" That's just the sort of blinkered, Philistine Pig ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage!"

John Cleese

Thursday, January 31, 2008

For your viewing pleasure.

Though this is eight years old, I would have paid four camels and a goat for an intern to run up, poke his stomach and say, "Who's my little doughboy?"

Ya know, just to see what would happen.

Per Deadspin via TheBigLead.

Ding, Dong The Witch is Dead!...And Phil Watch

Johan Santana had more wins (13-6) against the Chicago White Sox than any other team in baseball.

He just dominated them.  For some prospective, in 2005 - the year the Sox won 99 games and the World Series - Santana was 4-0 with an 0.92 ERA against them.

And the Mets handed over the bulk of their farm system (but not Martinez) to get him, sending four of the top seven prospects, according the Baseball America.  It was volume over quality w/r/t the Twins for the most part.

Johan Santana is silly good.  Yes.  

But BRG's favorite sports columnist, Phil Rogers, compared him to Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson today.
Crap.  He couldn't just write a realistic, down-to-earth article analyzing the trade and its effects on both leagues.  He had to do that.

Let's get started (it's a short one as Phil just regurgitates other media reports):

Because the 28-year-old Santana is taking his eye-popping fastball-changeup combination from the hitting-heavy AL to the pale and sickly NL, he becomes not just a good bet to win 20-plus games but to string together a bunch of seasons with an ERA below 2.00.

He wasn't traded to the Vinton School of the Blind and won't be facing a league of visually-impaired 8 year-olds, will he? 

Phil.  The NL is not good, meaning it is not as good as the AL in the relative sense.

A few notes.  Santana will be 29 when the season starts, something that's absolutely relevant when factoring in a pitcher whose arm has logged over 900 innings the last four years and a pitcher that some scouts noticed diminished velocity, a hesitancy to throw his usual amount of sliders (to be fair, some didn't think it was an issue), has a history of minor shoulder problems and gave up a crapload of long balls (33) last year.

Again, Santana's silly good.  But Koufax?  Gibson?  No.  

And let's say a bunch of 'sub 2.00 ERA seasons' is four.  Koufax didn't do it.  Neither did Gibson.  Is he going to cure cancer and end world hunger as well?

Koufax and Gibson pitched in a definitive pitcher's era; Santana in a ridiculous hitter's era, for various reasons.

JHC, control yourself.

Most had assumed that 19-year-old outfielder Fernando Martinez, the Mets' top prospect, would have to be in any deal for Santana. But Smith did the deal for 22-year-old outfielder Carlos Gomez, a speed-and-defense guy who should replace Torii Hunter; potential ace Deolis Guerra, who is only 18, and advanced pitching prospects Kevin Mulvey and Philip Humber.

'Most' is flat-out not true.  If I gave a list of Mets prospects to my 6 year-old niece and asked who the Twins should get, she would probably say 'nawba un', but everybody in the know saw it as speculative speculativeness on speculative speculation and noted the Minaya didn't want to part with him.  

When Johan gave a Tuesday deadline for a deal, Martinez went from 'hardly an option' to 'bring up his name and I will stab you'.

For a great recap of how all this unfolded, check out Buster Olney's article on the trade.  For shits and giggles, compare the levels of writing between Buster and Phil.  This is your national baseball columnist, Chicago.  Consider yourself blessed.
Or something.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ralphie, Get Off The Stage, Sweetheart!

Ok. I know all the arguments. I get it. I've heard from countless Apple dorks about how superior their product is to PC based. I've heard you loud and clear. I understand that Mac is preferable to PC in alot of different ways, but I gotta say my personal experience has been exactly the opposite.
My IPOD crapped out on me about a week ago. I was trying to upload new software to it (because the computer told me to) and ZAP--done. Out. I did the menu/center button thing and still nothing. So, yesterday I went to the zoo..i mean, the Apple Store at Oak Brook mall. My God, even the people working there are too hip for the room. Anyway, after waiting about an hour I was told that there was nothing I could do. It's done. 3 weeks after the warranty expired. Gee, who'da thunk it?
Now, that makes 2 Apple products I have owned in my life and it makes 2 that have completely conked out and then being told there was nothing I could do except "buy a new one".
Conversely, I have owned my current PC Dell laptop for 3 years. And nothing. Not one goddamn thing has gone wrong. Nutin. Zilch. Zero. Bupkis. Yes, I would like to get a new one because there are new functions on the new HPs for example I would like to have. But my good ol' nerdy, old school, unhip PC laptop keeps chugging along while my IPOD has become my new doorstop.
While at the mall, I figured I would do a little browsing at the sports memorabilia store. Why? Because I like overpriced bull shit I guess. Anyway, a guy was in there with his son. The kid was about 5 or 6 maybe 7 and the dad called him "sweetheart". It sounded very odd to me. Sweetheart to a boy just sounds wrong. I don't mean to be all Hank Hill but you call a boy "buddy" or "sport" or "champ" or whatever. Not "sweetheart". Am I wrong?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wanna feel dirty?

Among the vast array of detritus on a certain recruiting website that I become a member for exactly one month per year around this time, a poster offered up this treatise on Jerramy Stevens from the Seattle Times, a former highly-rated tight end from the University of Washington who seems to have a propensity for doing terribly icky things.
It's entirely long and entirely worth it.

TheBigLead also picked it up and it smells like this could get interesting to say the least.

A summary of Stevens' legal troubles per Wikipedia.

Monday, January 28, 2008

OBP: Because more runners means more runs, people!

I'll summarize Phil's column today.
Tampa Bay might be better and Kevin Towers is a good GM.

What are the contractual obligations for a senior columnist at a major newspaper and where do I sign?

On a baseball note, SoxFest is officially over and 670TheScore gave it wall-to-wall coverage all weekend.  

Usually a two day terdfest where every mouth breather from Cicero finds it an annual rite of passage to get their undies in a bunch and act like they could run the team better, this year didn't disappoint.

Kenny Williams made some bold (read:  mildly risky) moves this year in an attempt to get moderately younger, control payroll and improve the team's biggest achilles heel in the last few years - on base percentage.

Staty stats:  Last year, the White Sox hit .246, good for dead last in the majors.  More telling, their OBP of .318 was dead last as well, a truly awful number.  Remember Darin Erstad last year?  It's like having 25 Darin Erstads.

Last year's positional lineup and OBP compared to new additions:

2007 2008

C .285.....Pierzynski has a .328 career OBP - should improve slightly.

1b .340.....About Konerko's career number.  2006 - .381.

2b .323.....Richar/Uribe will probably meet this number again.

3b .275.....Ugh.  Fields' minor league OBP was .360; Crede's gone.

ss .279.....Ugh, Ugh.  Cabrera's OBP was .340 the last two years.

lf .332.....Quentin's minor league OBP was a whopping .427.

cf .308.....Swisher's career OBP is .361.  Owens MiL OBP was .362.

rf .331.....Dye's career OBP is .337 with a .385 mark in 2006.

dh .389.....A healthy Thome meets or exceeds that.

The White Sox were 28th in runs scored last year.  That's bad.  

But the tweaking of the lineup this off-season is a significant improvement w/r/t OBP.  

Say that leads to a 1/2 run more per game, everyone doesn't have career-worst years and, like last year, half the team doesn't slip in the shower and miss a month of the season.  That's a realistic expectation.

Also, the Sox hit .242 as a team against left-handed pitching last year, resulting in a 16-28 record. Swisher, last year, hit .291 against lefties with Cabrera hitting .308.

Offensively, they're fine. 

Pitching?  That's a conversation for another day.  

Sox Inter Alia:  No más Aardsma!  Traded for two marginal minor leaguers after being DFAed.

Random Thoughts On a Monday

Thoughts, Observances, etc. for a Monday:

If I hear one more fucker say, "the new U2 in 3-D movie is better than the real thing!", I'm going to puke. Only in this age of gnat like memory and sound bites would people actually think going to a movie of a concert be better than actually being there. Hell, bands, just tape it and we can watch you on tv!

I ate a Double Stuff Oreo yesterday for the first time in about 10 years. Holy shit. I forgot how fucking good they were.

Rent the movie 'Once'. It's fantastic.

Do NOT rent the movie 'the Heartbreak Kid'. It's awful.

Why is it a foregone conclusion that the White Sox are going to suck this year? I'm actually thinking they may be good. Of course, that doesn't jive with the conventional wisdom that Detroit is so much better because they got Dontrelle Willis. (News flash--He sucks!)

That commercial for AT&T Wireless where the guy leaves a bunch of messages for the girl he went on a date with.....stop playing it. I swear to God I saw it 40 times yesterday.

If you are in advertising, it is no longer cute when you have a Super Bowl party "for the commercials". It's just kind of self aware and sad.

I would really like to thank whatever guy it was who was the first bachelor at his bachelor party and had the balls to just go, "You know what..I really don't wanna do a strip club."..Thank you, whoever you are.

The last 4 times Ive gone into a public bathroom to take a piss, there has been a guy taking a shit in one of the stalls. Fine. That's what a bathroom is for but can we pump some music in, please?! God, the silence is disgusting.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Phil Watch: He hates it when statistics get in the way.

In an otherwise pedestrian offering from Phil today, a few gems are to be had.
Why he spends the first half of the article analyzing the Reds' acquisition of Jeremy Affeldt is beyond me, especially with SoxFest this weekend and the fact he wrote Baseball America's top 10 prospects list just two weeks ago.

Well, Dusty Baker used to be the Cubs' manager.  That's a link. 

But let's see what he has to offer.

Ten years after his pro career began, Jeremy Affeldt finally had a breakout season in 2007. He made 75 appearances out of the bullpen for the Colorado Rockies and then pitched in seven of 11 postseason games for the National League champs.

Breakout season?  Affeldt's ERA last year was 79th among MLB relievers with 40 or more innings pitched.  His WHIP was 99th.  

Yes, he made 75 appearances last year...for a total of 59 innings.  Do you know what that means?

Pretty much a lefty specialist.  Not quite a LOOGY (lefty, one-out guy) but certainly a guy brought in when a couple of lefty hitters are due up and is on a relatively short leash (or a GBIWACOLHADUAIOARSL).

For evidence of such things, look to Affeldt's aforementioned appearances in 7 of 11 postseason games.  A grand total of 5.1 innings.

Just some things to mention next time Affeldt warrants an article.

On the whole, it has been a solid winter for Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky. He lured Baker out of the ESPN booth, then scored a major coup by signing free-agent closer Francisco Cordero, who was second in the NL with 44 saves for Milwaukee a year ago. But he also needed to add at least two proven arms behind his 1-2 combination of Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo.

Phil continues to want to have Dusty's children.

And the Reds gave Cordero the largest contract ever given to a closer.  To him.  With these numbers.  And a career .309 BABIP, good for 143rd last year as an imperfect comparison.

Solid winter?  How would it be solid if they didn't find starting pitching depth.

The only thing Krivsky accomplished this winter is something he didn't do, like giving away the farm - particularly Votto and Bailey - for Erik Bedard.

Affeldt, 28, was more or less guaranteed a spot after agreeing to a one-year, $3 million contract. The Reds' top scouts believe he has the stuff to succeed as a starter, remembering how he filled that role with some promise for Kansas City in 2003.

Again, a few clicks away on these internets debunks these sorts of 'promising' tags.  In 2003, Affeldt started 18 times, going 6-5 with a 4.39 ERA, a 1.41 WHIP and a .320 BABIP.

For a frame of reference, Odalis Perez had a .320 BABIP last year, good for 163rd.  By the end of July in 2003, Affeldt was moved to the bullpen.  

I guess he did say 'some' promise.  His arms didn't fall off.  And he's not exactly praising the move.  Or is he?  Is he?  I'm still a bit confused.  

Phil then moves on to 'unfilled needs' around the league:

•Power hitter, Dodgers—Juan Pierre figures to be even less productive in left field than he was in center, but the four years left on his contract precluded GM Ned Colletti from adding some needed pop. Andruw Jones gives the lineup one hitter who had more than 20 home runs a year ago, but he had only 26 and is moving to a tougher park. Rookie third baseman Andy LaRoche gets a chance to make Nomar Garciaparra a utility player.

This is just lazy.  Really.  Just look it up.  It's further evidence that Phil's reference books at his desk were last updated in 2001.

In 2007, Dodger Stadium was the 13th most homer-friendly park in the majors.  Turner Field was 19th.

2006, Dodger Stadium - 7th; Turner Field - 17th.

2005, Dodger Stadium - 12th; Turner Field - 21st.

Oh, and Andruw Jones hit 92 homers in 2005 and 2006 combined...in a park with a well below-average park factor.

10 Most Overrated Movies of All Time (Part 5)

Before we start with my latest, I'm going to mention a few honorable mentions for the list. Christo, if you wanna do a write up on these go right ahead. I didn't have the strength to put myself through another viewing:

Garden State: I'm risking bodily harm on this one because the future wife absolutely loves it. It falls into the whiny, boring, self important, quirkie indie category. And it has Zach Braff in it. Therefore, I fucking hate it.

A River Runs Through It: I almost got in an altercation over this one when it first came out. I very nearly fell asleep. And the guy watching it with me was so enraged he threatened me. Wake me up when something HAPPENS!

JFK: Can you believe this piece of shit got nominated for Best Picture?! It's complete and utter fiction in it's sloppiest form. There are actually people who take it as a factual piece and that is so scary it's mind boggling. It also explains alot.

Ok, onto my latest entry.

This pains me to no end. The 'Star Wars' franchise is my youth. It brought me so much joy and happiness at a young age I often claim it as the reason I decided to become a writer. The way the first two episodes of the trilogy transported us into another place and another world was so goddamn wonderful that I still will watch either of them when they come on. In fact, if you go to my profile you will see 'Empire Strikes Back' is second only to 'Fargo' as my favorite film of all fucking time. It is exactly what a blockbuster should be: exciting as hell, good versus evil, intelligent and engaging with a bunch of cool ass monsters and machines. It's perfect escapism filmmaking. The end leaves you wanting more. You can't fucking wait until the next installment. And then it comes....and it's shit.
I went to see 'Return of the Jedi' at least 8 times in the theater when I was a wee ten year old. I loved it. Of course, it was fucking 'Return of the Jedi'! I think five of those times was with Christo. But I digress...'ROTJ' was the precursor to the two atrocious 'prequels' that would befall us 16 years later. It is precisely when George Lucas stopped making the films for fans of the franchise and started making them to woo new ones. In other words, kids.
I hadn't watched 'ROTJ' all the way through in probably 12-13 years until the other day. I had seen bits and pieces over the years and almost always watched it for 5 minutes at a time. I finally saw it in all it's glory with an adult's eyes. And it's awful. Truly terrible.
There really isn't anything good in it. Even Darth Vader comes across as cartoonish and kind of, well, stupid. But let's start with the first part: Jabba's palace. Yikes. It is basically a Muppet House of Horrors. It kind of looks like a really elaborate episode of 'Fraggle Rock'. Jabba, while huge and disgusting, isn't terribly menacing in any way, really. He just sort of sits on a throne with some rat-like thing that looks like Gonzo.
He has Han Solo encased in the middle of his room and an elaborate plan is hatched to free him. Princess Leia disguises herself as a bounty hunter and sells Chewbacca. Not sure why. She then goes into the room while they all sleep and frees Han with the ease of changing ones windshield wiper fluid. When Han asks who just frees him she answers, "Someone who loves you."..Barf. Even at 10.
It pretty much goes on from there as a completely silly montage of muppets and slobber. Luke fights a giant pit monster, Leia gets put in a steel bikini (actually pretty cool) and the droids get jobs with Jabba. All this time, Han perfectly accepts the notion that Lando Callresian, who last he saw was selling him to a bounty hunter, is here to help him. And he does. Meanwhile, while they are about to be put into some weird hole, Luke perfectly executes an escape with the help of R2-D2 and his catapult (?). And Han kills the only cool character (Boba Fett) in an embarrassingly comic fashion. Complete with a belch.
Luke then visits Yoda, who in a splendid case of perfect timing, dies right as he gets there. But enough time to confirm to Luke that Darth Vader is indeed his father. OK, here we go. Now, we're gonna get somewhere. Hold the phone.
Darth has been visited by Emperor Palpatine (the Master of Evil) who is played with such cartoonish silliness by Ian MacDiarmid that to call it overacting would be an insult to the cast of 'Saved by the Bell'. Somehow, this completley castrates Darth and he is summoned to the 'command ship' of the newly built Death Star 2.
The rebels go to some planet called Endor to deactivate the shield that protects the DS2. Okaay...fine. But, wait, Emperor Play Dough Face knows they are going there and sets up a trap. But guess who comes to save the day? The most atrocious and awful beings ever to ruin a movie in the history of film: THE MOTHERFUCKING EWOKS! Teddy bears with spears. THIS is what brings down the Empire. This? These fucking midgets with fur? Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously. Ewoks. Holy shit. It's so bad you can actually see the embarrassment in Harrison Ford's face as he goes through the motions in the scenes with them. Watch him next time. Do it.
During all this, Luke and Vader have an unimpressive showdown with the Emperor watching. It's weird and stupid. But, long story short, Vader kills the Emperor and we finally get to see the face of Vader. Finally. We've been waiting. What;s he gonna look like? Probably bad ass. Nope. It's a bald, fat guy with a burn mark on his head. This is who we've been scared of all this time? This fucking jerk off? (Incidentally, this is a precursor to Lucas disappointing us once again in the otherwise good 'Revenge of the Sith' and his Vader reveal. He actually turns to the sky and goes "NOOOOOOOO!". Painful.)
The acting is bad, the action is pedestrian and the pay off is awful. It's almost as bad as 'Attack of the Clones', which is saying something.
And I didn't even get to Admiral Akbar!

Friday, January 25, 2008

10 Most Overrated Movies of All-Time

In the vein of Mate Famber's superlative skewering of a movie that supposedly "defined a generation", let's go back a few decades.
Easy Rider, a film delving into the often contradictory and extraordinarily complex world of the late 60s, lays it on so thick that it's difficult to not feel like you're being beaten over the head with its symbolism embedded in every scene.

Every fucking scene.  And heavy-handed symbolism at that.

Maybe it was because it saw Easy Rider after Gimme Shelter, creating a framework for my 20 year-old brain.

Maybe it's the reverence with which so many people speak about the film.

But mostly it's the myth that Easy Rider not only 'defined a generation' (more of a coda than a definition, in many respects) but that it showed that movies could be made on a low budget with a definitive anti-hero/culturally-defining message and be successful.

This is the real bullshit.  Peckinpah, Fuller, Truffaut, Bertolucci, Russell, Polanski, much of the French New Wave canon, the Beat Generation, early Post-Modernism and the good Spaghetti Westerns made/written up until that point were doing this long before Dennis Hopper.  

And many of them used two concepts lost on Hopper:  subtlety and grace.

It's the throwing of the watch at the beginning of their cross-country ride.

It's the omnipresent hammy dialogue that tries to illustrate the characters' thoughts on every subculture currently represented in America at the time.

It's the 'shocking' death scene at the end immediately followed by a pan-up to the clear blue sky.  I can see both Hopper and oodles of moviegoers at the time saying, "That's truth, man!"

Rip that off more!  

Easy Rider serves as a definitive work for many films to follow in one way - compile every technique you've ever seen into a horribly unoriginal script, be overly obvious with your intentions and pass it off as a raw exploration into 'how we feel today'.

Slap a tragic ending on it and it's box office GOLD!!!  

But hey, with what Nicholson had to work with, he was great.

We're just making up ways to be offended...

The perfunctory Dana Jacobson post.
With so much in recent years to be less than proud of, the Catholic Church finally found something to get their undies in a bunch.

Something they could get all self-righteous about and deflect any residual attention away from that whole priests diddlin' little kiddies flap.

But Dana Jacobson?  Really?  That's where you're going to take a stand?  

Catholic League, it's time to be quiet now, especially since new details have come to light.

Let's review what Dana said at the roast for Mike Greenberg & Mike Golic (????):

"Fuck Notre Dame!"

Wit ya.  Preach on, sister!

"Fuck Touchdown Jesus!"

Still wit ya, obviously a supplemental joke buttressing the argument that Notre Dame and its fans seem to think Jesus want the Fightin' Irish to win contests played with an oblong ball in a confined space with men wearing stuff that apparently looks like this.

"Fuck Jesus!"

Uh no, she's gonna get some crap for that.  Vodka makes me go one step too far as well.  

But it's a roast!  Traditionally a no-holds barred zone where, if lines were crossed, they dealt with it by brutally mocking the offending person into oblivion.

But wait!  She didn't even say it, reported by a guy that was actually there?  And the Catholic League still is pushing the issue?  

That's where the transparency occurs.  The Catholic Church finally found their Swift Boat.  

"Don't look here.  There's much more interesting things happening over there."

I'm not one for defending the Worldwide Leader, but it's obvious that ESPN hasn't released the tape because it would just extend the silliness.

Can this please stop now?

And a roast for Mike & Mike? 

(In the voice of Wallace Shawn)  Inexplicable!!!

In other news, this is just too funny.

10 Most Overrated Movies Of All Time

I love John Hughes. I really do. He has penned and/or directed some of the best comedies of the last 25 years, if not ever. "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is one of the few movies I actually pop in the DVD player on occasion. And "Uncle Buck" is one of my litmus test movies. If you don't like it, IMO, there is something seriously wrong with you. And the scene where Chevy Chase finally blows up at his family in "Vacation" is still one of the funniest scenes in film history. (We're gonna be singing Zipidi-do-da out of our assholes!!)
His resume needs no defending. It speaks for itself. Very few comedy directors/writers have a string of truly memorable and smart streak of films.
However, one of his that gets thrown in is his 1985 teen "dramedy" (must..push...back..bile), the whiny, astoundingly dated "the Breakfast Club".
You're probably are going to see a bit of a trend in alot of the movies I nominate for this list. I have a very low tolerance for whining. I really don't relate to the "whoa is me" , inner child psychobabble that permeates so many films. Seeing as at the time this movie came out, my family was on food stamps, I had a difficult time really relating to North Shore rich kids and their problems. Did you go to school today with Wonder bread wrappers on your boots? Oh, no? Daddy expects too much of you? I had mustard for dinner, asshole!! Cry me a fucking river.
The worst perpetrator of this is the character played by Emilio Estevez. See, he's a wrestler who has Division 1 talent and a dad that pushes him "too hard". Nobody ever asked Emilio if he wanted to do it. And this makes Emilio cry. Don't ya know jocks have feelings, too? Adults totally suck, man. Now, Emilio did fine work in a movie that came out around the same time, "Repo Man" ( a film that may make it on the Top 10 Underrated Movies of All Time), but in this one he's rigid and kind of glassy eyed.
Molly Ringwald plays her typical mid 80s stuck up White girl. She was great in "Sixteen Candles" and is probably the least offensive of all the characters, mainly because she's innocuous. Who gives two shits about the popular, pretty girl? But you know what? She has pressure, too. It's not easy being rich and wanted. Is it? You sensing a trend here?
To round up the high school archetype stew,we have a nerd played by Anthony Michael Hall, a Goth/weird chick played by Ally Sheedy and the stoner/loser/punk played by Judd Nelson (who looks like he's 36 and probably was).
Sheedy and Hall's characters do the same thing as Estevez and Ringwald: whine. But Nelson's character has the most potential. He's actually engaging and interesting. You root for him, you maybe even like him, but then....the whining. His dad beats him up. Probably for whining too much.
There's a scene toward the end of the movie where all 4 sit around in a circle and tell stories about stuff. Then Hall talks about how he brought a gun to school and contemplated suicide. It's quite possibly the most egregious 80s overacting put on film. Then, by some amazing turn of events, Ally Sheedy and Emilio Estevez hook up! Why? She's no longer goth! She's a prep! Wow, she's actually worth his attention now!
And, naturally, Ringwald and Nelson hate each other but they really have the hots for each other. That particular plot point that was required in every script made from 1984- 1993.
All this happens under the watch of the Guidance Counselor who has it out with the Janitor. And you'll never see this coming--the janitor is smarter than all of them!! Wow!
Then they all go home with their awful parents except Judd, who walks through the football field and for some reason pumps his fist in the air. End. Cue quintessential 80s song, "Don't You Forget About Me"....
This movie would've fit perfectly in the 90s. Whiny, introspective to the point of exhaustion, completely implausible and dating itself even as it's being made.
There is no better movie to encapsulate why we should just forget about the 80s and move on.
(ed. note- IMDB was down and I couldn't remember the character's names. So, went with the actor)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Things To Do With Your 600 Bucks

The government is giving us money. Yeah, I know it's money they already took from us but hey, it's 600 smackers! Here's a list of stuff you can do with it when you get it to jump start our economy and do your part! Yeah, America!!

Eat at Red Lobster 7 times!

Get half a tracheotomy

Pay your property taxes for a whole two weeks

Buy a bike (it'll come in handy when the bank takes your car)

Fix that crack in the hallway drywall (you know for prospective vultur.....i mean buyers)

Do a really elaborate joke at work (laughter really takes the edge off when your house is about to be foreclosed on)

Buy groceries (You can get a King's Ransom at Aldi's with 600 bucks!)

Save It For A Rainy Day (all this will pass because corporate America will pick itself up off the dirt and rally! Yes, it truly is Morning In America!)

10 Most Overrated Movies of All-Time

I don't walk out of movies.
It's a whole 'I paid for it and, even if it's bad, I want to see just how bad this will get' thing.

I walked out of The Royal Tenenbaums.

For contrast, I didn't walk out of Moulin Rouge, an abysmally abysmal picture that, even now, induces a slight queasiness even at the thought of it.

Some disclosure:  We were a little tipsy during our first viewing so we gave it another chance a couple weeks later, entirely sober, with the same result.

I've seen the whole film since and it didn't get better.  Not even close. 

Wes Anderson, up until that point, was one of my favorite directors.  He created worlds I hadn't seen before.  He certainly had influences deeply rooted in literary post-modernism and his films closely mirrored the sort of ennui of Harold & Maude.  

And Rushmore and Bottle Rocket, to a lesser extent, are two of my top 20 favorite movies of the 90s.  They carried with them a sort of genuine affection for the material that I loved. 

Oh fuck it, I was on a Delillo/Foster Wallace/Pynchon/Auster kick. I could and would excuse a lot.

The Royal Tenenbaums could not be more opposite and could not, in any way, shape or form be excused.

I'm not going to get into the plot because it is so precious and so consciously convoluted, I'll just get mad.  Let's just say it's an absurdist exploration into an absurdist rich family in New York City with tedious and absurd results.

It's so eager documenting its own quirky universe that it passes farce, flies past tedium and goes right into a big pile of shit. 

Even the names of the characters - Chas, Margot, Etheline, Royal, Pagoda, Richie, Eli, Raleigh St. Clair - conjure up black bile.

It's the track suits, the overly ornate set designs (yes, you like color symbolism, we get it), the pause for effect masquerading as comedy and dying for a laugh track.  It's the inexplicable lack of character development from a film loaded with bizarre exposition.

And it's not an anti-film or deconstructionism, as some acquaintances have professed.  It's just a magnificent example of a film wanting to be all things to all people under the guise of esoteric and farcical existentialism.

So much wink, wink, nudge, nudge that I came to immediately hate it with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns and would easily make it into the middle group (3-5) of the top ten most overrated movies of all time. 

And I wholeheartedly second Mate's American Beauty nomination.  Me thinks the turn of the century may provide more than adequate fodder for such listy-type things.

Nominations to come over the next couple of weeks.  Final list coming soon.

10 Most Overrated Movies of All Time

In keeping with the tradition of Christo and his 10 worst MASH episodes, I've decided to start a recurring topic for we idiots here at BRE: The 10 Most Overrated Movies of All Time! Christo, I hope, will join in on this. I hope to sporadically/not so sporadically post additions to the list.

The continuing debate over "Juno" has got me all riled up, I guess. Time to slaughter some sacred cows. No, "Juno" won't be included. See my review if you want to know what I think or check out the back and forther on "All You Care to Eat"...

Anyway, at #10 is a film that film critics, audiences, Oscar voters and pretentious intelligista fell in love with...and I fucking loathed: "American Beauty".

I recently rewatched this film because I hadn't seen it since the first (and only) time I had watched it. I figured that maybe I was missing something. After all, almost everybody I know loved this movie. Maybe I was in a bad mood, maybe I was distracted, who knows? You know what? I hated it even more the second time!
Where do I begin? Okay, how about a voice over that begins the film from a guy who is fucking DEAD! Or the insufferably pretentious plastic bag caught in an updraft. God, just thinking about it now makes me shudder in pain.

Anybody who knows me knows that I hate, hate, fucking HATE pieces of art that thumb their nose at their subjects and yet give no alternative to it. "American beauty" is a prime example of this. It's arrogant. It's pretentious. It's boring. That's the worst thing. It's dull. Nothing really happens of note. It just sort of lumbers along and gives us no real reason to care. Yeah, it's semi interesting to see a guy deevolve into a mess but what's the bloody point?! So, he can fuck his daughter's friend? Is this what we're invested in? Who cares?
Annette Benning, whose supposed to be so wonderful, gives an over the top and grating performance.You can see her acting. I'm beginning to believe that the easiest type of performance in American cinema is the crazy, bored suburbanite. It's easy.

Kevin Spacey, who is one of my favorite actors, got so many accolades for his portrayal of Lester Burnham in this picture, and I just didn't get it. What was his character supposed to be? A bored suburbanite (been there, done that) or a grotesquely unlikable jerk. Some would say both but there has to be a resolution! There really isn't. He's a perv. Done. Wow. What insight.

And, honestly, I saw Chris Cooper's stereotypical sturn father being "gay" about 5 seconds after I met the character.

"AB" suffers from the same thing "Juno" does. It's too aware of itself. The wheels spin too hard, the words come across as labored and the acting is just too "actory". (ed. note-- the acting in 'Juno' is first rate. IMO)

It also suffers from the Big Chill effect, as I call it. There's too many goddamn things going on. Could we focus, please? Between Spacey and Benning and Cooper and that neighbor kid asshole and the chick Spacey wants to fuck and the interminably annoying Thora Birch (where'd she go BTW?) I forgot what the fuck the point was!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

You know...they die in threes.

Sick of that yet?

I guess we should be thankful that we live in a society that remembers the recently dead in a fond manner.

It's the polite thing to do and a world still yielding to such mores is a good thing.

But Heath Ledger, while he was a fine actor and seemingly a quiet, good guy, is reaching Wellesian proportions in the public lamentations of his death.

Yes.  He died too young.  And he took some challenging roles with generally positive results.

I liked Brokeback Mountain, for the most part.  I didn't like The Patriot but I could tell he was going to be a pretty good actor.

But I'm going to say it.  He was a pretty good actor...and that's probably it. 

CNN, a news organization that seems to not even be trying anymore, has given round-the-clock coverage while their web page (screenshot on the right) has given their feature story slot to him since the death.

The Chicago Tribune made it local, of course.

And the New York Times continue their diligent reportage into the details surrounding his death and career.  

A.O. Scott, an incredibly level-headed and smart film reviewer at the Times, compared Ledger's taking of the Brokeback Mountain role to James Dean taking the role in Rebel without a Cause.

And so on and so on.

Maybe I'm still bewildered by the adulation Anna Nicole Smith received following her death.

Maybe it's some vague notion that our celebrity-obsessed culture only knows overkill, nothing else. 

But really?!  Is it really this much of a story?  

Slow news month? 

Update:  Slate's Dana Stevens wrote an obituary-type article on Ledger.  In the piece, she also compares Ledger to James Dean and...Marlon Brando in the indirect way journalists do by mentioning what others are saying and not only not refuting it but building on it.

Two Quick Things

Fred Thompson may have ran the most half assed Presidential run in my lifetime. Seriously, did you ever see a guy go through the motions more than him? I really don't think he wanted to be President in any way, shape or form. Gotta kind of admire that.


A guy at work said today upon hearing of Heath Ledger's death, "Good riddance. I don't have much time for fags." After I nearly choked on my Coke, I informed him that Ledger wasn't, in fact, gay but he did portray one in a movie, he said, "Same thing." Wow. Just wow. On so many levels.
(ed. note-- I belive Ledger also played Casanova in a movie. Good riddance, I don't have much time for male whores!)


Oh, We Silly Writers...

and our idealistic ways.
My friend, Don, recently posted something about writers and while he was talking about mainly playwrights (which I don't really consider myself anymore) his point was basically (and I'm paraphrasing), "writers need to stand back while we actors and directors interpret your stuff the way we feel is right."
I don't have an argument with the notion that a play or film is almost always at it's best when it is an amalgamation of everything. The actors, the director and writers being on the same page (no pun intended) is essential to having a solid piece of work. It can't be all about the director or the cast or the script. No argument.
But my question is, why are the writers the only ones who have to sit back and let their work be questioned or changed? If we do, we get charged with the label of being "rigid" or a pain in the ass. I don't see the same thing with actors or directors. I guess it's the old saying, "Actors get the glory, directors get the credit and the writers get the back seat." I'm not buying it anymore.
I blame Robin Williams and to a lesser degree, Will Farrell, Vince Vaughan, etc. but I really blame the writers and writer/directors who sit back and let it happen!! Improv is a tool, it is not something that should be a cornerstone of a scripted piece. The reason we writers tend to get frustrated with it is that it adds dialogue to a scene we wrote with pacing we slaved over and words we WROTE FOR A REASON! Improvisation and ad-libbing should be a spice to a dish, not a gravy!
These "improv heavy" films are , to me, clunky and unfocused. The filmmakers I admire and try to emulate don't encourage it very much or if they do they streamline it: the Cohens, Payne,
Sayles, others. Woody Allen is the only one I know of that encourages it and that's probably because he knows most actors won't fuck with his lines.
I don't think writers should be out there telling directors how to direct or actors how to act but they need to start standing up for themselves when their words are getting fucked with. Any writer worth his salt should stand up for them and defend it! Not sit back and accept this notion that the script is a "blueprint". God, I hate that. It's not a blue print, it's a script! If you wanna do improv go to Second City.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Phil Watch: He doesn't watch baseball, he only writes about it.

Phil's back!
And apparently he stopped watching baseball in 2004.

In an effort to write something - anything - in a slow baseball news month, we are offered this little ditty about the Scott Rolen/Troy Glaus trade. 

Advantage, Toronto Blue Jays.

On the surface, Scott Rolen and Troy Glaus are very similar players, with Glaus' numbers supporting his end of the argument.

He's 31, Rolen is 32. He hit .262 with 20 homers and on-base/slugging numbers of .366/.473 last season, while Rolen hit .265 with eight homers and an alarming .331/.398 combination. Their career highs show Glaus at .284-47-102 and Rolen at .314-34-124.

Similar?  Well, they're both third basemen.  

And Rolen will be 33 when the season starts.  According to the law of diminishing baseball returns, kinda relevant.  

Phil's beginning to quote OBP and SLG.  That's a good sign.  Maybe he'll apply these to a current Cubs shortstop that is rather brutal w/r/t such things.

BTW, wouldn't totals from the last three years be a better barometer, at least to lay a foundation, especially when the title of the article identifies Rolen as an 'elite player'?

Rolen's three-year averages:  .274/.347/.452.  That's an OPS of .799, good for 83rd in the league last year, just above Randy Winn.

Other Rolen three-year averages:  12 homers, 60 rbi, 28 dbls; numbers remarkably similar to the three year averages of...you guessed it...Randy Winn

I may not know much in this life, but I know one thing.  Randy Winn is not an elite player.  

When labeling someone an elite player, how he performs in the last three years are, in fact, relevant, injuries or not.

Rolen is one of the best ballplayers in the major leagues and Glaus is a streaky hitter capable of carrying his team for a month every season. Rolen was a foundation player with his teams in Philadelphia and St. Louis; Glaus, who at the time faced major issues with his back, wasn't offered a chance to stay in Anaheim after 2004, when he reached free agency, and now Arizona and Toronto have traded him in a two-year stretch.

How does one mention Glaus' injury issues and not bring up Rolen's?  

I'm an Angels fan.  Glaus nearly singlehandedly won the 2002 World Series with numbers like these.

But now?  Not so good.  Never a good fielder.  And  quite juicy.

So he's kinda bad/kinda risky with potential upside.

Two of the last three years Rolen played in St. Louis were the definition of 'injury-plagued'.  At one time, I was expecting leprosy to enter the picture.

Rolen as Foundation Player?  So was Brady Anderson at one point and time.

He (Glaus) will be with his fourth team in five years, moving this time after a mention in the Mitchell report (receiving steroids through the mail in 2003-04), and is only two years away from free agency. Rolen, signed for three more years, provided the kind of stability that any franchise needs...

Rolen will retain his full no-trade clause and is owed $11M/year over the next three years.  

With his performance over the last three years, he's, by even the most basic of definitions, kind of a risk.

And he's coming off major shoulder surgery.  Not even a mention?

Rolen believes the surgically repaired left shoulder that was the center of many of his clashes with La Russa will be fine this season.

There it is.

But HE says it will be fine. Well fuck, let's play ball!!!

Rolen couldn't have been more engaging when he met with reporters in Toronto after the trade. His acquisition already had been a big hit with the Blue Jays' players, especially a pitching staff that should allow dozens fewer runs with the seven-time Gold Glove winner at third base.

Let's say 'dozens' is about five dozen.  That's sixty runs a year saved by Rolen according to Phil.

And that's bullshit.  A really good fielder, according to most experts, saved about 3-5 runs a month, totaling 18-30 a year.   

Rolen has clashed with La Russa and Larry Bowa,both of whom have had their problems with other players, but receives ringing endorsements from two of the other managers he had in Philadelphia.

One thing I know.  Assholes usually don't get along with other assholes.  There's just too much assholishness getting in the way.

With Frank Thomas, David Eckstein and Rolen, the Blue Jays have upgraded three of the nine spots in their batting order the last two years.

And a lineup most apt to pull all their hamstrings and have their arms fall off on one play in unison.  

I forgot Phil was a David Eckstein lover.  This year could be fun.

And don't forget, Rolen, like Eckstein, are white.

Andruw Jones, a player with the same Gold Glove résumé as Rolen and three year averages far exceeding Rolen's just signed with the Dodgers for nearly the same annual dollars and one less contract year.  

Andruw Jones?  Not so white.

I am in no way calling Phil a racist.  That would be irresponsible cherry-picking.  I don't know him.  Plus, I don't think he is from everything I've read.

But it does bring this to mind:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Exhibit A

It's the vacant eyes, the shit eating, dippy smile, the sideburns. It sums it up beautifully. You just know his name is Trev or Brent and he lives in Lincoln Park. Calls his friends "Bro". Still drinks Jaeger. Thinks girls at Hooters are hot. Listens to Jack Johnson. Can name maybe 4 guys on the Cubs pitching staff. Anything else?

What the Hell Is This Goddamn Thing?

Christo pointed it out in another post but I just wanted to put up a pic. What is the deal with this fucking robot that Fox puts in the corner of the screen during the game? It's creepy, stupid and weird.

The 10 worst episodes of M*A*S*H Ever - Part III

After reading over the complete list, you may notice that the last season is omitted. 
I'm not into kicking dead puppies.  Maybe it's just me.  

Final seasons of most wildly popular shows, with a few exceptions, are so abysmally bad that they don't even warrant a small degree of hatred.  They're just sad.  

They become such colossal cash-cows to the networks that they just throw a shitload of green at everyone involved with the show to hop back on and play out the string.

And one thing must be said before we get to the final three.  A few episodes of M*A*S*H are absolutely classic television.  

A few that come to mind are:

#26 - Five O'Clock Charlie:  The funniest episode of TV I saw until about the age of 20.

#15 - Captain Tuttle:  In many ways, the definition of how to write a crescendo for comedy.

#69 - MacArthur's Visit:  As Mate reminded me, it's manic and the payoff is comedy gold.

And no show used a look of disbelief as a reaction shot better than M*A*S*H, especially as rebuttal to anything Burns said.

So let's get to the Top Three:

3.   The Party (T-424)
March 12, 1979
Written by Burt Metcalfe and Alan Alda
Directed by Burt Metcalfe
Guest Stars: Burt Metcalfe

Talk of a post-war reunion suggests an idea to B.J.: planning a
present-day stateside gathering of 4077th families, a scheme he conti-
nues to promote even under the duress of "bugging out" in the wake of
a Chinese breakthrough.

Any episode led by B.J. Honeycutt (God, I hate that name) deserves consideration but this one is the pièce de résistance of bad set-up, flow and comedy direction.  Really.  It's like a five year-old did it.

It becomes a competition between every actor to see who can chew more scenery.  Everyone's laughing badly, everyone's badly excited and everyone's badly worried.  It's a roller coaster of crap in a glass case of emotion.  

In the truck convoy, as the camp individually gets the news of their families' attendance to the stateside reunion, the director's segue to each individual truck's cab is the hitting of potholes, resulting in a big bounce and a shaky camera transitioning to the next cab.  

Hokey as hell, sure.  But it's the actor's terrible overacting to the bumps - so shockingly egregious - that makes it the last straw.  I was seven years old when I first saw this episode.  It sucked then.

2.   Where There's a Will, There's a War (1-G13)
February 22, 1982
Written by Elias Davis and David Pollock
Directed by Alan Alda
Guest Stars: Dennis Howard, Larry Ward, Jim Borelli, James Emery

Hawkeye draws up a will under heavy shelling at the front lines.

"To B.J., I give my undying friendship."

"To Winchester, I give my utmost respect."

"To Margaret, I give my highest admiration."

And so on and so on and so on.

The last five minutes of this episode is some of the most embarrassingly bad writing I've ever witnessed on television; so bad and so embarrassing, it becomes unbelievably hilarious.  

Each dedication becomes the funniest joke I've ever heard as if I heard it for the first time.  It's not even queasy because it's so contrived and corny, it tips into absurdity.

A Classic in the Worst sense.

And the Number One episode is:

1.    Yessir, That's Our Baby (S-617)
December 31, 1979
Written by Jim Mulligan
Directed by Alan Alda
Guest Stars: Howard Platt, William Bogert, Yuki Shimoda,
Elizabeth Farley

A baby born to a Korean woman and an American GI is abandoned at
the 4077th. Knowing that mixed-blood children are often mistreated in
Korean society, the troop sets about the frustrating task of finding a
new home for the infant.

Create a picture in your mind.  Hawkeye, B.J., Potter, Margaret, Klinger and Winchester all huddled around an orphaned Korean baby.  Now picture all these bad characters played by bad actors being generously supplemented by atrociously bad writing.

Finally, take it one step further and picture each of these people making cooing sounds and googley noises at the baby, taking turns making some of the stupidest baby noises you've heard.

Like a finely crafted symphony, put it all together into a cacophony of incomprehensible noise.

Take this finished product, about two minutes worth of material, and put it on a 30-minute loop with commercials.     

Top it off with a pause for effect, fade to black and insert Winchester's voice saying, "Goodbye, Small One."

See if you don't drop to the floor and writhe in unbearable pain.

If you can, you're a better man than I.  Or worse, depending on your point of view.


Some Honored Mentionables worthy of mention and honor:

#239 - B.J.'s practical joke that is, in fact, no joke at all.  

Any episode where Margaret says Donald Penobscott's name.

#106 - Hawkeye's refusal to shoot a gun even when he's being shot at.

Movies nights, especially The Moon is Blue (#243) and the best one My Darling Clementine (#117) where the projector breaks (again) and the cast act out the movie.  And oh...the wacky shirts.

The 12,000 episodes revolving around a heat wave and Margaret's prickly ass walk.

Any USO visit where the age-appropriate and attractive-appropriate hook up.

Any episode where B.J. bitches about being away from Peg, especially the one where he considers cheating with Susan Saint-James (#192).  That deep conversation in the windblown night.

This one almost made it.  Robert Alda's guest starring role.  "I thought I could get back in the game but I forgot how hard the game can be."

#236 - Hawkeye is surprised by the ability of Nurse Kelly, a semi-regular for the bulk of the series, because we all know that short, chubby Hawaiian women can't do anything of merit.

Soon-Teck Oh guest starred on the series four times as three different Korean characters, because, you know, they all look the same.


The rest of the list:  4-7 and 8-10

I Hate To Do This But..

I used to like Rush Limbaugh. There, I admit it. When I was in college I was surrounded by bed wetting liberals (like most college campuses) and being the know it all 20 year old, I felt it was about time I dabbled in Conservatism. Basically, what I felt was, if this many people agree there must be something wrong with it. I became a Republican. My daily or semi daily ritual was to turn on Rush and listen to him do his, admittedly, clever and often funny diatribes on the Left. I enjoyed it. There was a certain thing I liked about how he wasn't afraid to rip on the tired old arguments put forth by the likes of the increasingly irrelevant Jesse Jackson and Gloria Steinem. Also, being 20 my mind wasn't as formed and I wasn't yet exposed to the world in any way. I had spent pretty much all my life in the same place. Therefore, conservatism appealed to me.
I was never a staunch conservative. I always considered myself a moderate, whatever that means. But I certainly had no love for the Dems or what I considered to be "bleeding hearts".
Since those days, I've become more liberal, although I certainly am just as apt to lay into the Left as I am the Right. I expect more of them. Occasionally, however, I find myself tuning into Rush. A few times a month for maybe five or ten minutes. Nostalgia? Maybe. But I think it's more of a "know your enemy" thing.
The last time I tuned in was about a week ago. And Rush was talking about Jesse Jackson. AGAIN. The time before that he was talking about how he was "vindicated" about his remarks on Donovan McNabb and him being sheltered because he's Black. Remember that? The time before that he was calling out Obama for supporting affirmative action. It seems every time I have tuned in (few times a week ,folks) he is trying to bait. Trying to stir. Fine to a point but after awhile it becomes a tad sick. I have, therefore, come to the conclusion that RUSH LIMBAUGH IS RACIST. This man is obsessed with race. With Black people. He always seems to be trying to teeter on the edge of what is acceptable public discourse and outright bigotry. Kind of like a nut job uncle who shows up at Christmas and starts talking about his porn. You know, he says he's kidding but he's really looking for a glimmer of agreement in your eyes.
I hate to use the label. It's easy. One of the things I dislike about the liberal movement is their constant labelling of people that disagree with them. There is a discussion that needs to be taking place about race. Some serious issues need to be addressed. No doubt. I am also tired of sacred cows that need a thorough ass kicking. But there's a way to do it and a way not to. There's a difference between saying a different point of view and obsessing over it!
I will always question movements or affiliations that more than 15 people belong to. It's my nature. But some should be questioned but not baited.
Fuck you, Rush. And you too, Lou Dobbs. Asshole.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oh, Thank The Almighty!

I couldn't have taken it.
When R.W. McQuarters briefly fumbled the punt with two minutes left in the NFC Championship Game, I felt the inevitable fucking fairy tale about to come to fruition.

Little orgasms in every sportscasters' pants were ready to spooge, especially at the Boo-Yah Network.

If it happened, the Brett Favre fuckfest 2008 would have commenced the second the game ended.  The 'giant killer' and 'Brett Favre vs. History' metaphors would have sapped my very existence.  

If it happened, I might have given up pro football altogether.  

It's been teetering on the verge for a few years now.  The gladiator clichés.  The talking heads.  The 'we're all in this war together' crap.  The inexplicable robot dressed in football gear jumping up and down on my television screen.

It's the dipshit fans screaming on my radio like someone just killed one of their family members.  It's the dipshit radio people that encourage it.

It's "Football, Football, Football, Football, Football!!!!"

But things are okay.  Crisis averted.  This is one of those times I must be thankful for the things in life that didn't happen.