04.30.18

pachinko: a second impression

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:30 pm by Administrator

at my weekly team huddle, we share something personal going on in our lives, and I decided spontaneously to talk about the book I’d recently finished. in broad strokes, i talked about Pachinko: its plot trajectory, its narrative structure, and its main themes. when i finished describing the book, i saw several people around the table jotting notes; a couple of my team members expressed strong interest in reading the book. my team, mostly made up of mexican americans, had never before thought about the experience of zainichi Koreans, and the obvious parallels between that experience and their own experience as people of color in the united states were immediately compelling to them. i didn’t tell them about some of my reservations about the book, but then i realized as i was describing the novel that perhaps my first impressions were besides the point.

pachinko is an important work. in the end, that’s what really matters.

why do i consider pachinko an important work? it’s important because it describes a unique experience of race that heretofore has been poorly articulated and largely censored. even now, Pachinko hasn’t been translated into Japanese, and it’s not difficult to understand why. around this generational tale of racism and oppression, there have been lies upon lies and deceptions upon deceptions, all cultivated and carefully formed with ikebana-like artistry to mask the cruelty systematically imposed upon Korean immigrants by Japanese society. someone had to write this story, in a form accessible to a broader international audience, and in a manner subtle enough to demonstrate the ramifications of this particular brand of oppression in all its unique, nuanced, and pervasive manifestations. pachinko is masterful not because it is a perfect novel but rather because it effectively projects the complexity of an internal, psychological experience that is so difficult to describe and even more difficult to personally bear.

i want to amend what i wrote earlier about min jin lee’s impressive novel. yes, it is true that many of the characters are archetypal. yes, it is true that the novel after some meandering culminates in a sudden and jarring critique of Japanese culture. it’s not faulkner or james joyce, and it doesn’t aim to be. but pachinko is lovingly conceived, thoughtfully rendered, and thoroughly purposeful through and through, and it deserves regard for this. it did not make me cry, but it did trigger much reflection for me, and it will certainly be a critical point of reference for me in future conversations i have about race, ethnicity, and systematic injustice.

min jin lee didn’t write my story as a diasporic Korean man, but she did author something that has added meaning to my own narrative. I’m very grateful for that; and moreover I will contend that of all novels about the Korean experience that survive this generation, Pachinko deserves to be uniquely remembered.

the draft, in review

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:30 am by Administrator

the New York Giants blew it. i mean, they tripped over themselves, face planted in front of a national audience, and ran off the stage with their pants down. i know the media won’t get after them as they deserve, but they made a laughingstock of themselves on draft night, and i’m still appalled.

as a whole, there was a logic to their draft. to hedge their bets at QB, they took kyle lauletta in the fourth. to shore up a patchwork line, they added will hernandez in the second. to take pressure off eli and to add a dimension to the offense, they took saquon barkley with the 2nd overall pick. it looks like a draft that addressed many of their short-term needs. but for a team that went 3-13 last year with a fading quarterback and atrociously bad play on both sides of the ball, this was a draft that plugged a few small hole in a dike that’s about to break wide open. the New York football Giants required an overhaul of their roster; they required a vision for a new future. what they created instead was the false promise of a win-now team, built upon a cracked foundation.

Dave Gettleman had the opportunity to define a new chapter for the Giants and link his tenure to a brand-new signal caller. and in a year when the draft was front-loaded with premiere quarterback prospects, he had every opportunity to turn that leaf and to make things right for the franchise. instead, he sat at pick two, decided to pass on a quarterback, and inexplicably also decided not to trade down. he made the worst possible decision: he used the second overall pick on a running back. top running backs like derrius guice, nick chubb, and ronald jones would end up being available to him in the 2nd round, but he chose to take his ill-advised shot at a star running back with the 2nd pick, compelling the Giants to miss out yet again on a badly needed QB replacement for Eli Manning—the mind-numbingly inconsistent, borderline incompetent, fast-fading, lesser Manning who has veritably broken the hearts of the Giants’ fan base for two straight years.

and so i extend to Dave Gettleman—the ultimate loser of this year’s NFL draft—a heartfelt thanks from an Eagles fan. you have set back the Giants and taken your team out of serious contention in the NFC East for the next five years.

for the Eagles, this was not much of a draft to work with, but no one’s complaining because all the picks that we surrendered were put to optimal use to fuel our Super Bowl run. Howie did an excellent job with what he had, and i think there’s a good chance that at least one of our top 3 picks will turn out to be a long-term starter. that sounds like a low bar, but it’s not when you consider the fact that this is an Eagles’ squad with plenty of talent and a roster stacked for the next 1-2 seasons.

i’ll enjoy seeing what josh adams can accomplish in OTAs, but in the end this draft was about three guys: dallas goedert, avonte maddox, and josh sweat.

Pick 49: Dallas Goedert
the Goedert pick wasn’t just a high-value selection at pick 49 that addressed a major positional need while also undermining the rival Cowboys, who were desperate for a tight end in round two. it was also a trade-down that netted us Baltimore’s 2nd round pick in 2019. and that’s going to be a great pick, because the Ravens are going to be very very bad this year. while most of the league’s bad teams are sure to make a step forward (i.e. the Browns and the Bengals in Baltimore’s own division), the Ravens look to fade further, as they field a shaky QB who has no offensive weapons and a defense with holes at all three levels. there’s a good chance that the pick from the Ravens will fall in the top 10 picks of the 2nd round, and that’s great news when we look ahead to a 2019 draft class that’s strong and sure to have excellent value deep into the mid rounds.

in prior mocks, i’d projected hayden hurst to us in the first, and after the trade down, i’d looked for mike gesicki in the mid-2nd. dallas goedert wasn’t necessarily a steal in the mid-2nd, but he was far better than i’d hoped for. i was sure that goedert wouldn’t be available, as most scouts were ranking him ahead of gesicki (with many ranking him ahead of hurst). his route-running skills and great hands are beyond impressive for a guy his size; the one-handed highlight catches in the end zone are the icing on the cake. goedert gets ertz as a pro comparison, which represents ridiculous up-side. not only did we take the best player available when we traded up and snatched him at 49; we got the 2-TE set starter that we were looking for. goedert will get snaps in 2018, and he could be starting ahead of richard rodgers by mid-season.

Pick 125: Avonte Maddox
When you look at where comparable slot corners were taken (MJ Stewart in the mid 2nd, Anthony Averett in the mid 4th), it’s pretty evident that Howie couldn’t wait til pick 130 to take Maddox; Maddox was last of the premiere slot CB prospects in this draft, and the drop-off in potential after him was considerable. the selection of Maddox at 125 was a by-the-numbers, smart pick that garnered us a player that looks like a legitimate starting option for us in nickel sets.

i won’t wax on too much about maddox because 4th rounders are by definition of a roll of the die, but i like his 4.39 speed, his short-area quicks, his vertical leap, and his game tape at Pitt. he’s got great technique, and he’s got a decisive mind-set. i give love to jalen mills for playing balls out this past year, but i want to see avonte give him a run for the money.

Pick 130: Josh Sweat
Roseman and the Eagles are getting big props for the josh sweat pick, and most anyone can understand why. but josh has bad knees, and ultimately the value of this pick will hinge on how much more punishment he can take at the pro level.

sweat couldn’t have picked a better team to start his pro career with, as he won’t really be needed this season behind BLG, Derek Barnett, and (hopefully) Mike Bennett. i’m sure the Eagles will do their best to find a new strategy to full rehab his knee, and if they can get him right and break the cycle of overuse and inflammation, then this pick will pay off over the long term. the fact is that i don’t think we can afford to re-up with BLG after 2018, and Bennett is a one or two year rental, so we will need someone to pair with Barnett for the long term. Sweat could be that guy, possibly as early as 2019. he’s worth the rental this year, to see if a year of rest and rehab can properly address the knee issues.

in the end, this draft gets a solid B+ from me, similar to previous years. i have to be honest; i would have preferred that we sit tight at 32 and take Derrius Guice. i know he’s a fat-ass who likes to play video games; i know that we wanted Sony Michel instead. still, Guice was the guy with the power, speed, and skill to be the highest impact option for us in year one, and passing on him (and letting the Skins take him) might end up being frankly regrettable. still, i really like having Baltimore’s 2nd rounder for next year, and had we escaped round two with both Guice and Baltimore’s pick i might have been happiest. but it wasn’t by any means a slam dunk one way or the other. i think howie and i (and many others) will be thinking about goedert and guice for years to come, when we think back on this draft and imagine what could have been

04.27.18

peace, pachinko, and day two

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:49 pm by Administrator

it is unbelievable to me that we may be on the brink of seeing a conclusion to the Korean war. it is utterly elating to me. I can’t describe where this feeling is coming from or why. it’s not a “han” sentiment. it’s the relief of an observer, it’s the experience of a foreigner who has been confounded by the unnecessary tragedy and suffering of a sixty-eight year protracted war.

I absolutely do credit Donald Trump’s bellicose style and uncompromising stance for the developments that led up to this monumental summit between the leaders of North and South Korea. it was, in retrospect, absolutely the right way to handle Kim Jong Un. I think that the real threat of American escalation coupled with a tepid reception from Xi Jinping undoubtedly convinced Kim Jong Un that his situation—already economically untenable—was about to get immeasurably worse. pressure from the U.S. and progressive political isolation funneled the North Koreans to Moon Jae-In, the “sunshine” politico. it was the perfect set-up for serious talks about peace.

by no means should anyone mistake me for a Trump supporter. but on the foreign policy issues where I disagreed with Obama, Trump has in my mind taken the appropriate stances. I’m hoping that increased pressure on iran will eventually yield similar results.

my experience of anticipating peace on the Korean peninsula is at once gratifying and saddening to me. it is gratifying because my family was wrecked by the Korean war, and as an indirect product of that conflict, I have a unique perspective on it. but it is saddening too, because the experience is revealing to me the extent of my separation from my ancestral homeland. I am here in America because my parents fled that war and its terrible, pervasive repercussions on South Korean society. I am culturally orphaned and disconnected from the nation of my forefathers because the poverty, corruption, and cruelty spawned by the Korean War made life there untenable for my parents. but I wouldn’t have been born either had my parents not left that country and found a home here in the States. I am a grandchild of the war. I look back at the war that amputated my spirit, and I feel the strange sensation of a phantom limb. it’s not pain; it’s just an emptiness.

I finished Pachinko last night and had two reactions mainly. I felt satisfied that I’d finished the book and grasped its content. without a doubt, it was well-written and very well-researched. on the other hand, I didn’t have much of an emotional reaction to the book. perhaps this has to do with the phantom limb experience that I have of Korea and of my latent Koreanness. I felt that Pachinko skirted lightly around a deep well of implied experiences, but the book did not take me to the edge of that well, and it did not allow me to drink of that water. the characters were drawn with long, broad strokes, and the male characters in particular were cast in simple dimensions. they were designed to illustrate the subtle, unarticulated context of their surrounding society in Japan, and so it was both jarring and unpleasant when the novel at its end abruptly landed upon a searing critique of Japanese culture. in the end, there was only one compelling character that I discovered in the story, and her story was one of quiet suffering, and I have read that story before, and that story was not enough to lend life to all the thinly conceived branches of her family line that pervade the narrative. i’ll admit that I was looking for an experience of “han”; what I found instead was a curiously dispassionate narrative with occasionally lurid moments that represented for me something like an unsatisfactory derivation of a haruki murakami short story.

day two of the draft is tonight! last night I projected Ronnie Harrison or Mike Gesicki, but i’ll add one more to the list today: Donte Jackson, slot cornerback. Jackson would make the most immediate impact on our championship squad; Gesicki might be the most sensational addition; but I still think Harrison would be the best value for us over the long term.

I remain stunned by Dave Gettleman’s choice to pass on Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen at pick #2. I thank my lucky stars that the NFC East (outside of the Eagles) continues to be plagued by terrible player scouting and management. the Giants will be made to remember this tremendous opportunity cost, as they descend into yet another season of mediocrity.

Go Eagles!

04.26.18

Quick Hits on Sports

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:08 am by Administrator

the Meek Mill story is not just a nice side story to the Eagles’ super bowl run or the Sixers’ resurgence. it’s a real story that lends some meaning to the words and actions of some people associated with both organizations. in truth, #FreeMeek is about something different from what we’re discussing around police shootings and racism in general; it’s a very focused and intense look into the corruption and bias of a criminal justice system that disproportionately punishes young black men.

that’s why when I see footage of the Eagles dancing to “Dreams and Nightmares”, when I see the co-owner of the 76ers personally picking up Meek Mill upon his release, and when I see pro sports players across the nation tweet their support for the rapper from Philadelphia, I feel something different and special about pro sports in America. maybe these aren’t just games. maybe these are shows with carefully conceived content designed to change people’s minds about the society that they live in.

everyone is on the sixers’ bandwagon. I like it. I’m so glad that people really love this sixer team. for my part, I think i’ll always be a sixer fan, and their success will always be gratifying. but it’s going to take some time for me to really love this team the way that I loved Iverson’s sixers. what I felt for the sixers of twenty years ago was a deep and personal admiration for the individual guys on that squad and for the way that larry brown and allen iverson made them winners, against all odds. they fought for the little man; they were unlikely heroes. this year’s sixers are more talented, more slick, and far easier on the eyes in the way that they play the game. and for that reason, I don’t feel like I’m in the trenches with them when I watch them play.

I’m hearing the browns are having a hard time finalizing their pick at #1, and that to me is inexcusable. that’s not to say that the pick ought to be easy and straightforward to them; but it is to me an indictment of their process. the data, opinions, and judgments of all the key stakeholders should have been reconciled after player visits were concluded. what their lingering anxieties tell me is that they don’t have a systematic process, they don’t have trust at the leadership level, and they’ve got a fundamental difference of opinions on basic philosophy. I’m past laughing at the browns. I pity them. I truly pity them, and I pity any player that has the misfortune of being drafted by them, because any team with this much leadership dysfunction can’t possibly commit to the long-term development of its players. sam darnold, consider yourself lucky if Cleveland passes on you.

I want to see lamar Jackson get drafted by a good team late in the first round and succeed wildly at the professional level. this is another black quarterback that’s getting props for athleticism while getting knocked for his instincts and his intelligence. this is becoming a story as familiar as it is nauseating. there is no reason why black men can’t dominate the QB, kicker, and ownership positions like they dominate every other position on the field, and it’s just time for that to happen.

I won my fantasy basketball league a few months after placing second in my football league, and I’m retiring while I’m on top. it’s really true: the Eagles’ super bowl put to rest the angst and frustration that drove me into fantasy sports seventeen years ago, and I’m retiring now with four football and four basketball championships in my two leagues (including three football championships and a basketball trophy over the last four seasons). I feel like this ought to be a sentimental moment—but it’s totally not.

by the way, THE EAGLES WON THE FUCKING SUPER BOWL. WITH NICK FOLES. AGAINST THE EVIL EMPIRE. IN A GAME THAT WAS AN INSTANT CLASSIC. I AM HAPPY FOREVER.

Go Sixers

04.25.18

#FreeEmbiid

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:08 am by Administrator

#MeekMillFreeMotherfuckazz!!!

#StompThatMaskJoel!!!

#SixersWinButIStillHateHinkie!!!

04.24.18

sixers, westbrook, justice

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:41 pm by Administrator

anyone who knows me understands that Philadelphia is my spiritual home away from home. it’s been that way for twenty years of my life. heck, my email address and my url are forever linked to the city. and a big reason for this is my ongoing loyalty to Philadelphia sports teams and to the Eagles and Sixers in particular. and that loyalty is almost entirely attributable to my experience of following one player in particular: allen iverson.

watching AI play at the First Union Center was what made me fall in love with the game of basketball. my roommate won ho always played the sixer games on tv even when they were a struggling team, and i was irked by his devotion to the team. they weren’t very good, and they were best known for a ball-hogging point guard with braided hair, too many tattoos, and a selfish attitude. but to humor my friend, i watched a few televised games with him; and then i decided to go with him to watch a game from the cheap seats; and then i saw myself on the local news hanging over the rails after a playoff win, trying to give a high-five to the guys as they entered the tunnel for the locker room. that year i gave my best friend a framed enlargement of aaron mckie signing an autograph for me. the sixers became my passion; and it’s because allen Iverson changed my mind about him and about the game of basketball.

i won’t ever label him the greatest ever. he wasn’t the most transcendent talent to play the game, nor was he consistently a winner. but he was very very special. and the quality he demonstrated that changed my mind about him was his toughness. through and through, AI was all toughness. he was visibly smaller and faster than any other guy on the court, and when he got smacked down, he was frequently going at top speed before getting flattened by a much bigger guy. Iverson rarely had words for the guy who hit him or for the ref who failed to make the foul call. he just got up and kept playing his game. he hustled on both ends of the court, and he didn’t slag off his man either. he was constantly accused of playing selfish basketball and refusing to share the rock, but it struck me immediately that these critics weren’t actually watching the games. the Iverson i followed night after night relied heavily on his teammates and put them in spots where they could be effective. a team featuring eric snow, aaron mckie, and George lynch as starters made the NBA finals against the lakers; you think they made it that far because Iverson didn’t know how to both facilitate and lead? AI inspired his guys to lay down their lives on that court. AI might not make the top-10 lists that feature kobe, shaq, and MJ, but he’ll always be loved by his fans in a way that those other guys have to envy. i know that’s a controversial opinion right there, but I’m standing by it.

like everyone else, I’ve heard a lot about AI’s financial and personal troubles since retiring from the league, and those stories affect me very personally. he and i are around the same age, and it was striking to me to see him go through retirement at a time when my career and my family life were just beginning. there were moments when i bought into the popular opinion that he had ruined himself by doing the things he’d always been criticized for: being undisciplined, being selfish, being careless with money and relationships. i thought to myself if only Allen had saved his money; if only Allen hadn’t given so much money away; if only he hadn’t gambled so much; if only he hadn’t been so heavy into alcohol. like the rest of them out there, i judged him. what i realize now is that the license to judge was in part a media thing; it was rooted in an idea of AI created by a lot of people who didn’t know him. and what i also recognize now is that more often than not, these people were White, and what they were indicting was a bigger than life Black man who had just been cut down to size. this too is a spectacular opinion; but it’s an opinion that i share with a lot of people who still care about allen iverson.

when i hear sports reporters and media personalities go after Russell westbrook, like the way they’re at it today in the aftermath of the Thunder’s playoff loss to the Jazz, i hear traces of things i used to hear all the time about Bubba Chuck. i hear them call Russ selfish, egotistical, a guy who can’t be a team player, a guy who only gets motivated when his credibility is questioned. these same guys concede that Westbrook is powerful, athletic, and extremely talented. the implication, when you put together their criticisms and concessions, is that Russell Westbrook is a physical specimen who demonstrates psychological—and intellectual—limitations. he’s a savage that needs to be tamed and restrained in order to fit a team concept. and the funny thing is that these guys don’t call Russell Westbrook black, but they’re actually describing what Blackness has looked like to people in our country for centuries. they’re doing the same thing to Russ that they did to AI. and ten years from now, when Russ does something that looks ill-advised or out of line, they’ll revive the old rhetoric: i told you that boy had an attitude.

Russell westbrook might not be on a championship team for various reasons, the same way AI never was. he’s not a perfect player either. but i don’t think a player makes it through the pressure and fury of tournament after tournament, interview after interview, coach after coach, and one new team after another to achieve great success at the professional level on physical talent alone. these guys put in the work; they grew as men; and they were smart enough and resilient enough to outlast a lot of guys who might have talked a better game. it’s not that I’m asking the media to stop probing into the minds and lives of these pro players; it’s not that I’m asking them to be less critical and more forgiving. it’s that i want them to question where their questions and criticisms are coming from. i see it in them because i see it in myself; it’s unconscious bias, and it’s affirmed by their viewers and audiences, and it’s what enables them to draw irrational and destructive conclusions about a man, his worth to his team, and his potential as a human being.

pro sports is where you see the discussion on race take all kinds of interesting and ugly turns. a lot of americans look at the NFL and NBA and assume that the predominance of players of color mean that it is a safe place for frank conversations about race. but it’s precisely this context—black men owned by white men, performing physical feats for social entertainment—that lends itself so easily to terribly insidious ideas about race. black men aren’t “workhorses”; they’re not a “stable of running backs”; they’re not poor and desperate for fame; they’re not kids off the street that need to be tamed, trained, or restrained. they’re young men who fight for their dignity by playing the game their way, by giving chippy responses behind the microphone, by kneeling in the grass when a song gets sung at the start of the game. win or lose, they’re giving themselves to the game in a way that few of us can; and I’m going to do my best to respect that

04.23.18

Final NFL Mock Draft: 6 QBs Go in the First

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:53 pm by Administrator

updates since the last mock: Cleveland’s interest in josh allen is not credible, per mike mayock; a trade-up for Miami is now buzzing; lamar Jackson is getting interest from top-20 teams; and the Pats are now in the hunt for a 1st round QB? Howie roseman is leaning toward trading down, per reports.

a few notes on my mock. if Gettleman really doesn’t want to take a QB at #2, then I think he needs to trade down. in this scenario, he stays in the top 5 by trading with the Broncos, picking up an extra 2nd and taking Chubb to turn a talented defense into an imposing one. Buffalo makes its move in a trade with Indianapolis, giving both teams what they’re looking for. I really don’t think Indy will move down without taking both of Buffalo’s 1st rounders, and Buffalo will be desperate enough to do that. it’s time for Indianapolis to commit to a total overhaul of their o-line, and in this mock I have them taking both Mike McGlinchey and Isaiah Wynn in round one.

Baltimore will trade 2nd and 3rd rounders to get New England’s #31, where they’ll take Lamar Jackson, whom they’ll develop for the next two seasons as their dual threat QB of the future. Philadelphia will also trade down, to get Buffalo’s 53rd and 96th picks. Buffalo will salivate at the opportunity to recoup the loss of their second 1st round pick to Indy, and they’ll be excited to add a slipping Sam Hubbard to get more pass pressure on the edge. Leighton Vander Esch’s neck will knock him out of the 1st round.

the Eagles for their part will take the best RB available in the mid 2nd (Ronald Jones, Sony Michel, or Nick Chubb would all be value picks there) and probably a backup safety in the late 3rd before turning their attention to tight end and offensive tackle in the later rounds.

1. Cleveland: Sam Darnold
2. Denver: Josh Allen
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield
4. Cleveland: Saquon Barkley
5. NY Giants: Bradley Chubb
6. Buffalo: Josh Rosen
7. Tampa Bay: Minkah Fitzpatrick
8. Chicago: Quenton Nelson
9. San Francisco: Denzel Ward
10. Oakland: Roquan Smith
11. Miami: Derwin James
12. Indianapolis: Mike McGlinchey
13. Washington: Vita Vea
14. Green Bay: Marcus Davenport
15. Arizona Cardinals: Mason Rudolph
16. Baltimore: Calvin Ridley
17. LA Chargers: Tremaine Edmunds
18. Seattle: Connor Williams
19. Dallas: Joshua Jackson
20. Detroit: Harold Landry
21. Cincinnati: James Daniels
22. Indianapolis: Isaiah Wynn
23. New England: Kolton Miller
24. Carolina: DJ Moore
25. Tennessee: Rashaan Evans
26. Atlanta: Da’Ron Payne
27. New Orleans: Mike Gesicki
28. Pittsburgh: Jaire Alexander
29. Jacksonville: Courtland Sutton
30. Minnesota: Billy Price
31. Baltimore: Lamar Jackson
32. Buffalo: Sam Hubbard

the weekend

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:00 am by Administrator

i set about the weekend with many plans but also
with a mind to hold all things lightly. you see,
there was at first a very long list of things to be done
with the kids, an overflow of strange ambition

but later, it all diminished to a feeling, the hint of a direction,
discerned gradually and with gentle probing,
like the idea of a meal forming around the faint
smell of bread baked in the dry stillness of morn.

we ate well and drove to Griffith Park, then ventured
down a dirt path and saw the city spread out below us.
the purity of the air and the vastness of the view
invited a reflection on my daughter’s stomachache

and my son’s repressed craving to return home.
we snacked on raspberries, cheese, and raisins,
watched a show of stars painted on the inside
of a majestic dark dome, and imagined infinity.

outside, my daughter confided that she did not know
what she was good at, and my son suggested
that his great gift was adaptation, as he has
adapted himself to new schools and friends.

later, we cleaned out her room and threw hundreds
of small toys away. i caught something in the pile
by the faint light of a single bulb in the garage—
a gift she was given by someone who once loved her,

and i thought to retrieve it.
i held it in my hand—then opened my fingers
and let it fall. it wasn’t my right. the trash can
was heavy with memories, and we slept late.

the next day, we breakfasted, went to church,
and shopped for lunch. my daughter rode her bike
in circles, as i sat out on a lawn chair in the middle
of the sidewalk. i closed my eyes in the sunshine

with the thought of the sun in her hair and the delight
in her eyes, and i felt my mind closing around an idea,
but i opened my eyes and the thought dissipated.
you know how it is; a memory was within my grasp.

after dinner, we went to a park, and they released
themselves to the evening breeze and the expanse
of the field. i tell you, they flew through the shadows of trees
and i almost kicked off my sandals and ran after them.

she kicked up sand into the air, and he practiced tumbling
across the grass, over and over again. we were so tired
when we came home that i almost forgot the last thing
i had written for us to do. it was a moment i had foreseen—

the three of us on the edge of the bed, reading a poem.
she was on the brink of sleep, and he was settled down
with a book, but i gathered them and read to them
“The Blue Grotto” by Henri Cole, and several others.

my daughter could not understand the words, and who knows
what my son thought of these oblique reflections
on love lost, and sex, and dark contemplations of death,
but they liked the sounds of the words, as i knew they would.

read to me again tomorrow, she said. i really liked that, he said
as he leafed through the pages. later, i lay in the silent darkness
and thought to myself, this at least they can hold, or let go of,
even if there was more that we could have done.

04.22.18

satisfaction

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:43 pm by Administrator

today, something extraordinary happened at my church. our pastor preached about forgiveness, for the second week in a row. but this time, she talked about her journey with forgiving white people for the terrible experience of race that she suffered in her childhood on their account. she talked about what forgiveness has looked like for her. she described her struggle, and she identified her rage, and she named her oppressor. and that inspired others in the assembly to offer their truths publicly. one young man in particular described his struggle as an asian american who has not felt permitted up until this point to validate his own very specific struggle with racism, marginalization, and anger. he admitted his lifetime of anger against Whites. but then he expressed his frustration with hearing the conversation on racism dominated by Blacks. “where are the Latino and the Asian voices in this conversation?” he asked. “when will i hear someone describe my experience of pain?”

and just like that, an unarticulated boundary was shattered. borders on what can and should be talked about in the church were crossed and transcended at last. for the first time in my life, i experienced in church what i’ve always wanted to witness: a chorus of all voices rising together from the pit of human suffering, refusing to be suppressed, and culminating in authentic worship. i took communion today knowing that i had already experienced the feeding of my soul.

for a few months now, i have not felt much passion for private times of conversation with God. i pray infrequently. it’s made me wonder whether this reflects distance from God or a lack of “fire” for the cause of Christ. there are people in my life that continue to invest themselves in what i would describe as a devotional life, and the contrast between their lives and mine has at times forced me to contemplate the possibility that my evolving theology has created separation between myself and the living God.

but this morning when i saw young men and women of God demonstrate courage in the face of a silent, systematic oppression that they have experienced inside and outside of the church for all their lives, i realized that this change in my prayer life is perhaps not reflective of a loss of passion for God. it is evidence of a consummate satisfaction. once upon a time, i prayed on my hands and knees because the pastor triggered my anxieties; or because the people i trusted preyed upon my insecurities; or because i nursed the private and personal belief that the Lord of Hosts despised what i was and could not accept me apart from an offering of heartfelt self-loathing. once upon a time, i prayed because i was preyed upon, and because i had no other way to express my pain except to “bring it to the foot of the cross” and beg a terrible, wrathful God for his mercy.

my prayer life has taken a turn in recent months because i am well. when i come to my spiritual community, i have the utmost faith that the truth—the life-giving truth of God—will be expressed and understood. i have utter confidence that i will not be manipulated, distorted, or bullied into believing in a Gospel that indicts homosexuality, denigrates the woman, disdains the agnostic, condemns the Muslim, and refuses to stand against the immigrant-hating oppressor who dismisses the struggle of the dispossessed and poor. and now, because i do not experience macro and micro-aggressions from my own peers in the faith, i do not hold these things against the god that i worship. and because i hold no ill will against my god, i do not come to Him seeking redress or accountability. the dark passion that once fueled my cycles of hostility and penitence toward a spiritual patriarch dressed in intricate logics and rules has left me, like a lifelong fever finally broken, and what i experience now is God in everything. He does not withhold Himself from me; She does not restrain Herself from my experience of delight. and thus, my times of prayer are few and far between, because we are at last reconciled and One

04.18.18

dark

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:51 pm by Administrator

the Korean professional starcraft player Dark probably doesn’t get a lot of sympathy from his peers because he’s a top-10 player who’s consistently getting to RO4’s and getting plenty of attention for his top-notch play. but his recent heartbreaking losses to Maru and Stats in high-profile tournaments coupled with his inability to win the GSL have really gotten under my skin and upset me to the point that I can’t watch a replay unless I know it ends with a Dark victory. there are plenty of people who understand my complicated and intense feelings about the Eagles, but I think there are few who can understand why Dark’s recent run has bothered me so much. I remain convinced that blizzard continues to stack the game against StarCraft’s most underpowered race—the Zerg—and that Dark has had the misfortune of having to fight his way uphill here in the prime of his career.

now, I should explain the context of my loyalty to Dark and my passion for the game. I started playing StarCraft in 2001 and at four different points in my life literally broke the game—snapping the CD-ROM in half—so that I couldn’t play anymore. my most recent relapse into StarCraft addiction was in 2009 when StarCraft 2 was released. I sometimes gamed for six straight hours at a time and was easily logging twenty hours a week during my blitz through the amateur ladder leagues. in about one month, I’d gone from bronze league (beginner) to high diamond (advanced) and was on the verge of breaking into a masters league when I nearly had a mental breakdown. my opponents routinely trolled me for having an apm (actions per minute) under 60, but I got respect for winning despite my obvious handicap. I was an exceptional tactician. I won by designing build orders to counter the trendy tactics employed by my opponents, and in some cases I won by tailoring my strategy to a ladder opponent that I’d faced previously and taken notes on. the high diamond field exposed my poor mechanics and ultimately derailed my ambitions. i was losing to guys half my age who were operating at easily four times my apm. when i left the game eight years ago, i was satisfied that my career as a player had satisfactorily run its course, and I’ve never played since.

that hasn’t stopped me from following the pro game very closely. in fact, starcraft 2 is the one sport that I’ve been consistently engaged with as a fan over the past ten years. i can’t say that about any other sport or team; i certainly can’t say that about the Eagles, who angered me so much that i discontinued cable tv service in 2010 in order to get free of sunday football. but starcraft 2 has been fascinating to follow and very gratifying for me as a fan. I’ve seen the rise and fall of plenty of legends: nestea, mvp, and mc (the three old-school greats), among others. most recently I’ve enjoyed seeing the “foreigners” (non-Koreans) like scarlett actually break into the GSL and give the Koreans a real run for the money. but through it all, my loyalties have come to revolve around Dark, the twenty-two year old Korean pro player whose mastery of Zerg play is nothing short of inspiring.

having been a Zerg player myself, i have to say that i believe Zerg is inherently limited in ways that make it an extraordinarily difficult race to play. game updates and patches really haven’t changed the fact that Zerg is severely disadvantaged by its limited early game scouting, its lack of tier one units designed for mineral harass, and its relatively weak ultimate army composition. Zerg players depend heavily on their ability to gain map control, defend constantly from multi-pronged harassment, and multi-task across multiple hatcheries in order to funnel games into those 10+ minute mid and late game scenarios where the volume and re-max capability of Zerg forces can swing the tide in their favor. to accomplish these things, they have to read and react well, as a primary competency. unlike other races, Zerg at high levels can’t simply embark on a straightforward game plan or a well-executed timing attack and expect to dictate the game; they have to read their opponents, adjust on the fly, and adapt to the game flow, relying on instincts and close observation to maintain and eventually exploit marginal leads in economy and positioning.

Dark does these things exceptionally well. and by exceptionally well, i mean that he anticipates and reacts to limited information with extraordinary speed and balance. he rarely overreacts to a threat; he maintains both micro and macro focus in all situations; he almost never makes major tactical mistakes; and he wins by systematically preventing his opponent from gaining an edge. he plays starcraft 2 the way a Go master plays with a 3-4 stone handicap. Dark’s even keel and precision demonstrate what is most artistic about the game. there have been other transcendent Zerg players (Nestea and Life) and there may be an active Zerg player who is enjoying more tournament success than he is (Rogue), but Dark strikes me as the most consistent and masterful player in the Legacy of the Void era.

his recent losses to Maru and Stats are to me a reflection not of Dark’s limitations but rather of Zerg’s as the game continues to evolve. the losses to Maru in particular demonstrated how difficult ZvT can be for the Zerg at the highest level. Maru, an excellent Terran player in his own right, consistently dictated the course of every game by determining when and how he would pressure the Zerg player. Terran tactics in the matchup frequently revolve around disguise, feints, multi-pronged harassments, and ultimately timing pushes. i don’t mean to suggest that it’s all prescriptive and dumbed-down, but i think it’s fair to say that Terran wins or loses the matchup against Zerg based on how effectively they execute their offensive strategies, and adapting to what Zerg is doing in the early-mid game is largely unnecessary for the Terran player.

not that blizzard cares, but Zerg does require a first-tier, highly mobile air unit capable of scouting and worker harassment. Protoss has the Oracle and Terran has the reaper and the liberator, while Zerg only has the mutalisk, a relatively weak second-tier unit that is often completely irrelevant in many mid-game scenarios. until that kind of approach (and all of the potentialities that cascade from it) is developed for Zerg, we will continue to see Zerg operate from a fundamental disadvantage.

i’ll grant that most every non-zerg starcraft player and caster would disagree with me, and frequently people who complain about race balance are actually reacting unfairly to factors that are under their control. but I’ve followed the game assiduously for nearly a decade now, and as a student of the game, i can say that i view the Zerg disadvantage as real—and as a result, i credit Zerg winners for their correspondingly more impressive achievements.

this was perhaps much ado about nothing, but now that the Eagles have won a super bowl, my next big wish is that Dark will win a GSL championship. bahk ryung woo, hwai ting!

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