Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mopes the Clown

Kat and Ada have been gone for the last 10 days, so nothing has happened here other than sadness and book reading.  So for the past 10 days my life has been a lot like it was before I met Kat.  Sometimes when I seem less than thrilled by Kat and Ada's hijinks, Kat will ask me whether I would prefer to be back by myself in that studio apartment in Yuma. That is normally how she phrases it.  Sometimes she just says "Do you even like us?" in an exasperated voice.  My answer is always: No, I don't want to be back in that apartment, and of course, I love you guys, now please, let me watch this game without interruption!

But seriously, other than the fact that I was able to watch all 82 games of the 2004-05 Phoenix Suns season and read all of the books I wanted and listen to Death Cab for Cutie as much as I cared to without any eye-rolling, literally nothing was better back then than it is now.  And even that can only take you so far.  I don't know if I would watch all 82 games of the 2013-14 season if you paid me my current salary just to do that.  And I can still read books (although at the much slower pace of one and a half pages a night before my eyes start to close) and listen to Death Cab for Cutie when I choose to, although always by myself shamefully with headphones in to avoid ridicule.  I think Transatlanticism still holds up pretty well, though IMHO.

Brief music/Ada tangent: She has a CD player in her room that she enjoys having on while she plays, but it only holds one CD.  So after listening to Contra by Vampire Weekend roughly 4,000 times, I demanded that the CD get changed.  So I went to my CD collection (we had those before The Cloud was invented) and pulled out Give Up by Postal Service.  I explained to Ada that this year was the 10th anniversary of this record and that it was one of the best records of the 2000s.  Ada gave it a brief listen and, because she shares her mother's joy in ridiculing my musical tastes, demanded that it be taken out.  She can listen to Vampire Weekend on loop, but Postal Service did not last a day.  I have not even tried Death Cab because I know it would have the same fate.  Biology says that Ada's DNA is half like mine and half like Kat's, but I think it is much closer to 90-10.  Or Kat has spent thousands more hours with her than I have and has used this time to her advantage.  It's probably both.  Anyway, do not even hum The District Sleeps Alone Tonight near Ada or she will shut you down with a glare.

But that long introduction was merely an ... uh ... introduction to the fact that I have been reading a lot because I have no one else to hang out with while Kat and Ada are in North Carolina.  So I have a lot of recommendations for you.  First, read The Sports Gene by David Epstein.  It's great, but it will make you think about steering you children toward certain sports where they might have some sort of genetic advantage, which may be a bit of a slippery slope.  But the book does an excellent job of demonstrating that heart and grittiness and toughness and Eckstein-ness is important, but the difference between two people with similar heart and grit can come down to body type and natural EPO levels.  Just like Tyler Hamilton's book The Secret Race made it clear that bike racing really came down to watts per kilogram (how much power you could generate from how little weight in your body; the idea being to be thin but have the endurance -- through heightened EPO levels -- to still generate the power over time) many sports come down to whether you have the body type to be able to compete.  If you want to be a top-level distance runner, you should probably be short with long legs (compared to your overall height) and not weigh very much.  This may seem like common-sense, but Epstein shows how even differences of a few pounds or a few inches can have a huge impact.

I still think it is good for kids to play all kinds of sports.  Obviously, I was never going to play sports beyond high school, so I'm glad I got to play them all when I did.  If I had just focused on one sport, I really do not think I would have been appreciably better, and I would have missed out on all of those experiences.  I'm not connected to youth sports these days (by my choice, not court order, mind you), but apparently, in my discussions with people who know things, many kids today choose one sport rather early and then ignore all others.  That seems like a recipe for burnout and just not much fun.  Epstein does not delve too deep into that subject, but he seems to agree that there are not obvious benefits from singular focus on a sport at a young age.

Anyway, I went on too long about that, but I really do think it's an interesting book, whether you like sports or not.  In an entirely different vein, I just finished reading two books that are two variations on the descent into madness: The Disaster Artist and Prisoner of Trebekistan.  The Disaster Artist is the tale of the making of The Room, the worst modern movie ever made, as told by one of the actors, Greg Sestero.  If you have not seen The Room, which sprang from the mind of the extremely strange Tommy Wiseau, it is worth your time and money, if only because it will make you want to say "Oh hi, Mark" and "You are tearing me apart, Lisa," all of the time.  If you have friends named Mark and Lisa it works even better, but it's fun either way.  I think The Room is actually worse than Plan 9 From Outer Space on many levels, although Tommy Wiseau and Ed Wood share some traits.

One of the "interesting" things about Wiseau is that he is so secretive about his background that no one really knows where he is from or how he got his money (which he wasted on making The Room and paying for a billboard in Hollywood advertising the film for five straight years).  Even the author, who spent more time with Wiseau than almost anyone, can only present Wiseau's backstory as a theory as to his origins.  What was personally very interesting for me is that Wiseau, after emigrating from somewhere in Europe, apparently took root in Chalmette, Louisiana, at least according to what he told Sestero.  Wiseau is said to have bagged groceries at Schwegmann's but did not like Chalmette.  During filming of The Room, Wiseau also was known to wear camouflage pants regularly, which leads me to believe that he also wore camouflage pants in Chalmette.  And he had to have purchased those pants somewhere.  And thus, in my mind, there was a time in the late 1980s, when a confused Tommy Wiseau was in the same army surplus store on Paris(h) Road as a confused Jeffrey Gautreaux.  Yes, we crossed paths.  And, I'm going to make a movie about it, even if everyone I know tells me it's a terrible idea and that it's a waste of money and it makes no sense and that if all we did is cross paths in an army surplus store, why are we playing football in tuxedos?  Those are good questions, but I'll show Hollywood.  I'll make my movie.

(Please let at least one of my readers have seen The Room or that last paragraph might have been a waste of typing.  Let me know in the comments.)

That was long, too.  This is what happens when Kat and Ada are not around.  It is just a descent into madness while talking about other people descending into madness.  It's an ouroboros of madness. Anyway, Prisoner of Trebekistan is a book by Bob Harris about his time on Jeopardy.  The game recaps are actually quite tense and exciting, and his explanation of just how hard he worked (and maybe went a little crazy) demonstrates that it takes more than knowing a lot of stuff to succeed at Jeopardy.  For Harris, at various points in his life, Jeopardy was simply a job, and he would go to amazing lengths to recreate the experience as he prepared.  Similar to Moonwalking with Einstein, Harris just shows how much one brain can remember, and it is quite impressive.  If you are a Jeopardy junkie, it is worth a read.  If Jeopardy is just another show to you, it's probably a miss.

Quick Recommendations:
Behind the Mask on Hulu.  It's a documentary series about mascots.  I'm not sure if it's particularly great, but there are some funny moments.
@Midnight.  This is also on Hulu.  It's comedians making fun of people on the Internet.  It's kind of like Tosh.GameShow.  See what I did there?
Aziz Ansari Buried Alive.  This is on Netflix.  It's pretty funny.

OK, I've gone on too long.  No one will get down here.  This is what happens when I'm by myself.  If I were still in that studio apartment in Yuma I would have blogged much more often over the past nine years (probably similar to the drivel above), but I would not be happier.  Even if I could listen to the Postal Service without drawing the ire of a tiny two-year-old dictator, I would not be happier.  Not even close.