Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Word With Chester

Last night, it finally happened. Chester Reboulet, the legendary EA Sports College Football 2006 coach, lost a game.

It was the first loss in over 60 consecutive games for Coach, and it came only after winning titles with Duke, Mississippi State, and Pearl Harbor University. It came only after increasing the CPU's ability to do nearly everything; it seems I finally found a level of competition where the cover three won't successfully defend a great running team.

And "great" is just the word to describe #14 Colorado's rushing attack. Led by a young (he's actually very young - not even born yet, because the Playstation is currently simulating a season circa 2020) man named Porter, CU punished the PHU defense for over 200 yards on the ground. Combined with unfortunate decisions from the PHU quarterback, and a devastating injury to PHU's #1 receiver, CU's home crowd and game plan proved too powerful.

Coach Reboulet will struggle on - he's been down this road before, winning 52 consecutive games before losing a heartbreaker, only to regroup and string together the latest record streak.

The coach is a winner.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

DC Photos

We were hiking toward Arlington National Cemetery when the black helicopters flew by. "Some people say we live in a police state," Jack Serpentine said. "But I don't see it."

All of my camera work can be seen at my Flickr account.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

DC: Casual Friday

The day before I left for vacation, sitting through a long meeting, my mind wandered toward Monet. I knew I would see the artist's work when I visited the National Gallery of Art, but I couldn't be less excited. It's not that I don't care for the French Impressionists -- I don't care about them. It's for girls. The meeting did not require any of my input, so I started a list of things that all women love, and I found only two absolutes. Waterlillies led off, followed by turkey sandwiches.

I woke Friday at prepared for the day at my leisure, showering, checking the forecast, and thumbing through V's DC guidebook while my body interpreted the previous night's surprise gift of bourbon. I felt guilty for my relaxed schedule, finally pushing myself out the door around 10 a.m.

Post-scone-purchase, I made my way to the National Gallery. Museums always throw me for a loop -- what the hell am I supposed to do in here? I waltz around the exhibits twice as fast as the other tourists, who study each piece, each caption, and snap photos with their digital cameras. (What were tourists like in the days of film? Can they be stopped? What do you do with a picture of a painting? Do you blow it up and frame it? Do they realize you can just buy a print, or download the image from the internet?) I am a good student for the first hour, but then begin to struggle. How much do these security guards get paid? If you had to guard this room, and you were a dude, would you start to fetishize the naked, lumpy, Renaissance woman? Do you have to start by guarding the ugly paintings, then work your way up to the Da Vinci? This dragon is a third of the size of St. George's horse, so what's the big deal? Why did they call it a lion's "den" -- isn't it more of a pit? How many Raphael Madonna-and-Childs did the Church really need to commission?

* * *

"Sorry I missed your call. I was in the National Archives."

Sitting on a mall bench, I told Shawn all about the day thus far, and about the local wildlife.

"That's weird. This bird has a band around its leg. And it's not an interesting species or even a pigeon. It's just one of those brown, shitty birds."

We spoke briefly about our old principal's suicide, and about my lunch options. I decided on the quickest option, the refreshment stand twenty yards away.

I took my all-American hot dog and anti-American fries to the last remaining table, and sat among the foreigners and old Jewish women and families. A mother was showing a handful of kids the joys of feeding brown, shitty birds.

"Look at this!" she said, pinching a nacho cheesier Dorito tidbit, holding her hand three feet above Federal ground. In moments, a bird took the short flight to the prize, snatching it midair before returning to earth to enjoy the unnatural meal. I watched, horrified, protecting my fries as best I could from the growing flock of lazy, hungry, winged beasts. I rushed through the hot dog preparation (ketchup, mustard, relish) and raised the frankfurter aloft. Suddenly, a bird swooped in, attempting to pluck the dog out of my hand. It failed, managing only to brush against the end opposite my mouth, and it came to rest just to the right of my table. I half-heartedly kicked the brown, shitty bird back a few feet. I looked around for the family responsible for the flock's blood lust; sadly, they had already wandered away, and were safely outside of my kicking range.

"That bird just tried to eat that guy's hot dog," some dumb fucking asshole behind me chuckled.

Monday, September 18, 2006

How 'Bout Them Cowboys?

I fell into bed at 2 a.m. CDT this morning, thanks to a three-hour delay on my return flight. Stories about waiting around in airports and on airplanes aren't terribly exciting, and you will not be subjected to them. You will, however, be barraged with other tales from my vacation, and I'll put up some pictures. For tonight, though, I'm going to catch up on some sleep.

I'll leave you with one note from Paul, and one brief bit from my time at Reagan:
hey dan,

i thought that i spotted lou reed at target in columbus yesterday, but it turned out not to be him when i got closer to the guy. i know, i was shocked too that it wasn't him. after all, don't all rock icons hang out at target stores in the midwest?

anyways, it got me wondering what i would have said if it had been lou reed. here are some openers that i came up with:

1)who would have guessed you'd still be alive today?
2)shopping at target on a wednesday? now, that's a real walk on the wildside.
3)really, how weird was andy warhol?
4)you here for the new justin timberlake cd, too?
5)seriously, whose done more drugs, you or keith richards?

lets just say that i feel prepared for the next time i cross paths with lou.


* * *


You could have also said, "I loved your awesome work as a presenter for the 06 VMAs. It was very rock 'n roll."

I had a similar experience yesterday at the airport in DC. I saw a large black male wearing a garish yellow suit, a fancy watch, and diamond earrings. "That guy looks a lot like Michael Irvin," I thought, but then assumed it couldn't be, because he would fly in his own jet. I'm now certain it was, though. He watched the KC/ Denver game for a while with us riff-raff, then left, then came back and sat down directly next to the hottest young woman at the gate. The seat was barely open - he had to
excuse himself to squeeze in next to her. What followed was an extremely awkward pickup attempt, especially given a man of Irvin's accomplishments. He shook her hand, said a few sentences, and then got up and walked away. She gave the "What the hell was that?" look to the others at the gate, and that was the last I saw of the former Cowboy great.

Actually, I'm still not 100% positive it was Michael Irvin. REAL TIME UPDATE: I just looked up from my laptop to see Mr. Irvin shouting nonsense during the Toyota Halftime Show on ESPN's Monday Night Football. That was totally him last evening. Oh, man. That's good stuff. But what was he doing in business class? And why did he have such an awkward time with that chick? Is he too used to paying chicks for sex to work his game properly? Was it the cocaine talking?

Regardless, it was easily the height of my night, followed closely by the $4.50 Toblerone bar.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Live From Our Nation's Capitol

Oh, God. Here I am in Dupont Circle, typing out a blog. God!! Should I talk about the Metro?? Or maybe about those douchebags up in Georgetown??

My flight was long; I couldn't find a way to distract myself that didn't hurt my eyes. My eyes want to unfocus, and they don't get their wish during my waking hours. I believe this means I need eyeglasses. It's bad news.

As you may recall, I look ridiculous when I wear glasses. This is partially due my nose, with is not located in the center of my face. That's great if you want to be Picasso's sitting model (a refined joke! I do belong here after all!), but not so great if you want to balance a pair of specs on the ol' girl.

V's apartment is fun. I just watched "Kicking and Screaming" (the Noah Baumbach film, not the Will Ferrell vehicle) on her HD LCD TV. The verdict: don't bother. As a big Wes Anderson guy, and as someone who really enjoyed "The Squid and the Whale", I thought I would be all over it, but it turns out it's just garbage.

What else? I drank some of her water... and it came out of a chilled, filtered pitcher! Now THIS is living! How can I go back to Kansas and drink that creek runoff now? It'll be like drinking from a toilet! (Bathroom humor? Oh, no! I've regressed to my backwoods slang!)

Happy hour tomorrow, along with museums and such. Laters.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Going For The Gold

Chuck Klosterman wrote this on ESPN recently. I think it's solid. Since the link might expire before you get a chance to read it, I've pasted it below...

A New Game Plan for Team USA
By Chuck Klosterman

I have a plan that will save USA Basketball.

This plan won't guarantee that we will win gold in men's basketball at the 2008 Olympics, nor does it mean that the team created by this plan would be more talented than the squad that just ended up with the bronze at the World Championship in Saitama, Japan. But it would nonetheless save USA Basketball, and it would improve society as a whole (not by much, but certainly more than the premise of sending 12 millionaires across the globe to play in a tournament in which any loss is viewed as a complete failure).

My plan is founded on a collection of five truths. These five (seemingly unconnected) truths are as follows:

(1) America has the best basketball players in the world.

(2) America has the best basketball players in the world, and that absolutely does not matter in the context of this argument. To win an international basketball tournament, you need a cohesive, harmonic team.

(3) It is virtually impossible to craft a cohesive, harmonic team by arbitrarily borrowing the best players in the world.

(4) High school graduates are no longer allowed to enter the NBA until they turn 20. If a high school player aspires to play in the NBA, he must attend college.

(5) There are many, many high school basketball players who have the potential to play professional basketball but really have no business attending college.

Here, in short, is the crux of our current predicament: We might not be able to win the Olympic gold medal no matter who we send to Beijing. On the surface, it seems obvious that any U.S. team would be better if it added Kobe and Shaq and KG and Duncan. But there's an ever-growing body of evidence that suggests individual talent plays an inexplicably minor role in this brand of basketball. The U.S. club was beaten by Greece, a team that does not have one NBA player. Greece was then defeated by Spain, a team whose lone NBA star (Pau Gasol) did not play in the gold-medal game. For some interesting, counterintuitive reason, it seems like star power is a disadvantage in this specific idiom.

Moreover, it is becoming more and more difficult to understand why NBA players would aspire to represent America in these no-win scenarios. I suspect Dwyane Wade has a pretty awesome life in Miami -- why would he want to spend three months in Asia, busting his arse in an unwatched tournament where anything less than perfection will be universally viewed as a failure?

When Greece beat the U.S. in the semifinals, it was the greatest day in the history of Greek basketball; in fact, I assume it was the greatest day every member of that Greek squad will ever experience. When Mihalis Kakiouzis is lying on his Athenian deathbed five decades from this summer, he will still be thinking of the day he beat LeBron James in 2006. Who can compete with that kind of emotive intensity? How do you defeat an enemy who's playing for his self-identity? These are the same reasons America won the Revolutionary War but lost in Vietnam -- motivation matters. And it's unreasonable to expect guys like Dwyane and LeBron to care about beating Argentina more than they care about beating each other.

Which brings us to my plan. Right now, there are dozens (maybe hundreds) of wonderful 18- and 19-year-old D-I and juco basketball players who probably should not be in college. They have no interest in academics; they are attending school only because it's the best potential avenue for playing basketball professionally. This is bad for the integrity of the university system (obviously), and it's often bad for the individuals themselves (this desperate dream sets them up for disappointment without preparing them for life). But these are the very kids who could save American basketball. Why don't we select 15 of these non-scholar-athletes and turn them into the U.S. national team? It would seem to solve a lot of problems at once.

The obvious advantage to this system would be structural cohesion: Not only would the entire roster play together for two or three years, but they also wouldn't be playing with anyone else. The problems I noticed with our World Championship squad had little to do with selfishness; the problems seemed more rooted in confusion (it's hard for someone like Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony to suddenly "become" a role player for three months, even if they believe it's best for the overall team). The second benefit would be ideological; the creation of this kind of staunchly unprofessional team would lower international expectations. As things stand now, the only feeling that would be generated by a gold medal in basketball would be relief. Winning is so expected that it's becoming virtually meaningless. Why not consciously place ourselves in the role of underdog? There is still enough available talent to beat everyone else on the planet.

Moreover, this program would be great for the (otherwise at-risk) kids who make the roster. Here, in five steps, is how this system could be built:

(1) Find an available coach who adores discipline and fundamentals (my suggestion is John Chaney). Leading this team would become his singular, full-time job.

(2) Conduct an open tryout for anyone under the age of 20 who is either (a) deemed academically ineligible by the NCAA or (b) honest enough to admit they're not interested in faking their way through Organic Chemistry 201.

(3) Pick 15 players who would rather die in an Iraqi dungeon than lose to the likes of Puerto Rico. Hide them away in some place like Colorado Springs, Colo., and make them practice six hours a day. Provide meals and housing. Give them enough spending money to buy PlayStations and Blizzards, but not enough to buy handguns or Escalades. Put their faces on Wheaties boxes and sell them as patriotic heroes. They will love it. Being famous at the age of 18 is better than being a millionaire when you're 28.

(4) When they're not being schooled on how to run the weave like the 1989 Princeton Tigers, outside academic advisors would teach these kids practical life lessons they could actually use as adults (i.e., how to balance a checkbook, how to read a contract, why there is a fiduciary downside to getting multiple girls pregnant, et al).

(5) Have this national team play barnstorming games around the world. During NBA All-Star weekend, they could serve as the opponents for the Rookie Game; on Sunday night during the Final Four, they could play a nationally televised exhibition against whoever won the NIT championship. They could play random games in Europe and China. They could challenge the Globetrotters, for all I care. But here is the thing: THEY WOULD ALWAYS BE PLAYING TOGETHER. Always. And then -- after they unexpectedly win the gold (or after they valiantly lose) -- they could declare themselves eligible for the NBA (or the CBA) draft. And unlike most of their peers, they'd actually understand why basketball is a team game.

Now, am I 100 percent sure this is feasible (or even legal)?


But do you have a better idea? Because what we're doing now certainly isn't the answer.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Spidey Senseless

The first spider was unremarkable. It wasn't large, it wasn't small, it wasn't brown, and it certainly wasn't reclusive. It was Spider Edmund Hillary, the first to reach the second floor master bathroom ceiling. It clung there, and to the higher portions of the supporting walls. Showering did not disturb the spider, and neither did I. I respected its achievement, and left it alone. But my mind pestered him.

"Spider," my mind spoke, "I respect your achievement. You are the first. But surely you must see that this isn't the right niche for you. Do you see any food around? Any flies? Any sort of buzzing insect at all? Of course not. I keep a clean home, and you are only an exception. How are you going to sustain yourself?"

Days passed, and I grew more concerned. "Spider," I thought, "this is becoming absurd. Why don't you feel the need to sew a web? Even given the unlikely event of a fly intruder, you are unprepared. The fly would circle around your position on the wall, mocking you. Where are your instincts? Aren't you getting hungry?"

Seven days into the ordeal, a breakthrough -- the spider moved to a much lower position on the west wall, flanking the toilet. The bathroom was still devoid of any silky webs, but it was clear that the adventureous arachnid was planning something.

Another day went by.

And another.

And he died.

But not before giving birth to two more spiders.

One tiny spider took to the corner of Shower and West Wall, while its sibling stayed at Door Frame and North Wall -- a spot located just above his mother's dead body. Upon discovery, both had already built pathetically small, uncomplicated webs, and were perched among the invisible strands, hovering a few centimeters above the white linoleum.

Still, without so much as a single ant in the environment, the webs remained bare. The first spider disappeared after two days, dead -- or, in the spirit of his mother, exploring uncharted territory.

The second remains in place, without food for nearly a week now. Perhaps it is as optimistic as ever, sure that an insect will be trapped any moment now, anticipating the deadly dance that will ensue, and the succulent meal that will result. Still, it would be easy to forgive a gloomier mindset. The young spider lives in a strange world, dark for all but 30 minutes a day, the only other sentient occupant a six-foot-tall mammal, its deceased mother's shriveling corpse always within view, an ominous harbinger of a likely and terrible future.