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Friday, December 28, 2001

I've been a Muhammad Ali fan ever since I was in my early teens. I remember being at my grandfather's house and ESPN was re-showing the first Ali-Norton fight. My dad told me to watch because Ali was the greatest fighter that ever lived (even though Marciano was dad's favorite). Ali's jaw was broken in the first or second round of that fight, but he fought on and lost on a close decision. I'm not sure what it was about him, but I was hooked. I found a copy of Ali's autobiography and read it several times, then scoured the library for more. I taped rebroadcasts of Ali's fights and watched them over and over. I still watch the Thrilla in Manilla every month or two - not just because of Ali, but because I've come to realize that Joe Frazier was equally great, although in entirely different but perfectly complementary ways.

I haven't gone to see the new Ali film yet, although I probably will in the next few weeks. I know some of the reviews say the film isn't as great as it should be, but this isn't any normal biography we're talking about. Not only is Ali considered the greatest fighter of all time, he may have been the most charismatic and controversial athlete as well. Such a person is difficult to portray, especially when the memories of Ali are so fresh and the footage of him is so available. Michael Mann and Will Smith attempted the impossible when they made a movie that was supposed to live up to the real thing. Some critics feel they fell short. Let's remember that Ali did the impossible, too, and it took people many years to acknowledge his greatness. Sometimes it just takes time and the casting away of other people's opinions to see what's really there.

Believe it or not, I wrote all of this because I wanted to post a link to Howard Bingham's website - http://www.howardbingham.com/. Who is Howard Bingham? I'll let you read for yourself. I strongly recommend reading the Sports Illustrated article by Frank Deford. I stumbled upon that article a year or so ago and I'm glad I did. You'll see what I mean when you read it for yourself.

Friday, December 21, 2001

In a large study to find the world's funniest joke, here is what came out on top:

"Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson go camping, and pitch their tent under the stars. During the night, Holmes wakes his companion and says: 'Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce.'

"Watson says: 'I see millions of stars, and even if a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life.'

"Holmes replies: 'Watson, you idiot. Somebody stole our tent.'"


Not bad...not bad...
From MSNBC.com:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 21 — British peacekeepers moved into the Afghan capital under cover of darkness Friday on the eve of a new government’s taking office to tackle the mammoth task of rebuilding a country shattered by two decades of war. The arrival of the first troops launched a U.N.-backed six-month international mission and came as Afghanistan’s interim leader returned to Kabul for what looked to be the first peaceful transition of power in Afghanistan in decades.

I wonder if the Taliban would call this a "peaceful" transition of power? This reminds me of George Carlin's comments about hunting: "You think hunting is a sport? Ask the deer..."

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Wow - another great article from the Sports Guy, ESPN.com Page 2's Bill Simmons. This time he's talking about sports movies on DVD, and, as usual, he has a great sense of humor about things. Also, if you're still looking to get me (or somebody like me) something for Christmas, check out Simmons' ideas and I'm sure you'll make somebody quite happy this holiday season. I think I'd enjoy that Lee Mazzilli book.

Monday, December 17, 2001

In his book Extreme Alpinism, Mark Twight makes this comment in a section called "Will and Suffering":

Suffering provides the opportunity to exercise will and to develop toughness. Climb on local crags in weather conditions far worse than any you would intentionally confront in the high mountains. Austrian climber Hermann Buhl carried snowballs in his hands to develop his tolerance (psychological) and to increase capillary capacity (physical). He climbed the local crags all winter long, even in storms, and bicycled for hundreds of kilometers on his way to the mountains. It all paid off when he climbed alone to the summit of Nanga Parbat - history's only solo first-ascent of an 8,000-meter peak.

I also seem to remember Twight making some comment about Buhl "putting the hard in hardman" or something like that. I've never read anything specifically about Hermann Buhl, but I think it's time I did. Nanga Parbat has an amazing history all by itself - Buhl climbed it solo for a first ascent, Reinhold Messner lost his brother Gunther in an avalanche after climbing the Rupal Face, and Twight himself barely escaped Nanga Parbat with his life in one of the great survival epics of our time.

People who embody this concept of "indestructible man" have fascinated me ever since reading Caroline Alexander's book The Endurance : Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition. It's stories such as these that remind me that, like so many things in life, happiness and comfort are relative. Our levels of happiness and comfort are determined greatly by the tolerances we develop. Suffering because you have to is bad. Suffering by choice in an effort to develop tolerances that will guide you through tough times can be an empowering experience. Some of us have better reasons for going to a mountain than "because it is there".

Friday, December 14, 2001

Say what you want about Jesse "The Governor" Ventura, but they guy has an uncanny ability (at times) to make sense of things. The latest on his views of education in Minnesota can be found here in the Minneapolis - St. Paul Star Tribune. Now if ol' Jesse thinks the numbers of school administrators is a problem, wait till he sees how much they make... I don't fault people for going out and trying to earn a good living, but in the realm of public education the payscales too often seem unbalanced.
I noticed some stuff about Chinese Zodiacs on my "Rush Hour 2" DVD. Being curious, I checked out mine:

From http://pasture.ecn.purdue.edu/~agenhtml/agenmc/china/zsnake.html:
People born in the Year of the Snake are deep. They say little and possess great wisdom. They never have to worry about money; they are financially fortunate. Snake people are often quite vain, selfish, and a bit stingy. Yet they have tremendous sympathy for others and try to help those less fortunate. Snake people tend to overdo, since they have doubts about other people's judgment and prefer to rely on themselves. They are determined in whatever they do and hate to fail. Although calm on the surface, they are intense and passionate. Snake people are usually good-looking and sometimes have martial problems because they are fickle. They are most compatible with the Ox and Rooster.

From http://www.c-c-c.org/chineseculture/zodiac/zodiac.html#snake:
Rich in wisdom and charm, you are romantic and deep thinking and your intuition guides you strongly. Avoid procrastination and your stingy attitude towards money. Keep your sense of humor about life. The Snake would be most content as a teacher, philosopher, writer, psychiatrist, and fortune teller. Some Snakes: Clara Barton, Liz Claiborne, Charles Darwin, Mary Baker Eddy, Elizabeth I, Fannie Farmer, Anne Frank, Mahatma Gandhi, Ellen Goodman, Carole King, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe.

Could be worse, I guess...

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Rondell White is now a Yankee and no longer a Chicago Cub. What's Dave Tumbas going to do with all his free time?
On my way to Wal-Mart this evening I was passed by someone in a Nissan Sentra with a license plate that read "IMADIVA". Diva? In a Sentra? Am I missing something?
If you're a Monday Night Football fan or a Dennis Miller fan, be sure to check out The Annotated Dennis Miller. It's a weekly feature where somebody from Britannica.com tries to interpret and explain the references that Miller makes during each game. Miller's humor isn't for everybody, but maybe these explanations will help explain the wisdom behind the wit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

I had a brilliant idea this morning. Given the relative sizes and usefulness of cellular phones and GPS units, it won't be long until the mass market is full of devices that integrate both. (I'm sure I'm not the first to think of that, but wait, it gets better...) Here's my idea - for states/regions that wish to ban cell phone use in moving vehicles, or for parents who don't want their kids talking on cell phones as they drive, how about designing the phone/GPS in such a way that if the GPS measures your velocity at, say, above 5 mph it won't allow use of the phone? Could I possibly be the first to think of this? If you think I am and you like the idea, contact me and I'll tell you where to send the check.

Monday, December 10, 2001

The New York football Giants, despite their problems this season, remain as the only NFL football team with no cheerleaders. I like that. Would the presence of cheerleaders have made a difference in last year's Super Bowl? How many cheers could they have possibly directed towards the Giants punter?

Sunday, December 09, 2001

Where would this world be without stupid people? Check out this eBay auction and be sure to look at both the price and the description very carefully. Obviously the buyer didn't, and I'm sure somebody is going to be awfully surprised this Christmas. If you wish to join the insanity, currently you can get a chance at your own Xbox box here.
I'm amazed at how many people I meet who haven't seen the movie Rocky. Sure, they might have seen Rocky IV or Rocky V (I'll make no comment on Rocky V...I'll leave that to others), but they haven't seen the original. The Rocky series doesn't exactly have the greatest reputation as fine cinema, so I'm not generally very successful on getting people to watch the first Rocky. "It won best picture, you know." "Sylvester Stallone wrote it." (He wrote all 5 and directed 3, in fact.) "The quality of the characters is really astounding - it's not a simple boxing movie." They don't want to hear it - they just want to live with their current perceptions of they guy in "Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot" playing a punchy guy with slurred speech.

Maybe there's hope - we've reached the 25th anniversary of the first Rocky movie and lately I've seen some interesting articles that look back at the series in perspective. Most interesting of all has to be Bill Simmons' column on ESPN's Page 2. Simmons' insight is quite amazing - I thought I was the only one who had truly figured out the true meaning behind the Rocky series. We apparently differ on the quality of Adrian's character...I don't find her so annoying, but then again I've more than once fast-forwarded through some of her longer scenes. But never in the first Rocky - there she played one of the most beautiful yet misunderstood female roles I've ever seen.

Check out some of Simmons' comments:

"Best of all, how 'bout Mr. T as Clubber Lang? Was there a better villain in sports movie history? "Hey, woman! Hey, woman! I bet you go to sleep every night wondering what it's like to be with a REAL MAN!!!" I've mentioned this before, but have you ever noticed the eerie similarities between Clubber Lang and Mike Tyson? It was like Mr. T was ripping off Tyson's gimmick before Iron Mike even got started."

"This wasn't exactly an intricate plot: Apollo makes a comeback, gets subsequentally destroyed by Russian Olympic hero Ivan Drago -- partially because Drago forgot that this was supposed to be a damned exhibition and partially because Rocky forgot to throw the damn towel -- which means that Rocky needs to avenge his buddy's death. And he does, in an improbable Christmas Day fight in Russia, for which Rocky receives no money and gets knocked down approximately 330 times before winning the Russian crowd over and vanquishing Drago."

"There's Stallone hopping in his Lamborgini after Apollo dies -- as Robert Tepper's "No Easy Way Out" blares in the background -- and having a flashback driving scene where he goes 140 mph, shifts at least 40 times into at least the 35th gear, and never looks at the road once."

"What a ludicrous, awful movie. I loved it."

Great column. Also be sure to check out Royce Webb's column, Eric Neel's column, and some of Stallone's own comments. Most of all, go watch Rocky, even if you've already seen it. It's worth it.

Saturday, December 08, 2001

If you find this page, congratulations. It's not exactly public yet. I've been maintaining a website at www.scholars.uni.edu/~johnson for several years, but my time at the university is coming to an end and I've established downclimb.com as a more permanent home on the web. I'm not yet sure how I want to juggle all the content of the site, but with this page I've decided to give Blogger a try. It provides a convenient, web-based interface for updating web logs, or "blogs". I don't have a lot of time at the moment to give this site the polish it needs, but I figure I'll give this a try and see if I like it. If not, I can always go back to the old-fashioned ways that have served me thus far. Let's hope Blogger doesn't go broke...