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Stranger Things than the Phoenix Suns, Vol. 4

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NBA: Summer League-Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings, Bright Side frens.

As we wind down August, it is time once again for the biannual installment of Stranger Things than the Phoenix Suns. It’s a perfect day for it, too! For one, there’s still nothing going on with the team — at least nothing I have interest in writing about at present. And second, I had a lot going on yesterday and needed a ready-made story I could write weeks in advance. Voila!

Now, being a respectable-ish newsman, I take great pride in staying abreast of things, especially considering how difficult that was for me back in high school. And there’s a veritable mélange of news outside basketball to be abreast of. Seventy earthquakes shook the Ring of Fire last week in a 48-hour period, including one that registered a magnitude 8.2. That volcano in Hawaii? It calmed down just in time for Hurricane Lane to come storming up the Pineapple Express. Wildfires have reduced California to a charcoal briquette. And a baggage handler took a commercial airplane from the SeaTac Airport for a joyride — but not a joyland.

You see? There are big news happenings all over right now, but since they don’t fit into the Phoenix Suns mold, they don’t merely get short shrift here, they get no shrift. That’s why it’s up to me to take these important stories and squeeze them and shape them and manipulate them into the Phoenix Suns mold like a pair of Bright Side Spanx. Well, not these stories. More like stories about Internet challenges, weaponized snakes, and medicinal staring. You know, the good stuff.

Standard disclaimer: This is a basketball article in the loosest sense of the definition. Calling it a basketball article would be as irresponsible as claiming Sylvester Stallone’s defining role was as Lincoln Hawk in the film Over the Top. And considering this is volume four, that means there have been three prior installments of this venerated series (here, here, and here) to give you an idea of what’s forthcoming. You have been more than duly warned, so if you somehow reach the end of this article, furrow your brow, and utter aloud “Wait, where was the basketball stuff?” at your screen, know how much I worry about you.

With that all squared away, tighten your seat belts, folks. Here comes Stranger Things than the Phoenix Suns, Vol. 4!

He’s got the look

Health and wellness are topics near and dear to my heart, and when I get talking health and wellness, it usually involves lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow and her brand, goop. But while I, personally, could spend hours gabbing over the bounty of suggestions goop staffers make, like luxury spas offering time-tested energy cleanses involving a masseuse rolling an egg over one’s presumably naked body to capture energy flows, there’s a whole wide world of wellness to explore.

Today, we’re traveling to Croatia, home of Dragan Bender, cravats, and of course, Braco.

For the handful of readers who are unfamiliar with Braco or his life mission, he is best described as a healer, although he doesn’t describe himself that way. Braco helps others in a way that is unique to him, without touch, sound, or medicine of any kind. Instead, he simply stares at them, connecting with the sun’s life and light and channeling that energy into his audience, with miraculous results.

According to testimonials on Braco’s site, one man who attended a gazing had his 10mm kidney stone completely disappear. Another person’s vision improved. Yet another had a broken bone heal. The list goes on. And it’s not just physical, either. Most testimonials are about things like cured depression and anxiety, discovering one’s purpose in life, and attaining a greater love for others.

His gaze is so powerful, it can even reputedly fix DVD players. And do something to ovaries that I’m not entirely clear on.

(One word of warning. His website clearly states his gazing services are only for adults. Children and pregnant women beyond their first trimester need not apply. Yeah, it’s that potent.)

Attendees of a gazing often come away with a deep sense of inner peace, friendship, and trust, and why wouldn’t they? After all, a strange man whose mentor died under suspicious circumstances has been staring at them in silence for five to seven minutes. What’s not to trust?

Braco selflessly shares his gift with hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year both in person and through live streaming and asks for nothing in return other than for those people to selflessly share their money with him — and maybe buy some merchandise. But really, it’s a small ask in return for having the sun stared into you…or something.

Phoenix already tabbed a Serbian as its head coach this offseason. It’s time to add a Croatian to the training staff. Sure, he’s a former economist, not a doctor or physical therapist, but there are multiple pictures of him on the Internet looking contemplative while standing near the ocean. What more do you need?

Yes, I can hear the skeptics of Braco and his amazing gift now, shouting hogwash and poppycock and poppywash and…uh…hogwash, again. They’ll claim his gift sounds like what you’d get if you mixed Earl Watson and Bill Walton, distilled the combination down to its core essence, and then mainlined said essence.

So?

Just imagine: Braco staring at the Suns players on the court, in the locker room, in the showers, his wondrous eyeballs never leaving the team. Glorious. The Suns would be impervious to injury. No situation would be too stressful. Technical fouls would vanish. Mental blocks would unblock. Team chemistry would be off the charts. And best of all, the Suns would have all the wins!

But it’ll never happen. Robert Sarver would never pay him, instead settling for broadcasting the live stream on the scoreboard every couple weeks. Figures. Let’s get a REAL owner in here!

Challenge accepted

Internet challenges. We love ‘em here at Bright Side. Heck, our dear leader, Dave King, even participated in one.

The Cinnamon Challenge. The Ice Bucket Challenge. The Mannequin Challenge. The Tide Pod Challenge. The Thigh Gap Challenge. The One-Finger Selfie Challenge. Internet challenges like these and others have existed since time immemorial. Back in my day, we just called it two idiots in the back of the classroom stapling their thumbs when the teacher wasn’t looking. But as is always the case, the public demands more, and the challenges are becoming more dangerous as a result.

Take the Kiki Challenge (or Keke or whatever), where the challenged hop out of a moving vehicle to dance to Drake’s “In My Feelings” in the middle of the street. The fad has led to several mishaps, including a brain injury to an Iowa teen that left her re-learning how to walk.

Or how about one similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge but with a couple important tweaks: using boiling water instead of ice water and dumping it on someone else instead of yourself. Colloquially called the Hot Water Challenge, some choose to continue calling it by its original name: felony assault. A teenager in Indiana was left with second-degree burns on his face, back, and chest after his friend “challenged” him while he slept. In the Bronx, a preteen girl suffered burns over 85 percent of her body during a sleepover. What constitutes success in this challenge isn’t entirely clear.

And then there’s the Fire Challenge. If you think it can’t possibly be what it sounds like, you’d be wrong. It’s just putting a flammable substance on oneself and setting it ablaze. Predictably, there have been incidents.

What’s next? The Wolverine Challenge, where you try to sleep through the night with an angry wolverine under the covers? (I imagine bonus points if it’s either rabid or separated from its young.) Maybe the Windex Challenge, where you empty a bottle of Cool Blue Gatorade, refill it with Windex glass cleaner, stick it in the back of your refrigerator, and see how long it takes you to forget doing that. The Bobcat Challenge could be on the horizon, where you try to make love while listening to a Bobcat Goldthwait album. Or maybe some challenge involving an air horn and a skittish horse.

The possibilities for broadcasting stupidity to the world are nigh endless. After all, the Suns are entering year two of The Point Guard Challenge.

Hollywood ending

The world was captivated this summer by the story of a youth soccer team in Thailand that got trapped in a cave for over two weeks when flood waters came rushing through.

Twelve boys between the ages of 11 and 16 entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system in northern Thailand with their coach on Jun. 23, but heavy monsoon rains flooded the system, trapping the players and coach two and a half miles from the mouth of the cave.

They were discovered alive on Jul. 2 by two British divers, and a complicated effort to save the 13 members of the soccer team got underway soon after, with assistance from a host of nations around the world. With oxygen levels dropping and more monsoon rains forecast, rescue divers were able to get all 13 out of the cave on Jul. 10.

Of course, now Hollywood wants in. Several movie studios are already jockeying for rights to bring the soccer team’s story to the big screen, and Thailand’s government has pushed back, insisting on control over how the events are portrayed.

No matter which studio ultimately secures the rights to the story, expect a lawsuit from Suns owner Robert Sarver to follow immediately, claiming the idea of a team trapped in darkness for an interminable length of time was his idea first.

Definitely a Slytherin

A man in Texas was arrested in late June for allegedly biting the rattle off a rattlesnake and leaving the still-living snake in his neighbor’s RV after a dispute.

Keith Monroe, who owns the RV the snake was found in, acknowledged running disputes with his neighbor, Ryan Felton Sauter. They culminated, authorities said, in Sauter finding a rattlesnake, biting off its rattle so it couldn’t give a warning before striking, and then setting the poisonous snake loose in Monroe’s RV.

According to Monroe, when he caught Sauter leaving his RV and asked why he’d been in there, Sauter said, “You’ll see why.” Monroe spotted the snake coiled in his RV soon after and killed it with a machete before calling authorities.

Sauter was charged with deadly conduct and criminal trespass of a habitation.

Snakes have become an oddly common method of conflict resolution in recent years, with two men in Canada throwing a garter snake over the counter of a Tim Hortons after getting into a dispute over diced onions in 2014. In fact (this might not be fact), conflict management manuals now list six possible strategies for resolution: Accommodating; Avoiding; Collaborating; Compromising; Competing; and Have a Snake, Ya Dick.

Sadly, we can but speculate at the number of snake-based resolutions enacted amongst the Phoenix fan base during the fabled Ayton/Doncic Wars of 2018.

Can’t decide what shirt to wear? Why not both?

Have you ever looked down at your shirt and thought: “You know, this shirt I’m wearing is good, but it’d be even better if it had another shirt stapled to its front.” If you haven’t, then you probably don’t work at Balenciaga.

Balenciaga, a luxury fashion house founded in Spain and currently owned by French company Kering, made quite the splash in the world of high fashion when the Internet learned the Balenciaga website was selling something called the T-shirt Shirt. In principal, the offering is a T-shirt and button-down shirt sewn to each other at the shoulders. The website explains the garment offers two wearing options: “wear the short sleeves shirt with the front drape effect or the long sleeves shirt with the back drape effect.”

It’s perfect for anyone trying to recreate the look of a five-year-old whose mom let him pick out his own outfit for the first time.

That’s not to say the T-shirt Shirt doesn’t have some merit. For instance, by engaging the front drape effect and wearing the T-shirt, you have a handy napkin when eating barbecue ribs. Or, what if you find yourself caught in a gangland shooting? It may not be Kevlar, but with the button-down shirt covering your front, you now have two extra layers of lightweight breathable poplin between you and a perforated large intestine.

Meanwhile, engaging the back drape effect allows the wearer to create the impression of a business casual office worker who is also wearing a T-shirt as a cape. You’re practically guaranteed to catch the eye of any woman you approach — and make her immediately regret giving you her number when you walk away.

And at the low, low price of just $1,290, it’s a must for anyone looking to let the world know they make poor life choices.

The T-shirt Shirt joins other prominent high fashion offerings in the annals of things someone decided to make. Like Balenciaga’s $1,050 Number Shirt, which is an oversize button-down shirt with a giant phone survey number emblazoned across the shirt’s chest. Or Bronze 56k’s Extendo pants, which are $500 jeans with a nearly 9’ inseam. Yes, these items, too, were scoffed at; genius is never appreciated in its time.

But if the Suns want to prove themselves a nimble franchise and get ahead of the curve, they have a perfect opportunity to catch the competition napping.

In recent seasons, the Suns generally haven’t been as good as their competition, so why not duct tape the opponent’s jersey over their own? Yeah, we can all see the Golden State Warriors are winning. But which Warriors? What’s that? Stephen Curry just passed the ball to Devin Booker on three straight possessions because everyone’s wearing the same jersey? You bet he did, thanks to the Jersey Jersey.

Thank me later.

Or now…if you want.

Dear diary

Seeing the human side of public figures is distressing for many. The new information often conflicts with the mental image constructed of them and rattles the pedestal their celebrity status has placed them upon, if not toppling it completely. For instance, imagine learning that in real life, Mr. Rogers was a terrible neighbor. Or that Cookie Monster gobbles down cookies not because he loves them but to cope with his anxiety over Snuffleupagus’ stage 4 trunk cancer.

Yeah, not pretty. If only an oncologist had lived on Sesame Street instead of a unibrowed trash monster.

But I’m getting off topic. Back in May, researchers used new technology to decipher hidden text on two pages of Anne Frank’s famous diary that she had pasted over with brown paper. Underneath the paper, researchers found several jokes described by Anne Frank herself as “dirty” as well as commentary on women’s sexual development, sex, contraception, and prostitution that can only be described as…wait for it…frank.

In the section detailing the sexy time, she describes a young woman getting her period as “a sign that she is ripe to have relations with a man but one doesn’t do that of course before one is married.” Ugh. Really, Anne? Ripe? Are young women no different to you than cantaloupes in the produce aisle? Should we be checking to see if her blossom end yields slightly when pressed while we’re at it?

She goes on to say of prostitution: “All men, if they are normal, go with women, women like that accost them on the street and then they go together. In Paris they have big houses for that. Papa has been there.” This passage raises some questions, namely: How does Anne know so much about Papa’s brothel visits?! Dear God, she’s just a ripening little girl! I mean, I hate to say it, but it might be time to revoke Papa’s World’s Greatest Dad mug.

And for a taste of the jocularity, one joke asks “Do you know why the German Wehrmacht girls are in Holland?” and answers with “As mattresses for the soldiers.” That’s…actually not terrible.

There was some controversy over whether the contents of these pages should be disseminated at all, considering Anne herself hadn’t intended for others to know what was written on them. Laureen Nussbaum, a childhood friend of Anne’s, argued that the pages should have remained hidden, citing author intent. Others argued that the demands of history outweighed author intent and that Anne’s original intent had already been altered when her father, Otto Frank, included passages from her private diary alongside what she had intended for public consumption in The Diary of Anne Frank.

Either way, these assumed lost pages of Anne’s diary add another layer of understanding to one of the most prominent victims of the Holocaust — an image that may not be welcome by all, just as the release of her unedited diary wasn’t years ago.

If that wasn’t enough, early June brought with it the release of one of Albert Einstein’s diaries from his travels through Asia in the early 1920s. Inside, he didn’t mince words when speaking about the Chinese, calling them an “industrious, filthy, obtuse people.” Einstein also wrote it was a “peculiar herd-like nation” and that its citizens were “often more like automatons than people.”

He would also observe:

“Chinese don’t sit on benches while eating but squat like Europeans do when they relieve themselves out in the leafy woods.”

As one can imagine, this rankled some people. In the aftermath of the diary’s release, there were pushes to boycott Einstein, which considering the physicist has been dead for 63 years, raises some logistical questions about what specifically would have been boycotted. The laws of physics? Spacetime? Bagels? Hard to say.

Ze’ev Rosenkranz, senior editor of the Einstein papers at CalTech and a scholar on Einstein’s life, attempted to put the entries in context. While not defending Einstein’s statements, he cited common biases during the time period that Asians were inferior to those in the Western world and pointed out that Einstein was complimentary of the Japanese people, describing them as “unostentatious, decent, altogether very appealing.”

“We need to look at his politics in a more complex manner,” Rosenkranz said. “We can’t ignore either the positive nor the negative aspects.”

For many, though, these revelations irrevocably sullied the image of the kindly genius with the funny hair. How could anyone use him in a meme again? He is now tainted whereas before he was perfect — as long as one glossed over a good swath of his personal life.

Both Anne Frank and Albert Einstein are celebrated public figures for their contributions to the world today, easy to remember in their best light. So what to do?

Well, this could strike some as a radical idea, but hear me out. Perhaps it’s best to understand that neither was a Mary Sue but rather a human being. Einstein was a genius physicist who, despite suffering persecution himself, battled his own biases. Frank was an ordinary girl coming of age under extraordinary conditions, not the canonized depiction of purity and innocence that fits neatly into the good versus evil dichotomy.

It requires embracing the kind of complexity most often found in the world, a complexity that rarely results in a satisfying conclusion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish writing about the infallibility of Jerry Colangelo as owner of the Suns before picking up several dozen packages of hot dogs for this evening’s combination weenie roast/Sarver effigy.