Friday, February 26, 2010

Bipartisanship of Fools

I listened to/watched the entire health summit yesterday. All six hours of it. I took two things away from it: Exercises in democracy, particularly legislative debate, are dull, dull matters; and President Obama, for the most part, is surrounded by a bunch of hysterical, ineffectual fools. And those are just the Democrats. Republicans, in comparison, are hysterical, semi-effective hacks.

How bad was it? The only time Obama seemed to perk up for extended moments was when Paul Ryan, the republican congressman from Wisconsin, spoke. Ryan, who introduced the GOP's alternative, crazy-ass budget, at least knows what he's talking about, even if he wants to put an end to the U.S. government's entitlement system as we know it. You could tell from Obama's body language he considers Ryan by far the brightest member of the Republican party, maybe even a formidable foe.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pruning and Grooving

For years, Walt Clyde Frazier, my second favorite Knickerbocker of all time, was the platform walking, couplet-talking embodiment of 1970s cool. Afro. Mustache. Leather jacket. Wide-brim hats. Mirrored ceilings. Clyde had it all. He was the complete package, and he knew it
In 1974, he wrote with the Ira Berkow "Rockin’ Steady," an illustrated basketball manual and style guide. Chapters include “Cool,” “Defense,” “Offense,” and “A general guide to looking good, and other matters.” In between pointers on free throw shooting and defensive stances, Clyde revealed his secrets for staying cool: "I pat down my burns. I mash down my 'stache... I catch my profile. 'Yeah, Clyde,' I say, 'You've got it.' It relieves some of the pressure." Clyde also offers tips on catching a fly when it is sitting: 
It's technique, not just amazing hand-quickness like most people think. Most people grab straight for the fly. That's wrong. You have to sort of curl your hand backward and slowly circle the fly. Then you come around in front of him. You have to be careful and patient, then move your hand forward and he'll fly right into your palm.
And when it's in midair:
"Amazing hand-quickness. But I seldom perform these feats anymore. Like I said, my reputation's out. Flies won't come within ten feet of me anymore."
"Rockin' Steady" remains to this day one of the high points of Western Civilization.

These days, when not broadcasting Knicks games on the Madison Square Garden network, the 65-year-old Frasier spends most of his time in St. Croix practicing horticulture and landscaping. 

Recordeth the Times:
On a recent stroll down a shady path about 50 yards from his home, Mr. Frazier stopped by a trio of flamboyant trees, the first of hundreds of plantings and, not surprisingly, his favorite. In bloom, the bright colors mimicked Mr. Frazier’s Manhattan wardrobe, which he still wears when he calls Knicks games for the MSG television network.
The clothes, he said, are the last vestige of Clyde. Mr. Frazier prefers to be in St. Croix, where he spends most of his time from May through September and usually one week a month during the basketball season.
Since buying his bungalow in 1979, two years after the Knicks traded him to the Cleveland Cavs, Frazier has expanded his Caribbean property to include a five-acre, meticulously cultivated waterfront arboretum. Once he got started, Frazier bought up every home and garden magazine he could get his hands on, according to the Times, to improve on his preternatural green thumb. He even started frequenting home shows and appliance stores in New York at the Javits Center and around Miami in search of furniture and fixtures for his estate. 

I never got to see Frazier play. He was well before my time. But my grandmother and grandfather, onetime Knicks season ticket holders, used to tell me stories about how good he was and how hard he worked. Frazier himself likes to remind viewers, usually after a current Knicks players short-arms a free throw, that he would only practice free throws in between suicides or scrimmages. "You need to do it when you're tired to replicate game conditions. Otherwise, it's useless." 

I'm not at all surprised that Frazier threw himself into his post-NBA passion with as much enthusiasm and dedication he demonstrated throughout his basketball career. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Just Man Justices

Chris Jones' excellent profile of Roger Ebert has been making the rounds the past few weeks. And for good reason. It is a moving piece, a beautiful and surprisingly joyful portrait of a man going head-to-head with his own mortality. Ebert, the esteemed film critic, has been battling thyroid cancer for eight years, enduring surgery after surgery to rid his body of the poison that took parts of his salivary glands, his mandible and, ultimately, his voice. His communication is today limited to scrawled notes on loose scraps of paper and the Internet, specifically his blog, which he seems to update on the hour. Jones had the good sense to include in his masterful piece parts of Ebert's moving post about death. Ebert writes:
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.
I'm inclined to believe almost completely Ebert's take on the great beyond, even though as a young Catholic I was told tales about purgatory, St. Peter, grace and all that. But it's hard not to see in Ebert and his courage in the face of death something at least resembling a soul, or something akin to God's grace. Bear with me here.

In a recent post, Alyssa Rosenberg highlights an Ebert line about how the act of writing makes him whole again: "When I am writing," Ebert explains, "my problems become invisible and I am the same person I always was. All is well. I am as I should be." From these words, Rosenberg draws a straight line from Ebert to the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and his concept of inscape, the sudden, revealed presence of God (higher power, if you prefer) in a person.

For Rosenberg, Ebert’s words, typed out in the quiet darkness of his illness may be, "the purest lived expression" of Hopkins' inscape. To underline her point, she references Hopkins' poem "As Kingfishers Catch Fire," specifically the line "what I do is me: for that I came." A year ago this month, I referenced the same poem to describe LeBron's 52-point triple-double against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eyes he is--
Christ--for Christ plays in ten thousand places
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through features of men's faces
Although Rosenberg and I come at this from different angles (she's really talking about creativity and the writing life), our sentiments are in accord about the mysterious, inspiring revelation of a higher power through a person at his or her best, or most complete, be they Roger Ebert, LeBron James, or an anonymous nurse or everyday factory worker. Witnessing, as it were, the expression of a person’s soul, seeing, hearing, or reading the very thing that makes them them, is unmistakable, powerful, and awesome. It rattles your core.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Irony of Getting Fit

Is, of course, the body's increased susceptibility to bacteria and viruses. I've been running between three and four miles, on average, about three times a week since last May. And, every now and again, like every other month, I get hit with a nasty, unforgiving bug, which lays me out almost completely. Over the past few days, I have tried and failed to do just about everything. I started and abandoned at least two blog posts and a few other work-related stories. Probably for the better. In my state, a cogent thought has been about as doable as a four-minute mile. I don't know why I keep forgetting this important life lesson: A hangover is much, much more manageable and much easier to bounce back from than, say, a bronchial infection, or whatever the hell it is I have working through my "healthier" system. The worst part is, I feel even crappier because I haven't been able to get my miles in this week. A vicious circle, my friends. A vicious, demon-bitch circle.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When You're Strange

I thought Oliver Stone's "The Doors" told me everything I ever really needed to know about Jim Morrison and band mates Ray Manzarek, Robby Kreiger and John Densmore. Apparently, though, there's more to the story. At least according to documentarian Tom DiCillo, whose "When You're Strange" promises to tell the complete story of the band's five-year run and, by proxy, the story of the 1960s, through original footage of the band recorded between 1966 and 1971.

I guess the two go hand-in-hand. I'll leave it to you to decide if Morrison and Co. were a seminal part of the turbulent decade or merely a product of it.

The White Stuff

Splendid work by HTML Giant. If only he would do the same for Kurt Warner and his sartorial choices.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Donnie Done Good

Welcome back, Knicks fans. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Waiting Is the Best Part

I love the National Basketball Association’s trading deadline. The rumors. The misdirections. The bad contracts. The salary dumps. Next to the draft, it’s one of the most exciting times to be a fan of the NBA. Hope springs eternal, and these two, year-defining moments, particularly the looming deadline, let the average schmoe, much like myself, envision his team picking up that mysterious key player who somehow manages to turn everything around simply by changing out of one uniform into another. 

For the better part of two days, I have been refreshing my Twitter page to stay on top of which teams are working on which deals. On several occasions over the last 60 hours or so, when the league’s beat reporters are, you know, actually doing their jobs, and there are no meaty rumors to Tweet, I searched “Daryl Morey” to find out what Rockets fans were thinking about the long-rumored deal with the Knicks. Which is when I stumbled across this humorous video. 

“You’re starting negotiations with Jared Jeffries for T-Mac. Do you know who I am? Darryl ‘the Wizard’ Morey, that’s who.” A classic line, and one that will probably haunt my dreams if and when Walsh fails to unload Jeffries before 3 p.m. this afternoon.

I’ve also spent about two hours more than I should have trolling sites like this, the online Thunderdome for disgruntled and largely clueless Knickerbocker fans. The discussions there are the basketball equivalent of a Tea Party forum, chock full of conspiracy theories, cries for succession and/or sedition, and candid discussions of whether or not Mike D’Antoni is, in fact, the anti-Christ. 

Then, there’s this particular rabbit hole

It's compulsive, and I'm far from alone in this kind of behavior. All this activity, every bit of imagined trade proposals suggested on Twitter, WFAN, or team forums, is probably connected, at least in some way, to the increasing popularity of fantasy sports. Because a fan was once able to swap Mike Miller and Javaris Crittenton for Chris Paul in his fantasy league, he or she assumes the deal is therefore plausible in real life. Trust me, though, if Ernie Grunfeld ever called up Jeff Bower with that offer, Bower would probably petition the league for his colleague's immediate termination.

Trading players in the NBA is almost prohibitive, because of the league's baroque Collective Bargaining Agreement. For trades to go through, teams have to match dollar-for-dollar, which explains why transactions usually involve, on average, six or seven players and two or three teams. Salaries have to match, regardless of the level of talent exchanged. Subsequently, trades rarely lead to immediate success, with a few obvious exceptions, like Kevin Garnett to the Celtics or Pau Gasol to the Lakers. And those trades, largely one-sided, were met with outrage around the league. 

The fun, then, lies almost exclusively in the possibility of your team adding a marquee talent, or, in the case of the Knicks, the possibility of clearing enough cap space to sign two max free agents. Which begs the question, what does this say about the sport, when most NBA fans are more excited about possible transactions than they are about the actual games?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Donnie Walsh, The Fixer

If this report is true, Donnie Walsh is two signatures away from restoring the Knicks to the top of the National Basketball Association. By getting rid of Jared Jeffries' contract, considered by many around the league to be downright unmovable, Walsh would have magically freed up enough cap space to sign two max free agents this summer.* 

In exchange for this Uttanasanian financial flexibility--and an extended try out for the Athlete Formerly Known As Tracy McGrady-- the Houston Rockets want, in addition to the expiring contracts of either Al Harrington or Larry Hughes, rookie Jordan Hill (the eighth overall pick in last year's draft), the right to swap first round picks with the Knicks in 2011, and a 2012 first-round pick. The Knicks would also receive the rights to forward Joey Dorsey. 

Walsh and Rockets GM Daryl Morey, christened Dork Elvis by Bill Simmons, are said to be haggling over picks, with Walsh demanding a future first round pick from Morey, and Morey demanding that the future Knicks' picks be unprotected. Walsh, apparently, is also somewhat hesitant about including Jordan Hill. 

Let's not kid ourselves: This is a lot to give up. It's risky, too. Morey, a shrewd negotiator, is essentially asking for three first round picks for three months of McGrady, a player with whom the Rockets are more than happy to part, and a chance--a chance--to sign two max free agents. Given the Knicks' recent history with dealing draft picks for players (See Curry, Eddy and Marbury, Steph) some fans are understandably nervous about walking down this particular path again, even with the more circumspect Walsh now leading the way. To further complicate matters, Walsh would almost assuredly renounce the rights to David Lee and Nate Robinson at the end of the season to ensure the extra cap space, if he doesn't trade either player before Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline, a possible but increasingly unlikely scenario. 

The core of the team would then be: Toney Douglas, Wilson Chandler and Danillo Gallinari. And maybe Joey Dorsey, whose 2010-2011 team option ($946,000) may or may not be picked up. That's it. Three, maybe four, players, tops. 

The phrase "all in" springs to mind. As does "big brass balls."

I trust Walsh, though. Since taking over general managing duties in April 2008, he's managed to shed the Knickerbockers of Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford, Jerome James and Tim Thomas, at least $82 million worth of thoroughly undesirable salaries, with the singular purpose of signing a max free agent this summer. Unloading Jeffries' contract, while slight in comparison to Randolph's or Crawford's massive deals, would be every much as impressive and important. He'd have the money to sign not one but two max free agents. 

If it comes to pass, this deal would probably go down as Walsh's signature move, arguably in his entire basketball career, right up there with drafting Reggie Miller over local hero Steve Alford in 1987, at the time a controversial, risky decision that ultimately ended up changing the fortunes of a franchise. 

*(Technically, the Knicks would be about $31 million under a projected $53 million cap, with $18 million committed to four players and another $4 million devoted to eight roster spot cap holds, a requirement of the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Knicks, though, would need to free up another $2 million more dollars to sign two max free agents, but they'd clear that space once they buy out Eddy Curry's contract, the last remaining remnant of Isiah Thomas' horrendous tenure. For more information about the cap, visit Hoop Data. Joe Treutlein, one of the website's proprietors, tweeted me through the intricacies of the cap situation last night. He also posted, in full, how this impending deal effects the Knick's cap space.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Swimsuit Issue

Sports Illustrated is genius. 

Every February, in the void between the conclusion of the Super Bowl and the start of Spring Training, the magazine releases its annual Swimsuit issue, a rather chaste collection of smiling models in semi-revealing bikinis. The women, airbrushed of all imperfections, show about as much skin as the annual Victoria Secret’s catalogue, yet somehow, in an era when pornography is readily available for free on the Internet and every newsstand in Manhattan heaves with enough cleavage and exposed thighs to overwhelm a Baldwin brother, the Swimsuit issue is an honest-to-god, not-to-be-missed cultural phenomenon. 

How SI manages to corner the market on scantily clad, beautiful women one week a year is a marketing coup beyond my rudimentary level of comprehension. But its success is undeniable. Since its debut in 1964 as a five-page supplement, the issue has basically printed its own money, generating more than $1 billion in profits to date, according to Sports Biz’s Darren Rovell

In his comprehensive report, Rovell points out that the issue, which sells more than one million copies each year at newsstands, generates seven percent of Sports Illustrated's annual advertising revenue. (Beat that, Seth Davis). The Swimsuit issue is also the single best-selling print issue in Time Inc.'s formidable stable of magazines, including Time magazine's Person of the Year issue or Entertainment Weekly's Oscar recap. 

What’s more, SI told Rovell that more than seven million video streams were viewed on this week during the issue's initial launch: 
The record number of streams represented 185 percent growth versus last year and helped the magazine's Web site to its second highest traffic in its history. Swimsuit fans also viewed more than 42 million pages of photos, as time spent on the site was up 162 percent over last year's totals.
(For the record, I can only speak to two or three of those click-throughs). 

Oddly, the Swimsuit issue also influences the world's tourism industry. After a 2004 shoot in Chile, for instance, visits there jumped an unbelievable 34 percent. Somewhat more disturbing, the issue, more specifically which model appears on its cover, has a pretty staggering impact on the Standards and Poor 500 index: 
When the cover model is from the United States, the S&P is supposed to show a return for the year above it’s historical rate. With a non-American cover model, the S&P 500 will underperform. From 1979 to 2008, the average return was 8.87 percent. When the cover model was American, the average return was 13.9 percent, but just 7.2 percent when non-Americans made the cover. 
While I struggle to understand in full its unparalleled success, vis-a-vis similarly themed, though less-successful, lad mags, it is clear to me that SI's annual Swimsuit issue is a cultural force bigger than us all. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

That's Not What She Said

The lamestream media: always on the look out for a "Gotcha!" moment against poor, plainspoken Palin: 
In some editions of Sunday's Section A, an article about Sarah Palin's speech to the National Tea Party Convention quoted her as saying, "How's that hopey, changing stuff working out for you?" She said, "How's that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?"
(Via TPM)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Die Hard Architecture

Over at his blog, my friend John is counting down his personal list of history's greatest films. He ranks "Die Hard" at a representative No. 82, in between Terrence Malick's "Thin Red Line" and Peter Bogdanovich's "Paper Moon." After extolling the film and its star, Bruce Willis at his best, John points to BLDGBLOG's claim that the action flick is also "one of the best architectural films of the past 25 years."
What I find so interesting about Die Hard—in addition to unironically enjoying the film—is that it cinematically depicts what it means to bend space to your own particular navigational needs. This mutational exploration of architecture even supplies the building's narrative premise: the terrorists are there for no other reason than to drill through and rob the Nakatomi Corporation's electromagnetically sealed vault.

Die Hard asks naive but powerful questions: If you have to get from A to B—that is, from the 31st floor to the lobby, or from the 26th floor to the roof—why not blast, carve, shoot, lockpick, and climb your way there, hitchhiking rides atop elevator cars and meandering through the labyrinthine, previously unexposed back-corridors of the built environment?

Why not personally infest the spaces around you?
The author of the post draws a parallel between McClane's interior movements with those employed by Israeli Defense Forces during the country's 2002 invasion of Nablus, as described by Israeli architect Eyal Weizman in his paper "Lethal Theory." Because Israeli soldiers literally couldn't see Palestinian guerillas from above, Weizman writes, "soldiers used none of the streets, roads, alleys, or courtyards that constitute the syntax of the city, and none of the external doors, internal stairwells, and windows that constitute the order of buildings, but rather moved horizontally through party walls, and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors."

By walking through walls, the Israelis soldiers, like McLane, turned the surrounding architecture into the very medium of the conflict, "a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux."

Welcome to the party, indeed.

A commenter also later pointed out that "Die Hard's" Nakatomi Building is actually the Fox Plaza in Century City, which was designed by architect William Pereira, who also received a credit in the film for art direction. And, just to put a bow on all this, the original tagline for the film was, "It will blow you through the back wall of the theater."

All of this is, of course, a fancy way of saying "Die Hard" is a really fucking good movie, a nearly flawless action-adventure flick, by design.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who’s Done

There was a time, about a decade or so before I was born, when the Who was one of the greatest bands in the world. Sure, the Beatles made better records. The Stones were more talented. Led Zepplin was cooler. But no rock band, English or American, played as well—or as loud—as the Who. Their concerts, three-hour, incendiary affairs, were legendary, filled with masterful guitar solos, windmills, vocal wails and propulsive tom-tom crashings and double-kick thumpings. A Who concert was not just a series of songs; it was an event, a cultural flashpoint, the frustrations, disillusionment and desperation of an entire generation amplified and expressed, turned up to 11. They were deadly. Exploding drums. Smashed guitars. Blown-out eardrums. Horse tranquilizers. Injured fans. Riots. Criminal inquiries. Tommy.

But that was all a long time ago. Let's face it: the Who hasn't really been the Who since Keith Moon died--in 1978. (He's been dead longer than I've been alive). Bassist John Entwhistle, too, passed away seven years ago, buried beneath a Las Vegas stripper. Meanwhile, Roger Daltrey just turned 65; Pete Townshend, 64. Their advancing ages and diminishing skill set, were no more evident than during last night’s Super Bowl performance. Although they weren’t bad or embarrassing, they weren’t particularly good either. Roger and Pete played about as well as two sexagenarians could be expected to play. No more, no less. No muss, no fuss. No exploding kits. No busted-up instruments. No helter. No skelter. 

It’s not their fault; they're old. Their best days are well behind them.  

Even worse, I get the sense that the Who’s Super Bowl performance was greeted with a collective yawn, which is more than a little depressing for a band that was once considered dangerous. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Pick

Count me among the legions of those who've imbibed the Peyton Manning Kool-Aid. ("Once it hits your lips, it's so good.") Maybe it's because I watched him slice-and-dice my Jets, like Sam the Butcher against Priest Vallon. Or maybe, like Bill Simmons, the poet laureate of Boston sports, I just enjoy watching an athlete master his game. Probably both. Either way, though, Peyton Manning has been nothing short of remarkable this postseason. And I fully expect him to excel on Sunday, too, against a New Orleans defense that yielded 310 passing yards and 150 rushing yards last week against a Vikings offense that is about half as efficient as Manning and the Colts.

On the other side of the ball, I think Indianapolis' defense is up to the challenge of containing New Orleans' explosive offense--with or without Dwight Freeney. Like the Vikings, the Colts are fast, and hungry. Last week, we saw Minnesota frustrate Drew Brees and company all afternoon. That it took five Minnesota turnovers (four in the second half, including one killer, career-ending interception) for the Saints to pull out the win--at home, mind you-- speaks volumes about their chances this week against the Colts. Unlike the Vikings, the Colts won't turn the ball over five times.

Nor will the offensive line allow Manning to be put on the ground as often as Favre was last week. Manning just gets rid of the ball too quickly for that to happen. And when he gets rid of the ball, big things usually happen for the Colts. Just ask John Harbaugh or Rex Ryan. Or Bill Belichik. Or any other head coach in the National Football League. Manning is just that good.

Don't get me wrong. I think this is going to be a fun, competitive game. At least early. I'm even going to be rooting for the Saints to keep it close. I just don't see them pulling out the win. Indianapolis is just a better team, in almost every facet of the game, especially at the quarterback position.

As good as Brees is, this is simply Manning's year.

Colts 34 Saints 24

(Originally posted here)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who's Set

In anticipation of their Super Bowl performance, the Who's Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend performed a three-song acoustic set at the National Football League's media center. Here they are doing a pretty good version of "Won't Get Fooled Again."

Not bad for two sexagenarians. At least I now know they won't embarrass themselves, like Springsteen did last year.

Townshend and Daltry also answered a number of questions from the Associated Press-- from who they think going's to win the big game to Townshend's reaction to two Florida-based children's advocacy groups--ChildAbuse Watch and Protect Our Children--protesting the Who's performance, because of Townshend's 2003 arrest in England for downloading child pornography on his home computer in 1999.

“It’s an issue that’s very difficult to deal with in sound bites.… I kind of feel like we’re all on the same side," said Townshend, who believes he was sexually abused as a child. "For a family that has suffered the issue of childhood abuse or anything of that sort," he continued, "… common sense vigilance is the most important thing, not vigilantism. Anybody that has any doubts about whether I should be here or not should investigate a little bit further.” 

Townshend, who pleaded guilty after his arrest, said he was researching information for a campaign he was launching against Internet child porn and for an as-yet published autobiography. He admitted freely that he should not have visited the site. He was later cleared after a lengthy police investigation, although his name was put on a watch list for five years, until the end of 2008.

This is all a bit kind of heavy stuff for an 11-minute Super Bowl performance, but Townshend did have to address the issue, which he did openly and without hesitation. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tricky Dick

Dick McGuire, former Knickerbocker and one of the first great point guards to come out of New York City, died yesterday. He was 84. Never much of a scorer, or even a shooter, for that matter, McGuire perfected the art of the floor game, tossing out pin-point passes to open teammates, while commanding the game with his wits, grit and non-stop hustle. The New York Times has a nice description of McGuire's game, which he played about five feet below the rim.
But it was as a player that McGuire left a more indelible mark. In an era before almost every team had a 7-footer or two, before thundering dunks rattled the rims with regularity and before sharpshooters routinely flung jump shots from 25 feet or more, McGuire was a master of cutting and feinting and finding the open man. His nickname was Tricky Dick, a nod to the blind feeds and needle-threading bounce passes that became his trademark. His philosophy was the epitome of old-school team basketball; he preferred passing to shooting. In his rookie season, he set an N.B.A. record, long surpassed, with 386 assists.
Outside of his shooting, McGuire, who spent most of his childhood in Rockaway, Queens, was widely considered the equal of Boston Celtics icon Bob Cousy, another vanguard of New York City's proud point guard tradition, a tradition that has produced the likes of Lenny Wilkens, Nate Archibald, Mark Jackson, Kenny Williams and Rod Strickland, to name (literally) just a few.

Reached at his home, Cousy said McGuire was one of the best point guards to ever play the game. "I thought as a point guard, Richard touched all the bases," he told the Daily News. "In terms of creating situations for other people, and seeing the floor, and using his imagination and creativity, he was a tremendous point guard, one of the best I ever played against. And I started playing against him when we were college kids, when we'd play against each other out in Rockaway, on a court that was a block from his father's bar."

An incredible image: Cousy and McGuire squaring up against one another on a playground ("McGuire's playground," according to Cousy) in Rockaway, a block or two away from the McGuire family bar. Does it get any better than that?

After his playing days, which included three Finals appearances and seven All-Star appearances, including this memorable one in 1954, McGuire served as head coach, assistant coach, chief scout and, most recently, a senior basketball consultant for his former team. He worked for the team in some capacity for an amazing 53 of the organization's 64 seasons, according to the Daily News.

The Knicks, who selected McGuire in the first round of the 1949 NBA Draft, retired his No. 15, along with Earl Monroe's, in 1992. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame the following year.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hold the Mayo, Please

The Cleveland Cavaliers blocked 10 shots last night against the surging Memphis Grizzlies. None was more impressive or emphatic than LeBron James' swat of O.J. Mayo's attempted lay up, which the King unceremoniously spiked off the backboard toward the three-point line, about 24 feet away. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Apropos of nothing, here's a trailer for "Machotaildrop," a coming-of-age story out of Canada about skateboarding. 

The filmmakers-- the Canadian/Scottish duo of Corey Adams and Alex Craig-- obviously grew up watching a ton of Wes Anderson flicks. Mind you, that's not a criticism, per se. Instead, I'd call it a warning: if you're going to cop Anderson's flea-market aesthetic, the end product better be something special. Or at least better than "Life Aquatic."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Calvin and Hobbes, 8th Wonder of the World

The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently caught up with Bill Watterson, the reclusive creator of "Calvin and Hobbes." In the very brief e-mail exchange, Watterson wrestles with the cartoon's cultural legacy:  
The only part I understand is what went into the creation of the strip. What readers take away from it is up to them. Once the strip is published, readers bring their own experiences to it, and the work takes on a life of its own. Everyone responds differently to different parts. I just tried to write honestly, and I tried to make this little world fun to look at, so people would take the time to read it. That was the full extent of my concern. You mix a bunch of ingredients, and once in a great while, chemistry happens. I can't explain why the strip caught on the way it did, and I don't think I could ever duplicate it. A lot of things have to go right all at once.
Like most people my age, I grew up reading Watterson's strip. I even had copies of at least three of his books, maybe four. His work was brilliant, hand in hand with "The Simpsons" as a cultural touchstone. To wit: Ezra Klein described the current state of health care reform as "Calvinball," a description so apt I wish I had come up with. That a good Calvin reference still translates is a testament to Watterson's wonderful creation.