Monthly Archives: March 2008

NBA Noise: LeBron et Gisele, c’est une image moche

 I’m sure you’ve seen that Vogue cover with Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen.  When I glimpsed it on the newsstands, I thought to meself, “Eee.  That’s the worst Vogue cover ever.”

From compositional and aesthetic levels, neither of them look good in it.  Of all the photographs that were taken, why did the editors choose that one?

Well, the “it ain’t pertty” aspect isn’t just about surface.

Sizzling hot from Yahoo Sports:

LeBron James Vogue cover criticized

NEW YORK – When Vogue announced its April cover starring LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen, the magazine noted with some fanfare that James was the first black man to grace its cover.

But the image is stirring up controversy, with some commentators decrying the photo as perpetuating racial stereotypes. James strikes what some see as a gorilla-like pose, baring his teeth, with one hand dribbling a ball and the other around Bundchen’s tiny waist.

It’s an image some have likened to “King Kong” and Fay Wray.

“It conjures up this idea of a dangerous black man,” said Tamara Walker, 29, of Philadelphia.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz shot the 6-foot-9 NBA star and the 5-foot-11 Brazilian model for the cover and an inside spread. Vogue spokesman Patrick O’Connell said the magazine “sought to celebrate two superstars at the top of their game” for the magazine’s annual issue devoted to size and shape.

“We think Lebron James and Gisele Bundchen look beautiful together and we are honored to have them on the cover,” he said.

James told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer he was pleased with the cover, saying he was “just showing a little emotion.”

“Everything my name is on is going to be criticized in a good way or bad way,” James told the paper. “Who cares what anyone says?”

 

Read the rest here.

 

LeBron’s certainly got a point on that last line.  He could be snapping his fingers out of glee and people would judge and make some kind of assessment.

 

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think the cover could’ve been much better?

VG Force: Play with (against) me.

I think video-game playing is a spectator sport.  I was obsessed with Super Mario Brothers (Nintendo NES, the one that came with Duck Hunt) when I was younger, but as I got older, I became more interested in watching than participating (with the exception of Tetris, which I was addicted to during college).

Given cheat codes such as immortality and/or limitless weaponry and ammunition, though, I could get back into the groove of playing (particularly first-person shooters).  RPGs just don’t compute with me–I haven’t the patience for them.

I was browsing through random WordPress blogs this morning and I came across this little island of crystalline brilliance called Pixel-Love.  One of their top posts is about Sports MMOs (or MMORPGs, aka “massively multi-player online online role-playing games”).  The entry itself contains a reprint of another online piece.

I’ve xeroxed a small excerpt from that entry here:

A Massively Multiplayer Online Sports Game? Why not? Any sport is a competition. Every competition needs at least two people to compete. Then there’s team sports, where many people are competing. Multiplayer, baby!

First, a couple of assumptions. The number of “sports gamers” probably wouldn’t equal the rest of the “gamers” if you were to divide them into two groups but there are a lot of them. There are A LOT of kids out there who own a PS2 for the sole purpose of playing Madden. Sure, those guys play other games like the occasional NBA Live, Tiger Woods, or NCAA game. But these guys can’t be bothered with Ico and Katamari Damacy. There’s Super Bowls to be won! They love their sports teams and they love their sports games.

You could probably break sports gamers into two groups, as well. You’d have the “casual” sports gamer who’s played thousands of Madden games but barely touched the “Superstar Mode” or the Dynasty Mode. The same could be said for the other sports. They like to play the game and can’t be sidetracked with things like drafts and trading. These guys would also be more inclined to play psuedo-sports games like NFL/NBA Street, Hot Shots Golf, etc. The other group of sports gamers are hard core. These are the players that have spreadsheets of statistics plotting the stats of the last ten simulated seasons to see if the video game stats are tracking actual real-life stats. These guys play rotisserie baseball, holding drafts in hotel conference rooms. I’m not saying either side is better than the other. But both expect certain things from their sports games. Some expect fluid animations and knock-out graphics. Others want reasonable simulation results and bases on balls. MMOSGs can accomodate both groups of players. I’ve looked at what’s out there right now and offerings that are on-deck (it’s gonna be hard to resist the sports cliches. There’s so many of them!) and then offer some thoughts about where things can go in Part II.Read the rest of the article here.

I also found an interview sample with Henry Jenkins, the man of hu-mans when it comes to new media studies and fan-culture.

NFL News: a little Bit of Ravens stew

Donc. Not a stew at all, but still hot and steamy…because physical exertion under the sun produces a slight rise in body temperature and lots of sweat. I popped over to the official site of the Baltimore Ravens to peruse news headlines.

Ravens Hold Local Workouts

Nine Baltimore-area hopefuls came to Ravens headquarters for local workouts.

by Mike Duffy
Mar 26, 2008, 7:22PM

Nine new faces were at Ravens headquarters Wednesday, as the team held its yearly workout for NFL hopefuls that live or attended school in the greater Baltimore area.

Some, like Glen Burnie High School alumnus and projected first-round draft pick Branden Albert, came off the field with the confident air of a player that had been there before.

Others, like former Cardinal Gibbons standout Chris Stimmel, were noticeably anxious – if not a little wide-eyed – after running drills under a giant poster of the Super Bowl XXXV trophy.

Could any of these candidates join the Ravens for offseason minicamps? Perhaps.

But at the very least, Baltimore’s personnel and coaching staffs got a good look at the best prospects in their backyard.

“Over the years, we’ve been fortunate enough to find some guys in this workout that we’ve brought to camp and have done a good job for us,” said director of college scouting Eric DeCosta, who also noted the community aspect of the tryouts.

“We do it first of all to evaluate the players, but second, it’s a good thing to do for the community. It fosters good relations with the colleges in the area,” he continued.

It’s all very Invincible, isn’t it? Sort of. In a way. Read the rest of the article here.

Click here for information on John Harbaugh (right), the Ravens head coach.

Off Topic: Today’s Verse 9

For me, positive feelings such as joy, satisfaction, bliss, and even lasciviousness are not as reliable nor as prolific of muses when compared to negative emotions such as neglect, wrath, disappointment, confusion, and even longing. My Happy poems can be quaint and crunchy (but not corny) like a good Snickers bar, but my Sad and Angry poems hit closer to the bone.

Case in point, two Happy followed by an Angry, and then Sad–the newest.

Concession Confection

Sweet vanilla bean rolls around on my tongue
Boiled sugar drips into caramel
Yummy yummy
It’s heaven
Choco chunks
The cool ribbon of cream
Remind me of you
That night in the park
You vowed to go fat free
I watched you fail so miserably
You broke your promise
Biting hungrily into a pint of Chunky Monkey.

–cc 15 April 01

 

 

not accustomed to directness
not raised by here & now
not even jesus jones on the radio
could formulate an intermediary position

do my fingers go there
my hair in the air
flying like a sundae
with chocolate ripples
i do care,

you seem kind enough
to defend my comfort
in the sideways hip-huggers
if my inseams unravel
my skin slips thru

throw in the jack of spades
ride in the back of

suddenly yesterday
it all came thru
the whys, the wheres,
who cares

i have you.

–cc 5 feb 03 10:19 pm

 

 

*self-abuse comes in many forms*

the shepherd ties his flock to the car
hoping they will chew their binds off

but they stand there staring
then kick, shit, and dent the shepherd’s car

he sits in the mess pile
breathing in the rotten stench

of unrequited cliches
the shepherd shouldve been a princess

to be dominated and controlled
with a voice to protest

and politely endure the rest
of bondage humiliation

as hunter-gatherer kingsmen
chase and quell

after an ambivalent little girl
who will happily eat all the filth in the world.

–yiqi 19 dec 06 11:32AM

And all that you wish for


Gladiator footsteps pound
the palace halls
Ladies of the court wait
in silent exaltation
for a window to speak,
unleash
etchings of discoveries

so quietly threaded
under pools of satin skin

close enough to divide

a cherished love in twain

“I’ll know more in the morning,”
the centaur tells me

and so

the Ladies of the court
groan into the wild grass,
smelling of a victory march
Two by two they commingle
until the red one, the only one,
clings to the up right
arms of a worshiping night

Gladiator footfalls echo
down the abandoned entryway

of this lonely, frozen start.

–yiqi 26 march 08 8:49AM

Originally posted at Sthemingway.

Sacrificial Rite: Brian’s Song

C’est aujourd’jui Le Paques et j’ai decide….

I mean. Today is Easter and I decided to watch Brian’s Song (Buzz Kulik, 1971) and write up a few thoughts about it. Based on Gale Sayers‘ (and Al Silverman) book, I Am Third, this made-for-TV movie chronicles the close friendship that develops between Chicago Bears runningbacks Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and Brian Piccolo (James Caan) from their rookie season in 1965 to Piccolo’s untimely fall to cancer just a few years later.

Brian’s Song aired on ABC in the fall of 1971. It was produced by Screen Gems and distributed by Columbia Tristar. The following is a real time “play by play” of what went through my head as I was watching it:

The film begins with Gale Sayers being driven up to the Bears training camp. He’s wearing a suit and tie when he steps out of the cab. The voice-over informs that the movie is about two men who were different in personality and cultural heritage but who managed to become great friends. The first exchange between Sayers and Piccolo illustrates which of the two is garrulous—Piccolo. He advises Sayers to talk into head coach George Salas’s (Jack Warden) right ear because the left one is no good.

The next sequence, where Sayers drops by and checks in with head coach, is simultaneously comedic and uncomfortable to watch—if you’ve seen it, you know why. If you haven’t seen it, well, imagine how awkward it would be if you kept repositioning yourself to speak into the “good” right ear when in fact, the left one is no worse—and Papa Bear Halas called you out on what the jam preserves you’re doing moving around. Rather than blame Piccolo for the “misunderstanding” and subsequent odd behavior, you just let that thought pattern trickle away from you.

In the first proper practice sequence (technically the first one is at the beginning of the film, but it’s more for background), an NFL Films influence is unmistakable with the hand-held camerawork, the angles, the zoom lens, and the slow-motion.

It’s probably been less than a week that Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo have been at the Chicago Bears’ training camp. Halas calls Sayers in for some news. Sayers is under the impression that Halas wants him to be a flanker instead of a running back when in fact:

“What it comes down to is that J.C. [Caroline (Bernie Casey)] had a notion here and Ed [McCaskey (David Huddleston)] seems to think it’s a good idea. I guess we are due for some changes around here.”

Ed clarifies, “No, no, no. No, it’s not that simple, Gale. J.C.’s idea, and yes, I did agree with him, ‘cause that this is 1965. We’d like the Bears to room together according to position without any regard to race. So we’d like you and Brian Piccolo to room together.”

Sayers doesn’t seem phased at all. It’s not as huge a deal to him as it is to the Bears as a franchise and would be to the rest of the country. J.C. explains, “This is something ‘really’ [serious]. You talking about a white man and a black man rooming together on a team that hasn’t been done before. You’re gonna be called a ‘Tom’ by some blacks and ‘uppity nigger’ by some whites. And when we go on the road, I’m talking about Atlanta, Houston, Miami, New Orleans; it ain’t gonna be no better in Detroit, Minnesota or San Francisco or any other town we play in. You gonna rock the boat, Sayers, and people out there are already seasick.”

Halas adds, “What J.C. is saying is that there may be some pressures. Severe ones.” They’re the only two on the team not rooming to skin color.

Sayers and Piccolo both make the team, otherwise, they wouldn’t be rooming together (as the former points out to the latter).

First game sequence: Oooo very, very NFL Films aesthetically. It’s probably actual NFL Films footage. Sayers gets most of the screen-time on the field. Piccolo is shown on the sidelines (looking towards screen-right) from a low angle. There’s some locker room interview-with-the-press scenage after the game, and then it goes to another game sequence that showcases Sayers agile jumping and dodging talents against the 49ers, the Eagles, and the Colts (?).

There’s a voice-over conversation between Piccolo and Sayers. “Hey, Gale, when you run, do you think about what you’re doing, or do you just do it? “I just do it.” “Well, start thinking about it, will you? I wanna play some too.”

Piccolo and Sayers are having dinner at an Italian restaurant with their wives. Piccolo talks about a “trap play” that quarterback Jack Concannon called, explaining to Mrs. Sayers that a “trap play is when all the linemen go one way and hopefully, the defense goes the same way. If they do, see, it’s a big hole. If they don’t, well, it’s bad news.” In the meantime, Sayers is trying not to burst out laughing. Piccolo continues, “Anyway, Concannon calls this trap play, and uh, it’s beautiful. Forty-three yards, wasn’t it? And Halas sees he’s [Sayers] tired and sends me in. I go in and he comes out. Concannon then figures he’s gonna get foxy. You know, Concannon is…” Piccolo points to his head, making a “kinda nuts” gesture. He continues, “Well, he says, uh, ‘same play.’ The very same play. A ‘trap play’ is also called a ‘sucker play’ because it makes the defense look bad when it works and defenses do not like to look real bad, makes them kind of surly. All the linemen go this way and it’s like I’m looking at a team portrait of the Los Angeles Rams.”

Game Three: extreme high angle long shot over a game with the Rams? Voice-over some hate mail that Piccolo got. Again, footage is of Sayers’ running magic.

Sayers is getting an award and all he can say is thank you. He had a speech prepared; the words just wouldn’t come to him. I can relate.

Practice Two: Second year at training camp, something is amiss in the air.

Game Four: against the 49ers. Ah, here comes the extreme low angle shot from underneath the huddle. It’s a 28-toss for Gale. Sayers gets hurt in a tackle. A yellow flag is thrown. His right knee.

Sayers is not taking well at all to not being able to play. It’s anxiety and fear that he doesn’t want to admit. Piccolo tells him, “Unless you come back 100 per cent, people are gonna say: ‘Piccolo got in on a pass. Lucky break.’ I don’t want it like that. I’m gonna whip you, Sayers. But you gotta be your best, or it won’t mean a thing. You’re not gonna be one second slower or one degree weaker. I am gonna work your tail off to get that leg back in shape…for my sake. You got that?”

Sayers is listening to the Bears defeat the Rams and how well Piccolo played. I bet he feels restless and slightly defeated.

Piccolo and Sayers go for a run in a park. After they finish, Piccolo says, “I think I owe you a beer.”

“I think I owe you a lot more than that,” Sayers responds.

Practice Three: Another year of training camp. Very brief but rapidly cut and with grunts.

Halas puts Piccolo and Sayers in starting backfield.

Game Five: against the Steelers. Wow. Piccolo and Sayers TD. More voice-over of the two. The filmmakers knew that there’d be no way they could or should re-film those game sequences.

Weigh In: Piccolo lost another pound. He’s a fullback and 206 pounds. Piccolo remarks, “First you sweat all the fat off of us and then you complain that we’re too thin. You know, you’re a very hard man to please.”

Game Six: Against the Rams? Piccolo’s not cutting it on the field. Sayers is on the sidelines. Sideline scene of Sayers and Piccolo getting some water. He’s not breathing well. Piccolo makes a comment about pollen and Sayers brings uppollen.

Halas is going to send Piccolo back to Chicago. Halas is concerned about Piccolo, who’s been suffering on the field.

Game Seven: Memorial Stadium. Halas tells Sayers that the hospital has found that Piccolo has cancer and part of his right lung has to be removed. The way Sayers—Billy Dee—reacts is just heart-breaking. He fumbles to the wall and leans against it with his hand up, like he would lean against a lover. Shock, disbelief, devastation. Locker room. For a man of so few words, such unassuming disposition, delivering bad news ought to be simpler than expressing joy or gratitude. Sayers begins, “You all know that we hand out a game ball to the outstanding player. Well, I’d like to change that. We just got word that Brian Piccolo is sick, very sick. And it looks like he might never play football again or for a long time. And I think we should dedicate ourselves to give our maximum effort to win this game and give the game ball to Pic. We can all sign it and take it up to the hos—oh, my God.” Sayers makes it through with long, frequent pauses and tears.

Game Eight: Another Rams game. What is this piano music playing over the footage? Sayers running again. Piccolo considers being a kicker.

Game Nine: Slow-motion of Sayers trying to pick up a tumbling ball. It probably wasn’t for more than five to ten yards, but in slow-motion, it’d look a lot worse.

Piccolo’s wife tells Sayers and his wife Joy (Shelley Fabares) that Brian’s cancer is back. Another tumor was found. She hasn’t told him yet. She wants Sayers to be there when the doctor gives him the discouraging news. Sayers and Piccolo are playing something called “The Thinking Man’s Football.” It’s gotta be important because the first shot of the scene is a close-up of this game, where you can read the name. The camera zooms back to reveal the components of the game: a couple of dice, a notepad, what might be a ruler, and a plastic or paper replica of a field. Sayers tells Piccolo about the new tumor and that another operation is needed when Mr. Eberle (Stephen Coit) comes by to get a signature. The camera zooms in for a close-up on Piccolo as he hears the news—such a TV thing to do.

Sayers says, “Brian is a professional athlete, Mr. Eberle. A professional gets into a habit after a while. He gets himself ready for a game mentally as well as physically because he knows those two things are all tied up together. And there’s a clock inside, and when the game starts, he’s 100% mentally and physically. And what Brian is saying is that you’re scheduling the game before he can get ready. Couldn’t it wait until over the weekend?”

Piccolo goes under again. Sayers wins the George S. Halas Most Courageous Award. His acceptance speech: “I’d like to say a few words about a guy I know, a friend of mine. His name is Brian Piccolo, and he has the heart of a giant and that rare form of courage which allows him to kid himself and his opponent, cancer. He has the mental attitude which makes me proud to have a friend who spells out courage twenty-four hours a day, every day of his life. Now you flatter me by giving me this award. But I say to you here and now, Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas award. It’s mine tonight and Brian Piccolo’s tomorrow. I love Brian Piccolo and I’d like all of you to love him too. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”

It’s the night before/after the surgery and Piccolo is talking to Sayers on the phone. There’s a diagonal split screen from upper left corner to lower right corner (Piccolo on the right side and Sayers on the left). Piccolo says, “I’m hanging in there. I heard what you did at that banquet last night. If you were here I’d kiss you.” Sayers replies, “I’m glad I’m not there, then.” Piccolo responds, “Hey, Gale, they tell me you gave me a pint of blood. Is that true?” “Yep.” Camera goes in for a close-up and Joy Piccolo’s face is no longer in the frame. “That it explains it then.” “Explains what?” “I’ve had this craving for chitlins all day.” There’s something very intimate about the way this conversation is presented—and I don’t mean sexually. It’s emotionally intimate.

Ending voice-over (over footage of Piccolo and Sayers running through the park): Brian Piccolo died of cancer at the age of twenty-six. He left a wife and three daughters. He also left a great many loving friends who miss him and think of him often. But when they think of him, it’s not how he died that they remember but rather how he lived. How he did live.


Ending credits: training camp scenes photographed on location at St. Joseph’s College in Renssaler, Indiana.

For their cooperation in supplying special action sequence footage, Screen Gems wishes to thank NFL Films and Steve Sabol, Jack Newman, Ernie Ernse, and Joe Guarracino.

There’s a special featurette featuring the real Gale Sayers. Billy Dee Williams really captured or emulated very well Sayers’ soft-spoken demeanor. Sayers valued his college years for teaching him how to study, how to be a scholar. He says that 1968 was his best year. Sayers isn’t sure how exactly a movie came about as a result of writing that book about his friendship with Piccolo. He did approve the script. Jack Warden sufficiently exuded Halas mannerisms.

According the IMDB’s awards page for this Brian’s Song, Jack Warden won an Emmy for his performance as Papa Bear Halas. William Blinn won an Emmy (adaptation achievement) and a Peabody Award.

Click here for the Wikipedia page on the film.

Click here for a 2008 interview with Gale Sayers.

And in some Atlanta Falcons news, Jason Elam will soon learn all about off-the-charts pollen count. And, of course, unless you’ve been Rip Van Winkle-ing it over the past week, you’d know that a tornado moseyed through parts of downtown Atlanta, hitting the Georgia Dome, among other places. Click here for some first-hand insights on what it was like to experience such a sensory punch.