Friday, December 28, 2007

I have been busy not blogging

I know I haven't blogged in a long time, but I've found that I have less and less to say. I don't think that's a good sign, but it saves my two readers from having to read too much drivel. I just have a few things.

People keep asking me how my exams went, but I really don't have a good answer (and it's not as a result of my complaint from the previous paragraph). I just really don't know. I could have done well or very poorly, but there is no good way to gauge. So instead, I'm forced to go to the same Web site each day where the grades are posted and face the battle in my brain between wanting to know and not know. 37 percent of my brain would like to just find out while 63 percent doesn't really want to know because of fear of what will be revealed. Thus far, the 63 percent is winning because the grades haven't been posted. If you remember the end of The Paper Chase - it is somewhat similar to that, however I'm not very cool and would never make a paper airplane out of my grades because, thanks to the wonders of technology, I have no way to make a paper airplane out of a Web site. The preceding sentences explain nothing and make me sound like a frightened loser, and that's precisely why I don't want to explain this to people who ask me how exams went.

I wished I could have been in Broken Bow for Christmas. It looked like fun. It sounds like everyone had a good time, although I have not seen any pictures posted to any blogs about the event. I'm excited for my trip back to Nebraska. Over the next few days here in Tucson there are "hard freeze warnings," so I guess that means the temperature might actually even dip into the 20s. I've only been wearing a light jacket when walking the dogs at night in what I've described to Kat as the "toughening process." She has no interest in any sort of toughening and simply puts on larger and larger coats of rather humorous proportions. I am resigned to the fact that I am going to be very cold, but I'm excited nonetheless.

In Kat-related news, she is leaving her job at AZ Tourist News and looking for other employment. She already has an interview and doesn't seem like she will be on the free agent market for long. And as always you can check Kat Fancy for updates about Kat and pictures of me looking extremely confused.

I was trying to figure out why I can't take a picture where I don't look like I just got hit in the face with a salmon, but I've come up dry. For whatever reason, I always look lost, deeply concerned, frightened about the future and certain I am suffering from some as-yet-unnamed terminal illness. I don't know if the fact that those things are mostly true for me plays any sort of role in my facial expressions.

I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas and has a happy new year. Here's hoping for a great 2008.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Some Notes on a Wednesday Afternoon

I forgot to commemorate the first anniversary of Super Duper Day (note: official title still being discussed) yesterday, Dec. 4. SDD was the day when Kat and I officially became engaged by choosing the most inexpensive ring she liked and was simultaneously the same day when I got my first acceptance to a law school. Kat cried tears of joy on SDD. Normally, I make her cry tears of anger or disappointment three or four times for each instance of tears of joy. But we choose not to commemorate those occurrences with special days. Anyway, I hope to remember SDD next year without having Kat tell me right before I go to bed.

Since things always seem to come full circle, I had my first law school exam today (post-SDD). The first rule (or is it the second rule?) of law school exams is "You don't talk about law school exams!" So I won't be discussing it with you. I'll tell you how I feel after being prejudiced by finding out my grade. (Don't tell anyone I said anything, but I think I did OK. If not, I will be savagely disappointed later).

Though I didn't feel horrible after the exam, I was pretty drained. I felt like Hank Kingsley after he filled in for one night as host for Larry Sanders. Right after the show, this was Hank's quote:

"Man, I'm tired. Now, I know why Larry is so f---ed up!"

That is sort of how I felt. Hat tip to Lloyd for the Larry Sanders DVDs, which are always a good study break/procrastinating tool.

But while I thought things were going so well, this was the e-mail I received after I had finished only my first of four exams. And this is quoted verbatim, however, I will not divulge the author's name:

"Let's face it. You haven't done enough to get an A in the class you'll be
studying for on Friday. So just accept your fate and embrace the B and play
basketball."

Hold on, here! I haven't given up that easily. I think I have worked hard enough, but sure I'll be there for basketball. I've got to keep my priorities straight!

I don't have much more to say. Kat bought Lily a rather awesome sweater. The Suns and Celtics are winning. But sports are meaningless, law is everything, bring on the exams!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A chicken in every pot, an exclamation point in every paragraph

I haven't talked at you in a bit (we haven't missed you! they say), so here is what has been going on.

I have a lot of studying to do, but I'm hopeful that things will work out well. I will be finished with this semester is exactly one month. Then the real worrying can begin!

Here is one (only one?!?) thing I've learned: The law is a seamless web.

Kat redecorated the living room! It looks pretty impressive. I think she is going to update her blog with some pictures, but if she doesn't, I'll add one to this post. Here's what you need to know: zebra print Chinese lanterns, bamboo sticks, and a pretty red curtain. Put it all together and it achieves Kat's goal of making the living room look, in her words, "opium dennish." Note: the living room is not actually an opium den. It's not really a living room either since we live in all the rooms.

I've been listening to the latest New Pornographers album "Challengers." It has been out for awhile, but it only recently was put on eMusic. I think it is worth a listen. Much love for Challengers, Go Places, Myriad Harbour and Unguided!

Kat and I went to the Tucson Museum of Art today. There was an arts and crafts fair, and admission was free - although we are actually museum members because we are so cultured!

It is still quite warm here! There might be something to this.

Kat and I went from sports bar to sports bar in an attempt to find one that had NBA TV, so I could take in the Celtics-Magic tilt. I hadn't seen the Celtics since their reincarnation, so I had to take the last chance I would probably have in awhile. First, I forgot when the game started and then we couldn't find a place that showed it. By the time we found a place that actually had it, it was the middle of the third quarter. The C's had been 8-0 in games I hadn't watched any part of. Now, they are 0-1 in games I have seen part of! So I will take the blame. Although I should enjoy seeing a Boston team lose considering recent events in sports, I wanted to see the C's play well and win. I don't know how good they can be, but to my mind, anything less than an Eastern Conference title would be a failure. I knew when I came to law school that trying not to pay attention to the Suns would be difficult, but I was not counting on a Celtics revival. Oh well, I'm glad to see them win because it has been a long time coming.

That's all! Take care.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Things Jangling Around (Now Updated with Pictures!)

I've had roughly 34 mini-nervous breakdowns in the past three months, so after today's most recent descent into the depths of depression, Kat told me to take the night off from studying. I'm trying to do that by blogging with you. I had a plan for a great blog with great photos, but alas, neither of our digital cameras have batteries. However, I do have plans to update this post with the photos when I get them, so stay tuned for that!

First, through some sort of foreign pet exchange program, Kat and I are caring for a 3-pound pomeranian/chihuahua named Lola (yes, we currently have Lola, Lily and Lucy .... Lucky, laren't lee?). Lola might be the cutest dog in recorded human history, and strangely, she likes me more than Kat. She hangs out in the office where I study and enjoys peeing on the floor even though she has a piddle pad right nearby! Lola's owner talks to her in Spanish, so it requires a subtly different inflection on "No" when telling her "No." This is very important. Lucy and Lily were initially quite resistant but are now playing nice with Lola - regularly chasing her so she has to hide under the bed where no other dogs can get to her.

(insert photo of Lola)


(caption: In the immortal words of Walter Sobchak, "You can't board it. It gets upset, it's hair falls out!")

Second, another new arrival is Kat's ridiculously awesome new iMac with 20-inch screen, loaded with Leopard and her new copy of Adobe Creative Suite 3. (I do not know the actual meanings of the words I am typing). It is a sweet machine and is Kat's most recent step toward taking over the world through cute designs. I'm excited that she now has the tools to really do some great stuff.

(insert photo of computer)



(caption: Now we have Garage Band. Maybe Keith's death grip on the means of Gaucast production has come to an end. Workers unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains!)

Third, I bought a new "Arizona Law" T-shirt that is being sold by the Student Bar Association, of which I am a member. I also got Kat a nice blue tank top. If anyone wishes to place an order, they can contact me, and I can get one for them, maybe as a Christmas gift. Note, since this is a gift promise, it cannot be enforced in a court of law and I can choose not to perform for any reason. I learned this in Contracts class.

(insert photo of shirt)

(caption: These shirts are also available in a modest gray.)

Fourth, I was over at the home of one of Kat's co-workers this week, and for the first time, I saw up close as people played Guitar Hero. I was not impressed. However, Kat and I thought a similar game we called "Cowbell Hero" would be a bigger hit with us. I suggested Sitar Hero, which is another game we are considering developing. I know it has been said many times many times before, but I'll say it anyway: "Why wouldn't you just buy a guitar?"

(insert photo of Guitar Hero or Heroine focused intensely as he or she tries to imagineer his or her way through "Barracuda" by Heart. Note, that's by the band Heart, not the colloquial "by heart," meaning without the aid of sheet music, because the game tells you exactly what buttons to push and even when to "whammy" the "whammy bar." In other news, I think life is empty and existence is a joke.)
(caption: "No, kind sir, I am not interested in playing you in Guitar Hero.")

I think that's everything. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Most Confusing Week Yet

This was the most confusing week so far, but it wasn't because of the material we were studying. I've fallen into a groove where no matter how strange or counterintuitive a concept is, I seem to be able to get at least a moderate grasp on it. I don't know if I'm getting them well enough to be a lawyer, but we'll find out preliminarily in two months and then henceforth for the rest of my working life.

One of the students in my small section (the group of 25 or so who are in all the same classes together, including one class every day that consists of only our section) died this week, apparently of suicide. We don't have any detailed information, but that is what we were told. For all of us, this was an unbelievable shock. I knew this guy relatively well - I had studied at the same table with him on a couple of occasions, had lunch with him, even played basketball with him once. He spoke in class, was prepared on a daily basis and always had something funny to say. Knowing all of this, it has been totally impossible to make sense of how this could happen.

Most of us can't help but think that we could have done more or been better classmates and that maybe this could have made a difference. I know that it probably couldn't, and I also know that school probably had very little to do with this. It is a high-stress environment, but we haven't even really hit the stress yet.

I don't think there is really a lesson here because it makes so little sense. I have not had trouble focusing on my studies or had feelings like I don't want to do it. I am excited to be doing what I'm doing, and even when it's hard it hasn't gotten me down too much. In a perverse way, the events of this week have shown me just how lucky I am. I just want to keep moving forward and try to achieve my goals. But for now, that journey is pretty sad.

I regularly poke fun at Mom (with Kat often telling me not to in the background) about going to so many funerals. But when something affects you like this, I understand that you want to be able to say goodbye. So I'll be at a funeral on Monday (I don't know what the odds are that Mom will be at one as well, somewhere, but I think they have to be decent).

I don't know what this post is supposed to convey, but I felt the need to try to get some things down. In the end, this incident can't ever make sense to those of us who knew him only at school. But can any suicides of 22-year-olds ever make sense? Probably not. And I wish I didn't have to try.

In better news this week, on Tuesday Kat and I went to the Rilo Kiley show at the Rialto. It was quite awesome. All the best tunes from the past albums and the best ones off the new album as well. Best moment of the night: Jenny Lewis vamping along the front of the stage while playing cowbell on "Breakin' Up." Also, the supporting acts The Bird and the Bee and Grand Ole Party were good. You can hear them on iTunes (Kat had to download a few), but I couldn't find them on eMusic.

Other good news, I got all of my reading done for this weekend before the weekend, so I can outline all day today (Saturday). It should be a barrel of fun.

Last good news, Kat and I are going to Phoenix tomorrow to see our friend Tammy. She is moving soon to Reno where she and her fiance, Chris, have gotten jobs. They both worked with us previously in Yuma. We'll miss having a good friend in Phoenix (always helpful to save on parking at the airport during vacation!), but we're excited for her and Chris.

Also bonus last good news, we might go to the Arizona State Fair while in Phoenix. I think there is a chance we can procure and consume a candy-bar drizzled with caramel on a stick deep-fried in lard and honey and then stuffed inside a giant marshmallow, microwaved and then coated with other candy bars. If not that, then a funnel cake is always good!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Obscure Film Review

Netflix allows me to see movies I have never even heard of. Sometimes this is a good thing. While others times I hadn't heard of the film for a good reason: it wasn't very good. Today's review of a movie I had never heard of before last week is of "The King of Comedy," the least well-known of the Martin Scorsese-Robert De Niro collaborations.

The film came out in 1983 - I was 2 - and is about Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) an aspiring comedian with an unhealthy fixation on late-night host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). "King" borrows a bit from Psycho (Pupkin has recreated a set like Langford's in his mother's basement, though it appears his mother is still alive, not a skeleton). In fact, it could be alleged that Seinfeld ripped this film off in the "Merv Griffin Show" episode, but we'll have to save that for another day. Along with Psycho, the film follows the plotlines of many other "perverse fascination/assassination" films where a celebrity is abducted or murdered. After many attempts to have Langford listen to his audition tape, De Niro, who is only somewhat convincing as a down-on-his-luck geek, ends up abducting Lewis and holding him hostage with his release depending on De Niro being able to do his act on that night's show. De Niro does his predictably laughless act (I was born in Clifton, NJ - before that was a federal offense!) and then is arrested. In the interim, a crazy Sandra Bernhard acts crazily crazy in front of her love object Lewis. For this role, it was perfect casting.

De Niro is sent to prison, but when he gets out, he has a bestselling book, lots of comedy work and his face is known worldwide. And while every director whose film doesn't break the box office takes the time in the making-of DVD featurette to say the movie was "ahead of its time" - in this case, when Scorsese says it (and he does, let there be no doubt), it's actually true. Seeing this movie now makes a lot more sense to me than I think it would have to someone my age in 1983. The focus on celebrity is ubiquitous (or at least it seems like it is when you get three channels and they are always showing ET, Access Hollywood or the Emmys).

While movie watchers in 1983 may have been simply disturbed or bored by Rupert Pupkin (Scorsese said Entertainment Weekly called the movie the biggest flop of the year at the time), I think today's celebrity-soaked sycophants would be pulling for him. Pupkin gets his 900 seconds of notoriety (avoid cliches like the plague...whoops!), and I can't help but feel that lots of people would trade places with him, including the stint in prison.

I don't know what this means for me, you, our society, etc. Maybe we aren't better off than we were in 1983, that simpler time of almost a quarter century ago. But I know one thing: DVDs and Netflix didn't exist then, so this conversation probably wouldn't be happening. So although I have to put up with the Britney guy, Mike Patrick, Mike Gundy and sneezing pandas, I don't mind. I'll get by.

Quick obscure film side note: I was reading a book that mentioned a 1978 film called "The Big Fix" starring Richard Dreyfuss. I wish it were on DVD because I've heard it's good. But alas, it is not. I was wondering if some of my...ahem...older readers had possibly seen this film or were aware of it at the time. The book I was reading that mentioned the film excerpted a great line in which Dreyfuss, playing Private Investigator Moses Wine is asked why his arm is broken. His reply is priceless:

"You know, a couple of cops hassling a black kid."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Heavy Thunderstorm Edition

We are in the midst of quite a storm tonight in Tucson. The windows have been rattling with the booms of thunder and the lightning has been quite impressive. I feel as though I'm being transported back to my youth in Nebraska when loud thunderstorms often kept me awake at night. Back then, I thought that every storm meant there would be a tornado, and thus, I think I bothered my parents quite a bit. I always wanted to sleep downstairs, even though they knew there was really no danger. They were nice enough to let me do that (or even crawl in with them when I was really small). Living with a poodle that likes nothing better than to sleep right on top of you every night has taught me what a large sacrifice my parents were willing to make. I still very much appreciate it, though I'm glad I don't have those same fears anymore.

I have new and different fears, but they seem much more easy to deal with than storms I had no control over. Thinking back to one's childhood can make that past life seem very simple or very complicated. It can do the same for one's adult life as well. Life as a 6-year-old may have seemed like a piece of cake, but I had a lot about which to be irrationally afraid. These days I have a lot to be irrationally afraid about as well - the difference is that now I know it is irrational. That is a piece of wisdom which I must regularly remind myself. I guess it is nothing more than the trope that "it's all small stuff."

But I know for certain that bolts of lightning that lit up my walls adorned with sports stars and loud thunderclaps that had me covering my ears did not feel like small stuff. That's when you need people you can turn to. In that room where I would bother my parents on stormy nights, there was a message on the wall that said something about giving two things to your children: "the first is roots, the last wings." I can recall reading that as a child and not really understanding it - I think for a while I thought when I grew up I'd literally be able to fly. But when I think back on it now with a better understanding of what it means, I have to thank my parents for doing just that.

I realize that this has come off as equal parts Prairie Home Companion and back-to-school special, but I can't really help it. I once had a discussion with my dad about whether Garrison Keillor was actually funny or simply had a better memory than every Midwesterner. My dad said he was funny, while I felt that he could just remember the names of long-forgotten toys and grocery items so well that listeners simply remembered the humor of their own childhood.

But like many things, I find now that I was wrong. When I think about home, I can remember every single thing that was hung on the walls and every single piled box in the garage. I don't know what it is like now, but I can tell you exactly how it was then. And if Garrison Keillor could tell me a story that reminded me about being afraid of tornadoes, drinking cranberry juice, being trapped with friends in our house without electricity and without parents, or watching the 49ers in the Super Bowl, I'd laugh, too.

If I wasn't crying.

(Sorry about that. I don't really know where all that came from, but I felt like it was somewhat real, so I'm leaving it. I'll probably regret it, but it's OK. I'll have my regularly scheduled nonsense soon. Here is a link, via The Basketball Jones, that I am currently enjoying.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sunday Night is Blogging Night in America

I've been told that keeping a journal during law school is a good idea. I haven't been doing it - but then again, I haven't been following much of the advice I've been given. To follow more than half of it is impossible because most of it is contradictory. However, I was hoping that every Sunday night I could blog about law school. Maybe I won't be quite as open as I would be if no one could read it, but since the readership of this blog isn't exactly in the hundreds, I'll probably be fine.

So far my routine every Sunday night has been to
1. shave for the only time I will all week
2. burn my entire library of law school-related documents (assignments, notes, powerpoints, etc.) to a CD to prepare for either my laptop freezing, being broken or being stolen and
3. worry obsessively about the coming week.
I have no plans to change this procedure, although I threw in a step 2.5 tonight with a haircut, thanks to Kat's fine work with a pair of scissors.

I have my usual fear, but I have fallen into a bit of a routine when it comes to school. In part, this causes me apprehension (the imminence of which is an element for the civil tort of assault!) because I don't want it to get so comfortable that I forget that I'm not actually learning everything I should. But on the other hand (as we're always taught to consider in law school), it doesn't help the learning process to be on edge every single day.
But I don't think the anxiety will probably ever go away for me. In each class there is only one graded assignment - the exam at the end. So you can never know how you are doing until you really find out how you did. But it is the same situation for everybody, so there is really no reason to complain. I think everything will be fine, but confidence isn't my strong suit.

However, I'll close with two good things in an attempt to lighten the mood.
1. I was chosen as one of two Student Bar Association representatives for my section of the class. This was a good thing.
2. I found some law students with whom to play basketball every Friday. This is also a good thing.

In closing, I don't think this post was helpful to anyone probably. If you think I should do the law school kvetching in a private notebook and save the blog for talking about Ed Hochuli's prodigious guns or other sports minutiae feel free to let me know. Or if you like the pallor that this post has thrown over the entire enterprise feel free to let me know that, too.
OK, I hope to see you in a week.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I know, I know

I haven't blogged in an epoch because I've been trying to learn the meaning of justiciability (as well as how to say it!) and about a thousand other things that are hard to say and harder to understand. Someday I'll get back to blogging, but I'll be less interesting. That is a disturbing consideration for people who have read my blogs previously because they obviously aren't page-turners.
Despite what it may be doing to my sense of humor (and my psyche) I like law school. It's fun in a way most people would consider totally not fun.
I'll try to blog now and then about topics wholly unrelated to law school because no one wants to read about me rambling around in the darkness. But right now I have no other thoughts outside of law school, so you'll have to content yourself with this. Sorry.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer of Jeffrey comes to an end

As I type this it is my final day of non-law school freedom. I'm both excited and mortified about getting started. I've had a good summer and appreciate Kat for allowing me to live the life of the idle rich at least for awhile.

All the preparations have been made for law school - tuition paid for, laptop bought, books purchased, loans in arrears, fingernails nonexistent, fears in overdrive. I busted out my old laptop today as sort of a bridge to when I was last in school. I played some of my old mp3s (sadly trapped on the antiquated machine because it crashes if I try to use the disk drive), played a few games of Minesweeper and thought about what I liked about school in the first place.

I've written in this space and others about this matter for quite some time, and I think everyone is quite bored with it. It appears that it is time for me to put up or shut up. I'll let you know which way it goes.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Adventures in Computer Purchasing

(Note appended after I was done writing: This is long. It is in the spirit of "The Worst Thanksgiving in the History of the World Ever," which was a family favorite, although I can find no proof of it online. Also, there is a point made at the end that some may find poignant or at least not totally horrible. If you like, you can just skip down to there and read that.)

I am a rube.

And apparently, employees of electronics superstores can sense this. That, and my constant bad lucks, are the only explanations for what I've been through over the last few days. I was finally ready to buy a new laptop computer for law school. My trusty Compaq Presario (purchased in the summer of 1999 at Circuit City, I believe) still works, although there is only one hamster still alive and he is now very aged. But I'm impressed that it can still even turn on eight years after the fact. But obviously, that computer is not good enough. And Kat would like to retain control of her IBM Thinkpad because, after all, it is hers and I don't have a great track record in protecting her computers (no link available but it involved a sweet MacBook now theoretically being used by a Northwest Airlines baggage handler).

So it was clear that I needed a new unit. I checked out Circuit City and Best Buy and liked the prices, but the good prices are for computers that don't have enough memory to actually run Windows Vista at the same time as doing much else. So I had to bump up to 2 gigs of RAM and I wanted the Intel Core Duo processor for the speed as well as a CrystalBrite screen and, of course, at least a 2 MB L2 cache. (I stopped knowing what I was writing about a few sentences ago if that wasn't abundantly clear).

And therein lies my problem, I couldn't really justify why I wanted what I wanted, but Kat sought out the opinion of her father, who actually knows things. I would have liked to have asked The Smartest Man I Know but I couldn't really reach him. So rather than going to Best Buy or Circuit City, I decided to make the purchase at Play It Again Sports. Now most people would think that would be a terrible place to buy a laptop - and they would be right. At Play It Again I got a sweet dartboard with darts for only $11.98. Then I went home, grabbed the BB and CC circulars (which are actually rectangular, but stay with me) and reared back and fired.
The lucky computer was the Aspire 5630 by Acer. Maybe you have never heard of this computer or computer company, but I had little choice. I had to trust the darts.

The next morning I tromped to CC and stood in front of my chosen notebook PC. And stood there and stood there. They must not be working on commission at CC or else I had achieved my goal of becoming invisible. (However, if I became invisible, the computer department of CC would not be one of the first 333,000 places I would go). Finally, I had to loudly say "Sir," to a man who did not deserve to be called "Sir." He deigned to look up from his MySpace page long enough to say he'd "Be right there." He wasn't. Finally, he sauntered over and I said "I'll take this one." He said "I'll see if we have it in stock." I knew they did because I had looked online. At this point, after 10 minutes of research, I was smarter than most actual employees of CC. When he said "We do have it," I pretended to be surprised and happy. (I didn't do a very good job of it.) We wandered over to his work kiosk, which appeared to be a Commodore 64 that had been poorly taken care of.

And this is where the story starts getting really sad. The employee asked me, in what I considered a rather accusatory tone, "Why are you going with the Acer?" This was the last thing I wanted, to be forced to justify my purchase. I had plenty of answers I could give: "It's not for me," "Silence, plebe," or "My father-in-law said it was good, and I'd be crazy to disagree with him, for obvious reasons." Instead as I almost always do, I went the meek, frightened route. I said, "Acer is a good brand, it's just that not a lot of people know much about it." The employee said "Oh yeah, it's a good computer." I could sense he did not know what he was talking about because he sounded like me when I talk about computers.

Since new PCs come loaded with Vista but not Microsoft Office, I purchased the Office Home and Student 2007 and just went ahead and had the CC retreads install the software because I didn't really want to. (In the olden times, like when I bought that Presario, it came loaded with Office 97, and we liked it that way!) So I left at 11 a.m. and came back at 2:30 p.m. to pick up my computer. I drove home excited to jump right in and see what great graphics changes Microsoft had made to Freecell in Vista.

For the next three hours I customized the computer to my liking, got only the gadgets I liked, downloaded a few programs and set up Windows Calendar. It was a rather enjoyable afternoon. The computer was working quite well. I even sent a celebratory e-mail from the new machine. My horrible CC experience was in the rear-view and things were looking up. But then Kat came home.

She came in the house and put her phone on the table. She recently purchased a Bluetooth headset to try to simplify things when she is driving and talking. The new computer is set up to communicate with Bluetooth devices, although I don't really have need for it at this point. But this is when the story gets murky. I was looking at my computer screen when her phone rang (it was her Mom calling) and the screen started to bounce rather crazily in rhythm with the rings. That continued until the screen was nothing but stripes. I said it looked like one of M.C. Escher's nightmares, and I even took a photo in case that would be needed later (see, thinking like a lawyer, maybe I'll just take the bar now and skip that school part).


We restarted the computer but the screen didn't improve. We could vaguely see some icons, but this was no way to use a computer. Since I had only had the computer for about three and a half hours, we decided to schlep back to CC and show them. In CC's defense, I will say they were nice enough to say "Yeah, that thing is totally screwed up, we'll just give you another one." So we went up to the front and they brought out another Acer. However, the employee who brought the computer out to the front was tapping out some rhythms on the box right in front of me. "I wanted to say 'Hey buddy, this is not CC Music Factory, how 'bout you cool it with the McFerrin on my $700 purchase, eh broheems?" Instead, I went the "meek, frightened route" as is my wont and leaned over to Kat and whisperingly referred to him as "Ricky Retardo." Now, I know that's harsh, but no one heard it. Also, I stole that line from The Film Crew's riffing on Hollywood After Dark - now available on NetFlix instant viewing!

So after they handed me my new bass drum, I mean, computer, I took it back to the tech guys to install Office again. Kat and I went shopping and had a bite to eat, came back, picked it up and went home. I was too afraid to deal with more problems, so I waited until the next day. Everything has been good with the computer and I'm typing this on it now.

To return to what caused the first computer to freak out, I don't know if it was Bluetooth, simply the phone creating interference or if it was completely a coincidence. I think there was a bad connection somewhere that made the screen prone to problems. If The Smartest Man I Know has some time, he could "diagnose" what happened and then fill me in. I hope that everything works out with the new computer. As long as it can dutifully save Word documents I think it should be fine.

Whenever I have a bad experience akin to this, which is regularly to my dismay, I ask "Why does this happen to me?" When I was in my formative years, I had a T-shirt that said "If I didn't have back luck, I'd have no luck at all." I think it was a gift because it wasn't the sort of thing I'd ask for. But looking back on it, it was rather fitting (literally and figuratively). Because the bad luck (and it wasn't all bad, obviously) made me who I was. While bad luck can be difficult as it is happening, it's always worth a laugh later. The shirt should have said, "If I didn't have back luck, I'd have no stories at all." And that's how I feel. Nothing is better than looking back and telling a humorous tale of woe from a happier spot. And that's what I've enjoyed writing this. Now I realize, no one will have read this far, but it was worth it anyway.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

That's it ... That's the list

I wanted to create a list of the 10 (or some other arbitrary figure) greatest long, huge, rambling album-closing songs of all time. But since I don't have the expertise or musical chops for that, instead I present an arbitrary number of my favorite long, huge, rambling album-closing songs from my music collection

Cursive "Staying Alive" - It's a truly fierce race for number one, but in the end I think this is the best song of the lot because of the mantra-like finish of intoning "The worst is over." It definitely beats jai ya and is something I tell myself regularly.

Bright Eyes "Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and to be Loved)" - A truly great song both lyrically and musically. This is the standard bearer for enormousness from the opening timpani roll to the hoots of applause at the close of the song and the array of sounds that comes after it.

Black Star "Twice Inna Lifetime" - While not as large as some of the others, this song includes Mos Def and Kweli along with Jane Doe, Punchline and the criminally underrated Wordsworth, whose puns earn this song a spot by themselves. At only 5:38, this is about the shortest that a rambling album-closer can be.

The Decemberists "California One Youth and Beauty Brigade" - The closer to Castaways and Cutouts is 9:50 long. It evokes wine, sea winds and sunny afternoons. After a listen, everyone will want to join the youth and beauty brigade.

My Morning Jacket "Dondante" - There's a lot going on here, like there is for many of the songs by this jam band. While it is more about the music than the lyrics, the closer "You had me worried, so worried that this would last, but now I'm learning that this will pass," works very well as a mantra.

Honorable mention for songs that would have been in this list if they had been album-closers rather than in the middle of the album includes "Inmates" by The Good Life and two by Death Cab for Cutie: "Transatlanticism" and "Different Names for the Same Thing." I think "Transatlanticism" is the best example of what I mean when I'm talking about these types of songs. Never have the words "Come On" been so meaningful.

I decided to create this list because A) it was one of the few lists that VH1 hasn't already done and B) there is a song I've been spinnin' that I thought could have made this list, but in the end didn't. That song is "In Our Bedroom After the War" off the new Stars album of the same name. Briefly, I enjoy the album but they obviously had a tough task ahead of them because "Set Yourself on Fire" is so good. The album closer was good, but not great. But I still recommend the album. My favorites are "The Night Starts Here," "Take Me to the Riot" and "Personal." While I'm not a huge fan of "Barricade," it did take me directly back to seeing Les Miserables in the Lied Center with my mom. If that's what you want, I'd suggest picking it up. This album is available digitally but not in stores because Stars released it for purchase after it was leaked. I'll be interested to see if they're actually able to sell many albums in stores in September when the disc is released.

Also, I've been enjoying the album "Cookies" by 1990s, especially "Cult Status" and "Situation." This Scottish rock band veers more toward the short songs than long, rambling, opuses, so no additions to the list to be found there.

I'm sure the long, rambling album-closer has been a musical staple for years, but I just don't have the knowledge to know. It seems like Saddle Creek bands enjoy making those songs, which is great since I enjoy listening to them. Anyone with additions to the list from recent records or even albums from the past are encouraged to add them in the comments. While I think most people scan right through a gigantic 10-minute song at the end of the album, it's what I enjoy. I like nothing better than getting to that song and listening as I move on down the road for the next 8 to 10 miles as the music rises and falls, changes and then closes with a repeating whispered refrain.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Cute Poodle Under a Blanket


First, I offer a picture of a cute poodle under a blanket. That was to give people who aren't interested in the NBA a reason to at least look at this post.

But now to what I'm really here to talk about: KG, The Truth and Jesus Shuttlesworth together in Beantown. I know about my previous "the NBA is dead to me" comments, which were pretty well-timed if you ask me, what with the "we're rigging the games for gamblers" story that came out soon after. But since I have been a Celtic fan much longer than a Suns fan, I'm happy to see the C's new direction. They won't win a title, and I doubt seriously if they'll even get to the NBA Finals, but I think they'll definitely contend. I think those three studs and two Gautreaux brothers could probably contend in the Eastern Conference.

What has surprised me is that many of the polls taken by Boston newspapers have shown that the fans are reluctant to go through with the trade. I was listening to a podcast in which a caller, who sounded borderline suicidal, called it a terrible trade because Boston was giving up Al Jefferson. I haven't watched much of the Jefferson era, mainly because the Celtics have been only marginal better than some college teams during that span, but I can't say that I've been superbly impressed. I never said "Boy, Jefferson is as good as Garnett and will soon be better." I would have said things more like "If Minnesota offered Garnett, the C's should trade Jefferson plus nearly everyone else on their roster for the chance to get him in uniform."

Ay, there's the rub. (I knew I had some rub left).

Whereas a team like Portland seems like they have far too many players, the Celtics don't seem like they will have enough. They'll obviously be going 3 on 5 in most cases anyway, but it would help if they had at least a few decent role players. But I still feel that on most nights, the Celtics should beat most teams in the East. Garnett should manhandle most of the power forwards and having Ray Allen on the perimeter is going to make double-teaming treacherous for defenses.

Fans who worry about what Jefferson or Gerald Green or Gomes may become should consider what they have had to watch for the past few years. A horrible team being coached horribly and managed horribly. Now, they won't have to worry about how ping pong balls fall or trying to lose on purpose, they can watch three guys who badly want to win who probably won't let the incompetence surrounding them stop them from succeeding. While the ownership hasn't instilled confidence, at least they are showing a willingness to pay the luxury tax to have three All-Star caliber players on the squad. That, in itself, is a step forward.

What Danny Ainge does from here on out will be important. If he can snag some good role players it will help immensely. His problem is that after stockpiling assets for years (code for sucking in general and often losing on purpose), he has no assets left. Juan Carlos Navarro would be a great addition as would Ime Udoka from Portland (where he'll probably be squeezed out since they have about 75 guys under contract), however those players may be too pricy.

Lastly, on the topic of the Ainge-Kevin McHale-ghost of Red Auerbach conspiracy theory, I don't know that McHale could have done much better in what he got for KG. The Wolves were getting desperate to trade him, and thus, were hard-pressed to find suitors offering anything near value. They didn't get value for Garnett, but at least they got a lot of stuff: picks, expiring contracts, some players with potential that could be realized, and, of course, Jefferson. McHale has made some atrocious moves in the past, but I don't think you can call this a bad move. And the other teams in the KG Sweepstakes were not offering near the quantity the Celtics could. The Mavs, Lakers and Suns just didn't have the flexibility to do it and plus they are in the West. It seems over the past few years, the T-Wolves have been the Celtics farm team, as pointed out elsewhere, but maybe they are now set up to build going forward. They have Foye, Jefferson, Brewer, Craig Smith and picks to build with. I think they'll be very bad this coming season, which will mean a high draft pick.

Finally, on the C's, I think they'll be good. I think the injuries concerns are a bit blown out of proportion, although I was intrigued by this line in Jackie MacMullan's column on the trade: "Pierce will turn 30 in October and is coming off the first major injury of his career." Umm, what about that whole getting stabbed and nearly dying thing?

But I digress. My point is the Celtics will be relevant and they will be successful. In the Atlantic Division, I feel they shouldn't have difficulty with New Jersey's clearly inferior Big Three, the somewhat intriguing trainwreck that is the Knicks, the rather putrid Sixers and even the resurgent Raptors. Those squads shouldn't be in the reincarnated C's league. But of course, that's why they play the games. I may look back at this when Garnett is sulking, Allen is injured and Pierce is morose and just have to laugh. But for me, it won't matter. My NBA interest is over, after all:

"Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door, they're going to be gray and old."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Tucson Visit Journal

First rule of effective storytelling: Let the pictures be the words. Ergo, here is the story of Elliott and Mom's visit to Tucson.

It was "Pick Your Own Section" night at Tucson Electric Park when the Arizona Diamondbacks AAA team, the Tucson Sidewinders, took on the Round Rock Express, the AAA team for the Houston Astros. Our presence spurred the 'Winders to a whopping one hit in 10 innings. The Express won 1-0. Diamondbacks RF Carlos Quentin played right field and got the only hit for Tucson. We also saw Tim Raines, Jr. and an Express pitcher named Stephen Randolph who will probably be in the bigs soon.

Lloyd with the ball that Carlos Quentin threw to him after the third out in the later innings. We yelled to Carlos to throw it to us and, since we were the only people in roughly the same zip code, he tossed it to us. (If it wasn't clear, the Sidewinders are moving to Reno, where they hope to actually have some fan and community support).
One other baseball game story to mention: Tucson's catcher was named Josh Hammock. I said he was only down in AAA because of his laziness (he's always lying around!) and because the D-Backs regular catcher "Steve Bed" had come back from the DL. This led Mom to chime in that they should be joined by "Sammy Sofa," which we all agreed was pretty solid for Mom.
Later, when Hammock came to bat with a chance to break the game open with a hit, I said "Don't sleep on Hammock!" but alas, he grounded out.

The Air Force One that was used by Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson is on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum. It was quite small inside and has very little to do with the enormous 757 AFO currently in use. I think my blogs have had more photos of AFO than just about any other. The museum was impressive, although it would not have been as enlightening without Lloyd there to "ex-plane" things. We saw the T-38 trainer that Lloyd will likely fly in flight school. We also saw some B-52s, an SR-71 and some C-130s - the plane Lloyd hopes is not in his future.

This photo of the mildly famous City of Yuma endurance plane was in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame, which included such luminaries as John McCain and others. For the story on the plane, see this article by a reporter J. Geatreux (not sure on the spelling really).

This is the view inside Biosphere 2. It was an interesting tour through a place that was very relevant 15 years ago, but is now hardly thought of. Our tour guide, who has worked at Biosphere for 16 years, seemed incapable of speaking about the place objectively. One person asked a simple question about whether those inside had to be given food from outside during their two-year stay, the tour guide quickly became agitated and made this rather bold statement: Every book you have read about Biosphere has been nothing but lies. It seems he didn't like the press coverage - which I remember nothing of - but it seems that the media deemed the project a failure because oxygen had to be pumped in from outside because the CO2 levels were becoming too high. There was also talk that those inside were having difficulty getting along.
I asked an innocent question about a crack in one of the panes of glass. The tour guide told me it was "an optical illusion." He explained that really, since the glass was so thick and double-paned with plastic in between, the crack would not allow any outside air or water to get in. That was fine, but saying that what I can clearly see in front of me an optical illusion is a bit disingenous. I just wanted to know if the crack occurred during the experiments or after, the tour guide said it was unknown.
Going through Biosphere 2 gives one the feeling that he or she is touring a once-proud giant fallen on hard times. I couldn't help but think of Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. It seemed Biosphere 2 was saying, "I am big. It's the ecosystems that got small." The facility is no longer hermetically sealed, and it is unknown how many animals and insects are still alive. We did seem some birds and fish, but basically the facility has been allowed to age with only minimal upkeep. I think it is worth a visit just to see the 4 acre human terrarium where eight individuals stayed locked inside for a full two years. And, so you can call it this, like Lloyd and I were.

In the desert biome inside Biosphere 2.

Mom and Elliott on the way inside. More photos may be available on Flickr. I only have 200 to play with, so we'll see. And finally, for some more enjoyment, the final installment of the facial hair series.

Are you my Caucasian?

Enjoy it because it won't be around much longer.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Facial Hair Report Card

Mustache: F. Wispy, borderline nonexistent, underachieving, pathetic. It would get less than an F if that were possible.

Sideburns: B. Consistently successful, although on occasion they can get too curly and point out from the side of my head. Inability to keep them both at the same height -- due to bad maintenance and a very lopsided head -- keeps this from being an A.

Beard: C-. Looks good after exactly two and a half days of growth but begins looking bad after three days. Also, it becomes unbearably itchy, forcing me to shave it even though it doesn't look horrible.

Overall: D+. I'm starting to realize that some men (and most women) should not have facial hair. Here is how you can tell whether facial hair is right for you: if you look anything like this when you have it, you shouldn't.


If you don't look like that, it might be OK. And oh yeah, a shoutout to Lloyd's current "Air Force Casual" mustache and beard and to any and all of Keith's beards of the past.

And lastly, enjoy this facial hair link and its Top Sports Mustache of All Time contest.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Newsweek continues to troll the Boom for story ideas

In a development that can only be considered a big coincidence (there can be both small and big coincidences, despite what some foreign authors may tell you) Newsweek has chosen this particular week to write an article about ESPN's lack of reportorial distance and skepticism (via The Big Lead). I'm not saying with certainty that they read this, I'm just saying it's a possibility.

However, you should read the Newsweek article because it does a good job of hitting on the problems with ESPN in a more clear fashion than I can. And really, I don't know if I should even comment on the Leader since, like some other people, I don't even have cable anymore.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Some More Stuff

Kat and I snagged the new Interpol album last night. It's top-notch, unsurprisingly. I like The Heinreich Maneuver, The Scale, All Fired Up and Rest My Chemistry. But my favorite track is Pace Is The Trick. Obviously, I've already listed most of the album, so it has my approval.
If you didn't see this, it's worth a look. A little fun at the band's expense over their strange lyrics.

Also, this post is really only for one reason: this excellent photo at that one wedding everybody was saying so much about.

Ciao!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Status Update

Things are going well. I don't want to jinx it, but everything appears in place for school, so I will be able to pay for it, continue to eat, have clothing and, most importantly, I believe, learn something. However, I won't be certain about this until about a month from now.
Other than that, Kat and I have been just enjoying Tucson when it isn't too hot. Last night, we went here and listened to French songstress and siren Marianne Dissard who can be checked out here and here. It was quite fun.

We traveled up Mount Lemmon on July 4th to see the fireworks over Tucson. We saw about six or seven different shows from across the city, which was a pretty cool experience. However, seeing the explosions without the attendant booms can be a bit disorienting and some would say disappointing.

I've been reading at a high rate. The latest have been The Fraternity: Lawyers and Judges in Collusion – John Fitzgerald Molloy (a longtime Tucson lawyer and judge and currently a Tucson resident); The Majesty of the Law: Reflections of a Supreme Court Justice – Sandra Day O’Connor; Fools Rush In: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Unmaking of AOL Time Warner – Nina Munk; Fantasyland: A Sportswriter’s Obsessive Bid to Win the World’s Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseball League – Sam Walker; A Civil Action – Jonathan Harr (what I decided was the scariest book any aspiring lawyer could read); Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business and Bad Medicine – Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele; The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America – Erik Larson; and Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend – Mitchell Zuckoff. I probably most enjoyed Devil in the White City (tip of the hat to Keith on that one) because it best mixed an extremely interesting era in American history with the legend of a frightening serial killer that has not widely been told previously. I recommend it if you get a chance. There have been talks about a movie (as there are with any successful book), but you should read it first.

I downloaded the newest Spoon album, the interestingly-titled Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, yesterday from eMusic (another tip of the hat to Keith and one to Shaleah) and have enjoyed it so far. I might need more spins before I have a definitive opinion. I really liked "Don't Make Me A Target" and "Black Like Me" on first listen. I also enjoyed "The Underdog." Kat and I plan to purchase the new Interpol CD Your Love to Admire, and I'll let you know what I think of that one. Those guys have built up enough goodwill with me that I doubt I can even be objective.

I continue to get up quite early in the morning to play basketball. And I continue to putter around the apartment doing chores and running errands. I think I'm good at it, but I don't think I'm really delivering that much if one were to actually place a dollar value on it. However, every time I do the three or four things Kat writes down to get done, she seems impressed. Low expectations baby, it's the name of the game.

Lastly, I'm trying to grow a moustache because I really have the time to devote to it. Here is a look at the project so far. There is definitely a long way to go. I had the idea earlier in the summer but didn't have the guts to follow through. But after seeing Mark Ruffalo's sweet 'stache in Safe Men (a rather forgettable film Kat and I Netflixed, I can't even really recommend it, although it includes Paul Giamatti as the unfortunately named Veal Chop), I was inspired. The real thing in the film was even better than this, but I couldn't find a good one.

Anyway, here is the latest progress. It's nothing spectacular, but it could be.

And here, apparently, is Kat's vision:

Friday, July 6, 2007

An Important Announcement from ESPN

To: All Media
From: ESPN and the ESPN Family of Networks
For Immediate Release
7-6-07

ESPN Announces It Will Focus All of Its Coverage Solely on ESPN and ESPN-related Partnerships

ESPN today announces that from this day forth all of its coverage on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Classic, ESPN Radio espn.com and any other ESPN-affiliated media outlets will be focused solely on ESPN itself. ESPN began as a small cable television station that focused on reporting on the events of the exciting world of sports, but in growing into a large multinational media conglomerate, ESPN, according to its executive team, has found that its work is best suited to covering itself.

“Our viewers, readers and listeners have long enjoyed the fact that we provided the most complete in sports coverage – of everything from NBA Basketball to stock-car racing to Saturday morning hunting shows,” said Mark White, ESPN executive in charge of self-promotion. “But as our product has evolved and our creativity has diminished, it seems that what we do best, and what we really enjoy, is covering ourselves. Whether it is the ESPYs, Who’s Now or our hilarious and exceedingly self-indulgent commercials, we feel best when we are talking about us.”

White pointed to the recent issue of ESPN The Magazine as an example of ESPN’s direction. The front cover has NBA star LeBron James and “comedian” Jimmy Kimmel, the hosts of the ESPYs, talking about how they are going to do a great job of hosting the ESPYs. “Sure, there’s a lot of real sports news going on – the Anaheim Angels, the slumping Yankees, Wimbledon, steroids and dogfighting,” White said. “But what is important is making sure that the readers of our magazine know about us and what we are promoting. The fact that Kimmel hosts a show on ABC, which is owned by the same corporation that owns ESPN, only adds to the synergy and excitement.”

Also, White was quick to point out that the cover wasn't the only example of ESPN keeping a close eye on itself. In the "popular" Outtakes interview in the back, ESPN personality Dan Patrick interviews actor John Turturro, who will soon appear in a movie made by ESPN Films that will air on ESPN. "Isn't that nice how that all works out?" White said.

White offers ESPN insider insight into the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine.

White acknowledges that some ESPN watchers will be disappointed that sports are no longer the focus, but he says they had to have seen this coming. He pointed to the work of Pedro Gomez, Stephen A. Smith and other reporters as proof that ESPN has already made plenty of steps toward shining the coverage on itself, rather than what occurs on the court or field. “We at ESPN saw how Oprah Winfrey is on the cover of her magazine every single month and decided that since we were going in this direction already, we might as well jump in whole hog,” White said. “The point is that we will tell you what is important in the world of sports – and what is important is ESPN and its many and various other entities.”

As part of the new focus, upcoming segments on SportsCenter will include an interview with Stephen A. Smith’s voice coach, a look inside Chris Berman’s poolhouse and a batch of Top Plays devoted to Scott Van Pelt’s top 10 voicemail messages left on the phones of chicks he met at bars.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stealing Thunder


I know that few of the people that read Kat's extremely popular blog also read mine, however, I did want to be the first to unveil her cutest bed creation ever!
I don't have the receipts to know what it cost and I don't want to, but just bask in the cuteness that is a yellow Anthropologie bedskirt, green with white polka dots Isaac Mizrahi Target sheets and a soft cotton Navy blue comforter. And, of course, a poodle with X-ray eyes.
I'm not even sure if I'm still qualified to lay in the bed because of my overall lack of style and couture (whatever that means), but I'll have to talk to Kat.
And to close, here is a photo I took this morning while at the laundromat washing and drying the metric ton of linens Kat has accumulated in her neverending quest for CTE (cutest thing ever!). Needless to say, the soda machine company could use a remedial currency spelling course.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Third Reading Circle (Of Hell!!!)

Today's review is of two recent books that focus on baseball - although to varying degrees. Feeding The Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top by Seth Mnookin is a detailed history of the Boston Red Sox from their purchase for a record $660 million in 2001 to their World Series victory in 2004 and beyond. While generally they cannot match their hated rivals for soap opera, Mnookin shows enough behind the scenes vignettes to make it clear that there was always a lot going on in the Sox clubhouse and in the front office. It seems amazing that the team was actually able to play well on the field, considering the distractions, but in 2004 the Sox had the correct mix of "Idiots" to ensure that nothing bothered them.
No detail is spared and the Boston media doesn't come out looking too good in the book, but at some times a reader feels that maybe they are missing the forest because every single detail of every single branch of every single tree is being described. One of the important points of contention in the book revolves around a proposed trade for Larry Bigbie, yeah, that Larry Bigbie. The guy I hadn't thought of in about five years - if I'd even thought of him at all. While it is nice to know the backstory about such an interesting team, one feels like if there is an overarching theme or synthesis that allowed the 86-year-old streak to be broken, one has no idea what it is. But then again, I may just be a poor audience for good writing. I can recommend this book, Hard News, also by Mnookin, and his blog, which is great because it takes the New York Times' baseball writer Murray Chass to task for his nonsense.
It is quite illuminating to read the book now - as the Sox streak toward what could be another championship. It seems general manager Theo Epstein and the front office learned a lot from losing in 2003 and even winning in 2004. The current Red Sox are heavy on pitching, have good guys to put around Manny and Ortiz and seem to be focused on little beyond winning games. (Schilling can still be a bit of a pain, but clearly Beckett is the #1 now, which is good). The '07 Sox are a sabermetric dream and have their pitching in order - whereas the Yankees have kept buying bats with little concern about who is actually on the mound.
Now the heartbreak will probably be worse this year if Boston doesn't win the series because they are so good, but the management has set up a team that can compete long-term. While 04 was crazy, 07 seems relatively sane. I like Boston's chances even more this year, and maybe that is just what the book meant for me to figure out.
In the last reading circle (which I'm sure you all read numerous times and took notes on) I criticized the book that focused on too many different topics and lauded the one with focus, well this week, the tables are turned, because while I like "Monster," I'm going to recommend Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning: 1977, Baseball, Politics, and the Battle for the Soul of a City by Jonathan Mahler. The book is about just what the title says, and while I haven't visited New York and was not around in 1977, I feel like I know quite a bit more thanks to Mahler. Reading the tales about Ed Koch, Reggie Jackson, the blackout and the Son of Sam effectively brings one there to feel the heat and fear the looting.
As a baseball player, Jackson was a force that I never really got a handle on because I never saw him play and didn't quite understand the mystique. But reading the book reveals a conflicted character who had a perfect foil in Billy Martin. The trope is that only teamwork can deliver championships, but Mahler shows that the Yankees Steinbrenner purchased in 1977 who not pulling in one direction (more like about 10 different directions), but had the talent to overcome this fact and win. I wouldn't recommend it as a training manual, but it is a fun read. And it briefly includes Murray Chass (from 30 years ago doing his same job) seemingly a little bit better at that time.
Some of this territory was covered in Spike Lee's film (or joint, if you will) Summer of Sam, which I saw, but don't really remember that well. But the sections on Berkowitz are limited in the book, which focuses more on the mayor's race, the blackout and the Yankees.
For those who prefer the written word in visual form, a miniseries adaptation of the book will be airing on ESPN starting next month. Of course, remember this is ESPN, the studio(?!) that brought you Junction Boys (horrifically unentertaining, according to those who braved it), Playmakers (cancelled at the NFL's urging if ESPN wanted to keep airing the league's games), A Season on the Brink (which included Brian Dennehy eating his way through all of Canada's scenery as Bob Knight) and probably some other bad ones I'm forgetting.
However, the cast sounds somewhat promising, especially John Turturro as Billy Martin. Shooter McGavin as Joe DiMaggio? Maybe not, but DiMaggio isn't really a huge part of the book. I can't really recommend the series or not recommend it, but at least you have the information.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Second Reading Circle (Of Hell!)

I have made it known that my interest in the NBA is over, but some, for good reason probably, believe that I will relapse. As part of the cleansing process to ensure the end of my fandom, I chose to read two books devoted obsessively to the topic as sort of a "you have to hit rock bottom first in order to get cured" gambit.
The books were Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Journey into the Heart of Fan Mania by Warren St. John and To Hate Like This is to be Happy Forever: A Thoroughly Obsessive, Intermittently Uplifting, and Occasionally Unbiased Account of the Duke-North Carolina Basketball Rivalry by Will Blythe. The beauty of writing reviews of these two books is that once you've actually listed the titles, you need only about 100 more words and you're done.
Hammer is the story of how St. John followed the Alabama Crimson Tide football team around during a season among the group of RVers who traveled to all of the games. It is a rollicking account that shows a rather absurd level of fanaticism on the part of the fans. Of course, these are the same people who showed up 92,000 strong at the recent Spring Game to get their first look at the spawn of Saban. St. John's book is simply a lot of fun. The tales of drunken Tide fans is enough for numerous laugh out loud moments that are the kinds of stories one sees on Cops. Despite the cursing, the drinking, the spitting, the fighting, racism and the all-around distasteful activities of those portrayed, St. John shows that at heart they love their team. They are driven (literally hundreds of miles each weekend) not first and foremost because they hate the other side (although they do), but it seems rather because they love the Tide.
This reason for being a fanatic, love rather than hate, isn't the point of Blythe's book. He is looking at why hating Duke is for him, a UNC grad, basically nothing more than a bodily function. Excusing the double negative, he can't not do it. But being driven by hate isn't a happy experience - it makes wins relief and losses tragic. Blythe has to live this fact for every UNC game and especially their clashes with Duke. While his book is more of a "writerly" investigation (longer, more flowery, more likely to invoke the memories of dead relatives) it isn't more fun.
St. John captured what it is to be in the moment - to be a fan when your team surpasses even your wildest dreams. Blythe focuses on being outside the moment and thinking of the myriad twists and turns that can turn happiness to disgust.
While nothing in either of these books can be considered healthy, I think love is better on the soul than hate. I can recommend both for an interesting read, but if you only have time for one, go with RJYH.
So where does that leave me? I never hated any of the teams in the NBA - I just liked the Suns the best because they were a good and entertaining team. But I think my interest has ended. A positively atrocious NBA Finals closed the book on my fandom for the Suns, the league and probably televised basketball in general. I think I'll always enjoy playing, but I don't think watching will ever be what it once was.
Letting go isn't easy, but reading the stories in this book make it easier for me to let go. I don't want to be anything like what I was reading about.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Am I Listening to a DiePod?

Significant other has been giving me a hard time lately that the songs on my iPod are emo trash filled with angst that makes it sound like I’m a goth teen who is about two inches away from taking my own life. I agree with this to an extent, but, thanks to a good amount of free time, wanted to scientifically discern whether the music I like is truly as sad as she believes. With this on our plate and my return to school on the horizon, it’s time to go straight into academic journal speak – let’s roll!

Introduction
The music that a person enjoys is often cited as a telltale signal of the kind of person they are, whether their penchant be for heavy metal, easy listening, country music or pop. One type of music that has become quite popular among 12- to 18-year-olds who dislike the rules and structure of their current living situations is called emo. While emo is not necessarily short for anything, the main consideration that leads something to be deemed emo is overt emotionality, often beyond a level that is normal or healthy. To “be emo” or “like emo music” can be considered a putdown, especially when leveled at 26-year-olds. While emo applies to many things, its main connotation is to music.
The goal of this study is not to analyze whether the music collection of J. Gautreaux is emo. The subject admits that at least to some degree it is. The goal is to find whether said collection is so extremely emo that it would lead the subject or any other listener to at least engender thoughts of suicide. This thesis, put forth mainly by Kathryn Gautreaux nee Krouse, is that spending any significant length of time listening to Gautreaux’s music, such as on a long car ride, would force the listener to ponder ending his or her life. Gautreaux denies that this is the case. This academic study aims to statistically analyze the collection in an effort to gauge which person is right.

Literature Review
There is very little literature presently about this topic. There are serious articles about rock music and whether it has led young listeners to commit suicide, but this is a fun endeavor, and we don’t really want to go there.

Methods and Data
The data was analyzed using a simple five-point scale. The music program iTunes allows users to rate songs on a scale from one to five stars. This scale was used as a way to rate the songs on how much they led a listener to want to kill him or herself.

The Wrist Slit Rating System:
1) Japanese television: Super happy magic fun time!
2) Pretty good … pretty pretty preeeeettty good: Pleasantly optimistic
3) Stuck in the middle with you: could easily go either way
4) Cleveland Cavaliers basketball: sad, depressing, painful
5) Goodbye cruel world: razor blades, nooses, guns and a bottle of Jack Daniels

The author (Editor’s Note: That’s Jeffrey, but don’t tell anyone, kay?) went through a total of 652 songs and provided every one with a rating. As is clear to anyone familiar with the Bell Curve, many of the songs ended up with a three. The aim was to stay largely in the center with twos, threes and fours, and only provide a one or five to songs that clearly deserved it. To prove the point, all songs who received those scores will be listed – some with accompanying rationale.
Once every song had a score, they were placed in order by ranking and counted. These counts yielded the final results.
Readers can feel free to disagree with the ratings, and the author admits that in some cases he may be misreading a song that is actually sad or vice versa. The focus mainly in creating the ratings was on lyrical content. A song can sound happy and be the opposite lyrically and vice versa, so while the tune obviously plays a role in how people digest music, the author did his best to divorce himself from that and consider mainly the lyrics. And, last caveat, the author normally has no clue what many of the bands in his collection (such as Tapes ‘n Tapes, Wilco and others) are singing about.

Analysis and Results
The average score when all 652 ratings were tabulated was 3.3. Obviously, this shows that taken as a whole, the entire catalog of Gautreaux’s music leans more toward angst than sunshine. But it is our belief that Gautreaux nee Krouse would have expected the average to be much closer to four. The totals broke down like this:

1: 14 songs
2:137 songs
3: 195 songs
4: 271 songs
5: 35 songs

The songs that earned a rating of one were these:
Rock this bitch – Ben Folds
The Luckiest – Ben Folds
The Infanta – The Decemberists
Happy – Jenny Lewis. Anything else would have been difficult just based on the title.
Happy (reprise) – Jenny Lewis
I Am Somebody – Jurassic 5
Quality Control – Jurassic 5
Twin Cinema – The New Pornographers
Sing Me Spanish Techno – The New Pornographers
Dance All Night – Ryan Adams
Life is Beautiful – Ryan Adams
Just Drums – Tapes ‘n Tapes
Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Crazy About You – Whiskeytown

Highlights among the songs receiving a two:
Bright Eyes – Bowl of Oranges. The only Bright Eyes track to receive a rating higher than a three.
Hands Down – Dashboard Confessional. The happiest rating for this band. While this song is clearly very upbeat, the author couldn’t give it a one because of a technical term he dubbed “pussiness.”
Hiro’s Song – Ben Folds. The author wanted to give it a one because it’s actually about a middle-age Japanese guy having a super fun magic affair with a teenager, but, of course, it ends badly and cannot be higher than a two.

Highlights among the songs receiving a three:
Take It Or Leave It – The Strokes. The author found this song to fully encapsulate the idea of being right in the middle and receive a rank of three. Clearly, it could have gone the other way.

Highlights among the songs receiving a four:
Faithless Street – Whiskeytown. The author procured this song from eMusic off of a compilation album called “No Depression: This is What It Sounds Like Volume 1.” But actually listening to the song leads one to consider the title in error, and thus it receives a four. (Editor’s Note: The author knows, or at least found out during his research, that No Depression is an alt-country magazine that put the compilation together, but he nonetheless found it humorous and wanted to include the anecdote, actual facts be damned!).
All the songs in the collection by Wilco. The author just put them here because it was never clear in any of the songs what was being evoked or what was going on. But overall, the themes seemed to be dark.

The songs that earned a rating of five were these:
If You Can’t Leave It Be Might As Well Make It Bleed – Dashboard Confessional
Several Ways to Die Trying – Dashboard Confessional
Neon Bible –Arcade Fire
Ocean of Noise – Arcade Fire
(Antichrist Television Blues) – Arcade Fire
Silver Street – Ben Folds live album
One Down – Ben Folds live album
Fred Jones Part 2 – Ben Folds live album
Fred Jones Part 2 – Ben Folds album version
Brick – Ben Folds live album
Brick – Ben Folds Five album version
Boxing – Ben Folds Five
Late – Ben Folds. A song to remember Elliot Smith, who committed suicide.
Reinvent the Wheel – Bright Eyes. Also believed to be a song to remember Smith.
Gold Mine Gutted – Bright Eyes
Four Winds – Bright Eyes
Lua – Bright Eyes
Lua – Bright Eyes, off the Keith and Shaleah wedding CD. Gautreaux had this song twice, and thus, both had to be counted.
Landlocked Blues – Bright Eyes
Waste of Paint – Bright Eyes
Amy in the White Coat – Bright Eyes
Devils and Dust – Bruce Springsteen
At Conception - Cursive
So-So Gigolo - Cursive
Into the Fold - Cursive
Bloody Murderer - Cursive
What Sarah Said – Death Cab for Cutie.
A Cautionary Song – The Decemberists
Remember His Name – Jurassic 5
Sylvia Plath – Ryan Adams. The biggest slam dunk among a lot of slam dunks.
The End – Ryan Adams
Set Yourself on Fire – Stars. It actually calls for suicide, and thus must be included, regardless of content.
Romulus – Sufjan Stevens
You’ll Have Time – William Shatner
Star Witness – Neko Case

Discussion and Conclusion
There is a plethora of death, murder, crime and despair among that last list receiving a five. And while critics like Gautreaux nee Krouse would point to this to prove their overall opinion, Gautreaux points to the overall rating of 3.3 to show that the good and bad are marginally equal. Three-tenths is a small percentage (only 1/16th) on a five-point scale.
While this study question likely cannot be answered definitely – subjectivity plays too large a role to say for certain whether one person’s music makes the average listener want to swallow a cyanide pill – this analysis finds that while darkness outweighs light, listening to Gautreaux’s iPod would not make a person want to take his or her own life. Thus, calling his iPod a DiePod is neither accurate or correct.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Reading Circle

I just finished A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein, the bestselling sports book of all time. It was its fame as a great sports story that led me to want to read it. For the last few years I've sort of felt like a person who hasn't read To Kill A Mockingbird - you know you should have read it a decade ago, so that has sort of kept you from even reading it now. However, since I have spare time - it's seemingly all that I have lately - I decided to revel in the books series of Knightmares (did you see what I did there? Yeah, that's why I'm a writing legend in my own mind.)
Anyway, the book is good but not great. I think so many people read it because it is like watching a car crash. Following Bob Knight around would be frightening. When you are finished with the book all you've really found out is that Knight does care about his players and he cares that they graduate, but you also konw that he is an extremely moody psychopath.
You can also see - even in 1985-86 - what is still Knight's problem in the college game. It doesn't seem that he can recruit or that he cares to. What is interesting is that it seems that Knight would be a better NBA coach than in college. In the NBA, he wouldn't have to worry about getting his players to class or about ensuring he had good players, he could do what he clearly likes - just coach the game. That is why he enjoyed his time as the Olympic coach in 1984.
ASOTB discusses Knight getting Isiah Thomas, but beyond that he shows little interest in recruiting. The best part about reading the book 20 years later is that it talks about Knight recruiting Damon Bailey when Bailey, now enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, was only an 8th grader. Check that, Bailey was a middling point guard for IU, but Knight clearly loved him. Knight has yet to make a splash on the recruiting trail at Texas Tech, and I don't know if he'll be able to. The bottom line is that this book is scary. I don't know how Steve Alford survived - or why he would ever talk to Knight after what he dealt with. The book also clearly foreshadows Knight's future meltdowns, however, it doesn't take a psychic to know he would go over the edge.
If you care about sports non-fiction and haven't read this book, you should. Otherwise, your resume as a hardcore sports, and especially basketball, fan is in jeopardy.
Final note for those who may think it: Yes, obviously Knight would have a tough time coaching in the NBA because young men being paid millions of dollars wouldn't put up with his nonsense the way college players do. Maybe a team Knight coached would have to circulate its players out every four years no matter what. However, the underlying point about Knight just wanting to coach basketball, I feel, is accurate. In some ways, Gregg Popovich does a bit of a Bob Knight impersonation with the Spurs, but he is different in some important ways - such as not quite as moody and prone to bouts of craziness.
Final, final note: Coming into the halftime show, ABC chose to play Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" over the highlights. What does this mean? Is it A) support for the Cavaliers and their fans and their dream of winning four straight, B) a ploy to keep fans watching by encouraging them that one of these games will actually deliver something watchable or C) a wry meta-comment on the Finals' horrible television ratings by using the song that accompanied the final scene of the Sopranos finale? Choices or your own explanation is welcomed in the comments.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Lemmon Trip

We went up to the top of Mount Lemmon on Saturday - a total of 9,157 feet above sea level. The final climb isn't done by vehicle, but rather by riding the chair lift that it used during the winter by the skiers at Ski Valley. It was rather an impressive site since you can look down on all of Tucson. Photographic proof is available at the Flickr site here.
By the time we reached the top, it seemed like we could no longer be in Arizona. The cactus, scrub and overall brown-ness of the Grand Canyon State had given way to conifers, lush green grasses and temps about 20 to 30 degrees lower that reminded one of Colorado. It was quite interesting to find a place so different so close by.
So far, Tucson seems like a great place. I'll have to do all of the cool stuff this summer, and there seems to be a lot of it, so I can ignore it and consider it passe for the next three years. But Kat and I definitely would like to camp at Mount Lemmon sometime in the fall. However, there are bears, so be warned.
This morning we took a hike in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. It was a nice stroll and there seemed to be quite a few people taking advantage of the good trails. However, there are mountain lions, so be warned.
And also recently, we took Lucy and Lily to an off-leash dog park near our home where Lucy had a good time romping with the other dogs. Lily seemed more interested in romping via Kat's arms, but I think she'll get used to it. However, there is unwanted humping, so be warned.
I'll try to bring you more of the interesting things I find in Tucson, but thus far, I can say without a doubt it seems like a great place. Kat and I will enjoy exploring more of it.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Here we are

Kat and I are now in Tucson and enjoying the new apartment. When we tell people we live in Sabino Canyon, they tend to raise their eyebrows, signifying that they are trying to figure out whether we are rich, insane or both. This is definitely a beautiful area. The views are amazing, and the vistas are so sweeping, it is almost difficult to capture it on camera.
The apartment complex is nice, and Tucson seems great. The weather has been spectacular, and we have had a great time at the Tucson Museum of Art, the Tucson Botanical Gardens and even the Tucson DMV.
A few shots of Tucson as well as a bunch of good ones from Lloyd's graduation are now up at my Flickr page here.
There is almost too much hilarity to cover over the past few days. Simply my driving a 26-foot U-Haul truck from Yuma to Phoenix and then to Tucson is enough for a WB sitcom. I managed to not crash or kill anyone, but I was hardly sad when I turned it back in.
I've been doing a lot of document shredding, looking at lots of help wanted signs and eating at Chipotle. It has been tiring, but Kat and I are excited about what Tucson may bring. It seems like a great place. We hope to be very happy here.

It begins

Tucsonic Boom opens with a bang. Here is video I shot of the hat toss at the USAFA graduation. I thought I didn't get this, but when I uploaded the camera I was pleasantly surprised to see I got it.
Elliott is somewhere among that mass. I was unable to get any Thunderbirds, so you'll have to be content with shadows of Thunderbirds and the sound of them flying overhead. This opening post will be followed soon by a monster moving/Tucson/new apartment post, so this is simply a tease. Enjoy.