Sunday, March 30, 2008

Darling don't you go and cut your hair.

Among the the many issues that will be discussed by representatives of the 32 teams of the NFL during their off season meeting will be the topic of players' hair length. Apparently there is a proposal on the board for a ban on long hair that goes out beyond their helmet. Players don't have to actually cut their hair but at least tuck it in under their helmets. Its reasoning is safety, to prevent the painful tackles made via hair pulling (or as I'd like to call it "hair collar" tackles) like the one Larry Johnson gave to the flowing locks of Troy Polamalu in 2006. However, I for one am not a supporter.

Frankly this seems like another example of the NFL reaffirming its reputation as the overly stuffy "No Fun League." Not only does the whole thing tread into the uncomfortable territory of dictating personal choices and discriminating against appearances; it further strips away the uniqueness of many of these NFL players. These long haired players are aware of the risks and have probably had an incident or two; so I believe it's a conscious choice on their part to keep their distinctive manes. Plus, it gives personality to a sport where individuality under matching uniforms, pads, and helmets is quite difficult. There's a reason when I made myself into a running back in Madden, I gave him a set of dreads that puts the Predator to shame. The league has already banned end zone celebrations and enforced strict uniform guidelines, this seems to be one in a line of actions to make NFL teams and players as homogeneous and vanilla as a game of electric football.

I hope that common sense and a call for personal liberties will prevail in striking this measure down. In the meantime here are some of my all time favorite long haired freaky people:

Troy Polamalu

Al Harris

Marion Barber III

R.W. McQuarters

Mike McKenzie

Domata Peko

Robert Gallery

Old School Ricky Williams

Now according to the article, it was the Kansas City Chiefs who originally proposed this new rule, however I would not be surprised if all this was masterminded behind the scenes by certain, jealous, vindictive players...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

...And Then There Was X

In a recent conversation, friend and fellow pop culture blogger Andrew U. told me of his genuine belief that rap superstar DMX was crazy; like, legitimately, certifiably, medically, bat shit insane. And the more I look back at his body of work, the more I tend to agree. The constant references to dog fighting, the prolific barking, the almost non-stop screaming, the gruesomely violent and unsettlingly specific lyrics, the unexplained relentless aggression at the world in general; it all adds up to a disturbing listening experience. To listen to DMX is to listen to the bizarre words and thoughts of a lunatic. I'm surprised that, despite his baker's dozen or so of arrests (mostly driving and dog fighting), he hasn't flat out killed a man.

Crazy as the man may be, one cannot argue that he is truly unique, for better for for worse. Say what you want about the guy but "Dark Man X" is a massive success that defies common sense. He's one of the best selling rappers of all time despite never having a top 20 single. He's the only artist to have his first five consecutive albums debut at number 1 on the Billboard charts (his sixth debuted at 2 coming up just 1,500 short). On top of that he has one of the better film careers among rapper/actors (I remember Cradle 2 the Grave being number one when it came out). He could release an album next week and his ever devoted following will take him straight to the top.

Perfect example of X's inimitable brand of craziness and appeal is one of his biggest hits, the inaptly titled "Party Up." Off the bat you'd think a song called "Party Up" would all about having a good time and well...partying. It would appear to be a carefree hip hop club anthem and from the irresistibly catchy beats it's very much that. However, the more you get into it, you realize this isn't an ordinary party song it's a DMX party song! The whole thing just abrasively punches you in the face, from the whistles to the horns, to the police sirens. And then there's the trademark DMX delivery, an antagonistic rant directed hyper aggressively right to the listener. The song's so thumping and catchy that you never really pay attention to the lyrics, but it essentially has nothing to do with partying at all. It's the standard DMX lyrical cocktail of: threats to assault you, explanations of why DMX is so hard, some metaphors about dog fighting, how he's angry and tired of certain people that he considers enemies of his, and reiterations of his threats to assault you.

My favorite part of the song is towards the middle where, after he disses whoever he's discussing, he further elaborates by LITERALLY listing all the factors of why they suck ("you wack, you're twisted, your girl's a hoe..."). Add that and about the three or four times he mentions either hitting someone with, or making someone suck his dick and you've got yourself vintage DMX.

Of course a song of this brilliant insanity requires an equally brilliant and insane video; the distant cousin of that other great bank robbery centered music video favorite of mine.

Here's a rundown of the events:
  • It all starts off innocently enough, our man DMX goes to his local branch's ATM to draw some funds.It turns out the machine is broken which is the cue for X to snap and rush up to the bank to give them a piece of his mind (although killing everyone doesn't seem too far fetched). Unfortunately just as he's arriving a notorious bank robber who looks like him and wears the same clothes leaves. What are the odds?
  • Now when X comes upon all the bank customers and employees on the ground cowering in fear, does he suspect something is up? Of course not! He just starts threatening/rapping at the throughly confused and frightened tellers! Probably about fixing that machine downstairs. While he continues his angry flow, the situation goes from bad to worse with cops and media surrounding the building.
  • X actually commits his sole logical action in the entire video (neigh perhaps in his entire career of videos) by noticing the injured security guard and attempting to bring him to safety. His reward for his good deed is being promptly shot at by the police, which I'm sure is some cutting social commentary on the racial profiling inherent in American criminal justice.
  • Soon afterwards all the hostages in the bank are cleared out. It's just X and the police. They're trying to make sense of this strange angry man screaming into a direct communication walkie talkie he suddenly got. Alas, the law doesn't seem to understand.
  • DMX finally realizes that he's involved in the aftermath of a bank robbery as the SWAT team storm the building. He escapes to the roof top. With his situation clearly at its bleakest he makes a call to his only hope: some guy in an SUV filled with strippers.
  • The police finally determine that X wasn't the robber based on the testimony of the guard. X continues rapping on the rooftop.
  • "It seems as though a couple of Suburbans are pulling up and females are running every where!?"
  • Finally the sensible black detective plays Reginald VelJohnson to the trigger happy uninformed white detective's Paul Gleason and stops the sniper while X Die Hards it off the building using his apparent repelling skills.
  • When he arrives on the ground he gets a gives a quick picture for the paper and is on his way, while the army of tramps continue to titillate and confuse the policemen. Thus concluding another wild adventure in the wacky life of DMX!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Guarantee...that I can't be stopped!!

Apparently small arms fire has now joined morbid obesity and diabetes in things that have failed to kill Chef Paul Prudhomme.

Big up to you, mon ami! You popularized Cajun cooking to a national level. Your creation of the Blackened Redfish dish nearly drove it into extinction. You were one of the first celebrities to get down with motorized scooters. You have a moderately successful double life as comedian Dom Deluise. You're literally and figuratively twice the celebrity Cajun chef that punk Emeril is. And now you dust off .22 caliber bullets like wayward flour (which is just about the coolest story anyone could ever have).

My big floppy, 1920s newsboy style, hats off to you, sir.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Special Agent Reporting

On the whole, I think Esurance commercials are a decently creative and well crafted way of selling as dry a product as auto insurance without the luxury of non sequitur cavemen or relying on the universal charisma of Dennis Haysbert. All things considered under the circumstances, they've gotten their name out, created a valuable corporate mascot in Erin Esurance (albeit with a deeply disturbing internet cult following); and despite the outrageous cartoons, managed to get their product message across clearly. Except for that one ad.

It's the one pictured above; that bizarro, sort of meta, pseudo-music video with the "What I Like About You" soundtrack. It doesn't really do much except ambiguously display the website address and provide fan service to all those Erin-philes out there. Without the context of the prior commercials a person wouldn't even know what they were selling. It just relies on the assumption that all this cartoon action would get you inquiring about the site. Esurance may have gotten popular in the last few years but it's no Nike or Gap who can get away with a commercial that just shoots out their ubiquitous trademark with no information about their products. I don't think anyone's buying car insurance for the image, so you may have to tell them what's in it for them.

However, all that was just a minor afterthought. If you're like me, after about the 80,000th time you've seen the commercial you wonder: are these "scenes" part of some actual Erin Esurance production? Well, apparently it actually and it's "Carbon Copy." Hosted by the company website, this is apparently the actual "film" that the commercial was showing outtakes from. They actually made a whole production for the commercial. Now that's thoroughness!

As for the film itself: not bad. There's a nice chemistry between Erin and her cavalier Handler. There's plenty of action, a little suspense, a dash of humor, and an unsettling bit of sexiness; all in roughly ten minutes. Your bar has been set "Quantum of Solace" (god, what an awful name).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Worst Album in My CD Collection

I wouldn't consider my CD collection all that impressive. By most standards it's middlingly modest, somewhere north of a hundred of so discs. Of course in the context of the increasingly barren wasteland that is the market for album sales, I may be a regular Rob Gordon. While there isn't much to my collection in terms quantity, I have always taken pride in the personal quality of the albums available.

As you all know I, first and foremost, have always put a high premium on "the hits." As a lifelong lover of all things POP, at the core it's all about the decadent, hook laden, catchy chorus repeating, idiot proof, instant gratification of the radio friendly single. While there are numerous albums in the collection that are alternatives to this general philosophy; on the whole all albums have been considered against my idiosyncratic personal standards to be justified in being bought and enshrined in my cheap, unsturdy, formica cabinet:
  • For an album to even be considered for purchase it needs, at the very least, to have one hit song or song I personally like (obviously I'd have to like the hit song as well). This might be a totally obvious fact to anyone who listens to music and buys albums; however for people who've had those rare, odd friends who legitimately don't really have any strong feelings about their music, who just reply that they "like all music" or "all music but rap and country", random album purchasing happens all the time. I had one such friend in high school who one day decided to get into "dance music" and we went to Best Buy where he indiscriminately began to select albums that looked like "dance music" in the dance section like some sort of alien trying to assimilate human culture.
  • An album must also show the potential for more hits and songs I would like. This rule sort of shields against excessive one hit wonder intrusion. If you look at someone like say Souja Boy; there's no way that there's anything else on "" that is anywhere close to "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" (as hard the second single "Soulja Girl" tries)! There are some artists with just a really good (maybe too good) song you just know that it isn't worth it to do anything more than buy/steal their lone masterpiece. Under this paradigm I would never have been justified in buying any Sugar Ray albums since they always had one great song per album (although their greatest hits would be perfect).
  • Then there is the rule of 3. If an artist has at least three solid songs I like on their album they've already sold me. If an artist, in this the modern age of the single, can provide at least three quality songs on one album, I consider it an admirable feat worthy of my cash. The rest of the album could possibly be unforgivably awful or contain some real hidden gems, but by that point you're playing with house money so you can take that risk.
  • It's pretty apparent that this system seems to have an advantageous skew towards greatest hit collections and compilation albums. A glance at my collection would emphatically show that, this is in fact extremely true. What can a say? For the budget minded music lover, Chicago's 2 Disc Greatest Hits is far more preferable than collecting over thirty years of filler packed albums. Of course may times, when possible, I try to go for a group or artist's major album over a greatest hits (like the Cars' stacked debut album).
These are, however, just factors I weight when looking over the sales racks, in the end the call is inexplicable and straight from the gut. If I followed these factors like some sort of conjunctive rule then an album like Ben Kweller's "Sha Sha" (which you probably guessed from the title and picture is indeed the worst album in my collection) would probably not be in my collection, but there would also be a lot of missing quality discs.

To be fair, "Sha Sha" is not technically the worst album that I own. It is the worst album that I bought. Track for track the worst album I own is the sparse, budget, mono sound, Led Zeppelin: The Early Years greatest hits CD that I got when my friend was cleaning out his car. The combination of the poorly recorded, nonsensically selected tracks and the fact that I don't like Led Zeppelin (I know, blasphemy) make it the absolute worst overall. However, since I didn't invest in that Zepp album it didn't hurt me like "Sha Sha" did.

Putting things in proper context, I bought "Sha Sha" during the last half of my senior year of high school somewhere in the spring of 2002. A variety of factors coincided to produce a personal period of CD buying for me that would never be repeated. With the recent downfall of Kazaa I was in between p2p networks, I was getting a steady flow of disposable income from working at Blockbuster ($5.95 and hour, w00t!), and Best Buy was practicing what later turned out to be illegally low predatory pricing on their CDs. At the time I was buying at least 2 CDs a week from the blue box.

All my purchases from that period up to that point were without regret. However, I soon got a bit too cocky. Emboldened by the satisfaction of my recent purchase of the Hives' "Veni Vidi Vicious" off the strength of a friend of mine playing "Hate to Say I Told You So" at a party, I decided to throw caution to the wind and picked "Sha Sha" based only on my fleeting like of "Wasted & Ready." When I popped in that quirky polka dotted CD I expected more of the same I got with "Wasted & Ready", a slightly-goofy, but still powerfully crunchy piece of power pop. As it turned out "Wasted & Ready" was as powerful as it got. The rest of the album was a mixed bag of acoustic and mildly grungy, folksy heart-sung songs. On paper there was no reason I wouldn't be this disinterested in the album, it was nicely offbeat, poppy as hell, and the production was flawless. In the end however, I just couldn't shake the feeling of slacker, insincerity that permeated all those supposedly touching songs about love and longing (the great pillars of all power pop) made everything seem hollow. To sum it up it was sort of like Moldy Peaches (and you know how much I love that indie folk/pop sound) but a little better and with electric guitars.

I found myself, just like I find myself now as I'm listening to the CD while writing this post, utterly indifferent to every other song on the album ( track 7 "Make it Up" comes the closest to following the potential of "Wasted & Ready"). I just couldn't get into it and, considering the mysterious lack of mainstream success of Ben Kweller despite all the favorable angles, the general public couldn't get into it either. So for now, "Sha Sha" remains in its dubious place in the depths of my collection, hoping its quirky little heart out for another mistake. Overall though if that's what qualifies as "the worst" in my little hierarchy of personal albums it doesn't seem so bad; at least I don't have any purchases that I would be outright ashamed of buying (although with my music tastes few albums are capable of shame on my part).

Monday, March 17, 2008

You, Me, and Dupre

David Patterson was sworn in as governor of New York today. I wonder down the line if he turns out to be soft on crime, education, or the environment, etc., will some paper be ballsy enough to end up saying "the governor has turned a blind eye" to those subjects? I'm looking in your direction, A.M. New York.

Today also marks, I'm assuming, the worst week in the life of Eliot Spitzer. If this whole affair was a poorly written 80s comedy he probably would have, after the inauguration, been hit in the the groin by a wayward baseball, then fallen in the mud, and then Rodney Dangerfield would start to dance. However, I guess our public schadenfreude will be satisfied by his highly publicized humiliation, the disgraceful loss of everything he has worked for in his professional life, the irreparable damage to his personal life, and the possibility of jail time or criminal penalties.

What would make a man with so much to lose risk it all on such a foolish activity? I think Fred Durst said it best and most succinctly: "Hey, what the hell, what you want me to say? I won't lie, that I can't deny I did it all for the Nookie!"

He's a dude! That's all you need to know! We're not made of stone. Everything else we think and do is a second job to thinking about sex. It's hard wired within us to stick it to something whether it be female, male, animal, vegetable, or mineral. You know who's buying all the porn? Men. You know who's buying all the male porn? Gay men. If they invented cheap, reliable, sex robots, the human race as we know it would be extinct in 50 years. It's be "Children of Men" except everyone would be too busy boning their love machine to shoot at Clive Owen.

Just look at the long, sordid history of political sex scandals for all branches of government; it's inevitable. Even the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the free world, with all the attention, all the history, all the importance, would gladly throw it all into jeopardy by being a chubby chaser. The scandal ridden modern Catholic Church has proven that a man would walk over God himself to get some action. That is how powerful this force within us is.

So I have nothing to say to Mr. Spitzer about his fickle pickle. My only real beef is the suspected money laundering he did to get the money for these little trips. For a man who's built his whole career on cracking down on white collar crime and corruption it's a fairly disgusting display of hypocrisy. You should have just set aside your dough in a some discrete rainy day petty cash sex jar like the rest of us. Or not paid such an egregious amount of roughly $5,000 for an hour of sex with Ms. Ashley Alexandra Dupre. I checked out those pictures from the Post (who switches roles with the New York Times when it comes to quality and thoroughness of scandal reporting), there's nothing special there. I don't know if she had a sparkling personality, mad bedroom skillz, or a second vagina, but I wouldn't have paid those rates let alone risked my entire reputation on it. I'm a value shopper, just cause I've got the money doesn't mean I need to recklessly spend it.

With that said here are five cinematic bawdy women of the night that I would be willing to put up both my funds and public reputation to bed (and no, I won't participate in the auction for 12 year old Brooke Shields' virginity in Pretty Baby):

Julia Roberts - Pretty Woman
This is obviously a no-brainer. The all time greatest hooker with a heart of gold. The looks, the wit, the irresistible charm, it's all so perfectly arraigned. Some might say she's a little horse faced but I think she's still quite a "pretty woman." Although my problem was that she was so nice that I never really believed she was this low class hooker. You can throw some stilettos and hot pants on Julia Roberts but you can't make her look sleazy. She's a little to much like someone I'd marry than anonymously screw, I would have liked it a little sleazier, but still worth it.

Dolly Parton - The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Worst porno ever! Despite the disappointing lack of nudity and the excessive singing, what can I say? I love Dolly! It's not even the breast thing, which I guess is a plus, but I really couldn't care less about. I don't know if it's in the sweet voice or "ah shucks" attitude, but there's this well meaning earnestness about Dolly Parton that I find completely unique to her. That's an inner earnestness cause she on the outside looks fake as hell, like a walking Grand Ole Opry Barbie doll. But, hey, that's cool too; even in recent photos she looks exactly the same. Nice.

Shelley Long - Night Shift
They really don't make movies as high concept that this anymore. City Morgue night shift workers Michael Keaton and Henry Winkler decide to help out, hooker with a heart of gold Shelley Long, by turning the morgue into a call girl service. I thought Shelley Long was throughly cute and funny and totally likable in this completely underrated 80s comedy. Shelley brought that kind of poor man's Goldie Hawn but still sort of unique style in almost all her roles whether it was Cheers (she was totally better than Kristie Alley), the "Brady" movies, and yes even "Frozen Assets".

Nancy Allen - Dressed to Kill
It's interesting that to me Nancy Allen has only two notable roles and both are completely the opposite of each other: the sexy, seductive, call girl in "Dressed to Kill" and the totally un-sexy, gun toting, partner in the "Robocop" films. She really didn't look all that hot (although judged by the standards of the 80s she was crazy hot) to be this high brow call girl, but again she had personality and that goes a long way. She was smart and daring as she totally did all the dangerous heavy lifting catching the murderer while her nerdy parnter kept bossing her around. Also that scene towards the end where she's trying to seduce Michael Caine? Hawt!

Three Breasted Prostitute - Total Recall
She doesn't even have a name and was played by nobody famous, but we all know the legendary three breasted prostitute that propositions Arnold when he comes to Mars. Now I said before I wasn't a breast man, but that's size; it's a different story with quantity! My mind was completely blown when she whipped those puppies out (one of the roughly dozen times my mind got blown the first time watching this movie). I'm sure it's some twisted mockery of male Freudian sexual fixations, but man oh man what I wouldn't give to get some of that sweet action!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

It's Just a Fantasy...Part II

I am currently enjoying the first day of my week long Spring Break. As in years past I marked the start of it by yelling "Spring Break!!" a la Milhouse after exiting my final class of the week. Anyone care to join me on a wild road trip to Knoxville? If we're lucky we may be able to swing by Reno to catch an Andy Williams show.

This is really one of the things I'll miss most if I ever actually end up getting "a job" and enter the "real world." Instead of spending a wide open week doing everything in my power to forget all the things I've learned this semester, I'd be...working and complaining about all the extra vacation traffic on my daily commutes; pretty depressing. Let's all just hope I won't have to deal with that sort of unpleasantness.

The coming of spring break also heralds the imminent return of baseball, now only a few weeks away. And with that awkward lead in, I present part two of my three part series on my upcoming fantasy season with exclusive round by round coverage:

League: Ah Me Gusta Beisbol
My Team: Team Korea All Stars
Draft order: 9th pick out of 10
Previous Year's Rank: 5 of 9

This is my other Yahoo! baseball draft with all the standard 5x5 roto rules and formats. It's the smallest of my three drafts, usually with ten or less teams competing. While the odds of winning the league are higher, I prefer as many teams as possible. With a small league like this there is a far deeper pool of players to go around which sort of takes a little bit of the fun out of mining for talent at the bottom of the draft or speculating on unproven prospects. On the other hand it is fun to have an arms race to see which stacked team of all stars can top the other and the devastating effect of a star getting injured (or being suspended for steroids) is mitigated by a deep waiver wire or trade block. My team last year, much like most of my fantasy teams had gaudy offensive numbers but was handcuffed by mediocre to awful starting pitching leading to another middle of the standings finish. What can I say, the chicks dig the long ball (and stolen bases). Hopefully, this year I'll try not to be a negligent father to my pitching concerns, while still remaining #1 Dad to my offense.

Rd.1 Jimmy Rollins SS - That's right Rollins again. He's almost always the best option available at the bottom of the first round. I hate the man and in reality if he had a miserable season it'd work out best for me; but alas in fantasy land he's the player that a majority of my fortunes now rest on. Let's go Phillies.

Rd.2 Ryan Braun 3B/OF - It's only his second year, he hasn't played a full season, I normally prefer established talent, and I still think Tulowitzki should have been Rookie of the Year but the monstrous upside was so great I couldn't pick over him. If his numbers last year extrapolate to a full season this out. Interesting how my first two picks were under such duress.

Rd.3 Magglio Ordonez OF - If it wasn't for A-Rod casually having another god-like year, Mags would have been the MVP. While I don't expect him to hit .363 again, barring injury I can't see how he won't put up another season of fat numbers in that juiced Tigers offense.

Rd.4 Russell Martin C - Yes, I was that guy at the draft who spent their early pick on one of the two elite catchers this year. It was a little compulsive of me, but for the rest of the draft I felt really good watching everyone else try to find a backstop that wouldn't hurt their team too much. The catcher position will actually be working for me rather than against me.

Rd.5 Bobby Abreu OF - He stopped hitting a lot of homers after his historic win at the Home Run Derby in 2005, but the man's still fantasy gold. He's the type of player that I'm always looking for in a draft, a proven guy who has put up consistent numbers in all the catagories. Although as with every time I draft a Yankee I still get a bad taste in my mouth.

Rd.6 Carlos Zambrano SP - I figured it was about time to pick up my ace. He can get a little wild sometimes but there's no denying the guy's a stud. He's extremely durable, strikes out a bunch, and gets a lot of wins. He's just got to keep that WHIP down.

Rd.7 Derrek Lee 1B - I still have lingering bad memories of 2006 when he derailed my season after breaking his wrist, but he seems like he bounced back pretty nicely last year. As long as he keeps eating his Frosted Flakes and avoids collisions with Rafael Furcal I don't think he will disappoint.

Rd.8 John Smoltz SP - This is another strange fantasy bedfellow. Along with Chipper Jones, Smoltz has been the consistent face of everything I hate about the Atlanta Braves. However, now he's my number two man and I'll have to cheer him on as he continues his stellar pitching into his forties, usually against the Mets.

Rd.9 Mariano Rivera RP - Normally he's taken a lot higher than Rd. 9 but I guess many see the beginning of the end after last year's good but not great season. Sure he's only getting pretty old, but he's still going to get a mess of saves without the Joe Borowski ERA. He's still elite in my book. There's that taste again though.

Rd.10 Dan Uggla 2B - I learned my lesson from the previous draft about holding out for second basemen in the post-Utley part of the draft. So, I turned to my good friend Dan Uggla who came out of nowhere to help out my team in 2006. He still provides top tier offense for the position, but please for the love of god, improve that .245 average!!

Rd.11 Kelvim Escobar SP - He's always been consistent but unspectacular. I am hoping that he might be able to repeat something close to the career year he had last year. He'll always maintain some degree of default quality and he's on a good team.

Rd.12 Delmon Young OF - Here's another guy who goes against my "proven veterans with established ceilings" drafting tendencies. Here's one of those immensely talented young stars (younger than me) with fantastic five category fantasy potential that may or may strike. I figured I'd do a little gambling. Although I thought I'd never see him in baseball after that umpire incident.

Rd.13 John Maine SP - I think he's a solid starter who's only going to post better numbers this year on an improved Mets team. Of course this is all through the slightly rose colored frames of a Met fan.

Rd.14 Chad Cordero RP - "The Chief" provides me with a steady no nonsense source of saves. Although a repeat of that amazing 2005 campaign would be nice though. I think the best saves sources are on bad teams. They don't blow out teams much so things are close and even the worst teams will have roughly 60 -70 wins.

Rd.15 - Mike Lowell 3B - Aside from 2005, when his talent inexplicably disappeared for that one season, Lowell has been steady to (for example last year) great. I double he'll hit .324 and have 120 rbi but in that prolific Boston line up the numbers should be pretty tasty; especially for a guy I'll probably be switching in and out of the utility slot.

Rd.16 - Oliver Perez SP - He's another repeat from my earlier draft; he actually fell three rounds here. Like I said before he'll many times throw a gem or not get out of the first inning. Hopefully he'll pick up a thing or two from fellow lefty Johan and hit his potential.

Rd.17 Ken Griffey Jr. OF - Hopefully I'll reap some of those 30 HRs and 90 RBIs until his arm falls off or his leg explodes sometime in late July.

Rd.18 - Bronson Arroyo SP - A recent Victor fantasy favorite. Not a year has gone by since he broke out with Boston, where I didn't draft him on one of my teams. While not amazing, he's definitely was not as bad most people think; pitching for the Reds should be judged on a different standard.

Rd.19 Tony Pena RP - Apparently he's got the inside track on the closer spot on the Diamondbacks, if not it's only a 19th round pick.

Rd.20 Kelly Johnson 2B - The likely lead off guy for Atlanta so there's a lot of potential for runs there. If I get too disgusted by Uggla's batting average I just may stick him in. It'd be even better if I could trade him to my other team that's forced to start Felipe Lopez.

Rd.21 - Joey Votto 1B - Decided to blow my throw away final spot on the hot prospect. I know it'll take a lot of faith in the Reds to put him over "superstar" Scott Hatterburg, but if they decide to pull the trigger and reap whatever benefits of the hype...or I'll just immediately cut him now.

Overall, I'm feeling good about this one. If I can just get average to good numbers from the starting pitchers I think I'll be competing for the top spot. I don't have that many doubts that the offense will be doing their part. Again I must emphasize that predicting anything in fantasy baseball however is a futile task so it'll be interesting to see how different this roster will be mid season.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

We're not in Kansas anymore

Looks like Mary Ann had a taste for the chronic. Makes you wonder what was in those coconut cream pies that made everyone so hungry? Honestly though, Dawn Wells was the last member of that island I would have ever suspected of being arrested for something like this. I remember when Gilligan (Bob Denver) got busted for possession a while back and everybody laughed when he said he got it from Dawn (and then the Skipper hit him with his hat). Well, it looks like we had you pegged wrong, little buddy.

Despite it all I'll still pick you over Ginger (and I guess Mrs. Howell although she is at best a dark horse candidate) for my favorite girl on the island. Hey, I got nothing wrong with chicks who smoke, they're usually pretty interesting...and more often easy. I'll even dedicate a little musical shout out for the occasion: Marshall Crenshaw's jangly, power pop gem "Mary Anne" (of which the lyrics are uncannily apt)!

Monday, March 10, 2008

It's Just a Fantasy...

Fantasy baseball might possibly be killing baseball. It won't be one of the main things that are killing baseball like steroids, HGH, the increasing popularity of football, Scott Boras, and the lack of parity for small market teams; but it contributes in its own little way. What began as an obscure basement hobby by a bunch of statheads looking to take Strat-O-Matic baseball to the next level has grown into this massive national activity that runs rampant in our schools, offices, and the internet.

Sure, on one hand it all seems positive, there's an interest in the game and a chance for the fan to get more involved with the up coming season. On the other hand, it reduces a beautiful sport into cold numbers and figures. All nuances fall off to the side and the information about if somebody stole a base becomes more important than what team actually won (this is unless you have pitcher going that night). This national hunger for numbers can be evidenced anytime you tune into a cable sports network and witness the cramped real estate on your screen, bursting with streaming numbers and statistics. Then there are those people who just take it way too far, organizing massive drafts, with custom made boards and faux trophies and rings, stuffing themselves into another coronary; thinking they're Theo Epstein when most of it really comes down to if your players randomly don't blow out their knees out. It's the antithesis of the team nature of the sport. It encourages reckless gambling. And most of all its inherent complexity makes it a tremendous time sink.

But, hey, I still do it. It's fun. You know I love wasting time. And in the end I stand a good chance of winning some nice scratch and bragging rights. Besides, how else am I going to make a worthless September match up between the Marlins and the Nationals seem interesting?

With that being said. I present the first of my three annual fantasy draft teams with exclusive round by round coverage:

League: The Champs Are Here
My Team: The Chan Ho Parks
Draft order: 10th pick out of 12
Previous Year's Rank: 8 of 13

This is one of my two Yahoo! baseball drafts. It's a standard 5x5 roto draft (and if I have to explain that to you, you're probably not interested in the answer) with 5 pitchers and 2 relief pitchers, etc. My team last year was down right schizophrenic. I was in the top or near the top of every offensive category, however my pitching was last or second to last in nearly every pitching category. All this led to a team that was firmly established just south of the muddled middle. This year I hope for a more balanced effort.

Rd 1. Jimmy Rollins SS - What can I say? He was the best player available at my position in the draft. While there's little doubt he'll give me elite production at SS, I'm still torn about depending on the leader of the arch rivals to my Mets.

Rd2. Carlos Beltran OF - I seem to end up with him every other year. While he's one of the best fantasy OFs around, I always feel like he could be playing better and he's just being lazy out there.

Rd3. C.C. Sabathia SP - Usually I hold off on my pitching until it's too late and I'm relying on Bronson Arroyo to be my staff ace, but this year I made an affirmative move to get a star. It's a shame though that average pitcher weight isn't a category.

Rd4. Adam Dunn OF - He's like a real life, white, Pedro Cerrano. Basically it's a Faustian deal to sacrifice batting average for a guaranteed 40 home runs. Oh and is that a handful of stolen bases I see?

Rd5. Carlos Guillen 1B/SS - I'll be playing him at 1B. I think he's one of the most underrated fantasy players around. In that juiced Tigers offense he'll hit .300, have at least 20 HRs, 100 RBIs, and have double digit steals. Now that's the kind of five category production I like.

Rd6. Chris Young SP - Needed a quality number two pitcher and on a bunch of teams he's as good enough to be a number one. The last two years I've picked him, he has never let me down. Which means he'll probably suck this year.

Rd7. Ryan Zimmerman 3B - I don't like turning to players from the Nationals for offense, but Zim's a solid 2nd tier 3B option. I'm hoping his stats go up a bit since with the new stadium they don't have to play in that pitcher friendly canyon known as RFK.

Rd8. Corey Hart OF - He wears his sunglasses at night and provides five category production in a stacked Milwaukee lineup.

Rd9. Trevor Hoffman RP - This was a knee jerk reaction to other owners gobbling up closers. I panicked and picked the most established name out there. Sure he's a 100, sure his numbers have been going down as of late, but....

Rd10. Rich Hill SP - Solid third starter. He's young and has good numbers. He does play for the Cubs so freak injuries or sudden loss of ability to play is not uncommon.

Rd11. Rafael Soriano RP - He's in a great situation and should have great success closing for the Braves. Of course, that was the exact same thought I had when I drafted Dan Kolb in 2005.

Rd12. Chad Billingsley SP - He was a real surprise for one of my teams last year and has all the stuff to be a real ace for the Dodgers. One my favorite picks in the draft.

Rd13. Oliver Perez SP - A walking land mine of a pitcher; don't know if he'll pitch a complete game shut out or get shelled for 10 in the first inning. I think it averages out to fairly decent pitcher in the end.

Rd14. Matt Kemp OF - Another young Dodger that helped me out this year. Outfield's a little crowded out there in LA, but I'm sure his talents will keep him in consistently.

Rd15. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C/1B - You have to pick a catcher sometime. I figure he won't hurt the team too much and he does hit home runs, which everybody loves.

Rd16. Aaron Rowand OF - Everybody's saying he's going to hit the wall (literally and figuratively) in San Francisco this year. As a lower round backup outfielder, I'll take a lesser version of his 2007 campaign.

Rd17. Mark Buehrle SP - Figured the team needed a veteran clubhouse presence.

Rd18. Willy Tavares OF - He steals bases.

Rd19. Felipe Lopez 2B/SS - Let this be a lesson. Don't hold off on drafting your second baseman until the last few rounds. This would have been a great option in 2005 before he joined the Nationals and lost his talent.

Rd20. Yunel Escobar 2B/3B/SS - Nice young prospect with sweet three position versatility. He could end up being the Braves lead off guy.

Rd21. Aaron Heilman RP - Mr. Irrelevant. I figure if the one of the Mets starters gets injured he could fill in or if Wagner gets injured he could close; so he's at a good position to capitalize.

So in the end I think it was a decent first draft, good but not great. This doesn't look like a first place team off the bat, but the thing about fantasy baseball is the capricious and arbitrary nature of the game. I'm sure some of these guys (I'm looking at you Felipe) will be dealt and replaced by the next breakout star waiting on the waiver wire or through a trade as the season progresses.

Friday, March 07, 2008

In the white room...

I have very few legitimate memories of my pre-adolescent years from the late 80s to the early 90s. I have a hazy recollection of my parents watching the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, a speech by President Reagan, and the intro to Cheers. That about sums it up for me and my eyewitness accounts of the 80s. The early 90s are a little better, that's when I first started getting into TV. The kids programing from that period are probably the most well preserved of my memories from that time. It's a shame however, that my family didn't have any cable and I hadn't really been exposed to any real music by then. In retrospect the roughly four year period from 1988 to 1992, in my opinion, seem to be the most diverse and interesting period in American pop music history.

There are really no set markers to conveniently bracket the period. Oddly enough, for me the period is about parallel to the original Bush administration. If I had to pick a starting point I'd go with the week of election day, November 12 when The Escape Club went to number one with "Wild, Wild West" to when Boyz II Men released their biggest hit "End of the Road" on August 15, 1992. For that wild four year period it seemed that music fans were just lost, wandering a diverse landscape of genres and styles. Definitive 80s music and style had all but ended and as the next decade approached everyone appeared to be confused as to what would be the signature 90s sound.

Just looking at the number one singles from the Hot 100 and you could see how exciting and tumultuous the timespan was. While some 80s stars still ruled the charts (Madonna, Michael Jackson, Phil Collins), it was a time when Chicago would be replaced by Poison and then by Bobby Brown all in a six week span. Boy bands (New Kids, Color Me Badd) dueled top honors with hair metal bands (Poison, Bad English, Guns N Roses) and pop princesses (Taylor Dane, Debbie Gibson, Amy Grant). Hip and hop and R&B were making their initial breaks into the pop mainstream (Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey, Kriss Kross, yes even Vanilla Ice). And song like "The Living Years" went to number one!

It was the American Dream incarnate, an open audition for the future of pop music and the country was ready to let anyone get a crack at it! Then everyone just decided to go with hip hop and R&B and aside from a few notable deviations (Candle in the Wind 97, Santana, American Idol winners) that has been more or less the norm for over 15 years now from Boyz II Men to Flo Rida.

Despite the seemingly label defying diversity of the era, there appears to be one common thread that links many of these diverse acts together: their over reliance on the bare single color background music video. The perfect example of this can be seen in C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)." It's that simple, single color (usually white, sometimes black and white), minimalist background look that apparently defined all that was cool in music videos in the late 80s, early 90s. Some videos would have other shots, some even elaborate shots, and story lines, and cinematic elements, but then they'd always defer back to the artists singing and dancing in some empty parallel universe room. Dance videos were the biggest culprits: "Strike It Up", "Finally", "U Can't Touch This", "Straight Up". This was understandable since they probably wanted to shift the focus onto the dancing without any distracting visuals.

Bobby Brown and his fellow New Jack Swingers were repeat offenders: "Every Little Step", "Don't Be Cruel", "Do Me", "She Ain't Worth It". This also seemed in line with the music.

It was interesting when some metal bands eschewed the standard concert footage videos and picked up on it: "Cherry Pie", "Something to Believe In", "More Than Words"

And in some cases it was just strange and/or annoying: "She Drives Me Crazy", "I'm Too Sexy", "Love Will Never Do Without You", "The King of Wishful Thinking", "Nothing Compares 2 U" (one of my least favorite songs and music videos).

How, most set designers and background artists managed to keep their families fed during this dry period in music video history, I have no idea. I'm sure they were all jumping for joy when Hype Williams came along.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ass to Ass!

*Even though it's been about eight years since it came out, I guess I should technically throw out a spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't seen the film "Requiem for a Dream." Although with a title like that you sort of suspect how things may end.

My roommates were watching said film a few nights ago and I caught it with them. However, having seen the movie a few times prior; after the first third of the film, just a little after the ominous start of the "Fall" section of the film, I peaced out and when to bed. This was now the point where I usually left any airing of "Requiem" (however infrequent they may be).

The reason I do this is to avoid the inevitable disturbing decline and dark, crushingly depressing conclusion of the film. Leaving at the end of the initial "Summer" section of the film leaves me with a feel good short about four characters who are making it out the their once tragic existences. Jared Leto and Marlon Wayans have made themselves a tidy profit from successfully selling drugs. In turn, Leto can finally accomplish many of his life goals like trying to reconcile with his mother and helping in financing his girlfriend Jennifer Connelly's clothing store. On top of that his mother, who once lived in desperate loneliness; thanks to her diet pills, is losing weight, feeling great, and is set to be on her favorite game show. Yes sir, things are certainly looking bright in Brighton Beach! Nothing can go wrong...and nothing will go wrong.

There won't be any blown drug deals or mental breakdowns or amputations or incarcerations or hellish descents into humiliation and degradation; all cumulating in the most the most heartbreaking and uniformly disappointing endings for a movie's cast of characters since "On the Beach." It's just a feel good story about the wacky and unexpected benefits of selling and consuming "Weeds" or "Breaking Bad."

However this means that I'll most likely be missing out on my favorite character in the movie, the old man screaming "ASS TO ASS!!" at Jeniffer Connelly at the end of the film.

I know I'm suppose to be horrified by the humiliation and the depths of depravity that Connelly's character has fallen because of her addictions. She is in a ongoing personal hell that may actually be worse than the situations of the other characters. In a way it's probably the hardest scene in the film for most watchers. However, with that being said, for some reason I find that guy's (apparently his character was named "Uncle Hank") enthusiastic proclamation just too amusing.

Just look at the way his face lights up with such pure joy like a kid asking for candy. There's a twinkle in the eyes of the old man. Not only does he say it once, but he keeps repeating it like some absurd ass related mantra. Of all the things they want these drug enslaved girls to do, the number one request is "ass to ass." This combined with the absolutely ridiculous set up of the sex party that apparently is attended by a bunch of drunken business men ("Hey you wanna come over to my penthouse after work? Me and some of the guys from accounting are going to bribe to women with drugs to do crazy shit for us." "There'll be pizza and ass to ass.") and my feelings toward the whole thing is more comically shocked than disturbingly shocked.

As for you, character actor Stanley Herman, having your long career of playing doctors and lawyers be summed up by an eight second scene of you screaming "ass to ass" may be a little embarrassing in the eyes of some people; but take heart. You have accomplished more notoriety in one eight second scene than most of your fellow generic white collar old guy character actors. And if this "lawyer" thing ever leads me anywhere I hope I'll one day find myself in a such a similar situation; a dark seedy penthouse, surrounded by rabid men in suits, humiliating young girls with crippling heroin addictions, screaming "ass to ass."

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Raisin in the Sun

Raisin Bran is about five tiers below my favorite cereals (Reese's Peanut Butter Crunch and Grape Nuts). I was reminded of this when I found myself without any other cereal options at breakfast this morning. It's bland, ugly, has a weird texture, devoid of anything interesting to read on the box, and is entirely lacking in it's one saving grace: the raisins. Why are they so proud of the two scoops? It's such a inadequate sum of sugar coated raisins to make the bran palatable. Not only that, most of the time it's wholly inaccurate. Every box regardless of size has that smiling sun god (whose official name is the highly original "Sunny") proclaiming its two scoop guarantee. It's impossible that this is true when you compare the mini boxes that come in variety ten packs and the gigantic warehouse club sized boxes that are about as large and unwieldy as a rocket launcher and assume they contain the same finite amount of raisin goodness.

That begs the question, why hasn't anyone called Kellogg out for its undeserved dominant share of the the Raisin/Bran breakfast cereal market with such an inferior product? If I was the powers that be behind Post Raisin Bran or even General Mills' Total Raisin Bran I'd have a simple course of action: up the scoops! Hell, if Kellogg is so damn proud of their measly two scoops, we're going to three! It's just a matter of simple logic. If two scoops of raisins is the reason why people prefer Kellogg's Raisin Bran, more than two scoops should make a superior cereal. I know I'd certainly need at least three, perhaps even four scoops to move Raisin Bran up my personal depth chart.

If a good old fashion raisin scoop war did erupt between the major cereal brands, in the end it could only benefit us the consumer. Just as the decade long disposable razor war has given us razors with sentient intelligence and an infinite number of blades, a raisin arms race could finally breath some much needed innovation into this stale industry. Along with the ever increasing ratio of raisins to bran, there might be a prune, maybe concord grapes, craisins, a dried apricot thrown in there; raisin flavored bran; bran flavored raisins; genetically altered grain/raisin hybrids; raisins in space; raisins with the ability to feel the emotion known as love; oh the brave new world of possibilities!

Now I'm sure there'll be some crusty, old, reactionaries who may not like this bold future that awaits us and are scared by the perceived horrors of a post-bi-scoop world (actually considering the average age group that probably eat Raisin Bran it's probably most of the market). However, progress cannot be avoided, perhaps not in my lifetime (definitely not in the average Raisin Bran consumer's lifetime) but innovation will find a way. And on that day when mankind has transcended the dark ages by casting aside its restrictive two scoops shackles the sun will shine high and bright.