Essays from 116th Street

Self-therapy, since 2004...

Location: New York, New York

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

How Come Lisa Turtle Never Gets Any Play?

My weekend-long battle with the cable company has finally come to a close, and in its aftermath lie the remnants of 4 days without television. You would be amazed at the kinds of things you discover when the technician finally comes around between 8 and 12 and fixes your $#!+!!!
Man, I had no effing clue that Adult Swim had started airing Saved By The Bell, and yet, there I was, staying up past my bedtime, just so I could witness the rise and fall of the legendary rock group The Zack Attack.
It's been FOREVER since I last saw this classic episode, but it left me with a few unresolved questions. First of all, where the hell was Jesse? Were they not friends that week? Had she pulled a Christopher and gone to L.A. that weekend, only to have a relapse on caffeine pills? Was Elizabeth Berkley already making Showgirls by then?
Then there's the freaking band; who did they get to write and perform those dreadful Zack Attack songs? It's like the producers of Saved By The Bell, unsatisfied with the shoddy acting and dreadful neon-colored clothes, actively pursued the worst band they could possibly find in Hollywood to do the songs for this episode. How am I, as a viewer, supposed to believe that "Friends Forever" could ever possibly become a hit?
The real question, however, is this: how come Lisa never gets any? There is no question that Lisa Turtle is the hottest chica ever to appear on Saturday morning television; she is in fact, the inspiration for my personal "get it" list. If they ever build a Saturday morning television Hall of Fame, she should have her own wing. Why then, is she always dateless? Is there some kind of hidden message here about the inablity of shallow people to get dates? Does she have some kind of "black men only" policy, making it hard for a SoCal sista to find the right man? Is she related to one of the Girlfriends? Do she and Jesse have a secret kind of DL thing going on, and is A.C. Slater a front for the whole thing? How come Slater only ever talks about getting play, but we never actually see it (that's an entire post waiting to be written)?
So many questions, such little time...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

"...And They Stop Him Again!!!"

Close your eyes, and remember, Eagles fans: astroturf, kelly green helmets, and silver pants... Barry Switzer's utter stupidity... The refs cheating to help Dallas win... Emmitt Smith, on his back... Can only mean one thing, right?

That's right, beeyotch!!!

The video of the "4th and 1" incident, one of my all-time favorite sporting memories, can be found right here...

Eagles fans, enjoy...

All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go

Many people enjoy certain stories that I tell from this space from time to time (a few of which have mysteriously disappeared from this wonderful site), and thus believe that my time spent in New York is one of constant adventure. And yes, while it is true that I may have once shoved Ethan Hawke out of my way, or rapped at a show in Queens, or partied naked with a bunch of other naked people, or answered phones for Jimmy Carter's Secretary of Defense (and yes, these events all really did happen), allow me to show you the other side, the one that rarely appears in Essays from 116th Street.
It is a dreary, rainy, ugly Saturday here in NYC, and I have no cable. There was an outage on 116th and Lenox Avenue, the result being that I have had no way to watch television since 6:00 yesterday, and they won't come service it until sometime on Tuesday, between 8 AM and 12 PM. My apartment is quiet as hell, mainly due to the fact that Joe is galivanting around Europe at the moment, hopefully with some frauleins that look like St. Pauli Girl. Perhaps I might enjoy the company of The Girl By 23rd Street, except that she is about to be knee-deep in law-school finals and is studying her cute little behind off; this means that my visitation hours with her are restricted to something like two hours per week, and my phone privileges are about one hour every two days. This is sucky.
Well, Johnny RZA called me the other day, he said he wants to hang out... oh, look who's calling me right now! "What's that, John? You can't make it? Too rainy? Whatever..." So much for that, I should have known he was gonna bail at the first drop of rain. Well, Tim said something about hanging out, let me see what he's up to... Nope, he's got plans with a chica... How about the other Zack? He was on TV today... Nope, he's got plans too...
I guess I could make dinner...
(Isn't this so exciting?)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wednesday Extra: Bring Back John Tesh!

Peter Schrager over at FOX Sports is advocating that ABC bring back John Tesh's score, Roundball Rock (better known to the general public as the "NBA On NBC" theme song) for its playoff coverage. He contends that the main reason fan interest has been down ever since the NBA switched networks, is the simple fact that fans don't get nearly as hyped for ABC's dreadful music.
Does he have a point? Could it really be that simple? Actually, I think Schrager is on to something here. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes how the producers of Sesame Street, dismayed at their lack of success in creating a meaningful educational/entertianment experience for young children, made a relatively simple decision; they combined the segments containing puppets and live actors (who had previously been separated). Gladwell alluded to the concept of "stickiness" in this example; a relatively simple decision served as the hook by which kids could connect their imaginations to realty, thus keeping them glued to the set. The subsequent creations of Big Bird and Snuffalufficus only helped increase the "stickiness" of Sesame Street.
In the case of NBA telecasts, there is no question that Tesh's theme increased my personal anticipation of an NBA game. The opening notes, slow and regal gave way to the rush of excitement contained within the song's famous melody. As a viewer, the song helped me attach a sense of excitement (albeit artificial, but this is TV) to basketball games, making NBC telecasts into an event. Whether the game had more significance than the average game or not, when the NBC theme song was playing, it sure seemed more significant.
A few more notes on the NBA on ABC and the concept of "stickiness": when NBC did NBA telecasts, its production crew never toned down the crowd noise level for the sake of hearing the announcer; ABC does lower the crowd noise, which in my mind is incredibly stupid. What would you, as an average fan, rather hear: the roar of the crowd, or Brad Nessler telling you that the crowd is going wild? It seems to me that ABC would never dream of doing such a thing during a broadcast of Monday Night Football (of course, ESPN is now doing MNF, and they might be that stupid). Also, ABC seems to be mesmerized by the cult of celebrity when it comes to NBA music; we've had to deal with Justin Timberlake, the Black Eyed Peas and (the horror) Rob Thomas intro-ing our NBA telecasts, not to mention a brief experiment with Destiny's Child and their horrid "Lose My Breath" song; no wonder the ratings are down.
The good news, if you want to interpret it that way, is twofold; first, NBC does not own the rights to Roundball Rock, John Tesh does, so ABC can go ahead and give us what we want anytime they choose to (the fact that they are probably too proud and will forge ahead with sucky music has not escaped me). The second is that ABC's deal only lasts two more years, by which time the NBA will hopefully have heard the general public outcry, and switched back to NBC, who will re-hire Marv Albert, bring the crowd noise back up, keep Justin and Beyonce far away and restore order to the basketball universe. That's right, boys and girls, the NBA on NBC: alliteration, slanted fonts, John Tesh, and Marv Albert with Bill Walton and Steve "Snapper" Jones. Does it get any better than that?

Crossover Appeal

When Nelson George, in his comprehensive and most popular (not to mention already outdated) narrative, Hip Hop America, went through the process of dedicating an entire chapter to the influence of the game of basketball upon hip hop culture, he recognized that such a concept was much too broad to write about effectively in one chapter. He considered using Michael Jordan as an example, but MJ was too obvious a choice and his appeal was too universal, anyway. That's when he decided that the story of the linkage beween basketball and hip hop could be told through the history of one franchise in particular. He dedicated an entire chapter of his book to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The premise of George's chapter, "The Sound of Philadelphia - Dunking," was fairly straightforward; as cultural currents shifted and the sound and themes of hip hop music evolved, one could identify the correllation between the demeanor and cultural significance of the three most prominent modern players in the team's history. The original, post-soul era of hip hop, with its B-boy flash and rock-the-party vibe could be personified in the spirit and game of Julius "The Doctor" Erving. As Dr. J aged and his cultural significance waned, hip hop became more brash, outspoken, political; is there an athlete from the Public Enemy and N.W.A. era who fits this description better than Charles Barkley? As we found ourselves nearing the late nineties, authenticity came to rule the day, with 2Pac's ill-fated "thug life" giving way to the man who told the world "you got to keep it realer," Jay-Z. With this new ethos, hip hop found a new hero upon which to build its aspirations, Allen Iverson, who kept it realer than most people are even comfortable with.
I write this because the Jay-Z era of hip hop seems pretty much over, and I suppose it's no coincidence that Iverson's career with the 76ers appears to be nearing its conclusion at nearly the same time. Last night was Fan Appreciation Night at the Wachovia Center, and Iverson and Chris Webber weren't even dressed to play. They came late to the arena amid hazy rumors about whether or not they were going to play, anyway, but the Sixers' brass were decidedly less than thrilled about their tardiness. Tardiness is no new thing to Iverson, but (here's that cultural shift again) where fans were once willing to stick up for their hero, it seems as though more fans than usual wouldn't be against his departure. With the Sixers mired in mediocrity, attendance is down, and where fans once awaited every crossover dribble and tear-drop floater (even if it meant the captain missing some practices along the way), they now eagerly anticipate a new direction. All good things really do eventually come to an end, and while Iverson's apparent departure saddens me, I am ready to welcome the next movement. Even LL Cool J has to hang 'em up at some point (right?).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

More Proof That The Oscars Are BS

I was spending a quiet Monday night in my apartment, putting the finishing touches on my latest 116street Soccer entry, when I decided that ordering a movie from my On Demand service would be a good idea. I opted for Good Night, and Good Luck, the George Clooney-directed period piece about the efforts of Edward R. Murrow to expose Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
While watching the film, I was struck by the way in which the political climate of Murrow's day reflected much of what takes place in America today.
Murrow risked his career in an effort to restore the balance of ideas, and was branded a traitor in the process. What a shame then that our news networks now give recognition and screen time to political commentators who express their admiration for McCarthy, the very same man who trampled upon the civil rights of hundreds of Americans! Surely, no matter what side of the political spectrum we find ourselves on, we can hold the corporations who decide who reports (and comments on) the news to a higher level of responsibility.
Anyway, add another film to the list of movies better than the one that won this year's Oscar for Best Picture. Not to turn this into a rant against Crash, but is there a movie made this year that wasn't better than that disaster of a film (hypothetical question, people)? Anyway, I'm not saying Good Night, and Good Luck should have won the Oscar, but it was an excellent film, and George Clooney gets props for making a film with such a bold statement during this period of American discourse.

Monday, April 17, 2006

New Blog

Are you tired yet of my soccer nerdiness? In that case, you may rest easy, as I have started a new blog, 116street Soccer, to allow me to delve as deeply as I wish into that world. I'll still have my other observations about life right here, so we'll see how this works out.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


I was at Nevada Smith's last night, watching the replay of yesterday's Arsenal vs. Juventus Champions League match, when I met another of those most interesting people that New York City has to offer. It had been a relatively quiet night, as most of the New York Gooners had already watched the match live, and as I was watching the atrocious 0-0 draw unfold, I looked to the right of me and saw a benevolent-looking older man, enjoying a pint while wearing a George Best Ireland shirt.
We struck up a conversation, with him telling me his name is Ted, and that even though he's a Manchester United fan, he makes it a point to root for any English team whenever they encounter foreign opposition. We started talking about the skill and class of Thierry Henry, how he wished that Arsene Wenger would manage United instead of Sir Alex Ferguson (Fergie is too abrasive in his view) and the anticipation heading into Sunday's clash between the two English giants.
After a while, our conversation turned to more cosmopolitan subjects, such as which dirty words could be used to the highest effect in Italy, and which obscene gestures the English use to piss of the French (as well as each other). While sharing laughs and beer with this old Irish guy, all I could think was, "this guy is definitely on some other $#!+!" He seemed to know everybody in the bar, and it was fairly easy to see why.
As we continued talking, he told me that he is a reggae fanatic, dating back to the 1960's. He explained to me (although I had heard it before) that the original skinheads were not white supremacists, but rather reggae and ska punks, whose style had become co-opted by extremist groups. He pulled out his iPod and showed me his extensive reggae MP3 collection, and told me of how he goes to the Knitting Factory to this day to check out acts. I recommended that he check out Black Star, so long as he could handle vulgarity. "Are you kidding?" he said. "I play my music in here, and I have to tell them which songs are safe, there are so many F-words in them!"
We started talking about movies; it turns out that he loves zombie movies. "I could watch 28 Days Later over and over again!" he said. His other favorites included Dawn of the Dead (not sure which version) and Shaun of the Dead, which he highly recommended to me. "This guy is definitely on some other $#!+," I thought to myself. I asked him where he was from. "Brooklyn," he said. "I had these people in here one time, we were sitting here, drinking a beer and telling jokes, and the one guy asks his brother, 'What do you think Ted here does for a living?' and the brother jokes, 'he must be a porn star.' Well, the guy says, 'Actually, no he's the total opposite.'" "Ted," I began to ask, "you're a priest?" "Father Ted," he replied. I started cracking up.
He told me this story about a guy at the bar who wanted to buy him a cell phone. "What am I going to do with this guy buying me a cell phone? Now I have to wake up at 3:30 in the morning because he wants to confess his sins to me?" This stuff was hilarious. I asked him if he was the black sheep of his parish. "Oh yes," he said. "We have one Nigerian priest who eats sushi, but that's about it." We finished off our pints (two is his limit, if you are wondering), shook hands and said our goodbyes.
Later that evening, I was talking to The Girl By 23rd Street, who said, "You know, I always meet interesting people at Nevada's; I even met you there. I meet more people at that bar than any other one that I go to. I don't know why." I think it's because so many different kinds of people follow soccer, and they all seem to end up watching it there. All I know is that I'm going to keep going there, because I can't think of one time I went in which I didn't have fun or meet someone interesting, pretty or both.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Must-Watch Highlight

For those of you who had the patience to read my full discourse on the genius of Thierry Henry (and even for those of you who didn't), you have to see this! This is the first goal he scored Saturday afternoon in the Arsenal vs. Aston Villa match, it is absolutely astounding!

Henry's spectacular goal!

(Check out the slow-motion... )