Thursday, December 27, 2007

Rubik and his damn cube

I think everyone at one point or another has tried their hand at the Rubik's cube. It is a devilish puzzle that I'm sure I've tried to solve before but quickly given up on. After the scene in "The Pursuit of Happiness" where Will Smith's character solves it during a cab ride, I've been meaning to give it another shot. My sister got one for christmas and i've been working on it on and off for a few days now. I'm thinking that without an unforeseen stroke of genius, I will soon be consulting google for some solutions... I could use some pointers. Wish me luck.

Doom in the Garden

The standard NBA framework of success, at least in David Stern’s eyes, is one of a star surrounded by subservient role players and peripheral characters. There is nothing ESPN or the NBA likes more than promoting a game is by headlining the star from one team against the star from the other. A game between the Hornets and the Jazz is ‘Paul vs Williams’ or Sonics vs Lakers is ‘Durant vs Bryant’.

Every commercial advertising a game follows this model. There is no special announcement to proclaim a contest the battle between the Lakers bench scoring vs the Sixers pressure D. There is no selling point in an advertising scheme like that. Who wants to think that they are going to see a game that has a pivotal match up of Chris Mihm and Sam Dalembert? Where is the fun in that? These stars represent the highest level of entertainment that these teams have to offer, but also their leaders and best players. In this way, when two teams are particularly star-centric, the contest between their squads can be oversimplified into a Mano-a-Mano boxing match in which whomever gets the best of the other will walk away victorious.

This is where I get back to my usual focus of attention, the New York Knicks. Not only are the Knicks one of the worst, most dysfunctional teams in the Association, but they are completely devoid of a star player in whom they can pit their fortunes on. Isiah has constructed a team both without marketable stars and without a clear focus on team chemistry/ how the pieces fit together. It seems as if he, not unlike myself, tends to focus on the positive, best-possible scenario, visions of the players he has decided to bring in, instead of having a more realistic, pragmatic approach.

Curry and Randolph are both talented scorers who don’t bring much else to the table. They both need the ball in their hands in the low block to have any positive impact on the court. Robinson, Marbury, and Crawford are all scoring guards first and foremost who have yet to consistently prove that they can direct an efficient offense. Jones, Richardson, and Jeffries all bring some good things to the table but are role players who are being put in spots where they just don’t have 'it'. (I'll give him Balkman and Lee, two great pieces who should both be getting more time than they have been so far this season.)

They do not have a single player that they can put on the floor who can dominate his match up nearly every time he steps on the floor. There are times that Marbury, Crawford, Randolph and Curry look like they are the best player on the floor and capable of performing at an all-star level, but it never lasts long enough to actually warrant the faith and belief that Isiah has placed in them. Perpetual immaturity has disabled this team’s chances of competing for a playoff berth. The cliche “Knowing what it takes to win” is fitting for this group.

They do not have the star that can light up a billboard or drag his team to the top of the standings. Of all people, you would think Isiah would be able to recognize the importance of having a leader or alpha dog to take the reins. This is where he fails the most in his job as GM (and subsequently as a coach), believing in the power of his own personality so much that he feels that he will be able to transform perennial losers and malcontents (Marbury, Randolph, Curry) into people that they obviously are not.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fight the Power

Today while driving home from work as it was beginning to get dark out, an oncoming car flashed its high-beams at us. At first we thought that by mistake we had left ours on, but then when that was obviously not the case, we were mystified by the gesture, being that our headlights were almost comically weak. However, coming around the next curve we saw a police car hidden along the side of the road with a radar gun in a speed trap. Sons of bitches!

Luckily we were not speeding at the time and passed along unharmed. At first my thoughts were what a nice move it was by that guy to try to warn us that a pig was waiting for us up the road. It was a great feeling knowing that there could be this secret brotherhood of drivers and citizens looking out for one another against the evil forces of law enforcement agencies.

About three weeks ago I got a ticket for supposedly driving through a red light. Officer Lawless (his actual name) claimed my vehicle was still in the intersection as his (he was waiting on the perpendicular street to mine) light turned green. I have since plead not guilty to this bogus charge, not wanting to just lay down for the man, and was told that I would receive a court date in about 6 months to a year. Great system we have here people.

In my limited time as an adult, I have really come to despise a lot of what law enforcement stands for. I do realize that they do a lot of good things, like cracking down on drunk drivers (sorry babar), but the ones that I have come in contact with don't seem to be working in the direction of making our local communities better places. Rather they are eager to catch ordinary people committing inane offenses. They are cocky because of this position of power that they hold over everyone they see. Who else in our society can carry a gun on their belt and demand people obey their orders? Having someone I've never met help me to avoid some asshole with an inflated ego and a radar gun really sparked a thought about the place for police in our society. Like Dead Prez had Vassar College chanting at a concert my freshman year, "Fuck the Police!".

(side note, i think it would be interesting to see some data on the number of accidents that are caused by the traffic violations that are the most frequently ticketed. How often does just speeding result in an accident compared with how many speeding tickets are handed out?)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Heart and Courage

After the Knicks 119-92 home loss tonight to the Indiana Pacers, Head Coach Isiah Thomas repeatedly referenced the "heart and courage" that it takes to compete and win. After being tied at 64 in the third quarter, the Pacers pulled away behind 22 3rd quarter points from Mike Dunleavy(!), tough defense and generally playing liked they gave a shit. It has become a trend for this team to play evenly with a team for a while and then just decide that they've played hard for long enough and mail it in.

There is always one run that the other team makes that the Knicks just simply fold. It is always frustrating to watch because whenever this happens (usually in the late 2nd or early 3rd quarters) Isiah has no idea how to stop it. He continues to shuffle the same careless and uninspired players into the game. If a team is running you ragged on the break or killing you on the o-boards, you don't necessarily want to reinsert the same sluggish players that weren't boxing out or getting back on defense. Wouldn't you want to throw in some guys that are hungry as shit and want to play their asses off to stop the run and spark the team? When Dunleavy was lighting them up and tinsley was picking them apart on the break, why not put in chandler, balkman, jeffries, nate and lee? Sure, they might not break down the defense like jamal or steph, but they are will lock down on d and hustle.

My mom had an astute question, "how can these players who are payed millions of dollars to play this game give up in the middle of a game like this?". And she has point, what right do these people have, not even as basketball players but as entertainers, to just shut down and stop trying? After already being down by 20-something point and they give up a fast break layup to Shawne Williams who just simply out ran them down the floor after a Knicks basket, how do you not, as a coach, yank every single one of those players off the court and make a point that, no matter the score, that type of effort won't be tolerated? That this once proud franchise will never make it back to the playoffs if that level of focus is the acceptable.

Its one thing if you are playing a pickup game and your team is getting absolutely rocked, and you don't run back on d just to get the game over with. Its another if it is your job to look like a professional basketball player and are being paid enormous amounts of money to do so. Not only that, aren't pride, self-respect and integrity factors as well? Tens of thousands of people are watching you jog lazily back or refuse to close out on a shooter. I really want to love this team, but they are really trying their hardest to shake all of their loyal fans.

Is it the coach's fault for leaving these guys in the game or is it more on the players to man up and give it all to get a fucking win? I am not the biggest Zeke fan, but it gets to a point when the "fire Isiah" chants are starting up at the slightest problem and the question becomes, when is it not the guy in charge of the mess but the actual perpetrators on the court who should receive most of the blame?

Long Johns

Long underwear
. I'm going to come out and proclaim this wonderful invention as the most underrated article of clothing on the market today. Only recently have I come to appreciate the understated brilliance and sheer inner beauty of these seldom publicized garments. Sure, they aren't as flashy as a big down jacket or as eye catching as a good looking scarf, but in terms of utility on a cold winters day, there can be nothing more important than a quality set of long johns.

It was two months ago that my grandfather offered me two unopened packages from the depths of his closet under the guise that "he had no use for them anymore". I graciously excepted these two bundles wrapped in plastic with some skepticism, I mean, who really wears long underwear anymore in this day and age? With the new wave of lined pants and super insulated winter coats, long underwear seemed to have become obsolete. Boy, was I ever wrong.

The whole idea of long johns is to fit snugly against the skin so to maintain body heat by not letting any precious warmth escape. Sure, a nice coat is a great asset in the winter months, but does it trap your hard earned body heat in and never let it go? At best, it only prevents the cold from getting in while being so loose-fitting that it hardly does more than shield the elements. Having been working in the frigid climates of upstate New York, I can attest with complete honesty that nothing is more appreciated or valued in my daily wardrobe than my set of thermal underwear.

It's like a layer of armor that is donned before going into battle against the elements. Currently I only own the two-piece version of this essential garment. Convenient if I only want one or the other, but I imagine nothing beats a morning when you can slip into a full one-piece and know that you are set for the rest of a cold day. Not to discount all the other ingredients necessary to arm yourself against a windy 15 degree day, but all I'm asking for is to give these humble, hardworking pieces of clothing their due.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Johan Santana and a red light

So it seems the Yankees have bailed out of the Johan Santana sweepstakes, leaving only their arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox as the main contenders for this former Cy Young award winner. Boston landing Santana would mean their starting rotation would consist of Josh Beckett (perhaps the best postseason player in all of baseball?), Santana, Dice-K, Curt Schilling and Tim Wakefield, with Jonathon Papelbon as their closer. I can't say I know that much about baseball history, but I would bet that those 5 players might make up the best starting rotation in the history of the game.

However, it is not a given this will even happen as Minnesota might still hang on to Johan (he still has one more year left on his contract) if they don't feel they are getting a good enough deal. Also, the yankees might change their minds and try to get back if only to prevent the sox from getting him. After they flip flopped on the A-Rod situation, I wouldn't be surprised if they changed their mind on this. The Twins wanted Melky, Hughes and Kennedy but the Yanks weren't willing to let go of all three. With Rodriguez, Posada, Mo, and Petite all coming back, the young guns only getting better and Roger Clemens leaving, they have all the pieces in place to make a serious run at a Boston team that looked nearly invincible at times in the playoffs. They are getting to be an old team, so it will be interesting to see whether the Steinbrenners are willing to mortgage a good chunk of their young talent for a sure fire ace in the hopes that he can lead them to a championship in 2008.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Loyal readers of Blog Attempt #1:

-I just moved back to Poughkeepsie, NY, into an apartment with my good pal Jer Isseks. We've got a nice little place downtown. It definitely feels weird to be back in town after I thought I was leaving for the last time in May. In the short time that I have been alive, I have found out that life does not always go as smoothly as you may plan, but it does in one way or another work out. Things evolve, people change, visions broaden, goals adjusted. This whole "life" thing is fascinating. There is always more to learn and to consider. We are going to be here for 6 months, until we set off west on our magnificent voyage in early June. Until then we are going to be having a great time in the beautiful Hudson Valley and doing all we can for our project.

-We are slowly moving forward with WBFF. We met with a lawyer last week to discuss different possibilities for forming, gaining support, and raising money. (If you ever need a good lawyer in the hudson valley, Brian Berlandi of Pawling, NY is a great man.) We are meeting with Peter Leonard of the Vassar Fieldwork Office tomorrow since he is a key figure in the greater Poughkeepsie community scene and has a lot of connections and insight into non-profit, charity and community organizations. Also we are going to start volunteering with Dutchess Outreach (one of the organizations that we are thinking about aligning ourselves with) tomorrow, to try to get a better feel for things.

-I am extremely happy for one thing in particular recently. I have started to realize more how much I love my family and how important all of them are to my life and me to theirs'. There are very few things that are dependable and that you can rely on, but I feel extremely fortunate that I have an incredible family made up of incredible people that I know are behind me 100%.

More updates and other thoughts to come soon.