Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Patriots! Patriots!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I look forward to my family of origin's Thanksgiving traditions: chips and guacamole, blackened vegetables, and crusty bread. And turkey. And the new Laurel/Ali tradition of blonde brownies.

The new three-pronged scriptwriting project is proceeding. The three prongs are Laurel, Mike, and me. I met Mike at the downtown library today. We made some real progress with microfilm from the 1923 London Times. This thing'll write itself!

Wish me luck on my drive home. This morning my car was making a sad persistent clicking noise. I'll have it checked on Friday but in the meantime, I'll be taking Wilshire all the way home. Black Lightning isn't safe for the freeway.

Oh... good luck to my high school alma mater Central Bucks East High School in Buckingham, Pennsylvania in tomorrow's big annual Thanksgiving battle with Central Bucks West. Go Patriots.

POSTSCRIPT (added much later): The car only made it so far as Western and Wilshire. Wish it well during its diagnosis Friday at Hollywood Toyota.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Education

Things I learned this weekend:

That there is a Los Angeles branch of the Parrothead Society.

That Walk the Line is a really good movie – one of the few biopics that didn’t make you feel like you were visiting the Officially Sanctioned Museum of (insert name of biopic subject), tiptoeing quietly so as not to disrupt the “Do Not Touch” signs.

That the preceding paragraph’s metaphor failed completely.

That my new employer’s basketball team isn’t quite as good as its football team.

That a certain rabbi is a very good screenwriter.

That Wilshire Blvd. (from the ocean to downtown) can easily function as its own universe. It’s got the housing, the infrastructure, the businesses, and – on that stretch by the V.A. Hospital – it’s got Satan.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Longitudes

I think if you're going to sell a "Portabella Reuben" you should keep the sauerkraut and not replace it with cole slaw. Just one blog's opinion.

I recommend rabbikubota's two-part tale of a big event in his life. Great reading with some surprising surprises.

Mr. Bean is not funny. Sarah Silverman is funny.

The secret is out now: I'm leaving my job. I'm getting a new one, a better one (I think), a more rewarding one (perhaps). I'll miss that place. I won't miss the elevator or the cubicle. But I'll miss the people and the laptop. I know I'll have some good stories at the new place.

I just heard Frances Anderton say "chinoisery." My life is complete.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Trojan Pride and Extreme Prejudice

The three-day (courtesy of Veteran’s Day) weekend was full of movies and football and exciting irreversible life changes. I’ll provide some reviews:

Shopgirl is a nice little movie. It is both steeped in reality and completely preposterous. I’ll call it clumsily prescient. It would have been a great film if there was 12% less Steve Martin and 14% more Jason Schwartzmann. The Claire Danes ratio was just fine. Not that I don’t like Steve Martin. He was great in Novocaine. And he’s the second greatest person ever to come out of Garden Grove. But he appeared to be trying just a little too hard (as an actor and as a writer).

Pride and Prejudice is a really nice big movie. Normally, I’m the last one to attend – much less enjoy – a British period romance with waistcoats and bewigged servants but dude I actually paid attention all the way through, laughed out loud quite often, and enjoyed the presence of Kiera Knightly and the effective writing/direction of people I’ve never heard of. But…. (and there’s always a “but…” for me unless we’re talking about Boogie Nights)… Anyway but…. What’s up with Brenda Blethyn?! I’m sure she’s beloved in Merry Old but her cripplingly scene-crushing overacting as Elizabeth’s mother was so distracting that I hoped they’d stray from the book and kill her off in a “carriage o’er the hillside” accident. I understand that she’s going for a certain kind of “presence” in her acting but Brenda, please reel it in, take a breath, close your eyes and reflect. Remember how you ruined Secrets and Lies, how your overemoting turned it from a poignant reflection on class, race, and love into an unintentionally funny cringefest (I still remember seeing it with my cousin and our hysterical laughter being met with horrified shushes from the surrounding rows). Brenda, I know the libel laws in your country are pretty liberal so I’ll stop. I'm sure you'll get nominated.

I’m not sure why the local Los Angeles stations love to show Minnesota Vikings games but I’m not complaining. I truly enjoyed their undeserving win over the Giants. And it was nice to see USC beat Cal and now that I've said yes, how do I get tickets for the UCLA game?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

How I Spent My Lunch Break

Unlike most days, I decided to drive somewhere for lunch. I went to my car, parked snugly in the bowels of the movie studio down the street from my work place. Getting off the elevator at Parking Level C, who do I notice getting on the same elevator but Lauren "F*** Me Santa" Graham, wearing a red beret no less, and offering a pleasant "we're the only two people in the parking structure so I'll smile at you so you can smile back in a disarming way" smile at me.

Fresh from seeing a Gilmore Girl, I pull out of the parking structure, proceed two blocks down Bixel street, accidentally drive over a construction zone utility pipe abutting the curb (no orange cones!), and promptly blow out my right front tire. I pull over to a side street, call for roadside assistance, which arrives quickly but not before I had to dodge 2 meter maid people because I made the decision to pull over to safety in a "No Parking. Street Sweeping Noon to 3 Thursday" zone at exactly 12:01 on a Thursday.

(Note to cynics: Yes, I know how to change a tire. But I was wearing my good clothes and the standard Toyota-issue jack works about as well as Anthony Michael Hall playing a bully in Edward Scissorhands or was it some other movie?)

Then, after getting my tire fixed, I receive a wrong-number call on my cell phone from someone looking for someone named "Stanley" because he wanted to buy some "shit for the weekend." I suggested he call Anthony Michael Hall.

NBA Predictions Part Two: Western Conference

I swear… all of these predictions (placement, records) were conceived last week before the actual season started. It is only my incisive, intuitive commentary that has changed. You can find my eastern conference predictions by scrolling down or back to November 2.

Pacific Division

1. Phoenix Suns. They won’t miss Joe Johnson, a modern-day George McGinnis. They will miss Amare Stoudamire, but he’ll be back by mid-season so it’s cool. They will really miss Quentin Richardson, he of the sweetest three-point stroke since Louie Dampier. Sure, he only made like 4% of those three-pointers in the playoffs but Q is Q, meaning Q will lead the Knicks in scoring as they don’t even get close to the playoffs. But counteracting the things they miss is the arrival of Raja Bell, a rich man’s Devean George and you know that’s my highest compliment. And Shawn Marion is still Shawn Marion. Final record: 55-27.

2. Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe seems to be playing at a January/February 2003 level, a time during which his then-teammate Shaq was injured. He couldn’t miss anything and sure the Lakers couldn’t win but it was something to behold. And then came Colorado and the trade and the hell that is Karl Malone. Now, Kobe’s back, Smush is Smush, and Devean George is thisclose to stardom (I can feel it). And Phil is the man. 53-29.

3. Los Angeles Clippers. I could say so much about this team. Hundreds of words could be wasted on the talents of Corey and Shawn and E-Brand. I could point out the following truism regarding Sam Cassell – one good game, two bad ones, two good ones, injury. But I’ll just say this: It’s once again Hip To Clip. 50-32.

4. Sacramento Kings. Your time is over, Kings. It was a fun ride. I’ll still root for you when you play those annoying Texas teams. 41-41.

5. Golden State Warriors. They’ll be better than last year. Two games better. 32-50

Northwest Division

1. Minnesota Timberwolves. I’ll handle them in a separate entry, one that almost all of you will not read. I’ll say this: They remind me of last year’s Sonics, which is sort of a compliment. 52-30.

2. Seattle Super Sonics. They remind me of last year’s Timberwolves, who finished 42-40.

3. Denver Nuggets. Everyone loves the Nuggets. Frenchmen want to make love to the concept of the Nuggets winning this division. Sumatran coffee growers are currently growing a special “Carmelo Blend” in anticipation of his superstardom next Gloomburst. I don’t feel the same way. 36-46.

4. Portland Trail Blazers. True story. When I was a younger man of 34 matriculating at the University of Minnesota, current Blazer center Joel Pryzbilla was a freshman and the Gophers’ prize recruit. One day, while shopping for running shoes at Foot Locker at the underrated Mall of America, I saw a tall basketballish looking guy browsing the new releases. It was Joel, with a pretty coed at his side (did I just say “coed”?). Because his disappointing college career had just started, the locals still loved him. Referee shirt-wearing Foot Locker employees circled him, wanting to help the man who would one day abandon his college team early so he could one day average 7 points and 6 rebounds (as a starter!) for a bad NBA team. I have nothing else to add to this story. I think I may have bought some socks. 29-53.

5. Utah Jazz. Utah’s a nice state. Pretty rock formations. Impressive salt lakes. Mehmet Okur (the Turkish Shawn Kemp) is about to break out. But they’re still the Jazz. Jerry Sloan will figure out a way to steal their soul and make them below average. 24-58

Southwest Division

1. Dallas Mavericks. Their owner has a blog. Their coach should have a blog. Their best player is German. And for the first time since the Rolando Blackman/Derek Harper backcourt days, they haven’t overhauled half their team in the off-season. They’re dangerous this year. 57-25

2. San Antonio Spurs. I like equations. NBA Championship + over-the-hill point guard + over-the-hill shooting guard + Robert Horry’s and Manu Ginobli’s egos catching up to them = Loss in opening round. Isn’t it great that I can call people five years younger than me “over-the-hill”? 52-30.

3. Houston Rockets. More equations. Rik Smits – jump shot + Uwe Blab – the lost potential of Emilio Estevez + Michael Olowokandi = Yao Ming. (Kobe Bryant + Vince Carter) / 2 = Tracy McGrady. Phil Jackson – instinct = Jeff Van Gundy. 47-35.

4. Memphis Grizzlies. I liked them better when they played in Vancouver. 41-41.

5. New Orleans / Oklahoma City Hornets. When they move to Vegas next year, they’ll attract enough free agents and provide enough distractions to the visiting teams to squeeze in as an 8th playoff seed. Until then, 20-62.

Now that I have the energy, here are my playoff predictions:

Eastern Conference

First Round

1. Miami vs. 8. Cleveland. Miami in six games.
2. Milwaukee vs. 7. New Jersey. Milwaukee continues to astound the universe, in five games.
3. Philadelphia vs. 6. Washington. The Wizards pull off the upset in 7.
4. Detroit vs. 5. Indiana. Flip exhorts the Pistons to win in 7.

Conference Semi-Finals

Miami over Detroit in 7 games. 5 of which are boring.
Milwaukee over Washington in 7 games, all of which are exciting.

Conference Finals

Miami over Milwaukee in 7 games, with Dwyane Wade triumphing over his hometown team because who wouldn’t want to triumph over their hometown team when their hometown is Milwaukee?


Western Conference

1. Dallas vs. 8. Seattle. This is their year. Mavericks in 6.
2. Phoenix vs. 7. Houston. I’ve been to Phoenix. Nice town. Suns in 7.
3. Minnesota vs. 6. Clippers. 7 hard fought games, the seventh of which goes to the Wolves. Ali and Jason nearly come to blows over the controversial ending to game 5 (“KG fouled Kaman!” “No, it was incidental contact – fully legal!” “Well, Marko is a punk!” “Word!” and so on).
4. Lakers vs. 5. San Antonio. Lakers put the most boring sports dynasty since the Clinton-era New Jersey Devils to sleep. In a sweep.

Conference Semi-Finals

Dallas is upset by the Lakers in 7. This is no longer their year.
Phoenix is shocked by the Wolves in 7. KG is on a mission.

Conference Finals

Minnesota over the Los Angeles Lakers in 7.

NBA Finals

Minnesota 4. Miami 3. Because I can write whatever I want. Bloggers are accountable to no one.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I Now Have A Mac

My apologies to the world for my sporadic posting. I'm halfway done with my meticuolous recreation of my Western Conference predictions. You will see them. Before the All-Star break, I promise.

I'm enjoying the rain. I'm enjoying the relocation to Los Angeles of my friend Mike. He's currently cruising the Miracle Mile in search of pajamas and quince. I'm enjoying the defeat of all of Arnold's propositions. Arnold, you're not half the celebrity governor that Jesse Ventura was. I'm enjoying Laurel's chili. And, once again, I'm enjoying the rain.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Never Have Your Geese Counted

The NBA predictions will continue at a future date, perhaps some time before season's end. To say that I wrote a staggeringly astute basketball entry earlier today prior to losing every word of it due to a disagreement between Windows' "hibernate" mode and Gateway's "sleep" mode would be an understatement.

I do have some tentative good news, news that I can't really get too specific about for three reasons:

A. It's tentative (i.e., not final)

B. It's secret (i.e., not public)

C. It's good news (i.e., don't want to jinx it)

I will say this about the good news: Go Trojans.

I'm reading the Alan Alda autobiography Never Have Your Dog Stuffed. Surprisingly good. Almost as good as Dylan's Chronicles and likely truer. Hawkeye knows how to spin a yarn.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

NBA Predictions Part One: Eastern Conference

The NBA season started yesterday so it’s time for this blog’s first official NBA preview (I love that I can just call something “official” and it is. Who can stop me?). I will avoid letting last night’s games cloud my opinions and predictions. In fact, this may take a few days so I’ll go on pretending like the season so far doesn’t exist, that the overrated Nuggets didn’t justifiably lose last night, and that the Bucks aren’t better than everyone thought on the basis of one win over an average team, that they’re better because I say they are. Yes, despite the fact that ex-Golden Gopher Joel Pryzbilla is at this very moment shooting warm-up jumpers for the visiting Portland Trail Blazers as they prepare to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves at the underrated Target Center in a formerly (and futurely) blighted part of downtown Minneapolis (What's up with that new movie theater and sports bar complex, city planners? All you did was move the dying mall across the street!), this season hasn’t happened yet.

Today, I will preview the Eastern Conference because I care about it less and I tend to build up steam the deeper I get into a project (see yesterday’s entry, in which the Festivus entry was far stronger than that of Greenspring). I will rank the teams in each division. Tomorrow (or the next day or the one after that), I will take on the Western Conference with the exception of the Minnesota Timberwolves who will, unsurprisingly, get their own day. Finally, perhaps in tandem with the Wolves entry, I will divulge my playoff predictions, crowning my NBA champion. It should be noted that I never get these things right (with the exception of 1983 – 76ers over Lakers. I saw that one coming).

As with my NCAA Tournament predictions, you don’t need to be a sports fan or an NBA geek to appreciate what I’m writing. I’ll slip in needless pop culture references and spend time recounting my experiences with some of the NBA cities including some I’ve never been to. I will

Atlantic Division:

1. Philadelphia 76ers. You never forget your first team and this is mine. Lonely teenage nights spent listening to Bill Campbell’s phlegmy play-by-play of WCAU, combined with the near-misses of the late 70s and early 80s, culminating with that joyous spring night in 1983 when they finally won it…. it all gets to me. Of course, some time around the drafting of Charles Barkley (the second most overrated player in the history of the NBA, the first most overrated TV “personality” in the history of media – this is not to say he wasn’t a good player or an entertaining personality, he’s just not that good), my interest for the Sixers waned until Allan Iverson, the NBA’s best player of the last 10 years (sorry KG) showed up. I still like watching AI, even if he’s lost half a step and can no longer wear replica jerseys during his way-overly-serious post-game press conferences. I like the team enough to put them in first place in a weak division. Final record: 48-34.

2. New Jersey Nets. I used to live in New Jersey. This much is true. I used to be proud of the fact that I used to live in New Jersey. But now I’m counting the days until 2007(8?) when the Nets move to Brooklyn because New Jersey doesn’t really need them. They’ve got the mall in Paramus and Aldo’s Pizza in Westwood and the cool curvy roads of Passaic County and the mechanical gorilla at the burger stand in Point Pleasant and the traffic circle in Flemington and Bruce Fucking Springsteen. What more could a state want? Back to basketball: Jason Kidd is past his prime, Richard Jefferson’s a nice player, and who is this Kristic guy at center? There’s a buzz about him. 46-36.

3. Toronto Raptors. They play in Canada. They’re coached by former Timberwolf Sam Mitchell who always had interesting things to say when he made guest appearances on Twin Cities sports talk shows in the late 90s. That’s good enough for third place. 36-46

4. New York Knicks. Larry Brown can coach. Stephon Marbury can play. That’s about it. 28-54

5. Boston Celtics. I used to hate this team in the 80s. I still think Larry Bird was beloved by fans (and referees) because he was white and I will carry this belief with me until the end. I still resent Kevin McHale for not re-signing Chauncey Billups when he had the chance. I still can’t believe Scott Wedman has a championship ring on a team that he actually contributed to. Now, I kind of dig the green uniforms. And Kevin M. got the Wolves into the playoffs eight years in a row. And Larry Bird seems like a nice guy in Indiana. But the players? Brian Scalabrine? Orien Greene? No Antoine Walker? 24-58.

Southeast Division

1. Miami Heat. They won’t be as good as they were last year. Dwyane Wade will be better. Shaq will be about the same. But Pat Riley will meddle enough so Stan Van Gundy resigns before the all-star break, creating a mini-mutiny that lasts until just before the playoffs and then they’ll get their act together before realizing that Riley never could coach and it was Kareem and Magic who got him his five rings. And yes I’m only mad at Pat Riley for his attempt to copyright the word “threepeat.” He was successful! You can’t even say “threepeat” without sending Riley a check for 19 cents. 56-26

2. Washington Wizards. Gilbert Arenas will reach the next level. 48-34

3. Orlando Magic. I went to Orlando once. As a child. 39-43

4. Atlanta Hawks. Joe Johnson, you’ll regret leaving Phoenix. 28-54

5. Charlotte Bobcats. On the rise. 18-64

Central Division

1. Milwaukee Bucks. The trade for Jamaal Magliore helps them but not all that much really. I mean he’s Jamaal Magliore for god’s sake. Drafting Andrew Bogut gives them a poor man’s (Timberwolves-era) Luc Longley and I mean that as a compliment. To Luc. I’m more impressed with Bobby Simmons and Michael Redd – the Eddie Johnson and Ricky Pierce of their era. And I mean that as a compliment. To Bobby. And Ricky. They’ll finish first in the best division (albeit in the worst conference) in the NBA. 51-31

2. Detroit Pistons. Flip’s worth an automatic 50 wins. The rest of the team realizes they weren’t nearly good enough to belong in the last two NBA Finals, that they were met with an extraordinarily amount of good luck. This realization is worth zero wins. 50-32

3. Indiana Pacers. Larry Bird loves Ron Artest. Ron Artest is a music producer. Larry Bird, therefore, is MC Kool Herc. 49-33

4. Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron reaches his next level but it’s not quite as high as KG’s next level (in ’98) or Kobe’s (in ’01) but it’s good enough for 46-36

5. Who’s the other team in this division? I keep forgetting. Let me visualize the Midwest. Okay, we’ve got Wisconsin, we’ve taken care of Michigan. And Ohio. And Indiana. And Minnesota is a western state according to the NBA (a fact that’s cost us – yes I said “us” – two championships). Oh yeah – the Chicago Bulls. Average team. They’ll miss Eddy Curry. 38-44

Tomorrow: The West.

Non-basketball note: I’m tired.