Friday, May 30, 2008

Hey! I know that guy!

First, this assurance: Just because it's "So You Think You Can Dance" season doesn't mean all my posts are going to be dance-related.

That said, did anyone watch last night's show? You may remember my last post about stumbling upon a breaker/b-boy competition on the streets of Chinatown in D.C. last week. You may recall having seen a guy in a green shirt, standing on one hand. You may also recall seeing him in the background of a few other photos. That man was called "Goofball," and he was my favorite performer at the competition.

And, if you watched last night's "Dance" audition show in D.C., you saw him as well. Phucdat Nguyen, aka the Atomic Goofball. He was, as always, fun to watch, though his audition I think failed to show him at his best. He made it through to choreography, but as is common with most breakers on the show, he couldn't make it through that point. Ah, well.

Just now, searching through some YouTubes of Atomic Goofball, I just realized that I also saw him several months ago at an outdoor arts and crafts fair in my neighborhood called Crafty Bastards. Strangely, there are no clips of him on YouTube from the audition yet. But you can find some videos of him on his YouTube page, and I will embed a video from Crafty Bastards here. (And, after that, two of my favorite auditions from last night's show, just for fun.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dancing in the street

Friday afternoon, I was hanging out in Chinatown, waiting for Brian and Spencer to arrive on the bus from New York for a fun-filled weekend visit, and I heard down the street the sounds of something happening. Hip hop music, people cheering, an MC talking... So I headed in that direction, and what I found was some kind of dance competition, right there on the steps of the old public library. B boys, b girls, breakers, hip hop dancers... Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone, not my real camera, and a cell phone really isn't the best way to capture how cool this was. But here are my best attempts. And at the end, thrown in just for fun, check out one of the coolest moments from Thursday's season premiere of "So You Think You can Dance."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It's over

As usual, the Jazz just... can't... quite... make it...

(I'm writing this in my word processor at 2 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning, still smarting from the Jazz loss that ended our playoff hopes. The wireless I steal from the bed and breakfast next door is down, so I am writing this post while it's still fresh and relevant, but I won't post it until the next time I have Internet access again.)

It was an exciting ending to a terrible, terrible, painful game, and I can't help but think that if the Jazz had just taken it a little more seriously sometime before the end of the fourth quarter they might have forced a Game 7. But instead, somehow, the NBA's best home team became only the second team to lose at home in this year's playoffs, making the home team record for the playoffs 21-2. I also wonder whether we'd be in this same spot if we hadn't so benevolently given up Fisher to the Lakers. Woulda coulda shoulda.

I'm also a little embarrassed that a handful of Jazz fans were so misbehaved – throwing crap at the Lakers bench and acting like children – that the national announcers on ESPN were compelled to make note of it. At least they recognized that it was maybe 11 people out of an overall attendance of 19,911 enthusiastic, well-behaved fans. But in a year when Utah's fans have gotten some bad press for being a little demonstrative, this doesn't jive well – especially during the first two games when the EnergySolutions Arena was filled with boos for Derek Fisher , which just looks bad since Fisher left for his daughter's eye cancer.

I have to address this idea that Jazz fans are so loud and so hard to play against because they are a bunch of repressed Mormons who have nothing better to get worked up about. What a joke. And I know that it was just one guy who said it, and he immediately recognized that he had messed up by saying it. But still. What a ridiculous dismissal of, basically, an entire state. An entire group of people, whose passion for their home team is dismissed because of a religious stereotype.

It seems clear to me. Utah has always been the butt of the nation's jokes. We only became a state after we officially relinquished polygamy. Even today, 112 years later, we only make national headlines when there's a story about polygamy, or liquor laws, or the occasional shooting at Trolley Square, or a runaway Federal Heights girl who turns up years later in a burka, hanging out with someone who goes by the name Immanuel. But those of us who have spent the bulk of our lives in Utah know that there is a lot to be proud of about our state.

It's just hard to put your finger on it. Yes, we have our awesome natural landscape and scenery, but now that I live in the East, I have learned how little people know about Utah's uniqueness. I have friends here who thought that Salt Lake City was in Idaho. People here often have no idea where Arches, or Lake Powell, or the Great Salt Lake or the Bonneville Salt Flats are. (Then again, there are the die-hard granola-types I work with who consider Bryce Canyon the best place on Earth and who say Zion is their favorite vacation spot. THEY, at least, know something about Utah.) The one thing that is clearly linked to Utah that we've always had to be proud of is the Utah Jazz. And I think we're all very past due for a little payback for our long-standing commitment to the team.

Ever since I was a little kid, when the Jazz were all about Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Utah Jazz have been a really good team, just a half-tier or so below the best of the best. Yeah, we had a couple years in there where we really sucked, but for the most part, I think we've all seen the Jazz as our best hope – other than the Olympics – of really getting credit for being a, ahem, Pretty Great State. And that's why it's so, so frustrating that we can never really make it all the way. This year, I would have been happy just to see us make it through the Western Conference. There's only been one or two years when we really deserved to be the NBA champions. But in those other years, all too often we crap out too early, earlier than we should. WE'RE THE BEST HOME TEAM THIS YEAR. We have a team that doesn't rely on one star player. We have Korver, and Williams, and Okur, and Kirilenko, and Boozer, and Mills, and Brewer... We're not Lebron James' team, or Kobe Bryant's team. We're a good, well-rounded team, with lots of key players. And we always have been. We've never had a showy, flashy player like most teams have. We've never really had anyone who wanted to win for their own personal glory. It's very indicative of the Utahn mindset, of being proud to be part of a collective that is much more complex, diverse and interesting than most outsiders would give you credit for. That's why Jazz fans are pretty hard-core about it. And that's why it's so painful every time the Jazz fall just... a little... short...

One of these days, the Jazz will finally be NBA champions. They have to be. It's overdue. If there was a championship that was based on long-term well-roundedness and overall sportsmanship and a team mentality, I think we would have deserved to win that one long ago. I don't know as much about basketball as some people. I don't pretend to know how to really compare the Jazz's glory days to the glory days of the Bulls or the Lakers or the Celtics, in terms of stats or players or whatever. But I do know that we have had a lot of personalities to be proud of, and we're a franchise that really represents its hometown crowd well. And THAT'S why we take losses so personally. THAT'S why we're so offended when referees make calls that seem pre-planned to screw us out of what we've earned. THAT'S why tonight's almost-come-from-behind ending to a pretty strong season stings a little more than it should.

I do have to note, however, that Utah is consistently strong at “So You Think You Can Dance,” which kicks off its next season this Thursday! So maybe it's good that the Jazz are gone and we can turn all our focus to the Next Great Sabra!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Flashback post

If the last two posts on this blog bored you, look away - this one will, too. Two subjects in this post, wholly unrelated to each other but connected in some way to the previous two posts.

First, I forgot an important pet peeve, probably the biggest peeve in my life: loud, revving engines on the street, especially motorcycles. It sets my nerves on edge. It takes years off my life. How in the world can anyone think that's cool?

Second, similar to my post suggesting you all check out Build Green Schools to take a tour of a green school, there's this: This Sunday, ABC's popular and much-loved "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" will feature, in its season finale, a home built for a Louisiana family whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and then again by a tornado. The home was built to be hurricane-resistant and, more excitingly, LEED-certified. LEED is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green-building certification system that was created by the U.S. Green Building Council, my employer, and LEED for Homes is our newest LEED rating system. It's the system that I work most closely with as I handle much of our homes-related communications, including the Green Home Guide. Go there to read a feature I wrote on the "Extreme Makeover" home and to find out more about the show, and then watch it this Sunday!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tour a green school!

Just in case any of you are curious, either for the sake of knowing more about what it is I do for a living or just because you're interested in the concept of green schools in general:

You should check out the resources page at Build Green Schools, one of the two Web sites I am in charge of at work. I just added a virtual tour of Great Seneca Creek Elementary School, a LEED-certified school in Montgomery County, Md., and it's a really interesting little tour! The coolest part is that it was put together by the school's fourth-graders, so you really get to see it from their perspective. (And I work closely with our LEED for Schools sector manager, who worked with the kids on the tour, so I can assure you that it really was the kids who took the lead on what they thought was most interesting and what they wanted to emphasize.) Anyway, I really enjoyed the tour, so I wanted to let you all know about it in case you were interested, too!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Leave it to peevers

I'm playing catch-up on all my favorite blogs, which I sorely neglected while I was out of town and therefore not often online, and I find that Amelia and Tiff both have brilliant new posts listing their biggest pet peeves. I have been inspired to follow suit. But I have always found it hard to share my pet peeves when asked. I think I tend to put the things that bug me out of mind, so unless they happen to be bugging me at the moment, I really have a hard time drudging them up. So, congratulations, Tiff and Amelia, for being so good at constantly dwelling on all the things that ail ya. Kidding!

I think there's probably a healthy list of things out there that get to me, and chances are I will leave most of them out in this post simply because I don't remember them at the moment. I'm going to leave this new-post window open for a while so I can add new ones as they occur to me, rather than trying to come up with them all on the spot. That may mean that many of these pet peeves turn out to be things that are somehow connected to the things I see around me at this moment. Like a game of "I Spy." Or "I love lamp."

NIGHTTIME DOG DISTURBANCES: I guess you could say this one is a true pet peeve. You all know I love my Edison and that he brings nonstop joy, light and love to my life. But he's not always yips and giggles. Particularly not in the wee hours, when he finds it an ideal time to do any combination of the following: kick, reposition, lip-smack, reposition again, and, worst of all, FREAKIN' LIP-SMACK! Dude, get up and get a drink or something, if your mouth is so dry! His prime time is just as I am drifting off to sleep. That's when he always decides that he doesn't want to be under the covers anymore, so he makes a big production of getting up and repositioning himself IMMEDIATELY after I have drifted off. Lip-smacking/tongue-clicking all the way. I am not a violent person, rarely have a violent impulse at any time (even when I'm watching a Hillary Clinton rally), but I'm not ashamed to say that I have more than once envisioned some pretty horrific things happening to the little guy in the dark of night.

THE PSEUDO-FEMINISM OF HILLARY SUPPORTERS: I certainly don't think this is true of all Clinton fans, but I have had one or two women tell me that my support of Barack Obama and my sense that she should get out of the race now has something to do with my maleness and my failure to grasp the historic nature of this moment. Yes, I get it - it's a big deal that a woman has gone this far in a presidential race. And I have wanted to see a female president all my life. Just not this female. And I certainly don't think it does feminism any good to support a losing candidacy and overlook blatant cynical nepotist opportunism just because it's a lady who's doing it.


AWKWARD PHRASES EVERY AWKWARD PERSON USES WHEN HE/SHE IS TOO AWKWARD TO THINK OF ANYTHING ELSE TO SAY: "Here comes trouble!" "Happy Friday!" "Stayin' out of trouble?" There are many more, but luckily, I can't think of them right now. What peeves me more is when I find myself saying them.

"TMI": I hate it for lots of reasons. I hate that it's an abbreviation. I hate that everyone who says it thinks they are being funny when they say it. And I hate the concept of "too much information." We're all adults. We are all aware that people go to the bathroom/sneeze/blow their noses/whatever. Just because I am telling a story that happens to start with, "So I was in the bathroom the other day..." doesn't mean I have given you TMI. I didn't give any yucky details. I have given you just the right amount of I that I believe is necessary to tell you my story. I will decide if it's TM. If it is, then I will choose to filter myself. We are not in kindergarten. Bathroom does not automatically equal dirty joke.

COMMERCIALS FEATURING DOGS TILTING THEIR HEADS AND UTTERING A SOLITARY, INQUISITIVE WHIMPER: Maybe you've noticed, maybe you haven't. But a lot of commercials out there can't be satisfied with showing us some wacky person doing some wacky thing because of the extreme emotions brought on by a particularly exciting product. They have to let us know just how wacky it was by featuring a cute little dog - surprisingly often a jack russell terrier - tilting its head and making a noise we are supposed to interpret as meaning, "What the-?!" Haha. We get it. Even the dog is smart enough to see that you are off your rocker - but then again, you must really love those Cheetos to have emoted in such a silly way. This commercial convention was probably cute and funny the first time it was used. In 1968.


The coolest stuff happens in this city! I just found out that tomorrow is Learnapalooza, an all-day free learning event. And not the kind of learning that some people might find boring... The list of workshops being offered - totally free - is amazing. I can't decide if I want to learn Turkish, learn how to juggle, learn how to get out of a speeding ticket, learn to samba, learn to understand Shakespeare, improve my pool game, learn to cook tasty and organic, or learn to read tarot. And actually, I could do almost all of those, since each workshop is just one hour long and they are held throughout the day.

Check out the entire list of workshops!