When Mosquitoes Attack

It really started earlier in the day, because even when I break the rules, I observe the rules. I had two Aleve in the morning, then another two Aleve sometime in the afternoon, knowing damn well that the instructions restrict consumption to three Aleve in 24 hours, and only if the pain subsists. Later that evening, in bed and alone, my face starts to itch; what comes to mind? The side effects of Aleve abuse, or signs of an allergic reaction. There I am itching my temples, cheeks, and chin, as my concern starts to spread, the affected area begins to condense. Just as I’m about to reach for and re-read the bottle, to properly inform the forthcoming EMT operator of my self diagnosis, the pulsating mound protruding from my inner right eyebrow gives away the culprit. A slight shade develops as I confirm the marble sized mosquito bite blocking my eyelid from properly opening; it looked quite robotic actually, like I was shape shifting in the moment.

My parents are both Saint Lucian, nothing like this happens to them. My sister and I are Canadian and wildly allergic, not fatally, just cosmetically. My sister in particular has a history of mosquitoes twice biting her eyelid, which completely shut her eye closed and gravely scared our family the first time. I have been hospitalized three times in my life, the first was from a mosquito bite engulfing my forehead as a child, I don’t actually remember this, the story just gets retold by my parents every summer; the other two occasions require separate blog posts. Between now and then, my mosquito victimization has been limited to large quantities of bites lacing my arms or legs, most uncomfortably on my thumb where every movement constituted an itch.

Being an outdoorsy person, my summers are hard. I have left rooms due to mosquito shadows in my peripheral vision, because even in a room full of warm blooded Americans, I’m always the target. I refused to go to sleep that evening until I killed the mosquito terrorist and wasn’t an all night buffet. The hunt was short, within ten minutes the mosquito was mangled with a 700 page collection of Sherlock Holmes stories; then I fell asleep without applying any magical solutions from my internet searches. The site flattened overnight from its original beveled square shape. Without suffering through any real urges to itch, all remnants of the original shock were gone within two days. Great way to start the season, this is war, I’m going on the offensive this summer; in the mean time, hopefully I just survived the West Nile virus, and earned lifelong immunity.

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The Great Gatsby Review

I have never consciously read a book and purposely watched the theatrical adaptation; my prerogative has been the exact opposite, whereby I actively avoid doing the two. I read Malcolm X and never saw the Denzel Washington performance, that I’m assured was robbed of an Oscar. I still rate Fight Club as the greatest movie I have personally ever seen, and I will never read the book; although, once I learned of the author, I have since read eight other Chuck Palahniuk novels. My first exposure to this phenomenon was Michael Crichton with the Jurassic Park series. I saw the original movie first, for which I was so thankful for Steven Spielberg. Then I read the follow up, The Lost World, before despising Steven Spielberg during the film release. So, if I think the story is worth its salt, then I read it; otherwise, I watch what I can of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potters, and Hunger Games of the world before saving my sensibilities.

I was originally sold on the Great Gatsby movie, because having assumed the Tom Hanks mantle without a word of praise, Leonardo DiCaprio is the most underrated actor of my generation. I must be one of the few American educated adults who wasn’t forced to read F. Scott Fitzgerald in grade school, except I knew of his reputation and decided the book should take precedence. Let me begin by saying, F. Scott’s wordplay is brilliant, as is the first half of The Great Gatsby. The characters are introduced, and their nature is well defined with background. We follow a young man, Nick Carraway, from the Midwest exposed to the surreal Eastern seaboard of riches, particularly where the legend of Jay Gatsby is in full bloom. Every character expresses a different recollection of Gatsby: is he a bootlegger? Did he kill a man? How illustrious can one soldier’s career have been? Where the grandiose questions are endless, everyone is interested in discussing him, while no one is interested in knowing him.

Without spoilers, once the Gatsby veil is lifted, we’re treated to a barely above average story. The momentum simply doesn’t carry through, and dully grasps at action sequences to distract you from waiting for the story to end. If those same action sequences are filmed right, the Great Gatsby movie has a rare opportunity to be better than a good book; and that’s exactly what the Great Gatsby is, a good book. Final rating: Bueno.

NBA Playoffs 2013 Round Two

That’s right, we’re skipping ahead straight to the second round. The Heat took care of business against the hapless Bucks. Brandon Jennings should be suspended to start next season for guaranteeing four wins, or any wins for that matter. The Knicks would’ve swept the Celtics if not for the J.R. Smith suspension; expect a win at Madison Square Garden tonight. The Pacers will trudge through the Hawks, and attempt to rekindle a New York vs. Indiana rivalry, that I will not feel punished to watch. While the Nets surprised me in their first game against the Bulls, they appropriately lost the series from ahead with home court advantage. Honestly, we’re all waiting for the Knicks vs. Heat Eastern Conference Finals to generate any excitement on this coast. Given a healthy Chandler and Kidd, ala Championship Mavericks, my choice remains Knicks over Heat for a spot in the NBA Finals.

The West is where intrigue lives. The Clippers and Grizzles rematch from last season looked like a contest, until Dennis Scott reminded me of two offseason moves that favor the Grizzlies: the release of Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin. Did you really expect Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin to BANG with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol? When Chris Paul has to go off for thirty points and game winning drives at home, bet on the grind house in six. The Spurs, against a Lakers roster stockpiled with future hall of famers, would have swept a healthy Kobe Bryant all the same. We’re still waiting for Harden to drop fifty on the Thunder before the Rockets go on vacation. Though Durant will have a transcendental second round series, the effects of the Harden trade and Westbrook injury will practically guide my Spurs into the Finals.

I’m having a hard time calling a clear cut winner between the Nuggets and Warriors. The obvious break out player of the playoffs so far is Stephen Curry! Then again, he’s also the softest star player left, and is expected to survive alternating nights of intensity> When his coach started mentioning hit men in regard to grazing fouls, older fans of the game immediately knew that boy wouldn’t have survived the nineties.

So really, not much has changed in the NBA since my last review of the season, with the exception of Jason Collins revealing his homosexual orientation. The best part about these gay admissions is when the ex-wife claims to have not known; sure. I begged and pleaded for Jeremy Lin to explode out of the closet and stake a realistic claim to athletic equality across sexual orientation. Jason Collins’ announcement has been blown far out of proportion, because he doesn’t have a memorable basketball related moment. He’s so far out of basketball, that his announcement sounds like a cry for employment. To reiterate, because goodness forbid I’m not sensitive about the topic, I’m Pro-Homo; however, mentioning Jason Collins and Jackie Robinson in the same breathe desensitizes me to the seriousness of this discussion. The reality of the matter is this isn’t breaking news and networks are forcing the issue; so please stop interrupting my games with replays of Jason Collins taking charges from Shaquille O’Neal, to not make a point.

Two Roads Diverge

During this wait for my scheduled Firefighter’s Physical Fitness Exam, numerous training programs have reached out to offer strength and aerobic preparation. I met one such program at Prospect Park during one of my routine laps: I’m an athlete; then I passed them: I’m a competitor. And during the weekend that just passed, gratefully filled with humid 60 degree days, I biked from Brooklyn College to 138th Street, and took multiple back and forth journeys in between, which amounted to some 40 pedaled miles. I was accompanied on one such ride by a friend, who submitted my quote of the week:

You don’t just bounce off of cars and continue living.

False. I have. Crossing Flatbush Avenue on Bergen Avenue (pictured above), a car attempted to park through my bike lane, while I tried to round a routine corner. I instructed that driver on proper driving etiquette, hopefully enough to save another biker from a similar experience. My point though, is that my idea of living is not “not dying.” I have seen fear turn “try or quit” choices into “life or death” scenarios. Things happen; stay aware, don’t over react, and respond appropriately. Maybe my assessment isn’t fair, considering my next chosen professional endeavor is designed to face death.

Don’t be misled, I’m a responsible adult who doesn’t play real life Road Rage. I brake at red lights and stop signs then go through them if there isn’t traffic. I pay attention to my surroundings, which way upcoming streets are directed, car indicators, and last minute wheel turns. I should probably wear a helmet more often. At the same time, I will ride twenty miles exhausted, fueled by no more than a Starbucks bagel and Chipotle burrito. It’s in my nature to jump off of my bike and play intense basketball games wearing a pair of khaki shorts and polo shirt; because that sedentary life isn’t for me. A while back, a friend asked why I quit smoking and drinking alcohol, I told him that I wanted to experience my prime in its prime; this same dude got ripped on P90X months later and I couldn’t be prouder. In lieu of wishing for an easier life, I work for greater resolve; so go ahead and chase the path most traveled, I will not be joining you. For everyone else, let’s do this.

Some pertinent tweets from this weekend:

Brave New World

While I try to read a novel per month, the start to this year kept me in front of illuminated screens more often than my weary eyes appreciated. Having read Brave New World and The Great Gatsby so far in 2013, two more books this month and I’ll be caught up! Another bit of news that crossed by literary and technologist worlds: Amazon recently bought Good Reads. Barnes and Noble really dropped the ball on this one, their Nook is more of a play-thing than competitor to the Kindle; and relinquishing the future IMDB of books to Amazon may have been the final nail to their coffin. Remember Borders? Finally, let’s venture into a Brave New World.

Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World with a Dystopian premise, contrary to George Orwell’s 1984 classic, because no one is paranoid or suspicious; and for good reason, there’s nothing to be paranoid or suspicious of. The setting isn’t Soylent Green, or a shady communist regime ruling with an iron fist. There isn’t any conflict by scientific design in this future. The citizens are brainwashed from birth to accept death, regulated drugs, promiscuous sex, and the absence of solitude in favor of socializing. Looking around today, it really isn’t different from the constant bombardment of broadcast influence we currently sustain; and if you somehow survive this desensitizing upbringing, then you’re free to leave with like minded individuals. Every citizen is a genetically modified test tube baby, which renders traditional birth and family structures extinct. Although there is a social caste system, work and play opportunities efficiently distract from transcendental thoughts. What’s yours is basically mine, unless I don’t want it.

The story specifically follows the actions and consequences of a man born to the highest social class; albeit, with less desirable characteristics, like his short height and obtuse facial features, which render him similar to a lesser social class. We’re treated to the rebellious thoughts of his genius, yet feeble mind, which are expressed and noticed by others around him, like outbursts of Napolean Syndrome. Attempts to make up for his shortcomings ultimately lead to encounters with people from the uncivilized world, where people do crude things, like work on farms, worship gods, and read Shakespeare; thereby introducing conflict to the monotony, which becomes monotonous in itself.

And oh the monotony! Woe is the reader if inventory lists and tallies don’t fancy them. I, for one, did not really need to know how much of everything presides in every scene; this tactic came across as filling filler. In theory, the daily repetition of easily productive work, sex, and drugs make for a great life; however, the book wears you down by constantly transcribing the equipment necessary to accomplish such a feat. I admittedly skipped a few paragraphs of fictional material accounting; then the conflict becomes the monotony, and seasons of Maury come to mind. Mustaph Mond, a character introduced in the final chapters, saves Brave New World by delivering the insight we bravely read towards. Through a series of question and answers, and speeches, he sums up the state of affairs, how it came to be so, and why it must remain this way; which I just so happen to agree with. Final rating: Bueno. The Great Gatsby is next!

NCAA Women’s Basketball 2013

With the NBA Playoffs right around the corner, and the Kevin Ware fueled men’s college game in the rearview, here’s to the ladies.

The face of women’s college basketball for the past two years has been Brittney Griner. Brittney initially exploded onto the national scene with superficial criticism regarding her physique, followed by multiple in-game dunks, and highlighted by a National Championship last year. This year, after cruising through an undefeated regular season, her Baylor Lady Bears cruised into the Elite Eight of this year’s tournament before flaming out against the Louisville Cardinals. Brittney’s final season should be remembered for her bold proclamation: no one can beat us except for the Miami Heat (in the midst of their historic win streak nonetheless). I had the privilege of watching the second half of their collapse, and must commend Odyssey Sims on her performance for the Lady Bears; to imply that Brittney threw that game would be an understatement. Although Brittney was offensively limited due to constant double teams from a zone defense, she disappeared completely on defense and watched a layup line ensue.

With Baylor gone, the nation turned to Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame to carry women’s basketball athletics into the limelight. Immediately following Brittney’s sellout, we were treated to an emotionally charged Skylar carrying Notre Dame into the Final Four. Notre Dame then lost their next game, and the Connecticut Huskies subsequently won their eighth national championship. For perspective, Connecticut and Tennessee account for sixteen of the thirty two national championships in NCAAW basketball history. As it turns out, I can’t recall who won Most Outstanding Player, or name any of the Connecticut players after Maya Moore and Tina Charles left; alas, their coach, Geno Auriemma, is who will be remembered.

The women’s game needs marketable names, not Mark Cuban instigating the likelihood of a woman in the NBA. Elena Delle Donne of Delaware is the favorite to usurp the title during her senior season. While we’re aware of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker entering the men’s college ranks as definite one and done lottery picks, it’s far more difficult to stay abreast of incoming female stars. Pay attention, as the weather warms and women storm the courts in ever increasing numbers, because they’re so far under the radar, it’s not far-fetched to find yourself playing with one.

Vegeta is Stronger Than Goku

My straightforward top five list of favorite Japanese manga, in order: Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Initial D, Fist of the North Star, then Dragon Ball Z. All of these stories revolve around power struggles, and feature breathtaking battles that expand your imagination. Far Eastern producers are skilled in creating epics of this type, the closest American animated production was the Batman cartoon of the nineties. Dragon Ball Z really drew me into the culture; as a boy, watching expressive men run around screaming about power levels and punching each other in the face was a blessing to this shut in. I ignorantly anticipated episodes after school as if the show weren’t already a decade old. By the time high school was over, I had seen every episode through the GT continuation due to my Asian connections.

Dragon Ball Z itself is a continuation of Dragon Ball, which I have chosen to remain oblivious to. To grossly over-generalize, the show stars Goku, an alien fighter of the Saiyen race, from the planet Vegeta [named after its ruling hierarchy] sent to destroy earth. Goku instead loses his memory and becomes earth’s savior through a series of fortunate events. Like a genie, Dragon Balls are artifacts used to raise a dragon who grants wishes. Vegeta, the Prince of all Saiyans, arrives on earth to fight Earth’s greatest combatants and use the Dragon Balls for himself. All fans of the show usually end up favoring Goku or Vegeta, there are some stubborn viewers who think Gohan is the greatest thing ever; they’re obviously deluded and won’t be considered in this discussion. For the record, my favorite character is Vegeta. Citing Goku’s desire to defend his family, and not have a heart of malice, Vegeta actually concedes that Goku is the stronger fighter. Goku fans point to this moment to definitively answer whose better; with all of the background out of the way, let’s consider the two prime reasons why they’re all wrong.

First, the sheer amount of assistance Goku receives does not rear its head in Vegeta’s favor, until his genius wife Bulma artificially raises his power level to Super Saiyen 4 levels. Goku is trained throughout his upbringing and entered into various tournaments, while Vegeta is presumably off overseeing Napa’s destruction of various alien worlds. Goku is trained in *heaven* by fighting *gods*, note the asterisks. Goku was further assisted to defeat Vegeta in the first place. Goku is also given the opportunity to train under extreme gravity conditions during his travels, while Vegeta merely feasts on inferior competition, until they meet again, at which time Goku has ascended to the first Super Saiyen level. This trend goes on, senzu beans; and on, instant transmission; and on, Trunks’ heart medication; and on, fountain of youth Goku… Add in a Saiyen’s natural ability to come back stronger from what doesn’t kill you, and you have to ask yourself, how much stronger do you return from DEATH.

Which brings us to the final point that makes everything else moot: Goku is dead. Piccolo killed Goku before Vegeta ever arrived on Earth. Either you concede that death is the end of a combatant’s participation in this argument, or that dying means nothing, which ultimately means no one is stronger than anyone else. The show would have you believe that the former is true according to certain circumstances, specifically if a villain is killed, then they are not permitted to return, despite the fact that heroes are obviously not bound to remain dead. Even in the after-life, there aren’t fighters capable of rivaling Goku at any level until far into the GT series, which means Frieza and Cell should have been locks to constantly return.

I’m not a fan of Lord of the Rings, or any other Fantasy based fiction. My initial attraction to Dragon Ball Z was partly based on the logical concept of power levels and the intricate explanations surrounding their employment. As the series progresses, rationale takes a back seat in favor of a deus ex machina filled theme of heroics. According to the rules of the rules of the Dragon Ball Z Universe, Goku is the strongest being to ever exist, except there aren’t any communicable rules; and if there were, then Vegeta would assume the title and circumvent all future threats by virtue of immortality. At least, that’s how I would write it.