Saturday, May 09, 2009

Rumblings- May 11

Sorry if this is outdated. I've been working on it on-and-off. And, no, I have no idea what's wrong with the formatting.

The readers have spoken. My buddy Greg wrote the following:

"Chris. You gotta write something about this Celtics-Bulls series. You've been watching these games right?"

I did watch, and it was as legendary as everyone says. I haven't written about it because I don't know quite what to say other than "it was awesome" over and over. The story of how Rose, Rondo, Pierce, Gordon, and Allen all stepped up at key moments has been covered. The statistical angle--seven overtime periods--has been covered. What more can I say? Ben Gordon looks like a billygoat? Which he does.

What the Bulls-Celtics series proved was that every playoff game is either amazing or terrible, with absolutely nothing in between. Every game we've seen has been either a blowout or a tense, see-saw battle. What it largely shows is that the regular season is a bit pointless. Either these teams can hang with each other, or they're completely outmatched. In the regular season, a game starts out even until one squad slowly pulls away. Since teams are playing at their highest intensity in the post-season, this almost never happens. In fact, it wouldn't have happened in the Bulls-Celtics series if Kevin Garnett were healthy. Then again, just as he said, anything is possible, including knocking the shit out of fans.

The fact that some of the games are not interesting gets me thinking about other things. For example, I think Stan Van Gundy and George Karl shop at the same Men's Warehouse.

"Dude, there's a sale on summer sweaters! We could get enough for all of next season!"

"Do they have taupe? I like taupe. I'm kind of concerned. Is the really stretchy kind on sale?"

"Yeah, George. This ain't no bank robbery. We're talking ninety percent cotton, five percent polyester, five percent spandex. These aren't t-shirts. They're definitely classy enough to wear under a suit. Some of them are even mock turtlenecks."

"I'm excited! This is a great look! Classy! I'm not sure if this is funny anymore!"

"I'm not sure it ever was."

While we're on basketball, it's comforting that we have a completely uncontroversial NBA MVP. Even Lebron's biggest enemy (if he has any enemies) would have given the award to him. To put him into a historical context, he's the second youngest MVP since the merger, and the first to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals. If you took him off his team, they might have won thirty games. On Saturday he had a 47-12-8. It really feels as if he can do anything he wants on the court, which I've never seen before, even with Jordan. But if the Cavs don't win a championship, it means nothing.

Let me tell you a quick story: I attended a tony montessori preschool that was so stressful to me that I eventually convinced my parents to pull me out. They agreed with me that their four-year-old should be more concerned with completing the second level of Kung Fu than some phonics test. Part of my anxiety was brought on by a special project required at the school. Each day, a different child was called up to complete a huge puzzle of the United States. Until it was completed, he was not allowed to go to recess. No one ever modeled this for you or even supervised its completion; you were just expected to know how to do it, and I had no idea. For a week, I sweated getting called, as if this were the Vietnam draft or something. They finally did pick me, and I tried my best to piece it together. I knew the easy ones: Florida, California, my home state of Louisiana. But then it got intimidating. If you don't know the difference between a dime and a nickel, you probably don't know the difference between Rhode Island and Connecticut. So I jammed pieces in a haphazard fashion, more or less breaking the puzzle in the process, and ran outside to play before anyone could check my shoddy work. Once some detective-work was done by the directress, she called my name over the loudspeaker, even noting to everyone in the school that I was "in big trouble." She grabbed my arm and led me to the map, which was an uneven mess. She pointed out that each region was color-coded, so I was pretty stupid to mix in the pinks with the oranges and so on. I protested that I tried but didn't know all of the states, and her only answer to it was that I would have to start over. She watched me for a half-hour until everything was in its right place, but I still couldn't get my first attempt out of my mind. (Obviously. This was twenty-one years ago.) The map had been a jumbled mess--amber waves of grain drowning in fecund swampland, Rocky Mountains blunted by vast deserts, pieces jutting out as crooked as a jack-o-lantern's smile. To my teacher, I hadn't just shown inadequate progress; I had destroyed the country. I'm telling you this because that map reminds me of the "Kenny's Court" segment on TNT. Make it stop.

Another friend wrote on Twitter:
"I'd be interested to hear what you think about all this Favre stuff."

I don't care.

1. We've been sold this view of Favre as an unassuming, earnest bumpkin, but what if he's the most calculating football player ever? What if he understands his Q rating and Nielsens and can read market research? He basically has ESPN wrapped around his finger. It's completely possible that he's a taller version of Ari Gold.

2. Speaking of ESPN, despite their stationing of Rachel Nichols in Hattiesberg, they have produced nothing news-worthy of this "story" yet. Last Monday they reported that Favre texted "no" to the question of whether he was coming back. (Because this is apparently what quality reporters do: indiscriminately text retired athletes about whether or not they plan to lace 'em up again. They're texting Mark Rypien right now.) By Thursday they reported that Brad Childress had contacted Favre and that they might meet. Over the weekend, ESPN revealed that the meeting never took place. Now they're promising that the meeting really might occur, after the Vikings inspect Favre's x-rays to see if a surgery required on his bicep would keep him from throwing. They'll be dicking us around with this through June. Expect updates from dudes in Kiln bars by next week.

3. Many experts claim that a reason why Favre might not show his hand quite this early is that he wants to skip voluntary work-outs and mini-camps, because a true gunslinger/riverboat gambler/field general needs not these things. Here's my question: if a guy is so old and uncommitted to a team that he's avoiding rigorous practice, is he really the guy you want at quarterback? Why bother?

4. I hate Brett Favre.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Quick Thought on the 3-D Craze

(This has been a really busy week, so I'm not giving you the mid-week update you're used to. Expect a weekend Sports Rumblings column and a film entry to the best of the decade list in the future.)

If you follow upcoming film productions at all, you would know that every studio is jumping on the 3-D bandwagon. About seventeen major productions will be released in 2009 alone. This is not a fad. In fact, with the rolling out of 3-D televisions within the next decade, and with truly visionary filmmakers experimenting with the format--James Cameron's upcoming Avatar is by all accounts a game-changer--this is probably the future of going to the movies.

"Over there is the spot where I burn piles of money." (I encourage you to read some of the buzz on Avatar. Very credible people are saying things like, "I couldn't tell what was real and what wasn't.")

There are three main reasons cited for the craze. Part one is, as it was in 3-D's 1950s heyday, gimmick designed to keep people coming to theaters when it actually seems less necessary than ever. (I know that, between my shrinking wallet and the kids in front of me texting, I've become more selective.)

The second component of the trend to third dimensionify everything has to do with technological advances made by the digital projection of Real D. Basically every limitation 3-D filmmaking used to have--the need for dual projectors, the tinting of everything from the anaglyph blue-and-red glasses, the inability to tilt your head while watching--are gone. By digitally projecting the image several times on top of itself, the machines and your polarized glasses are able to do most of the illusionary work your eye used to, and we're left with a much stronger, more versatile, more imaginative image. Watching anything in Digital Linear Projection is better than 35mm, but watching digital 3-D is no comparison.

Finally, studios and theater owners are pushing 3-D films because they can charge whatever they want for them. Originally used to justify the fact that a 3-D movie is roughtly $15 million more in production costs than a traditional feature, studios started rolling out surcharges for the glasses. They and the theater owners haven't really set a cap on this yet, but I've seen charges as high as $4 for "glasses" that are recycled at the end anyway.

So far the Real D location closest to New Orleans is Baton Rouge. Road trip for the Toy Story re-release? Who's with me?

So I intended for this to be a quick little note, and I've now given you four paragraphs of exposition. Let me get to the point. I suspect the real reason studios are so gung ho about 3-D is fighting piracy. Since the advent of HD video cameras and torrents, pirates have had a field day with cutting into Hollywood's profits. We saw with the leak of Wolverine last month how completely panicked they and the MPAA were about the potential losses from illegal downloads.

As anyone who has tried to tape a Disney World ride knows, 3-D looks really goofy on a home video camera. Even if you could get your hands on an Academy screener, which is where all the best burned copies of a movie come from (so I'm told), you wouldn't get the effect of Real D in your living room, and it would probably give you a headache to watch.

No one seems to be talking about this, but the inability for people to pirate Real D films is perhaps the biggest reason so many of them are being green-lit. The fact that Jonas Brothers: Burning Up in 3-D will not be sold from a garbage bag on my subway ride home probably seems comforting to the Disney studio.