Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Notes From The Library 2: Caffeine

I completed (i.e. probably failed) the first of my four big finals on Monday as the Victor finals fortnight of horrors rolls on. If hell's anything like the depiction in "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" (the modern day equivalent of Dante's "Inferno"), where you're doomed to spend all of eternity in a twisted, perverse, nightmare version of the worst moments in your life: mine would be right here, right now. I would forever be stuck on the overheated 2nd floor study area, chained to my cramped shoddy wood panel study cubicle, buried under a mountain of senseless highlighted notes, studying for a final that will never come. Hitler will probably in the adjoining desk constantly coughing and typing loudly, while Judas will be on the other end slurping French onion soup. Bogus indeed.

One of the few things that keep me going through this extended exercise in academic futility is America's favorite drug caffeine; and judging by the overflowing trash cans full of Starbucks cups and empty energy drink cans, apparently I'm not the only one who enjoys riding the fidgety dragon.

How can one not resist the charms of sweet lady C? On paper it'll give you quick energy, increase concentration, focus, and stamina, everything you could possibly ask for in a legal performance enhancer. However, when applied in real life it's far from an academic panacea. All I see in a room full of mostly anxious, spazzes, tweaking, and making frequent trips to the bathroom. In the end that grande or can of Red Bull isn't going to work any miracles (now methamphetamines and illegally obtained prescription drugs on the other hand...different story).

However it's not to say caffeine doesn't have a place in this whole studying experience. Like I said, it's a big part of my studying day. It'll only disappoint if you overestimate it. The energetic effects are brief, it'll probably leave you feeling more tired by the end, and when you're perked up you're probably more anxious than focused. In my case, however, it does its job of keeping my eyes open. It's as simple as that. When I crack open these notes or an outline, or textbook it's like a handkerchief full of chloroform. I can barely go a page, regardless of my current level of fatigue, without my brain giving up and going into standby mode. It's so cliched, like something out of a silent movie, but it's true. To prospect of a period of studying knocks me out. So to keep me going I have get enough juice in me for my eyes to physically be unable to close. It's sort of like "A Clockwork Orange" when they try to brainwash Alec and they force his eyes open with a restraint...only chemically.

I have to admit though, this requires a lot of caffeine to pull off; and considering how quickly one develops a tolerance for the stuff, a steadily increasing supply. Now this could get quite expensive and taxing, drinking my weight in Starbucks coffee or pricey energy drinks, all of which I'm not the biggest fans of in terms of taste. That's why the only way to fly is the always convenient caffeine pill.

Of course for anyone around my age, when I just mentioned the word "caffeine pill" only one scene immediately came to mind:

That's right, the singular defining moment of our generation; our moon landing/Kennedy assassination/Challenger disaster combined: the Jessie Spano Freakout! I know how can I resort to the dangers of the pill after having such a powerful scene like that burned into my childhood? How can anyone?

I admit at first there was a bit of a stigma when I reached for that pack of generic "Stay Awake" tablets at the corner drug store, I could hear in the back of my mind the frenzied, terrified, screams of "I'm so excited, I'm so...scared!", but I summoned enough personal strength to break that fabled last taboo. That and I wasn't going to pay out the ass for gallons of weak ass brews when I could have gotten the equivalent of 32 cups of coffee for two bucks! And you know what? Popping a pill or two is a lot easier than chugging and running back and forth from the urinal. SO FUCK OFF JESSIE SPANO, YOU WHINY ASS FEMINAZI!!

I'll work every angle possible, (outside of actually buckling down and studying hard) to get through this rough patch. And, Jessie, if you were really dedicated to success you would have kept on those pills, not blown that audition, aced those midterms, gotten into Stansbury, and Slater wouldn't have dumped you before starting the "College Years."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

This is just like that time I...

Say what you may about the hollow shell that is modern day "Family Guy" (and according to the entire wikipedia page devoted to "Criticism of Family Guy" there is apparently much to say), it is still the undisputed king of esoteric references. Yeah the show may be lacking in things like originality, plot, story, or even basic comedy writing; but I can't think of another show on network television that'll refer back to such obscure depths of pop culture. Considering how minute long clips from the show make up roughly 40% of YouTube, it's about the only thing going for the show.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I caught this on a random episode a few days back from one of the THREE different channels that it currently runs on:

Apparently Seth McFarlane and his team of manatees are also nostalgic for the wild solid color video days of late 80s-early 90s music videos. I was surprised that I had overlooked the other Black Box hit "Everybody Everybody," which, aside from being just as good as "Strike It Up," is classic white room:

This only goes to verify that irrefutable time tested formula for pop greatness:

Dance Beat + Solid Color Video + Martha Wash = MEGA HIT (give or take a law suit)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Prisoner 57

After years of litigation and fighting, everyone's favorite daywalker, Wesley Snipes was sentenced in US District Court to three years in federal prison for tax evasion. Now I just took criminal law this semester but that seems unduly harsh for three misdemeanor counts. There must have been some serious "history of contempt over a period of time" as the judge stated, that warranted throwing the book at him. Of course maybe you're asking for it when you rely on reputable character witnesses like Woody Harrelson in attesting for leniency. Frankly though I think this may be partially another case of the system keeping a brother down. Now where will we turn to for our prominent black action heroes? Michael Jai White? Denzel Washington? Will Smith?

One thing's for sure, if his movies are any indication, Wesley will do just fine in the clink. Pick any movie at random from his prolific filmography and there's a pretty good chance he is either playing a criminal or a law enforcement official (or a law enforcement official who is thought to be a criminal). Sure there are some major outliers like "Major League" or "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" but his Dennis Franzian proclivity towards cop roles seems only matched by his proclivity towards robber roles. Playing rightous authority figures is obviously part of the territory of being an action star but you don't see all that many roles as the "heavy" in the resumes of white action heroes like Stallone or Schwarzenegger or Willis. I'm sure someone could probably write an interesting essay about racial representations and action movie roles; someone that isn't me.

I will however take a look at some of Snipes' notable cinematic conflicts with the law and see how they stack up to his current situation (spoilers a plenty!):

New Jack City

The crime: As bad as trying to cheat the government out of millions of owed taxes is. I think it pales in comparison to running an ultra-violent, high tech crack dealing empire. Snipes' ruthless drug kingpin Nino Brown was about as cold blooded as they came; whether it was destroying the lives of countless addicts, participating in brutal gang wars, turning on your best friends, or using little girls to shield yourself in gunfights.
The sentance: After eventually getting caught, (by the dynamic duo of Ice T and Judd Nelson no less!) Nino turns state evidence and pleads out to what appears to be something around 12 months (a lot less than three years). However, he receives a must stiffer sentence in the court of public opinion when one of his earlier victims shoots him as he leaves the courthouse.

Demolition Man

The Crime: Snipes' Simon Phoenix actually turned out to be even worse than Nino. Reaching a level of evil bordering on super villainy, Phoenix was a sadistic, psychotic, criminal mastermind who ruled the chaotic streets of Los Angeles in the late 90s. There are countless murders, assaults, larceny, etc., etc. including blowing up a bus full of hostages which framed Stallone's character.
The Sentence: Phoenix was cryogenically frozen in suspended animation for an indefinite period of time, which I guess is a bit worse than 3 years in the can. He did get plenty of combat training while frozen in ice so that's a benefit. He was eventually unfrozen early, 36 years down the line to commit more crimes, until he was administered some rough justice by the also recently dethawed Stallone, getting frozen and decapitated.

U.S. Marshals

The Crime: After being pulled over for a routine traffic accident it is revealed that Wesley Snipes' Mark Warren is actually Mark Roberts, a wanted federal fugitive accused of murdering some government agents. As he's being transported by Tommy Lee Jones, the plane crashes and he escapes leading Mr. Jones to again issue searches for outhouses and doghouses, etc.
The Sentence: Shockingly enough it turns out Snipes was framed (you know Tommy Lee Jones' character doesn't seem to be fazed that that most of the people he's chasing are usually innocent) by double agent Robert Downey Jr. no less! After completing a series of action sequences he is officially exonerated.

The Crime: Promising prize fighter, Snipes, caught his wife in bed with another man and, being the amazing fighter he was, involuntarily beat him to death. Although this crime of passion would probably fit the lesser charge of manslaughter, Snipes is unfortunately railroaded on first degree murder charges.
The Sentence: When the movie starts Snipes has served 10 years of a life sentence. He is also the "undisputed" prison boxing champion who suddenly finds himself challenged by Ving Rhames, a Mike Tyson-like champ who recently got incarcerated for rape. Snipes ends up winning the fight and Rhames' only consolation is later getting paroled and resuming his lucrative championship boxing career. Snipes is still in jail but I guess he's "undisputed" for whatever that's worth.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Notes From The Library 1: Rewards

Yesterday was the end of classes for my first year of law school. For the first time ever I was miserable on a final day of school. For my entire academic life the end of school usually was a time of celebration, the whole Alice-Cooper-School's-Out thing. However, in the twisted world of legal education the end of a semester only means the start of the worst two or so weeks of your life. In that span of roughly a fortnight, when you're not taking a high pressure, multi hour examination where your entire semester's work, your overall school rank, and your prospects for future success all hang in the balance; you're force cramming your head with a semester's worth of legal knowledge.

It all adds up to a funky situation.

As a life long slacker and perpetual underachiever this is all brand new, frankly disturbing territory for me. My setup is further burdened by the fact that I haven't really been all that diligent during the school year (OMG!). So for someone who's coasted along the waves of academia all these years (I mean my major at undergrad was Communications for crying out loud) and viewed the practice of "studying" for a test beforehand to be quite optional (and possibly even a bit like cheating); reviewing (translation: relearning) the entire semester's material by actually sitting down and "studying" is quite a herculean undertaking on my part.

According to people I've asked who "study" and the myriad of unqualified guides on the internet, one method to enhance the act of "studying" is to set a reward for yourself to keep you motivated and focused on the task at hand. Something like a snack/treat or internet use, or watching TV at the end of a set goal of X period of studying or X amount of reading, etc is usually the suggested motivations. I guess if it was good enough for Pavlov's dogs and those cartoons where a horse has a carrot in front of him, then it was good enough for me.

After setting up the prize of delicious Slim Jim in exchange for an hour of uninterrupted review of my Property notes, though, I realized for me this was bullshit.

I couldn't stop thinking about the lure of beefy, spicy, excitement! Every few minutes I found myself looking at the clock to see if the hour had come for me to snap into one. I'd be reading up on landlord-tenant rights and then suddenly...SLIM JIM. I found myself deliberately slowing down, delaying my reading, eating up clock time like it was the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl and I had the possession and lead. The fact that I knew that at any time I could have just gone and gotten the Slim Jim without any penalties also certainly didn't help. It's not like I had to earn it from anyone but myself. So in the end, how could I possibly concentrate on studying or even make a rational attempt at learning when I knew that I could be not studying and enjoying a Slim Jim. I felt like that dog the Bud Light commercial:

So maybe there are people who can actually deceive their own minds into thinking they're actually rewarding themselves. I both envy and pity them at the same time. For me, however, rewards are crap. In fact, the complete opposite, no possibility of reward whatsoever, would be a better motivator. At least when you have absolutely nothing better to do, you don't mind the task you're currently doing as much.

Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like my whole reasoning for going to law school.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I may technically be "living" in my rented apartment in Queens while attending law school; however I feel like sometimes that's a misleading term. Between my early classes, long hours (supposedly) studying at the library, and weekend trips home to Jersey; there isn't really much "living" going on. I envy my undergraduate roommates' lives of idle leisure attending a class or two and then playing video games or watching "Cheaters" all night. Lately, as finals season slowly became more and more of a reality I've only managed to exchange a brief greeting as I come home at midnight, stumble to my room to sleep while they continue to play video games or watch TV.

The thing about all this is during the exchange I give out a cursory "hey" and most often then not I'll get the "hey, what's up?" in response. On the whole it happens about nine out of ten times. It's also not just confined to incidents at the home; there isn't a week of school that goes by with the hey/what's up dynamic coming up. All this leads me to my main quandary: when someone responds with a "what's up" do I actually have to answer that question? For now I'm not sure what the proper social response is: yes, no, other? To cover my bases I shoot back with a mixed bag of "nothing much", silence, another "hey", or "good" (which still doesn't answer the question and may lead to further confusion). Now to any normal, well adjusted, social individual there'd be no anxiety or hesitation over this trivial issue, but obviously I'm a social freak who comes from the Larry David school of over analyzing and obsessing over common social functions.

On one hand it is obviously a question and a question, in the abstract, needs to be answered. You haven't seen the person all day, you wonder what really is "up" with them. It also may serve as a springboard to a continued conversation. My response may give something for the other person to relate to, build on, respond against, etc. and the casual, unnoticed, volley that his everyday conversation is initiated. So me not answering it may be breaking the expected volley and in turn leading to awkwardness. It's like the verbal equivalent to a high five and a non-response is leaving the other guy "hanging" instead of a customary "up high", "down low" and concluding "too slow."

On the other hand, while it is a question, it could just be straight up rhetorical. It could just be there to accomplish the singular task of just acknowledging and responding to my initial greeting. I mean seriously, do people really want to hear a legitimate answer every time they respond with that? If that is the case then there must obviously be an implied restriction at the amount of detail in the response. The next time someone asks you that question, try to imagine what the other person might be thinking if your response when over like three sentences or if you went on for even a full minute in talking about yourself. It'd be awkward city. Talk long enough and they'll eventually run out of nods and "uh huhs" and have to actually resort to an affirmative end to communications. In extreme situations (say you're talking to Kathy Griffin after she's had two Red Bulls) I think there's enough social precedent to just walk away with no explanation.

So if it's the middle of the night or about a minute before the start of class, is there really need for an actual answer? Or am I suppose to just shoot a "nothing much" every time?

Of course all this would infinitely simpler if my "hey" was responded by another "hey." It would accomplish (albeit in a manner suited for cavemen) the final goal of a simple exchange of communication. It's basically two people saying "I'm me, I'm here, I'm not a stranger or axe murderer or something, carry on." Easy as that.

Context is important too as well as the manner of response. This issue merely deals with the hey/what's up scenario. Different responses will illicit very different responses from me. If I were to say hey and someone I knew responded with:
  • "WASSUP" - Annoyance
  • "What's Up" - Fear sprinkled with annoyance
  • "Hey Hey Hey" - A bit taken back by the excessiveness
  • "What's up, doc?" - A little confused; would wonder where the carrot came from.
  • "Ayyyy" - Just about the coolest response you can give to any question.
  • "Yahh!" - I'll immediately get out of their face.
  • "How you doin'?" - A bit disturbed or interested depending on the sex of the speaker.
  • "Hello" - A bit disturbed or interested depending on if it's Lionel Richie
My other option is to just stop talking to people on the whole, which I am totally willing to do. With the modern advances in social networking and the continuing alienation of contemporary society, we'll all just be in our own homes Facebook poking each other in the near future, so I figure I might get a head start. However, for now I figure interpersonal relationships with the people I live with and go to school with may somehow pay off somewhere in the future, so I best not limit my options.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Open Letter to C.C. Sabathia

Dear C.C.,

As I've mentioned in the past, I have historically been an offensive minded fantasy baseball manager. My teams have traditionally been solid five category roto mashers with mediocre to sub par pitching performances (sort of like the Detroit Tigers). This is partially due to the fact that in my constant quest to find build a lineup that'll produce in all the major catagories, I end up delaying, round after round, those important rotation picks until I find myself with a Ted Lily or Kevin Millwood becoming the ace of my staff.

After so many years of my team pitching becoming a burden and a liability rather than a benefit, I decided to eschew my tendency to stock up on offensive talent in the earlier rounds and actually select as they say a legitimate "ace". Now that's where you come in. In the vaunted third round of the draft I put aside offensive considerations and selected you to lead my staff, to aid in brining overall balance to the team.

I mean, any reasonable fantasy owner would have pulled the trigger. You had been a model of constancy for the past seven seasons. You were in the prime of your career at age 27. You had just come off a stellar year where you won the AL Cy Young as the best pitcher in the league. You had the benefit of a potent offense on a team that was predicted to be a strong contender for the World Series. And you had the personal motivation of playing your best so you can cash in on the free agent market next year. All signs pointed to another great to at the very least good year.

Now four starts into this new season, all I have to say are three letters: W T F!?!?

Is there some injury you're hiding from us? Is there an issue with mechanics? Have you developed some psychological aversion to throwing strikes? Is there some sort of a fix in? Is Robert De Niro holding your child hostage? How can you be this awful?

Now I understand the season is still young and rough starts are not uncommon, but after watching you give up 9 runs for the second straight start, I have some cause for concern. As it stands now, you are 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA with as many walks as strikeouts (14) leading to an astronomical WHIP of 2.56. In 18 innings of work you have managed to to reach nearly half the amount of total walks (37) and losses (7) as you've had in 241 innings of work in 2007.

If I wanted to be severely underwhelmed by a former CY Young winner I would have drafted Barry Zito instead. Despite his 0-4 record his 4.50 ERA and 8:9 K to BB ratio and 1.68 WHIP (while all atrocious) are not nearly as damaging to my team overall. Drafting the corpse of Walter Johnson would have at the very least done no damage to the my overall numbers.

Now I know the Indians have been under performing thus far but you can't even play that "not enough run support card". On opening day you were staked an early five run lead you properly managed to blow. The team tried to dig their way out of that 9 run hole you created against Oakland in the in the first 4 innings but not even a 6 run 8th inning could save them. You're not on the Royals, you don't need to pitch a shutout to win, keep it 4 and under and I'm sure the team will most of the time pull it out.

Now a more imprudent owner may have already dumped you on the waiver wire to make room for a flavor of the month hot starter like Brian Bannister or Micah Owings; I cannot give up on you just yet. However as of this point though you have currently lost your starter spot until signs of improvement (i.e. until you totally screw me over by throwing a complete game shutout on the bench). To give you an idea of how bad things have gotten, I have been offered a trade in all seriousness to essentially swap you for middling innings glutton Livan Hernandez. That's right that Livan Herndandez. And while I'll hold off on that blockbuster, combined 600 pound, trade for now, I hope that it'll light a competitive fire in your belly and you'll find a way to turn that corner.

In the meantime here are a few handy tips:
  • Strikeouts? Great.
  • Walks? Bad.
  • Home Runs? Bad.
  • Grand Slams? Even worse.
  • Fly ball outs? Good.
  • Grounders? Sure why not?
  • Seven inning starts? Great.
  • Early exits? Bad.
Remember...Livan Hernandez.

Your Fake Owner,

Monday, April 14, 2008

Smell the Glove

What criticisms can I levy on the marketing campaigns of male deodorant titans AXE and TAG body sprays that countless throngs of feminist writers, moral crusaders, advertising experts, media critics, and numerous disappointed first time customers haven't already? Yes, it's sexist and demeaning to women (although it's funny that AXE's owner, Unilever, also makes Dove which runs all those "it's okay for women to be old or ugly, 'real beauty'" campaigns). Yes, it encourages promiscuity and is contributing to the rapid erosion of standards of decency. Yes, it encourages a cult of narrow minded male, spiky haired, frat boy, baseball cap douchbaggery. Yes, it is no more effective in getting women to sleep with you than wearing a "new car scent" air freshener around your neck.

Of all the schools of negative criticism, I am only really opposed to the fostering of fratty doucheiness. It's disturbing to imagine, but out there somewhere there are guys; deluded, sad guys, who believe that this product has any possible benefit in getting chicks (which if you sincerely believe indicates that body hygiene is the least of your present concerns). There are impressionable young minds will drink the Kool-Aide that a spritz of spray, some tips from the latest MAXIM, and a popped collar will get them neck high in ladies. It's a pretty speculative profile, I know, but I can't believe that there isn't one person that fits it and that out there somewhere, some girl will wake up to the lingering scent of AXE or TAG as they stumble out the dorm to report a date rape.

Aside from that unpleasantness however, I've got no problem with the rest of the stuff. Women are objects, morals are dynamic and constantly evolving with society, and anything to encourage promiscuity bodes well for me. Of course in the end it's all just a commercial; the multi million dollar, internationally created, multimedia, equivalent of a hyper active child trying to get attention. Considering the hyperbolic claims of the products as some sort of irresistible, mind controlling, female, sex, pheromone; this is obviously not suppose to be taken seriously. On the whole they are also a lot more creative and easier on the eyes than a Chevy Truck commercial.

There is also the fact that these types of commercials are not unprecedented. A trip through the advertising way back machine will show once again that there are indeed no more new ideas in the 21st century. Back in the 60s and 70s, your baby boomer dads may have been slapping on a little budget aftershave known as "Hai Karate".

Made by future boner drug barons Pfizer, this, on the cheap, aftershave was muscling for positioning in that crowded post puberty market with the likes of Brut and Old Spice. In order to get that critical edge on the competition, Hai Karate was marketed as a scent so potent and powerful that it would send pre-feminist movement era women out of their minds with passion, leading to uninhibited attacks of carnality. In order for their male users to fend off these inevitable waves of mad, uncontrollable, lustful women, each bottle contained a helpful "self defense" booklet.

As the television ads show, whether you're a Woody Allen-esque geeky fellow or a smooth, chess playing, sideburned, Lothario; you had to be on alert when the bitches came running. The analogy continues to hold true as both, consummate second banana, Regis Philbin (who proves that he was never cool) and charming Rat Packer, Joey Bishop demonstrate the inherent dangers of Hai Karate.

Putting the obvious, offensive Asian stereotypes aside, the Hai Karate campaign was just as objectifying to woman as any modern day body spray ad. They're both portrayed as feral animals, subjective to men, and displaying about as much independent will power as Cathy has to chocolate. Actually things may have improved since then. At least in modern day AXE and TAG ads the men are just putting up token resistance and sleeping with the women, as oppose to trying to brutally subdue them via karate chops.

So yeah...you've come a long way baby.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It's Pat! 33 Things I Remember About Patrick Ewing

The names for induction into the 2008 Basketball Hall of Fame were announced the other day and among the 7 individuals in the Class of '08 was my personal choice for the greatest Knick of all time, Patrick Ewing. From their heartbreaking finals loss to the Rockets in '94 to 2000 when they traded Ewing to Seattle, basketball and the Knicks were the primary sport I followed. The Mets were fairly awful for most of that span, the Islanders wallowed (and to this day still wallow) in mediocrity, and the aging Bills had finally run out of Super Bowl runs. The Knicks were my only constant of excellence. I know it's hard to imagine now but, for those who where there, if you close your eyes and try real hard you'll recall that there was a time when the Knicks were not a nightly embarrassment, but rather a rock solid NBA powerhouse that were almost guaranteed to be a top seeded playoff team and compete for the title every year. This was almost entirely due to the efforts of one seven foot sasquatch of a basketball player, Patrick Ewing.

While my favorite Knick will always be the scrappy, consummate underdog, John Starks; Ewing will always be the best in my book. His style may have been fundamental and lacking in any flair (even when he infrequently dunked it just seemed as interesting as doing taxes) and the defensive minded, slow tempo game of the team as a whole was as sexy as Jeff Van Gundy; but in the end it won games. In those days I could tune into a Knick game and not expect my team to get completely demolished on both ends of the court for another night; I would expect rebounding, defense, competent ball handling, team work, unselfish play, and about 25 points and 12 rebounds from #33. Although Bill Simmons might have you believe otherwise (I'm still waiting for post-Ewing championship, Bill) the Knicks were most definitely a better team with Ewing. No offense to the other Knicks of that era but there is no chance that anyone else from those teams is going into the Hall. There's a reason why Ewing was the lone All-Star nearly every year. Perhaps if he had one more person to compliment his talent like Jordon had Pippen, there'd be a ring or two to go along with his enshrinement.

So in honor of his recent recognition, here are 33 random personal observations of the big man. Note that more than a few of them are not the positive of observations, because to have known and watched Ewing was to have known and watched both fantastic success and crippling failure:
  1. His complete inability to stop Michael Jordon on the college and professional level.
  2. His near complete inability to stop the Pacers.
  3. That relief on his face during that one sweet Jordan-less year during his first retirement.
  4. Chest bumps with Starks, chest bumps with Harper, chest bumps with Oakley, chest bumps all around.
  5. Getting replaced by Herb Williams during blow outs (more of a Herb Williams memory I guess).
  6. Winning like a 100 straight games on NBA Jam with my dynamic duo of Ewing doing flaming somersault dunks and Starks raining 3s.
  7. Suffering that career threatening wrist injury against the Bucks in 1998.
  8. Him watching in stunned awe at the other end of the court as Reggie Miller scores 8 points in 8.9 seconds at the end of the game en route to taking Game of 1 of the 1995 semifinals.
  9. His lack of ability to show any real intensity on the court. Sure he'd smile or if he really got exited raise his arms but if you had a chart of on court intensity with Kevin Garnett being a 10 and a ham sandwich at 1, he'd be around a 3.
  10. Getting his shot blocked by 5'3 (and future Space Jam co-star) Mugsy Bogues.
  11. Shots of him getting the gold medal on the 1992 Dream Team.
  12. His preference for fundamental finger rolls and layups over those overly flashy slam dunks.
  13. Early 90s flattop Ewing, now there was a haircut you could set your watch to.
  14. Failing to set a screen on Olajuwon for Starks in the closing seconds of Game 6.
  15. Almost perfunctory yearly rituals of sweeping the Hawks or Cavs in the first round.
  16. Getting busted at the Gold Club. Apparently there was sex in the champaign room.
  17. His starring role in Space Jam. Why would the aliens steal the talents of five players with a combined "0" championships? The better question is: Does Shawn Bradley even have enough talent to steal?
  18. The sad sight of an injured Ewing sitting on the bench, watching in agony as he is unable to prevent the Spurs from manhandling the Knicks in the 1999 Finals.
  19. That time he made a cameo on "Mad About You"
  20. Ewing vs. Olajuwon for 7 Games in the 1994 finals. Olajuwon was totally better...
  21. How surreal he looked in a Seattle SuperSonics uniform.
  22. How surreal he looked in a Orlando Magic uniform.
  23. The awe at how one human being could be so drenched in sweat so quickly. In many cases was already dripping by the opening tip off.
  24. My dad calling him Mr. Monkey in his broken English, not with any racist intentions but just in the most literal sense. If I had to pick a type of primate I'd go with orangutan.
  25. Making Jeff Van Gundy look even more impish while standing over him, going over a play.
  26. That poster my friend had of him taking a fade away jumper over a young Shaq (which I can't believe is still available at some random online store).
  27. Getting named a member of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time in '96, not too shabby.
  28. That game winning dunk on Mourning in game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Heat in his final year.
  29. Those extremely balky knees constantly wrapped in ice towards the end of his career.
  30. That missed easy finger roll in the 1995 playoffs in the dwindling seconds of game 7 against the Pacers that could have tied the game. That was my first introduction to the endless cycle of heartbreak that was sports.
  31. Playing through an injury to knock off the Heat in the first round as the 7th seed in 1998.
  32. Playing through an injury to knock off the Heat in the first round as the 8th seed in 1999.
  33. The Garden announcer saying during introductions: "...and at 7 feet from Georgetown...PA-TRICK EWING!!"

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Walken for a good time.

Christopher Walken will be hosting Saturday Night Live tonight for the 7th time. It's a significant number (far beyond the initial requirement for the exclusive Five-Timer's Club) but still a far cry from Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin's 14 and 13 respectively. I was fairly sure he had hosted more times but apparently it's been five years since his last hosting gig.

In my mind Walken exists as a sort of a comedic last resort for the show; like there's a special red phone in Loren Michaels' office under a plate of glass with the words: USE IN CASE OF LACK OF LAUGHS that connects directly to Walken's cell. No matter how many badly written, humorless sketches; or second rate featured players; or awkward lines of dialog the show can bury him under, there'll still be at least one or two classically hilarious moments that are powered purely on Walken. It's an inevitable law of nature that anything Christopher Walken does (whether it be dance, sing, act, walk the dog, pay his taxes, drink a Dr. Pepper) is uniquely strange, fascinating, and many times oddly funny.

Probably my all time favorite SNL sketch is a Walken sketch. It's not as well known as "More Cowbell" or "Colonel Angus" but in my opinion I cannot remember a better written sketch on the show. I give you Walken and Meadows in "Census Taker".

All the elements of the perfect SNL sketch could be found in that example:
  • The guest host was utilized perfectly and not shoehorned into a superfluous role. There was no other host who could have pulled off that character the way a weirdo like Walken could have. It doesn't seem all that implausible that this is how the real Walken would answer a US survey.
  • The sketch was a model of efficiency. Lasting only five or so minutes, it never overstayed its welcome and actually had a logical ending (which actually is cut off in that clip I have, but believe me it's nicely succinct and provides closure). There are so many poor sketches that appear to never have an ending assigned to them and the only way for the viewer to know it's over is when the trained applause suddenly comes on.
  • It didn't have to rely on any wacky behavior. While break away furniture, fake vomiting, and manic physical comedy in the right hands (Chris Farley, John Belushi) have made some of the funnest sketches in SNL history, many times it's just a desperate cover up for a lack of material.
  • There's a timelessness to the sketch. The best sketches are the ones where the writers don't need the crutch of some omni present pop culture reference or some topical issue. Most of those kinds of comedy sketches only illicit cheap laughs and age terribly. I'm sure all our children will be busting a gut over all the contemporary "jokes" in "Meet the Spartans"
  • It had Tim Meadows in it. One of the most underrated cast members, he played one of the best straight men in the show's history. His nuanced portrayal of confusion and frustration perfectly compliments Walken's surreal responses.
On a side note, what surprised me the most about this sketch was that fact that it was apparently written by, then head writer, Tina Fey. Call me sexist but I'm of the Jerry Lewis school of female comedy, in that women comedians are not funny. I never found a single female stand up all that hilarious, nor have I really admired any past female SNL cast members (I especially found nearly every character played by the three headed monster of Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, and Cheri Oteri to be unbearably annoying). However in this case I have got to tip my chauvinist hat to you Ms. Fey, between this sketch, "Mean Girls", and the second season of "30 Rock", you are indeed a funny writer...and you're a total babe with that whole foxy 90s Lisa Loeb/sexy librarian thing going on (sorry, I've got to reaffirm my sexism).

So if you ever had to watch one episode of SNL all year, this would probably be your best bet. Who knows you may be there to firsthand witness, live, the next "More Cowbell" or "Ed Glosser: Trivial Physcic." At the very least you'll probably see them drive the "The Continental" sketch into the ground, which is always kind of amusing.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Yes, Always!

In my opinion, one of truest constants about getting older is that you start considering all the pop culture you had growing up to be superior to the pop culture that people younger than you are enjoying today. It's like what Grandpa said in one of the all time greatest Simpsons episodes "Homerpalooza": "I used to be with it, but then they changed what 'it' was. Now, what I'm with isn't it, and what's 'it" seems weird and scary to me."

And you know what? It will happen to you.

This leads me to wonder, is it just the inevitable nature of the passage of time and the changes of ideas and attitudes between generations that makes the past seem so much better? Or are we really on some sort of infinite suck spiral where standards of quality pop culture get lowered ever year? It sort of reminds me of the history of Saturday Night Live. The original cast's initial five year or so run is considered by many to be unassailably groundbreaking and brilliant; like the Beatles of late night sketch comedy. However every successive generation of "Not Ready for Prime Time Players" has always managed to be a disappointment when compared to the previous generation. The original years were better than the Murphy and Piscopo years, which were better than the Carvey and Lovitz years, which were better than the Farley, Sandler, Spade years, etc., etc. I used to think it couldn't have gotten any worse between Horatio Sanzs' non-acting and Jimmy Fallon's constant corpsing (yeah I couldn't believe there was an actual term for it) but low and behold SNL at the end the Aughts continues to find new and innovative ways to be unfunny.

In the end though, it couldn't be possible that a show has steadily maintained such an impressive downward spiral of humor loss for so many decades without it hitting rock bottom and being canceled, right? It's just a impression brought about by the generational changes in attitudes and sensibilities from a show, that by nature has to reflect those generational changes, right? Right?

Isn't this all possibly just postmodernism in a nutshell?

I ask the same questions to myself when I consider the state of Saturday morning cartoons. Being the cranky old codger of 23 that I am, I am filled with nothing but disappointment and sadness at what adolescent age America has to wake up to on Saturday mornings. It's bad enough they have to deal with contemporary problems like pedophiles on MySpace, increased school shootings, over medication, the standardized mess of the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Jonas Brothers; without Saturday morning TV being ruined. Everywhere I turn it's just some imported, post -Pokemon, budget animated dreck, most likely shilling trading cards.

Comparing some of the fare avialable to kids out there with what I had growing up just a little over a decade ago and it seems almost unfair. You put up shows like Batman: the Animated Series, Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures, X-Men, and Gargoyles side by side with this Saturday's line up and it just looks flat out embarrassing (even that short lived Earthworm Jim cartoon series stacks up favorably). Or maybe I'm just an overly nostalgic fool who never changed, while the world continued on. Maybe in some incomprehensible way what kids today watch is in a different way just as good or even better than the shows of my youth?

With that though in mind, I present, in my opinion, the most brilliantly ambitious cartoon short ever created for mass consumption by children. The Pinky and the Brain short "Yes, Always!" from an episode of Animaniacs.

Even before I ran across it on the internet I had always remembered this short from when I watched it as a kid, not for its humor but for its lack of humor and overall pointlessness. It boggled my middle school mind as to what I was suppose to enjoy about this episode. There wasn't any gags, or cartoonish physical comedy, or even a plot. What was with the crazy meta (of course I didn't know the world meta at the time) concept of having a cartoon do a voice over for a cartoon? Why were they recording this bizarre dialog? Where was the slapstick? Why weren't Pinky and the Brain trying to take over the world?

In reality, which I would only discover about a decade later, the animators had created this extremely esoteric parody of the cult audio clip of Orson Welles having a temperamental time reading a series of scripts for commercial foods, known colloquially as "frozen peas". Aside from the lack of cursing and some minor editing, it is a near verbatim re-staging of the original clip. It was the ultimate culmination of all the not so subtle (remember that really bizarre black and white episode that parodied the "Third Man"? I think it was even actually called the "Third Mouse") references to Orson Welles.

You have to wonder; how did they ever get the funding for this? How did the writers pitch this idea with any intention of it getting made? I can't imagine a single member of the intended children's audience getting the reference nor even a great majority of the parents of the children getting it. Director Paul Hastings put it best when he described it as "a $250,000 inside joke." In the end there are obviously more entertaining, better written, more innovative cartoons out there. In fact, one might argue that the short was a total failure in terms of being an entertaining cartoon to kids. However one has to admit that there will never be another time where something like this would be created by a major network television show for kids to watch; and in that respects it should be hailed, in my opinion, as nothing short of pure genius.

Or maybe it's all my old man glorification of the past and I guess Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is just as good.