Entries from June 2013 ↓

Hawkeye 3 on the Podcast

In case you missed it Brian David-Marshall and I did a podcast last week.

So among the varied topics in that ‘cast (Magic, Magic coverage, basketball including Patrick Sullivan being the imaginary GM of my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers) we talked comics; one comic in particular that people have been asking me about since is HAWKEYE by Matt Fraction and David Aja… I thought Brian would like it because of the super cut-down art with flat color. Color is probably no surprise as Matt Hollingsworth is by approximately a country mile my favorite colorist in comics.

Here are some pages from my favorite issue so far (HAWKEYE #3):


Super awesome action / perspective / fast panels.


Good “people walking around and talking” storytelling. A lot of flashy artists are good at a small number of action poses and punching and / or making women look sexy by having their watermelon-like assets exploding out of their chain mail bikini tops; Aja gives Hawkeye a perfectly desirable love* interest that is the epitome of fully clothed and in fact dressed in layers.


I love Hollingsworth’s super limited color palette decisions on HAWKEYE. He shifts to a “nothing but purples” on this page and makes it work. Kudos to Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker (HAWKEYE’s editorial team) for green [purple!] lightning such a different Big Two book.

HAWKEYE is the story of Clint Barton when he’s not partying with the Avengers. Clint spends his down time mentoring the other Hawkeye (Kate Bishop of YOUNG AVENGERS), and pulling capers. Hawkeye — both Hawkeyes really — is / are sort of misplaced in the Avengers canon — teammates include The Strongest One There Is, the Norse god of thunder, a super soldier, and Mr. GeniusBillionairePlayboyPhilanthropist — what’s up with having someone who charges into battle with a stick and a string on the squad?

It’s an interesting question… That HAWKEYE doesn’t really strive to answer. Rather Matt Fraction puts him into situations that are just sort of more his speed. He tussles with mobsters, tumbles into an underground gambling ring, gets in car chases, and does a fair 007 impression in service to S.H.I.E.L.D. Hawkeye has a bit of the Robin Hood in him; the villain of the first issue is — wait for it — the price of rent in Brooklyn.

Personally I think that Aja is the star of Hawkeye, but Fraction is absolutely on his game as well. Fraction has gotten some high profile writing gigs at Marvel in the last couple of years, but I don’t think that most folks would put him in Marvel’s elite architect category with Ed Brubaker, Brian Bendis, Mark Millar, or the great Jonathan Hickman quite yet. But issues like HAWKEYE 3 (everything pivots around sorting his trick arrow collection) and HAWKEYE 11 (from a dog’s perspective) wink at some of the done-in-one ability of an Alan Moore… No small compliment.

HAWKEYE is up for Eisner awards this year in two categories: Best Continuing Series and Best New Series. I must say I love HAWKEYE but competition is rough in these categories. Brian Vaughan’s SAGA is nominated in both, and Hickman’s THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS is nominated in Best Continuing Series. SAGA is a smash-hit by frankly my overall favorite comics creator** and THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS by the man who finished one spot ahead of me in Comic Book Idol*** is my second-favorite current series after LOCKE & KEY.

But unlike the Cavaliers’s number one pick this year, I would be perfectly fine with my not-number-one selection in either category.


* Fraction’s Hawkeye is basically Bond in the “love” department, so take this four-letter word with a grain of salt.
** bias acknowledged, obv
*** Hickman did a pretty good job with that second place


For the Man Who Has Everything…

-Brian David-Marshall

Last week I mentioned some sort of ka-razy Superman sale they were having at ComiXology. $.99 for this; $.99 for that; $.99 for the prince’s firstborn male child; &c.

I did a quick run-through of books you might want to pick up (for $.99 no less!) but missed one on my first pass. It happens to be Brian David-Marshall’s favorite Alan Moore story; SUPERMAN Annual 11.

Dave Gibbons (who would be Moore’s collaborator on the consensus greatest comic book of all time, WATCHMEN) impressed the right DC editor and got to pitch a book; they told him he could pick his collaborator and he snap-picked Moore. Can you imagine — as an artist — being allowed to pick your writer… and having that writer be Alan Moore!?! And him saying yes??? In those days Alan Moore would actually write a Superman story for you and not entitle it SUPREME or TOM STRONG.

The story goes that it is February 29th — Superman’s birthday. Wonder Woman and Batman & Robin separately travel to the North Pole’s Fortress of Solitude to bring gifts to the man who has everything. Of the three, it is noted that only one has pants on; or superhero spandex tights or whatever (but you grok). Yes, this is the starting premise to maybe the greatest Superman story of all time (or at least BDM’s favorite… As I said, mine is ALL-STAR SUPERMAN).

Moore opens up with some nice tongue-in-cheek. The premise is fundamentally comic-book-y and not in a deconstructed “smart” way. So he throws you a curve ball with characters who could only be written this way because it was 1985 and not 2013. The Robin at the time was Jason Todd, newly in the green bikini bottoms pixie boots, and this was his first time meeting Wonder Woman. He plays it completely straight; and I think, at least as a modern reader, that must always have been part of the joke.

This was the interaction he had with The Dark Knight after making a comment about what WW was wearing:



That smile?

The long-eared blue cowl for that matter?

For many readers this is a characterization barely recognizable as Batman. I am of the opinion that Batman as an urban legend is properly every interpretation of Batman from the gun-toting first appearance to sixties camp to THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS to Christian Bale in the armor to Huntress in her stitched proto-Cassandra Cain leathers but that is an argument for another time. I actually just love how Moore wrote Batman in this one scene. Even when Moore is queering comics and knocking them on their ears in that innovative, subversive, disruptive way that only he can you never get the feeling that he has forgotten he is writing a comic book and that these characters have “lives” and draw on traditions that go way beyond even his contribution to the canon; here he is doing a great Adam West riff that would have been immediately recognizable to many readers (even if it isn’t to young’uns who might be reading this).

Anyway, all is not well in the Fortress of Solitude.

Wonder Woman + Batman & Robin stumble upon the deadly Mongul, who has incapacitated Superman. As the villain is defeated (“SPOILERS!” I guess), we see Superman lose his cool in a rare way, have already figured out that Superman’s birthday comes only every four years, and learn Batman’s heart’s desire. Fans of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN might note that Grant Morrison (who has been mostly silent in a long-standing Cold War with Moore) wrote the resolution of one of his conflicts in direct opposition to Moore’s interpretation of the classic irresistible force v. immovable object. “Surrender” is a fighting word! I’d write more on this but I really don’t want to spoil the story. The $.99 sale is over but you can still topdeck SUPERMAN Annual 11: “For the Man Who Has Everything…” for the princely sum of $1.99 at ComiXology.

Considering cover was $1.25 in 1985 $1.99 ain’t bad.

Something I really loved about this comic book is the coloring. Gibbons is of course one half of the team that put together the greatest comic book of all time (WATCHMEN); and he worked so well with Moore in particular because he could execute on Alan’s complex scripts and ideas without muddying them up with too much “artistic interpretation” … He just did exactly what he was supposed to do, and well.

If you think about Gibbons purely as Moore’s sock puppet you might ultimately be underrating him as a draftsman, which would be a shame. Check out this panel of Wonder Woman blasting the bejeezus out of Mongul with a cannon she finds under Superman’s bed or whatever:


Can you imagine how garishly colored that would have been in 2013?

But in 1985, Tom Ziuko’s use of flat colors actually highlights the superb line work of Gibbons. The heavy foreground inks on Wonder Woman are half of what this panel is about! Gibbons couldn’t rely on WildStorm PhotoShop artists so had to create contrast by varying his brush and pen nibs, giving it an almost woodcut finish. Even as a modern reader who has been used to Image Comics-style computer coloring for over 20 years, I don’t think the lack of technology detracts from the visual here whatsoever; rather I can just stare at the panel longer and longer appreciating the decisions he made.

For a more direct comparison, consider these two panels:

From SUPERMAN Annual 11:


An homage from INFINITE CRISIS 1:


Huge fan of the detailed studliness of Phil Jimenez of course; just pointing out the quite different coloring technique from 1985 to this later reinterpretation (though you may also notice the frame-breaking, black gutters, and other [potentially cool] visual decisions by an admittedly talented artist… that would have detracted from, say, a tight Moore script in a way Gibbons never has).

SUPERMAN Annual 11 has had quite a bit of lasting impact; as you just saw, successful writers like Geoff Johns are still cribbing from it for their tent pole events like INFINITE CRISIS. It was also the basis for an episode of JUSTICE LEAGUE (which you can stream on Netflix at will) (though Wonder Woman gunned all of Robin’s good lines).

In the end, my verdict is more than worth the $1.99. Go read. etc.


P.S. I have mentioned on a couple of occasions in this post and elsewhere that WATCHMEN is the greatest comics masterpiece of all time. I spent a couple of days putting together this post but apparently someone at ComiXology had their ears itching or whatnot and they decided to put together a five-day WATCHMEN sale starting today. I can’t say anything about the “BEFORE WATCHMEN” prequels other than they have some amazing creators attached (Adam Hughes, Darwyn Cooke, Jae Lee, Amanda Connor… almost every illustrator is a DI); but the original Moore / Gibbons series (you know, the GOAT) is [also] on sale for $.99 per.

Come get some!

==> WATCHMEN sale at ComiXology <==

Three Dimensions of Garruk, Caller of Beasts

Yesterday I saw Garruk, Caller of Beasts spoiled on MTV.

I meant to write something at the time but I was distracted / delayed / apprehensive for a couple of reasons. Was this a real Planeswalker? A real Magic: The Gathering magical spell (that spits out DI fantastic creatures) or some kind of hoax? Was a well-meaning editor hoodwinked by a 5th Dimensional Imp? I mean it was on MTV. And in fact Tweeted about by an MTV Verified Account. Real? Real World?

Also I had to go to a dinner party.


So in the last couple of months I have been feeling somewhat inordinately good about myself.

I wrote down a sort of foreseeable future not-bucket list in 2008 (a variation of a technique I wrote about in the last chapters of The Official Miser’s Guide actually). I liked this song The Hudson by my favorite songwriter; I wanted to live by the Hudson. Actually this is the view outside my new apartment:


I wanted to live by shenanigans. Pulling shenanigans. More shenanigans in the hopper. I wanted to eat better, work out more, spend more time with my family and play more Magic tournaments. I’m running close to a marathon a week; not at fighting weight yet but my resting heart rate is below 60. My kids are in love with me and I can’t remember a better time with my wife. I’m not back-to-back Legacy Open Top 8 grinder Chris Pikula or anything but I’ve played a nice run of Magic tournaments this year with several cash finishes.

So I have been [virtually] patting myself on the back. Yeah life! Yeah MichaelJ! I have been crossing off good stuff left and right off of my life-list. I have arr…

I have not arrived quite yet.

I walk into this apartment (which has its own elevator). It is one continuous hallway that is the city block long. You look out the window from one side and there is the Angelika theater. On the other side… Whatever is on the other block (I never made it that far actually, de-railed by the wall-installed temperature regulated wine rack and Next Level 3D art on the walls. An entire city block. The idea of this is just baffling to me; but I was there. The space was like nothing you have ever seen in a Manhattan apartment (there were rooms attached to the hallway on either side but I didn’t go into any of them).

Gotta sell lots of The Official Miser’s Guide still!

So anyway I go to this dinner party, come back for a short run, work on Top Decks, zzzzz eventually re-watching the season finale of Mad Men.

More distractions than your average iPhone.

So: Garruk, Caller of Beasts.

Well the alternate art is pretty cool I think you will agree!


My impressions:

[+1] This will put Garruk to five and possibly out of range of the first swing in. Possibly. The card advantage is obviously potentially bonzer. Frank Karsten is 4-0’ing tournaments left and right playing nothing but creatures.

If you play nothing but creatures you might actually hit three cards on this (but then again you would probably have to re-work more than a little to accommodate the cost). A sub-Frank (but still reasonable) number of creatures for a Ramp deck — say 20 — is still going to net you 1-2 creatures on average. The down side is that a lot of times those creatures are going to be like Arbor Elf. At the point that you are rolling sixes I don’t know that this is what you want to be doing in a game under pressure. Then again there is probably nothing you would rather be doing in a grind situation. That said, I am not convinced this is all that much more powerful than either of the first two abilities on Garruk, Primal Hunter, especially given the extra mana investment; six over five being like ten over five under pressure.

Now speaking of the mana, six is a lot for a Planeswalker that may or may not be doing anything proactive on the battlefield. Six is in fact only one under Karn Liberated. Karn Liberated not only can directly and immediately affect the battlefield, but he is essentially the end game of an actual Modern deck. Cautiously optimistic on this one to start.

[-3] Now we’re talking!

I actually love this [-3] (leaving Garruk at 1 loyalty). You get to keep Garruk and you can use the ability to net mana. I am a big fan of tapping six to play Angel of Serenity* or Griselbrand** at a discount. Why think so small? In Modern you might be able to run Garruk, Caller of Beasts as a six mana redundancy on Primeval Titan and cheat out Emrakul, the Aeons Torn***. Could be a thing. Thanks Obama Lotus Cobra.

Taken another way Garruk, Caller of Beasts is only one more than Through the Breach but you don’t run out of it after one use. I am a buyer here, even if you don’t necessarily net mana. For instance I am not above playing Garruk, Caller of Beasts [back in Standard] to drop a Thragtusk (who can now double-defend Garruk). I can deploy multiple cards, not waste my mana, and use the [+1] to re-up the next turn. Like I said: Buyer.

[-7] Just want to throw it out there that I have played a lot of Garruk, Primal Hunter and have never in my life made Wurm tokens. Not even one time in the MTGO Tournament Practice Room. I think that if Garruk, Caller of Beasts starts calling up the beats it is going to be riding the incremental card and mana advantages from the first two abilities, not necessarily winning via the Ultimate.

Some interesting personal anecdotes about Planeswalker Ultimates:

  • I have beaten Jace, the Mind Sculptor‘s ultimate in tournament play.
  • I have beaten Domri Rade’s ultimate in MTGO play.
  • I have both lost after activating Ajani Vengeant’s Ultimate and beaten Ajani Vengeant’s Ultimate in MTGO play.
  • I have not only lost after activating Liliana of the Dark Realms‘s Ultimate, I have had enough loyalty to activate it more than once and still lost in both Grand Prix [paper] and MTGO play.
  • I have tried really, really hard to beat Tamiyo, the Moon Sage’s Ultimate through means various; but apparently infinite card advantage > cleverness.

Going to go out on a limb and say I am unlikely to activate Garruk, Caller of Beasts’s Ultimate in paper.


* EDIT: Can’t do that.
** Or that.
*** Or that, either! “Green” — my archenemy. It is known Khaleesi. Imagine I got it right the first time and said “Progenitus” or something. Obviously missing that particular chromatic adjective lowers my rating of this a bit will have to think on it more. What is there awesome in Standard for 7+? Can’t see Sylvan Primordial being good enough.

8:59 on a Tuesday

Spurs in Six?
Big Three Basketball
Beloved Spurs?
The Story So Far
The Best Thing About Game Five
What Miami Has to Do Differently

Spurs in Six?

Tonight is Game Six of the NBA Finals, with the beloved San Antonio Spurs up against the Miami’s hated Heat. I called “Spurs in six” before the series started but I don’t know if I really believed it; or if I were just saying it at the time, hoping — like a prayer — it would come true. Surely smart money was betting on the Spurs, but that had more to do with dumb money over-valuing favorites than the Spurs’ actual likelihood of winning; Miami with LeBron James has posted a truly special brand of offense this year, and looked quite unstoppable relative to the rest of the Eastern Conference during the first 82 games. “Spurs in six” was borne mostly out of the surprising Indiana series… Miami lost more games in the Indiana series than the Spurs lost all through their Western Conference playoff run… and Miami didn’t even have to contend with Steph Curry throwing Red Shells.

The Spurs, for their part, were gorgeous last season; it looked in fact like they were going to win the entire playoffs without losing a game… Until they abruptly fell in four straight to Kevin Durant, James Harden and the OKC Thunder after going up two in the 2012 Western Conference Finals. It was understandable, even given the Spurs’ offensive brilliance going on 30 games… The Thunder last year were a kind of younger version of the Spurs, down to playing their most efficient scorer off the bench, and it looked like the old guys just petered out.

The Spurs were old and the Thunder sprightly. The Spurs’ magical 2012 offensive system gave way to the Thunder’s combination of youth and talent, and though OKC took the first game of the Finals… Evil reigned for at least one year while confetti rained in South Beach.

This year things seem different; though for my part as a fan and observer, as Timmy gets ever-closer to a fifth ring, I pang at the idea of his having won back-to-backs*; Manu Ginobli has traded off with Wade as the best shooting guard in the league for most of the last decade (the joke being that Kobe Bryant won MVP in 2008 and Manu won Sixth Man the same year… and Manu was even or better in every statistical area but minutes played / shots taken); and over the last season or two Tony Parker has stepped up from being a Kobe-junior sort of flashy scorer to a truly productive Stockton-esque penetrating PG, making his deadly quickness more unpredictable than ever for defenses.

The emergence of Parker as a legitimate stud (instead of “just” a scoring machine) combined with the quiet superstardom of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green (both worth essentially two standard NBA players in their own rights) makes this Finals against the archenemy Heat not just a legitimate contest but a fleeting model-breaker.

Big Three Basketball

Commentary on contending NBA basketball teams in the current era focuses a lot on “Big Three” lineups; as a fan I think of this discourse coming out of the 2008 Boston Celtics team, which was designed around LeBron-light (and eventual MVP) Paul Pierce, sharpshooter Ray Allen, and PF Duncan-rival Kevin Garnett (who had spent some seasons as the legitimate best player in the game, albeit relegated to a non-contending team… kind of like his Kevin-inheritor Kevin Love today). The Big Three model has existed longer than that of course, but to my exposure it seems closely tied to the ’08 Celtics.

Basketball is a study in force multiplication, similar to the Landsraad units versus Fremen or Sardaukar in Dune. In Dune, the fundamental unit in an armed engagement is a Landsraad soldier. The Emperor’s stranglehold on military supremecy comes from a monopoly of fanatical soldiers (the Sardaukar) who are the equivalent of 10 Landsraad each.

[1 Sardaukar = 10 Landsraad]

The best of the Atreides soldiers — Duncan Idaho — is able to “trade with” and unheard-of 19 Saurdaukar in a key siege of the conflict:

[1 Duncan Idaho = 19 Sardaukar = 190 Landsraad]

… Implying that Idaho is essentially worth 190 common Landsraad.

Dune conflict is a combination of force fields, giant wurms, forbidden nuclear missles, surprise explosions, and most of all swordfighting. It is dazzling — given Frank Herbert’s universe — to imagine one hero slicing through 189 common soldiers before trading with the last one.

Force multiplication is key to the Atreides family eventually usurping the Empire; Paul Atreides acquires the harshly-trained Fremen, who are near-Sardaukar in per-unit military efficacy.

Basketball is much the same. You can’t go up against a Big Three (and two other guys) with five regular guys; or even one All-Star and four regular guys. Teams like Miami were built to contend with [other] three All-Star teams, essentially packing the efficacy of 10+ players into five bodies on the floor. For his part, LeBron James is worth about 3.5 men.

An average NBA basketball player produces at an average level. The common Landsraad soldier of the National Basketball Association, they take anaverage number of shots that produce an average number of points; they take care of they ball in an average fashion. Or not. Kyrie Irving is a good example. He is an absolute poet on offense… But possibly the worst NBA defender on any team. If you rated players only by their point production (as a deceptive mainstream media does), Kyrie would be perhaps the best of Guards… But he doesn’t excel at rebounding, doesn’t take great care of the ball, and doesn’t pass at an elite level… at least not when compared to [other] elite PGs. To date, Kyrie Irving is no Duncan Idaho.

Contributing to a basketball team’s wins comes in two flavors:

  1. Cultivation of possessions (steals, rebounds).
  2. Conversion of possessions to points [at a high rate]; generally you can score two-point shots at a high percentage (Tyson Chandler), get to the free throw line consistently (James Harden), or nail three pointers (Danny Green) to produce above par offensively. Taking a lot of shots at a low rate can rack up a point total… But doesn’t necessarily help your team win.

LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony are often spoken about in the same breath. One of these things is not like the others.

Both James and Durant take 22-23 shots per 48 minutes. James scores at a stunning 56.5% (1.5 PPS) and Durant 51% and 1.59 PPS.

Melo — now the NBA scoring “champion” — shoots a gaudy 29 times per 48 minutes… But shoots only 45%… Less than 80% of LeBron’s efficiency. He is quite simply not in the same category as James or Durant. He just shoots a lot! Melo scores 2-4 points more than LeBron and Durant per 48 minutes, but has to burn seven possessions to do so. That means Tyson Chandler (NYK’s elite rebounder) has to work that much harder to get his team scoring opportunities… That end up as misses.

Turnovers and missed shots are poison to the cultivation of possessions. Possessions lead to scoring opportunities; you want them, and want to restrict the opponent from having extra opportunities.

This season LeBron James is worth about three-and-a-half NBA players on the floor. James over-produces by scoring at an amazing rate when he has the ball, taking lots of shots (that he translates successfully), while standing out in many other areas, such as pulling down tons of rebounds, blocking shots, stealing the ball, and passing to his teammates.

Back to the Boston “Big Three” Championship year 2008, the Celtics posted a starting lineup of:

  • PG Rajon Rondo: 1.9 NBA players
  • SG Ray Allen: 1.8 NBA players
  • SF Paul Pierce: 2+ NBA players
  • PF Kevin Garnett: ~3 NBA players
  • C Kendrick Perkins: 1.5 NBA players

These Celtics essentially outnumbered their opponents two-to-one.

Today’s Spurs can field a similarly exceptional lineup:

  • PG Tony Parker: 1.8 NBA players
  • sWing Danny Green: 2 NBA players
  • sWing Manu Ginobili: 1.5 NBA players
  • sWing Kawhi Leonard: 2.5 NBA players
  • PF/C Tim Duncan: 2.5 NBA players

Pundits, commentators, and talking heads talk about fuzzy-around-the-edges things like “athleticism” or Ginobili’s “heart”; but basketball is about cultivation of possessions and conversion of possessions to points. The ancient Spurs of the last two years have perfected the art of ball movement to deepen the value of their possessions like almost no other team. Parker might be the wiliest, fastest, PG in the league but what makes the San An offense so great is the ability to counteract the athleticism of younger teams by passing Passing PASSING until they have found an open shooter. Then Bam!… Conversion at a great PPS.

Ginobili at his height has been close to 3 NBA players in efficacy (c.f. the Championship of 2007, or you know, just last year). Green and Leonard have both beeing playing at an HoF level in the finals… Into the 3-player range as well. But the most important lift is Parker who has always carried the ball for this team. His best season before this one was at a “mere” 1.5 NBA players (2007, when he won the Finals MVP) and he has languished at “average” production through most of his career. Yes, Parker has always been an unstoppable scorer but he’s also had years where he turned the ball over about as often as Russell Westbrook / he’s never been a truly elite passer or distance shooter / etc. Given the minutes Parker has to shoulder, increased production on his part is like spotting the Spurs an extra Mario Chalmers / Norris Cole for free.

Beloved Spurs?

In 2007 my beloved Cleveland Cavaliers, led by The Whore of Akron LeBron James (ironically?) made it to the NBA finals… Where they were summarily trounced by Duncan, Parker, Ginibili, and a different supporting cast.

Some people would have become anti-Spurs after this, but instead I studied this singular team and decided they represent all that is right and good, or at least what is possible about sports. San Antonio is a small market team. Unlike many teams including Cleveland itself that have lost superstars, San Antonio has convinced players like Duncan to take smaller salaries to continue a legacy.

And yet… We all probably talk too much about Duncan. Duncan is pretty fantastic, obviously; but you can’t reduce all four — and hopefully five — of their championships to one draft pick. Tony Parker went 28th in the draft. Kawhi Leonard — quietly San Antonio’s best player for the past two seasons — was passed up by nearly every NBA team. Danny Green was waived by my Cavaliers and picked up by San An, only emerging when Ginobili was injured. And Ginobili?

When arguably the deadliest shooting guard of the last decade was drafted, he was so unknown that the announcers couldn’t even pronounce his name! Taken 57th (!!!) Ginobili may have been the greatest steal in the history of the NBA.

San Antonio is a picture of turning lemons into lemonade.

Of their Big Three — none of Duncan, Parker, or Ginobili have ever donned another team’s jersey. Popp knows how to retain their stars.

But it goes beyond that.

San Antonio is like a case study of the best of the 1980s. San Antonio combines the transformation of Optimus Prime with the continual, successful, reinvention of Madonna.

After the 2007 win, San Antonio lost in the first round of the playoffs not once, but twice between 2008 and 2011. Popp realized that something had to change. He transformed his squad — which had been a relentless defensive team built around arguably the greatest PF of all time — to the magical offensive passing machine that we have witnessed last year and this. This has been utterly inspiring to me. Last year I had a rough patch at work where an eight-figure empire I built had to be torn down and reimagined not due to business results but — argh — industry compliance. It was a very difficult transition, but I realized that Popp did way more with the 2012 Spurs; and last month I had my best month ever.

Whenever I feel like I hit a dead end I just think of the 2012 Spurs… And all of a sudden I realize that We Can Do This.

The Story So Far

I would summarize the Finals thus far thusly:

  • Game One – Either ball club could have won; Spurs steal thanks to a little momentum and some dynamic hero-ball by Parker; Spurs commit almost no turnovers.
  • Game Two – The Empire Strikes Back. Villains come in with a chip on their shoulders and bury the heroes in turnovers.
  • Game Three – Erik Spoelstra Has No Idea What Is Going On Part I: Spurs move the ball Spurs-style; get every open look they want. Spoelstra utterly fails to adjust, or as far as anyone can tell, guard Danny Green. The most egregious error is leaving James in for many minutes after the game has already been decided. Dude could have gotten hurt.
  • Game Four – Could have gone either way; tied at the half; in my (biased) opinion, first half was at part up to the refs. Chris Bosh being called for a $5,000 flop was just one play of about eight plays that would have had the Spurs up at the half… Which would have made for a different game **. Popp blamed the turnovers; basketball is about cultivation of possessions, after all.
  • Game Five – Erik Spoelstra Has No Idea What Is Going On Part II: Every media outlet in the world talks about Manu Ginobili starting and having a breakout game… But that is not even half the story. In Game Five Popp flipped the script on Spoelstra, switching from Spurs-style ball movement to Kobe-style Iso Hero-ball. Popp turned Manu back into 2007-2008 Kobe-plus and Parker back into a penetrating Kobe-junior. Every time one of those deadly offensive guards penetrated I was anticipating a kick-out to Green or another sharpshooter… But instead they just kept driving for layups! (You could tell the Heat were looking for passes too.) Both of the previous Spurs losses hinged on turnovers (Miami guarding the frequent Spurs passes) so Popp had his guards drive past the old Allen, and broken Wade and Miller. Fucking brilliant.

From a Magic perspective it is like a U/R Storm deck siding in the Exarch Twin combo. You are still facing a U/R combo deck but instead of a kill based on lacing movement and velocity on more movement and velocity, one creature / scorer is just given the ball / Aura and goes in for infinite. Your defense is set up to stop a chain of similar spells but those digging spells are now simply poised to set up the hero creature. All your Dismembers are now in the wrong 15/75. All your game are belong to us.

The Best Thing About Game Five

I actually stole that from ESPN, who were at the time talking about Roy Hibbert, not Green.

But the best thing?

The refs didn’t call blocking on the guy! On a handful of occasions Wade or James was on a breakaway “sure” layup, Green got back, defended, stopped the shot and didn’t get called for a foul. Unbelievable!

Green is playing at a historic level offensively, but if he never sinks another shot this series, he will still be contributing if he can keep James in “mortal” scoring territory, restricting his ability to perform like three-and-a-half NBA players to perhaps just two.

What Miami Has to Do Differently

In Game Six, Miami has to adjust to this or suffer some vicious headlines. For all the ire right-thinking men have for LeBron James, calling into question his legacy [again] over a Popp-over-Spoelstra defeat is simply not going to be his fault. He is the best player in the game and probably the best SF of all time [that actually plays PG and PF].

I would put much of the blame on a failed Miami campaign squarely on the coach. The coach’s job is minute allocation and Erik has been doing a loathesome, George Karl-esque job of it. George Karl, “Coach of the Year” lost his job at the Denver Nuggest this month following an unpredictable six-game rout by the unheralded Golden State Warriors… Who lost their All-Star PF in the first game to injury! Karl has one of the best bigs in the league at PF and numerous awesome Forwards… But elected to try to play a speedy “small ball” game with Golden State (who have superior small players). It was like Gerry Thompson handing you the Thepths deck he just built before anyone else knew what it was… but deciding to try to win with only one Thopter Foundry instead of Jace or the Hexmage combo.

Some suggestions for Spoelstra:

  • Play [even] more Allen. Dude was 4-4 from three in Game Five; 21 points on 10 shots. My God that line. Get Mike Miller open, too.
  • WTF Chris Bosh v. Chris Anderson?!? Bosh has been… average. Anderson was a greek god in the East, setting offensive efficiency records while playing awesome interior ball; on balance, San An has basically just played Duncan as their only big. Huge size opportunity here. Anderson’s minute allocation: 0 minutes Game Four; 0 minutes Game Five.
  • Put a man on Danny Green! In 2009 the heavily favored Cavs attempted to let the Orlando Magic have every long jump shot while putting two men on Superman Dwight Howard on the inside. I liked this strategy until I realized that the usual PPS / 3P% stats don’t assume that you leave sharpshooters wide open. The Cavs lost in six, principally to awesome three-point shooting by Orlando. Danny Green has already set the Finals record for three point makes while playing amazing defense on James and Dwayne Wade. Spoelstra seems completely uninterested in guarding him; I think Danny has proved up to the challenge by this point. By contrast the Spurs this year have given Wade and James free reign to take as many long two point shots as they want, turning two of the best players of this generation into essentially [max-contract All-Star] Carmelo Anthony (LOL).

Actually. Never mind. Erik — Don’t do any of these things. I would like it to be over tonight.

You will have to excuse me. It’s 8:59 and the game is about to start. I will be cheering for the good guys!


* As I’ve said quite a few times recently, the sharpest divide in this world is between those who see it as it is, and those who imagine it as they, you know, imagine it.

** Again, we live in this world, not the world of what could have been.

What Sally Saw, or “That One Time Law School Ruined My Personality”


The Spoiler Alert
The Summary
The Opinion
That One Time Law School Ruined My Personality
Waiting for Superman


This blog post largely concerns action from last week’s episode of AMC’s Mad Men, “Favors”.

The impetus for this post comes out of a faux controversy arising out of the aforementioned “Favors” … And a battle between the titanic wills of YT and the missus. If you haven’t seen “Favors” (but care) consider yourself spoiler-warned.


In “Favors” we are introduced to Mitchell Rosen, the son of Don Draper’s neighbors the Mrs. Sylvia and Dr. Arnold Rosen. Earlier in the season it was revealed that Don was having an extramarital affair with Mrs. Sylvia (played by onetime Freaks and Geeks star Linda Cardellini), which has since cooled.

Now I don’t possess an exhaustive understanding of the mechanics or politics of Vietnam-era military conscription, but it seems that Mitchell did something stupid to queer his draft-exempt status as a student, and has gone and gotten himself earmarked by Selective Service. Over the course of the episode, Don calls in favors various — including putting his agency’s relationship with its biggest client in an awkward position — to shield Mitchell from a harsh destiny in a wartorn southeast Asia.

Now unbeknownst to Don, his daughter Sally has met Mitchell in the apartment building lobby and decided he was the dreamiest. Sally’s stupid friend slipped a note into the Rosen apartment, which the young Sally understandably endeavored to recover in order to avoid adolescent embarrassment. By tricking the gullible door man to Don’s building — essentially stealing her way in and committing a B&E* — Sally enters the Rosens’ apartment to recover the love note, stumbles clumsily on her dad ucking-fay a stranger:

What Sally Saw

Eep! As a “thank you” for saving her son, Mrs. Rosen has rekindled the affair with Don; to what extent we don’t know, especially after Sally’s discovery.

Predictably — Sally runs off.

Don’s machinations are as we said successful and dreamy Mitchell gets uninvited to Vietnam; Don is proclaimed “the sweetest man” by his current wife Megan (not Sally’s mom, as that marriage ended at least in part by Don’s rampant infidelity from X-[wo]Man Emma Frost); and Sally curses him angrily, running off again.

The previous Mrs. Draper. Oops.

The Opinion:

Mrs. MichaelJ declared Don 100% culpable in “destroying” Sally Draper’s young mind (or at least innocence) as she got stuck finding her pops sticking it to some woman who wasn’t his wife.

For my part, I have a low opinion of infidelity. I am totally happy blaming Don for infidelity and a dozen other affronts to good family management and / or child rearing but I can’t see blaming him for What Sally Saw 100%. What if he were cheating on the moon? Is he supposed to predict his daughter stealing a rocket ship and happening upon them up there at the wrong moment, too?

Wifey got kind of hot and bothered over my defense of Draper and asked me to ask some of my friends. One of my best friends ranted and ranted at me the next day about Don’s culpability. “Wait a minute,” I said. “Is this about Don or your dad?” MY DAD OF COURSE! (Her dad was a cheater and she stopped speaking to him years ago.)

Before I got back to my desk at the office she had already called one of my co-workers RE: this. There was an IM waiting for me.


These womyn and their conspiracies!

Poor Don!

Look people — Like I said, I am perfectly fine blaming Don for whatever. Like I said, I have a poor opinion of infidelity. Clearly he was doing something wrong. Clearly he could have gotten caught by someone. But his daughter? In terms of What Sally Saw… I really don’t think you can blame poor Don 100%.

A few weeks ago, the team of YT, Josh Ravitz, and Thea Steele scrubbed out of a Team Limited tournament. With plenty of time on the afternoon I suggested we go see Iron Man 3. Thea didn’t want to. “Who can relate to an aloof, arrogant, billionaire who thinks he is better than everyone else?”

“Well he is smarter / richer / better than everyone else.”
-Things I didn’t actually say

“You’re right… Who?”
-Also something I didn’t say.

Don Draper — for whatever his other faults — is depicted on Mad Men as the greatest copywriter ever to walk into a client meeting. He is part pitchman, part hypnotist, and all Adonis. Don’s execution has been slipping in recent seasons, delegating to junior copywriters, getting embarrassingly drunk at public events, spacing out and disappearing for weeks at a time… But his combination of luck, audacity, and self-confidence have him and his succession of partnerships landing bigger business and building a more and more successful advertising firm. For all the failings in his personal life, Don is remarkably moral in a business context, using his influence to protect associates who are weaker than he is, and to reward the hard-working or talented lower on the totem pole… even if they are — gasp — women.

I have been accused by many of these women of siding with Don “all the time”.

I have in fact sided with Don x minus one times.

Every single Don-smashing opinion I had gotten to this point was from the fairer sex. Clearly they were all biased. Maybe a right-thinking person** could jibe with YT. I put it out to the Unstoppable Twitter Army.

Not trolling.


Monster! Osyp had Peggy beat by a week!

Could I be wrong? Had I been in the wrong from the first disagreement with K? I apologized to her.

But how did I get here?

That One Time Law School Ruined My Personality

If you’ve listened to the first episode of The Official Miser’s Guide*** you know that I was attending law school when I wrote Who’s the Beatdown?.

The principal way law school ruined my personality was accomplished by my Contracts professor on the first day; he introduced the idea that lawyers think differently from everyone else. Lawyers — especially by nature of having to advocate for villainous clients they “know” are in the wrong (and / or wrangling around the intellectual acrobatics of opposing lawyers) — have to imagine alternate universes while arguing seemingly contradictory things. They also often tend to think in the manner of the letter of the law, regardless of what regular (shall we say “right thinking”) folk might believe when presented the same set of circumstances, which can be alienating.

In my mind, Sally’s B&E was not a foreseeable intervening event by Don (it was in fact an actual crime); in a court of law he would almost certainly be absolved of the wrong of What Sally Saw regardless of the fact that he was responsible for an original wrong of ucking-fay not-his-wife.

The 1/3 lawyer in me sez: Poor Don. The criminal Sally had done this to herself.

But everybody else seems to disagree (except for Lan D. Ho — who blamed Sally’s stupid friend).

So that 1/3 lawyer in me thinks one way… maybe is “right”. But what does it mean if that 1/3 person is alone in the rational universe?

When I got my NLP certification****, I learned that the most powerful tool in human experience is rapport. Rapport can a superpower more powerful than — gasp — math. It is the quality that connects historic leaders, commission-crushing salesmen, and notorious Lotharios. Rapport, put simply, is the idea that people like to do things for people that they like; and that people like people who are like them.

So basically the opposite of alienating yourself while logically convinced you are right.

In the interest of superpowers (i.e. the cultivation of future influence), I decided to graciously scoop in every direction.

Firestarter: What do you think? You know, about What Sally Saw?

Waiting for Superman

On the subject of superpowers, ComiXology is having a crazy sale on Superman comics right now, no doubt in concert with this weekend’s release of Man of Steel (which I just got home from). Basically over 200 Superman comics at 50-75% off.

Some highlights:

Action Comics (2011-)
I’m currently binge-reading Grant Morrison’s whole run on the current Action Comics; when I wrote Teddy Card Game Asks About the New 52 I had only read the first of Morrison’s 18-issue run. I am on my second and even third readings of many of these stories in the current binge-read, and I have come to the conclusion that this is simply one of the most special runs in the history of superhero comics. Rags Morales is unbelievable, conveying mass, muscle, a visceral physicality in his everyman Superman; Grant is classic Grant with his huge ideas, time travel, Easter eggs, and cameos. You really get the idea that this was a labor of love and the literal capstone of his work on DC One Million, All-Star Superman, etc. If you aren’t going to sample any of the other stuff in the current ComiXology sale, I would heartily recommend the eight issues of Action Comics featured therein.

All-Star Superman
It’s been called the best Superman story ever told. I am certainly not going to disagree; as it is in fact my favorite Superman story ever. Grant’s ideas are bigger than ever, he has the A+ Frank Quitely as his playmate on visuals throughout. All-Star Superman starts with a trip to the sun, has irresistible forces up against immovable objects, mythical heroes and villains, and Lex Luthor at his absolute bestworst. Very much a Silver Age Superman story that makes sense even to modern comics audiences; which is another way of saying it brings out the best of what makes comics comics.

Kingdom Come
Mark Waid and Alex Ross in a genre-redefining four issue steal. I own all the originals from when they were original but at $.99 it is just stupid not to pad the old iPad (I did).

Secret Identity
Stuart Immonen has become one of the biggest stars in superhero pencils since his work on The New Avengers and other Marvel “event”-style books; Secret Identity showcases an Immonen from a decade ago; looking little like he does today (his cut-down style was developed largely on Warren Ellis’s Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.), but gorgeous nevertheless (just different-gorgeous). Rich instead of minimal. Really rich. Not quite the ROI on $4 that you would get with a Kingdom Come but still worth more than $4; thoroughly emotionally engaging comic book story IMO. And did I mention beautiful?

I mention this only because it includes my all-time favorite fight scene (Superman and Batman v. Captain Marvel and Hawkman, which I have written about multiple times before); also on sale.

I wish I could say I am a ComiXology affiliate or something, but I really just think you should get in on these steal-tacular Superman opportunities before 6/20.


* My legal opinion

** You know, with a penis

*** And if you haven’t listened to it, you can download the first episode of The Official Miser’s Guide for free here.

**** Substantially more useful than my legal training in basically every way.