Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Let's Go O's!

I hate American League baseball. I think the designated hitter is repugnant and I think the concept of sitting on your butt waiting for the three-run homer is just as bad. I prefer a 1-0 pitching duel to a 10-9 slugfest. As a consequence, I tend to cheer for the National League team in the World Series, and always in the All-Star Game, and tend not to follow AL baseball much more than finding out if the Yankees lost.

But not this year.

For the last few years, I've paid some attention to the AL East race and the playoffs. Mostly, I just paid attention to the extent that I wanted the Yankees to lose. The Red Sox were a nice story, and I'm happy for them that they won the World Series. They deserve it, and so did their fans. But in reality, it could have been any team that was taking down the Bronx Bombers, and I'd have paid attention. The fact that it was the team they'd been beating for years finally turning the tables was a nice poetic twist, of course.

But I'm sick of the Red Sox now, too. I'm tired of having ESPN shove their 890th straight article on "Red Sox-Yankees: the greatest rivalry since David vs. Goliath" down my throat, when in fact, before last year's playoff collapse, the vast majority of Yankee fans viewed the Mets, not the Sox, as the Yankees' archrival. I'm tired of Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar and the rest of the Idiots. I'm tired of the Red Sox complaining about the Yankees' payroll, when in fact they're #2 in that department. I'm tired of the endless verbal fellatio that anyone in a Red Sox uniform has received since October 2004. I'm tired of pictures of that ridiculously overblown ring ceremony. I'm tired of Bill Simmons cranking out articles on how special that team was and how much he cares. I'm tired of Peter Gammons and his all-Boston, all-the-time baseball reporting. I'm tired of the goddamned Patriots too. Admittedly, they only share a city with the Red Sox, but still, I'm tired of them. I'm tired of that stupid bloody sock and it's owner who runs his mouth like he's Rush Limbaugh. I'm even tired of Kevin Youkilis and his stupid nickname.

As Lilly Von Shtup said, "let's face it, I'm tired!"

Fortunately, there's another option for those of us who hate the Yankees and think the Red Sox are just a tad too full of themselves. Like that bratty little kid who grew up on a moisture farm on Tatooine, A New Hope has emerged. The Baltimore Orioles are in first place, and have been since the beginning of the season. They've got an incredible offense, and have a pretty good young pitching staff.

Is that enough to win the East, and put an end to this Yankees/Red Sox silliness? I don't know, but it should be fun to find out.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day Weekend Rantings

On the first day God created the dog. God said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will giveyou a life span of twenty years."

The dog said, "That's too long to be barking. Give me ten years and I'll give you back the other ten." So God agreed.

On the second day God created the monkey. God said, "Entertain people, do monkey tricks, make them laugh. I'll give you a twenty-year life span."

The monkey said, "How boring, monkey tricks for twenty years? I don't think so. Dog gave you back ten, so that's what I'll do too, okay?" And God agreed.

On the third day God created the cow. God said, "You must goto the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. Let me have twenty and I'll give back the other forty." And God agreed again.

On the forth day God created man. God said, "Eat, sleep,play, marry and enjoy your life. I'll give you twenty years."

Man said,"What? Only twenty years! Tell you what, I'll take my twenty, and the forty the cow gave back and the ten the monkey gave back and the ten the dog gave back, that makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God, "you've got a deal."

So that is why the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play, and enjoy ourselves; for the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family; for the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren; and for the last ten years we sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

(thanks, Aunt Penny)

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So I'm driving to Wegmans yesterday, and there's some guy riding his bike on the sidewalk. But not a bicycle or even a dirt bike; this was a Harley Freakin' Davidson. And he did this for several blocks. This was right after I saw an ad before Star Wars Episode III that featured a Japanese engineer and a Swedish engineer (both men) singing "why do birds suddenly appear?" to each other. Apparently I was on an acid trip yesterday and no one told me.

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I can't be more excited about Batman Begins. It's not possible. I might even be as excited about that as I was for Episode III. This looks like they've finally gotten back to the roots of what made the Batman franchise so good: a dark and gritty look at a hero who strolls right along the edge of the lunatic fringe. Batman Forever was too cartoonish, but it was still enjoyable. Batman and Robin, on the other hand, was a miserable failure best forgotten.

I mean, really, you've got to be a few cards short of a full deck to dress up in a battle suit and build a huge fortress out of a cave with enough equipment to take out an entire military batallion, emerging at the behest of a spotlight to beat the crap out of bad guys.

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Ryan Secrest, part-time Hitler Youth and full-time aggravating TV show host, was at today's NASCAR race introducing the American Idol contestants. I appreciate FOX's never-ending efforts to cross-pimp their products, but I'm pretty sure that at a NASCAR race, Ryan Secrest fans are about as common as Gay Pride bumper stickers.

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This "Cinderella Man" movie looks really interesting. I'm pretty sure I've seen it before, though: losing boxer beats the odds, captures the hearts of America against an indomitable champion, all while his love interest tells him he can't win. I'm pretty sure Sylvester Stallone did a movie like that about 30 years ago, but darn it, I just can't remember what it was called. Started with an R, I think.

Anyway, I hope for his sake, Russell Crowe can milk three more sequels out of it, like Stallone did. He could use the work. Since Gladiator, he's churned out a seemingly endless stream of crap.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Star Wars Revisited

Okay, I saw Ep III today. Totally and ridiculously awesome. In writing this post, I'm going to assume you've seen it already. If you haven't, come back when you have.

It's time to rate the six Star Wars flicks and see where they come out. Let's break this baby down Rob Neyer style, and assign numbers randomly, er, assign numbers on a 1-10 scale in the most important categories: action, plot, acting, dialogue, rewatchability, and the all-important "intangibles" (i.e. if I miss something important, I'm covering myself). I'm omitting "realism" for obvious reasons (not the least of which is the repeated shattering of the laws of science).

I - The Phantom Menace
action: 6.5 - the fight scenes with Darth Maul are great, but otherwise, it's pretty weak. Fortunately, there are two of them. I enjoy the race scene too, for some strange reason.
plot: 5.5 - I had to watch more than once to get everything figured out, and I *KNOW* how this series goes. It seemed forced in terms of introducing characters, too. It did accomplish its purpose, though.
acting: 4 - Liam Neeson blatantly mailed his part in, and Jake Lloyd was terrible, but then, he's 7 years old. I thought Ewan McGregor was at his weakest, too. Natalie Portman was actually pretty good.
dialogue: 3.5 - way too many attempts to cater to the 7-12 audience, and it lost some of the intelligent humor of Episodes IV - VI, but then, that was a running trait through I - III.
rewatchability: 7 - strangely rewatchable, actually. And I can't tell you why.
intangibles: 1 - Three words: Jar Jar Binks.
total: 27.5

II - Attack of the Clones
action: 7.5 - Yoda going house with his lightsaber was one of the coolest moments of the entire series. The beginning of the Clone War is pretty good, too, in large part because Natalie Portman is all but naked. All in all, probably a step up from I, but the Yoda-Dooku fight aside, didn't have the great swordplay of the other movies.
plot: 6 - see above. By this time, it becomes more apparent that Palpatine is playing both sides against the middle, which cuts the confusion factor a little.
acting: 4 - Hayden Christensen has two modes: angry and pouty. Other than that, he can't act at all. The love scenes with Padme are laughably bad.
dialogue: 5 - the kid factor gets cut some, but there's still too much snappy "buddy movie" patter. Obi-Wan saying "that boy's going to be the death of me" was a great example of being a little too clever.
rewatchability: 7.5 - Well, I own the DVD, so there you go. The Yoda-Dooku fight alone is worth it.
intangibles: 7 - have I mentioned how cool Yoda is? I have? Okay. Anikin slaughtering a whole village of Sand People and then telling Padme about it as the "Imperial March" plays softly in the background is one of the neatest bits of character building in this series.
total: 37

III - Revenge of the Sith
action: 10 - action-wise, this is on par with Terminator 2, which is the highest possible praise I can give.
plot: 10 - Lucas does a great job of tying everything together. Nothing feels forced, not even the semi-gratutious introduction of Chewbacca.
acting: 7 - I thought this was McGregor's best work. Hayden Christensen has two modes: angry and pouty. Fortunately, that serves him very well in this movie, since he spends almost his entire screen time either: a. killing someone, or b. getting ready to kill someone. Use what he has, a Jedi must.
dialogue: 6 - improved, still a little "buddy movie" heavy. Yoda saying "not if anything to say about it, have I" was just shameful, for example. To be fair, I think Lucas was probably writing for his audience, but I still don't like it.
rewatchability: 9 - I shouldn't rate it yet, since I haven't, uh, rewatched it, but I've got a good feeling.
intangibles: 9 - great fight scenes and great plot mean I need to bump up the points somewhere. I give Lucas credit for tying everything, and I mean EVERYTHING together.
total: 50

IV - A New Hope
action: 8 - the flying scenes are the best of the whole series, but it lacks the great swordplay of some of the others. Sneaking around the Death Star just isn't the same as a 20 minute lightsaber battle on some volcanic planet.
plot: 8 - Luke's now the main character and it's easy (and fun) to get on him for being whiny, but it's a necessary bit of character building. I mean, if some old fart asked me to save the universe, I suppose I'd be a little pissy about having all that thrown on me too. I knock it down a touch because it seems like Luke and Han are competing over Leia, which becomes downright creepy when you learn that Leia is his sister.
acting: 9 - here's where the old movies have a big edge (as well as dialogue). Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher vs. Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman. I mean, that's like the Detroit Pistons vs. St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School.
dialogue: 10 - Perfect. Who can't recall the Chewie-R2 chess (or whatever that game was) scene like it happened five minutes ago?
rewatchability: 10 - I've seen this movie at least a dozen times and it hasn't gotten old. I look forward to showing it to my kids another dozen times.
intangibles: 8 - this was probably the most clever of the 6 movies, if that makes any sense. Han Solo's coolness and charm are just incredible.
total: 53

V - The Empire Strikes Back
action: 7.5 - Luke vs. Vader part 1 is great. I watched this one again this morning, because I was afraid I'd shortchanged it in this department. I did, a little.
plot: 10 - I remember watching this for the first time and being like, "wait a minute, Vader is Luke's WHAT?!?"
acting: 10 - Harrison Ford is at the top of his game and is carrying entire scenes at a time. The interactions with Leia and C-3PO are fantastic.
dialogue: 9 - many of the really cool and quotable lines come from this movie, which is a big plus.
rewatchability: 8.5 - I haven't rewatched this as many times as IV or VI, so it gets rated a touch lower.
intangibles: 6 - I always felt like this movie was a real placeholder, and that never sat well with me. Admittedly, you can argue the same thing about I-III as well, but we KNEW those were placeholders coming in. IV stands on its own merits far better, and I think III might, too. Bonus points for possibly the coolest title in movie history, though.
total: 51

VI - Return of the Jedi
action: 9 - Luke defeats Vader one on one, which is a really cool swordfight. The flight battle scenes are a little played out by this point, but still hold up. Luke's fight at Jabba's palace is great, too.
plot: 7 - The Ewoks knock off a bit. I mean, they needed help from these primitive furry creatures to win the war. Come on, George.
acting: 9 - Ford's cool charm is more or less played out by now. Fortunately, Hamill picks up the slack. He's absolutely brilliant in this one.
dialogue: 9 - everything's well done and very appropriate.
rewatchability: 10 - I've watched this as much as IV, and it still hasn't gotten old.
intangibles: 7 - Luke walking into Jabba's palace with his "hand over Solo and Chewie or I will slaughter every damn one of you" act counts for a lot. Probably my favorite part of the whole series. But man, those Ewoks...
total: 51

So there you have it. It's all pretty easy when you break it down scientifically...
1. A New Hope
2. Return of the Jedi
3 (tie). Revenge of the Sith and Empire Strikes Back
5. Attack of the Clones
6. The Phantom Menace

Frankly, I'm surprised and impressed that III stands up the originals as well as it does. But, there's no denying it. We can add Ep III as a worthy addition to the Holy Trilogy. II is a good movie for what it is. And I, well, it's not at Rocky V or Godfather III levels or anything, but it's clearly the redheaded stepchild of the Lucas Family.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Friday Links

I think MSN's Slate is a steaming, fly-ridden heap of shit, as far as news goes. It makes CBS News look like FOX News by comparison. Even CBS doesn't openly call President Bush an idiot, even if that's what they feel deep inside. Yet somehow, Slate has gotten a semi-serious rep as a news magazine.

Nevertheless, for those that are interested in the mechanics and legality (dubious as it is) of military torture, this is a very interesting read, and more or less editorial-free. I would note, for those that work in a cube with their monitor to the open space (dumbasses that you are), the opening intro has some semi-graphic photos.

http://www.slate.com/id/2119122/nav/ais/

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Speaking of MSN, Paul Allen was the co-founder of Microsoft, our technological version of Big Brother. So, why shouldn't he run the Portland Trail Blazers the same way? (By the way, this is the first time in awhile that the Sports Guy's Daily Links haven't sucked.)

Blazers' Deeds Speak Louder Than Words

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The Jason Hammersla Files have moved! The link is here! It's that underlined thing to the left! I can't stop using exclamation points!!!

On another note, I wish I was clever enough to come up with the snappy title like "Enchanted Pants".

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http://aintitcoolnews.com/display.cgi?id=20304 Here's your Batman Begins preview. It reportedly contains a spoiler. Didn't even read it myself, but I thought you might want a break from the Star Wars hype. I figure I'll see Star Wars III three times or so, and see Batman Begins two or three times, and call that my movie budget for the summer.

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Not much for links, I'm afraid. But I think the Slate feature on torture is cool enough to make up for it. Also, I'll be putting up a post on one-hit wonders sometime this weekend.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Death Penalty

http://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/05/25/johnson.execution.ap/index.html

One of the things that separates me from most conservatives is my opposition to the death penalty. Believe me, I don't oppose it out of misguided love of all humanity or belief that the government has no business killing people. If you stomped an 82 year old woman to death and then set fire to her house, you deserve whatever you get.

Rather, I oppose it on more practical and legal grounds. For one thing, the death penalty costs 6 times more than life without parole. I don't have a problem with vengeance (which is effectively what the death penalty is about; studies are inconclusive, to say the least, whether it actually deters crime), but when it's on my dime, well, you may just have to stay your bloodlust. Most of this cost is due to the frequently lengthy appeal process. Many state governments have taken the brilliant step of shortening the appeal process, that is, not allowing more than X number of appeals. While this alleviates my first concern about the death penalty, it only exacerbates the second.

The death penalty is fundamentally biased. Some people would argue that it's racist, but I won't. It discriminates based on wealth, not race. If you can afford a good attorney, you're probably going to escape the death penalty. The color of your skin has nothing to do with that aspect of it. Most death penalty defendants are poor and reliant on the best defense that a public defender can provide. While most public defenders mean well and are competent attorneys, they usually are not equipped with the resources to give these people the competent defense they need. Moreover, they frequently have a huge caseload, and the financial realities of life as a public defender (where you're paid squadooch) dictate that they can't devote the time necessary to just one case. If the government is going to institute the maximum possible sentence, then they'd damn well better make sure it's a truly fair trial. That often doesn't happen. Scott Peterson was fortunate in that he had a high-profile case that an excellent attorney like Mark Geragos would take for publicity's sake. But when Leroy shoots Tyrone 15 times in the chest over a $50 dice game in Compton, chances are that Mr. Geragos isn't going to return Leroy's calls.

Moreover, state governments are WAY too quick to use it. District attorneys who have to face election and want to look tough on crime prosecute the cases. Governors who have to face election and want to look tough on crime deny clemency. Legislators who have to face election and want to look tough on crime pass the laws that authorize the death penalty and shorten the appeal process. If our system operates under the premise that we'd rather let a hundred guilty men go free than convict one innocent one (and the last I checked, it does), then we'd damn well better be sure we're convicting the right guy if he's going to be executed. Moving things along as aggressively as possible is seldom compatible with such a goal.

Basically, this leaves three options, in my mind:
1. allow death penalty defendants to hire whatever counsel they wish, with the state picking up the tab for legal and investigative services. This would go over like a fart in church.
2. increase the budget for the public defender's office to hire more and/or better people and make it easier to handle these cases. This would be only slightly more palatable to legislators who would have to face voters in a couple years with the "he's trying to help criminals!" charge from opponents.
3. scrap the death penalty and accept the fact that getting beaten and raped in prison for the remainder of your days is a pretty bad punishment, too.

Obviously, I've opted for #3.

All this feeds into the article I've posted above. This guy wanted to donate his liver to his sister, and clemency was denied. Wait a minute here. The last I checked, blood relatives are typically the best donors for a transplant. The doctors said that his high body weight made him a poor candidate for a transplant, but wouldn't that be more of a risk to HIM? If he's going to be executed, who gives a damn what the risks to him are? Obviously, he doesn't, having offered to donate a vital body organ to his sister.

Even if the original medical opinion is right in that this guy's a poor candidate for transplant (and he probably is), where's the harm in granting clemency to get another opinion to make sure? The guy's not going anywhere, and if it should help save his sister's life, there's no harm in it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Quick Thoughts about the NBA Draft Lottery

Hey, let's hope for the Bucks' sake this first-round pick turns out as well as the last one. Boy, that Glenn Robinson, what a career. Too small to play the four, too slow to play the three, too selfish to pass the ball and too indifferent to play defense on anyone.

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Man, you've got to feel for the New Orleans Hornets. This has got to be the most star-struck franchise in the NBA right now. One star player suffers a career ending injury. Then they get moved from the East, where 40 wins makes you a playoff contender, to the West, where no Eastern team save the Big Two would have made the playoffs. Another star signs a massive contract, then sulks his way out of town and gets traded for 35 cents on the dollar and has a career rebirth in Golden State. Now, they get the fourth pick in a three player draft.

Then again, after the way George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge treated the fans of Charlotte, you could argue that it couldn't happen to a nicer couple of guys. And you'd be right.

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Reportedly, the Bucks will take Marvin Williams, which is the right move. Atlanta Hawk fans (whoever they may be) have to be thanking their lucky stars (wherever they may be). The Hawks were reportedly enamored of Williams, a small forward, despite the fact that they spent their last *FIVE* draft picks on swingmen and have gaping holes at the point and center, spots that just so happen to be the domain of the other two top players in the draft.

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So let me get this straight: Andrew Bogut is a top 3 prospect and is considered by many to be the best prospect in the draft. Fine. The same people who think this are actively comparing Bogut to Brad Miller and Vlade Divac. I've been watching both Miller and Divac their entire careers. At no point have I ever thought, "man, that guy's a star. If he was 22 years old, he'd be a #1 overall pick." Miller and Divac are complementary players, nothing more. I fail to see how anyone would consider spending a top 3 pick on one of them, even at a time when the league is in desperate need of good centers.

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Chad Ford projects high schooler Gerald Green to the Blazers. Of course, because that's the PERFECT environment for an impressionable 18 year old kid to reach his full potential. How long before he gets busted with pot? A month, maybe? When Kwame Brown was drafted, people bemoaned the fact that he spent the vast majority of his time staying in his house playing his Sony Playstation and not getting to know his teammates. If Green went to the Blazers, that would be the absolute best-case scenario. What are they going to teach him? How to get marijuana through an airport and get caught doing it? How to sucker punch a teammate? How to choose your free agent destination based upon how loose the state's sex offender notification laws are? This will not end well.

The Leader of the Free World is in my Hometown...

...and speaking at my high school as I write this.

I mean, how cool is that?

Unless you live in a place like Ohio or Florida (where, for about six months every four years, they are as common as used-car commercials), it's not often that a sitting president comes to your town, let alone your high school. Needless to say, I was not nearly important enough to merit a ticket to the speech, but still, very cool.

To answer the as-yet unasked question, yes, I'd still be very enthusiastic if President Clinton had done the same. Probably not as enthusiastic, but still, he's the President, and right or wrong, it's very impressive when he comes to your hometown, let alone your high school.

I caught a snippet of the speech, and Bush seemed to be right on point. He hammered the viability and fundamental fairness of the Pozen plan (which I've previously discussed). He also discussed the most important and least emphasized aspect of the personal accounts: they are voluntary. It matters little, of course; I fully expect the endless brigade of old farts, pessimists and closet (or open) socialists to continue hammering this plan and conveniently ignore that key word "voluntary".

Friday, May 20, 2005

Big Day Rantings

Today's a big day. My wife and I are putting in a purchase offer on a house this morning. I'd write more but I'd rather not get my hopes up.

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Every time I think that reality TV is going a little too far in this country, I get slapped with some news that helps me regain perspective and remember that maybe things aren't so far gone here after all. With that, here's your link of the day. Probably the link of the year as far as bizarre news stories go:

Lion Mutilates Midgets

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My wife calls houses cute all the time, and it makes me want to impale a pen into my brain. I thought maybe it was a female thing at first (since her mom and friends say it too), so I more or less got over it. I've never understood women before, so why should I start now? Well, last night, my realtor, a male (and a very successful and knowledgeable realtor, to boot), actually said the house was cute. I no longer know what to make of this. Can a house be cute? I never thought so, but maybe it can.

Or maybe this is like that episode of Star Trek where the Klingons try to brainwash Captain Kirk into thinking that 2 + 2 = 5.

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"I know I will never understand women and I suggest to you that you give it up as well. I will never understand how you can take boiling hot wax, pour it onto your upper thigh, rip the hair out by the roots...and still be afraid of a spider!" -- Jerry Seinfeld

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Here's some news about the next Spider-Man movie. You're forewarned: it contains potential spoilers about who the villain(s?) will be and who might be playing him/her/them. (Was that vague enough?)

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The Boogeyman is dead.

There is a small but notorious (and God bless Al Michaels for illustrating the proper use of notorious last night) group of athletes who seemed to gain superhuman powers against my teams. Thurman Thomas was the best example. Chipper Jones is another. Last night, one of the most villainous and frightening of all was put to rest.

Reggie Miller.

The Pistons are my favorite team, but I've long had a soft spot in my heart for the Knicks, a team against whom Reggie did his finest work. He beat the Pistons plenty of times, too, though. Last night, I thought for sure he was good for one last dagger in my heart. Reggie was absolutely on fire through three quarters, but Rick Carlisle took him out to give his 39 year old legs some rest for the fourth quarter. I believed then, as now, that this was a disastrous move. Miller sat way too long: from about 3 minutes remaining in the third until there were about 6 minutes left in the fourth. It takes old legs time to get back in the flow of the game. Moreover, the rest of the Pacers couldn't buy a basket. They needed Miller's offense more than the defense that someone (anyone) else would provide. By the time he was back in the game, he was out of the flow, and save for one big three pointer that made me shout obscenities at the TV, he was a non-factor. When Ben Wallace blocked Miller's last shot from the field, the game was signed, sealed and delivered.

Larry Brown did one of the classiest gestures I've ever seen shortly after that. With Detroit up 8 and 15 seconds to go, the Pacers took Miller out of the game to give him one last big cheer from the crowd. Brown then called a 20 second timeout, and the whole Detroit team came over to half court to applaud him. Very classy, especially when you consider that the Pistons and Pacers have a rivalry based on pure hatred. And by that I mean "wouldn't spit on your nose if your face was on fire" hatred. It made me realize that I'll miss him. Not Miller; the guy's ruined enough seasons for me, thank you. But Brown. I'd bet my left nut he's not coaching the Pistons next year. More than likely he'll retire and maybe get the itch to coach again in 2006-7, and maybe not. How many other coaches would do that? How many other coaches have enough love for the game that they'd call timeout just to let the fans and their team give a salute to an opposing player? I count two, maybe: Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich. That's it. But I digress.

With the exception of Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, I can't think of a player I've watched who I'd rather have taking a shot at the end of the game. That was, by far, Miller's greatest skill. He was an absolute assassin at the end of a game. That 25 point quarter against the Knicks, or the 7 points in 8 seconds. Last night looked like he'd add one more to the list. So long Reggie.

Don't even think of coming back.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Random Ramblings

I heard "Afternoon Delight" on the radio at my doctor's office today, and began laughing hysterically. There are maybe three people who visit my blog who will understand why, but that's okay.

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Remember the 1972 Olympics? Certainly the worst ever, because they're famous for two things: one, the murder of several Israeli athletes by neo-Nazis, and two, the basketball gold medal game. The first is pretty self-explanatory. The second, you may or may not know about, so here's a brief summary: the US was playing the USSR. The US was winning by a point when time expired. The USSR argued that they had called timeout, and the officials put three seconds back on the clock. The Russians inbounded the ball under their own basket, threw the ball the length of the court, found no one and time expired. FIBA stepped in and order three seconds put back on the clock AGAIN. This time, the full-court pass found Aleksander Belov, who made a game winning basket.

Well, I had a similar, if far less dramatic moment recently. I have Kasparov's Chessmate on my cell phone, which is very useful for killing time. I was playing as white, and had my queen at e3 (don't worry if you don't understand chess notation, I'll explain) and black had his king at b8 with pawns at a7, b7 and c7. There were other pieces on the board that aren't relevant to the story. Long story short, black's king was trapped on the back row and could only move side to side. A rook or queen moved to the back row would be mate. I say, "a ha! Queen to e8 is checkmate!" I move the queen to the back row.

Nothing. Black moves another piece.

Um, that's checkmate. You're not supposed to move. I moved the queen back and forth along the back row, thinking that maybe the game missed it.

Nothing, black continues to move as if my queen's not even there.

I have no idea if world champion chess player (and Moscow native) Garry Kasparov actually was involved in programming this game, or if he just lent his name to it for a nice cash payment. But the moral of the story remains the same: nobody cheats to win like the Russians.

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I'm not quite sure how I feel about John Bolton. On the one hand, I think he's absolutely right in characterizing the UN as an ineffectual, squabbling bureaucracy of minimal usefulness. On the other hand, like it or not, the UN is obviously here to stay and it's unlikely that any amount of blustering and name-calling will get it changed.

In a body like the UN, change has to take place slowly and over a long period of time. Bolton's right: we COULD lose half the floors of the UN building and it wouldn't make a whit of difference. It's an organization far too concerned with looking like it's doing the right thing, rather than actually doing the right thing. This is brilliantly chronicled in light of a particularly recent example here: http://www.suntimes.com/output/steyn/cst-edt-steyn15.html.

Nevertheless, appointing someone like Bolton will probably make it more difficult to operate within the confines of an already ridiculously bureaucratic and arcane structure.

I guess my opinion comes down to this: when principles collide with pragmatism, pragmatism usually wins.

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This is probably my favorite news story of the last month.

To decide which between Christie's and Sotheby's would auction off his art collection, a man decided to let the two play a game of rock, paper, scissors. The guy in charge of Christie's art department decided to call in the professionals. He asked his 11 year old twins.

"Everybody knows you always start with scissors," she [Alice] added. "Rock is way too obvious, and scissors beats paper."
Flora piped in. "Since they were beginners, scissors was definitely the safest," she said, adding that if the other side were also to choose scissors and another round was required, the correct play would be to stick to scissors - because, as Alice explained, "Everybody expects you to choose rock."

Scissors beat paper, and Christie's will hold the auction.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Best. News. Ever.

Sounds like Arrested Development has a new lease on life. I'm doing the GOB chicken dance right now in celebration.

http://www.eonline.com/Gossip/Kristin/Archive2005/050513.html

The show's home website has now picked up the story, too.

http://getarrested.com

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Weekend Ramblings

I love boxing. Always have, always will. Yes, it's a brutal and violent sport, both in and out of the ring. Don King killed a guy, and he's the #1 promoter in the sport. I can remember the endless arguments I had with my mom and stepdad about Mike Tyson. Their argument was that because Tyson was a thug and a worthless human being, he should be banned from boxing. My response was that Tyson was a thug and a worthless human being in a sport chock-full of both, the difference was that he was a particularly entertaining thug, so good for him. Upon hearing this, my dad summed this up as only he can:

"This isn't Lord Fontleroy, Marques of Queensbury, little guys running around in short pants and funny little hats. These are some brutal f--kin' guys."
Translated: we shouldn't be altogether surprised when a guy who beats the hell out of people for a living goes and does unpleasant things on his own time.

The heavyweight division is, right now, possibly the worst it's ever been. I mean, how long could Vitaly Klitschko or Hasim Rahman (who I like very much, if only because he's the closest thing Rochester has to a hometown heavyweight champion) have stood up to the Mike Tyson of 1987? We miss Tyson. Not the cartoon character he's become, but the invincible force that he was back in the days when he was knocking challengers out in under a round.

The thing that makes me take solace is that a new heavyweight superstar will emerge at some point. It always happens. The interregnum between the Holmes Era and the Tyson Era was just as brutal as what we have now. Ditto the post-Louis, pre-Marciano period. Pinhead sportswriters bemoan the impending death of boxing, saying that talented athletes are going elsewhere and blah blah blah. Nonsense. The lower weight classes are probably the most talent-packed they've ever been. With athletes getting bigger, stronger and faster, it won't be long until some freakish 250 pound monster starts obliterating opponents with lightning speed and agility.

Lennox Lewis could have been that guy. Lewis had a combination of size, strength and agility that was nearly unprecedented. Again, modern training and modern sports medicine helped create that. But Lewis didn't have even 1/10th the guts and heart of Muhammad Ali or Joe Frazier. Lewis will probably have a place somewhere in the top 10 or 15 heavyweights ever, but he could have been the greatest. He made a massive pile of money and still has most of his brain cells, so you can't blame him too much, but it's still frustrating.

I'm most frustrated by Lewis because I feel like I've been cheated. My parents used to tell me about Muhammad Ali, and they, in turn, were told about how great Joe Louis was. What do I have to tell my kids about? How Lewis could have been the best ever, but didn't want it badly enough? Hardly seems fair.

---

There's a guy, possibly homeless and certainly destitute, who sits outside the Monro Muffler and Brake Shop down the street from my apartment complex collecting bottles and cans. He bears a striking resemblance to Michael Moore. Enough so that every time I drive by him, it brightens my life, just for a moment, because I exclaim, "hey, Michael Moore's finally hit rock bottom!"

That's usually about the time my wife smacks me in the head. No matter, it's worth it.

---

How was it that Denis Leary never got an endorsement deal from NyQuil? I was at Wegmans, shopping the cold medicine aisle, and saw NyQuil. The first thing in my head wasn't those endless "I can't sleep" ads, it was "NyQuil: capital N, small y, big f--kin' Q!"

He did get one from Quaker State, yet failed to reprise that routine, sadly.

---

I talked to my friend Brett from high school on Friday night. We were discussing people we'd seen (and not seen) since high school, and I noted that I had seen hardly any of our classmates in the last couple years. In one of my all-time favorite left-handed compliments, Brett responded, "Phil, do you really think our class was smart enough to produce more than one attorney?"

This was later backed up by the fact that it appears that nearly every single suburban Rochester high school ranked among Newsweek's top 1000 high schools...except mine. Ouch.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Uh-oh

First, your link of the day, brought to you by my friend Stacy: http://www.atomfilms.com/af/content/sith_apprentice

If you've got about 10 minutes to kill, I highly recommend this.

---

On with today's rant...

This is not the best week for our new cultural icons.

First, LeBron James drops his well-regarded agents, the Goodwins, in favor of letting his buddies from high school run his affairs. I can't think of a better line than Bill Simmons had about this, so I'll just repeat it: "this is the part in Sportscentury: LeBron James where Chris Fowler says 'it would prove to be the worst move of LeBron's career' before going to commercial."

The old adage always holds true: don't mix business and friendship. At least not on that grand a scale. If LeBron wants to open up a sports bar or clothing store with those guys, great. But turning over the keys to an enterprise that will probably be worth over a billion dollars someday? To a bunch of guys he probably called "Pimpleface", "Skippy" and "Oogie"? This can't possibly end well.

Speaking of bad investments, remember "Ren and Stimpy"? Remember how everyone loved that show? Remember how MTV (or Nickelodeon, whichever it was) decided to give the guy who made the show millions and millions of dollars for a couple more seasons? He promptly did six episodes and pocketed the rest. Well, that's looking like a brilliant investment compared to the $50 million Comedy Central handed Dave Chappelle.

I love Chappelle's Show. It was some of the absolute funniest material on TV. But when you're going to give someone that much money, and you don't have the endless pockets of Rupert Murdoch, Microsoft, Disney or GE backing you, you probably should be more careful in parceling it out. I don't know if Chappelle was always crazy, or if this is just a new thing, or if this is part of a particularly bizarre sketch for season 3, but maybe it SHOULD become Wayne Brady's Show.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Irony Can Be So Ironic Sometimes

You know what bugs the hell out of me? People who abuse the word "irony". Alanis Morisette, in her song "Isn't it ironic?" of course, wasn't the first, just one of the most famous. "It's like rain on your wedding day." Well, no, that's not ironic, that's just unfortunate. Irony is the opposite of what you'd expect. Rain when the weather forecast calls for sun would probably be ironic, but not nearly as poetic.

I did have a touch of irony this morning, however. At my previous employer, I had a doctor's visit that was filed under worker's comp. The lady who handles the billing for the doctor's office asked me a few questions, then said, "they don't appear to have filed a C-2, whatever that is."

I responded, "that's the employer's report of an accident."

"Oh. Thank you!" she responded, happily.

The prospective worker's comp claimant knowing more about the employer's filing procedures than the person handling the insurance side of things? That's ironic. At least from her perspective.

Or maybe the fact that an attorney who represents insurance companies was once a claimant himself is ironic.

But rain on your wedding day isn't ironic...unless you live in the desert. My wife and I were married in Buffalo, and we had beautiful weather for our wedding day.

Now THAT'S ironic.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Why I Love My Stepdad

Author's Note: I don't use the "step-" prefix as a way to demean, but rather for clarification. Like many Americans in my age group, I'm a child of divorce, and have two dads. Unlike many Americans in my age group, I've had the good fortune to have both of them be outstanding fathers.

My stepdad won $200 playing Quick Draw the other day. For the uninitiated, this is New York State's version of keno. Put another way, it's another tax on the mathematically declined. The bartender (a female, as if it matters) was giving him attitude all evening, for whatever reason. She slapped $300 down on the counter in front of him and walked away. He counted it out and called her back over. She returned moments later, chock-full of bitchiness. He said, "first off, lose the attitude. Second, count this out again."

She did, and said, "it's $300. So?"

"I only won $200. My daughter works at a bar too, so I know you'd get in serious trouble for overpaying me $100. So, take this $100 back."

"You're giving that back to me?"

"Of course I am. It's not mine."

"I can't believe you'd give that back. Everyone else in the world would just keep that money."

"Just take the money back so you don't get fired for shorting the drawer $100."

"Keep it. Quick Draw pays an extra 50% from 5 to 8. The money's yours." Needless to say, her attitude brightened considerably after this.

They say honesty is what you do when no one's paying attention.

I Love Mike Lupica

There are hundreds of sports columnists making a living who, I am convinced, are not half as good at their profession as I would be. Fortunately, every so often, a writer reminds me why I enjoy reading the sports page now and again. Here's an excerpt from Mike Lupica's column today, which is must-reading for any Mets fan, or Yankees hater...

"Once, a long time ago, the Mets hired another old second baseman, Davey Johnson, and Johnson was the manager of a Mets team that could draw three million fans to Shea in a season and win 108 games in a regular season and finally win a World Series. Davey Johnson's Mets, in those years, were as big a sports attraction as any Yankee team had ever been. People forget that sometimes when they act as if the Yankees will own New York forever.

"The Yankees have owned New York since 1996. They had one of the amazing runs in the history of the franchise. Even when the Mets made it back to the World Series in 2000, the Yankees still owned New York. You don't get to own anything in sports forever. No matter how much money you spend.

"For all the big-money players on the Yankees, Willie's Mets have been a much better show, because of Jose Reyes and Cliff Floyd and David Wright, because of Beltran and Pedro, the big-ticket hires. Because of Doug Mientkiewicz at first. Reyes and Wright are young stars out of the farm system the way Bernie and Jeter and Posada and Mo Rivera were once for the Yankees.

"From the time the Mets were 0-5, right through another white-knuckler Friday night in Milwaukee, the Mets were 16-9. From the time the Yankees started out 2-0 against the Red Sox, they were 9-19 through Friday night's loss to the A's.

"This doesn't mean the Yankees can't get up. It doesn't mean the Mets can beat the Marlins or the Braves this season. But there is a big wheel in sports, one that sometimes begins to turn, slowly at first, with a creak and groan, and once it begins to move, you can't stop it for a long time.

"You don't get to own anything forever, certainly not baseball in New York. The old Mets found out. The new New York Yankees are finding out. Before long, George Steinbrenner won't be as obsessed with the Boston Red Sox as he will be with Willie Randolph's Mets."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Stop Whining, Start Winning!

As I've stated, I'm a big Jeff Gordon fan. Or, in NASCAR-speak, I'm a big fan of the #24 DuPont/Pepsi Chevrolet. Still, like most NASCAR fans, I also like Dale Earnhardt Jr. He's probably the most recognizeable face in the sport and seems like a decent enough guy. But there's something about Junior that's starting to bother me, and I'm a little surprised that people aren't calling him on it yet:

He's a whiny pain in the ass.

I shouldn't be too surprised, after all, Junior (I don't blame Earnhardt for taking that nickname; it's not like Ken Griffey's been using it) is the son of Dale Earnhardt, a man who's more God than man to those who live below the Mason-Dixon line. And of course, there's still a fair amount of residual sympathy from the press and from the fans over that whole incident. And that's fine, but what bugs me is that if any other driver (especially Gordon) had been complaining like Junior has done all year, he'd have been called on it by now.

Earnhardt's complained all year, to all ears, that his car and pit crew haven't been up to snuff...despite the fact that he was behind the bizarre swap of equipment and crew members with teammate Michael Waltrip. I'll note that we've not heard a peep out of Waltrip all year about this.

Now, Earnhardt's blaming the massive 25-car wreck at Talladega on Jimmie Johnson. Is Johnson partly responsible? Yeah. What Earnhardt casually overlooks is that he hit Mike Wallace's car at about the same time Johnson did. If only Johnson hits Wallace's car, there's probably no wreck. If only Earnhardt hits Wallace's car, there's probably no wreck. But the two of them together hitting Wallace caused the pile-up. Yet somehow, it's all "that idiot Johnson's" fault.

Junior's team already handed over the title of "best restrictor plate team" to Gordon, so perhaps Little E's just taking out some frustration on Gordon's teammate.

Or maybe he knows that Johnson's gotten blamed (perhaps rightly) for a lot of things that have happened this year, so one more might push the points leader off his game.

Or maybe, just maybe, Junior's not the man his father was. Do you think for one second that Dale Sr. would have pissed and moaned about another driver, or his car, or his team, or the sky or the sun, or whatever, like Junior has? Not in a million years. Earnhardt would have gone out, won some races, and let the standings do the talking.

Hopefully Junior can do the same.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Link of the Day

http://movies.msn.com/movies/next007?GT1=6542

I hope Pierce Brosnan comes back for another Bond movie or two, but it looks unlikely. Clive Owen is regarded by many as the perfect choice...which means he won't be the guy. Hugh Jackman was reportedly close to signing on, but it sounds like he's out. I'd actually like to see George Clooney do it, though he'd obviously need a speech coach, but he'd be great.

Fortunately, the Colin Farrell Era has apparently come to a merciful end, as people appear to have realized that he can't act. And Christopher Walken won't get the role, but there would be an interesting bit of trivia if he did: Walken played the villain in "View To a Kill", which was probably the worst Bond movie aside from "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". Two other actors have gone from playing a villain to a good guy in the Bond movies. Walken, obviously, would be the first to go from a bad guy to playing Bond himself. Five points and significant credibility for whatever amateur Bond historian can give me the answer. (Ten points and even more credibility if you can do it without using imdb.com.)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Football Gods

I'm monotheistic, as you probably know. I believe in one God...except when it comes to football. Then, I believe that there are several, lesser gods. The Football Gods have the power to affect the outcome of a game, a season or even an entire franchise based upon how much they have been pleased or displeased by those involved. The Football Gods were all once human, and have all passed on to a higher form. They are as follows:

Vince Lombardi - won the first two Super Bowls, 4 NFL titles before that, and they named the freakin' trophy after him.
George Halas - all-time leader in wins for about 40 years before being dethroned, 5 NFL titles.
Don Shula - all-time leader in wins, two Super Bowls, only coach ever to lead a team to a perfect season.
Chuck Noll - 4-0 in Super Bowls.
Joe Gibbs - 3 Super Bowls...with three different QBs.
Tom Landry - 2 Super Bowls, all-time leader in playoff wins.

Bill Parcells is on the waiting list for godhood; he's still coaching and thus ineligible. Bill Walsh just missed the cut at the last council vote. You'll note that Joe Gibbs is a football god, yet is still coaching. Not true. The man coaching the Redskins now is a clone, and a poor one at that. That's the only way to explain the never-ending stream of incompetence coming out of that organization.

The Football Gods prize humility and sportsmanship, and also an adherence to the fundamentals of the game. They passed down Ten Commandments for mortals:
1. We are the Football Gods. Thou shalt have no other gods before us.
2. Thou shalt be humble before the Football Gods.
3. Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath Day...and sometimes, Saturdays, Mondays and Thursdays.
4. Honor the '72 Dolphins.
5. Thou shalt run.
6. Thou shalt stop the run.
7. Thou shalt be bold, but not wacky.
8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy teammate.
9. Thou shalt not degrade thy opponent.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's gameplan.

The Football Gods have historically rewarded adherence to the Commandments, and punished deviation. A few great historical examples...

Prior to Super Bowl III, Joe Namath, of the upstart Jets of the upstart AFL, guaranteed victory over the powerhouse Baltimore Colts. Though some might think Namath was degrading his opponent, but in fact, the Football Gods smiled upon Namath's boldness, while wanting to smite the hubristic NFL, which didn't think that the AFL could compete. The Gods rewarded the Jets with one of the greatest upsets in sports history, setting the stage for the merger between the AFL and NFL.

Bill Cowher's Steelers have played well, only to fail in the playoffs several times. Why? Cowher, ordinarily a bold, run-first coach, consistently goes away from the gameplan that got where he was (thus violating Commandment X). Last year, for example, the Steelers were a power-running team, strong upfront and with a bowling ball running back who could get 2 yards in his sleep. So when faced with a 4th and goal from the 2, late in the fourth quarter and down two touchdowns, what did Cowher do? He kicked a field goal, thus showing his team that he didn't trust them to do precisely what they'd done perfectly all year. In a related note, the Steelers lost yet another AFC Championship at home.

The Football Gods lean towards pro football, but they also like to get involved in college football when the time is right. In the 1984 Orange Bowl, Nebraska coach Tom Osborne chose to go for 2, and the win (college football had no OT at that time), rather than kick the extra point and take the tie. A tie would have all but assured Nebraska of a national title, but Osborne went for the victory. The ball was knocked away and Miami won the game and the national title. But the Football Gods rewarded Osborne years later with three national titles in the 1990's, even going so far as to give him one he didn't totally deserve (1994, which should have been shared with Penn State).

In 1985, the Chicago Bears were 12-0 and were crushing everything in their path. But the Bears were arrogant and smug. They cared little for history and talked as if they were already an undefeated Super Bowl champion. They marched into the Temple of Shula (aka the Orange Bowl), the home of the only undefeated team ever, proud and undefeated. They left humbled, battered, and 12-1.

Beware the mighty Football Gods.