Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP everyone

Michael Jackson died today. Say what you want his eccentricities (perhaps best said by Roger Ebert here), Michael was a great performer. He was called the King of Pop for a reason - he was the greatest pop singer of a musical era. What frustrates me is that it sounds that this time Michael was gearing up for a real comeback, complete with FIFTY performances in the London area. It would have been great to see what the King of Pop still had at age fifty.

Farrah Fawcett died today. Known forever as "the angel" in Charlie's Angels she inspired beautiful blonde bombshells the world over to try their luck in Hollywood. Its too bad that her storybook romance with Ryan O'Neil will not get the end they intended (O'Neil had said they were finally going to marry).

The big three

I've been thinking a lot about the NBA what with all the blogging about the upcoming NBA Draft and now this Shaq trade. To touch on the latter first the trade will be great for the NBA what with all of the Shaq v Dwight Howard and Shaq v Kobe talk not to mention the Shaq v Stan Van Gundy and the Shaq v Phil talk.

But what really interests me is Free Agent Summer of 2010 - the one that everyone else is talking about. Everyone keeps jabbering about how teams need to approach the Free Agent Summer of 2010 - acquiring shitty players with expiring contracts to free up cap space for the bidding bonanza that will ensue to capture the likes of LeBron James. But how should PLAYERS approach the Free Agent Summer of 2010?

So the top free agents of 2010 - just to keep things simple we'll talk about the really big guys - LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Wade has a ring but hasn't tapped the potential bling he could be reaping, and everyone knows King James is ring-less. So considering the millions upon millions these kids have already made, don't you think they'd want a championship a little bit more than the 5-10 million more a year they are going to hold out for? What if these "Big Three" could agree to play for ten million a year each - for the same team? They would clearly make the difference back in the ridiculous endorsement deals they would yield together. Not to mention the shear ridiculousness of forcing teams to play against an All-Star team every night. With the rest of the 30 million or so the team could field some good supporting players - maybe even another star like, I'll just throw Yao Ming out there...the possibilities - financial and athletic would be amazing.

Just something to think about.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Music Quick Hits 1

Here are some quick thoughts on some of the new albums I listened to yesterday.

Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings - this was a massive disappointment because I expected something akin to Girl Talk's Feed the Animals. What I got instead was some boring electonica-ish mash-ups that did not hold my attention.

Hello Saferide's More Modern Short Stories from Hello Saferide - I had been obsessed with this album's "Anna" for several weeks and I liked some of the other songs so I quickly began to lust after this album. Its good but not great, I like some of the other songs like "Overall."

The Kills' Midnight Boom - I got this because I was reading up on Jack White's new band, The Dead Weather which features The Kills' Allison Mossheart. Reading up on The Kills I read that they were "The British White Stripes." While this album was "ok" it was short and left a lot to be desired - far short of The White Stripes' major label release White Blood Cells.

Eminem's Relapse - It feels good to listen to Eminem. The last time I REALLY listened to Eminem was when The Eminem Show came out. While I'm not sure Relapse will be as good as The Eminem Show, it has Em's fire and spirit that makes it fun to listen to. But it's a hell of a comeback for sure - and the addictive chorus of "We Made You" will always be somewhat entertaining.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Greatest

No, this article is not about the Cat Power album "The Greatest", although I did listen to that yesterday (and was disappointed at how boring it seemed from when I liked it a year or so ago). Rather, this article is about two of the greatest people to be involved in the NBA. I'll talk about the obvious one first, Phil Jackson.

Jackson just won his tenth championship, passing Celtic legend Red Auerbach's nine. I grew up watching Jackson lead the Bulls to championships and his move to the Lakers made me partially a Lakers fan. To me, he was the most dominant coach of my generation, someone who had no equal - who else had won more championships (in this generation)? I read an article where Red Auerbach's repeated mantra was that Phil Jackson never had to "coach" talent, he just had to coach stars. Before delving into the debate over coaching/teaching vs managing stars I think its important to point out how flawed that statement is.

Yes Phil inherited Michael Jordan, the best player to play the game, but the players around them were almost entirely drafted by that franchise and coached by Phil Jackson. Jackson was an assistant for two years with the Bulls working and teaching players that would win rings for him. In 1987 the Bulls drafted Horace Grant and traded for the other rookie, Scottie Pippen. In 1988 the Bulls drafted Will Perdue and in 1989 the Bulls drafted BJ Armstrong. All of these players were the major factors in the first three championships. And the second three were on the backs of Pippen and Jordan along with Ron Harper and Tony Kukoc (two other players drafted by the Bulls). Rather than inheriting those first six championships, it seems like Phil had to scrape them out amid the Bad Boy Pistons, Larry Bird Lakers, Pat Ewing Knicks, Pat Riley Heat and other powerful Eastern Conference competitors not to mention beating Magic's Lakers, Clyde's Blazers, Barkley's Suns, the Payton/Kemp Sonics and the Malone/Stockton Jazz.

Yes Phil inherited Kobe Bryant, probably the best player to follow MJ, as well as Shaquille O'Neal in his prime when he was dominant, but he acquired a team that hadn't changed much in two years that hadn't had serious playoff success without Phil. The major change to their roster was Ron Harper who was probably influenced by the Lakers' decision to hire his former coach. Then he had to defeat Reggie's Pacers, AI's Sixers and Kidd's Nets. Sure at the end (for one season) Phil got Malone and Payton to join the fold but 1) he was probably one of the reasons they came and 2) they didn't even win that year so his "star power" shouldn't take away from his championship credentials. I'm too lazy to go into the players Phil developed with the Lakers (Odom and Bynum and the entire Lakers' bench).

Now. Let's be real. How many coaches could convince MJ to come back after the way he left (the shock over the death of his father)? How many coaches could control Kobe's ego for three seasons? How many coaches could reconcile their relationship with Kobe after calling him "uncoachable"? Just one, just Phil Jackson. That's all I'm going to say on why coaching stars is no easy feat.

When it comes down to it, look at the math - Phil Jackson has the most rings (with the two he has as a player, he has TWELVE total).

The second person I want to talk about is Michael Jordan. I'm afraid that in this shuffle of Kobe vs LeBron and the never ending SportsCenter love-fest of LeBron highlights that people are starting to lose sight of the greatest player to play the game. That even in this era players pale in comparison is remarkable. Let me throw some numbers at you. 6 NBA Championships, 6 NBA Finals MVP Awards (one for every time he played), 5 NBA MVP Awards, 14 NBA All-Star Nominations, 3 NBA All-Star MVP Awards, 2 NBA Slam-Dunk Championships, 10 NBA First Team Nominations, 9 NBA All-Defensive Team Nominations, and of course, Rookie of the Year (1985). Oh yeah and he has an NCAA Championship too.

How do you judge the best? So many talk about legacies being tied to championships - how Kobe needed Shaq and all that BS. Fine, lets look at the championships. If you look at all the championships and the MVP's as a telling factor for who dominated those series, no one else comes close. MJ has one for EVERY Time he played in the game. Shaq, Duncan and Magic have 3 MVP awards and 4 championships. Their math is close but not clear. Shaq was a body, Duncan an athlete and Magic a phenom but MJ was the greatest. He didn't have the physical advantages of Shaq and Duncan in terms of being imposing physical forces. Nor did he have the shear opportunities Magic had (7 finals appearances, 2 loses, 2 times losing the MVP award). I didn't want to get into this but Magic played with two of the players whose names are up there in discussions for the top ten players of all time. While Scottie Pippen was great and vastly underrated, he was no Kareem. MJ also was far and away the leading scorer in the playoffs of anyone.

The reason I wanted to write this article - beyond proving Phil's teaching prowess was what I believed to be the greatest sports tragedy of our generation. Personally I will forget the steroids blip but I will never forget the championships and the games we lost that MJ could have given us. Three issues to consider, 1) the "retirement" where he played baseball for two seasons, 2) the lockout/Krause force-out, and 3) the Wizard years.

The retirement robbed the Bulls - and MJ of two more championships. MJ was nearing his peak and any losses in free agency" would have been easily absorbed by MJ. Despite returning at half-speed, MJ almost led the Bulls over the Magic in 1995 but the Bulls were too rusty and didn't gell yet. The lockout forced MJ to make a decision he might not of made - retirement. Sure in his book he says that he considered it way back in 1992. But come on, if you're going to come back and play for a team like the Washington Wizards you don't want to retire - you clearly love the game too much. So lets talk about the Wizards. As an aside, what were you thinking MJ? You could have probably played for anyone and you picked a terrible team with little shot of contention for what, to "help" the team you had been GM of? Weak. But at the age of forty MJ was averaging 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1+ steals, and 20+ points. AVERAGING - he still dropped 40 a game from time to time. This is a forty year old man! If he could do that in 2003, just think what he would have been if played from 1985-2003? Or even just until 2000?

Did I mention his Olympic gold medals?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Referees please!

I usually write off the refs as being pretty good or when they are bad as not being very bad - to the effect that I never thought refs would ALTER the course of a game/series. However, this year that opinion has changed drastically.

In the Bulls-Celtics series I was disgusted by all of what Rajon Rondo got away with. He went from an aggressive, physical player in the first game or two to being a violent player. Rondo split open Kirk Hinrich's eyebrow, knocked out some of Brad Miller's teeth and picked up where he left off with Hinrich by throwing him into the scorer's table. His foul on Miller came at a critical point of the game where Miller had to make free throws for the Bulls to stay in the game. Knocking Miller to the floor on a fast break that also knocked out his teeth did not even draw a flagrant foul (although replays showed Rondo hardly attempting to swat the ball). Furthermore Rondo's Hinrich/scorer's table incident further puzzled me. Replays showed Rondo blatantly dragging Hinrich backwards and then throwing him into the scorer's table - an incident that two years earlier resulted in a TWO GAME suspension for Robert Horry. Remember that this foul came after refs were supposedly going to watch Rondo with a closer eye after he bloodied two Bulls' starters. Why the different treatment? Why is the NBA inconsistent? Why are there different repercussions for different players? I'm not sure there is an answer. But Rondo should have a) fouled out of a game b) been suspended. So this series frustrated me by MISSING CALLS.

In the Lakers-Rockers series as well as the Lakers-Nuggets series the refs are nothing short of trigger happy - calling anything and everything a foul and being generous in heaping on technical fouls. Again, why the inconsistency? In particular it seems that in the Lakers-Nuggets series the refs have returned to being generous in what they allow as "defense" by the Nuggets (do not get me wrong, they play great defense but enough is enough) while being very harsh on the Lakers' stars when the Lakers try to play defense. It seems like if a Laker touches Chauncy Billups the ref is there to call a foul but if Kobe has a defender smacking him on the head and tripping him, he has to look up from the court as Denver moves the ball back down the court. And then Kobe asks a little to aggressively about the previous call and gets a technical. Hmmm. So this series frustrated me by MAKING CALLS.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Historical "fiction"

I love reading historical fiction. Lately I've been obsessed with Sharan Newman's Catherine LeVendeur series and C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series. I love the books a hell of a lot - they're drastically different beyond both being historical mysteries but I strongly recommend both series. Anyways, I love reading historical fiction because I love history and also because, if I had the discipline and focus to write a book, I'd want to write historical fiction. In both of these series the main fictional characters interact heavily with real historical figures. This led me to the issue of, how important is it to rely heavily on historical characters? Or for that matter, historical accuracy? Like, it's one thing to build your book around popular (of that historical period) controversies swirling around a major historical figure, but how strictly do you stick to the facts? Will your readers be happy if you invent a character to be Abelard's protege or Cromwell's steward? I kept turning this question over when I was thinking about how to build a story around characters - are you hindered by history? Or can you embrace the time but not all the minute details (does it matter if Cromwell's steward is not the same character you create in your book?) I guess I don't really have an answer but I feel like I would lean heavily for "creative application of history" as I call it - being faithful to the times yet not constrained by fact. Cromwell's steward could be whomever you want as long as the steward is not a pregnant African lesbian who believes in Kaballah. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those things, there just weren't many of either of them in England five hundred or so years ago.

F**K Madoff

So I was reading up on Elie Wiesel today because I was trying to remember which book he wrote that deals with the pre-Israel Zionist terrorist group that executes a British soldier (it was Dawn). Elie Wiesel is famous for Night, his autobiography about the Holocaust, of which he was an Auschwitz survivor. Wiesel is pretty much "the guy" when it comes to Holocaust awareness and he has done so much. He even has one of the most successful charity organizations for running Holocaust education events.

But you know what's coming based on the article title...the organization lost all of it's money in the Madoff scandal. Oh and Elie Wiesel lost all of his personal wealth too. Wow. Kind of ridiculous.
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