Fewer swords than usual

When the final score looks like 95-75, you wonder if the Thunder were that good on defense or the Cavaliers were that woeful on offense. In fact, it was a little of both. Cleveland shot barely 33 percent; they gave up thirteen steals and saw eleven shots blocked. Still, this is a team that can execute more often than not: they outrebounded OKC, 54-44, including a whopping 18 offensive boards, which says pretty clearly that despite their depleted ranks — Baron Davis was away due to a death in the family, Anderson Varejao’s been out since January, and Antawn Jamison banged up a finger a couple weeks ago — the Cavs weren’t going to sleepwalk their way through this one.

And some of the Cavs came up with numbers. Daniel Gibson came off the bench for 13 points; rookie power forward Samardo Samuels, starting for once, had ten points and ten boards; J. J. Hickson had eight points and grabbed 15 rebounds. But maybe it is the defense: last time the Cavs were in OKC, they shot, yes, barely 33 percent.

The big scorers for OKC didn’t score so big, mostly because none of them played that many minutes. Russell Westbrook checked in with 20, Kevin Durant with 19 (and a rare technical), and James Harden led the bench with 16. Serge Ibaka was in good form: he didn’t shoot so well (3-12, 8 points), but he pulled down 14 boards and delivered his trademark swat seven times. And Nazr Mohammed, who typically has been getting 15-20 minutes in Scott Brooks’ rotation, got an extended outing (25:45) today, due at least in part to an ankle injury to Nick Collison, and responded with 11 points and a steal.

If you have to play a back-to-back, this is the schedule on which you want to do it: the Sunday matinee, over with before 3 pm, and then a standard Monday-night game. The Thunder are on the way to Washington to take on the Wizards, and yours truly will be late on the recap, inasmuch as I have a neighborhood-association meeting to attend during those hours. I really don’t expect anything remarkable to happen, but you never know with the Wizards.

Counterpoint: “Listless Cavs sleepwalk to another loss.”

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Dear Brigitte

A friend of mine suggested on Facebook that she could really rock this particular dress:

Bardot dress by Talbots

And I believe she can. Talbots — apparently it’s not “The” Talbots anymore, except in the legalese — vends this “Bardot” dress for $159, and I admit, I’d think it was fabulous even if she hadn’t pointed it out to me; I always was a sucker for nice, crisp linen.

Brigitte Bardot, incidentally, was maybe five-foot-seven at the outside, five inches shorter than my friend, but this is the merest quibble.

The title, incidentally, is ripped off from the 1965 film starring Jimmy Stewart and Billy (“Danger, Will Robinson!”) Mumy, which the parental units saw at a drive-in, assuming I was actually asleep in the back seat. I was not.

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High finance at the low post

Veteran Atlanta Hawks center Etan Thomas — he was on the Thunder roster last year, and may move a few more times before his career winds down — wonders what the NBA would think of a proposition like this:

No salary cap. Bringing split for BRI to 50/50 but we have no salary cap. Teams spend what they wish, the NBA is guaranteed a revenue certainty of 50 percent and everyone is happy. This would eliminate the overspending or teams being “held hostage” because they could sign anyone for as little (should please Donald Sterling) or as much (should please Mark Cuban) as they choose.

BRI — “Basketball-Related Income” — includes almost everything except receipts from franchise moves or the luxury tax. At the moment, player salaries and benefits are set at 57 percent of BRI, which may float upwards by a point or so if revenues permit. So a 50/50 split would presumably appeal to owners, who right now are getting at most 43 percent.

And there’s the example of Major League Baseball:

MLB has no salary cap and has virtually none of the restrictions on player contracts that the NBA has. For instance, there are no limits on the length of player contracts and no limits on the amount of annual increases in multi-year player deals. Yet MLB has had nine different World Series winners in the past 10 years. (Boston is the only repeat champ in 2004 and 2007.) During this year’s Texas-San Francisco World Series commissioner Bud Selig was quoted repeatedly stating that “competitive balance has never been as strong in MLB as it is right now.” Wouldn’t a similar system be successful for both players and the NBA?

Who won the NBA Championship in the Oughts? In order: Lakers, Lakers, Lakers, Spurs, Pistons, Spurs, Heat, Spurs, Celtics, Lakers, Lakers.

Would this system work in the NBA? Who knows? The owners have been crying poverty, even as they’ve been spending like crazy; when Thunder GM Sam Presti came up with schemes to retain players without jeopardizing future finances, it made news, because hardly anybody else was doing such a thing. Easier just to write a big check and hope for a lockout, I suppose.

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Weirdness in store

Once again, I get to update an ancient post, this one from spring ’05:

[M]y experience with organic lettuce has been uniformly positive: it doesn’t taste any better — I mean, we’re talking lettuce here — but the two-dollar amorphous organic head inevitably lasts longer in the vegetable crisper than the 99-cent spheroid with the big brand name, and less of it winds up being thrown away for excess wilt.

I grumbled a couple of summers ago that the stuff was getting harder to find, but while doing the (two-store) grocery rounds today, I noticed that Homeland had put up a slightly-bigger sign over the organic ghetto in the produce section, and sure enough, they had some good ol’ iceberg. Just one little hangup, though: the heads were not much bigger than a softball, and the asking price was a whopping $3.49. So this is what Whole Foods is going to be like.

Arriving a few hours later at Crest, I caught a teensy sign over on the bread aisle to the effect that no, we don’t have any of the Flowers Foods products in stock, because we found their pricing unacceptable. This isn’t the first time Crest has made such an announcement, and I figure Flowers will be back in a month or two — or maybe not. It didn’t affect me, inasmuch as I bought a loaf of Mrs Baird’s, a Bimbo brand.

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The grande dame

Oops, sorry: I meant the Grand Am. I never could figure out what Pontiac, GM’s former “We Build Chevys With Plastic Body Kits Excitement” brand, was doing in those last few years, though it clearly wasn’t enough to spare them the axe. It seems clear, though, after looking at where their buyers ended up, that the standard image of Pontiac driver as boy-racer was fuzzy at best:

How did over ten percent of GM’s “driving excitement” brand end up at the its truck brand (GMC)? How did over 14 percent of buyers replace the brand that brought us the GTO and G8 for the mainstream, thrill-free anonymity of Honda and Toyota? How on earth did Dodge, the remaining brand that most resembles Pontiac, only manage about 3%?

And is this conclusion inescapable?

[A]re automotive brands not as important as people make them out to be?

The answer, I think, is that an individual brand loses its importance once it strays too far from its intended purpose. About ten years ago, Nissan’s Infiniti division was foundering, mainly because no one was quite sure what they were selling other than really-expensive Nissans. Eventually they figured out what they wanted to be — the Japanese BMW — and recast the G from a pleasant little front-driver to a reasonable facsimile of the 3-series. (The I, an overdressed Maxima in the manner of the Lexus ES, a tarted-up Camry, was banished forthwith.) Ironically, BMW is now kicking around the idea of a line of FWD cars, and not necessarily to sell as Minis either.

To this day, General Motors hasn’t figured out all its brand positioning. Chevrolet, of course, is pitched to Everyman, and GMC to the guy who thinks he’s a trifle too good to drive Everyman’s truck. It seems clear, though, that the Chinese are calling the shots at Buick — not surprising, since they buy more of them than we do — and Cadillac is still trying to reestablish itself as a creditable luxoboat. (Which is more than Lincoln is doing; except for the ancient Navigator, they have nothing that wouldn’t be equally at home in a Mazda dealership these days.)

This may be why I like that Dodge “Never Neutral” tag. It doesn’t seem to say much, but the implication is crystal clear: “We’d say ‘Badass’ if only they’d let us.” Of course, since their volume vehicle is the Grand Caravan — well, what the hell, it’s about time someone built a badass minivan, right? If they can pull that off, they can be the new Pontiac, especially since they won’t have Chevy constantly nudging into their territory.

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Walking the Planck

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) was unable to persuade the Commerce Committee to discard the GOP-backed Upton-Inhofe measure to strip the EPA of its putative authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, but he did get off some creditable snark during the process:

“I won’t call for the sunlight of additional hearings, for fear that Republicans might excommunicate the finding that the Earth revolves around the sun. Instead, we will embody Newton’s third law of motion and be an equal and opposing force against this attack on science and on laws that will reduce America’s importation of foreign oil.

“This bill will live in the House while simultaneously being dead in the Senate. It will be a legislative Schrödinger’s cat killed by the quantum mechanics of the legislative process.”

Speaking of quantum matters, it occurs to me that most members of Congress can be described by one of the flavors of quarks: up, down, charm, strange, top, or bottom.

(Suggested by Lisa Paul, who knows of my fondness for physics jokes.)

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The off-green screen

Teresa is persuaded that TV talking heads need to be positioned atop better-dressed bodies:

After sitting in the dentist chair for about 2 hours or so watching CNN, I can say without a doubt there are far too many people who wear clothes all the wrong color. Anchor chick was wearing a “coral” color dress today. I think she was looking to be all springlike. Sadly it was just exactly the wrong color for her skin tone (at least on tv). Then some other woman graced the screen wearing a purple top and a maroon jacket … seriously it made my eyes cross.

Is it just my imagination, or is she suggesting that CNN has an anesthetic effect?

I’ve always suspected that if someone is supplying Anchor Wear™ in exchange for a brief mention in the credits, said someone expects every last one of those outfits eventually to show up on screen, or else. Not that anyone should trust my fashion sense or anything.

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Leaving Fort McHenry behind

Some thoughts on Gene Weingarten’s New National Anthem:

Still, the Weingarten proposal has much to recommend it. For one thing, it doesn’t mention fruited plains, an integral component of an oft-proposed alternative anthem, which always made me giggle as a kid. The National Anthem should not induce giggles.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Just a hint of blow-by

Scott Brooks didn’t have a lot of reasons to be happy tonight: the Pistons jumped out to a four-point lead after one, and while the Thunder kept things under control for the next two quarters, opening up an 18-point lead in the fourth, Detroit took advantage of OKC lethargy, or something, to close that gap to six in the last minute. But the Pistons would get no closer, and when Russell Westbrook missed at the stripe and Serge Ibaka somehow managed a putback, the Thunder were up ten, and Ibaka swatted away Detroit’s last chance to seal the 104-94 win. So maybe Brooks did crack a smile at the very end.

Remarkably, the Thunder shot 50 percent from the floor including 50 percent of their treys (nine of 18). Kevin Durant, as usual, led with 24, but James Harden beat him for efficiency: seven of 11, four of six from Way Out There, for 22 points. Westbrook posted yet another double-double (13 points, 11 assists), and by gum, there’s Serge again with another Jeff Green-ish line: 16 points, eight boards, two blocks. Okay, maybe the blocks aren’t all that Uncle Jeff-y.

But the Pistons, their lowly record notwithstanding, still made a game of it. Rookie center Greg Monroe put together a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds), and Tracy McGrady, recently promoted to starting at the point, came close to one himself, missing by a single dime. Richard Hamilton, who never saw himself as a sixth man, was a darned good one, scoring 20. And Detroit managed to outrebound Oklahoma City, 38-34.

The Thunder have five more games against the East before their next battle with a Western opponent: the Jazz, at home on the 23rd. The third of those five, against the Heat, will presumably be the most difficult, if not necessarily tearful.

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Attack cat is attacking

Some of you may remember that childhood classic Tiger’s Revenge by Claude Balz. (I figure sooner or later Mr Balz will show up in the end credits on Car Talk, alongside chief accountant Candice B. Rittenoff.)

Anyway, while Tiger’s Revenge is presumably fictional, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

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Just wedging in

About fifty seconds on the Zappos.com heat map yielded up this cute wedge, sold to someone presumably shoeless in Seattle:

Coretta by Naya

This is “Coretta” by Naya, with an actual hemp platform midsole for that espadrille look — well, an espadrille on a slant, anyway. The platform is an inch and a quarter, the heel 3¾ inches, and the lining is leather. And this part of the company pitch was sort of interesting:

The styles feature chrome-free or vegetable-tanned leathers, natural, organic or sustainable fabrics, heels made from sustainable bamboo, biodegradable latex foam cushioning, natural cork and rubber footbeds, outsoles made with recycled materials, nickel-free metal buckles, recycled paper boxes, and water soluble glues and cements.

I had to think about “chrome-free” for a moment, but then chemistry class from forty-odd years ago came back to me: chromium salts are often used in the tanning process, and they’re not something you particularly want seeping into your water supply.

“Coretta,” it turns out, has a vegetable-tanned upper. I’m thinking this might be a little too dark for a classic neutral — if that doesn’t bother you, there’s a version in navy — but hey, now you can bring out that peasant skirt you left in the back of the closet decades ago, right? Zappos will sell you this shoe for $145.

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Hotsy-totsy Notsy

The Manolo has dubbed ex-Dior designer John Galliano — “ex” because of some idiotic remark about Hitler — a “repulsive little fashion troll,” but asks:

[H]ow does one enjoy the transcendent clothing of John Galliano without feeling that one is somehow patronizing the bigot?

How to sanction the artist, while admitting that his art brings beauty and joy to the world?

The Manolo, who loves the poetry of Ezra Pound, the music of Wagner, and the clothing of John Galliano, has no easy answer to this question.

I remember my own send-off for the late Ike Turner, which mentioned, albeit obliquely, that he was a Horrible Person, but concentrated on matters more purely musical. At the time, nobody accused me of making excuses for Ike, which was something of a relief, especially when you consider what passes for making excuses these days:

In a phone interview this afternoon, [Patricia] Field described Galliano’s controversial videotaped behavior as “farce” and said she was bewildered that people in the fashion community have not recognized it as such.

“People in fashion all they do is go and see John Galliano theater every season. That’s what he gives them. To me, this was the same except it wasn’t in a theater or in a movie,” she said. “John lives in theater. It’s theater. It’s farce. But people in fashion don’t recognize the farce in it. All of a sudden they don’t know him. But it’s OK when it’s Mel Brooks’ The Producers singing ‘Springtime for Hitler’.”

The Ha Ha Only Kidding defense, often used by politicians (and people who think they’re politicians) confronted with the transcripts. It plays no better on the catwalk than it does on the nightly news.

And there’s this question, posed by La Petite Acadienne, one of the Manolo’s commenters:

What does it say about us, as a society, if we continue to pad the pockets of someone so hateful and abhorrent, just because he makes beautiful things? What message is that sending?

Frankly, why SHOULDN’T the uber-talented be held to the same standard as the rest of us? Permitting crap behaviour, on the grounds that the person is somehow more valuable to society, is the sort of mindset that leads the very rich or the very famous to think that they’re above the law and above society’s mores.

Roman Polanski, line one, please.

But there’s this:

Let the Gods forgive what I have made
Let those I love try to forgive what I have made.

From Ezra Pound’s Canto CXX, a title he himself never applied to it.

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Quote of the week

Robert Stacy McCain formulates what he calls the Existential Theory of Liberalism:

Everything that exists must be subsidized by the federal government; ergo, to argue against government subsidies for something is to advocate the abolition of that thing.

Examples thereof:

The Existential Theory of Liberalism can be seen in action whenever any conservative proposes reducing federal expenditures for, say, the National Endowment for the Arts, and is therefore accused by liberals of being “anti-art.” By the same token, if you criticize the federal Department of Education, you are “anti-education,” and if you oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund embryonic stem-cell research, you are “anti-science.”

On the other hand, I can legitimately be called “anti-ethanol,” except in shot-glass (or similar) quantities.

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It’s sleeting on Andrew Ian Dodge, judging by the “Sleeting to CoTV” title he’s affixed to the 415th Carnival of the Vanities.

For a couple of months after WWII, the 415th Tactical Fighter Squadron was temporarily assigned to the Alaska Air Command (now the Eleventh Air Force); however, those months were during the summer, so I’m pretty sure the squadron didn’t encounter any substantial sleet.

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The flowers of Mopar

Sit back and let Charles Baudelaire sell you a car:

The new Lancia Thema, of course, is a Chrysler 300 that speaks Italian, but nobody at either home office is even slightly bothered by that fact, and you’re not going to see me complain about it.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Entirely too mandible

“Some tortures are physical,” noted Ogden Nash, “and some are mental.” The one that’s both, though, is dental:

[I]t’s not like I’m the first person to play hurt; everyone has, or will have, periods of protracted discomfort. You could note that dental pain is unique, since it’s usually both sharp and throbbing and dull and uniquely electric and IN YOUR HEAD, which makes it particularly personal, but I don’t think we want to get into a contest of Pain Theaters to determine which is worse. Just know that everything on the site this week was done while a railroad spike was being hammered into the side of my jaw. And it’s still lite ‘n’ breezy! Ah, the indomitable human spirit.

Oh, and just one thing more:


I should note here that many years ago, this same chap refudiated that business about Procter & Gamble being in league with the Prince of Darkness, pointing out that their premier dental product was called Crest, and not Anti-Crest.

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