Saturday, November 20, 2010

WATCH BLAKE GRIFFIN/Vick/Moments From The Last Weeks of LKL

Blake Griffin and teammates marveling/basking in replay of his greatness.

What I have to say about Blake Griffin will be pretty short. Blake Griffin isn't a great basketball player. Not yet, anyway. He struggles to guard pretty much anyone, is useless from beyond 10 feet, the occasional pretty jumper notwithstanding, and doesn't even have great touch around the basket. Oh and he lives at the line and can't make free throws. In large part a dunker, he only makes 48% of his shots (going into tonight's 44-point effort). His team is dramatically better with him off the court. This makes sense if you think about it. If a guy makes a little less than half of his shots (all of which are two-point shots), and just half of his foul-shots, a possession ending in that player taking a shot or going to the free-throw line will produce, on average, 1 point. In today's NBA, that is terrible. To put in perspective just how terrible that is, a team just as good, offensively, as Blake Griffin would be the 5th worst offensive team in basketball. Not coincidentally, the Clippers, Griffin's team, are the 4th worst. Griffin does not make his team appreciably better on offense, and he makes his team a whole lot worse on defense. A pretty huge guy, he can't even set a screen properly. The only respect in which his play actually makes the Clippers better is rebounding; per-minute he's one of the best twenty or so in the league at that.

That said, Blake Griffin is the most exciting player in the NBA and you better watch him now before he busts his head open flying through a backboard. This is so for two reasons; Griffin's game is sick, and the sick part of his game is the only part he has. Griffin has no real post game. I don't know if he's shot a hook shot in his NBA career. (Actually, he has, but it feels like he hasn't.) Ditto on turnaround jumpers, bank shots, drop steps/any systematized steps, and, like, post catches followed by simple footwork and a non-flashy layup. Nor can he shoot the ball. All he can do is fly, dunk, and execute a spin move faster than Twista can say 'dreidel dreidel dreidel.' Griffin is 100% highlights - even his rebounds of missed free-throws are highlights - and what spectacular highlights they are. Watching Griffin is like watching an airborne linebacker with the agility and demeanor of a puppy. Griffin's game is solely about attacking the basket, and yet, Griffin doesn't really go to the basket; of his dunks, maybe 5% are of the straight down the middle of the lane, arm raised perpendicular to the backboard variety. Griffin's M.O. is to leap up in a general area a few feet away from the basket, and then to reach over and dunk it from there; he has the oddest sense of angles I've ever seen. And when he does make contact, it's like he's tackling the basket and everyone around it. For example, this happened tonight:

Notice how his teammates' reaction is to hug each other for protection. In a dozen games, Griffin has taken the entire career of his closest physical comparison, Amare Stoudemire, formerly the last word in big-man athletic spectacle, and turned it into something hopelessly banal. One guy can dunk the basketball really hard; the other guy makes you forget you're even watching basketball. To watch Amare on the same court with Griffin is like listening to Joe Fatal's verse after Nas's on 'Live at the Barbecue.' Hopefully Griffin isn't getting career advice from Salaam Remi and the Trackmasters.

And now about Michael Vick. Michael Vick is my city's team's quarterback. I haven't seen a minute or a highlight of his play. This isn't, primarily, a reflection on my disapproval of Vick; I haven't watched football for several years now. If I did, however, I don't know if I could watch. It seems to me that two factors, and only two factors, should be relevant to whether one forgives Vick. First, one's general attitude towards forgiveness - forgiving murderers, rapists, thieves, dog-killers, significant others who cheat on you, whatever. Second, one's attitude about how wrong killing and torturing dogs is. Hence, there are a couple coherent positions you can have on why we ought to forgive Vick. You could believe that anyone who's genuinely contrite should eventually be forgiven for anything that they do, whatever that might be. That's a noble position; it's also one that very few, if any, people hold. Or, you could think that murder, rape, being Bernie Madoff, etc. is unforgivable, but killing and torturing dozens of dogs is not. What makes no sense at all is to say that Vick's playing football well should have anything to do with whether he should be forgiven, or has anything to do with whether he's a "changed man." What also makes no sense is to urge forgiveness without acknowledging that such forgiveness is predicated on an implicit discounting of the value of dogs' lives.

So for example, here the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year complains that:

Wednesday, the L.A. Times ran yet another front-page story about how some of the 47 rescued pit bulls from the Vick kennels are doing. You know the answer because you saw the story the first 100 times: not well. Some of them still shake, cower and won't bark.

I love dogs, too, but how long does Vick have to star in "The Unforgiven"?

To me, this begs the question: what do you really think about torturing dogs? Is Reilly trying to say that 100 articles about any atrocity is too much? Of course not. If Vick had raped just one woman and left her in a state of permanent clinical depression, no one would ever write, look, this is the hundredth time we've read that this rape victim is living in a clinic and hasn't cracked a smile in years. I like women too, they make nice playmates, but, like, how long are people going to wring their hands over this shit? Of course not. So implicit in the claim that it's time to forgive Vick is the notion that electrocuting, drowning, hanging, and torturing dogs just isn't that serious a matter. Fine! Just let me know what it is about a dog that makes him soooooo much less worthy of consideration than the average person. Then maybe I too will complain that too many stories are being written about silly little dogs and their silly little shaking/cowering/not barking problems. But you need to make an argument; you can't just say, "all we've got here are some dogs still too traumatized to bark after being released from Vick's dog farm three years ago, time to get over it" like the conclusion follows from the premise.

Then Reilly continues:

Just press "pause" for a second and look at what he has done.

A man fresh from the clink is turning the NFL upside down. A man who was arguably the most reviled athlete in this country in 2007 is now the toast of American sports. Imagine that. Michael Vick ... is the favorite to win MVP this season.

Well how about that! Yes, maybe Vick has killed dogs, but he can really run and throw a ball. Well yeah. He was born fast and athletic. He has a brother who might be as talented as he is, it runs in their family. What is Reilly saying here? That Vick's genetic endowments redeem what a sicko he is, or was? So if Brad Pitt had done what Vick did, would Reilly be writing, "just press pause... a man fresh from the clink is still really good-looking! All over America, women are rediscovering Brad Pitt's cheekbones and going to see him in really bad movies!" Oh, but Vick isn't like Pitt - it's not all natural ability, he has to practice to get this good. Vick has worked hard at throwing a football this well. Many repetitions, hours of mind-numbing practice. The guy could be sitting at home reading Shakespeare, but no, he's working hard on throwing a football. The pain, the agony, the intense ennui this sensitive literary soul goes through to amuse millions of fat middle-aged men and their drunk sons. Yes, I am just so impressed that this man has found a way time and time again to throw a ball into a painted off section of a grassy field someplace that I wouldn't care if he murdered my sister.

Me, I think Vick is the most exciting athlete in American sports. Does that mean I approve of hideous cruelty to pit bulls?

As long as by 'exciting athlete' no moral judgment is being passed, then no, of course not. I think Hitler was an exciting orator - doesn't mean I approve of the gassing to death of relatives who actually appear in my family photo albums. On the other hand, I don't make a weekly habit of watching his speeches in rapture at how awesome he was at waving his hands around really super fast. Not my thing. But seriously, this is such a straw man argument. Thinking Vick's an exciting athlete doesn't mean you approve of electrocuting dogs. Therefore, it's time to forgive Vick. Huh? I'll bet he's exciting but that doesn't mean I want to cheer for the guy.

In fact, in a backward way, Vick has been the best thing to happen to pit bulls.

"It's very true," says John Goodwin of the Humane Society of the United States. "For the big picture, Michael has been a tipping point. Since his case, there have been 30 new laws enacted all over the country toughening dogfighting penalties...

Great. Maybe the pit bulls who were lucky enough to not get adopted by Vick could write Vick a thank-you note for killing a gazillion pit bulls and calling people's attention to the fact that dogfighting really sucks. Maybe Jewish people should be a little more thankful to the Nazis for killing so many of us and thereby making the world so sorry for us that we got our own country and anti-Semitism is way less cool. In a backward way, you might say that Hitler saved Judaism. Perhaps in Vick's next act he could go to North Philly and start shooting some people to call attention to inner-city violence. He could be the best thing to ever happen to inner-city neighborhoods! In a backwards way, of course.

Before prison, Vick used to be the last one into the locker room and the first one out. After prison, he's just the opposite. No Eagle prepares harder.

Before prison, he practically drove ruts in the McDonald's drive-thru lane. After prison, he's a chicken-and-broccoli guy.

Before prison, the only film room he hit much was the home theater in his Atlanta mansion. After prison, he has become a freak for studying game film of the opponent. Gollum sees more daylight.

Two things. 1, has Reilly ever heard of the term "contract year"? The guy's making a tiny fraction of what he used to make. He's probably interested in playing really well and returning to his pre-incarceration salary. 2, are we seriously contending that changes in diet and amount of game-film viewing has any possible bearing on an assessment of Vick's moral character, and even if so, are we suggesting that these sorts of things hold any substantive weight? Think about how ridiculous that sounds. Well yes, Vick did kill a ton of dogs in sick ways and torture many others. But he's stopped eating McDonald's and he watches tape of himself all the time. Even if not eating McDonald's makes you a better person in some obscure way - I guess it would speak to his being a good employee - can it possibly compare at all to what he did to all the dogs? The fact that he's simply doing what he's supposed to do, as an employee of the Eagles, has some real weight compared to hosing down and then electrocuting not just one dog, but many? Could that be? I guess it could, to an idiot who equates effective play on a football field with moral worth and whose life revolves around writing fawning tributes to fat people colliding into other fat people and concussing themselves. One might as well applaud porn stars for keeping slim figures, assiduously studying their "game film," and valiantly giving themselves STD's so socially maladjusted men can have shit to jack off to. Sheesh.

And finally Larry King, or to quote one of his interviewees, authenticity in a world of plasticity and synthesis. Larry King is retiring (forced out?), to be replaced by the judge at Britain's Got Talent who went crazy over that fat ugly woman. So now bigger-name guests are coming on his show again to say goodbye. Here are some moments, culled from transcripts, from Larry's long departure.

Ricky Martin

In this episode, Larry struggles to understand how Ricky could be gay, wants to know why Ricky named his memoir 'Me' (answer: "it's about me"), speaks for 'the Latin,' hears about Ricky wandering the slums of Calcutta rescuing little girls, and learns that Ricky's being on General Hospital was a very intense and beautiful moment in Ricky's life. Also, not quoted here, Ricky explains twice that he came out because of 'transparency.' Like he's a corporation aiming for full disclosure of his corporate activities. Ah, celebrities these days.

King: Ricky Martin, as you know, is the Grammy-winning recording star. He sold more than 80 million albums worldwide and is the author of a new memoir simply titled "Me."... Why did you title it that?

Ricky Martin: Very simple. It was my life. It was my moments, my ups and downs. It's about me.


KING: You had a surrogate mother?
MARTIN: I had a surrogate mother. And --
KING: Your sperm?


KING: How did you come out?
MARTIN: Well, first to my mother. And she actually asked me, my son, are you in love? And I was in love. And she said, is it with a man? And I said yes, mom, it's with a man.


KING: All along -- of course the people saw your act, you know. It was a very sexual and sensual act.


KING: You're listening to Ricky's new single, "The Best Thing about Me is You." It's a duet with Joss Stone. And from the sound of it you'll be hearing a lot more of this one. This could be a big hit, right? Is this out?
MARTIN: Thank you. Very simple. Reggae-ish, kind of tropical vibe. A lot of people were saying, Ricky, I was not expecting this kind of music from you on your comeback. I thought you were going to do either a power ballad or a "Living La Vida Loca" kind of vibe. And I'm like, well, you know what? I guess life is more simple than that.


KING: To the Latin, though, this is the image. To the Latin, the thought of being gay is very difficult. It's very not macho.


KING: All right. You've been -- do you call yourself gay or bisexual? Are you still bisexual? I mean you -- what are you?
MARTIN: Very confusing. For everybody, but for me. I am gay.
KING: No interest in women at all?
MARTIN: But I am gay. G-A-Y. Gay.


KING: You were on "General Hospital"?
MARTIN: I was on "General Hospital." And it was a very intense moment of my life. Very beautiful moment of my life.


You do a lot of philanthropic work, the Ricky Martin Foundation. You're an activist against human trafficking. What got you into that?
MARTIN: Many years ago I was invited by my colleagues, someone that was building an orphanage in Calcutta, India. And he told me, come and check it out. And I hopped in a plane, I went to Calcutta to see what was going on and when I was there he told me come on, let's go out to the street and let's rescue girls. And I'm like, OK, let's rescue girls.

Oksana Grigorieva

In this episode, Larry doesn't believe the shit that Mel Gibson's battered ex is selling, questions why she would ever bother to record phone calls in which an abusive, insane boyfriend threatened to kill her, tells her that she had all the power in the relationship because Mel is famous (????), and is treated to Oksana's views on the Constitution and the history of 1600s English law.

KING: So why, Oksana, did you tape him?

KING: So, you were taping him and you thought that you would be killed and wanted the world to hear this?
KING: Is it legal to tape a phone conversation?


KING: How did the tapes ever get released?
OKSANA: I have no idea.
KING: They were just in your possession?
OKSANA: In the possession of my lawyers.
KING: How can they be released if you're the only one with them?
HER LAWYER: She just said her lawyers had them!


KING: How are they so technically good?

GRIGORIEVA: They're not that good.
KING: They're pretty good.
KING: Don't you think for -- you had a home machine?
GRIGORIEVA: No, it's not a machine, it's an iPhone.
KING: Just sold a lot of iPhones. That's pretty good -- no I mean, that...


KING: The obvious thing that people have asked about this is, why didn't you hang up?


KING: In this clip that came from Radar online, we hear the man [the man!] giving his feeling about Oksana's appearance.
MAN: You go out in public and it's a (bleeped) embarrassment to me. You look like a (bleeped) heat and if you get raped by a pack of (bleeped), your fault. All right? Because you provoked it. You are provocatively dressed all the time, with your fake (bleeped), you feel to have to show all.
KING: Do you provocatively dress?
GRIGORIEVA: Am I provocatively dressed right now?
KING: No, not now. But I mean, where does that come from?


KING: How about the story that you were out to entrap him in a way. You knew his weakness and you wanted these tapes for -- forget the public use, for use in the courtroom some day. Did you have any script?
GRIGORIEVA: Are you kidding me?
KING: No, I mean, people have said this. I'm just asking.


KING: I'm still a man -- I know that you were doing for hopefully protecting yourself. Why you didn't keep hanging up.


KING: What finally ended the calls? Why did it stop?
GRIGORIEVA: It's just I pulled the batteries out of my phones, literally, physically.


GRIGORIEVA: People died for First Amendment, for Constitution. Soldiers died. I know I'm not dying or anything, but I'm actually being threatened in court that I might lose my baby. I'm terrified talking to you right now because I might lose my child. I might need your help, Larry.
KING: But you know that he's a very famous person.
GRIGORIEVA: Yes, I know.
KING: And so, therefore, it's a risk to him. A power you had over him was his fame. Other people who are -- who treat people poorly and hit them, they're not well-known. Women are forced -- they're slaves to them. They have trouble running away. You didn't have that problem. You had Mel Gibson.
LAWYER: Yes. But look at the power that he had in a role like this.
KING: Except he's more vulnerable. She's vulnerable physically, but he's -- who's getting the bad press now?


GRIGORIEVA: The paternity system is broken. I don't know maybe it's from 400 years ago, from U.K., remnants of the system when one person, the judge, is entirely responsible for something so monumental as your child's custody.

Russell Brand, or "so, you never said to her, why did you strike me with the bottle?"

I really don't get what's going on in this interview with Russell Brand. Brand pretends to be funny and intellectual but he's neither and then Larry tries to take his bad jokes/stupid profound act literally because he takes everything literally and then he gets all homoerotically obsessive with Brand's sex life and strange stuff happens. You'll see what I mean.

KING: You feel like a thing?

BRAND: I think you -- yes, I think you're objectified by fame. They simplify you and say, oh, right, his character, he's like a womanizer, or he's a cad, or he's a troublemaker. And they just use you and they don't -- they remove nuance. Someone said to me, the brilliant filmmaker, Albert Mazors (ph), he said tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance. People simplify things. They take out away the gray areas. But it's complicated. It's not so simple as Democrat, Republican, good, evil. But like we live in a culture I think that reduces those things so that they can pack these ideas and make us passive consumers. [Russell Brand, victim of tyranny. Brilliant filmmaker told him so.]


KING: How many women do you estimate you have bedded?


KING: How did you meet?
BRAND: At the MTV awards. I was hosting the MTV awards in Radio City, New York...a bottle arched the room struck on the head from distance, I looked at the trajectory using my knowledge of geometry, I looked out, it must have come from Katy Perry's impressive right arm. I thought that's very good that she threw that bottle that accurately from that distance. And a woman with an arm that strong, I have to have in marriage.
KING: She threw a bottle at you? For what purpose?
BRAND: I think it was attention speaking. It was like a romantic riot. There was a civil rights protest between two people.
KING: What did she say? Did you ask her, why did you throw that bottle at me? You didn't?
BRAND: No, I tried to assimilate it in everyday life, Larry. [Rambles on about how it reminded him of civil rights protests.]
KING: So, you never said to her, why did you strike me with the bottle?
BRAND: I've never asked her why she did that because I think it was evident that she was using it to punctuate the slew of ordinary encounters that I was having, giggling, chuckling women, the sweet scent of them, the pinkness of their cheeks, or their rich coffee color depending on the hue of the day.


KING: Why did you name your book "Booky Wook"?
BRAND: Yes. Because like a language, I think it becomes like it is going to be the way that people speak with the language on TV. It becomes like a white noise, you don't really listen, whether it's an oil spill or a murder or what else, someone being given a lifetime achievement award or whatever it is -- just this white noise of language.
So, I think if you disrupt language by --
KING: "Booky Wook."
BRAND: "Booky Wook," it's silly and childish. And it sorts of like it interrupts your thinking.


KING: Why didn't you [propose to Katy Perry] in Britain or Hollywood?
BRAND: Why would you do that? Go to a country like India vibrant with spirituality where you can see God in people's eyes.


KING: So, you're both on the same elephant.
BRAND: Absolutely.
KING: Side-by-side.
BRAND: No, no. We're there, we're on one elephant, like an emblem of (INAUDIBLE).


KING: How did you say it? What did you say?
BRAND: We get off of the elephant (INAUDIBLE) because things are going wrong. So, like, then we walked into a clearing and suddenly all the grandiosity and all of the gestures and the magic melted away into the simplicity of a moment between the two people when you realize there's a kind of -- I got -- it was very, very emotional.


BRAND: -- it's like Houdini's foreskin. Look --
KING: Houdini's foreskin. That's sick.


KING: If you just joined us, we're wearing each others rings for some preposterous reason.
BRAND: And who dare judge us?
KING: That's right.
BRAND: If we choose to wear it, Larry.
KING: Damn by (ph).


KING: That's a little rough. I knew Jim Morrison. You do look like Jim Morrison.
BRAND: Thanks.
KING: I did. Jim Morrison was maybe the handsomest man ever.
BRAND: Well, hold there in a minute. Let's just run this here. This is breaking news.
KING: You're a good looking man.


KING: Now, how do you combine juggling careers? You, actor, comedian. She, a singer, a fame renown. Why am I talking like this?
BRAND: I like it. It's brilliant.


KING: You're an Olympian under the sheets. You were fantastic, right? You were a good lover. BRAND: I really, really tried hard, Larry. It requires chemistry, proper good love making. Doesn't it? You can't do it really good with a table, unless it's a hell of a table. But I really was committed to it, because of this ferocious, deep love of femininity and of women and anatomy. I love the curves of their body, the aroma of a woman, the scent of a woman, to quote dear Al Pacino. I love them. I love them. I love the variety. But in the end, it got a bit much. If you were loose in a candy store for too long, eventually you get diabetes.
KING: Did you ever wake up in the morning and not know who you were with?
BRAND: Yes often, because sometimes you can't remember all their names. If you put name tags on them, that's offensive.
KING: Yeah, it is.
BRAND: Often there was not just one, Larry, of course.
KING: There were two?
BRAND: I was looking for the one. I was very thorough in my search. To save time, sometimes I would audition three or four at once. So occasionally, it was difficult to remember everybody's names.


KING: You were a mailman in Britain?
BRAND: Yes, Britain, delivering letters. I thought there would be more sex involved. I thought knocking on people's doors at that time in the morning, the housewives would be vulnerable, I thought.
KING: It works?
BRAND: Do you want an extra delivery. No one picked up on it. It was innuendo laden. Would you like me to stamp that? I've got a heavy sack.
KING: You're a handsome young man. I think women open the door in the morning --


KING: You are totally -- you are totally you.
BRAND: I appreciate this.
KING: There is nothing false about you. And yet you are in show business.
BRAND: How have I achieved this peculiar dichotomy?
KING: Yes. How?
BRAND: It's a paradox. I live in a world of plasticity and synthesis, and yet there is some authenticity.

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