Friday, December 27, 2002

YAO WATCH: Page Two is doing the Yao stuff today, as they have Ralph Wiley taking a trip on the wayforward machine as he reports on the coming Ming dynasty, while Bill Simmons recants his Yao-will-be-a-bust comments.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

ANOTHER YEAR END LIST WORTH READING: Scott Thrill's Top Ten Reasons Why American Culture Didn't Suck In 2002. Yes, Bowling For Columbine is on there, but so are the Dallas Mavericks and Spirited Away and those two outweigh the movie I don't want to see by the bombastic hypocrite in my book. Via Fred Lapides.

UPDATE: Yes, Spirited Away is Japanese. I can't explain it. Since all ten items on this list receive pretty much universal acclaim from critics who cover these areas of our culture, maybe this should've been called the Top Ten Moments Of Received Wisdom or something.
YEAR END LIST WORTH READING: "However, in a medium that's all about tearing down the elitist opinions of others, someone must weigh in with a Big Picture perspective on what sucked." And so Marc Weisblott gives us the permalink-free Ten Worst Blogs Of The Year.
AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS IT WAS: Kings 105, Lakers 99.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

MERRY CHRISTMAS: Have a good one.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

LAKERS SINKING: And, I mean, I want them to keep sinking, that would be my greatest vision of this NBA season, being motivated as I am by Team Hate over Team Love. Tim Kraus is blaming Kupchak.

Remember, Lakers/Kings is Christmas night.
BEATO BEATS RAPBEATER: Here's a great Greg Beato mauling of Bill O'Reilly and his stance on hip hop. Via Hit & Run.

Monday, December 23, 2002

HEFNER WATCH: This headline says this study is proving that Playmates are becoming more androgynous over time, but I'm not sure that's what this study is saying:

Reporting in the December 23/28 issue of the British Medical Journal, Voracek and co-author Maryanne L. Fisher of York University in Toronto, Canada, painstakingly evaluated body measurements of 577 consecutive Playboy centerfold models from 1953 to 2001.

From weight, height, bust, hip and waist measurements, Voracek and Fisher calculated body mass index and waist:hip, waist:bust, and bust:hip ratios, the study indicates.

While previous research on the bodies of female centerfold models suggests that "optimums reflect evolved optimal design and thus should not be subject to temporal change," the new research refutes this notion.

"It appears that female bodily attractiveness cues are subject to change over time," Voracek told Reuters Health in an interview.

"More precisely, our data suggest that Playboy centerfolds' typical body mass index has further descended below corresponding population levels, whereas their typical waist-to-hip ratio now approaches corresponding population levels--that of 20-plus year-old females.

"The maximally sexually attractive female body shape seems not to be stable over time," Voracek adds.

Via Hit & Run. The only thing this study seems to prove is Voracek's last comment above.
CONFEDERACY OF ASSHOLES: One man's trouble with airport screeners in Portland. Via Charlie Murtaugh.

Friday, December 20, 2002

PLEDGE DRIVING ME CRAZY: Lawrence Simon comes up with some blogs that should get the sweet clash flow. Lawrence via Chris Anderson (who should read the Postrel Sullivan-linking strategy post) via the Regions of Mind blogroll via the Brink Lindsey blogroll. It's one giant click letter...
NEAT READ: Ted Barlow on transsexuals and his own potential "blinding aura of heterosexuality near which gay men fear to tread."
MAGAZINEWATCHING: The new SI has a freakin' great story on Stanley Roberts, the Shaq-like center who never had Shaq's drive and has the personality of a saint, if you believe the article. Good stuff.

Scientists studying the DNA of 52 human groups from around the world have concluded that people belong to five principal groups corresponding to the major geographical regions of the world: Africa, Europe, Asia, Melanesia and the Americas.

The study, based on scans of the whole human genome, is the most thorough to look for patterns corresponding to major geographical regions. These regions broadly correspond with popular notions of race, the researchers said in interviews.

Via isteve.
LAS VEGAS, FINALLY A MAJOR MINOR LEAGUE CITY: The New Jersey Red Dogs/Gladiators--the professional Arena football deam that drew out the apathy of the state of New Jersey like no other team--is moving to Vegas. They had the most pathetic crowds there, like, sub-Expo sized crowds. It's about time they moved. And yes, a Vegas sportswriter is already slamming them and I think he's a little off base, the AFL has proven itself viable as a major minor sport, like pro lacrosse and pro soccer. Both stories via ArenaFan.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

BY THE WAY: The GMAC bowl kind of stunk, Byron Leftwich was hobbling the whole time--which was inspiring and all but the commentary devolved into an extended bebate on whether or not he was destroying his career--and on the other side Louisville forgot to show up. They didn't even get 90 points between them, so the great offensive masterpiece did not occur. And Louisville was so penalty-happy that the game seemed to affect my perception of time as I watched it, dragging minutes into hours. All was haze around me, I ran and ran but seemed not to move at all. Ah well, you can't expect Arena games to break out all the time.
I WISH I WAS A PBS-LIKE NAME BRAND: Glenn Reynolds reports:

Andrew Sullivan raised nearly $80,000 in his "pledge week" campaign. And I was happy with a few hits to the paypal button!

Well, this should prove that it's possible for someone to make a living at blogging, anyway.

Emphasis on the "one."
AWRIGHT: Dirk Deppey says about the Flaming Carrot/Reid Fleming crossover: "Having seen an advance copy, I can tell those familiar with the two characters with some authority: it's exactly what it sounds like, and you're going to want to read this." Which is as close to Two Thumbs Up, Way Up as Dirk gets. And yes, you do want to read it:

THE PULSE What on EARTH is the story about?

BURDEN The premise is that Flaming Carrot and Reid Fleming are on a game show in Burbank called CELEBRITY STANDOFF. This week's theme is comic book tough guys versus the tough guys of stage and screen. Reid and FC are up against Christopher Walken, Luciano Pavoratti and Fabio. Also there's a vampire Lassie on a skateboard terrorizing the freeways of Los Angeles. People have an accident, they see Lassie coming, and they think she's coming to save them - but instead she drinks their blood. Between shows, Reid and Flaming Carrot are trolling the streets of LA, looking for the deadly dog.

On a different level, the story is about two outsiders busting, banging and blundering their way through the tinsel-town city. It's about having fun, goofing off and hanging out with your friends.

THE PULSE How would you describe the main characters, Flaming Carrot, and Reid Fleming for those who haven't seen them before?

BURDEN Reid is a surly, intrepid, two-fisted milkman. All the kids in the neighborhood look like him: a square nose, balding and a few days of beard stubble.

Flaming Carrot is the world's first surrealistic superhero. He's a blue collar, roughneck from Iron City. He has no powers and isn't very sharp, so when he gets in a spot he usually blasts his way out in a hail of gunfire.

Plus Bob Burden reveals what could have been:

THE PULSE Flaming Carrot and Reid Fleming are both masters of their own surreal hard -- or easy -- was it to get them to mesh?

BURDEN: David and I have a similar readership base and the art styles seemed to work together. Reid is a great character but most people wouldn't see him crossing over with say, Sandman or Swamp Thing. Same for Flaming Carrot. Although years ago I did work on a crossover between Flaming Carrot and the Superman-Batman team of WORLD'S FINEST for Piranha Press. I had to set it in the early sixties though, because Flaming Carrot's setting and style wouldn't work well in the modern DC universe. On the other hand, the 1950's and 60's DC comics like WORLD'S FINEST and JIMMY OLSEN had a surreal, childlike quality that could have meshed with the Carrot.

Kewl. It's been ages since new Flaming Carrot.
IF INSTAPUNDIT DIDN'T EXIST WE'D HAVE TO CREATE HIM: Jim Henley points out that there is a leftist Instapundit: good ol' Atrios. And Jim points out that he called for something Atrios-like six months ago:

What the Left lacks is an Instapundit. Sure, there are popular liberal bloggers, like Josh Marshall and - help me out here... Eric Alterman? But there's no hugely popular liberal/left blogger who is willing to reinvest his readership capital in subsidiaries, as Glenn Reynolds has done. Marshall and Alterman seem to have the legacy-media horror of "downlinking" that Virginia Postrel discerned in Andrew Sullivan. You can criticize Reynolds for preferring to link to weak material by people with congenial opinions rather than strong material by people who challenge them. (Unqualified Offerings has no personal standing to complain any more.) But Reynolds happily "shared the wealth" and helped nurture a cadre of libertarian-flavored center-right supporters of an expansive war, and likely increased his own readership by doing so. (For Good - or Evil... yah yah yah.)

Who will do the same for the new crowd? Don't the likes of Marshall and Alterman want a posse?

Marshall doesn't--his blog links are Alterman, Mickey Kaus and that New Republic thing--whereas Alterman has a pretty good blogroll. But Atrios is starting to have a lgf-like fanbase in terms of having excited, like-minded individuals reading his site, along with spirited disagreements in the comments boxes. (Jim, where's your comments?) And Jim's post leads us back to one of my favorite Virginia Postrel posts, where she explains the awful truth about how to climb the ladder in medialand:

FACTS OF LIFE: Eric Olsen at Tres Producers has raised a minor ruckus by noticing that Andrew Sullivan almost never links to other bloggers and generally fails to give credit where it's due. Eric might have also noted that Andrew is the rare blogger who never identifies readers who send him letters, regardless of what those readers might wish. (Obviously, some would prefer to be anonymous. But they're almost certainly a minority.) A single byline keeps the focus on the Main Man. It's a savvy media strategy.

This is the way the professional media world is. You become prominent, first and foremost, by knowing the right people and then, secondarily, by attacking or crediting people more prominent than yourself. (They stay prominent by not responding to you by name, a tactic well-honed by neocon intellectuals who almost never identify, much less quote, the objects of their criticism. Exhibit A: Francis Fukuyama.) If you must mention someone less prominent than you are, make sure it is someone much less well known, so you can be recognized for your wide reading or noblesse oblige.

In short: Promote your friends. Mention your (more famous) mentors. But don't be a fool. There is no career-enhancing reason ever to cite someone who might prove a competitor, make a cogent argument against you, or get credit for an idea you could have claimed. Andrew Sullivan is so good at this strategy that he probably doesn't even realize he's following it.

Not so here in Blogland, where Google is the great equalizer and everybody can write down what they want and have a good chance that somebody's going to read it, by linking to it or by having somebody search it out. You just, y'know, can't make a career out of doing this, as Jeff Jarvis is always pointing out.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

FOR THE WISH LIST: Radley Balko sent us over to the Onion's top albums of 2002 thing and one item immediately calls out to me:


Compiled by a British teenager whose weblog became a de facto weigh-station for the mash-up bootleg scene, Boom Selection_Issue 01 crams more than 30 hours of music onto three ridiculously illegal MP3 CDs. Featuring would-be canon fodder like "Smells Like Booty" (Nirvana + Destiny's Child) and "A Stroke Of Genius" (The Strokes + Christina Aguilera), the 432-track set fans out to include DJ Shadow, Negativland, De La Soul, Coldcut, and scores of others lurking around the movement, which takes sampling to its hyper-literal extreme. For those who haven't been lucky enough to taste mash-up's heady rush live, Boom Selection tucks on 10 DJ mixes by the likes of The Avalanches, Soulwax, and Freelance Hellraiser.

Check it out here.
HEFNER WATCH: Rapmaster was trolling for hits and he pointed out this Salon story by a guy who toured with the bus tour looking for the Miss Millennium Playmate and wound up thinking that porn and strippers weren't all that bad after all, and so I will join Rapmaster in his hit-trolling enterprise on this here Internet, where a man's value is counted by mouseclicks. Anyhow, there is an anti-Hefner nugget in there:

Salon: And so, in the end, were you happy with Miss Millennium?

Leif Ueland, who wrote this book: They picked these twins ... Playboy is always a little behind the curve of what's hip. Apparently, there was a day when they were in the forefront. Now, they're embarrassing. Their effort to leap on the Latin American explosion came a couple years after Ricky Martin. Getting the twins for 2000 -- it was so hokey. Those were women we never saw on the bus. It felt like Playboy just went to a modeling agency and got them from there. But I don't know.

I like the idea that we looked for the Playmate of the Millennium and didn't find her. You know -- she's not out there! Time to shut it down!

The twins were attractive in the attractive-but-useless way Playboy seems to reserve for their big Playmate-Of-The-Whatever nominations, by the way. So the point is, they went through this whole big bus tour, picked these two twins out of a catalog anyway--that is Ueland's speculation, anyway, and he says they were never on the bus and he was there--and wound up producing some forgettable pornography. The bus trip was a sham; the Girls Next Door had already been decided on, and they were just going through the motions to make us think Hefner was still interested in finding somebody interesting for us all to look at naked. How long can the Playboy brand keep coasting?
YAO WATCH: David Aldridge has a great report.
HOPEFULLY UNIVERSALLY FUNNY: Lang Whitaker has up his NBA quotes of the year up and they should be funny even if you're not a basketball fan. The SLAM LINKS disappear after a while, my blog's archives last a little longer so I'll stick up the ones I found funniest here:

"I do not waste my time in answering abuse. I thrive under it, like a field that benefits from manure." -- Shaq, in a sign worn on his jersey one day during practice.

"IN HINDU CULTURE, THE ELEPHANT IS TALL, REGAL, MAJESTIC, STRONG, POWERFUL AND ENIGMATIC. A HINDU PROVERB STATES THAT WHEN AN ELEPHANT IS DOWN EVEN A FROG WILL KICK HIM. ISN'T THAT RIGHT, PLASCHKE?" -- Shaquille O'Neal, in a message written on a piece of paper that he wore taped to his jersey at Lakers practice yesterday, referring to a column in the LA Times by Bill Plaschke saying that Shaq needed to be held accountable for throwing a punch at Brad Miller.

"Shit, we won the game, man. I don't want to hear that bullshit. We won the fucking game." -- Sam Cassell on the tirade from coach George Karl after the Bucks barely beat the Pacers.

"He's a guy that has a lot of talent, but he's easily swayed to do other things besides concentrate and try to get better...No disrespect to Stevie, but he couldn't get off the bench with the group we have now. That's just the honest-to-goodness truth." -- Byron Scott, on former Nets forward Stephen Jackson.

"I'm kind of shocked to hear him say that, out of all people. If that was his opinion, he should have told me that. Regardless how he feels, I'm still going to be in the NBA. So he can kiss my ass." -- Stephen Jackson's response.

"Curling [the winter olympic 'sport'] ain't nothing but dusting...I want my Grandma to get off her old behind and get her an Olympic medal to go with my two medals. She can dust." -- Charles Barkley.

"I was a Cadillac with the back windows shot out when they bought me, so they're going to ride it or put it in the shop. The windows still ain't fixed, so what do you want? It's still $3,099, take it or leave it. [Expletive]. [Expletive]. I ain't really said nothing yet. I'm going to do me a book." -- Charles Oakley.

"I'll just keep eating my bread, sipping my soup and serving my time. But the chicken is going to lay some more eggs one day." -- Charles Oakley.

"Now, if you say the fans and everybody want to know about you, we're going to call the Maloofs now and they are going to make a glass shower and everybody from Sacramento can come and watch me take a shower." -- Vlade Divac.

"I'm frustrated with my son in school sometimes and I can't trade him." -- Sam Cassell, on the recent struggles in Milwaukee.

"Legends don't retaliate to average high school players, and he is an average high school player." -- Shaq, on confronting Danny Fortson after a hard foul.

"It's handicapped all right. You got eight tow trucks and eight tow cars. They all look the same." -- Charles Oakley, on the Eastern Conference playoff situation.

"I don't even think Yao Ming is worth a top-10 pick." -- Mark Cuban, on Finley-for-Yao trade rumors.

Read the links every day and be entertained.
YOUR BOWL GAME TO WATCH: Screw Ohio State and Miami, screw the whole Bowl System. College football will always be a make-believe sport as long as there is no championship. It's basically a four-month exhibition. The beauty of this is you can decide for yourself which game is The Game to watch, and there is no Bowl worth watching more than tonight's GMAC Bowl, wherein Marshall plays Louisville in Mobile and we end up with a 93-90 final after five overtimes. Remember, the only sporting contest worth watching is an entertaining one, excepting the Superbowl because it's a pagan holiday.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

WORTH READING: Interview with Jesus Castillo, the Texas comic book store manager who got arrested for selling a Japanese porno comic to an adult.
BLOGGUS SPORADICUS: As I finish my finals my blog activities will become sporadic. Well, my posting is always sporadic, so this is like stating the obvious--like a Seattle weatherman forecasting rain or something. But at least I have an excuse.

Where's my Sitemeter button?

Is it here yet? Ah, now it's there. Thanks, Sitemeter!

Friday, December 13, 2002

MICHELLE MALKIN WATCH: Instapundit links to her and I link to her and our reasons are so terribly different and I feel shame. That new head shot is the greatest yet; she's finally let her hair down and is embracing the fierce physical beauty she has tried to hide for so long. She was on C-SPAN recently, and she has the cutest expression on her face when she's summoning up her thoughts in her head and preparing to give a reasoned, articulate yet impassioned response on our current immigration problems; a highly individualistic display, speaking with conviction yet without a hint of ego. I ordered the transcript and the tape.
NEMESIS WRATH OF KHANESQUE: Over on Slate David Edelstein likes the new Trek flick:

This tenth feature is a big deal, indeed—at least the third-best, and maybe even a notch above the previous runner-up, Nicholas Meyer's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991), the last to feature the entire original starship Enterprise crew. Of course, nothing approaches Meyer's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), which was not only a crackerjack space adventure in itself, but which virtually saved the franchise from the dustbin of TV history. Meyer purged much of Trek's lugubriousness; gave the flabby, liberal-humanist intercourse a dash more militaristic pep; and contrived the fabulous space duels between Kirk (William Shatner) and the muscled-up, Melville-spouting Khan (Ricardo Montalban) that serve as a template for franchise's best action sequences to this day.

Trek movies are so much fun when they're on--and sad and pathetic when they're not--so I am excited to see this and not nearly as ashamed by that fact as I probably should be. KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN.

"What does GOD need with a STARSHIP?"
MAGAZINEWATCHING: For the Unabloggers among us, take note: the new Club International has an amazing layout of Aria Giovanni and Veronica Zemanova engaged in faux-lesbianism. If you're any kind of a fan of the semi-softcore pornography, this is what you were looking for. Yes.
PEERING OVER THE GREAT WALL AND SEEING ALL THESE DOLLAR SIGNS RUNNING AROUND: Great Washington Post article on the potential economic impact of Yao Ming. Sample:

In Houston, the Rockets have distributed Yao growth charts and plastered the city with billboards bearing his image, and ESPN has run commercials showing him dangling out of a tiny bunk bed and performing tai chi -- a series of exercises and postures developed in China -- with the Rockets' wobbly mascot. But there's none of that yet in China, no Yao T-shirts or jerseys, no product endorsements or ad campaigns. Finding even a poster of him is a challenge.

This yawning gap between Yao's immense popularity and his minimal commercial presence won't last long. The NBA hopes Yao does for basketball in China what Michael Jordan did for the sport in the United States. Businesses around the world are salivating at the chance to use Yao to break into the enormous Chinese market, home to 1.3 billion people with rising average incomes and middle-class aspirations.

Just think: Yao's first game against the Indiana Pacers was available in 287 million Chinese households -- well more than double the number of all TV households in the United States.

"We're being flooded with offers for endorsements, from multinationals, software firms, computer manufacturers, shoe companies, apparel companies. You name it, they all want in," said Zhang Mingji, who heads Team Yao, the group of agents, consultants and others managing the player's business interests. "We don't really need to go out and seek opportunities. So we're taking our time, and being very cautious. Yao has to fit with the companies, and the product has to fit with Yao."

Earlier this year, Team Yao asked a group of business school students at the University of Chicago to study Yao's potential in China. Zhang said the results were more than encouraging: Consumers here have a more positive view of Yao than any other Chinese athlete, and while his fans are concentrated in the cities, they include older and middle-aged residents as well as the young.

I bet David Stern is looking is looking at that 287 million households number and putting some dollar signs in front and maybe a zero or two in back. I mean, what a market, ready and willing to be turned into basketball fanatics--and the NBA brand in particular. Stern probably has a whole NBA Far East jotted down on the back of a napkin somewhere. And additionally, will China turn into a nation of basketball players as well? Will pro ball be something a Chinese athlete will aspire to, as another way to get out of poverty in the coming People's Capitalist Republic? We shall see.
I DO SO LOVE THE LINKS: Here's Lang Whitaker on Isiah Thomas's arrest:

People in Indianapolis are alleging racial discrimination was a factor in Isiah Thomas getting handcuffed last weekend in Indy. Hold up, wait a minute...regardless of color, let's say there's been a potentially fatal accident and a police car has been hit. Though the road is marked off and traffic is backed up, one car drives through the area the police have marked as off-limits. The car is pulled over, and the driver refuses to identify himself. No, really. So they cuff the driver and let him wait in the back of a patrol car. When the driver eventually says that his license is inside a briefcase, police check it and find it -- along with wads and wads of cash. When they ask the driver where the money came from, he says "I work for a living." So they call in drug-sniffing dogs to see what's up. I don't care what race the driver is, the whole thing makes sense to me. Then, add on the fact that we all know the Rev. Dr. Isiah is nuts, and I'd have cuffed him, too. Yes, racial profiling is a bad thing. But so is acting like an idiot.
WNBA CRAPPING OUT WATCH: Next up, the dissipation of the Seattle Storm--who are losing money despite Sue freaking Bird--or at least a move a little southwards:

Tacoma Dome Director Mike Combs said the city has been talking to the Seattle Storm for at least three weeks about relocating to Tacoma. The Dome is offering the team a more affordable lease than KeyArena, and Combs said the South Sound has the fan base to support a WNBA team.

"We'd be excited to have them," he said. "It would be great for the city."

The Storm's spring and summer game schedule - the WNBA recently increased its season by two games to 34, and it will run from Memorial Day to mid-September 2003 - fits in well with the Dome, which sees its busiest seasons in the fall and winter, Combs said.

Also, he said, the building is well suited to a basketball team.

"Tacoma's proximity to Seattle is compelling," Karen Bryant, vice president of Storm operations, said Thursday. "We're in discussions with Tacoma. They're not much more serious than that."

The Storm is looking at other facilities for two reasons - the new WNBA operating agreement grants teams the right to play home games in non-NBA arenas, and the Storm's three-year lease with KeyArena expires on Dec. 31.

"Those two circumstances were the catalyst for looking at other options," Bryant said. "We're losing money, so we're looking at all of our major expense lines. We firmly believe that our best opportunity is to stay at KeyArena. But we're looking at other options."

The team is also looking at arena possibilities in Spokane, Yakima and Everett. But moving to Spokane or Yakima seems unlikely because that would entail relocating the entire Storm organization.

I would love a small-market tilted WNBA with the Sparks and Liberty being the big-market anchors, for my own goofy reasons.

Oh, and hey: Paul Allen wants to cut the Fire loose, despite having Jackie freaking Stiles:

Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen wants to cut the Fire loose from his money-losing operation. In the WNBA's current restructuring, Allen has the first option to own the Fire, but he reportedly has urged other buyers to come forward -- in a hurry.

Unless the WNBA team can find a new owner in the Portland area within the next two weeks, the Fire likely will be extinguished.

The Washington Times wraps it all up for you.
TRAIN WRECK I MISSED: They paired up Bill Walton and Dick Vitale last night? And I was in class? Daaaang.
WELL THAT WAS RANDOM: David DuPree, basketball expert, relationships guru:

germany: david, my boy-friend is absolutely crazy about basketball: magazines, pay-per-view, hip-hop music and of course he plays himself. now it's that thing, we had a weekend-trip planned for saturday and now his coach called yesterday that a game is re-scheduled for that day. what am i gonna do about it? we are both working and he spends his rare time in the gym. can you give me a hint what can i do? thanx, D

David DuPree: D --
I think you need to let him know that you don't want to tell him what to do and you do't want to nag him, but you want to take that weekend trip. You sound like someone who doesn't ask for much and it sounds like you have made a lot of sacrifices to accommodate your boyfriend. I don't want to start anything between you, but he needs to at least put you on the same scale as going to the gym. In my experience, the longer you let him get away with tat kind of stuff the harder it is going to be to get him to change. There is always a middle ground and a scheduled weekend getaway should take precedent over a re-scheduled game (unless he's a pro and it's his job). If he does go on the trip with you, don't let him tell you he did it for you. He has to want to do it for the both of you and do it because he wants to be with you and he cares about you. Don't let him tell you he's doing you a favor. Good luck.

This he does without breaking a sweat in the midst of a determined basketball chat. I love DuPree, and hate myself for forgetting to check in on the USA Today basketbal section more often. He's the great below-the-radar American basketball commentator in the pages of America's great below-the-radar paper. If I had more money I'd be getting the USA Today in my driveway every day, and the Financial Times for that matter. Yes I would. But this is, you know, an insolvent republic.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

SHOCKING TRUE TALES OF IMMIGRATION: The blog called wimminandminoritiesdotcom links to a whole set of Washington Post stories on the daily lives and ambitions of young immigrants and children of immigrants. It's stuff worth reading. Above blog found via Monstah.

I like this quote:

Music from the choir drifts outside. The limo driver is leaning against a railing on the church steps. Mel McHenry specializes in Vietnamese weddings. He also teaches at a nail academy, which is how he got in with the Viet community. A black man from the South, he spends a lot of time thinking about how a group of immigrants can make the leap from refugee boat to a limousine in 25 years. He lights a cigarette.

"See, we're born with it," McHenry says of Americans. "We're used to flipping a switch. The bulb burns out and we're pissed off. Them? What switch?"

McHenry dusts a piece of lint from his tuxedo. "There is no such thing as my money," he says. "The money goes to the house. They save that money. You watch the men come out of this church. They're in those $5 Kmart block shoes. They come trompin' out, can't hardly walk."
ONCE MORE, INTO THE NICHE: Franklin Harris notices my thoughts on the tiny little corner American comics have painted themselves into, and links to some of his own.
PORN REPORT: Current Pet of the Year Sunny Leone was on Howard Stern last night. She has a funny presence, giving the spiel about her lesbian experiences and somehow being earnest about it and being bemused by it in a "this-is-so-silly" way at the same time, and Howard was eating it all up. She is, in fact, Indian, and not Italian as whoever got her into girlie magazines decided she was. Cool. Hurray for Penthouse, not only for mixing up the ethnotypes but for having no problem raising one to the highest level.
FUNNY, FUNNY STUFF TO BUY: Micah Wright's remixed propaganda posters. Via journalista. And the comic book he writes, Stormwatch: Team Achilles, is a really great war comic with superheroes in it, kind of like the Larry Hama G.I. Joe was a really great war comic with supervillains in it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

HUH?: When did Amazon buy CDNow? I musta missed that memo....
WARRIORS BEAT LAKERS: It was like a college atmosphere in that game, everybody on their feet, Earl Boykins stepping up and getting the call on the charge on Derek Fisher with seconds to go. An entertaing game, and not just because the Lakers lost. Though that always helps.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

NICHE-IFICATION OF AMERICAN COMICS CONTINUES: Shonen Jump, the new English-language manga monthly, is the top-selling comic book in the United States. Shonen Jump reprint's kiddie manga comics in serialized form. The number one American comic book, Ultimate War, is a post-Authority superhero story featuring new versions of the Avengers and X-Men fighting each other. Yes, you have to have been reading comics for the past twenty years to understand Ultimate War, or that last sentence, and go to a comic shop to buy it. No, you don't have to go to a comic shop to buy Shonen Jump or have been reading manga for the past twenty years to understand it. It is a little bit of a trick to read something in reverse order--because you still read the English language left to right (duh) but have to read the action itself backwards; I feel something like a typewriter afterwards--but still. The differences are just obvious, and I have no idea how the big American publishers will respond, or even if they want to, preferring to rule the tiny fiefdom of the collector's market and leave the Japanese publishers to dominate the market out of complacency--kind of like Detroit and cars in the 70s.

I could have my numbers wrong, by the way, as I don't have any figures for the other comics with American newsstand distribution--Archie comics. Gawd, why couldn't a big thick superhero comic sell a bunch of copies on the newsstand? Or any other popular genre, for that matter. Or a big thick art comic. I don't get it.
CLIPPERS REPORT: Clips spoil the Hornets' unbeaten streak at home and stay on pace with the Lakers at 9-12 to the Lakers' 9-13. The Clippers' secret plan, obviously, is to use the Lakers as a motivating factor, match them win for win and claw their way into the playoffs. Yep.

Hey, the Clips are on a three-game winning streak and what's tying them all together? No Olowakandi. That's gotta be it. If I was Alvin Gentry I'd keep his minutes extremely limited, because he's only playing for his free agent deal next season and--let's face it--he isn't very good. John Hollinger advocates playing Wang Zhi Zhi because he's just as good as Olowakandi, plus he wouldn't be playing for numbers like Kandiman. Here he is on Olowakandi, free agent:

All I've heard for the last two months is how the Knicks, or the Spurs, or the Nuggets, or some other team, can really help themselves in the middle by forking out big money for Olowokandi. I hate to break the bad news, but he's still an average center at best. While his superficial numbers look outstanding (14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks), he's a turnover machine (over three a game) and rarely gets to the line. After a strong start, his PER is hovering in the 13 range, which isn't something I'd want to spend $12 million a year for. Or even half that.

The guy teams should be targeting is [Brad] Miller. Despite superficially inferior numbers (13 points, eight rebounds), he is an abundantly better player than Olowokandi because he is far more adept at getting to the foul line, is a far better ballhandler, and shoots a higher percentage. In other words, he creates more points from fewer possessions, and ain't that what the game is all about? What's more, the Pacers may be hard-pressed to keep Miller given their need to sign Jermaine O'Neal and Reggie Miller (assuming Reggie finds his game, that is), creating an opportunity for some enterprising club to snatch him up.

Ironically, Olowokandi was the top pick in 1998 and Miller went undrafted. Yet there is no doubt about which one is the superior player.

"PER", by the way, is some kind of statistical analysis that John came up with and is my least favorite part of the otherwise excellent Hollinger repertoir. Basketball just isn't a geek sport, subject to Baseball Prospectus-style numerology; it's a psychological sport, full of posturing and mind games, the closest non-fixed sport to pro wrestling. I don't doubt that a PER is a meaningful value, just not the most important ones in the sport of NBA basketball. But I am officially off the Olowakandi bandwagon unless he starts talking smack about Shaq again.
ONE NWBL CAVEAT: Yes, there is a Birmingham franchise, which means the NWBL is probably doomed. Birmingham is like the ultimate Always Bridesmaid/Never Bride of sports cities. I mean, the XFL, USFL, WLAF, WFL, and the CFL America Project all died and all had Birmingham as a franchise. Well, they were all wannabe football leagues, so maybe there's no correlation, but dang that there is a lot of huge sports debacles. Either Birmingham is an untapped sports market with no luck at getting a major franchise (didn't the NFL stiff them in the 70s?) or a complete sucker for every startup league with big plans and empty pockets. Possibly both. We need a fifth major team sport in this country, because the NBA and NHL can't possibly expand into any more small markets.
PUTTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER: Lots of ex-UConn stars are reuniting for the Springfield Spirit of the National Women's Basketball League. I am unexpectedly and probably needlessly jazzed for the NWBL, despite not being the biggest women's basketball fan and having little chance of seeing one of their games on tv. The NWBL plays in the months before the WNBA season, like the ABL did but with a shorter, WNBA-like schedule, and seems to have a somewhat smarter business plan, like loading up teams with local players and actually putting franchises in women's hoops hotbeds, like New England and Tennessee. Maybe between the two of them we can have some quality basketball. Or some weird situation where we have two championships a year decided by the same set of players, who play on different teams depending on what league they're in. Which is the situation we are in but it won't be an established thing until both leagues can prove their solvency.

Hey--a page with lots of ABL info. And a creepy URL.

Monday, December 09, 2002

HERE WE GO AGAIN: Miss Turkey wins Miss World. The obligatory Rebekah Revels comment is:

But there were moments to amuse cynics, including a glitch from Miss United States Rebekah Revels, who told the judges: "I admonish you to pick me."

Sunday, December 08, 2002

OH GOD IT WAS HORRIBLE: The way the Mavs lost to the Lakers last night, after being up by thirty at one point, getting out of their game and getting completely smoked in the fourth quarter and losing by two points. It was stomach-churning, a horror movie of a basketball game, with the Lakers as the horrible chainsaw-wielding madmen that could not be killed, no matter how many times you poured gasoline on them and ran them over. I saw Michael Finley on the sideline, talking to one of the coaches, saying something like, "This isn't happening. This isn't right, not right at all." He looked scared, the way Nick Van Exel said the Mavericks played. And Nick Van Exel was right. What a psychological blow. They're getting a sense right now of just how hard it is to win a NBA championship.

Derek Harper, on the Dallas site, offered these words:

The one thing the Dallas Mavericks need most on their eventual climb to an NBA title?
They need to get their noses bloodied.
That won’t be enjoyable. That won’t be fun. And it’s difficult work to volunteer for. I mean, who wants to stick his nose into a pile knowing he’s going to come away wounded?
Maybe it happened Friday night in LA. – and boy, that sure wasn’t enjoyable or fun, was it?
Said coach Nelson after that shocking 105-103 loss to the Lakers, "We probably need to go through this experience. It hurts like hell right now. But it's probably good for us. You grow from things like this."
Yes, you do. You grow from having your nose bloodied.
Unfortunately, history tells us that the only way to get to a championship is to suffer that bloodied nose along the way. This is not to say that the regular season is unimportant; it’s all about jockeying for position, jockeying for seeding. There is an obviously huge edge to being in the top four, and this year, in the West, their might be a decided edge in being in the top one, knowing how deep the Western Conference field could be with the Portlands and Seattles and Houstons and Minnesotas all capable of bing a 5 or a 6 with the ability to beat a 4 or a 6.
So by all means, keep the pedal to the metal in the regular season. But know that at some point in the maturation of the franchise, some tough times, some heartache, will have to be endured.
This Mavericks team can play with anybody, and can beat anybody. It’s conceivable that they will keep beating most everybody in the regular season, and lose just enough to take their educational lumps that way.
But keep this in mind: Chances are, a team doesn’t win a title in one season until after it has been through a bloodied nose in the previous season.
It’s going to be painful. It’s going to be bloody, like it was Friday.
It’s going to happen – and that will eventually be a good thing. Though it doesn’t feel very good right now.

Have faith, oh you Mavericks. No one wants to see the Lakers win again. We're all with you, on this here Internet.

And they beat the Warriors tonight, just one night after that soul-threatening loss, and as they walked off the court, in victory of a close game, their heads were low and they still seemed in a daze. They know what's ahead of them, now. What will be required.

Friday, December 06, 2002

NBA TONIGHT: Mavs at Lakers, 10:30. Questions will be answered about the reality of the Mavs, and the non-reality of the Lakers. Be there.
MORE COMICS 2 FILM: Captain Marvel (not any of the Marvel ones) is headed for the big screen, or is at least in development for that--you know how these things are. Captain Marvel is like the cultiest of cult characters, a sixty-year old property that still has a rabid fan following despite never having a successful relaunch since his heyday in the forties, where he was the top-selling super-hero. It must be the concept that keeps attracting people through years of uneven execution. We'll see how this one goes.
WNBA CRAPPING OUT WATCH: The Utah team is moving to San Antonio, which leaves the two Florida teams still homeless. The city of Hartford remains confident. And, yes, the leading candidate for ownership of the Connecticut team is a casino:

A group of Hartford businessmen who are interested includes LAZ Parking chairman Alan Lazowski and former UConn player Corny Thompson. Steve Fox, who owns the NWBL's Springfield Spirit, said he is focusing on his upcoming season but that he would like to explore the possibility in the future.

They all want to bring the WNBA to Hartford, which is where Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell would like to see a team.

"Absolutely," said Rell, who has talked with both the league and interested local parties. "We have the Civic Center. We have a built-in fan base. It's a natural fit."

But she said she didn't want to discourage others who are interested, such as the Mohegan Tribe, which would place the team in the Mohegan Sun Arena in Montville. The tribe is interested in owning a team and has been in touch with the WNBA.

Of the five, the Mohegan Sun group is probably the most prepared to put a team in place by 2003. The tribe owns the arena and has staff for public relations, marketing and other needs already in place. It also has the most money.

The NBA has no rules against placing a WNBA or NBA team in a casino, as long as there is no sports book (there isn't at Mohegan Sun). In October, WNBA president Val Ackerman said she couldn't rule out the casino arena. But the WNBA targets families and children for their audiences, and some may be reluctant to go to a casino for the games.

UPDATE: USA Today claims the WNBA will survive. I do love the niche sports.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

YOUR "HOW DID I MISS THIS?" ITEM OF THE DAY: There's an American Splendor movie in the can, right now. Goll-ee. I hope it doesn't stink.
FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET: There's this horrible little station here--you probably have one in your town--that specifically sells itself as being today's best music--without the rap. I'm flipping through the stations in the car and I stop there because my fave pop song of the moment, No Doubt's "Underneath It All", is playing and when they get to the reggae part the reggae part just disappears. At first I just assumed this was a radio edit, but this is a radio song that isn't that long to begin with. So now I'm thinking the staff of Mix 95.7 thinks reggae is sufficiently rap-like that they have to take it out of the No Doubt song. I have a better idea: if a song doesn't fit with your format, just don't play it. Okay? Okay.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

HEFNER WATCH: Little opinion piece from one of those new Chicago tabloid youth-market things (and via the Bomis Babe Report) on Hef hiring a Maxim guy to make Playboy profitable again. This will apparently involve turning Playboy eliminating the nudity and turning into another one of those cretinous lad magazines--British imports, I hasten to ad, relics of a more primitive popular culture. What's the appeal in those things? I don't get it, but maybe the lad mag target audience are married men who want a safe form of pornography. I dunno. But what's the point of FHM or Gear if you can get better articles in The Atlantic or Vanity Fair, better interviews in--yes--Playboy, better pornography in Club or Penthouse? Who are you people, and why are you eroding the sexual revolution?

But basically I think Playboy is sort of a lost cause anyway, so whatever Hef wants to do with it to make it relevant or whatever again is fine by me. (The Tia pictures were pretty good, by the way, not especially revealing but not especially annoyingly faux-arty either. The fact that these were pictures of Tia Carrere without any clothes on sort of overwhelms any minor artistic concerns.) Just as long as he doesn't do away with the 96 pages of cheap, tasteful, continous nudity that are the Playboy newsstand specials he and Johnny Maxim can do what they want, import the prurient tastes of British people onto our shores or put the cast of Gilmore Girls in bikinis or whatever. Leave me my tasteful nudity; it's what Playboy's always done best.
SOMETHING I NOTICED LAST NIGHT: While the Mavs were beating the Raptors, and so did Lang Whitaker:

Reader Jeremy writes...
The links are great. Read them everyday.......props to you and Slam. The reason I write is to sound off about Vince Carter. I'm sitting watching the MAVS and RAPS game tonight and with a few minutes left in the 4th and the RAPS down by about 5, VC is on the bench laughing and cracking up. I think he started laughing initially because Davis dunked over Bradley, but come on! Your team is down, are you are supposed to be "showing all the haters" what's up. That you are back this season and you are going to be splitting wigs, but instead you don't have any heart. There are tons of players out there with twice as much heart as Vince, but don't have the athletic ability. If he really wanted it, he could be the best player in the league, but he doesn't. And guess what, he never will, either you want it or you don't. You can't change that. Mark my words. VC will never win a championship. The only situation I see him winning a championship is with a Jordan type player/leader on the team.
San Diego

Jeremy, I was watching that last night, and I got all fired up about it, too. Vince was laughing because he is not mature enough to handle being on the bench with his team down 8. And I think it was Dell Curry who made a joke about AD dunking on Shawn, because the two of them were laughing together. And if they'd laughed for a few seconds, I would maybe understand. But not for a few possessions. Would you ever have seen Michael Jordan do that? Larry Bird? Even Dominique wouldn't have done that. (Well...OK, maybe he would have.) But that's what separates the greatest players from the pretty good ones. Vince is a long way from great.

I wouldn't have noticed it so much if Ron Harper et al hadn't jumped on it--and I thought they were just being, you know, local broadcasters. But Lang agrees.

More from him:

Flipping around on League Pass last night, it's unbelievable how many teams are playing zone defense these days. Dallas wasn't using it that much, but they did throw it at Toronto. Utah put one on Indiana, who immediately ran their's against the Jazz. Even Pat Riley, noted zone hater, was using it. And it's great, because it totally shuts down the one-on-one game and requires the offensive teams to pass the ball quickly to catch the zone rotating slowly and out of position. I don't know about you, but I like watching fundamental basketball. And there are some teams -- the Suns, for instance -- that have no idea what to do when the zone hits 'em. Penny just catches the ball and looks like a deer in headlights.

I love the Slam Links more than ever since Bill Simmons' semi-retirement. And if you don't love the zone I can't talk to you--Temple being one of my favorite college teams and all.