31 December 2007

No Bangs, Just Whimpers . . .

That's how 2007 will end around here, no bangs, just whimpers.

I missed Festivus (just not feeling the grievances), and I'm not in a retrospective mood, so pretend that I was and that I agree with your picks of your own favorite posts from the past year that you read here, usually this blog is a dictatorship, but it doesn't have to be.

2008 should be an interesting year. Finally, after this endless election cycle, people will be casting actual votes and actual delegates will actually get selected. Ought to be fun. Outside of politics you have interesting times in the local big industry, Hollywood, with a big effort by the studios to break the various unions and get costs under control. It worked for the NFL, and the NBA, didn't work so well for the NHL or MLB. The music industry is in flux, with more and more artists learning how to abandon the labels and market directly to their fans. Big isn't better anymore in the music industry, and either the labels will adjust to the new reality, or continue to flail and fail. 2007 seemed to be the year of 'pop wrecks' from Britney, to Paris, to Lindsay (with the spectre of a Anna-Nicole like flameout hanging over their heads if their behavior continues as it is now), but that's all just a side show. I don't mind poking fun at the freaks, when the freaks are well compensated, it's much more distasteful when it's the early rounds of American Idol style freak show where they revel in the humiliation of slightly odd (or very odd) 'regular folk'.

Also, the international scene seems more chaotic than ever, but the reality of it is that 2007 was the most peaceful year in recent times with fewer conflicts, fewer deaths, fewer famines, and more people living in fat, happy prosperity than ever before. No reason to expect that trend to change in 2008. There's still a very real risk that some group of backward assholes will get lucky and pull of a spectacular mass casualty attack in some major Western city, but that's a threat that's going to hang over all major populations and free societies for decades to come. Doesn't mean that resistance against these crazies is futile, just means that their bar for 'success' is much lower. We're winning this war, it's only a matter of time, and will.

I'm hoping to blog a lot more in 2008, no promises, but the plan is to post 4-5 quick Instapundit style pointers to good stuff each day, and 3-4 longer pieces of varying kinds each week. It's not a big goal, and it may not create any new traffic towards this site, but it'll keep me busy and out of mischief (or into even greater mischief, depending on the nature of the posts), so that's something.

27 December 2007

Pointing Out Podcasts (and Not Making Them)

One of these days, maybe I'll get around to podcasting, but today's not one of them. Just don't like what my voice sounds like recorded. Whatever 'voice' you here when you read my text is probably better than my actual voice, so I prefer to leave it that way.

But others aren't so reluctant about adding their voices onto the internet, and those little 'casts are often interesting listens.

Two good ones from this week are to be found at Pajamas Media and ESPN.

First up, the Glenn and Helen (aka Instapundit and Dr Helen) do their podcast interview thing, and as always, they do it well. Johah Goldberg is pushing his provocative new book, Liberal Fascism, and hearing them interview him regarding his tome is rather entertaining. They also discuss the ongoing (and perpetual) presidential campaign and speak about Sen. Clinton and Gov. Huckabee in particular.
[direct link to the 22.3mb mp3 here]

Jumping to a completely different subject, My Nemesis Bill Simmons™ interviews his buddy Jimmy Kimmel on the BS Report for 12/26. Jimmy has some interesting things to say on the ongoing writers' strike, and the incoherence of the Spinks brothers. Also, there's football stuff with Cousin Sal as they hash out their weekly 'guess the spread' chat. Jimmy Kimmel will probably be the best host sans writers. He always gives the impression of actually listening to the people he's talking to, and when his subject is engaged, he can be very engaging right back. Letterman has flashes of fiestiness, but mostly he's just bored, and Leno with writers comes across as unprepared and just killing time, so Leno with writers might end up being like watching a slow motion train wreck. Conan, on the other hand, will probably just wiggle, dance, and mug at the camera for 35+ minutes a night, make odd noises for another 6-8 minutes, and chat with one guest. They're all coming back next week, it'll be worth tuning in (or DVR-ing, given the hour they are on) for the first few shows, anyway.
[direct link to the 11.2mb mp3 here]

26 December 2007

Laker Chat II (The Quickening) . . .

Earlier this month (on the 13th to be exact) I posted about the relatively solid state of the LA Lakers and the possibility that they might actually be a pretty good team.

13 days later, and after their fantastic performance against the Phoenix Suns in the spotlight of the Christmas Day ABC game, it's time to talk Lakers again.

They've been solid in the 8 games since, dropping 2 games they should have won (last minute loss against Golden State, another last minute loss against Cleveland), and beating a few good teams along the way (an injury depleted San Antonio and Phoenix), but more importantly, they beat bad teams, which may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but that's something they struggled with last year, and if you look at the 10 losses this year, only 3 were to bad teams, so they've improved greatly in beating bad teams. That's an indicator of increased maturity, and a developing killer instinct that this team lacked a season ago. I hoped (and expected) they'd go 7-3 until the end of this month, so that means they need to at least split their upcoming home games against Utah and Boston this Friday and Monday. They are 1-1 versus Utah so far (including a blow-out loss), and 0-1 versus Boston (another double digit loss). Utah has struggled since they beat the Lakers, and Boston continues to roll over most of the league, but are vulnerable on the road if the Lakers play well.

I'm not the only one noticing the Lakers progress this season, ESPN.com was full of "just how good ARE these Lakers, anyway?" stories the past two days, and the consensus seems to be that these Lakers could potentially challenge Phoenix for the Pacific Division lead (they only trail by one game at the moment), and should get past the 1st round of the playoffs without a problem. At the beginning of the season it was a question of if they would make the playoffs (when the question wasn't where they would ship Kobe to and what they'd get in return), now that doesn't seem in doubt. Instead the question seems to be whether or not any team in the Western Conference other than the San Antonio Spurs beat this team in a best of seven playoff.

There's a lot of basketball left to play, but if Andrew Bynum continues what he's doing, if Kobe stays gruntled, and their bench continues to hit open jumpers at a high percentage, than this is a formidable, young, talented basketball team.

ESPN has this silly tool that calculates teams odds of making the playoffs and performance in the playoffs based on running 5000 simulations of every game the rest of the way. Right now, the Lakers sit atop their Western Conference playoff projections (can only link the current results, so this may change over time). Their odds of making the playoffs stand at 99.6%, while their odds of finishing as the No.1 seed in the Western Conference is a respectable 32.9% (slightly better than San Antonio at 32.7%). Also, they have a 26.5% chance of making it to the finals, and about a 95.5% chance of getting beaten like a drum by either the Boston Celtics (they have a ridiculous 60.5% chance of winning it all, and even a 12.2% chance of matching or doing even better than the 72-10 record set by the Bulls) or Detroit Pistons (an impressive 20.5% chance to win it all) when they meet in an 80s flashback finals (or an 80s and 00s flashback final in the case of a Pistons-Lakers match-up). That playoff projection thing is interesting (Hollinger does a great job of explaining the strengths and weaknesses of these projections), but mostly worthless (case in point, there are 9 teams in the West with a better than 50% chance of making the playoffs). It takes a snapshot of current play, and projects it for the remaining games, but rarely do teams play that consistently throughout a season, slumps and hot streaks happen for all teams (except for Minnesota and New York, I don't expect either of them to experience anything resembling a hot streak this season).

But a bigger story than the Lakers is Portland. Where'd they come from? They lose Oden before the season starts, stumble to 5-12 and still rattle of 10 straight wins? How is that possible, and which team are they, the 5-12 team or the 10-0 team?

24 December 2007

"Gospel of peace my ass!"

Quoting Ken Jennings above, it's from a post about alternative Xmas films (for those that have seen Christmas Story or It's a Wonderful Life just about enough times).

Now if somebody could come up with the 'Gospel of a piece of ass!', that's a church I'd happily attend.

21 December 2007

I Prefer to Think of Today as the Longest Night, Not the Shortest Day. Does That Make Me a Pessimist or Optimist?

Happy Winter Solstice!!!

(to all my Northern Hemisphere readers that is, for you freaks on the other side of the equator, enjoy your first day of "Summer")

(and I know I'm a day early for most of you, but the Solstice officially starts at 10:08pm local time (aka 06:08 UTC) for me, so screw you "Dec 22nd" Solstice people with your strange and mysterious ways, I'm happy to be with the good and proper "Dec 21st" populations that observe the "correct" date for a Solstice)

20 December 2007

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Week Sixteen)

It's getting towards the end of the season. The AFC is pretty much wrapped up, 7 of the 8 division titles are decided, but there are still plenty of teams fighting for the remaining wildcard spots in the NFC, so there will be plenty of games that count for at least one of the teams.

To break form these last two weeks, I'll scour the entire schedule and hazard a guess on each contest.

*UPDATE* 2007 DEC 22nd 10:28pm PST *UPDATE*

I completely forgot to pick on My Nemesis Bill Simmons™. He hasn't had a good season picking picks, his wife, who doesn't follow the game, is kicking his ass (to be fair, she kicked my ass this season as well). That would seem to give credit to Bill at So Quoted's (see comments to this very post) theory regarding the relative value of laboriously researched, meticulously reasoned picks by folks who seem to think they understand a thing or two about the chances of one team versus another (against the spread), and flipping a coin.

In addition to his picks this week BS also offers an entertaining breakdown of the craptacular state of the QB position in the NFL at the moment. By his estimation (with which I agree), there are a grand total of 7 QBs who can win the game for you on a regular basis (as opposed to the occasional great game). Add to that 2 QBs who do a great job managing games, and that's it. Everyone else is as likely to cost your team the game as to win it. What explains this? The complicated defenses, and more frequent substitions, and it's a much more difficult position to play than it used to be. I think having the coaches in their head the entire game doesn't help either. The QB is the only player who gets to have a direct audio link to the coach, but rather than making it easier for them to run plays, it just takes away their creativity and ability to think for themselves. Coaches should just let their players make plays, but there's so much scrutiny now, the urge to micro-manage becomes overwhelming, and the QB position is the most managed position in the game. The likes of Fran Tarkenton, Ken Stabler and Terry Bradshaw probably wouldn't even be given half a chance or be half as good as they were. They developed their instinct for the game through playing, and failing, and calling most of their own plays. Some day, there may be a coach with the guts to cut off his mic, trust a young QB, and allow him to develop into the position. I think a JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young or Matt Leinart would thrive under the old system, and they still may thrive under the current system, but I'd bet they'd be a lot more fun to watch if they were allowed to think for themselves, gamble a bit, and fail from time to time.

Thursday's game
Pittsburgh(9-5) at St.Louis(3-11) Pittsburgh -7.5 BS Picks St.Louis
Pittsburgh has been lousy on the road this season, piling up losses against pretty lousy teams. But the Rams are lousy enough to lose by two TDs against this Steelers team, and given that the Steelers are still trying to hold off Cleveland and win their division, they should have plenty of motivation to not only win, but win big.

Saturday's game
Dallas(12-2) at Carolina(6-8) Carolina +10.5 BS Picks Carolina
Carolina has had a bad season, and are 2-5 at home so far, while Dallas are perfect on the road, but they're coming off an anemic offensive performance against Philly, and their QB is damaged, but will still play. Romo will play, he'll play like crap, and Dallas will squeak by with a victory, but they won't cover a ten point spread in the process.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!
NY Giants(9-5) at Buffalo(7-7) Buffalo +3.0 BS Picks Buffalo
The Giants still have a solid defense, but their offense is truly offensive at the moment. They won't win another game this season. They'll lose this game, lose to New England next week, and if they still back into the playoffs at 9-7, will lose their first round game. It's going to be an unpleasant off-season for Eli Manning. Buffalo lost last week in terrible conditions in Cleveland, a game that pretty much ended their playoff hopes. They'll play better this week at home, and should have no trouble with a Giants team that's on the verge of total collapse.

Green Bay(12-2) at Chicago(5-9) Green Bay -8.5 BS Picks Chicago
Chicago pulled off the upset last time these two teams played, but I expect the Packers to play better this week and keep the pressure on Dallas for homefield advantage in the NFC. Not much more to say, Chicago's offense is phenomenally inept, their defense is still pretty solid, but given the frequency of '3 and outs' by their offense, are on the field for far too much time each game. The funny thing is they really aren't that much worse than the team that made it to the Superbowl last year, they just didn't get the breaks like they did last year. They are a few last minute drives from being 10-4 instead of 5-9 this season.

Cleveland(9-5) at Cincinnati(5-9) Cleveland -3.0 BS Picks Cleveland
Cleveland should win this, and keep the pressure on Pittsburgh for the AFC North division title, but stranger things have happened, and the Bengals are better than they've played this season. The Browns should win, but I wouldn't be too surprised if the Bengals put together a decent game for a change and screw up their division, and intra-state rival's shot at the playoffs.

Kansas City(4-10) at Detroit(6-8) Kansas City +5.0 BS Picks Detroit
Both teams are awful right now, but I think Detroit will extend their losing streak, while KC will manage to break theirs. Both teams had surprsingly strong starts, Detroit was 6-2 at one point, while KC was 4-3 with a share of the AFC West lead. I feel sorry for the people in the KC and Detroit area who will end up having this sorry excuse of a game being broadcast into their living rooms.

Houston(7-7) at Indianapolis(12-2) Houston +7.0 BS Picks Houston
Indianapolis should win, but they have nothing to play for, they have the #2 seed locked up, and can't catch New England for #1. Manning and Addai, and plenty of other key starters are probably not going to play much, so I expect Houston to win this game to keep their slim chance at the playoffs alive, or at least keep the final score close. Or they could still get blown out by the Colts second string.

Philadelphia(6-8) at New Orleans (7-7) New Orleans -3.0 BS Picks New Orleans
Both teams have been up and down, New Orleans still has a shot at the playoffs if Minnesota slides, so they should play their best this week, but they've come up short other times when they needed to win, so who knows what will happen this game. I'm going with the home team, and the team that needs to win, but Philly's defense might force Brees into a bunch of turnovers and the Eagles could win big.

Oakland(4-10) at Jacksonville(10-4) Jacksonville -13.0 BS Picks Jacksonville
On paper, this shouldn't even be close, and I think the paper's right in this case. The Raiders have a solid young defense, but the Jaguars will still roll all over them on offense, and Oakland's inept offense will cost this team any chance they may have had of pulling off an upset, or even covering the 2TD spread. Plus the league was kind enough to give JAX just a little extra motivation by snubbing the entire team with regards to the Pro Bowl. Should make it a lot easier for the coaching staff to get the players fired up against a lousy opponent, they aren't just playing the Raiders this week, they're playing against league wide perception.

Atlanta(3-11) at Arizona(6-8) Arizona -10.0 BS Picks Arizona
I just don't care. I really, really don't care. The Cardinals should be eyeing a playoff spot right now, but they lost both games to the 49ers this season (!!!), and despite having a good mix of young talent and veterans, will miss the playoffs another season. I really do think they could have snuck into the Superbowl this season had they not lost 3 of their last 4. Atlanta is Atlanta, and the less said the better. Message to Arthur Blank, I'll take the job, but only if you let me be GM and coach. I'd institute a modified run n' shoot offense, make some trades, and make Devin Hester your featured wing back. It'd be back to the 30s, and back to the playoffs for the Falcons.

Tampa Bay(9-5) at San Francisco(4-10) Tampa Bay -6.0 BS Picks Tampa Bay
A blowout in the making. Tampa Bay will win by more than 20 points. They've been good at thumping the bad teams they've faced this year, this week won't be any different.

NY Jets(3-11) at Tennessee(8-6) Tennessee -8.5 BS Picks NY Jets
You have the Titans fighting for a wildcard, and the NY Jets fighting for nothing at all. Even though the Titans have looked troubled lately, and have dropped 4 out of their last 6 games, they should be able to beat an awful Jets team by two TDs or more.

Miami(1-13) at New England(14-0) New England -22.0 BS Picks Miami
New England may be perfect in the WL column, but against the spread they are a less impressive 10-4. They're at home, they're playing a team that just eeked out their only victory of the season, and they're coming off of a less than satisfying victory over the NY Jets. I expect blood in this one. Their biggest margin of victory this season was 46 points, I expect them to get close to or exceed that number this week.

Baltimore(4-10) at Seattle(9-5) Seattle -10.5 BS Picks Baltimore
I just don't care. Baltimore should be out for blood after being the only team that Miami managed to beat, but then again, they managed to lose to Miami, and Seattle has been pretty solid of late (ignoring last week's loss to Carolina), so I expect Seattle to win, and how in the hell is Baltimore on the road against a 9-5 team a "pick 'em" game?!? UPDATE: I knew that line was wrong, 10.5 points is more like it, I still pick Seattle to cover.

Washington(7-7) at Minnesota(8-6) Washington +6.5 BS Picks Washington
This is the game of the week? No really, it is. This is the only contest where both teams are fighting for their playoff lives. If the Skins can win out, they should get that last wildcard, if the Vikings lose this one, then they'll still have a shot at advancing. Minnesota looked terrible last week, even while beating the Bears. They won't get so lucky this week against Washington. The Skins will watch the tape from last week to learn how to contain Peterson, and with Bollinger starting this week, they'll have no offensive output at all if Peterson is contained. Still, there's bound to be ten different things better to do with your Sunday night than to watch this game. NBC must be thrilled that this was the best they could schedule even with their 'flex schedule' deal with the NFL. Is it spelled "parity" or "parody"?

Christmas Eve
Denver(6-8) at San Diego(9-5) San Diego -8.5 BS Picks San Diego
San Diego beat Denver by 38 points last time they played in Denver. The outcome shouldn't be any better for the Broncos when these two teams meet in San Diego. Denver's only hope is that San Diego rests some starters, but even then, they should be able to win by better than 2 TDs against a solidly mediocre Broncos team.

18 December 2007

The Humiliation Returns . . .

Tomorrow, I'll put together some NFL picks, the past few weeks have been pretty awful as far as games worth watching, last week only two games pitted two teams with winning records. If you had looked at the Week 15 match-ups before week one, you probably would have guessed that both teams in the Jacksonville at Pittsburgh game would have winning records, but if you say that you would have also guessed the only other both teams over .500 game would be Buffalo at Cleveland, then I call you a stinking liar.

So I'll be daring and pick all the games, from Thursday to Monday, no matter how unwatchable any particular game may be (woohoo! 14-0 New England v 1-13 Miami, that's a classic in the making, right there), then I'll give my picks throughout the playoffs, of course.

Looks like my earlier playoff predictions are already way off. I was pretty close on the AFC, though I didn't predict continued success for Cleveland and a Pittsburgh mini-collapse. Cleveland and Pittsburgh both have winnable games the last two weeks, so they should both finish 11-5, which would mean Pittsburgh wins the division, and Cleveland earns one of the wildcard slots, along with Jacksonville, leaving Tennessee out of the playoffs. New England and Indianapolis have already locked up the first round byes.

On the NFC side, Green Bay and Dallas both will earn the byes, with Dallas probably still holding on to the overall home field advantage. Tampa Bay did rise to the top of the NFC South (no real surprise), Seattle has looked very solid again, and Arizona let a golden opportunity to make the playoffs slip away with a few late losses. Detroit were 6-2 at one point and look poised to finish 6-10, while the NY Giants may still hold on to the last wildcard, but they'll get thumped in the first round of the playoffs, so it won't matter. As far as who the other playoff team, who knew Minnesota would rise to the top of that mess? They were 3-6 when I wrote that post, and their season was done, now they are 8-6 with their own destiny in their hands. New Orleans still may knock the Giants out, and Minnesota looked shaky on Monday, even though they beat the Bears, so they could still finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. They've been getting some Pittsburgh of '05 comparisons as the hot team that sneaks into the playoffs by winning a bunch of games late in the season, then doing damage as a 6 seed, but Tavaris Jackson is no Ben Roethlisberger. Adrian Peterson is a hell of a running back, but Seattle or Tampa Bay both have the kind of defense that can keep him bottled up, so I don't expect them to go on an unexpected playoff run.

It still looks like it's probably going to come down to a New England-Dallas rematch (with the same result as the regular season contest), assuming Romo's thumb isn't too seriously damaged, if his thumb is messed up, then look for a New England-Green Bay contest with Favre winning the Superbowl MVP even as New England wins the game.

Maybe if San Diego puts everything together for one magical game, they have the talent to thwart New England, but expecting a Norv Turner team to out-prepare and out-hustle, and out-execute a Bill Belichick team in a playoff game, strains credulity.

All The News That's Fit to Gestate

I'm your pregnancy rumor/news clearinghouse. I'm repurposing this website.

First off, Jessica Alba, dude?!? Dude!?! Seriously, with that Cash fella, did you really have to? Bet you still look totally hot all the way up to about the 7th month or so. And if he punks out and dumps you while you find yourself "All Spearsed-up", I promise right now to jump in and help you through this difficult time, it's the least I can do (That offer goes double for Salma Hayek, too, I know she already had her kid, and is engaged to her super-rich baby's daddy, but you know men, they're dogs, so I'll be happy to be a stepdad to your beautiful mija).

Secondly, 16 year old Jamie-Lynn Spears!!! That ain't right, at least your sister waited until she had half a decade of stardom and was old enough to vote before finding herself "in the family way". Was it Knocked Up that got you wanting a baby of your own? Or was it Juno? Or was it watching the great times your sister has had being a mother?

Fecundity, thy name is Spears.

Will being "all Spearsed-up" become the new slang for pregnant?

Sample: Yeah, I just took the EPT, and the pee stick totally shows that I'm ALL SPEARSED-UP, good thing we were thinking of having children anyway.

Shouldn't That Read, Gestating?

I'm just saying . . .

I would have gone with "GESTATING..." beneath the latest banner headline at Drudge. Looks like the Dems are about to let the scandalpalooza be unleashed upon each other. Expect revelations regarding the other top candidates to follow.

National Enquirer is a rag, and full of half truths and occasional outright lies, but with something that specific, they probably wouldn't have let hit the stands without some corroboration beyond the word of the woman claiming to be having a John Edwards 'lovebaby'.

The real question is, who paid her to come forward, the tabloids, Obama folk, or Clinton folk?

(I'm not saying the GOP is above this sort of perfidy, but they'd love to run against Sen. Edwards, so I don't see them dropping a bombshell like this before it would help them in the general election)

17 December 2007

Seven Ordered Lists (Ironically, These Lists are Provided in No Particular Order)

Today seems like a good day for ordered lists of my personal preferences.

First one, Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors (primarily active in the 80s, 90s, and 00s, and yes, my tastes skew British):

1)Neal Stephenson
2)Douglas Adams
3)Neil Gaiman
4)William Gibson
5)Peter Hamilton
6)Richard Morgan
7)John Scalzi
8)Chris Moriarty

Second one, days of the week:

6)Monday (Ha! fooled ya)
7)Tuesday (I guess if I start a band I'll do a song, "I Don't Like Tuesdays")

Third one, performances in films released in 2007 I've seen:

1)Ellen Page in Juno
2)Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There
3)Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma
4)Peter O'Toole in Ratatouille (vocal performances count, dammit)
5)Johnny Depp in PotC 3 (not a great film, but a crazy performance)
6)Sigourney Weaver in TV Set
7)Kurt Russell in Grindhouse (Deathproof section)
8)Zoe Bell in Grindhouse (Deathproof section)
9)Charles Fleischer in Zodiac (didn't like the film, but loved his performance)

Fourth one, albums I've listened to and were released in the USA this year:

1)Lily Allen, Alright Still (buy this album already)
2)Mark Ronson, Version (he's the top producer at the moment)
3)Prince, Planet Earth (Prince only comes in third this year, D'oh!)
4)Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight (Tasty album, screw the 'cooler than thou' who will claim they've gone too commercial)
5)White Stripes, Icky Thump (not their best, but still solid)
6) Screw it, that's about it, I've been listening to 'catalog' stuff more and more lately, I've liked other stuff (Feist, The Feeling, Gwen Stefani, Bjork), but not enough to keep on my hard drive or MP3 player.

Fifth one, pro sports franchises to root for:

1)LA Lakers
2)San Diego Chargers
3)LA Clippers
4)New Orleans Saints
5)Orlando Magic (I love me some Dwight Howard)
6)There's no sixth choice or beyond, don't care about baseball, hockey or soccer, so no rooting interest in those sports, and in football and basketball, can't spread myself too thin.

Sixth one, pro sports franchises to root against:

1)Phoenix Suns
2)San Antonio Spurs
3)New England Patriots
4)Dallas Cowboys
5)Boston Celtics (now that they're good again)
6)NY Yankees (I don't care about baseball, but I still like watching the Yankees fail)

Seventh, and final one, of the eight (5 GOP, 3 Dems) candidates with a real chance of becoming president, my personal preference as to which should hold the office:

1)Fred Thompson
2)Rudy Giuliani
3)Mitt Romney
4)Hillary Clinton
5)John McCain
6)Barack Obama
7)John Edwards
8)Mike Huckabee (yes, he's that contemptible)

Only Some Manifesto Thumping Marxist Could Think This Is a Bad Thing . . .

. . . or someone who really wanted to get a Wii this weekend and were thwarted in their attempt. Over at Kotaku they compile the listings of Wii consoles by hour on Sunday, and there seems to be a massive spike of Wiis on eBay directly corresponding to the flood of Wiis made available by retailers on Sunday.

The commentariat (for the most part) over at Kotaku decry the greed of the eBay sellers while they also sneer at the folks willing to pay the steep price.

Screw that, I think capitalism kicks ass, the purer, the more uncut, the better. I think the folks who bought the units speculatively in hopes of getting a quick $100-$150 profit per console purchased may find it harder than they hoped. Nintendo claims a production of 60,000 Wiis a week, and I'm guessing that they are sending a huge chunk of the Wiis they make to the US market during the holiday season. The retailers held back a few weeks of Wiis so that they could have enough in each store to run an ad for the Wii this week. Most likely about 120,000 Wiis or so sold on Sunday, so the 15000 or so that ended up on eBay represent 12-15% of the total number sold. The eBayers are hoping that the other 100,000 or so didn't soak up the rest of the demand, but even though the Wii is a 'hot' item at the moment, I doubt it's that hot. A lot of folks will be willing to wait to mid January or February to get their hands and one, and find some other propitiation for their sweet little offspring during the Winter Solstice Festival of Consumerism (aka Christmas).

I bet there will be thousands of Wiis still available on eBay as of this Friday, December 21st. Some sellers will just give up and give it to somebody they know, others who bought multiple units in hopes of big profits will take them back to the retailer and lose nothing but their time, others will hold out, hoping that the Wii will remain undersupplied compared to demand for quite sometime, and hope that people didn't go for the auction out of fear of missing Christmas delivery.

But however you slice it, the eBay phenomenon and the ability for private parties to act as more effecient middle men on a national scale has been a great thing for people looking for goods, and has been great for the economy, only a commie would think otherwise (or an exasperrated parent who waited in at Target for hours and still wasn't able to pick up a Wii this Sunday).

The Most Significant Photo of 2007 . . .

Right here, that's it, this is the most significant photo taken in the year 2007. Think it will win a Pullitzer? Whichever photog snapped this photo effectively ended Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

There's no recovering from that, image isn't everything, but it counts for a lot, and her image in that photo isn't the image most Americans would want us to project as a nation. You don't have to be wrinkle free to be president, but you can't look haggard and bedraggled, either.

Drudge captioned it "The Toll of the Campaign", but campaigning as arduous as it is, is still nothing compared to the toll that actually serving in the roll these folks hope to fill. Sen. Clinton has had some scary pictures in the past, but none have escaped that looked like this one.

She's done, whether or not the intention of the person behind the lens was to alter the path of the election or not, that's what this snap will do. She may have been too negative, too managed, and too divisive to ever convince the primary voters to choose her. So her winning was far from assured, but just as the "Dean Scream" solidified the concept of Gov. Dean that many voters already had of him, and just pushed away a ton of undecided voters, this photo will turn off the people who were on the fence regarding Hillary.

In some ways, she's lucky the writer's strike is still going on. If all the Late Night talk shows were ongoing, you know they would have had a bit of fun at her expense with regards to that photo, thus exposing this image to the millions of folks who don't read Drudge daily or have yet to begin really paying much attention to the campaign. Even the Daily Show probably would have piled on (given Stewart's fawning during Sen. Obama's appearance, they seem like they're in Camp Obama rather than Camp Clinton).

Maybe it won't have the impact I'm expecting, maybe I'm shallower than the Democratic Primary and Caucus voters, but somehow I doubt it.

14 December 2007

Acts of Random Stupidity

Remember that ridiculous story about the 50+ chain of cars at a Starbucks of people paying for other people's orders (this version is slightly different then the one I remembered, so maybe it happened again, which if so, get over yourselves people).

First off, the people in line at a Starbucks drive thru most likely don't need the charity, secondly, folks are only doing it to make themselves feel better about themselves, it's just a showy way to pretend you care about your 'fellow being'. Thirdly, for an act to be real charity, in my opinion, it should go to recipients who could use the charity.

Which brings me to my grandmother. She was at an undisclosed Sears location today, and while she was buying her usual ration of ill fitting poorly styled clothes as her annual Christmas presents to her various relations, the lady in front of her paid for her purchase. Way to go random act of "kindness" lady. You may think you were helping out a sweet, frail, nearly indigent old lady out and probably felt great about how you made her month by allowing her to buy Christmas presents and eat something other than cat food for the next month. But I have news for you, my frail old grandmother, who dresses like somebody supported only by their meager social security check in fact owns a rental property worth upwards of $1,500,000 and probably has about $500,000 in cash, bonds and stocks. In otherwords, your act of charity may have been slightly misplaced, and on top of that, though we are related by blood, and I love her, I must inform you that she is not someone likely to feel much gratitude at an act like this, nor is she likely to imitate your act of "paying it forward", rather she probably just thinks she's lucky and you were a sucker.

Lazy Like a Fox . . .

That's ol' Fred Thompson, he's a sly ol' dog who the media seems determined to downplay at every opportunity. Will GOP voters do the same? I think not, for one, GOP voters aren't particularly interested in what most of the media has to say, so their ability to influence us into picking a moralizing, prissy, big government Southern Governor who is very reminiscent of a certain peanut lovin' Governor who shall remain nameless as per the policy of this blog, is far less than they might think.

The love being shown towards Gov. Huckabee by the media is a transparent attempt to try and manipulate the GOP into nominating the one candidate who would lose to any of the potential Democratic candidates, and even if by some gawdawful circumstance he became President, would work with the Dems in Congress to pass every bit of nanny-state legislation that their fevered dreams can come up with.

Nope, a real Federalist, a real Republican, and a real Southerner like Sen. Fred Thompson scares the bejeebus out of media types, so best to do everything in their power now to prop up a joke of a candidate like Gov. Huckabee.

Likewise, the threat posed by a GOP willing to nominate a Northern socially liberal yet financially conservative and hawkish on defense candidate like Mayor Giuliani is equally anathema to the folks in the news business. Rudy would eat Hillary for lunch, and ask for more. Likewise, if Obama ends up being the Democratic standard bearer, Rudy would kill him in direct debates, and would force the Dems to spend money in states they would normally take for granted.

The Dems best bet for the White House is a GOP that nominates a moralizing, preaching, big government nanny stater like Gov. Huckabee. We can't let that happen, even Sen. McCain would make a better candidate than Huckabee.

I'd be thrilled if Sen. Thompson continues to build towards the nomination (despite what the press says, he still has a strong chance of winning), I'd be happy if Giuliani manages to maintain his front-runner status all the way to the convention (he'd be an excellent candidate, and great President), and even Romney has his charms and would no doubt run an able campaign and handle the office well. The GOP has three strong candidates who would give either Hillary or Obama fits in the general election, which is why the media seems intent on pushing the "Huckaboom" so intently.

Huckabee is a joke, a bad one, and if he gets the nomination, say hello to Pres. Clinton or Pres. Obama. We need another "Man from Hope" like we need a return to the glory days of the late 70s. Pres. Huckabee is something that should never happen, he'd be the wrong man at any time in our history, but the next 4-8 years are critical, and he'd be wrong on every level to overcome the challenges we face.

13 December 2007

Laker Chat . . .

Time to talk Lakers again. They have a modest 3 game win streak at the moment and enter a stretch of 6 games in 9 nights.

The games they have remaining this month coupled with their January games will be critical to whether or not they finish barely making the playoffs or rise to a 4 or 5 seed (chances are they can't overtake Phoenix and win their division, barring a season ending injury to Steve Nash).

Even Kobe likes the Lakers right now, that's good news
"I'm happy to be here," Bryant said. "My guys and I -- we have such a tight bond. Business and basketball sometimes can cloud things, but when you get here in your element and you're around your teammates and just having a good time with them and thinking about them and not about the business of the game, that's when it becomes fun."

Including tonight's game on TNT versus San Antonio, the Lakers have 10 games left this month, and out of those 10 games, 7 of them are being aired nationally, so even if you don't live in SoCal you can watch this exciting and occasionally frustrating team. If they can go 7-3 in that stretch and 10-4 in January they'll be in great shape, but they have many tough games on their schedule, so that won't be easy.

The Lakers aren't just Kobe at the moment, which is one of the reasons why he is less cranky than during the off season. Andrew Bynum looks like he's fulfilling his huge potential and playing very well right now. At times he looks like the 3rd or 4th best center in the league, at other times, he still looks like a 20 year old kid who probably could have used 2 years of college ball. Kareem Abdul Jabbar has been dong a fantastic job coaching him, and it appears that Bynum is doing a better job of listening. Kareem states in every interview that he wants to see Bynum break out the "sky hook" (he does them in practice, but doesn't in games), and if he can shoot that at a high percentage, teams would be forced to double team him, which would free up Odom and Kobe on the wings and would allow the Lakers to become one of the more effecient teams in the league on offense.

Another key to whether or not the Lakers do well over their next 24 games is the recently acquired Trevor Ariza. He's an excellent defender who's going to take some time to work his way into the offense, but in the meantime, he gives the Lakers another great defender at the off guard spot, Kobe is the best defender at his position when he wants to be, and so far this season he has shown the desire to play smothering defense at the end of games, he doesn't play insane defense all game (like he did in the FIBA tourney), but usually he doesn't need to.

The Lakers are long in every position, very young (only Atlanta has a younger team), and can play big or small depending what their opponent throws at them.

They still lack consistency, and even though they have some impressive wins amongst their 12 victories, they also have some inexplicable losses scattered through their defeats. If they find themselves with a 29-15 record by February 1, then they'll be a serious threat to do some damage in the playoffs. There's still a big gap between the top 3 teams in the Western Conference and everyone else (including the Lakers). San Antonio, Denver and Phoenix are still much better than the rest of the West (including Dallas, Houston, Utah, Golden State and New Orleans), but the Lakers killed Phoenix when they faced them earlier, and they match up well with Denver. San Antonio is a big problem for them, one they'll have trouble solving if they meet in the playoffs, but if Bynum continues his growth as a player, Odom stays healthy, and Kobe stays gruntled, the Lakers ought to be able to get out of the first round of the playoffs, and if they have some positive momentum going, they might even be able to beat the Spurs when it matters. If the Lakers can manage to move up their seeding and avoid their annual first round thumping by Phoenix they have a shot at being pretty special when the games really matter.

What I'm really saying is expect another Lakers-Celtics finals come June, that'd be freakin' awesome.

11 December 2007

I Allow a Mention of a Certain Crappy ex-President That I Normally Wouldn't Name, Cause I Like the Joke . . .

This is probably for the best, considering that the message is signed by then-president Jimmy Carter, and the aliens would presumably sense his weakness and immediately launch an invasion.

It's funny because it's true. Maynard posting over at Tammy Bruce's place about the discovery by Voyager 2 that the Solar System is dented.

I've always had a soft spot for the Voyager crafts, (spoiler alert!!!)







even if one of them far in the future comes back and almost destroys the planet.

10 December 2007

That Paragraph is Looking Less Far-Fetched Compared to When I Wrote It in July . . .

Here's an AP Video (with annoying ad before video starts) report of the O&O show. From this immodest blog many months ago, a throwaway paragraph in a post about something else...

When Oprah is President Obama's Vice President (you know the O&O ticket makes sense, don't you?), I'll bet she does things that would make even Cheney blush. I also bet there won't be a single lawsuit brought against her by some petty bureaucrat fearful of her secretive ways.

Did I know back then that Oprah would publicly campaign with Obama back then?

She had mentioned she backed Obama back in May, but that's very different from actually stumping with him.

Would she give up her day job to run for VP?

And those folks who set up the Oprah/Obama08 site on cafepress must be doing great lately.

All this talk about whether or not The Oprah can help Sen. Obama in the Democratic primaries is just talk. Of course support coming from Her Most High and Holy Oprahness counts for alot amongst a lot of voters (especially in the Dem primaries).

Is this just a sister trying to help a brother out? Or is there a quid pro quo thing going on (as in VP Winfrey)?

Although if somehow a Obama/Winfrey ticket were to actually win, I'd be worried about some crazed Oprah fan getting too impatient with regards to a hoped for Winfrey presidency. I'd watch my back if I were Pres. Obama.

(and when you see "Pres. Obama" in type or hear it in your mind, it seems such an unlikely last name for an American president, same with Dukakis, he was defeated by his name alone (and his old school left liberal policies which were way out of step with the majority of American voters))

"I'm Not Sure About the Boxer Rebellion . . ."


(hat tip HotAir)

08 December 2007

2008 Best Actress: Ellen Page in Juno

Juno is playing in very limited release right now (all of 7 theatres), but it should build sufficiently positive buzz to be found near you fairly soon.

It's one of them "quirky" family comedies, but it avoids the usual cliches and contains some amazing performances from a very strong cast.

Ellen Page deserves all the praise she is getting (just peruse a few of the reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes, the film is at 93% positive at the moment), and if she can overcome the Academy's reluctance to recognize comic performances should garner a nomination (especially considering most of the 'prestige' pictures this year have been drearily awful).

It's not a perfect picture, but it's an enjoyable picture, and it's a smart picture, without being full of itself. That's a rare commodity out of Hollywoodland lately, whether on TV, big-budget picture, or smaller 'indy' pic.

One interesting thing about the picture is the use of music. There's a lot of older music in the picture, older than the characters are, but it works as these aren't 'hip' teens, but kind of outcast freaks who are more likely to be into their own niche rather than what's current. That seems to be happening a lot with these kind of teen pics. In Superbad all the music was older than the principals as well. In some ways that reflects how fractured popular culture is today. It's not unreasonable to have a 15 or 17 year old into 70s funk, or 80s new romantic, or 60s garage, or 70s punk. It would be out of place if the whole school was listening to this stuff, but a few freaks can get away with listening to whatever they want. That's something that movies (and TV) used to get wrong all the time by trying to be 'current' with what teens would be listening to. Invariably, with the time from script to screen, the music choices for the 'kids' would usually be off by about 5 years or so, and in teen fandom terms, that's multiple generations of fads off. By reaching back more than 20 years, you avoid that problem, and you feed the nostalgia of the 30 and 40 somethings that will make up a good chunk of the audience for these pictures.

And Jason Reitman has already made as many really good pictures (2, Juno and Thank You For Smoking) as his dad has in the past 20 years (also 2, Dave and Ghostbusters II, and both of those were long, long ago, what the hell happened to Ivan Reitman, John Landis, and Harold Ramis as directors, anyway?).

It Sounds Like an Educational Excursion, but Internet Porn is A LOT Cheaper . . .

After posting the pic of Fragonard's The Swing, I swore I've seen this in person, but upon learning that it's part of the Wallace Collection, I doubt this is true (I've never been to London, unlike Puss n' Boots).

Visiting the website for The Wallace Collection, I happened upon today's event:

Price: £22.00
Ages: All Ages
Lecturer: Alison Kusner
Spend the day studying the human form and how it has been portrayed by artists such as Titian and Boucher in the Renaissance and the Rococo periods. Sketch in the galleries in the morning looking at how different artists have tackled the naked human form, then draw from life in the afternoon. With artist and lecturer Alison Kusner.

For over $40, I'd expect more than a bit of 'life drawing' if you know what I mean . . .

Could you push this as an "All Ages" event in the USA?

Will Alison be lecturing in the nude?

I'm going high-brow with this site, can you tell?

(trying to keep the riff raff out)

The Answer Is . . . . Eleven.

The Question Is . . . How many comments into this Kotaku post regarding the rumors surrounding a new Sony Aibo Robot Doggy with the possible capacity to stream live video to a PSP would somebody make a comment referencing the "upskirt" possibilities inherent in such a device?

I would have guessed sooner than eleven, but I forgot about the 5 or 6 anti-Sony folks always ready to slam a Sony product lurking about that site.
(painting by Fragonard, not Sony)

05 December 2007

Random Bloggeriness . . .

Some random non-sport related thoughts (this hasn't become a sports blog, just seems like it), for no reason in particular presented as bullet points.

  • Yes, I'd hit that (pardon the vulgarity, but that would seem to be the consensus amongst straight males when confronted with the photos in question).
  • So Iran stopped actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program around the same time we invaded Iraq, but those on the left are insistent that it was European finger wagging and tut-tutting that lead to the Iranian reversal and not US military might. A mostly infuriating discussion on the matter can be heard on this edition of To the Point, Victor Davis Hanson can be heard briefly, while a slightly more fleshed out version of his thoughts can be found on his website. The host of To the Point, Warren Olney, likes to pretend to be unbiased, but conservative commenters tend to get short shrift and the received wisdom of liberal MSM-land rarely challenged and is often presented as accepted facts, even when the 'facts' aren't facts. How Hanson is handled in the linked program is one example if you pay attention.
  • Surfers are crazy, though once every few decades high surf in the area is an awe inspiring sight.
  • The Futurama direct to DVD film, Bender's Big Score (really 4 episodes strung together to be shown on Comedy Central next year) is a huge disappointment. Call backs in TV shows are a time honored tradition and are, in moderation, a way of rewarding fans. But when you construct an entire 4 episode story arc that amounts to one call back after another, it feels like a clip show rather than new material. Rather than rewarding longtime fans, you're just boring them with stuff they already know. Also, I hate, hate, hate time travel as a story hook. It's always a bad idea.
  • I was in a Best Buy in the morning and they just received a shipment of Wiis when I walked in, the rush to pick them up was impressive and shocking. It's the 'hot' present again this Christmas despite being out for better than a year. Who knew "fun" beats "graphics" as a selling point for a gaming console (and a lower price helps). I blame Nuts and their topless birds playing Wii clips (a safe for work Gizmodo link to the NSFW clips at the link).
  • I upgraded my phone and got one of those silly bluetooth headsets in anticipation of the new Hands-Free mandate for CA drivers that goes into effect next year (the law doesn't go into effect till July 2008) so I might as well get used to looking like a total douchebag. I pledge here to not yell loudly into my headset while walking through the supermarket, or sitting next to you in a restaurant, or while waiting to order at a coffeehouse, or while using a urinal. All bets are off if I find myself near Larry David, I'd pretend to have a loud and bizarre conversation just to see if he'd really do what he did on his show.
  • Are you making a list for Festivus, and are you checking it twice?

02 December 2007

Woohoo! January Madness . . .

. . . oh, wait, it would be if NCAA Div I college football had a playoff system like every other sport, instead you have "BCS Selection Sunday" and lots and lots of questions.

You can't have a 64 team tourney like basketball, but 12 seems like a reasonable number.

Here's the way I'd do it, the top 4 teams get byes for the first week, 5 seed plays 12, 6 plays 11, 7 plays 10, and 8 plays 9, then reseed the games each week of the playoffs.

If a top 4 seed wins it all, they only play 3 playoff games, if a lower seed makes it to the championship game, then they play an extra four games. I think the scholar-athletes on those squads can handle that kind of schedule.

If you had this system this year you'd have #1 Ohio State, #2 LSU, #3 VATech, #4 Oklahoma would get byes in the first week, and the 4 match ups for the first week would be:

#5 Georgia v #12 Florida
#6 Missouri v #11 Arizona State
#7 USC v #10 Hawaii
#8 Kansas v #9 West Virginia

That's a pretty good weekend of college football right there, or if you don't want to conflict with the NFL, have the games on Mon/Tue, they'll pull in the ratings no problem. Georgia beat Florida in their previous game, but it should make for a fun rematch. Missouri and ASU match up well. USC v Hawaii would be awesome, a great offense facing off against a great defense, with two excellent coaches scheming against each other (probably be 62-42 USC, though). Kansas v West Virginia would be interesting.

Let the top 4 seeds host the winners of the first round, but then have the semi-finals and championship game be at neutral sites.

Might as well make predictions based on my hypotheticals, WV would edge Kansas, USC would thump Hawaii, ASU would surprise Missouri, Florida would upset Georgia.

That would set up:

#1 Ohio St v #12 Florida, with a rusty Ohio St team falling to a quicker and better prepared Gators squad
#2 LSU v #11 ASU with ASU giving LSU a fight, but falling in the end to a better team
#3 VATech v #9 WV in an Appalachian battle with VATech triumphing
#4 Oklahoma v #7 USC playing in a game worthy of a championship with multiple lead changes, big plays on offense and defense, and an OT victory by the Trojans

The following week of NCAA playoffs would have

#2 LSU v #12 Florida and the Florida magic running out, LSU would bury them.
#3 VATech v #7 USC with the Trojans controlling the game from start to finish on both sides of the ball.

The championship (which probably should have been the championship this year, anyway, screw Ohio St) would be between USC and LSU in the Superdome. Other than being a great game, I have no prediction for that potential contest.

Can anyone tell me that the scenario I show above would be worse than the system we have now?

01 December 2007

Why Did I, Someone Who Dislikes Bob Dylan's Music, Hates His Voice, Despises Hippies and 60s Boomer Nostalgia-ism, Choose to See "Im Not There"?

Reason: cause I love Todd Haynes as a director.

Do you want a review? You don't have to want one to get one, that's the wonder of the internets.

Here goes my review, on the Millidargis scale of review uselessness and pretentiousness, I'd probably rate my own review that follows a 1500 or so, it's pretty useless as far as reviews go, but this kind of movie can only be discussed in obtuse and tangential ways. I'd rate AO Scott's review of the film a mere 650 millidargis, he actually writes a pretty straightforward piece on the picture (I so wanted to rip apart another pretentious Dargis review regarding this difficult but rewarding picture, but alas, she didn't pen one).

It's a worthwhile picture, it's a difficult picture, and it's a beautiful picture. One measure of the quality of a film is how many people walk out on it. That may seem like an odd measure of a film's worth, but I find the truly unusual, daring, and challenging films often cause walk outs. This film managed to cause 3 of the 16 people who chose to spend a late morning/early afternoon on a blustery but sunny Saturday on the glorious Westside of Los Angeles to walk out well before the final credits. In some ways they didn't miss much, in other ways they just didn't get it, and it's their loss.

Using 6 different actors (from a young black boy, to an amazing Cate Blanchett) to represent different aspects of Dylan's persona, his relationship to his music, and his relationship to his fame was a stroke of genius. Either that or it's a showy, 'auteur' trick that is designed to frustrate the 'squares' and excite the psuedo-intellectuals. I fall on the side of calling it genius, but I sympathize with those that read the film as being arty for art's sake to little effect.

I hate biopics, normally, but thankfully this was the most abnormal biopic ever made. This film is the template from which all future artists bios should be created. People familiar with Dylan's life will recognize moments (which being a non-fan, I only know tangentially), others may be perplexed, but the film works because of its disjointedness rather than despite of it. Rather than the usual narrative driven exploration of an artist's life (like Ray, or Walk the Line), this film digs behind the masks, behind the music (sorry VH1), and behind the culture from which the artist sprang.

Todd Haynes is a masterful director who has made some of the most interesting pictures out there of the past decade or so. This film plays like a 2hr15min music video that doesn't have a lot of music, or a series of six separate and very different shorts interleaved together despite lacking any strong throughline between one piece to the next.

The performances are strong, especially Cate Blanchett, who has received attention mainly for the gender-bender-iness of her performance, but the strength of her performance is in the acting, not in the fact that she's playing somebody who happens to have a penis. Oddly, her performance is the most imitative of Dylan, yet it's an imitation with an edge, she doesn't occupy his cadences and mannerisms circa 1965 for the usual reasons (in biopics, the actor's portrayal usually seems to be built from the surface inward, believing that if you capture the surface similarities between an actor and their subject, the inner truth will follow), instead she seems to be working from the inside out. By being like him from an emotional standpoint she represents his surfaces also. It's hard to explain, but it's there, you can see it on the screen if you choose to look for it.

This film is worthing catching on a good screen, it's filmed gorgeously, and unfolds slowly, it would be tempting while watching at home on DVD to pause, or backtrack, or break it up in to more digestable bits, but I think you'd get the most out of this pic by watching it the way Haynes put it together.

It's a shame nobody seems to want to see this picture, difficult and box office (even the lower standards of 'indie box office hit' standards) don't mix.