Saturday, April 28, 2007
Dan Dickau can eat my shorts...
Another thing I’ve noticed is that 95% of the entertainment between quarters and during time-outs consists of finding different ways to throw stuff into the audience. There’s the mini-ball toss, the even smaller ball toss, the T-shirt cannon, and the little Taco Bell parachutes that drop other T-shirts into the crowd. I haven’t come close to catching one of these items.
But three or four games into the season, I also started to notice that there was always one photographer that was highlighted at the end of a game on the jumbotron. Some guest that got to sit on the baseline and take shots with all of the regular press folks. As a hack photographer myself, I asked my inside man about the deal.
“Hey Jonah*, what do you have to do to be the guest photographer?” I asked him.
“Go find yourself an SLR with a telephoto lens, and I’ll get you down there,” he replied.
Let it be publicly stated that I was already in considerable debt to Jonah, between the ticket upgrades he’d scored me to several Jazz games this season, the Who concert in November, and the outright free tickets he gave me to the Chili Peppers concert last summer (which I also counted as a home teaching visit since I took one of my home teachees).
But I wasn’t about to refuse this opportunity to run up my tab, and so on the second-to-last game of the year, at the end of the first quarter, I found myself being escorted out onto the court, where I was assigned a designated slot on the baseline.
Here is what my view looked like for the next twelve minutes of gametime.
Up until that point, I’d never sat closer than the thirteenth row at a Jazz game, but now I found myself sitting in front of the Bougeoise of the Salt Lake Valley. As you can see, I was in an ideal position to throw peanuts at Matt Harpring.
I’d come prepared with my friend Wes’s digital SLR, complete with interchangeable telephoto lens, which allowed me to take about 300+ photos over the course of the game. I figure I shot at a rate of about one good shot for every twenty attempts, or roughly Shaquille O'Neal's free throw shooting percentage. Here are a few of the better ones…
Carlos Boozer on a fast break…
Paul Milsap going up over a seven-foot version of Napoleon Dynamite…
Deron Williams standing around…
And Derek Fisher getting ready to drive around a guy with extraordinarily skinny legs.
After a few minutes of the second quarter had passed, the guy at my left spoke to me.
“That working ok for you?” he said, indicating my camera.
He was the photographer for the Salt Lake Tribune.
“Yeah,” I said, then muttered something self-consciously about being a hack photographer. I could have fit about four of my cameras inside his telephoto lens. For a moment I felt guilty for getting to sit there next to a guy that actually knew something about photography. I'd played around with it in my time, but I was more of a general artistic guy than a diehard photojockey.
As the quarter went on, I began to realize that sports photography is a tricky business. There’s a lot of timing involved, as well as dumb luck. It helps if you have a camera that can take a dozen shots a second, but I know I’m not ready for a $10,000 investment like that yet.
Still, I was able to get an oddly well-composed photo of Andrei Kirilenko going after a loose ball…
...and maybe my best shot all night, of Boozer going up over the Napoleon Dynamite guy.
But I missed Boozer’s best highlight of the night, thanks to the aforementioned timing and dumb luck. In the middle of a substantial Jazz run that put them up fifteen points or so (I really didn’t know what was going on—I was just busy following the ball around with my camera the whole time), Dee Brown broke free on a fast break, covered tightly by Portland point guard Dan Dickau. As Dickau tried to defend, Brown swung a beautiful behind the back pass to Boozer, who followed with an ESPN-worthy dunk.
The whole thing happened right in front of me.
And I didn’t get jack.
No, I wasn’t busy switching lenses. No, I wasn’t busy checking out the Jazz Dancers. And no, I wasn’t overcome by the fan inside who was more interested in watching the game rather than taking the opportunity to document it.
No, Dan Dickau got in my way.
Observe: Dee Brown making his behind-the-back pass, and Dickau looking my direction with an “I’m going to screw up this kid’s shot” look on his face…
As you can see from this bird’s-eye view shot (courtesy of my friend Jared), Mr. Momentum stopped right in front of me…
And this is the shot I got as Boozer went in for his dunk…
Big Dan shifted slightly, allowing me to get a fuzzy shot of Boozer as he finishes the jam (and oddly looks as if he’s about to be caught by the enormous hand of the cameraman next to me). I could have cropped it, but the action bit is out of focus since my camera chose Dickau's bum as the focal point.
I also got this post-dunk shot, which has some good drama, in kind of an “after Vader delivered the big line to Luke in Empire” sense. Too little, too late.
Even shooting as much as I could, I still had about 85 shots left when halftime arrived, so I caught a nice picture of the refs getting escorted off the court by security. It looks like they’re being taken into the Witness Protection Program or something.
Since Jonah wasn’t able to get me the “official” spot as the guest photographer, I had to make tracks at halftime, but my good friend did manage to get me some upgraded tickets in the lower bowl for the second half.
So I got another nice shot of a Milsap drive…
A nice shot of Deron Williams guarding some random guard from Portland…
A killer breakaway dunk from Deron…
And a beauty shot of Memo taking it in the nuts courtesy of Raef LaFrenz.
Yeah, fine. I got this one, too...
After the game Jared and I got to enjoy the "sweet taste of victory", which came in the form of free Mrs. Cavanaugh's chocolates handed out by the aforementioned Jazz Dancers. As I walked out into the night, satisfied with a solid Jazz win and some creative by-product, I was happy to have some legitimate writing material again. It's been a while.
Was it worth it?
Thursday, April 26, 2007
This is what happens when the waitress pushes the wrong button
Click to view!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Solving the "Where's Memo?" Issue
For those of you who haven't been following the story, the Jazz are currently down 2-0 in the series to the Rockets, and one of the primary reasons--other than Andrei Kirilenko's grossly mistimed meltdown--is the offensive absence of Mehmet Okur.
(Meaning his offensive game, as in points he usually scores, as opposed to his BEING offensive, as in smell. Of course, if we are referring to his offensive absence being offensive, as in, "Ho there, I am offended that Memo has failed to hit any 3's tonight", that could actually be a correct interpretation as well.)
Thing is, Memo hasn't been producing numbers-wise for several weeks, and many feel that the added burden of guarding China's answer to Ivan Drago all night is wearing him out on the defensive end.
At any rate, here is a photo that, if it doesn't explain the direct cause for Memo's recent struggles, at least provides a metaphor for the team's circumstances for the last month.
Taking Account of Myself at the 1/3 Life Crisis
Not long ago a friend sent me a list of 100 things she wants to accomplish before she dies. In response, I decided to compose a combo list that includes both the stuff I want to do before I die, as well as a list of things I've already done, mostly so I can feel good about the time I've spent so far kicking around Planet Earth.
I was tempted to refer to it as taking account of myself at my quarter life crisis, as a salute to Mr. John Mayer, but I'm pretty sure he was referring to age 25, not 30, and I think I've got a better shot at kicking off before 90 anyway, so I wound up going with "1/3 life crisis" just to be safe. At any rate, I thought my loyal followers/readers (still haven't come up with a suitable name for you yet) might enjoy perusing it.
Things I’ve Done
1. Wrote two feature-length screenplays (one a 168-page epic about Kung Fu and brine shrimp).
2. Served an LDS mission in Chicago.
3. Earned Bachelor’s of Science in Mass Communications from the University of Utah
4. Earned Masters of Science in American Studies from Utah State University
5. Compiled five years of college-level teaching experience, in the process using clips from “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “The Blues Brothers”, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (among others), and songs like “I’m Too Sexy” (Right Said Fred), “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (Rolling Stones) and “Rocking the Casbah” (The Clash) (among others) in my lessons.
6. Made $50 as drummer for a Neil Diamond cover band at the 2003 USU Valentine’s Dance
7. Completed two-part graduate thesis, Planet Venison Web site and accompanying paper: “The Genesis of Planet Venison”.
8. Presented a paper at an academic conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado
9. Took a road trip down the coastal highway in Oregon and California
10. Can bench press at least 225 lbs.
11. Maintained my own personal Web site for nearly seven years (www.planetvenison.com)
12. Worked as a humor columnist for multiple publications: The Century (Salt Lake Institute of Religion Newsmagazine), The Statesman (Utah State University Student Paper), Transmissions (USU Salt Lake Center newsletter), The Free Agent (University 2nd Stake Teaching Newsletter)
13. Shook Luke Skywalker’s hand
13b. Gave Luke Skywalker my autograph.
14. Sang lead for an authentic Chicago blues band (Big Time Sarah and the BTS Express)
15. Drove a ’79 308 Ferrari (The one Magnum PI drove)
16. Won a homemade salsa contest
17. Drove a ’64 Mustang into a cement wall at 70mph.
18. Got ticketed on Prom for driving my parent’s Honda through Smoot Park in Centerville
19. Drove from Bountiful to Las Vegas without stopping.
20. Hit seven consecutive clay pigeons with a shotgun.
21. Hiked the
22. Hiked Angel’s Landing.
23. Taught a class that prompted at least one student to switch majors (TO English, not FROM English!)
24. Attained minor cult-hero status as 32nd Ward Sunday School Instructor.
25. Performed public address duties for Bountiful Days of 47 Parade (twice).
26. Heckled Rocky
27. Visited multiple non-Utah church history sites (Sacred Grove, Hill Cumorah,
28. Attended 9 temples (Bountiful, Salt Lake, Provo, Chicago, Manti, Logan, Las Vegas, Jordan River, St. George)
28b. Visited several more (
29. Eaten at 9 Hard Rock Café’s (
30. Won UHP “Name the Robot” contest in the third grade.
31. Won award for best French student at Centerville Junior High, 1991.
32. Finally beat the 53rd Ward in church basketball, Junior year (1993).
33. Scored 24 points and led my Jr. Jazz team back from a 15 point second half deficit to win, 1992.
34. Saw “Return of the Jedi” 19 times during the summer of 1983.
35. Never had to repeat the sacrament prayer!
36. Haven’t missed a day in my journal since June 1998.
37. Been guest photographer at a Jazz game.
38. Had ward Toga Party end prematurely when a lightning bolt knocked out power at the church.
39. Went down Snake River on a raft.
40. Rode my neighbor Phil’s motorcycle; killed family rabbits when I hit cages in his backyard.
41. Got my Eagle Scout at 13, baby.
42. Had Karl Malone sign a portrait I drew of him at his basketball camp when I was in the eighth grade.
43. Heckled Karl Malone when he returned to the Delta Center during year he played with the Lakers.
44. Dribbled basketballs with John Stockton.
45. Hung out with Delaney Rudd for a week during Karl Malone basketball camp.
45b. Yelled something really offensive at an opponent during a scrimmage in front of Delaney Rudd.
46. Worked professionally as an English teacher, Bouncer, Drummer, Actor, Illustrator, Web Designer, Public Affairs Writer, Columnist, Movie Critic, Vegetable-Picker, Poinsetta Mover, Ticket Sales, TV Cameraman, Cartographer, Fact-Checker, Copywriter, Grocery Bagger, Grocery Checker, Baker, Apprentice Framer, Family History Editor/Writer, Graphic Designer).
47. Paid a guy to pinch another guy’s butt during a sacrament meeting choir performance.
48. Sang in a multi-ward choir for Stake Conference.
49. Wrote academic papers on Stephen King, Ricardo Montalban, the soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou”, and myself, and got University credit for them.
50. Ate amazing shrimp in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Washington DC.
51. Conducted 32nd Ward sacrament meeting (twice).
Things to Do
- Play “A Whiter Shade of Pale” on a Hammond B3 Organ
- Shoot/Produce a feature-length film
- Publish a book of non-fiction and/or a fiction novel (available at Barnes and Noble)
- Become a syndicated columnist
- Perform a stand-up routine at an actual comedy club
- Get married in the temple
- Be a dad (in a “he’s my father” way)
- Be a dad (in a “who’s your daddy!” way.)
- Have a gallery display of my artwork/photography
- Write/perform an original song.
- Dunk a (full-size) basketball on a 10-foot hoop. (Already did a mini-ball).
- Bench Press 250lbs.
- Run a mile in less than 5:30. (Current record: 5:45)
- Personally apologize to the student in “Things I’ve Done” #23 for condemning him to a lifetime of unemployment.
- Repent for minor cult-hero status as 32nd Ward Sunday School Instructor.
- Speak at a fireside/commencement.
- Actually watch all of “Annie Hall”, decide whether it’s really as good as everyone says it is.
- Compete in a triathlon sprint.
- Be ordained a High Priest.
- Try snowboarding/skiing
- Drive on the Autobahn (while listening to 1970’s German proto-techno band Kraftwerk’s song “Autobahn”)
- Eat at first Hard Rock Café (London).
- Drive a Shelby Cobra 427 (or comparable replica).
- Learn to fly fish.
- Go on Super Road Trip, coast-to-coast (or just go on a month-long road trip around the country).
- Look up as many “Josh Terry’s” as I can on Google, then go out and meet them all, video taping the encounters and making an Oscar-winning documentary about personal identity in the information age.
- Open up a fast-food franchise that specializes in regular burgers enhanced with vitamin supplements; make an utter killing because people will eat any garbage they think is really good for them.
- Repent for #28.
- Throw a sweet Toga Party (dry, of course). DON’T have lightning knock out the power for the evening.
- Form another band to play periodic gigs for fun, like Dave Barry and Stephen King did.
- Record a CD with my band. (Doesn’t have to be for distribution).
- Sell artwork/salsa at my own booth at the Salt Lake Farmer’s Market.
- Learn to speak enough German to walk around screaming random phrases at passers-by.
- Go kayaking.
- Ride a motorcycle; DON’T kill any rabbits.
- Buy a house.
- Buy a manservant (even part-time; just so I can have someone to introduce as my manservant).
- Win a homemade chili contest.
- Learn to ride a horse (WITHOUT falling off).
- Arrange to have someone play “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at my funeral.
- Fake my own death so I can see if anyone plays “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” at my funeral.
- Have lunch with a favorite author/creative influence (like Gary Larson, Woody Allen, Ray Bradbury, John Cleese).
- Get a PhD.
- Get interested in some sort of individual sport so I don’t have to rely on open church gyms or getting enough guys together for a Turkey Bowl. (Maybe Tennis, definitely not Golf.)
- Buy a car with cash.
- Have someone give me a nickname that I might actually think of myself.
- Be a cool uncle, to both my real nieces and nephews (still pending), and my auxiliary nieces and nephews (friend’s kids).
- Take my wife with me to south Chicago.
- Take my dad test driving, actually let him drive (he’s legally blind; may have to wait post-resurrection, or maybe just swing out to the salt flats).
- Preserve Americana: go to the Drive-In movies at least twice every summer.
- Prevent one of my e-mail addresses from getting spam for at least one year.
- Have my grandparents (Dad’s side) present for my sealing.
- Improve scripture study habits; avoid “fortune-cookie” method of scripture study.
- Visit NY with my sister.
- Buy the Broadway Centre office tower, demolish it, rebuild the Centre Theatre, take my mom to a private screening of “Return of the Jedi”, just like we did back in 83.
- Take a significant other to a mission reunion/bbq with married friends/2nd Stake appreciation dinner/evening ‘o ballroom dancing at the Murray Arts Center.
- Donate a kidney to my dad—cure his diabetes (if mine don’t match, descend into seedy black market underworld to find someone who does).
- Donate some common sense to (insert annoying public figure here).
- Get Katie a spot singing the national anthem at a Jazz game.
- Wear same jumpsuit for a year, like Raiders owner Al Davis.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Hi Ho, Mr. Vonnegut...
-Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
It’s hard to say whether the passage above makes sense by itself, but in full context it was probably responsible for making me a fan of Kurt Vonnegut. It perfectly embodied the kind of character Kurt drew so frequently: a kind-hearted, rational person, desperately trying to find reason in the world and getting lunacy in return. It was that same sentiment that led Will Ferrell’s over-the-top fashion designer Mugatu to exclaim, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” in frustration at a world that too often seems devoid of taste and common sense.
Kurt died last week at the age of 84, an ironically extended sentence considering how much he seemed to be fed up with the world at times. Several years ago, on a random NPR broadcast, a commentator opined that, “the ideal satirist keeps one eye on society’s foibles, and the other on its potential.” Vonnegut certainly knew about society’s foibles; I’m not sure how he felt about its potential.
Like most of his readers, I cut my first Vonnegut teeth on Slaughterhouse-Five, mostly because I remembered a disparaging comment about the book in the movie “Footloose”. I was inspired by his deconstruction of chronological narrative, and his sharp, witty voice. But it wasn’t until several years later when my friend Randy gave me his copy of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater that I really became a fan. Eliot Rosewater was Vonnegut’s Don Quixote, and probably an alter ego of his own as well.
From there, novels like Jailbird and Sirens of Titan became regular reading, referenced the same way Eric Clapton listens to Robert Johnson to make sure he’s staying true to his blues roots.
In spite of the fact that I consider myself a fan of Vonnegut’s writing—especially in the case of his witty storytelling—I have to be completely honest and say that my time with Kurt has often been conflicted. As I mentioned before, Vonnegut—while harboring a strong moral compass—often fell on the pessimistic side of the coin, if not the outright cynical side, and though I was frequently amused at his observations, I can’t say I always wholly agreed with them. I’ve often wondered how a left-leaning humanist and a right-leaning Mormon like myself would get along, but I think we have enough other attributes in common that we’d do just fine.
In some ways, he was almost the black comic flip-side of Ray Bradbury, another writer who shaped much of my adolescence. Bradbury, like Vonnegut, possesses a keen imagination, but is less inclined to humor and irony and more attuned to optimism and nostalgia. Calling them a literary peanut butter and jelly sandwich would probably be an insult to Kurt, Ray, and the literary community, but no other metaphor springs to mind at the moment.
Ultimately I have to file Vonnegut along with Bradbury, Woody Allen, Joseph Heller, and even my Far Side Anthology on my “stuff that makes me smile” shelf. When life stinks, and doesn’t at all resemble the “tragedy plus time equals comedy” formula Bob Hope so aptly coined, it’s nice to pull out one of these gems, and read about an Ice Cream Colored Suit, a South American Revolutionary-Cook, a Talking Cow, a Bombardier, or even a mild-mannered humanitarian lunatic. Within a few sentences, I usually realize that life may be a pain at times, but it’s still pretty funny.
And for that, Kurt, I thank you.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
The One-Year Drought Comes to an End
As opposed to my existing Planet Venison gallery, this one is more of an artistic collection instead of a series of photos detailing my personal adventures. I haven't finished all the individual photo commentaries yet, but at least I feel better about my output now.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Brand New Mothership
It wasn’t a “you forgot to turn on your phone, dummy” blank screen; it was a “what is this dull blue hue on my screen?” blank screen. After a bit of experimentation, I soon established that I could dial out and receive calls in the phone’s crippled condition. I just couldn’t see who I was calling, or who was calling me. Essentially, it was like using a regular phone again.
Not for fifty bucks a month, bucko.
Given that my total backlog of memorized phone numbers these days is three*, I promptly jumped in my car and made for the closest Cingular outlet. I had no pressing calls to make, nor to receive; I just wasn’t in the mood to have one more thing stop working.
This wasn’t the first time my screen had come up lame. I took the same phone down the Zion’s Narrows last summer (as my five loyal readers will remember**), taking the precaution of transporting my sensitive electronic appendage in a Dry Bag. After sixteen miles of ankle-splitting nature strolling, I discovered that the Dry Bag apparently only works when you don’t get it wet.
Two days later the phone miraculously healed itself, and came back on at full operational capacity.
This time, though, my phone had no contact with liquid of any sort, so unless I mistakenly tried to pour Hawaiian Punch in my pants pocket before leaving for Priesthood Session and forgot all about it, this was a purely spontaneous meltdown.
After a brief consultation with a sales kid that was half my age (seriously—he was fifteen***), I emerged from the Cingular Wireless store with a brand new phone and a renewed two-year contract, all at the low, low price of $140.00. This was actually at a discount, since I’d fulfilled my initial contract.
According to my sales kid, my screen was “fried”, with no hope of resuscitation.
"I think your screen is just fried," he said, to be precise.
He also seemed to think I had a crap phone, mostly, I suppose, because it had no camera, web browser, full alpha-numeric keyboard, MP3 player or cloaking device. I didn’t disagree with him; the fact is I could care less if my phone has any of that stuff.
Still, my new phone has a camera on it, so I’ll be ready if I ever go see Michael Richards at the local Wiseguy’s club. I also get a rebate of $50, as long as I follow the patented 12-step process for application that I think involves a blood test at some point. And so my all-time cell phone total comes to five, and I’ve got a perfect excuse for a mini-photo essay.
Aren’t you lucky?
SONY: Here is my first cell phone, which looks more like the love child of a calculator and a kid’s walkie-talkie, with a slight increase in range and reception quality. I picked this one up courtesy of my long-time friend and tech hook-up Randy, back in the summer of 2000 when he was still laying the groundwork for his ultimate eBay empire. It was a funky little thing, and I enjoyed it for a couple of years until the casing started to split apart.
SAMSUNG I: When the Sony started coming apart on me, Randy gave me his old Samsung, a little black thing that worked just fine, aside from the fact that the vibration function didn’t work. Folks that spend more than 50% of the work week downloading ring tones won’t understand this, but the vibration function is vital to me. I NEVER leave my phone on a ring tone. Intentionally, anyway.
(Illustrative side note: One time several years ago I tried to call my friend Spence on his cell phone. About an hour later, he returned my voice mail and informed me that I had called him while he was reviewing a course syllabus with a class he was acting as TA for. Specifically, he was reading the bit about not bringing cell phones to class. Now that's timing.)
MOTOROLA: I can’t remember if something went wrong with the Samsung or not; maybe I just got tired of not having the vibration feature. Anyway, somehow I wound up with this Motorola for a year or two, which looked much older than my Samsung. I didn’t care too much about that, though. By this time I was beginning to revel in my anti-technology glory. As much as a guy with five e-mail addresses, two Web sites, a Mac, and a heavily used iTunes account can, anyway.
LG: Eventually I yanked the antenna out of my Motorola--possibly in a fit of rage at yet another unreturned phone call from a girl in the 32nd Ward--and with the help of some industry insiders (an old friend named James and Randy, again), I switched phones, and this time, providers. By switching from Verizon to Cingular, I got free roaming and rollover minutes for about the same rate plan, plus I got my long dreamed-of color display screen and the ability to get text messages with lots of smiley faces. On the downside, I couldn’t customize my display to read “MOTHERSHIP” anymore.
SAMSUNG II: And now, once again I find myself the proud owner of a Samsung phone. Now I’ve got a camera…and that’s about it. The built-in bowling game isn’t nearly as fun as the Centipede knock-off the LG had, and I’m not used to the layout yet. Innovation comes at a price, I guess. $140.00, until I send in my rebate.
Oh yeah, on Monday morning my LG screen came back on.
* To be honest, I can probably remember more than three numbers. But aesthetically speaking, it’s funnier (and more effective) to say, “I can remember three numbers” than to say “I can remember seven numbers”. It’s a rhythm thing. Isn’t that what Bill Clinton said?
** It occurs to me that I need to come up with a name for my five loyal readers, something like Jim Rome’s “Clones” or the Grateful Dead’s “Deadheads”. If any of you have any ideas, pass them on, keeping in mind the fact that you can’t choose your own nicknames, and I’ll pick what I want regardless.
*** One more clarification: the kid was not fifteen; he was probably twenty-two. What I meant to illustrate is that I resent being at a power disadvantage to people younger than me. Plus yesterday I found out my landlord is younger than me, too. What a pisser.