Happy Weekend

July 29, 2011

Inside/Outside

July 29, 2011

If I were you and you were me, here’s what we would do this weekend:

Steve James is one of the finest filmmakers working today. Hoop Dreams was a watershed moment in documentary filmmaking and remains one of my all-time favorite movies. His new film, The Interrupters, is in theaters Friday. It’s a somber look at gang violence in the inner city of Chicago and the efforts of a group of ex-gangbangers that have made it their mission to put an end to the bloodshed. With James behind the lens, it’s all but guaranteed to move you.

If you’re hungry for more silver screen, wander over to Cinema Village and catch the documentary Sleep Furiously. I have absolutely no idea what this film is about, but this weekend, I plan to do exactly what its title suggests. (Note: I just watched a short trailer and I’m really intrigued. Now I’m watching a longer trailer and I’m even more intrigued. The music is by Aphex Twin. I think I just talked myself into seeing this film in the amount of time it took for me to write this wack-ass paragraph.)

Go to the rooftop garden of the Met. Get a drink at the bar, gawk at the absolutely bananas panoramic view of Central Park and the city below. Get another drink and catch a buzz. Check out the sculptures by Anthony Caro that are currently on display. Pretended to appreciate the artwork for a few minutes, get back in line for the bar. Think about what else you have to do today. Realize you have nothing to do because it’s the weekend. Grin.

The Name Game

July 27, 2011

It’s quite clear that more than any profession, athletes have the most enviable names. Do you think they exit the womb with such power and finesse that their mothers have no choice but to bestow totally kickass names upon them like Cadillac and Tank? I think a study should be done about this. I mean, let’s be honest, I’ve never once been in an office setting where someone introduced themselves as LeGarrette, Shaquille or BenJarvus. I’d like you to meet my accountant, Takeo Spikes. Shit just doesn’t happen. Thus, in honor of fantastic athlete nomenclature, I’ve decided to highlight some of my favorite names in sports over the past few decades.

Honorable Mention – All Product Placement Team:

Milton Bradley and Coco Crisp. I hope that both of these baseball players get lifetime supplies of board games and cereal, respectively. It’s the least their namesakes can do for all of the free advertising they’re given every time these guys play on national television. Also funny that board games and cereal seem to go hand in hand. You know what else goes hand in hand with board games and cereal? Weed.

Honorable Mention – The NFL:

Peerless Price, Quentin Jammer, Takeo Spikes, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Plaxico Burress, Ebenezer Ekuban, A.J. Hawk, Lawyer Malloy, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Madison Hedgecock…the list goes on.

10. Hope Solo: I know, this was an easy one since the Women’s World Cup was recently top of mind. But let’s be serious. Hope Solo could not have been anything besides a soccer goalie. C’mon. Our hope rests upon the goalie as she keeps solo watch over the net. Yea,  yea, I know. Shut the hell up. The main reason I put her at the top of this list is because she’s hot.

9. Slick Watts: Check out the dude at the top of this post. What a pimp. Slick Watts played for the  Sonics in the mid-seventies and apparently earned the name because he was the first player in the NBA to shave his head. I don’t care if the story is true or not. Anyone who rocks a headband at a 30 degree angle is slick as shit in my book.

8. Kaka: Sorry.

7. Fred: While we’re on the subject of one-name soccer players, there’s a Brazilian dude who goes simply by…Fred. Seriously. But, given the fact that he plays in the MLS for the DC United, I’m not sure he’s quite deserving of the one-name name. Cher is awesome.

6. Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje: The Georgetown Hoyas basketball squad has been home to a slew of players that could easily qualify for this list (Dikembe Mutombo, Boubacar Aw, Othella Harrington, to name a few). But Ruben takes the cake. I was lucky enough to be a ballboy for the Providence Friars when I was a little kid and at one point during a game, Mr. Boumtje-Boumtje asked me (aggressively) for a towel during a stop in the action. Apparently dude is crazy smart and speaks three languages. But at that moment, he was yelling at me, a scrawny ten-year-old, in a tongue that was not my own. I was terrified.

5. Fat Lever: Talk about motivation. If Fat Lever didn’t excel at hoops (he was a two-time NBA All-Star in the late-80s), he would have been…well he probably would have walked off a cliff.

4. Dick Trickle: I hate to put anyone whose name resembles a STD symptom on the list, but there he is. I’m sure Dick is a nice guy, and he had quite an illustrious racing career (including NASCAR Rookie of the Year in ’89), but…yikes.

3. World B. Free: Forget Ron Artest’s recent reincarnation as Metta World Peace. World B. Free was there first. Like Ron Ron, World is a Brooklynite, but unlike Ron, it didn’t take a stadium clearing brawl for him to embrace a name that inspires a similarly vague hope in humanity. World earned the name for the 360 degree dunks he used to throw down in the schoolyard…he could ball. He averaged over 20 points in 13 years in the NBA and from 1978-80, he was second in the league in scoring to George freaking Gervin.

2. Duany Duany: The parents of this former University of Wisonsin guard thought his name was so awesome, they gave it to him twice.

1. God Shammgod: Quite possibly my favorite name of all time. Sports or not. Plus Shammgod had one of the best crossovers that basketball has ever seen. If that’s not enough, his name is God. And God wins any contest he enters. Period.

We were from the Midwest and out West and down South and up I-95. We lived in the East Village and the West Village and Tribeca and Williamsburg and Park Slope. Some of us even lived in Harlem and Bushwick and Crown Heights. We lived in two bedrooms and three bedrooms and in studios and on couches. We lived beyond our means. We had our parents. We had friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends. We worked in media and finance and philanthropy and film and education and bars and restaurants. We had ideas and ideals. We were selfish and selfless and self-conscious. We wanted to be authentic and original and understood. We had screenplays and startups and clothing lines and websites. We had to go to work. We had blogs and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and subscriptions to the New York Times and memberships to MoMa. We went to concerts and film festivals and parks and galleries and clubs and dives. We had bikes and skateboards. We took the subway to save money. We bought seven-dollar beers and twelve-dollar cheeseburgers. We had no cash. We sent texts and ignored calls. We had brunch and drinks and dates. We had an awesome time last night. We had to take the night off. We had to focus. We had ambition. We had time. We had no patience. We don’t appreciate what we have.

Belly

July 15, 2011

The subterranean vessel that hurtles me to the place that pays my rent is bursting at its soldered seams. The air is dead; breathing is counterproductive. The drab colors that splatter the interior of the car are an odious reminder that you are, in fact, inside something…something that has been ingested, regurgitated then stepped in. The lights flicker, falter and ultimately fade. A relief. At each stop, a few dour individuals muster the gall to exit the train and make their plaintive climb to…to…to whatever it was they climbed towards yesterday and the day before and the day before that.

And for a moment, there is space. That is, until more bodies squeeze their way into the train’s already distended belly. The disembodied conductor issues an unintelligible command through bands of rust and static and we brace ourselves as the train lurches once again to resume its crash course with punctuality. Next stop could be oblivion for all we know. As long as we get there on time. Toes are stepped on, elbows knock. We sway like kelp as the train caroms around turns. Frustration is seething yet no one is breathing.

We screech to a halt. The doors groan and we are released, like fish from a net, into one of the city’s major chambers. Confusion and commotion abound on the platforms and in the tunnels. Anxious faces see other anxious faces jostling and they begin jostling too, but they are not quite sure for what or in which direction they should be jostling. This only makes them more anxious. Teeth clenched, I break through. I reach a set of steps that will lead to the surface: a jagged labyrinth of concrete and glass that unfolds in ferocious majesty as if dropped haphazardly from above. I begin climbing to…to…to whatever it is I climbed towards yesterday and the day before and the day before that…

Vibes and Stuff

July 15, 2011

The first rap tape I ever owned was G Funk Era by Warren G. I dubbed it from a friend and was hooked from the jump. The drums, the kicks, the loops, the samples, the funk, the rhythm, the bass. Not to mention the rhymes. And I had to listen to it discreetly because my parents had read in the paper that “Gangsta Rap” was poisoning the ears of our nation’s youth. Needless to say, that fueled my obsession even further. (To be honest, until I heard G Funk, the only curse word I had heard on an album was when Eddie Vedder said “fuck” on “Jeremy”). Soon I was spending almost every cent of my weekly allowance on rap records: Doggystyle, Me Against the World, Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, 36 Chambers, Liquid Swords, ATLiens, Strictly Business, Stakes is High…. and Beats, Rhymes and Life.

Fast forward almost fifteen years to last Friday night. The adolescent in me was geeking the fuck out when I went to see Michael Rapaport’s new film about A Tribe Called Quest. It’s a loving tribute to one of the most influential groups in the genre’s history and a celebratory portrait of an era in music the likes of which we may never see again. Sure, Tribe had their troubles as a group, but that shouldn’t diminish the impact they had on everyone from Pharrell to the Roots. A lot of people bitch and moan about the state of hip hop today and don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to throw a parade for the next Waka Flocka record. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy all of the gems that hip hop has given us throughout the years. If nothing else, go see Beats, Rhymes and Life because it’s a poignant reminder of what hip hop is supposed to be: creative and fun. Then go listen to Low End Theory again and pretend it’s the first time. Boomin in ya, boomin in ya, boomin in ya jeep…

Coffee & Films

June 10, 2011

Ok. I’m shooting for honesty here, for better or worse. There are two things that I do that really irk my nerves. Ready? One is drinking coffee and the other is calling movies ‘films.’ And I don’t think I’m going to stop doing either anytime soon. Now, this might sound like self-conscious, hypocritical banality, and frankly, it is, but I’ll tell you why I piss myself off.

I can’t pinpoint the exact day I started drinking coffee, but I’m pretty sure it was a Saturday. More than likely I was hungover as a bum in summer heat and stuffing my face with eggs at a greasy diner. One of my friends probably encouraged me to get a cup of coffee to cure my hangover and I was probably so desperate that I did. And it probably fucking worked. Now coffee has become a part of my morning routine like forgetting to put on deodorant.

Every morning I get to work and my brain feels like chunky peanut butter so I slam one of those miracle packets of coffee juice into the Flavia machine, and BAM, I get a cup of watery brown liquid that looks like tobacco spit. But fuck if I can’t get some work done for the next few hours.  I used to pride myself on being the kind of person that didn’t need coffee to get through the day. In fact, I used to equate coffee drinkers with cigarette smokers, those stimulant-addicted jackasses. Well, if cigs work like coffee does, I might be copping a package of American Spirits or whatever the kids try to roll on their own these days. [By the way, I love watching people try to roll their own cigarettes. They always try to make it look like they’re cool and in control, but inevitably, it ends up looking like hay in a sleeping bag.]

Now, I can pinpoint more closely the period during which I started to call movies ‘films.’ It was around the time I got my first job out of college and began doing press for a number of independent movies. We’d often work closely with the director, producer, etc., who would never cease to refer to their work as ‘the film.’ I thought it odd, and somewhat pretentious, that they referred to the work by the name of the very substance on which it was printed. It was as if the art and the platform were one (that’s some real shit). But I winced whenever I said it because a) film is an almost condescending word to say (the corners of your mouth turn down and you tend to raise your chin…maybe that’s just me) and b) because it sounds like one of those rich, douchey words like yacht or cufflinks. But it’s impossible not to acknowledge the fact that Transformers: Dark Moon is a flaming turd, I mean movie, and that400 Blows is a film. And you know what? I want people to know that I know the difference. So fuck off.

All of this is to say that last Saturday night, when I sat and watched a midnight screening of Taxi Driver at IFC Center while drinking a black coffee, I poked myself in the eye. Then I took another sip and watched DeNiro act his ass off.

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