March 14, 2015

Boy, How About That Ronald Reagan?

Whenever I meet someone old enough to have lived through the Reagan years, I always say to them (before saying anything else), "Boy, how about that Ronald Reagan?" I say this in a perfectly neutral tone which allows them to expound on what they liked (or, more likely, disliked) about the 40th American president.

Then I say "But that's a little before my time, I suppose," and skip into a mist of ether. That's when the hallucinations begin.

Here's where I have to admit: Most of the hallucinations are about Ronald Reagan, silhouetted at a distant podium both far and high away from me, speaking his words to an audience, saying nothing I can hear but saying it all with folksy cadence and apparently good intent.

I can't hear but a couple words every fifty, but I see the people responding to it, some protesting, some happy, some indifferent but otherwise moved. In strong cadences they talk among themselves, each in their own groups, saying "Boy, how about that Ronald Reagan?"

I wake up bounding through the unlimited forests of the night, apparently as a deer. I bound and bound ceaselessly, in a pattern which lulls even the mighty deer to sleep. I feel the rhythms of the deer I am and the pace I'm walking at much like an expecting mother feels its soon-to-be brood jabbing hypnotically in a rhythm with no thought of escape and only serenity. I drift into sleep before being jolted awake by the car, which slams into my left side.

Barely alive, I can see out of my left eye into the driver's side. Inside the car is a young Ronald Reagan c. 1960. Ronald Reagan has killed the deer I was. Saying a prayer to Satan, Ronald Reagan takes my soul, packs up my body with some bungee chords, and prepares to bring a feast home for his family, or Hollywood buddies, or political sponsors (no one is really sure). My view switches to Reagan's. I am Ronald Reagan. I mutter, "Better a deer than some damn drifter again. This is the third time this week..."

At the bar or diner or giant log cabin where young Reagan ends up after this dust-up, he is hoisting a large chunk of venison for everyone to see. Ronald Reagan addresses the crowd:

"Better a deer than some damn drifter again! This is the third time this week!"

Everyone laughs and shouts back, "Boy, how about that Ronald Reagan?" I notice an affective pattern over the weeks spent as young Ronald Reagan. Every time he kills a drifter with his car he spins it into a believable, sincerely-felt one-liner he can use for days. No one takes the death seriously except as the wit of a clever actor-turned-statesman. Eventually, as the weeks and months pass, he is no longer young. I try to escape but I'm sealed inside his body which acts without my ability to counteract. Every month the crowds grow larger. And he's running for president now.

I've avoided looking out there when he looks into the crowd all these years (although I can't stop his eyes from looking, I can choose to focus in or out), but as he makes his bid for the presidency, I start to notice something: Among the aged hippies who find themselves concerned about their children's futures and square, button-down professionals enforcing orthodoxy is a new strain of faces.

The drifters he'd killed on the road are accumulating among the faces in the crowd, forming a small-but-not-insignificant portion of the audience. Their flesh has rotted (and often rotted off) and their hearts have stopped. But they still show up. And every day there are more drifters dead at the hands of the manic campaigner Reagan.

During one speech, I happen to spot the deer I'd been in 1960, so many years ago, and now it's just a big old skeleton staring dumbly because as a deer it doesn't know why it's here, and wouldn't even if it were alive. A dumb deer in the dumb headlights. It seems to know when to clap but not much else. Some of the more-skeletal drifters climb aboard the deer and ride it like a horse. Pathetic. I start to be glad that they are dead or just ghosts and not really alive. I start to see the victims of the drug wars, of random foreign incursions, and the many victims of Reagan's policies that accumulate after he leaves office. And I feel nothing, or less than nothing. Every day more and more of the victims appear. They're probably not all even technically his fault -- I don't think God or whatever is using some sophisticated algorithm here. But the ghosts of deer and drifter alike just keep haunting him, even as he retires into his post-presidency and dementia and finally to his death. They just bound and stumble into his room and says nothing. I think I'm the only one who can see them or know that they're there. Maybe Reagan can somehow ignore them without breaking a sweat. I know if I saw a skeleton of a deer in my bedroom without having asked for one, I would at least acknowledge the transgression and feel a measure of fear. But I'm not a great man, I suppose.

Then, finally, as Reagan dies, my dream ends, I wake up in the present day - just an hour after going to sleep. Yes, it's me; I'm back: Your humble 20-year-old narrator with smirks and snark to bring the whole house down. I'm cheeky and charismatic and the Internet loves me and my friends think me an ethical man. Neither deer nor drifter haunts me, I live my life in peace, avoid the road, avoid politics, avoid at all costs making the kinds of choices that may haunt me when I'm older.

And fifty years later the only dead man haunting me is myself in the mirror, alive in name and heartbeat alone, looking always back at the life I could've lived. A man of seventy with no purpose nor legacy. And the few I meet still old enough to have met Reagan and still lucid enough to describe him still have strong opinions, albeit now tinged with nostalgia for the man himself or the people they used to be. I still say "Boy, how about that Ronald Reagan?" to everyone I meet, to increasingly mystified stares. They think me insane. They think me senile. They think me demented. But it's not true. The man could give a speech, and the man could take another's life without hesitation. How about that? Isn't that worth a conversation, at least? I genuinely want to have that conversation, but no one knows the first thing about me nor cares about any of my Ronald Reagan theories. Well, respectfully, they can go to hell. And, "Boy, how about that Ronald Reagan?" is the one thing I leave behind as a pitiful substitute for a legacy, and yet I'm still quite proud of it. You know, it is a damn good catchphrase if I do say so myself: neutral, objective, non-judgmental, witty, clever, ironic, deconstructive of the whole concept of a catchphrase, the whole shebang. A perfect catchphrase encapsulating everything Reagan never could stand for and everything I could not but stand for, I look at the mirror again: Could I take the endless hauntings if I ever had the opportunity to seize greatness? I decided not to answer. My cheekiness a product of my youth, I comport myself now with great dignity and understated cleverness.

In a rare act of impulse, I guess I buy myself a car later that day. At the age of seventy this is no hardship for me. I've been cautious and meticulous with my savings and built a considerable fortune from several industries I'd monitored and seized upon not days before they hit their strides. I drove down Coastal California's famous Highway 1. You've probably seen it in movies, but those to whom I'm writing probably haven't seen or even heard of the hyper-car tollbooths and self-driven comfort stations. yet. I personally take the self-driven approach, on account of I drive myself! Just an old man, driving along the highway's iconic curves overlooking the Pacific Ocean. And I'm looking for drifters. And when I find them, I pick them up and ask them questions about the last 25 presidents. If they fail to answer enough questions, I give them a copy of my book about the topic. If they answer enough questions, I offer them a beautiful place to live and everything they could ever need, no questions asked. Now I see them on the road quizzing one another about the Eisenhower administration, desperately vying for a lottery ticket only I can provide. And while this is nice it isn't a real solution. So I build academies for them, I build roads for them. I build everything they'll ever need to succeed. And many of them take full advantage and, in fact, do succeed in life. I use my fortune to to help pass legislation to give the poor and the downtrodden and the ill they help they need to succeed. Reaganomics is out; people are in. That's my slogan, and I - backing down from the responsibility at every step! - become President at a stately and respectable age and serve for 6 years before stepping down at the height of my respect and power for reasons of health, handing my power to a trusted assistant, formerly a drifter, now an expert at the Presidency and its powers.

I prepare to die in bed, inside the skeleton of the deer I'd hit when I was 19 and had never gotten over. Even in death I won't get over it. Oh, don't worry, dear reader, I haven't lied to you; I'd only hit it because Reagan - in his final years, we now know - had done that poor deer in first, demanding that his personal driver do it. By coincidence, I'd been right behind Reagan when he did it, had cried out desperately and futilely for him to stop, had pulled over, and had tried to help the wounded doe to no avail as Reagan's limo was speeding back onto the highway. Once Reagan'd left, I ran over the flailing deer and its two remaining limbs, out of mercy, and lived my life in quiet mercy, and though I had to start a war and couldn't feed all the poor in my tenure at the top, I doubt these things will ever haunt me. These doe-eyed angels - dead of my war and fickle neglect - will still sing me to sleep on my own death bed from afar. The skeleton of that deer is cold and dead but I find comfort and warmth and a final vitality inside the skeleton, an ethical prison which paradoxically frees me. No one ever says my name in poignant cleverness. No one of me can ever say anything like, "Boy, how about that Ronald Reagan?"

By my command, the sections about having been a deer and Ronald Reagan are added to my obituary as plain fact and the world mourns my loss doubly, though on this point, here writing from the comforts of the afterlife, I have only to presume.

July 27, 2014

Alt. Title: "Gawker? I 'ardly knew 'er!"

June 26, 2014

Van Gundy Power Rankings

T-1. Stan
T-1. Jeff
3. Albus
4. Argus
5. Gundy
6. "Dutchie" (Bill)
7. Magic
8. Dandy
9. Arbus
10. Fun
11. Gund
12. Ludwig
13. Rolf
14. Harrison
15. Engelbert
16. (unintelligible)
17. (blank first name)
18. BreakingBad
19. DepartmentOfTransportation
20. Ghostface von Wu-Tang
T-800. Paul
T-800. Jimmy

June 23, 2014

Viral Content

I'm going to teach you how to write, and everyone in the world is going to be hit by a plague in 72 hours. The lede* is my favorite 'graf*. This is my favorite lede* of all time.

When writing blogs, the second 'graf* is just as important as the lede*, which actually means "first paragraph" in Greek. This second 'graf* is especially important to fleshing out your outline: The second 'graf* is where you really begin to elaborate on the points you made in the lede*. The plague, thought by virologists to be the "end of days," is spreading as we speak, and there's little any of us can do to stop it. More after the jump*.

June 11, 2014

Behold Bobby Ramos.

Hey, Pearls-divers, what's up! Long time no dive.

Behold Bobby Ramos, God of Interviews. If he were any more commanding, he would be able to slap a world down with his bare hands. Despite that, what he's left with is substantial, a force of nature. A hundred feet tall, he powers through his enemies like a knife through butter.


Anyway, an 1100-page biography of Ramos, apparently written and published that very morning, surreptitiously dropped into my waiting arms from the sky. Given my atheism, I prefer to think a strategically timed airplane or helicopter were responsible; but, in light of Ramos' appearances above, I am questioning my faithless mien as we speak. Anyway, here are some excerpts, which I shared with the huddled masses on Twitter, of course to no avail.

June 10, 2014

Ex Post Facto: Game 3 Preview for Heat-Spurs

Note: Unfortunately, this preview for Game 3 of the NBA Finals wasn't able to be published in time for Game 3 to my and Aaron McGuire's flagship The Gothic Ginobili, but I think it was an interesting piece that might explain some of what we saw tonight in Game 3.

PROMPT (AARON): With two games in the books, the series has been surprisingly great – exactly the sort of epic heavyweight matchup the league wanted to see. There are two opposing schools of thought on the series to-date. The first: the Spurs are lucky to be 1-1, because they only won game #1 because of LeBron’s injury scare. The second: the Heat are lucky to be 1-1, because it took a god-like LeBron game in game 2 to overcome a Spurs team that wasn’t totally clicking and nearly won the game regardless. Which end of the spectrum do you gravitate towards? And how worried would you be about losing home court, if you’re San Antonio?

So someone might object to your use of "luck" there, Aaron, but, to pry them off pre-emptively from the back of your sportscar as you speed, just two miles from the border of plausibility that will grant you amnesty from their attacks, to literally throw them off your trail onto the expressway as the bus behind them full of children just barely swerves to avoid them and they miraculously survive, but able no longer to attack your point:

Variance happens. Except for the simplest of layups and passes, a large part of the sport takes place in the space of the largely or partially unknown, where -maybe until you see how someone's knees are bending for the shot- you don't have a clue how something is going to end up. And neither do the people on the floor or on the sidelines. And even when you see the knees bend, you may still have no idea if it's going in. It's an imperfect sport.

LeBron has god-like games and he has cramps, and both effectively amounted to random events -- unless "feeling it" is real, knowable, and practicable, in which case, whither Swaggy P? No; you absolutely can't control that kind of a god-like game. LeBron seems to know when he's feeling it, and takes full advantage, but he plays the percentages just like anyone else, even then, and these games seem to develop organically over the course of the game. It's no coincidence his ridiculous shooting nights seem to start in the third quarter.

And even if LeBron had, like, a heightened awareness of the potentiality of cramps before the Saunantonio Game and as the heat became apparent, even with all of that knowledge, LeBron is still not going to be able to predict whether or when it's going to hit him, making his knowledge on the matter irrelevant, except to prepare as well as he can and hope it doesn't strike him. And, to add to that, unless everyone is obviously unable to play, LeBron can't really know or control what kind of measures the AT&T Center and league staff would be able to undertake, say, to postpone or cancel the game.

All of these are basically chance situations with imperfect knowledge or control. And they, in aggregate, probably favor the Heat.

The Spurs have come in with a better differential, more (at least by quantity) solid NBA players, more answers to every question, more consistent execution on both ends, and more historical cohesion. This is saying a lot (and is a far cry from a knock on Miami), because the Heat also have all of these things in abundance. And on a couple of these points you could probably quibble with me. But, overall, that's what the Spurs have as a slight marginal advantage -- the knowns just slightly favor San Antonio and disfavor Miami.

And what it means is that, if both teams play in a mystical environment with little to no variance --where every player shoots his average every game and no one gets too high or low-- the Spurs will win every game by 1.5 points*, count their blessings, and celebrate a 4-0 sweep. And, while this wouldn't be such a vacuum, it's worth noting that the Spurs would've won both games if LeBron wasjust 85%. That 85% means he can be gameplanned. That 85% means he can be slowed. And the Spurs excel at that stuff. Other than Kawhi, the Spurs' defense isn't built on lockdown individual defense and incandescent steals, but on solid positioning and playing the percentages. If LeBron is 85% every night (call it his average capacity), I think they weather Game 1 and steal Game 2.

*Or maybe 1, or 0.5, or 2. I don't know. I'm just convinced it's slightly positive.

But they're playing basketball. And that means LeBron is subject to both triumph and lactic acid. It means that he's able to soar at his peak and crash to earth at any moment, all depending on things we don't know. And it means that a Heat role player can get hot, and it means that the Spurs can get tired or dumb and miss rotations. It means that Danny Green can go up for a stupid block attempt on Chris Bosh like two minutes in when he already has a foul. It also means that Mario Chalmers can let his execution slip and get into foul trouble himself. It means that even if you've personally counted Rashard Lewis out, if you leave him open and if the Heat see it, he has a chance to go off. And it means that, not only do match-ups matter, but they're still being navigated and re-navigated as we speak by two brilliant coaches that don't know exactly what they're going to get.

The variance in basketball is high. And in a series with two teams dominated by age and the 3-pointer, the variance is absurdly high relative to the difference in efficiency, making a series that might be the closest of sweeps one way or the other into an awesome drama where everyone is struggling to step up and break through on the slightest of margins, and not get left behind. 

So 1-1 sounds about right.

May 29, 2014

Dr. Seuss Story About Vox/Explainers/538

This is a story I wrote on Twitter about Vox and the rise of the Explainers.

And that's it! Hope you enjoyed! I figured you Pearls-divers might like a little change of pace. That's what I call you that read this site called Pearls of Mystery: Pearls-divers. It's not an organic nickname coming from a healthy community of fans; no, it's just something I call you sometimes.