Wednesday, April 15, 2009

PT and Chris Attend the Basketball Hall of Fame

Over the weekend, PT and I went on a man-date to Springfield, Massachusetts, the birthplace of roundball, for the Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame.

It was pretty much a perfect Saturday for me, but I can't say I would recommend it to everyone. For instance, Wifey just answered the question "Do you know who Isiah Thomas is?" with "Sounds like a Black guy." She probably would not have appreciated the two hours I spent learning about the history of rule changes and ridiculing the women's game. ("They still couldn't dribble more than once without passing in 1953? Really?") So you really need to be into the game, and even then, you don't have to mind half the attractions being broken. If you can get past that, it's worth the trip.

Here's the experience in pictures. Be careful: the second floor gets interactive.

"Hey, let me take another one. You kind of terrabulled that one with your face. Hey, let me put that first one up here instead of the one I took after it that looks a lot better."

The third floor view of the Ring of Honors. The dude operating the elevator pronounced New Orleans "N'awlins." Check.

The first floor is taken up by a full-sized court. Most people pay twenty bucks to play basketball instead of reading any of the boring shit we did.

Each player gets his own informational plaque and a portrait above you on the wall. Going around looking at all the legends, my snarkiness turned in on itself. At one point I told P.T., "I wish there were funny crappy players in here that I could take pictures of. All these guys are pretty legit."

Sense of irony restored. That was close.

But, for the most part, pretty legit.

Interspersed with the plaques and portraits are memorabilia boxes with cool stuff like:

Bob Knight's sweater.

Or Pete Maravich's floppy socks.

Or James Worthy's prescription goggles and Robert Parrish's ill Champion hi-tops.

More stupid: Pat Riley's 15 Strong box or the idea of a Cable Ace award?

It's worth mentioning that sometimes the Hall doesn't know the difference between timeless...

And just outdated.

The second floor...

Where we have hunger for motorized rebounds.

Where I might have to take my shirt off.

Where I can't really have a thirteen-inch vertical...right?

Where wingspans are framed to look more imposing than they are.

Where you can't tell if the game is broken or just stupid.

Where you move to your right and pretend it's 1994.

Where it's possible to learn too much.

Where I kind of knew how tall I was before I came here.

Where it looked more impressive up close.

Where the ball bouncing back at you from that angle means you made it.

Where a guy can still dream.

Monday, April 13, 2009

#32 Song of the Decade- "Jesus, Etc."

Wilco- "Jesus, Etc."

To me, one is not truly educated or intelligent until he admits how little he actually knows. Realizing that you are small and powerless and somewhat inconsequential in the grand scheme of things is, paradoxically, one of the keys to transcending those limitations. No one has all the answers to life's mysteries, and the most dangerous people in the world are the ones who believe they do. To even scratch the surface of the nature of your existence, you have to be humbled by this fact.

Succumbing to that fear and owning what you don't know is the key to enjoying life. I wouldn't know how to build a computer, but I'm using one right now. I don't know the intricacies of how a car works, but I drive to my job every day. And if I did lend enough of myself to learn everything about a computer or a car, it would be at the expense of something else.

I think Jeff Tweedy was wrestling with this idea when he wrote "Jesus, Etc." for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Except instead of those things I just mentioned, he uses a motif of something even bigger and more intimidating: the solar system. Over and over, the speaker of the song assures a lover, "You were right about the stars/Each one is a setting sun," and it seems as if he's trying to convince himself of that fact. This is something he didn't understand--maybe even argued with her about--but he is admitting it to her to redeem himself. Through a willful ignorance of the mechanics of the world around him, he is able to become closer to the person right in front of him. In fact, the only lines repeated more than that are: "Last cigarette/Is all you can get/Turning your orbit around." Once you can find solace in tiny pleasures, you can look at the world in an entirely new way. Those small elements, along with the camaraderie of other people, turn out to be more valuable than anything else.

At other points in the song, Tweedy uses synesthesia to establish this contradiction as the lover's "voice is smoking," and he "strums down her cheek." In fact, the tension is reinforced by the music from the beginning, as the low-end of an upright bass tangles with a high-pitched string pattern.

Eventually, the strings win out and get their own moment in the My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos. As their tremolo fades out all by their lonesome, we finally feel a resolution to this existential tug-of-war. In the end, Tweedy proves to us that we can only find clarity through confusion.