Saturday, October 7, 2017

Picking UFC 216's two title fights

The undercard fights are about to start, but I'm not going to choose their winners, so I still have time to weigh in on tonight's two main events.

The co-main event and penultimate fight of the night pits challenger Ray Borg against flyweight champ Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson.  Borg seems from all reports to be a nice guy and a talented fighter.  He is not, though, ready for a title shot.  Despite that, he has one, because Johnson has cleared out his division and in the process become the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.  He is going to destroy Borg.  It's that simple.  When he does, he'll also set a UFC record for most consecutive title defenses.  No one currently fighting at 125 can touch him.  Johnson is just that good.

The main event, which is for the interim lightweight title--a title the UFC created to manufacture drama and fill main events while Conor McGregor decides if and when he wants to fight in MMA again, is far more interesting.  Both contenders, Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee, are on winning streaks and looking good.  Ferguson, though, has built his run on the backs of the elite of the 155-pound division and has faced multiple far stronger fighters than any that Lee has met.  Lee hopes to counter Ferguson's experience edge with strong wrestling, so he will be looking to take down Ferguson, keep him down, and either out-point him or submit him. 

Ferguson knows that and will strive instead to make it a striking war and wear down Lee, then win either by decision, TKO, or submission in the later rounds.  Fueling that plan is the fact that Lee barely made weight, so Lee could easily have very real concerns about gassing.

This one should be a war, but in the end Ferguson's experience should carry the day.  Expect Ferguson to win either by decision or by a finish in the championship rounds, and then expect Ferguson to trash-talk as hard as he can in the hopes that McGregor decides to grant him what would surely be the biggest payday of his life.

I'll report back tomorrow on how I did.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Messages from the past

In a moment of self-indulgence, I took a ten-minute break late this afternoon to dig out the first record I ever bought, Beatles VI.  I have loved rock and roll for as long as I have memories--longer, in fact--and according to my mother I was barely seven years old when I started begging her to let me have my own records.  She told me that sometime after I was ten, and when I had the money, she would let me. 

For some months before that birthday, I went through trash cans in my neighborhood and at nearby stores and pulled out every bottle that would earn a deposit.  I hid the bottles in holes I dug at the back edge of our property and in hard-to-reach sections of our garage.  When my mom finally relented, I dug up all the bottles, washed them, bundled them into bags, and turned them in for deposit at our neighborhood Li'l General store.

I had enough money to buy an album. 

I got permission to walk to the nearest record store--about a mile away--and did so.  I studied all the albums for as long as they would let me, because the store was air-conditioned and because every LP was a thing of beauty, an arcane object of rare and shining power.  From the moment I started the trek, though, I'd known that Beatles VI would come home with me. 

It did.

No one would let me play it when anyone else was around, so the eldest boy of the family we were living with and I would sneak listens in the garage, and in the wee hours of the morning I would play it on the family turntable, the volume so low I could barely hear it.

I played that album for years and years, on every turntable I could access, until I was nearly 17 and bought my own little stereo system--the best I could afford--and I played it more.  I loved that album.  I still do, though I recognize it is not objectively great music.  Starting with "Kansas City" and moving to "Eight Days A Week," the Beatles delivered pop power I loved.  Love still.

Over time, of course, the album started to wear out.  At multiple points in "Eight Days A Week," scratches led to small skips in the music.  I remember listening to them on my hot (to me) new stereo at 17 and thinking that someday I would own a new copy, one without scratches or skips, and that someday I would own a stereo so great, so perfect, that I could hear every note of every artist's work perfectly, and that someday I would not have to sacrifice audio quality simply because I loved an album.

The album started to decay, and I used duct tape to hold it together.  A friend tried to take it, and I used a label-maker--fancy stuff!--to put my name on it.  Later, I put the whole thing in a record sleeve.

And the whole time I played it.

All of that came back to me today as I listened again to the first two tracks, as "Kansas City" and "Eight Days A Week" came to me through an amazing sound system, on which I heard every note, but also every scratch and skip, on which I could have played any of my several flawless CDs containing both songs. 

I listened again, and the music teased all of these memories from me and bathed me in them, even as I sang along and loved the music yet again.

This time, though, when the record hit the scratches and skips, the little painful bits and the moments of silence, I heard something else. 

I heard love.

I heard my love for the music, the love that led me to paw through trashcans and endure mocking from my family and fight for every chance to listen to music and to play it loud and as many times as I wanted. 

I heard that love loud and clear, and it was fine and true and filled me with joy. 

May I never lose it. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

And the winner of the oddest line at dinner tonight is...

...this reference:

All I'm saying is, think of it as nature's Fleshlight.

Some things are best with no context.  This is one of them.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


It's been that kind of day.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I'm late in saying a fond farewell to Tom Petty

but only because of the horror and the sadness, which dominated my thinking for a bit.  Still so sad.

I will miss Tom Petty and his music. In addition, the death of yet another person not much older than I am is a sobering reminder of my own mortality.

I always liked this one, and it fits my mood right now.


Monday, October 2, 2017

So badly broken

The 59 people who died from a crazy man's gunfire in Las Vegas, the days of their lives broken forever, never to be repaired.

The over 500 people injured by that crazy man's gunfire in Las Vegas, their skin broken, their bodies broken, with luck most to recover there, but how much this breaks their spirits and hearts we cannot yet know.

The thousands of people in the concert, scrambling for their lives, their lives also at least a little broken, at least then, maybe forever. 

Our country's heart, broken again by senseless acts of gunfire-fueled violence. 

A gunman who must have been so badly broken once, if not many times, to wreak so much damage on so many.  I cannot sympathize with him, he does not deserve that, but he must have been such a mess to do this.

Less than a year and a half ago, the horror, the breakage, was in Orlando.  Naming more examples feels pointless, in part because we in America have so many. 

Our national psyche, increasingly broken by these acts of violence and by the divisiveness that is more and more our most outstanding trait.  We are so broken that we learn of these tragedies and shake our heads in sorrow and shed our tears and then brace for the next one, knowing another will come all too soon. 

I don't have any answers, though I wish I did, but I do know that we need to make figuring out how to stop this violence a priority.  We cannot allow ourselves, each other, our country to stay so broken.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

American Made

How you'll feel about this movie depends a great deal on what you expect from it when you walk in the door.  If you're in the mood for a manic, high-energy, Tom Cruise-fueled fantasy that happens to touch here and there on the 1980s war on drugs, you'll have a fine time with American Made--as I did.  If, though, you want historical accuracy or smart people behaving intelligently or a moving exploration of the human experience, then you should turn around, cash in your ticket while you still can, and catch another film.

Cruise is in fine form in this one, returning to the crazed version of himself that is so much fun in so many movies.  The supporting cast members are uniformly good, and the story wings its way along a flight path that is just near enough to reality land that you might at times be tempted to believe in it--which is all you need for a fun couple of hours. 

You don't need any more data to decide if you'll enjoy this movie.  As I said, I did, but there are many good reasons you might not. 


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