Monday, April 30, 2007

Tales From The Crypt #3

Five days down, four more to go - and I am off for two of them. The only major problems while I was there today weren't even major problems. Two fillms that had to be screened in Digibeta format overlapped each other (we only have one Digibeta deck), and there was some down time in one auditorium until the Digibeta deck became available. The other snafu was that one of the houses had two movies scheduled in the program booklet but not in our tech schedules. We got around that one by squishing the intermission together. By the time Ryan and I left at a bit after six, we had the rest of Sunday squared away for David, most of Monday squared away, and a good bit of Tuesday, too, I think.

And while I'm at it, let me throw some monster Blog-O-Rama props out to Ryan Micheel, my projection booth consigliere, who has almost single-handedly masterminded the smooth running of our portion (which is the lion's share) of this year's Indianapolis International Film Festival. The hard work he has done all week cannot be understated, so I'm going to force all of you to sit here and listen to it for a moment. Since films started coming in last week - in 35mm, DVD, Beta, and Digibeta formats - Ryan has been cataloguing those films in what we have begun to refer to as "the system," stacks of films in order of show time and arranged by day of the week on our work table in the booth. In addition to that, he's been doing build-up and tear-down and has run some of the festival, too. I know Ryan wanders into the Blog-O-Rama from time to time, so thanks Ryan!

Yes, and there were cookies today, too. The peanut butter kind with the bit of Snickers inside. Yeah. Giggity, even. And as if it weren't enough that there were cookies, those cookies were - wait for it - still warm when I wandered into the break room. Man, oh man. And she made me take the ones that weren't eaten at work home with me - as though there was much arm-twisting that had to be done there. Coming up next, two days off in a row...

Current song playing on iTunes:
"I'll Be There For You" by Bon Jovi

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tales From The Crypt #2

There were a couple of glitches tonight, including a movie that was shown on DVD rather than Digibeta as it should have been - which rankled the director, who was in attendance and enormously vocal in her displeasure - and another movie, The Trouble With Dee Dee, that got started with its sound out of whack and had to be restarted two or three times before we realized that a sound cable had been connected incorrectly (and might actually have been constructed incorrectly, but whatever).

Once it was started correctly, though, we listened to the beginning part of the audio from the monitor speaker in the booth, and I laughed so hard I almost fell over. A female character in the movie (I couldn’t see the picture very well because of all the damn equipment we have set up at the three projectors we’re using for the festival) had been pulled over in her car for something, and while she was waiting for the cop to come up to her car, she was spouting just this string of venom-laced profanities that would have made any sailor proud. Call me low-brow if you must, but that kind of thing amuses me, and that opening scene was, well...fucking hilarious.

And then there was the filmmaker who came up to the booth because he wanted to talk to us about the fact that there was a scene at the end of his movie, A Coat Of Snow, that came after the credits. He wanted us to leave the house lights down until the credits were over and the last scene had played. I told him we would be happy to accommodate his request. He had a cup of coffee in his hand and a beard that would have made ZZ Top proud - and he was very nice about coming up and speaking with us. Turns out it was a guy called Gordy Hoffman, brother of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Gordy Hoffman is also the guy who wrote the screenplay for Love Liza, a movie that starred his brother and which I saw most of and quite enjoyed, once upon a time, when we trade screened it at Eastgate. I didn’t realize who he was at first, or else I might have talked to him a bit longer, but what are you going to do?

One last picture to plug, sort of - because they have amusing promotional material on the tables outside the auditoriums. This one is called Comic Evangelists and they have stickers you can pick up that say “I am a Multi-Purpose Tool...of the Lord.” And there’s a picture of a Swiss Army-looking knife. There is also something on the table, which looks like a religious tract, but which purports to be in support of a group called Foster Understanding of Christ’s Kingdom. And the four words in that group name are arranged acrostically on the “tract,” and the effect is quite amusing. Or maybe I’m just low-brow. Who knows? Who fucking cares?

There wasn’t nearly as much film going out as there was last night - I tore down one movie (onto cores) and built up (but did not load) two shorts. Most of Sunday’s films are on DVD and Beta tape, and most of the 35MM stuff from today hangs out and plays later in the week. I took that can of Soup At Hand again today - and again did not consume it. In addition, I did not consume a couple of granola bars and an Odwalla bar - though there were more opportunities for Red Apples tonight.

Current song playing on iTunes:
“Streamline” by Carrie Newcomer

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tales From The Crypt #1

All right, so the movie from Iceland came on cores that don’t fit on any spindles I have in my projection booth. No worries! The fine folks at Another Major Competitor have - or had! - a spindle attachment that will do the job. Turns out they had the spindle attachment I was looking for - but the little stub of metal (I’m all about the technical terms, yo) that I really needed to make it work had been - wait for it - filed down so that the spindle attachment would accommodate the little plastic cores that trailers come on, not the bigger cores that whole reels of film sometimes (and most unfortunately) come on.

The movie from Iceland? Yep. Go here, and then go here for the whole scoop, as it were, on the Indianapolis International Film Festival.

So, sans special spindle attachment I had somewhat surreptitiously sought almost successfully for, I set to the unenviable task of building the film up anyway. It actually turned out to be easier than I expected, with the problem being that I won’t be able to tear it down the same way that I built it up. But that is a problem for another day - namely, Friday.

Two days later, and it’s Friday, and the film from Iceland has been torn down (not quite as much of a pain in the arse as I had guessed it would be, but it was also not much fun), along with two others, and three more films have been built up. Oh, and I also built up Year Of The Dog, which is a regular release and has nothing to do with the festival. In the last two days I have built up or torn down something like ten films, not including shorts for the festival.

Ever since I started working at Landmark, I have heard these stories about the festival, and how crazy everything was during the festival; and man, were those stories on the money - although Wednesday was worse, for me, than tonight was. Wednesday night we had lamp trouble with the Sony 4K digital projector, and then we had a brain wrap near the end of the film. Also, I forgot to play a short that was supposed to run in front of the movie that brain wrapped.

And last night we were there until three-thirty in the morning building up shorts and tearing down all of the regular film that closed yesterday - Grindhouse, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and The Lives Of Others. Tonight I was literally in the booth from when I got there at four-thirty to when I left at a little after one, with exactly one Red Apple break, which did not occur until after all the shows were in.

Number of cans of Campbell’s Soup At Hand (Creamy Tomato) that I took with me to work to drink for dinner: 1
Number of said cans that I brought home undrunk: 1

This festival is intense. But hey - three days down, six to go. And there are some thoughts to keep one going, too, as the days progress. Hillary is bringing cookies tomorrow, there’s a new Rush album on Tuesday, and next Saturday there’s a party in Anderson - which should be a lovely chance to decompress and catch up with a bunch of cool people I haven’t seen in a long time (and at least one cool person I have seen recently).

Current song playing on iTunes:
“Take It To The Limit” by The Eagles

Friday, April 20, 2007

Got A Gun...In Fact I've Got Two - But That's Okay, Man, 'Cause I Love God!

From time to time, but not all that often anymore, I pop into the comic book shop and have a look around. It used to be a weekly thing, until I bought a new car a couple of years ago. That plus gas prices going up meant comics go bye-bye. Ah, well. I do still stop in at Vinatge Phoenix every time I go to Bloomington, though, because it’s the best comic book shop I’ve ever been to, other than Midtown Comics in Manhattan.

Today I popped into the comic book shop and had a look around. When shopping for comics in this little burg, I prefer Downtown Comics to Comic Carnival, pretty much for one reason: alphabetical order, something Comic Carnival does not embrace. Also, they have a store downtown, and since I most often stop by on my days off while I’m downtown on walkabout, it’s convenient. Today the mission was just to get boards, but I also picked up the third issue of Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born, a seven-issue mini based on the Stephen King novels and detailing the early days of Roland. It’s written by Peter David with Jae Lee pencils and is, in a word, amazing; and I also picked up the newest issue of Simpsons Comics, an ongoing series that is just as much fun as you’d think it would be.

I also picked up the current issue of Wizard, a comics magazine that has come a long way from its early days, when all it seemed able to do was glorify Image Comics and the geniuses that were Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane. As it turned out, only McFarlane was a genius. Rob Liefeld was just a crappy artist. Anyway...I flipped through the price guide portion at the end of the magazine, just for yucks, and found that Action Comics #1, which was published in 1938 and contains the first appearance of Superman, is worth, in Near Mint condition (NM), $520,000.

No typos there. I’m fastidious when it comes to commas, and most other punctuation marks, when you get right down to it. Half a million bucks and change for a comic book. Anybody got one of those? I don’t. I have seven long boxes full of comics up in my attic, and none of them are Action Comics #1. One of the reasons it’s worth so much is that not many still exist. You can’t just walk into a comic book shop and buy a copy of Action Comics #1 in NM.

Would that the same could be said for guns. How’s that for a segue? A spoonful of context will help it go down better - Shane has a post here (you’ll have to scroll down a bit) that mentions, briefly, the shootings at Virginia Tech, and makes the following assertion:

“Video games ARE NOT TO BLAME! Music IS NOT to blame. People make choices. Movies, music, video games DO NOT teach them to do that.”

This is correct. People make choices - and a lot of them choose to be members of the National Rifle Association, an organization with a lot of money and a lot of influence on politicians. Especially Republicans. Why Republicans more than Democrats? Because one of the tentpoles of Republican politics (and one of the reasons that the party is so attractive to inbred, uneducated people who have to look north to find the Mason-Dixon Line) is the concept of smaller government - less governmental control over the day-to-day business of those they govern.

In the abstract, this is a good idea. But it forgets the fact that Americans are getting stupider every day - and video games are partly to blame for this, as is television. One of the sad facts of life in America in the twilight of this once-great republic is that we need better-educated people to clock in at the Capitol each morning and work on creating laws that will at least temporarily keep us from destroying ourselves.

We need gun laws and speed limits and nutrition labels and ratings on movies and video games because we don’t know enough to make good decisions for ourselves. Evidence? The 2000 general election results from the state of Florida, where five-hundred-odd people marked their ballots incorrectly and helped the Supreme Court to decide that George Bush should be our President instead of Al Gore. Had they had the good sense to pay attention to what they were doing in the voting booth, the most important decision Geroge Bush would have to make this spring would be whether or not to try to get A-Rod back from the Yankees. Al Gore would be in the last two years of his presidency, and John Edwards would be a shoo-in to be the next President.* Also, the United States would be signed on to the Kyoto Protocols. I'm just saying...

So who needs a semi-automatic weapon...a 9-mm Glock 19, say? Nobody - no civilian, at any rate. How did Cho Seung-hui get one? Because the NRA pressures politicians to turn a blind eye to gun violence in this country and wants guns to be available to anyone who wants one, as long as they aren’t a convicted felon. Gun laws vary from state to state, of course, but some of the flimsiest, oddly, are in Virginia. Evidence? Click.

The gun nuts will argue that we need guns to defend ourselves against these people, the ones who go on rampages. Nope. That kind of stupid thinking leads to shit like the Cuban Missile Crisis. Then they’ll argue about other weapons, like knives. “What are you going to do, make it illegal to have a knife?”

Who the fuck ever heard of a semi-automatic knife? What are the chances someone in that classroom would have stopped Cho if he had been using a knife - or even knives! - instead of guns?

+30. Or so.

(Interestingly, those are the same odds that Atlanta Falcons runningback Michael Vick will finally learn how to throw a pass this year, thereby giving the Falcons a chance to contend against the Saints in the abysmal NFC South.)

(And yes, I know that Michael Vick, technically, is a quarterback. It’s one of those bad-taste jokes. In order for it to make any kind of sense, you would have to know where Michael Vick went to college. The answer is Virginia Tech.)

* Also interestingly, John Edwards will be our next President. I’m not going to get into why right now, but that’s my call. Edwards wins in 2008. One of the reasons (but not the only one, nor the most significant) will be that Americans are not ready to elect a Mormon as President.

Like Lovers And Heroes - Lonely As The Eagle's Cry

Standing at the corner - but can you really call it a corner if three streets converge there? - of North and East Streets downtown, an angle that Mass Ave smashes through on its way around toward the old Coke bottling plant, the highway overpass, and 10th Street, I saw a guy run himself into the light pole across the way. It looked like he did it on purpose, just sort of went - bam! - right into it, leading with his forehead. He walked away rubbing his head, and he appeared to be cursing himself, though I could not hear for sure. There was no way he could have just not seen it, though; and he wasn’t blind, because he did not have a cane. He went on down Mass Ave, crossed the street a bit later, and went into Three Dog Bakery.

Seen on another light pole, this one on the sidewalk on the east side of Pennsylvania Street, I think between New York and Ohio as you are going south (should have written it down - I saw it hours ago, now): one of those Hello, my name is stickers. Written on it? “Wuz up, mofo.” In caps.

Down around Union Station, and this one is sort of old news, but I thought I would throw it out there anyway: El Sol de Tala has closed. This may mean a bit more to you if you have ever lived on the east side. El Sol de Tala - which was, once upon a time, generally regarded as the finest Mexican restaurant in town - originally existed on the east side, though I do not at the moment recall its exact address. It opened in 1979, and the owner did some major renovation of the first restaurant many years ago, and more recently opened a location on the first floor of Union Station.

He may have been moving a bit too fast, or else the idea just didn’t work inside of Union Station. He eventually closed the east side location, and has more recently shuttered the Union Station restaurant, too. If it was in the Star or NUVO, I missed it - though it surely had to be the exorbitant rent he had to pay to be in Union Station (especially with street-level entrances). It’s kind of a shame, although I was of the opinion that the food quality had dropped somewhat since he opened at Union Station. Plus, I heard through the grapevine that the gato who owned the place is like a Mexican Don Corleone around Indianapolis. I’m sure that kind of thing goes on around here, but it sort of ruins your idea of the self-made man running an independent restaurant - or at least ruined my idea of it. I’ll miss that table-side guacamole, though.

And one last thing from today’s downtown walkabout - the Simon & Garfunkel song “The Boxer” was playing inside the Starbucks at Conseco Fieldhouse this afternoon. I don’t go to that Starbucks very often (and go to Lazy Daze in Irvington more than Starbucks now, anyway), but it’s nice to pop in every now and then. Conseco Fieldhouse is a really, really neat building. Too bad the building’s main tenants aren’t respectable enough to watch anymore. Also too bad that the bands I like to see in concert don’t play there when they tour. I’d much prefer to catch Rush at the Fieldhouse than way the hell up at Deer Creek - and it’s not like Rush would sell out at the Fieldhouse.

Blast from the past: March 26, 1994. That was the only time I saw Rush play indoors. It was the Indianapolis stop on the Counterparts tour, and there was actually a lottery to get tickets for the show. My buddy Jason Fisk stood on line for that lottery, and his number came up first. We got seats on the floor, nineteen rows from the front - best concert I ever saw.

The opening sequence was this: the video screen shows a nut and a bolt moving slowly toward one another in outer space, to the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The nut and the bolt thread together, and at the moment when they come all the way together, the screen flashes bright white and the band launches into “Dreamline.” That isn’t going to mean anything to you unless you know Rush well enough to know the song “Dreamline,” of course - but some of you do know the song, and everybody knows the theme music to 2001. And it was a most impressive start to an amazing show.

This blog post brought to you by the letters G and L, and the number 3.

Friday, April 13, 2007

And On And On...

From an MSNBC-related blog called Test Pattern, this post on the passing of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. There are links near the bottom of the post to some other Vonnegut-related material.

(And hey, if it feels like I'm beating a dead horse here, it could be worse. I could be waxing poetic about the whole Don Imus thing. I didn't think I had anything to say about it until I sat down at work and started to write out some of the things I was thinking about it. It turns out there's quite a post that I

The One Book, One City program chose Slaugherhouse-Five as this year's book for all of us to read - but the other four books that made the "final round," so to speak, were Cat's Cradle, A Man Without A Country, Palm Sunday, and The Sirens Of Titan. Not a bad slate of potentials, actually, considering that Slaugherhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle were givens.

My finalists, for the One Book, One Blog program:

Deadeye Dick
Hocus Pocus
Palm Sunday
Player Piano

Probably there won't be a lot of voting for this particular program, but who knows! Stranger things have happened!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So It Goes

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., died Wednesday evening, apparently of complications from brain injuries sustained after a fall at his Manhattan residence. The Indianapolis Star had reported earlier Wednesday that he would be unable to give the planned 2007 McFadden Memorial lecture later this month, and just a day or two ago it was announced that his novel Slaughterhouse-Five would be the One Book, One City selection in this Year of Reading Kurt Vonnegut.

I wonder what he would have thought of the idea of dying during the year he was being fêted by his hometown...what he would have thought of finally shuffling off this mortal coil because of brain injuries - and not from smoking. I suspect that he would have, in the words of one of his characters from a later novel called Hocus Pocus, "laughed like hell." Brain injuries!

What will he think of next!

Much has been said about his novels, of course - especially Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle, but also Player Piano, his first novel, and Breakfast Of Champions, one of the novels in which his fictional alter ego, science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, figures prominently. Not as much has been said about his fine books of non-fiction, including Palm Sunday; Fates Worse Than Death; Wampeters, Foma, And Granfalloons; and A Man Without A Country - which wound up being his last book. Palm Sunday is very good, and what I have so far read of Fates Worse Than Death, which I just started last night, believe it or not, is also very fine.

There are a number of news sites, at the time of this writing, that are leading off with articles about Mr. Vonnegut's passing. The best of the ones I have read since I got home from work is from the New York Times, and can be found here. The Times online front page also has a great picture of him, in what looks like a subway station or some kind of underground room, with big glasses on, a tiny stub of a cigarette bewteen his fingers, and a plume of smoke in front of his face.

Now that's a parting shot!

'Tis true, as some critics say, that some of his work verges on the incoherent; but let it also be known that few writers were ever better architects of the English language than was Kurt Vonnegut. He had a way with words - sometimes making them up as he went along - and a way of arranging those words that was sometimes funnier than what the words actually said, sort of like when you laugh because of the way another person is laughing, and not necessarily because of what they were laughing at in the first place. A quote from Time magazine, on the covers of the paperback editions of some of his novels, describes him as "zany." I don't know of many other novelists who could be described that way. He will be missed.

So it goes.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Amazing True Stories!

I have to preface this by stating, clearly and for the record, that I am not making any of this up. After reading this, you may be convinced that it could not have been true, that it must have come from the hellish bowels of desperate humor, but you’re just going to have to believe me - it really, really happened.

Amy is taking her cat in to have its claws removed so that it does not scratch up our baby - an added bonus will be that it can no longer reach out and slash the top of my foot when I’m making the bed. However, the cat is no fan of the cat carrier that conveys, in congress with the car, the cat to the vet. She must be duped into thinking that all is well before the trap is sprung. Amy set out some food for the cat (the lid coming off of the Fancy Feast can typically invokes a Pavlovian response, though did not this time - of course!), and then we sat down on the couch and turned on the television and sat there very quietly and calmly and waited for the cat to come around.

That was all just background for what comes next. We don’t have cable, so the trip through the channels is pretty quick - we landed on Family Fued, the newest incarnation starring the guy who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld. It was do-or-die time on the show - the dollar values had been tripled. The contestants were ready at that goofy-looking podium thing they smack when they have an answer. And here came the question.

Top four answers on the board. We surveyed one hundred people and asked them: Besides America, name a country that starts with the letter A.

(Aside: I know, I know - America isn’t the name of this country, unless you ask someone who still has one of those Power Of Pride stickers on the back of their car, or has slapped an equally-repulsive In God We Trust plate on their truck. That’s the way they phrased the question on the show, though.)

Buzz! The first contestant who buzzed in said Albania. Interesting. Not likely to be up there, but at least he got something out. It was not up there. Second contestant got a shot...Argentina. That was up there, second of four, with 17 of the one hundred people surveyed giving that answer. Play or pass? Well, they chose to play.

Peterman loped down to the last member of the family and asked her the question. She stood there looking blank until the big X flashed on the screen and the buzzing sound was heard. Okay. Next contestant, who looked ready to answer. Peterman gave her the question, and she proudly shouted out her answer.


Hmm...also not likely to be up there - and it was not. Next contestant...another blank stare...another three seconds goes by...another big red X...another buzzing sound. Last chance! Next contestant repeated the same answer, just that blank stare. And over we go to the other family, to try for the steal.

Peterman started at the end of the line, and they were all shouting out various answers, and then he got to the front of the line and the team captain, or head of household, or whatever. And the guy said:

“Well, I think we’re going to go with a place that I would really like to visit someday...Amsterdam!”

(Another aside: At this point I am speechless. Literally without speech.)

Oddly, Amsterdam was not up there. So the other team - who had offered up three blank stares and “Asia!” got the points and won the game.

The actual answers? Well, I know one guy who, if he still reads this blog and is reading this particular post, must be absolutely beside himself, doubled over with laughter, thinking this kind of display is no bloody surprise for a country that elected George Bush president not once, but twice.

Here they are, with the number of the one hundred people surveyed who gave each answer in parentheses next to the answer:

1. Australia (53)
2. Argentina (17)
3. Austria (9)
4. Afghanistan (9)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

One Shining Moment

Okay, now that I have thrashed Bob Kravitz, let's get on to more pleasant things - tonight's amazing NCAA Tournament final. Ohio State, playing for its first national championship since 1960, squared off against Florida, the defending national champion looking to become the first squad to repeat since Duke did it in 1992. Also, this championship game featured the same two teams as the college football championship game back in January.

From the opening tip to the final horn, it was a great game. Greg Oden was everywhere, throwing down monster dunks, swatting shots, grabbing rebounds, and generally making life miserable for any and all Gators who got near him. But Florida was making life difficult for Ohio State from behind the three-point line. Florida was 10 out of 18 from beyond the arc, while Ohio State was 4 out of 23. That's 19 missed three-point shots in a game where the margin of victory was only nine points. Florida never really looked back after going into the locker room at halftime with an eleven point lead; and every time Ohio State would start to cut into that lead, down the floor Florida would come, and Lee Humphrey or Corey Brewer would drop a trey on the Buckeyes, who had no real answer for Florida's motion offense. Even the touted Oden, who had four blocks, swatted three of them right back to Florida players. When the horn sounded, Florida had 84 points to Ohio State's 75, and they had accomplished something, back-to-back national titles, that had not been done in fifteen years - and has now only been done twice in the last thirty-four years.

When Florida beat Ohio State to win the football national championship back in January, they became the first school to ever hold both championships concurrently; with tonight's win, they become the first school to ever win both titles in the same academic year - and they also became the first school ever to win back-to-back titles with the same starting five, a starting five that all put off plans to head to the NBA in order to stay in school and take one more shot at a national championship.

So there is still some glory to be had in college basketball, and some kids who would prefer to play for that glory for one more year, rather than go early to the NBA. I never had much of an opinion about Florida before this season, but I have now developed quite a lot of respect for them. (I'd like it even more if head coach Billy Donovan stays, but methinks he's off to Kentucky.) And I have tons of respect for Joakim Noah, who by some accounts would have been the first pick in last year's draft if he had left school - and now figures to go lower, presuming that guys like Greg Oden and national player of the year Kevin Durant (Texas) enter the draft. Is he still a first-round pick? Sure he is. But not the top pick. Tonight he doesn't care, because he has helped accomplish something great in college basketball. And no amount of success or failure in the NBA can ever take that away from him.

It's A Wonder That You Still Know How To Breathe

Bob Kravitz is an idiot. There’s just no getting around it. He’s an idiot. And he’s written eight hundred too many columns about how awful the new NBA rule is - the one that says a player must wait at least a year after graduating from high school before entering the NBA draft. It’s an especially relevant topic now that former Lawrence North phenom Greg Oden is in college. Had it not been for this new rule, Oden would most likely have gone pro, been the #1 pick, and be playing in the NBA right now.

Instead, he played with his Ohio State teammates tonight in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament, the greatest event in all of sports. He could choose to stay in college and make another run at the championship next year, with some of the same teammates he played with this year, namely Mike Conley, Jr., another freshman phenom from Indianapolis Lawrence North High School - who is himself considering going pro early. The Buckeyes lost a great game - a great capper to a pretty good tournament and an AMAZING Final Four - but Oden had 25 points and 12 rebounds, stayed out of foul trouble, and kept the Buckeyes in a game that could easily have turned into a rout, consdering that Florida was hitting everything; and despite the fact that he could stay in school and take another run at it next year, Oden will go pro.

What more could a player like Oden learn in college, say critics - like Kravitz - of the new rule that keeps high school kids from going pro straight out of high school? Well, for Oden, playing with guys who are closer to his height would be one thing. Also, learning how not to foul guys who are a lot quicker than the guys you played in high school. And then there’s conditioning. Did you see the game tonight? Did you see how hard Oden was breathing? How slow he was getting back down the court? Granted, Florida’s defense was on him like the press gets on the deaths of quasi-famous golddigging blonde bimbos, but Oden was struggling at times tonight. (And yes, I know he played thirty-eight minutes, including all twenty minutes of the second frame.)

He carries 270 pounds of muscle, some of which is as high as seven feet off the ground. That would wear anybody out. But guess what else you learn in college? How to play longer each night and how to play more games in a season. High school basketball games have four eight-minute quarters (32 minute game); college games have two twenty-minute halves (40 minute game); and NBA games have four twelve-minute quarters (48 minute game). In high school, not counting sectionals, you play 18-20 games; college teams are now playing upwards of 30 games in the regular season; and the NBA has a grueling 82-game schedule. There’s a learning curve there - one kid in a hundred is born with the natural gifts, both mental and physical, to make that leap from high school straight to the pros.

Sure, a guy like Oden could get hurt; in fact, he did get hurt, last year - he had surgery over the summer and missed Ohio State’s first seven games this year. While he was recuperating, he learned how to shoot left-handed. And he’s still going to be the first pick in this summer’s NBA draft.

Kravitz, in last Saturday’s column, at one point asks why people get all bent out of shape about basketball players going pro early, but fail to get all bent out of shape about tennis and golf players going pro early.

Hmm...let me think about that one. Oh, yeah, it would be because a golf course is a golf course is a golf course. You don’t play against anyone. It’s you versus the grass and the sand and the wind, none of which get any more difficult at the next level. (Okay, some of the holes at Augusta National are a little spooky, but for the most part a golf course is a golf course. Also, if you don’t make the cut, you don’t get to finish the tournament.) Eventually they’ll stop inviting you if you keep stinking up the joint. Same thing with tennis. In the NBA, if you get drafted in the first round, you get a guaranteed two-year contract.

The NBA is not about basketball, it’s about money and endorsements and slam dunk contests, and it’s destroying college basketball, which is still a little bit about sports. Sort of. An article in the Star last week, profiling Eli Holman, a hotshot baller from the Oakland area who is going to play college ball at Indiana next year, quoted Eli as saying that he was probably a one-and-done type of player (one year in college, and then on to the pros), although he said he would stay at Indiana long enough to make sure he would go in the first round. And even though I hate the thought of that, I kind of admire his honesty. Apparently he got to talk to Shqauille O’Neal, his idol, who said to Eli that “school comes first.”

Inspirational...tugs at my heart and makes me feel warm inside. Except that it doesn’t. O’Neal is a hypocrite. He left LSU after three years, to go pro. He went back later to get his degree, after he had achieved enormous success in the NBA. So yeah, school comes first. Except when it doesn’t. It’s also sad that Shaquille O’Neal is anyone’s idol, because he isn’t talented. He’s 7’1” and weighs 325 pounds. Neither height nor weight are talents.

I’m biased, of course. I love college basketball. It’s one of the few great spectator sports left in this fading republic. But like almost everything else in this country, it is being ruined by greed and mismanagement - and idiots like Bob Kravitz are helping to kill it.