Chocolate Thunder Returns to Planet Lovetron

Posted in The sporting life on August 28th, 2015 by bill
[caption id="attachment_6421" align="alignnone" width="244" caption="It was the 70s."][/caption] My standing New Year's resolution is to make everything I do funky. I never quite accomplish it - it is an aspirational guide, not an item on a to-do list - and neither does any other human being. But some people come closer than others, and Darryl Dawkins' lifetime percentage was among the highest. Darryl is reported to have died yesterday, though I suspect that he really just returned to his home planet, Lovetron. In truth he always seemed a little out of place in this modern world of ours, being as he was the living embodiment of the glory that was basketball in the 70s. Things were a little looser, a little...well, yes...funkier back then. Darryl Dawkins came into the NBA fresh out of high school in 1975. Within a few years he had acquired the nickname "Chocolate Thunder," a truly amazing collection of suits (fire-engine red, banana yellow, fuchsia, lime green, etc.) and a well-deserved reputation as a loose cannon. He never listened much to his coaches, just did what he wanted to do, for better and for worse. One of the things he wanted to do was to dunk with all the force his 6-foot-11, 255-pound frame could muster. Darryl's defining moment came in 1979, in Kansas City. He went up to dunk over the Kings' Bill Robinzine and the backboard shattered, showering everyone in the vicinity with broken glass. In retrospect this marked a turning point in professional basketball history - the moment when goofing around turned a corner into real chaos. Backboard-shattering made for great theater, but it also delayed the game for an hour so while highly paid professional athletes picked shards of glass out of their afros. The league simply could not have that, and so installed rules and then rims designed to keep the backboard intact. By choosing practicality over excitement, they began the process that made pro ball the relatively decorous spectacle we see today. Chocolate Thunder, meanwhile, was delighted with what he had wrought. He named that dunk the "If You Ain’t Groovin’ Best Get Movin’, Chocolate Thunder Flyin’, Robinzine Cryin’, Teeth Shakin’, Glass Breakin’, Rump Roastin’, Bun Toastin’, Glass Still Flyin’, Wham Bam I Am Jam!" A few days later, he broke another backboard, this time for the home fans in Philadelphia. It was all pretty much downhill from there. Darryl's career extended well into the 80s, and he had some good years, but he never developed into the generation-defining superstar he could have been. He was ultimately a disappointment as a basketball player; but as a human being, he was by all accounts a warm and delightful person who was generous with his time and money. Say what you will, the man had style. We shall not see his like again. Lovetron forever.

Going South

Posted in Picture du jour on August 25th, 2015 by bill
This photo was taken at South Point, HI during a brief period last week when I was the southernmost person in the United States. If you go left here, it's a straight shot to Antarctica.

Aloha Again

Posted in Whatever Else on August 24th, 2015 by bill
[caption id="attachment_6405" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Three monkeys on an island."][/caption] Last week, this summer's grand tour took us to the biggest of the Hawaiian, or as they were once known, the Sandwich Islands (cue mental image of trees laden with BLTs, Reubens, and Italian subs). Imagine if that name had stuck, and our 50th state was called the Sandwich Islands, or maybe just Sandwich. It seems like a whole different world. Our current president would be a native Sandwichian. There would be a TV show called "Sandwich 5-0" and a beverage called "Sandwich Punch,” which is just plain confusing. This is the kind of thought that tends to drift through your mind in a place like Hawaii, where the tropical atmosphere (combined of course with the drinking and smoking) quickly induces a dissociative state. A week passed in a pleasant blur, and while there was a certain amount of touring and beachgoing, there was also a lot of sitting on the lanai with a glass of wine in hand. And in truth the indolence has not entirely worn that's all for now. Aloha, and I really mean that.

Philadelphia 1, hitchBOT 0

Posted in Whatever Else on August 4th, 2015 by bill
It was only yesterday that I learned, posthumously, of the existence of hitchBOT, a "hitchhiking robot" created by some Canadian college professors. hitchBOT safely navigated its way around Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, and in July set out to cross the United States. After being treated kindly and hospitably in Boston and New York, taken to a Red Sox game and Times Square, hitchBOT made a big mistake. It went to Philadelphia. Within hours, hitchBOT was lying decapitated and dismembered in a ditch. My initial reaction was, well of course that's what happened. In Latin, "Philadelphia" means "City of Brotherly Love"; but in American, it means "City Where They Chuck D Batteries at Ballplayers." As a native Philadelphian, I feel like I can say this without prejudice: people in Philadelphia can be really mean. There are plenty of nice people there too, but the mean ones are mean in a special way peculiar to the city. The more I look into it, though, the more I think that maybe Philly got this one right. That hitchBOT might have been a cutesy, annoying gimmick that needed decapitating. Or, as Albert Burneko put it in Deadspin,
“HitchBOT,” for all practical purposes, was a garbage can with an iPhone in it. It could not walk or stand or fire lasers or open a can of beans. By what standard was this piece of useless shit a “robot” in the first place? The answer: a shabby standard. A Canadian one.
adding (and note to our friends to the north, these are his sentiments, not mine, though they did make me laugh):
If our guileless, simpleton neighbors to the north wish to draw faces on their buckets and treat them like friends, the sparse population density of their pine-fresh taiga wilderness makes this a sad but understandable choice, but the United States is not a receptacle for twee Canadian garbage. It is a grownup land where the humans know each other and do not ameliorate the loneliness of car trips by picking up roadside litter and befriending it.
The decapitation is not the end of the story, however; far from it. Today "surveillance video" of the incident emerged, followed by reports that said video was a hoax (I for one don't really care; isn't the whole thing kind of a hoax?). Meanwhile, hitchBOT remains alive on Facebook:
Oh dear, my body was damaged, but I live on back home and with all my friends. I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots!
And that kind of makes me want to see it murdered all over again. Maybe stoned to death with D batteries. I guess there's more Philadelphia in me than I'd like to admit.

One final piece of advice from our friends in Scotland

Posted in Picture du jour, Whatever Else on August 3rd, 2015 by bill