Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mitch Hurwitz Should Act

For those of us swooning over the news that Arrested Development (aka The Greatest Show in the History of Television) is going to be made into a feature-length movie being released in 2009, here is a little something to whet the proverbial appetite.

It's a Clark and Michael episode featuring genius Mitchell Hurwitz as Michael's sleazy agent. It's long, but it's worth watching for at least the first four minutes, where Mitchell shows just a hint of why he is the foremost comic mind in comedy today. (Take that Judd Apatow!) If Mitch could only get a TV project or two off the ground.

"It wasn't that there wasn't talent in the writing of it, because there wasn't. It wasn't that the characters weren't there, and they weren't. It was because it was offensive to Chinese. You know how she knows? She's Chinese."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Desk Job Evolution

When I was in high school, I thought I knew everything. I thought that I was some kind of undiscovered diamond-in-the-rough. But I was a lazy bastard, truth be told. I thought I had an understanding of how the world worked, but I didn't.

I was full of shit.

I thought I could coast by on rhetoric and parroted maxims that I had heard but didn't really believe or even understand. I always had a small coterie of facts or factoids in my back pocket that I was ready to pull out at a moment's notice in any debate or argument.

My understanding of the world was platitudes and rote-memorization of certain truths that were not of my own creation, and insight that was not of my own discovery. I was the typical liberal-minded blowhard, thinking I had some sort of extra-sensory understanding of things.

When I was a senior in high school, I went to a learning development center to help me figure out why I was (allegedly) smart, but got terrible grades. I don't know that they ever figured out the reasons, but they gave me enough tools to get into college.

I went to college, fearful that I would be discovered for the fraud that I was. But surprisingly, I realized that I wasn't half the fraud I believed myself to be. Cognitive thought -- not memorization -- was actually far more my speed. In the college arena, my own thoughts were actually valued. I didn't have to regurgitate facts from 3x5 notecards, but was encouraged to actually think.

In the summers between college, I worked as "summer help" at an apartment complex for three consecutive summers. The work was grueling. Pulling weeds, cleaning apartments, painting fences, trimming hedges. My boss was a real asshole. He wouldn't let me wear a walkman. So all I had for 8 hours a day were my landscaping tools and my thoughts.

They drove me nuts. Every workday was like a personal hell. Working by myself, thinking thoughts, driving myself crazy with over-analysis. Ideas would come and go in my head. It was like the mono/dialogues of a madman, stranded on an island, with only himself to talk to.

In some ways, this may have been the genesis of my current, overanalytical nature. I always used to hear of people say that they would love to work outside. These people clearly have never worked outside. This job taught me two life-changing lessons: 1) it's okay to be analytical, but you have to find a way to harness it, and 2) I want to work at a desk for the rest of my life.

Working outside, in the elements, in the sun, is completely overrated.

When I went back to school after my third consecutive summer of landscaping my asshole boss's McMansion, I realized that I never wanted to mow another lawn, pull another weed, vacuum another apartment hallway, or clear the cobwebs from another basement.

Did that job ruin me on all physical labor? Maybe. I still can't stand doing these kinds of things, not because I'm not capable or even because they are too hard, but because they bore me to tears.

Working at the apartments made me vow to myself that I would never be bored again.

So when I went back to college in earnest my junior year (I wasn't sure if I'd be able to go back at the time, due to financial concerns), I made the pact to myself that I was going to overload my head with knowledge. I was going to take my obsessive-compulsive, over-analytical brain and put it to some use.

I had put on an air of mental superiority for many years, but I never proved it. It was about time to take the Camaro out of the garage.

Since the day I stepped back onto campus in August of 1996, I was ready to be a sponge. I needed to soak up as much information as possible.

That subconscious decision has bred a decade-long commitment to the absorption of information, the omnivorous ingestion of knowledge. I have always had a completist's streak in me. If you show me the tip, I'm going to explore the entire iceberg.

It started with hip-hop music from 1988 to 1996, of which I have a nearly encyclopedic knowledge.

It continued with cinema, which consumed my life for about a decade. (Sadly, cinema is currently in pathetic disrepair, though I am confident it will hit rock bottom as it did in the 1980s and rise again.)

It passed into the realm of craft beers, of which I am still woefully ignorant but constantly learning about.

Before I knew it, I had evolved. Not by some overnight metamorphosis, but through the lifelong commitment to knowledge. Sure, much of my knowledge of the useless sort that is valuable only for the Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture edition, but it is knowledge nonetheless.

What my job at the apartments taught me that to learn -- and to care about what is learned, no matter how seemingly trivial -- is the most important thing. It is crucial to challenge oneself, no matter how seemingly inconsequential that challenge is.

They say that one of the fatal flaws of our current president is that he doesn't have the "curiosity" gene. He doesn't question what is presented to him. He doesn't care to know anything other than what he "needs" to know. There may be something to that.

Give me a desk. Give me a problem. Or a question. Give me a goddamn challenge. If I stop caring, or stop rising to the challenge, that's when I know it's time to go back to pulling weeds.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Lakers-Kings '02 Revisited

I just have to make a quick post on this really quick because it's been bugging me not only all day, but for six years.

The 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals between the L.A. Lakers and Sacramento Kings was the most nail-biting, exciting NBA playoff series I've ever seen. I'm not a huge NBA fan, but for a few years I really took to that Sacramento team that was so much fun to watch, with their run 'n' gun, fast-breaking style, and stifling defense.

It is probably my all-time favorite NBA team. Chris Webber. Mike Bibby. Bobby Jackson. Doug Christie. Vlade Divac. Scot Pollard. Peja Stojakovich. They were a versatile, well-oiled team, who could beat you inside and outside. Webber brought experience, Jackson brought energy, Christie brought defense, Divac -- though aging -- could still post up inside. And Bibby. Oh Bibby. He was an assassin that season, hitting clutch shots left and right.

The most dramatic moment in the series happened in Game 4 when Robert Horry nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer off a tip by Divac. It was deflating, but Sacramento came right back in Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead, only one win away from dethroning the two-time defending champions.

The game everyone who watched that epic series remembers is the infamous Game 6. I will never forget it. I was in Maryland (of all places) for someone's birthday. While most people hung out and drank outside on a lovely summer night, I was camped out in the basement watching this game, which I had hoped would finally send the Lakers packing and Sacramento to the finals for the first time ever.

What I saw was one of the worst-officiated games I've ever seen. I know it's fashionable to blame the refs after a loss (even when it's warranted, like Super Bowl XL) but this was a travesty. Bibby got called for a foul after ostensibly head-butting Kobe Bryant's elbow. The Lakers shot 40 -- FORTY -- free throws. It was a terribly-officiated game. And for those of us who wanted to see a team other than the Lakers go to the Finals that year, we knew that the Game 6 loss was just a prelude to an inevitable Game 7 Lakers win.

There have been rumors for years about the NBA manipulating games to find the glamour matchups. Not that the league itself has had some kind of mandate, but maybe an unspoken understanding. And since the officials have been accused of being suspect in the first place, it isn't much of a leap to think that maybe there was some sort of subliminal agenda by some of the refs.

People have suspected referee Dick Bavetta (or as Tim Hardaway used to call him, "Knick Bavetta") of being a home-job ref for years. But when Tim Donaghy was found to have been betting on games that he himself was officiating, all the spectres of corruption went from a conspiracy theory to actual fact.

And just the other day, Donaghy dropped a bombshell, saying that the 2002 Lakers-Kings series was extended by two of the three referees in question, so that the Lakers would be secured a spot in the finals. Everyone who had been watching that series probably had a small feeling in the pit of their stomach at the time that there was an infintesimal chance that the fix was on. The officiating was just that bad.

Now, I'm not going to take Donaghy's word on anything. He's a felon, he's a liar, he's a cheat, and he was a fucking terrible referee. I hardly take him at his word. And it's easy for someone to take a much-disputed game and retroactively question the integrity of other officials. But still, the fact that it's even out there -- in FBI documents, no less -- gives it a whiff of credibility.

One note: the NBA has been shielding their terrible officials for years, instead of actually improving the product. For that I blame the Commish David Stern, and Stern alone. He had to know that the officiating product in the NBA was garbage, and yet he myopically defended the officiating against any and all criticism. He should have been addressing it when the first allegations of corrupt officiating came about in the old Heat-Knicks series of the early 1990s. David Stern can fine as many coaches or players as he wants when they badmouth the refs, but his heretofore staunch defense of the officiating in the league now sounds very hollow.

What is most disappointing to me about this series is that it reminds me of what could have been. A team I really connected with getting beat by a less-interesting, less-likeable team with (alleged!) help from the officals. That Game 6 completely deflated me as a sports fan, and it was a symptom of the tiresome dynastic nature of sports in the late 1990s and early 2000s (Yankees, Patriots, Lakers, Red Wings). Notably, it was also the last Lakers championship.

If information ever does come out that the fix was in, I don't know how it could be rectified. Do you give the Kings rings? Do you take down the banners at the Staples Center? Does David Stern retire in disgrace? And what role did Bill Belichick play in all this?

I can only hope that the poor fans of that charming "cow town" of Sacramento do end up getting a title one of these days, because I know that the city has a connection to that team like few others do. The Lakers didn't "need" that third title in a row; it could have changed the whole psyche of the entire Sacramento fan base, all while showing no real damage to the Shaq/Kobe/Zen Bastard Lakers. Those are the moments that can change a sports fan's world.

And if a few people came together to decide to take that away from the fans of Sacramento ... well, there is an engraved invitation to an exclusive part of Hell for all those awful men.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Entitlement Part II

This year marks the worst NBA Finals of my lifetime. Never have two teams met in a championship game -- I think in any sport -- where I would be very upset if either team won.

There was the 1999 World Series between the John Rocker Atlanta Braves and the Roger Clemens Yankees.

There was this past Super Bowl between the New York Giants and the despicable New England Patriots. [Note: I gained a bit of respect and just a shred of admiration for that Giants team after that game.]

There was the 1991 NCAA Championship between the UNLV Runnin' Rebels and the Puke Blue Devils. However Duke wasn't as nauseating at the time as they have become since.

But I can't stand either of the teams that are in this NBA Finals, and both for completely different reasons.

I know I know, it sounds classic: Lakers vs. Celtics. It conjures up images of Russell vs. Chamberlain, Magic vs. Bird, etc. But the current incarnations of these storied franchises are not ones which I can support.

Because if you forget the laundry that these teams wear, there is really no connection. Red and Jerry West are both gone, and none of the same players from the last time they met (the 1987 Finals) still remain as players. Amazingly, this will be the 11th time they will meet in the finals, but the franchises have evolved since the Showtime/Big Three days.

First, the case against the Lakers.

Honestly, what is there to like about this team? They have the most arrogant, aloof, condescending coach in the history of sports. The fact that he would tie former Celtics coach Red Auerbach with a win here makes this matchup that much more intriguing, I suppose. But though Jackson is one of the most successful coaches in the history of sports, that doesn't make him any more likeable. He is a great coach, no doubt. But he has always been in the right place at the right time, and in each one of his championship seasons, he has had two of the five best players in the league at that time (Jordan/Pippen, though I think Pippen is the most overrated athlete of the 1990s, and Kobe/Shaq). Watching Jackson win another ring with a smug, self-satisfied look will make me very unhappy.

How about that guy Kobe? How come everyone is forgetting that this guy was accused of rape just a few years ago? He is a moody, selfish asshole. He already has three rings, but has any great athlete ever played with less joy? Kobe's had his time, let's move along.

Oh, and let's not forget those fans, who got so spoiled with winning during the Lakers' three-peat years that they began to take it for granted. They don't need another O'Brien trophy.

Which brings me to the Celtics...

At face value, I actually kinda like this team. I like the new Big Three of KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. But there is one reason why I find it hard to root for this Celtics team. And that reason is ....

...of course ....


There are few things that Boston fans need less than another sports championship. They already have a World Series last October, and Super Bowl win appearance this past January. But just as that Patriots loss did wonders for putting Boston fans back in their place for a while, a Celtics win here could raise the region's douchebag quotient back up to 2004 levels. We don't need that.

In fact, I would have to say that my dislike for the Boston sports constituency (not the city, mind you) is such that if this Celtics team played in any other city, I would go out and buy a t-shirt. There is really no reason that I shouldn't love the Celts here: they represent Irish people, they have cool looking uniforms (especially with the gold lining), they are fun to watch, their coach is named Doc! But I'm afraid that this win could make the entire region of New England toxic with chowderheads spouting even more Yahdood false-superiority than ever. (I love you Willie-Moe; this isn't about you, babycakes.)

So what can I do? I have to make a decision. I won't be rooting for anyone, but rather against one of these teams. But who do I root against? A few hundred purple-and-gold clad employees? Or an entire region of the United States?

So it is with a heavy heart and my nose firmly held that I make it official.

I'm going for the Boston Celtics. Boston may yet redeem itself by winning this one with some class, dignity and humility. Boston, you have a chance to right the wrongs you've created. Cherish it.

Cherish it.


If there is one thing that a Democrat knows about, it's how to screw up a good thing.

While the year is still young and the 2008 Presidential Election is still five months away, the Democratic Party has done almost everything it could to self-destruct this first half of the year. I grew up a Democrat, but turned in my card about a decade ago, and nearly everything that has happened in the last ten years has reinforced my decision. [Note: I'm not a Republican, in case you were wondering. If you know me personally, this is readily apparent.]

And while there are a lot of people who could be blamed for taking what appeared to be a slam-dunk Democratic win in November and turning it into more of a question mark, I blame one person, one remarkable lady.

I think you know who I'm talking about. Her husband's first name is the same as mine.

Hillary. Oh Hillary. Every shred of respect that I ever had for this woman has evaporated in the last 6 months. I have never been a Hillary hater. I voted for her in 2000 when she was running for Senator in my state. (Granted, she was running against Rick Lazio, a terrible Republican candidate.) I blamed much of the rancor and vitriol with which she was met during her First Lady years on partisan bile and veiled sexism. (I still blame much of that on her.)

But in the last several months, I have seen why so many people cannot stand her. Now before you start in on me, I am not bothered by the fact that she is a "strong woman." I have tons of strong women in my life -- ones that retain far more integrity than Ms. Clinton -- and am not bothered by her accomplishments.

What I find abhorrent about this woman is the same thing that I would find despicable about any other man: she will do anything to be President. She doesn't care about the country. She doesn't care about the Democratic Party. She doesn't care about being a good person. And if she does care one iota about any of these, they are dwarfed by her drive to become the first female president, and by her sense of entitlement.

Why does this have to be? Is this her way of completing her own "I Will Survive" story after being publicly cuckolded by her husband? Is it some sort of destiny she feels she's fulfilling? Does she just want to stick it to the Republicans?

Frankly, I don't give a shit.

What she has done is taken a once-in-a-lifetime presidential candidate (that would be the future HNIC Barack Obama) and pulled him from his lofty perch. She has used innuendo (that he could be a Muslim, who knows!), outright racism (using aging wackjob Geraldine Ferraro to make racist comment after racist comment, and ended up becoming a contributor to Faux News) and inauthentic outrage.

Hillary has made things so bad that her menopausal female constituency are now threatening to vote for John McCain rather than support Obama. (Any female Democrat who does this not only relinquishes their right to accuse blacks of playing the "race card," but should probably also have their future votes halved.)

I think the day I turned was when that picture of Obama in a silly sort of African garb came out, and came (as most sources have said) from Hillary's campaign. This implication that Obama was possibly a Muslim in the past is the worst kind of racist pandering. The fact that she said in a 60 Minutes interview (paraphrasing), "Obama is not a Muslim ... as far as I know," shows that she really, sincerely is nothing but politics-as-usual.

Just because you have a donkey instead of an elephant backing you doesn't mean that these tactics are any less stomach-churning. If Karl Rove had employed this exact same tactic against a Democratic candidate, Hillary would be the first person to condemn them. Yet she and her supporters tried to practice the same old Republican fear tactics that we've been hearing for the last 7 1/2 years.

I really did think Hillary was better than that, but it turns out that she become so myopic toward a presidential nomination that she lost her soul in the process. This kind of behavior would fit right into a Bush White House. It's shameful behavior.

I do have to say one thing about the female support base that Hillary has; it is remarkable how so many women have so blindly followed Hillary throughout the last few months. Is it because they just want a female president? Would it be some kind of vicarious victory for all women? Do these women really believe in Hillary and her underhanded tactics, or do they just "relate" to her? If Hillary had all the same qualities and "accomplishments" (35 or so years of it), but were a male, would these female voters still take to her? How much of this is a belief in Hillary herself as the nation's Chief Executive, and how much of it is a recognition of similar genitalia? In my opinion, this tunnel-vision by some female voters has been petty, and in my mind has really set the feminist movement back, because if these so-called feminists are so ready to overlook major ethical lapses (Hillary's campaign called it "the Kitchen Sink"), then how are we to believe that their movement itself is in support of what's right, rather than just being in support of A Woman.

The irony is that, although I previously thought the whole idea of "Superdelegates" was idiotic, it may have done its job in saving the Democratic party from itself by thwarting Hillary's runaway momentum. I think to those observers who saw both sides, they could see that Obama -- for his shortcomings -- is a man with far more integrity than his rival. While Hillary brags of her 35 years of "accomplishments," Obama had quietly made his own changes in this country, and not in hallowed political buildings with speeches and grandstanding, but in [gasp!] real life. I hold out a slight bit of hope for the Democrats that they could see through Hillary's monotonous facade and reject her Rovian political tricks.

The fact that Hillary plans to "fight on" rather than hand the torch over to Obama shows me that she is far more interested in her own victories than the victories of her party, or in the interests of the nation. I sincerely hope that Obama shuts her completely out of the Vice-Presidential "Veepstakes" in the coming months. Hillary should not be rewarded for being disingenuous at best, and dishonest at worst.

Sunday, June 01, 2008