were suspended for one game -- a critical home game. It would be one thing if they had to sit out an away game in the playoffs, They'd just loose the game and move on. But loosing two key players for a game that you really need to win is going to be too much to overcome.

Here's what's frustrating. The Suns are playing relatively clean basketball, while the Spurs are playing relatively dirty basketball. Bruce Bowen, who is renowned for overcoming a lack of talent with aggressiveness, crossed the line yet again when he stomped Amare Stoudemire as the Suns forward was going up for an easy dunk. Watch it here. Bowen is the kind of cheap-shot artist who puts his foot out when players are coming down for a rebound. Oh, did you just break your ankle landing on my foot? That kind of thing happens. Oh well, I guess I'll guard a different guy by latching on to his jersey and kneeing him around picks. There have been other incidents in this series, in each case with Spurs being overly aggressive, but no suspensions have been handed out. The league has been lenient, which leads to more Spurs cheap shots, which led to the big confrontation.

So what happened? The Spurs blew a big lead, got frustrated, and took another cheap shot at the end of the game, ultimately being rewarded because two Suns left the bench. Now the Suns must play short-handed in a must-win game at home. Insult to injury, one of the suspended players is Stoudemire, the guy who got kicked when he was going up for a dunk. The other player, Boris Diaw, is his backup, leaving the Suns with a third-string clown to guard the league's best player, the annoying Tim Duncan, who has all the charisma of Michael Chang.

As frustrating as these suspensions are, the league had no choice. The only way to keep players from storming onto the court during a flare-up is to enforce this rule without considering extenuating circumstances. There are always extenuating circumstances. Players have to learn to stay on the bench or get tossed. Where the league is at fault is not punishing Spurs players for their previous cheap shots.

Here's what's going to happen. The Suns are going to be fired up, and they'll take an early lead with the help of the fired-up crowd and the refs, who have gotten a lot worse over time, so they'll be intimidated into making bad calls against the Spurs. But the Spurs will hang in there behind Tim Duncan's 35 points and eventually beat down a tired Suns team. Then they'll win at home and we'll have to keep watching the passive-aggressive Spurs scratch and claw and kick their way to another championship and then act humble during post-game interviews. I hate the Spurs.

Chicago . . . Chicago . . . Helluva Team

Running of the Bulls? Chicago Hope? Sorry, I'm not a sports writer. The Bulls lost the first three games of the series, but they've won two in a row. Last night, they won a shocker on Detroit's home court. They didn't just win. They destroyed the Pistons. Forget about a can of whoop-ass -- this was a barrel o' whoop-ass.
The Bulls are a streaky team. When their guards are aggressive and hitting their shots, they're practically unbeatable. When their guards are indecisive, you wonder how they made it into the playoffs.

The Chicago Bulls have a very intriguing player named Kirk Heinrich. What make this guy so intriguing is that he's an American-born white player who's one of the best at his position. He's probably one of the top 30 players in the league. You can't say that about any other American-born white player. In fact, Heinrich is the only American-born white player in the top 100. Why is that?

All That Jazz

Jazzed Up? Acidic Jazz? Utah beat a fiesty Warriors team in an exciting game in an exciting series. The Warriors played with emotion. They crossed the line a few times with cheap shots, but the Jazz kept their cool, played smart, and thumped the smaller team.
Here was my favorite sequence. A hilariously out-out-control hothead for the Warriors named Stephen Jackson had words with Andrei Kirilenko, who finally seems to have regained his All-Star form after a series of injuries. Jackson seemed angry as he told his teammates to clear out because he was going to take on Kirlenko one-on-one. Jackson pump-faked and drove left, but Kirilenko didn't bite and stopped him cold. Jackson tried a couple of other moves, but nothing worked. Finally, he took a fall-away jumper from 25-feet, but Kirilenko was still all over him and may have gotten a piece of the ball, which missed everything. After the airball, as Jackson was running down the court, I said to Wendy, who was trying to talk about something else, "Wait, wait, watch this, watch this." In a show of displaced aggression that was only slightly less dramatic than Hamlet killing Polonius, Jackson whacked the Jazz point guard for no reason and then held up his hand as if to say, "Yes, I agree. I committed a foul." An official, who understood the context, whistled Jackson for a flagrant foul. Jackson went ballistic, ranted and raved and pushed against teammates trying to calm him down. Jackson seems to have softened a bit. He calmed down without punching anyone or running into the stands to beat up some Utah fans.

Feel free to leave a comment. Oh wait, I turned off comments! That's because you're deadbeats, the both of you. Commenting is not a right. It's a privilege.

Monday, May 14, 2007

¿Quien es Mas Macho? Part I

In today's battle of ¿Quien es Mas Macho?, we're pitting contemporary conservatives against drivers of big-ass trucks. For those of you who don't speak Spanish, "¿Quien es mas macho?" can be translated roughly as "Who ees tee more macho?" Of course, there's a difference between "macho" and "strong-willed" or even between "macho" and "manly." At the core of machismo is some form of weakness that leads to overcompensation. The greater the weakness, the greater the overcompensation. Ergo, the more macho is he who exhibits the most wussified behavior.

Why contemporary conservatives are more macho

After 9/11, they're running so scared that they sign off on reducing personal freedoms, restricting Constitutional rights, and torturing prisoners. Because we can't fight the war on terror without torturing now, can we? That would be like asking a logging company or a steel company to take better care of the environment. That's asking too much. Conservatives wring their hands and ask, "What about the JOBS?" With this kind of sissified underbelly, contemporary conservatives need rude, blustering heroes like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to help them through the long, dark nights.

What big-ass truck drivers are more macho

Have you ever seen one of these big trucks take a speed bump at speed? No, and you never will. They're scared the wittle speed bump might hurt their car. On my way to work this morning, I had no choice but to notice a driver of one of these monster trucks, because he revved his engine so loud I thought an airplane was taking off. VROOM! VROOM! Then the driver — I'm assuming it was a he because I didn't see softball equipment in the back of the truck — nearly came to a complete stop, easing the huge front tires over the four-inch bump. He lurched forward rumbling like a speed boat motor and then eased the rear tires over the speed bump, and you know what's next. VROOM! VROOM! Mr. Bat-out-of-hell-nothing-can-stop-me-except-maybe-a-speed-bump-or-pothole big-truck driver has done it.
¡Eso es mas macho!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I Can't Believe I Just Said That, Part X

"Ah, tears . . . the dew drops of the human heart!"

I said this to Max, who was disappointed that I wouldn't un-pop his balloon.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I Can't Believe I Just Said That, Part IX

"You're supposed to be playing with guns, not lipstick!"

You see, it's like they were shooting nerf guns, and, and, the next thing you know they'd gotten into Wendy's purse and then, um, they sort of like took out the lipstick, and -- I don't know why 3-year-olds think they need red hair gel, but still... "You're supposed to be playing with guns"?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

May Day Political Thoughts

As you may have heard, today marks the fourth anniversary of George Bush standing in front of the Mission Accomplished banner and proclaiming that major military operations have ended. Here we go again, with the phone calls and emails from politicians and pundits who want to know what I think about the subject. You see, as a middle-income wage earner with a mild fondness for political news, I get bombarded with questions from influential people who want to know what I think about the political landscape in general and the Iraq War in particular. So I'll lay out my thoughts in this blog. Readers: You have my permission to quote me, but please quote me exactly in context and give me credit.

Is Bush the worst American president ever?

Yes. Worse than Chester A. Arthur, who was a doughy pig-beast.

Is the war in Iraq won or lost?

I don't like to think of the war in Iraq as won or lost. I like to think that our mission there has been a total failure.

When should we leave Iraq?

This may surprise you, but we shouldn't leave just yet. I am 90% sure that when we do leave, the in-fighting will escalate to such a degree that military intervention will be necessary within 5-8 months of our departure. Such intervention requires our leaders to be, in short, competent. Our current leader, George W. Bush, is not competent. In fact, he is incompetent. We should stay the course, keeping our troops and Iraqi civilians in harm's way for a little over a year, and then we should pull our troops out. At that point, we'll have a different president, Republican or Democrat, who is not George W. Bush. That person can then work with an international coalition to deal with the post-invasion mess in a sane way.

Who will be our next president?

Rudy Giuliani, who has experience not only as a mayor, but as America's Mayor. He also looks like the love child of Ivan Lendl and Simon Bar Sinister.