Monday, February 22, 2010
If there are two things that I love, they are Jam Jerry and the Grateful Dead and the NBA. So, of course I enjoyed this last week of NBA trade speculation. How do the Grateful Dead fit in you might ask? I was listening to a lot of From the Mars Hotel the past week - especially album closer, "Ship of Fools."
As far as the trades go, there were a few big ones. The most notable perhaps being Antawan Jamison going to the Cleveland Cavaliers. There was a lot of speculation that Amar'e Stoudemire was going to be traded from the Suns to the Cavs in an attempt to keep Lebron in Cleveland past this upcoming summer, however that did not pan out. In the end, it was decided that Antawn would be a better fit for Cleveland and I have to agree with this decision. Antawan will stretch defenses with his outside shooting, whereas Amar'e would only pack them further in. This will play well with Lebron's ability to penetrate and kick. Also, Antawan is a much better defender than Amar'e. He may be older (33? Wasn't it 1998 just yesterday?), but he has consistently put up 18-20 points per game over his entire career and pulled in about 8 rebounds per game. Of course, I've been a huge fan of Antawan's since he was a UNC boy. He was an All-American low post player when he was at UNC, but developed an extremely effective outside game since moving to the pros. Unfortunately, he has played on many mediocre teams throughout his career and was involved with the underachieving disaster that were the Washington Wizards - now a crazy amalgamation of bench players, Josh Howard, Al Thornton, and a bunch of free salary space. I'm not a big fan of the Cavaliers and I always have to reluctantly admit to Lebron's transcendance since I am firmly entrenched in the Dwyane Wade camp - better overall player, better competitor, better crunch-time player - but with the addition of Jamison, they become a much more likeable team to me and I believe they do have what it takes to handle the Lakers. They can easily stick Antawan on Odom if they meet the Lakers in the Finals. He can also provide some help defense on Gasol and will give Artest trouble if the Lakers try to stick him on Antawan. It was a savvy pickup.
Other trades included the Mavericks picking up Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood from the Wizards in exchange for Josh Howard and Drew Gooden (O, lost days of Kansas!) and some other irrelevant trade pieces. This move makes Dallas significantly better. Butler gives them all the tools that Josh Howard did with less of Howard's lackadasical tendencies (aka not showing up). Haywood is another UNC product who provides the Mavericks with an improvement to their interior defense and also helps their rebounding numbers and can give around 10 points a game. The Mavericks may not be able to overtake the Lakers and may still have trouble finding a way to stop Carmelo if they meet the Nuggets in the playoffs, but they have enough pieces in place now to make a run and to hang tight in a series - and that is all you really need as the Mavs found out in the 2006 Finals when they lost to the Heat (OK, there may have been some questionable officiating and lucky breaks thrown in that equation as well).
The fraud known as Tracy McGrady ended up on the Knicks and looked good in his debut. It remains to be seen if the Knicks will keep him and his huge contract on the roster into the summer. They picked up McGrady in order to dump his salary in an attempt to lure Lebron and another top notch free agent this summer. I hope they dump McGrady and let him scratch his way onto another team. The way he quit on Houston last year with his decision to have surgery was inexcusable. He has been an overrated player for most of his career (maybe not 2000?) and never delivered anything when it mattered. I never usually sound off about NBA players, but McGrady deserves it.
The other big trade was the Kings sending Kevin Martin (terrific two guard scorer in the mold of Reggie Miller and Rip Hamilton) to Houston in exchange for Carl Landry (a shame they had to let him go, because I liked him on that front line with Scola, those guys were tough, young and hustled) and a few other pieces. This was a necessary trade for Houston because they needed to pick up scoring and Martin will certainly add that, and it takes pressure off of Aaron Brooks to score and allows him to focus more on distributing the ball from the point. I don't know if they have enough left to make a push for the playoffs this year because the West is seriously deep (Jazz getting hot, the Thunder just continuing to surprise with how good they and their high level of team chemistry for being so young), however, if they draft smart and get a healthy Yao back next year, they may be able to make some noise as a higher seed.
In sadder news, the Celtics (I don't know why I've gotten so attached to the Celtics in recent years, I think it stems for my love of Kevin Garnett and watching him in his 2003-2004 MVP season playing against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals when I was the last one left in my dorm. Everyone had left me all their remaining beer, which added up to about 70-80 beers, so I polished them off the entire week watching basketball and listening to the Beach Boys, namely Friends and Sunflower. I sang very loudly out my windows and enjoyed the sunshine coming in. My friend Miles even stopped by on one of the last nights - his mom had a family friend in town and they had stopped over there for a few nights on the way out of town - and we drank beer and whiskey and had a walking adventure around the back roads of Saratoga Springs) gave up Eddie House and some bench players to pick up Nate Robinson. This trade is basically a wash and doesn't achieve anything for a Celtics team that seems to be floundering in a precarious position since the guards are changing on the team. Rondo is clearly their best player and one of my top ten favorite players to watch and yet he doesn't have the crunch-time chops yet and still feels the need to defer to Pierce, Allen and Garnett more than he should. He is developing a devastating behind the back fake and some of his curling layups are just absurd. Once he can make foul shots and never miss his tear drop in the lane, he will be as close to unstoppable as any other point guard - namely, Chris Paul. However, there is an awkward shifting of the team focus on the Celtics and I don't see them organizing it at any time soon. I may be wrong and maybe the team roles and identities will fall into place, but as for now, there is a cause to be concerned if you wish the Celtics the best - and I do.
This bit about the Celtics has me thinking about something I touched on in my recap of the Super Bowl - its the accepting or grasping of one's role and one's part in history that is so prevalant and essential in sports - although, it is essential in art and nearly everything else as well. I don't know if I have the time at the moment to correctly articulate it and I think it would be better suited to an entire separate post. There have been plenty of examples of it in contemporary sports, the rise of Lebron and the rest of the 2003 draft class, this 2009-2010 Celtics team, Federer's dominance in tennis and the inability of any of his peers to try and rise to the opportunities that sport and history have given them to try and etch their name in stone and of course Peyton Manning and his recent defeat in the Super Bowl. This is all tied into something greater about how we interact with time and what history means in order to reach our potential and to prolong our respective creativities and ability to give to the world and make the most of the materials we are given to work with. I think I'll let you figure out where I am going to go with this and meanwhile formulate a more polished column to describe it to you all.
In new related to this blog, I want to point out some new additions to my links. These are part of some Brown University graduate acquaintances I have picked up from my friend Janelle Sing.
The first link is one that I meant to put up a long time ago. Her friend Phoebe (don't know last name) has a food blog that has generated some steam and even a cookbook deal, it is called Big Girls Small Kitchen. I went to a Chili Throwdown that Phoebe competed in back in November and she placed third from a panel of judges with a damn good chili. I'd check out the blog/website as it is very helpful even for a dude like me (albeit World's Coolest Dude 2007).
The second link is from a friend of Janelle's I just met named Geddes. She keeps a blog called Officially an Artist where she posts much of her art work. She has some great stuff up there including some work that she and Janelle did this past weekend in Providence, which is an excercise called 12 paintings in 12 hours, which is exactly how it sounds. I believe this is a great excercise, just as Kerouac's bop-prosody and spontaneous were perhaps better as excercises than as a style to build a collection of work on. "First thought best thought," as Kerouac said, is admirable, but not necesarrily successful when it comes to art. "First though best thought" is important for actualizing work, to making your concepts and ideas hard truths that can then be manipulated and molded into a higher art, the art that steals, and shifts in the shadows of prior and current ideals, and finally transcends to to encompass those values and pillars of life, love and the universe that never go away. In any event, it is a good excercise to be productive and if you look at the blog, you will see that Geddes is certainly productive.
Ok, that's it for me today. This week we will have all my history and grasping of the moment ramblings, some gushing for the Walkmen and the continued overall greatness that is Puddles of Myself.
Now, the next installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt:
Douglas Bryant looked at Ben O’Donnell with his hands around his youngest daughter and that enigma of a son – the one who tried to off himself. He’d seen him take that drink from his flask. It took everything in his power not to go over there and scold Ben O’Donnell, even if it was his own wife’s funeral. However, that’s what made the Bryants who they were – cold composure. Funeral Director Bryant checked his watch. He’d give the general attendees a few more minutes to pay their respects before he ushered them out and allowed the immediates (Rose’s nuclear family) to pay their respects privately. Then, when they were ready, even that drunk, they’d have the body transported past the house andthen to the place of rest – which was to be out in Calverton if he was not mistaken. He didn’t quite understand why they were not going to have the requiem mass as most Catholics did. Especially when he knew that Rose O’Donnell was a dutiful parishioner at St. James.
Douglas Bryant felt the wall against his back. Besides the moistness in his armpits, he was comfortable. He looked at the O’Donnell family sitting together in the front row. To him, it was a funny thing to have watched those front rows occupied by so many different families over the years. There had been families stoic in their grief, others who calmly displayed their sorrow with tasteful tears, and still others who put on displays of distress that bordered on something maudlin. Days and nights of mourning passed and then, if all concerned parties were lucky, no business or interaction had to be done again. But the chairs remained sitting there in neat rows, and the platform always stood in the front. These objects marked the space, cleanly and orderly. And even with the passing of people in and out of the home, Douglas Bryant remained a fixture for them, for the town. A person who provided a service of death – or more appropriately, memorial – or more optimistically, of closure.
Funeral Director Bryant took a cloth out from his back pocket and lightly tapped the back of his neck. He checked his watch again. He’d give them a few more minutes. Douglas surveyed the O’Donnell’s. He did feel bad for them. Rose O’Donnell was a kind woman. It seemed as though she knew everyone in the town. He could recall many meetings he’s had with her in Stop N’ Shop. She’d catch him by the melons and ask how business was; how Frank was. She’d even commend him on how he continued on in a line of work that faced him with such everyday sadness. And he’d weigh his banannas and thank her for that.
It baffled him that a woman of her caliber could stay married to that full-time drunk, or how a son of Rose O’Donnell could try and drown himself in the St. George Creek. Or, also, how the eldest, Maggie, could be the spitting image of her mother but be so flamboyant, such a rebel and so uncaring for a stable home life. He’d seen her accolades in the Herald. He’d also heard the announcement of her broken engagement. In so many ways, the O’Donnell family was beyond Douglas Bryant’s understanding. Especially the fact that they had only attended this final wake and that is was the sister-in-law, Erin, who had made all the arrangements. Nevertheless, it was time to give them their space, it was time to give them their time.
Tom watched as Mr. Bryant walked up to the kneeler in front of his mother’s body. He whispered to Mrs. Post who was kneeling with her sons Mike and Bryan. Mrs. Post stood and fixed her long business skirt. She ushered the boys along and they followed Mr. Bryant, looking uncomfortable in their blue and silver striped ties. Tom closed his eyes take and seeee and listened to the sound of people exiting the room. He heard coughs, shuffling of loafers on carpet, the thump of an odd chair leg or three. With his eyes closed, Tom felt a growing presence within his stomach. It was as if something were spreading and beating throughout his whole body. I feel my heart beat rapidly. I feel it even though I didn’t see her when I walked in. How could I have really hoped she would come? What is it that happened to us last night? In that dark, the moistness of her chest skin. My soul was hot – my soul was –is – a flake. It wasn’t just his heartbeat, he felt the pumping coming from even the small roll of fat right above his groin. In the darkness of his eyes, fluorescent squares gave way to shifting and grotesque visions of bodies. He couldn’t control their ebb and flow. He saw raw flesh, he saw the stink of carcass and the rise of flies in the air. The form of the crucifix appeared too, but quickly flew out of the sight of his darkened vision. Tom took a breath. I breathe and pass the throbbing from my mouth to the air. It feels like I am breathing too heavily. I am strange, aren’t I, doc? With his breathing, came an ease. He smelt the perfume of the flowers all around the room and, reminding himself that flowers did exist and that they were beautiful and fragrant, felt relaxed. He opened his eyes and looked at the coffin. His mother’s nose stuck up in profile. Nothing in him told him what to do, so he felt the curiosity to look behind him. Uncle Connor was still standing behind Aunt Erin who remained in her seat in the back; they were the only two left. Tom bowed his head in the direction of his mother. Then, he felt his father’s hand on his knee.
“What do you say we pray?”
“Who first?” his father asked.
I want to be the first one to go up. I’m the one who killed mom, so that gives me the right. Who would she’ve wanted to be first?
“Well, I’m the oldest,” Maggie said, “so I might as well…”
“No,” Liza said. Maggie first looked surprised, but quickly smiled at her sister. “I want to be first.”
Maggie held out her arm towards the coffin.