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Stephen_Curry-1There are, deservedly, more video mixtapes, mashups, loops and screen grabs of Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry performing hoops magic than there are recordings of jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Possibly.

I like to compare Curry to The Bird, not because Parker played basketball, but because both elevated an established art form into dizzying new dimensions. Curry has transformed the old-fashioned swing of basketball jazz with a bebop virtuosity akin to Parker.

I would be reluctant to share such thoughts about Curry, perhaps the most adulated sports figure in the world today, with Partisan readers. They don’t come to the blog to yap about the entitled world of big-time sports stars, or to argue about whether the Warriors are up to the challenge awaiting them Monday when the Oakland team starts a must-win series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But a post I saw today from one of the people I follow on Twitter got me thinking otherwise. It came from Ron Rosenbaum, one of the best long-form journalists in the country since the 1970s.

Rosenbaum is a serious “literary journalist,” who has written incredibly researched books on subjects ranging from fierce scholarly battles in the world of Shakespeare studies to the haunting possibility of nuclear war.

He spent 10 years researching his 1998 book “Explaining Hitler,” detailing the different scholarly schools — from the political and pathological to the metaphysical — to try to explain Hitler’s supreme evil. It is so good, so learned and so revealing that I’ve read it twice, which I’ve done with a book only rarely.

Anyway, Rosenbaum’s tweet contained a link to an eight-minute mixtape of Curry shots, drives, passes and 32nd-note dribbling solos that is the best introduction, or greatest hits collection, I’ve seen.

And this is how Rosenbaum encourages his Twitter followers to watch the sucker: “This Steph Curry ‘mixtape’ … will lift your spirit. Forget about the 3’s, the behind the backs. Jeez.”

So I did. And Rosenbaum is right.

Take a few minutes, even if you’re not a sports fan, and watch improvisatory art at the highest level. It will lift your spirit and make you smile.

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Like millions, I’m a big fan of Curry of the Golden State Warriors, the Oakland basketball team that starts the NBA finals next week against the Cleveland Cavaliers. But I’m not talking about Steph Curry, the amazing point guard for the Warriors whose uncanny ability to shoot, dribble and pass propelled him to the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. I mean Curry’s 2-year-old daughter, Riley, whose adorable antics at two recent post-game press conferences with her dad have melted the hearts of even the crustiest sports fanatics.

Here’s the Daily Beast’s breathless package on Riley rocking the NBA world.

For me, the highlight of the year was when Riley took a tiny piece of gum from her mouth, and with an impish grin, gave it to an obliging Warriors PR man and proceeded to goof behind the curtains of the interview stage while her father struggled to keep the nation informed about how the Warriors’ gritty play finally dispatched a tough Houston Rockets squad to that post-playoffs land known as “gone fishing.”

Once Riley started cutting up behind curtain, you didn’t know what she would do next: jump out and yell boo at the harried sportswriters already terrified by impending deadlines, grab the end of the curtain and fly across the stage like a pint-sized Errol Flynn in a pirate movie, or simply rip the curtain down in one of those “terribly funny twos” moments.

For his part, Steph Curry has smoothly handled Riley during the pressure of the post-game pressers. At one point, he quickly helped her clasp a sparkly bracelet on her wrist without a missing a beat while responding to a reporter’s question about the Warrior’s ability to handle Houston’s high screen-and-rolls. No one cared about his answer, but hoped down deep he didn’t fumble away Riley’s bracelet.

Now there are a million cute kids and a million cute dogs out there, and I might add, a million cute cats. But Riley has melted even my cynical heart with the loudest cuteness detonation since Art Linkletter, in the early days of television, had a daily show dedicated to kids saying the darnedest things.
I’m sure many couples, seeing little Riley revel as only a toddler can, thought, “Hey, let’s try for own little Riley.” The sports-stats nerds should do a little research on that front in nine months or so.

For a fleeting moment I even thought I heard the faint ticking of my own biological clock, though the battery long ago died and the works are buried along some forgotten road. The Riley Factor  was that strong.

For the NBA, the loving interplay of father and daughter, with the superstar father being upstaged by the caperings of the irrepressible child, was nothing more than a wholesomeness bonanza.

A generation ago, the magazine Sports Illustrated did a searing investigative story that looked at a pathetic pattern of some NBA players who had fathered strings of forgotten children out of wedlock in various cities where they played on and off the court.

The Curry family, bound by their Christian faith and family love, seem to be the perfect counter to that old image of the philandering professional athlete.

But I am concerned how the Warriors’ moppets will match up against the Cavaliers’ kids. Cavalier star LeBron James has three young children of his own, and he has the power moves perfectly capable of bringing all of them to a post-game presser. Will he try to go cute little toe to cute little toe against Riley?

Only time — that final series doesn’t start until June 4 — will tell.

In the meantime, the NBA should consider an addition to the usual, slick halftime shows with big music names. I say just put up a big bounce house at half-court and let all the young children of players, coaches, equipment men, trainers, etc. get their game on. There will be plenty of highlights. And dribbling exhibitions, though some may involve running noses.

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harrison-barnes-warriorsFor non-NBA fans out there, Harrison Barnes is one of the Golden State Warriors’ starting five players. Teammates call him “HB,” and the media call him “Black Falcon” because he is dangerous, very fast and capable of leaping small buildings.

Word is Barnes doesn’t like the nickname, and I can see why. No one would think to dub a white NBA player who is very fast and capable of leaping small buildings the White Falcon, if such a player ever existed.

But Barnes doesn’t vent any displeasure about the stupid nickname during interviews. He is a polished speaker, always positive, respectful and insightful.
While gorging on Warriors’ coverage as the Oakland team makes its deepest post-season foray in four decades, I discovered the reason for Barnes’ polished performances in TV interviews.

When he was a kid, Barnes and his sister went through mock interview sessions conducted by their mom. She wanted her talented children prepared for the day when their skills would attract the world’s cameras and bright lights.

These childhood lessons stand to greatly benefit Barnes, who plans to go into politics when his basketball days are over. His teammates also call him “Senator.”

Barnes grew up in Ames, Iowa, which is ground zero every four years for the campaigns of politicians who want to be president. All the hoopla, coffee klatches and candidates eating corny dogs on his doorstep fired Barnes’ childhood imagination. One of his favorite ex-NBA players is Bill Bradley, the New York Knick who spent three terms as a U.S. senator. As a Warriors fan, I hope Barnes spends many more years in uniform before starting his second career.

But back to those play-time interview lessons his mother conducted. I can only imagine how I would have performed if my mother had done the same.

Q: What did you think about the chocolate-chip bars I baked this morning?

A: I think you developed a great game plan and executed those bars perfectly.

Q: Have you any idea why there are only a few crumbs left?

A: We are going to have to watch a lot of tape and make some adjustments.

Q: I’ll rephrase the question. Why did you eat them all?

A: It’s a possibility that mistakes were made. But if you are going to engage in gotcha journalism, I may have to cut this interview short. Besides, the American people are interested in the future, not what happened four hours ago.

Q: You’re not going anywhere, young man. And quit fiddling with your microphone and waving your tie around your head! Changing the subject. About the broken kitchen window. Weren’t you repeatedly informed by the Departments of Mom and Dad about the hazards of throwing a tennis ball against the wall below the window?

A: I don’t have those documents with me — if what you are implying is accurate and such documents do exist — but I will have my aides look for them immediately after we’re done here. They will get back to you.

Q: The dog and cat are not your aides! Do you realize your sister was eating at the breakfast table and could have been hurt by the glass?

A: I sincerely apologize to anyone I may have offended or lacerated when the window inadvertently exploded and shards of glass and an old tennis ball hurtled in an unfortunate direction. It certainly wasn’t my intent, and the American people can be assured that I am a far more accurate pitcher than this single, isolated incident — which the media and my opponents are happily distorting — may misleadingly imply.

Q: Would you like a glass of lemonade?

A: That is a very kind offer, but I think I need to lie down. My tummy kinda aches.

Q: All the chocolate-chips bars you ate?

A: It’s been great having a chance to talk with you. Mom, are we done yet? I really don’t feel good.

Needless to say, Harrison Barnes probably handled those childhood interviews far better than I would have. But we both were saddled with dumb nicknames. Only I’m not saying what mine was. Not even the late Mike Wallace, master of the ambush interview, could get that out of me. I didn’t even know what parsnips were.

Go Warriors!

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屋外に置かれたレトロなブラウン管テレビ

This picture has little to do with the article it accompanies, but it’s kind of cool.

I planned to take an extended sabbatical from columnizing for two reasons.

First, I am a fanatic for the NBA, and the just-started pro basketball playoffs will last until mid-June. It is difficult to think about much else than game-to-game adjustments and complete hooey from the mouth of TNT analyst Charles Barkley, whose disdain for the wonderful team from Oakland betrays an antipathy for the East Bay city rivaled only by Gertrude Stein, who famously said “there is no there” about Golden State’s motion offense. Or something like that.

Second, at last count there are 19 announced, almost-announced and awaiting-a-callback-from-God candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016. That is simply too many to take seriously, and I won’t address the GOP field until it has been reduced in size to the number of dwarves who worshipped Snow White. This could take months, and several more caucuses of the all-powerful Koch Brothers.

But then I saw pictures Monday of newsroom celebrations with champagne and other goodies after the winners of the Pulitzer Prizes were announced. This brought back many fine memories. Not of all the times I didn’t win a piece of a Pulitzer, let alone a thread of a nomination. In fact, it is a sad comment on Central Coast journalism that the last time a Pulitzer was snagged in these parts for journalistic endeavor came in 1956 when the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian exposed corruption in Santa Cruz County that led to the resignation of a district attorney and trial for one of his cronies.

John Steinbeck, of course, won the 1939 Pulitzer for fiction for “The Grapes of Wrath,” but by then he was already, or about to be, ridden out of the county for being a radical com-symp.

No, the newsroom celebrations reminded me of daily rituals that took place at noon, 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays in the Monterey and Salinas newsrooms where I labored for years, fighting the good fight and unsuccessfully explaining to colleagues the difference between rebut and refute.

I gave up, and there’s no refuting that.

Back to those daily newsroom gatherings. The occasions were the local television newscasts. Most of the reporters and a couple editors invariably would gather near the TV screen, and one would be charged with surfing back and forth between channels.

The ostensible reason was to see what the electronic competition had that we may have missed. Not very much, usually. Occasionally there was a “scoop” of sorts, forcing an editor to make a command decision about whether to immediately give chase or, better yet, to ignore it.

I do recall one TV reporter who always — and I mean always — got the beat on any story involving surreptitious, illegal video recording going on in female restrooms. An odd specialty, but he was very good on this subject. 

The real purpose of these daily gatherings was a kind of impromptu pep rally for self-important print journalists who work in relative obscurity compared to TV anchors and reporters with their nice clothes, nice hair and nice looks.

Hoots of laughter greeted every story lifted from that morning’s paper. The dismissive snorts grew louder when the verbiage of a TV story matched the sentences one of us had written hours earlier.

“Hey, they stole that,” one of us would say. And we would shake our heads and smugly tut-tut. For we knew who the real journalists were.

I’m sad to say this commentary often strayed, once it was ascertained that no more news was breaking, to areas that would prove embarrassing had videos of our catty commentary leaked. There were plenty of comments about botched video production, anchors looking at the wrong camera, and, of course, the physical comeliness of the TV folks.

Chauvinistic, you bet. Juvenile, guilty. Of any lasting importance, no way.

My most frequent gripe during my last year were necklaces worn by every female anchor and reporter. They were composed of extremely large beads that reminded me of fishing buoys and made me long for something understated on a simple gold chain. I’m the last guy to give fashion advice, but those giganto-beads looked painful to wear. I hope styles have changed.

These extemporaneous forays into acerbic media criticism, for a generation of print journalists now passing, seemed perfectly acceptable. Our mean words did not go beyond the newsroom. They caused no pain. Perhaps, they helped keep thinning staffs of print journalists determined to keep being the best news gatherers around. Even as the media world wobbles into 24/7 Digital Land, where every reporter, behind and in front of a tiny camera, can be almost on the air.

Proprietor’s note: An earlier version of this column carried the wrong byline. It is indeed the work of Larry Parsons.

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earthmover operator giving thumb upI tried to let it pass. I really did. The Herald editorial Thursday morning about the Ferrini Ranch project caused me to grit my teeth harder than my dentist recommends. Among several things,  it leaned a little to the tacky side. It’s one thing to endorse a project but to come back with a “good job, supervisors” editorial afterward might seem a little insensitive to the many project opponents.  Is “gloaty” a word?

But as I said, I tried to just take a breath and move on. It’s over. I told myself to just turn to the sports page and enjoy the story about the Warriors’ big victory over Houston last night. That would make me feel better.

I checked the front of the sports section. There was a silly story about the 49ers and their hopes of beating Seattle, which is as likely as me beating Steph Curry in a three-point shooting contest. But no Warriors story. I turned to the inside pages. Still no Warriors.

I thought back to last night. Was it a late game? No. As I recall, it ended with plenty of time for me to check my Paypal account for Partisan contributions before Chicago P.D. aired at 10 p.m. So, no, it wasn’t late.

Maybe they just forgot about it, I thought. After all, the Herald staff may report to soulless, bean-counting corporate masters but the worker bees are earnest humans. Finally, I found something, a little blurb at the bottom of the page suggesting I go online for a story about the game. At least I knew I had not dreamt of the Warriors’ record rising to 18-2. It wasn’t an oversight. It was an understaff. It was something, but it did not scratch my basketball itch.

It takes a lot to move me to action, but by then I was irritated enough to flip back to the editorial page. This time I read the whole piece. My course was set, though I admit to a brief moment of hesitation because I once edited the Herald and wrote its editorials. I worried that some folks might be bothered by the idea of me writing a piece criticizing the work of my former employer. I realized it might edge toward the inappropriate, but no more so than a crowing editorial while so many people are so upset.

I’ll go through the Herald piece slowly.

“Critics cited the development’s impact on traffic and the area’s water supply as reasons to turn down the project. We’re not so sure.”

If there is a worse traffic issue anywhere in Monterey County, we have not heard of it. The morning rush hour backup can put traffic at a standstill from Ryan Ranch in Monterey to beyond Reservation Road on the outskirts of Salinas. The nightly rush hour backup turns a 10-minute commute into a 45-minute festival of rear-end collisions. The Ferrini Ranch development will add 2,000-plus cars a day to Highway 68, and that’s according to the county planning staff that had been manipulated into essentially lobbying for the project.

“Opponents have commented that the development would only make traffic snarls worse. We’re not so sure. Developers will be required to provide for one additional mile of four lanes, and a new signaled intersection. These improvements and rights-of-way have been part of adopted local and state transportation plans for years, but had no funding. Ferrini will pay for these improvements.”

Imagine a long pipe an inch in diameter and imagine you’re trying to get a lot of water through it quickly. Imagine that in the middle of the pipe you can splice another piece of pipe, say three inches in diameter, but you still have one-inch pipe at both ends. Is the water going to get through any faster? Now imagine that in middle of the length of pipe you install a valve that shuts the water off briefly every few minutes. Is the water going to move faster now? If you think so, you don’t understand the question.

Speaking of water, the Herald goes on to say that Ferrini Ranch will use an exceptionally small percentage of the water in the Salinas Valley aquifer. That is quite true. But there is already more water coming out of the aquifer than going in. Which means that someday there won’t be any more water unless officialdom comes up with some big ideas, and we’ve all seen how well officialdom does with such things hereabouts. Until then,  salt water from Monterey Bay will continue to fill the void created by the subsiding aquifer, making groundwater near the coast too saline for irrigation purposes. The opponents of Ferrini Ranch are not making this up.

“The reality is that most opponents just don’t like the development and they’re citing infrastructure limits as a reason for denial. We expect that the infrastructure issue will be raised again as those against the project prepare to do battle in court.”

You think?

The Herald likes the idea of the developer putting up $425,000 toward creation of a community services district so that wastewater eventually will be treated and potentially used to combat seawater intrusion. That’s a condition imposed by lame duck Supervisor Lou Calcagno, who, by the way, was the largest recipient of campaign contributions from the developer, more than any other supervisor. By the way, the community services district idea obviously was the result of a negotiation between Calcagno and the developers. It was sprung on the public, with no chance for anyone to press for details, suggest alternatives or simply raise questions. If it doesn’t work out, is the project dead? Will this be like the community services district, and related infrastructure, that the supervisors gave to Cal Am?

Actually, the community services district may be a good idea and it may even help combat seawater intrusion. But here’s an even better idea. Let’s postpone the project and begin construction after the district is created and the recycling is well under way and seawater has stopped intruding.  At Tuesday’s supervisorial meeting, the best thing the county planners could say about the Salinas Valley Water Project is that it has slowed groundwater over-drafting to an unknown degree and seawater intrusion to an equally unknown degree. They’ll know more after a study is completed. In about five years.

Says the Herald: “We’re old-fashioned enough to believe that land owners have some rights, too, and that the county has its duty to observe those rights even while balancing the impact of development on the area.”

Hmm, I didn’t really notice much balancing going on, and are we forgetting the rights of the other land owners in the area? Let’s start with those who have been paying into the Salinas Valley Water Project only to be told they can’t build on their property because there isn’t enough water. How about the rights of the thousands of property owners who live in Toro Park, San Benancio Canyon and Corral de Tierra who want to be able to get home from work at night without having to detour through Marina. (In the interest of disclosure, I must admit that I live in San Benancio Canyon and was a victim of the Highway 68 commute while I worked for the Herald. One member of the Herald editorial board also lives in the canyon. One lives in Monterey and the others live in Santa Cruz County.)

And how about the rights of a few people who don’t own land? If people were to complain about how hard it is to commute from Salinas to Pebble Beach jobs n the morning, I’m thinking the Herald might suggest they move closer to their work. Carmel maybe.

The Herald asks, “Will there be an impact? Certainly, as Supervisor Jane Parker pointed out at the hearing. But we’re satisfied the impact will not be severe.”

This is a cute oneWill there be an impact? Why, yes, come to think of it, there could be. But why no mention of everyone else who pointed out the same thing, including Supervisor Dave Potter, who represents the area affected by the project and who pointed out that the traffic and water issues are symptoms of the “most blatant examples of bad planning.” Is the Herald trying to make it seem like only one official was bothered by the project, Parker, coincidentally the only one of the five supervisors who didn’t receive campaign contributions from the property owners? Heck, even Supervisor Fernando Armenta, every developer’s best friend, said he feared that the traffic impact could be severe.

Having written editorials myself for several years, I thought the Herald’s piece might offer an olive branch to the project opponents. Its original editorial endorsing the project had said that the opponents’ concerns should be dismissed because some of them had opposed a project in Spreckels some years ago, though almost none of those speaking out against the Ferrini Ranch project had ever expressed any opinion about the Spreckels venture. The Herald also had said the opposition’s concerns should be ignored because some opponents purportedly had said something untrue about the Ferrini venture. That was a difficult one to respond to in that the people purportedly making the untrue statements weren’t identified and the purportedly untrue statements went unidentified as well. Tuesday’s editorial, it would have seemed, might have been a time for some fence mending but, no, apparently it was time for the opposite.

One last point. Two, actually. The Warriors game next Thursday against the Oklahoma City Thunder is a big one. There should be coverage and if there is, I’m sure I will be more forgiving of the Herald’s foibles for ever more. It shouldn’t be hard for them to meet the challenge because it’s an away game and should be over by 9 p.m. at the latest. And if the  bean counters have moved the deadlines up so early to make that impossible, it’s game over anyway. For the paper, not the Warriors.

That other point is this. I watched the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday and was struck by the degree to which the county planning staff had been put in the position of being advocates for the projects. Not arbiters but champions. It isn’t supposed to be like that. On a large and fairly complex project such as Ferrini Ranch, it is necessary for the county staff to work closely with the developers on numerous issues, boundaries, lot sizes, setbacks, visual aspects, traffic flow, drainage, etc., etc. But working with the developers does not mean removing all obstacles on their behalf or automatically taking their side when challenges arise.

Much of Tuesday’s session was devoted to having the county staff address questions that had been raised by project critics during a public hearing the week before. There were pointed questions and some more general. The answers to most were not helpful. Did the staff consider this factor or this one? The answer. Yes we did. No elaboration, no explanation. Just a meaningless yes. Yes, we thought about the impact on wildlife and vegetation. Since the public hearing had been closed, there was no one to ask the follow-up: So what were your thoughts?

The county planning staff should be working for everyone, the supervisors, developers and the public. It should be a credible source of accurate information on the design and potential impacts of projects. It should not be part of the development team. As the result showed, the supervisors are capable of tipping the scales far enough all by themselves.

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