Tuesday, May 31, 2005

It Begins

MANIFESTO

From John Podhoretz of the National Review:
FELT THEORY
A hero? Perhaps. Also possible: He was an FBI man with an axe to grind against Nixon because he didn't get the top job at his agency after J. Edgar Hoover's death. He used the Washington Post not because he wanted to reveal the "truth" but in a classic petty score-settling vendetta -- in which he represented not the forces of progress and change, but the forces of Hooverism. Only in Felt's case, he didn't merely threaten to destroy elected politicians using classified FBI information -- he actually went ahead and did it.
A typical "balanced" argument from the Right. How about "he also was right about everybody being f*cking criminals." Expect more of the same garbage for at least a few weeks. Divertor is already hard at work.

Secret Honor

MANIFESTO

I have been a Watergate nut since I was 13 years old. I have a great 6-hour BBC documentary where all the participants of the scandal (Dean, Haldeman, Ehrlichmann, etc.) disclose their actions within and on behalf of the Nixon White House. I also still have a CBS doc with Mike Wallace from 1992 that I've probably watched a dozen times. It was the great because it dealt extensively with guessing the identity of Deep Throat. (Wallace and Co. guessed it was L. Patrick Gray, the acting head of the F.B.I.) Bob Woodward, Carl Berstein, and Ben Bradlee are all interviewed and, being the only ones who knew the big secret, have a ball batting away questions about his identity. One interesting fact was gleaned by Wallace though. For the first time, Bernstein disclosed that Deep Throat's identity would be revealed upon his death. I still remember, at age 16, being thrilled to know that unless I got hit by a bus or suffered some other calamity, I would one day know the real name of one of America's greatest secret heroes. And that day, May 31st, 2005, came early. W. Mark Felt, age 91, is still alive.

My source at CNN just forwarded the entire Vanity Fair piece and it is facinating reading. W. Mark Felt was the #2 guy at the FBI at the time he was giving information to Bob Woodward and The Washington Post. He is clearly a man still conflicted by disclosing inside information in order to shed light on the nefarious activities of the the White House and the Justice Department. He has on countless occasions denied being the leak and chastised any person that would betray such a trust. But now we know he was the betrayer himself, an honest man inside a terrible scandal that everyone else was desperate to cover up that was forced to do something he hated himself for doing. It is almost unimaginable to think that Nixon was thisclose to getting away with his crimes.

In the coming news cycles, I'm sure Felt will take hits from the Right for being a man without honor. I'm almost looking forward to witnessing the leaps of logic that will be required by the likes of Limbaugh and Coulter to turn this man's bravery into something sleazy and disreputable. They will celebrate people like G. Gordon Liddy, men who refused to testify against their President, their Great Right Hope, and went to prison for it. (Of course, they will conveniently skip over the fact that he and Nixon's other henchmen were acting in direct opposition of the Constitution.) They will undoubtably praise Nixon and vilify Felt. Revisionist historians are always hard at work.

But no matter what is said, it must remain clear that even he was torn by his actions. John D. O'Conner put it best in his Vanity Fair article:
Deep in his psyche...he still has qualms about his actions, but he also knows that historic events compelled him to behave as he did: standing up to an executive branch intent on obstructing his agency’s pursuit of the truth. Felt, having long harbored the ambivalent emotions of pride and self-reproach, has lived for more than 30 years in a prison of his own making, a prison built upon his strong moral principles and his unwavering loyalty to country and cause. But now, buoyed by his family’s revelations and support, he need feel imprisoned no more.
It will be very interesting to see if the current White House, itself a keeper of so many secrets, will comment and what those comments will be.

UPDATE: It's official. Woodward, Bernstein & Bradlee have confirmed Felt is Deep Throat.

Watergate revealed!

Manifesto

Is one of the great mystery's of the 20th century about to be revealed? According to CNN.com, Deep Throat is none other than W. Mark Felt. I'd link but there is no story yet. Sergio is more fascinated by Watergate than I, I wonder what his thoughts are.

Sinners Rejoice!

WHATEVER

Found a terrific new blog today, courtesy of the Times. I suggest you read at least the first few graphs of the article before jumping to the site. The postings are by turns beautiful, funny, sad, scary, and all seem very real.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Hopkins Rules

Sporting Goods

I never thought I would type that phrase, and anybody who knows me probably wasn't expecting it either, but the glory of a national title softens old grudges. Johns Hopkins ended an 18 year drought winning the NCAA Lax championship. Now if only Boston University can win the Frozen Four, I can celebrate a championship in another sport that I never played.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Vote for Pedro

sporting goods

Pedro, thank you for a terrific Friday night.

Also, the Mets designated Eric Valent for assignment and called up Victor Diaz. Valent is gone because he had no options left and I suspect some team will claim him. It is too bad, I liked Valent but Diaz is clearly a better player and the Mets need the help. It is too bad for Valent too. Last year, he was conditionally traded to the Red Sox and he went out and hit for the cycle against Les Expos, which led the Mets to back off the trade. He would have had a ring and he would probably have played enough with the Sox to be fresh enough to avoid stinking up the joint this year.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday's random 10

whatever

Pre- 3 day weekend edition.

So what'cha, what'cha, what'cha got?

1. Karma - Black Eyed Peas
2. The Choice is Yours - Black Sheep
3. Find Another Way - Josh Baumer
4. Me Myself and I - De La Soul
5. Jumpin Jack Flash - Rolling Stones
6. Nuthin' But a "G" Thang - Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg
7. Biggest Part of Me - Take 6
8. Anybody - Ol' Dirty Bastard
9. Fear of a Black Planet - Public Enemy
10. State of Yo - Brand New Heavies feat. Black Sheep

Hit me.

Go Big Green

sporting goods

Dartmouth makes the cover of espn.com during this hour, with a great story about their All-American lacrosse goalie, who had the courage to come out of the closet during his playing career.

I hope it inspires others. It's really worth a read, and if you enjoy lacrosse at all, do yourself a favor and watch the video of him scoring a goal during the ncaa tourney, about half way down the page.

Beautiful day

Manifesto, Sporting Goods, Incoherent ramblings

It is an absolutely beautiful day in Manhattan making it even more of a travesty that I'm not spending the day walking around and doing something tangible.

I'm inspired by the Mets' breakout last night. Sure it was against a bunch of second rate pitchers, but hey, they finally scored some runs. Jose Reyes, for all his on-base percentage problems, sure can run. The kid has 7 triples in the last 10 games. His quote, "As soon as I see the ball in the gap, I'm going to third base." (from the NY Times). That's amazing.

Next, the NY Times provides us with two interesting editorials (get 'em while they're free).

First, Tom Friedman writes about international opinion on the U.S. prisoner situation at Gitmo.
Why care? It's not because I am queasy about the war on terrorism. It is because I want to win the war on terrorism. And it is now obvious from reports in my own paper and others that the abuse at Guantánamo and within the whole U.S. military prison system dealing with terrorism is out of control. Tell me, how is it that over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody so far? Heart attacks? This is not just deeply immoral, it is strategically dangerous.
The real story, as Mr. Friedman notes, is that some of the largest complaints aren't coming from our "enemies" but from our allies, Britain, Australia, and Canada. (Do I have to call them "supposed allies" now?) It is amazing what a free media will report when they aren't cowed into believing that accurate critical reporting "undermines the war effort." I'll restate what has been said more eloquently and forcefully a million times before me, if you think that reporting on torture undermines the war effort more than the torture itself, then you are a horse's ass. If you can't see the illogic in that criticism of the media, then this country is further down the path of irrationality than I would have ever believed.

Finally, Paul Krugman's editorial scares the hell out of me. Just another reason why most of my savings are in liquid assets.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The amazing Marty

sporting goods

Via Hardball Times, I saw this database that lists every hidden ball trick every pulled in the majors. Surprisingly it has only been pulled off once since 2000 (Mike Lowell last year).

I once saw (in person) Marty Barrett pull this feat off against the Angels, when I was young. So I took a look at the list to see if I could find it, and was confounded by the fact that he somehow pulled it off twice in one month against them that season. How can one team fall for a hidden ball trick against the same opponent twice in one month? How embarrassing.

I was able to use retrosheet to determine that it occurred at this game, as the first time he did it was in California. I also just impressed myself by actually remembering, prior to viewing the boxscore, that Reggie Jackson had homered that game, even though I was only 7 at the time.

Marty Barrett was involved in pulling off three hidden ball tricks between 1985 and 1988, out of only 24 times the feat has been pulled off since 1985.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Oh, that's rich

sporting goods

OK, so this is old news, but I saw on an ad on ESPN.com that Joe Morgan's brilliant commentary was moved to "Insider" status. Quick, where's my wallet?

Surely this will cause the price of the Insider subscription to go up, because I can barely fathom how one could set a price on such gems as

"If a pitcher has a low ERA and consistently loses low-scoring games, like 2-1 or 3-2, it means the opposing pitchers are outpitching him."
and "On-base percentage has always been an important stat, but RBI and runs scored are the truest tests of what a player does to help his team win,"
and "That moneyball theory is overrated. No one has ever won with it."
and "until he can manufacture runs in the post season by playing some small ball and bunt and steal and hit and run -- produce and score runs -- I am not going to agree with his philosophy. Look at the history. There's only one way to win."
and "If not for the injuries, Griffey might still be the best player in the game."

and on and on...

Stealing from Kos

whatever

Did you know that in Guilford, CT, only white Christmas lights are allowed for display? Thus, displaying colored lights is illegal. Or that in Hartford, CT, it is illegal to educate dogs? Learn this and more at dumb laws. (It takes a while to load.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The decline of ESPN is the seventh sign

sporting goods

Picking up on Darlucky's post below, I think the significant and utter decline of ESPN and its related tv and sports programming has to be a sign of the apocalypse. First we lost Sportscenter, which has provided more crappy catchphrases than meaningful highlights over the last couple of years. Then Baseball Tonight lost Bobby Valentine and Tony Gwynn and decided to replace these losses with Larry Bowa and John Kruk, thereby ruining the best show in TV. And now, finally, it has come to ESPN.com. I swear to all that is holy, if I click on another link on ESPN that takes me to something other than where I should be directed, I'm going to...well, I'm not going to do anything, I still need my break in the day. So I guess I'm just going to bitch and moan here. Sorry.

Revelations Revealed

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I am about to make an embarrassing admission. I watched all 6 episodes of NBC's "event series" Revelations. And God spoke to me. And he told me, "ye shall not have your six hours back."

The first episode seemed really cool. OK, the episode itself wasn't that great, but it seemed like they were setting up the apocalypse, which is always entertaining. The second episode was a bit slow going, I'll let MaryAnn from "The Flick Filosopher" say what I was thinking (by the way, looks like a good site and she's quite funny, so I'll have to revisit her).

there's a significant percentage of the viewing audience for this thing that is actually looking forward to the "confrontation between good and evil that will scorch the very face of the earth" that this is all heading to in Episode 6.
Episode 3 is when I thought, "I think I can stop watching this now." Nothing from the first show had really been answered, and the action just wasn't hooking me in.

Due to me forgetting to cancel the series recording on DVR, I ended up watching the 4th show. A co-worker who knew I had been watching said that the kid died at the end, so I thought that might be interesting. But turns out he was wrong, they kept him alive to be a virgin sacrifice at the birth of the Anti-Christ. OK, now we're getting somewhere. The birth of the anti-Christ could make for some interesting television.

Somewhere around episode 4 or 5, they also showed a sonogram from a woman who had been raped by some kind of beast, and the baby in the sonogram had horns. Sweet, an evil army of horned minions! Of course, we never got to see the actual baby. Or any horned minions for that matter. What a tease.

I only watched Episode 6 because I knew it was the last one. Come to think of it, perseverence is really why I watched Episode 5 as well. Despite all the promise of the apocalypse, babies with horns, and people like Pat Robertson laughing at the suckers left on earth as he ascended to heaven, Episode 6 somehow turned out to be the most boring episode yet. I can't even describe what happened, because I'm not sure what did happen. Christ appears to be alive still, but I thought something would happen with the birth of the anti-Christ (which I think did occur?) There were some explosions, there was a knife fight, and a star may have exploded, but the end of the world definitely did not go on as planned.

Maybe they left it open for another season, which won't happen. But for a series that was supposed to be about the earth's ultimate climax, this was the most anti-climactic finale in history.

There. I admitted that I watched it, and even had it set on DVR. I feel so much better. And in the meantime, I was able to find someone else who was as perplexed and as annoyed by the whole thing as I was. MaryAnn, take it home:

That's it? They're kidding, right? That quote at the beginning of this episode, it should have been all "And ye shall hear rumors of wars, and of exciting miniseries starring Bill Pullman, and ye shall know these things to be the lies of the devil." Where was the "satanic combat" we were promised? They didn't mean Bill having a badly staged fistfight with the Satan's-general guy who escaped from jail, did they? After all this apocalyptic end-of-the-world supernatural stuff, it's just gonna be Bill Pullman beating the crap out of the dude? Booorrring!

Where was the raining hellfire? Where was the leprosy and locusts? Where were the plagues of boils and frogs, or boils on frogs, or boiling frogs, or whatever? Also, I believe we were promised a "confrontation between good and evil that will scorch the very face of the earth." I thought that meant that the birth of the Antichrist was going to come rather earlier than in the last five minutes of the whole damn six hours. No wonder it's been feeling like nothing's been happening -- this whole thing has been one giant tease for Revelations 2: Stuff Finally Goes to Hell.

Thankfully, NBC has announced that Revelations is not coming back, so MaryAnn can rest easy and enjoy some less wholesome fare. NBC had left the door open to continue this for next year, but after craptastic ratings, and craptastic content, they seem to have thought better of it.

Amen.

PS - other NBC programming notes: West Wing is moving to Sunday next year, there will be no second Contender, Scrubs is not on the fall schedule but will be back, make plans on Fridays because some crappy show featuring Amy Grant is hitting the air, and The Office will be back, making up one quarter of the 2 hours of comedy NBC has planned each week. Ha!

Graves

sporting goods

It's not often that a serviceable, formerly dominant reliever becomes available in the middle of the season. The question I pose to Mets fans is, is it worthwhile to pay this guy's contract in order to shore up the bullpen a bit?

I admit, I don't understand the waiver / release rules of the MLB well enough to understand the economics of the situation. But rumor has it the Mets, Cubs, and Red Sox are interested. So, Mets fans, what do you think?

Must see TV

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I've noticed that my DVR is recording very little these days as a number of our favorites have ended for the season (Simpsons, Office, Law and Order) or forever (Raymond), while even The Daily Show is in reruns.

So with no need to "catch up" on any shows these days, it's a good time to watch Jeopardy, which has reached the finals of their ultimate tournament for all the marbles, which pits two super-smart guys against Ken Jennings in a three-day showdown.

After one day, Jennings is actually in last. Watch and be amazed tonight, as I don't think I've ever gotten fewer questions than I did last night.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Why o why is there nothing worth posting

manifesto

A lot going on but nothing I feel like posting about. The Mets, for some reason have kept two historically mediocre veteran pitchers, Zambrano and Ishii, in the starting rotation while sending a promising youngster, Aaron Heilman, to the 'pen, and a young pitcher who had been having success in the show, Jae Seo, to the minors. The Mets are obsessed with experience to the point that is absolutely debilitating to the team. While they have Wright and Reyes, they send Seo and Diaz down to the minors when, as Darlucky showed us, they had been two of the most successful Mets this year. Excellent. Diaz, at least, was sent down for a legitimate reason. I know the Mets had to trade for Ishii when Trachsel went down, but once Heilman showed himself to be much superior to Ishii, that should have been the end of it.

And in politics, apparently there is a deal on the right-wing judges. I'm not sure how I feel, but I'm going to give Sen. Reid (D-NV) the benefit of the doubt on this one. He's been doing a great job so far. But it doesn't get me too excited.

Molti Ristoranti Italiano

FOOD FIGHT

I read somewhere that neither the health department nor Zagat's could tell you how many Italian restaurants there are in NYC. I love Italian as much as the next gal, but every week the papers have yet another. Sometimes it's hard to tell what is good and what's actually great--they sort of blend together for me after awhile. Here's a quote from the Bellavitae review that makes this one seem great. I thought that I'd been here before, but now I'm not sure and am definitely up for a do-over.

"Bellavitae is already a favorite haunt of delicate, food-obsessed souls who murmur over the quality of the green Nocellara olives (from Sicily) and the radicchio, which is state-inspected and picked by hand in the hills around Treviso. Unlike at some of the city’s other high-minded, ingredient-conscious foodie palaces, however, the menu here is presented casually, within the context of a familiar culinary tradition, and it’s relatively cheap. It’s the kind of straightforward, unfussy food that would send you into paroxysms of tourist glee if you came across it at a trattoria in the hills around Treviso, say."

I guess the bad news is that it's crowded, but what did you expect? If you're thinking ahead they do take reservations online.

Christmas for baseball nerds

sporting goods

Hardball Times has updated its Win Shares page for the first time in 2005. For those that don't know, its in short a way of measuring how many wins an individual is responsible for as a result of their hitting, pitching, and fielding. There is a lot more on the site in terms of background for those interested, but I've pulled out a few nuggets from the first release of this data (all stats through 5/18)

Top five players in the ML
1. Brian Roberts
2. Jon Garland
3. Derek Lee
4. Bobby Abreu
5. Roger Clemens

Two notes on that: First of all, I would have given you unbelievable odds on those top 2 guys even being in the top 25 this late in the season. Also, it is tough for pitchers to keep up with everyday players in Win Shares, showing just how impressive Garland and Clemens have been. The top 5 win shares in 2004 all came from the NL: Bonds, Pujols, Rolen, Beltre, and Abreu. Huh. Abreu is really good.

Top five Red Sox
1. Johnny Damon
2. Trot Nixon
3. Manny Ramirez
4. Jason Varitek
5. Bronson Arroyo

What, no Edgar Renteria? Actually, when compared to win shares against baseline (comparing actual results to what you would expect an average player to generate in the same playing time), Renteria is the one regular who puts up a negative number. Millar, Bellhorn, and Mueller round out the blah infield by putting up 0 win shares above expected baseline. Based on this metric, Keith Foulke is having the worst year of any Red Sox player. You won't get much argument from me on that one.

Top five Mets
1. Carlos Beltran
2. Cliff Floyd
3. David Wright
4. Mike Cameron
5. Victor Diaz

At number 5, you really have a tie between Diaz, Pedro, Roberto Hernandez, and Piazza. Pedro would be much higher but he hurts himself with the bat. Looking at win shares against expectation, Floyd, Beltran and Cameron all put up really nice numbers, which would probably place the Mets among the best outfields in the majors so far this year. Too bad they can't find room for Diaz. Jae Seo actually shows up pretty high here, while Reyes puts up a -3 which is quite bad. By win shares, Reyes and Glavine have been the worst Mets this year, really hurting the team.

Top five Yankees
1. Gary Sheffield
2. Alex Rodriguez
3. Tino Martinez
4. Derek Jeter
5. Jorge Posada

I'm sure nobody is surprised that the Yankees are led by hitting, though Johnson and Mussina show up next on the list. Sheffield was last year's AL win shares champion. Giambi, with all his struggles, has actually been OK with the bat. At least he gets on base. Kevin Brown and Jaret Wright bring up the rear with their piss-poor pitching.

I'll play with this more later, that's a start!

How far we've come

MANIFESTO

So my manager asked me to take a look and see if any big news has come out of the ongoing American Psychiatric Association meeting, being held in Atlanta.

Didn't see any major drug news as of yet, but the big story is that the APA is on track to be the first major medical association to call for gay marriage recognition.

The article linked above points out that a little over three decades ago, the APA still listed homosexuality as a mental disorder.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

World Cup Preview

SPORTING GOODS

On a recent cross-country plane trip, I set out to put together my own World Cup preview for readers of this site. Even those without much interest in soccer will concede that this is the biggest event in world sports this year, even though the Winter Olympics occurred just a couple of months ago.

But, it's not as if I could preview the World Cup better than a site like Soccernet or the BBC, so I've decided to do something a bit different. In four parts, I will be comparing each team that has qualified for the World Cup finals to a team in major league baseball. I have tiered both types of teams, and used their overall strengths, success both current and past, and team dynamics to try to draw comparisons. In the end, I think it was largely effective, with only a few teams I really had to stretch for.

So, without further ado, here are 2006 World Cup finalists group A and B, and their MLB alter-egos, along with any other thoughts I have on each group.

Group A:
Germany - NY Mets : Some readers of this blog might not be too thrilled about that one, but the host country draws its comparison with the Metropolitans. The teams are good, but there are still questions as to how far they can really go. They have won in the past, but have not lived up to expectations over the last 2-3 years. Things may change this year, however. Both teams face an immense amount of pressure to win, perhaps more than any of their competition.
Costa Rica - San Diego Padres: The best team in Central America, by a slight margin, matches up with what (at least last year) was the best team in the NL West. In both cases, that isn't really saying much. Still, you won't hear anyone complaining, as if you live in either place how much is there to complain about?
Poland - Chicago Cubs: Been rolled over in the past by stronger foes. There are often high expectations, and often some very good players that create those expectations, but never the results to meet them.
Ecuador - Pittsburgh Pirates: A bit of a stretch, but both are boring, and used to be better. A team that you can look past on the schedule.

Host country Germany got an easy group, so even though the team is weaker than usual, they should have no troubles. Call me crazy, and maybe it's my fond memories of my honeymoon and talking to a number of Ticos about football, but I think Costa Rica is a real threat to Poland to snag the second slot in the group. They played very well at the end of qualifying after switching coaches; almost all of their players come from two teams, so familiarity is not an issue. If they can go into halftime 0-0 with Germany in the opening match, it could get very interesting...

Group B:
England - St. Louis Cardinals: A high number of stars, with solid role players filling out the roster. Winning history, but have largely come up short in recent years despite fielding a consistently strong team. They are now considered a heavy favorite if their stars remain healthy. Both teams have hardcore fans that truly enjoy holding dominance over their major regional rivals, who pretty much stink most years.
Sweden - Texas Rangers: Young, talented, punishing. Probably underrated overall, but haven't proven selves. Yet.
Paraguay - Colorado Rockies: Play at extremely high altitudes, making them difficult to beat at home. But on a neutral field, not really much to worry about, despite showing flashes that they could be more than a pretender.
Trinidad & Tobago - Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Young, some exciting players, but in the end not a threat. One can certainly find nice things to say about each team and its players, but the results don't impress. TNT!

This one should be a cakewalk for England and Sweden. Sweden is underrated, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them go far. England has got to be one of the top 3 favorites, but if young star Wayne Rooney can't play due to his broken foot, that may change things. England has defenders and a midfield that stacks up with anyone in the world; put a healthy Rooney up front and you can pencil them in to the semi-finals.


-----
Group C:

Argentina - San Francisco Giants : Despite being booed a lot of places they go, they are generally always good, with few off years. The Barry Bonds / Diego Maradona paralells are somewhat obvious. Each is one of the most exciting, dominant offensive players of all time, but also hated by many because of his attitude. Throw in the obvious drug problem that each had, and the only thing we have to wait on is for Bonds to get fat later in his life. And go ahead and ask England and Dodger fans, and they will tell you that Argentina and the Giants cheated in some of their biggest ever wins. (click the links to see what I'm talking about, if you don't know).

Netherlands - Cleveland Indians: Exciting, high powered teams that aren't the true elite, but still scare the elite teams. Always a bit flashy, both teams fell out of prominence for a little while, but seem to be bouncing back very nicely.

Ivory Coast - Toronto Blue Jays: Being the best team in Africa is somewhat like being the best team in Canada. It means you are pretty good, but it doesn't mean you're going anywhere when it counts. OK, maybe that doesn't work any more now that Montreal has moved. The real connection is that people seem to think Cote d'Ivoire and a reloaded Toronto are a threat, but when you look at the two teams that they have to go against, you know that they will have to settle for third place.

Serbia & Montenegro - Hardware City Rockcats: Alright, they aren't nearly that bad, and they somehow qualified out of Europe (while teams like Ireland, Norway and Greece did not), but S&M is ranked 46th in the world and is going nowhere in this group. Unfortunately, there are 32 teams in the World Cup finals and 30 in MLB, so I'll give a shout-out to New Bri'n.

I'll complain about the US draw, but despite what FIFA rankings say this may be the real "group of death," with the best team in Africa, a qualifier from Europe (which is no easy task), and what I rate as the 4th and 5th best teams in the world. If you enjoy soccer at all, don't miss the Argentina vs. Netherlands match. Argentina has some amazing strikers including Chelsea star Hernan Crespo and "the next Maradona" Lionel Messi, who will turn 19 during the Cup. Netherlands has some stars themselves, including Jaap Stam, whom you would not want to meet in a dark alley. Should be a fun group.

Group D:

Mexico - Chicago White Sox: Although they mostly do it by stopping the other team from scoring, they are starting to gain some offensive weapons. They are often better than their geographic rivals, but their neighbors don't necessarily think so.

Portugal - Anaheim Angels of the Western Hemisphere: When you think of this team, you think of speed and offense. Whether you like them or not, they are usually pretty fun to watch. Throughout history, they have had some success, but really it's been mostly disappointment for their fans.

Iran - Florida Marlins: Well it is often said that the Marlins owner is holding Florida hostage in his bid to get them to pay for a new stadium. Seriously though, with their history, who wants to root for these guys, even if they are better than you'd expect?

Angola- New Haven Ravens: Angola is the second lowest ranked team in the entire tournament, and since Togo is the lowest...well, let's just say where have you gone George Brett?

Group D is really a tale of two levels: Portugal and Mexico are probably top 10 in the world. Iran can actually play, but they shouldn't be a threat. Portugal is legendary for falling short of expectations, so their draw was pretty lucky. And I know that the recent anti-Mexico furvor has gotten out of hand for some people, but when it comes to soccer, it's completely warranted. We hate them, and they hate us. So, who do you root for in the Iran - Mexico match? Go Angola!

-----

Group E:

Czech Republic - Houston Astros : A solid team, relatively new to this concept of being considered one of the best teams, but strong all around. Still, despite being one of the best, not that easy to get excited about. Not a parallel, but the Czech Republic may have the best goalie in the world, strangely enough named Peter Cech.

Italy - Oakland A's: Some people may find them boring, but they have found a style that works for them, and are very good. They were strongest in the early '90s, but they are always dangerous. Physically, they look unkempt, and they have a bit of a reputation for being whiny (see: Italy and Oakland). On a personal note, after Mexico Italy is probably my second least favorite team, due to their (albeit effective) defensive style of play, and propensity for flopping more that Vlade Divac.

USA - Milwaukee Brewers: Up and coming, possibly overlooked, and definitely looked down upon by fans of the teams with a longer history of winning. With good young players, fans are starting to notice. As these young players develop, offers are going to start coming in for these players to follow the money and get out of town. Then, the fans can go back to not paying attention.

Ghana - Detroit Tigers: You don't want to face them, and they may get hot, but they are not really a threat.

According to an unscientific study based on FIFA rankings, this is the "group of death," and with the 6th, 7th, and 11th (my rankings) best teams in the world, it may be. No matter what happens, one of the top 11 teams in the world will not make the round of 16. You may have noticed (or not) that I usually put the teams in order of how I think they will finish. This group, I really haven't decided yet, and will put more thought into it before early June. But you have three physical teams, and not to sound like Joe Morgan, but the two teams that are playing the best at the time of round-robin play will probably make it through. The US either needs to tie both teams, or beat one of them, in order to have the pleasure of playing Brazil in the 2nd round.

Group F:

Brazil - New York Yankees: Who else? Have won often, and are THE team to beat. Flashy, with stars occupying nearly every position on the field. They are the players you will see in the commercials, and the jerseys you will see on the streets. Not only does Brazil have ridiculous offense (2002 World Cup MVP Ronaldo and 2005 FIFA world player of the year Ronaldinho), but they have some of the best defenders in the world. Scary.

Croatia- Seattle Mariners: Both teams had a good surprise season a few years back, and are usually solid, but are a bit down right now.

Japan - Los Angeles Dodgers: No real connection here (besides Nomo-mania of course), but they are popular among fans, they have a shot at moving to the next round despite not being great, they are in the middle of the pack overall, and wear blue and white. Hey, I tried.

Australia- Washington Nationals: We're just happy to be here! Australia is in the World Cup for the first time in 32 years.

It truly will be a surprise if Brazil does not go 3-0 in this group. Despite their expected dominance, I would love to watch every one of their matches. Croatia and Japan are decent teams, probably in the third tier (where a team like France is in the first, and a team like Mexico is in the second). But looking at this group, it shows how hard the US, Italy, and Czech Republic will fight not just to emerge from Group E, but to win. Assuming Brazil wins Group F, winner of Group E will play Croatia/Japan, while the runners up will face Brazil.

-------

Group G:

France - Atlanta Braves : Their fans are generally disliked for being obnoxious, but you can't argue with the results. They are always a threat, maybe they should have won more often, but they have some titles to their credit and are always in it.

South Korea - Philadelphia Phillies: They had a good run not too long ago, and are a nice little team, but really, they are in that second tier of teams who won't surprise you if they pull off an upset, but would shock you if they actually won it all.

Switzerland - Cincinnati Reds: A long history, not too exciting but decent overall. Some people may still choose to associate them with the shady financial dealings that they have had in the past (not to compare hiding Nazi gold with betting on baseball).

Togo - Kansas City Royals: They are playing the same game, but they are not really in the same league.

I think that France is likely the second best team in the world, and they sport the guy who I enjoy watching more than anyone else in the world at this point (striker Thierry Henry) and the best player I have ever seen in person (Zinedine Zidane). It's fun to root against France, sure, but in actuality the tournament will be better if they make it to the semi-finals. Besides, as a quasi-England fan, it would be fun to see France make it far enough to lose to the English. South Korea has a good chance to get through here. In a case of what might have been, the US easily could have been drawn into this group instead of Korea. Sigh.
Group H:

Ukraine - Minnesota Twins: One superstar (don't miss striker Schevchenko or pitcher Santana if you ever get a chance to watch them) that makes them scary.

Spain- Boston Red Sox: Great players, exciting game, and a long history of disappointment. Fun World Cup fact: Spain is pretty much always one of the best teams in the world, but have never made it past the quarterfinals in the World Cup.

Tunisia - Baltimore Orioles: Style of play may mean exciting games, but it doesn't mean it's effective against better competition.

Saudi Arabia- Arizona Diamondbacks: Not very good, you can't name any of their players, and it's stinking hot where they come from! Yawn.

My prediction for a "surprise" winner, I'll take Ukraine over Spain in this group, but won't have the guts to pick Tunisia to also knock off the Spaniards. The hardest thing to do is try to figure out how good these African teams are. Even European teams will admit they don't know as much as they should about their African opponents.

That about does it - it all kicks off on Friday June 9th when the Ticos take on the host nation. USA plays their first game that following Monday at noon. Plan your lunch break accordingly.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Genius Behind the Stupidity

MANIFESTO

This is hilarious. It's a mockumentary short starring Andy Dick about "Harlan McCraney," the guy who helps Bush sound more like regular folks. The stuff at the end during the debate actually seems real. Awesome.

Funny and weird

Whatever

Not sure who came up with this, but it is really funny is a strange, bizarre way. Click the picture for the video. Check out the guy eating the fried chicken.

News of the Weird

Whatever

Today's my day for random information. A camel sits on a woman while she's painting a fence. That's pretty much it, but I'm trying to figure out how she didn't see the 1,500 lb. camel coming and just trying to build the scene in my head.

PICKING UP WHERE KOZMO LEFT OFF

WHATEVER


Oh, how I long for the days of movies and snacks delivered to my door. Whether I was home sick or enjoying a little couch time, it was always just a click and an hour or two away. So promising, and yet Urban Fetch and Kozmo disappeared so quickly. Well, it's not it my hood yet, but the delivery game is back on with Max Delivery. They only deliver 4pm to midnight, but hey, it's a start. Probably was the fast expansion that ruined my only personal assistants way back when. My lucky officemate got his gelato and alergy medicine brought to his door in 30 minutes last night. They only deliver downtown, but we can all sit, watch tivo, and hope they make their way uptown soon.

Prison Treatment

Manifesto

Apparently this administration's love affair with the politically connected knows no bounds. The Sun, across the pond, has some lovely photos of Saddam Hussein, taken while he awaits his well-deserved war crimes trial. CNN reports that the U.S. is shocked, shocked, at the numerous violations that occurred for these pictures to have been taken and then published.
"These photos were taken in clear violation of DoD directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals," a Defense Department statement said.

"Multi-National Forces-Iraq is disappointed at the possibility that someone responsible for the security, welfare, and detention of Saddam would take and provide these photos for public release."

If only the administration showed such concern for the rule of law when the Abu Ghraib pictures were released. I guess being rich and "white collar" gives you advantages with this administration, whether you are a former Iraqi Dictator/murderer or not. Of course the article does include The Sun's explanation for all of this:
According to The Sun, U.S. "military sources said they handed over the photos in the hope of dealing a body blow to the resistance in Iraq."
Just excellent. If we are relying on half-naked pictures of a former dictator to "deal a body blow to the resistance" we might be in a little more trouble than I thought.

al-Yankzeera

sporting goods

Anytime I get a chance to make fun of Michael Kay I'm going to take it. Today's Daily News takes a swipe so that I don't have to.
The Yankees decided to take Kay, a man with no TV play-by-play experience (he picked up most of Sterling's bad habits while playing second banana on the radio) and make him the face of YES. Having someone who will genuflect to the organization was the driving force behind this decision. While it suits Steinbrenner, and his lackeys at YES, it has resulted in disjointed telecasts.

Unlike his Mets counterparts, who can keep their analysts focused (Robinson even attempts this with Healy), Kay is more inclined to swap analysis or attempt to one-up his boothmates. More often than not, Kay winds up repeating his "analytical" points. I would like to have $10 for every time Kay has wondered why Jason Giambi doesn't attempt to go to the left side when the infield overshifts.

The article goes on to say that the Mets are the clear cut winners in the broadcast booth, heaping most of the praise of the radio voices, Howie Rose and Gary Cohen. This is good because Fran Healy still does TV, and Ralph Kiner occasionally makes an appearance. They are not good. But that fact that a local paper took a swipe at the Yankees broadcasters who, along with Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on ESPN, drive me up a wall, just warms my heart.

The NY Times also writes in praise of Willie. I'm starting to come around. Damn propaganda.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

First Review This Is

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

My friend The Mama Papa saw the goods from Lucas last night at the midnight show and here is the first review:

It was good. We actually wound up at Union Square not the Ziegfield like I thought. There were plenty of light sabers, though no painted alien ladies like I saw on the news. The energy was just awesome and long lines for the boys room for once.

Movie was satisfying. Started out slow, bad romantic dialogue, but ended up awesome and tied things together so well. Pretty violent. Spoiler Alert: He turns in Darth Vader. Wanted you to be prepared.

Now, we can get on with our lives.
The last line says it all.

This Sucks

WHATEVER

One of the best sites on the web just became one of the worst.

The New York Times announced yesterday that it would offer a new subscription-based service on its Web site, charging users an annual fee to read its Op-Ed and news columnists, as the newspaper seeks ways to capitalize on the site's popularity.

Most material on the Web site, NYTimes.com, will remain free to users, The Times said, but columnists from The Times and The International Herald Tribune will be available only to users who sign up for TimesSelect, which will cost $49.95 a year. The service will also include access to The Times's online archives, as well as other features.

The service, which is scheduled to start in September, will be provided free to home-delivery subscribers of the newspaper.
They are not offering anything other than the chance to pay for something I already get. Gee, thanks! Read about more of this horrible decision here. Break me a fucking give.

UPDATE: Monocle pointed me to Atrios' take on things and he is dead on:
This decision will probably over the long run destroy the Times's greatest asset - its influence on the conversation and agenda. You read the Times because people read the Times. Chip away at that, and they'll chip away at what maintains their status.
The problem is that this "influence" is something that will never be reflected in an accounting report. There is no way to quantify it therefore there is little chance full access to the site will ever be free again. Greedy bastards.

Oldie but goodie

whatever

Remember this site?

Who is want to come TURKEY I can invitate .....

One of the best ever sites to get passed around the internet. Just a little time waster to pass from me to you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

First look at the All-Stars

sporting goods

So while listening to the drubbing that the Red Sox are currently getting, I had to divert my Red Sox attention to something a bit more uplifting, and I found it.

I just realized that Mr. Francona will be the manager of the AL All-Stars this year! No more complaining about Torre bringing 24 Yankees! No more seeing deserving guys from Boston being left at home!

All-Star selections happens to be one of my favorite things to think about and gripe about, despite it having no meaning. It's more fun to argue that than it is to just dissect the latest Red Sox loss. I started thinking about which Sox could make the trip to (gulp) Detroit this July, and to do that I first thought I'd take a look at who the All-Star starters should be in the AL this year, after one-quarter of the season has been played.

My selections are an unscientific combination of runs created and runs created per 27 outs this year, with some weight given to prior performance, mostly as a tie-breaker. I would be more scientific or consistent, but hey there is 6 more weeks for things to change. So first of all, here is the deserving AL squad, and the "top alternatives," which is merely the guys who at least got some consideration before being passed over.

C: Jason Varitek
1B: Mike Sweeney
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: Miggy Tejada
3B: A-Rod
OF: Gary Sheffield, Trot Nixon, Johnny Damon
DH: David Ortiz

Not far off: Carlos Guillen, Justin Morneau, David Delluci, Ichiro!, Vlad, Manny

Thoughts
  • How good is the AL East right now? 8 of the 9 batters should come from there.
  • We know that Nixon and Damon will lose to Ichiro! and either Matsui or Vlad. Actually, those 3 might be the choices based on fan vote, with my deserving 3 being knocked out.
  • Realistically, the need to get some players on the team from the Devil Rays and Blue Jays will influence the decisions, but it really looks like the Sox could get 5 batters on the team.
  • I would love to see Tito bring Wakefield as well, and he could definitely make the case for Arroyo.
In the end, I will be really disappointed if Wakefield doesn't make the squad. He's a guy that can really help the team win, since he can pitch in any type of situation (and could go long if need be). You just hope that Varitek and Toby Hall (or whoever makes the team) are able to catch his pitches.

Words worth a thousand pictures

So apparantly, when you turn a global best-seller into a movie, you do not even need to have any film shot before you can tease the public with a trailer.

The Da Vinci Code, opening one year after Episode III, with one of the most pointless trailers of all time.

In Praise of Willie?

sporting goods

I've spent much of my time on this blog bashing Willie Randolph for not knowing how/when to double-switch among other things. But last night Willie did something good (sort of). In the top of the ninth, with a 1 run lead and three lefties in a row coming up, Willie forgoed his closer and brought in the lefty specialist. Amazing, right? Managers never break the convention of the closer, right?
With the Mets holding a 2-1 lead, Randolph felt it was wrong to bring in Looper to start the ninth, even though such practice has become something of an ironclad rule in baseball over the last 20 years - or since Tony LaRussa and Dennis Eckersley turned the role of closer into a one-inning job.

With three lefthanded hitters due up for the Reds, Randolph thought it was best to go with the lefthander, Koo. It was a risk at least partly because Koo is still largely unproven as a late-inning commodity against major-league hitters.
Does anybody else see my complaint? Koo stinks. On top of that he threw on Sunday for an inning, and Monday for an inning. What happened? Koo got the lead-off guy, gave up a single to Griffey, and then walked Adam Dunn. Excellent. Enter Looper, who now throws 95-97 again, game over. I like that Willie is non-conventional and willing to take heat from the dreaded NY media but please, if we need a lefty specialist, FREE ROYCE RING.

Oh, and credit where credit is due. Willie is sticking with Kaz Matsui despite the NY media and fans trying to make him the second coming of Juan Samuel. Kaz isn't as bad as he's been, but he certainly isn't what the Mets thought they were getting. That seemed to happen a lot in the last few years. I'm looking at you Roberto Alomar, Mo Vaughn, Victor Zambrano, Tom Glavine, etc. Hopefully that new scouting staff pays off.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Not Good The Review Is

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

The reviews for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith are in and most of them are positive. Well, positive in the sense that it is a lot better than the first two prequels. I haven't seen it yet and probably won't for a couple of weeks. (I can't stomach the idea of fighting the masses for a good seat to a movie I'm not really all that jazzed to see.) Anthony Lane's review in The New Yorker is an all-timer. Hilarious. I was reading it aloud to B last night for laughs. Like Roger Ebert, Lane's funniest reviews are for movies he absolutely hates. Here is my favorite bit. (The last line is my new catch phrase.)
...The one who gets me is Yoda. May I take the opportunity to enter a brief plea in favor of his extermination? Any educated moviegoer would know what to do, having watched that helpful sequence in “Gremlins” when a small, sage-colored beastie is fed into an electric blender. A fittingly frantic end, I feel, for the faux-pensive stillness on which the Yoda legend has hung... Also, while we’re here, what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.” Break me a fucking give.
Question: If the original trilogy never existed, would people really be lining up for this stuff?

Monday, May 16, 2005

It's Official

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Fox picked up Arrested Development for a third season. Not sure what happened to the rumored fourth year. (It always seemed a little too good to be true.) Here's the press release:
FOX DOES MORE TIME WITH “ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT” ORDERING A FULL THIRD SEASON

FOX gets ARRESTED again. The network has ordered a third full season of the Emmy Award-winning comedy series ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, it was announced today by Peter Liguori, President, Entertainment for Fox Broadcasting Company.

“ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT is one of the best comedies on television. The decision to order another season becomes easy when you consider its amazing cast, creative brilliance, critical acclaim and advertiser appeal,” said Liguori. “It’s my first official pick-up since taking the job, and I think it’s a great way to start.”

For once, the good guys win.

A Cheap Date

FOOD FIGHT

Cheap, good, and trendy. Here's a place that meets the mark: Kitchen 82. It's more of a neighborhood place since it's intimate and reasonably priced, but it's also a great recommendation for a date since it's trendy and gourmet enough to seem like you gave it a lot of thought. And it has the pedigree of Charlie Trotter. Our appetizers included a salad of asparagus, pistacios, baby greens with truffle vingrette and beef carpaccio with olive bruscetta topped with white anchovies. Entrees were a spicy grilled salmon with edemame, jalepeno, watermelon with a ginger soy reduction and sauteed skate with bhutanese rice, green onions, and a citrusy broth. There were other tempting options as well--flat iron steak, roast chicken, and pasta, but the menu changes every few weeks. Dessert was a tasting (no decisions needed) - red velvet cupcake (sadly, slightly dry), berries with whipped cream, and flourless chocolate cake. Three courses for $25. Wines were $25 and $35 a bottle. See, it's kind of fancy pants without being stuffy. And if 82nd street sounds like upstate, there's Kitchen 22 (you guessed it, on 22nd Street).

Wine Lovers Rejoice

food fight

No more traveling to the Napa valley and carting back bottles of wine. The Supreme Court has ruled that state bans on importation of out-of-state wine violate the Constitution.
"States have broad power to regulate liquor," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. "This power, however, does not allow states to ban, or severely limit, the direct shipment of out-of-state wine while simultaneously authorizing direct shipment by in-state producers."
I haven't read the opinion but, from this quote from the opinion, I presume that a state could ban altogether the shipment of alcohol. If so, I suspect that that will be the recourse for the 20+ states that ban this practice.

Of interesting import for Court watchers, Scalia and Thomas split, with Scalia in the majority and Thomas in dissent. This alone makes this decision an odd one.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Gay Elephants

manifesto

I was going to write about Frank Rich's column today, but I had to evacuate my apartment for bug control. In my delay Monocle beat me to it. Check out his post when you get a chance and then read Rich's full article. I expect a full report in the morning.

UPDATE: Sorry. Link is now fixed.

Star Wars

universal remote

A.O. Scott (I've never read a review of his in which he actually like the movie) gets the jump on Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. And he likes it:
This is by far the best film in the more recent trilogy, and also the best of the four episodes Mr. Lucas has directed. That's right (and my inner 11-year-old shudders as I type this): it's better than "Star Wars."
I am now getting really, really excited. I hope this ends well.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Holy Crap!

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Unbelievable news coming from E! regarding the best show on television, the viewer-deprived Arrested Development:
Though they’re still dotting I’s and crossing T’s on the final documents, I’m told Fox network and 20th Century Fox studio are “99.9 percent of the way there” to reaching an agreement on the new season. According to these highly placed sources, it looks very likely that Arrested Development will be coming back not only for a full season of 22 episodes but actually two full seasons of 22 episodes.
There is nothing left to do but weep for joy if this comes to pass.

Siskel's Rule

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

The Gene Siskel Test for Movies: "Is this film more interesting than a documentary of the same actors having lunch?"

I guess Monster-In-Law fails to make the grade.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

On to Orlando

whatever

I'll be gone through Tuesday, so you'll have to miss my prolific posting. OK, so the reason I haven't been prolific is directly tied to the reason I'll be gone over the next five days. But unless I somehow find a need to do some live-blogging from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, I guess you'll all just have to miss me until Wednesday.

Stolen election?

manifesto

Our good friend and inspiration Monocle over at In One Eye points us to a post by HBO boxing analyst Jim Lampley.
Many of the participants in this blog have graduate school educations. It is damned near impossible to go to graduate school in any but the most artistic disciplines without having to learn about the basics of social research and its uncanny accuracy and validity. We know that professionally conceived samples simply do not yield results which vary six, eight, ten points from eventual data returns, thaty's why there are identifiable margins for error. We know that margins for error are valid, and that results have fallen within the error range for every Presidential election for the past fifty years prior to last fall. NEVER have exit polls varied by beyond-error margins in a single state, not since 1948 when this kind of polling began. In this past election it happened in ten states, all of them swing states, all of them in Bush's favor. Coincidence? Of course not.
If you think it is ridiculous that Jim Lampley is posting about politics, I invite you to go to Pat Sajak's opinion page. (I always knew I didn't like Wheel of Fortune for a reason.) Anyway, each of these men have opinions. Let's not debate whether they are valid or not because of their professions, but instead debate the internal logic of each author. I'm tired of listening to people be dismissive of an opinion because it comes from "an actor" or "an athlete." Listen, if a monkey somehow developed the skills to make a coherent and logical argument supported by facts and reason, I would be a fool for ignoring it simply because it is coming from "a monkey." Read opinions, investigate the facts, draw your own conclusions.

Mr. Koo Koo

sporting goods

Well it appears that Mr. Koo's latest exploits with the Mets, coming in in the bottom of the 9th with one out and runners on first and second and then walking the lefty hitter on four pitches, earned the wrath of Willie.
"You can't do that, that's for sure," Willie Randolph said. "That's not why I brought him in."

Of course, I'm not a huge fan of the conclusion drawn:
"It's way too early to start overanalyzing what he's doing and jumping ship. He's going to be my guy when I need him."
It has been six weeks. He stinks. It is obvious. You have a young left-hander in AAA who has been lights out in AAA and good in an admittedly short stint in the majors. For the love of god, FREE ROYCE RING. That is all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Response to comments

Manifesto

Anonymous writes in response to the below post:
Out of curiosity and not criticism - how do you think blogs can be a part of generating such a public dialogue? I would assume that people generally read blogs that they are politically or ideologically aligned with, so the people who might most benefit from such a dialogue will not be reading this blog.

First, I think even if you only read blogs with which you are politically or ideologically aligned there are going to be many situations where a blogger expresses a point of view that you don't necessarily agree with, or argues a point that you wouldn't necessarily have considered. That is step one in creating a dialogue. A good conversation among the like-minded is the first step in creating a broader dialogue. Most movements begin as a group of like-minded people exploring the ins and outs of an issue and discussing it among themselves. If they are successful, this forces the "other side" to consider the issue. As positive examples see the Civil Rights Movement or Emancipation. Of course there are negatives, see the rise of Nazism.

Next, I think blogs can raise issues that can then become topics of discussion in larger forums. We've seen it with the Jeff Gannon issue and CBS Memo-gate. This blog clearly isn't on that level, but is more a place to toss around ideas and current thoughts, but the logic is the same. Both of those stories were broken by ideological/partisan blogs, but both reached the center of public consciousness because the respective side that discovered the issue kept discussing/investigating and wouldn't let it die.

Thanks for the comment. I hope you keep checking back in, even if you don't necessarily agree with what we write. In fact, especially if you don't. Hopefully, even if we have an ideologically slant, we can stimulate thoughts that our few readers wouldn't necessarily have considered themselves.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Swelling Tide?

Manifesto

A guestblogger over at Eschaton points us to this story in the Chicago Tribune titled: Missing white female alert.
Your continual focus on, and reporting of, missing, young, attractive white women not only demeans your profession but is a televised slap in the face to minority mothers and parents the nation over who search for their own missing children with little or no assistance or notice from anyone.
[...]
The cable networks, which can certainly be considered centers of journalism, are also business centers with a harsh bottom line. The ratings for the cable networks are generally measured in the hundreds of thousands of viewers rather than the millions of viewers the major networks attract. Therefore, cable stations are constantly on the lookout for any story that may spike and then hold the ratings. Stories like those of Wilbanks, Sjodin, Levy or Smart seem to fit those requirements.

Regular readers might remember that this was my exact response a couple of weeks ago, if a little more considered. I'm glad this is out in the public forum. (I'm confused by the fact that I strongly agree with Bob Dole's former press secretary.) I'd like to hope that this becomes a serious discussion. America has a race problem that it continually ignores because it is ugly and painful to talk about. That needs to change.

Mets - 3 of 4 (5 of 6) (6 of 8)

sporting goods

Picking up on Darlucky's request... The Mets have also begun to play good baseball, perhaps not surprisingly coinciding with the return of Kris Benson and Mike Cameron. Things to be happy about for the Mets:

1. Mike Cameron is back and scorching the ball. Ignoring his complaints about how difficult it is to transition from Centerfield to Rightfield, Cameron has been an absolute marvel. Willie dropped him in the 2-hole and somehow he looks a little more patient than I remember. I would still like to see David Wright in the 2-hole, but a competent on-base threat is a nice change. But if Cameron reverts to the K machine that he typically is, it has to be Wright's turn, despite his age.

2. Aaron Heilman is pitching great. Heilman is doing so well that the Mets absolutely cannot send him down when Ishii comes back. First, he is pitching better than Ishii would. Second, both Heilman and Ishii are better than Zambrano, Ishii just a little. I would not be surprised if, when Ishii is ready, the Mets discover a minor DL-worthy injury for Zambrano and he has to make a couple of rehab starts in AAA, a la Steve Trachsel a couple of years ago.

3. This Piazza guy is pretty good.

The bad:
The Mets refusal to use young players. For each Victor Diaz, the Mets give us the threat of sending down Heilman, and the wasted roster spots of Manny Aybar and Mr. Koo. Koo stinks. He has mediocre stuff and can't get out lefties, kind of a necessity for your lefty specialist. Please return young Royce Ring to the majors. He can't be worse than Koo, and with on the job training might actually be a shut 'em down reliever. And true to form, Aybar is horrible. Any right-handed reliever from AAA would be better. I'm looking at you Scott Strickland. Get healthy soon.

UPDATE: Koo actually does get lefties out, they only have a .214 Batting Average against him. Of course, overall he has a .306 BAA, which means that Willie Randolph is an idiot for pitching him against Righties.

UPDATE II: Manny Aybar still sucks. .316 BAA.

UPDATE III: Royce Ring is still better than both of them, and certainly doesn't belong at AAA.

3 for 4

sporting goods

Both the Red Sox and Mets have won three of their last four since Friday, and I haven't posted since. So to be in line with their recent results, here are 3 things to be happy about and 1 thing to be less happy about with regard to the Sox.

  • Wade Miller is back, and looked good in his first start. So the Sox didn't win, but Miller was hitting 95 on the radar gun, and looked less rusty that I would have expected.
  • Kevin Youkilis not only got called up (finally!) but Tito is giving him more and more playing time. And deservedly so, a quick look at Hardball Times stat page suggests that Youkilis created as many runs in his first 21 at bats as Mueller did in his first 85. For those keeping track at home, it took Mueller an extra 51 outs.
  • The number of players that are hitting below expectations has been reduced by one as Papi is on fire.

The one bad thing that I had originally planned to write was softened when Millar hit his first home run of the season last night. So now the Sox first baseman and 5-hitter has a whopping .336 slugging percentage! Instead of putting Millar as a negative, I will point out that it appears that AL pitchers are trying to kill Manny.

I'll try to get to the Mets later, but if Chill beats me to it, I will take no offense. (update: Hey Chill, no offense taken, you did much better than I could. Although I think the #1 thing has to be that the games are back on TV.)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mets Games

sporting goods

According to unconfirmed sources, the Mets will be back on Time Warner cable starting tonight. Thank the sweet baseball gods. About time.

UPDATE: It's official.

UPDATE II: Now I want to give credit to the man of the hour.
In a joint statement issued Monday, the cable giants said a deal was brokered by State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer during an all-day negotiating session Monday.
If he wasn't going to already, he now gets my vote for Gov.

News You Can Only Get in Europe

MANIFESTO

In today's London Times, the real story about the guy Bush slapped himself on the back about during his infomercial, I mean press conference, last week...
The capture of a supposed Al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents last week was hailed by President George W Bush as “a critical victory in the war on terror”. According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists’ third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as “among the flotsam and jetsam” of the organisation...

Bush called him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network”. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was “a very important figure”. Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department “rewards for justice” programme.

I'm not even sure where to begin with this. I have absolutely no idea how I am supposed to react to this with anything other than flip sarcasm. Glad we're winning the war though!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Dark Lords: Anakin, Affleck

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

(Minor spoiler alert regarding Star Wars: Episode III. I don't think it ruins anything.)

You know you're career is in the crapper when the producer of the horrible Star Wars prequels compares you with Anakin killing a bunch of wee Jedis. Here is the Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro interviewing Lucas syncophant Rick McCallum:
Q. Do you think some audiences are going to have a problem with Anakin mowing down a bunch of kids?

A He has to kill those kids because that's the only way he can get that power to be able to eventually work with Palpatine [the dark lord] to figure out a way to save his wife. He does it for kind of the right reasons, but if you put it in perspective, I always think of it as like watching Ben Affleck and Matt [Damon]. They wrote this thing ["Good Will Hunting"], they have this background together, they grew up together, they're best friends, and they're two totally different human beings right now. One is laid back, cool, does his work, works as best as he can, tries to be a good actor. The other one has taken the Dark Side, the dark route. It's just amazing.

Q. Because Ben Affleck has embraced the whole celebrity aspect?

A Yeah, the power thing.

Q. He hasn't killed little kids, though.

A No, but, can we take this out of [real] Ben? Take the hypothetical Ben in three or four years . . . career down the slide . . . and he's given a choice to be able to resurrect his career, which is probably the most important thing to him, the fame aspect of it. Would he do anything? Who knows?
Does this just feel like he's piling on, or what? Sure, Affleck has made his share of stinkers, but at least he has a sense of humor about it. And besides, Good Will Hunting is ten times better than any of the prequels. I bet if you go after McCallum about Jar Jar, he would run away from you and hide behind Uncle George like a scared puppy. What a loser.

Great lyrics in hip-hop

whatever

"And I would never try to kick it to your best friend."
- Searching - Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth - The Main Ingredient.

Find some time

Universal remote

I'm absolutely going to have to find some time to see Crash this weekend, especially after reading Roger Ebert's 4-star review:
The result is a movie of intense fascination; we understand quickly enough who the characters are and what their lives are like, but we have no idea how they will behave, because so much depends on accident. Most movies enact rituals; we know the form and watch for variations. "Crash" is a movie with free will, and anything can happen. Because we care about the characters, the movie is uncanny in its ability to rope us in and get us involved.

He even references Grand Canyon, which regularly readers may remember was my first impression after seeing the trailer.

So sweet I almost crapped my pants

whatever

A co-worker just saw a homeless person with this sign:

"Ninjas killed my family:
Need money for kung-fu lessons."

I had to share. Now I really need to get back to work.

Friday Shuffle

whatever

With a nod to Pandagon (who I believe give the nod to someone else), here's my random 10 on iTunes:

1. Puke - Eminem
2. Raise Up - Petey Pablo
3. Unhappy - Big Boi
4. Mixed Emotions - Rolling Stone
5. Ambitionz az a Ridah - 2Pac
6. Down for Whatever - Ice Cube (Office Space sountrack)
7. Ill Bomb - LL Cool J (Big Kap and Funk Flex)
8. Carmina Burana Introduction - Atl. Symphony Orchestra
9. For Niki - Josh Baumer
10. Carnival - Wyclef Jean

Wow, that might be my most random yet. What'cha got?

Pierced

sporting goods

Bob Ryan sums it up:

last night we entered a hoop twilight zone in a game that featured the single most unforgivable, untimely, stupid, and flat-out selfish on-court act in the history of the Celtics.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Foulkin' A

sporting goods

That's what I'm talking about!

Keith Foulke finally puts together back to back strong performances. It's really nice when you can feel confident that your closer can finish it off without incident, as the Sox could in 2004. I'm not completely comfortable yet, but starting to feel better.

It's also nice when your starting pitcher carries a no-hitter into the 7th. It's going to be very interesting to see what the Sox decide to do if and when Miller, Schilling, and Wells are all healthy at the same time. Arroyo and Wakefield are both pitching great.

Yankee pitching fun-facts

sporting goods

I know I really should be posting on the Red Sox more often, but the Yankees are just so much more interesting right now. Here are a few fun facts about Yankee pitching, as I resist adding to the fun with yet another Henn pun.

The Yankees are scoring 5.25 runs per game. That's fourth in the majors. But it's the lineup that needs tweaking, at the expense of defense. Right.

Only one team (Devil Rays) has given up more runs than the Yankee pitching staff. Not the Rangers. Not the Rockies.

In 12 of the Yankees 17 losses, their opponents have scored 7 runs or more.

Kevin Brown has a .600 batting average against in the first inning this year.

WHIP's over 1.5? How about Mariano, Gordon, Quantrill, Sturtze, Rodriguez, along with Mussina, Brown and Wright.

OK, enough piling on for one day.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Barista Backlash

FOOD FIGHT


It's never just a cup of coffee. There are the issues of skim/soy/whole milk, sizing that is counter intuitive, foam/no foam, caf/half caf/decaf... And then there is the issue of where you buy it. In today's Dining & Wine section of the NY Times, there was a site that caught my attention: delocater.net. You can visit this site, put in your zip code, and it will produce a list of independent coffee chains within a 5 mile radius. Not as helpful for New Yorkers since 5 miles includes Jersey City, but I appreciate the sentiment. Whether it's the hope of keeping the little guys afloat or the latte factor that keeps you away from the big chain, there is a strange guilt associated with being a regular at Starbucks. Maybe I should kick my habit after finding out what my usual order of a tall skim latte says about me. What's your usual order?

This is Bush Country

whatever

This link is great. Here's a teaser:
Police in Germany are hunting pranksters who have been sticking miniature flag portraits of US President George W. Bush into piles of dog poo in public parks.

Enjoy!

Yankee Overhaul Part 2

sporting goods

As I've gone missing the last couple days, you can probably guess I'm getting killed at work. But I will take some time while I enjoy my six inch turkey sub (not melted, no double meat, doesn't anyone have any questions about me?) to give some quick thoughts.

As far as centerfielders go, Bernie Williams was among the worst in the AL last year, in terms of fielding. Although Matsui does not have Bernie's range, I actually expect him to be a slight upgrade at the all important centerfield position. Then again, the downgrade from Matsui to Womack will more than cancel that out. Then throw in that this new kid is no Tony Womack at second, and I would guess you've got about one extra loss expected from the team, due to fielding. (based on a very rough Win Shares estimate).

Offensively, as O said in comments, you are essentially replacing 1/2 Giambi and 1/2 Bernie with 1 full Robinson Cano. At this point, Williams and Giambi combined are probably nothing more than "league average," as sad as that sounds, and it's probably only Giambi's incredible number of walks that lifts them to that point. So all Cano needs to do is hit slightly better than league average.

If he can hit on the level of a Juan Uribe (.280, 25 doubles, 45 walks), then the whole move is probably a push. And I suspect it probably will be, with the added benefit of getting a young kid some time, shaking things up, and viewers having to watch less Giambi.

Now if Torre would stop putting anyone besides Jeter, A-Rod, Sheffield, and Matsui in the top four slots in his lineup, maybe he could actually maximize the production.

But none of this masks the real problem, and if you don't know what that is you didn't see Kevin Brown's first inning last night.

Deja Vu

manifesto

Does Tom Friedman just recycle old editorials he has already written? This is getting ridiculous.

Good news

whatever

Good new for New York moviegoers, but I'm not sure it is going to help all that much:
Loews Cineplex Entertainment says that next month it will begin publicizing true starting times, sort of.

John McCauley, the company's senior vice president for marketing, said the times in the company's newspaper and Web listings would still be the times when the trailers and commercials start. But the ads will also carry a note advising that, as Mr. McCauley put it yesterday, "the feature presentation starts 10 to 15 minutes after the posted show time."

If you hadn't figured out that movies don't start at the scheduled time by now, you haven't been to the movies in a while. Of course, in Manhattan, if you show up 10-15 minutes later, you aren't getting a seat, so this really doesn't matter a whole lot.

Genius

whatever

This is genius:
Stephen Colbert, who plays a phony correspondent on the fake-news program "The Daily Show," is getting a real promotion.

Comedy Central said yesterday that it was giving Mr. Colbert his own show: a half-hour that is expected to follow "The Daily Show" on weeknights and will lampoon those cable-news shows that are dominated by the personality and sensibility of a single host. Think, he said, of Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews and Sean Hannity.

It will become, quite simply, the best hour on TV.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

SAT Prep

manifesto

Fun little game to get those preparing for the SATs (at least the old version) ready. Compare this:
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has issued a report to Congress that said the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan could hamstring the U.S. ability to fight other wars, a senior military official told CNN.

with this:
Iran declared Tuesday that it would soon resume some of the nuclear activities it had suspended during negotiations with Europe, and it used a conference here to accuse the United States and other nations of using the fear of nuclear weapons proliferation to deny peaceful nuclear technology to developing nations.

with this:
U.S. intelligence authorities have told South Korean intelligence that they have detected suspicious activity indicating possible preparations for an underground nuclear test in Kilju County in North Korea's North Hamgyeong Province, sources said.

Now tell me the correlation

Hmm... I wonder

manifesto

So not only do I have to now read the disingenuous writing of David Brooks, but I also have to read the NY Times' new columnist, John Tierney. Mr. Tierney writes about Mrs. Bush's acceptance of her husband's former unintentional masturbation of farm animals. For Mr. Tierney, this proves that Republicans aren't humorless pricks. For others, it simply proves that Repubs are, at the very least, hypocritical pricks.

NOTE: "It's important to have a job that makes a difference, boys, that's why I manually masturbate caged animals for artificial insemination." PLAY THE NAME THE MOVIE GAME IN THE COMMENTS.

Funny

whatever

I love Conan. Make sure no one is watching. Ich bien nein Stackenblochen.

A trade

manifesto

Months ago, Jon Stewart proposed that the U.S. trade some of its media douchebags to Great Britain in return for some real reporters. That hasn't happened yet, which is why we have been treated to five straight days of CNN telling us all about the "Runaway Bride" (still the headline story on CNN.com as of 11 a.m.) while the London Times is reporting on a secret memo, written before the Iraq war, that details exactly how the Bush administration was planning to mislead Americans. My favorite graf:
C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Hmm... how many lies does this one graf expose? How about this one?
It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

Keep your hands to yourself

WHATEVER

What is it with all the fingers in food lately? Thanks to Sash, here's a gross article just as you're starting to think about lunch--a finger in a pint of chocolate ice cream. Unlike the chilli, no one is questioning if it's real.

Yankee overhaul

sporting goods

My favorite part about the Yankees overhauling their lineup is the move of Tony Womack from second base to left field. I'm not even sure Tony Womack is a league average second baseman (DarLucky?) but I am damn sure he isn't a league average left fielder. No team makes the playoffs with a LF with a .659 OPS. And that isn't low just because Tony is in a slump, that OPS is consistent with his career mark. Sorry Yankee fans, but unless the rest of the lineup starts carrying the water for the old men at the top and bottom of the order, it is going to be a very, very long season.

Related?

manifesto

I can't help but think that these two stories may be a little more than casually related. First, Army Recruiters Say They Feel Pressure to Bend Rules:
Interviews with more than two dozen recruiters in 10 states hint at the extent of their concern, if not the exact scope of the transgressions. Several spoke of concealing mental-health histories and police records. They described falsified documents, wallet-size cheat sheets slipped to applicants before the military's aptitude test and commanding officers who look the other way. And they voiced doubts about the quality of some troops destined for the front lines.

Second, From 'Gook' to 'Raghead':
[Mr. Delgado] said: "Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys, would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke bottles in the Humvee to break over people's heads."

Monday, May 02, 2005

Relief on the way

SPORTING GOODS

In partial response to Sergio's post below, I've had a look at the potential free agents for next year.

The good news is, there is a lot of good short relief help out there, including a few closers. Hopefully the young talent that the Mets have in the starting rotation can continue to develop along with the "veterans" getting and staying healthy, because there is not much starting pitching out there. The key candidates, by "pitcher type":

B.J. Ryan, lhp Alan Embree, lhp Mike Timlin, rhp Kyle Farnsworth, rhp Ugueth Urbina, rhp Mike Remlinger, lhp Matt Herges, rhp Julian Tavarez, rhp Tim Worrell, rhp

Guillermo Mota, rhp Shigetoshi Hasegawa, rhp Billy Wagner, lhp Trevor Hoffman, rhp

Chris Carpenter, rhp Matt Morris, rhp

Funny Joke

Just got this in an e-mail forward. Thought I would share:
The President, the First Lady and Dick Cheney are flying on Air Force One

George looks at Laura, chuckles and says, "You know, I could throw a
$1,000.00 bill out the window right now and make somebody very happy."

Laura shrugs her shoulders and says, "Well, I could throw ten $100.00
bills out the window and make 10 people very happy."

Cheney says, "Of course then, I could throw one-hundred $10.00 bills out
the window and make a hundred people very happy."

The pilot rolls his eyes, looks at all of them and says to his co-pilot,
"Such big shots back there... hell, I could throw all of them out the
window and make 56 million people very happy.


(thanks to player to be named later)

More More More

MANIFESTO

Six months ago today was perhaps the most disappointing day in my life. I woke up full of hope and optimism, the sort of natural high you get from being part of something larger than yourself. Months of anticipation and conversation and debate were finally over and at last we were going to have a new person in charge, someone who wasn't beholden to the rich and the religious right and and the corporations and the oil barons, someone who could speak intelligently about the issues facing us today rather than in simpleminded platitutes. But then the returns started coming in from Pennsylvania and Florida and hope was stomped out. We were given something worse than "more of the same." We have more of "more of the same" because they now have a "mandate." More extremist. More intolerant. More theocratic. More more more. I truly fear what will happen to this country if they are allowed to accomplish all the things they are planning. Will we truly have, as Madison warned, a "tyranny of the majority?" The best I can hope for is that they will overshoot their goals, reach too far and too high a cost and finally, at long last, be seen by the majority for what they truly are and dealt with in the only acceptable way. They will be voted out.

It's a nice dream.