Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Racquetball Finals

The Club One Racquetball Singles “A” Championship was last night. I was in the finals against Tyrone, a player who just one year ago was playing in division “C.” He’s only been playing 18 months, but he is rapidly improving and challenging the best players in the club. He made it to the finals because Aaron, the No. 1 ranked player at the Club, hurt his back last week and had to pull out of the playoffs. Tyrone got a bye, I beat Steve on Friday, so the match was set at 6:00 last night in front of about 20 folks who came to watch. Dorian, another morning racquetball friend, put the odds at a 10-to-1 in favor of me. That sounded about right. Tyrone had never beaten me before, but I knew anything could happen in a finals. I also knew I tended to play poorly when others were watching, and sure enough, I got off to a pretty shaky start, missing some shots I should have put away, leaving the ball up for Tyrone to easily kill, and generally not playing very sharp at all. We stayed fairly close in score and then Tyrone jumped to an 8-to-4 lead. Then his lead was extended to 13-to-8 when he called a timeout.

I was calm but discouraged. I was the reigning club champ and this was supposed to be a brutal beating. Instead, I was on the ropes in front of everyone. I concentrated on relaxing and taking deep breaths. I focused on playing one point at a time and letting my shots naturally come together. My feeling was if I could just stay out of the way of myself I’d be in a lot better shape. Still, in the back of my mind, I was nearly conceding the first game to Tyrone and the added momentum that went with it.

After the timeout, Tyrone served and I put the ball away. Then I served and scored 3 points in-a-row. Now it was 11-13, a much closer game. I lost my serve and Tyrone served again, but I put his serve away and started feeling a little more confident. At 13-13 Tyrone called another time out. It didn’t help. I won the last two points (the final point being an unforced error on Tyrone’s part) and managed to take the first game 15-13.

That took a lot of momentum away from Tyrone. I changed my shirt (I’ve started to do this in important matches to psychologically feel fresh and it works!), kept on breathing and drinking Gatorade, and tried to get into my typically dominate playing position when playing Tyrone.

It didn’t happen in the second game. He kept hitting the ball hard and low, getting some great shots and making me run all over the court. I was sucking wind pretty badly ten minutes into game two. Tyrone scored the first 4 points. I tried slowing the game down by lob serving to his backhand, but he cheated by hitting forehand return lobs on the left-hand side (I’ll exploit this more another time, the way Tiger did with me for years). I finally got on the board, but before long it was 4-7 for Tyrone.

Then I really slowed things down. I really took my time with my serves. I concentrated hard and slowly started playing some good racquetball. When I tied the game at 7, Tyrone called a time-out. I was dead tired. I did not want the game to go to a tie breaker. I realized I had underestimated Tyrone and should have prepared for what was happening on the court. I tried to relax but by this time I was getting fatigued, which means my accuracy is the first to go. What I needed to do was put together some tough serves. After the time-out, I finally caught a burst of energy and started putting the ball away. Tyrone was leaving balls up for me and I was burying them. I was also placing some smart shots. One shot in particular that I remember as being fun and slightly sneaky was when I was hitting the ball back and forth, back and forth in the corners to Tyrone. When he was on the left-hand side, I acted as though I was going to hit the ball to the right, but I hit the ball down the left and Tyrone wasn’t expecting it.

Suddenly the game was 11-to-7 in my favor. I lost serve a few times but didn’t allow a single point. I took the next four points and won the match 15-7. It was a really hard-fought victory for me. I wish I didn’t choke as badly as I do in big matches, but by some miraculous feat I was able to make the proper adjustments and keep Tyrone at bay. The folks watching said experience won the day for me and that Tyrone didn’t make any adjustments after I had made mine. That’s a good thing to remember, especially at the poker table. Make adjustments once they’ve made theirs.

Anyway, I felt really good about the victory and hope to 3-peat in the summer! We’ll see if I can do it!

Monday, February 19, 2007


I was a senior in high school the first time I saw Reds. I wanted to be a writer after I saw the film. I wanted to be around intellectuals, write plays by the beach, travel the world and write about important topics that touched people’s lives and mattered. 25 years later, I can see how far-removed I am from John Reed and Louise Bryant’s life. And from Warren Beatty’s life. And from the life I had imagined for myself. I’ve written a few things, but nothing I would call passionate. 25 years later and I still haven’t arrived. How come? Well, I’m not a larger than life character. I’m an introvert. I take my time with things. I enjoy thinking about a thing rather than doing the thing. This is a particularly bad habit of mine that I have not yet been able to break (though I’m working on it). I am 43 now, about the age Warren Beatty was when he made Reds. I was wondering if I would enjoy Reds as much as I did 25 years ago. I did not. I enjoyed Reds even more. Reds is something of a masterpiece, one of the finest love stories and historic dramas ever created. Everything about the film is smart, touching, informative, and meticulous. It holds up extremely well. It’s timeless.

A few things I appreciated more than when I saw it 25 years ago: Diane Keaton’s performance. Superb. Fantastic. The connection between revolution and ending the war. I liked how that storyline played out. Little details throughout. Diane Keaton’s facial expressions. Everything is first rate. No wonder Warren Beatty has yet to make another Reds. Where would he find the energy?

What is my Reds? And do I have the energy? If the answer is no, why am I wasting my time pretending to be a writer?

Friday, February 16, 2007

24 Bitch Slap

I have a friend named Jeff whom I’ve known for over 30 years. He loves throwing out little debate bones for me to gnaw on. Today he emailed me and some mutual friends this little tidbit:

Hey friends -

I know at one time or another we've debated the merits of the show '24'. Great article in the Feb 19 issue of the New Yorker by Jane Mayer about '24' and the legitimazation of torture. If you have a chance I'd suggest you take a look.

In the first 5 seasons, '24' depicted 67 instances of torture and in almost every case depicted it in a positive light. Basically the creator, Joel Surnow admits it's conservative propoganda devoted to supporting the right wing vision of the war on terror. One of his great friends is Anne Coulter and one of his personal heros is Joe McCarthy.

My favorite line is when Gordon, the head writer of the show laments the difficulty of writing '24'. Is he lamenting the complication of trying to script real time drama with heros racing against the actual clock to save the world? No his lament is: "It's getting hard not to repeat the same torture techniques over and over."


A little background: Two years ago, Jeff argued that “24” was a morally unethical show because of it’s use of torture. I argued Jeff really had no position on the show until he watched it (he hadn’t seen a single episode).

Here is my response:

Some things never die...

I guess Jeff's rant on "24" is one of them.

OK, it's time to do a little bitch slapping Jack Bauer style. I haven't yet read the New Yorker article, but I did read a sanitized MSNBC article that highlighted the New Yorker article's observation of the alarming increase of torture scenes on television post-9/11 with "24" being TV's lead culprit. A retired U.S. Army colonel was quoted in the MSNBC article as saying if Jack Bauer had been working under him, he'd be headed for a court-martial.

For those of you who have seen every episode of every season of "24," you know what he's talking about. But for those of you who have not seen one single episode of "24" (sound effect simulating BITCH SLAP) what are you doing? Who are you kidding? How can you assert the moral high ground to "24" viewers when you don't have a clue what you're talking about?

This email reminds me of the last time I attended mass at a Catholic church. Just before the priest let everyone out, he felt the need to say a few words about a new film that had just been released that was creating a lot of concern among members of his church. He hadn't seen the film himself, but he had heard enough details to believe with complete certainty that viewing this film was morally wrong. That's what he said. I don't know if he used the words, "sin against God," but that's
what he meant. He was never going to see that film, and he advised the
entire congregation to do the same. That film was Martin Scorsese's "The
Last Temptation of Christ," and to this day, its a reminder why I cannot
criticize any film, book, or TV show on moral grounds until I experience the
thing myself.

That's the only reason I paid 8 bucks to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." I had no voice in the discussion until I saw "Passion," but once I saw that brutal, ridiculous, over-the-top snuff film with my own eyes my voice was loud and clear.

So Jeff, I know you're nothing like that idiot priest who turned me off Catholicism
for good, so I offer you this challenge: Watch Season 1 of "24" in its entirety and I will listen, argue, agree with, debate, deplore and discuss the moral and/or unethical use of torture on the TV show "24," as well as listen to, argue, agree with, debate, deplore and discuss the moral and/or unethical practice of WATCHING and being ENTERTAINED by a show like "24." But until then, your position on "24" (and the moral high ground you stand on) means ("bitch slap!") nothing, ("bitch slap!") zilch, ("bitch slap!") nada.

OK, I'm off to soak my sore palm and read that New Yorker article because I'm sure it's highly illuminating. Jeff, I hope you're off to the video store (or earranging your NetFlix queue) to experience Season 1. Enjoy the ride (and welcome to the club!).

With love,


He’ll never watch, nor will he acknowledge his lack of any seat at the 24 roundtable.

Poker this weekend, and some screenwriting. On Tuesday is the Racquetball Championship at Club One. With the best player at the club out over a back injury, it looks as though I’ll successfully defend my title. Sweet!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Poker at the Oaks

I played limit hold’em at the Oaks for the first time in a month last night. I played from 5 p.m to midnight. I started off well, up around $100 the first 90 minutes. But after a big pot with AK, I was cold and lost nearly all the hands I was involved in.

I played well the first 4 or 5 hours, but not so well the last hour. I called the turn and river with QQ when I knew I was beat. I was on the button. A new guy at the table raised it up. There were a few callers. I reraised. Perhaps I just should have called. My thinking was the pot was already big and let’s knock out the blinds. That was my thinking. Anyway, the pot was capped with five players in (20 small bets).

Flop was TTx. There was a bet and a raise. I noticed the raiser had a very short stack so there wasn’t much left I could lose, perhaps 12 extra dollars. My thinking was I could drive out the other players and go heads up with this guy, who either had me beat with AA, KK or had JJ or one of the Tens. Anyway, another guy reraised and that’s when I should have seen the turn, then folded. There was so much in the pot that I donked off another $12. I didn’t play this hand properly. I didn’t need to lose $33 on this hand. $12 would have been plenty.
I have a tendency to push my good hands when it’s clear I’m behind.

There was another hand that got me. I had 57 of spades in the cutoff. I called and the flop was J99, two spades. Everyone checked. The 8 of spades hit on the turn and there was a bet and a raise. I was stumped. What was the raiser calling with? He could have been calling with a third Jack. A higher flush was more likely. A straight was unlikely. I re-raised though because I’m not good enough to fold a small flush (yet). Raising was better than folding beause everyone thought I had a full-house. As a result, the river was checked down. My 75 flush was the third best hand, and there were only 3 spades on the board.

I had AQ and raised it in early position. The flop was A4x. I bet and it was raised by a loose crazy Grandma. I reraised and it was capped. I should have just called here. I just have one pair, and who knows what Granny has. I lost to A4.

Every time I had AK, someone had two pair. It was freaky. The only hand I had trips, someone had a flush. It was like that all night. In seven hours of play, I picked up maybe five or six pots. Less than one pot an hour. My AK pot when the King came on the river was large, around 15 big bets worth.

Low limit poker is predictable. There are lots of folks in the pot, usually five or six. They’re gambling. The higher limits are different, like 10/20, 15/30. There was also a 30/60 game going on. At that level the rake is very small. A $900 pot can set someone up for the night at 30/60. $3,000 wins are possible. Wow. So nice. Stick with it. The luck factor should shift soon enough.

2 flushes, one lost to higher flush, one took a small pot.
0 straights.
1 set, lost to a flush.
AK, won with two pair, lost two other times.
AQ, lost to two pair.
KK won nice pot, full-house to straight draw.
QQ lost twice to 3 Ts and flush.

I was dealt around 250-300 hands.
At my highest profit point I was up $110 at 6:30 p.m.
At my lowest I was down $75, which was when I stopped at 12:05 a.m.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Boxes of Babel

I saw Babel over the weekend and was somewhat dissatisfied at the end. The individual stories were compelling (and painful), but I wasn’t sure what the unifying theme was. Why were these particular stories chosen? What was I supposed to conclude at the end, that life is painful? The performances were strong. The cinematography was lively and engaging. I wasn’t bored, but I wasn’t terribly moved, either. Crash is a far superior multi-story film. I have a lot of films to see in the next few weeks if I’m going to see all the nominated films by the Oscars.

My writing and poker playing have been put on hold these past few weeks because I’m going through everything I own and throwing out, organizing, storing, removing, taking out, putting in boxes, giving away. It’s a full on purge. It’s hard not to accumulate a lot of junk at 43. The trick is knowing what to toss. Sometimes it takes a few years to know what’s important and what isn’t. I’m going through boxes I packed up 10 years ago. So much of this stuff can just go. It means nothing to me, so goodbye. Who cares. It’s funny what holds value and what does not.

For some reason I like keeping receipts, bank statements and credit card statements. It actually helps me remember what I was doing in ’92 or ’86. I’m a bit nutty when it comes to keeping things. I have this idea of writing a sensational memoir one of these years, and having all this physical material will supposedly help me piece together the story of my life. What is the story of my life? It still hasn’t taken shape yet. Maybe it never will. Maybe that’s the story, a life that never takes shape. That might not necessarily be a bad thing. I’m not one to pigeon hole myself.
Poker...I miss it! I’m not reading my poker books or playing live or online. I know. Once the remodel is complete, I can hit it hard. Let’s get these boxes organized and out of the living room pronto.