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.


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…

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.


April 9, 2011

I first heard about Eric Rohmer when I read last year about a retrospective of his work taking place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Rohmer was a central figure in the French New Wave, but the last of the directors involved in the movement to gain serious critical acclaim. Like I often do, I flaked on checking out his films at the time, but have since made it a point to catch a few of them on Netflix. And to be honest, the two I’ve seen, My Night at Maud’s and Claire’s Knee, are two of the best movies I’ve watched in a very long time. Perhaps it’s because they play to my mood, or what I perceive to be my mood: mellow, slow and prone to romanticizing seemingly insignificant details. Rohmer’s films are dialogue-driven, which I appreciate, and they’re smart. His characters engage in a moral struggle between virtue and honesty and their innate physical and sexual impulses. And the dude casts some truly beautiful women. I’m afraid to know how old the chick that played Claire in Claire’s Knee was. All that aside, watch one, if not both of these movies. Yea, they have subtitles, and yea, they might require some patience, but chill out on the couch one afternoon and enjoy.

Claire’s Knee

My Night At Maud’s

I have to ask: Does anyone else get a panic attack when they receive the New Yorker in the mail each week? I mean, seriously. It’s Sunday night, and I’m barely through Goings On About Town, when BAM, there it is in my mailbox on Monday, in all of its tri-columned glory with a tongue-in-cheek/politically aware/culturally savvy/artistically tasteful cover to boot. You see, when I open my mailbox on Monday’s, my palms start sweating. It’s like I haven’t finished reading the book for which I’m supposed to be turning in a book report.

Note to Conde Nast: slow down. We get it, you guys are smarter than all of us and you employ the best writers of our times, but it’s no fun for anyone when I haven’t had the chance to read your scathing review of The Adjustment Bureau before the next copy arrives in the mail. I’m a busy guy and I try to read other shit too. So I end up speed reading through half of your magazine, particularly Talk of the Town, which for better or worse, is my primary source for consuming world news. So excuse me for my ignorance when at a party I mistakenly claim that the Supreme Court Justices are rioting in Tunisia to protest Hugh Hefner’s wedding. But I know I’m not the only one that’s behind and I’m relieved when I see other people on the train straining to finish the issue from two weeks ago. Suckers.

Don’t get me wrong, the articles are fascinating. I love reading about Barry Bonds’ perjury, and the corruption of the Kabul Bank and Turkish soccer hooligans. But you seriously can’t expect me to keep up with several 15 page features each week. Can’t you just condense that shit? Or publish bi-weekly? Or make a clif notes version? Take a think on that New Yorker, I think you’d ease the stress of a lot of your readers. In the meantime, you’ll have to excuse me. This week’s feature is about Aziz Ansari, and I think he’s hilaaaarious.

Plans always sound fantastic when you’re drunk, don’t they? Follow me: you’re at a bar—we’ll call it Niagara. You’re having a few drinks—we’ll call them High Life’s. You’re hanging out with good friends—we won’t call them anything because I respect privacy here. Before long you’re pretty stewed (great new euphemism I learned from The Basketball Diaries, thanks Soybomb), and plans for tomorrow start flying all over the damn place.

Because you’re feeling great, right? You want to let the good times roll. It’s Friday night, a long week of work is behind you and you’re convinced that you’re about to have the best weekend EVER. Gonna knock it out of the park. A conversation might go something like this:

Friend #1: Dude, I’m so glad it’s the weekend.

You: Yea man, me too.

Friend #2: Word. This week sucked.

Friend #1: It’s supposed to be awesome outside tomorrow. Let’s do something sweet.

You: Yea.

Friend #2: Definitely.

Friend #1: You know what we should do?

You: What.

Friend #2: What’s that.

Friend #1: Go hiking.

You: Hiking?

Friend #2: Hiking?

Friend #1: Yea man. Hiking. Think about it. It’s supposed to be a beautiful day. All we do is get on the Metro North, fucking cruise for a few stops, then they let you out right on the camping grounds. So easy. And we can even bring some beers with us and chill out up there. Doesn’t that sound sick? I say we fucking do it.

You: Yea, that does sound cool. Fuck it, I’m down.

Friend #2: Hell yea man, that’s a great idea. Absolutely.

Friend #1: Awesome. Fuck yea. We’re doing it. You guys want a shot?

And that’s how it starts. And ends. It was done before the plans were even thought of. There are any number of scenarios you could slot in here: football games in the park, hitting up a bunch of museums uptown, heading out to Coney Island, skating all day, etc, etc. For some reason, all sound spectacular at 2:30 in the morning.

One of my all time favorites was a plan hatched by a buddy of mine for a party to be thrown on our friend’s rooftop. The idea was to scour the city the following day for buskers (you know, those people that play music in the subway/on the street) to assemble a band to play at the party. Like actually go around and recruit an all-star team of homeless musicians and convince them to play for us (the safety implications were besides the point). Man, what an amazing idea. This is an incredibly ambitious plan for a sober person, nevermind someone who’s three sheets to the wind on a $3 bottle of red wine. Needless to say, it never happened, but you gotta give credit for drunken ingenuity.

Another one that seems to be a favorite is making plans for brunch. First of all, why is everyone so damn obsessed with brunch all of a sudden? Is it a new cool thing for New Yorkers? I always thought brunch was something you did after Easter Mass. Or with your old ass Aunt. Or your in-laws. Something that sucked. Not something that you’re amped about waking up for. Why can’t we call it “getting food when we wake up”? Whatever it is, it rarely happens when you plan it. In fact, brunch often dies the way the aforementioned plans do: I get home around 4AM, pass out, wake up for the first time around 9:45, quickly turn of my phone so as to give myself an alibi in case anyone tries to contact me to actually follow through on said plans (they never do, for the same obvious reasons), then pass out again until around 11:30.

Then my real weekend starts.

For the hell of it, and because they’re one of my favorites, here’s “The Plan” by Built to Spill (old school video!):

100% American…Apparel

August 13, 2009

picture-18So I walked by my local American Apparel (AA) today on the way to work, and noticed a sign outside saying “Made in the USA.” I think it’s been there for awhile, but today was the first day I noticed. At first I cringed, then chuckled, and finally walked away shaking my head. To me, that sign together with American Apparel epitomes the current set of American values.

Cut corners to make $: American Apparel mass produces low quality clothing for pennies, but in neon colors and see-thru thin fabric, and label and sell them as fashionable and overpriced. I own one white shirt that looked and fit fine before I washed it. Now it looks and feels like a baby’s cloth diaper. If you gave a homeless person American Apparel to stay warm, he/she should probably spit in your face. The thing is, I can’t be the only who realizes this, but people still wait outside the door for these stores to open.

SEX SEX SEX, got your attention now: American Apparel either has the most brilliant marketing strategists or the laziest. All their advertisements consists of young, innocent looking girls barely wearing their wispy clothing posing provocatively. It’s genius. And these girls aren’t your Penthouse, Hustler looking pornstars, but the brown-eyed cute girls living next door who are secretly wearing see-thru bra and panties. Then American Apparel provides an easy way for girls, and guys, to look and feel sexy like their ads. Brilliant or lazy?

Tell me how to dress, how to think: Every few weeks American Apparel updates their window front with new combinations of clothing based on the latest fashion trends. And walking down the street in NYC is basically an imitation of last week’s mannequins. Why put thought into what you’re wearing when they do it completely for you. At AA, you can buy the latest fashionable jeans, jackets, shirts, pants, skirts, socks, shoes, belts, hats, panties, bras, shorts, accessories…I can go on. You can even buy baby clothing. How lazy does a parent have to be to buy baby clothes at AA? This behavior parallel’s the average American’s desire to be spoon-fed everything. Why think about what to wear when someone will do it for you? Why read books when people rehash the facts for you? Why do research on important discussion topics, such as global warming, foreign affairs, economics, health care, when the internet, TV, and newspapers will do it for you?

Anyways, I’m exhausted. This post might be my longest yet. Don’t worry, we’ll hit back with some more of the usual music, art, and culture posts in the future.

American Apparel

September 3, 2008

By now it’s no secret: American Apparel sells hip, comfortable clothes, but uses very suggestive images of women in their ads to do so, a practice that seems contrary to the company’s claims of being a socially responsible brand. I stumbled upon a Newsweek piece from a while back that discusses this very issue. It even mentions a particularly provocative billboard that used to be at the corner of Houston and Allen and one that we would always comment on walking past. Turns out the reason it came down was because someone had tagged the phrase “Gee, I wonder why women get raped” across the top of it. Jeesh. That’s one way to make a point. Take a look at the Newsweek article HERE, it’s pretty interesting.

It seems to me that the Olympics have lost a bit of luster. The last time I remember being really excited for the Games was 1996 in Atlanta, perhaps because it was the first time I could actually follow the Olympics in an American city (I was a year old when the ’84 Games were in L.A.) But I think it had more to do with the fact that there were actually notable marquee athletes to root for. The ’96 Games had Michael Johnson and his awesome gold shoes, Carl Lewis, Kerri Strug and many others. Nowadays, I would be pressed to name more than one (Michael Phelps) athlete to watch for. I also think that 12 years ago, people were naively ignorant of doping. In the realm of modern day athletics, anytime a competitor breaks a record, people can’t help but wonder.

The only reason the 2008 Games are getting the attention they are is due to their setting. Talking heads are babbling on about China’s worthiness as a host country due to highly publicized (and sometimes exacerbated) human rights offenses. Is that really all there is to talk about?

Regardless, I just saw something that got me excited again. Nike is notorious for its cutting edge advertising and proved yet again why they stand alone atop the mountain of apparel companies. Nike’s new Olympic ad literally gave me chills and does so each time I watch it. It reminded me of why we should get excited about the Olympics: the Games are an opportunity to see the finest athletes compete on a global stage, for the world to momentarily put aside its issues and focus instead on individual courage. Of course its an ideal and a naive one at that, but it sounds pretty nice doesn’t it? For two weeks it almost works.

Check out the ad. It features The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done,” which works really well, particularly with choir accompaniment:

I was really looking forward to this weekend. With a trip home to the cozy confines of Charlottesville, VA on the docket, I was anticipating a few days full of nothing. I planned on catching up on sleep, eating some good food and basically just basking in the glorious laziness that generally accompanies life on the home front. As it turns out, the comfort gods had other plans.

It started with a delayed flight. Fine, it’s not like I’ve ever flown out of LaGuardia on time anyways. So what’s an hour delay? Or two. Or three. Or four. A flight that should have had me home by 10PM, careened down the runway in Cville at close to 2AM. Good times.

Home at last, all I wanted to do was to pass out and forget about the trip. Again the powers that be scoffed at my arrogance. I awoke fully nauseated at 5AM and spent the rest of the night in the john. As it turns out, the meal I put down at LaGuardia’s finest Asian establishment “Simply Asian,” had no intention of staying down. One might wonder…why on earth would I eat Asian food at an airport? Hindsight is 20/20 my friends. When the other options are McDonald’s and a crusty-ass burrito joint, chicken and broccoli begins to look like ambrosia.

Food poisoning sucks, especially when my duty for the following day was to stand in line at the DMV to renew my driver’s license. Miserable. I guess the lesson to be learned is never eat anything remotely complicated at an airport, specially anything called “Simply Asian.” More like “Simply Fucked.” I rarely use this space to indulge in my own personal rants, but I had to bitch to someone. Sorry.