fee knicks

19 07 2008

Today is my last day in Phoenix. Whereas this is true, I want to share three funny things I found here while teaching brilliant-but-generally-odorous 6-year-olds.

1. On my long, non-air-conditioned bus ride from ASU to Pastor, there were a lot of really funny signs. There was one that said, “DIVORCE: $200. MARRIAGE: $50.” And then, presumably, you could have either of those things if you would just go behind the sign. There was a sign for “The Best Gun Show Phoenix Has Ever Seen” near a bus stop by Pastor, which advertised all the bigwigs of gun-toting and the fun activities (gun bingo anyone?) planned for the afternoon. It looked more like a poster for Lilith Fair than for firearms.

Of all these signs, however, this one was my absolute favorite one:

injured?

Let’s talk about this. To me, this poster suggests that if you are suffering from an injury from any kind, you can call the year 1981, and a man in a sports suit will pick up his rotary phone and laugh at you.

YOU: (gasping for breath) Hi, (OOOOO. UGHGHGH. OWOWOW..) is this (OW!) Lerner and Row?

L&R: You sound injured.

YOU: I AM injured! I was stampeded by a heavy bison and knifed by a bandit and shot by several outlaws!

L&R: HAHAHAHAHAHHHHAHAHAHHAAA!

YOU: …Hello?

L&R: HAHAHAHHAHHHHHHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH! YOU’RE INJURED!

YOU: … I… think I’m dying…

L&R: One call that’s all!

YOU: Excuse me? What does that even mean?

L&R: One call. (Ominously) That’s. All.

(scene.)

2. My friend Bethany, who is teaching high school English, found this on the Write Source Web site. Remember Write Source? It was that book with the ’80s-looking neon people on the front usually wielding pencils and looking kind of frumpy. You had to use it all the time in the fourth grade. Don’t tell anyone, but I actually stole my copy. Shhh. This is an exemplary essay for grades 9-12. It was probably chosen because Write Source was trying to be hip and publish an essay on a “hot, up-and-coming musical group.” Here’s the first paragraph, which is truly the pearl of the work:

Something happens inside of me when I listen to the music of the Counting Crows. Raw, uncensored emotion pours from the mouth of lead singer Adam Duritz. His voice seems to naturally synthesize with the background music of guitars, pianos, organs, drums, and accordions.

When Adam sings, it’s as if he’s ripped open his chest and is exposing his heart and all of its contents, regardless of the cost, because that’s how much his emotions mean to him.

Does this not remind you of liner notes that slightly emo dude who had a crush on you in high school wrote on the moody mix CD he made you?

I really hope the writer of this essay (her name is Abigail) sent it to Adam Duritz. Because if I was Adam Duritz, I would fuck this girl as soon as she turned 18. Check out the two paragraphs of the piece:

Adam’s poetic lyrics move me to the depths of my soul. With just a few words and the emotion in his voice, he can make me feel as if there is a starry summer night inside of me . . . or a lonely, empty hotel room. There is nostalgia behind his lyrics and a canvas painted with love, loneliness, devotion, and disappointment.

During the production of the band’s first album, Adam’s most important goal was to “make a mark upon the world.” If it’s worth anything, he’s made more than just a mark upon my world; he has painted me a sky and filled it with stars.

My favorite part is the canvas painted with love, loneliness, devotion, and disappointment. I don’t know about you, but i picture disappointment as kind of mauve.

You can read the rest of the essay here.

3. Finally. All summer, my students have been writing me letters to prepare for their writing exams. Some of these are just priceless. So for the consumption of the general populous, here are The Best of The Best of The Summer School Letters: Vol. 1. Names, obviously, have been changed.

Dear Johnson,

I like to woke with you and I no it is my last bay but I wish I cued stay with you I wish I can stay with you for 100,000 weeks.

best wishs

Love Eliza

Dear Mrs. Johnson

Tank you for the latare [letter]. It was nice of you that you gifted a latare, the latore was so pritty, and It was so But so pritty. I like your driss Because it looks pritty, and I like that beause I like pizza and I miss you when you left.

Best Wishes,

Sylvie

Dear Ms. Johnson

My favorite movie is Spiderman. My favorite movie is Ironman. I want to be a fireman. Or Ironman. My dad gave me some house.

Aaron

Dear Mom,

I like pizza beouse it has peperoni and cheese and it good and hot and yes u can eat pizza and it shape is a tringle and my favorite shape is a tringle.

Love,

Jasper

Dear Mrs Johnson,

You are the best techer ever and I like to play with you fres tag and the game shos. And singing the songing and playing more stuf and you are the best techer because you give us lots of your stekkers.

Love,

Joan

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ill

12 07 2008

I’m sitting in the airport right now listening to a few guys talk about the Bible across from me and browsing the Internet. Guess what? I found something cool in (wait for it…) The Wall Street Journal. They published an interview with the fiercely intelligent rapper Nas, along with a few music clips from his new untitled album (originally slated to be titled “Nigger” as a political statement about race in America, but ultimately changed when record stores said they wouldn’t stock the album under that title). Here is my favorite moment from the interview:

WSJ: A lot of your peers have tried to branch out from music as entrepreneurs and by endorsing brands. Why have you avoided that?

N: I love the music. I don’t feel like doing anything else. I really like to wake up and look at the sky through the nice window where I live and know that the music and the people made this possible. There’s no better joy. Anything I do on the side will be very low-key.

 

MP3: Nas – Purple

 

Still… he’ll never be as cool as he was in 1994. Oh well.





the old lie

9 07 2008

Last week, Baron Davis threw the Golden State Warriors for a big time loop. Despite being owed over seventeen million dollars for the final year of his contract by the Bay, he decided to opt out in favor of a new, long term contract from the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers, despite the fact that it now seems they may lose Elton Brand to either the Philadelphia 76ers or those same scorned Warriors, likely would have been interested in Davis regardless; he’s a local legend, raised in South Central Los Angeles, and combines the sort of skill, exuberance, and flash that typically enthralls an LA crowd. It seems symptomatic of America’s two coastal capitals, LA and New York City, that a player will invariably be remembered for how they perform in the clutch, and that performance will be weighted more heavily against their complete body of work. In that regard, Davis will no doubt leave a positive footprint on the Clipper franchise.

I had the good fortune to see Davis play in person over a dozen times last year, as well as watching nearly every other game he played in years past for my beloved Warriors on TV, and I will say at the outset that he is fantastically thrilling. Knowing before a game that Davis would be playing point for Golden State became, for me, a source of hope. Not the general, reluctant, “aw shucks, maybe we can hang with these boys” sort of hope, but rather, the kind that heartens in a way that doesn’t need to be spoken. As an avatar for gutsy underdogs, you’ll find no better than Lord Baron.

The grab by the Clippers, though, seems uncharacteristic; Donald Sterling is known as an incompetent owner primarily due to his tight purse-strings, and at sixty-five million over five years, Davis is going to be making big money well into his mid thirties, and he has a troubling history of lower body injuries. Even last year, when he was lauded for playing a full, eighty-two game season, any Warriors fan can tell you that he was not fully healthy for some of that time. He played through aches and pains, which is admirable, but by year’s end his motor was clearly low on oil. His body is a world-class anomaly, a quick and fast guard bolstered by bursting muscle. But that very strength may be his undoing; even when in perfect physical shape, his bulky frame at times seems to be too tightly wound and heavy for his legs and his stamina to compensate. In any event, the inherent risk of this signing, especially given the torturous grind that is the Western Conference, suggests that Davis may have inspired some hope in Clippers management as well. This is the sort of signing a team makes when it starts thinking about championships.

During the NBA Finals, back when my Baron Davis “the city” throwback jersey was still temporally accurate (though anachronistic), I started pondering something as I watched Rajon Rondo and Derek Fisher square off. Neither of the two are what you would consider great point guards. Rondo is certainly more athletic, and can play exceptional defense, but his jump shot was so unsteady that the Lakers opted not to bother playing perimeter defense on him. Fisher, despite his reputation as a rugged, clutch veteran, is also a far substandard point guard by nearly any statistical measure, his biggest skill being shooting from deep, and his biggest weakness being most anything else sans flopping.

It fascinated me that during what seemed to be a year of unprecedented guard strength, the two teams that would be standing at year’s end would be two with such flawed players running the show. In both cases, the reason this was possible seemed clear; neither Fisher nor Rondo were truly running their team’s offenses. The Celtics’ triumvirate set the tone in the half-court offense, and Kobe Bryant certainly enjoys having the ball in his hand. It got me thinking, though- how many point guards have won championships while being the best players on their team?

If the Clippers manage to keep Brand, you could still make the case that Davis is the more important player; it is at the very least an argument to be had. If Brand leaves, Davis is the unquestioned star of the bizarro, Clipper Staples Center. But can a team win a title with a jack-of-all-trades, ball dominating point guard? A saunter through the history books doesn’t look promising.

Champion Starting Point Guards Since 1990:

’08 – Rajon Rondo

’07 – Tony Parker

’06 – Jason Williams

’05 – Tony Parker

’04 – Chauncey Billups

’03 – Tony Parker

’02 – Derek Fisher

’01 – Derek Fisher

’00 – Derek Fisher

’99 – Avery Johnson

’98 – Ron Harper

’97 – Ron Harper

’96 – Ron Harper

’95 – Kenny Smith

’94 – Kenny Smith

’93 – BJ Armstrong

’92 – John Paxson

’91 – John Paxson

’90 – Isiah Thomas

This is a very interesting list for a few reasons. The first is that only two of these men could reasonably be argued to be the best player on their team, Billups and Thomas. Tony Parker did win the Finals MVP in ’07, but you’d be hard pressed to find many people who would argue then, or now, that Parker is better than Tim Duncan, who is still putting up hall of fame worthy seasons. Jason Williams would be hard pressed to find a single NBA team he could start for today. Derek Fisher is more of an undersized shooting guard than a true point, and shoots a mediocre percentage at that. The only guy on that list who had what you’d consider a prolific assist average was Isiah, who averaged 9.3 per game for his career. If you calculate the career assist average for this entire list, it comes out to a paltry 5.9 assists per game, not laughably bad, but not what you’d expect from a great (or “elite”) point.

Now certainly, maybe you’re wondering where Scottie Pippen is on this list, since he was more “point” than Ron Harper. And that’s quite true. However, it speaks to my overall conclusion, that teams which place the heaviest responsibilities for production on a conventional point guard seem doomed to fail. Pippen, whether you consider him a guard or a forward, is certainly a peculiarity for that position. Similarly, Magic Johnson like Pippen was a physical force uncommon for his skill set. In a nutshell, the conventional wisdom regarding great point guard play (“the prototype,” a guard between six-one and six-three who can drive, pass, and shoot from range) seems to be a false idol in recent years. While John Stockton, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Baron Davis, Chris Paul and Deron Williams’ ultimate achievements to this point amount to little more than epic failure, Derek Fisher is sitting at home polishing his rings.

So I urge a bit of caution to Clippers fans who are conjuring up visions of a Baron-Brand championship collaboration. In fact, I urge caution to Clippers fans who even think those two will guarantee a playoff spot. As I learned last year, Baron Davis can be thrilling, dominating, clutch and cool as a cucumber. Unfortunately, he can be all those things and leave you sitting in the ninth seed. He can save your soul and break your heart. But then again, so can many “dominant” point guards.





many men

8 07 2008

We got to get out of school early today. This is the only day this is true for the entire five-week training, so it’s kind of a big deal. But of course, with these three extra hours, I have no idea what to do with myself. I’ve been so inundated with every-second-of-my-life-is-planned-for-me, that I’m flailing. So I figured the smartest thing to do would be to bring you the most important Internet phenomena of the moment:

I know absolutely nothing about astronomy. Alex likes to show me pictures of “amazing” things that happen in space, and they just look like a bunch of scattered dusty sparkling things to me. But still, it’s apparently a kind of big deal that for the first time in the history of space discoveries they just discovered a ring around a moon:

Now the Cassini spacecraft appears to have found a ring system around Saturn’s second-largest moon, Rhea. The discovery took astronomers by surprise. Just what is a ring doing around a moon, especially one that is significantly smaller than our own?

 

I get pretty excited about all elements of design. That said, even when someone showed me the finalists for Best Table of Contents in some distant magazine recently, I was uninterested. There is just very little that is interesting about a Table of Contents. But Smashing Magazine recently released a great compilation of the best table of contents which shatters that notion. Some of them are really beautiful.

 

A lot of people have been dying recently. When I write about this, I sometimes get chastised by right-wing blogs. When Wyvern920 writes about it, however, it’s funny and smart. So I”ll just leave that to him. (A few words on Bozo, Jesse Helms, and George Carlin)

 

The big story in The New York Times — surprise! — is about oil prices. Which have fallen for the second day in a row, which means everyone is feeling a lot happier. 

Oil prices headed in an unusual direction — down — for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, leaving energy experts to wonder whether the drop is the beginning of a lasting trend or just a brief pause before another surge.

This means that we can stop blaming things on rising oil prices. What are we blaming on rising oil prices? The Wall-Street Journal kindly made a 50-point list which answers just that question. But as soon as we stop worrying about oil, we should BEGIN to worry about some of the precious chemical elements we’ve been neglecting lately. Turns out we are likely to run out of beloved gallium and indium. We use elements like these to make flat-screen TVs. So buy yours before it’s too late!

The element gallium is in very short supply and the world may well run out of it in just a few years. Indium is threatened too, says Armin Reller, a materials chemist at Germany’s University of Augsburg. He estimates that our planet’s stock of indium will last no more than another decade. All the hafnium will be gone by 2017 also, and another twenty years will see the extinction of zinc. Even copper is an endangered item, since worldwide demand for it is likely to exceed available supplies by the end of the present century.

 

Someone made a flickr site of a bunch of old video games they made out of Legos. This is obviously a brilliant idea. Because those old video games are pixelated anyway!

 

Also, Wall E was the best Pixar movie yet. It really was. It was really beautiful and smart. I cried four times. That’s a lot for me. (SOPHIE’S CRYING INDEX IN MOVIES: Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion – 0 cries; March of the Penguins – 1 cry; Bambi – 2 cries; Love Story – 3 cries; Remember the Titans – 4 cries).  Check out some animation techniques used for the film on this great site.

 

Here is a picture of a really gross sandwich which is circulating the Internet. You heard it here first.





men in my life

2 07 2008

Today was a rotten day at work. The concept of “capacity” is a little advanced for six-year-olds. Little did I know. Also Teach for America is crazy about this thing called the TAL Rubric, which makes you feel the equivalent feeling of watching a lot of CSPAN until your head gets really, really dizzy because all the words are too big and similar-sounding.

So I was thinking today about the brilliant men in my life (i.e., people who have directly contributed to upsidedownagain.com without ever reaping any real benefit or credit), and I was thinking about their great Web sites, and I thought you should all direct your Internet attention over to them. I assure you, you’ll like what you read…

Chris Tognotti.

Chris contributes rousing usually-sports-related articles to upsidedownagain.com basically all the time. The content would be meaningless if he didn’t.

Favorite thing about Chris: He once sent me a 500-word Facebook message on Why Lebron James Sucks. That link won’t take you to it.

His site:  Check out BOTH of them:

 

  • tgco.blogspot.com: This is Chris’s bloggity blog, as I like to call it. Call me old fashioned, but I’m really into the good, Livejournal-era, solid, about-my-life blogs. This is not one of those. It’s far too intelligent to every be associated with the word “Livejournal.”
  • edwinpobert.blogspot.com: This is a Podcast about movies Chris does with some of the other interesting men in his life. Two of them have the name Shawn (not necessarily spelled as such. In fact, probably not spelled as such in either case). They say funny things about movies. You can listen to it. In the shower if you really want to. And if you have an iPod in your shower.

 

Excerpt:

I rode my bike to and from my house a couple days ago. I must say, to whoever coined the expression about never forgetting how to ride a bike… there is a bit of a rust to shake off, you know? I have little to no idea how I’m supposed to work the gears on it, and I’m sure I looked incredibly stupid swerving unsteadily down the road at night, but it rides well. I’m pleased with it.

 

Andrew Hall.

Now we get into the land of Andrews. I will warn you that there are no fewer than three important Andrews in my life. There might even be more than that. THIS Andrew is one of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever met. He contributed a few pieces mostly about music and about animatronics. I’m relatively confident he is the next David Sedaris.

Favorite thing about Andrew H.:  Is hard to say. But he did introduce me to the least-desired music. Which has been one of the greatest musical discoveries of all time.

His site:

 

  • bespectacled.tumblr.com. You know how hip Andrew is because he has a Tumblr. That’s about as hip as they come. And last time I visited, he even had a funny picture up. How hip of him. But seriously: His blog is the shit. I am RSS Feeding that like the plague (?). 

 

Excerpt:

What I do remember is the bowling alley in Bellevue. At this point in time it was brand new and everyone was rather excited, since it was much cheaper than the bowling alley at the Sun Valley lodge and was in much better shape, what with it being new and all. It had arcade games not from the Cruis’n series, an air hockey table, and a tabletop machine called Gorf that I thought had a fantastic name at the time. For some reason this left me strangely compelled to search for things on library computers, in lines of ten to fifteen children on our monthly trips to the public library, concerning Gorf, though they never had anything, I knew this, and everyone just found it kind of irritating.

 

Andrew Witherspoon.

I probably wouldn’t know what the Internet was if it wasn’t for Andrew Witherspoon. He’s the most talented computer graphics designer I’ve ever met.

Favorite thing about Andrew W.: He’s a really good bowler. But I’m just thinking that because I just read about bowling in that entry above. So that’s not really my favorite thing. My favorite thing about Andrew W. is that he is a good person. And that’s straight-up.

His site:

 

  • andrewwitherspoon.com. This just relaunched, and it’s gorgeous. It’s a portfolio site, and Andrew has done some really extraordinary things in just the last month. You’re going to want to keep this bookmarked for all the work he puts into it in the future.

 

Excerpt:

 

Andrew Jesaitis.

I love this man with all my heart. And when he makes one million dollars, I hope he’ll give me at LEAST a hundred thousand for feeling that way perpetually. Andrew edited the Whitman College Pioneer with me for three years, and now he works at a big company. He’s a genius. And he taught me how to embed my images using a simple CSS code which I now completely forget. C’est la vie.

Favorite thing about Andrew J.: His scent.

His site:

 

  • andrewjesaitis.com. Andrew is really outdoorsy, so he posts a lot of outdoorsy things. But he’s also a really classy, really talented photographer. His photo recently won second in an Outside Bozeman photo contest. I hate the multitalented.

 

An excerpt:

Here is Andrew’s winning photograph.

 

Mackenzie Schubert.

Mac has never actually contributed to my site, but one time I made Mac an HTML Livejournal before he knew EVERYTHING about the Internet and the Web site had the same color scheme as this one. Also I want to brag about knowing this artist who I can promise you money will one day be famous.

His site: 

 

  • mackenzie-schubert.com. Click around and feel inferior as a twenty-something in your generally meaningless life.
Excerpt:
Mac has one of those fancy Flash sites you can’t steal pictures from. Fuck that. Here’s a piece he did a few years ago. It actually moves. Try to fathom that. You can see other pieces of his earlier work by checking out his old deviantART. I took that picture of him jumping. I get three points.
Alex Kerr.
Alex doesn’t have a Web site but he’s absolutely my favorite living, breathing human being. And he was brilliant in this YouTube video. And, on the theme (Re: Andrew Hall) of animatronics, he sent me this badass YouTube video of Chuck E. Cheese puppets playing “Love In This Club” by Usher.
Bask in the talented glow of my friends. Thank you.