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.


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

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.