Thursday, August 31, 2006
I'm going to live without cable television.
At least for the immediate future... no ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, TNT, Comedy Central, Food Network and the rest. This might be a death knell not only for this blog, but for me as well. I'm sure tears are being shed from coast to coast.
However, all is not lost. There's still plenty of sports for us poor bastards rockin' the bunny ears. College football has SEC games on CBS and ABC represents the Pac-10 on Saturday afternoons (plus I'll be at the Coliseum on some Saturdays, so I won't be home to watch TV anyway). CBS, FOX and NBC will more than suffice on NFL Sundays. No more MNF, which simply means more Simpsons and Seinfeld on Mondays. The World Series is still on FOX. And, of course, there's NBA LEAGUE PASS Broadband for my basketball fix. College basketball is the one major sport that I won't be really watching. Hopefully I'll find time to visit the Galen Center a few times.
No cable TV also means I miss out on a lot of sports shows. I have to say goodbye to PTI, Sportscenter, Baseball Tonight, NBA Fastbreak, NFL Primetime and many others. But I also kiss off First and 10, Stephen A., Around the Horn and all ESPN Original Movies. That's a wash in my book. At least there's TNT Overtime to watch Inside the NBA replays. Which I will. Over and over again.
The more that I think about it, not having cable TV doesn't sound so bad at all. I mean, I didn't watch TV at all during my freshman year and I survived. So maybe life without cable TV won't be so bad.
NOTE: I failed to mention the NHL, but I never got OLN channel to begin with. But really, who still watches hockey?
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Rafael Soriano, a relief pitcher for Seattle, was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Vladimir Guerrero. If you've ever seen Vlad's vicious swing, you know that this is serious. Soriano collapsed and clutched his head immediately. Medics attended to Rafael for several minutes before he was carted off the field. News reports says that Soriano never lost consciousness on the way to the hospital. As of now, he's been diagnosed with a depressed skull fracture.
It's too early to tell what the physical, mental and psychological repercussions of this incident will be. Here's hoping Rafael's life -- and then his baseball career -- can quickly return back to normal.
UPDATE 8/31/06: Rafael was released from the hospital. Looks like there wasn't any serious injury -- physically at least.
Monday, August 28, 2006
In a move that makes as much sense as a Bea Arthur sex tape, the Oakland Raiders signed Jeff George today. Yes that Jeff George. You know, the one who hasn't thrown an NFL pass in five years.
Signing Jeff George would've been a good idea... around the time Y2K was a threat. Now Oakland has four quarterbacks on its roster, and arguably none of them belong on a NFL team. Aaron Brooks is maddeningly inconsistent, Andrew Walter is unproven, Marques Tuiasosopo is terrible and Jeff George HASN'T THROWN A PASS IN THE NFL IN FIVE YEARS.
It's tough to root for this team, especially when they go and make strange/idiotic moves like this one. I miss the good ol' days when Raiders would get drunk behind the wheel and go AWOL in Tijuana. At least those teams had good players that won games. If Jeff actually plays this year, don't expect Oakland to improve on last season's 4-12 record.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings:
Runaway Jury: The film adaptation of the Grisham novel is about manipulating a jury in a high-stakes civil suit against a gun manufacturer (instead of a tobacco company like in the book). The movie emphasizes backstory too much, and doesn't humanize many of its characters. A handful of ridiculous action scenes further dilute the story. (**)
The Man From Colorado: A terrible post-classical Western. Clunky dialogue, decent story, mediocre action scenes. Lots of talking, especially about stuff the audience already knows or has already seen. Over-the-top musical cues take the place of genuine drama. (*)
Tokyo Story: A post-WWII family drama, widely considered one of the ten best films ever made. A very, very, very slow-moving movie. Long takes, minimal camera moves. Much of the conflict is inferred or occurs off-screen. Likely requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate the film, because the first time doesn't do it. (***)
Wedding Crashers: Very funny first half. The latter part spirals into an overly melodramatic that's long on speeches and short on laughs. Good performances from all the lead actors/actresses. The characters had great motivations and changes throughout the story. Speaking of the story, some parts conveniently moved the plot along when there was nothing there. (***)
Mean Streets: Gritty, NYC two-bit mob movie. Wonderful soundtrack juxtaposed with spectacular action scenes. Story is adequate. Lots of great "little moments." Unsatisfying final third of the film. Robert De Niro's character is too much of a scoundrel to be sympathetic toward, which makes people that are sympathetic to him less likable. (***)
Friday, August 25, 2006
Remember those awesome Robert Smigel cartoons during the mid- to late-90's? If you don't, here's a hilarious reminder:
Seattle manager Mike Hargrove is in a precarious position. If he's fired, Dusty Baker's name has been mentioned, and the Cubs manager is expected to jump at the chance to get back to the West Coast.It's a foregone conclusion that Grover will be axed before next season. A few names have been mentioned as replacements, with Baker being among them. Despite having a decent managerial resume, including over a thousand wins, Dusty's the last guy the M's should want to lead the team. Dusty is notorious for blowing out his starting pitchers (see Kerry Wood, Mark Prior), and Seattle can't afford to mortage their future by overworking youngsters Felix Hernandez and Cha Seung Baek. Also Dusty makes excuses for losing (see 2006 Chicago Cubs). The Mariners are likely on their way to a third-straight 90-loss season. Someone needs to get rid of the losing mentality in Seattle and hold this team accountable. That someone ain't gonna be Dusty.
Here's hoping that Seattle's front office has enough sense not to replace the Grover with a Baker. Otherwise, Mariners fans in 2007 might be looking like this:
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Someone on YouTube has posted the entire 5-hour VH1 documentary on hip-hop. I highly recommend everyone check it out. Although the second-half of the film focuses too much on the genre's sensational aspects (gangsta rap, west coast vs. east coast, Eminem), And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop is a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening program.
If you only watch one YouTube segment, make it part 2. The beginning introduces DJ Kool Herc, the "inventor" and propagator of hip-hop music. It's a fascinating look at hip-hop's burgeoning at the parks and apartments in South Bronx. From Herc, the documentary goes on to describe the influence of the popular music during that time. Specifically, the kind of music being played in the late 70s as well as the records the music was played on.
As Chuck D. of Public Enemy explains:
Hip-hop came out with its use of disco. The disco era was almost like the belief in the 12" record. And the 12" meant extended play, which means the music can go on and on and on till the break of dawn.What hip-hop DJs attempted was to take the "good parts" of a disco song (i.e. the parts people dance to) and extend those parts by "cutting" records.
Cutting a record involves two turntables connected to a mixer. Each turntable plays the same record. The mixer switch is set to only play music from one turntable. The DJ will play a beat on the first turntable, then switch the mixer to play the same beat on the other one. While the beat is playing the second time, the DJ spins the first record back to its initial position. After the second beat plays the DJ switches to the first record and replays the beat again (the third time overall), while simultaneously backspinning the second record. Repeat the process as desired. Anyway, back to And You Don't Stop.
Much of early hip-hop music was actually filtered disco, cutting the familiar beats in new and creative ways. And no one has ever cut records better than Grandmaster Flash (see, or better yet, hear "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel"). For the next two minutes, Flash clearly describes the DJ's objective to cut on time in order to seamlessly blend and extend beats:
So mathematically I was saying to myself, "Well, if I can figure out how to take the music that I love -- where the break was so short -- expand them particular sections and make them as long as I choose to," that would really be the way to go... I was a manual sampler.At the 5:30 Flash demonstrates cutting with two copies of "Apache." At the 5:45 mark is Flash's cutting of the "Freedom" beat. Notice his hands: one moves the mixer switch while the other backspins the record.
Next, the documentary describes the rather humorous and unintentional way scratching was discovered by GrandWizzard Theodore.
Now DJs could cut and scratch their own music. All that was missing was the words. Then emerged the early MCs of hip-hop (Busy Bee, Lovebug Starski, DJ Hollywood and others). As Eddie Cheeba, another early MC, surmises at the end of part 2, "This was the beginning of hip-hop." And it hasn't stopped since.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Movies I've seen this past week, along with my Netflix ratings:
Human Tornado: If you've seen a Rudy Ray Moore flick before, you know what to expect: excessive cursing, bad acting, lots of gunfire and gratuitous nudity (unfortunately Moore gets naked too). A handful of hysterical moments. Not as good or memorable as Dolemite, but way better than Disco Godfather. (**)
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Unrated): Highly entertaining first half. Then the film devolves into an unearned and unwanted melodrama. I was laughing consistently, but always felt it was against my will. Characters are undeveloped and the movie's way too long at 133 minutes. (***)
Serpico: Al Pacino is in full effect. Very engrossing plot (based on a true story) involving a NYPD undercover trying to fight the corrupt system. One in a long line of high-quality, anti-establishment 70's flicks. It's a little long, and sometimes arguments substitute genuine conflict. One of the best films I've seen in a while. (*****)
Hopefully I'll watch enough movies to make this a weekly thing.
Friday, August 18, 2006
NOTE: I wrote this article last Friday for an eSports article, but it looks like they're down for the time being.
It pains me to write this, but the M's are done.
Last night's loss to the Texas Rangers was indicative of everything that's wrong with the team: poor hitting, mediocre starting pitching and illogical managerial moves. Reading the comments about the game is like experiencing a nice, quiet dinner that slowly but surely transforms into an all-out family feud.
Seattle is only six games behind division-leader Oakland with 48 games to go. Plenty of time for the M's to catch up, right? Not when its next twenty games are against the Rangers, Athletics, Angels, Yankees and Red Soxs. By the time September rolls around, the M's will very likely be trailing the AL West by double-digits.
But wait, didn't Seattle make a heroic push for the playoffs in 1995, coming back from a 13-game deficit to eventually win the division title? Why yes they did. Well, why then can't this group duplicate what happened a decade ago?
For starters, the modern-day Mariners don't have hitters like Jay Buhner, Edgar and Tino Martinez. Richie Sexson, Seattle's current big bopper, is batting .224. Willie Bloomquist, a quasi-regular in the lineup (Lord knows why) has four extra-base hits in over 150 at-bats. In fact, out of the 14 teams in the American League, the 2006 Mariners are 11th in runs scored, 12th in batting average and slugging, and 13th in on-base percentage.
Today's Mariners also don't have the arm (and back) of an elite starter like Randy Johnson to carry them every four days. Randy pitched on short rest all through Septemeber, messing up his back so badly in the process that he was sidelined for most of the '96 season. The Big Unit had an awesome 18-2 record and 2.48 ERA in '95, basically willing Seattle to a playoff berth. The lowest ERA on the M's current staff is 4.28, and that guy has lost 11 games already.
The '95 Mariners were managed by Lou Pinella, a World Series winner. This year the M's are run by the Grover, whose boneheaded judgements are well-undocumented and almost a daily occurence.
Before the season started, I made this prediction:
The Mariners, meanwhile, should make great strides this season. A .500 record, which would be a twelve-game improvement over 2005, remains a distinct possibility. If Texas stumbles Seattle may challenge for a third-place finish, but even that may be wishful thinking.Looks like I was right. Except for the "make great strides" part.
NOTE: Since I wrote the article Seattle has lost seven straight games and has doubled its deficit to 12 games. Go M's.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Sadly, that fact is now truer than ever, since Dell batteries have a tendency to blow up:
Dell Inc. said Monday it will recall 4.1 million notebook computer batteries because they could overheat and catch fire, in the biggest recall in its 22-year history.How lovely. Thank goodness my battery isn't on the list. But this news from Dell isn't surprising. Chalk it up to another side effect of cutting corners and saving dollars. Sadly, my own computer is a victim.
First off, if your Dell ever has a problem, you can kiss off calling tech support for help. There's a 98% chance you'll connect with someone from New Dehli, who's more concerned with selling you a longer, more expensive warranty than trying to solve your problem.
One would assume Dell's tech support would be top-notch, considering how crappily its notebooks are built. For starters, they have a lot of flex, meaning there's a good bit of wobble to the aluminum frame. Dell's are known to break somewhat easily. The keyboard also feels especially loose. So loose, in fact, that my F1 key decided one day to make a break for it. Literally. I had to shoe glue that sucker back into place.
Terrible tech support and a flimsy design. Okay, two big strikes, but nothing really bad, right? Right?
My notebook is the Inspiron 600m. It's kinda in the middle between performance and portability. It doesn't do anything great, but it does everything well (at least, it's supposed to). It has a 1.6M Pentium processor, 768 RAM and a 32-bit ATI graphics card. It's not going to blow anyone away, but it can hold its own. Allegedly.
Anytime the 600m does anything really intensive (i.e. video games), the system becomes hot. Very hot. Hot enough to scald you if you touch the bottom. It gets so hot that it will adversely affect the computer. So how did Dell decide to combat their own faulty cooling design? By making the whole damn computer throttle down. Basically what that means is the system powers down to 600MHz so the components have less electricity flowing into them and can cool down. That's all well and good... except it KILLS performance. Imagine you're sitting there playing a game, then all of a sudden, everything starts to become choppy and slows down to 5 frames per second. That's throttling for you. It happens about every half-hour of gaming, and it lasts for ten minutes. So even after you exit the game, the computer's still throttling. If you open a web browser or try to listen to some music, everything is still super-slow. It's like running today's programs on a computer from 1998.
How could Dell let this happen? And it's not just my computer, it's all the freakin' 600m's!
So when I want to play a game or something, I have keep my Dell on top of a big book so air can get into the sucker. I also have to run all these third-party programs to regulate the fans. Big freakin' hassle. Enough of a hassle to make me never want to buy a Dell again.
I mean, I don't hate my notebook. It does things like surfing the web and writing stut just fine. But the next time I get a notebook, "Dude, I'm getting a ThinkPad."
Monday, August 14, 2006
Dikembe Mutombo will fulfill a lifelong dream soon, opening a hospital in the Congo named for his late mother.I first heard about Deke's project on 60 Minutes on ESPN Classic. I'm glad to know that his dream is coming true.
The Houston Rockets center, who donated $15 million to the project, will open the doors to the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital and Research Center on Sept. 2. The 300-bed hospital will provide health care to people in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Mutombo was born.
Mutumbo is often at the forefront of humanitarian efforts. He frequently treks to Zaire, DR of Congo and other African nations to donates his time, money and effort in order to improve the dire conditions there.
Nowadays it seems there's 10 negative stories about professional athletes for every positive one. It's nice to be reminded of the goodwill some of these folks have.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Robert W. McChesney stipulates that in basketball, unlike the other major professional sports, NBA teams need elite players in order to win a championship.
Now I wouldn't say this statement is a major relevation in itself, considering MLB and NFL teams in recent memory (2002 Angels and 2005 White Soxs in baseball and the 2005 Steelers in football) have proven that championship squads in their respective sports are team-oriented. And even casual NBA fans would agree that every year a NBA superstar carries his squad to the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
Where the article gets interesting is when McChesney states that NBA teams must have either the one of the five best current players or one of the 20 top players ever (a Gold Medal Superstar) in order to win it all. He provides statistical evidence and strong analysis to support this claim:
McChesney atrributes this stipulation not only to how the NBA game is played, but also to how teams are constructed:
Shaq, Duncan, Jordan, Bird, Magic and Olajuwon led teams account for 23 of the past 27 NBA titles. (Dr. J, Moses Malone, Isiah Thomas and Ben Wallace led the other four, and they are hardly stumble-bums.)
The best individual players are the best individual players because they make their teams win. And the nature of basketball is that a single player can dominate the game in a manner that is not true in any other major team sport. Having a Gold Medal Superstar does not guarantee a title; it is only a necessary precondition.
Expansion and especially free agency have diluted the quality of NFL champions... NBA champions led by Gold Medal Superstars, on the other hand, invariably are capable of becoming teams for the ages.He describes teams such as the '90s Pacers and the '00s Kings as examples of this phenomenon. Indiana and Sacramento failed to win championships because they emphasized adding quality role players as opposed to acquiring legitimate superstars to push them over the top. While the former strategy is a sound one in baseball and football, it is a doomed scenario for basketball GMs: in the NBA the part is greater than the whole.
Of McChesney's Gold Medal Superstars, only Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor and Karl Malone never won a ring. He attributes their failures to playing against better Gold Medal Superstars (MJ, Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell) and having inferior teammates.
So who are the best players to ever play in the league? Who are the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal Superstars in NBA history? McChesney has a simple system for the selection process, awarding points according to a player's All-NBA selections and MVP votes. The list is certainly debatable, but most NBA fans would agree it's a reasonable snapshot of the best ballers to ever play the game.
But enough rambling from me, just read the damn article.
UPDATE 8/14/06: Part two of the article is here.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
A Scout.com moderator has posted the following message:
O.J. Mayo, seen by many as the top prep high school basketball player in the nation, verbally committed to the University of Southern California today. Mayo is currently on the Southern Cal campus with good friend and fellow Ohio hoops prospect Aaron Pogue. Both were seen at practice today. More coming later. And who says we just do football recruiting...There is also a premium article on the site entitled "Commits to SC." It's worth noting USC remains listed as a school of "High Interest" on O.J.'s profile.
Scott Wolf describes the events surrounding this breaking news:
O.J. Mayo just made an unexpected visit to USC, coming down from the Michael Jordan camp.The football team chanted his name and Mayo was here about an hour, hanging out with his friend Aaron Pogue.Wolf also writes that Mayo did not officially commit. Stay tuned...
"It was great and exciting," Mayo said.
This was Mayo's second visit to USC. Mayo said he would announce his decision before the end of the year. He is widely expected to come to USC.
UPDATE 8/13/06: The press conference where O.J. was to announce he would play for USC has been cancelled. It was scheduled for this afternoon.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Former Blazers forward Ruben Patterson once saw a new set of team-issued luggage sitting by the locker of Omar Cook, who had been signed to a 10-day contract. Patterson liked it so much that he ripped the tags off and took it.So the (alleged) Kobe Stopper is a sex offender, wife beater and a thief? Yeesh, you know it's bad when even the Jailblazers don't want to associate with you no more.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I'll be busy the next days moving into my place, getting internet connected and hooking up with random people on craigslist. At least I hope 2 out of 3 happen.
Monday, August 07, 2006
"I'm not having sex for a year. ... I'll kiss, but nothing else," says Hilton, who told the magazine she has had sex with only two men during her lifetime.Uhh, doesn't Paris know that having sex with a penis is considered having sex with the man attached to the penis? Or maybe by two "men" she meant Rick Solomon and meningitis.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Big Science: Giant Squid: Caught on Camera. I know I'll be tuned in (because I'm not getting bush or watching Busch).
The Skate Best Vert Trick... what a waste of fucking time. It's basically six of the best skateboarders in the world doing tricks for half an hour straight. Sounds like a winner right? Good idea in theory, horrible in reality. I think four tricks were pulled off during the entire event. So for every eight minutes, there was one successful attempt. Even Nate Robinson and The Birdman think that's inefficient.
Shaun White tried to do a 1080° but failed. He wasn't really that close to pulling it off, and thank goodness the crowd didn't cheer Tomato on for more attempts after time ran out. The whole 1080° thing felt forced and gimmicky, as opposed to Tony Hawk's 900° in 2001, where the crowd, boarders and announcers were all into it.
Speaking of Tony, he was a commentator for the event. He kept saying after every fail attempt that the skater "was committed," which means Tony repeated the line a couple hundred times during the broadcast. Honestly, it looked like a lot of the participants were bailing out near the end. Hard to blame them, though. It must be a bitch mentally and physically knowing you're trying to do something in front of millions that has a 96% chance of failing.
And why the hell are the X Games always in Los Angeles now? LA sucks. Furthermore, a lot of the events take place inside Staples Center. It used to be cool that every year the X Games had a different host city, and a lot of the events (especially skateboarding) would be outside. The X Games used to have an awesome barnstorming circus quality to it. Nowadays, it's just another money-making opportunity for Disney. As if The Shaggy Dog wasn't enough. The X Games are like the And 1 Mixtape Tour in that both need to happen outdoors. Streetball and extreme sports have too much of a corporate-feel to them inside giant arenas. I mean, it's fucking called "streetball!" Rage against the machine Bob Burnquist and The Professor!
Dana Jacobson was in Staples reporting in a X Games t-shirt. I once considered her one of my favorite ESPN people. Then she started doing Cold Pizza. Now this?
Every time I'm convinced the X Games is a bogus bummer, someone pulls off a crazy stunt that makes the whole thing worthwhile. This year it was Travis Pastrana, who goes and pulls off this doozy. Literally left my mouth ajar.
After watching the X Games I planned on watching Hoosiers, but the channel it was on had fuzzy reception. TNT was showing The Mummy for the 427th time (only topped in appearances on TV by Coming to America on Comedy Central), so I figured why not?
I didn't have high expectations going into The Mummy, and rightfully so. The first half was actually pretty good: the backstory was interesting, the comedic timing was there, Rachel Weisz was hot. The action scenes were iffy (too many close-ups and quick shots) and the special FX were corny, but overall quite enjoyable. Then the second half chugged along and made things almost unbareable. I stopped focusing on the movie and started pondering stuff like, "Hey, if water started turning into blood and locust started appearing in large swarms, why didn't anyone outside of Egypt ask for help? I mean, even if the film takes place in 1926, couldn't someone in Cairo morse code for help or something? Where were the fucking reinforcements?"
Also I kept wondering, "When the hell did Brock Berlin become an action hero?
As bad as the Berlin years were, things might get even worse for Miami. Considering the Hurricanes' recent past and present, their fans might want to avoid the 2006-2007 season like the plague. Otherwise they might end up looking like this.
Friday, August 04, 2006
I left off all the major websites I visit/recommend (CNN, ESPN, and a few others), instead focusing on less mainstream ones.
The links section, like David Wright's legion of rabid groupies, will only continue to grow... Enjoy!
Here's what Bill wrote about Carl Lewis crooning the "Star-Spangled Banner" -- in Bill's opinion, the 4th-best national anthem performance ever:
For years and years, it's been like the Babe Ruth of the Unintentional Comedy Hall of Fame (one of the centerpieces of the original class of inductees) ... and now it's finally on YouTube! And the rockets ... RED GLARE! If you click on that link, that's actually the "Best SportsCenter bloopers of the past 20 years" segment (four rock-solid minutes of comedy) with the Lewis song running right in the middle. You will not be disappointed. And I will defend Charley Steiner for life after that brilliant "Francis Scott Off-Key" ad-lib.Of course, I wrote pretty much the same thing. The lesson? Great minds think alike. Or he's stealing material from a blog that gets four visitors a day.
Interesting tidbit: Bill made the same mistake I almost made. He wrote "And the rockets ... RED GLARE!" Of course, the line is "rockets' red glare." The apostrophe is there because the rockets, like Cyclops and women, are possessive of a red glare. And a second sidenote: I didn't know Charlie Steiner was spelled "Charley." Charley? That's kinda odd. That's like my name being spelled Kehnee or something. And I'm not even black.
Btw, the beginning of the Sportscenter YouTube clip is freakin' hilarious. It may be even more hilarious than the Lewis debacle.
"He hit me. Like a sissy, a homo, he ran!"
*Charley Steiner laughing uncontrollably*
I'm 90% sure that incident happened during one of those boxing pre-fight meetings, involving Mike Tyson no less. And I vaguely remember someone jumping on top of a SUV during the fracas. Those were, as Simmons would say, "good times."
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Someone has finally granted my wish and posted the video clip from Sportscenter where Carl Lewis "sings" the national anthem, causing Charley Steiner to nearly die from laughter.
It's a montage of ESPN bloopers from the 20,000th Sportscenter special a few years back. Lots of funny stuff, but nothing can ever top:
"And the rockets'... RED GLARE!"
UPDATE: Here's a working link.