Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Mayor

AMES, Iowa -- It sounds like a made-for-TV movie: A homegrown hero nicknamed "The Mayor" returns to resurrect the team he once led to glory as a golden-haired, sharp-shooting star years ago.

The reality is that Iowa State is gambling on Fred Hoiberg, a rookie head coach, to turn around a once-exciting program that has fallen to the bottom of the Big 12 after four straight losing seasons and looks nothing like the one where he starred in the 1990s.

The Cyclones have given Hoiberg a five-year contract to do just that, introducing the former Iowa State player as its new men's basketball coach Wednesday.

Fred Hoiberg, who scored nearly 2,000 points for Iowa State from 1991 to 1995, now will try to lead the Cyclones from the bench.
"If I thought I was going to fail, I would have never come here," said Hoiberg, whose base salary is $800,000 per year.

Hoiberg is an Ames native who married his high school sweetheart, Carol, and became one of the most popular players in school history. Hoiberg scored nearly 2,000 points during his career at Iowa State from 1991-95, leading the Cyclones to three NCAA tournament appearances. The school retired his jersey in 1997.

Hoiberg later played 10 seasons in the NBA with the Pacers, Bulls and Timberwolves before a heart issue forced him to retire in 2006. He spent several years in the front office for the Timberwolves before the Iowa State opened up with Greg McDermott's departure for the job at Creighton.

"We will miss Fred Hoiberg dearly. He was on track to become president of an NBA team because of his broad range of skills and ability to connect with people," Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn said in a statement. "But we recognize this opportunity is a dream come true for Fred and are happy and excited for him."

Athletic director Jamie Pollard said Hoiberg contacted him four years ago about the Iowa State job but that the timing wasn't right.

Pollard reached out to Hoiberg on Sunday night when it looked as though McDermott might be headed to Creighton. When McDermott made it official Monday, Pollard drove to Minnesota to meet with Hoiberg face-to-face.

Hoiberg said that playing for the likes of Larry Brown, Flip Saunders, Kevin McHale and former Cyclones coaches Johnny Orr and Tim Floyd has prepared him well for his first head coaching job.

"I've have all these mentors, all these role models," Hoiberg said. "I'll take a piece from each one of those guys and put that into my plan."

Hoiberg promised to run an uptempo style and said hiring a top staff will be his first priority. He will keep assistant T.J. Otzelberger, promoting the Cyclones' lead recruiter to associate head coach. Former Cyclone great Jeff Grayer, who was hired by McDermott just last week, will stay.

"I'm going to learning a lot this year, so I'm going to really, really have to lean on these guys," Hoiberg said.

He is walking into a program that's been in upheaval for months. The Cyclones, who were expected to contend for a postseason berth last season, finished 15-17 and were hit hard by player defections this spring.

Craig Brackins declared for the NBA draft, and fellow standout Marquis Gilstrap had his appeal for an extra season of eligibility denied by the NCAA. Three others, including starting center Justin Hamilton, have announced plans to transfer.

Hoiberg met with the players late Tuesday and the early returns are positive.

"He has a lot of credibility. He's played in the NBA, he's worked in an NBA front office, he's played for multiple Hall of Fame coaches," Cyclones guard Scott Christopherson said. "From my standpoint, how can't you trust a guy that has had all those successes?"

Hoiberg was one of the players credited for helping create "Hilton Magic," a term used to describe the Cyclones' home gym during its rocking heyday. There hasn't been a lot to cheer about of late, but Iowa State is banking on Hoiberg to rebuild the program.

"I hope and I think I can get the arena filled again, and get the magic back to this place," Hoiberg said.

Pollard believes the hire is not the risk it might appear to be, though Hoiberg's legacy as "The Mayor" could be at stake.

"I said to him ... the day you accept this job, you'll never have as great a legacy as you had before you accepted it," Pollard said. "The day you get announced, before you even say one thing, they'll be people that say you can't do this, you can't do that.

"The first time you coach a game, they'll say you don't do this, you don't do that. And Fred knows that, and I'd argue he's taking a bigger risk than we are."

Sharon Jones Calling Some Crackers Out

Ms. Spektor

We Grow Up Too Fast

Morning Benders - "Promises"

From An Email My Dad Sent Me

In the Tehran of my childhood, John Wayne was a household name. His Hollywood star began to rise over Iran in the late 1950s, but it was in the 1970s—when every weekend we could count on a cowboy show—that “John Vayne” became part of our everyday lives. His renown didn’t derive from his sexy costars or the excellence of his films or even our fascination with the accent. John Wayne came to us dubbed into Farsi, and it was the dub that made the man. He was not so much translated as alchemized by the wizards of Persian dub into a new alloy, a man who walked like a cowboy but talked like a dude from south Tehran.
Wayne’s tough-but-tender talk was delivered in the slang of downtown knife fighters and hero-thugs, an urban subculture known as jahel: men with switchblades and a strict code of honor, not unlike the lonesome heroes of the Wild West. In keeping with jahel tradition, the Iranian Wayne and his gang insulted the honor of parents and family members alike, swore by Ali and Allah, and addressed each other with the most diverse, absurd, and expressive epithets they could find.
Every time an actor turned his back, the dubbers, freed from any obligation to sync with the image, would throw in some slangy insults—corpse washer, stinking vulture—and during gunfights there was always time for jahel philosophizing. Ducking bullets, John Wayne spies a drunk on a porch and mumbles, “Lucky bastard, so totally oblivious to the world.” In Rio Bravo, when Wayne and Dean Martin start at a creaking sound, only to discover a stabled mule, there ensues between the sheriff and his sidekick a barrage of donkey-related swear words. All this with cheery disregard for the script and the authority of its creators.
The art of the Persian dub has an unexpected lineage. When the talkies first came to Iran in the 1930s, distributors continued to treat them like silent movies, interrupting the films with occasional “he said, she said” text panels in Farsi. But literacy was rare, so professional reciters would pace up and down the theater aisles, belting out reductive translations. Another strategy for domesticating foreign cinema was splicing. When a cowboy entered a saloon, for example, the doors swinging in his wake might fade to a popular and sultry singer belly dancing—not to fool viewers into thinking she was a stage act inside the local Texas juke joint, but to mash up that difference. Then the film would wipe seamlessly back to the Western drama of the cheats at the poker table. No one complained about incongruence or bastardization—the downtown audience was quite happy with the pastiche.
We were, it seems, much better at stealing than at imitating. When the three soldiers in Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory are being led out to their execution—a tragic scene of prolonged silence and tension, in the original—the Persian dub has them pleading for their lives, pitifully, comically, in the vernacular of downtown Tehran. They beg to kiss the hands and feet of the colonel, to be his slave, his sacrificial kid. They implore him to “get down from your donkey” and spare their worthless lives. The disjuncture is breathtaking—as if Akira Kurosawa had given Robin Williams a free hand at dubbing Ran into English.
What made the best dubs so good was that they added another register, a meta-commentary that created and revealed subtexts in the films. One classic sequence takes place in The War Wagon, an average film with two big stars, John Wayne and Kirk Douglas, as reluctant partners. Douglas is a slick, dandyish womanizer who’d shoot his mother in the back; he has just left the company of a pair of prostitutes to make a deal with Wayne. Here he is wearing a silk robe with an elaborate Asian dragon stitched on the back while Wayne, who is shaving, appears in a plain full-body undergarment with a holster buckled around his waist. Wayne explains that the gun is always with him because these days, you can’t trust anyone. It’s a throwaway line, obvious and predictable. But then, as Douglas turns to exit, revealing the dragon on his robe, Wayne’s Persian voice offscreen whispers something like, “Well, well, check out the dragon.” Obviously not in the original, it’s a catty under-the-breath comment, a perfect subversion of the manly Hollywood cliché that preceded it.
Then it’s Douglas’ turn. In his own room, he ponders Wayne’s comment about trust. He is pensive and amused, as signaled by the raised eyebrow, the wrinkled forehead, the upturned lip. In the original, he is silent. But in the Persian dub, when Douglas turns and takes off his robe, his voice calls out in self-admiration: “Now that’s what I call a great body.” From these scenes will develop a very strong homoerotic relationship between the two stars and half-outlaws, who in the Persian version address one another as “my love.”
At times there was something uncanny about the dubbing. Often the off-camera voices would seem to issue from a disembodied spectator rather than one of the characters; they said the sorts of things a viewer might say. Some secondary character was always commenting on John Wayne’s height, while a heroine’s sexiness was an occasion for a playful remark. As Dean Martin gets a shave from the delicate, razor-wielding hands of Angie Dickinson, a John Wayne–sounding voice moans, “Oh, I’d die to be hurting like your beard, dude.”
Persian dub died a slow death in the late 1970s with the spread of corporate notions of ownership, stricter enforcement of copyright, and a growing sense of loyalty to the original. The revolution of 1979 hammered in the final unironic nail: Foreign films were banned and unavailable, and the original dubs were locked deep in the archives.
The glory of Persian dub, while it lasted, was that it didn’t hide the artifice of film or its theatrical, scripted element. On the contrary, by showing that the original lines were just as made up as the dubbed ones, it seemed to acknowledge something even more postmodern: that social roles, like acting roles, depend on artifice, and that perhaps all cultural forms develop through acts of mistranslation.
There were a thousand invented lines in every dubbed film, but they weren’t meant to fool anyone. Seeing the Persian dubbers get away with one more aside, one more joke, one more invented aphorism brought us closer to the films in a conspiratorial kind of way. They made them ours.

Wooden Spoon Trick (Foreign)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What the Black Man Wants

Let me not be misunderstood here. I am not asking for sympathy at the hands of abolitionists, sympathy at the hands of any. I think the American people are disposed often to be generous rather than just. I look over this country at the present time, and I see Educational Societies, Sanitary Commissions, Freedmen's Associations, and the like,—all very good: but in regard to the colored people there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. [Applause.] The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. Gen. Banks was distressed with solicitude as to what he should do with the Negro. Everybody has asked the question, and they learned to ask it early of the abolitionists, "What shall we do with the Negro?" I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature's plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! If you see him on his way to school, let him alone, don't disturb him! If you see him going to the dinner table at a hotel, let him go! If you see him going to the ballot- box, let him alone, don't disturb him! [Applause.] If you see him going into a work-shop, just let him alone,—your interference is doing him a positive injury.Gen. Banks' "preparation" is of a piece with this attempt to prop up the Negro. Let him fall if he cannot stand alone! If the Negro cannot live by the line of eternal justice, so beautifully pictured to you in the illustration used by Mr. Phillips, the fault will not be yours, it will be his who made the Negro, and established that line for his government. [Applause.] Let him live or die by that. If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man. A great many delusions have been swept away by this war. One was, that the Negro would not work; he has proved his ability to work. Another was, that the Negro would not fight; that he possessed only the most sheepish attributes of humanity; was a perfect lamb, or an "Uncle Tom;" disposed to take off his coat whenever required, fold his hands, and be whipped by anybody who wanted to whip him. But the war has proved that there is a great deal of human nature in the Negro, and that "he will fight," as Mr. Quincy, our President, said, in earlier days than these, "when there is reasonable probability of his whipping anybody." [Laughter and applause.]
Frederick Douglas

Pure Joy

Eight Hundred Posts and Counting

Monday, April 26, 2010

Will We Be Sippin Dom Perignon, or Reheated Beer?

Well I want to try and hold my head up high
In this busted-up pinto truck conversion between the broken concrete and the cloudy sky
Well you have to make an effort with me
Can you make it look like you're chauffeuring me
There's enough gas to get us home now if we glide

When we took this job I thought that you knew the deal
I told the boss we had a Mercedes Benz but all we got in our yard is a steering wheel
Well I can't borrow this tuxedo much longer
Well we might have to cut and sell your long hair
I don't mind you wearing a wig, but I won't steal

Yeah well
Honey, we can't afford to look this cheap
We need to make it look like we're high class, so we'll haul ourself on, we can't be beat
I can't help but wonder, this time next year, will we be drinking Dom P�rignon or reheated beer, well
Honey, we can't afford to look this cheap

We have to keep up appearances as long as we can
There's too much to lose, our social status, well, our ice machine, and our ceiling fan
And if they find out that we ain't real songwriters
That we go Dutch on cigarette lighters
We're gonna lose the pair of dice (paradise) that's in our hands

Well, honey, we can't afford to look this cheap
Got an image to live up to here
In the best motel on Imposter Street
While the Joneses are waltzing off to dinner
We're gluing old lottery tickets together
Trying to make us a winner
Well, honey, we can't afford to look this cheap

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Smoking Is Not Cool Kids

This Land is Your Land

Fuck the police.

Hello Operator

Last night I passed the fifteen drink mark. Unfortunately it wasn't the first time. I learned from it. So in a way it was like getting hit in the head with a book and somehow gaining the information within.
I felt alright when I woke up. I had water and gatorade and excedrin. My shit looked horrifying. I think it was the 4am corned beef hash with an egg.
The world is wet with rain, has been since I woke up. I stepped out on the balcony and took it in. The air is different. The sky is different. It makes the everything else look different.
I remember one time getting on the Q headed back into Manhattan. As I walked up the car searching for a seat I watched three young men out of the corner of my eye. They had tattoos and were dressed like a gang in some sort of modern PG-13 dance movie. One of them was counting a serious amount of cash within his backpack. Another sat on a boombox.
As I sat down the train started to move. I changed the song on my ipod. I wondered if maybe the kids were drug dealers or thiefs or hustlers of some sort.
We stopped twice, people shifted in and out. As we took off I noticed that the young men were standing up. My hand shifted over my bag.
"Ladies and Gentleman..."
One of them began a spiel. I tuned it out. So did a lot of other people. Something about a subway performance. I looked around, they had a few people paying attention.
Then they hit the play button. "Got to Be Starting Something" exited the speakers. The boombox created a surprising amount of sound.
Suddenly the three broke into a dance routine in perfect unison. The footwork would have been difficult to execute in a dance studio and they were in a moving Q train. I started to watch more closely. So did many other people.
Suddenly they started doing backflips and front flips with support from handrails. Three people nearly got kicked in the face. They were not trying to avoid people. They were making people avoid them.
The music continued to blast. I realized how perfect the song was. How special the moment was.
Then one of them layed down flat on his back with his knees bent. Another did a back flip and landed on him. He held his shirt over the other ones knees and they did a little man dance.
The third guy walks down the car and asks for everyone to clean it up. Instantly everyones feet and bags part to create a clean lane. I look back at the other two.
They are holding each others ankles creating a standing donut. Then suddenly they begin rolling up the subway car like a wheel. And back down the car. A two man rolling somersault. As they reach the boom box they shift positions seamlessly. It looks like somebody is about to get a powerbomb but instead he continues towards the ceiling of the car and two hand slaps the fucker so hard that I will never forget it. The train had been shaking the whole time but that moment was the peak. The song faded away. They began collecting donations. I gave three dollars as the train slowed down. The voice over the speaker that normally announces the stop came on in the exact same tone as usual.
"Get off my train. Please don't support these kids."
The three stand still testing the limits. The doors are open and the train is stopped. The voice comes back.
"Get off my train. I've already contacted the police and I'm not moving until you're off."
The three start to smile. Two of them give all their money to the third. He puts it in his backpack. Two get off but stand right outside the open door. The noise for closing doors plays. One continues to push the limits until suddenly all three take off. Maybe from the police. Maybe into the next car for another performance.

And I Think to Myself

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hey Guys, Hi Guys

She Wears Sequins

Your Wife Isn't Safe Around Bobby Womack

"How can he be so blind
We've both got the same good taste
He should know when he's gone on business trips
I cant help watchin' his woman
Cause I'm losin' my grip"

I Just Want You To Know

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Face Off

from msnbc:
CLEVELAND - When Connie Culp heard a little kid call her a monster because of the shotgun blast that left her face horribly disfigured, she pulled out her driver’s license to show the child what she used to look like. Years later, as the nation’s first face transplant recipient, she’s stepped forward to show the rest of the world what she looks like now.
Her expressions are still a bit wooden, but she can talk, smile, smell and taste her food again. Her speech is at times a little tough to understand. Her face is bloated and squarish. Her skin droops in big folds that doctors plan to pare away as her circulation improves and her nerves grow, animating her new muscles.
But Culp had nothing but praise for those who made her new face possible.
“I guess I’m the one you came to see today,” the 46-year-old Ohio woman said at a news conference at the Cleveland Clinic, where the groundbreaking operation was performed. But “I think it’s more important that you focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this person’s face.”
Until Tuesday, Culp’s identity and how she came to be disfigured were a secret.
‘I got me my nose’
Culp’s husband, Thomas, shot her in 2004, then turned the gun on himself. He went to prison for seven years. His wife was left clinging to life. The blast shattered her nose, cheeks, the roof of her mouth and an eye. Hundreds of fragments of shotgun pellet and bone splinters were embedded in her face. She needed a tube into her windpipe to breathe. Only her upper eyelids, forehead, lower lip and chin were left.
Connie Culp shows off the results of the first face transplant in the U.S., a procedure done at the Cleveland Clinic.
A plastic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Risal Djohan, got a look at her injuries two months later. “He told me he didn’t think, he wasn’t sure, if he could fix me, but he’d try,” Culp recalled.
She endured 30 operations to try to fix her face. Doctors took parts of her ribs to make cheekbones and fashioned an upper jaw from one of her leg bones. She had countless skin grafts from her thighs. Still, she was left unable to eat solid food, breathe on her own, or smell.
Then, on Dec. 10, in a 22-hour operation, Dr. Maria Siemionow led a team of doctors who replaced 80 percent of Culp’s face with bone, muscles, nerves, skin and blood vessels from another woman who had just died. It was the fourth face transplant in the world, though the others were not as extensive.
“Here I am, five years later. He did what he said — I got me my nose,” Culp said of Djohan, laughing.
In January, she was able to eat pizza, chicken and hamburgers for the first time in years. She loves to have cookies with a cup of coffee, Siemionow said.
No information has been released about the donor or how she died, but her family members were moved when they saw before-and-after pictures of Culp, Siemionow said.
Culp said she wants to help foster acceptance of those who have suffered burns and other disfiguring injuries.
“When somebody has a disfigurement and don’t look as pretty as you do, don’t judge them, because you never know what happened to them,” she said. “Don’t judge people who don’t look the same as you do. Because you never know. One day it might be all taken away.”
It’s a role she has already practiced, said clinic psychiatrist Dr. Kathy Coffman.
Once while shopping, she heard a little kid say, ‘You said there were no real monsters, Mommy, and there’s one right there,”’ Coffman said. Culp stopped and said, “I’m not a monster. I’m a person who was shot,” and pulled out her driver’s license to show the child what she used to look like, the psychiatrist said.
Only a few pills a day
Culp, who is from the small town of Unionport, near the Pennsylvania line, told her doctors she just wants to blend back into society. She has a son and a daughter who live near her, and two preschooler grandsons. Before she was shot, she and her husband ran a painting and contracting business, and she did everything from hanging drywall to a little plumbing, Coffman said.
Culp left the hospital Feb. 5 and has returned for periodic follow-up care. She has suffered only one mild rejection episode that was controlled with a single dose of steroid medicines, her doctors said. She must take immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of her life, but her dosage has been greatly reduced and she needs only a few pills a day.
The clinic expects to absorb the cost of the transplant because it was experimental, doctors said. Siemionow estimated it at $250,000 to $300,000. That is less than the $1 million that other surgeons estimate it costs them to treat other severely disfigured people through dozens of separate operations, she said.
Also at the Cleveland Clinic is Charla Nash of Stamford, Conn., who was attacked by a friend’s chimpanzee in February. She lost her hands, nose, lips and eyelids, and will be blind, doctors said. Clinic officials said it is premature to discuss the possibility of a face transplant for her.
In April, doctors at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston performed the nation’s second face transplant, on a man disfigured in a freak accident. It was the world’s seventh such operation. The first, in 2005, was performed in France on Isabelle Dinoire, a woman who had been mauled by her dog.

Lisa Hannigan Covers Nick Drake

That's talent. Can see why Damien Rice lost his marbles.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I saw a trailer for what will be one of the best movies of the year, if not ever. Please follow the link and watch in fullscreen high definition.

High School

"HIGH school" - 4/20 TEASER from "HIGH school" on Vimeo.

RIP Guru


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Drum and Bass Church


Karen Elson & Melissa Auf Der Maur cover Danzig

Janka Nabay

The Bubu King EP — a four-song collection that marries hyper ramshackle beats with addictive West African chants and singing — breezes past in 20 minutes. Janka Nabay, the man behind the collection, came to the States from Sierra Leone eight years ago. The sound is all his. Back in the ’90s, during the decade-long Sierra Leone Civil War, he had the idea to update ancient bubu music with synthesizers and drum machines, adding futuristic flavors to processionals traditionally played by larger groups of musicians with bamboo shoots, pipes, percussive wooden boxes, etc. As his US label True Panther explains:

Before Janka, Sierra Leoneans thought of bubu music as a relic of the past, something best left in the hills with the folk singers and witches …. Janka resuscitated and modernized bubu … This new bubu makes a point: that in the rush to modernize and escape the war, Sierra Leoneans risk abandoning their native culture.

The Civil War, initiated by the Revolutionary United Front, technically “ended” on January 18, 2002 after tens of thousands of deaths. More than one-third of the population was displaced. When Nabay left Sierra Leone, he was considered one of its biggest stars — I’m told he sold hundreds of thousands of copies of his cassettes and kids followed him through the streets. This doesn’t mean he was free from the violence: He was forced to perform his music for the Rebels, who misappropriated his songs, using them to get pumped-up for battle.

During his last night in Freetown in 2002, he recorded new songs with his “bubu boys” at Forensic Studios, a place you hear getting a shout out at the end of “Eh Congo,” which I’ve posted below. It appears on the Bubu King EP along with a few other tracks he recorded that night.

For the past nine months, Nabay worked at Crown Fried Chicken in West Philly. He actually quit last week, and has since moved to NYC, where he’s looking for work that will allow him to focus on his music.

Source: Steregoum

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

La La La Laaa

The man in me will do nearly any task
As for compensation, there's a little he would ask
Take a woman like you
To get through to the man in me.

Storm clouds are raging all around my door
I think to myself I might not take it anymore
Take a woman like your kind
To find the man in me.

But, oh what a wonderful feeling
Just to know that you are near
It sets my heart a-reeling
From my toes up to my ears.

The man in me will hide sometimes to keep from being seen
But that's just because he doesn't want to turn into some machine
Take a woman like you
To get through to the man in me.

Ill With Want

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Horse Song

Usain Bolt: Mutant

from esquire:
By Luke Dittrich

In just two years, he has demolished the 100-meter dash world records with times that are superhuman — literally thirty years ahead of what they historically should be. So what if the greatest athlete alive decided to actually get serious?

The low snap of a single gunshot bursts from eight speakers at once. Each speaker is positioned behind a single man, and each man is positioned more or less identically in a sprinter's crouch: his feet in the starting blocks, his legs slightly bent, his rear end higher than his shoulders, his fingers splayed on but not beyond the white chalk of the starting line. The color schemes of their Lycra uniforms are different — the blue and white of the United States, the red and white of Trinidad and Tobago, the green and yellow of Jamaica — but otherwise, at this moment, their heads down, their faces invisible, their bodies immobile, it is hard to tell the runners apart.
The individuation begins as soon as the sound waves conveying the gunshot traverse the two meters or so between the speakers and the ears of the men. Reaction times differ. The theoretical limit of reaction time in this race, taking into account the time it takes for the sound waves to reach the ears of the sprinters and the time it takes for their brains to process those sound waves and send a signal to their muscles, is 0.1 seconds. The starting blocks each contain Omega-built pressure sensors, and if these sensors detect a push from the foot of any runner beginning less than 0.1 seconds after the gunshot leaves the speaker, that runner is tagged with a false start and the racers must line up and begin again. There is no false start this evening, August 16, 2008, deep in the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing. It is the 100-meter finals of the XXIX olympiad, and the first man off the blocks, 0.133 seconds after the shot, is Richard Thompson, of Trinidad and Tobago. He is followed less than a thousandth of a second later by Walter Dix, of the United States. In the next three hundredths of a second, four more runners shove off against their pressure sensors. And then, finally, 0.165 seconds after the start of the race, in second to last place, Usain Bolt of Jamaica begins to run.
He's only been racing this distance for about a year, and the importance of a quick start is one of the things he's still getting used to. His specialty throughout his running career has been the 200 meters, and that's a distance for which the start isn't as crucial. Over two hundred meters, you can make up for lost time. That's not the case in the 100. He's had to work to overcome some of his sloppy starting habits. For example, he has a tendency to brush his left toe along the ground during the explosive burst from the blocks, generating counterproductive friction. He's gotten better, and usually manages to avoid doing that now, but he does it today, the front of his left shoe scuffing the track as he whips his leg forward to take his second stride. The shoe also happens to be untied, a sloppy mistake, no excuse.
Within the next few seconds, the so-called drive phase, the heads of the runners begin to come up, and their bodies start to straighten, their spines unfurling as their strides lengthen. Although they are still grouped closely together — were the race to end at the 2.4-second mark, Bolt would come in fourth place, by a hair — another point of differentiation now emerges: Bolt is the biggest man in the pack. He's six feet five inches tall, 210 pounds. That makes him three inches taller and twenty pounds heavier than the second-biggest competitor.
During the drive phase, Bolt and the rest of the runners are all leaning forward at an unsustainable tilt, their torsos out ahead of where their feet impact the ground. They are basically in the act of falling down, face-first, but their legs, racing against gravity, are preventing that from happening, propelling them forward so hard and so fast that their bodies, instead of face-planting, begin to slowly rise up into a full upright position. Sprinters often describe this phase, when everything happens correctly, as being analogous to liftoff in an airplane.
By approximately the four-second mark, the drive phase has transitioned into the stage known as "full acceleration." The runners are now truly, in the classic sense, running, knees driving up ahead of their hips while their elbows drive back in the opposite direction, a plumb line between where the balls of their feet impact the ground and their chests cleave the air. And it is at this point that the ultimate difference between Usain Bolt and his competitors reveals itself. It is both a simple difference and one that, when you witness it, is hard to fathom.
When the other men reach their top speed, their limit, Usain Bolt continues to accelerate. By the fifty-meter mark, he has caught up to the leader. By the sixty-meter mark, a noticeable gap has emerged between him and the rest of the pack. By the seventy-meter mark, he is covering more than twelve meters of ground — about forty feet — every second, a pace faster than the speed limit for automobiles in most neighborhoods. Nobody has ever moved this fast before under his own power. Usain Bolt's top speed is simply significantly higher than anyone else's, ever.
His top speed is such a spectacle, so phenomenal, so searing that many who witness this race, who see Bolt cross the line in 9.69 seconds, breaking his own three-month-old world record by three hundredths of a second, don't notice, until they see the replay, what is perhaps the most salient and frightening thing about his performance: Approximately eighty meters into the race, twenty meters from the finish line, Bolt stops trying. It happens right after he throws a quick glance to the right, toward lane seven, the lane of his chief rival, a fellow Jamaican named Asafa Powell who held the world record before Bolt did. Prior to the start of the race, Bolt believed Powell was his only credible threat. Now seeing that Powell is nowhere in sight, that, indeed, no other runner is visible, Bolt lets something like a smile cross his lips. Then his arms stop pumping. He drops them to his sides, pulls his shoulders back, pushes his chest out, splays his fingers. His legs continue to cycle, but he no longer provides them additional impetus. He coasts. Several meters before he crosses the finish line, a full half second before he wins the 100-meter final by one of the widest margins in Olympic history, he brings his right fist up and thumps his chest.
As Bolt bounds toward his family waiting on the sidelines, kicking off his golden, unlaced shoes, beginning to do a Jamaican dance called the Nuh Linga, Ato Boldon, one of the men NBC hired to comment on the race, does his job and tries to put what he has just seen into words.
The frontiers of human performance, he says, sounding somewhat stunned, "have now gone into the realm of video-game times."
The sound of gunfire bursts from two speakers at once, one on either side of the television set. Usain Bolt flinches, flicks his left thumb forward on the nub of his controller.
"Run!" he shouts. "Run!"
Bolt is sitting on the edge of a king-sized mattress in his bedroom, one foot curled under him, the other planted on the floor. He's usually got a warm, open face, with a grin lurking near the surface, but right now his expression is as slack and empty as the wet socks hanging on the clothesline in his backyard. He and his younger brother, Sadiki, are playing a two-player mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Sadiki sits on a leather rocker next to the bedroom window, which is cracked open. A warm Jamaican breeze penetrates the room, causing the maroon-and-orange curtains to roil and billow inward, lapping up against Sadiki's cheek, but Sadiki doesn't seem to notice. He, like Bolt, is staring, rapt, at the fifty-inch Sharp HDTV that sits on the glass-topped entertainment console at the end of the bed.
They began playing soon after they woke up, at 10:00 A.M., and by 1:00 P.M., neither has moved, even to go to the bathroom, though Bolt has occasionally shifted his position, loosening his shoulders, stretching his back, switching from playing while sitting up to playing while lying on his stomach or his side. He's got scoliosis, a congenitally warped spine, and a significant portion of his training over the last few years has been devoted to dealing with this birth defect, trying to keep his back strong and supple.
At the foot of Bolt's bed is a partially unpacked suitcase. He got back almost a week ago from a publicity trip to Kenya, where he adopted a baby cheetah on behalf of the Zeitz Foundation for Intercultural Ecosphere Safety, a nonprofit that the chief executive of the Puma Corporation founded. Puma has been Bolt's sponsor for years, and his suitcase is basically a grab bag of the Puma freebies that make up the bulk of his wardrobe: sneakers, shorts, socks, shirts. Right now he's wearing khaki cargo shorts and a white tee. Under his bed, three new-looking pairs of sneakers are lined up, tongues lolling, next to a remote control and a sealed condom. Another condom sits on a chest of drawers next to the bed, along with a bottle of Jergens Age-Defying Lotion, a stick of Right Guard Xtreme deodorant, a bottle of Purelene Multivitamin Hair Food, a few ounces of Hugo Boss cologne, a ceremonial key to the city of Trelawny, and the passport he used on his trip to Kenya. On his next trip abroad, he'll have a new passport, since Jamaica's prime minister just made him an ambassador-at-large, a designation that comes with the perk of a customs-bypassing diplomatic passport, not to mention full diplomatic immunity.
Over the past few hours, he and his brother have hardly talked to each other, though Bolt did berate Sadiki at length when a terrorist's dog knocked Bolt's avatar down and started chewing his face off and Sadiki didn't do anything about it. "One thing," Bolt moaned, "I only needed you to do one thing!"
A couple of times they've had to pause the game when NJ, Bolt's best friend since first grade and personal assistant since Beijing, escorted visitors into the bedroom on business. A man named Clive Campbell, whom everyone refers to as "Busy," wanted Bolt's permission to provide the BBC with some footage he had of Bolt playing soccer. A woman named Kim from a local BMW dealership had a bunch of T-shirts she needed Bolt to sign. After Kim left, Bolt sent NJ out on a mission to track down a twelve-month Xbox Live subscription card, and he and Sadiki have been playing uninterrupted since.
Bolt was born twenty-three years ago and grew up, like Sadiki and NJ, in a remote village called Sherwood Content in the northwest quadrant of the island, a long way from here, the King's Vale gated community in Kingston, where Bolt's jet-black 2010 Skyline GT-R — a replacement for the 2009 BMW M3 he wrecked last year — squats in the driveway of his cozily swank whitewashed three-bedroom house, a few paces from the maid's entrance. Bolt's dad operated, and still does, a little shop in Sherwood Content that sells meat, eggs, milk. His mother worked in the fields, picking bananas, cassava, yams. Bolt's hometown remains the same sleepy place it's always been, though there's been a minor yam push there recently, with at least one company planning to export the local tubers worldwide, marketing them as the primal foodstuff of Usain Bolt.
There's another burst of gunfire and Bolt's portion of the screen reddens with blood. He's leaning forward a bit, his forearms resting on his thighs, his shoulders hunched, tense. More gunfire and he dodges to the right, both in the real world and the virtual one, his crosshairs losing their target. He sucks in air through his teeth, his whole body taut with effort, with anxiety, bracing for a final hit, another failure. But then, suddenly, unexpectedly, Sadiki comes through, finding the last terrorist, taking him out.
A banner unfurls on the screen — "Mission Accomplished" — and in the space of a heartbeat, Bolt relaxes, exhaling, flopping backward onto the bed, stretching his long legs out in front of him, pumping his fist, smiling, exultant.
It was close, but he made it. He won.
It's worth keeping in mind that there is a significant difference between the final seconds of Usain Bolt's gold-medal run in Beijing in 2008 and the final seconds of his victory this afternoon in Call of Duty. In the video game, right up until the moment Sadiki took out the final terrorist, Bolt was on edge, nervous, uncertain. It taxed him. He almost lost.
Beating the video game was a challenge for him. Executing the most dominant and effortless performance in the history of the Olympic Games was not.
Ethan Siegel, a theoretical astrophysicist at Lewis & Clark College, recently charted a graph to demonstrate that, judging by the incremental progression of the 100-meter world record over the past hundred years, Bolt appears to be operating at a level approximately thirty years beyond that of the expected capabilities of modern man. Mathematically, Bolt belonged not in the 2008 Olympics but the 2040 Olympics. Michael Johnson, the hero of the 1996 Olympic summer games, has made the same point in a different way: A runner capable of beating Bolt, he says, "hasn't been born yet."
Which raises the question: What would happen if the greatest athlete alive put as much effort into his training as he does his video games?
Bolt is lying on his back on the concrete floor at the top of a set of crumbling aqua-painted bleachers, one arm on his chest, the other flopped out by his side, holding on to the leg of a nearby massage table, eyes closed, gasping. The bleachers overlook a raggedy track on the outskirts of the Kingston campus of the University of the West Indies. The grass of the track is a sun-faded, watercolor green, much paler than the green of the mountains that rise up just beyond it. The pounding of countless footfalls has worn the grass away entirely in places, leaving bald spots of red earth. Bolt has just run six 200-meter half-oval repeats on the track. It was his first serious workout in months, since his recent trip to Kenya was preceded by a lengthy media tour of New York City, where he found himself doing things like appearing on Jimmy Fallon and racing the staff members of ESPN.
"Hey, Usain."
Bolt opens his eyes, sees the Racers Track Club masseur standing over him. The masseur shakes his head, pats his own stomach while looking down at Bolt's.
"What?" Bolt says, grinning, pulling up his T-shirt, exposing a six-pack, though one that is perhaps a bit more insulated than those of many of the other runners here today. Before arriving at the track, Bolt had scarfed down a typical lunch: a sandwich of cheese patties and coco bread, eaten one-handed from a greasy brown paper bag, his other hand working the controls of the deejay deck in his living room. Bolt pulls his shirt back down. The shirt is, of course, another Puma. It features a stylized picture of Bolt striking his now famous "Lightning Bolt" pose, one arm stretched to the sky, the other pulled back as though drawing a bowstring. Under the picture, two words: "Who Faster?"
Bolt eventually sits up, pushes himself to his feet with an exaggerated groan, and strolls over to where some of the other runners are clustered together, talking about movies.
"Law Abiding Citizen," says a hurdler, and then offers a five-word review: "Yo. Moronic! That shit's bad."
"Funny?" Bolt asks.
"No, not funny. Not anything."
Bolt likes movies almost as much as he likes video games. He might even star in a movie himself soon. The producer of Pumping Iron, the old documentary about Arnold Schwarzenegger, has been talking with his manager and wants to shoot a feature-length documentary about Bolt. But he's got mixed feelings about it. He thinks the movie would probably be a dud: "It would be boring. I don't really do much. Training. Play video games. Play music. I'm always home."
The quietest and youngest runner of the group is an eighteen-year-old 100-meter specialist named Jason Young. Young, by one measure, is blessed: He came from Bolt's hometown, attended Bolt's high school, excelled there, attracting the attention of Bolt's manager, who decided to take Young under his wing. Bolt himself has been kind to Young, makes an effort, often invites him over to his place to hang out and play Xbox.
By another measure, though, Young, like every other up-and-coming 100-meter specialist in the world today, is cursed. Over the last several decades, up until last year, the world-record time in the 100 meters dropped in tiny steps, the world's top sprinters swapping it back and forth, shaving off a hundredth of a second every year or so. Two or three elite runners at a time always seemed to be within a toe of the mark, while a wider pool of runners brought up the rear, poised to take their place among the elite. Bolt, by replacing the incremental drop in the world record with an exponential one, by doing approximately thirty years of damage in a single year, has undermined the fondest aspirations of an entire generation. Who faster? Nobody. Here or anywhere. Not now, and probably not for a very long time.
Glen Mills, who has been Bolt's coach since 2005, is down on the field, watching another one of his runners skip sideways down a row of hurdles, the young man's legs kicking up and over each one like a chorus girl's. A digital stopwatch hangs from Mills's thick neck, dangling just above his potbelly. Mills has close-cut gray hair, narrow eyes, a perpetually sardonic expression. Were someone to have charted a graph depicting Bolt's story up to the point that Mills became his coach, it would have shown a steep parabolic trajectory, a rapid rise followed by a precipitous fall. Like many promising runners, Bolt had come out of nowhere, burned brightly for a few years — setting a number of junior records — then appeared to have burned out. In 2004, at seventeen years old, Bolt made the Jamaican national team and competed in that year's Olympic Games in Athens, but his performance there was poor: He never made it past the first round in his only event, the 200 meters. His progress stalled, then reversed.
"When I got him, he was injured," Mills says. "Also, his coordination and all those things were off. And his scoliosis was affecting his hamstring. So we had to do some work." Much of that work consisted of not working so hard. Mills cut down on Bolt's high-intensity workouts and put him instead on a training regimen that emphasized strength and flexibility, building up his core muscles to compensate for his problematic spine, honing Bolt's body and technique until he was ready to fully harness his gift. Although Bolt continued to compete, for the two years of 2006 and 2007, he didn't place first in any races. It wasn't until 2008 that Mills's training regimen came to fruition, and the world took notice of what had been taking root at this worn track on the grounds of an old Kingston sugar plantation.
Soon Mills noticed that some of his younger runners, realizing that they could never hope to match Bolt but not prepared to give up their world-conquering dreams, shifted their attention from the 100- and 200-meter distances to other events, to hurdles or longer distances in which they might still hope to make a mark. The 400, for example.
As it happens, a group of five 400-meter runners is rounding the oval right now, their last circuit of today's practice, and though it's not a real race, you can tell from across the field that they're trying hard, shoulders stiffening, cheeks bellowing, each wanting to win. Bolt and the others stand up and cup their hands to their mouths and start shouting encouragement. Bolt rarely races the 400, hates the long practices, the lung-searing, vomit-inducing arduousness of the extra training required to run that distance at an elite level. Still, he thinks that someday he might give the 400 a serious go. And the general consensus in the world track community is that if he were ever to dedicate himself to the 400, he could dominate it as thoroughly as he has the 100 and 200. And after that? Who knows. But he's kind of interested in the long jump, too. At this point, there's every reason to believe that Bolt is like Alexander in his prime, a young conqueror whose future conquests will not be determined by ability but simply by desire and discipline.
As the pack of 400-meter runners approaches the bleachers, the final bend, Bolt suddenly skips down the steps to the track. He's taken off his running shoes, is back in his usual pair of blue Puma flip-flops. When the runners come abreast of him, Bolt shoots a smile back at his friends in the bleachers, jumps out beside the straining, struggling runners, and sprints easily to the finish line in first place, arms raised in mock victory.
The route from the track back to Bolt's house passes a billboard that evidently has been up for a while. It's an ad for a local car dealership, and it features a picture of Asafa Powell leaning up against a Mercedes. "The Fastest Man in the World," it reads. Asafa Powell's world-record time in the 100, set in September 2007, was 9.74. Usain Bolt's latest, set at the World Championships in Berlin in August 2009, is 9.58. Incidentally, toward the end of that race, just as he had in Beijing, Bolt glanced over his shoulder and, seeing nobody was near him, slowed down before the finish line.
Powell and Bolt, though they train with different coaches, are friends. In fact, as soon as Bolt gets home, he will shower, change into slacks and a short-sleeved button-down shirt, and head out to the Pegasus Hotel, which is hosting an event honoring the launch of the Asafa Powell Foundation. At the event, in front of a crowd of a couple hundred people dressed in suits and gowns, Bolt will present Powell with a check. Later, at the podium, Powell will mumble good-naturedly that public speaking, for him, is as impossible a task as beating Usain Bolt.
Other runners, past and present, haven't been so gracious. Carl Lewis, for example, suggested in 2008 that anyone who, like Usain Bolt, can drop his 100-meter time from 10.03 seconds to 9.69 in a year has to be viewed with skepticism.
Darvis Patton, an American sprinter who ran in the 100-meter final against Bolt in Berlin, was asked for a comment about Bolt immediately after the race. Patton shook his head, then echoed the video-game analogy Ato Boldon had employed the year before in Beijing, but with an ambiguous twist. "There are no words to describe him. He's like a created, game person," Patton said. Then he thought for a moment and added, "He's like a cheat code."
Bolt, of course, swears he's not cheating. He says he doesn't even like to take legal supplements, that he's willing to be tested anytime, anywhere.
But Bolt's manager, Norman Peart, is keenly aware that it will take more than words to make his client wholly credible. It's only natural that people are skeptical, he says. He brings up the cases of Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin, two American 100-meter champions whose careers were destroyed not long ago by drug revelations. Prior to the revelations, Peart says, Jones and Gatlin had repeatedly "sat down just like me and you, and they went, 'I have never!' And 'I'm gonna sue so and so!' And they cried. And then ..." He shrugs. "Just the same way [Bolt looks], that's the way Marion looked, that's the same way Justin looked. Who are we to believe?"
The problem is compounded by the fact that these days there are plenty of substances Bolt could be taking, from human-growth hormone to designer steroids, that remain effectively undetectable.
"You can beat the system," Peart says. "You try to get something they can't find. Whatever. So that's the thing in people's minds: Are these guys one step ahead?"
Actually, putting all questions of chemistry aside, Bolt is not just one step ahead but three. When he set his latest 100-meter record, it took him forty-one steps to reach the finish line. The second-place finisher, the American Tyson Gay, required forty-four steps to cover the same distance. So the simplest, most literal explanation for Bolt's speed is this: He cycles his stride nearly as quickly as other sprinters, but his stride length, owing to his longer legs, is significantly greater than theirs. Or even simpler: He's a tall man who runs like a shorter one.
"That's his gift," Coach Mills says. "Over everyone else. That's what makes him special."
And what's the explanation for this gift?
"Only the good Lord can tell you," says Mills.
Which is to say, whether you believe in Usain Bolt is ultimately a matter of faith.
There's another HDTV hanging on the wall in Bolt's living room, above a shelf that is packed, like most available surface area in this house, with various awards and memorials, including a two-foot-tall abstract bronze statue of Bolt in which he looks kind of like the Sandman villain from Spider-Man, his skin sloughing off in waves. The TV is tuned to MTV Jams, which is showing the video for the new Chris Brown song, "I Can Transform Ya," but you can't hear Chris Brown at all because Bolt is blasting, at club-level volume, from speakers hooked up to a set of Pioneer deejay decks on a coffee table, Bob Marley's "One Love." Actually, you can't really hear Bob Marley, either, because Bolt has used the mixer to fade Marley's vocals and is singing the chorus himself. He's sitting on an overstuffed leather sofa, holding a wired mic flush against his lips. A pair of headphones scissors his skull above his ears. He's got a high, paper-thin singing voice.
"Let's get together and feel all right," he croons, holding a hand out toward an imaginary crowd. "Sing it together," he says. "Sing it!"
Most of the people in this room — Sadiki, NJ, and Bolt's bodyguard — aren't paying any attention to him. They're all busy doing other things, texting or Facebooking or Web surfing. They're used to these midafternoon deejaying sessions of his, used to ignoring them. Deejaying fascinates Bolt. He even entered a deejaying competition recently, and he lost to a former Miss Jamaica World. Undeterred, he remains a diligent, if not particularly precocious, student, keen to learn and get better. Most afternoons, he spends an hour or so here in his living room and tries to get his utterly disinterested entourage moving.
When they refuse to sing along to "One Love," he finishes up one more round of the chorus himself, then fades the song all the way down.
"Yeah, and we end that one on a good note," he says in a sort of self-consciously baritone deejay voice, smiling broadly, then executes a few scratches on his deck's turntable before using his MacBook to cue up the next song.
"All right, let's try some hip-hop," he says. "No more reggae now. You know what I'm gonna play now? Anyone know what I'm gonna play?"
" 'You're a Jerk,' " NJ says, sounding bored, without looking up from his own laptop.
"You know?" Bolt says, looking surprised, and a moment later the first verse of the song, which is the same as the chorus, which is the same as the title, fills the room.
"You're a jerk! You're a jerk! You're a jerk!"
The song is by a group called the New Boyz. It's hard to call it a song, actually, since it's more of a single hook line repeated, ad nauseam, over a desiccated drum-and-synth beat. It originated last year in southern California and has since spawned a minor dance craze, The Jerk, which washed up in Kingston. Bolt throws himself into it, dancing as best he can on the couch, his arms executing rhythmic backward circles, as though he were doing a sort of flailing backstroke.
His friends continue to ignore him.
The head of the International Olympic Committee criticized Bolt's dancing during the 2008 Olympics, saying that Bolt's dances after his gold-medal performances in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4x100-meter relay — dances known respectively as the Nuh Linga, the Gully Creepa, and the Tek Weh Yuhself — smacked of showboating and were disrespectful to the other athletes. The criticism of his dancing was part of the larger critique that's often leveled against him, which is that he doesn't take running seriously enough. There's a perception in some quarters of the athletic community that Usain Bolt is the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of track and field, a prodigiously gifted individual who is also something of a wastrel and clown. Certain people, when they see a man perform superhuman feats, want that man to carry himself with superhuman gravity. Bolt, by this measure, never fails to disappoint.
And personally, he couldn't care less. When he was younger, he says, the only thing he wanted to do was please everybody around him, from his fans to the media. But after his disastrous showing in Athens in 2004, Bolt sussed out the heartless calculus that underpins critical and public opinion: "I figured out that as long as you're not doing good, they're going to criticize you, and if you're doing good, they're going to love you." The epiphany was a liberating one, in that it allowed him to disregard basically everything — from the dizzying adulation to the steroid speculation — that people have thrown at him since then. "I figured it out, and I was like, okay ... I've gotta put me first. And then I just started enjoying it."
He tries to get Sadiki to get up and do the Jerk, but Sadiki's busy on his BlackBerry, so about thirty seconds into the song, Bolt throws off his headphones, puts down his mic, jumps over the coffee table, and does it himself, his Puma flip-flops sliding on the tiled floor as he starts sort of skipping backward in place. It's a goofy dance, but he's a good dancer.
His entourage can't ignore him anymore, and they're watching him now, but he doesn't see them. He's got his eyes closed, his ears open, his body moving.