Category Archives: Pop Culture

Walter payton over the fridge, any day

Every year around this time I get excited for the NFL players who are getting their first shot at the Super Bowl. The young players, looking to make a name for themselves. The veterans, looking to make the most of what may be their last chance to do something special on the game’s biggest stage.

And when I think of veterans getting a shot at the Super Bowl, I cannot help but be reminded of one of the biggest travesties I’ve ever witnessed in the game: Coach Ditka handing the ball for a once-in-a-lifetime Super Bowl touchdown, to William “The Fridge” Perry instead of Walter “Sweetness” Payton in Super Bowl XX.

If you’ve never seen Walter Payton run the ball, there are no shortage of videos to be found online. NFL Films named him #5 of the Top 100 Players of All-Time. They also did a career highlight reel that is jaw dropping. Someone compiled all of his TDs into a single reel: that video is 32 minutes long.

Payton set the then-single-game rushing record at 275 yards – while suffering a 101 degree fever and the flu (a record that stood for 23 years). He earned the nickname “Sweetness”, but there was nothing soft about his running style. He would explode into would-be tacklers, often knocking them back and earning extra yards.

He was a maestro of the “Pop over the top” at the goal line for touchdowns, a viable receiver threat, and occasionally a passer as well. Payton helped turn around a losing franchise, and was must-see TV every time he touched the ball. It felt like Payton single-handedly carried the Bears for years, especially before Ditka took over. If Payton wasn’t keeping the Bears in contention for a playoff spot, he was keeping the seats filled with fans who would come just to watch him run the ball.

Then Ditka takes over, and within three years they make the playoffs; four, and they are in the Super Bowl. Ditka had his own way of doing things, he was a hard-headed, mean coach, and had other hard-headed, mean coaches working for him – like Buddy Ryan as his defensive coordinator.

Ryan and Ditka butted heads on their 1985 first-round draft pick William “The Refrigerator” Perry. Ryan thought Perry was “a wasted draft pick” and Ditka couldn’t care less. At one point, Ditka starts playing Perry at fullback on occasion, letting him either block for Payton or run it in himself when close to the opponent’s end zone.

And here is where I have the biggest beef: in Super Bowl XX, Ditka chose to give the ball to Perry TWICE down near the Patriot’s end zone. Once on a halfback option pass (a throw that Payton had made many times, whereas Perry was sacked). A second time on a straight run up the gut upon which Perry scored. I was watching that game in real-time: and I am still as pissed now as I was then. Perry may have been popular and novel, but Payton was one of the greatest to play the game. Payton deserved a shot at scoring a TD, and I am 100% certain he would have, given the chance.

I had a chance to meet Jim McMahon and I asked him about this. He said the Patriots were so keyed on Payton they would have shut down anything they did with him down near the end zone. I appreciate the sentiment, but I don’t buy it. Nothing could have been worse than the sack Perry took on that aborted halfback pass. And not giving Payton a shot at a TD in the biggest game in the sport is downright disrespectful. Payton’s list of accolades is ridiculously long, but the biggest thing missing is a TD in the Super Bowl – something his coach never gave him a chance to do.

What player do you think has been most short-changed in the Super Bowl?

Azealia Banks’ “212” Translated for 40-somethings

Originally published February 25th, 2013

Being a 40-something who grew up listening to hip-hop and rap isn’t easy. Most of the (c)rap that passes for hip-hop today sucks. And when you do find something incredible, it was performed by someone who was born the year you graduated college and seemingly speaks a foreign language.

Azealia Banks’ single, “212”  is incredible. And completely unintelligible for anyone over 40. What follows is a translation of “212” written by a 40-something for 40-somethings. If you were born after 1980 you don’t need to read this, and in fact you should be out having fun doing all of the things I wish I could: like seeing a movie without getting a babysitter. Seriously, enjoy life while you can: soon you will be old too.

Actual Lyrics Translation for Old People
[Verse 1] [Holy shit, what is this?]
Hey I can be the answer If you don’t understand the first stanza, this translation is for you. And you are old
I’m ready to dance when the vamp up I am prepared to dance once the hook is established
And when I hit that dip, get your camera When I do dance, be prepared to take pictures. Of course I mean digital pictures, since film is for dinosaurs. Like you.
You could see I been that bitch since the Pamper Note that I have been extremely talented since I was but a baby (Around when you were in your 20s).
And that I am that young sis, the beacon Also note that I am now a young, attractive woman
The bitch who wants to compete and An extremely confident young woman who desires her shot
I could freak a ‘fit, that pump with the peep and If I chose to I could look extremely desirable in a more typically feminine pair of high-heeled shoes with open toes
You know what your bitch become when her weave in Much like the woman in your life does when she dresses well
I just wanna sip that punch with your peeps and My desires are simple: I’d like to have a drink with your friends;
Sit in that lunch if you’re treating Join you for lunch, should you be willing to purchase it
Kick it with your bitch who come from Parisian Hang out with your girlfriend from Paris
She know where I get mine from, and the season Who not only recognizes the labels of the clothes I wear, she can also tell what time of year I bought them
Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening By nightfall she will be so smitten with me that she wants to perform cunnilingus upon me
And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in Like those pornos you “never watch”
I guess that cunt getting eaten I am so confident/carefree with my sexuality that I will carelessly allow your woman to go down on me
I guess that cunt getting eaten Although the sheer repetition of this line
I guess that cunt getting eaten Will certainly make you think
I guess that cunt getting eaten That maybe I will also go down on her
[Verse 2] [Wow, that was cool! She’s dirty. Wait, where is this going?]
I was in the 212 I was in the Manhattan borough of New York City
On the uptown A, nigga you know what’s up or don’t you Riding the A train towards Harlem, surely you know which direction the trains run in New York
Word to who made you I pay respect to my elders, specifically your mother
I’m a rude bitch, nigga, what are you made up of? I am also exceptionally “street”, a quality I believe you lack
I’m-a eat your food up, boo I will take that which is yours, starting with your bare necessities
I could bust your eight, I’m-a do one too, fuck ya gon’ do? I will either: 1) Open your 8-ball of cocaine and snort it all, or 2) I will render your 8-line battle rap useless with my 8-line battle rap. Either way, you are impotent before me
I want you to make bucks, I’m a look-right nigga, bet you do want to fuck I believe there is room in this market for the both of us. I being a pretty woman, and you a man who would obviously like to have sex
Fuck him like you do want to cum But I am so much better than you, your only hope is to sleep your way to the top. With other men.
You’re gay to get discovered in my two-one-deuce You have forsaken your sexuality in an effort to make it in New york
Cock-a-licking in the water by the blue bayou It all started when you began giving blowjobs to producers in New Orleans
Caught the warm goo in your doo-rag too son But even that you suck at, as you let them ejaculate on your headwear.
Nigga you’re a Kool-Aid dude Now you lack street credibility and will follow anyone
With your doo-doo crew son, fuck are you into, huh? Do you have any idea how far you and your friends are in over your heads?
Niggas better oooh-run-run You should all leave town: melodically and quickly.
You could get shot, homie, if you do want to Only bad will become of
Put your guns up, tell your crew don’t front You and your friends pretending to be gangsters
I’m a hoodlum nigga, you know you were too once I am willing to do anything to succeed, a position you were in before (her intended target has changed to another female rapper)
Bitch I’m ’bout to blew up too Now I am on the verge of obtaining complete success as well
I’m the one today, I’m the new shit, boo, young Rapunzel My fresh style and long hair make me more relevant today than you
Who are you bitch? New lunch For what are you really but fodder for my rhymes?
I’m-a ruin you, cunt I will steal your market share and your fans
I’m-a ruin you, cunt Because I am more worldly than you
I’m-a ruin you, cunt Evidenced by my British use of the word “cunt”
I’m-a ruin you, cunt Which I obviously learned while in London
[Bridge] [The part of the song you will (try) to sing around the office tomorrow. It is also addressed to herself]
Ayo, I heard you’re riding with the same tall, tall tale Hello, word is you continue to represent yourself with familiar fictions
Telling them you made some Boasting to the world that are successful
Saying you’re grinding but you ain’t going nowhere And claiming to be hard-working, yet you are unsuccessful
Why you procrastinate girl Stop wasting time
You got a lot, but you just waste all yours and You are talented, but allow said talent to go to waste
They’ll forget your name soon Stardom is fleeting
And won’t nobody be to blame but yourself yeah And you are the only one holding you back
[Hook] [Wait, what? I liked the melodic part! I don’t understand this screaming]
What you gon’ do when I appear I am looking forward to seeing what happens to you
W-when-when I premiere When my album is released
Bitch, the end of your lives are near The date of which shall signal the end of your career
This shit been mine, mine As my hostile takeover of your fanbase and market share is so assured I refer to it in the past tense
[Verse 3] [I’m lost, but I still like it]
Bitch, I’m in the 212 Lest the bridge has made you think I’ve gone soft, I will remind you that I still lack respect for you. I remain in Manhattan
With the fifth cocked nigga, it’s the two-one-zoo Where I carry a loaded and cocked handgun, because it is a wild and crazy town
Fuck you gon’ do, when your goon sprayed up You may think this is all fiction, but I sincerely question your ability to respond well to one of your friends getting shot
Bet his bitch won’t get him, betcha you won’t do much Because you are lame, by extension so are your friends and their girlfriends. Whoever shoots one of your crew need not fear retaliation from anyone, especially you.
See, even if you do want to bust Should you actually have the courage to fire your weapons outside of a shooting range
Your bitch’ll get you cut and touch you crew up too, Pop Everyone in your life will come to harm, Old Man
You’re playing with your butter like your boo won’t chew You are so pathetic that your woman refuses to please you forcing you to please yourself
Cock the gun, too — where you do eat poon, hon? You’re impotent even with a loaded weapon, and you perform unrequited cunnilingus upon your woman
I’m fucking with you, cutie-q Oh, have I hurt your feelings? I’m just pushing your buttons. I still want you to buy my albums
What’s your dick like homie, what are you into, what’s the run, dude So let me flirt with you just enough to make you feel manly: Are you well endowed? What acts will you perform on me? What can you tell me about what’s going on?
Where do you wake up? Do you currently have a girlfriend?
Tell your bitch keep hating, I’m the new one too, huh Explain to her that she is now your ex-girlfriend.
See, I remember you when you were the young new face And to all you other rappers out there: I remember when you were “it”
But you do like to slumber, don’t you Now that you’ve made it, you are coasting on your fame
Now your boo up too, hon Now your fame is up
I’m-a ruin you, cunt My career shall supersede yours.

The (Mostly Legal) Guide to Finding the Quarry from Stranger Things & The Walking Dead

Originally posted February 19th, 2013, updated w/Stranger Things references

Bellwood Quarry was one of the iconic settings in season one of both The Walking Dead and Stranger Things

Let’s say you’re a fan of Strangers Things or The Walking Dead visiting Atlanta for a couple of days. And while you’re in town you suddenly decide you’d like to visit the iconic quarry where Eleven kicked ass, or we first met Shane, Lori and Carl. Your timeline is tight, however, and you haven’t planned ahead, so none of the “official” options are open to you.

No worries: this step-by-step guide will lead you to the borders of Bellwood Quarry, and even get a look at the gorgeous setting itself – as long as you are willing to take a few risks. Hey, it’s a zombie apocalypse we’re talking about, who isn’t willing to take a few risks?

Search long enough on Google and you’ll find a Four Square check-in that gives you the GPS coordinates for the quarry. Follow the directions to those coordinates, however, and you’ll find yourself at a large gate with a security camera on the other side looking your way. Getting into the paranoid nature of the assignment, I opted to park where my license plate wouldn’t be on camera.

The park surrounding the quarry is huge, offering more than one approach from more than one street. Find your way to the intersection of Johnson Rd and Rockdale St NW. It’s an industrial neighborhood, so keep your head up, and don’t leave anything visible in your car that you’d like to keep. Make your way on foot Southeast along Rockdale St, past the two abandoned houses on your right. Enjoy the sense of adventure brought on by abandoned houses, a complete lack of traffic and the sense of following in Rick or Glen’s footsteps.

Follow this road leading West from the second abandoned house

Just past the second abandoned house is an overgrown road leading West (right). The road has been blockaded to prevent dumping of trash, but I didn’t see any “No Trespassing” signs anywhere.

Make your way between the debris into the field beyond. Once you are in the field, stay close to the left (South) edge of the field.

Cut through these woods

You should be able to easily find a path to follow West along the field. Once you get about midway across the field, start looking down and to your left (South) for a way to cut through these woods. Any Walking Dead fan worth one of Daryl’s crossbow bolts will be able to pick out a path leading South through the trees.

If, however, you have lots of time on your hands and are a total Woodbury pussy, make your way all the way across the field to the dirt road and make a left. The rest of the group will be waiting for you when you grow a pair.

The field leading to the North end of the quarry

The trees get a little thick, but nothing insanely dense. Once you come out on the far side you’ll see a wide open field with a barb-wire fence  making a perimeter around Bellwood Quarry. Resist the urge to head straight for the South side, and instead following the road towards the North end of the quarry.

Here at the North end you’ll find a gate that would offer the easiest way over the fence and into the quarry, if you were willing to break the law. My lawyers have requested that I point out that the City of Atlanta has Bellwood Quarry fenced off for good reason, and anyone foolish enough to put their life at risk by climbing over an obvious fence to stand on the edge of a cliff does so at their own risk.

The Quarry!

The quarry!

In all seriousness, if you do decide to get a closer look at the quarry, stay the fuck back from the edge.

What looks like a gentle hillside past that initial stand of conifer trees is actually a cliff, waiting to break your legs and make you feel stupid, possibly even dead.

But if you do hop the fence, you’ll be rewarded with your first views of the quarry. And your first real flirtation with danger.

On the outside of the fence, make your way South clock-wise, past the warning-laden security gate. That whole thing about closed-circuit cameras is no lie, as you’ll see soon enough. Continue South along the fence, picking up the trail leading around the perimeter. Note the large pole with 3 security cameras and a solar panel. If you want to touch the bottom of the quarry, you have to make it past this contraption. I didn’t have time.

“Some friends and I made it into the quarry yesterday, and on the path up from the water, we were greeted by 4 cop cars.” – someone who went all the way to the bottom of the quarry. Do so at your own risk

I wanted The Photo of Atlanta’s skyline as seen in so many shots from season one. So I kept going around the Southern border of the quarry until I was just about at the large power plant, and snapped this photo:

The Atlanta skyline, seen from that angle so familiar to fans of The Walking Dead. Stay out of the power plant. I shouldn’t even have to tell you to stay the fuck out of there, but my lawyers assure me that since I’m encouraging irresponsible behavior I should point out that under no circumstances should you enter the power station.

Make your way counter-clockwise until you come to a large gate. If you were going to try and get a look at the Southern end of the quarry, this gate would give you your best shot to climb over. Should you decide to break the law and put your life at risk, you’d do well to follow the path inside the fence for about 75 feet until you come to the 2 concrete traffic barriers.

This is as good a view as you are going to get. It is also as dangerous as it gets in here. Just a few feet past those concrete barriers is a sheer cliff, dropping 70 feet to the road below. From the road, it looks to be another 120 feet to the water. Get your photos, but don’t be a hero and try to get the “look how sheer this cliff is!” photo.

Bellwood Quarry at sunset

Now that you’ve tasted the view of the quarry from the lip, maybe you’re hankerin’ for a closer look. Maybe you’re even feelin’ froggy enough to try and make your way past the security cameras and down to the water. I went totally Dale at this point, and climbed back over the fence and made my way back to my rental car. If you do decide to make a run for the bottom of the quarry, do me a favor and send me a photo. I’d love to see it, and will post it here.

Reader submitted photos:

Macey B visited the quarry in 2016, and submitted these photos of her adventure:

Yo Jay, Check This Out

Originally posted January 31, 2013

Hip Hop was the first music that was truly mine…

Christmas, 1980. I was 11 years old, roller skating in a park in Miami, and I happened upon a kid about the same age as as me captivating two of his friends. He was regaling them with a tale of prowess, bad dinners, and stealing SuperMan’s girlfriend, and he was doing so with a lyrical style I’d never heard before. I, too was captivated, and tried as hard as I could to listen in without looking like I cared.

Jam Master Jay was the one in charge…

Eventually I had to move on (one can only skate back and forth along the same 15 feet of sidewalk before you start to become obvious, after all) but the singing I’d just heard was imbedded well within my brain. That night, as we were decorating our Christmas tree, the song that kid in the park had been singing came on the radio. My dad went to change the station, and I pleaded for him to leave it on. It was the full-length version of the Rapper’s Delight, all 15 minutes of it.

My dad only lasted 7.

I had for the very first time discovered a music that the adults around me didn’t like. I had something that was mine. However, It wasn’t the taboo that was attractive; I was absolutely taken with the music, the lyrical style, the stories these guys told. I also lived in a small town in Northern California, and when I returned home from visiting my dad for Christmas, it would be a long time before I heard any of that music again.

I had almost forgotten about it by 1983, but when Run DMC released their first album, Run DMC I was immediately drawn back in. Rap, as I would learn it was called, changed my world. Rap resonated deeply within my soul, and made me want to dance. Rap brought with it an energy that didn’t exist for me anywhere else, and Run DMC spoke a language I understood. The stories they told applauded chivalry, underscored the importance of education, and gave hope to powerlessness.

I learned every lyric, and knew each and every part by heart. Some songs I’d do just Run. others DMC. Sometimes I’d bounce back and forth, playing both parts and running out of breath faster than a smoker in a marathon. More than anything, I loved the creativity of the man behind the turntables. I knew every scratch on that record by heart. The moves I made to imitate the scratching may have been wrong, but the timing and intent were always right on.

To this day, Jam Master Jay is my favorite track on that album. I was blown away by Jay’s creativity, his musical sense of humor, and his incredible skills. I was a trainspotter long before I knew what it was called. I would constantly be amused and enthralled by Jay’s use of self-referentiation on subsequent Run DMC albums. Jay always made it fresh for newcomers, but rewarded the faithful with samples off of past Run DMC records. His sense of humor and skills set him as one of the all-time greatest Dj’s to ever put the needle on the record.

Jay pioneered Dj’ing into the mainstream, taking the art-form to places no-one else had ever been able to before. He merged rock and rap for all the world to see, sending Run DMC to new heights and reviving Aerosmith’s career at the same drop of a needle. He set the standard for Dj involvement, respectability, and commitment. He gave back to his community, and fought hard for the right to do so.

More than anything, he made me want to be a Dj.

Peace, Jay. The lives you changed continue to change more lives, and the wheel keeps coming ’round.

Me and Coolio up in the Nosebleeds

I got the call at 12:40pm on Sunday. It was my cousin Tessa, who I hadn’t seen in years. She was looking for her brother Justin, who had spent the night at my house.

“Is Justin there?”

“No, Tessa, he left about 10 minutes ago to head down to meet you, with parking and everything, he should be at your hotel in about 15 minutes.”

“Damn. I’ve been trying to reach him since yesterday, and I just checked my messages and got his message that he was staying with you. Do you like basketball?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I like basketball!” I was trying not to sound too enthusiastic. Tessa was staying in the St. Francis Westin Hotel as a guest of the NBA, Justin was on his way to meet her to sit courtside at the NBA All Star game. I’d been preparing to test my new disc golf rain gear out against one of the nastiest storms to hit the Bay Area in years when the phone rang. Now I was holding my breath.

“Well, it turns out I have an extra ticket for the game. You want to come?”

And like that, I was on my way to the All Star Game.

As I walked into the lobby of the St. Francis I could tell that I was quite suddenly immersed in an “event.” Security guards hustled to and fro. There were checkpoints waiting around every corner. There was nothing but beautiful people, every direction I looked in. As I rounded the corner towards the elevators I spotted a group of young boys with pens and basketballs, waiting for their opportunity to capture a small piece of their heroes. The atmosphere was loud, busy, and hurried. Everyone was on their way to the game. So was I. For once in my life, I was in.

I smiled and got on an elevator going up. I didn’t bother to check the directions in my pocket, and headed straight to room 708. No answer on the door. The woman cleaning 709 informed me that she’d just finished up with 708, and they were long gone. For just a moment I panicked, the sensation of inclusion rapidly fading. I gathered my wits about me, and in a flash of brilliance decided to consult the directions. Aha! Room 703, I’d closed the loops on the 3 in my memory. A single knock on the door, and suddenly I was in again.

The last time I saw Tessa she was 9 years old. Now she was 16, with all of the hip and swagger of a teenager who is confident and comfortable with life; and a backstage pass to the NBA All Star weekend to boot. Tessa and her friend Nadia co-founded ClubActive –a service club at their high school-and applied to NBA TeamUp for a grant to help fund their efforts. They wound up getting more than just a $2,000 grant: they wound up getting back-stage passes, ring-side seats, and first-class treatment for the entire NBA All Star Weekend.

As Tessa donned her NBA All Star 2000 sweatshirt and slung her NBA All Star bag over her shoulder she started telling me about all of the things and people she’d seen over the weekend. She sat next to Vince Carter’s parents during the Slam Dunk competition. She met Magic at a party on Friday night. She laughed, and said that her 15 minutes were rapidly expiring, but that she was having the time of her life.

In the lobby I smiled as Rebecca Lobos walked by. She was taller in person than I ever imagined, but not as beautiful as she looks on T.V.

In the van on the way over the Bay Bridge, Tessa and Michal told us all about the weekend they were having. Michal complained of how corporate the whole All Star weekend had been so far. How the NBA was driving regular fans out with the high price of tickets and the vast numbers of tickets reserved for suits. “When Vince Carter slammed that first dunk home yesterday, hardly anyone stood up and cheered,” she said. In my head I admired the work that NBC had done with the microphones to beef up the sound of the crowd.

Tessa told me that the ticket she had for me was a last-minute addition, and that I was sitting by myself, “way up top.” As our van driver wound his way through the crowd of people trying to make their way through the rain to the coliseum I noted that even the shitty seats for the NBA All Star game cost $150.00. As I jumped one puddle and jogged three paces to the awning of the VIP entrance to the Oakland Coliseum I jibed myself for wearing my rain gear. There are no turnstiles at the VIP entrance, just nice carpets to wipe your feet off on. As we made our way to the elevators I couldn’t help but notice Magic Johnson talking to some VIP staff behind a satin rope. I wanted to shake his hand and tell him I infinitely respected all of the work he’s done to educate the athletic world to the realities of AIDS. Short, white, and wearing corderoy pants, I suddenly felt very much the outsider again.

Tessa, Justin and I split up, and I headed for my seat: Section 217 Row 6 Seat 1. Upper deck. I wasn’t going to complain. After all, if it wasn’t for Tessa, at that very moment I would have been out in the rain with Tolstoy, playing disc golf. I headed for the bathroom, then bought a Sprite and a hot dog. As I was heading through the tunnel back to my seat I spotted Coolio heading through the tunnel ahead of me. I acted calm, and gave him the most subtle eyebrow raise and head-nod in my repertoire. It seemed to do the trick, as he subtly flexed his left eyebrow and headed up the stairs. Not only was I in, I thought to myself, but I was in with Coolio!

As Coolio walked up the stairs to his seat, a youth on the aisle held out his hand for a shake. Coolio smoothly gave him five and headed down my row of seats. The kid grinned ear to ear and made sure his friend had a)Just seen what happened, and b)Completely recognized who that was. His witness firmly in his back pocket, the kid went back to grinning like a madman.

We spending all our lives, watching from the cheap seats with bad eyes

I gave Coolio and his two-man posse the casual once-over as one of his homies jumped on his cell and began harranging who I assumed must be Coolio’s assistant or agent or somethan’. “Look up towards the motherfucking roof,” he said. “OK, now look towards the…where you sittin’? Oh, fuck. OK, I’m standing up now(he was). Yeah. Right. 217. Fucking nosebleed. Well git your ass up here and help us out then.” He hung up and sat down. Throughout it, Coolio looked too cool to be bothered. He unzipped his leather All-Star jacket and propped his brand-new contruction boots up on the seat in front of him.

I sipped my Sprite and tried to focus on the game down on the floor. A few minutes later an incredibly beautiful young black woman, dressed very well and smelling wonderfully, squeezed her way past me apologetically. “Here are your tickets to the after party,” she said to Coolio and the boyz as she handed over a plastic baggie. “I’ll see you guys there.”

As she turned to make her way out Coolio spoke up, “How about some better seats?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she cooed as she ducked around the corner and down the tunnel.

Ha! It suddenly dawned on me: Coolio was fucked, just like me. He knew He had friends down at floor level, and yet he was stuck in the rafters with me. I repressed a giggle, and made sure not to look his way as I began making up my own versions of rap songs:

“1, 2, 3, 4, Coolio’s stuck up far from the floor
Can’t even really see the damn referee…”

“Come along and sit up by the Rafters
High, high, up in the sky, if you hop the rail you fall and die…”

The game was wonderful to watch, the ideal NBA game to see in person. With nothing riding on the line, and no real game-plan in place, the “best athletes in the world” were free to showboat with everything they had. The game was like an endless highlight reel –even the misses were amazing. Stuart Scott and Kenny Maine spent the afternoon in the back of my head, calling plays in real-time. When Shaq grabbed a rebound and raced the length of the floor to finish with a slam, I found myself chanting, “He! Could! Go! All! The! Way!”

At half time we were treated to the vocal stylings of 90 Degrees, Mary J. Blige, some woman who’s name I forget, and L.L. Cool J. I have to give props to David Stern and the NBA: they have created an entertainment extravaganza. As the huge satin curtains fell to the floor to reveal 90 Degrees I was struck by the beauty and execution of the opening to the show. By the time the curtains hit the ground, however, I was wishing that each one of the singers would somehow achieve 1,000 degrees in a pyrotechnic fireworks of spontaneous combustion.

No such luck. But they did only sing one song, which I remain eternally thankful for. In the realm of halftime shows, there is never room for more than one quick number.

Mary J. Blige was amazing. That’s all I’m gonna say. Oh, that, and I almost cried.

The next woman was, frankly, non descript. I couldn’t tell you how she Was dressed (but Mary J. had on this incredibly colorful pant/jacket/hat combination that enabled me to spot her for the rest of the game), what type of music she sang (I remember thinking “country western? really? no!) or what kind of hairstyle she had. But I do remember that she ended her number standing triumphantly, surrounded by all of the NBA All Star Dancers in various poses bending over, on their knees, or lying on the floor, and I thought to myself, “God, I’d fuck each and every one of them. Even the men!”

She exited the stage, and me and the rest of the crowd got pumped up for L.L. As he hit the floor and encouraged everyone to get up on their feet, I casually declined. I didn’t want Coolio thinking I was frontin’ on him, after all. As L.L. barked into his microphone, ranting about peace and fly honies on his jock, I marvelled at how big L.L. has gotten since he first came on the scene. I remember when L.L. was a 130-pound stick, ranting about how loud he liked his radio. Now he looks to be all of 230 pounds, the vast majority of it muscle. Over 16 years, L.L.’s been on the scene. What staying power.

I couldn’t help but wonder what Coolio thought of L.L. and the spectacle; if he felt any jealousy, trapped on the upper deck with a career in limbo while L.L. flirted with all of the dancers on the floor. As the fireworks exploded, showering the floor with sparks and the confetti rained down from the ceiling I stole a glance at Coolio, to see how he was reacting. Feet keeping time up on the chair in front of him, shoulders firmly pressed back in his chair, Coolio was taking in the spectacle like the rest of us: eyes wide open, and mouth partially agape.

Wanting to blend, I took his lead and directed my attention to the floor.

Star Wars Day at AT&T Park, 2012

Originally Posted September 13, 2012

Best. Family portrait. Ever.

onday, September 3rd 2012 was Star Wars Day at AT&T Park. After showing up in only Star Wars t-shirts the year before, in 2012 we were well prepared. We opted to ride MUNI to the ballpark, since it would eliminate parking and be totally fun to be out and about in costume.

Just your everyday commute to the ballpark. I love how the Boba SFett comm link happens to point at the ballpark on the MUNI map

The train ride was as fun as you’d expect, on the way to a Giants’ day game on Labor Day. As more people got on the train our son became a bigger and bigger celebrity. Of course, we never took the masks off, either.

Our son managed to get in on every photo, all day long.

Possibly best of all, our son was chosen to be the Junior Announcer for the first three SF batters to come to the plate in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Too bad he couldn’t do it with his Darth SFader helmet on…

Ryder rocking as the Junior Giants Announcer. Too bad he couldn’t be heard through the Vader mask…

Of course it came down to Buster Posey hitting the game-tying double in the bottom of the 9th. And we had just the sign ready to go…

This year’s Star Wars day was unbelievable! We had a blast in our costumes. Ryder got to be the Jr Announcer, and the Giants came back in the bottom of the 9th to send the game to extras where Scutaro won it in the 10th.

We’re already looking forward to Star Wars Day at AT&T Park in 2013. It will be hard to top this year’s amazing experience, but then again the force will be with us. Always.

MCA Was With It, and He’s My Ace

Originally posted May 5th, 2012

The 1985 film “Krush Groove” features a 30-second clip of a bunch of skinny white boys belting out a rap song that could possibly feature the chorus, “She’s on it!” It was my first glimpse of the Beastie Boys, and I was captivated. I wanted to see more.

Later that year, Thrasher Magazine ran a short article about the Beastie Boys, a hardcore group out of New York that had switched to pure hip-hop and would be releasing their first album soon. I was thrilled. When I ran down to Tower Records (remember them?) to pick up my copy of “Licensed to Ill” I told the the clerk that I’d been waiting for this album. I had no idea how right I was.

My first introduction to hip-hop was hearing “The Rapper’s Delight” on Y-100 in Miami when it first aired. I loved hip-hop, but at the same time felt distanced from it. Growing up a white boy in a small town in Northern California, I had little in common with the stories being told by the likes of Kool Mo Dee, Grand Master Flash, or the Sugar Hill Gang. But I still loved ’em.

The Beastie Boys, however, bridged that gap. They were white! And if they could make rap music this damn good, then I could like *all* rap music and not feel like I was an outsider stealing my way into the show. And their shit was good. Dope, as we would learn to say.

I’m not talking “Fight For Your Right to Party” dope. I’m talking “No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn” dope. “She’s Crafty” dope. Sampling Led Zepplin, laying down their own electric guitar samples, witty, and totally fresh. The three Beasties managed to play off of each other as well as Run-DMC but with stories that were relevant to me.

Of the three, MCA was my clear-cut favorite. His voice was the throaty balance to Ad-Rock’s nasal whine and Mike D’s everyman tone. He got the lines I loved most, had the best voice of the crew, and looked like he was having the most fun without being a total MTV Spring Break douche (sorry, Ad-Rock). I instinctively sang his lines whenever I sang along with their albums – which was every time.

“Paul’s Boutique” came out when I was in college, and like any sequel I was simply hoping it wouldn’t suck. I was shocked when it sounded completely different from their first album, but fell in love instantly. If hip-hop is about sampling, “Paul’s Boutique” is the Bible, Koran and Torah of that technique all rolled into one album.

“Paul’s Boutique” contains upward of 300 samples, all of them immediately accessible and relevant to the music I grew up with. Go back and listen to “High Plains Drifter” right now. Everything from Hendrix to “Mr Big Stuff” to “Out of the car longhair!” It’s fucking brilliant.

I was floored then and I’m still in love with it now, 20 years later. It wasn’t the first time the Beastie’s would re-invent themselves between albums. The more musical albums of the 90’s led to my first chances to see them in concert, and remain staples of my rotation.

“Hello Nasty” came out in the middle of a particularly nasty breakup, and the first time I heard “Intergalactic” on Live 105 it practically saved my life…

The Beastie Boys were constantly a defining force in my life. I listened only to the Beastie Boys while warming up for wrestling matches. Every mix I made for spring break included at least 3 Beastie songs.

And through it all, MCA remained my man. Yesterday’s news that Adam Yauch had passed away hit hard. I don’t usually cry at news of strangers dying, but then again, he was hardly a stranger. MCA had held a place in my heart and home for over 27 years, and now I’ll never get a chance to thank him in person for all that he brought to the world.

Good travels, brother. Should you find yourself parched, I know a fly spot where they got the champagne.

An Open Letter to Cirque du Soleil re: TOTEM San Francisco

Dear Cirque du Soleil,

My wife and I have been attending Cirque shows for years – going back to before we met 10 years ago. When our son was 3 we started taking him to shows every year as well. He’s now 6, and our annual trip to Cirque has become the way we kick off the holidays. It has always been filled with wonder and magic, an experience well worth the price of admission. Until TOTEM.

TOTEM marked the first time we felt disappointed in a Cirque show. We attended the matinee SF performance this past Sunday (11/13/11), and once our son had gone to bed we said, for the first time, “Do you want to go back next year?” I’m sure you’re aware that your prices are expensive, and we wanted you to know that the product you’ve put out there this time around has us questioning to come back next time.

Some specifics: TOTEM was extremely focused on the center section of seats. Huge portions of the show played directly to the middle third. We were in section 104, Row B, seats 3 – 5, and we felt like 2nd class citizens through much of the show. The finale of the unicycles & bowls, for example, was completely blocked by the backs of the unicyclists.

The acts felt less engaging this year, as a whole. There were some amazing acts, as always, but there were real “filler” acts too; acts which felt beneath a Cirque du Soleil show, acts which felt like a rip off. Specifically: the Hoops Dancer act was cute once, but too much a 2nd time (and I’ll get into how often they dropped hoops later). The androgynous couple doing strength moves played directly to the center of the house, and never engaged our side of the tent.

There were lots of mistakes. I get it, the performers are human. But there were a *lot* of mistakes for one 2-hour show. The hoops act dropped a lot of hoops; a disheartening number of hoops. Devil Sticks dropped his stick at least once. One of the Russian Bars acrobats fell off of his bar on a landing early in the routine, and from there on out he seemed timid and played it safe.

The “story” of TOTEM was one of the weakest you’ve floated yet. It all seemed designed to set up the “evolution of man” bit – which was funny, but hardly the basis of a show.

For years we have loved your shows and blindly bought tickets knowing that our minds would be blown for the 2+ hours we were under that tent. We’ve never felt like we had a bad seat in the house, until Sunday.

This year we were constantly reminded that we hadn’t bought the best tickets, that we were watching flawed humans perform, and that you’ve been rolling out new shows every year for so long now that it’s taken its toll on your ability to put forth something new, fresh and amazing.

Next year we will read the reviews of your show before it comes to town, and we’ll take any negative reviews more seriously than we would have before we saw TOTEM. We know that your cast and crew work hard, but this seemed like a product beneath what we expect from you.



Dead Space 2 Pumpkin Stencil

Originally posted October 30, 2011

Just five short years ago I used to scoff at people who used stencils and fancy tools to create their Halloween jack-o-lanterns. Then I bought a little kit from Walgreen’s to see what the fuss was about. That same year my friend Arsenio introduced me to Zombie Pumpkin’s vast array of incredible stencils, and I’ve been on a carving bender ever since.

Isaac Clarke, ready to dismember some space zombies

This year I decided to create my own stencil for once. Opting to stay close to what I know and love best, I created a pumpkin stencil of Isaac Clarke’s helmet from the cover of Dead Space 2. I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but the stencil I came up with in Photoshop was good enough to want to share. Just click on the image at right, size it to print full-page on an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper, and you’re off and carving.

You’ll need a printer, an Exacto knife, some tape, a pumpkin, a pen that will draw on pumpkins but can be erased (like the ones that come in the pumpkin carving kits), a fine-toothed carving knife and a solid hour of time to create this.

Click on the image for the full-size version

Print out the stencil and cut out the black areas with an Exacto knife. You can err on the side of caution by cutting out gaps bigger than the printed images. You should also trim your stencil down so that you can tape it to your pumpkin.

Start carving the pumpkin on the 3 horizontal rows of the face mask. You’ll need to work slowly to make sure you don’t accidentally tear loose the whole face plate. From there, it’s a straight shot to ensuring that no Mesomorph will make it to your front door come Halloween night.

If you do use this stencil and create a pumpkin, hit me with a photo. I’d love to see how you make it better!

Letting Go of Star Wars

Originally published August 23rd, 2012

Long before my son was born I had a plan for sharing Star Wars with him. Before I had met his mother (aka The Love of My Life), I had a vision of how I would share the journey through that universe far, far away.

I pictured how much fun it would be to see my child marvel at the size of the Death Star. How shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, he would be when they found out that Darth Vader is really Luke’s father. I was looking forward to the apprehension in his eyes during the first bass-heavy footfalls of the approaching AT-AT walkers.

In short, I wanted him to experience Star Wars the way I had.  Maybe even to grow to resent George Lucas the way that I do.

This whole plan was ruined in pre-school, when some other parents deemed the Star Wars universe appropriate for their then-four-year old son. He inevitably came to school and told my son all about the amazing story he’d been turned-on to. So much for my plan.

In one short afternoon my son went from 0 – 60, learning everything about the Death Star, the death of Obi Wan, Luke’s lineage and more. It would be easy to blame all of this on the other boy, or his parents; or the baby sitter who eventually told him the whole trilogy, shot-by-shot. But the truth is unless I was willing to show my son Star Wars at age 3 (I was not), or lock him away in a cave until age 7 (an inviting but unrealistic plan) he was going to learn all about it.

I wrestled with that long and hard, trying to come to grips with the fact that my Star Wars is not my son’s Star Wars. That out there, somewhere in the future, is a sci-fi or fantasy epic that will resonate so deeply with him he will want to share it with his kids. Provided he still wants kids after seeing what a snot-nosed punk Luke turns out to be.