Saturday, August 1, 2009

Do you like ham?

Of course you do.

Also, here's Wilt Chamberlain, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Andre the Giant on the set of Conan the Destroyer.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A really good article about a really good player

I would encourage anybody who likes baseball or likes good sports writing to read Howard Bryant's recent piece on Pedro Martinez, found here.

Bryant is an excellent writer. In my opinion, he's the best writer at ESPN, the Worldwide Leader. His recent pieces on former players' union chief Donald Fehr, greatest closer of all time Mariano Rivera, the recently released Michael Vick, and keeping PED users out of the Hall of Fame have all been very good reads and well-written and researched articles. I don't always agree with Bryant (for example, his stance on PED users being banned from the Hall), but at no point have I ever said "he doesn't know what he's talking about" or wanted to punt an infant as retribution for his heinous writing (Gene Wojciechowski). Anyway, I encourage all of you to follow him.

Now, his subject, Pedro. Pedro Martinez, at his peak, was a better pitcher than just about anybody else that's toed the rubber in history. The numbers back it up. Wins and losses aren't the most important factor in determining overall value, but there must be something said for Pedro's absurd career winning percentage of .684, behind only Whitey Ford and Don Gullett amongst post-WWII pitchers, and both of those guys pitched in much less offensively challenging eras for pitchers. Pedro's 3117 career strike outs has him at 13th on the All-Time list, tied with Bob Gibson (a number which he'll undoubtedly pass when he begins pitching for the Phillies later this year), and the folks he is behind are all either Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers (barring the exclusion of Roger Clemens for PEDs or the exclusion of Bert Blyleven for the idiocy of Hall of Famer voters). It should also be noted that everybody in front of Perdo on the Ks list pitched at least 1000 more innings...which is the equivalent of 5 or 6 more seasons by todays standards. And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention his inhuman 1.051 career WHIP, good enough for 6th best all-time. Those who have bettered him? Addie Joss, Ed Walsh, and John Ward, who all pitched before 1920, and Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, who are both relievers and thus less susceptible to high WHIPs. So really, the guy has been absurdly good.

Many will point to Pedro's lack of cumulative numbers to discredit him as anything other than greatness. Indeed, some numbers, namely his 214 career wins, aren't as great as some others, it would be foolish to think that Pedro wasn't one of the most dominant pitchers of the steroid era when he, clearly, wasn't doing any. One pitcher that many olde-tyme fans like to point to as the standard bearer of excellence is Sandy Koufax. Now Koufax was a great pitcher, but was he better than Martinez? Let's examine. Now because Koufax was a victim of injuries that likely would have been fixable these days, we'll go only on average-based stats, not cumulative. Koufax's career ERA: 2.76, Pedro's: 2.91. Certainly that's advantage, if negligible for Koufax, until one remembers that Koufax played in a pitching dominant era and Pedro is playing in a offense and power dominant era. So we look to ERA+ [100*(ERA/league average ERA)], a tool which measures how much better one is compared to their respective league including a ball park adjustment, in this instance, higher is better. Koufax: 131, very good. Pedro: 154, even better. As previously discussed, Pedro's WHIP of 1.051 is better than Koufax's still impressive 1.106. In addition, Pedro's BB/9 and K/9 of 2.4 and 10.1, respectively, are better than Koufax's rates of 3.2 and 9.3. Also, they possess the same HR/9 of 0.8, even though, again, Koufax played in a era dominated by big ballparks, smaller and weaker players, and pitching while Pedro pitched in the most homer-happy era in baseball history. Of course, none of this comparison is done to take away anything from Koufax, one of the finest pitchers ever and a deserving Hall of Famer, especially for his unreal performance from 1962-1966 (though it may be done to spite some Olde-Tyme fans...they can't use the internets so I'm not really worried). Rather I make these comparisons to illustrate how good Martinez has been.

But if stats simply aren't enough for you, simply read Bryant's piece. Other major league players, trained professionals and the absolute best in the world, were in awe of the man. People will, rightly, remember Curt Schilling as one of the keys that put the Red Sox over the top and ended their 86 year World Series drought. But those same people should remember that Pedro was every bit as good as Schilling that season, and had, by far, his worst season with the Red Sox. It was Pedro who brought legitimacy and an edge back to the Red Sox and started the rush of perennial contending that Boston has enjoyed in the past decade.

As a younger fan, I never cared too much about who was pitching for any team other than the Orioles, but I did care about Pedro. I remember seeing him throwing in the outfield before a Red Sox-Orioles game that he was not scheduled to pitch in and thinking, "This guy is no-bigger than does he do it?" And that's the thing; there is no explanation. Pedro was simply better. I don't know if he'll be successful with this comeback stint with the Phillies, but I really hope he is.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Both of your authors, for whatever reasons, don't have much love for the Chicago White Sox. I don't think we really hate them, but we certainly dislike them. But one player that both of us have always loved is Mark Buehrle.

Buehrle is an efficient pitcher who throws tons of strikes, generates lots of ground balls, and works quickly. He threw a no-hitter on April 18, 2007. And now he's thrown the 18th perfect game in major league history. He used just 116 pitches and a spectacular catch by Dewayne Wise to thwart any offensive attempts by an imposing Rays' lineup.

So congratulations to Buehrle. He will undoubtedly be a key cog in the White Sox' playoff hopes and will continue to be the most likeable player from the South Side.

Well this is great news

I've always liked Phil Mickelson. He's a nice guy. He's left-handed. He has a beautiful wife and kids. He finally got that no-major monkey off his back. He's pudgy. What's not to love?

Well, it turns out that Lefty is even cooler than we thought. That's right, Phil Mickelson is trying to buy 105 Waffle House "restaurants".

Seriously, the Waffle House serves horrendously greasy food that has caused more than one person to reconsider their religious affiliation and question why there is evil in the world. But like any good diner, dive bar, or brothel worth its salt, it's about the atmosphere with Waffle House. And that atmosphere says, "I'm drunk, high, or too poor to care."

So Phil, I hope this works out for you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In an effort to maintain our usual standards...

Nick's recent review was entirely too professional and good. So I counter with this:

Review: The Hurt Locker

Kathryn Bigelow does not care what you think.

She is not interested in your flag-waving git-r-done jingoism, and she is not interested in your left-wing apologist psychobabble. What Kathryn Bigelow is interested in is delivering one of the greatest war films ever made. And with The Hurt Locker, she has succeeded.

Most people agree that World War II was the apex of American heroism. At no other time in human history has the USA been held in such high esteem by its allies. As such, films depicting American deployment, combat, and experience in Nazi-occupied France all have the saccharine, yet historically accurate, undercurrent of unshakable bravery amongst its American protagonists.

Thirty years later, America was embroiled in the Vietnam War, a warped return to the battlefield that seemed to turn World War II's noble conquest of evil inside out. Clean-cut PFC Johnny from Iowa City didn't want to serve his country and make it home to his young wife anymore; he wanted to make Charlie bleed and get laid and smoke his painful memories of home away. Americans, just a generation removed from their collective identity as the world's saviors, were killing innocent people, killing women, killing children, killing their own college students in Ohio. As before, the American public educated itself of its country's servicemen through Hollywood, but now, the images were darker, bleaker, angrier. The Thousand-Yard Stare of Colonel Nicholson's heroic lads gave way to Travis Bickle's sociopathic monologue in front of his mirror.

Today, the world--with America invariably entrenched within it--is at war once more. And, as before, the mood has shifted with the passage of time. The recurring theme of the Iraq War, begun in March 2003, is the ebb and flow of emotion and trust. The physical threat to the American soldier is greater than ever--there is no gentleman's agreement between combatants on the battlefield--and the downtime is more customizable than ever. GIs can have protein powder shipped to their bunks, play Xbox 360 off-shift, call their wives at any time. There is no particular routine or arrangement or schedule to military life in the Middle East. And with this new purgatory of the constant switch between duty and simple self-preservation has arisen a new kind of soldier, a new kind of man.

That man is Staff Sergeant William James, our rapscallion hero in The Hurt Locker. He is not charming, he is not particularly handsome, he does not have a snaketongued quip always at the ready. He is a dude, a dude who drinks and swears and defuses bombs, because it's all he's got, dude man. James has a wife and son thousands of miles away, but we do not care about them, because he does not care about them. The compound simplicity and gripping terror that comprise James' life in Iraq also comprise our film experience. The Hurt Locker has two settings: on and off. Movies do not work this way. But this one does, and flawlessly.

The plot of The Hurt Locker revolves around the aforementioned Staff Sergeant James (Jeremy Renner) and his three-man Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit during their final 30 days in the stir. James has only just arrived to the unit, and his unorthodox and extremely dangerous style immediately puts him at odds with his two subordinates, Sergeant Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and the increasingly distraught Specialist Eldridge (Brian Geraghty).

There are more than three people in this film, but you will not be blamed if you only pay attention to Renner. It is difficult to imagine a performance more challenging than one which requires the actor to convey complete sincerity in his boredom and angst. We rightfully praise actors who take on the "difficult" roles--Harvey Milk, Idi Amin, Andrew Beckett--but Renner's task is equally as tall, for nothing--not a covertly wired stash of six IEDs, not a stone-faced suicide bomber, not an unseen sniper--fazes him. Not because he is a one dimensional action hero, like Rambo or the Terminator, but because he is caught somewhere between apathy and insanity. Maybe he doesn't care if he lives or dies; maybe he is just as frightened as Eldridge. He simply has his game face on at all times because he can't afford to remove it, and even if he could, it's likely he's forgotten how to do so. It's truly a brilliant, understated performance that cannot receive enough praise.

The Hurt Locker would be nothing without its sensory accomplishments. You can include all the expository dialogue and giggling drunken bromance you want, but if you make a movie about defusing homemade bombs and you can't pull off a credible explosion, well, you have yourself a worthless film. Fortunately, director Bigelow and English cinematographer Barry Ackroyd beautifully present a dusty land of mistrust and danger. In an filmmaking era in which the mantra seems increasingly to be "make it grittier," Bigelow and Ackroyd have done a simply masterful job of balancing the heat, sand, and wind with the audience's need to actually see what is taking place on screen.

Do not be confused: The Hurt Locker can stand shoulder to shoulder with the grittiest of films. But it doesn't do so at the expense of its stark, exceptional imagery. It won't make you want to visit Baghdad anytime soon, but the photography is beautiful nonetheless. Ackroyd is on an impressive streak, having helmed cinematography duties on the Oscar-nominated United 93 and the Irish independent film The Wind that Shakes the Barley, which won the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Though Bigelow employs a Canon Phantom HD for the film's handful of slow-motion shots, the bulk of The Hurt Locker was shot on 16 mm Fuji Eterna 250D film stock, which was popular about 25 years ago, through Aaton A-Minima cameras--also about a quarter-century past their peak usage. This unheralded choice of equipment makes a huge difference; the film is crisp and frenetic, like so many modern nailbiters shot on video, but still looks like it belongs on a 30-foot screen.

The lasting image of The Hurt Locker, perhaps, is that of James' bomb disposal suit; it is enormous, bulky, hot, and green; it requires three men just to suit James up; when the camera is inside it, you can hear James breathing heavily, struggling to take his next lumbering step. There is nothing manly or enviable about this suit. Your son will not want an action figure of this suit. Much like that suit is the war which necessitates its use. The camera flits over dead-eyed locals weary of the American occupation of their home and over Eldridge's panicked face as he desperately tries to clean blood off of his rifle's bullets so that he can reload in the middle of a firefight. The Hurt Locker is not a depiction of heroism or cowardice, of nobility or shame. It does not ask its audience to reevaluate its reception of the American military's presence in Iraq. It offers no one dimensional characterizations of villains or champions of justice. It simply invites us to witness and experience the harrowing, exhausting, terrifying, yet encompassingly simple existence of the new American soldier. And that experience just so happens to be one of the greatest films you will ever see.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Kudos Ryan Howard, who yesterday became the fastest play to reach 200 career homeruns in terms of games played, needing a mere 658, breaking the record of Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner.

This certainly an impressive achievement and I don't mean to detract from it (yes I do), but I am puzzled at how many are touting Howard as destined for all-time greatness. Now Howard is a good player. His power is impressive and he gets on base pretty well and his defense is improving. But Howard is already 29 years old. Will he end up being an all-time great? Time is not on his side. Players tend to hit their primes in the 27-33 year old range. That is not to say their primes are 6 years, but rather that their peak will be reached in that time period. In reality, most players generally only have about 3 years that could be called a prime. After that a decline is expect. Now obviously some players buck this trend, but unless we are to believe that Howard hasn't reached his prime, which is possible but unlikely, we can expect Howard not to continue this rate of production.

In contrast Ken Griffey, Jr. had 398 homers by the end of his last full season as a 29 year old. And Alex Rodriguez had a whopping 429 by his last full season as a 29 year old. In addition, those guys were superior defenders at much more demanding positions and provided good baserunner and better on-base numbers. Hell, Albert Pujols is 29 and he has 351 already. And you don't need me to tell you how much better at everything Pujols is than Howard.

So is Howard a very good player who could help almost any team he'd be on? Yes. Is it ridiculous to already start thinking of him in terms of the great and Hall-worthy players of All-Time? Absolutely.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Second Half Preview

Baseball just completed its all-star game and we head in to the second half of the season. Here is one man's take on what has happened, what is about to happen, and what some might not notice happening.

There was a good piece from the legendary Peter Gammons on today about the future of the game. I encourage you to take a read right here. The biggest point to note is that the steroid era, as we know it, is practically over...indeed, there are still and will always will be PEDs or other methods of cheating, it's just the way sports are. But many of the big, power-hitting names of just 5 to 10 years ago are on their way out and the game is getting faster, more athletic, and younger. There will still be a place for the hulking brute who can mash 40 HRs a season, but the days of every team having a couple of those guys is coming to a close, at least for the time being. As such, I encourage the fans of baseball to move on and embrace this new track. There is no need to forget the transgressions of players past, but let's take their actions with a grain of salt and look to the future.

Even though All-Star Weekend ultimately means nothing (home field advantage at the World Series, I guess...but if you're a good team, you should be able to win anywhere), I always enjoy it. Perhaps because I'm a baseball junkie or perhaps because my team seems to be in a constant state of rebuilding, but I always love the futures game. This year was no different. We got a chance to see the finest prospects the minors have to offer and they didn't disappoint. Some guys who will be making an impact in the bigs sooner rather than later: Neftali Feliz, RHP Texas, the guy can gas and it looks like he's not even trying, expect him with the Rangers very soon; Jason Heyward, of Atlanta, the consensus number 3 prospect (after David Price and Matt Wieters) at the start of the season, Heyward continues to tear things up and it will soon become tough for ATL to keep him out of the big league lineup; Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz, RHP and LHP Baltimore, the two studs of the Orioles' system performed well, while the team wants to keep the two and fellow star prospect Jake Arrietta in the minors for the rest of this season, they may get a call up in September and take the Orioles one step closer to 4th place.

The Home Run Derby is always fun. I have nothing more to say on the matter.

The All Star game started off well enough. I always enjoy the introductions to see the reactions of some players to hearing their names called. Some guys like Derek Jeter who have been there before and/or know how to handle the public eye react appropriately. Some don't. It's also always fun to watch whenever All Stars from some teams (such as the Nationals) have their token All Star announce and nobody in the crowd reacts. Anyway, President Obama threw out a solid first pitch. It wasn't a strike, but he got it to the plate and Adam Dunn probably would have swung at it so really one can't complain. Say what you will about O-Bams, negative or positive, but I appreciate his sports fan-hood, just like I appreciated George Bush's. Anyway, the game was quite entertain. Lots of defense to go around, including a great catch by Carl Crawford. Adam "Don't Call Me Pacman" Jones drove in the winning run. And it was proven again that the AL is the superior league. (Undefeated since 1996...really?)

I've never been a big fan of the idea that every team should get at least one All Star. But I understand the reasoning behind it, it keeps every market involved and watching out for their representative so ultimately I'm not too upset about it, especially as the Orioles have benefited more than a few times because of this. But I just wish that the managers would get it right with selecting players. For instance, Ryan Zimmerman was the Nationals' All Star. Zimmerman is a perfectly fine player and could play for a championship team (though definitely not in Washington), but he was not the team's best player, not by a long shot. Adam Dunn should have been the rep. Zimmerman holds a line of 14 HRs, 37 BBs, a .354 OBP, and a .473 SLG and good, not great defense. Again, a solid line. But Dunn provides 23 HRs, 68 BBs, a .398 OBP, and a .544 SLG, and average defense. Those are better numbers. When managers are filling out the rest of the rosters, they should first look at filling each team, then working on the rest of the rosters, instead of filling the roster then saying "oh, the Nats need a player, let's give it to Zimmerman because he's the only National who's sold any jerseys."

Some notes to start the 2nd half:

Many of you already know this, but we are witnessing something special with Albert Pujols this season. The man has always been really, really good, but this season is blowing everyone else away. The only guy I can remember doing something similar was early 2000s Barry Bonds. All anyone can do is be in awe and just be absolutely appalled that the Cardinals have refused to surround Mr. Pujols with anyone resembling a talented hitter to bat behind the man.

Teams I expect to stick around and make a serious run at the playoffs: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles of Anaheim, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies. There are even more folks still within striking distance, but these are the folks who I think are actually legitimate threats to make the playoffs...though realistically the only ones I could see winning it all are the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, and Dodgers.

Where will Roy Halladay go? A team with money and top prospects. Who fits that? Uhh...The best bets would be the Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, but I wouldn't be surprised if some darkhorse team rolled the dice and came up huge a la the Brewers last season with CC Sabathia. My top pick for the darkhorse? I'd say the Rangers as they have a little money and they have a great farm system, but they seem content to build from within and they'll be getting some pitching help from said farm system in the form of top prospects Neftali Feliz (hey! I mentioned him earlier!) and Derek Holland and the bat of first baseman Justin Smoak. So I'm going to, once again, pick the Brewers. Because why not.

Other folks on the move potentially include Matt Holliday, Freddy Sanchez, Orlando Cabrera, Nick Johnson, Aubrey Huff, the Orioles' bullpen, any Pirate not named Andrew McCutcheon, Garrett Atkins, and any Seattle pitcher who isn't Felix Hernandez. Holliday is the biggest name because although he's had a down season away from the confines of Coors Field, he's still a 5 tool player who is an immediate asset for most teams and should command a pretty hefty salary in free agency. That being said, if Billy Beane doesn't get a solid package in return, he could just hold on to Holliday, whose free agency departure will garner his team a supplemental first round draft pick. Johnson and Huff are being pursued by the same sorts of teams as their similar players who have some pop and can work a count. Garrett Atkins is being pursued by the Mariners who can't decide if they're actually contenders or not. A word of advice: they're not. The Mariners have some good pieces, but a lot of bad pieces. Rebuild for a season or two more and then you'll be there. As such, deal Jarrod Washburn...yes he threw a one-hitter and has pitched well this season, but what possibly would make you believe that this will continue. If you remember correctly, Sidney Ponson once won 18 games in a season...send Washburn away now while his value is beyond its peak. Erik Bedard? I might hold on to him. But what do I know?

Why is Joe Torre batting Matt Kemp 8th? He's hitting .320 with 11 HRs, a .384 OBP, .495 SLG and 19 steals. Come on, Joe! My fantasy team needs help!

The Nationals are epically bad. I count exactly 4 major-league caliber players on that team (Adam Dunn, Cristian Guzman, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jordan Zimmerman). This is an affront to baseball fans everywhere. So naturally, I'm super excited to see if they can lose the most games ever in a season. In addition, I hope they don't sign Stephen Strasburg...because that would cause riots...oh wait...Nats fans don't care.

Matt Wieters can and will pick things up. He was heating up before the All-Star break and should only continue to rise. Should be awesome. Bring an extra pair of underwear.

Normally, I don't care too much about Hall of Fame induction speeches. I think they're nice and I have no problem with them, but I just don't care. So far the only speech I've cared about is that of Cal Ripken Jr. because it isn't very often that deities speak to us mere mortals. But I and everyone else should be ready for Rickey Henderson's speech. Even Matt Wieters will be impressed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review: Public Enemies

About thirty minutes into Michael Mann's first film since 2006's Miami Vice, John Dillinger tells his stickup partner, Red Hamilton, "We're having too good a time today to worry about tomorrow." Dillinger lived exclusively in the present; he had no grand ambitions or schemes beyond his next robbery, and he did not dwell upon dark unspoken moments of his past. He was simply a charming guy with a notorious talent for robbing banks. In Public Enemies, director Michael Mann does not take any historical liberties with Dillinger. He is precisely as uncomplicated as he was in real life.

I begin with this important clarification because a number of negative reactions to the film have all revolved around the same gripe: this film has no emotional depth. Johnny Depp's John Dillinger oozes charisma and confidence, but lacks a hole in his heart or a chip on his shoulder in which the audience can take a firm foothold and invest themselves. His pursuer, Christian Bale's Melvin Purvis, is similarly uncomplicated but with the added disinterest of a wooden personality.

To a degree, these complaints are accurate. Christian Bale, somehow, is still stuck in Batman mode, though this time with an authentic Old-Timey accent. Billy Crudup gained about thirty pounds of neck flesh to portray J. Edgar Hoover, and although the added weight does not prohibit him from matching Bale's Depression-era speech patterns, Crudup is all but unnecessary. Marion Cotillard performs admirably as Dillinger's girlfriend Billie Frechette, although, like so many other characters, there is simply nothing wrong with her. Oh, you rob banks? That's cool. Yes, I'll sleep with you. The real star, obviously, is Johnny Depp, who radiates cool in every scene. Ever since he transcended mere fame as Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp has not so much acted as he has glided. The real challenge at this point would be to cast him as someone with severe Social Anxiety Disorder.

In a departure from Mann's previous films, Public Enemies is thematically extremely simple. John Dillinger robs banks for a living; along the way, he acquires a girlfriend; various men attempt to thwart him. As Al Pacino said in Mann's Heat: "Cut and dry. That is it."

If anything can claim to steal the screen from Depp, it is Dante Spinotti's cinematography. Mann has always been at the cutting edge of camera work, and this film is no different. From lingering close-ups of beautiful people to gun battles shrouded in the dark of night, Public Enemies might just be the best-looking film you'll see this year. The production also had 32 crewmembers dedicated to sound, and you can definitely hear the difference. I would be surprised if Public Enemies didn't receive a handful of technical Oscar nominations.

The final word is this: If you demand pathos in your film experience, you won't get much out of Public Enemies. It will probably leave you feeling hollow and uninspired. But if you go to the movies to be entertained, to marvel at the technical wizardry of one of the finest filmmakers of all time, you will love this film.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

What the Hell Is Going On

2009 shall forever be remembered as The Year Everyone Awesome Died. Arturo Gatti, one of the finest boxers of my lifetime, is dead at age 37.

Thunder was singlehandedly responsible for introducing me to boxing; when I was 14 years old, during Spring Break, I arbitrarily ordered his first of three unbelievable fights with Micky Ward, and have been hooked ever since.

Gatti was never the best boxer in the world--or even, arguably, in his weight class, considering he won only two titles in his career in an era when even Dingaan Thobela won the lightweight belt--but he was always the toughest. No one can ever claim to have worked harder or taken more brain-swelling cranium shots than Thunder. He was the most exciting boxer since Mike Tyson's heyday in the late 80's.

Two of my favorite boxers are now dead (Gatti and Diego Corrales). Miguel Cotto had better watch himself.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Now this is just piling on...

Another huge blow struck to your authors, my friends. Just days after the passing of Michael Jackson, it is being reported that pitchman and generally beardy fellow Billy Mays has passed away at the age of 50, same as Jackson.

Mays was known for his intense sales pitches on TV. Everything he sold, he did so with an incredible enthusiasm and gusto. But what set him apart was that Mays seemed like a good dude. You felt like you could trust him to give it to you straight. Unlike some salesmen, such as Vince Shlomi, you knew that Mays would never beat up a hooker for biting him.

Here's a fraction of the list of products that Mays had successfully sold over the years: OxiClean, Orange Glo, Kaboom, Hercules Hook, The Ding King, Impact Gel Insoles, What Odor?, SIMONIZE Fix It!, and of course, the Samurai Shark.

I, and many others as well I'm sure, have said on numerous occasions "Well if it's good enough for Billy Mays, it's good enough for me!" The familiar strains of "Hi! Billy Mays here for (insert awesome product name here)" will be missed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Saddest Day of the Year To This Point

The recent passing of TV Legend and big check giver Ed McMahon wasn't a surprise. Indeed, it was very sad, but the guy was 86. Still, we here at Sal's send our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

The same can absolutely be said of the passing of Farrah Fawcett. Fawcett lost her lengthy battle with cancer earlier today at the age of 62. Fondly remembered by many as the ultimate 70s pinup girl and one of Charlie's Angels (the original brand that didn't make me want to punch myself in the face so I wouldn't have to look at them), Fawcett will definitely be missed by many. Again, our condolences to her family and friends.

But ladies and gentlemen, all this, while extremely sad, pales in comparison to the sadness that Nick and I feel about the passing of THE King of Pop. Michael Jackson is dead at age 50.

Jackson was one of the finest musicians and entertainers to ever grace us with his presence. We owe the man an incredible amount of gratitude for the music he blessed us with. He sold over 750 million albums and won 13 Grammys. Perhaps never before and possibly never since has a nickname so fit its owner. Did Michael have his share of issues? Absolutely. Should that cloud our judgement of his incredible career? Not a chance.

There is not much else to say, so I'll leave you with a few clips of his music. Rest in peace, Michael. Today, we all moonwalk with one glove on.

Couldn't find an embeddable version of the orignal Thriller video, so this will have to do.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some funny

Sorry about the infrequency of posts recently. Both Nick and I are working full-time during these summer months or being sick (as I am right now). Soon we'll have a few posts on things such as tomorrow's NBA draft, the hockey Hall of Fame selections (Nick is probably writing a 500-page opus on the legend of Stevie Y), and other goings-on.

Until then, please enjoy this clip I got from With Leather, the gold-standard for sports blogs on the internets.

Here it be.

Almost makes me like T.O.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

An interesting article

Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, is one of those writers that people either love or hate. I don't really belong to either, though if I had to pick one, I'm much closer to love. I read just about every column he writes, and his style of presenting facts interspersed with humorous anecdotes and pop culture references is something that I try to emulate (it should be noted, Simmons didn't invent this style and I wouldn't say he's perfected it, nobody has, but he turned me on to it). Simmons often gets too caught up in his own stories that occasionally detracts from his article and he's often asked to write on things he is not an expert in (only Rick Reilly, a legend in his own right, and Gene Wojciechowski, who sucks, are asked to cover and comment on as many sports as Simmons). Simmons is limited as a hockey (because of his absence from fandom) and baseball (because he only follows the AL) writer. He's a decent football writer. He's an excellent basketball writer; one of the most informed and engaging about the sport. In addition to his writings, he's a very funny and entertaining podcaster.

Really, this has little to do with why I'm posting, I just felt like I should give some background on my views of the man. The reason I'm posting is Simmons' recent article posted online and to appear in the June 29 issue of ESPN the Magazine. Here is the article. It's a very interesting examination of baseball and the "purity" issue that is so frequently brought up during conversations about steroids. I believe it also provides an interesting commentary on the pious nature of the sports fan; that is, they should stop freaking out about steroids. The problem is being address through tougher testing and more legitimate enforcement. No era of baseball is fully clean.

Also it's funny that the Red Sox' first black player was named "Pumpsie." That is great stuff. And if you disagree, I will kill you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Some Nepotism

I won't subvert ESPN's Insider feature and post the entire article, but Keith Law, my favorite baseball writer, recently posted an article discussing 2010's MLB Draft Class. Here is the first sentence:

The 2010 draft class isn't as stacked right now as the 2011 draft appears to be -- the latter group includes cover kid Bryce Harper as well as Sonny Gray, Alex Meyer, Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole and Danny Hultzen.

For those of you who have been following Sal's for a while, you'll recognize that final name. Hultzen is currently the ace (as a freshman) of the UVA pitching staff. He's also one of the best guys around and both your authors are proud to say we know him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Two Championship wrapups

As any sports fan worth his (or her) salt knows, both the NHL and NBA seasons have come to a close with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Los Angeles Lakers, two of the more storied franchises in their sports, hoisting the respective trophies of their leagues.

First, hockey. As much as it hurts to say, congrats to the Pens. As a Caps fan, I'm bound by law to hate Sidney Crosby, and that hasn't changed. Crosby though has made his mark by being the youngest Captain to ever hold Lord Stanley's Cup. Of course, it should be noted that it was Evgeni Malkin who won the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. While I would be lying if I said that Crosby was not a good or even great player, because he clearly is, certainly one of the 5 best non-goalies in hockey right now, I would be remiss if I didn't say that I think Malkin might be better. Malkin is tough-as-nails and a true force offensively and the two complement each other very well in a nearly-unstoppable fashion. I had picked the Red Wings to win it all in the beginning of the year, and they almost made me look very smart, but ultimately the injuries, the 1-2 punch of Crosby and Malkin, and the excellent goal-tending of Marc-Andre Fleury were all too much for the ancient wonders to overcome. The hockey playoffs proved once again that it's such an awesome sport that deserves so much more than it gets in terms of recognition. I can only look forward to another great season next year, where I fully anticipate Alex Ovechkin to abuse the league. Now if only he could get a little defensive help...

The Lakers, on the other hand, did make me look very smart as my preseason pick took care of the surprising Orlando Magic in 5 games. The Magic played out of their minds versus the Cavaliers with everything breaking their way and not much going the way of LeBron James whose teammates decided to take a vacation during the series. Unfortunately, just about everything went the wrong way for the Magic in the finals as they were ultimately out-talented by the Lakers. The Magic also killed their chances by playing Jameer Nelson (oddly, as he is the team's 2nd best player) who was rusty and completely out of rhythm with his teammates. This also affected the fragile psyche of Rafer Alston. Of course, it would be foolish to not congratulate the Lakers who were the better team and played like it, instead of last year where they seemed to sleepwalk during the finals against the Celtics.

This leads to two persons to discuss: Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson. Let me be up-front: there is not a single thing you can say that will convince me that Kobe is the best player in the league. I might accept 2nd best, but LeBron James is still better. There is no way around it. Kobe's only advantage on LeBron is rings, something it takes a team to win. If the Lakers and Cavs matched up, the top 5 players in the series would be 1. LeBron, 2. Kobe, 3. Pau Gasol, 4. Lamar Odom, 5. Trevor Ariza...Kobe simply plays with better players. That being said, Kobe deserves a lot of credit. By winning his fourth title, he has cemented himself among some of the best to ever play. He also finally won a title without Shaq (though I would say that Gasol is one of the best big men in basketball right now, so that helps). But Kobe was on a mission this year and it payed off. Few players can match Kobe in terms of intensity and desire to win and when he's on, he's impossible to contain. Perhaps the best play of the finals and perhaps the entire playoffs was Kobe's pass to a trailing Gasol to avoid Dwight Howard in Game 4. It was a perfect summation of where Kobe is as a player: he is still the leader and the man, but when he's willing to let his teammates help him out, he becomes a legendary player. Doesn't change the fact that he raped that chick in Colorado...

Phil Jackson is probably the greatest basketball coach in history. He just won his 10th title. People will point to Jackson always having great players such as Kobe, Shaq, Gasol, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, and Michael Jordan. But if you look at other G.O.A.T. candidates, you'll find similar talent levels. Having players like Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, KC Jones, and Tommy Heinshon probably didn't hurt Red Auerbach's chances. And Pat Riley never won a title without some combination of Dwyane Wade, Shaq, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the lineup. No Jackson simply has won every where he's been. As ESPN's Chris Broussard pointed out, the 1993-1994 Bulls won 55 games, two fewer than the previous year despite losing Michael Jordan to his first "retirement" (GAMBLING SCANDAL!). The Zen Master has been able to run the complicated and highly prolific triangle offense, manage the sizeable egos of players like Kobe, Jordan, and Shaq (both Jordan and Kobe got to the point where playing for anybody else was out of the question), he's probably the best in-game adjuster ever, and, perhaps most impressively, he made Dennis Rodman seem to be an almost acceptable citizen.

So now that these two seasons are over, we can turn our attention to the upcoming NBA Draft, the NFL training camp season, and, of course, baseball.

Friday, June 5, 2009


...are in order for one Randy Johnson, who last night picked up his 300th career win against the hapless Natinals.

300 is a magic number for a pitcher. It's one of the most sacred milestones in baseball, and with the recent release of Tom Glavine, Johnson is now the only active 300-game winner. The advent of the bullpen and the increase in professionalism in baseball has made it more and more difficult to amass that many wins, and it is not completely ridiculous to say that we may never see another 300 game winner, at least not for a very long time, as it would take 20 seasons of averaging 15 wins to do so. In fact, the closest active pitcher is Jamie Moyer with 250 wins, and he is all kinds of ancient. 300 is such an elusive number, that you'd have to go all the way to Mark Buehrle to find the winningest pitcher who is 30 or younger and he has only 128 career wins, not even half way. The pitcher who seems to have the best short would be CC Sabathia, who at age 28 has 122 wins and plays for the Yankees, where he will undoubtedly rack up a lot of wins. Of course, that means that Sabathia will have to stay as healthy and effective as he has been for the first 9 seasons of his career for likely at least another 10 seasons, a tall order.

Simply put, Randy Johnson is one of the finest pitchers to ever step on a mound. He is second all-time in strikeouts. He's thrown two no-hitters, including one perfect game. He's a 10-time all-star, a 4-time league leader in ERA, a 9-time league leader in strikeouts, and a 5-time Cy Young award winner. In addition, he sported one of the most fantastically ugly sports mullets of all time for much of his career. While Johnson still has the stuff to stick around for at least a few more years, it is unlikely that he will do so. Obviously he will be finishing the season with San Francisco, but if this is in fact his last season, it will mark the end of the career of arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history. About six or seven years from now, the Hall of Fame is going to have plenty of awesome first-ballot pitching talent with Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. Congrats, Randy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A few thoughts

It's Thursday and I don't have too much work to do. Time for a random collection of sports (or not) thoughts.

Tony Dungy is one of the best people to ever be associated with football. Not only was he a talented player, but he also was one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. A man who turned the Buccaneers from the most pathetic professional sports franchise ever to a perennial contender, Dungy became the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl ever with the Colts after the 2006 season. In addition, Tony Dungy is one of the most genuinely sincere and pleasant folks to be around. So all this being said, when Tony Dungy says that the Jay Cutler trade was a risk, folks should take a listen. Here's the thing: Cutler isn't a great QB. Is he good? Yes. Perhaps even very good. Can you win a championship with Cutler at the helm? I think so. Worse QBs have done so. But was Jay Cutler worth all the offseason drama? Not a chance. Culter, in his 2 and a half year career as a starter has put up some impressive stats. His 62.5 completion percentage is good as are the 54 TDs he's thrown in that time. However, his 87.1 QB rating is nothing special. And perhaps most importantly, Culter hasn't won. A quarterback's job is to run the offense so that his team is in a position to win. The NFL has proven, time and again, that the teams with the best QBs are the ones who often make the playoffs (with some obvious exceptions, namely teams with overwhelming defenses). In 2008, Culter was 8-8 and the Broncos collapsed down the stretch to allow the chronically under-achieving Chargers to earn the AFC West playoff bid despite at one point being 5-8. The previous season, 7-9. The season before that, Cutler was 2-3 after taking over for Jake Plummer, who had led the Broncos to a 7-4 record. That puts Cutler's record as a starter at 17-20, hardly world beating, especially while playing in a division where you get to play the Chiefs and Raiders, two of the worst teams in the NFL, twice a year. As a point of comparison, Jason Campbell of my Washington Redskins is 15-19 as a starter. Almost exactly the same, except that Campbell plays in either the best or second best division in football and has played in a predominantly run-based attack, rather than the Broncos' offense, which has been tailored for Culter since they drafted him. In addition, Campbell has never had the same offensive coordinator for two consecutive seasons. Now here's the question: If Jason Campbell had bitched and moaned like Cutler and asked to be traded, would any team out there, any team at all, have given the Redskins a league-average starting QB (Kyle Orton), two first round draft picks and a third rounder? If Cutler isn't the second coming of Johnny Unitas, the Bears royally screwed up this one.

The Atlanta Braves have made a bit of noise the last few days. Three moves to examine: the acquisition of Nate McClouth, the call-up of Tommy Hanson, and the release of Tom Glavine. The Braves picked up McClouth from the comically inept Pittsburgh Pirates. McClouth was the Pirates All-Star last season. He had the best season of his career last year with a .276 avg, 26 HRs, 94 RBI, 23 SBs, and an .853 OPS. However, McClouth is not a particularly patient hitter and, despite his good speed and tremendous athleticism, he takes terrible routes in the outfield. Still, he does present an immediate upgrade for the Braves in the outfield, an area that hasn't done anything for a team that thinks it can contend either now or quite soon. In addition, McClouth is under contract at a reasonable rate until 2011 with an option for 2012. The Braves did give up quite a bit however in pitchers Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke, and one of their system's top prospects in Gorkys Hernandez. In all, the Pirates probably got the better end of the deal. Both pitchers could be servicable big leaguers and Hernandez has the potential to be a star. Tommy Hanson was considered by many to be the top pitching prospect in baseball after David Price at the start of the season, and so far he has justified that claim. At 6'6" and 220 lbs, Hanson has big frame that generates mid-90s heat. He also possesses a awesome curveball and a pretty good changeup. In addition, his delivery is near-flawless, so Hanson is essentially as much of a sure-thing as you can have amongst pitching prospects, especially if he can further develop his work-in-progress slider. The release of Glavine leaves me torn. On the one hand, I've always been of the school of thought that you always do what's best for your team's record, keeping a mind toward the future. As such, it would be foolish to give Glavine any playing time. That being said, it's Tom Glavine. Outside of Randy Johnson, one would be hard pressed to find a better lefty in baseball than Glavine since the start of the 90s. Always a consummate professional, Glavine was often overshadowed by the legendary Greg Maddux or the flame-thrower John Smoltz, but was every bit as important to the incredible success of the Braves during the 90s, especially after years of terrible-ness. If this is the last we've seen of Glavine (and I believe it is, unless he signs a contract for the rest of the season with some very desparate team), then baseball will say good bye to one of the finest pitchers of his generation, a man I believe is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

In a bit of sad news, actor David Carradine passed away. Carradine was best know for his roles in the TV show Kung Fu, where he was Bruce Lee before Bruce Lee was cool (though not nearly on the same level of martial arts skill as Lee) and as the titular character of the Kill Bill movies. It should be noted that Carradine passed in a hotel room in Bangkok. Seems fitting.

The NHL's Lord Stanley's Cup finals are under way with the Detroit Red Wings leading the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in a rematch of last years series. I don't have much commentary other than my strong Michigan ties and the fact that, as a Caps fan, I hate the Penguins, and, as a hockey fan, I hate Sidney Crosby, who, while supremely talented, is a whiny bitch, mean that I'm cheering for the Red Wings all the way. I'd be surprised if the extremely deep and talented and experienced boys from Hockey Town, USA don't lift the best trophy in the history of trophies. Hockey is awesome.

The NBA Finals start tonight. To be sure, I'm more surprised than just about anyone that it is the Magic instead of the Cavaliers who are playing the Lakers for basketball supremacy. I was completely wrong about the Fightin' LeBrons. Kudos to the Magic for stepping up their game immensely. I fully expect the Lakers to win, but if the Magic keep shooting as well as they have been (a tall order, but not completely ridiculous), Orlando has the athleticism to out-play Los Angeles. This series should be interesting because of what it means to the stars of both teams. Dwight Howard has gone from a physical freak who was either wildly overrated or wildly underrated depending on whom you asked to a true superstar this playoffs. If he can dominate this series, he will officially have taken the torch from the Big Shaqtus as the NBA's resident hilarious big man who happens to be completely better than you in every way. On the flip side, Kobe Bryant can finally lift the notion that he needed Shaq to win all his rings. (Shaq is somehow involved in both plots, proving once again how genuinely awesome at life he is) If Kobe does win, he'll have established himself as one of the finest to ever play the 2 position.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One of the best songs ever

I love me some Steve Winwood. Happy Tuesday.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pulled Pork Breakfast

So Mr. Wieters went 0-4 yesterday, as many will do, but he called a very good game (thought to be his biggest weakness coming in) and he looked solid. In the words of a friend of mine at the game, "Kid is gonna be nasty."

So I leave you with two things to brighten your day.

1st: Matt Wieters Facts

2nd: I cannot stop laughing at this picture:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Greatness Debuts Tomorrow

The most hyped Orioles prospect since Jeffery Hammonds (ugh...) makes his debut tomorrow against the Tigers. Matt Wieters is what the Good Lord envisioned when he was creating the perfect catching prospect.

Wieters' potential is through the roof after hitting .355 with 27 HRs and 91 RBIs between A and AA last year and hitting .305 with 5 HRs and 30 RBI at AAA through Tuesday, all while playing very good defense. Simply put, the guy is a stud.

If it sounds like I have a man-crush, it's because I do. Truly great players don't come around very often and come around even less regularly at catcher, a position dominated by low-hit, good glove stocky guys instead of 4 and a half tool gents who are great athletes. The arrival of Wieters (who needs a good nickname...I'm open to suggestions) now means the Orioles have potentially 3 great players in Wieters and outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam "Don't Call Me Pacman" Jones. In addition, top pitching prospects Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, and the absurdly young Chris Tillman (just turned 21, making him younger than both of your reasonably young authors) give the Orioles some hope.

Of course, the Rays have an even stronger young core and the Red Sox and the Yankees will be able to outspend just about everyone. So really the Orioles are progressing toward fourth place. I hate myself.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Carl knows...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

There Is No Fate

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was not very good.

Actually, that's not true. On its own merit, as a generic action movie, it was quite good. It was exciting, it had believable performances, it had cool characters, it even had a discernible message. But do you notice the "3" in the title? That means it was preceded by two Terminator movies. And unfortunately for T3, its predecessors were two of the best and most influential "action" films ever released.

The Terminator, released in 1984, was the first starring vehicle for the now-ubiquitous Arnold Schwarzenegger. In a not-so-subtle way, this film is directly responsible for Arnold's governance of California. But more importantly, it effectively invented a new form of action cinema.

The second half of the twentieth century saw innumerable developments in genre reconstruction beginning with the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone in the late 1960's. Filmmakers--and their audience--were getting smarter, and it shown through in even the most Neanderthal of genres, the action-adventure. By the 1980's, the high-concept film was in full effect thanks to the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. In 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark--an archetype of adventure cinema now considered one of the best films of all time in any genre--was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

And so we come to 1984. Arnold Schwarzenegger is famous only amongst bodybuilding fanatics for his seven Mr. Olympia titles. James Cameron is a 29-year-old filmmaker with only Piranha II: The Spawning under his directorial belt. Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton are in their early twenties, their only experience coming in soap operas and, in Biehn's case, as an extra in Grease. Together, on a budget of $6 million, they will make the cornerstone of one of the most lucrative and popular film franchises in history.

The Terminator was released on October 26, 1984--not exactly blockbuster season. By the end of its theatrical run, it had grossed $38 million in the United States and $50 million overseas. Cameron and Co. had...something. But it wasn't yet clear what. The answer would come seven years later.

By 1991, the global film community had been saturated with the sweaty, tongue-in-cheek explosionfests of the late 1980's, many of which were Arnold's fault (Commando, Predator, The Running Man, Total Recall), and the rest of which were Stallone's fault (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, Rambo: Fourth Sandwich Part XVI, Rocky IV, Over the Top). The announcement of Terminator 2: Judgment Day probably didn't arouse any scholarly types across the country. "Another Schwarzenegger movie," someone probably sighed in June. "The studio is just capitalizing on his fame and they're going to ruin all of the promise of the original."

Which is precisely what didn't happen. The first Terminator introduced the iconic "character"--awesomely--as a silent, methodical, merciless killer. As our ill-fated hero, Kyle Reese, said laconically: "It can't be bargained with, it can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead."

So the second one would be more of the same, wouldn't it? Somehow James Cameron took his one-dimensional killing machine and twisted it into the father figure in the most warped version of the mid-1950's nuclear family of the 20th century.

This wasn't merely a fun popcorn movie; this was spectacular filmmaking--Adam Greenberg's cinematography is often cited as the best in the history of color film. Terminator 2's legacy as arguably the best and most transcendental action film of all time stands to this day, even as we approach the 18th (!) anniversary of its theatrical release. Considering the release and popularity of films like The Spirit, Punisher: War Zone, and Max Payne, it often seems as though filmmakers concede that they cannot even approach the level of nuance and skill that Cameron and Co. displayed in 1991, and therefore do not even try.

Which leads us to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. When compared it to other action films of this decade, T3 shows us just how spoiled we were by its predecessors. It was a fine action vehicle. Arnold was in top form, Nick Stahl delivered a sincere performance as John Connor, and it even had the nihilistic ending we have come to expect and love of the series. wasn't T2. It wasn't T1. It simply went through the motions so that it might emerge unscathed from the box office. It delivered, with near-chemical precision, no more than the audience asked for. Perhaps it was the non-involvement of James Cameron, whose absence may have yielded the dearth of originality. Perhaps it was Nick Stahl, who confused the vulnerability of Edward Furlong's John Connor with pedantic whining. Perhaps it was Claire Danes' Kate Brewster character, who could have been excised from the entire film without anyone noticing.

In a few days, the fourth installment of the Terminator franchise will be unleashed upon the early summer masses. It will make mad bank, as the childrens say; box office revenue is almost certainly not a concern in the Warner Bros. offices. Some are even predicting Salvation will outgross Michael EXPLOSION Bay’s Transformers sequel, also due this summer.

No, the execs are happily anticipating Salvation’s opening weekend for exactly the same reason that I am afraid of it: they got what they wanted. Say this out loud: The fourth entry in the Terminator film franchise is a PG-13 May release directed by McG. That sounds undeniably less than promising, doesn’t it?

The first Terminator accomplished its meager aspirations because nobody cared about its financial prospects. It was shot cheaply and marketed even cheaper (cheaperly?). The second Terminator succeeded because 1991 was a time before (but only just before) America turned into a giant conservative racist grandmother and you could make a 3-hour, R-rated awesomefest for $200 million and still turn an enormous profit. If Terminator 2 came out today it would maybe, maybe, crack $80 million domestically.

The facts of Terminator Salvation keep us living on a knife’s edge. It has undeniable positives. Its lead is Christian Bale, who has over the past nine years crafted one of the five best active careers in Hollywood. Its script was rewritten by Jonathan Nolan, who penned Memento, one of the cleanest examples of experimental storytelling, and The Dark Knight, the new and future benchmark in quality action filmmaking.

But it has one terrifying, inescapable pitfall. A pitfall that consists of only three letters: McG.
Yes, Terminator Salvation, with its Hall of Fame cast and crew, is helmed by Joseph McGinty Nichol, a man with a perfectly normal name who has professionally christened himself as a fast food combo meal. How many Oscars would Schindler’s List have won if it had been directed by “The Spielz?”

McG is still young enough—40—that his brightest days are still ahead of him. The obsession with youth does not inhabit the area behind the camera as it does in front of it. But his existing body of work is enough to make you cringe at the notion of handing him one of action cinema’s most beloved and important enterprises. McG has directed, in total, three films: Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, and We Are Marshall. That’s it.

Before all you McG fans (if you’re out there) rush to his defense, I shall make the inevitable statistical concession: Yes, I am fully aware that the first Charlie’s Angels film has a totally respectable 68% “Fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. And yes, to some degree, you can color me impressed that McG was able to make 68% of a good film out of one of the most vapid concepts to ever come out of 1970’s network television—the foremost authority on vapidity.

But we are not asking him to deliver The Transporter 4, nor Predator 3, nor Commando 2. This is a film franchise featuring two flawless entries (according to their professional critiques) and a third which, while considered abysmal compared to its predecessors, is still better than McG’s best effort to date.

I don’t want to sound unenthusiastic or hopeless; on the contrary, the film’s teasers and previews have left me almost bewildered by the potential for quality. Salvation might just be a superb addition to the franchise.

It would be inaccurate to say that I have faith in McG and his ability to reproduce the stirring combination of intimacy and exhilaration of T2. I don’t. What I have is cautious optimism in the pieces surrounding McG to overcome his directorial shortcomings and deliver something of high, but not ethereal, quality. There is nothing that would make me happier than for McG to prove me wrong about him. That might not be a ringing endorsement, but it’s the best we can do.

McG of all people should know by now to heed the words of Sarah Connor. The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves. Here’s hoping McG took her words to heart and crafted a film that any director could be proud of.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

This pretty much sums up where I am on this take home final

Oh Dear

Well the sun is beginning to rise and the birds are chirping and I'm still not done.


In the meantime, I give you some of the sweet sounds of Metallica, who have helped me through my evening.

25 things

You've seen it on facebook/myspace/

Now enjoy these 25 things that may or may not have anything to do with me but are items I felt like I should write down. Remember, these are all facts.

1. The last two songs that came up on my iTunes shuffle are Wait and Bleed by Slipknot and Lucky by Britney joke

2. Osman and Joe's Steak and Egg Kitchen is the greatest eatery ever.

3. Say what you will about Mike Tyson, but boxing has had exactly zero entertaining heavyweights since he retired

4. Caron "Tough Juice" Butler has the best nickname in sports. Dmitri "Da Meat Hook" Young has the second best. David Eckstein is terrible.


6. Bacon makes everything better.

7. Coaching little league baseball sounds cute and rewarding. It is. Until the kids show up.

8. The thing Nick and I disagree on most is music. We simply have very differing tastes. However, we both agree that Muse is one of the most awesome bands ever.

9. The John Basedow tsunami rumor ranks as the greatest hoax of all time, just ahead of KISS drummer Peter Criss being a homeless alcoholic.

10. If I was capable, I would immediately grow a Wannstache

11. Please take a listen to Night Moves by Bob Seger. You're welcome.

12. One of my many life goals is to get into a fist fight with Lex Luger. He knows what he did.

13. 13 is my favorite number, but probably the most boring entry of this list.


15. Michael Jackson's body of musical work almost makes it ok to touch kids. Almost.

16. Chris Dane Owens.

17. The 5 best ESPN personalities, in no particular order, are: Barry Melrose, Scott Van Pelt, John Buccigross, Jon Miller, Barry Melrose's mullet


19. My diet over the past semester has consisted almost entirely of Hot Pockets, frozen chicken, cereal, and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos. I think I'm going to die soon.

20. The 1997 Orioles might have been the best team to not win the World Series. Some key players: Chris Hoiles, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, Mike Bordick, Cal Ripken Jr, Eric Davis, Brady Anderson, BJ Surhoff, Harold Baines, Jeffery Hammonds, Pete Incaviglia, Jeff Reboulet, Lenny Webster, Mike Mussina, Jimmy Key, Scott Erickson, Scott Kamenicki, Randy Myers, Arthur Rhodes, Armando Benitez, Jesse Orosco, Alan Mills, Rocky Coppinger. And yes, I got those all off the top of my head.


22. It is clearly very difficult for me to care about this class.

23. Danny Trejo might be the most awesome person alive.


25. Here's a fun fact for you: Thomas Ian Griffith, who played Terry Silver in Karate Kid Part III, is a few months younger than Ralph Macchio, who played Daniel LaRusso.


No further comment necessary.

Bring the Thunder!

This is going very poorly for me...I'm off to purchase some caffeine from ye olde vending machine.

So I leave you ravaged and in shambles by the Black Viking of the Hardwood himself, Mr. Shawn Tiberius Kemp.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Right up there with South Park as the funniest TV Show out there now.

Go find it online right now...there are places.

Pooped Pants

So I'm partaking in an all-nighter for finals tonight...I might be posting a couple videos, links, etc. that keep me going throughout the night, at least until I finish my take-home final.*

We'll start with this from Derrick Comedy. Pooped pants is always funny. Until it happens to you.

*If I don't follow through...what are you going to do?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Guest Review: David Hankla on X-Men Origins: Wolverine

David Hankla is a Gonzo journalist and Halifax Sex Knight with an assload of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in film from Duke, NYU, and USC. So you should trust his judgment. For future reference, this site will grade films on a five-star scale.

If you’re going to scrap 30 years of carefully crafted history, at least have the courtesy to make the end result entertaining.

What an utter waste of talent. What a waste of potential. Worst of all, what a waste of time. Not just the audience’s time either, but the time of so many countless people who clearly worked very hard to make those trucks blow up, or that nuclear power plant fall down, and even those dozens of people who worked on the simple moments, like when Logan’s claws spark as they touch each other. Ah, what a great scene: straight out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, both in the quality of the CGI and the laughability of the moment. The sad difference though, is that Roger Rabbit wanted to make us laugh.

How did no one ever stand up and shout out, “PEOPLE, DOES ANYBODY KNOW WHAT WE’RE DOING?” Someone had to wonder. A lot of people had to wonder. This movie cost close to two-hundred-million dollars to make. That’s a number with eight zeroes. That’s like winning the mega-millions lottery twice. When you play with that kind of money, shouldn’t someone demand that a script be written that wasn’t scrawled in the back of a limo during rides to the set? There were more groan-inducing lines in this butcher’s slop than in Spider-Man 3. And Spider-Man 3 was terrible. How did nobody demand a rewrite?

This script felt as if it had been coddled together from a series of web comics written by people who neither knew comic book history nor ever spoke to one another. There was no storyline, no emotional development, and no character arc, very little logic and the closest thing to range shown was behind the characters, when silence often was compared, then broken by sounds of massive explosions. Talented actors appeared and were wasted, characters who could have been major components or even carried films of their own were cast aside in five-lines or less. Entire centuries of history bearing limitless potential for multiple, independent Wolverine origin films were thrown aside during the opening credits alone. Talented people worked on this film. A lot of talented people. Award-winning people. How did nobody care that what they were making was garbage?

Normally, paragraph four is where the critic is supposed to describe the plot of the film so that the potential viewer reading sed review can decide whether the film is really the kind of story he/she might like. Well, as previously stated, the story is a half-coddled mess, so let me summarize in bullet point so as to save us all time.

a) Wolverine starts as a boy. He kills his first person.
b) Then he grows up. He is played by Hugh Jackman, who is fit, but looks old.
c) He kills a lot of people.
d) Then he grows tired of killing people and falls in love in Canada.
e) Creed, his brother, kills Wolverine’s girlfriend. He is played by Liev Schreiber.
f) Wolverine gets mad, then gets metal grafted to his bones. He kills a lot of people.
g) A lot of things blow up. Nothing is resolved.

That was fun. Much more efficient too. And wow, no details wasted. Back to the viscera.

To ignore so many years of talented, painstaking effort is more than just laziness: it is arrogance. It isn’t hard to adapt a comic book well. Comic books are storyboards already. Just take the dialogue and stories that have already been written and combine them in a linear fashion. If the film is done well, the original writers will be proud that their stories and words made it into such a well-done film. The only real way to mess this process up is to either have bad material to being with (not the case here), or to rush the work and assume that the audience will be dumb enough not to care if the story presented to them is boring, effects-driven tripe.

In the final moments of the film, during the rolling of the unending credits, came the hidden scene. This is after the great pay-off that made no sense and the burning of the digital world, of course . . .but there it was. It appeared suddenly out of that black-and-white Courier font simplicity and lasted only four lines, but was meant to whet our appetite for the obvious sequel. As the scene ended, a fellow audience member promptly shouted out “Are You Serious?!?!?” with both gusto and horror. Whoever you are, honest teenager, you put it perfectly. If only you’d been on set for this production as well.

One Star

Directed by Gavin Hood
Written by David Benioff and Skip Woods

Hugh Jackman – Logan/Wolverine
Liev Schreiber – Victor Creed/Sabretooth
Danny Huston – William Stryker
Will.i.Am – John Wraith
Lynn Collins – Kayla Silverfox
Kevin Durand – Frederick J. Dukes/The Blob
Dominic Monaghan – Chris Bradley/Bolt
Taylor Kitsch – Remy LeBeau/Gambit
Daniel Henney – David North/Agent Zero
Ryan Reynolds – Wade Wilson/Deadpool
Scott Adkins – Weapon XI
Tim Pocock – Scott Summers
Julia Blake – Heather Hudson
Max Cullen – Travis Hudson
Troye Sivan – James
Michael-James Olsen – Dog (Young Creed)
Peter O’Brien – John Howlett
Aaron Jeffery – Thomas Logan
Alice Parkinson – Elizabeth Howlett

David Hankla owns and operates He is a bad enough dude to save the president. Are you?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Let's Be Honest

Let's get the concessions out of the way first. Beyonce is a terrible actress on par with Madonna in Dick Tracy. Ali Larter is not nearly hot enough, and I mean by a galaxy of hotness, to make the idea that a super-handsome black man would consider leaving his wife Beyonce for her work. And, sadly for him, Idris Elba will probably never be able to make a film without at least thirty percent of the audience ask, "Why is Stringer Bell in this movie?"

Obsessed probably has some other problems, too, like a terrible script with ham-fisted dialogue, a total zero for a director, Jerry O'Connell is in it, and perhaps most overlooked is the fact that it was released by Screen Gems. Screen Gems is awful.

You are waiting for the "but!"


I honestly don't care. This movie looks so awesomely terrible I can barely contain my exuberance. Allow me to elaborate.

1. Idris Elba is the male lead of this film. Idris Elba is notable for two things: playing Stringer Bell on The Wire and being supremely good-looking.

2. The plot, while contrived, formulaic, and stale, manages to toss some taboo sexcellence into the mix: interracial intercourse!

3. This movie has the potential to be one of the best crappy guilty pleasure films of this decade. Do you remember the first time you saw The Boondock Saints, and you thought to yourself, "Wow, that movie was fucking awful! No one with a brain stem could enjoy that pile of shit!" And then you found out that four of your friends ABSOLUTELY LOVE The Boondock Saints? That is about to happen to me with Obsessed.

In six months when I come skipping home from Best Buy with an enormous smile on my face and a small rectangle tucked lovingly under my arm, and someone asks me what I bought, and I reply that I bought Obsessed, they will punch me in the face, but I will still be happy, because I will know the truth.

The Boutros on A-Rod

I agree with some of my man Bearfight's most recent post on Alex Rodriguez, his steroid use, and the newly-released book about the former by Selena Roberts. Like Bearfight, I hope Rodriguez performs poorly statistically and I hope the Yankees' season suffers because of his detrimental on-field efforts. This is because I root against him and his team as a baseball fan. In that regard, there is no animosity in my antagonism of the man.

But! The first item I must point out as potential falsehood is Bearfight's description of Rodriguez as "the greatest baseball player in the world right now." This is simply not true. He is not the most talented, he is not the most clutch, he is not the most feared, he is not the most productive. By no definition of talent or output is Alex Rodriguez the best baseball player in the world. Albert Pujols is the best baseball player in the world. And if it's "right now" you want, it would be hard to argue against Zack Greinke.

More importantly, though, I take issue with Bearfight's defense of Rodriguez's...soul, I guess? His argument is that because Rodriguez never hurt anyone else through his steroid use, he does not deserve the unilateral scorn he receives from the mass media, the fans and general public. But I totally disagree. I don't give a shit if he didn't hurt anyone else. He is paid over $20 million per year--about $45,000 per at-bat--to play baseball. He is at your disposal and my disposal and the disposal of every asshole out there who pays to see him play. He is meat. He is a commodity. He is goods and sundries. (And he obviously sees himself in the same way, considering what he is willing to do to his body to get ahead.)

People aren't so stupid or naive anymore that they decry steroid use as counter to the American wholesomeness of what baseball should stand for. That is a crock of shit. Everyone's on something these days; to call Rodriguez out as a taint upon the pristine crystal castle of nice fluffy innocence is bunk, bunk I say! But that doesn't mean you have to like it. And in a sad, sad way, it changes the self-aggrandizing reaction of the fan. It doesn't matter if you do steroids; it matters if you are a dirtbag, and it matters aun mas if you're a dirtbag who gets caught.

The fan has absolutely, positively no obligation to make excuses for the athlete. This is the life that they signed up for, because most of them are smart enough to know how to stay in the cut without committing some atrociously stupid crime or other mistake. If you are a superstar multimillionaire athlete in the sports-lunatic United States and you break the rules--the rules of the game, the rules of the road, the rules of your nuptuals--not only should you prepare to be caught, you should prepare to be skewered for the rest of your life. And you will deserve it.

Yes, Bearfight, most people are assholes. The ratio of asshole to not-asshole is depressingly high across the world. But do you know where it's even higher? In professional sports. These men do not care about you. They would not protect your image if it were in jeopardy. Why should you try to protect theirs? Alex Rodriguez is not going to send you a bouquet of flowers just because you rushed to his defense.

Ultimately, I don't care about Alex Rodriguez. His fate will not determine mine. I don't think he's evil and I don't think he should be imprisoned or suspended or whatever. But I also don't think people like Bearfight and Jim Caple should waste their breath coming to the defense of a man who means nothing to them and to whom they most certainly mean nothing. Perhaps I'm too cynical or apathetic to be a "true" sports fan, the kind that forms a one-way symbiotic nurse shark relationship with my favorite professional athletes.

An addendum: I'd like to point out to all five of you that yes, this is a most rare occasion on which Bearfight and I are not in full tandem-bass agreement. It's worth noting that in the three years since we entered college, Bearfight and I have arrived at different places with regards to our relationship with sports and the athletes that play them. As a staff writer in the sports department at the Michigan Daily, now the only newspaper in Ann Arbor thanks to the death of the Ann Arbor News, I have been on the receiving end of some undeservedly poor treatment at the hands of various athletic department staff and students. When you are blown off by an eleventh-string volleyball player on the second-worst volleyball team in the Big Ten, you cannot help but develop a thick skin. As a result of my three years of begrudging access to occasionally unwarranted elitism, my default perception of athletes is a negative one. I am this way for my own protection; this way, when a pine-riding chump on the diving team tells me I am not worth his time, my feelings are not hurt and I remain unfazed, and when a member of the women's gymnastics team smiles at me and answers all of my questions I am all the happier for it. Perhaps Bearfight has been in similar situations; perhaps not. The last thing I want to do is put words in his mouth. All I can tell you is that athletes presently exist in my life as disposable amenities, because I am no more to them. I would be foolish not to admit that this undoubtedly affects my opinions of professional athletes as well.