Life imitating art
By Brian Murphy
Special to Page 2

It's official at The Cooler now: The war is fodder for comedy.

Understandably, when human lives were in harm's way, war comedy was not a hot commodity.

Saddam's art
Still no word on whether his painting of dogs playing poker survived.
Now that human lives are mostly out of harm's way, we turn our attention to a BBC radio report I heard on Friday that, until someone convinces me otherwise, I will say was straight from the pens of the men who wrote "This is Spinal Tap."

The report's topic: The art found in Saddam Hussein's palaces.

The take: Well ... let's just experience it the same way I did in my car radio, heavy on the pure comedic serendipity.

The earnest BBC radio man began by saying: "It has long been a stereotype that the palace of brutal dictators are marked by two features -- endless supplies of ammunition, and unspeakably bad art. In the case of Saddam Hussein, U.S. forces found, the stereotype was depressingly true.''

My ears perked. We had sown the seeds of comedy.

He went on: "U.S. Marines' eyes were assaulted with atrocious wall art in Saddam's palaces, paintings that centered on the constant theme of Aryan heroes rescuing big-breasted blondes from monsters who closely resemble Shrek."

I swear I'm not making this up.

He continued: "If there was a theme to Saddam's art, it was the constant theme of low-grade comic book."

I checked my watch quickly, to make sure it was not April Fool's Day. It was April 18.

Saddam's art
Wait, is that velvet? Classy!
He kicked it over to a BBC art analyst from the London Museum of Art, or some such thing, who kept the comedy at a Ruthian level. He went on with some analysis of the art, then said: "We've seen this art before, and we've seen it on T-shirts and album covers from the 1970s."

As if this weren't rich enough, the reporter kicked it over to another art analyst, who brought the comedic hammer down: "You would hope Saddam had close advisers who would have had him set his artistic sights higher. Here he is, in the Fertile Crescent, in the cradle of human civilization, with all sorts of artistic inspiration, and he's settled for wall art that runs heavy on the theme of masturbatory adolescence."

Too much. Just too much.

This called for a phone call to my boy T.C., who did not disappoint, heading immediately to his workplace computer for Google and typing in the keywords "Fantasy Art" and "Damsels and Dragons." He sent me a few attachments, including a Led Zeppelin cover, for pure giggles.

So this is what it's come to, we decided: The U.S. military has overrun a Dungeons and Dragons convention from 1979.

Life, man. Life. You can't script this stuff. We won't even get into "Dr. Germ." (Wasn't he a villain on "Batman"? Did Frank Gorshen play Dr. Germ and The Riddler?)

Let's go straight to the Weekend List of Five, instead:

1. The biggest little city in the world
That's right, dwellers. Friday night in Reno, I spent.

Reno, Nevada
Come for the gambling, stay for the buffet.
Try and replicate the adrenaline rush you get from arriving in a Nevada gaming town, still an hour before the West Coast ballgames get underway. As my girl and I wove our way through the Silver Legacy, and as we neared the familiar grease boards and wall of TVs, I felt like Duvall in "Apocalypse Now": '"I love the smell of a SportsBook at dusk," I told her, "It smells like ... victory."

Betting on baseball: Man, what a feeling. The closest you can get to being Pete Rose, without having to endure the haircut.

Naturally, three hours later, my Giants-over/A's-under/A's-to-win parlay was up in smoke. My betting slip was torn into neat little pieces, and laid in a familiar funeral pyre by my ice-cold lager. For the record, my girl hit on her Angels-over/A's and Angels-to-win parlay, and the Murphy Family lived like royalty for a night in Reno. God bless the lovely and talented wife.

We ruled the Silver Legacy like pre-April Saddam ruled Baghdad. It was our oyster. And what a sight: Neon everywhere, flashing lights, sinful temptations.

Reno -- just like Pottersville in "It's a Wonderful Life."

That do-gooder George Bailey should have just washed away in the storm, as far as The Cooler is concerned. Reno is much more fun.

2. Giants-Dodgers: Still matters, after all these years
Sunday night was radio-only from Chavez Ravine, which afforded a moment across the old-school airwaves.

Dave Roberts
Rumor has it Dave tripped on a beach ball trying to field this ball.
Giants analyst and former pitcher Mike Krukow watched a beach ball plop on the warning track at Dodger Stadium, and mused: "How many beach balls do you figure Dave Roberts has to fetch in one season?"

Krukow's query was equal parts genuine question and barely-disguised disgust. He's a fine analyst who can, through the eyes of a pitcher who won 124 big-league ballgames, take you through an at-bat better than almost anyone in the land; and yet, he retains the endearing traits of a flat-out homer.

This is all part of a beautiful rivalry that, into the 21st century, still stirs childhood thoughts -- wondering how many beach balls a Dodger center-fielder has to haul in from April to October. 'Cause at Pac Bell, that's a pretty easy one. Marquis Grissom will haul in zero beach balls this year. Roberts? With 81 home games? I'd put the over-under at 51.

See, I can talk freely of Dodger Stadium's shortcomings, and Dodgers' fans shortcomings. If I did this in '78 or '81 or '88 I'd be accused of being a Bitter Giants Fan. But not now. For six consecutive years, the Giants have finished ahead of the Dodgers. Six years! This has not happened since the 1930s, and the effect for Giants fans is roughly akin to that of a Baghdad resident who watched that Saddam statue eat it. For years, we were afraid to say anything, for fear of harsh reprisal in the form of a Ron Cey ninth-inning RBI single, or a Burt Hooton complete-game shutout.

Now? We speak our mind freely, and heave chunks of concrete at the fallen Tommy Lasorda statue in the town square!

3. Dusty's Chi-Town magic
Cubbie fans: Welcome to Dustiny, population ... you and Johnnie B. Baker!

Dusty Baker
Bottom line -- everyone wants to play for Dusty.
With a 12-7 start and a first-place spot three weeks in, you are all enjoying what Giants fans basked in since '93 -- your squad managed by a cool cat, a former stud player, and a guy players just want to be around. Nice. Understand, this is not about envy. Nor do I wish a little Schadenfreude on You, since you have Dusty, and the Giants don't, even though my boy Sheik, in a recent e-mail, derisively referred to Dusty as "Toothpick Man" for Dusty's refusal to use Kurt Ainsworth last year.

No, sir. Giants fans are just fine with Felipe Alou, and can give you 15 out of 18 reasons why.

Just thought we'd give a toast of the Dixie Cup to the newfound romance between the City of Broad Shoulders and their new import from the City Where Some Guys Don't Like Broads.

The buzz at The Cooler always was that Dusty and Chicago would be a good fit:

He digs jazz, and what's more Chicago than some Billy Strayhorn on the manager's CD player before a Sunday home game?

He's a ball lifer who plays on hunches and feel, and what town loves and appreciates the game and that sort of coaching better than Chicago? (That is, until a five-game losing streak, when you dump Old Style on his taxi as it pulls out of Wrigleyville one afternoon.)

He uses the word "dude" and ... well, we can't really come up with a marriage between Chicago and the word "dude." Some imperfections only serve to highlight life's otherwise beautiful happenings.

Enjoy it, Midway denizens!

4. The NBA playoffs
Yeah, we'd spend more time chatting about the NBA playoffs, but let's be honest here. With the first round moving to best-of-7, there's a serious chance the first round will last longer than the freaking war.

The NBA could use a little less David Stern, and a little more Tommy Franks.

That said, it's the Lakers World -- every other NBA schlub just lives in it.

Every NBA analyst I've heard says the Lakers are the team to beat, again; that home-court advantage means nothing to those guys; that they're going to win it all again. Thus proving the point, once again: The NBA regular season is worth about as much as the Iraqi dinar.

Wake me in mid-May. Till then, we'll go Rip Van Winkle on this stuff.

5. Rampant fans
Carl Everett
"Hey, Carl! Can you hear me now? Good!"
Guy chucked his cell phone off Carl Everett's head this weekend in Oakland. Before we proceed, we must marvel at the sheer efficacy of the toss. Did it from the second deck. Give that guy 100 more tosses of the cell phone at Everett's head, and not only does he miss 100 times, but he falls out of the second deck 30 of those times. The incident did produce Everett's best line to date. Asked how his day went, Everett answered: "It was sort of Verizon-ish." Of course, after that he started discussing the myth of the Triceratops, so we can't always spend too much time pimping Everett's quotability.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm the sort of guy who bums out when he can't locate his cell phone -- mostly because it's work issue, and I'd have to report it as lost, and it'd go in my ever-growing, demerit-laden work file. I can't imagine parting with it, via heave. Maybe the guy received a text message from one of the Chicago Ligues, reading: "Dude: Try heaving this phone off of Carl Everett's head. If you hit, I'll spring for your next tat."

You remember the Ligue dynasty. We all do: The shirtless father-and-son attack on Royals first base coach Joe Gamboa at Comiskey last fall; like Andy and Opie Taylor, only on crystal meth. Their spirit was revived last week when another Comiskey looney tune tried hand-to-hand combat with umpire Laz Diaz, the central problem being Diaz did not invite him to engage.

We may be reaching Euro Soccer land, dwellers. It may be time to ring the field with the electrical fence. If some cat beats that, I say arm each dugout with easily-accessible cattle prods. We need to steal a page from the Nurse Ratched-electroshocks-Randle P. scene and just pump some sheer voltage into these guys.

Holy cow. Listen to me. I sound like Saddam Hussein.

Say, anybody got some black velvet art for sale?

Brian Murphy of the San Francisco Chronicle writes the "Weekend Water Cooler" every Monday for Page 2.



Brian Murphy Archive

Murphy: Masters of our domain

Murphy: Somebody has to lose

Murphy: Welcome to Cooler Day!

Murphy: Spring is in the air

Murphy: Here's to Ew

Murphy: A barren wasteland

Murphy: Tiger gets his Phil

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