Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Return of the Funky Child

It's been a while since I've posted any pics of the 18th Letter, reason being I don't like her stealing my shine, but also because we were waiting for her rhinoplasty and double eyelid surgery scars to heal. Yesterday I had the always esteemed pleasure of taking care of her while the wife was at a teachers' workshop, and I took these Pulitzer-worthy photos:

This final one is the cover to her upcoming rap album, entitled Songs in the Key of Trife. Swizz Beats produced the entire thing!

Stop Snitchin'

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The White Album (Grizzlies vs. Mavs/Lakers vs. Suns)

Free at last, free at last! Thank Jack London almighty, I am free at last!

Yesterday I finally got wise and ponied up a measly 3 euros/month for the opportunity to watch every NBA playoff game on Stream TV Now (an early birthday gift from me to me, if you will), and I honestly feel like a free man recently parolled from basketball broadcast Sing Sing. No more crummy Korean announcers; no more shitty commercials (well, fewer shitty commercials); no longer am I a slave to the scheduling whims of Super Action and MBC/ESPN. I can now watch any and every game I want. And best of all, I get to see the TNT Halftime Report with Ernie, Kenny and Charles (and Magic, which I suppose is sort of like scoring a date with a supermodel and having to take your annoying kid brother along).

I feel emancipated. Obviously, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Just don't tell my wife and daughter I said that.

This morning, after seeing my wife off and taking the little girl to her bus, I ran upstairs, turned on the Mavs/Grizzlies game, prepared a hasty breakfast, and sat down to experience basketball bliss. Oh, and I did some work, too. Yeah.

You know the drill by now. Below is a running diary of (most of) both games, plus a smattering of random thoughts. Let's do this like Brutus:

Premature ejaculations:

Before we begin, I should point out that I'm a motherfucking psychic. Remember how in my review of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Show Your Bones I bemoaned that the runtime on the album is a mere 39 minutes, and suggested that, after such a long hiatus, their fans deserved a double album? Well, I learned early last week -- it's true, I live under a rock; make fun of me all you want. I don't care; I can still finish Contra without the UP, UP, DOWN, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, B, A, B, A, START cheat -- that the Red Hot Chili Peppers will on May 9th (which also happens to be my birthday) release Stadium Arcadium, their long-awaited follow-up to 2002's By The Way (which also happens to be the name of a convenience store). And it's a double album. Boss. So last night I went over to You Tube and checked out the video for the (double) album's first single, Dani California. Boss squared. Great, great song, and a terrific video as well. I generally eschew music videos, but this one was awesome. Here's hoping the (double) CD is as excellent as their past stuff...Do you really wanna know the secret to Avery Johnson's success? Tony Robbins. Yes, that Tony Robbins. You see, back when AJ was a player for the Spurs in the David Robinson/pre-Tim Duncan days, the Spurs hired T-Rob, he of the huge teeth, as a motivational speaker for the players. It's true: I saw it in a Tony Robbins infomercial. So, because T-Rob made such a positive impression on Avery back in his playing days (nevermind that the Spurs didn't win a championship until after they drafted the golden fucking goose, aka Timmy D), he hired him as a personal consultant. Of course I have no actual proof that this is true, but I'm willing to bet my life savings it is. Because I'm such a goddam psychic and all (tricky thing about trying to write like Holden Caulfield is that you actually begin to write that way all the time; I'm man enough to admit this)...Regarding the Cavs game from yesterday, the press hella jumped on Lebron's case for passing the ball to Sideshow Mel (see how I flipped it, all marble cake like?) instead of taking the tre, but I saw that game (being a gangster is so neat), and at the time I noticed the same thing, namely that Mel looked open as hell (Superman's real name is Kal-El/I style my hair with styling gel). In retrospect maybe it was a bad call on his part, but if Mel had HELD ONTO THE DAMN BALL! and the Cavs ended up winning the game, all y'all vultures'd be calling the kid the GZA. I don't think I've seen a group of people turn on someone this quickly since Paul Orndorff went all 50 Cent to Hulk Hogan's Game...As for the Kings/Spurs game, which I also watched (although I missed overtime because I had pressing matters to attend to; it's hard out here for a pimp), Mike Biddy absolutely killed his own guys. How do you go 1-for-13 the day that your album comes out? Bread Miller wasn't too hot, either. And they still would've tied the series were it not for Big Shot Brent and the Fish That Saved San Antonio. See, when I was writing my introduction to the playoffs last week, that was the kind of special moment I was referring to...T-dot mentioned that Ron Artest deserved to be in the mix for MVP, and after thinking about it a couple of minutes while on the can, I think he's right. The King's were lottery bound before Ron Popeil arrived; afterwards they went 27 and 13. That's quite the turnaround. Here's hoping he stays out of trouble next season so that his efforts don't go unrewarded. And here's hoping my wife grants me an Andre Kirilenko-style freebie. Both have the same likelihood of happening...Also, the Nets tied their series with the Pacers. It's nice to see Peja returning to form and doing in the playoffs what he did during the regular season: faking hurt. No way he signs with them this summer...If California (4), New York (2, soon) and Texas (2) can have multiple NBA franchises, how about Ontario? Wouldn't Ottawa be a perfect NBA city? No? Hamilton, then? I see you shaking your head. OK, can Thunder Bay at least get a D-Leage team? They could be called the Thunder Bay Thunder. That would be so awesome...I just saw last night that The Godfather has overtaken The Shawshank Redemption as the number one film on the Internet Movie Database's Top 250. The Godfather/Shawshank rivalry ranks up there with the greats: Ali/Frazier, Magic/Bird, and mayonnaise/Miracle Whip...Speaking of movies, seeing as how I'm going to be watching basketball every single day for the foreseeable future, that Seven Samurai Spring Cleaning might be a long rhyme coming. And we were so close! Alas...Is What's Goin' On? the best song ever made or what?...I should have mentioned this a while ago, but forgot: I never won 50,000 dollars as a high school student. I'm all James Frey and shit. That anecdote was simply part of my elaborate scheme to trick people into believing my April Fool's joke that my wife and I had had our second child. Machiavellian, n'est-ce pas?...Another thing I forgot to mention a few weeks ago while writing the Spring Cleaning review of Once Upon a Time in America: on the DVD (purchased in Korea), the breasts of the woman who is lying in the hearse and pretending to be dead are censored. I don't get it; you can show tits, but not the tits of a dead woman? Plus she wasn't really dead anyway. And don't even mention censoring animals' genitals and excrement on TV. That really gets me vexed. I will never understand this country...Am I the only one who considers Endangered Species superior to Life After Death, as far as posthumously-released albums from obese rappers go? And why couldn't the reaper have spared Pun and taken Fat Joe instead (oooh! Think I didn't when I did?)...Whatcha gonna do when Ron comes/knockin' at your front door/and he wants war?/oh, shit/he ain't a basketball player, he'll kill you. Sorry, got a little carried away there...Now that I'm able to watch EVERY SINGLE playoff game, I've calmed down and have reevaluated my comparison from earlier in the week. Pros of living in Canada: free healthcare. Cons: everything else...Before the game starts, we get a brief look at the Bucks/Pistons game, which is being called by some guy named Ian Eagle. And 'Ian' isn't pronounced like my name, rather like Beverly Hills 90210's Ziering. C'mon, Ian Eagle, just admit you changed the pronunciation of your name because it makes you sound like a movie starring Louis Gossett Jr. (no, not Enemy Mine)...TMH passed along this, which he summed up perfectly, saying "Yeah, I like how one good game erases the entire season of ineptitude"...

Game 1: The Dallas Mavericks vs. A Bunch of Fucking School Girls (and not in the good way)

Because I had to take the little girl to her bus and prepare breakfast, we're already 6 and a half minutes into the first quarter, the score Dallas 18, Memphis 15...Reggie Miller points out that, in a 7-game series, game 2 is "so important". That's why they pay him the big bucks, ladies and gentlemen...If loving Lorenzen is Wright, I don't wanna be wrong...Kenyon Martin, the ticker reads, has been suspended by the Nuggets for conduct detrimental to the team. Congratulations, Kenyon, you've just won the Kwame Brown award for Most Retarded Move By a Player Whose Team is in the Playoffs, colloquially known as the MRMBPWTP (not to be confused with the name of a Nigerian player)...Bobby Jackson can't buy a layup. BJ looks as though he's had the life sucked out of him (I won't even pretend that was funny)...You know, as refreshing as it first sounded, I'm starting to get a little tired of hearing Remember The Name...Promo: Catch the NBA playoffs, only on TNT! Well, except for when they're on NBA TV, ESPN, or ABC, I suppose...32-31 in favor of Dallas, after 1...I could swear Reggie just said "Aaron" Dampier. Yesterday, he couldn't stop calling 'Reef "Shareef Abdul Raheem". You gotta love Reggie Miller. Unless you hate his guts, that is...Man, the L and the media really want the Lakers to make a series of it, don't they?...That Dwyane Wade Converse commercial is awesome...This morning's other big matchup: my breakfast. Corn Flakes vs. hot dogs! Milk vs. mustard!...Dirk is a great player and all, but he looks like such a twat...Jerry Stackhouse gets T'd up. Dick Stockton: "Bennet Salvatore isn't taking any guff tonight." You can bet your sweet bippy...I know I write under the pseudonym "Sparkles," but I firmly believe no grown man should be called "Chucky"...There's 5:48 remaining in the 2nd and Dallas is already in the penalty. Memphis needs to exploit this like a Sri Lankan child...Mike Miller has missed consecutive 3-point attempts terribly...Then the Griz are called for a lane violation (while they're at the stripe) and commit a poor turnover. They are absolutely killing themselves (to live)...early reports are that Steve Nash will be named league MVP. Meh. As much as I hate the guy, I think Kobe is far more deserving than Nash. Dirk, too. And Lebron...After a non-call, Pau Gasol looks as though he's going to cry, Adam Morrison style. Pull yourself together there, El Beardo...Human cloning is indeed possible. Just take a look at DJ Mbenga, who is the spitting image of Popeye Jones, only darker skinned. Similarly, I am the spitting image of Jared Leto (after he gets the shit kicked out of him in Fight Club)...At the half it's Dallas 56, Memphis 43. The Grizzlies failed to score a single point in the 2nd quarter's final seven minutes. Everyone, take a good look. That's what it looks like when a team rolls over and dies in front of you...Shawn Marion, who is being interviewed in the Suns' locker room, looks as though he's permanently stoned out of his mind (aka the Tracy McGrady grill)...Sir Charles jokes that Avery Johnson's COY trophy is life size. Ha!...Jesus, this game is getting uglier and Sandra Bernhard. Dallas is up by 18...The Mavs can't make a basket. Neither can the Griz. This is excruciating to watch...If I didn't watch an episode of English Cafe, this easily would have been the most awful thing I've seen all week. As it is, it's pretty close...76-56 Dallas, after 3...Dick Stockton is bustin' tennis analogies like Miami's bustin' speakers...Let's get this massacre over with ASAP...Final score: Dallas 94, Girly Men 79...Player of the Game: the big German twat...

Game 2: Illuminati want my mind, soul and my body

Let's go to Phoenix. Man, glad that's over with...Wait a sec, Doug Collins is calling this game? Maybe I'll watch it on Super Action after all...File this under weird: last night I dreamt that referee Joey Crawford announced during a live press conference that he is gay...Kobe misses his first shot...Nice pass from Kobe to Kwame (with love) for a dunk...Predictably, no. 8 is getting booed...That's what I like to see! Nash and Kobe are jawing one another. Apparently Kobe took issue with Stevie slapping away Sasha Vujacic's arm. I wonder, if Nash were to get into an on-court fight, would he put the no doubt many hours he spent as a kid watching hockey to good use and pull his opponent's jersey over their head?...Nash is hot early, like an Egg McMuffin...Kwame misses a very makeable layup. Big surprise there...Kobe is hot early, like a Sausage McMuffin...This crowd is pumped, like Mark McGwire on Andro...Nash has 15 points of his team's total 20...It's nice to see the refs being their old, reliab(ly blind)le selves...Immature of me, I know, but I always laugh out loud whenever I hear a player described as being "a great ball handler"...It's a shame Kwame Brown was born with rocks for hands. Unless he ever considers taking up boxing, that is...After 1 it's the Lakers 24, the Suns 22...Sasha Vujacic looks as though he should be studying for the finals. Middle school finals!...Where's Nash? He's been on the bench too long. Ditto for Marion...OK, Kid Canada is back. Kevin Harlan mentions that Nash is the greatest Canadian basketball player since Leo Rautins (did you know he played for Syracuse?). First of all, I think you're being a little generous to Rautins, Kevin. And second, you totally dissed Todd MacCulloch...The Suns are down by 9. You know, I scoffed (no, not literally) when Mark Stein wrote that the Lakers were content with their game 1 loss because they executed their game plan effectively, but he may have been right. Kobe's playing better tonight, and the Lakers appear to have the Suns right where they want them. That said, I still think Phoenix takes the series in 5...Phoenix is down by 13. They haven't made a basket in over 5 minutes...OK, now the Suns are making a run (Attila the Hun/Wendy's has green buns)...Raja Bell is feeling it from downtown...The Lakers have more turnovers (11) than Kobe Bryant has points (10)...And, amazingly, they're up by 15...Brian Grant is called for a flagrant foul. This is getting uglier than the Mavs game, if that's possible...OK, I've officially grown sick of hearing Remember The Name. It's starting to remind me of the songs you hear on games like Madden or NBA Live -- songs that are mediocre or pretty good, but that you hear so often you start to hate them with every fibre of your being...My wife, home for lunch, is eating my ramen. Three weeks ago, while we were at E-Mart, she asked me to grab a 5-pack of Jin ramen. I don't eat a lot of the stuff myself, but decided to pick up a 5-pack of Samyang ramen of my own. I just now looked and discovered that 3 of my Samyang ramen packs are gone, while her 5-pack of Jin remains unopened. Some guys marry their mothers; I, I just realized, married my brother...The Lakers are up 53-38 at the half. That's not a typo; the Suns only managed to score 38 points in the first 2 quarters...Nash by the way has only 2 assists, but I suppose that's to be expected when your teammates, for the most part, are crapping the bed...Phoenix, after an 11-4 run, has cut the Laker lead to 10, and the crowd is back in it...Kevin Harlan mentions that next year Kobe will change his jersey number from 8 to 24. WTF?...Now the Suns are only down 6...An airball from number-soon-to-be 24...Tim Thomas for 3...Yes!...Luke Walton with a circus shot. No, that's not a typo, either...TNT runs an AT&T ad for, which apparently allows you to see inside the homes of certain NBA stars. Nut punch not included. On the scale of bad ideas, that has to rank pretty high. I can't lie, though, I went and checked the site out for research purposes. I'm going to beat Bill Simmons to the punch here by stating that the Unitentional Comedy factor is through the roof. I wonder, what's the over/under on the number of Scarface posters?...If Doug Collins name drops Michael Jordan one more time, I'm going to commit suicide by paper cuts and vinnegar...According to Collins, 7 points equals a 2-possession game. Yeah, technically, but c'mon...with just under 3 minutes, the Suns are down by 5. Unfortunately, I gotta jet. I bet Phoenix loses anyways. This is a mirror image of yesterday; I had to leave before overtime of the Spurs/Kings game, but I knew -- absolutely knew -- there was no way the Kings would win that game after the dagger that was Brent Barry's fluke 3-pointer. Same applies here; no way the Suns come into game 3 up two zip. Not gonna happen...and whattya know, I was right...


In total, I watched nearly 5 hours of shitty basketball, minus the time I spent surfing the Internet for porn and bomb recipes. Was the Mavs/Grizzlies game the worst of the playoffs so far this year? Arguably. Was the whole thing a waste of time? Maybe. Could I have spent my time more wisely? Probably. Did I have a good time? Definitely. Are these rhetorical questions growing tiresome? Indubitably.

Tomorrow has the Heat and Bulls squaring off, followed by the Nuggets and Clippers. And lucky for me, tomorrow I have, to quote Henry Bemis, all the time I need.

Note: Pat yourself on the back like Barry Horowitz if you managed to plough through that all. Like reading The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy,Gentleman from cover to cover, I'm sure few did.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Who Knew

I thought if I'm going to fit in around here I better start writing about basketball, and what better time than the NBA Playoffs. I mean those are rife with...something.

Michael Jordan is awesome. Michael doesn't play anymore? Well, it's just a matter of time until he comes back again. There's still Magic and Larry. No Magic and Larry? Shaq still around? A plodding visage of what he once was, you say? Well, that's just a goddamn shame.

Look, if you read my personal blog ( you would probably think that I know little to nothing about basketball. Oh, I write about sports. I write about football occassionally, baseball feverishly and Mixed Martial Arts religiously, but basketball doesn't get a lot of run. And you may think this is out of ignorance, but nothing could be further from the truth. I'm sorry to say that from age 10 to about age 15, basketball was about all I did, and at that time I was so sick of it that now, ten years later, I still have absolutely no desire to return to the game either as a participant or a spectator. Familiarity, as the saying goes, breeds contempt.

But that doesn't mean that when something does manage to pierce my carefully constructed insulation from the game that I can't comment on it insightfully, and, to that end, let's take a look at the most recent events surrounding Ron Artest.

Because we all know people like Ron Artest. Ridiculously talented. Gifted beyond belief. And crazy as a loon. And these kinds of guys will always carry you just so far until they find the exactly perfect time to pull the rug out from under you and crush your spirit. Artest did it last year to the Pacers when he ruined their 2004-2005 season going into the stands after a fan and getting summarily suspended for the rest of the year. He did it again, when, at the start of this season with the Pacers finally trying to put the "Malice in the Palace" behind them, he requested a trade (probably about two weeks after Larry Legend was quoted in Sports Illustrated trying to help with the guy's image rehab; how's that for gratitude). And now, just as the lovefest for Artest was really starting to get under way in Sacramento (where Artest was eventually traded by the Pacers) he goes and gets himself suspended for elbowing Manu Ginobli in a game the Kings went on to lose.

So now the Kings, already down one-to-nothing in a best of seven series, have to play Game 2 without one of their best players.

This is why when sports executives tell you character doesn't matter you should just shake your head in disbelief. Ask my brother. He's a Portland Traiblazers fan. And don't tell me about the Raiders. When the Raiders were winning they had characters, not assholes or egomaniacs. And now that they've forgotten how to tell the difference they do things like sign Randy Moss and have him not catch a single touchdown all year.

Speaking of my brother, when our basketball careers were grinding to a halt at an inner-city Seattle high school there was a kid there at the same time as us, and this kid was ridiculously talented. But he did stupid things like steal shit, get in fights and disrespect instructors, which is a really bad idea when the teacher is an Irish Christian Brother and carries a ruler and no one has bothered to tell him it's not 1955 anymore.

And but so this kid flunked a lot of classes so he had to go to a year of prep school before any of the major colleges would look at him. Then he went to the University of Connecticut for a couple of years but was thrown out for stealing. Then he came back and had some decent years on the University of Washington just before that actually started to mean something.

And my brother just used to look at me and say, "Man, imagine if that kid had his head screwed on straight. He'd be unstoppable."
And I'd say to him, "That's just like saying 'Imagine if we had talent; we'd be unstoppable.' Not being a dumbshit is, in many ways, the greatest skill of all and obviously our friend hasn't mastered it any better than you and I have mastered the jump-shot."

So, long story short, all of you Sacramento Kings fans out there, I wouldn't hold your collective breath waiting for Ron to pull all that emotional baggage together and ship it somewhere. I'd say you're in for more of the same. I know you see the talent there; it's undeniable. And I know you want to believe that someday this guy could forget about rap labels, and being "disrespected" and drunk morons in Aisle 27 Seat 13. But I'm here to tell ya, it ain't going to happen.

If he got his head on straight he'd be unstoppable, but, then again, if my cat had wings she'd be a model plane.

You can find TMH blogging seven days a week at -ed.

The Catcher in the Lye -- Chapter Two


I didn't end up staying at that school for very long -- a fact which I'm sure doesn't surprise anyone who knows me very well. It's not as though the kids were a pain in the ass or anything (I love kids, even though from my experience Korean children tend to have a strange fixation for sticking their fingers in the bums of their elders), or that I couldn't handle the workload; it was mostly because of my boss, Mr. Seo.

Old Mr. Seo was a real phony. Not the phoniest guy I've met, but he sure as hell is near the top of the list. With some guys, it takes you a while to realize just how much of a bastard they are; with Mr. Seo, it took me about 3 seconds. I know you're not supposed to stereotype people before you've even had a chance to talk with them or walk a mile in their shoes, but I've found that your first instinct in this case is usually correct. If some guy looks like a phony, chances are he is a phony; if he looks like a someone who plants boogers on the bottom of sofas and hotel beds, chances are he does. You can pretty much know what kind of a person you're dealing with upon first meeting them, you really can. Sure, sometimes your predictions will turn out to be incorrect. This one time, for example, I was at the public library and this twenty-something kid was sitting across from me. He had really greasy hair, like he washed it with Vitalis or something, and he wore a puke green army surplus jacket. I was reading about the Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs (I'm not bloodthirsty or anything, but I think any culture that can't even invent the wheel sort of deserves to be conquested). Anyway, when this kid gets up to leave, I notice that my day planner is missing from the table. I turn around and see the kid leaving, and get this, he's carrying what appears to be my day planner! I immediately got up, chased him out into the street and accosted him, but it turned out the kid was a divinity student, and the black book with a zipper he was carrying wasn't my day planner at all, but rather his leather-bound bible. I apologized for my mistake; but here's the kicker, see: this kid, who is supposed to be all holy and what have you, he actually scoffed at me and walked off. So he wasn't a thief (at least I don't think he was, though I never did find that day planner), but he wasn't exactly the pope, either. Like I said, your intuition about a person isn't always on the mark, and sometimes you misjudge. But those occasions are the exception that proves the rule, and even then you're half right in your assumption anyway. That's what I believe, at least.

About old Mr. Seo, what first clued me in that he was a grade-A sonuvabitch was this big black mole he has right under his nose. It actually touches the outside of his right nostril, if you can believe it. I know what you're probably thinking, "well, he can hardly be blamed for being born with a goddam mole that happens to be under his nose and touching his right nostril," but you'd be surprised how often guys like that turn out to be real jerks. It's as though they think the fact they were born with some hideous birthmark or have some grotesque scar gives them the right to be a jerk. If you don't believe me, next time you come face to face with someone like I described, just watch and see how unfriendly they turn out to be.

It wasn't only old Seo's mole, though. Not by a long shot. He had a real condescending look, and would hardly ever look you in the eye when you were speaking to him, or vice-versa. Boy, that gets annoying pretty quick, let me tell you. Plus, he never smiled, not even on my first day at the school -- which would also turn out to be my last day at the school. Pretty ironical when you think about it.

There are a bunch of other things, too, which I'll get to shortly. But first I should probably explain what happened after Mr. Kim (the name of the young guy who picked me up from the airport; he told me to call him by his first name, but it was too hard to pronounce, and I no longer remember what it was, so I'll just keep calling him Mr. Kim, if you don't mind, even though it might confuse you a
little later on) and I reached Seoul.

We arrived at my apartment after what seemed like a decade, then Mr. Kim took my bags in and asked me if I wanted to get something to eat. I hadn't even had a chance to see the place in which I was supposed to live for the next year. Was he purposefully hiding something from me? Again, when you get feelings of that nature, you're very rarely incorrect. I wasn't very hungry; Maybe a little, but what I wanted to do was lie down and take a nice, long nap, to tell you the truth; but the guy looked as though he'd practically drop dead from despair if I said no, so I told him that was fine.

Boy was that a mistake. I mentioned before that I'm not a very picky eater, but even I have my limits. Mr. Kim took me to a restaurant down the block that was no bigger than the coin-operated lockers they have at Union Square. My knees wouldn't even fit under the goddam table. Boy, did I feel out of place. It didn't help that the old lady who ran the joint wouldn't stop staring at me, either. That gets old pretty quick, let me tell you.

Mr. Kim asked me what it was I wanted to eat, and since I guessed pretty quickly that
the place didn't serve corned beef sandwiches or potato salad, I told him anything was fine and asked him to order for us both.

He did, and after the lady scuttled to the back to prepare our meal -- all the while taking the occasional glance at me over her shoulder, the sly old fox -- Mr. Kim and I sat in an uncomfortable silence for what seemed like the space between the vernal and autumnal equinox. Then he asked me if I would like a cigarette.

"I quit 35 years ago," I said.

"You were smoking when you were eight years old?" He looked at me increduously.

"Look," I said, beginning to lose my patience. At my age, it doesn't take much. "I am not 43 years old. I don't know who told you that, but they were lying. I'm 70. I have an ulcer and have had open heart surgery. Twice. Really, does this look like the face of a 43-year-old?"

In retrospect, I probably should have kept quiet, but I'm mistaken for a younger age a lot more often than you might think, and it's started to bother me quite a bit in recent years. It was sort of flattering when I was in my mid-fifties, but the novelty wears thin pretty quick, if you can believe it.

Luckily, Old Mr. Kim just smiled and went about lighting his cigarette (which, I should point out, he didn't even bother to ask if I minded). I was starting to get a little bored (and sleepy), despite my increasing stomach rumblings, so to amuse myself what I did was, I hooked my thumbs into the belt loops of my khakis, tilted my chair slightly and leaned back all cool, like the Marlboro Man (or one of the bastards in the CBS western D.B. used to write for -- I think it was called Wanted: Dead or Alive and starred Steve McQueen, who I guess was captured as the former rather than the latter, the only reason I know that being it was a clue I once had a hell of a time with in a crossword puzzle, until Phoebe helped me out). Then I began staring at Mr. Kim all cock-eyed, like I was going to pull out my six shooter and kill him dead on the spot if he so much as flinched. Boy, I can act like one helluva crazy bastard sometimes, I really can.

I could tell that Mr. Kim was starting to feel a bit nervous, and maybe a little ashamed, thinking he had offended me, so, because I've read that Orientals would rather commit suicide than lose face, I dropped my chair down and told him that, on second thought, I would like a goddam cigarette, thank you.

I didn't really, as you've probably guessed already, and was saved from having to endure one because right after I said that the old lady came out from the back room, balancing in one hand a large tray filled with I-don't-know-what, and holding a pair of scissors in the other.

Like I said, I'm not a picky eater. Sometimes I'll even eat the fruitcake Phoebe's son Henry sends me on Christmas. All I ask is that what I'm supposed to consume is at least dead before I put it in my mouth. On the tray were two small octopi, which the old lady, after setting the tray down, proceeded to cut up with extreme prejudice. Once, when I was a kid, during our family's yearly summer vacation in the Hamptons, my kid brother Allie and I had cut the head off an ant and watched amazed as its body continued to move around -- as if looking for its missing skull -- as though it were looking for something as trivial as a bit of stale bread it had mistakenly dropped on its way back to its ant hill. Boy, did that ever creep me out at the time. This was worse. The octopi's tentacles actually moved faster, harder, for a good long while after they had been liberated from their bodies.

Mr. Kim looked at me excitedly. "Have you ever had live octopus before?"

I wanted to lie and say yes, but when I opened my mouth to speak, I finally lost
my battle with my gag reflex. I threw up all over the table. I don't think the goddam octopi noticed.

After apologizing to the old lady and paying for our "meal" (at least with Chinese food you eat it and are then hungry again not long after. With Korean food, you lose your appetite, don't eat a bite, and are anything but hungry later. At least that's how I see things, being fully aware that, much in the same way some people will read anything no matter how insipid it is, people will eat just about anything, too), Mr. Kim walked me to his car as though I were an invalid. He didn't speak a word to me on our way home. I was actually more than a little frightened that he might not be driving to our shared apartment building, but rather taking me to an asylum. It wouldn't be the first time, I inwardly acknowledged.

But we did return to our building. Thank god. The sun was setting, and I was so exhausted that, halfway up the stairs, I thought my legs might give and I would collapse and break my neck tumbling down. Mercifully, my apartment was on the second floor. Mr. Kim's was on the third, one floor below the building's highest. He bade me goodnight, and I could tell he wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible, the phony. Trust me, the feeling was more than mutual.

I unlocked my door with a key Mr. Kim had given me, took off my jacket, then my shoes, and headed for what I assumed was the bedroom. My mouth tasted like the inside of a motorman's glove, and I wanted to brush my teeth and have a drink of water, but I was too tired even for that. The light inside the bedroom didn't work, so I felt my way around for a while, pretending for a moment that I was a blind child lost in a department store, until my knees crashed into what was unmistakably a bed.

I lied down, and that's when I heard a loud scream. Two, actually. The first was short and obviously from a young woman. The second was considerably louder and more aggressive. Before I had had a chance to stand up, I was hoisted underneath the bed's cover and catapulted to the floor.

"Who in Christ's name are you?" a man shouted. I heard it as though in a dream. Then,
considerably less menacingly, "fuck, Lisa, I think I just killed an old man."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Two plus two is four (Bucks vs. Pistons)

“Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

-- Kyle Reese, The Terminator

This weekend wasn't a very good one in terms of basketball. First, for god knows what reason, not a single opening round matchup was aired on Korean TV yesterday; and second, it rained, making it impossible for me to play some hoops.

The week starts off on a more promising note, albeit a slight one, with Super Action broadcasting game 1 of the Bucks/Pistons series. I much would have preferred to see any other game on the schedule today, but I won't look a gift horse in the mouth, even though the following pics pretty well sum up the theme of this series:

That out of the way, let's begin my 2006 NBA playoffs experience:

Saturday's games: Cavs win and Lebron notches a triple-double in his first playoff appearance, making him only the 3rd player to do so, and the first since Magic Johnson. Gangster...Miami had a scare against the Bulls, but managed to come away with the W. It's nice to see Udonis Haslem -- who may be suspended a game for allegedly throwing a mouthpiece (the one he wears; not Gary Payton) at referee Joey Crawford -- picking up the slack in 'Zo's absence. Just like old(bad) times...The Kings got squashed like Barry Horowitz...And 'Melo proved he's only human after all...Today's games: What'd I tell you about the Pacers?...And about the Suns? I'm dumbfounded as to how many professional sports writers actually picked the Lakers to win that series. Like Jimmy Fontaine says in The Godfather, "no chance...there's no chance."...

Make the music with your mouth, Biz

I'm hoping this game will be not unlike the 1st round opening game from last year between the Spurs and Nuggets, in which the Nuggets managed to steal a win (before getting swept)...Because I'm still bitter that not one station chose to broadcast a game yesterday, here's a brief list comparing living in Korea to living in Canada: Pros: cheap smokes. Cons: everything else...Rasheed Wallace isn't there yet in terms of being a Mike Tyson-like athlete who appears to be an epic monster until he speaks and you suddenly realize how much of a sissy he sounds like, but it's close...Why are there so many bad puns in sports writing? I realize I'm a perpetrator of this myself, to a certain degree, but if I check out and have to endure reading "All That Glitters..." in reference to the Nuggets, "No Bull" in reference to the Heat, or "Cavalier Attitude" in reference to Lebron and Co., I will seriously lose my shit...The Clippers won their first playoff game since 1997 yesterday. So? Is that supposed to be a long time? Talk to me when they actually make it to the 2nd round...The little girl is in fine form this morning. Coffee's got nothing on hearing "GOOD MORNING DADDY!" as soon as one wakes up...A quick note: we won't be doing any commercial matchups today. I don't know whether you appreciate that, but my bowels and my bladder certainly do...Before we get to the (joke of a) Super Action studio, they play a nice introductory promo. Strangely, it doesn't show any players donning tights...You know, Super Action could really do away with those life-size cutouts of KG and Tracy McGrady. And don't get me started on the action figures placed on a shelf behind analyst Choi Een-Seon. Where are they shooting this from, a 12-year-old's bedroom?...The little girl is singing that monkeys jumping on the bed song, then she hops on my lap and asks me to play her like a guitar. Rock and roll...Jeff Van Gundy is part of the TNT announcing team. Damn, now I actually want to hear the English commentary...Milwaukee is tight (*snicker*)...'Sheed forces it, then collects his own rebound and slams it home to open up today's scoring...Bobby Simmons at the other end with a 3-pointer...Quote from my daughter, referring to Jamal Magloire: "look at big head." That's it, I'm calling him Big Head from now on...Big Head just scored!...The Bucks take an early lead, 9-2, before Flip Saunders calls a time-out. Only problem is, it was a 20-second time-out, and Super Action, because the station is run by morons, cut back to the game late. Someone from the Pistons got a bucket, but it beats me whom...Ben Wallace, resembling a point guard rather than a center, steals the ball at midcourt and drives for a layup...Milwaukee had better not continue to settle for outside shots...The Pistons have made a bunch of uncharacteristic turnovers so far...Is there anything funnier than the awkward videos of players that accompany their profiles? I'm reminded of the scene in Grizzly Man where, after the coroner has given Jewel Palovak Tim Treadwell's watch, Herzog lets the camera linger a tad too long. Talk about uncomfortable silences...Man, Tayshaun Prince is stinking up the place...TNT is playing Fort Minor's Remember the Name before commercials. It's a step up from Shania Twain, or whatever the hell they played last year...Our sideline reporter for tonight's game is Stephanie Ready. She sure is...Michael, your surname is "Redd", not "Jordan". Settle down...We're tied at 19 after one...TNT shows a graphic which describes Big Head's team role as "space eater." Oh, man. Give me a sec, okay? Space eater? Who is he, Galactus? A Langolier? I hate to do it, but I'm changing Mags's unofficial nickname from "Big Head" to "The Black Hole". That works on so many levels...Breakfast time! The little angel has a habit of leaving the table during meals, which prompts me to sternly count backwards from five. The problem is, when my wife does this she counts upwards from 1. As Jon Voight said in Deliverance, we have to get together on this...Andrew Bogut with a pretty left-handed layup. Certainly not Lebronesque, but he's doing fairly well in his first playoff appearance...Redd and Rip Hamilton are both 1-for-7. Ugh...Bogut with a monster dunk...TNT tells us that Chauncy Billups's role is "big shots late". Nice to see TNT dumbing things down for the playoffs. Next we might see this used to describe Terry Stotts: "tells players on his team what to do"...Detroit is up 43-37 at the half...Super Action just showed an ad for the new film 도마뱀 (Lizard), starring Gang Hye-Jeong, who is something of a chameleon herself these days. I always get a kick out of Korean celebrities attributing their cosmetic surgery to weight loss, or a strict excercise regimen. High comedy...Yesterday I bought a can of Coke Zero. Seriously, what the hell is the difference between this and Diet Coke? They taste exactly the same. Give me a Pepsi Free. No? How about a TAB, then?...'Sheed just got T'ed (true indeed/RIP, Dana Reeves). I for one am shocked...Tayshaun, in the immortal words of Eli Wallach, when you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk...Detroit has opened up an 11-point lead...The new ad for the KIA Lotze (Italian for "faulty parts," I think) depicts a Korean guy being hotly pursued by evil, ugly white men. What's the point of filming a car commercial like an action movie, anyway? No one really drives like that. Isn't that like having a televsion commercial for cooking knives in which the ad's protagonist uses them to murder people? Yes, it's exactly like that. Strangely, I didn't see any professional stunt driver in closed conditions disclaimer. Then I realized what country I'm living in...Man, Rip Hamilton sure is stinking up the place. Of course, as soon as I write that he makes a bucket. Man, Jennifer Garner sure wears too many clothes...T.J. Ford AND Andrew Bogut are issued technicals, for what exactly I'm not sure...TNT says Rip Hamilton's team role is "efficient scorer". Well, except for today, that is...Detroit is up by 17. This is getting ugly like Tara Reid...The Bucks break out a full-court press. What they really ought to break out is chloroform...To quote my high school gym teacher, this game is getting herky-jerky...Flip calls a time-out after Milwaukee cuts the lead to 12...68-56 Pistons after 3...The Bucks have pulled to within 7...Make that 4...Rip Hamilton is hobbling. Is the Pistons' unbelievable 3-year streak of good health in danger? Probably not. They have adamantium-laced skeletons or something...Whenver I see the NBA promo where Paul Pierce says "that's how it's goin' down," I want to punch him...What did I tell you? Rip is right back for the next play. He's got a healing factor like Wolverine, I'm convinced. No one that rail thin could stay as injury-free as he has, otherwise...The Pistons are back up by 13...Antonio McDyess with a monster putback jam. See what I mean? Before McDyess came to Detroit, he was plagued by injury and sore knees his entire career. Now he's arguably the Sixth Man of the Year. I swear, the Pistons organization is like that alien spacecraft from The Tommyknockers...I just noticed that Joe Smith and Michael Redd are co-captains of the Bucks. They even have nifty little Cs on their jerseys and everything, like hockey players. What other NBA teams do that?...Uh-oh, Rip Hamilton is hobbling again...Ron Harper is an assistant coach for the Pistons?...Remember when the most annoying attire basketball players wore was knee-high socks? Ah, such simpler times those were...Alright, time to put in the scrubs. You can't stop Darvin Ham, you can only -- oh, forget it. I wonder which is more foolish, (a) believing the Bucks could take one in Detroit, (b) that a Wu-Tang solo album from a member other than Ghostface will be half decent, or (c) that a new movie starring Eddie Murphy might actually be good?...Final score: Detroit 92, Milwaukee 74. Player of the Game: Ben Wallace.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Spring Cleaning -- Scarface

Dear Abby,

For some time I have been dating my best friend's sister, unbeknownst to him. At first I tried to deny my feelings for her, because her brother, T, once stated explicitly that she was off limits, and I didn't want our friendship ruined over it, but I soon found it harder and harder to deny the feelings I have for this sweet girl. Eventually I gave into temptation, and since then we have developed a common love for one another based on trust and understanding. We have even spoken of marriage. Yet the problem of breaking the news to her brother, my best friend, remains. He can be quite temperamental at times, and we are both worried about how he will take the news. Abby, what should we do?

-- Manny in Miami

Dear Miami,

Yours is not an exclusive predicament. Over the years I have received hundreds (if not thousands) of letters, from men and women alike, expressing grave anxiety over how a friend or family member will handle the news that they are dating a mutual loved one. My advice is this: your friend is only human, and he will eventually come to accept your relationship. Very likely he'll one day be happy for you, too. I know this may sound impossible now, but trust me; I've seen this very scenario unfold time and time again. Don't worry; you may be in for some stormy weather at first, but those clouds will soon pass, revealing the sunshine that is your happy union.

PS - I know it sounds ridiculous, but an elopement might in your case be just what the doctor ordered. Sort of like ripping a bandage clean off with one swift motion.


Seven Samurai

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show Your Bones -- Review

Along with El-P's forthcoming I'll Sleep When Your Dead, and Outkast's Idlewild (which will either be 'Kast's sixth (!) consecutive classic album, or an epic letdown; there can be no middle ground), the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new album, Show Your Bones, is one I have been anticipating for quite some time. Three years to be exact. Three years. It had better be worth the wait.

Let us wait no longer:

gold lion

I'm convinced this is about the Thundercats. Lion-O, specifically. It's obvious the verse "tell me what you saw" refers to the Sword of Omens. I love it when Karen O -- who has quite a few vocal tricks in her repertoire -- does that ooh oooh! of hers. A terrific opener. Further proof it's about Thundercats: "we'll build a fire in your eyes." I rest my case.

way out

Karen O has such a majestically versatile voice. Nick Zinner's guitar still rocks, but so far it sounds somewhat subdued. Not a bad thing, though; we're 2-for-2. The YYY are the perfect threesome: each member serves their function adeptly, better than any trio which I can think of that is currently making music. I think Karen O is wearing Spawn boots on the back of the CD's liner notes. That, or she taped walnuts to a pair of thick leg warmers.


About capriciousnes, as it relates to human relationships (or possibly a new T-shirt shrinking in the wash after one wear). As someone who has been married for over four years (I think, statistically, that's now considered as being long-term), and who, before then, hadn't had a relationship with a woman last shorter than 8 months -- apart from the ones I've forged with photos of racing girls online; those have lasted mere minutes -- I can't exactly relate. Still, good song. Money Mark on the keys. This is darker than the first 2 tracks, takes more concentration. Karen O does what I've come to refer to as her Exorcist scream here. By the way, this album was produced by a guy named Sqeak E. Clean, possibly the stupidest alias in the history of everything. Thus spake Tiberious aka Sparkles.


Lifts a verse from White Lines. So far, this is the album's best track. Is interpolating portions of (I'm getting all legal and shit; sorry) a Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five track a semi-nod to Blondie? Karen O's opening lyrics instantly reminded me of that R.E.M. song that goes "hey, kids, rock-and-roll." She howls like a wolf halfway through the song. Boss. Those drums are fucking great like Nate. The guitar here sounds almost RATM-ish. Not that I'm complaining.


In case you haven't already surmised, I could listen to Karen O sing names alphabetically from a phone book. More up-tempo than the last few tracks. And influenced by Morricone's spaghetti western scores.

cheated hearts

This is the most melodic tune thus far. But, should you read any reviews of this album apart from this one, make no mistake: the melodies are still intact, the musical ambience still here. It's just mutated slightly, in a good way. Sure, this faintly resembles Fever To Tell, but progress, unless you're a communist, is nice. My only beef is that it took them 3 years (3 bloody years!) to release a follow-up. I'll accept that from radiohead or the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but for a sophomore release? Come on now. This rightly should have been a double album: Show Your Bones comprising this disc, and another disc containing all the other stuff they came up with over the 3 years since their freshman effort was released. Talk about feeling cheated.


Also melodic. Complements the previous track nicely. A very pretty song; reminds me of how the theme song to a John Hughes movie might sound, were he still making films in the new millenium. Again, the guitars sound restrained; I understand why, but I would really love to hear some freaky wails and distortion.


"Everyone knows... Brian Chase picks his nose". Sorry; that just sorta popped into my head. For all my whining, Zinner gets a slight workout on guitar here. Things definitely start getting thrown around near the end, but the song ends too briefly.

the sweets

I should mention here that, against my better judgement, I decided to write the song titles as they appear on the album: without capitalization. Call me old school, but I hate that kind of shit (unless it's spelled radiohead or denz). But I was ascairt that some rabid YYY fan would read it and brand me a capitalist swine. Upper case letters are so oppresive, because (I'm writing like Yoda now; partly for your benefit, mostly for/due to my own amusement/drunkenness). "Can we meet again? Meet and meet and meet and meet again?" Lovely. Very accoustic. Come to think of it, why didn't YYY, instead of the double album I previously suggested, craft 2 seperate albums, one electric and one accoustic, sort of like Zwan planned to before its supporting cast realized, like many before, what a chore it is to work with Billy Corgan? Death by commas, part 2, bitches.


This is the album's 2nd best track, behind Phenomena. Also accoustic (for the most part, until the "this is the part where we sing loud" comes in), also lovely. Cinematic, even. An awesome chorus. The little girl is rocking out as we speak: always a good sign. I seriously would love to know whom this song affects more: Ron Artest or Jim Hellwig. Either way, they're both insane. This is a song for insane people, then. Present company included.

turn into

Great closer, like Mariano Rivera.


Great album, but after a 3-year waiting period any serious YYY fan is going to want -- nay, demand -- more. Here's hoping their junior effort comes quickly, like teenage coitus.

4/5 *_*

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

2006 NBA Playoffs

I have a confession to make. Two, actually. The first is that, for as long as I have been a fan of basketball, my favorite team has never won an NBA Championship. That's true of a lot of people, I know, but there's also this: the teams that I choose, by default, to win invariably end up losing. Of the teams I've rooted for in the NBA Finals, only the '91 and '92 Chicago Bulls won -- and they don't even count because I was firmly and fully on the bandwagon.

No, the post season isn't exactly full of happy memories for me. Sure, I've seen my share of magical moments (Larry Johnson's 4-point play against the Pacers and Allan Houston's buzzer-beating drive for the win in game 5 against Miami* instantly come to mind), but for every one of those there have probably been two heartbreakers: Reggie's 8-point Garden party and all the other Reggie "Knick Killer" moments; John Starks in game 7 against Houston; and don't even mention the guy whose initials are CS.

So, given my history of being letdown by the playoffs, why do I still manage to get excited thinking about the post season, almost like a kid anticipating Christmas even though he's aware there's no Santa Claus and that his parents are broke and can't afford any of the gifts he really wants?

What do I love about the NBA playoffs?

To begin with, everything**.

I love the atmosphere; I love the hightened intensity of the players and the crowds; I love that I can watch a game between two teams I care little about, and those teams can make me care; I love that multi-millionaires (most of them, anyway) are so driven to win, even though doing so doesn't inflate their bank accounts that substantially and means less vacation time; I love seeing how players are tested, seeing the ones who are considered great showing that, in the big scheme of things, they can't hang, and all of the heroic moments provided by those who can, the ones who truly deserve the honor of being called great when it matters. In retrospect, I even love the heartbreaking moments, those Reggie Miller daggers, those John Stockton daggers. Because what it all comes down to is passion. Passion to win at all cost on the biggest stage in the game of this beautiful sport we call basketball.

My second confession is that I'm a traitor, of sorts. There are teams I've always liked -- the Rockets, Sonics, Nuggets, Magic, Lakers, Kings...maybe a few others -- but for a long time my favorite team was the New York Knicks. I've mentioned before how they used to be my favorite team and how I abandoned ship on them a few years back. Not exactly treason, mind you, seeing as how I'm from southern Ontario and the only reason I got into them in the first place was because the NBC station in Buffalo always broadcasted a bunch of their games. When Toronto got the Raptors, they became my hometown team, the one I was more loyal to (possibly because I knew the Raps had a couple of years until they'd pose a serious threat to the Knicks), and they're still my hometown team, despite how shitty the team currently is, despite how poorly the franchise has been run these past few years. I'll always root for them. If that's myopic loyalty, so be it. In all honesty, I'm not hoping these days that the Raps improve and build a competitive team so much as I'm hoping the team remains in Toronto. A dream of mine came true when T.O. got an NBA franchise in 1995; if they were to move, that would really break my heart, and it's a definite possibility, unfortunately.

Anyway, back to me being a Benedict Arnold. It's no crime of sports loyalty (at least to me) that I no longer support the Knicks. Truthfully, if, probably sometime around 2050, they again manage to build a competitive team, I won't be back cheering for them. Their time -- the time of Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, and even guys like Marcus Camby, Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell -- has passed for me. There's no turning back. No, what I've felt guilty about these past two years is that my favorite team not currently based in Canada is the Miami Heat.

See, I used to absolutely hate the Heat. As a Knicks fan in the mid to late-90's, I hated them almost as much as -- if not more than -- the Indiana Pacers. At least Reggie mixed in some comic relief with the tragedy. Miami though were a bunch of unlikeable, contemptible jerks, guys who you wished would take a hard foul and not get up from: Voshon Lenard, PJ Brown, Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning***. As dirty as the Knicks often played, the Heat played dirtier. My Knicks never won an NBA championship, but in the end they did get the better of both the Pacers and Heat, and for what it's worth I'll take that.

Fast-forward five years later -- five years after the Knicks vanquished both teams and became the first 8th-seeded team to reach the finals. I inconceivably became a fan of the Miami Heat. It started slowly. At first I was interested in seeing this guy I'd heard a lot of good things about but had yet to see play: Dwyane Wade. This was also the year that Shaq became a member of the team, and I've always loved the big man. I noticed that, during November and December, and then into the new year, Star Sports Asia was broadcasting a lot of Heat games, and I watched every one. I became a fan of guys like Udonis Haslem (the new-millenial Charles Oakley), Damon Jones, and of course Dwyane Wade, who had a breakout year in 2004/2005 and who I still contend is a better player right now than Lebron James. The Heat became a sort of "home away from" home team for me, and even after Pat Riley overhauled much of the roster of a team which fell one win short of reaching the finals last year, I decided to stick with them, mostly because of Shaq and Wade.

Which brings us back to one of the points I initially made, that for as long as I've been a fan of the game, my favorite team has never won an NBA championship. Looks as though the trend will continue this year. I'm not naive; I realize the Heat pretty much have a snowball's chance in hell (or a missionary's chance in Fallujah) of making the finals, let alone winning it all. You and I know it's going to come down to two teams, one from Texas (likely the Spurs, maybe the Mavs), the other from Michigan. No real surprise there. In a strange way, the Miami Heat have become strikingly similar to those Knicks teams that I used to cheer for in the 90's. In that regard, I don't think anyone can blame me for keeping my expectations low this spring.

Yet, even though the final outcome of this year's playoffs is as predictable as a faulty twist-off in a case of beer, I'm still excited, still full of anticipation. With that in mind, here is a preview of the 1st round, which kicks off on Saturday.

Eastern Conference


I had a chance to watch the Bucks play at Detroit once this year, and in that game they fought hard and managed to, backed by the heroics of Michael Redd, take the game to overtime, wherein they summarily lost. But they showed that they can put up a fight. Unfortunately I think the Pistons will be so fine-tuned and ready for them that they'll struggle to win one game. It's within the realm of possibility, but my money's on the sweep.

Prediction: Pistons win series 4-0


I think the Heat dodged a bullet by not having to play the Pacers -- a team which bested them 3 times during the regular season -- in the 1st round. The Bulls will be a cakewalk, provided Dwyane Wade doesn't struggle against them as much as he has in the past. Scott "runnin' mad game as if my name were" Skiles is going to throw Tyson Chandler, Mike Sweetney, and the United Center janitor at Shaq, so it'll be up to Wade to lead the Heat. If Jason Williams and 'Zo were healthy (I haven't heard whether either of them will be back for the first round opener, and I doubt they will), the brooms would be out, but I'm guessing the Bulls will have a good shooting night at least once in this series, and will manage to steal a win.

Prediction: Heat win series 4-1


Despite their abysmal record (for a team of their talent and coaching acumen), I still believe the Pacers have what it takes to make it past the first round. I think this series will go seven, and part of me says the Pacers will overcome...but I've finally come around and am willing to admit that the Nets are for real. Still, they have no bench, and Lawrence Frank has exactly zero post season experience as a head coach. I wouldn't be shocked if the Pacers win the series, but I'm still giving NJ the edge.

Prediction: Nets win series 4-3


This is one of 2 first round matchups I'm most looking forward to. What will Lebron show us? Will Gilbert Arenas turn it up like he did in last season's series against the Bulls? Ultimately, I think the Wiz have the edge here because Eddie Jordan will light a fire under his guys' asses (plus he likely knows how to handle Larry Hughes), whereas Mike Brown, Lebron and Co. will experience some early jitters and show their playoff inexperience.

Prediction: Wizards win series 4-3

Eastern Conference Champs: Detroit Pistons

Western Conference


It's becoming an annual affair for people, myself included, to doubt the Spurs, and perhaps Gregg Popovich likes it that way. They're banged up, and Tim Duncan hasn't been Tim Duncan for much of the year. I think they'll find their old rhythm, but I also believe that the Kings have the ability to stifle and frustrate them, much in the same way the Sonics did in the 2nd round last year. This could be closer than expected. Then again, it probably won't.

Prediction: Spurs win series 4-2


I know I've written at least twice -- avec Amare in one scenario, sans in the other -- about how I could foresee the Suns getting swept in the first round, but now that we're here I have my head somewhat firmly leveled. Kobe's been a nightmare for them all season, and you should never underestimate Phillie Blunt, but still I think the Lakers will be lucky to take one at home.

Prediction: Suns win series 4-1


Here's the other first round series I'm excited about. I want the Nuggets to win, and actually -- insanely -- predicted them as Western Conference champs a month ago, but the Clippers have their number, I'm afraid. Denver lacks a solid outside shooting presence, and the Clips are going to exploit the fact. If Kenyon Martin (and Marcus Camby) can hold up, they'll have a chance and could push a game 7; and it'll be interesting to see whether 'Melo's clutch play this year carries over into the post season; but I still think the Clippers are taking this one. I'm rooting for Denver, but who could be mad at LA if they make it to the 2nd round? Someone with no heart, someone who kicks small, feeble animals, that's who.

Prediction: Clippers win series 4-2


This has the potential to surprise and go 7 games, much like the Rockets/Mavs first round series from a year ago. I'm not a big fan of the Griz, but it'd be nice if they could shake off the "one and done" hex that's threatening to loom over their heads until they can get a decent point guard. The most provocative story this series has to offer? Easy: hair vs. hair, Nowitzki vs. Gasol. Don't be surprised if a brawl occurs and some suspensions are handed out. Come to think of it, I am now officially excited about this matchup as well.

Prediction: Mavs win series 4-2

Western Conference Champs: San Antonio Spurs

2006 NBA Champs: Detroit Pistons

* True story: after Houston's shot banked in, I began jumping up and down, raised my arms and started yelling woooooo! woooooo! like a madman, then ran to take a victory lap of my house's first floor. As soon as I reached the kitchen, however, I slipped on a slice of processed cheese that my sister, trying to feed it to our cats, had left there. I fell and ended up spraining my wrist. My father, who was washing the dishes, had this to say: "What's going on? What in the bloody blue hell are you doing?"

** After Crowe/Crudup

*** To reiterate, I used to fucking despise 'Zo. Then, in 2001, I read an article in SLAM that made me realize how much heart the guy has and how big a risk he took (insane, perhaps), with kidney disease, choosing to play rather than retire. After that I couldn't hate on him, even though that face (you know the one) he sometimes makes, and his, shall we say, over-excitement and lack of control in big situations still gets me vexed.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spring Cleaning -- Training Day

Is Training Day a classic? Upon first viewing I would have said yes. That's probably why it's wise to watch a film a few times before making that kind of judgement (and even then one has no idea how well any particular film will age). Now, I'm not sure. If we're talking about Denzel Washington's performance, which ranks among the greatest portrayals of a homicidal sociopath (right up there with Jack Nicholson in The Shining), then yes, it's a classic. But overall I feel the film contains too many flaws to make it a true classic. Still, chances are I'll watch it again more than a few times, because despite its flaws the film has a special kind of appeal. Rounders and The Warriors are two similar films in that regard, and both are considered by many as classics (often preceded by the modifying adjective "cult," which, due to their flaws, is fair), so maybe Training Day is a classic afterall, not of the bonifide sort, but rather of the cult variety. So be it.

It's a fun film. That may sound odd given the subject matter, but it's true. Maybe that's because the film is so over-the-top, so farfetched. In that regard, it shares another similarity with The Warriors, namely that the plot of both films are so implausible that they veer into the realm of comic book fantasy. Again, that's fine by me. Above all forms of media entertainment, rivaled perhaps only by professional wrestling, comic books best represent the battle of clear-cut good guys against clear-cut bad guys; and what better a representation of this theme of good versus evil than rookie narcotics officer Jake and grizzled street veteran Alonzo?

Sure, early on some possible doubt exists as to whether or not Alonzo is a true villain, rather than, say, a street vigilante not unlike Charles Bronson in Death Wish; someone who follows their own moral code of justice because that's the only way true justice can be achieved; but by the end of the film it is clear that Alonzo is pure evil, and that his every action is done for the benefit of only himself.

Again, Washington steals the show here. Not to take any credit away from Ethan Hawk, who turns in an incredible performance of his own (as does the always criminally underappreciated Scott Glenn), but Denzel makes this film. King Kong ain't got shit on him. This is his best screen performance, and one which acting students should pay close attention to. He's never hammy, and that's quite a feat given the dialogue and actions of his character. Instead, he makes Alonzo a menacing figure of misused authority and frightful persuasion; a man whom I'm positive anyone watching could liken to at least one bastard they know. With Alonzo, Washington creates all of the movie's tension -- something I don't think any actor but himself could do, and for that he deserves all accolades previously given and then some.

So the performances are tight, save maybe for Snoop Dogg's and Dr. Dre's (the former's acting skills, while meagre, far outweighing the latter's); and the plot starts off strong and continues steady for the first hour. If the quality of that first hour were mantained throughout the rest of the picture, this would no doubt be a classic, however the wheels begin to fall off as soon as the wise men are introduced and the motivation behind Alonzo's corruption is revealed. Seriously, the Russian mob is after him? They want him to pay 1 million dollars to them because he killed one of their men while in Las Vegas? Does this make any sense whatsoever? The Russian maffia plot point is lame and serves only to frustrate any viewer with half a brain. As Don Corleone said, that I cannot forgive. Not only is the Russian maffia the raison d'etre for Alonzo's actions, they also serve as a deus ex machina, taking care of Alonzo at the end of the film because apparently neither Jake nor the gangbangers who secretly resent him can do so, for whatever reason. How convenient.

Watching Training Day for the second time, I was reminded of Michael Mann's terrific 2004 film, Collateral. Both are similar in plot and theme, with Collateral getting the edge as the better film (despite its final act also being criticized by many -- not me, though; I loved it -- as a letdown) due to its considerably stronger direction and writing. At least that film gave us some sort of glimpse at the people controlling the man (Cruise) around whom the plot revolved.

Taking it back to the grill again, is Training Day a classic? Just shy of one, in my opinion, despite Washington's virtuoso performance (and the unforgettably hilarious "smiles and cries" bit).

As far as anti-buddy movies go, though, it stands second to none.

Audio Two:

Seven Samurai

Village People. Misrepresentation. 2009: Lost Memories. Go dog, go! Bangor, Maine. Expletive.

One early Saturday evening in late-August of my eighteenth year, I, my brother, and my best friend who lived up the street were sitting in his backyard, battling (futilely, always futilely) suburban malaise, which largely involved chain smoking and saying "what can we do?" over and over again. I don't know who thought of the idea, but either my brother or my friend mentioned that a trip out of town would, theoretically, cure our boredom, and the evening began to snowball from there. Why the hell not? we asked; my friend had his own vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, and we all had some cash. That settled it -- we were going to get outta Dodge. A change of scenery always works wonders on the soul, even if one does there pretty much the same things one would normally do in their regular habitat. The only question was where? Again, I don't recall who came up with the idea (I'm pretty sure it wasn't me), but one of us suggested that, because my brother was the only one who could legally drink in Ontario, we take a trip to Quebec -- Hull, specifically -- where the drinking age is 18.

We got some clothes and other necessities together, packed a cooler full of steaks, chicken wings and other foodstuffs (avec condiments, sans condoms), made a quick trip to The Beer Store to pick up a case of Moosehead lager, and hit the road. Because my friend was driving and wisely chose not to drink while doing so, my brother and I, in a commendable show of solidarity, decided to hold off drinking as well, even though by the time we left my hometown it was already pushing eight o' clock and the drive to Hull would take approximately 5 hours. Around 11 or so, however, my friend -- whom for brevity's sake we will now refer to as E -- could sense our restlessness, and pulled off the road (I think it was at the Giant Apple) so we could crack open some cold ones. My brother and I drank 2 or 3 beers in about 20 minutes, and E even had one for himself.

By the time we were nearing Ottawa, my brother mentioned how cool it would be if we could have a look at the house in which we grew up, in Nepean. My friend didn't mind, and, amazingly, we were able to find it (only my luck in -- on my first night in Korea -- getting lost in Seoul and then miraculously locating the yeogwan at which I was staying ranks higher). We marvelled at how much the place had changed since we'd last seen it, over 10 years prior. Then we went up to the front entrance, rang the doorbell furiously, ran to the Cherokee, and sped off.


After crossing into Hull, I think the plan was to find a place in which to spend the night; but after getting lost in the winding hills of southern Quebec, and with the hour as late -- or as early, depending upon how you look at it -- as it was, what we ended up doing was pulling off the road at a sort of highway alcove and drinking like the young, rowdy boys we were.

Shortly after 2, a pair of provincial police cars pulled in. We thought we were toast, seeing as how we all were drinking inside a vehicle, which, although stationary, I'm fairly sure is against the law. The cops were cool, though; after asking us what we were doing there, and us telling the truth, they told us to make sure we stayed there until morning. And that we did.

Easy to fall asleep in a car while drunk, hard to wake up in one, I've learned. It didn't help that E's Cherokee had black leather seats. When we awoke at around 8 in the morning we were baking like clams. I've never wanted a glass of cold water so much in my life.

The initial plan was to return to Burlington by Sunday afternoon, but we were all too tired and hungover, so, instead, after finally navigating ourselves successfully into Hull, we rented a room at the Holiday Inn. As sleepless as we were, none of us chose to catch any winks, because it was opening day of the NFL season. We went and got more (lots more) beers, filled the bathroom tub up with ice, and dumped them in. My brother, never known as one who paces himself well, started drinking at noon, and by 4 or 5 was out cold.

What fun is going somewhere new if one fails to soak in its local culture (read: its drinking establishments)? E and I agreed it would be no fun at all, so we showered (not together, Mr. Funnyman), hopped into our Sunday bests, and ventured out.

The first bar we went to was right next to our hotel. We both ordered margaritas. I'm not sure if that's considered unmanly by today's standards, but at the time I don't think it was. Even if it was, we didn't care (as you'll soon see).

We paid our tab and went outside in search of another watering hole, which didn't take long. "Hey, let's try this place," I said. "With a name like that you can't go wrong." The place was called, simply, Le Bar.

In concordance with the evening's theme of ordering drinks that may or may not be gay, we asked the bartender, a muscular young man with tight jeans and an odd haircut, for two Long Island iced teas. After our beverages arrived, we sat there for a couple of minutes, contentedly sipping our drinks through straws, then E surreptitiously lurched over the bar and asked the bartender in a whisper (or as much of a whisper as one can manage in a crowded bar) "so, where are all the cute girls?"

The bartender looked at him as though my friend was pulling his leg, but, after kenning that he was serious, politely invited us to take a good look around the place to see if we noticed anything odd. And that is when, finally noticing the abundance of males with nary a female in sight -- save for a few older women with short hair and lumberjack shirts playing pool at the bar's rear -- we realized we were in a gay bar.

After a brief tete a tete, we agreed that, gay bar or no, we'd stay until our drinks were finished and chalk up the experience as a lesson learned, namely that gay bars sometimes possess nondescript names and don't always have rococo titles, such as The Saucy Flamingo or Candy Floss.

Let that be a lesson to you from a man (a heterosexual one, I think) who writes under the Internet nom de plume Sparkles.


Fasten your seatbelts, bitches; it's time for some scatological scribblings:

1) Here at Psychedelic Kimchi, we -- and by we I mean I, although I'm fairly sure my partners in rhyme feel the same -- are very fond of one Han Chae-Young (한채영), and this is why we(I) weep silently in despair when we(I) take a gander at her Wikipedia page and find it almost totally bereft of pictures, links, and any remotely relevant information, such as her measurements and turn-ons. For shame, we(I) say. I'd make an effort myself to try to spruce the page up a bit, but, as we(you) all know, I'm as lazy as a sloth on life support.

2) I always laugh and dismiss the notion that living abroad in a non-English speaking country negatively affects one's English-speaking ability or lexicon, however last week, while I was speaking with a colleague and was telling him about a segment of the Korean TV show Sponge in which they proved that cereal -- which contains iron -- can in fact be moved by a medium-strength magnet, I discovered that I am slowly growing stupider each day. I went on to explain that one could even see tiny pieces of iron if one were to look at a piece of cereal, say a single corn flake, under a...what's it called again? A telescope? A magnifying scope? Jesus, what the hell is it called!? What I ended up saying was "one can even see tiny pieces of iron if one looks at a piece of cereal, say a single corn flake, under, a...if one were to magnify it."

Of course, the word I was looking for was microscope. I had to look it up in the big book that has lots of words and the meaning of what those words mean when I returned home that evening.

3) If that last point didn't already make it clear, let me reiterate that I'm often slower than 5 o' clock traffic. To wit, only today did it dawn on me that Korean children waiting for the light to change at any given intersection sure do tend to bolt when it does so. Is this taught by their parents? In school? Because this is a new revelation to me, I don't rightly know yet how I feel about it. On one hand I think it's great, because kids running across intersections significantly decreases their chances of being hit by Frankenstein in Death Race 2000, aka your average Korean cabbie. On the other hand, I think it detrimentally affects their already shabby patience and makes them look like wild hellions running amok.

As an alternative, I've come up with a radical idea: it's called look both ways before you cross. Unorthodox, I know, but people also laughed at DaVinci when he was inventing a little device we now refer to as the telephone.

4) Is it unsound to grow my hair and stop shaving, with the hope that doing so will metaphysically increase the chance of a successful playoff run for the Miami Heat? I'm already halfway there: my mop is beginning to reach Steve Nash/Dirk Nowitzki/Pau Gasol/Adam Morrison-style proportions. Do you think my boss would say anything were I to grow a beard, too (pretending for a moment that's even possible, since a typical middle school kid could probably grow a more convincing buzz than I could)? I mean, it's not as though Koreans notice or make mention of stuff like that, right? Seriously, I could show up for work tomorrow dressed in polka-dot overalls and a straw hat, and I don't think anyone would so much as bat an eyelash.

5 (For Fighting)) My sincere apologies in advance if this and subsequent posts contain more crude language than usual. Chalk it up to the negative influence of me enduring more adult contemporary music than any normal man should be subjected to bear. Regardless, I really don't give a microscopic microscope if you take issue with my language, and humbly suggest you mind your own microscopic business. Go microscope yourself if that offends you.

Seriously, you can stick an amoeba underneath your microscope for all I care.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Miseducation of Gang Hye-Jeong

Gang Hye Jeong (강혜정) -- of Oldboy and Welcome to Dolmagol fame -- is a terrific actress. And even though she has an equine face, she possesses an indefinable kind of beauty.

Make that possessed. It appears the lure of cosmetic surgery has claimed another victim, this time one of Korea's most promising young actresses. Below are before and after photos. Actually, the second photo doesn't show just how drastically Ms. Gang's features have been altered. I saw her on TV this morning and she looks like a completely different person. In a bad way.

Some things are more beautiful because of their flaws. The Venus de Milo comes to mind.

The Pandora Experiment: Part III

In this, our final stage of the experiment, I'll see whether Pandora can surprise me by playing a decent song from a genre of music which I have absolutely no interest in, adult contemporary. As such, I put off completing the experiment until now, because I feel one really needs to listen to adult contemporary on a Sunday morning if one is to have any chance of judging it objectively. Instead of picking a group or song which I like, what I have decided to do is pick a specific song that I absolutely cannot bear, with the vain hope that Pandora will ironically play something decent. Perhaps this will fortuitously turn out not unlike George Costanza's resolve to do the exact opposite of his every impulse.

Selected station: I wanted to pick Billy Ocean's Get Out of My Dreams (and Into My Car), strictly for the kitsch factor, but that wouldn't exactly be "contemporary," would it? Instead, because I'm a masochist of the highest order, I've selected James Blunt's You're Beautiful. Please join me as I don my tan corduroy jacket, pour a cup of Folger's coffee, and dig into a big stack of banana pancakes.

1) I Love U But I Don't Trust U Anymore, Prince. This is from the Prince era where he was recording under that stupid symbol and rocking a thin moustache and beard similar to Dave Navarro's. And doing a lot of coke, apparently, because this song is horrendous.

2) Parasol, Geoff Byrd. What can I say about this one? The clincher here is the pseudo-symphonic strings that come in during the second verse. Formulaic. If this song were chewing gum, it'd be Thrills.

3) Plane, Jason Mraz. At least this dude doesn't sound as much of a eunich as the past two singers. How novel, the plane is a metaphor for his relationship! Groundbreaking! I'm resisting the urge to make a tasteless hijacking joke.

4) Superman (It's Not Easy), Five For Fighting. How novel, using Superman as a metaphor for...something (being a pussy, I think). Groundbreaking! I'm more than a bird, I'm more than a plaeeen! Ugh. What's the over/under on kryptonite being mentioned here? Bingo!

By the way, we need TMH to put up on American Werewolf In Seoul a list of the top 5 songs with "Superman" in the title -- the challenge being whether or not there actually are 5 good songs that employ the man of steel's name.

5) Sunday Morning Coming Down, R. Dean Taylor. R. Dean, you had me at the beer I had for breakfast wasn't bad, so I had one more for dessert. That's what I like to hear; a little humor goes a long way. This actually works as a great song to listen to while hungover (not that I am or anything). It's a cover, isn't it? Wasn't the original sung by Kris Kristofferson or Johnny Cash?

6) Everything I Know About The Blues, Delbert McClinton. We're straying into country territory. Not my cup of tea, but -- save maybe men wearing leather jackets with shoulder tassles -- I won't knock it. This dilweed McClinton has one annoying voice, though. I can't help but think that this is also a cover song. It has that "country standard" feel to it. But what the hell do I know.

7) Sad Eyes, Josh Rouse. I think Mr. Rouse honed his songwriting skills after sending away for a how-to manual from the back of a comic book. A shame, because he has a great voice. With great power comes great responsibility, Josh Rouse. Stop making such wet dog music and rock out like you were born to. This actually picks up near the end. What can I say, I've been a sucker for singing in rounds ever since Row, Row, Row Your Boat in the first grade.

8) I Want To Hold Your Hand, Petula Clark. This doesn't even work in an ironic sense. If this song were a board game, it'd totally be Mouse Trap. Because it doesn't work and only serves to frustrate, in case my analogies are too Mulholland Drive for you.

9) History, The Verve. You mean The Verve have other songs besides Bitter Sweet Symphony?

10) Easy Lover, Spain. Nothing against the Spanish, but this song sucks. And the guitars are heinously (and to lackluster effect) ripped from Karma Police.

11) Dance With My Father, Celine Dion. Va te faire foutre, Celine.

12) Call Off The Search, Katie Melua. Call off the search, indeed. Let's leave this one a cold case.

Scoring: Pandora played 0 songs I really liked, 1 1/2 songs I sorta dug, and 10 1/2 songs I either disliked or hated. But at least it didn't play You're Beautiful.

Grade: F

Final Analysis: I'm going to go play some fucking basketball.