It Gets Late Early Out Here

Posted in The sporting life on September 23rd, 2015 by bill

The creators of Yogi Bear claimed he was not based on Yogi Berra. They were full of shit.

We lost one of the greats yesterday: Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, who shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 90.

It’s a little shocking to me that Yogi was only 90. He seems to have belonged to a prehistoric era of baseball, a contemporary of ancient Olympians like Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. It’s strange that he survived into today’s world, with its Twitter feeds, advanced metrics, and multi-multi-million-dollar contracts.

Yogi was a great baseball player and manager, appearing in 21 World Series, but an even greater philosopher. I’ve already written about him once, and there are plenty of good obituaries and collections of Yogi-isms out there today, so no need to belabor the point. But it was Yogi who taught us that “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and this gives me a wedge to bring up once again the Greatest Comeback in the History of Wiffle Ball, where we went down 16-0 in the top of the 1st, then battled back to win when yours truly crossed the plate for the 33rd run with two outs in the bottom of the 5th.

I’d like to retroactively dedicate that victory to Yogi Berra, a truly one-of-a-kind human being, a man who lived a long and eventful life and leaves a legacy that shan’t be forgotten. Let’s observe a moment of silence, then later take a two-hour nap from one to four.

Don’t Let the Smoke Get in Your Eyes

Posted in Dancing about architecture on September 21st, 2015 by bill

So yesterday I read an article celebrating the 30th anniversary of Love and Rockets’ Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven. That means that the following are also 30 years old:

Camper Van Beethoven: Telephone Free Landslide Victory
The Cure: The Head on the Door
The Jesus and Mary Chain: Psychocandy
LL Cool J: Radio
Meat Puppets: Up on the Sun
Minutemen: Three-Way Tie (for Last)
New Order: Low-life
Run-DMC: King of Rock
Shriekback: Oil and Gold
The Sisters of Mercy: First and Last and Always
Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising
Talking Heads: Little Creatures
Tears for Fears: Songs from the Big Chair
Tom Waits: Rain Dogs
After Hours
Back to the Future
The Breakfast Club
Desperately Seeking Susan
Into the Night
Jagged Edge
Runaway Train
The Sure Thing
Weird Science

And here we have hard evidence, in case anyone needed it, that time is passing entirely too quickly. In 1985 – the year I started college – 30-year-old music would have been things like Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and so on. Ancient relics, so we thought at the time.

And yet 1985 doesn’t seem so long ago. I can well remember the feeling of Friday afternoon in Santa Cruz, when after my last class ended, I would put Seventh Dream on the stereo, indulge in certain substances, and sit looking out over the Pacific Ocean in the distance. That marked the beginning of the weekend.

There were some good weekends back then. But this last weekend was no slouch either, featuring good company, ample food and drink, and a wiffle ball game for the ages that ended in a final score of 33-32. I can’t tell you where I was, but it rhymed with “Bite Nub” (and that’s probably what Buckwheat would have called it). As always, being back in workaday reality is a bit of a shock to the system, but I shall bravely carry on. Over and out for now.

So long, Moses

Posted in The sporting life on September 14th, 2015 by bill

Don't fuck with the Moses.

In an odd coincidence of timing, Moses Malone passed away this weekend, just a couple weeks after Darryl Dawkins, the man who he replaced on the Philadelphia 76ers. Darryl could never get the Sixers to the Promised Land; Moses did it his first year there, leading the team to a championship and finally getting Dr. J his long-overdue ring.

Unlike the colorful Chocolate Thunder, Moses was all business on the court. He played with a perpetual scowl, and always looked like someone you definitely did not want to mess with. But he seems to have been a good guy off the court; Charles Barkley, for one, credits Moses with helping him learn how to be a professional.

Moses is generally considered the best offensive rebounder ever to play; he would often get two, three, or four on a given possession, and eventually put the ball in the basket. He was sometimes accused of padding his stats by missing on purpose, but it’s hard to say how true that was. What we do know for sure is that he was relentless on the boards. His philosophy of rebounding? “I goes to the rack.”

Moses was a man of few words, but managed to express a lot nonetheless. Now he is off to the Great All-Star Team in the Sky, allowing Darryl Dawkins to slide over to power forward.

Last House on the Left

Posted in Picture du jour on September 11th, 2015 by bill

This photo was taken on Ye Olde Big Islande, just behind the city dump in the town of Pahoa. It shows where the lava came through town, prompting evacuations and raising the possibility that I might never enjoy another meal at Ning’s, my favorite Thai restaurant on Earth. In the end, Pele claimed only a single house before the flow stalled on this front and headed in a different direction…for now. And we ate at Ning’s twice on our trip.

One feels very close to the elemental forces down there – the fire, the water, the earth. And there’s something in the air, too. Plays tricks on your mind, makes it hard to quite get a grip on things. Which may be why I’m only now getting around to posting this picture; I meant to do so weeks ago. But then what’s the hurry? As Big Island Jim likes to say, we are made of time.

The Going Gets Weird, the Weird Turn Pro

Posted in Dancing about architecture on September 2nd, 2015 by bill

It's Weird Al's world, the rest of us just live in it. Baby deer included.

Last night found me in the audience for Weird Al Yankovic’s show at the Van Duzer Theatre, and while I feel like my younger self might have had some snarky things to say about that, at this point in time I have nothing but respect for Al. He knows who he is and what his audience wants from him, and he gives it to them. Perform “Fat” in vintage fat suit? Check. Sing “Eat It” to the tune of that acoustic version of “Layla”? Check. Two songs about “Star Wars” as the encore, closing with “Yoda”? You wanted it, you got it.

After more than 35 years in the business, Weird Al has carved out a niche that is entirely his own. Song parodies are still his bread and butter, and he still plays the accordion, but he has become an all-around entertainer who puts on a solid, professional show from beginning to end. His entrance was inspired: the band started the first song with Al nowhere to be seen. Then he appeared on the projection screen, singing with a recognizable part of the HSU campus behind him. The camera followed him as he made his way across the quad and into the building, where the crowd, of course, went nuts.

The energy level stayed pretty high throughout, the songs interspersed with video highlights from Weird Al’s career that covered the many costume changes. Highlights for me were the Devo-inspired “Dare to Be Stupid” – for which Al and band wore yellow radiation suits and red energy domes – and “I Wanna B Ur Lovr,” which despite its goofy intent achieved an impressive level of genuine funkiness.

If I was going to sum up this show in one word it would be, perhaps surprisingly, “triumphant.” Weird Al has outlasted all his detractors and many of those he’s parodied, he has a loyal and adoring audience that covers a wide spectrum of demographics, and as the flaming wreckage of the music business falls around him, he is laughing all the way to the bank. It’s inspiring, in a funny sort of way. The old saw from William Blake says that “If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.” Weird Al is not a fool, but a foole, as in a jester; and by persisting he has become, in his own particular world, the king. Long may he reign.

A few words from Oliver Sacks

Posted in A few words from Lao Tzu (or someone like him) on September 1st, 2015 by bill

Oliver Sacks, hellraiser

The Celebrity Rule of Threes was in full effect this week, with the demise of Darryl Dawkins followed hard upon by the loss of director Wes Craven and neurologist/author Oliver Sacks. And yes, that covers quite a spectrum; it’s hard to imagine two people more outwardly different than Chocolate Thunder and Dr. Sacks. Although…did you know that in his younger days, Oliver (says the AP)

indulged in staggering bouts of pharmacological experimentation, underwent a fierce regimen of bodybuilding at Muscle Beach (for a time he held a California record, after he performed a full squat with 600 pounds across his shoulders), and racked up more than 100,000 leather-clad miles on his motorcycle

So there could be some interesting conversations happening in the waiting room for the afterlife right now. And maybe some feats of strength, assuming you get the body you enjoyed the most in life. (And no, I don’t really believe any of that junk. But it’s fun to think about.)

I don’t know much about Wes Craven. I saw some of his movies; clearly he was a talented person who was dedicated to his craft. And I don’t have the mental bandwidth at the moment to compose a fitting tribute to Dr. Sacks, so I’ll just leave off with some words he wrote in his last days. It’s a pretty good epitaph:

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.

Chocolate Thunder Returns to Planet Lovetron

Posted in The sporting life on August 28th, 2015 by bill

It was the 70s.

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.
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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

Three monkeys on an island.

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 off…so 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.
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