Friday, December 31, 2004
You Heard it Here First
Super Bowl Champs: New England over Seattle (that’s right, everyone else in the NFC blows it)
Super Bowl MVP: Corey Dillon
NBA champs: Miami over San Antonio 4-3
NBA finals MVP: Dwyane Wade
Regular Season MVP: Tim Duncan
MLB 2005 World Series: Seattle Mariners over Chicago Cubs
2005 World Series MVP: Richie Sexson
Regular Season MVP: NL- Barry Bonds AL- David Ortiz
Cy Young winners: AL- Johan Santana NL- Pedro Martinez
Boston Red Sox victories: 92
Australia destroys England in the Ashes Series
New Zealand wins the Tri-Nations Rugby
The Roosters win the NRL premiership
St Kilda wins the AFL grand final
Chelsea wins the EPL
Barcelona wins the Champions League
-US invades Syria
-Russian government collapses
-UK leaves the Iraq alliance
-Bin Laden dies of natural causes
-The Joint Chiefs recognized as the most important, best looking group of people in the history of the world.
-The Smash movie breaks box office records for a movie made with a hand held camera.
-Stu quits his job by October 2005
-Dave quits going to class by March 2005
-All three of us pool royalties we have earned off of Your Thoughts Exactly: the book with Jay Shah’s Vegas gambling winnings to open the sweetest bar/club the world has ever seen. I’ll see you there
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
You dont have to eat a crumpet to like cricket
What are the rules?: Well that depends of course, on whether you are playing traditional Test cricket or the limited overs one day internationals. Test cricket matches are 5 days long. Each team bats twice, with eleven batters per side. There are two wickets on the field, which are three poles maybe a meter tall, 50 yards apart or so. The opposing bowler bowls to the batter, whose job is to keep the ball from hitting the wicket and score runs. Runs are scored when the ball is hit into the field and the batter runs to the other wicket. There is a corresponding batter standing at the other wicket: he runs to the batsman’s wicket. So there are two guys batting at once. If you hit the ball on the ground to the end of the field, it’s a called a boundary and worth four runs. If you hit the ball out on the fly, it’s worth six runs.
Players get out if the bowled ball gets through and hits the wicket, if an opposing fieldsman catches the ball on the fly off the bat, if the ball hits the batters leg while on trajectory to hit the wicket (the dreaded LBW), or if one of the runners is “run out” (through pegging the wicket before the batter gets back.) You can also get out by getting “stumped,” although I am not sure what that entails and don’t think I want to know.
In one day matches, rather than letting everyone bat, the teams are allowed a limited amount of balls. The limit is 50 overs. There are 6 bowled balls per over. In both Test and One Day matches, the team much switch bowlers every over. They also change which wicket they are bowling to every over. Anyways I am sure the rules are perfectly clear to you now.
Do they really take lunch and tea breaks?: You betcha. Of course since the games last from 10 AM to 7 PM…it’s understandable.
So what are some good scores? The best batters average over 50 runs per time batted. Getting a “century” or 100 runs is considered to be an excellent achievement. A team of 11 is usually composed of 6 or so batting specialists and 4 bowling specialists. The bowlers usually aren’t that good at batting and are stuck at the end of the order. Thus, for an entire team to score 400 runs in an innings appears to be a pretty decent achievement. Scores vary on the conditions of the "pitch" however.
What countries play this stupid sport? There are officially eleven Test nations: England, Australia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Team West Indies, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and some other nation I appear to have forgotten. These teams also get automatic spots in the Cricket World Cup, which the US played in! (We didn’t win.)
Who is the best? Australia by far. They have won the last two world cups and have been dominating test series. The West Indies is traditionally one of the best teams, but has fallen out of form. India, England, and Sri Lanka, are Australia’s closest competitors in the official cricket world rankings.
Who are some of the best players? Some of the best batters include the West Indies’ Brian Lara, who holds the record for most runs in a test innings (400), India’s Sachin Tendulkar, who holds the record for most test centuries (34), and Australia’s Adam Gilchrist. The best bowlers include Australia’s Shane Warne and Glen McGrath and some Sri Lankan whose name I couldn’t possible spell.
How do you possibly spend six hours at a cricket match and not kill yourself from boredom? The same way you keep yourself sane at a baseball game: drink heavily.
Review: Year 2004
The two Mars rovers land; they take lots of nice pictures. Mars is indeed red.
People are STILL talking about 9/11!
The CIA admits that WMD threat was falsified in Iraq. But it's OK, because the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein, right? And it's also a much better place now that we don't have that pesky 150 billion dollars lying around, or those 30,000 people alive anymore.
Kerry wins the nomination! Democrats everywhere yawn in enthusiasm!
Madrid train bombings make sure everyone knows there are extremists everywhere.
The Iraq war continues to go south. I'm not sure, but wasn't this the month where the death toll after Bush declared victory exceeded that of the official war?
The greatest website of all time is starts from humble beginnings.
The 9/11 report is released. I think something happened that day.
They start building on the site of the WTC. Wait, what happened to the WTC?
The Democratic National Convention opens. Liberals everywhere start saying "I think we have a chance!"
The Olympics! Wow, they were so great! Or did they suck? I don't remember. But at least there was only one bombing.
The Scream was stolen. I would have thought it would be a little harder to steal than just taking it and running out to a car.
The RNC opens, and they only reference terrorism and 9/11 1,244,232,213 times.
Chechen rebels take a school hostage, rig it with bombs, and manage to kill 300+ people, including children. Congratulations, you've proved once again that 8 year olds are no match for grown adults wielding bombs and automatic weapons.
More Hurricanes hit Florida. I think they have a lot of those down there.
SpaceShipOne wins the X Prize.
The Red Sox win the World Series.
Osama goes on TV to tell everyone that he doesn't hate freedom, just the US. Me too, Osama. Except that I wouldn't go around killing people... yet.
America fucks itself. And 11 states decide that they hate gays.
Halo 2 and Half-Life 2 are released.
The Ukraine shows the US that even though they're a much newer democracy, they've got this 'unfair election' thing down to a science.
More bad shit continues to happen in Iraq.
Christmas comes and goes, and good old Americans spend lots of money.
A massive earthquake causes huge tsunamis, killing 33,000+ in Southeast Asia. This is still going on, so you don't need me to remind you.
So, to sum up; I'd say 2004 was a below average year for the world. There were only a few great happenings, and plenty of upsetting ones. Of course, the news tends to show us only the bad ones, so perhaps that's just media bias.
Environmentally, things progressed a bit; hybrid cars, advancements in fuel-cell technology, deforestation and global warming all were good. Nothing impressive.
Human rights-wise, I don't know. Terrorism still abounds, genocide still happened in Darfur, overpopulation and disease are still problems. And the US invaded a country that actually wasn't doing THAT badly in terms of human rights.
Scientifically, SpaceShipOne and the Mars Rovers were nice boosts. Stem cell research still went on, new computer chips were made. No cure for cancer or AIDS, creationists won a few battles, and a couple new physics breakthroughs were made. Plus, a bunch of money was created for new telescope arrays.
Economically, I don't know. The dollar fell, the stock market rose, the rich got richer, the SEC jailed Martha. FREE MARTHA! Isn't she almost done with her sentence anyway?
And in terms of America, more damage was probably done on November 2nd than the rest of the year put together. At least the economy is picking up. Everyone likes money.
I give it 4/10.
Blade: Trinity Review
I knew I was in for a treat of a movie when Triple H showed up in the first scene. That’s right, the Connecticut blueblood played one of the top vampire henchman, although the directors were clearly uncomfortable with letting Triple ad-lib any of his smarmy Degeneration X wit. Instead most of the one-liners went to another casting surprise: Ryan Reynolds, aka Van Wilder, aka, Berg from Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place. Berg was the highlight of the movie, spouting one-liners that caused me to chuckle, giggle, and even guffaw.
Despite the presence of Triple H, Berg, a few freaky looking vamps, and ripping off ever action cliché in the book, Blade Three falls short of good bad movie status. Jessica Biel is partially responsible: while she looks good in tight clothes, I just couldn’t get my head around the girl from 7th Heaven beating up the 7 time WWF world champ. Biel, is too good looking, perfect in every way, without a trace of sexuality in her. Even in with her in kick ass mode, I couldn’t get into it. Snipes was going through the motions, not that the character as written allows him do anything else. The bad guy (Dracula or whatever) was average at best. They should have made him more like Dracula from “Vampires” the movie. Now that guy was scary.
There were some decent new weapons showcased in Blade Three inspiring such thoughts as “Oooooo, that would be good in Quake: The Movie.” As you can see my mind was functioning on a higher plane reserved for the very fortunate. Despite the material being beneath me, or any self-respecting sentient being, I still found Blade Three to be an entertaining experience. Would I recommended it to someone else? Hell no. And if you do find yourself planning on going, make sure you smoke more weed then I did.
2 stars out of 5
Friday, December 24, 2004
Emptying the Brain
While no doubt this Red Sox team will win some games, the free agency “value” games Theo Epstein and co are playing this offseason worry me for two reasons. The first is that I have seen this strategy fail before under Dan Duquette: these signings are like Band-Aids, they may prop the team up through March or June, but its hard to get by for one or two full seasons with older, injury-prone players. David Cone and Hipolito Pichardo come to mind, as does the illustrious Ed Sprague Era. I don’t trust David Wells, Wade Miller, and Tim Wakefield to start half our games. The second reason is the turnover on the team. We have lost some big names: since the beginning of the 03 season, our team has seen two icons and several long time players depart. I’m not one of those guys who can root for laundry: I grow attached to the players. And there is no way I am rooting for Fatty Wells. Just not gonna happen.
I have decided I dislike Curt Schilling. This is the latest example of me being a giant hater. First of all let’s get something straight: while Schilling did pitch better than Pedro this year, Pedro had better numbers every year previous. Second, as previously discussed, going on an online fan message forum as an athlete does not make you a “cool” athlete: it makes you a giant loser. Third, I don’t like the calculated PR moves. Fourth I AM A GIANT HATER.
Speaking of hating: I’ve noticed a trend in my life. The more lame I become, the more time I spend on the Sons of Sam Horn website. Peak periods of usership have included the dreaded “lump” summers of 00 and 03 along with the last month’s laziness. The latest bout of lameness has been particularly unfortunate as the website has gone downhill, turning into an orgasmic lovefest for Curt Schilling, Theo Epstein, and John Henry (who coincidently, all post from time to time.) Biased by the fact many of these people think they are friends with Henry and co., the board has been effusive in the praise of the front office for “bringing us (the fans) a championship.” What I don’t understand is why fans are giving so much credit to the front office. The players are the ones on the field, who actually had to win the game. Let’s keep some focus, Theo Epstein didn’t strike anyone else or get any hits off Rivera.
George Bush wins man of the year for the second time in four years. I don’t think any more comments are necessary
This Christmas, I have realized that I don’t do enough for others. Sorry about that guys. I’ll try more in 05.
I am reading Milk It, a collection of articles by rock critic Jim Derogatis. Jim did not win me over in his opinion of 1990s music by declaring Dr. Dre the most overrated producer in the history of music and putting only three hip hop albums on his “top 90 albums of the 90s, one by Tone Loc. I think he just may be a little ignorant. Maybe the rappers aren’t as nice to him as the rockers in terms of granting interviews. He also has a hyper-tendency to refer every rock development back to Nirvana. Now, I happen to hate Nirvana, and generally ignore Cobain worship as fraudulent and misinformed. But Derogatis takes it to unprecendeted levels, overemphasizing the impact and extent of the supposed “alternative music revolution.” As cultural movements go, grunge and Gen X nihilism did nothing to change anything and will soon be a footnote in time, if not already. On the other hand reading this book did just remind me of my need to download Jump by Kris Kross ....
Edit: Derogatis further proves his lack of knowledge of the rap game with this quote: "In fact hip-hop failed to come up with anything fresh in '94." Ten years later, 1994 is probably regarded as the greatest year for hip hop releases.
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Remember the Bulls? They're Back!
-Ben Gordon. I liked the pick when I did our shoddy draft coverage in June, and now he is coming together, hitting big shot after big shot when our inside game deteriorated late in the 4th. He's like a non-stupid version of Jamal Crawford. But the question remains, why isn't Skiles starting him, and going with Chris Duhon? I don't know.
-Luol Deng. I liked the pick here too, a hard working player that can play 3 positions. He actually led rookies in scoring for a few days, I think.
-Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry. Well, they're sort of coming together, but really, I think it's just that Skiles has found their limits. Curry will give us 20 points in 25 minutes, and Chandler is good for 8 points on putbacks and 10 boards plus a couple blocks. Curry probably won't be a 40 minute workaholic, and Chandler won't ever blossom into a KG lookalike.
-Kirk Hinrich. He's digressed a little, but still solid. If only he could shoot.
Overall, I think the Bulls are in for a bright next few months; if Skiles can get a set starting rotation and substitution pattern in, we could be this year's Grizzlies; a lot of talent but no real stars. They tend to have good offensive sets that enable a ton of alley-oops early in the game, which is always fun to watch, but they're still a young team with questionable ball handling skills. Also, we're holding opponents to really low field goal percentages, yet we're giving them an extra 10 shots a game through turnovers and offensive rebounds. And then another 10 points on free throws, since we're bottom 5 in free throws in the league. It's almost as if we have to thoroughly outplay any team in order to win.
The NBA in general looks wide open; after watching a bunch of games for the first time in probably 2 years, none of the top teams looks like top team material; Indy with the suspensions, Cleveland can't get any teamwork going on, the Pistons underperforming greatly. In the west, I just can't see Phoenix or Seattle keeping it up. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bulls in the second round this year. And no, I haven't been drinking. Of course, this all assumes that they mature as a team a little bit. Hopefully that will happen.
Being in Australia, I am in a sort of bizarro-world where it doesn’t feel like Christmas is really here. I’ve spent too many days in the past week at the beach, soaking in rays and riding waves. I know it’s awful. Christmas in Australia fuses with New Years into a sort of super 4th of July, a holiday of BBQs and drinking, and fireworks, and cricket, and more drinking. It will be fun, but there is part of me that misses the snow (or more likely freezing rain).
Christmas this year is especially hard for me since I am so far away from the ones I love. The plus of the information age is I can keep in touch, through email, IM, and the telephone. While such things help, nothing for a human replaces face to face contact. But I hold all you friends, family, and loved ones in my heart. I wish you all holiday cheer, a safe New Year, and will be seeing all of you soon. Happy Holidays
Friday, December 17, 2004
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Hot Stove Entry 3
The reality of the sports world however, is that athletes move around, and not always because they are old, or because someone better comes along, but because of money, and because of a soured relationship between player and management. Since Mo, I have seen Drew Bledsoe, Lawyer Milloy, Nomar, Antione Walker, and now Pedro move on. I’m getting used to it. Ty Law will be next this offseason, unless the Red Sox foolishly trade Manny.
A fan has three possible reactions when it comes to a player like Pedro: they can pretend that they are the GM of the Red Sox, analyze the value of the contract and the process of negotiations, and base the decision on what they would have done, they can go back and harp on statements the player may have made about wanting to play in Boston and hold them over the players head, or they can realize its part of the game and let the man move on, appreciating all he has done for them.
With Pedro, I will gladly take the third option. If I was GM, Pedro would be one of the players about whom I would be unable to maintain a level of rationality. 5 years 75 million? All yours.
Conventional wisdom appears to be that even a three year guaranteed deal was too much, though the facts may say otherwise. Pedro has an injured pitching shoulder, although he did pitch his highest amount of innings since 1998 the past season. Pedro is losing velocity, although his velocity has been a consistent 91-93 the last three years. Pedro is too old, although he is only 33 and there are an abundance of examples of pitchers who have succeeded in the present day MLB into their late 30s and 40s.
Of course the press is trying to paint Pedro as a bad guy, as every media person has written something along the lines of “people have never forgotten Pedro staying behind for game 6 of the ALCS.” Well you can’t forget something you never learned in the first place, because at the time, I don’t remember reading shit about Pedro missing this game. Evidently, he stayed behind to get medical treatment so he could pitch in Game 7 if needed. Oh the horror.
Like the Mo negotiations, the Red Sox screwed this up. They could have had Pedro if they had given him their final offer (3 years 40.5) million up front. Pedro asked for perks…well guess what, he’s not the first pitcher to ask for them nor will he be the last. Examples include Roger Clemens and Kevin Brown, who were exempted from traveling with their teams when they only had to make home starts. The Red Sox had to play cheap though. Their obsession with maximizing every dollar spent is a good general principle with regards to building a team. However, there is another side to this. We aren’t the A’s or the Twins. Our team is loaded. We can afford to pay Pedro to sit on the DL, even if that is the outcome. We paid Manny 22 million last year, was he worth that much? Probably not; unless you take into account that, oh yea we won the World Series and he was MVP of the regular season and the Fall Classic. We can afford to pay a premium for special players. Pedro is in that category. Rather than attempt to pinch pennies, we should have given him what he wanted. Now, we will probably throw 9 mil a year at Matt Clement. Even if they perform at the same level over the next four years, I’d take Pedro at the Mets’ price.
As for the man, I wish him luck with the Mets, and will be rooting for him to win every start, and hopefully add a few more Cys to his collection. Thanks for seven great years. Viva El Gran Pedro.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Hot Stove Entry 2
Dan Wilson, 1 year, 1.75. I said it before, I'll say it again. Good for Dan. Yes, he should be spending Saturday afternoons at the golf course instead of the ballpark, but he's put in a good decade for the M's, and with the insane money flying around this winter, why not give him a good chunk as a thank you on his way out the door. And he could be a good influece for Olivo and the young pitchers - and it probably means we're not bringing back Pat Borders.
Richie Sexson, 4 years, 40, or 44, or 48, or 50 million. This is just crazy. Insane. Jeff Sullivan over at Leone For Third can give you a good summary of his injury status; I'll just say that it's enough to scare any reasonable person away. But then, we're talking about the Mariners' management. There is just no way this is good. He was is entering his age 30 season, missed nearly all of last year, and was never better than Jay Buhner. Now, I loved Jay, but would i sign him at 30 to a 4 year contract worth 10-12 million per, after missing an entire year with a bum shoulder? no way. And to top it off, we may be putting Sexon and his 6'8'' frame in left, where he will surely stink, and the first time he crashes into the wall or, god forbid, dives, his shoulder will burst open like a (fill in your simile). And if we really wanted a left fielder, couldn't we have fleeced Kenny Williams again before the Brewers pulled of the Podsednik and Luis Viscaino for Carlos Lee boondoggle?
Richie Sexson, 4 years, 40, or 44, or 48, or 50 million. This is just awesome!!! The Mariners are missing out on Delgado, who is pricing himself out, and LA may or may not be back in the Beltre Sweepstakes, and is where Beltre prefers to land (er, remain). So Bavasi may be feeling the pressure of losing out on all his targets, and needs to up the ante to lock up Sexon. If we miss on Sexon, Delgado, and Beltre, we still probably won't pursue Beltran, and the Mariners will lose 100 games next year. Would you be happier with that, especially since the 25 million or so saved from this year doesn't go back into next year's payroll? Surely, the Mariners would have to make an acception to their odd accounting and pump some of it into next year's budget. But really, do you want to see that happen? Like everyone else, I feel I could be a better gm than most of them out there, and talk about how I would lock up Beltre, and throw a couple million more at Delgado just to avoid getting stuck with wasting 50 million on Sexon, or, better yet, get Clement, and trade Randy Winn (or better yet, Ibanez), for Nick Johnson (Washington is apparanlty open to offers, and not asking for much). But there are only a limited number of legitimate bats out there, and the Mariners definitely need some. If Sexson is healthy, he would help the offense, and the M's need to take a chance. (Ok, that felt terrible writing about how it could be a good move. I couldn't even make it sound all that good. After writing it, I think we really should offer whatever Beltre wants, sign Clement, even if he wants 3 and ~25, and trade for Nick Johnson, if we can't land Delgado at a somewhat reasonable price. Johnson makes about $1 million, has shown potential when healthy to be a 25 hr, .400+ obp guy, and the Nationals don't seem to want much for him - seriously, check out that link. Jorge Sosa?)
Delgado for god knows how much. I think he could be a good signing - certainly better than Sexon - as long as its not at his 4 year, $64 million asking price. What is he thinking? I'd try for something like 3 years 36 million, with an option for a fourth year at 14 million with a 3 million buyout. That gives him either 3 years, 39 million, or 4 years and 50. Worth it, considering our other options. Unless, of course, we can signe beltre and clement and trade for nick johnson (i'm too lazy to continue capitalizing my proper nouns. sorry if i offend and grammar fanatics).
Randy Winn for Kazuo Matsui. Like Jeff Shaw, I don't think this is so bad. Its a short term solution while Lopez gets some needed at bats in AAA, and I think he can only be better than last year. It was his first year in america, and he battled a bunch of nagging injuries. I would prefer to move Ibanez, but I can't get everything on my list, can I.
Jeromy Burnitz, for at least a bag of peanuts. Insane. Peanuts are full of great omega-3 fats, and are a delicious snack while watching bad left-handed hitters hit the long ball in Coors Field.
Edit: 10:18 Mariners time, 12/14 - ussmariner has it going down. yes, it. Sexson and Delgado. Good lord, what have we gotten ourselves into. I prefer the bad gm who didn't waste money to the bad gm that does. I think.
Edit: 10:22 - the linked story cited on ussmariner doesn't have it going down. Just about the same story mlb.com ran yesterday, but this time they used the word "nearly." and italicize it!
Hot Stove Entry 1
More importantly we are smack in the middle of the hot stove season of baseball, probably the fourth most exciting month of the baseball season after October, September, and April. Since this blog pretends to be masquerade itself as baseball-related, I am going to comment on the Red Sox moves, both those that have happened and those that are rumored.
David Wells: 2 years 8 million, with incentives bringing the value of the contract up to 18 mil if he makes 31 starts. 41 years old with chronic back problems. Not only that, Wells’ lifetime Fenway stats are atrocious, few pitchers suffer more against the Wall than Wells. But at least he is good in the clubhouse. As far as the money goes, I guess Theo’s thinking is that if Wells is good enough to start 31 games, he’ll be worth the money, I'm far from convinced Given the fact that I also hate him, the Wells move gets a D+
Matt Mantei: Ex flamethrower recovering from arm surgery. We have the cash, and you can always use more arms in the bullpen. B
Edgar Renteria: ~4 years 40 million. As much as I would enjoy going to Fenway and singing the Edgar Renteria song, I question the logic of overpaying for a player who mans the same position as the top prospect in our organization. Since we cannot spend as much money on players and the Yankees, it’s essential that the Red Sox develop some players from within that can contribute on the cheap. Hanley Ramirez is by all accounts our best chance for this. Renteria is a good player, but his offensive output dropped last year and he has been around for a while. I would rather keep O-Cab for cheaper if they are looking long term. They should have given Nomar a one year deal…Ha!
Manny to the Mets for Cliff Floyd and Kaz Matsui- Obviously the Red Sox still think Manny is overpaid, and I guess he is. This deal stinks however, even if the Sox use the money on a replacement such as Magglio. Some of the moves the Sox have made or have considered making this offseason remind me of someone who has won a few grand playing blackjack, then walks to the roulette table and starts throwing 5 dollar chips on number at the roulette table, figuring he is invincible. A few hundred dollars later, he is still up, but not as much as he used to be.
Pedro to the Mets: Really this is out of the Red Sox hands, as the Mets have gone four years while the Red Sox only want to go three. Fair enough. Of course if the Red Sox had gone three in their original offer, Pedro probably would have taken it. Crappy negotiating in my opinion. If Pedro goes, who do the Sox expect to replace him? Wells? Hudson (who they are rumored to be after.) I can’t see Oakland trading Hudson to one of the four teams they can expect to be competing with for the playoffs.
Varitek and Lowe also remain unsigned, with conventional wisdom that Lowe is gone and Varitek will stay. I’ll miss D-Lowe for sure, but a 5.42 ERA is what it is, even if he did come up big in the playoffs. Lowe’s 2003 season wasn’t exactly stellar either. As for Varitek, if the Red Sox lose Pedro, they’ll almost certainly have to sign Tek, especially since there are no other catchers on the market. Of course, Red Sox Nation is so high off their world championship that they’ll gladly fork over 75 dollars a seat to watch the PawSox play. The fans will not hold this front office accountable, but I will damn it. Stop getting rid of my favorite players and replacing them with ex-Yankees!
Saturday, December 11, 2004
How to entertain yourself on the toliet
What they didn’t anticipate was that I would be driven back to books by sheer boredom. In the post-graduation, pathetic, drug-abusive, summer of 2003, I started picking up books again. Probably not the way my parents imagined it, but you take what you can get.
Even in the 8 years of illiteracy however, there was one place of solitude where the power of books held my minimal attention span. The shitter. Away from the stimulus of television, and with no better way to spend the next two to twenty minutes of my time, reading grasped my attention. So here are a list of the top ten things to read on the shitter, for all those who hope to get back into reading some day; or those who are just looking to upgrade their pooping experience.
10) Asterix and Obelix: A Belgium comic book translated into English and full of bad puns…also gives you tons of false historical facts about the Roman empire with which to impress your friends.
9) Harry Potter: Ok so most of my Wash U friends read and love this stuff, and rightly so, thus I figured it was simply a popular trend among college-aged young adults. Imagine my surprise when Harry Potter 3 came out, and I asked people if they wanted to join me in taking in the film, only to be rebuked with peals of laughter and looks of disgust. But wait, I told myself. These are assholes east coast GW kids from Jersey, who think everything revolves around there stinky corner of the globe…surely there are other people like me and my friends. Thus second semester rolls around. In an attempt to impress my cute roommate and find common interests, I ask her if she reads the HP. “Oh yea, I’ve read the first two books to my little sister,” she replies.
Look people, you are all missing out. Get the first book, put it in your bathroom, and read a chapter every time you find yourself there. Trust me.
8) The Far Side: Perfect for the shorter trips.
7) Playboy: Provides the most thoughtful, relevant, commentary on American culture today. And if its having an off month, there are always the naked women to look at.
6) The Onion ad Nauseum: Collections of the archives of the finest satirical paper running today. Good for a quick laugh as well as a reminder of all the stupid shit that’s been in the news over the years.
5) The Fab Five. Seriously do you remember how cool these guys were back in the day? How did they lose to someone as lame as Duke? Anyways this book goes into the ins and outs of one of the classic teams of all time…plus it’s the type of book you can read any three pages at one time and be entertained. In other words, perfect for the toilet.
4) The Newspaper: You can’t ignore the classics. Personally I prefer the sports page and comics page, but if you are a business or leisure person, you can suit your own tastes.
3) Ego Trip’s Big Book of Rap Lists: Responsible for making me explore the world of hip hop music to the extent I have today. Any casual fan of the genre should pick up a copy and keep it in their toilet.
2) Bill James’ Historical Baseball Abstract: In this book, James devises a system for ranking players (the now famous Win Shares), gives a historical background of the game by the decade, and then ranks the top 100 players at every position while providing an anecdote, relevant statistic, or opinion on each player. Let me tell you, nothing improves a pooping experience like coming across a good Kelly Gruber or Lou Whittikar anecdote.
1) Calvin and Hobbes: Go buy this now. Start with The Essential Calvin and Hobbes and work forward from there. They never get old, they will make you a funnier person, and they will increase the bathroom experience to levels you have never imagined. You'll have to force yourself to leave.
As they juggle several negotiations at once, they are being extremely carefulFive? Nowhere in the article is there discussion of a fifth target. Hardly anywhere has there been discussion of anyone else still on the market, unless we're actually making a play at Koskie at the same time. And it seems too early for us to be in the Renteria mix. So maybe, just maybe, we're also in discussions with Clement. ?.
about what constitutes a formal offer. As Bavasi said, "If all five just happen
to call the same night and say yes, we'd have problems.
Hello M's Fans
The Mariners do want to add a starter, but the pool of starting pitchers is now wafer-thin. Beyond Pavano and Pedro Martinez (no chance), there's not a pitcher left who would crack the top of the rotation.Lets go to the videotape:
_____ IP____ _H____BB___K____HR____K/9__whip___ERA
FA___181____ 155__ 77__190___23___9.45__1.28___3.68
M1___140.2___144__43__111___21___ 7.1__ 1.33____4.67
M4___88______74___33__60___ 3___ 6.14__1.22___ 3.27
What does this all mean? First, it means I'm not very skilled with the blogger. Second, it means, if you haven't already guessed, Matt Clement would not only crack the top of our rotation, he would be the top of our rotation - a rotation led last year by Ron Villone's 8 wins. I know, that's old news. Yet it never loses its shock value. (Above, 1 is Pineiro, 2 is Moyer, 3 is Meche, and 4 is Madritsch). Also, while finding these numbers, I was shocked yet again to see that Madritsch tossed over 112 pitches per outing last year, leading the team. How was Melvin allowed to do that? How wasn't he fired before the end of the season for this alone? Criminal.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Sorry Dave, another O.C. post (spoiler-free!)
Still, I have watched enough TV that I know great television moments when I see them. Before tonight, I had never yelled "HOLY SHIT!" at a TV show before (non-sports, of course). Now "The O.C." gets that distinction from me... and at least a few other people.
In fact there are only a few moments like this in all of mass art's history; Darth Vader revealing he's Luke's father, finding out that Verbal Kint is Keyser Soze; perhaps finding out that you're Darth Revan* in KOTOR, realizing that Andy Dufresne didn't kill himself. You know what I'm talking about.
When these moments happen, the best ones are the ones where you feel like you should have seen them coming, the ones where you know you've been manipulated, but you don't even care because you're giggling about it.
Well, there you have it. The O.C. If you haven't started watching, get cracking!
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Do Video Game Sequels Suck?
First let's look at the evidence. Doom 3 was terrible compared to Doom 1/2. (Doom 2 was basically an expansion pack, so I won't count Doom 2 as it's own game). Half-Life 2 wasn't terrible, but it wasn't the leap that Half-Life 1 was. Homeworld 2 was mediocre compared to Homeworld. Deus Ex 2 was also mediocre compared to Deus Ex. Knights of the Old Republic 2 is not living up to its predecessor, apparently. Wind Waker, Majora's Mask, Super Mario Sunshine. Sims 2, Halo 2, Mario 2, SimCity 3000/4 to name a few.
Of course I am being pessimistic. There are several examples of sequels being better than their originals: Civilization 2, SimCity 2000, Warcraft 2, Mario 3, Morrowind, Grand Theft Auto 3.
And then there are those that manage to keep the pace: Warcraft 3, Smash Bros. Melee, Wing Commander 3, TIE Fighter, Diablo 2, Gran Turismo 3.
This isn't an all inclusive list; if you can think of more, I'll gladly post them. Or just make your argument in a comment. Anyway, the list points to the fact that any given sequel has a 50% chance of being worse than the predecessor, and only about a 25% chance of being better. I'd say those odds agree with what I've seen.
Things I've noticed:
-If the game is truly revolutionary, it's pretty hard for the sequel to top it: Half-Life falls in this list, as does Mario 64, and arguments could be made for Zelda 64, Doom 1, Homeworld, and SimCity 2000, and I might give a nod to the Sims; even though I personally got sick of it, it really did revolutionize the industry. When a game really does things that are totally new, it becomes hard to duplicate: awesome ideas only come around once in a while, and it's just a matter of odds that it would happen twice in the same gaming line.
-Raised expectations: This is sort of tied into the first point, but it's hard for a game to live up to the hype. Half-Life 2 would be considered a great game by almost any standards, except for Half Life 1. Instead it is merely a good game. Doom 3, however, would suck, even if it had been called "Monsters on Mars". The fact that it was Doom 3 made it a colossal letdown.
-If it ain't broke, you've still gotta fix it rule: This is a really tough one. People learn to stick with what got them there. Unfortunately, the video game is still an incredibly quickly evolving art, and what worked 2 years ago usually doesn't work anymore. So it's tough to balance to give what the fans want, while also innovating enough to step up the genre. Look at Half-Life 2. Other than the physics engine, was there anything at all new in that game in terms of gameplay? No, not really. It was still just a "run through the maze and shoot" game. Doom3 was still a "run through the maze and shoot" game as well, and a terrible one at that. Almost ALL the games on the 'worse' list were just graphical updates of the predecessor. That isn't going to get you to transcendent status.
-Don't hope that one gimmick will differentiate your sequel from any other game: Half-Life 2 had its physics, Doom 3 had its flashlight, Halo 2 had dual-wielding weapons, Majora's Mask had time travel, Mario 2 had multiple characters. The same game plus one gimmick usually is an easy recipe; you can see why lots of games follow this path. But it isn't going to get you to transcendent.
So how do you make sure you stay revolutionary? Well, it helps if your name is Blizzard. In fact, Blizzard has now cemented its status as the ONLY company that live up to the hype. It helps that it's a giant in the industry, and it also helps that it has a dedicated group of fans that will buy its games no matter what. But you know what? They've earned that status. Warcraft 2 was much better than Warcraft 1, Starcraft was much better than Warcraft 2, Diablo 2 was better than Diablo 1, and although I won't go so far as to say Warcraft 3 was better than Starcraft, they did a good job of evolving the genre and taking risks. World of Warcraft has no predecessor, but it's widely believed to be the best MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) out there, and this is their first attempt at one. Blizzard just knows how to make games, period.
For all the non-Blizzardites, (and of course there are some other high quality development studios out there: Bioware, Maxis, to name 2), what can they do? They can't take the risks that Blizzard can, because a flop for many of the smaller studios means going out of business. And if they do manage to strike gold with a first one, it's easier just to rehash the original, and make money off the original's name. That way you can stay in business long enough to perhaps make another game.
Some games can survive the mere graphical update. Those games are rare: Smash, Civ 2, SimCity 2000. The thing with these games is that the gameplay is SO good, that the only thing there is to do is improve the graphics. It's like tetris; how can you improve tetris? You can't. Attempts at 3D tetris, or super tetris have failed miserably. You'll know if you come up with a game like this, because people won't even be able to copy it.
So the answer is no. Not all sequels suck. Any other games that break the rules I've laid out?
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
AFC Picks Redux
Why did Stu and I undershoot all of our predictions? Well because most of the teams in the NFL suck. I haven’t seen more than five games all year, but there is no other way around it than to say that the NFL has a lot of bad teams and more importantly, teams with inflated records.
Pats: I predicted 12-4 for New England, in an attempt to show false modesty and bias. Big mistake. Corey Dillon makes us unstoppable, and I would like to note we did not have him against the Steelers in our one loss. Belichick is saving our perfect season for 2005 when I can watch the whole thing. For that I thank him.
Jets: Well I had them starting off 8-4 and losing their last four games to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Now they are 9-3, and probably the weakest 9-3 team of all time. They have one impressive win, at San Diego in week 2. They split with the Bills, beat the Dolphins twice, the Cards, the Browns, the Niners, you get the idea. There last four games are brutal however, but I think they’ll win at least one to finish 10-6 and in the playoffs.
Bills: Winners of three straight with an easy schedule to end the year, including possibly playing Pittsburgh in the last week when they may not have to try…but they still have Bledsoe at QB. An old Bledsoe. Thus I see them blowing a game they should win, such as at the Niners. I predicted 7-9 and I am sticking to it.
Fins: I said they would start hot and then crash. They just crashed. I had them at 6-10, but 3-13 seems more likely
Steelers: I had them at 7-9, anticipating a full year of Tommy Maddox, who I still think would have led this team to 7-9. Had I known they would have a good QB, I would have picked them to win the division, but not to go 14-2, or whatever they will end up. They will still lose to the Pats though
Ravens: Hey I predicted them 9-7 and they are on that road. Look Mom I got one right!
Bengals: Winners of 4 out of 5, this 6-6 team needs to win three out of four to make the playoffs, meaning they either need to win at New England or at Philly. Not gonna happen, despite my optimistic 10-6 prediction
Browns: 4-12! And thank you Kellen Winslow, for contributing so much to my fantasy team this year. What an asshole, breaking his leg and all
Colts: Is Peyton Manning on steroids? No seriously couldn’t this be an explanation for the crazy numbers he is putting up? 60 TD passes should only happen with Michael Vick in Madden 03, and that’s after a few years of building up his rating in franchise mode. 6-10 for the Colts was pretty dumb. Whoops
Titans: I said I originally had them collapsing, and they still might if McNair went down. Which he did. A full year of Billy Volek gives you this, so I don’t feel bad about missing this pick.
Jags: My sleeper team was fulfilling my prognostications so well until Byron Leftwich went down for a few weeks. There schedule isn’t that hard, so I am backing them to win out and make the playoffs at 10-6
Texans: They seemed to have things going in the right direction especially offensively, but struggled to show consistency. 6-10 looks more likely than 8-8. Part of this has to be attributed to a tougher than expected schedule.
Chargers: See above. Whatever
Broncos: I do not like the Broncos, so I tend to underrate them naturally. In the shock of shocks, it appears Jake Plummer will not be winning the league MVP. Whether Peter King picks him to win for the third straight year before the 2005 season remains to be seen. I see them losing there last three games to finish 8-8. Take that Denver.
Chiefs: The Chiefs have scored more points than they have given up, yet are still 8-8. Gunther Cunningham may be a defensive genius, but he can’t play defensive tackle.
Raiders: A potential spoiler team, I had them at 7-9 and am sticking with em.
So I was pretty wrong about the whole league. Luckily, I will ignore such triviality and give you my playoff picks when the time comes.
So they're not going to go 11-5, or 5-11. I predict an 8-8 finish, although if Hutchinson can keep it up, 9-7 and the playoffs is not totally out of the question. This season was a big bust with all the injuries. The injury to Grossman is especially tough to swallow, because it forces us to use next year to evaluate him, when I think they're just going to find out he's an average quarterback, and end up drafting another. Then again, this year's QB pickings are not quite as good as last years.
6-10 is not out of the question for the lions, and I think I'm going to stick with that prediction. It would have helped if their two star wideouts had stayed healthy, or if Joey Harrington had made even a little progress. Unfortunately, no and no. But they are on the uprise.
7-9 was a little ambitious for me, I'll admit. I still think they can lose 2 more games, though, putting them at 9-7 or perhaps 8-8 if they continue their awful defensive play. Favre just doesn't have 'it' anymore, and Ahman Green couldn't put it together, because of injuries or because his team was trailing by 21+ points. Still, playoffs are in the picture at 9-7.
10-6 would put them in the playoffs, but the question is, are the Vikings going to choke again this year? I think 9-7 again looks like the norm... playoffs depend on whether or not they beat Green Bay on christmas eve. But this defense is terrible just like I said, and they are trying their best to choke this season away too. If they can do it is probably Mike Tice's fault.
Panthers: 6-10 is also not out of the question for them... but they've been playing well. Still, a few of those wins came against awful teams: San Fran, Zona, New Orleans. Tampa is marginal, especially away from home. So I think they'll probably finish 7-9, perhaps 6-10 like I predicted. But they lost Stephen Davis, Kris Jenkins, and have managed to do marginally well. I'd say this was a well coached team.
Bucs: 7-9 again? I am on a roll here, why not go with it? The Bucs have been wildly inconsistent, but they still have a good defense. And that probably spells some success late. Plus, let's not ignore that their two away games in december are in San Diego and Arizona. I think 7-9 is a good bet. No Playoffs.
Saints: 10-6? Ouch. What the hell happened this year? I really don't know... I didn't even watch a single Saints game, but I hear they were unbearable to watch. 5-11 is the story here.
Falcons: 9-7, probably not. But you can see why I picked them to be mediocre after getting destroyed by Tampa's defense. Luckily they'll get to 11-5 and the playoffs, because games against New Orleans and Oakland are wins any day.
Seahawks: Ouch x2. The Seahawks are on paper, one of the best teams in the league. Unfortunately they can't execute worth shit, as evidence by their inability to catch a ball. Well, honestly, that's not that important, right? They also have a terrible defense. I'd say next week's game against Minnesota sets the tone: if they get lit up there, I think they'll finish 7-9. If they can win that game, playoffs are still a hope for them, with a record of 9-7.
Rams: 9-7 again! Look at me rack up these correct predictions. There's nothing else to say about the Rams other than "they beat the 49ers 16-6". Not good.
Cardinals: 6-10! Bing! Let's hope Josh McCown doesn't get replaced by Shaun King anymore. At least they have a future, sort of?
49ers: 2-14... Hmm. That means they'd have to win one of their last 4 games. Maybe Arizona, the only team they've beaten this year? Maybe Washington, prone to scoring 0 points any day of the week? It's sad that this team is this bad, because... well, no, it isn't. Who isn't rooting for a 1-15 record?
Giants: Ouch x3. It was looking good when the Giants got off to a 5-2 start. Now that they've lost 5 in a row, it looks like 6-10 is more the norm. Oh well. I blame Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning. By the way, what was with all the sportswriters saying "Eli Manning may have lost that first game, but you can see why he was a number one pick. The Giants will be a threat for years to come." Then, after last week's game, they're saying "Eli Manning looks lost and has no business starting... not everyone can be like Roethlisberger". Sportswriters, it seems, are stupid.
Eagles: 11-5, no, 15-1. I'm a bit surprised that no one can beat this defense. It's not that great. If the bears can put up 9 points with Quinn starting, then I'm sure someone else can win. Unfortunately, the NFC sucks this year, so they won't be losing till the super bowl.
Cowboys: 5-11 was a bit harsh. Julius Jones is the real deal, (at least I hope so because I need him to lead me into the fantasy playoffs) and they've sort of got it together after a bad start. 7-9, says Stuart.
Redskins: How can a team get so much worse with the addition of Clinton Portis? I don't know. I blame Patrick Ramsey and Mark Brunell. I also blame Joe Gibbs. It doesn't really matter, because 5-11 is the story.
So I did pretty well, I think. I made a couple huge mistakes: Skins and Saints, but you can forgive me.
All this doesn't matter because the Colts, Steelers, and Patriots are heads above anyone else in the NFC, even Philly. Philly would have no chance against the Colts offense, have already lost to the steelers, and the Patriots, well, they're the Patriots and are basically the only team that can beat the colts. I think we're looking at a Pats-Eagles Super Bowl. Marmar, care to reevaluate the AFC? I'd like to hear about the Chargers.
Monday, December 06, 2004
-worked-hard-at-posting" David Harris.
I agree with marmar, we need a new teammate. David Harris is the Nomar Garciaparra to our blog. He's a cancer, and we need to get rid of the dead weight. Here are some extra stipulations:
Moral Outrage: You are not allowed to be morally outraged about anything in sports. Sorry, but them's the rules. Actually, you can be morally outraged by the fact that Leonard Little killed a woman while driving drunk, got a 4 game suspension, got another DUI, got like a game suspension; while Ron Artest is vilified as the worst human being on earth.
It helps if you have moral outrage about completely insignificant things; like the new Star Wars trilogy.
Cynicism: If George W. Bush confesses to having planned 9/11 with OBL (yes, I called him OBL), you should be only mildly surprised.
Religion: I have no qualms about religion, in fact it might be a plus if you are religious, so we can get some other side of the coin debates going on. But if you have any of the following in your possession, don't bother: an "I Agree with Ramon" T-shirt, an I Heart Jerry Falwell coffee mug, or a picket sign reading "The right to marry my dog!" (Yes, I saw a protester carrying this).
Job status: Well, we've got two people in school and myself still unemployed. I guess it would be nice to have a blogmate who was the CIO of a fortune 500 company. And willing to give me a job. Plus he could represent the big business side of things.
Anyway, that's all for now.
P.S. Hey Dave
You Could Be the Next Your Thoughts Exactly Blogger!
Like most vows, however, this dedication was quickly broken by one David Harris. Rather than lazing around making minimum commitments to things such as school or work, David has thrown himself into the life of being a law student, spending upwards of 12 hours a day in class or doing work. Now from what I hear, law school is supposedly “hard.” You actually have to go to the classes. You actually have to do the work. I know this isn’t what happens at all grad schools since I have been cruising along just fine at good old U Syd skipping half my classes and still doing ok. What is it about law school that forces ex-slackers like Dave into high-study mode?
It can’t be the material; as a lowly book store slave, I helped clueless law school students carry their thick case books on Contracts and Property Law. There is no way that stuff can be engaging. Law student Rachel Shapiro claims that the driving factor for law students is avoiding the embarrasment of being called on in class and not knowing the answer. Personally I would rather be embarrassed for thirty seconds rather than dedicate eight hours a day to reading 19th century cases, but that’s just me.
The bottom line is that Dave has let something small and stupid like law school get in the way of the blog. Ok maybe there is some other excuse we don’t know about. Maybe he is just fresh out of ideas. Maybe he is intimidated by the fiery intellects of Stu and myself, and the brilliance with which we analyze important current issues. Maybe he is unable to comment on The OC and feels left out.
So what does this mean for the general Your Thoughts Exactly reader? Why we are looking for replacements of course. Do you think you have what it takes to power the blog into the future? Well send an email or post a comment giving two reasons why we should give a crap about what you have to say.
But it’s not as simple as that. At Your Thoughts, you must show an ability to write on a variety of subjects. Thus you must submit a writing topic on one of the following three subjects: 1) The Greatness of Calvin and Hobbes 2) Explanations for the success of Anand Shah in this year’s picks pool 3) The Implications of Condeleeza Rice’s appointment as Secretary of State. Or write on anything else. Please submit to my email address.
A few more notes. In addition to being smart, the writers at Your Thoughts Exactly are extremely good looking. We will not accept any applications from ugly people. If you are ugly or think you may be, please don’t waste our time. Also, please do not bother submitting an application if you hate any of the following things: The NFL, “The Simpsons,” Super Smash Brothers, General Tso’s Chicken, or Asians. Concurrently, please do not bother submitting an application if you like any of the following things: “Friends,” The Pepsi Girl, Coors Light commercials, Joe Theismann, or “Top Secret.” We already have one person who likes that movie, and that is plenty.
Why did stu remove the elelctoral-vote counter from the top of the site, you ask? Because he didn't know I was about to write this: "why is the electoral-vote counter still up on the top of the blog, you ask?" Well, first of all, the vote isn't certified yet. This happens on December 13th, but meanwhile they're still going to recount the votes in Ohio. Those lovely Greens Cobb and LaMarche have raised enough money to pay for a statewide recount. They submit they're request tomorrow, since the Secretary of State did not certify the original tally until today, and Ohio law requires the recount request to be filed after certification. 5 days should be plenty to get this done.
Now, I know I sound like a loony lefty hoping to overthrow the administration by any means, and, well, you're wrong. I'm a reasoned lefty, who is not a big fan of the Green party, who thinks all votes should be properly counted. Too many people complained of not being offered provisional ballots, not being on the voter rolls despite voting in the same place for decades, and the computer screen saying they voted for Bush when the in fact voted for Kerry, to not have a recount. Add to that the letter from Walden O'Dell, CEO of Diebolt Inc. (which provided most of the electronic voting machines for Ohio), saying he was committed to delivering Ohio to Bush. I don't expect the overall results to change anything, but why would anyone not want the votes properly counted? Also, roll the movie forward a bit and think about what the President would do if a recount showed a Kerry win, or if there was some fraud discovered regarding the machines. Would he go quietly into the night? Would he say that the stability of a nation in war overrides the vote, or the fraud (to which, no doubt, no one in his administration will have a connection), and he must stay in office, and thankyouverymuchjohnkerryforyourconcessionlastmonth? Maybe he is more noble than I think, but I would expect him to make a huge stink about it.
So, the recount will happen, Bush will still win, and we'll have four more years of soaring deficits and dead kids - or, adults and cripples, as they now seem to be calling up people who can't run or carry more than 30 pounds and women who served in Vietnam. (see 60 minutes from last night). The bigger problem is that we can't get any sort of responsible voting system, because whoever is the winner doesn't want to acknowledge there is a problem. No matter what side your on, why not have the same number of machines per person in cities as in suburbs? Why can't we have electronic voting machines that give you a receipt, like atm's, so you know you hit the right button, and so there can be a paper recount if the machines give an odd tally (say, varying up to 4-8 points from the exit polls). The campaigns raise (read: waste) so much money - why not have a law that says 10% of everything they raise has to go towards a fund to help purchase quallity voting machines for every county? What is wrong with being outraged at the problems reported across the nation. When someone says it is wrong for the leader of the democratic world to have shortages of machines in heavily minority precincts, why is that considered whining?
Alrighty, that's enough for now. At least its not O.C. garbage. That's right, garbage. (and they're still showing the fire instead of the seahawks)
Tribute: Sandy Cohen
Most critics have rightly credited this realism as the primary strength of the show, and have given much of the credit to Seth Cohen and the actor Adam Brody. While I do enjoy Seth’s character, watching the first season for the second time revealed to me that Seth has a personality flaw that I can’t always bear: He is a giant pussy.
On the other hand watching The OC for a second time reinforced the greatness of Sandy Cohen, who has become the fictional TV character I would most want to be my father. Of course, the competition for this award is minisclue, as most of my favorite televison shows feature dysfunctional idiots (Seinfeld, Simpsons,) or criminals (The Sopranos) as prominent male role models...Hmmmmm.
I will not investigate the psychological ramifications of this revelation at this time. Rather, let me tell you why you should worship Sandy Cohen. He’s got it all, beginning with the smoking hot wife. Kristen Cohen doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her hotness, which is I guess understandable since she doesn’t go around seducing teenagers like Julie Cooper and The OC is stocked with hot girls. More importantly, she is loaded! This allows Sandy to give his life to service, the less needy, yet still come home to the posh lifestyle we males desire so much. Truly a role model for all of us lazy fucks out there.
Plus Sandy never backs down from his arch-nemesis Caleb. Not only is he married to his daughter and living in his house, but he also treats Caleb like a total dick! Bravo indeed.
With regards to his son(s), Sandy plays the perfect role, always being there for important moments like when Oliver had kidnapped Marissa, or Ryan has to drive back to Chino. He lets Seth be the pussy that Seth must be, yet reinforces to Seth that he must “be a man,” at the right time…for example in choosing between Summer and Anna. (Note: Like Stu, I am horribly disappointed in Seth for this choice. While I originally thought this was the correct choice because Summer was hotter, I now realize that my logic was totally flawed, exceedingly macho, and pig-like. Anna is actually hotter.)
And yet we know it must have killed some part of Sandy that Seth was such a pussy. Sandy is a badass surfer dude that scored the hot rich girl. He is the outsider living in the world of the snobbily rich. So what does he do? Why he gets a surrogate son. The jock, outsider kid that he and Kristen never had.
People wear bracelets reminding them of What Would Jesus Do. I guess if you were going to pick one person’s dogma to follow, the son of a perfect God isn’t a bad place to start. But let’s face it, Jesus was long in the past. Following his lead may have worked few millennia ago, but The Bible just doesn’t apply to modern times.
Plus unlike the olden days, where we only had the Bible and stories to tell us what to do, we now have so many other mediums from which to choose our idols. Because of this, and the changing nature of my life, I look to many people for advice. What would Jay Z do, is one of my personal favorites. Other models include Link, Tom Brady, and Matt Dorfman. When I become a father, you can be sure that I will be thinking to myself, “What would Sandy Cohen do?”
Sunday, December 05, 2004
I want to live in The O.C.
Of course there are some faults, like the Ryan and Marisa storyline (in fact, both those characters need to go in my opinion), but of course, they've gotta keep pushing it because those were the two premier characters at the start of the show. And since it's a character driven show, I'm handing out grades for the characters:
Ryan Atwood: They're trying to give him a new personality, but I haven't totally bought into it yet. The brooding teenager who doesn't talk a lot just doesn't generate a lot of buzz either way. so a solidly average C.
Marissa Cooper: Can you believe she is actually 18 in real life? No, you can't. But this character is god awful. Not like in the sense of a character you love to hate, just a character that sucks, and you feel like could be done better. D-
Seth Cohen: An annoying geek who is too cool to be cool! That's what I want to be like. Of course, I'm pissed that he chose Summer over Anna, but I'll deal with it. Good comic relief, plus the fact that he holds the hold teenage storyline together adds up to an A-.
Summer Roberts: At least she's hot, right? Summer just seems a lot more believable to me as the annoying OC girl than Marissa, so I deal with her a lot better. Plus, she's hotter. In my bookt that's at least a B.
Sandy Cohen: Marmar argues that he's the best character in the show, and if he wants to do so, I'll let him do it. Let's just say I agree; Cohen Sr. is just the kind of guy you want to be like when you're older- funny, a great father, with a hot wife, a high paying job in SoCal, but still having strong moral convictions and always rescues people out of jams. I think they should complete the image with him beating up potential home invaders with a golf club. Can you tell I spend too much time on this show? A.
Kirsten Cohen: A pretty good character as well. I see her as the person surrounded by crazy ass lunatics- Julie, Caleb, Sandy, Seth. And she keeps it all together, and seems to be a pretty good mother at the same time. I guess that's what they believe mothers are good at. I give her a B.
Julie Cooper: This is the character that I like to hate. She has the evil look to her, which is nice, and she mixes the right blend of dumb and conniving. Very interesting. B+.
Supporting cast: Caleb, Jimmy, Hailey, Luke, Theresa, and the new kids; they're all good characters and they have their place. I'd say they all bring something good to the table except Theresa. So instead of an A, the rest gets an A-.
And here's the spoiler alert for those who haven't started watching Season 2 (marmar I'm looking out for you).
Season 2 looks to be shaping up nicely, with some good new characters. At first it seemed they were just going to rehash Season 1, with Seth chasing Summer and Ryan brooding about Marisa, but with the addition of the two new love interests, who I hope stay around, it looks like they are moving in a new direction. Thank god.
I also have to point out the way they have seemingly killed off Theresa. If they don't bring her back, it'll be the best hush-hush character kill-off of all time, sort of like when they replaced the Mom in 'Fresh Prince' but expected everyone to go with it. Of course, they probably will bring her back, but I hated that whole storyline, so the less time they spend on it the better.
Ok. I think I just wrote a thousand words on the O.C. I'm going to watch football so I can pretend I have masculinity at the end of the day.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Ok I need to stop. Anyways one of the reasons I haven’t been playing as many video games recently is that I haven’t found a truly great game in quite some time. Usually I can find a great game every year to 18 months or so, one in which I can become totally obsessed with. These games infiltrate my life, to the point where I will start using phrases from the game in everyday life (Starcraft,) have dreams about said games (Quake 3), or refer to the characters within the games as actually real people (Super Smash Brothers.)
Total immersion in a game does not make said game great. Sometimes a group of friends can take a game to a new level of fun, the prime example being Wrestlemania 2000 with my group of friends, spawning several embarrassing alcohol related incidents that I will not recount out of shame, with the exception of reminding everyone that these incidents led to the discovery that Billy uses jockstraps for underwear. Sometimes you immerse yourself in a game because you are insanely bored and looking to kill time in your miserable life. Anyone who has ever become addicted to minesweeper or Snood can attest to this.
Sometimes though, total immersion happens simply because the games are fantastic. So here is my tribute to the ultimate Pantheon games. This is one man’s opinion, feel free to add, disagree, and discuss
NHL 94: Some will say 93 was better as it had Fighting and blood, however 94 had the one-timer, one of the most important innovations in sports video gaming ever. Of course, there were 4 or 5 moves that would be guaranteed to score goals every time. I have never been beaten at this game…although my brother claims to have once bested me. I may have willingly blocked this out of my memory, however, so in my consciousness, I am the champ.
Zelda 64: More sibling rivalry notes: My brother bought this game with his own money, and thus refused to let me beat it before he did, which was total garbage. I triumphed over him by beating it at my friends’ house unbeknownst to him. God I am the coolest. This game builds perfectly, has a cool fighting mode, cool storyline, awesome dungeons, and the greatest final stage of all time. Plus Adult Link is such a badass.
Final Fantasy VII: The best storyline of any game I have played, the best music, and by far the best video game villain. One of the highlights of my gaming life was beating this two days before moving to college, battling Safer Sepiroth about ten levels earlier than I should have. I remember saying to myself while playing “Holy Shit this is the greatest game of all time.” Was I right? It’s impossible to differentiate between games that have reached this level.
Starcraft: They televise games of this in Korea…and it came out 7 years ago which makes it ancient in video game lifespan. This game could give you satisfaction on so many levels, whether amassing a giant force to slaughter all competition, or simply outsmarting someone through good tactics. It tested many skills, from resource management, to speed of production, to proper strategic use of force.
Counterstrike: Ok so I was one of the last to jump on the Counterstrike bandwagon, but let’s face the facts, you cannot get sick of this game.
Super Smash Brothers Melee: A bunch of old school Nintendo characters and Pokemon fighting each other. Sounds incredible stupid doesn’t it? Well that’s where you’re wrong sonny. Somehow I just never got sick of this game, even if Marth has an unfair Smash attack and anyone who uses him should rot in hell. What is key to this game is that unlike traditional fighting games like Mortal Kombat, the amount of damage you take is not the final indicator of your survival. Add amazing items and levels, and you have the greatest fighting game of all time.
That’s it. 6 Transcendent games. The last two I eliminated were Knights of the Old Republic, which I can’t really say anything bad about and Madden 03, which I eliminated simply because the game had flaws…we just made it great. Now someone tell me a new game that has Transcendence potential so I can kill some of my newfound free time.
Friday, December 03, 2004
The Future of America, Part 3
Like it or not, the future of the world depends on the future of technology. Will we find clean, renewable, abundant energy? Will we venture out into space? Will we create sentient AI? I’m not going to be so naïve as to say all the world’s problems will be solved with technology, but technology changes the way humanity functions, and it’s these changes that will tell us where we’re headed.
The USA uses up a ridiculous amount of energy. Now I don’t have specific numbers, but last I heard we use up a very disproportionate amount of the planet’s energy. Right now, the planet can survive our country, because there are countries like China and India, and continents like Africa, where the citizens are on a relatively break-even pace with energy. Whereas an American such as myself (techno-geek that I am) uses up a ridiculous amount. If other countries start developing and moving the US’s direction, can we possibly produce enough energy? And even if we could, would we be heating up the globe like crazy? It’s tough to say. Like I said in my doomsday post, we don’t know what global warming is doing. We’re burning up all the fossil fuels that have been stored in the planet for millions of years, and it’s probably doing something bad. And it’s not renewable. In terms of renewables, we’ve got limited options: natural gas, solar, wind, and perhaps hydroelectric. Out of these options, I think only solar is a viable option. Solar energy reflects how our planet works the best: Photons from the sun hit the planet and are released as heat.. If we could harness this energy, turn it into electric or possibly chemical energy, we’d basically be middle-men in the equation. Once we used the energy, it would be released into the atmosphere as heat. So from a simplistic perspective it’s the least harming and the most reasonable. However, solar power is not very efficient. Perhaps solar powered Stirling engines are the key, but until we have a breakthrough we’re still going to be holding a lot of progress back. I personally think wind energy is a farce; you can’t take that much energy out of the atmospheric currents and think you’re not totally changing the environment. You’re just substituting one unknown evil for another. I happen to think nuclear power still holds promise: it creates massive amounts of energy, is clean, and although it isn’t renewable, is still abundant. Of course, there’s the problem with nuclear waste disposal, but I think nuclear waste disposal is an easier problem than environmental reconstruction. And there’s the stigma of ‘nukular’ energy being bad and dangerous. Basically, the energy problem needs to be solved. I think this is one of these things that works itself out; either we’re going to run out of energy, or we’ll find something to produce it. Not a deal breaker, but time is definitely a concern--we can't advance technologically if we are being held back by energy quotas.
So I got my Master’s degree with a concentration in AI. I won’t even pretend to be an expert on it, though. I do feel qualified to tell you that we’re not even close to creating sentient computers. Some people think that it’s just a matter of creating more and more powerful computers. Well, to some degree I think that is true. At some point it would be possible to create a computer so powerful that you could simulate a human brain inside (assuming we knew exactly how the human brain worked).
I’d hope for a more elegant solution to the problem than that, but it does make sense that we’d try to emulate our own consciousness. And in that regard, the problem is almost more of a biological problem than a true tech problem.
Is creating AI inevitable too? Will this work itself out? I don’t know. In the long run, the technologist in me assumes that we will, because there will always be top people working on it. Will it happen sooner, or later? That, I really don’t know. We live in an age where a single breakthrough can cascade into a full-scale revolution. That said, I haven’t heard of any breakthroughs lately, so we’re probably at least 30 years away from an outside chance.
And AI is hugely important. I mentioned what it could mean for a communist society, but we do have to be wary of what happens when they do become sentient; will they be content with being our slaves? Will we keep them just a bit dumber than us? Can we keep them in line? I like to ask questions, if you haven’t noticed, but I don’t have the answers. As I said before, I think the change towards socialism needs to happen before the robotic revolution; but I think that's already the current trajectory of the US.
With gene research still at sky-high levels, stem cell research picking back up again (in California at least), and general technological advances, like synthetic materials being used for artificial hearts, replacement blood, joints, stents, sutures, etc; the medical future of the US looks good. Pharmaceutical companies may need to do a little restructuring over the next decade or so, but the medical industry looks promising from a technological perspective. Will we cure diseases like AIDS or cancer? It’s tough to say. There will probably always be viral threats like AIDS or SARS, or the flu, like I mentioned in my doomsday post. But we can make progress on purely genetic diseases, and with a few key breakthroughs in stem cell research, we can probably eliminate quite a few degenerative diseases as well.
Space travel may seem a step closer, but interstellar space travel still seems a long way off, even farther than AI, perhaps even farther off than usable nanotechnology. So we’re probably not going to be colonizing planets or harvesting mars for its resources. At least not in the next 100 years. I won’t spend a lot of time talking about anything else in particular, but I guess I should mention the fact that there’s always a chance some crazy shit could happen and turn technology on its head. Like teleportation, or something even more unimaginable. Unlikely, but you never know. Lastly, I want to mention the fact that the US, being quite large and quite diverse, does have trouble moving quickly in the tech world. That’s why not everyone has an internet connection and why our cellular networks are spotty and yet redundant. It takes time for us to change and revamp our infrastructure, and that does put us at a disadvantage in that sense. Of course, there are also people who fear technology and are often paranoid about its new applications, so that doesn’t help speed things up either. It’s also not encouraging when the American public totally misunderstands science (45% believe in creationism!) and wants to keep the education system in the dark ages. But we’ll surivive.
So are we really in for a bright new future of the US? I think it’s clear, looking at our current status and the history of humankind, that we are. Of course, like marmar says, there’ll be speedbumps, but hopefully not any roadblocks. The take-home message: Your kids will be living in a new world; and it will be better.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
The Dark Tower Review
As you can tell from my rankings, there is a clear emphasis on the first four books, which were written over a long period of time when King was younger, meaner, on coke and booze, and probably a better writer. I am sure King would tell you differently, and he may be a better describer or have a better command of language than he did previously. These however, were never King’s strengths to begin with. His strengths were using his imagination to create crazy worlds and outrageous characters. In the last three books, he instead focused on bringing worlds he had created already together rather than creating new worlds. He became unable to give the main characters greater depth, which became most obvious with regards to Eddie Dean, who was the most vital, interesting character in the second and third books, and reduced to a stale, one-liner comic relief bit before King finally realized what was happening and killed him off not half way through the seventh book.
The books then, for people like me who had already invested so much damn time in them, became about reaching the end, discovering who made it to the Tower, who died, and what was finally at the top when Roland got there (as we all knew he would.) Whereas in the first three books as a reader I was able to enjoy the journey (partially because I didn’t know where it was going), I now simply wanted to get to the end of the ride. If J.K Rowling reads this blog, which I am sure she does, let this be a warning to her. Don’t forget to let us enjoy the ride as Harry finishes his last two years of Hogwarts.
On to the ending, I’ll admit I got chills going down my spine when I read Roland’s declarations as he made his way to the top of the Tower. I was originally disappointed with the circular ending because I think it shows a lack of creativity, reservations that have not totally dissipated as time has moved on. It does, however, play into several themes, (ka as a wheel,) plus it allows existence to always be saved as Roland lives in a continual loop, preserving the Tower from the same evil forces until the end of time. It still makes me angry, because I would have hoped King could come up with something better. Of course there is almost no way he could have met expectations since he had been building to that moment for 4000 pages. The weakness of the last three books as individual journeys also put more focus on the ending of the whole saga, increasing expectations and disappointment.
DT 1: 85/100
DT 2: 93/100
DT 3: 91/100
DT 4: 75/100
DT 5: 35/100
DT 6: 84/100
DT 7: 65/100
The Dark Tower Saga: 70/100
The overall score may be lower than the average score of the books, but the 5th book was basically a total waste and the series did not end strongly. Still a pretty good effort by King, but one can’t help feeling he wasted an opportunity to make one of the all-time great sagas. He was certainly on that road through the first three books. Like Stu said, if they ever take my idea and make this into an HBO TV Series, it could be one of the great shows of all time. They just need to give me, Stu, Lee, and Sarah Todd creative control over King. Not sure that will happen though.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
The Rise of China...Bring it On
Why is this? Well they do have a lot of people, and more importantly, are growing like mad. The average annual growth rate for China in the last ten to twenty years is around 8-10 percent, whereas the US’ is probably around 3 percent. One of the key’s to the United States’ dominance right now is that they serve as the primary export market for many areas of the world…we buy a lot of shit. China could steal our role in that sense, with growing income and a four times as many people. Many of the doomsday scenarios occur where the US becomes marginalized as other countries eagerly ally themselves with China economically and politically to take advantage of China’s superior consumption. Evidence of this can be seen in the rush of nations to organize free trade agreements with China. Also, the amount of US dollars owned by the China’s government is worrisome…if they ever decided to sell these off, the US dollar would plummet in value. Why the US government wants this level of economic power in a potential competitor’s hands is a question for the Treasury Department, who doesn’t appear to care.
On the other hand, the military of China is relatively weak. It is a land based army meant to quell internal disputes. The army is currently incapable of taking over Taiwan…a small island within view of its shoreline, even if the US was to stay out of the conflict. Sure increased GDP and income should lead to a military buildup, but there are some problems with this for China. It would scare everyone in the region and world, to the point where steps would probably be taken economically to constrain China’s growth, if not militarily. China's leaders are wary of this perception, as evidenced by Hu Jintao (China's leader) emphasizing the "peaceful" rise of China in speeches.
More importantly, China is still a developing country with 200 million people living on less than a dollar a day. Additionally, China has had several problems with unrest, the product of being a multiethnic nation with growing economic inequality and an authoritarian government. In fact, I would posit that its more likely China will suffer an internal collapse before it challenges the United States for number one.
Much of the perceived gain by China on the US is actually due to the US losing power relative to the rest of the world. We have peaked in terms of growth, as Stu has been talking about, and are moving into a new era where there is nowhere left to expand in terms of economic or political influence. The next step is the question in people’s minds: Stu envisions us as a nation of artistic expression and creativity, which I think is beautiful. The Bush administration envisions us as a nation of crusaders, spreading our ideology and values onto the rest of the world. Whichever vision or road we take, China will not likely prevent us from getting there. A speedbump, but not a roadblock.