From Dazed and Confused to bemused then infused

Dazed-Wallpaper-dazed-and-confused-7939906-1024-768Inexplicably, I only watched the movie Dazed and Confused recently on the recommendation of my brother. Inexplicably, because I love movies and my appreciation for goofiness rivals that of France, birthplace of that flopping dog, Tony Parker.

Right away I was hooked in that the movie takes place on my birthday and the last day of high school in 1976, my relatability was off the charts. The Gilligan’s Island episode quiz in the 1st scene was, even by then, merely icing.

On the actual day before that fictionalized movie day, I was a junior at the glorious Miami Senior High and had a day as close as I would ever come to the Dazed and Confused crowd. The day began normally, until I was asked to join some friends and girls going to Crandon Park, so I skipped classes that day…. Wait, I need to set this up.

falling downA little background. During my junior high school years, I was bused to my 7th and 9th grade schools, I lived near the 8th. Attending 9th grade at Booker T. Washington, I once skipped my late classes and the Dade County sponsored bus trip home. Leaving early meant about a 3 mile solo walk home from Overtown. That was the 1st time I ever skipped school.

When I set out I imagined myself facing possible danger [think Michael Douglas in Falling Down], but it turned out to be uneventful. I did so because it was MLB’s opening day and I wanted to be home to see if Hank Aaron would tie Babe Ruth’s record. I made it just in time to see the historic home run at Cincinnati.

So May 27, 1976 was the 2nd, and last time, I ever cut classes. That makes me a rather tepid male teenager for 1976, or ’66 or ’86. Did I mention I’ve never smoked … anything. So I watch portrayals of wild teenagers much as I would the Discovery channel. The main difference being that I have no memories of growing up with warthogs.

As I settled into the haze of the Dazed and Confused movie, a familiar voice and questions settled their way into my thoughts; Why hadn’t I been more adventuresome? What was missing?

The voice in my head was unfair I thought. Doubt and insecurity can’t take a goofball comedy off? What, I’ve been assigned a real go-getter demon? Fortunately, like LeBron picking apart the Spurs, I’d heard them before and have settled on some answers along the way. Some deep, some obvious. As in, not even Mel Brooks could produced a watchable comedy about 99% of actual high school experiences. Give the writer/director Richard Linklater’s imagination some credit.

flanneryoconnorFor the deep, I must outsource to Catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor, courtesy of the Brain Pickings blog, as she discusses her spirituality in relation to her work in a letter:

I won’t ever be able entirely to understand my own work or even my own motivations. It is first of all a gift, but the direction it has taken has been because of the Church in me or the effect of the Church’s teaching, not because of a personal perception or love of God. For you to think this would be possible because of your ignorance of me; for me to think it would be sinful in a high degree. I am not a mystic and I do not lead a holy life.

Not that I can claim any interesting or pleasurable sins (my sense of the devil is strong) but I know all about the garden variety, pride, gluttony, envy and sloth, and what is more to the point, my virtues are as timid as my vices. I think sin occasionally brings one closer to God, but not habitual sin and not this petty kind that blocks every small good. A working knowledge of the devil can be very well had from resisting him.

To read how someone like Ms. O’Connor accepted limitations on what she could hope to understand, is a powerful reminder about avoiding intellectual vanities on subjects, both large and small, that do not serve a higher purpose. Not coming to a self-help bookshelf near you. “What is that to thee, follow me.”

Like St. Paul, Ms. O’Connor reads like someone who has put away childish things.

OK voice, I got my team. Here we go, to eleven, no 2’s, win by 2, everything back.

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Heat fans need more eFG less OMG

In the upcoming NBA Finals game 4, the Spurs ‘effective field goal percentage’ [*eFG%] will very likely be at .500 or less. The Spurs have only beaten Miami once, last year’s game 1, when their eFG% was under .500. However, the Heat was under .500 as well in that game.

Since their game 3 loss in last year’s Finals, the Heat appear to have consistently solved San Antonio’s defense, although the Spurs have been more spectacular in their ‘good’ games. Here’s a comparison of their eFG%’s in the 10 Finals games; Heat first / then Spurs:

  • Game 3-2014 – .597 / .664 – Spurs won by 19
  • Game 2-2014 – .586 / .512 – Heat won by 2
  • Game 1-2014  – .551 / .684 – Spurs won by 15
  • Game 7-2013  – .512 / .415 – Heat won by 7
  • Game 6-2013  – .537 / .465 – Heat won by 3
  • Game 5-2013  – .494 / .664 – Spurs won by 10
  • Game 4-2013  – .553 / .500 – Heat won by 16
  • Game 3-2013  – .461 / .580 – Spurs won by 36
  • Game 2-2013  – .554 / .474 – Heat won by 19
  • Game 1-2013  – .487 / .458 – Spurs won by 4

Notice the Spurs consistent drop off following their great shooting games. Only the Miami Heat has recorded an eFG% over .520 — an average eFG% exceeded only by these 2 teams in this year’s playoffs — for consecutive games. The Heat has done so for all 3 games in this year’s NBA Finals. Then again, only the Spurs have ever shot way over .600, doing it 3 times, twice in the last 3 games, but never in consecutive games.

The point is that the Heat have been more consistent than the Spurs offensively, with the caveat that when the Spurs are good, they are spectacular. In game 3 on the road, Leonard and Green had career nights, while LeBron set a record for turnovers. The odds of any of those factors repeating are slim.

Now game 5 at San Antonio is a scarier prospect for us Heat fans.

While watching last night’s game, I thought that Danny Green’s 2nd steal against an incredibly nonchalant Dwyane Wade, when the Heat were already down 20, constituted grounds for having Wade’s existing NBA contract and endorsements voided, with the possible except of his Chinese footwear, since they could provide refuge pending deportation hearings.

* – Effective Field Goal Percentage = eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 x 3PTM)) / FGA

A metric used in NBA basketball that is similar to Field Goal Percentage, but adjusts for the fact that 3-point field goals are worth 50 percent more than 2-point field goals.

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Miami Heat fans and the dynastic cycle

bosh-james-wade-heat-062910jpg-5c0242b13811a4f4_largeSo this is what it feels like to be in the middle of a dynastic cycle. If I were shown the nearby picture of the 2008 USA Olympic basketball team, I would have seen a relaxed bench at the end of a blowout. Pat Riley saw a dynasty.

As fans of a major American sports team in our hometown, this is a moment afforded to few other communities, ever. With the basketball world’s attention about to be focused on our team and city over the next week, it will not get better than this for us Miamians and Heat fans.

This belief is not dependent on whether the Heat beat the Spurs again this year. I literally mean right now, with the NBA Finals series 1-1. Here’s why:

  • Even the slightest doubt by the most irrational of fans, makes the eventual outcome of this series sweeter or more bitter, or what the Dan LeBatard Show refers to as ‘the dirty pants.’
  • My opinion is that what matters most to us fans is that our team be competitive, with real prospects of winning a championship. To actually win is so dependent on random variables [officiating, injuries etc], it isn’t the main enjoyment of following a team.
  • The best illustration of my point is the Marlins franchise.
  • The 1997 Marlins were never in 1st place in their own division beyond April. The team had 2 All-Star reserves and no dominant players. They made the playoffs as the wild-card and were almost immediately disbanded following the World Series. The Marlins microwaved fan joy. The Heat slow-roast.
  • As of today, the Miami Heat team formed by Pat Riley in July 2010 has really only failed to provide one thing to its fans in four years. Forcing a game 7 in the 2011 NBA Finals. The lyric “regrets … too few to mention” comes to mind.
  • The Heat have been a title favorite in each of their four years, feature four likely future Hall of Famers, have role players nearing the end of accomplished NBA careers and the NBA’s best player.
  • The stability throughout the franchise, combined with this year’s playoff run would seem to guarantee that James, Wade and Bosh will return for at least one more year, likely more.

Even the decline portion of this dynastic cycle promises to be interesting. That’s why for Miami Heat fans, especially Miamians, right now is as good as it gets, eschatological concerns aside.

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D-Day Inspiration, Lt. Robert Patrick Mathias

mathias_rp_2ltLacking any direct connection to those who served in WWII, my appreciation of them has over time come to be symbolized in one hero — described in historian Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1994 book, D-Day, June 6, 1944 — the impressive Lt. Robert Patrick Mathias.

Another way to think of him, is to imagine that the most competent soldier from Band of Brothers, another Ambrose book, Richard Winters, had been killed on D-Day.

The 25-year-old paratrooper was a devout Catholic from an Irish family, an amateur welterweight boxing champion in his youth, and would later be documented as the first American officer killed on D-Day.

I would not attempt to summarize Ambrose’s moving description of Lt. Mathias’ integrity and heroism, but you can read it here. However, the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s website does provide a brief description of his death, largely drawn from the Ambrose book:

At 2am, on June 6, 1944, 1st Lt. Robert Mathias and 16 men in his command were riding in the darkness of a C-47.

Lt. Mathias was the leader of the Second Platoon, E Company, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Mathias saw the red light go on. “Stand up and hook up!”, Mathias called out. With machine gun bullets tearing through the aircraft as it lurched about attempting to evade flak, the men behind Mathias kept calling out, “Let’s go, damn it, jump!” But it was Mathias’ duty to wait, to keep his hands on the outside of the doorway, ready to propel himself into the night the instant the green light went on.

Then suddenly, a shell went off beside him. Red-hot flack ripped into his reserve chute and into his chest. It knocked him off his feet. With all his strength, he began to pull himself back up. Then the green light went on.

With blood streaming from his body, Mathias raised his right arm and called out, “Follow me!” and leaped into the night.

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How the Pacers differ from Barbarian Tribes in Germania

conan 1A friend, on the eve of a religious Retreat, once shared a moving philosophical exchange from a surprising movie source. The movie was based on the work of Robert E. Howard, a pioneer in the field of pulp fiction:

Mongol General: Hao! Dai ye! We won again! This is good, but what is best in life?

Mongol: The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair.

Mongol General: Wrong! Conan! What is best in life?

Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.

Last night, as I obsessively refreshed my NBA related twitter feeds following the Miami Heat’s emasculation of the Indianapolis Pacers, I thought of that quote as the aforementioned lamentations were chronicled.

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Traditional marriage and the concept of ‘pilita’

20140504-222712.jpgPilita – Spanish slang for piling on.

If you plan on supporting the concept of traditional marriage — members of the opposite sex with a bare minimum of common ancestors¹ — in the public square debate, for God’s sake be careful [looking around as I type]. Please keep the following in mind:

  • Defeat is assured in this particular battle of the culture wars. Defeat not being the same as a lost cause, as defined by T.S. Eliot.
  • The defeat itself will be a drawn out affair, as our opponents keep us marginally alive for the sake of vengeance, not unlike how how certain species of ants keep flocks of plant lice as slaves to milk them for droplets of sugar. [See above and @ 4 minute mark of Werner Herzog’s wonderful documentary, Encounters at the End of the World].²
  • Unique opportunity to hone your debating skills in a zero expectations environment.
  • Experience will look good on your resume, but poorly in your NSA file.
  • Brendan Eich might be out, but Reihan Salam points out how his integrity is in.

So, how did we get here? Well as you can imagine, we came up against a powerful opponent: heterosexuals. Stay with me, or better said, stay with me as I attempt to stay with the columnist Ross Douthat and Ramesh Ponnuru from National Review.

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How not to grow MLB in Miami – part 1865

espn screenDo the laws of supply and demand apply to MLB ticket sales? See the nearby screenshot of a portion of the Miami Marlins 2014 schedule. The last column reflects the tickets available for purchase through a MLB approved ticket broker. At first glance, it would seem to indicate that the Dodgers, Giants and Nationals have many more tickets to sell than the Miami Marlins. They don’t. Well, not really.

Welcome the world of MLB finances. A world in which if regular fans were more aware of its realities, they would feel like more like Alice in Wonderland than Costner in Field of Dreams.

A recent Forbes article by Jesse Lawrence does a good job of explaining the logic behind the figures reflected in the screenshot above:

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A case of secular humanist vasocongestion

BiAcuwpCQAE86XC.jpg largeI read somewhere that all detective stories are parables for our search for God. Maybe Nic Pizzolatto had too. One group who hadn’t were the secular humanist watchdogs who man the cultural barricades for any hint of conventional spirituality. Boy did HBO’s True Detective take them for a ride, John Deere style.

Everything was set up for the secularists to consummate their relationship with the series in the finale. On paper and seven episodes, the series had all that they and Richard Dawkins could ask for, namely;

  • A likely conspiracy run by a white wealthy charter school advocate whose brother was a senator and whose office featured a cross so large it could have been a goalpost in a prior life.
  • A deeply cynical portrait of the type of people who get their religion under a revival tent.  You might say those folks wore their IQ’s low on their foreheads, sleeves being optional.
  • Of the numerous references references to a ‘King,’ most were about a Yellow King, a few of the King of Kings and none of Alan King. [Distribution roughly equivalent to Carmelo Anthony FG attempts, assists and charges drawn].
  • The married detective was an alcoholic serial adulterer who executed a prime suspect, assaulted males who copulated with his daughter and bitch-slapped said daughter. This character was the intellectual defender of the role of faith in the series.
  • The unmarried detective sounded like what typical secular humanist males [think Pajama Boy] wish they could sound like in public, i.e., unemasculated.

Jesus, you could almost feel the anti-God-squaders excitement. Finally, the rich white God-fearing evil hypocrites would be exposed and by an unrepentant nihilist to boot!  Dreams, unlike prayers, would come true. Then came the finale.

Not only did the secularists not get their money shot–a take down of the rich white guys pulling the strings on the moronic killer/child-abuser–no this Pizzolatto dude had the temerity to have the nihilist detective describe an experience which unmistakeably resembles how most people come to believe in God. Based on intensely personal experiences, not the philosophical ramblings of bipeds who can’t figure themselves out, let alone the universe or prime mover.

I hope that you, numerically limited but highly discerning reader, will find half as much pleasure as I do in all the negative reviews about the final episode of True Detective. I just know there is a secularist on the other end of most of those screeds.

But really, its their own fault.  Isn’t their whole point not to believe in stories? So hey Nietzsche wannabes … [for clues on how to finish my last thought, please refer to Rust Cohle’s final admonition to Reggie Ledoux].

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Richard Sherman gets his comeuppance

Dear web traffic due to inexact search terms, jodete. Anyways, not all comeuppance are bad and we do like to think good here.

The person I allude to is one of the Sherman Brothers’ who wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history, not the Seattle Seahawks conerback. Their work was mostly on Disney films. Recently, they were portrayed in the film, Saving Mr. Banks.

From the Pat Williams biography of Walt Disney, we learn from Richard Sherman something about what moved Disney in the twilight of his life:

… during the last year or two of Walt Disney’s life, he would stop by the Sherman Brothers’ office at the close of every Friday. “We had our own little private ceremony,” Richard told me. “He’d ask us what we were working on, and we’d tell him. Then he’d say, ‘Play the song, Richard.’ And I knew which song he meant.

“Walt would look out the north window of his office while I played the song. And when it was over, he’d say, ‘Yep, that’s what it is all about. Have a good weekend, boys.’

… “It’s a song about the bird woman who sells bread crumbs in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The old woman says, ‘Feed the birds, tuppence a bag.’ That’s the theme of the picture: It doesn’t take much to do an act of kindness— just tuppence, just a penny or two.

“That’s what everyone learns by the end of the film. The children just needed some love and attention from their parents. They didn’t care about their mother’s causes or their father’s money. They just wanted to know that Mum and Dad were interested in them. And that’s what Mary Poppins taught them. It’s a subtle thing, but Walt loved the meaning of that song. That’s what he was all about.

“Even after Walt left us, I continued to play the song every Friday afternoon in his honor. It was a very personal thing for me. I’d feel his presence.

I was once caught in a vortex of the Sherman Brothers’ most prolific song for 95 minutes due to a technical malfunction on a Disney ride. The world was definitely too small that night.

The ‘Feed The Birds’ lyrics from Mary Poppins are copied at end of post.
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Be like Walt and Pat, positive and prolific

20140204-081625.jpg

1976 @ Disney World with my parents

I grew up with happy, albeit vague, memories of Disney television programs and a definite love of Disney World which has survived puberty, parenting and my middle ages. So it is with a certain sense of relief that the more I have learned about its creator has reinforced what a great American he was. His creativity and stick-to-it-ivity are well chronicled in Pat Williams’ biography.

Williams himself has led a life worthy of biography-type attention. His experiences span from being mentored by Bill Veeck in sports management all the way to parenting 18 children, five biological and 14 adopted from four nations between 1983 and 1993. He has also authored [or co-authored] over 70 books, seven of which have followed the format of the “How to be like”–the subjects themselves having a wide span, from Jesus all the way [way] down to Michael Jordan.

This book about Walt Disney draws liberally from other Disney biographies and is not intended to resemble anyone’s dissertation.  In my case, the book accomplished all most books can hope for, someone purchased it and was inspired by it.

Book: How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life by Pat Williams

Method: E-book and audio

What I got from the book – recall the prolific warning in the blog post title:

  • Although Walt Disney’s childhood was difficult, partly due to a harsh father, leading to his decision to leave home at the age of 17–while forging papers to appear 18 and join a Red Cross unit to serve in World War I–he did not appear to resent his father or act embittered towards him
  • Walt met another teenager who also forged his name to join that Red Cross unit, Ray Kroc
  • In preparing for one of 18 year-old Walt’s first jobs he later said:
  •  Everyone has been remarkably influenced by a book, or books. In my case it was a book on cartoon animation [Eadweard Muybridge’s The Human Figure in Motion]. I discovered it in the Kansas City Library at the time I was preparing to make motion picture animation my life’s work. The book told me all I needed to know as a beginner— all about the arts and the mechanics of making drawings that move on the theater screen

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