30 March 2007

Cub Senator: Barack "Jimmy" Obama

Here's a closeup of Obama's watch...

25 March 2007

This Has All Happened Before

Seriously. The meta-tags for the post make perfect sense.

20 March 2007

The Freeway's Long

I don't like The Office. Specifically, I don't like the American version. I like Steve Carell, but I dislike his interpretation of Michael Scott as a fool, a tool, and an ass. As a talented comic actor, I'm sure his choices are intentional, but they completely miss the target set by Ricky Gervais with his sad, pathetic David Brent.

I've watched about a half-dozen episodes of the American version (and even blogged about it when Joss Whedon was directing) and have never had more than a couple chuckles. I don't care about Jim-Pam or Pam-Jim or whatever it is the 'shippers call that star-crossed couple, and other than the pranks, find nothing compelling at all. I know I'm in a small minority amongst tv-philes, but I just don't dig it.

I'd heard for years about how funny the British version was and how much I'd like it. Last year, visiting friends, in went episode 1.4 - "Training". Hell yeah! This is what I wanted from the American version! I finally got around to getting the DVDs and ripped some episodes to my Zune this weekend past. I've been watching while working out and my initial sense of Gervais' version stands. David Brent's not just a fool and tool. Gervais played him with such subtlety that I can see the little boy who was, running around the house with a towel for a cape and a colander for a helmet, or telling jokes at his parents' parties, trying to get laughs. And key to Gervais' performance is believing that David Brent could get those laughs and could get that attention. In an interview earlier this year with critic Alan Sepinwall, Gervais indicated just that:

Brent's motivation was fame and glory. That's why he's acting like that. He's in free-fall, in a bit of a breakdown, and he's going, "I'm going to show the world now that I'm not just this jerk. I'm a philosopher, I'm a philanthropist, I am a singer/songwriter, I am a poet." He can't get to it quick enough. And, of course, the lesson learned is, if someone's filming you all the time, they're going to show the bad bits, too. Through the power of editing.

But what were the good bits for David? Do you envision there were times when he successfully delivered a joke?

Yeah, but why would a documentary team put that in? The important thing there is, you're not in charge. TV's in charge. TV's in charge.

I don't think Steve Carell has that much confidence in or sympathy for Michael Scott. And because of that, I don't. Why should I care about a character when the actor portraying him doesn't seem to?

19 March 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

I've been cursing Will Ferrell for a while now. I've found his comedy stylings to be much broader, yet more limited, than many of his SNL alums. Amusing in supporting roles, his whiny everyman shtick grows tiring fast in lead roles. And while it's true that great comedians make greater tragedians, I've never thought him that great.

So it was with low expectations that we popped Stranger Than Fiction into the dvd player Sunday night. We had planned on seeing it in the theater last fall, but like so many of our grand ideas about going out in public, we never did get around to it. Plus, while it had looked like a sure-fire winner in previews, by the time it opened, the reviews were a bit mixed. Renter.

But after four days - approximately 40 hours - of basketball it was time for something different.

I'm happy to say it was a very pleasant surprise. Ferrell was a revelation. This was a role custom-tailored to his strengths, in a film confidently directed by Monster's Ball's Marc Forster. What Forster brought to the table was a sure hand, a bit of whimsy, and the almost magical ability to rein in Ferrell's excesses. No whining, no overacting. Ferrell perfectly captured the ennui, pathos, and hope of Harold Crick, even as his life descended into absurdity.

The conceit of the film should be familiar to anyone who recalls the ads from last year: Harold's life is being narrated by a woman "...accurately; and with a better vocabulary." The woman - Emma Thompson's Karen Eiffel - is a writer of some renown who has not published a book in ten years. Karen's writer's block stems from an inability to find a way to kill her hero - Harold Crick.

Fundamentally, the film is about lost souls trying to connect. Karen is a chain smoking ascetic, living in a sterile, empty apartment. Harold's apartment looks more like a motel and his life's routines are as rigid as his job as an IRS auditor. Both find companionship and friendship in others: Karen with an assistant (Queen Latifah) thrust upon her by her publisher; and Harold with an earthy, lusty Maggie Gyllenhaal and sweet, nerdy coworker Dave (Arrested Development's Tony Hale).

Despite the compassion and depth of the piece, there is quite a bit of humor to be found: Karen's narrator speaking with the detached irony of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide; Harold's propensity to count everything depicted through clever animations; Harold's serene acceptance of his odd lot in life; and a sentient watch. Add in the odd comic touches, like the Sonic Guys (T.J. Jagodowski and Peter Grosz, Chicago improv pros) appearing as math-quizzing coworkers1, and Dustin Hoffman's off-putting performance as a literature professor, too accepting of Harold's tale, and this film succeeds at being quirky, charming, and heart-breaking.

The film is not perfect, of course. But for a pleasant, moving two hours, I'd still highly recommend it.

1 Remember. We'd just gotten through 40 hours of NCAA basketball. Do you have any idea how often we saw those annoying Sonic ads?!?

17 March 2007

VCU/Pitt...so close!

Is it only 12 days ago that this year's Cinderella knocked out last year's Cinderella in the CAA Championship game?!? There's less than 2:30 to go in this Round of 32 game against Pitt and I'm starting to believe! Beating Duke was nothing. They're undermanned and under-coached1 and rely on Greg Paulus to handle the rock. Might as well have me be their damn PG. But Pitt?

1:40 - VCU's just tied it up for the first time since early in the first half. Incredible. Odds are, I'll end up tossing this post by game's end. I mean, what chance do they really have against Jamie Dixon's confident, experienced, Big East bruisers?

Ball's in...a shot, a rebound, a tie-up - Rams' ball!

1:23 - walking the ball up court. Oh my! VCU's first lead, and then Pitt flies down the court and counters!

:30 - shot, almost an offensive board...

NO! Levance Fields is fouled by VCU with 2.1 on the clock and the score knotted up. He misses the first, misses the second; we're going to OT!

A 51-32 run in the final twelve minutes to tie up the game.

CBS keeps trying to bounce me to the 2OT Vandy-Wazzu game in Sacto, but DirecTv seems on top of the situation for once and re-bounces me back to the game I want. Mind you, I'm jumping to that game on my second feed anyway, but I've been so engrossed by the Rams' comeback that I didn't realize a second extra frame had started at Arco.

Crap. See? I was over at the Vandy/Wazzu game. Missed the tip and first minute of OT.

I had a bunch of live-blogging on the final four minutes of OT, but with Pitt pulling it out I don't see much point in keeping it (and cleaning it up.) Suffice it to say, the Rams fought long and hard to catch up to the Panthers, leaving them very little in the tank for an extra five minutes of play. Jamal Schuler got them back within three, following his own missed layup, but Pitt kept breaking the VCU traps. No stops, no steals, and Pitt just kept scoring from the line. It was a nice effort, though. Certainly one of the more exciting games of this first weekend.

1 Coach K is the Phil Jackson of college ball. Give him a team of all-stars and he'll do peachy. Give him anything less and...well...when was his last Elite 8?

Buckeyes Squeak by Musketeers (and avoid them for another 20 years)



I hope today's games are more exciting than the first round.

Si. I can't believe all those favorites winning in blow-outs. This has got to be the most boring tourney I've ever seen. This is worse than when my papi and I used to watch Coach Wooden's teams.

I know. We didn't get much basketball in the Congo, but my mother took me to one of the American hotels in Kinshasa to watch Texas Western beat Kentucky. That was an exciting game.

Greg needs to be careful out there. (BEAT) He doesn't want to break his other hip before the draft.

But losing this early won't be good for his draft position, either. Though he's too old to be playing at all. (BEAT) Ohio State refuses to play Xavier for a good reason, I see.

Watch. They'll come back. He's got a lot of good, young talent around him.

There's not much time left. (BEAT) Yes! But they've got to foul quickly!

Greg's got him...

...but he's shoved him!


That's two and possession! The game's over.

Wait...they didn't call the intentional! They didn't call it! We've got a chance...Overtime! Overtime! Overtime!

16 March 2007

How Bill Simmons Enjoys the Dance

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Tourney Day 2 Recap

Two days, 32 games, one round complete, and only five upsets. I don't know if the selection committee was prescient, or if they just cheated. I suspect the former, since I haven't seen Dick Bavetta prowling the hardwood, though there was some very bad officiating, like the trip in the Maryland/Davidson game that was called a travel on the victim or Greg Paulus going over and back right in front of an "official" and drawing no call.1

Still, it's been a fun opening round with at least a modicum of excitement. Some of today's games were fortunately more closely fought than yesterday's, pushing me to the literal edge of my seat a few times. I hope the Round of 32 will be tighter yet.

1 That official was particularly egregious in the Duke game. His head was so far up Coach K's ass that...insert your own Dickie V joke here.

Aggies are Burnt Orange, 79-67

Close. So close. Texas going down woulda busted up my bracket pretty painfully, since I have them besting UNC and The Phantom of Chapel Hill in the Sweet 16, but I'm always a fan of a good upset (and hate Rick Barnes.)

Had Reggie Theus had his old star Anthony Anderson, the Aggies might have been able to counter Kevin Durant. Oh well.

15 March 2007

Tourney Day 1 Recap

Whoooo! That was quite a day (not). There were a few scares for the favorites - UNC up by four midway through the 2nd half, G'Town looking shell-shocked for the start of their game, Maryland almost going down to a game Davidson squad, Pitt trying to rely on outside shooting - but none of them lost. Oh. Wait. I forgot.


I think Dan Shanoff summed it up nicely on his little piece of the interwebs. At least he captured the feeling we Duke Haters have right now.

It would have been a perfect day if a single freakin' Zag could have made a layup!!!!!!!!! Soooooo happy we didn't fly to Sac and just stayed home with the TV. I think I'd have slapped Kuso. Defending is only half the battle, Abdullahi! Derek Raivio summed the performance nicely in the post-game presser:
"Some of our guys played passive," a stone-faced Raivio said. "You know, it looked like it wasn't meant to be. We had easy shots on the rim, but we just couldn't knock them down."
As for my pool prospects this year, I'm still alive after half the first round, so that's something. I haven't lost one of my round-of-32 picks yet, so - as my teachers used to say - I still have lots of potential.

Tomorrow...UNR! Fazekas! Kemp!

14 March 2007

March Madness Came One Day Early This Year

Holy Crap!!!

It's like David Stern and the NBA have a personal gripe against the NIT. I don't really think 'Cuse/S. Alabama had much of a chance against the Suns in Dallas.

The Suns/Mavs game tonight was one of the top five games of the season, easily. The only thing keeping this from being one of the best games of the past decade was a sloppy first quarter from the Mavs and third quarter from the Suns. And even that added to the drama. I can think of no better way to start off the next four days - hunkered in the bunker, pizza guy on speed dial, potables at hand, chips and dip at the other hand, satellite beaming and laptops streaming - than with tonight's insane matchup. I am STOKED.

70 Million Critics Have Not Seen This Movie

Wow. Common ground between the American Religious Right and the (wo)man on the street in Iran. Both groups are apparently lazy and stupid enough to denounce things they've never seen.

Agreeing that 300 is egregious drivel is fairly easy. I'm relatively mellow as Iranian nationalists go, and even I found myself applauding when the government spokesman described the film as fabrication and insult. Iranians view the Achaemenid empire as a particularly noble page in their history and cannot understand why it has been singled out for such shoddy cinematic treatment, as the populace here perceives it, with the Persians in rags and its Great King practically naked.
Much easier to find oneself "applauding when the government spokesman" tells you what to think than, you know, watching the movie first and then realizing it is a highly stylized adaptation of a graphic novel by a bold and risky director and not "secretly funded by the U.S. government". Yah, bold. When a commercial and music video director decides he loves a piece of fiction so much that he's going to pay his own money to option it and film it - with no prior feature experience at the time - that's bold. As for the timing of its release coinciding with the Persian New Year...raise your hand if you think any non-Iranian Americans know when that is. If you have your hand up, slap yourself about the face for being a fool.

Someday, I swear, I'm going to live in a world where the terminally stupid keep their opinions about art and entertainment to themselves, or at least bother to read/watch/listen to the offending pieces before working themselves into a lather.

Happy S&BJ Day!!!

I love Warren Ellis. He links to the most interesting things. Be sure to celebrate the holiday with someone you love. Or at least don't find disgusting.

13 March 2007

Shanghai Nerds

"What do you think is better: the dog meat in clay pot or the dog meat casserole?"

I really hope David Cross was kidding...

Hot for Teacher

Yet another "sex scandal" ready-made for tv. Hot teacher into a teenage boy, and as usual, Carrie McCandless is way hotter than any teachers were in my high school. Ah, to be a teenager today. Sadly, yet again we've got a weenie boy who doesn't understand the magic of his situation.

As for Tommy, the episode initially brought him a lot of "high fives" and "more respect" from his male friends, he told Lauer. Girls, however, became distant and Tommy began having trouble getting dates, he said.

"The whole thing turned on him like it was his fault," Sheree Clay said. "We send our kids to school to be taught ... It's just wrong that a teacher would do that. It shouldn't be acceptable."

The family's attorney, Gary Fielder, added, "We are talking about an older person in a position of power and responsibility manipulating a child into thinking that this child wanted sexual contact."

Yah Gary. That's how it happened. He was "manipulated" into thinking he wanted sexual contact. As for Tommy, maybe someone should explain that he had "trouble getting dates" because he's a jug-eared, scrawny cry-baby who'll never again get within spitting distance of a woman half as hot as teacher.

11 March 2007

Stick to being a make believe DA

Fred Thompson's contemplating throwing his hat in the ring. I knew people were attempting to draft him to run, but he himself is clearly surveying the field (and early carnage) and trying to decide if and when to enter. Speaking with Chris Wallace today, he showed a serious lack of understanding of the law (pretty bad for a lawyer), but at least he's consistent with the party line. In response to a question about whether or when he would pardon Scooter Libby, Freddy-boy said he'd "do it now".

These people knew in the very beginning — the Justice Department, this Justice Department and the special counsel knew in the very beginning that the thing that was creating the controversy, who leaked Valerie Plame's name, did not constitute a violation of the law.
Sigh. How hard is it to understand simple laws? For example, USC 50 Section 421
Whoever, having or having had authorized access to classified information that identifies a covert agent, intentionally discloses any information identifying such covert agent to any individual not authorized to receive classified information, knowing that the information disclosed so identifies such covert agent and that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States, shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
She was a covert operative (specifically, one with nonofficial cover, a NOC), not an analyst. Pretty simple. Sure, it appears Richard Armitage should have taken the fall and not poor Scooter, but that doesn't mean it "did not constitute a violation of the law".

Just what we need as president: a lawyer who can't understand the law.

09 March 2007

A Mook on FOX on the idiot box

Is it a Rupert Murdoch mandate that every man, woman, or child who works for FOX - whether on FauxNews or on an affiliate - be a simpering idiot? Our local FOX station was tuned in this morning in the locker room and Rick D'Amico - who has lived in Phoenix for 20 years, remember this detail, it's important - began chattering about computers and cell phones having problems this weekend.

As y'all should know, Congress moved up the start of Daylight Saving Time to this coming weekend. A quick check of the wiki tells me that the change was part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (I'm too lazy this morning to check the GPO for the law, sorry), so any calendering/date math software on computers or devices that was written prior to the law (or after the law but in ignorance of its effects) will not process dates correctly - (here's another one of the details) in those parts of the country that follow DST.

Rick's worried about this. He went to some websites with instructions on patching his devices, but it was all so confusing. Cute blonde co-anchor (is there any other kind?) doesn't understand why the computers won't just get there times from...somewhere. I finally changed the channel.

Friday morning pop quiz:

  1. Where does Rick D'Amico live?
  2. How long has Rick D'Amico lived in his current state?
  3. What US state does not change its clocks for DST? hint: look at this map

08 March 2007

To us, it was sort of a college game...

As winter's tight grip on the land gives way to the first signs of spring - brown-shorted delivery drivers, ducklings, the call of the northern Rafftery - a boy's thoughts naturally turn to one thing: college basketball. My Zags? In. My Huskies? So far out, Calhoun's not going to have to worry about lining up travel for the NIT. The mighty Wolfpack? In, riding on the sturdy backs of Nick Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp.

So where was I last night? Was I at home, watching the Big East tourney (sans Huskies) or catching a mid-major championship? Nope. We went to see the Suns host the Charlotte Bobcats.

That's not as strange as it seems at first... it's our only chance this year to see Ammo in person and to watch the greatest center in UConn history. Or Jake Voskuhl. Uh, I didn't know Mek had a calf strain. Jake did have a double-double, though. Despite the plethora of downed Bobcats (Sean May in streets), it was a shockingly tight game - up and down for most of the night - and, with a valiant effort, the Bobcats forced OT.

The game would have been even more fun had it not been so poorly officiated - though, other than Amare's two Ts, it was evenly atrocious. Ammo showed the same offensive single-mindedness that served him so well for three years in Spokane, finishing the night with 22 and 5, with three assists. The latter was deflated, however, since he made at least four other beautiful passes that should have been converted. Now, if someone would just teach him a proper defensive stance so he'd stop standing around like Lurch, he might be less of a liability on that end of the court. I guess MJ is too busy to spend time on his first draft pick for the Bobcats - just like he was too busy for Kwame.

I was shocked to see the Bobcats play a mix of matchup and (stagnant) 2-3 zone, but with 42 minutes of Morrison, I shouldn't have been. It must have surprised the Suns a bit, as they didn't do much to pick at the seams in the short-corner and free-throw line but just jacked and jacked and jacked from the arc. Then again, when you can hit 19 treys in a game, maybe there's no reason to bother attacking the zone.

Sadly, I believe we've decided not to renew our tix for next year. There are just too many non-basketball things about a game at AWA that annoy us: the worst (read: narrow selection of nigh-inedible) food of any arena I've ever seen; incessant promotions and inanity (our dancers, old women dancers, old men dancers, little girl dancers, the Adio Sol Patrol); and a complete disregard for the basketball fans in the arena. When the game's on, I really don't want some jackhole from the promotions staff coming into my section to block the court view so we can all cheer for *Taco Bell*.

If they'd put aside one section for basketball fans, and we could get tix in that section, we'd renew. As it stands, I think we'll probably just go to a few games next year and spend the savings on a new tv and NBA League Pass.

07 March 2007

One and Done

And, we're done. As a small consolation, I won't have to spend time watching them in the NIT this year. Maybe next year, Jeff Adrien will suck less?

05 March 2007

Johnny Wins the All-Valley!!!

I didn't see the Duke-UNC game yesterday, and hadn't seen video of Gerald Henderson's intentional forearm shiver until this morning. It looked like a cross between a WWF* grudge match and the penultimate fight in Karate Kid, when Daniel-san's leg gets jacked. Deadspin's got the video of the hit, along with Billy Packer's incessant whining that it was unintentional.

Anyway, I thought I'd see if I couldn't find that KK fight on YouTube...I failed, but I failed spectacularly. Check out this awesome music video, directed by the incomparable Billy Zabka!!!

* Suck it, World Wildlife Federation!

03 March 2007

There are no holes in an electric bass or a snooker table

Decided a while ago that I need a(nother) hobby to distract me from writing, so I weighed the merits of a variety of choices - drifting, batik, rolling white dudes for their wallets - and settled on just picking up the bass. Sure, I could have chosen the piano/keyboard (and just used the keyboard I already own), but what fun would that be. So I lobbied for a bass for my birthday and lo, one appeared.

So far, I've actually demonstrated the tiniest bit of discipline: I'm endeavoring to practice for an hour or more a day; not letting myself meander too far afield; not letting myself over-focus, either. Granted, I can be disciplined for long stretches of time and then completely lose it for years. Just ask my tennis partners and people who used to see me lifting at 6am. Still, if I can make small amounts of headway each day and each week, I might actually stick with it.

Anyway, I picked up a book tonight that should be pretty helpful, but now I'm a little scared...

Let's look at it a different way. If you were to decide you wanted to learn to play snooker, for example, you wouldn't expect to get a 147 break on day one, would you? No, you'd build up to that - you'd work on your potting, study the angles, work on your game and basically take the whole thing in smaller steps.

Oh! Nevermind. I understand English just fine...it's the English I don't understand, what with their boots not for feet, bonnets not for heads, and pasties not for boobs. Man, they talk funny.