Thursday, June 28, 2007

Deadliest Catch Fan Fiction?

I have been watching a lot of Deadliest Catch, like enough that if anyone else were around, I would be a little embarassed by it.

Sometimes I have big ideas and some times I have small ideas (er, that one got cancelled, by the way - awkward!). This is a small one.

You know how George Lucas had the crew of Star Wars watch archival WWII fighter footage to learn what space dogfights should look like? I think anyone who's going to do a dirty future sci-fi series should watch Deadliest Catch.

These are real, working-class guys in a big ship that isn't terribly maneuverable and doesn't always work. These are no fighter jet analogues - they're closer to, say, Firefly.

The moment that brought this home for me was in episode 30, "Caught in the Storm" (one of the more Zissou-esque episode titles).

Capt. Greg Moncrief of the Farwest Leader is trying to get his boat out of a harbor before a storm hits and traps him there - a tricky maneuver as the harbor has a protective dogleg just big enough for the boat and waves outside are rising.

It's a tough bit of piloting and the look of pure concentration on Moncrief's face is extraordinary.

Okay, so I immediately compared and contrasted with the "Leaf on the Wind" sequence in Serenity.

Differences: Walsh engages in witty banter. Moncrief speaks only three times: "holy shit" (on seeing the waves), snapping at his wife (which is all instinct anyway) and talking in a relaxed, easy manner once they make it out safely.

Walsh looks straight forward. Moncrief gets up out of his chair for quick looks around (of course, Walsh is moving much faster).

Walsh is getting yelled at and things are exploding all around him. Moncrief easily insists on total silence, and it's creepier.

Similarities: Maneuvering big things in difficult circumstances, danger of death or destruction, and that look of total concentration. Both get up at some point to hit a switch (Walsh, as a rule, hits three switches). Both pilots are confident.

Why this is not a perfect comparison: Moncrief is not being shot at. Also, one is fiction. And has a soundtrack.

Takeaways: Any ship maneuvering system, even a hypothetical one, is going to have a single main piloting mechanism that will occupy most of the pilot's attention (all of it during these tenser moments). If he needs to make another adjustment, he doesn't look at it for long.

No one wants to talk while they're precision piloting, so if you're going to write someone in to the cockpit, your pilot isn't going to talk like Han talks to Chewbacca, much less Leia.

The pilot always knew he could do it.

Here's the thing: Deadliest Catch is full of these moments that have been imperfectly translated to sci-fi and the ilk - in fact, I'm pretty sure you could do a scene-by-scene translation from the reality show to a sci-fi movie (they are hunting space crab!)

Like when Capt. Jonathan pulls a man out of the water. Those guys run around like chickens with their head cut off! They are not well-drilled on these situations! We need to see more of that in our fiction.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lifestyle Hack

A hack is a way to use a system or set of rules to achieve a result the original creator of that system or set of rules did not intend.

Let's say, for example, you use the macro function in Microsoft Word not to automatically format text, but to change every fiftieth and fifty-first word of all the Word documents on a hard drive to "peanut brittle." This is a hack. It doesn't have to be bad thing - running a diesel engine on used vegetable oil is also a hack.

Which brings me to the idea of the lifestyle hack.

Let's say hypothetically that I want to change my life. Now, I live the way I do for a reason - it may not be a very good reason, and I may not even be aware of it, but I've made choices to do things a certain way to fill some function that would be unfilled otherwise. If there wasn't a reason, I wouldn't be doing things this way.

I can think of two ways to change the way I live. The first is to change how I am. I could make a close examination of why I do different things and try to alter the way I think in order to change how I live.

Well, that's all well and good, but in practice it's rather a slow boat. Changing how I view the world takes concentration, clear thinking, prolonged desensitization to my brain's hangups and knee-jerk responses, and time. Lots and lots of time.

The second option is a lifestyle hack. Rather than changing the rules, why not figure out a way to use them to achieve the desired result? Instead of changing the way I think, why not change the way I frame a problem in order to change the way I behave?

I will give an example, but please bear with me as this starts to become a bit personal. Those bored by such matters can read this sweet little post in which people go "Gwaar!"

I've always had trouble looking for work because I hate asking people for help and I have a lot of trouble doing anything just for myself.

I've never had trouble doing work, especially in a structured environment like a film set or an office, but I've always had trouble asking people to give me a job.

Well, I should revise that - I've never had trouble doing work for other people. If a friend or a feature needs me to, say, paint an entire apartment, I'll pick up a roller and have the first coat up by the end of the day - but throw some plastic over the couch and stop living in white apartment purgatory? It always strikes me as too much work for too little benefit, especially when I could be spending my time watching Flight of the Conchords.

My latest idea is to think about looking for work not as something that's going to benefit me, but as something that will benefit my friends in the film business.

Right now, I can think of maybe five friends who are both capable of writing a really good feature film script and fool enough to think that I'd be able to produce it. In fact, I probably am capable of producing a feature, but at the moment I'm missing some crucial skills that I'll only really get once I work as an office PA for a couple of months.

My lifestyle hack, then, is to get myself to look for work not as a way to help myself but as a way to make sure I'll someday be able to help my under-resourced and misguided friends.

I come up with these ideas all the time, but they hardly ever end up working the way I want (remember no daytime t.v.? If you do, something is wrong with you.) I am in the mood to let you know.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ocean's 13 Lingo

My notes from the movie. Who takes notes during a movie? I am finding this whole List Posts stage I'm going through very disorienting.

"But there is a lot of that in the Oceans films where they say 'Let's do a Susan B. Anthony or a Sticky Fingers or a Monkey On a Sidetrap, Sling it Down on the Woodshelf, and then put it Oh for Two, Oh For Five' and everyone goes, 'Yeah, yeah let's try that, let's try that.'"
-Eddie Izzard on The Daily Show, Thursday June 7, 2007.

"We have to offer a Billy Martin."
"It's a Reverse Big Store."
Irwin Allen
Pancake Eater
The Brody-Prop
Dock the Showboat
Set Up a Cartwheel
Pulled an Audible
Saw a Blitz Coming
Working a Frame
"I've gotta jump."
"So it's back to the Susan B. Anthony again."

I also like the running gag where whenever Pitt and Clooney talk about their girls, they each seem to know exactly what the other one is thinking despite the fact that neither ever finishes a thought or a sentence.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Words Behind Talking Heads During "Making Flippy Floppy"

From Stop Making Sense, of course. In order of appearance:

Public Library
Air Conditioned
Under the BFD
Star Wars
Time Clock

Before Dinner Time
Before You're Awake
Late At Night

ps What the hell am I doing here? Is this sort of thing an early sign of asperger's?
pps I want to dance like David Byrne

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Some Comics I'd Option if I Were a Real Producer

Return to Sender

Fans (one of the cheaper story lines, I suppose. Maybe one of the ones involving mind control?)

Powers (obviously).


What I Did Today

30th St. between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue: Furriers
29th St. between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue: The P.I.T.
28th St. between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue: Floral and plant stores
27th St. between 7th Avenue and 8th Avenue: Toy wholesalers
26th St. between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue: The place where I got my hair cut last time (finally!)

All I Had to Go On

These are the four albums my mom listened to incessently when I was growing up. I'm pretty sure I still know all the lyrics to each of these records. Complete with iTunes links, because I am a commercial whore.

She's So Unusual
Cyndi Lauper

Rhythm of the Saints
Paul Simon

Paul Simon

Nick of Time
Bonnie Raitt

Monday, June 11, 2007

Media Aware or Media Afraid?

I am watching Game 2 of the finals. The commentators are talking about how immediately after Game 1, LeBron James went back to his hotel and watched the game straight through twice.

Jeff Van Gundy: What else are you going to do in San Antonio for two days?
Mike Breen: Aw, no. Here come the letters. Oberto inside banks it in. Mark, you and I want to go on record as saying this is one of the greatest cities we've ever been to.
Mark Jackson: Oh, I've had a blast. The Riverwalk. This is phenomenal.
(Light laughter)
Mike Breen: You want to apologize now or later?
Mark Jackson: Tee-hee.
Jeff Van Gundy: I just meant, you know ... I don't know what I meant.
Mike Breen: James to the basket, banks it off, won't go ...

I started thinking about being media aware. It comes up on another of my favorite shows, Mythbusters, all the time. Those guys work soooo hard - you should see the boat build in the channel marker episode - and they know (know!) when a particular and annoying demographic in their audience is going to wave off the whole thing as bullshit because of some absurd perceived mistake.

On the one hand, I admire anyone who's media aware, which I think of as being able to get your message across to people without saying something that can be taken out of context or could become embarassing. Being media aware also consists of being able to predict the way a comment will play in the press or with the public, or even being able to manipulate how the press interprets statements.

A former member of the press myself, I know if I talked to the press about anything I would almost certainly humiliate myself and my family, and one stupid turn of phrase can ruin a career.

On the one hand, we all have to be more careful what we say and how we say it. And who's to say that people shouldn't be held accountable for an off-hand comment that seems to reveal a hidden way of thinking?

Of course, who am I to say that one of the men I just linked to was victimized and the other was rightly punished? Maybe the media or popular perception is justice. Or maybe knowing each of us could easily offend an entire country is just making us unduly paranoid.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Triangulating Texas Through Popular Culture

Unlike New York, L.A., and ... actually that's it, Texas is a part of the world that you can't usually get a good perspective on from movies and T.V. shows.

It's important to understand Texas because it's like America except more so. Here's one movie and two T.V. show about Texas - if you watch all three and take away everything that makes them unique, you should get Texas in a nutshell.

True Stories (a Talking Heads movie).

Like Stop Making Sense, their 1984 concert movie, the Talking Heads' True Stories is implacably odd, quietly affecting and fun to watch. The stories of the film center on a small Texas town, all set to actor performances of songs from the Talking Heads album of the same name.

This movie is just so Texas I could scream. It's a collection of short stories on acutely Texas subject matters, all told with an over-the-top Talking Heads style, inhabited by these energetic, open and positive Texas people.

Just a sample: a husband and wife who haven't spoken to each other in ten years sit in an enormous suburban dining room with their family. One of the kids asks the father about the future of the town where they live.

In an enormously upbeat, generous song, the man lays out a whole plan for the future of the town centered on making it a pleasant place to live so that the young people who grew up there and went away to college want to come back. He uses the food from the dinner table to illustrate his points.

King of the Hill

When I saw King of the Hill for the first time it took me about ten minutes to think "Huh. That's totally Texas."

I think it was the kitchen that did it for me.

Austin Stories

Austin Stories, which I guess you can only buy here, was an early MTv sitcom about three slackers living in the titular city. I remember it was the only thing on T.V. at the time which seemed to be even roughly about the life I was living. For example, one of the three main characters was kind of fat.

I haven't seen this show since I was a kid. Does writing a blog entry about it obligate me to buy the DVD? Probably so, right?

More Texas Moments

The opening and closing sequences of the movie are on a Texas ranch. The shot of a FedEx truck rumbling down a rural road is the truest depiction of Texas in winter I remember seeing in a movie.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure
Pee Wee is looking for his bike in the basement of the Alamo. Pee Wee is sort of Texas, himself - loud, over the top, dances to "Tequila."

Paris, Texas
Paris, Texas is about two brothers reconciling after years apart, but it's also about driving from one end of Texas to another.

The Getaway (1972) has a great bit where the villain talks with Steve McQueen on a barge on the San Antonio Riverwalk. Great, big, cowboy-hatted Texas villain, too - you could see the same type of guy in Blood Simple.

Great Day

Today I rode a Vespa for the first time, just like I always wanted.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

ribble's Nostalgia Quest

For about six months after this post, I went on a nostalgia quest. I've been watching the T.V. I loved as a kid to see if it's worth a damn. Here's my first installment of results, in handy alphabetical order.

Better than I remember

Animaniacs was just a great cartoon when I was a kid - funny with a lot of great cartoony action. Now, I'm old enough to get a lot of the jokes (want to see what I mean? Check out the Animaniacs Cultural References Guide).

Seriously, this is a work of genius. Yakko's song containing the names of all the nations of the world (in rhyme!) would be enough for this show to be remembered with distinction in cartooning / children's programming history.

The Critic
Just as great as I remember

The critic was a great, animated show that got dicked around by network programmers who didn't understand it until it was cancelled before its time (obvious reference. I would go so far as to say that it was the part Jon Lovitz was born to play.

The Critic was also a great New York show - there are a number of running gags related to the UN school - that was funny both before and after I moved to New York.

Danger Mouse
Just as great as I remember

I remember watching this show growing up in Scarsdale, N.Y., which means I must have been watching it before I was six years old.

Over the course of my nostalgia quest, I ran in to a couple of things that would be great if I were a kid, but weren't quite built for DVD. Danger Mouse is one of these.

The show tends to be a bit formulaic, but it's funny, it's British, and the cartoon action is great. I'm looking forward to someday turning off whatever Saturday morning dribble my kids are watching and making them watch this instead.

Plus: one of the greatest theme songs ever.

Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist
Better than I remember

Dr. Katz, presented in Squigglevision, always had a funny framing story arc, but the meat of the show was Dr. Katz's sessions with his patients, played by whatever aspiring comedian Katz could get to come up to his studio in Boston to record their acts.

It's consistently funny and sometimes sweet, but I think what my Adult Swim-watching generation is going take away from Dr. Katz is a worship of H. Jon Benjamin.

Now that I'm older, I get to understand just how well this show was made, the jokes are funnier and I get hear the early material of a bunch of young comedian, like Dave Attell, who would later get their own shows.

Fraggle Rock
Better than I remember

I watched Fraggle Rock with my friend, codename Charlie, at her place until we were both half asleep on her couch. What a great show! There are great songs, great characters (Charlie identifies with Red, who gets in trouble by trying to be too self-reliant), and always multiple storylines because there's the action above ground and the action below, each with a lesson learned.

Quantum Leap
Not as good as I remember

Quantum Leap I remembered particularly for consistenly raising the stakes. Even as a kid, before I started writing, before I became the sophisticated television viewer standing here today, I was impressed by how the show would always start off with, say, someone's future on the line and end up with, say, the survival of the two main characters, the history of the world and the survival of the human species at stake.

Now, though, the show is too long and slow to get my interest, I feel like I know what's coming, and no one's actions seem as logical. Too bad.

Not as good as I remember

Reboot has already earned a place in history as one of the first full computer animated t.v. shows. The animation is still okay in the context of the story, but the DVD I watched, from the last, unreleased straight-to-video season, had gotten all tangled up in its story lines and promptly lost my interest.

seaQuest DSV
Not as good as I remember
Back in late December, the SciFi channel showed a marathon of every episode of seaquest DSV, which I diligently TiVod. As a kid, this was a very inspiring show, especially Jonathan Brandis' character, Lucas.

seaQuest DSV is something best watched in private, with no threat of judgement by others on my childhood heros. So last year I waited until my roommate went away for spring break and watched the second season.

What I really like about seaquest is that it takes the sci-fi adventure show out of space and puts it where it belongs, back on Earth. No faster-than-light travel. No instant communications. Justifiable makes a big difference to me, and exploring "the last unexplored region on Earth" always appealed to me. A lot of the show was ridiculous (their in-ship transportation says "thank you for using mag-lev") but the power of that idea got me, especially the Lucas character.

Johnny explains Lucas as the Wesley Crusher of the deep, but actually Brandis comes off as a clever, cool guy who I probably would have hung out with freshman year of high school. Which was remarkable because the writers loved to have Lucas tell us how scared he was like he was some sort of teen Boxey.

But it turns out that 1993 was 13 years ago. Effects never age well, and seaquest was an effects-heavy show. The dialogue isn't great. The ship is derivative (big viewscreen in the front of the bridge, etc.). Plus, especially in the beginning of season one before the show hit its stride, seaQuest seems to be developing too many ideas at once.

seaQuest was good for maybe a total of one season out of the two and a half seasons it ran. It relied too much on sci-fi conventions, like the giant viewscreen and, eventually, aliens, without thinking those things through. It had some potential, but it never followed through.

Space Rangers
Not as good as I remember

Space Rangers fell farther in my estimation than anything else on this list.

It was only around for about six episodes, and looking back I think I only ever saw the first one, but I was really excited about Space Rangers when I was a kid. I think it was the gun turrets in the space ships. I drew a lot of space ships with gun turrets in them after that.

Predictably, it turns out this was not a very good show. Hokey, bad effects, the aliens look just like the alien in a particular eponymous Ridley Scott film, bad dialogue, unbelievable plots, hero with too much hair, etc. etc.

But man, and I think this goes to the power of nostalgia, writing these two paragraphs alone was enough to make me want to go draw some spaceships with gun turrets in them.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

ribble's Bad Habits

I've been producing films for First Sundays for only about six months (although I've put more work in some than others), but I've been screening films for over a year.

Screening other peoples' movies is fascinating. I have seen some great stuff that in some cases less than ten people before me have ever seen.

Even the bad movies that we would never show can have their moments. I watch almost everything, no matter how terrible, all the way through to the end for exactly that reason.

I remember one particular film about a man who may or may not be possessed by the spirit of a dead, 70-year-old Jewish woman that was awful, awful. Too long, no one acts rationally, not funny.

In the scene, the maybe possessed man, now institutionalized, is talking to the camera about getting a letter from his fiance, who is now marrying his best friend, and he finally realizes that he's thrown his life away.

For the last five seconds of the movie, the protagonist stops speaking in the 70-year-old Jewish woman voice he's been using for the duration and starts talking in the voice of a normal 30-ish man.

It's an incredible cinema moment. Truly amazing. I watched it over and over. And because no one would ever show such an awful 20 minutes of awful for ten seconds of genius, it is possible that I am the only one outside of the production that will ever see it.

Mostly, though, screening movies means I've watched a lot of bad shorts. It's pretty instructive. There's nothing like watching the same mistakes over and over to warn you off them forever.

I developed a shpeil for people directing audience films [under "CONTEST"] for the first time.

For the audience films, we ask writers and directors to keep their shorts to five minutes or less (about five pages of script).

When we screen films, the bar gets steadily higher for longer movies. Think about it - the longer the film, the more of our limited screen time we need to commit to it. We've got an official cutoff at maybe 25, 30 minutes but it's very, very difficult for a film that length to be funny enough for us to show it. No film is too short.

If you are making a short comedy film, please do everyone a favor and keep it short. Cut, cut, cut - that's my #1 AAA [Star] Most Important Suggestion.

The films I watch can usually tell the same story in a quarter the time because audiences pick up on stuff pretty quick. I have seen so many movies that would take over the world if they cut everything that wasn't funny.

When I give my shpiel to first time directors of audience films, I tell them to only write what they think they can do themselves. In my movie, I wrote in a white truck and a good-looking Southerner because I knew I could get those things. Before he writes, Victor has everyone in the cast and crew write out a list of locations where they know he can shoot for free.

It's not a requirement, but I tell writer / directors to make sure their films take place in more than one location. Audiences start to feel trapped or claustraphobic if they have to stay in one location too long. Usually wherever you're shooting can double as two locations anyway, like one apartment playing two different apartments if, say, two people are talking on the phone.

Plus, there's usually more than one place in a particular area where you can shoot in a single day. Location managers think about this shit all the time.

On a similar note, first-time directors are always afraid to move the camera. Move the camera. If you don't, you will bore your audience to death. Moving the camera makes your movie so much more interesting, it's like night and day.

I would also suggest that filmmakers bring in a DP, even if it's just your best friend who may or may not know how to use your camera. The director is constantly making decisions on a film set. It's best to be able to hand the camera to someone else so that you don't have to worry about keeping the actor's forehead in the frame in addition to, say, how good their acting is.

In the vein of making it easier on yourself, the rule of thumb in independent film is that the ideal number of people to have in a scene is two. Any more, and logistics, camera placement, booming and everything else becomes much more complicated.

For an incredible movie that rarely has more than two people in a scene, watch Brick. Or you can just read me gushing about it over and over again.

Of course, there's no end to the things you can learn about making movies. There aren't all that many masters. But making a movie isn't rocket science, and it is possible to make a good first movie. Start with this and let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Working Webcomics

I've been reading The Devil's Panties, and I keep thinking about something that comic's writer, Jennie Breeden says in her FAQ (under "What advice would you give to someone who wants to do webcomics?") It is making me think that webcomics are getting more established, at least by one particular measurement.

First, some background. Here is a conversation I've had maybe a fourty times:

SOMEONE GETTING TO KNOW ME: What kind of books do you read?
ME: I read a lot of webcomics.

SGTKM: What's a webcomic?

ME: A webcomic is a comic strip that is published regularly on the internet, usually by an amateur artist. They are almost entirely different from the comics you'd read in a newspaper.

For one thing, with webcomics the reader can go back and all the comic strips that author has ever written from the beginning, which lets webcomics artists to do longer storylines. Some of those story lines go on for years.

For another, webcomics artists can get more and faster feedback from their fans. Some artists feel that what their fans think is important, some don't.

Finally, because webcomics artists don't have to answer to a syndicate or a boss or even really their fans, they can just do what they want, so there's a much richer range of subject matter and different types of people writing it. Webcomics can more easily explore adult themes and write for an adult audience.

SGTKM: Do these artists make money with their comics?

I used to say:
ME: Most don't. They do it to develop as an artist, or because they want to develop an audience for their art, or because they like doing the art anyway so they feel like they might as well let an audience see it, too.

A few have been around a long time and have built enough of an audience that they can quit their day jobs and earn a salary by selling merchandise through their websites, but you could count the comics like that on your fingers.

That brings me to my point. In her FAQ, Breeden lays out what aspiring webcomics artists can expect from in their first five years if they do it like she did it (promoting her comic at conventions, etc.)

This makes me think that webcomics artists are supporting themselves with their art more regularly than they did before. When I think about the artists who make the comics I read every day, that seems right.

That's it, just a small idea, but I think it's significant. It wasn't long ago that no one could have written about what to expect from your first five years because no one had actually done it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Look Like ribble

T-shirts I wear. IN REAL TIME!

Divided by origin.


Orange Atari

Rolling Bones Premium Pit BBQ

Superman (fuzzy)


HEB Snacks Summer 2004

Tri-City Softball / Donaho #3

Gruene Hall / Texas' Oldest Dance Hall

Front: "Generators." Sleeve: ("everyone wins when the turbine spins")

Southwestern Bell Pioneers Volunteers


Bobcat Football / Hinojosa #89

Reuniendo a la Familia Southwestern Bell Long Distance

Whataburger A1 Thick & Hearty Burger

Peppercorn Ranch Whatachick'n Sandwich (for a limited time only)

Luther Burbank Vocational High School 30 Year Reunion 1971-2001

Jack Daniels Old #7


The Flabergasted Eagle

Loch Ness Monster Adventure Club

Mix Tape

From Scary-Go-Round: Front: "Welcome to Robotania" Back: "Main export: dismay." (ret.)


Virginia (Note: non-ironic version)

The Internet is a Series of Tubes (from Superosity, this shirt featured the Ted Stevens quote next to an 8-bit Mario on a tube.)


Dartmouth Reinventing Earth Week

The Owl Bar & Cafe San Antonio, New Mexico (the internet has a surprisingly large amount of information on this place when you consider it's in THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.)

Front: Giant image of Sean Connery. Back (in courier: "The name's Bond. James Bond."

Harry's Roadhouse: "EAT. yum."

Front: "Ruprecht The Boy Wonder." Back: "World Tour 1987-2006," lists all nine places my current roommate has gone to school.

Front: Francis, State Highway Administration Maryland Arm patch: SHA Certified Heavy Equipment Operator Level III Label: SUi State Use Industries

Burmese alphabet

Sunday, June 03, 2007

ribble's Stock Responses

"These things happen."
"You should write an angry letter."
"I believe you."
"Sounds about right."
"Fair enough."
"So you say." / "So you claim."
"Just so we're on the same page here."

"All right."

Sure, it's trivial, but I've noticed that these change every six months or so and I'm interested in keeping track.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

'Tis the Season

It's finally summer, and in New York, that means it's five different seasons at once.

First of all, it's the hot season.

In San Antonio, heat and humidity meet you like a wall as soon as you get out of the airport, and I will maintain every day until my dying day that the heat in Texas is a lot worse than the heat here.

But San Antonio has a cooling infrastructure (central air, ceiling fans) that for whatever reason doesn't exist in The City. There's just better internal air movement down there.

As a result, and I noticed this for the first time the other week while helping my cousin the revolutionary in to his new place, I no longer even notice when I'm pouring sweat.

Second, it's smell season.

It doesn't stink in Texas for the simple reason that there are no people walking around on the streets down there unless they are walking to their car. People mean waste and waste means smell.

I've never found the stench unbearable, but I know people, even people who grew up here (Vickyheart comes to mind) who just can't take it anymore and occasionally have to run off to live in New Jersey or something equally absurd.

Third, it is roach season.

Roaches freak me out a lot less than they did when I first move to the city, but they're definitely the worst of the five things listed here.

I crushed my first roach of the summer on a subway platform this morning. The worst I've seen was on a turkey leg outside the construction on the west side of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

My last roommate would flee the room and sometimes the whole apartment if she thought she even heard a roach.

Roaches are a good reason to keep a clean place. Mice are more manageable. I'm sort of hoping they come back now that I have a cat, but so far they've been too smart.

Fourth, it's real estate season. Everyone but everyone, from the cute little red-haired girl who lived down the street to My Cousin the Revolutionary to my friend Gigi, who is overjoyed to finally be escaping Jersey.

New Yorkers love love love talking real estate. This Park Slope Reader guide to Park Slope blogs [PDF] has four categories: food, real estate, literary arts and kids. That's my neighborhoods priorities in a nutshell.

By the way, if you are interested in a two-bedroom in a small building in Prospect Heights for about $2000 a month, and you are cool, my email address is on the top right there.

Finally, it's tourist season. Even in Texas, people always assumed I was a New Yorker even when I wasn't, but it didn't take long for me to be able to spot the visitors on any subway platform, public park or street corner.

It takes maybe three months to understand comprehensively how to move in this city (layout, busses, rush hour, etc.), so the easiest spots to pick out tourists are sidewalks and subways.

They have to talk a lot about how to get where they're going, travel in groups that always look similar to each other, often seem travel weary because they don't tend to find the time to just sit down, and have a mildly annoying habit of just stopping in awkward places that make it difficult to walk around them.

Tourists also look different from New Yorkers, who are slimmer then most Americans just because we walk everywhere.

I don't want to sound anti-tourist because I know it's an important part of the city and brings in money, but if I am anti-tourist, I come by it honestly.

I grew up in the King William District of San Antonio, a big tourist destination for a big tourist city, and I lived in a front bedroom facing the street. Tour busses came by every hour or so. As I result, I spent my entire childhood paranoid behind closed bedroom shades.

I realize New York must sound pretty bad, infested as it is by heat, smells, roaches and tourists. The fact is, New York is always gorgeous as long as it's not obscenely cold. There is no place I'd rather be.

Friday, June 01, 2007

San Antonio Spurs: Manu Ginobili

When people talk about the three superstars of the San Antonio Spurs, they are talking about Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

When Ginobili drives to the basket, his limbs fly everywhere and he always seems like he's about to lose control, but somehow in there he manages to get to the basket, take a good shot or draw a foul. It's a little like watching a bowl of spaghetti while someone shakes it.

Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich has said he doesn't try to coach Ginobili, but I think that's just his way of saying he doesn't understand how Ginobili plays. Part of that is that Ginobili is Argentinian.

Now, at my odd and obscure international school in Wales, I felt like I developed a pretty good sense of different countries' national identities.

Although each of the 300-odd students at my school was different from the others, when I put all the people from a particular country together, I could usually see a single thing they all had in common, like how Americans have this overwhelming sense of the power of the individual.

Not to oversimplify, but the Argentinians were all weird. They were funny, they had a lot of energy, and even with the introverted ones, you felt like there was at least part of their brain that was going 100 miles a minute.

I got along pretty well with the Argentinians at my school, and when I think about them, the way Ginobili plays makes a lot of sense.

Ginobili (who, as I understand, is a national superstar), comes from the only basketball town in what is, of course, a football country (although I don't know whether this led to Ginobili's prowess or the other way around.)

In fact, and this is one of my favorite things about Ginobili, he led Argentina to a gold medal in the last summer Olympics. Isn't that great? It's as if Alexander the Great conquered the world and then came back to my hometown to be my lieutenant in a regular Warhammer 40,000 game.

Ginobili is a part of why the Spurs are such a strong road team because he doesn't mind being the villain on the road.

He hasn't really taken off during any particular game in these playoffs, but I remember last year he went to Denver and just humiliated the Nuggets during that series. He is still booed there.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that he is one of the league's best floppers, which I always find mildly embarrassing. Apparently one of his team nicknames is "El Contusion" because of how he lets himself get banged up during a game.

The one thing I know I don't understand about Ginobili is why he plays so well off the bench. Ginobili, basically a starter, has played on and off for years as the sixth man.

Maybe it's a Seabiscuit thing, like he needs to be a little behind at the last turn to push himself for the finish.

Or maybe it's that Ginobili, one of the most entertaining and energetic players in the league, brings that shot of energy and enthusiasm to the Spurs just when they need it to be a championship team.