Friday, November 28, 2008

The Last Ride of the Renaissance Cowboy

I have two favorite photographs of my grandpa. The first was taken about thirty-five years ago out in western Davis County, probably the Woods Cross area by the looks of it. Grandpa is alone on horseback riding through a snow-covered pasture. It’s a classic shot; looks like it should be on the cover of one of the Louis L’Amour novels he kept up at his place in Island Park.

This photo is Vintage Jess; it shows the Grandpa I knew as a small child. The one who owned horses and had a huge gun rack in his basement. Before writing his obituary last week, I re-read the personal history he wrote back in 1992. So much of his life had taken place before I was born, and I really wanted to make sure I got it right. I’d read the history before, so I knew about his mission to the Eastern Central States and the time he spent in the South Pacific during WWII, but this time I began to notice different trends emerging.

For one thing, I was astounded at Grandpa’s capacity to excel at a wide variety of jobs. Over the course of his life, here are a few of the things he did professionally:

Postman, Dry Farmer, Floral Arranger, Cement Hauler, Lumberjack, Crane Operator, Hospital Orderly, Secret Message Decoder (his responsibility during the war), Hunting Dog Trainer, Resort Manager…plus he basically invented the entire security department for LDS Hospital.

Still, in spite of all that, it doesn’t feel enough to call him a Jack of all Trades, or even a Renaissance Man. When I look at that photo of him on the horse, I think that my grandpa was more of a Renaissance Cowboy, a classic self-made man. A genuine relic of the pioneer era of the Old West.

Because while the number of jobs was impressive, the trend that ran through them was more impressive: most of his opportunities were created with his own initiative. Grandpa was not the kind of man to sit back and let life happen to him. He was the kind of person who not only got involved, but actively tried to create opportunities for himself and others along the way.

His do-it-yourself attitude is at least partially responsible for the stubborn streak that runs through our family like a rookie bull at a rodeo. When Grandpa was about seven years old he informed his parents that he wasn’t going to go to church anymore unless he could wear his overalls. He said knee pants were for sissies. His taste in fashion lasted throughout his entire life, as is evidenced by the pair of snakeskin cowboy boots that currently sit at the foot of his casket.

His distrust of doctors is also notorious. On his way home from his military service, the malaria he’d contracted in the Pacific flared up, and army medics were about ready to get him off a train in Nevada to get him to a hospital. But my grandpa would have none of it. He just told them to keep piling on blankets and stay on course. No doctor was going to tell him what to do, and in the years to come, few ever did.

Grandpa may have had a stubborn streak, but his headfirst attitude is also responsible for my existence. My favorite story about Grandpa takes place shortly after he returned home from World War II, when he had to come to Salt Lake to report to Elder Harold B. Lee. Since his family was still in Idaho, Grandpa had to find someone local to crash with, and he wound up staying with the family of this girl he had written a few times while he was away. Then he managed to talk her into driving him into Salt Lake for his meeting, and before she knew it, the two of them were sitting in Elder Lee’s office while he talked about his war experience.

When he was done with his report, the apostle asked the two of them about their relationship. Since they’d only written a couple of letters and been on maybe one date, there wasn’t much to say, but the apostle told them he thought they made a good couple, and should probably give things some thought.

Fifteen minutes later the two of them were sitting outside in the car having the 1940’s equivalent of a DTR talk. As they talked over their options, Grandpa dropped this line:

“I don’t know that I love you, but I know you’re the kind of woman I’d like to have raise my children.”

This line has never worked for me, but within a week, my future grandparents were engaged.

Of course, that was Grandma’s side of the story…this is what Grandpa wrote in his personal history:

“I went to see Apostle Lee to report about the LDS servicemen at Camp Beale. I took Edith with me and after our visit, we were forced to evaluate our feelings concerning each other. I returned to Idaho Falls and my family. Soon after I returned to Woods Cross, Edith and I became engaged.”

It may not have been a romantic start, but if you’d ever seen them in the last five years, you’d have thought they were crazy about each other on sight.

And that leads me to my other favorite photo of Grandpa. A year and a half ago, while Grandma was going to dialysis twice a week, I used to go over and hang out with Grandpa for a few hours on Mondays while she was gone. I’d usually arrive to find them in the middle of a little routine. Grandma would sit on the stairs, dressed up in her jacket, while Grandpa would stand like a sentry at the front door, peering out into the road to watch for the bus. To an outsider they would have just looked like a cute elderly couple, but anyone who knew their history would see something much more special. The two of them were about as feeble as they could be, yet they were both still looking out for each other, helping each other with their jackets or getting up and down the stairs, getting on the bus or getting each other a new glass of ice water. They were a team, completely dedicated to serving each other. It’s the way they had always been.

One day as they were in their regular positions I pulled out my camera and tried to capture the moment. It’s not the greatest shot I’ve ever taken, but it might be the most meaningful. It tells me a lot about faith, and loyalty, and love. It tells me that life is about taking risks, and how those risks can pay off.

Grandpa was able to take those kinds of risks because he had great faith, and he had a strong testimony of the Gospel. Here is what he wrote in his personal history:

“In my life, there have been many times I have seen the power of God manifest, not only in healings, but in giving me light that I have needed. I have been inspired to say and do many things by the Lord. My prayers have been answered and I know that God lives, that Jesus is our redeemer and that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God.”

As much as anyone I know, my grandfather understood the balance between the initiative we need to take in life, and the faith we need to put in the Lord in order to succeed.


Several hours after I delivered the preceding at my grandfather’s funeral, I was sitting with my buddy Breto at the Coldplay concert watching one of their opening acts. When I drove to Grandma’s funeral earlier in the year, a Rolling Stones song called “Shine a Light” had come on my stereo, which seemed poignant since my only previous funeral experience had been watching the opening scene in “The Big Chill” where a group of friends drives to a funeral while the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” plays. It had occurred to me after Grandpa’s funeral that I hadn’t listened to any similar Stones’ song on the way to his funeral like I had for Grandma.

Then the lead singer got up near the end of their opening set and mentioned that they’d been messing around with a song on the drive through the Rocky Mountains. It was the last night of the tour, and he said they’d decided to try it out on us. The song was a cover of an old Stones’ song off the “Sticky Fingers” album called “Wild Horses”.

As they started into the old cowboy ballad, I sat back in my chair and smiled. If there was ever a Rolling Stones song tailor-made for my Grandpa, it was “Wild Horses”. I doubt I’ll ever hear the song again without thinking of him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Living Coldplay's La Vida Loca

Last weekend, Breto and I dropped by the Arena* to see Gwyneth Paltrow’s husband play some tunes with a few of his friends. For a guy who named his kid after a fruit, Chris Martin can write some pretty good songs.

But as good as the music was, what impressed me most about Saturday’s concert was the focus that the band put on the audience. Coldplay is one of the biggest arena acts on the scene, yet they seemed to bend over backwards to make sure the fans were having a good time. Whether it was Chris Martin constantly pouring his heart out to the crowd in between songs, showering the arena in butterfly-shaped confetti during “Lovers in Japan”, or running up into the stands to play “The Scientist” on the opposite end of the arena, Coldplay made it clear that they wanted everyone to get their money’s worth. And most importantly, they looked like they were having a lot of fun doing it.

Then again, my perspective on Coldplay has always been a little different than on other bands. After the show, Breto and I ran into his old friend Mattie, who used to hang out with the band back in their “Parachutes” days. I even have a copy of a picture of her sitting with them on a couch. Even that small connection brings the band down to earth a little bit, but in a good way.

About the only criticism I’ve ever heard of the band is that they sound too much like U2, another band that goes out of it’s way to involve the crowd. It’s true that there are a few sonic similarities, but I don’t know that there’s any act out there with musical roots you couldn’t trace back to some other band. I’m much more impressed with the other things Coldplay has in common with U2, namely their sense of performance and drama.

Like U2, The Killers, and even The Who, Coldplay has an anthemic sound that makes their music very cathartic, especially in an arena filled with fifteen thousand people. As crazy as things have been lately with the economy, the political world, and the tension with post-election fallout, it feels pretty good to hear some big-sounding anthem music. Epics like “Clocks”, “Viva la Vida” and “Fix You” just about blew the roof off the arena.

The only thing that was off was opening act #2, a DJ named Jon Hopkins. After a solid half-hour set from a band called Sleepercar, whose cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” turned out to be one of the evening’s personal highlights for me, a big video screen on stage started doing a movie reel countdown to what everyone in the arena thought would be Coldplay’s dramatic entrance. Instead this guy on stage started cranking out bizarro DJ beats while Pink Floyd-esque acid trip animations cycled through on the screen, and after ten minutes when everyone finally figured out that Coldplay wasn’t coming out on stage, his goose was cooked.

But then during the following break, Srauss’ “Blue Danube” swelled to a roar on the PA, the house lights fell, and “Life in Technicolor” announced the main act. It was all cool after that, right through to the encore finale of “Yellow”. I'd heard rumors before the show that it was the last of the tour and that the band might even be breaking up next year. If so, they finished in style; if not, then I can't wait for them to come back.

The Year of the Concert is alive and well.

Next up: Mr. Neil Diamond


*Short for “Energy Solutions Arena”, formerly “The Delta Center”, formerly “Vacant Lot off 300 West”

Monday, November 17, 2008

"Bond Angry!...Bond...SMASH!"

"Quantum of Solace"
2 1/2 out of 4 stars

For me, the James Bond Franchise hit it's low point when they cast Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist in short shorts. Or it could have been when they took that gorgeous BMW M5 and trashed it without even giving it any legit screen time. In both cases, Bond had become a sad, cliched parody of his former glory, spouting off out-of-place double-entendres and generally being lame. Supposedly the Halle Berry movie was a step back in the right direction, but I wouldn't know...I never saw it.

Enter the Daniel Craig era. Ian Felming's iconic Bond is no longer tall, dark and handsome. Now he's tallish, blond and really, really angry. I thought "Casino Royale" was a lot of fun, though it had too many false endings. Definitely got things back on track.

"Quantum of Solace" keeps the train-a-rollin'.

QOS drops you right in the middle of a car chase, picking up right where the last movie left off. This is good and bad. Cool for continuity, but bad because I only vaguely remember all the details from the first one. I remember a poker game, a black CIA agent, and a Bond Girl dying in a Venetian house sinking. I do seem to remember Bond confronting some dude outside a villa at the end.

Yeah. The dude from the end is Bond's prisoner at the beginning of QOS, and we find out that he is part of a secret-secret-secret group that all the secret-secret groups don't even know about, though they "have people everywhere". They're also responsible for that other Bond Girl's death...somehow. Plus they're trying to get a lot of oil and they have ties to the ex-dictator of Bolivia.

OK, so "Quantum of Solace" boils down to this: Blond James Bond is really mad at the secret-secret-secret group who killed his sort-of girlfriend and wants to control the world's oil supply with the Bolivian guy, so he spends about two hours killing everyone he comes across who is connected to them.

That's really about it.

Not to say I didn't enjoy the movie. No, I just didn't have any clue what was going on most of the time. This was probably due to the combination of the "action sequence every 2.6 minutes" script policy or the dude sitting behind me who kept crawling over the empty seat two places down from me to go check his stupid cell phone every ten minutes. When you watch two hours of wanton physical violence, you get bad ideas about how to deal with clueless moviegoers.

QOS is a fun movie, and this year, outside of a couple of striking exceptions, that's been hard to find. But I'm still not entirely sold on the "ultra-cold merciless killer" Bond. The Batman treatment may have saved the Bond Franchise from total irrelevance, but I hope they don't push it too far.

"Quantum of Solace" is rated PG-13 for tons and tons of violence and explosions and other cool macho stuff, some swears, a really distracting scar on the back of Bond Girl #1 which never really works into the plot though it looks like it's supposed to, and this scene where we find out that Bond Girl #2 has been killed by having oil dumped all over her (in homage to the gold girl in "Goldfinger").


(Editor's note: Now that you've read the review I want to tell you that my first idea for the review title was "Blond on Bond", but I thought it might dissuade people from reading it. But I wanted you to know that I thought of it. I thought it was pretty good.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Cafe Doors are now Closed

The world of Josh is no stranger to irony. In fact, we're very close buds. The kind of buds that leave crap at each other's houses and completely forget about it. That's why having my TV show cancelled roughly 90 minutes after doing an on-air editorial on the "liberation of losing" last week doesn't strike me as odd in the slightest.

Not that it wasn't a surprise, though. In the last several months I have often wondered how I would react if the KJZZ Cafe were to be cancelled. Mostly I wondered this during moments when I was tired from only sleeping four hours a day, and was thinking that as much as I hated to re-enter "job search mode", I would be relieved to return to a normal state of human existence. So while I did feel a bit of physical relief, I was still surprised at the immediacy of the cancellation. Maybe it was because management feared that if I knew I was about to produce my final show I would find a way to fit Bat Child, the Mutated Spider from "Tarantula", and the "I like Turtles" kid into the same broadcast. And now that I think of it, failing to do so is now my biggest regret from the Cafe's ten-month run.

As I begin to look back on the experience, it's easy to see things I wish had come out differently, but impossible to look at the greater whole without a considerable degree of satisfaction. Regardless of ratings, revenue, or popularity, the simple truth is that at the beginning of November 2007 I was a soon-to-be ex-English instructor with four months of part-time TV experience, and one year, one mucho learning curve and a couple hundred live broadcasts later, I am a legit ex-TV producer. Even if the show had been cancelled after a month, the herculean task of learning everything and doing everything we all did to get the thing on the air was almost satisfactory enough.

That's why it blew to have to hear the Deseret News churn out the same lame review their TV critic rolled out after watching one broadcast back in January when they reported our demise. I knew the show was far from perfect, but I also knew that it had grown considerably by the time it finished it's run. I wrote the News to set the record straight, but as of this writing, they apparently weren't interested in printing an alternative viewpoint.

Here's the full text of my letter:

Dear editor,

As I read Stephen Speckman's eulogy of the KJZZ Café from November 9th, I feel obliged to stand up for my colleagues. For ten months I worked as producer of the Café under News Director Dean Paynter. I have no argument with the economic realities of the mass media. If you don't produce ratings, you don't make money, and you get cancelled. Especially when your country is heading for a recession. I don't have any problem with criticisms of the show, either. We were a small, do-it-yourself staff that was largely learning on the job, and our product was far from perfect. For that I am more than happy to accept responsibility.

What I do take issue with is the decision to use Scott Pierce's review of our first broadcast in January to characterize the show. The KJZZ Café that was cancelled last week was hardly the show that started from scratch less than a year ago. I'm sure that if the Deseret Morning News were to go out of print next month, you would want people to evaluate your product by it's most recent work instead of a review of its first issue. In spite of its imperfections, the KJZZ Café made tremendous strides in the few months it was on the air.

By the end of this summer, the Café had become a unique venue where current issues could be addressed in a way they were not afforded elsewhere. The show regularly featured prominent public officials such as Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, Senator Orrin Hatch, Representative Greg Hughes, US Congressman-Elect Jason Chaffetz, and Governor Jon Huntsman. Dean Paynter's show dared suggest there might be more to local news than reporting on shootings and car crashes, and as the show developed over its short run, the steady increase in feedback we received showed that he was right. It was only unfortunate that these improvements didn't translate into increased ratings in time to offset the struggles of our national economy. But that had nothing to do with our product being "bland" or "ill-advised".

My colleagues and I were initially dismayed by Pierce's review, but ultimately we looked past the lame wisecracks about us looking like a bad college broadcast and used his criticism to improve the show. If anyone on your staff had bothered to watch the show after that first broadcast, you might have noted those improvements in Sunday's article. The KJZZ Café may go down in the ratings book as a failure, but I for one am proud of what we accomplished, and proud of everyone who was involved in it while it lasted.


(Former) Producer, KJZZ Café

So now with the Cafe formally behind me, it's on to the next adventure, whatever that might be. As I remain a single 30-something LDS dude, I'm still in that phase of life where I should probably be taking the kinds of career risks that I can only take when I don't have to worry about feeding a family. That's actually one of the big reasons I took the KJZZ job in the first place. Here's what I've come up with so far:

-Go get a PhD and use teaching as the full-time anchor while developing my creative skills in writing, photography and film on the side (most likely candidate: the Media, Art and Text program at Virginia Commonwealth University).

-Find a more traditional anchor job to bring in some bucks while developing the aforementioned skills (Anchor meaning like a boat anchor, not a news anchor).

-Dive headfirst into a freelance creative career and pray I get enough business doing photo shoots, short film work, and copywriting to bridge me into a stable lifestyle.

-Find a way to make money off this blog.

-Find a way to get more than a dozen regular readers so I can find a way to make money off this blog.

-Find a sugar mama to keep me in new jeans and eating Barbacoa three times a week...while blogging.

-Build a cart to wheel around downtown Salt Lake selling pizza by the slice and copies of my self-published memoir, "The Manifesto of the Modern Peter Pan".

-Spend an unreasonable amount of time on Facebook.

-Walk the Earth like Julius in "Pulp Fiction".

-Liquidate all assets and whatever my mutual funds are still worth, buy a Harley (or more likely a Vespa) and cruise the Earth instead.

-Take a reasonable road trip for a couple of weeks (possibly to DC or Seattle), write about the experience, THEN do one of the other things.

I guess the only thing I don't want is to be asking myself this same question a year from now. I don't know, maybe I'm being unreasonable, but I've always figured that there would be a day sometime in my future when I would be more..."arrived"? Not that I would stay in the same job for the rest of my life, but rather that I would be far enough into a career or some kind of career-ish thing that I wouldn't sweat losing a gig.

Of course, given my reaction to last weeks cancellation, maybe I'm already there. All I do know is that after going through this routine several times, I feel pretty confident that things will work out the way they are supposed to, both for me and my former co-workers. And that gives me enough perspective to appreciate the Cafe experience for the positive experience it was.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Official 2008 Wounded Mosquito NBA Preview!

It occurred to me recently that writing up an NBA preview before the season actually starts is dumb. You can do a way better job of forecasting how teams are going to play if you wait until after they've started playing for a little while. So here are the results:

Atlanta Hawks
Last season Atlanta almost shocked the world by taking the eventual champs to seven games in their first round season. Then they celebrated by letting one of their best players sign with some Greek team.
Prediction: The draw of the Gyro spreads, and in spite of Atlanta's hot start, two-thirds of the team relocates to Athens by February.

Boston Celtics
Years of frustration finally came to an end when Kevin Garnett and co. brought a seventeenth championship banner to the Boston rafters. Now go back and re-read that last sentence very slowly. I officially hate the Boston Celtics.
Prediction: A slow roast in the depths of Hell

Charlotte, Bobcats
Michael Jordan is affiliated with this team somehow. That's pretty much all I know.
Prediction: They will play 82 games.

Chicago Bulls
Years ago this was an unbeatable franchise, steeped in myth and honor as Air Jordan and the Jordanaires won title after title under wisened sage Phillip Jackson. Now they have Ben Wallace's afro to...wait, nope. He got traded. Did they...oh. Yeah, this season doesn't look too good.
Prediction: When you factor in the wind chill, it looks like this winter might be a bit cold in Chi-Town.

Cleveland Cavaliers
In the offseason Cleveland signed point guard Mo Williams to help get LeBron James and the Cavs over the playoff hump. Williams is a former Jazzman, who played in Utah during a year when our three point guards were named Carlos, Mo and Raul. In a way, I miss those days. In a much more realistic way, I don't.
Prediction: Another season of reaching but not quite getting there, enhanced by the persistent rumors that LeBron James is going to blow town for one of the coasts as soon as he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2010.

Dallas Mavericks
Last season Mark Cuban mortgaged the team's future by trading for perrenial all-star point guard Jason Kidd approximately .05 seconds before Kidd put his right foot in the grave. Luckily, like a fine wine, point guards get better with age. Oh wait, they don't.
Prediction: Cuban loses interest in the Mav's by December and returns to reality television.

Denver Nuggets
The mythic tattooed tandem of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony is no more. In comes traditional point guard Chauncey Billups, who doesn't need his points like AI, and will be more willing to defer to Anthony. Whether he will defer to DUI's and sucker punches remains to be seen.
Prediction: The Nuggets seem to have learned that you can't win by just putting a bunch of good players on the same roster, but this still ain't gonna cut it.

Detroit Pistons
The season was barely out of the gates when GM Joe Dumars traded for Denver shooting guard and aspiring rap star Allen Iverson. Many suspect the move was largely made to clear space for LeBron James when he becomes eligible for free agency in 2010. So AI can pretty much get away with whatever he wants until his contract is up.
Prediction: Hmmm...matching up a nothing-to-lose Iverson with a team who's no-name image is second only to the Jazz? Yeeeeeaaaahhhh....

Houston Rockets
Every year the experts say this team is going to be awesome, and every year they get bumped out of the playoffs in the first round, usually by the Jazz. Well, on behalf of Jazz fans, I'm sick of having to see these guys in the first round every year. If I've got to pay extra for my playoff tickets, I want to see a different team once in a while. This rivalry is totally boring.
Prediction: First round loss to Jazz

Indiana Pacers
Life has not been kind to the Pacers since Ron-Ron went ape-ape and ran up into the stands-stands to duke it out with those Detroit fans a few years ago. In fact, I really have no idea what's happened to the team since then.
Prediction: Like the Bobcats, I feel strongly that this team will play in 82 games.

Los Angeles Clippers
Eighteen months after leading the Golden State Warriors through a Cinderella post-season which featured a celebrated upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, Baron Davis and his generous beard decided it was time to move on to a team with a higher playoff ceiling...and signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Clippers. Because it's all about winning, baby.
Prediction: Davis is gone by the trading deadline, and Chris Kaman continues to evolve into the token lanky white guy who always shows up to my church ball games.

Los Angeles Lakers
The NBA's entry to the Professional Sports Axis of Evil has high hopes going into this season, as the return of center Andrew Bynum promises ample publicity and the addition of at least seven new A-list Hollywood fans. Sadly, now that Kobe has won the MVP award, he may not retain the proper "me-against-the-world" motivation to get Phil's Kids past the second round.
Prediction: At least twice this season, the Lakers will visit Salt Lake, and hundreds of local LA fans will magically appear at Energy Solutions Arena to cheer wildly for their team, conditional on their above-.500 record.

Miami Heat
Last season the Heat acquired forward Shawn Marion, which gives me the opportunity to re-print this quote from former Marion teammate and author Paul Shirley, commenting on class structure within NBA franchises:

“…while paying me the absolute lowest possible salary allowed by the NBA would be frivolous, paying Shawn Marion enough that he can sit around on the team’s chartered 737 wearing earrings that cost $25,000 each is a sound financial decision.”

Prediction: Shimmering water, hot nights, and another losing season.

Memphis Grizzlies
Last year Memphis turned a lot of heads and burned a lot of bridges when they traded all-star center Pau Gasol to the Lakers for seven cases of Heinekin and Paula Abdul's phone number. They are hoping that this year the sacrifice blossoms into postseason success. It will...for the Lakers.
Prediction: People flock to Memphis for music...not basketball.

Milwaukee Bucks
I know they got rid of Mo Williams, and I think they still have the Australian guy who used to play for the U and got drafted ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul.
Prediction: This may be a good time to throw your hopes behind the Packers.

Minnesota Timberwolves
They stunk with Kevin Garnett, now they stink without him.
Prediction: Whatever

New Jersey Nets
Rap mogul and partial Nets owner Jay-Z has been busy clearing plenty of cap space to become a major player in the LeBron James Sweepstakes of 2010. Unfortunately, it has not occurred to Jay-Z to assemble any major players on the Nets team to make James feel inclined to go there.
Prediction: Vince Carter is now the go-to guy on the Nets, which means he should be dogging it and mugging for a trade to a contender within three weeks.

New Orleans Saints
Ever since their inspiring run to the NFC Championship two years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Big Easy hasn't produced too much on the old gridiron. You also have to wonder how Saints fans feel to watch both of Archie Manning's kids win Super Bowls after he led the Saints to so many losing seasons himself. Of course, maybe Manning was kind of like Dick Butkus...super awesome player on a crap team.
Prediction: Mardi Gras is going to totally rock.

New York Knicks
New York fans were elated to finally see the end of the Isiah Thomas era. Then Isiah almost overdosed a few weeks ago and everyone had one of those moments when you realize that the guy you're booing at the arena and ripping on in Internet posts and comments is an actual human being, and that you're getting caught up in a game where people run around in shorts bouncing a leather ball, and for about five minutes you manage to put life in perspective.
Prediction: Well, they beat the Jazz in Madison Square Garden again, so they've got that going for them.

Oklahoma City Whatevers
I don't know what the new team is called, and I'm too lazy to Google it right now. I know these guys just moved down from Seattle, and they've got Kevin Durant on their team. Other than that, all I know is that there aren't any mountains in Oklahoma City.
Prediction: 20-62, welcome to the NBA.

Philadelphia 76ers
Sixer fans were thrilled that management was finally able to find a one-two punch compliment to all-star Charles Barkley in the offseason in power forward Elton Brand. Now someone needs to remind them that Barkley was traded to Phoenix seventeen years ago.
Prediction: They play in the east, so they'll make the playoffs probably.

Phoenix Suns
Like the Mavericks, the Suns pulled the trigger on a major trade last season in order to cash in on the last fleeting inches of their championship window. Didn't happen. Luckily, like a fine wine, NBA centers...oh, never mind.
Prediction: On at least twelve different instances over the course of the season, I will vocalize my regret that we let Raja Bell get away.

Portland Trailblazers
It didn't seem so long ago that the Trailblazers were setting records for Technical Fouls and getting busted for trying to smuggle doobage through airport security checkouts (wrapped in tinfoil, no less). Now they're this up and coming team with a second-year rookie center who's already injured again. Kind of sixes, if you ask me.
Prediction: At least 326,017 tourists will be surprised this year the first time they stop to get gas in Oregon and discover that the attendant legally cannot let them pump their own gas.

Sacramento Kings
The Ron Artest experiment is officially over in Sacramento, now fans are clamboring for season tickets so they can be a part of the follow-up: The Beno Udrih experiment.
Prediction: Ouch.

San Antonio Spurs
People keep waiting for this team to get old and die. They aren't as good as they used to be, but they've still got that guy who's married to Eva Longoria, and that's good enough for most of us.
Prediction: Second round exit

Sayid Jarrah
Many feel that Sayid's decision to play hit man for Ben was indicitive of a "good guy gone bad" scenario common in a variety of classic dramatic narratives. I feel, however, that Sayid's history of vacilation is more attributable to his deep passion and personal insecurity, which was torn asunder by the death of his childhood friend and long lost love, and that when confronted with any kind of permanent decision as to what side to take, he will align his allegiance to the good guys. As usual.
Prediction: Sayid avoids further romantic encounters with German blonds.

Toronto Raptors
They picked up Jermaine O'Neal, who is becoming the poster child for the "talented superstar endorsed by Nike who gets tons of hype and is always mentioned in trade rumors though you get the feeling that due to a dearth of surrounding talent and perhaps a lack of killer instinct will most likely kick around for a couple more years and maybe make the playoffs but that's about it."
Prediction: 2008-09 NBA Champions

Utah Jazz
It was made painfully obvious in the Western Conference Second Round matchup with the Lakers that the Jazz are in need of a consistent inside defensive presence. So in the offseason, they drafted another tall foreign white dude. Problem solved.
Prediction: Jerry Sloan impales three members of the media with a bamboo pole he painstakingly sharpened on the side of Energy Solutions Arena under the light of a December moon.

Washington Bullets
A couple of years ago Gilbert Arenas was the toast of the town and was setting the league on fire with his Hibachi personality. Now I think he's injured or something. They traded a bunch of his teammates, too. Still, he's a pretty funny guy, and I think a lot of people would rather watch him run around a court with a crutch by himself than take in a whole game with most teams.
Prediction: Four years of unmitigated partisan hatred.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Liberation of Losing

As Barack Obama and the other winners from Campaign 08 look ahead to their new responsibilities, the world looks away from the defeated hopefuls they left in their wake. But as the nation gets ready to head back to work, it's the ones who lost who might have the greatest opportunity.

There is little in life I hate more than losing. Tuna fish and country music, maybe. But I really hate losing, and sometimes life serves up a lot of it. Still, if I spend all my time moping about the jobs I didn't get, the games I didn't win, or the girls who took door #2, my life is going to stink. Right now a lot of people who ran for office on Tuesday are trying to pick up the pieces. If they're lucky, they'll realize that a clean slate can be a blessing. Losing can be liberating, and rejection can be rewarding.

Here are my suggestions for a few of Tuesday's losers:

Super Dell: Utah may have said no-no to Super Dell, but Utah still needs Super Dell. You can never have enough totally awesome gun-toting para-gliders hovering over our highways. But maybe it's time to soften the image a bit…volunteer at a soup kitchen, start a scholarship fund, or maybe just follow in the tradition of former third-party candidate Bo Gritz and move to Idaho and start a survivalist colony.

Sarah Palin: I have only two words for the Governor of Alaska: Product Endorsement. If there was one personality to emerge from the campaign better suited for some good old fashioned American merchandising, I don't know who it is. It's time to cash in on the Sarah Palin Barbie Doll, deep fryer and fully-automatic assault rifle. Then when your window passes, you return to the great white north on a freighter full of cash where the best salmon in the world is waiting for you. Not a bad deal, if you ask me. Not a bad deal at all.

Al Franken: Minnesota may have turned you down, but the TV show that launched you is seeing more success than it has in fifteen years. But as funny as these political bits have been, the election's over, and they still need you. My friend, the Beatles were right: it's time to get back to where you once belonged, Al.

John McCain: Sometimes after a big loss, your best move is to take off on a voyage of personal discovery. I say wander the Far East for six months in a caravan of camels and Tibetan Monks. Grow a killer beard, achieve nirvana, and get a sweet book deal when you get back.

President Bush: Now that Michelle Obama is measuring the drapes, your window of opportunity may be bigger than them all. If you really want to help me out, bring a Giordano's Pizzeria to Utah. But if you truly want to break new ground, you can become the first US President to start a reggae band in office.

Life is always going to grant it's fair share of losing. But that doesn't mean it has to define you. Just ask Michael Jordan:

"I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occassions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot . . . and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why . . . I succeed."


(To see this piece performed live on the KJZZ Cafe, click here.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

One Comment, One Promise

When I was writing my humor column for the student newspaper up at USU, there were a number of times I was tempted to take a stance on a serious political issue. When you're a white conservative Mormon getting a master's degree in the humanities, you encounter them often.

But every time I felt that temptation, I eventually set it aside. Not because I was afraid to speak my mind, but because I realized that partisan political commentary was not my role. My column was a respite from that battle, not a participant. When you live in a world that is saturated with bitter vitriol over all sorts of important political and social issues, you can feel burned out. You need a break. So in the same way that pulling out one of my old Far Side galleries used to help me re-set my internal perspective meter with a little well-needed humor, I wanted my columns to provide that necessary escape for my readers. Obviously they would be a vehicle for social commentary, but I wanted them to be a vehicle that welcomed both sides, and offered criticism in a way that would remind people that we're really all in the same boat.

Four years later, as I spend nine or ten hours a day saturated in the world of the news media, I feel the same way. I realize that I may only have a few readers, and I realize that the social responsibility of some generic Google blog is painfully small, but I still need that respite, and I think my few readers do too. I'm also thinking that this blog hasn't been very funny lately--probably because it's reflecting my current status in life--and diving into politics isn't going to help that much.

So instead of go into a lot of detail over what's happening in the world of politics right now, instead of getting elated over the historic nature of this week's election--or the apprehension that is the other side of the coin--I just want to make one comment about my own experience this week, and then promise to reassert myself in the task of making you laugh.

Here it is:

This is probably the first presidential election I can remember where I have honestly felt like the outcome was going to make a direct impact on my future.

Maybe that means I'm finally growing up.

If that's true, I fully intend to retain my sense of humor. And whether you're on the right, the left, or a part of the vast confused sea of "undecideds" in the middle, I think you can agree that we're all going to need it.