Friday, February 29, 2008

I'm not saying I agree with it, but sometimes I get why nihilism is so appealing...

I can't believe I'm actually typing this.

Patrick Patterson is done for the season. It's 3:51 PM on Friday and there are people still blissfully going about their days who have no clue that Kentucky's best player and only hope for some sort of post-season run is limping around the Wildcat lodge with a cast over his leg. I can only imagined the joy felt by Bruce Pearl and Billy Donovan when they heard the news, as they no doubt have by now. I am Ill.

There I was, minding my own business, substitute teaching my little heart out when I felt an unsteady vibration on the right side of my stomach. No, it wasn't my bowels trembling with that devastating feeling you get when you look for something valuable and it's isn't there, only to remember you've put it somewhere else. That was still a few seconds away. It was my cell phone. Normally, I don't check messages until the very end of the day. It's rare, however, that Bubba calls me during the day, so I checked. Of course, I wish I never had. I triple-checked the story and it was as true as the day is long.

The last time I wrote something about UK this tinged with sadness was after our 2005 double OT loss to Michigan State, the infamous Patrick Sparks miracle shot game. It was raining and miserable outside then, just as it is right now. Our season is over. Our season is over. Our season is over. I have to keep saying it just to make sure I don't start to rationalize, as I'm prone to doing. If I didn't beat the truth into my head so fervently, I may start saying things like, "Maybe we can still get Meeks back into a consistent role," or, "The Coury/Carter Combo could make up 17 points and 8 rebounds a game, right?" God Help Me. Our season is over. Never mind the Tennessee game. How about South Carolina and Florida and the one SEC tournament game we'll get to play. I was pumped to go to Atlanta and cheer for these cardiac-close call-bend but don't break-10-3 in conference 'Cats. No longer. Perry Stevenson has improved, you might say. Patrick Patterson is Stevenson's improvement personified. Without Patterson sucking defenders to the low block like a black hole, Stevenson is still just the team stick figure. And the tournament selection committee. Oh Lord. Even if we manage to Houdini our way out of this death trap and put ourselves in a close call bubble situation, what sane person looks at this team minus Patterson and thinks, yeah, they've got a real shot to do some damage.

Perhaps you say I'm being pessimistic. Perhaps you think I'm underestimating the will of this coach or these seniors. Perhaps it's a little early in the day for you to be drinking. I am a noted optimist. I swear to you that before every game for the last three years, I have fully expected to see my previously unthinkably bad Wildcats come out, put it all together and in one broad stroke, right the ship, undoing all of the crappy underachieving they had seemed to revel in. I had real hope for this team. Not SEC tournament hope or Maybe we'll get a bid hope. REAL, honest to goodness feelings of excitement for what this team could do given a lucky matchup or two in the NCAAs. Obviously, I was a fool to think that luck would ever smile kindly upon this particular group of injury plagued whipping boys. I was four when probation happened at the University of Kentucky. I do not cope well with this sort of abject despair.

So, here I am + a few hours from PPID (Patrick Patterson Injury Day). I am miserable. I am miserable. I am miserable. Though Jonny made a point (I haven't decided if this is comforting in the least, although my inclination is that it is not only not comforting, it actually somehow adds to the pain) by saying that this could be worse. We could be 25-1 right now and this loss could signify the end of Championship hopes as opposed to the end of maybe-we're-in-the-tournament hopes. This is bad.

The team will, of course, try picking up the pieces and shocking themselves out of the stupor this has surely induced. And although it seems foolish to think that in the wake of events at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois in the last year that something as trivial as the broken ankle of a nineteen year old kid could make me feel so hopeless when those events certainly didn't affect me this much, this team is a big part of my life, for better or worse, whatever that says about me or the millions like me who give of themselves to invest in sports.

It just dawned on me that one of those blissful masses mentioned above may well be my beautiful wife. Sweet, innocent Sara, unblemished by doom and despair. The thought of breaking the news to her makes me feel worse, if that's possible. So why then do I know I'm going to pick up the phone and call her as soon as I'm done typing?

They say you always hurt the one you love. They forget to include that this happens most when you don't even recognize the faces of the ones who love you. Yes, Patrick, I'm talking about you.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

And the meaningless little statuette goes to...

I've been berated for not having posted in a while. My internet was AWOL for nearly two weeks, but now I'm back and likely no better than I was before.

My last unsolicited fit was caused by my immense level of frustration with the political system. I was made even more depressed by a conversation with Jonny Walls in which we both agreed that the system is a complete disaster and we still can't think of a better one. Ugh.

I'll lighten the mood with this post.

The somethingth annual Oscars are tomorrow night and I will be paying attention. The general consensus among people I know is that the Oscars are interesting, but almost always wrong. I get that. Annie Hall over Star Wars, Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction: all atrocities. And I really really like all the movies that won, it's just that they had no business beating the others. And then there are the all-time great movies which don't get nominated. Do the Right Thing, Children of Men, The Big Lebowski (I'm only partly joking) and Fight Club weren't even sniffed in the Best Picture category.

All that said, I'll still watch and root for the movies I think are best for each category. I've seen all the Best Picture nominees and a healthy number of others with nominations, so I feel pretty confident in my votes. However, I'll not bore you with a dull Academy Award prediction list. Instead, I'll bore you with a "my favorite movie moments of all-time list." Below are five of my favorite (I can't promise they're my five favorite) movie moments of all-time. I'd like to go a little off the beaten path to find these, and would encourage you to post a few of your favorites and why you like them so much. A lot of great moments will get shafted, so let me hear about it.

VERBAL WALKS AWAY, from The Usual Suspects: If you haven't seen this movie by now, you're a fool. The end of this twisting crime caper tale packs a heavy punch and when Kevin Spacey's character, "Verbal" Kint, makes his grand final exit, it's like getting kicked in the groin and punched in the back of the head simultaneously. And, please, don't lie and say you saw it coming the entire time. If you've seen it, you know exactly what I and that barber shop quartet from Skokie, Illinois are talking about.

THORWALD GETS WISE, from Rear Window: Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director and Rear Window is my favorite of his films, just edging out North by Northwest, Vertigo, Psycho, and probably Rebecca. Each of those have great moments - Cary Grant diving under an oncoming plane in NXNW, Jimmy Stewart watching his transformed former love emerge from that green fog in his hotel room, and, obviously, the shower scene - but none matches the few minutes Grace Kelly spends searching suspected murderer Lars Thorwald's apartment for his missing wife's wedding band. As Jimmy Stewart looks on, stuck in his wheelchair, Grace shows us the ring, and Thorwald breaks the fourth dimension for the first time. When Rear Window opened in 1954, people in the theater actually screamed when this happened.

FATHER BARRY'S SPEECH, from On the Waterfront: Marlon Brando is absolutely sensational as Terry Malloy in this movie full of great moments - The "I coulda been a contendah" speech comes to mind - but Karl Malden's speech as Father Barry after a dock worker has been killed following his attempt to stand up to corrupt union bosses is a bona fide chill inducer, especially when he continues through the boos and thrown refuse to invoke the name of Jesus as the protector of every abused man on the docks.

THE FORCE CAVE, from The Empire Strikes Back: OK, so my favorite movie was bound to find its way on here. As Luke is training with Yoda on Dagobah following the Battle of Hoth, he senses a powerful surge in the dark side of the force coming from an underground cave. Refusing to listen to his master, he enters the cave armed not only with his weapons, but with equal doses of fear and self-doubt. Luke engages the force-created image of Vader with his lightsaber, decapitating his enemy, only to find the face revealed behind Vader's mask is his own. This is the precise moment when the Star Wars franchise went from a great adventure/fantasy story, to being a darker, more grown up literary exercise on the nature of good and evil. All of this would be undone 29 years later by Jar-Jar Binks.

RINGO AND THE RIGHTEOUS MAN, from Pulp Fiction: Having just watched this again for the first time in a while, I am reminded just how awesome this scene is, not only by itself, but as the conclusion of all the debauched criminal activity we've seen unfold over the previous two-plus hours. Tarantino's gift for dialogue is on full display here as Jules Winnefield simultaneously holds down the fort during a diner robbery while also managing to expose some hard-hitting personal truths, anchored by made up Biblical scripture. When, at the end of his monologue, Jules' voice is shaking and he tells us just how hard he's trying to be the righteous man from Ezekial 25:17, it's hard not to agree with the man's wallet.

So, there you have them. Five really awesome movie moments from my own personal bank. Think up a couple of your own and let me have 'em. If this doesn't garner response, I don't know what will.

P.S. - Oscar Picks (Which I think will win, not necessarily who should)

Best Picture - No Country for Old Men (will and should)
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis (will and should; this category is stacked)
Best Actress - Julie Christie (I've only seen Ellen Page's performance, so I can' t really judge, but Christie's got the buzz)
Best Supporting Actor - Javier Bardem (will and should, although this is a stacked category)
Best Supporting Actress - I'm hearing a lot of good stuff about Cate Blanchett, and Oscar loves her so it's a safe pick. Funnily enough, I didn't see her movie (I'm Not There), but did see the other four which picked up nominations. I liked Amy Ryan a lot (Gone Baby Gone) and hope she wins. If its Ruby Dee (American Gangster), I'll be upset, because she's in the movie for about ten minutes total and doesn't really support anything. However, she IS old, which seems to count double in the supporting categories).
Best Original Screenplay - This is a tough one. I'll bet Juno wins, but I hope it's Michael Clayton. Ratatouille being here is awesome, too, and a win would do wonders for Animation.
Best Adapted Screenplay - No Country for Old Men (will, should, and there shouldn't be any other nominees) Seriously, this is the best adaptation I've ever seen. The book is perfectly represented onscreen and deserves an extra Oscar for sheer awesomenacity.
Best Director - The Coens (will and should).

Look at that, I lied. I bored you with both lists anyway.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Preacher, a Veteran, and two Lawyers walk into a bar...

Recently I promised a log political post, but I just don't know if I'm up for something long today.

What follows is essentially my political complaint of the week.

Delegates are being snatched up like kids at the county fair and I have to say, I'm not surprised. Mitt "the hair" Romney has given up, shaming Mormons and styling gel companies everywhere, leaving John "shaky McVeteran" McCain and Mike Huckabee (just 'cause I didn't give him a nickname doesn't mean I like him) to fight amongst themselves. Huckabee is way behind, but no doubt he'll rally his troops with a David and Goliath allusion before kicking the bucket himself sometime in mid-March. Meanwhile, Clinton (shudder) and Obama are tooth and nailing each other (that didn't sound right) in an incredibly -and unfortunately - close race.

Now, for the complaining.

I try and I try to listen to what every person running for President has to say. I honestly want to know what each of them thinks, why they think it, and if what they think might help this country. This is, however, impossible. It may sound like nothing new, but these people are lying all the time. They talk out both sides of their faces constantly, in a failing effort to be all things to all people. Take Clinton, who was for the war in Iraq, who now isn't, because her party says she shouldn't be. Take McCain, who opposed the war and pretty much everything else President Bush said up until about 18 months ago, when he started thinking about a Presidential campaign and therefore had to violently realign himself with the stricter conservatives within his party to retain those voters who had helped elect Bush twice. If you thought the great and glorious Reverend Huckster was going to be any different, think again. Just a few months before announcing his bid for the Presidency, Huckabee spoke passionately about discrimatory, damaging action proposed through immigration legislation, calling Minutemen backed legislation unfair and bigoted. Now, he's on the Deportation bandwagon along with his fellow running mates. I really like Obama, but I'm sure he hates palsied infants and the truth will out.

Cynicism is hard to fight, especially when you feel, like I do a lot of the time, that politicians seek only to please the most beneficial constituency. They quickly become a pitiful, molded, party-pumping model of stagnant thought. They are the opposite of bold and envigorating. They can afford to be strong and independent when they're governors or congresspeople because charm will take you a long long way in those roles (see Jesse Ventura), but, as Presidential candidates they have to be drones. Again, I'm supporting Obama wholeheartedly at this point, but I can't listen to the man speak because everything he says follows the same pattern: Hope, change change change, hope. Hope hope change my fellow candidate change hope hope change you can help us hope hope change. SUBSTANCE PLEASE! A REAL LEADER PLEASE! CAN I FIND AMONGST YOU JUST ONE WHOM I COULD PROUDLY CALL COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF!?

So, ladies and gentlemen, meet the next leader of the free world: An inevitable liar who owes their station in life to corporate contributors and past favors who will make waves and progress this country only insofar as it positively effects their re-election bid and their bank accounts post-Presidency.

Leffel would be disappointed in me, I'm sure. He was so thrilled with the process that he skipped the country, though, so I don't know what that means.

Talk me off the ledge, if you dare. I'll save you a spot up here when you come to your senses.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

So America, the time has come, who's it gonna be?

So much tension in the air! Huge tests for both parties in front and behind. Filthy comments from each side being flung to the other. The most important match up for each receiving constant media exposure.

So. Who're you rooting for? Who's got your vote? It's time to settle the accounts and come to grips with your choice. Which evil is lesser? Which one are you taking?

I am, of course, referring to the first of two games between the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Duke Blue Devils. These despicable programs have been battling it out along with Kansas, Indiana and UCLA for second fiddle in the college basketball world for ages and each year in February and March they play and I'm disgusted because I know one of them has to win. And not just that. They get to beat their most hated rival. Unadulterated joy is their reward, and it makes me sick. Of course, one of them has to lose too, which is nice. My wish (I'm at least 1.7% joking) is that during the game, a fire would start in the Dean Dome and both teams, along with a small chunk of their fan base would be roasted alive (OK, if you're averse to the whole burned alive thing, we can settle on a whole lot of bug bombs. Peaceful sleep of death for all). I hate their fans and hate that UNC is actually within 5 or 6 good seasons of catching us on the all-time wins list. So now it comes to it. Who do you root for in a game like this? The obvious answer is that you don't root at all, but that's kind of unrealistic. You know one team has to win. It's really all about who you hate more.

I gotta go with Duke. Laettner, Wojo, Coach K, the Crazies and that smug sense of entitlement, Seth Davis pisses me off too, come to think of it. And Dukie V. And Laettner. Bastard.

As much as I never want to see UNC get any closer to UK in total wins, I still hate Duke more. And besides, Kentucky will be in a position in less that three years to be back competing for National Titles, so I'm not terribly worried about UNC catching us anytime soon. Now, if this were the National Title game, I'd go with Duke, even though I hate them more, because it would give them six titles to our seven, and I don't like being that close to them.

So, as you tune to ESPN tonight to watch the hype and hysteria that goes along with this ESPN wet dream of a game, decide early who you hate more and start rooting for that fire.

So, who's it gonna be? Who do you want to lose more, Duke or UNC?

P.S. - I was strongly tempted to do a long political post today, but I'll wait until after the weekend. For the time being, permit me a sentence. Come on America, where's your knee-jerk reactionary foolishness when we need it most (OK, two)? We have a conservative in office for eight years and all you can think to do during the Democratic Primaries is give votes to a middle of the road corporate conservative with slight social leanings to the left instead of an actual advocate of liberal social policies? More on this later, depending on how the primaries go over the weekend.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Something that is so close, but still so far out of reach...

Waking up to a thunderstorm sets a weird mood for the day...

Last night, everyone you know was watching the Super Bowl, or, at the very least, they were in a room with a TV tuned to Fox. The game was awesome, though the outcome was not what I had hoped (in a room of fifty people, I was one of two people rooting for the Pats), because I was hoping to witness history and instead saw the Patriots turn into the 1997 Seattle Mariners (120+ wins, out in the divisional round of the playoffs). There are many things to say about the game, and if that's what you want to hear, go listen to ESPN radio, watch ESPN, read one of ten thousand articles on, or simply wait for your copy of ESPN: The Magazine to arrive in the mail. I finally reached my football threshold and am glad that from here on out it'll be basketball and baseball.

I did, however, want to make a comment about that most hyped of rituals: The Halftime Show. Jonny made the point as we watched Tom Petty and Co. play their socks off that in a way, that moment took a redeeming step for American Culture. I think he's right. We live in a world that does not look kindly on the culture we've cultivated here in the U.S. And who can blame the world. We act like global police when our interests could be affected, but subscribe to isolationism when they don't. We lead the way in a Western Culture that prizes the quick fix, the easy out, materialism to the nth degree, instant gratification, disposable celebrities and filtered truth. And, in a way, the Super Bowl is the culmination of so many terrible parts of our culture. Commercials cost a hundred thousand dollars a second, runaway capitalism is on display at every turn, everything has corporate sponsorship and hundreds of millions of dollars are spent for the sake of grown men playing a children's game. Of course, we're all complicit in the spectacle. I love football and wouldn't miss the Super Bowl for anything short of a natural distaster. In a way, that's the most depressing part. I embrace with my actions the culture which I tell you I despise. What a tool am I.

Anyway, back to Jonny's comment about redemption. In a global society which features fewer and fewer true communal moments, when a large portion of the population are intensely focused on one event, occur, it is refreshing to know that in one moment, the entire country and a lot of the world is bobbing along to "Running Down a Dream" and "American Girl." The Super Bowl is the last bastion of real shared experience in this country. At one time, and album or movie release would be so ubiquitous that you literally could not walk down the street without finding someone who had shared in the very same experience you had. Gone With The Wind, Sgt. Pepper, the last episodes of M*A*S*H and even Seinfeld all held real cultural significance. Not even the election of our next leader will resound the way those did, because not even 50%of eligible voters will cast their ballots in November. The internet and 500 DirecTV channels have precipitated this change, for better or worse. We have a million different choices for entertainment and information, and we rarely come close to these grand moments of singular consciousness anymore that we should take them any way we can get them. Knowing that more than a billion people were watching the same (American) musician play the same songs at the same time is comforting, allowing us to forget everything that lurks under the surface of an event like the Super Bowl for just a few moments.

As I only have one reader (and not even the same one each time) I'll tentatively make the call.

Comments? Questions? Arguments? Hate Mail?