May 22, 2006

I live sweat but I dream light years


Jean Dubuffet, MĂȘle Moments, 1976

* Top ten conservative idiots. excerpt:

"10. Robert Ray

"And finally, it's time to cast our minds back for a moment to the Great Clinton Cock Hunt of the 1990s. Ah, those were the days - when the most egregious thing a president could do was get a little extra-curricular nookie in the White House. While Bill Clinton never lied the country into an illegal war, outed CIA agents for political gain, or wiretapped millions of American citizens without a warrant, his penis was of course responsible for evil-doing on a grand scale and had to be stopped by any means necessary.

"I know what you're thinking: if Republicans put the same amount of time and effort into catching Osama bin Laden that they spent investigating the presidential member, perhaps we might have caught the guy by now. Priorities, people, priorities! That penis was a weapon of mass destruction far more deadly than anything Saddam Hussein possessed. Er, didn't possess. And anyway, we all know that Republicans care so deeply about the 'rule of law' that if they had not tied up the government for years with investigations and impeachment proceedings over a private affair between two consenting adults while the 9/11 attacks were being planned, it would have been plain un-American.

"But back to the issue at hand: Robert Ray. He was the prosecutor who took over from Ken Starr after Starr finally masturbated himself unconscious in October 1999, and the investigation eventually fizzled out in 2002 after ten long years of crotch-sniffing.

"And two weeks ago Ray 'turned himself in to police ... on charges of stalking a former girlfriend,' according to the Washington Post. It seems that 'Ray's former girlfriend, a 40-year-old Manhattan woman, filed a complaint that he persisted in sending e-mail and knocking on her door months after she broke off their relationship.' Police charged him with a misdemeanor and he's due in court on June 12."

* the art of sport. excerpt:

"The art critic Dave Hickey builds his essay 'The Heresy of Zone Defense' (published in his 1997 collection 'Air Guitar') around another such moment of transcendent athletic beauty: Julius Erving driving baseline in the 1980 NBA Finals, veering though the air around Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, under the backboard, and then, somehow, reaching back under the glass for a reverse layup. After the game, Magic Johnson joked that the Lakers weren't sure at the time whether to inbound the ball or ask Erving to do it again.

"'Everyone who cares about basketball knows this play,' Hickey writes, and it's true: Even for sports fans like myself who were merely toddlers in 1980, the words 'Dr. J' and 'reverse layup' are sufficient to summon the precise mental image.

"Hickey attributes the universal joy inspired by Erving's play to the fact that it 'was at once new and fair': within the rules of the game invented in 1891 by James Naismith, and yet impossible for Naismith (or anyone else, for that matter) to have anticipated until Dr. J actually pulled it off. The relationship between fair play and aesthetic appreciation may also explain why replays of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's record-setting 1998 home run chase felt breathtaking just a few years ago but now seem to have lost their capacity to inspire strong feelings.

"Hickey also writes of the aesthetic rewards reaped by attentive spectators who know 'what to watch for' (in basketball, according to Hickey, 'basically, everything'). As in art or music, such knowledge isn't strictly necessary but it deepens the aesthetic experience. I enjoy modern art, although I have only a layman's understanding of it. My sense of the beauty of Ray Allen's perfect jump-shooting form, on the other hand, is enhanced by the innumerable bricks I've hoisted over two decades of pickup hoops."
...
"David Foster Wallace devotes his essay 'How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart' to the conundrum. Onetime tennis phenom Austin disheartens Wallace because he can't reconcile her on-court brilliance, not only physical but mental, with her staggeringly insipid tennis memoir. It's certainly not a lack of intelligence, as Wallace points out: 'Anyone who buys the idea that great athletes are dim should have a close look at an NFL playbook, or at a basketball coach's diagram of a 3-2 zone trap.'

"Wallace ultimately concludes that looking to athletes for insights into the nature of athletic beauty discounts the possibility that athletes are capable of such feats precisely because they can 'invoke for themselves a cliché as trite as 'One ball at a time' or 'Gotta concentrate here,' and mean it and then do it.' Any of us in the stands or watching at home, under such circumstances and scrutiny, would buckle and fail precisely because we think too much (that, and the fact that most of us have mediocre hand-eye coordination and aren't in particularly good shape)."

* "Making things difficult for the reader is less an attack on the reader than it is on the age and its facile knowledge-market. The writer is driven by his conviction that some truths aren't arrived at so easily, that life is still full of mystery, that it might be better for you, Dear Reader, if you went back to the Living section of your newspaper because this is the dying section and you don't really want to be here." -- Don DeLillo, 1979

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