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Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Case you're too Lame to watch Ill Doctrine

Here's an example of why I love J Smooth and Ill Doctrine so much. I don't give a crap about Asher Roth... In fact, I'd never heard of him before this video... but J has a way of connecting the dots for people around the tricky topic of race relations. I wish there was a way to give Ill Doctrine an internet hug.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tragic and Impossible Love between Man and Kraken


This Hurts My Brain in all the Good Ways


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Waning and Waxing Moons of Athletic Endeavor

After a bruising, conflict-ridden night at basketball a couple of weeks ago, a novel thought crossed my mind: "Why am I doing this?"

Why have I played basketball every Thursday night for the last eight years? Am I getting better or working toward any particular goal? Does the wear and tear on my body make up for the cardio workout I get? Is basketball inherently more enjoyable to me than other forms of exercise?

For lo these many years I have guarded Thursday night at the gym as a religious rite, only to be missed in the direst of circumstances. I've persevered through injuries, illnesses, worn out shoes, knee pads, ankle braces and countless pairs of contact lenses. But a couple weeks ago, I decided I was done. At least for now.

The decision might have been prompted by having had a great time dancing at a Thievery Corporation concert the previous week. Jimmimoose and I scored free tickets, had a few beers and I danced until I was a sweaty ball of exhaustion. At no point was I angry with anyone, causing myself pain, or frustrated at my lack of ability to execute a maneuver. In short, it was a thousand times better than basketball... and being tipsy was actually a benefit rather than a hindrance.

In the following days, I thought of all the things that I might enjoy more than basketball (and that I may be able to continue enjoying into old age.) In the summertime, the thought of tossing a frisbee around on a grassy field, playing softball and improving my tennis game all came to mind. So now begins my quest to pursue these interests and to see what else sparks my curiosity.

The first bold stroke of this campaign was to participate in a weekend mixed-doubles tennis tournament hosted by my friend Kelly. Olaiya and I drove out past the mountains, rivers and snow-packed pine forests to the isolated town of Mozama, WA. We spent the weekend in the company of cheery people who knew how to eat, drink, dance and play tennis. The Mozama Country Inn played host to the invasion of tennis players.

Me and O at a scenic view rest stop along the North Cascade Highway.

Friday, I played in my first ever competitive tennis match. It had been years since I had even played an actual game of tennis (as opposed to just rallying back and forth, never keeping score.) I had to be reminded of subtleties like which side of the court was mine after we changed ends, or who served first during a tie-breaker. But with Olaiya rooting me on, my partner Janine and I triumphed 7-6 (10-8) in the longest (and most exciting!) match of the whole tourney.

Janine and I kicking butt.

Saturday's match was pretty anticlimactic, as we drew an easy match and won 6-4 despite playing poorly. This meant we would play Sunday in the semifinals. Knowing that I had a match at 9am the next morning, I stayed up late drinking beer from a local microbrew pub (Twisp River Pub dunkle weiss) and dancing to 70's funk rock under a disco ball. O and I were having way too good of a time to be conservative.

The only thing standing between us and the finals was my partner's husband's team... and he was a tennis pro that teaches down in California. I had watched him and his partner take out some very good players in the tourney already (including knocking out Kelly, the tourney organizer.) We played them tough (maybe tougher than anyone else) but ultimately lost 7-6 (9-7). We had our shot, but couldn't string together any points or break his serve during the tie-breaker. Our consolation was watching the team that beat us go on to win the final fairly easily.

Dressed in black and feeling deadly.

Olaiya and I made the long, gorgeous drive home back to Seattle. Then drove down to the courts and played another hour of tennis against each other. I think next year she'll be ready to jump into the tournament herself. In the meantime, I can't get enough tennis.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Joss Whedon Explains His Pain

Falling into a Stave it Off favorites category: "great-writer-mediocre-musician", Joss Whedon offers us this little glimpse into what it's like to record the director's track to a movie or TV show. If you sort of love Joss for giving you things like Firefly, Buffy, Angel or Dollhouse... then maybe you'll enjoy this as much as I did. And you can thank NPR's This American Life for bringing it to us.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Performance Enhancement: Now It's Our Turn!

The New Yorker just ran an interesting article about the use of neuro-enhancing drugs. Drugs like Adderall, typically prescribed for people suffering from ADHD, create higher levels of concentration and focus for normal people. College students have flocked to them as they once did nicotine and caffeine. They're seen as survival aids in the more competitive schools, or for hyper-achieving students that want straight A's while devoting time to full time jobs, weekend partying, social action committees, student politics and playing violin for a neo-classical math-rock septet.

As I read the article, it seemed a perfect parallel to the dilemma facing professional athletes and the choice of whether or not to abuse steroids. Many of us have some pretty absolute convictions when it comes to the morality of steroid users like Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire. But it seems a bit grayer when we consider the risks taken by driven young scholars.

Here's a key bit of dialog between the writer and an admitted neuro-enhancement user:

I suggested that adults, too, might feel coerced into using the drugs.

"Yeah, in a competitive field—if suddenly a quarter of the people are more equipped, but you don’t want to take the risks with your body—it could begin to seem terribly unfair," he said. "I don’t think we need to be turning up the crank another notch on how hard we work. But the fact is, the baseline competitive level is going to reorient around what these drugs make possible, and you can choose to compete or not."

The interviewee above used Provigil in order to boost his performance at competitive poker. It seems disingenuous when he says that we don't need to be "turning up the crank another notch on how hard we work" when that's exactly what he wanted to do.

The steroid dilemma has gone from baseball to your workplace. Imagine if you could easily secure some drugs (that reported only mild side effects) that would make you alert and focused and productive, even on days when you felt sleepy, unproductive or depressed. Imagine that your competition is already doing so. Are you ready to make a decision on which competitive risks you'd be willing to take?

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Costume Idea for Olaiya

I'm lobbying for Olaiya to be Bessie Coleman for this year's Halloween festivities. Who's Bessie Coleman you ask. Well, it's long past February, but here's your black history lesson for the month!

"Bessie was the first Black woman to earn a pilots license in America. No flight school would accept her in the US because she was Black, so she learned to fly in France. Bessie performed spectacular air shows across the US and her fearless spirit and flare for drama made her queen of the air. Tearing up the skies with her daredevil dives, barnstorming Bessie Coleman flew low and zoomed high. Audiences gasped when Bessie performed barrel rolls and the wings of her plane touched the tips of the clouds like a bird on high." (From Dolls Like Me.)

For a much more thorough and touching story of her triumphs and tragic death, check out her Wikipedia entry. I'm a sucker for barnstormers to begin with, but "Queen" Bessie's combination of intelligence, fortitude, courage, audacity and beauty seems storybook perfect. It's a wonder Hollywood hasn't exploited this yet. I guess there was a 2008 musical about her (titled Barnstormer) so maybe a feature film isn't far behind.

If anyone has any 1920's aviation gear to donate to Olaiya's costume, let me know. (And yes, I know everyone will ask if she's supposed to be Amelia Earhart... I think she'll have to have a patch on her jacket that says "Bessie".)

I know Olaiya would love to rock a pair of those boots.

A couple of close ups in full aviator dress.

Bessie's soft-focus glamour shot!

And maybe Olaiya can reuse some of the clothes to dress up as Zoe from Firefly the following year?