Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Scattered Thoughts on the NBA

1) Believe it or not, the wild card of the entire draft is the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs own the rights to Luis Scola, who is the best professional basketball player not currently playing in the NBA. Scola, the star power forward on Argentina's national team, is the two-time MVP of Spain's professional basketball league, and is best known to Americans for putting up 24 and 11 in the 2004 Olympic gold medal game, and for eating Jermaine O'Neal's lunch in the 2002 World Championships. Scola is an NBA all-star caliber player, who the Spurs have been unable to bring over to the United States for several years because of contract issues with his Spanish club team. Scola is now available to come to the states, but he would command an all-star's salary, and the Spurs, who are seemingly set to win their fourth NBA title in the past eight nine years, don't really need the help, and even if they did, they couldn't sign him without running afoul of the luxury tax. If they're able to turn his rights into something useful, that could be the story of the draft.

2) Two teams badly in need of a post scorer are the Chicago Bulls and the Charlotte Bobcats, both of whom already feature teammates of Scola's from the Argentinan Olympic team. The Bobcats have the #8 pick in the draft, and plenty of room under the salary cap. The Bulls have the #9 overall pick in the draft and a couple of moveable contracts. Would they trade their picks for Scola's rights? If so, the Bulls would immediately become the class of the Eastern conference, and the Bobcats would make the playoffs next year. The Spurs could use the pick to draft either Georgetown's Jeff Green or Kansas' Julian Wright, both of whom are disciplined, unselfish, and known how to pass, thus making them great fits for San Antonio's system. Would anybody want to play a San Antonio team that starts one of those guys at the 3 and brings Bowen in as a stopper-off-the-bench? Its the potential blockbuster nobody's talking about.

3) The Memphis Grizzlies just announced that they have signed coveted Phoenix Suns assistant coach Marc Iavaroni to a 3-year deal to become their head coach. Iavaroni has for years been the most highly sought-after assistant coach, rumored to be on every 'short list' in the NBA (sort of like Willie Randolph in baseball or Lovie Smith in the NFL). Iavaroni is a running coach, and his team simply can not win if it starts Damon Stoudamire at point guard. If Michael Conley is still on the board when Memphis drafts at #4, they have to take him, right?

4) Atlanta desperately needs a point guard, and they draft one spot ahead of Memphis. Atlanta is expected to trade for a veteran, but if they decide to take Conley instead, then Memphis should draft Al Horford with the fourth pick, move Pau Gasol to center, and draft Marist point guard Jared Jordan early in the second round. An Iavaroni-coached team of Gasol, Horford, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, Jared Jordan and Chucky Atkins would play a lot of 130-125 games and give fans in Tennessee a reason to show up.

5) You know how every year some obvious talent falls deep down the board for no good reason? Look at the playoffs: Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Manu Ginobili, Michael Redd, Mikki Moore, and Daniel Gibson were all taken in the second round of the draft, Ben Wallace and Raja Bell went undrafted, and others like Tayshaun Prince, Josh Howard and David Lee weren't drafted until the very end of the first round. This year, three sure-to-be-available players who could potentially make immediately impacts on good NBA teams are Wisconsin's Alando Tucker, Marist's Jared Jordan and Spain's Marc Gasol.

6) Kobe Bryant has apparently demanded to be traded. Phoenix could offer Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, and Atlanta's first-round pick in 2008. Other than a straight-up trade for either Dirk or Kevin Garnett, I don't see anybody being able to top that offer.

7) For the record, I'm not a fan of the proposed Zach Randolph-for-Antawn Jamison trade. If Portland drafts Oden, then Randolph has to leave, but I don't think that Jamison is a good fit for them. He's a good scorer and a good person, but he's a substantially below-average defender who scores a lot of points mainly because he's frequently the best player on a bad team. Also, he's getting up there in age. I'd rather see them try to work a trade to Chicago, who both badly needs a low-post scorer and has plenty of young chips to trade. Wouldn't Kirk Hinrich and Andres Nocioni be a great fit for Portland -- a tough defensive small forward and similarly tough defensive point guard, both of whom move the ball well and shoot 3's? If you replace Nocioni with Tefelosha or Tyrus Thomas, the deal still works.

8) Jeff Van Gundy is an excellent television analyst. Not only is he the most insightful color commentator on tv, he's also surpringly funny. Who knew he had a sense of humor? Or any personality at all for that matter? Every time you watch one of his games, you learn something new, not about basketball, but about life in the NBA -- for instance, which referees coaches appreciate the most, or the fact that "Detlef Schrempf" is apparently the widely accepted terminology for a particular type of basketball move. I eat stuff like that up with a spoon.

Awesome Picture of the day

Apparently a group of Mets fans hired Mr. Met - at once one of the creepiest/most awesome mascots out there - to make an appearance at their friend's birthday party. Gladly, it seems like he's over all those problems he had with Mrs. Met:

Picture via Deadspin

PS - Best Deadspin user comment: "Keith Hernandez just fired his agent."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cliff Thompson's Graduation Speech

As Jake has already mentioned, last week's University of Wisconsin Law School graduation ceremony featured "one of the all-time best stream-of-consciousness graduation speeches in history," delivered by my former Jurisprudence professor, and former UW Law school dean, Cliff Thompson.

I am pleased to announce that the entirety of Cliff's graduation speech is now online. I've got to give enormous props to my good buddy Ismael for transcribing the entire thing. I am forever in his debt.

"These remarks will be as incoherent as that lecture. At first I want to emphasize one of the important points made by Mr. Justice Butler, and that is that some years ago, not the same number of years, each member of the graduating class in effect stood before many of you who are on either side, parents, loved ones, friends, and plead or said or, y ou know, symbolically thought "stand by me, stand by me," and you're here, they did, so I'm going to add congratulations not only to you, but to those who stood by you.

"And I'm honored to be a part of this ceremony. I was coming down State Street carrying my gown and actually one of the jobs I'm doing right nos is helping out over at MSU, whose colors are dark green and this student who is not a graduating student grabbed me and said, "Is that a Spartan gown? Is that an MSN Gown?" And I said, "No, no, it's a gown from Sudan, a graduation gown from Sudan which I'm very proud of." In fact, I've been wearing this gown at graduations for over 40 years and I'm very proud of the circumstances under which I gained the right to wear it. And a little disappointed that over the 40 years, nobody seems to be interested enough to ask me how I came to be wearing it, although I think Alta Charo said today "What's that green gown all about?" I'm not going to go into it, but it does occur to me that there is a handful of graduating students who were in the class we had in the first semester of this past year who took the October Revolution course that I gave and will know or can figure out what the green gown is all about because it's from the morning of Thursday, October 22nd. There were horribly wounded students in the hospital, civil hospital of Khartoun and a dead student Hamid Harashi and a force outside waiting for the possibility of more deaths. Anyway, you have the right to tell your folks and friends if you want to but I'm not going to say any more about that.

"The last time I had the privilege of joining in this ceremony was 2003, when I was working in Indonesia full time and it took more time to come back from Jakarta and go back than I was actually in Madison. And I don't recall a thing about what I said, and I'm pretty sure, I'm certain that none of those who were at the ceremony recall, but I do remember that it was really very good in one sense, and that was that it was short and my resolve is to stick to that and keep it short and as I said, it will probably be incoherent because I thought maybe what is needed is some images that you might want to remember and use in circumstances that might make those images useful.

"The first--and I'll have just three--the first is it comes from Indonesia, where, as you know, it's a tiring trip out there, you go 13 hours to Japan, another 7 hours, but I don't think we understand sometimes just how fortunate we are, not just Americans but other affluent peoples, in the fact that our circumstances are really quite good compared to people, I'm not talking about people who are the very poor, but just average working people. And to illustrate that I'll tell you about the trains that run out of Jakarta to the south where there is sprawling cities that are part of the force that comes into Jakarta, which is 9 million people and those trains, a car, they're very much like an American railcar, and what is strage about them is they have in Indonesia something that must come from the old Dutch days because it's posted, it says "83 standing, 54 seats," so there are 54 can be seated and 83 can be standing. And let me tell you, it's always a lot more than that and I several times attempted to calculate the number on board during the commuter hours, which would be about 6:30 in the morning, get there before 6:30, not quite as bad, 6:30 to 10:00 in the morning and in the evening sort of from 4:00 to 8:00. Now, using the best methods I had of estimating--you count the number across and try to count the number going that way--in one of those cars with 54 to be seated and 83 to be standing, there were somewhere no less than 600 and probably up to 1,000 people. The only good thing is you can't be pick pocketed because you're all put together like a gnarled tree. So that's my first image, think of that train in Jakarta when you're thinking about how terrible it is to do anything about commuting or traveling and so on. There is quite a contrast with what we have to put up with.

"The other two come from a fairly recent project I had. As some of you know, I'm fascinated by new law schools because they out to be easy but sometimes they fall apart. Anyway, I was helping with the new law school at Chinese University of Hong Kong and this last Novermber of '06 with the American Justice School of Law in Kentucky. I didn't know anything about Kentucky, so and the new law school I won't talk about that, but I'm going to talk about Kentucky, which I've learned some things which I thought were interesting and hope you'll think were interesting, too. Or, I recall things I thought were interesting. The law school is down in Paducah, Kentucky, which is due south of Madison as the crow flies, which you can't get that way, but anyway, Paducah is a nice little town on the river, and this American Justice School of Law is one of those proprietary schools so there is a local lawyers who are trying to put the money behind it and develop it and they're a little suspicious of why somebody like me had been asked in to look at it and the reason was to sort of warm them up for maybe an accredidation visit, but I gained instant credibility in Paducah, Kentucky, because it is a town that feels it's famous because of Alben W. Barkley. He was the United States Senator, very powerful, became head of the Senate and Vice President under Harry S. Truman, and he's from Paducah, and they're very proud of him and were in immediate awe of me because I could tell them I had met him and the image I want to tell you about is such a contrast with the problems of post-9/11 and security that it's almost from a different world and time. It's 1950 and another kid named Donnie Johnston from Pittsburgh, Kansas--I'm from Shawney, Kansas--we're in our dad's car and getting heat rash because there wasn't air conditioning and we're walking across to the Senate and it says "office of the United States" and Donnie says "Let's see if we can meet him." I said, "Well, alright," so we walk up, walk in, and the secretary says, "Yeah, I'm sure he would like to meet you." And so we walk in and there was Alben Barkley himself, cheery as can be. Sits us down and talks to us and offers, we take an autograph, it was great, but I thought, when I was thkning about that last November in Paducah, "What a change from what we now have to face." That was a mroe innocent time.

"Now the third image, also though about Kentucky because it helps to know a place when you go there and a good friend of mine who is currently the dean in Idaho named Don Burnett served as dean in Louisville, University of Louisville College of Law, he was the dean for 11 years and got to know, I figured, quite a bit about Kentucky, so I got in touch with him and said "Tell me about Kentucky." I learned a few things that make me a little bit more or less fearful or less, anyway, I don't like horses. The truth is I'm afraid of horses. I ride motorcycles, but I don't like horses. But I sort of do a little bit more after having this time in Kentucky. Even so much of that take France's novel, I like, despite there being horses there, but I'm interested in horses and I think there is a great image in the last Kentucky Derby which those of you who are fans of that sort of thing know that Street Sense--what a great name for a horse--comes from number 19 out of 20 and wins and Street Sense will be racing tomorrow in the Preakness but anyway, the story I want to tell you about is about, I thought it was interesting, about the performance of one of the top 100 athletes in North America judged by ESPN, in fact number 35 and only one of three of the top athletes in North America who is not a human and that number is 35 that one of three, top of three is Secretariat, the horse. For those of you who are horse fans already know that Secretariat is a great horse and won the whole three big races including Preakness but starting at Kentucky Derby and whose record has never been beat. It's memorable, I think it's worth remembering, it's not bad to have in memory when you're discouraged and need to keep going. Here is what happened, and I think it's fascinating. The track is a mile and a quarter, so there is five one-quarter miles, and they traditionally time the race in terms of the quarter miles, so Secretariat comes out and runs a really good first quarter and then during the second quarter runs faster than the first quarter and in the third quarter whoops, in the third quarter runs faster than in the second quarter and and in the fourth quarter runs faster than the preceding quarter and in the final and fifth quarter runs faster than in the fourth quarter. So, I think that's a good thing, because as you get older you have to try harder to keep going. And I'm not going to tell you how to divide your life into fifths--it's something like childhood, education, first career--I had a colleague who retired from the British Broadcasting System, BBC, Broadcasting Corporation a few years ago and their counselors there divide your life into threes: education, career, and post education. However you do it, the model of Secretariat is worth remembering and try a little harder as you go. It's possible, it's not easy, but it's possible.

"And then, finally, to end, it seemed to me to have something formal, even if it's archaic, I've been reading the reviews of a lot of new books on Shakespear and one of them is The Shakespear Wars, which has a lot of interesting information, including the fact that a quarter of the plays given in the 19th Century were of Shakespear, and I also just read The Adventures of Huck Finn, where they were trying to get rid of the Duke and the King who were forever giving Shakespeare . . . . But the point is in the old days this is when you had corny oratory--it wasn't a bad way to end a formal education and this is as formal as we get anyway, from changing from thundering hoof beats to sailing ships, that's not too bad because we see things like Piarates of the Caribbean so we know a little bit about sailing ships, we know that if you're at the eg's estuary, you have to wait for the high tied to go out. So you may recall and I'll try to recall and end with one of Shakespeare's bits from Julius Ceasar. He says,

"There is a time in the affairs of humans which if taken at the flood leads onto fortune. Omitted all the voyage of that life is bound in shadows and in miseries, upon such a full sea that you are now afloat and you must take the current when it serves or lose your venture.

"So set your sails and godspeed."

Thanks again to Ismael at Here Is No Why for the tip.

Tim Duncan needs to study Jimmy Stewart

Verily, the internets are roiling with the fear of a Spurs-Pistons Finals. This pairing will, apparently, kill the NBA, if the demise of the Warriors and and the Suns had not done so already. Predictably, I took this news in, and my mind turned to the New England Patriots. Of course it did.

The question that popped into my mind was "If the quarterback of the New England Patriots did not look and act like Tom Brady, and the quarterback of the Colts did not look and act like Peyton Manning, would the Colts-Patriots rivalry be regarded with the same disgust as the Spurs-Pistons rivalry?"

I don't know. But the elements for comparison are there. The Patriots initially came to national prominence as a Cinderella, aptly named in 2001, and introducing a refreshing concept of team play (which the Spurs and Piston share.) However, this is not why they remain popular. The Patriots are ruthless rule-benders with an authoritarian coach, just like the Spurs. Like the Spurs and the Pistons, they are old, and try to remain so. The Colts, while offensively exciting in their earlier Peyton forms, have regressed to being a good, balanced team, also full of veterans, not above bending the rules. Colts-Patriots addicts love the rivalry because it is highly professional and hard-fought, and because we know the nuances of Freeney vs. Light and Samuel vs. Wayne. We know Manning v. Brady does not exist on the field in any meaningful way. However, it also seems that the reason this rivalry is not considered boring is because it is perceived as a clash of one very good looking guy with another slightly less good looking guy.

Clearly I cannot prove that this is so. But why is Duncan v. Billups a less nationally compelling matchup than Manning-Brady? Why is Webber's shot at redemption less important than that of Manning, or any other Colts stalwarts?

It is patently false to say that Tim Duncan is less emotional than Tom Brady. Duncan is constantly taking to and touching his teammates, with a lot of animation. He rarely emotes to the crowd. Brady behaves very similarly. He is slightly more physical, but all of his emotion goes to his team. Like Duncan's prime time attack, the Patriots' 4th quarter attacks are methodical and precise, generally hinging on 4 and 5 receiver sets and passes of 8-25 yards from the pocket. Brady rarely scrambles in crunchtime. Why is Brady perceived as if Maximus Publius had walked off the movie screen, and Duncan as a monolith? Other than the helmet...

This requires a lot more thought before I bring up race and the expectation of minstrelsy. One thing to consider before even going there is whether it all really comes down to how good looking the protagonists are. Has anyone wondered whether there hasn't been a new Jordan because no one is good looking enough? Are we expecting more of LeBron than he has given us because of his jawline, not because of his court vision and hops? Tim Duncan is not conventionally good looking. Neither are Chauncey, Tay, Rip, or Sheed. Is that why Spurs-Pistons is an apocalypse and not a rivalry?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Immunity....I like that.

Help for Republican Memory Loss:

UPDATE: Here's another solid video by the same group:

Radder than the Oscars

This weekend I had the privilege of attending the Taurus World Stunt Awards--the Oscars for professional Stuntmen. Hosted by The Rock and packed with explosions, a fire bikini modeling show, parkour (you know, the awesome jumps in Casino Royale on the cranes?) on the set, and a personal favorite, a metal sphere with two motorcycles zipping around inside going upside down...while a dude was chilling in the middle of the cage. It was quite the spectacle.

I got to say hi to Mr. T. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was there to give a lifetime achievement award to Burt Renyolds. These two acts simulatenously made my life more complete and made me feel like less of a man at the same time.

A highlight was The Rock needling Gerard Butler all night before Butler accepted his award for Action Hero of the Year for kicking ass in 300. Butler on the award: "If this doesn't get me laid, nothing will."

The show airs Friday 5/25 at 10:30 on AMC

The Secret Weapon

The underwear of Neko Case, indie singer/songwriter darling and charter member of The Six Women I Would Marry Ten Minutes From Now With No Regrets, is now for sale on eBay. Recently, Seattle-based music photographer Victoria Renard, maker of this charity-fundraiser calendar, has put the lingerie Neko wore for her charity photo shoot (she's Miss February) up for auction, the bidding for which has reached $175.00, and with good reason, for apparently Neko kept the garmet and wore for two years after the photo shoot. Apparently, Neko is a size 12, 36C.

As appealing as this garmet may be, it raises all sorts of weird questions. Who wants to buy used underwear, even of a singer you really enjoy, or a woman you have a crush on? You wouldn't buy it and have your wife or girlfriend wear it, right? That'd be too creepy. Would you frame it? If so, where would you hang it? Could you hang it at work, to show off to your clients? I'm not sure what I'd do with it, even if I could afford to place a bid.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Draft Lottery Blowback

I love NBA gossip. Last night's draft lottery had very unexpected results, and as a result, trade rumors are flying. As everybody knows, the two best players in the draft are Greg Oden (center from Ohio State) and Kevin Durant (a small forward from the University of Texas.) The draft rumors are mainly motivated by the following factors: the Portland Trailblazers won the first overall pick, with which they are expected to draft Greg Oden, a center. The Seattle Sonics have the second overall pick in the draft, with which they are expected to take Kevin Durant. However, Portland drafted a center (LaMarcus Aldridge) with the #2 overall pick just one season ago, and Seattle already has an all-star small forward in Rashard Lewis, who averaged 22.4 points a game this season.

What, then, to do? For the Trailblazers, do you pass up a once-in-a-generation player in Oden simply because a center was the best player available when you picked one season ago? Do you trade Zach Randolph (an all-star power forward and a killer post scorer) for cents on the dollar in order to give Oden the block to himself? If you're Seattle, do you sign and trade one of your best players, simply to make room for a similar (if younger and potentially better) player? If you're any OTHER team in the NBA, why would you offer anything close to full value for Randolph or Lewis, if Portland and Seattle are so eager to unload them? Why not offer than a second-round pick and a journeyman veteran and see if they bite? Some of the most lopsided trades in NBA history have occurred when a team decides to move an existing star merely to make room for a potential future star, and is willing to accept pennies on the dollar in order to do so.

Furthermore, NBA players have games that evolve. Coming out of college, Rasheed Wallace was a dominant low-post scorer of limited defensive ability who had a reputation has a hothead. Nobody thought he would ever shoot 300 3-pointers a year and be a great defender and a good soldier on a championship-caliber team. When he entered the NBA, Boris Diaw was a slow shooting guard with an erratic jumper; two years later he was a nightly triple-double threat at center. Dennis Rodman went from a skinny small forward with wide receiver-caliber speed to an 18 rebounds-per-game power forward who could hold his own against Karl Malone and Horace Grant on the low block. Who's to say what Kevin Durant will look like in five years? He could be Kevin Garnett, he could be Larry Bird, or he could be a taller Tracy McGrady. There's just no telling.

If there's one thing this spring's NBA playoffs have taught us, its that the best teams win by putting their five best players on the court. For Utah, that means starting three power forwards and two point guards. For San Antonio, it means starting two centers, two shooting guards and a point guard. For Phoenix, it means starting a point guard, a shooting guard, an undersized power forward, and two centers. For Golden State, it means a point guard, three shooting guards and a single forward. Teams who tried to shoehorn their talent into a conventional NBA lineup either got booted from the playoffs early (Miami, Dallas) or else suddenly began to exceed expectations as soon as they switched from conventional lineups to unconventional ones (Cleveland, now starting Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic at the same time.)

With that said, let's re-evaluate Portland and Seattle's draft positions. If Portland thinks Oden is the best player, then it should draft him, keep Randolph and Aldridge, and cram the ball down everybody else's throat. Aldridge can guard some small forwards, and, in the process, they'd basically never have to worry about getting their big guys into foul trouble. If Seattle wants to start two 6'10" small forwards at the same time and jack up 40 3-pointers a game, would anybody find that boring? I sure wouldn't, especially since people forget that Durant averaged 12 rebounds a game in college. He won't win an NBA rebounding title, but he might board more than, say, Mehmet Okur or Rasheed Wallace, both of whom have made all-star teams. Or, to reverse things a little bit, Portland could take Durant and field a conventional lineup whose oldest starter is a mere 25 years old. Seattle could then pick Oden, move Nick Collison back to power forward, and run slower teams off the floor, with Oden triggering the break.

The message, I suppose, is that most NBA general managers just aren't that smart, and more often then not they hurt their team's future by trying to pull off the perfect draft-day trade, instead of merely finding novel ways to use the talent they've already got. If Portland and Seattle try to move Randolph and Lewis, all they'll do is make two eastern conference teams very happy, while suffering an enormous net loss of talent.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Roger Federer is pretty good at tennis

I am, at best, a casual tennis fan. It's a sport that I annually resolve to pay closer attention to, only to once again fall prey to American sports media gatekeeping, which tends to marginalize the sport with the exception of the major tournaments.

In recent years, the main attraction to watching tennis has been to admire the continued dominance of Roger Federer, the twenty-five year old Swiss who has been the undisputed best player in the world since 2004, and in the opinion of many observers the best ever to play the game. Federer, in many ways, is similar to Tiger Woods - one would think it would be boring to watch a player of such immense skill essentially destroy the competition, but there is something beautiful and compelling about his game despite the absence of drama.

I mention Federer in anticipation of the upcoming French Open, which happens to be the only major tournament Federer has yet to win. Federer has stuggled there mainly because clay courts like the ones used at Roland Garros tend to slow the speed of the ball upon contact, thus diminishing the effect of his quickness and devastating drop shots. The clay surface tends to favor baseline power hitters like Rafael Nadal, who won an astounding 81 straight clay court matches - a streak broken by Federer at the Monte Carlo Masters last weekend.

This victory is essentially the equivalent of Superman temporarily overcoming the negative effects of kryptonite. I have seen Federer play about 15 matches. The only ones in which he looked even remotely mortal were against Nadal on clay, during which he looked frustrated and helpless. The victory at Monte Carlo guarantees little, if anything, but definitely adds a new level of drama to an already major tournament. I'd recommend checking a match or two out in the coming weeks.

If you have a minute, please check out David Foster Wallace's article from New York Times Magazine about Federer, entitled "Roger Federer as Religious Experience." It was published about 10 months ago, but is written in Wallace's inimitable style and is definitely worth the read.

The last sentence of Wallace's piece is worth noting, and is particularly apt while watching so-called "Federer Moments" like the one in the YouTube video below:

"Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform — and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled."

NBA Lottery Apocalypse

The top five picks in the 2007 NBA draft go to the following teams:

1) Portland Trailblazers
2) Seattle Supersonics
3) Atlanta Hawks
4) Memphis Grizzlies
5) Boston Celtics

This is a big deal, because two players in this year's draft, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, are expected to be perrenial all-stars, and could take a team from the bottom of the lottery to the playoffs in a single year. Boston and Memphis must be enromously upset, since they not only had the two worst records in the league, but have enough other pieces in place that the addition of either Oden or Durant could take them deep into the playoffs. Other than Oden and Durant, the top seven players in the draft are all forwards,

The western conference may be stacked, but Portland is now poised to become the next potential dynasty. Next year, they could run out a starting lineup of LaMarcus Aldridge at center, Zach Randolph and Kevin Durant at forward, rookie of the year Brandon Roy at shooting guard, and Sergio Rodriguez at point guard. Its a shame more people don't realize this, but as a rookie last year Rodriguez averaged more than ten assists per 40 minutes. The oldest player in that lineup is Randolph, who's 25 years old. If that nucleus stays together, they could win 55 games a year for the next ten years.

The number two pick, Greg Oden, will fit in well with Seattle. Seattle can run and shoot, but their defense is hard to come by, and having a shot-blocker like Oden protecting the rim (as opposed to, say, Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison) can help cover up for Luke Ridnour and Ray Allen's shaky perimeter defense. His outlet passes are beautiful and he keeps his blocked shots in play, so he could trigger a lot of fast breaks for the Sonics next year.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, the SEVEN next-best players in the draft, Yi Jianlain of China, Brandon Wright of North Carolina, Jeff Green of Georgetown, Julian Wright of Kansas, and Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah, all play forward, and Atlanta already has more young forwards than it knows what to do with. If I was the Hawks, I would probably go with Brewer, and start him at shooting guard (thus moving Josh Smith back to his natural position of small forward), or perhaps trade down to the eighth or ninth pick, draft Michael Conley Jr., and pick up another veteran in the process.

The Memphis Grizzlies, owners of the fourth overall pick, should commit to playing smallball. Draft one of several athletic power forwards (Horford, Brandon Wright, or Jianlain, who seems like he'd be a good fit alongside Gasol) and start him right away. Stop trying to make Pau Gasol a power foward (where he occasionally loses footraces) and start him as a quick, undersized center. With Mike Miller at small forward, Rudy Gay at shooting guard, and Hakim Warrick coming off the bench to play three different positions, they're a point guard way from being one of those teams like the Warriors that might not be great, but causes crazy match-up problems for other teams and is always a threat to drop 130 points on you. Of course, they might give up 140 points, but at least they'd be fun to watch.

The Boston Celtics . . . oh, the Boston Celtics. A healthy Paul Pierce and a season of Rajon Rondo in the starting lineup ought to be worth at least 15 extra wins. Here's what I'd do: start Al Jefferson at center. Sure, he's a little undersized, but so what? "Power forwards" like Tim Duncan and Jermaine O'Neal, who play with their back to the basket, guard the other team's center, and protect the rim are centers, whether their team chooses to call them centers or not. Al Jefferson is a younger Jermaine O'Neal, but with better post moves. I'd start Jefferson at center, draft one of the good power forwards in the draft (Horford, playing next to Jefferson, would be a beast), play Paul Pierce at small forward and Rondo at point guard, then try to pick up a shooting guard in free agency. You can ALWAYS get a shooting guard - maybe not somebody as good as Vince Carter, but there are more available free agents at the shooting guard position than there are anywhere else. It could work.

Maybe Next Year....

For those of you who haven't been following the NHL Conference Finals - and, considering the games have been airing on Versus Network between fly fishing and professional bullriding, that's probably most of you - the once-mighty Buffalo Sabres were eliminated this past weekend by the surprisingly tough Ottawa Senators, who will play either the Mighty Ducks or Red Wings for the Stanley Cup. It's a tough pill to swallow for Buffalo fans, whose expectations were understandably high after the Sabres earned the NHL's best record during the regular season.

It's extremely difficult to explain to someone who isn't from Buffalo exactly how frustrating, demoralizing, and emotionally draining it is to be a Buffalo sports fan, but this column actually manages to do a pretty decent job of it. At different times, friends of mine from long-suffering fan bases such as Philadelphia and Boston (prior to the 2004 Red Sox World Series win) have argued that their experience is more painful than Buffalo's, but I tend to emphasize the following points in response:

(1) Unlike any other franchise in the history of the NFL, the Buffalo Bills have managed to lose games in uniquely humiliating ways over the years, often in nationally-televised situations (i.e. Norwood's miss in Super Bowl XXV, the three subsequent Super Bowl blowouts, the Music City Miracle, etc.) The Sabres have followed a similar trend but to a lesser extent, namely No Goal 1 and No Goal 2.

(2) Due mainly to a lack of other diversions in Buffalo (especially during the winter months), the Bills and Sabres both have a disproportionate impact on the overall mood of the city on a daily basis. People are noticeably more cheerful or miserable on Mondays (hell, the entire week) depending on whether the Bills won or lost. In a league in which even successful teams often play in half-full arenas, the Sabres have sold out every home game the past two seasons, and the city has essentially been in a frenzy for the Stanley Cup since November (whoops).

(3) The cultural history of Buffalo since about 1920 can charitably be described as really fucking sad. Buffalo, amazingly, was the 8th largest city in the country in 1900 - currently it's 66th. The construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s killed what was remaining of a once-booming port economy, and the decades since have been generally characterized by countless civic blunders and dramatic "white flight" to suburbs that make "American Beauty" look uplifting.

Despite this, Buffalonians are proud of many things - high quality of life, friendly and down-to-earth people, delicious local foods, etc. Unfortunately, nobody outside of Buffalo really knows these things exist. The Bills and the Sabres are really the only two points of Buffalo pride that people outside the city acknowledge. Thus, when our teams lose, it is much more damaging to both the city's self-image and its reputation nationally than it is for cities like Philadelphia or Boston, which both have cultural and historical significance that far exceed Buffalo's in the popular consciousness.

To be clear, I'm not trying to win a contest about which city has the saddest sports history. In fact, Cleveland might actually have it worse than us, as it has faced similar patterns of urban decay and brutal embarassments for it's professional sports teams (i.e. Jordan's shot over Ehlo, "The Drive," Byner's fumble on the goaline, the Browns' move to Baltimore in 1995, and the Indians sucking for decades then losing to both the Braves and Marlins in the World Series in the late 1990s).

In the end, most Buffalo fans agree that decades of frustration will eventually make the days that the Bills and Sabres win championships infinitely sweeter. I agree, mainly because I have the unique brand of naivete that's only possible in people that have personally witnessed the impossible. Until next year, always remember that nobody circles the wagons....

PS - On an unrelated Wade mentioned in his previous post, I spent the weekend in Madison, WI for his law school graduation. For those that don't know, Madison is absolutely gorgeous in the spring and summer, full of public parks, lush trees, etc. (now only if they could do something about that 6-month winter). Over the course of the weekend I was able to enjoy fine cheeseburgers and brats, play US vs. USSR bubble hockey in a bar, sample the offerings of fine local breweries, eat ice cream on a sunny day by Lake Mendota, and watch what had to be one of the all-time best stream-of-consciousness graduation speeches in history. Also, I didn't see a striped shirt or blackberry the entire time - definitely one of the better weekends I've had in a while.

Congrats again, Wade.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Lazy Monday

This is my first post in a couple of days, because Jake Taylor was in town to help me celebrate my graduation. With classes over, and BarBri not yet begun, there is little to do other than sit in James Madison Park and enjoy the sunshine. There isn't really anything new to report, so I'm just going to post this Neko Case video and call it a day.

Thanks to Jake's Mom for the link.

Friday, May 18, 2007


I graduate from law school in about ninety minutes. Can a single word express how I feel? Yes. And that word is "Yatta!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

That Squirrel Can Water-Ski!!!

A police officer in Dearborn, Michigan confiscated a suspect's marijuana, and kept it for his own personal use. After making marijuana brownies with his wife and eating them, he freaked out, thought that he and his wife had overdosed, and called 9-1-1 for help.I didn't even know it was possible to overdose on marijuana. But now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

Thanks to Pointed Prolixity for the tip.

Amazon To Sell Music Downloads Without Copy Protection and EMI have reached a deal whereby Amazon will now sell downloads of EMI's songs online.

Some bloggers are making a big deal out of this. I don't really see what the big deal is - iTunes announced about a month ago that they were going to start selling EMI's songs without copy protection. Furthermore, EMI has always refused to sell Beatles songs over the internet - for some reason, they think that the Beatles are better and more dignified than that, despite the fact that Paul McCartney wheels out some cheesy new piece of shit almost every summer: "Love," "Let It Be - Naked," collections of b-sides, etc., for no reason other than that he's always been a money-grubber and Ringo is now the old guy still around to object. Good times.

One question comes to mind: gives you free shipping on orders of $25 or more. Frequently, my orders come to $22 or $23 dollars, and I'm faced with buying an addition $10 book or else paying $5 to ship the books and discs I have already orders. Now that Amazon will be selling downloads, will it be possible to just tack a single or two onto the order in order to qualify for the free shipping? Sure, Amazon doesn't have have to ship downloads, so they might not count as part of your shipping order, but don't you think they would sell an awful lot of songs that way? I sure do.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Quien es mas macho

One aspect of US sports culture that never ceases to amaze me is the lack of interest in women's athletics. Comes now ESPN to let the populace know how we used to feel about these things behind the Iron Curtain.

I am completely unswayed by the argument that people should watch the WNBA because it's "basketball as it should be played." That type of orthodoxy (some would say racism) holds about as much water with me as any half-hearted call to some mythical olden days.

Let me assure you that in many respects the Russian culture is spectacularly sexist, sexist on a level most Americans cannot imagine. My favorite exchange in re Borat was the following.

American: It's unrealistic that there's a town rapist.
Me: Yes. There is rarely just one.

However, when women are good at sports, people watch. Was this drubbed into our heads by a repressive state? At first, yes, I imagine. But then everyone realized that when you root for women athletes, you have twice the heroes. And isn't that why you watch sports in the first place?

Public Health Crisis: Break Dancing

There are many reasons why I have soured on living in Manhattan over the course of the past two years: no doubt one of the biggest is my daily commute to work, which sadly ends at the Times Square subway stop. On pretty much a daily basis, a Times Square commuter is immediately greeted by a crowd of Bejing proportions, which is always moving way, way too slowly.

[Note: When I first moved to Manhattan, I resolved that I wouldn't be one of those typical New York assholes who gets upset when people don't walk fast enough and tourists stop to gawk at relatively mundane occurences. Predictably this lasted about as long as a Mississippi teen's virginity pledge.]

Anyway, making it worse is that right below the corner of 42nd and Broadway, there is an open space where music or dancing groups tend to perform during morning and afternoon rush hours. Most New Yorkers find this really annoying - it gets really loud underground when the ceilings are 10 feet high for 8 blocks in all directions, and the performances never fail to attract large crowds of mouth-breathing Appalachians, restricting commuter mobility. Also, it's just kinda painful to watch middle-aged housewives from the midwest snapping on 1 and 3.

Which brings me to this video:

Sorry little one - you're suffering for all our sins.

PS - Definitely the best I've seen in the genre since this classic.

Inside the Buffalo Sabres' Locker Room

This is, at best, a small consolation, but at this point we Sabres fans need something to cheer us up.

The Internet and Fandom in the 21st Century

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article about the on-line relationship entertainers have with their fans. Some independent singers and young stand-up comedians spend several hours a day blogging, responding to e-mails, and approving friend requests on MySpace. The upside of all of this is that it gives fans increased access to their favorite performers, lets performers get the word out about their latest work without having to go through the time and expense of using mainstream channels, and lets performers better plan their tours by learning, for instance, that they sometimes have loyal followings in out-of-the-way college towns to which they would never otherwise travel. Interesting stuff. The trade-off, of course, is that one of the reasons you become a professional entertainer is that you hate being stuck behind a desk, doing busywork.

We at Common Sense Dancing have friends in show business who have benefitted from having their fans add them up as MySpace friends. On the other hand, early and extensive use of the internet is how Dane Cook built his fanbase, and that guy sucks.

I also enjoyed the article because it happens to be set in Gorilla Coffee,, one of CSD's favorite coffee shops in the world. Its on Fifth Avenue and Park Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and you should really check it out if you're ever in the neighborhood.

Thanks to Empty Barrels for the link.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Big Day

Today was my last-ever law school exam. Nothing beats walking out of the last exam of spring to find that the once-threatening skies have yielded to 85 degrees, clear skies, sunshine and a cool breeze. Good times.

Since there's nothing much to blog about, here's some party music. "Flathead," by the Fratelli's, is the catchiest new song I've heard in a while. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Six Degrees of Honorary Degrees

Interesting. Wouldn't you like to see all of these people get together in the same room? Would George W. Bush look into Robert Mugabe's soul? Would Bob Dylan and Ravi Shankar hit if off?

Friday, May 11, 2007

I Did Not See That One Coming

According to this news story, standout forward Candace Parker of the Tennessee Lady Vols and Shelden Williams of the Atlanta Hawks recently got engaged. Congratulations to the both of them! This wouldn't normally be of note, except that Candace Parker is a CSD favorite, as intelligent 6'4" shooting guards who look like Beyonce and can dunk are hard to come by. Williams, though far from being the ugliest player in the NBA, or even the second-ugliest, is not a particularly good-looking man.

In fact, they seem so mismatched that I almost don't believe its true. I mean, if you're gullible enough to believe that story, then you're dumb enough to believe that somebody as hot as, say, Julia Roberts would marry somebody as homely as, oh, I don't know, Lyle Lovett.

Wait, what's that you say?

Sir Charles Holds Court

Charles Barkley, retired NBA superstar and current studio analyst for TNT, has always been one of my favorite professional athletes. On the court, he was a Hall of Fame-caliber Power Forward and a force in the paint, despite the fact he was 6'4'' (charitably listed at 6'6'') and decidedly overweight. Off the court, he was always interesting and thought-provoking, even if I didn't always completely agree with his opinions.

Be sure to check out The New Republic's recent interview with Barkley. Many professional athletes - certainly more than the media gives credit for - have strong opinions about important topics. Typically, however, very few of sports' biggest stars are outspoken on social, racial, and political issues for fear of hurting their popularity and marketability. As you can see from the interview, Barkley has never shied away from sharing his views on controversial topics. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here are a few highlights:

On the dynamics of American race and class:

"America is divided by economics strictly. You know, people always talk about race, and we have racial problems in this country. Of course we do. But the real issue is the rich against the poor...I realized that rich people will always be rich and the poor people are like crabs in a barrel. They are going to fight with each other, but they are really in the same boat. [Rich people] want [poor people] to argue about gay marriage. They want you to argue about the war in Iraq..."

On Barack Obama:

Q: In some quarters Barack has been criticized for not being black enough.

A: Well, that's because black people are fucked up. One of the reasons that black people are not going to be successful is because of other black people. We tell black kids that if they make good grades, they are acting white. If they speak well, we tell them that they are acting white. We have a lot of demons in our own closet--in our own family--that we have to address. But first of all, we want black men to be intelligent and articulate and things like that. That's not acting white. That's the way it should be. ... We become our own worst enemy with random black-on-black crime, teen pregnancy, single-parent homes. You know we cannot blaming white America for our ills. Does racism exist? Of course it does. But, at some point, I have to make sure I am educated. I don't have ten kids and no job. I am not killing other black people. At some point, you have to grow up.

On the Don Imus controversy:

Q: Looking back on the Don Imus thing--

A: What he said was atrocious. He should have got suspended, and not fired.

Q:Why not?

A: I don't think you can fire everyone for everything they say, first and foremost. It was wrong, it was hideous, as a man who got a daughter, as a black man who got a daughter. But I thought he should have gotten suspended, and that's it. I would have been content with that.

Q: Do you think that people are too--

A: I am telling to tell you why I said that. I knew the repercussions. This is not going to work out well for black people. This is going to turn around. They are going to start blaming us for using the word. We have this new war going around in our community about rap music. And I said, I was telling a friend of mine, I am not sure where I stand on this rap music thing. We have to address it. But I know what happened with Don Imus wasn't our fault.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Knob Hockey!!!

I have no idea what the story is with this site, but these videos are really funny. You've got to love what the playoffs do to Buffalonians.

In Other News, The Pussycat Dolls Were Recently Diagnosed With Throat Cancer

Hopefully this doesn't put a damper on your weekend...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

BONUS abridged Sabres Highlights timeline according to me:

1970: Buffalo Sabres are founded with the blue and gold, a respectable "Original 6"-esque crest.

1971-1988: French Connection, some other stuff. Who knows, eh?

1989: TGIF is interrupted with breaking news that Buffalo smuggled Alexander "Virginia Slims" Mogilny away from the USSR in Irv Weinstein's Eyewitness News submarine. It had to be an underwater resuce as the young Russian is afraid to fly. Originally I was pissed that Perfect Strangers was interrupted for "news". As I grew older, I thought it was awesome that we were sticking it to USSR. Now I'm scared shitless because I know that Putin has never forgotten this grevious insult and has been plotting his revenge all along. First nuke hits B'lo. The spin will be it's from "terrorist Chechnyian extremists" who obviously didn't know what they were doing and Thank God, because it could have been New York City! Jay Leno makes a "nuclear hot chicken wing sauce" joke a little too soon ending his career. Putin strokes his cat as all goes according to plan. You heard it hear first.
- Oh, that wacky Sabretooth! (did you see what I did there? I AM CLEVER!)

1996: Buffalo gets a new arena and the infamous Goat Head. The team unveiled the logo to Bush's Machine Head, and it was totally rad to teenagers. Like me. DAWEsome! Older fans furious about the black and red and drastically changing the logo. Whatever, F them.
- Buffalo has Satan on their team wearing the demonic Buffalo head. Everyone wants him to change his number to 66 to complete the obvious joke.

1996-1999: The word "scrappy" can be applied to everyone on the roster. Every single game is a defensive chess match against the New Jersey Devils, and ends 2-1 after overtime.

1997: Ted Nolan gets the ax. OR SHOULD I SAY "TOMAHAWK"!! ZING!!! OMG OFFENISVE!!!!1

1999: No goal.

2004-2005: NHL increases demand by restricting supply. This textbook economic strategy pays off hugely and now hockey is second only to football in fanbase and TV revenue contracts. Next stop: more Southern teams!
2005: WTF offense? Who knew hockey could be so exciting!

2006: Buffalo loses the Stanley Cup to another city that doesn't even know the rules of the game and doesn't even appreciate it.
-New logo announced, fans get pissed like they did in 1996, but we win so it's OK? Snotty teenagers are like "we're winning and it's cool, so F your old logo."
2007: Assuming the Sabres beat the Senators, I'm actually breaking a "life promise" by temporarily rooting for the Ducks to win their series so I can actually go to a Stanley Cup Playoff Game out here in LA and sarcastically and/or drunkenly yelling "May Day! May Day!" behind the Ducks bench, amusing only myself and confusing many. But Brad knows.
2008, strategically timed to fuck with our election: Putin's Revenge.
-Sabres franchise moves to New Orleans to continue with the NHL's southern expansion strategy, and as an attempt to give the dying city a morale boost in lieu of something useful, like funds and infrastructure.
2010: New Orleans underwater
-Albuquerque Sabres! Logo is tweaked to become a 19th century Mexican cavalryman holding his sabre. He's got a HUGE mustache. Fans are outraged.
(ed note: I wanted to end the post with "Fuck the old logo. We're winning!" in Spanish, but Babblefish gave me a lame translation, and typing in "Fuck in Spanish" and checking websites at work is not a Wise Decision. Translations welcomed.)
edit: for clarification, we lost the Conference Finals in 2006. Carolina ended up winning the Cup. We would have defeated the Oilers if we had advanced to the Stanley Cup finals rather than the Hurricanes, and we would have appreciated the Cup since people in our city know rules of the game like "icing".

Like the logo yet?

As everyone is no doubt excited for the exciting Buffalo Sabres/Ottawa Senators series starting on Thursday, I'd thought I'd take this moment to revisit the logo controversy.

Did the new logo grow on you over the season as we (as I lack the imagination to picture any self-respecting, intelligent reader of Common Sense Dancing NOT being a Buffalo Sabres fan) continued to win? As a peition signer, I admitted coming around slightly after going to two games during Thanksgiving and watching the amazing offense do its thing. I still don't love it by any means, but I like the colors, and winning helps ease the pain.

And I think that's what the Sabres marketing wizards had in mind all along. It was the perfect time to make some cash for the organization, After losing in the Stanley Cup Finals, it was clear the Sabres were a powerful, young, exciting team destined to have a good year in 2006-2007. By winning, fans could come to embrace the logo. So why not make all the fans rebuy the merchandise?

It worked. 1100% increase in sales in the opening months sure ain't bad. And being a small market team, I'm happy to see the team have some cash so we don't run into situations like criminal-families-not-wanting-to-pay-Mike-Peca-so-it-tells-Hasek-we-aren't-committed-to-winning-so-he-demands-a-trade-and-douchebagily-declares-he-doesn't-want-to-go-into-the-hall-of-fame-as-a-Sabre-and-overall-we-lose-both-star-players.

But does that make it right? Some logos (Yankees, Original 6 hockey teams, Cowboys) are off-limits for tampering with forever. But what's the expiration date on non-sacred logos? 5 years? 10 years? Yearly uniforms with smaller tweaks? Should we expect more teams to change logos when they are on the cusp of greatness? Or has it been there all along and I haven't noticed until it happened to my team?

If the Sabres win the Cup, will the logo be completely forgiven, accepted, embraced? Or will future generations cringe at the banner hanging up in the HSBC area next to the Buffalo Bandits victories? Think further: can this logo ever be retro-cool?

Also, let's talk about the WORST redesigns in sports history. I'll go first: Vancouver Canucks.

And remember in the 90s when everything was teal. Freaking Detroit (Pistons), the least teal area on the globe even used teal.

Lists Are Mental Crutches

Just because I'm a little delirious:

5 dudes I want on my team right now:

1) Timmy "I am so quietly arrogant I got tossed for laughing" Duncan. 29 points, and the Suns called it a defensive victory. That's kind of like in 1942 when the Red Army called anything that didn't result in envelopment and imprisonment of an Army Group a "strategic victory."

2) Steve "Rudolph" Nash. 16 assists. Shrug. When are you gonna go over 25 in a game, hoser?

3) Baron "Leonidas" Davis. Almost Russian in his ability to come back from defeat. His comeback from a hammy pull reminds me of Vasily in the Pine Barrens. Avery is Paulie Walnuts. Dirk is Chris-tuh-fuh.

4) HRM James, King of all the Ohios. It's been a good week for royalty. Averaging almost a triple double. Down to 4 because of weak competition. Dee-troit looms over him and his large eastern european sidekick like Nellie looms over a fridge of Bud Light.

5) Whoever drugged the Magic and the Bulls into a coma.

"To Me, Shipping Cash to Switzerland in Canvas Bags Doesn't Sound Legal"

I'm going to go way out on a limb and suggest that this probably isn't legal, either.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Better Advice Needed

A couple weeks ago Wade had a post about Colleen Kinder's "Not a Delay, But a Detour," which encouraged college students to find "unconventional" employment opportunities upon graduation, preferably in Third World countries or other exotic locations. (Paul Smecker posted a sharp response as well).

On the other end of the advice spectrum is this column by current Yale senior Steven Engler, which may as well have been called "Ten Ways to Become a Complete Tool." I have spent a lot of energy over the years (particularly in my hometown) trying to convince people that not all Yale guys are total d-bags, and when I read something like this, I get to thinking the effort might not have been worth it.

To be fair, some of the advice is decent enough (e.g. Directed Studies is hard and requires social sacrifices, Donald Kagan's classes are always highly-regarded, it's wise to be discriminating about picking a section leader, etc.) However, check out points six and seven. At a school of Yale's size, it's easy enough to have good relationships with professors through natural means. People who devise strategies to (in Engler's words) "latch on" to professors are viewed by almost everyone else as obsequious and obnoxious. If you can badger a good recommendation out of a professor, good for you, but you're still pretty much an asshole. Of course assholes - particularly ones from Ivy League colleges - are often successful in professional life, but being one is still not something to strive for, and down the line I keep imagining these people will eventually meet an O'Doyle family-type fate. Be warned.

More to the point, nuggets three and four...ugh. These are so bad they should be quoted in full:

4. Don’t waste freshman summer. Having spent many of my high-school summers doing things that I thought would help me get into places like Yale, I pretty much wasted my college freshman summer being a lifeguard. Unless you plan to travel abroad over the summer, find a job in a corporate atmosphere to have something on your resume. Don’t be afraid to ask your roommates’ parents for help in securing a job — Yale is as much about the people (and families) you meet here as it is about the classroom.

3. Get an I-banking/consulting internship junior summer. I go back and forth on this one, but the worst that happens after your summer is you’ll have a name on your resume that nearly every future employer respects, perhaps the knowledge that you don’t ever want to do it again, and a nice chunk of change. If you’re half-competent, the best that happens is you’ll have a nearly guaranteed job when you graduate.

On point four - as John Wooden would say, "goodness gracious sakes alive!" In my experience, very few people, particularly employers, care AT ALL what you did freshman summer. This is mainly because, as a 19 year old, it's unlikely that one will be entrusted with any important responsibilities in a "corporate atmosphere." (I, for one, worked at a law firm the summer after freshman year, and essentially delivered mail. It was retarded, boring, and a total waste of time). If anything, one should take a lifeguard-type job for the summer after freshman year: it's probably one of the last summers they'll be able to live at home and hang out with their high school friends and, as long as nobody cares that much anyway, you might as well do something fun, preferably working outside and constantly flirting....unless you're so focused on your future career at age 19 that this sounds like a bad prospect.

Also, I've always thought that most people who "ask [their] roommates' parents for help in securing a job" are pretty lame. Doing so during your first year of college - when you've only known your friends for 8 months and probably don't have much of a relationship with their parents yet - will only make one look foolish.

On point three - I could go on for a while about this, but I'll spare you the rant about how 99% of investment bankers are total wastes of life, because you've heard that one before. Long story short, Yale systematically pushes kids towards investment banking and consulting, even kids who don't really have the skills for it and, deep down in places they don't want to talk about, even a real desire to do it. I knew a surprising number of kids who never took an Econ class (some may have taken Intro level) who, at some point during junior year, brainwashed themselves into believing they wanted to work in finance or consulting, mainly because there is both institutional and peer pressure to do so. My Art History major friend quit her consulting gig after 6 months, my American Studies major ex hates her job at Merrill Lynch, etc.

Yale's on-campus interviewing is literally about 90% finance and consulting positions - the other 10% are mainly teaching and paralegal positions. Of course these industries make it easy for our Career Services to get kids jobs because they have the resources to come to our campus, interview an army of kids, and give offers to a slightly smaller army.

My point, I guess, is that as long as the whole system is geared towards getting kids - even kids that subconsciously have no desire for finance and consulting - to do this type of work, it's probably not all that prudent to give a blanket recommendation to all freshman to pursue these jobs. In the end, a good number of people will have both the skills and desire to make silly rich people even richer. For the others, who probably don't want to but are pressured to do so, I think it'd be wiser to at least think about what Colleen wrote, do some legwork on your own, and, if the desire hits you, check out the multitude of finance and consulting positions, which will always be available in large supply.

Valley Ball

Any good Buffalo boy grows up with a strong appreciation for bad locally-produced strip club advertisements, including classic jingles such as:

Rick's Tally-Hoooooooo /
A unique gentleman's cabaret!

Thus it warmed my heart to see this ad, courtesy of the Valley Ball in Los Angeles. No nudity as such, but NSFW.

"Nope, Still Gay . . ."

My friend and former co-worker James Heffron stars in a new advertisement for an online dating service called Here it is:

Monday, May 7, 2007

Who Needs XBox 360?

I know this is typically Inspector Frank Bumstead's territory, but I had to mention GameTrailers' recent Top 10 8-Bit Games list. Like many upper-middle class children of the late 80s and early 90s, a disproportionate number of my earliest memories somehow involve playing 8-bit Nintendo, so this is really serious stuff. This is their Top 10:

10) River City Ransom
9) Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
8) Shinobi
7) Dragon Warrior IV
6) Tecmo Super Bowl
5) Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!
4) Mega Man 2
3) Contra
2) The Legend of Zelda
1) Super Mario Bros. 3

Obviously these are all tough calls, although I'd imagine that about 95% of former Nintendo players would at least have Super Mario 3, Zelda, Tecmo Super Bowl, Contra, and Mike Tyson's Punch-Out in their Top 10. I respectfully disagree with some of Gametrailers' choices, and have included my Top 10 below, along with a YouTube clip of someone playing the game much better than I ever could:

10) River City Ransom
9) Maniac Mansion
8) Final Fantasy
7) Double Dragon 2
6) Mega Man 2
5) Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!
4) Contra
3) The Legend of Zelda
2) Tecmo Super Bowl
1) Super Mario Bros. 3

Gametrailers definitely got one thing right - Super Mario 3 is one of the most fun and addictive games made for any system, and far exceeded every game that game before it. Although Zelda and Contra are both great, Tecmo Super Bowl gets my nod for #2: not only is it outrageously fun, but it's the first football game ever to include (1) every NFL team and (2) the ability to record player statistics throughout a season. Finally, considering the franchise revolutionized role-playing video games, I think not including Final Fantasy is a pretty serious oversight.

Games that barely missed my Top 10 include: Super Mario Brothers 1 and 2, Ninja Gaiden, Metroid, and Castlevania.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Gunther - The Ding-Dong Song

This is one of the cheesiest music videos of all time. Unfortunately, since it is Swedish, there is no way to tell if its just another shitty Swedish dance song, or rather a parody of said shitty Swedish dance songs. There's a lot to like here, but my favorite part is the ending. One could say that the video builds to a climax. NSFW

The Republican Aristocrats

A new take on the classic joke.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Will Ferrell's Latest Viral Video

Ferrell's last video, The Landlord, was such a success that he's made another one, "Chuck Berry."

The Auto-Admit Controversy's Final Chapter

A couple of months ago, a website called "Auto Admit" caused a lot of controversy in the legal and blogging communities. Auto Admit, an on-line message board, had become a "platform for attacks and defamatory remarks about female law students." According to this Wall Street Journal editorial, the white-shoe New York law firm of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge recently rescinded its job offer to one Anthony Ciolli, the law student who moderated Auto Admit and refused to remove the offensive messages, or to institute some sort of decorum policy. Charles DeWitt, the managing partner, has said that he retracted Ciolli's job offer because the content of the messages "was antithetical to the values of of the firm." I applaud him for his decision.

I haven't met Jill Filipovic, but we've got a lot of mutual friends, and we've spoken over IM. She was the victim of some of these on-line attacks, which, among other things, encouraged students to attempt to take photos of her in the locker room at her gym, and threatened her with sexual abuse. Her reaction to his firing can be found here.

Of course, conservatives are criticizing DeWitt for curtailing Ciolli's right to free speech. Really? Ciolli has a right to speek freely, but working at a law firm like Edwards, Angell, Palmer & Dodge is a privilege, not a right, and Ciolli forfeited that privilege when he let the comments on his website threaten Jill Filopivic with sexual abuse. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, he was judged by the content of his character. Does anybody really have a problem with that?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mario's hit rock bottom

Relationship issues, estranged from Luigi and hooked on mushrooms, Mario has not adapted well to returning to the real world.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"You are not the father"

My man Phil over at Pointed Proxlixity has a great post about one of the truly bizarre spectacles in American society - the Maury Povich paternity test.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mission Accomplished - Four Years Later

Today marks the fourth anniversary of President Bush's now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. Since that day - on which the President declared that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended" - 3,213 US soldiers have died in Iraq.

Considering all that has come to light in the past four years - deceit, ineptitude, torture, etc. - it's amazing to think about how glowingly the American press covered this foolish, hubristic ceremony at the time. Here's a brief time capsule, courtesy of Media Matters - welcome to May 1, 2003.

Gems include:
JOE KLEIN: Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me.

Felon Voting

A lot of energy on this blog is devoted to criticism of Republican leadership, which has, by almost all accounts, sunk to new lows over the course of the past six years. However, in the interest of fairness, I should mention an article I read recently in which some Republicans seem to be slowly changing sides on an issue which is unpopular with their base, and perhaps electorally damaging: voting rights for released felons.

Restrictions on voting rights for ex-felons have generally struck me as overly harsh and vindictive. If the point of a jail sentence is that a person pays their debt to society for a particular crime, then what point do voting restrictions actually serve? It seems to me that either (a) the punishment should be longer or (b) people should enjoy rights as normal citizens after their debt is paid. While the government cannot regulate the biases that individuals and employers hold against ex-felons, I think they should be included again in the political process without continued judgement.

What's particularly interesting to me about the Republican efforts is that studies have shown that released felons tend to overwhelmingly support Democrats. Considering the considerable time and energy Republicans have spent suppressing the Democratic vote in recent years (e.g. phone-jamming, harrassing robocalls, and bogus investigations against Democrats during election seasons), the idea that they would take steps to give franchise to likely Democratic voters is more suprising than anything.

Of course, while their change of heart on this issue is encouraging, one could also argue that this whole effort has an "only Nixon can go to China" feel. If Democrats attempted to spearhead this effort, they would be accused of being both soft on crime and electorally opportunistic. But since a lot of Democrats haven't shown much backbone on this issue, I'm glad that some Republicans have decided to help take the lead.