Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Around and About

MANIFESTO

There are a number of interesting stories floating around today ...

Dear Leader will give his fifth State of the Union address this evening. The word is that he'll propose screwing up the US even more than he has thus far, now that his foreign policy is in a shambles.

Alan Greenspan bids adieu to the Federal Reserve today with what's anticipated to be yet another interest rate increase. With Americans now spending more than they're earning, such an increase would seem to benefit only those financial institutions in favor of debtors' prisons.

And the Constitution State is having a litigious day. First, the Feds are trying to get Connecticut's NCLB suit thrown out.

Second, the state is in court trying to get the Feds to keep their mitts off the state's Air National Guard planes. Apparently, the Bushies argue that they should be able to do whatever they want since the US is "at war." This is an argument that's really getting old.

In both of the latter instances, it's clear that the law is on the state's side. Needless to say, such a situation has never stopped the Bushies from trying to make a case.

Damned if you do...

SPORTING GOODS

A tour of the Sox blogs suggest that people are happy with the Alex Gonzalez signing. I'm pretty neutral, at least he fills the hole and will give us good defense, but then again so did Pokey and he was useless overall.

Hardball Times' daily news guy Lee Sinins let his feelings be known with the headline: "Around the Majors: Red Sox Help the Yankees."

He points out that Alex Gonzalez will soon join an illustrious list of the worst ten on-base percentages vs the league average, for players with 3500 at bats. That's pretty putrid. Worse than John Flaherty putrid. Hey, two of the bottom six on one roster, sweet!

Edited to add: And that is bottom 10 all time, not just active players.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Finally, a lineup (warning, stat nerd alert!)

SPORTING GOODS

With the Coco Crisp and Alex Gonzalez deals done, the Red Sox finally have a lineup. I agree with Dewey's House that it will look like this:

Coco Crisp, CF
Mark Loretta, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Manny Ramirez, LF
Trot Nixon, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Mike Lowell, 3B
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Alex Gonzalez, SS

Bench:
Dustin Mohr, OF
Willie Harris, IF.OF
Alex Cora / Tony Graffanino, IF
J.T. Snow, 1B
Josh Bard, C


Now, I'll gripe about that lineup when it actually hits the field, as Coco batting first goes against everything that the 2004 championship team was built on, but that's not what I want to write about now. What I want to do is use a couple of Baseball Prospectus's favorite stats to guestimate how many runs more/fewer this lineup could be expected to put up (by using VORP), and how many more their gloves might prevent/let in (by using FRAR).

I won't bore you with all the analysis I did, but the key to know is that I adjusted plate appearances where necessary, but mostly just compared new guys' 2005 performance with the guys that they replaced. I've assumed Graffanino will get traded (and Alex Cora will stay), Snow and Youkilis will be used the way Olerud and Millar were, and that Harris, Cora, and Mohr will pretty much cover the at-bats taken by Kapler, Payton, Cruz, Cora, Youkilis, and Vazquez last year. Last, I assumed that Lowell will perform between his 2004 and 2005 numbers. If he repeats 2005, we'll really wish that the Sox hadn't traded Marte.

Anyway, to get to it, I'd expect the Sox to score about 20 fewer runs with their 2006 lineup than they did in 2005. The biggest losing spot is from Damon to Crisp (8 runs), with the loss of Mueller, Renteria, and Olerud costing the Sox 5-6 runs each, considering their replacements. The biggest positive is the move from Millar to Youkilis, which I estimate will give the Sox an extra 11 runs. Cowboy up, Youk!

At the same time, it's obvious the Sox were hoping to shore up their fielding a bit, and according to Fielding Runs Against Replacement, one of many stats that I could have used (as none are perfect), it looks like the Sox would save an extra 10 runs with their new lineup.

So for all the waiting, worrying, and wailing, it looks like the Sox are down 10 runs from last year. That's worth about 0.8 wins. The big question is, can the Sox improved pitching save even more runs than that, to actually improve their outlook? My gut says yes, but that's the next timewaster for me...

Oh, and one last thing. If Lowell slumps in 2006 the way he did in 2005, and gets 600 at-bats, the Sox would be down an extra 25 runs. That would probably be enough to keep them out of the playoffs.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The nexus of the universe

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Since I'm so slow on the uptake, I didn't realize this situation existed until a few days ago:
Remember how Abe Lincoln's secretary, Kennedy, warned him not to go to the theater, and John Kennedy's secretary, Lincoln, warned him not to go to Dallas?

Guess what we found -- more proof of the global politico-media cabal secretly running the world! Get this: The man at the center of the CIA leak scandal is the vice president's chief of staff, Lewis Libby ... and the National Public Radio reporter assigned to cover his saga is Libby Lewis.

They were born Irving Lewis Libby and Dorothy Elizabeth Lewis, and if they went by Irving Libby and Dottie Lewis, there would be no dots to connect. BUT ... "Scooter" Libby never uses his first name, and Lewis can't stand her first name ("I'm not a Dorothy. I'm a Libby"). Coincidence? We think not.

"I've never met Mr. Libby personally," Lewis told us yesterday. "But I do think he ought to tell me everything, because of our connection."
When I read a story like this, I'm lost. I feel Iike I don't have any money, I don't recognize anybody, and I miss home.

This is really disorienting: How can a reporter and her subject intersect like this???

Brrrrr

MANIFESTO

Condoleezza Rice on refusing in May, 2005 to make public internal documents about repeated clashes between John Bolton and American intelligence agencies over Syria: "The information involves internal deliberations and their disclosure could have a chilling effect on debates within the administration."

Dear Leader Thursday on why his administration has refused to allow senior staff, including his former FEMA director, Michael Brown, "to testify, to interview or talk with congressional leaders" about the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina: "If people give me advice and they're forced to disclose that advice, it means the next time an issue comes up I might not be able to get unvarnished advice from my advisers. It will have a chilling effect on future advisers if the precedent is such that when they give me advice that it's going to be subject to scrutiny."

I guess we're to infer from these episodes that the reason the Bushies are so secretive is that they're concerned that their toadies might catch colds.

Speaking of toadies, even Senator Sanctimony is getting a bit exercised regarding the Bushies' refusal—under the cloak of "national security," or "executive privilege," or whatever the hell they're calling it these days—to co-operate in an effort to prepare better for future freakin' hurricanes!!!

God, I hate these people.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sound Familiar?

From A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam.
Except for the minority who had specific grievances against local officials of the regime, the peasants were simply responding to whichever side...was dominant at the moment. What all Asian peasants wanted most...was peace and security in which to till their land. They did not care whether those who established the law and order were Communists or capitalists.
Nothing ever changes.

Apenas no cuido

SPORTING GOODS

According to Yahoo! News
Michelle Kwan's hopes for that elusive Olympic gold medal rest in a rink half a world away from Turin.

Kwan will do her short and long programs for a five-person monitoring committee Friday on her home ice in Los Angeles. If the committee decides she's healthy and fit enough to compete, she's on her way to Turin.

If not, she'll have to watch again as someone else gets that gold medal she's sought for so long.
I'm sure there are people who care about this item—and the general subject of figure skating, for that matter—but I have to admit that I don't know a single one of them.

who will play?

SPORTING GOODS

Due to injury/injury risk/not wanting to take drug tests, Barry Bonds and Lance Berkman have dropped out of the World Baseball Classic. That leaves the US with an outfield pool of:

Carl Crawford, Johnny Damon, Jeff Francoeur, Luis Gonzalez, Ken Griffey Jr, and Randy Winn.

Not really a squad that will put fear in the heart of Johan Santana.

I think with A-Rod, David Wright, and Eric Chavez all on the potential roster, it may be a good idea to ask Chipper Jones to play OF, as he has done in the past. An OF of Crawford-Damon-Jones, with Francoeur, one of the old guys, and Biggio around as a reserve, wouldn't be so bad.

Ah, Democracy

MANIFESTO

The angle that many news outlets are taking regarding the Palestinian vote is that
President Bush has declared that spreading democracy in Iraq, the Middle East and other trouble spots will lead to a more peaceful world.

But as Hamas' victory in the Palestinian elections illustrates, holding elections is not always a simple path to stability.

"This is a very risky process, promoting democracy in the Arab world, where Islamist parties are the only legitimate alternative," said Haim Malka, a fellow with the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
It's certainly not hard to believe that Dear Leader didn't think through the possible ramifications of his arbitrary position. Indeed, the civics expert admitted that the Hamas victory had reminded him of the power of democracy.

Given the president's attack on Fourth Amendment rights and 2004's Ohio debacle, it's obviously a principle he'd forgotten.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Retraction

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I suppose I'm glad to see Oprah Winfrey castigating James Frey on her show today, but she really seems to have protested a bit too much.

At any rate, I'd feel better about her accusations of "betrayal" and "lying" if she hadn't been so stridently defensive about the book the first time she commented on it.

Ultimately, I couldn't care less about Oprah and her benighted literary opinions, anyway. (All of her "Book Club" selections have the same pattern of abuse and success.) Moreover, her audience members' reactions to her epiphany showed how shallow they were, too.

Ennui

MANIFESTO

As much as I'd like to blog, the Bushies and their ilk have pretty much worn me down right now with their sanctioning of lawbreaking.

Even Molly Ivins seems not to be able to take much more.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Where Gilkey is (almost) King

SPORTING GOODS

Mets Geek has a post somewhat connected to the "Mets All-Time Win Shares" post that I put together a few weeks back, in which they take the top 10 offensive seasons (by Win Shares) in Mets history, and talk a bit about them. Click on over, Mets fans, for a trip down memory lane. Make sure to click on seasons 6-10, as well as 1-5.

Some day in the future anthropologists will discover this post, and will say "hmm, this Bernard Gilkey must have been great at whatever strange sport they are describing here", and Mike Piazza will roll over in his grave.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Blue Monday

MANIFESTO

It's one of those blue (and rainy) Mondays where every article I read about the Bushies is bothersome.

For example, by citing the electricity foulup, Krugman writes this morning about the Bushies' failure in planning for any kind of reconstruction in Iraq.
In the State of the Union address, President Bush will surely assert, to choreographed applause, that he has a strategy for victory in Iraq. I don't believe him. In fact, I believe that three years into the conflict his administration refuses to admit defeat but has given up even trying to win ...

So what does it mean that the Bush administration is apparently walking away from responsibility for Iraq's reconstruction? It means that the administration doesn't have a plan; it's entirely focused on short-term political gain. Mr. Bush is just getting by from sound bite to sound bite, while Iraq and America sink ever deeper into the quagmire.
If the Bushies aren't going to follow through on the grandiose promises they made for red state Louisiana last summer, they're certainly not going to do much for a bunch of heathenish Muslims half a world away.

Indeed, this scenario has always been the case with the Bushies: identify a "problem," give lip service to it for awhile, and then walk away from it. In addition to the Iraq and New Orleans fiascos, we can see this happening yet again in the current Medicare situation (an effort run by yet another Bush crony) where "two-thirds of those who have signed up say they are confused by the program, which is intended to help many save money on their prescription drugs."

Today's irksome story is another one having to do with Dear Leader's proposals regarding the nation's health care system. He hopes to make it "more efficient," but his track record indicates that, if passed, it'll be anything but.

It's just another attempt by the Bushies to incorporate their notion of an "ownership society," which is becoming more and more an onerous society.

Wing Closed

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Even though it wasn't a show that I still look forward to every week, and hasn't really been for the last two years, I still really enjoy the West Wing and am sad to hear that it will be their last season.

For the writers, the good news is they do not need to figure out how to incorporate John Spencer's death in a realistic way that still allows Santos to come from behind to win the election, or figure out how to keep the show running with a Republican president.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

There she isn't

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Speaking of women (see previous post), apparently the Miss America Pageant (and I use that word advisedly) was held last evening and telecast on Country Music Television. Talk about jumping the shark.

The Washington Post's Libby Copeland writes about the event in a tone ("When her win was announced, Berry lifted her hand to her mouth and gave the audience that look of awe and gratitude that die-hard Miss America fans receive as their due"; "Miss America had been bleeding viewers (and relevance) for decades. With its move to CMT, the pageant can now be looked at as niche television, instead of something intended for a national audience. This feels right"; "Miss America is not expected to be beautiful. Rather, she is aggressively cute. Her values are also cute, which is why Miss America and CMT are so perfect for each other. The pageant is heartland entertainment for a heartland channel, and by 'heartland' we mean not a place but a state of mind. An irony-free state of mind. A cute state of mind") that's sure to elicit letters.

Has it come to this?

SPORTING GOODS

Is Major League Baseball becoming like the WWE?

Viz.,
The Baltimore Orioles added much-needed experience to their starting rotation Saturday, acquiring right-hander Kris Benson from the New York Mets for right-handers Jorge Julio and John Maine ...

Mets general manager Omar Minaya said Benson's wife, Anna Benson, was not a factor in the trade. A model and an actress, she has posed topless and publicly discussed intimate details about their sex life.
Say wha ...?

Remember the old days when a trade was a trade was a trade? While players' personalities could certainly play a role (Eddie Murray immediately comes to mind), it was never the case that players' wives might be a factor in the transaction. Now, though, Omar Minaya feels compelled to deny that (or, at least, a reporter feels compelled to ask whether) Trish Stratus's Anna Benson's revealing photos had anything to do with her husband going to Baltimore.

What times we live in.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Section 8

SPORTING GOODS

It's kind of fun to realize that the former general manager of one's favorite baseball team is every bit as crazy as the team's clearly psychotic left fielder.

Gone fishing

MANIFESTO

The White House continues to refuse to say who among its staffers met with Jack Abramoff or who the recently convicted felon was representing when he visited the executive mansion. This after Scott McClellan indicated on Tuesday that such information would be forthcoming.

Typically, the stonewalling White House press secretary describes such an investigation as a "fishing expedition," something the Bushies are "not going to engage in."

Now it's feasible that such an investigation might disclose activities that have nothing to do with Abramoff's activities. Nevertheless, it's telling that the Bushies are willing to get involved in what might be described as the mother of all fishing expeditions.
The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to compel Google, the Internet search giant, to turn over records on millions of its users' search queries as part of the government's effort to uphold an online pornography law.
So here we have the White House refusing to disclose any information regarding what may be a few score incidents while a department of the executive branch simultaneously insists on checking millions of records from a private company.

Ah, the Bushies. Always wanting to have it both ways.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hey! Look over there!


MANIFESTO

Let's see. Recently we've had a missile attack that killed a number of innocent Pakistani women and children, the continued assertion by our president that he's above the law, and a Medicare situation that defines the word "fiasco."

Must be time to publicize another terr'ist threat.

UPDATE — I see that Dear Leader has another diversion planned for his State of the Union Address:
President Bush's State of the Union address will attempt to shift focus from the polarizing war in Iraq to a more popular domestic priority: taming health care costs ...

Bush's proposals arise from a belief that controlling health care costs requires choices to be driven more directly by price-conscious, informed patient-shopper than by employers, insurers and others. The hope is that consumer demands will drive the market into providing better and cheaper services.
Riiiiight. Just like depending on market forces has been such a success in the areas of transportation, energy, and communication.

Key points in Dear Leader's plan are to raise the dollar amount allowed to accumulate in existing health savings accounts while giving additional tax breaks to help people who do not have employer-provided insurance coverage buy their own.

This sure sounds like yet another way to let the rich be richer (and healthier) while the increasingly impoverished middle and lower classes die off.

Krugman has already seen through this. On Monday, he noted that health savings "accounts mainly benefit people with high incomes. Second, they encourage wealthy corporate employees to opt out of company health plans, further undermining the already fraying system of employment-based health insurance."

MEA CULPA

WHATEVER

In what is easily the most amusing story of the day, we find that the finger-spitting con artist, Anna Ayala, hopes that people will learn from her mistakes.
"Let this be an example," said ... Ayala in an interview with ABC News affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco. "Everybody out there, all those young people, learn from this."
OK. I resolve not to bring a severed finger into Wendy's, order the chili, and then pretend to spit out the digit. I really might get in trouble if I attempt to do this.

Phew! That was a close one.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Parole for Arrested?

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Fox has announced it will air the final four episodes of the all-time great Arrested Development on back-to-back-to-back-to-back of Friday February 10th against the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. (Talk about dumping it.) While it is being sold as the season finale, Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori admits a future return of the show to Fox is "highly unlikely."

But there is good news. As we reported a month ago, ABC and Showtime are still in talks to pickup the show. Considering how poorly this amazing, award-winning comedy has been treated by Fox, either of these networks would be an improvement. As long as they don't change anything.

A Million Little Pieces of Crap

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I've been mulling over how to write about the controversy surrounding Oprah last book club selection, James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. I'm sure everyone here has heard about how The Smoking Gun discovered Frey fabricated or greatly embellished parts of his drug-addled, criminal past and how Oprah basically gave him a pass by saying it was “much ado about nothing.” Frey defended himself on Larry King by saying “Everyone’s memory is subjective. If in three weeks we were both interviewed about what went on here tonight, we would both probably have very, very different stories.” This defense doesn't even pass the sniff test.

Any analysis or opinion I come up with will never top Michiko Kakutani's blistering rebuke of Frey, Oprah and the Me Generation's belief in the flexibility of truth.
Mr. Frey's embellishments of the truth, his cavalier assertion that the "writer of a memoir is retailing a subjective story," his casual attitude about how people remember the past - all stand in shocking contrast to the apprehension of memory as a sacred act that is embodied in Oprah Winfrey's new selection for her book club, announced yesterday: Night, Elie Wiesel's devastating 1960 account of his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

If the memoir form once prized authenticity above all else - regarding testimony as an act of paying witness to history - it has been evolving, in the hands of some writers, into something very different. In fact, Mr. Frey's embellishments and fabrications in many ways represent the logical if absurd culmination of several trends that have been percolating away for years. His distortions serve as an illustration of a depressing remark once made by the literary theorist Stanley Fish - that the death of objectivity "relieves me of the obligation to be right"; it "demands only that I be interesting."

And they remind us that self-dramatization (in Mr. Frey's case, making himself out to be a more notorious fellow than he actually was, in order to make his subsequent "redemption" all the more impressive) is just one step removed from the willful self-absorption and shameless self-promotion embraced by the "Me Generation" and its culture of narcissism.
There is special irony in Oprah's having picked Wiesel's Night as her newest bookclub selection. "I make a distinction between what I lived through and what I imagined others to have lived through," Wiesel has said. "My experiences in the book - A to Z - must be true." This is a far different approach than James Frey's, who said alterations were common for memoirs and that he told “the essential truth” in A Million Little Pieces. I can understand, if not condone, why the previously unpublished Frey would lie in order to sell his book. What I don't understand is how Oprah, a woman of such intelligence, influence and power could be so blase about something so important as telling the truth.

UPDATE: My friend LW summed up this whole episode with one word: Truthiness. I wish I'd thought of that.

Nickleby News

MANIFESTO

The Hartford Courant is reporting today that 109 of the state's 169 school boards have voted to endorse Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's lawsuit against the federal government's onerous and odious No Child Left Behind Act.

What's noteworthy in this approbation is the fact that this is strictly a financial decision. No doubt every one of the 109 supportive districts believes in the principles of NCLB, but the way the feds have managed it is impoverishing. (Of course, it's no surprise that a bureaucratic effort on the part of the Bushies has turned into a travesty.)

Blumenthal can only base his lawsuit on the words of the legislation, and the words of the legislation stipulate that the law will be implemented using federal funds. Since those funds aren't forthcoming, the lawsuit seems to be a no-brainer.

This kind of goes along with yesterday's Supreme Court decision regarding physician-assisted suicide. That is, the Bushies take on these huge issues with absolutely no knowledge of them. (As Justice Kennedy said about John Ashcroft's tendentious attempt to abolish the practice: "The authority claimed by the attorney general is ... beyond his expertise ...") Needless to say, this lack of knowledge leads to an absolute inability to carry out concomitant goals.

It's consoling to see that 109 Connecticut boards of education have seen this plan for the sham that it is.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gore in 2008?

MANIFESTO

As everyone knows, Richard Nixon was written off as a non-factor after political defeats in both 1960 and 1962. Nevertheless, he was successful in winning the presidency in 1968.

I wonder if the same thing might happen to Al Gore. After a victorious defeat in 2000, might he be thinking of waging a presidential campaign in 2008? I ask this only because of his stirring speech over the weekend and the Bushies' subsequent ineffective parries against him.

As usual, the Bushies are making this whole thing personal. With a person who has the poltical affiliations and energies of Al Gore, this may be a big mistake.

My own opinion is that the more Gore speaks, the more impressive he appears.

Caught up in the moment

MANIFESTO

Why one should never make public statements while drunk or stoned or both, exhibit number 4123:
[New Orleans] Mayor Ray Nagin apologized Tuesday for a Martin Luther King Day speech in which he ... asserted that "God was mad at America."

"I said some things that were totally inappropriate. ... It shouldn't have happened," Nagin said, explaining he was caught up in the moment as he spoke to mostly black spectators, many of them fearful of being shut out of the city's rebuilding.

During the speech Monday, Nagin, who is black, said that the hurricanes that hit the nation in quick succession were a sign of God's anger toward the United States and toward black communities, too, for their violence and infighting.
While I'm certainly no fan of Pat Robertson, I'd like to know why the liberal blogosphere isn't as up in arms about these comments as it was when the Reverend Mr. Robertson stated an as foolish cause and effect relationship regarding Katrina.

Just curious.

The year of living strenuously

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Here's The New Yorker's Anthony Lane's bottom line on the 2005 movie year (in an article entitled, interestingly enough, "Chill"):
So, what were the highlights of 2005, and what hopes can we summon for a year in which the densest streams of ticker tape will float for “X-Men 3”? Well, we got Ralph Fiennes starring in, and surpassing, “The Constant Gardener”; we got Philip Seymour Hoffman doing the same with “Capote”; and, above all, we got Kevin Pollak’s impersonation of Christopher Walken in “The Aristocrats,” which I would describe as hair-raising if Walken had ever been hair-lowered. The most rackety fun I had all year came in the first twenty minutes of “Wedding Crashers,” which demonstrated that Vince Vaughn is either a genius or an escaped lunatic who should not be approached without a stun gun, yet even that farce declined into soulful whimsy, as did “Hitch.” I did laugh at the end of “The Revenge of the Sith,” but that was from pure relief, much as the people of Stalingrad gave a bitter, mirthless grin when the siege was finally lifted.
His point is that American movies have elongated exposition ("Since when did a Roald Dahl hero or villain need to be explained?") to their detriment. Indeed, our own Chill noted this phenomenon in his review of KIng Kong not too long ago.

A legitimate medical purpose

MANIFESTO

The Supreme Court has just ruled on a subject in which I have a certain amount of interest.
The Supreme Court upheld Oregon's one-of-a-kind physician-assisted suicide law Tuesday, rejecting a Bush administration attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die.

Justices, on a 6-3 vote, said that federal authority to regulate doctors does not override the 1997 Oregon law used to end the lives of more than 200 seriously ill people.
For the minority, the totalitarianist Scalia argued that
federal officials have the power to regulate the doling out of medicine.

"If the term 'legitimate medical purpose' has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death," he wrote.
I heartily disagree with both notions.

First, the idea that "federal officials have the power to regulate the doling out of medicine" has got to be among the most dangerous statements I've ever heard an American public official make. Kind of gives the Bushies an out when it comes to providing prescription drugs to Medicare recipients, doesn't it? It certainly seems to negate the whole notion of governments providing life to their citizens. ("That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends ...")

Second, I disagree with Scalia's notion of "legitimate medical purpose." The first tenet of the Hippocratic oath is to do no harm. It follows that the basis of the oath, then, is to relieve pain if at all possible. In some instances, the only way to alleviate such pain is through death. Thus, assisted suicide becomes a paramount legitimate medical purpose.

UPDATE — Kevin Drum comments on the fact that new Chief Justice Roberts voted with Scalia and Thomas in the minority. I can't believe this solidarity bodes well.

Another day, another debacle

MANIFESTO

I'm still pretty enervated by current events, be it the aggrandizement of power by the executive branch, or the incredible screwup currently affecting Medicare. Let's view them one at a time.

The spying program instituted on Dear Leader's order is all over the blogosphere and hardly needs to be delineated here. Today's news is that the program is worthless anyway. It's pretty clear that the Bushies want to use this domestic spying program only as a vehicle to keep tabs on their perceived political enemies (such as, God help us, the non-violent Quakers). And, of course, the compliant Congress sees nothing wrong with this, believing that fellatio is a much more severe threat to the survival of the United States than is spying on its own civilians. At least Al Gore sees the danger of Congress's imprimatur even though the head lawyer of the US sees nothing wrong with this culpability. Those of us who've lived through escapades like this once before can't help but feel a certain ennui about the whole thing.

The truth of the matter is that many—if not most—Americans don't care about the domestic spying issue. It's not a financial concern, and so they can pretty much ignore it. On the other hand, the Medicare fiasco is already starting to affect Americans where they live. Needless to say, this issue affects elderly Americans—that is, those who vote—and so the Bushies are falling all over themselves trying to fix the problem. Or, I should say, they say they're trying to fix the problem. We know how the problems of Louisiana and Iraq have been "solved." Or, as a letter writer to Josh Marshall put it so well:
Just like Katrina, and Iraqi reconstruction difficulties, this is an unfolding disaster that could be seen approaching from a mile away beforehand. The government took little or no preparation before the deadline to make sure things would run smoothly. As usual, someone in charge seems to have assumed that the invisible hand of the markets would take care of everything, or something. As a result, phone lines are clogged, web sites are down or inaccessible, pharmacists and doctors have no idea what is going on after being kept out of the loop, and seniors themselves are panicked, confused, and freaking out.
This is not an issue that can run under the radar; indeed, it's already become a hot button issue. But one can ask: What did we expect? Everything this bunch touches turns to ash, and the whole bill was created in order to remunerate pharmaceutical companies, anyway.

Ho hum. Just another day in what used to be a pretty good country.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I hate waiting til next year

SPORTING GOODS

I hate when some athlete, after a loss, will say something like "We are the better team, but they beat us tonight," to try to diminish their opponent's victory. I don't think the Patriots should be saying that tonight, but at the same time I don't think we'll ever know who truly was better, because the Pats didn't even give us a chance to find out.

That could have been a great game, the way those two defenses were playing. It could have really gone down to the wire. But the Pats offense and special teams seemed determined to give their defense no chance. How far did the Broncos travel for their 3 touchdowns, 15 yards combined? Brady was off, players who have been clutch (Brown, Faulk) gave two huge fumbles, even Vinateiri missed. That terrible interference call was eating at me for a while, but in the end it didn't matter. The Pats just didn't show tonight.

I had hoped that if the Pats run was going to end, it would be at the hands of an opponent that was clearly better. Maybe the Broncos are better, but we didn't get to find out. Instead, all we found out was that the Pats played worse.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Think Pictures

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Think Pictures are very special. They are the kind of movie that you walk out of and immediately head to a bar or restaurant so you can sit and talk about what the heck it all means. Se7en, The Sixth Sense, Mulholland Dr., Vertigo, Artificial Intelligence: A.I., Fahrenheit 9/11, Eyes Wide Shut, JFK and The Usual Suspects are all good examples of Think Pictures. They don't necessarily have to have a twist ending but usually involve some sort of conspiracy. They also always seem to ask more questions than they answer.

I've seen two great Think Pictures in the last month, one I like, the other I love. Let's start with the former because it is in theaters now.

Cache is a French film about a well-to-do couple, Georges and Anne, that starts receiving mysterious packages on their doorstep. The first is a videotape of their home, secretly recorded from up the street. It runs around 2 hours and nothing much happens except cars drive by and we see the couple and their son leave the house to start their days. It is not an overt threat to the family, but it is obviously threatening. Additional tapes begin to arrive. Some are of their house, others seem to be clues about who is responsible. Georges begins to suspect someone in his past is behind the plot. His search for the "stalker" is the heart of the movie.

Cache (which is French for "hidden") starts out as a gripping story of paranoia and guilt. Then, with about 45 minutes left, it loses its hold on logic and practically discards the very thing that is driving the movie: who is sending the tapes? Now, I'm not completely against a movie going out to left field. David Lynch films often do this (as in the aforementioned Mulholland Dr.), but at least his films announce this possibility by being almost aggressively strange from the start. Cache isn't like this. It is cool and controlled and you definitely feel like you are in the hands of a master filmmaker. (The best works of Hitchcock and DePalma produce this same feeling of contentment.)

In the end, I think one of two things happened. Either the filmmaker simply didn't care to wrap up his film with a satisfying conclusion or he simply couldn't. Either way, it feels like a rip-off. Stephen King is notorious for this sort of thing; he comes up with the best set-ups for stories and then can't figure out how to end them properly. ("It" was a giant spider? That whole Hand of God ending to "The Stand?") I don't mind the arty idea of a movie having no answers, that it is really all about Georges' past guilt, I just resent it here. A movie with a set-up this good is like a promise to the viewer. If you go along with it, I promise you a satisfying answer. Cache doesn't deliver this even though it has a "twist" ending of sorts. The last shot of the film is of a large group. The shot holds for several minutes (like others earlier in the film) and we see two characters meet. What are they talking about? Were they behind the whole thing? The wife and I had at least a half-dozen different theories but in the end there is no answer. After much discussion, we agreed Cache was good movie that could've been great. At least that's what I thought. The wife doesn't have the patience for this sort of stuff.

The other Think Film I saw recently was a movie from last year. Primer, the top prize-winner at 2004's Sundance Film Festival, is without a doubt my favorite time travel movie of all time. At 78 minutes, it packs more questions and possibilities into its story than most Hollywood epics. It is the story of two engineers who accidentally invent a box that can be used to travel back in time. First they start by going back and investing in the stock market using tomorrow's information. Then they become more ambitious and begin to try alter the future. Pretty soon the men stop trusting each other and there are multiple copies of each of them existing simultaneously, all with their own agendas. The film is admittedly difficult, especially on the first viewing. But when you start to think about it (and this is where watching it with someone is essential) the more the puzzle starts to piece itself together. There is also a terrific message board on the films official site full of theories and hypothetical timelines. Primer is a stunning work that Kubrick would've loved. I can't think of much more praise than that.

Both these films provided hours of discussion and friendly argument between the wife and I. I know I sound down on Cache, but I really hope I've piqued the interest of some of you. In all fairness, I'm in the minority on this film. The vast majority of critics have loved it. (Roger Ebert just awarded it four stars.) But if I had to recommend a Think Film for everyone that I bet no one has seen, run out and get Primer. It will absolutely be a movie I watch and Think about for years to come.

Strat-O-Matic

SPORTING GOODS

Yes, my darling wife, grown men do play Strat-O-Matic Baseball. And the New York Times even devoted column space to it.

That reminds me, I haven't played in a while. Any challengers?

Is that an ipod in your pocket or...

WHATEVER

I don't know how to feel about technology inspired clothing. Would it be convenient? Would it be hard to launder? Would it be worth $200? Levis is going to launch a pair of jeans that has an iPod remote control and docking station. Personally, I'd rather a pair of jeans that made my butt look smaller, but I think that's as far off as the cure for the common cold. Until then, maybe this would be pretty cool.

Snakes on a Dame

WHATEVER

You know you've been living in New York for a while when you pass a woman standing on a corner with a parrot on her shoulder and a six foot long snake around her neck, and you don't even do a double-take.

Sanity Breaks Out

SPORTING GOODS

Fran Healy is officially out as a Mets announcer. This is the best Met news of the off-season. Better than signing Wagner, better than trading for Delgado. Better than anything. This year is my 20th year as a Mets fan and the first without the dreaded, inane, boring, awful Fran Healy. I feel like we're ten games ahead of the Braves already.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Disgusting or Delicacy?

FOOD FIGHT

Sometimes you just need to get over it. Branch out and order something different, something a little out there. You don't know you don't like it until you try. Even if you don't, it's not like you'll starve or you can't get something else. And I'm not sure I'm a real believer in the theory, but some say your taste buds change every 7 years. These food topics/ingredients seem to be coming up a lot in my life lately so I felt compelled to write about them.

Sardines - Defined as any small, soft-boned, saltwater fish and the least scary on today's list. Best on the grill in my opinion (and because you'll smell it for days if you cook them in your kitchen), but there's a suggestion for canned as well. Actually pretty versitile in sauces and salads, but I'm happy with them out of the can on saltines.

Tripe - Defined as the lining of beef stomach. I haven't tried this yet (my 7 years are due on this one), but my favorite Brooklyn restaurant Al Di La is apparently the place to do it. I will excuse you on this one, as long as you go to the restaurant. They got 2 stars from the NYT this week and I love the headline "Go Ahead, Brooklyn: Be Smug."

Liver - Obvioulsy, it's organ meat and better to go with calf over beef according to my chef friends because it's younger. The nutritional value of this meat can be offset by how much the organ has absorbed over time (let's just say that my liver was healthier a few year's back too). Go easy and try it pureed on crostini at Franny's or go full out and have liver and onions at Batali's Spotted Pig. Either way, it's rich and yummy.

Sweetbreads - Defined as thymus glands of young veal, young beef, lamb and pork. The hubby and I just tried these at Applewood (another reason Brooklyn can be smug) and they weren't scary at all. It's fairly firm meat and had a rich, earthy flavor (almost muddy, but in a good way).
Be brave, be bold, and stop only going out for steak and pizza. Maybe you can even score a seat during the upcoming restaurant week.

F*** Blogspot

In case you're wondering why the site was so slow the last couple of days (especially if you were using Internet Explorer), it's because the HTML program used by blogspot blows. My movie award post would get filled with more redundant tags than I could count and after too many hours trying to untangle the problem, I gave up and forced it to post which screwed the site up for everyone. My bad. Should be in the clear now.

Sergio's 2005 Movie Awards

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

While this year's list is pretty strong, I can't help feeling it is one of the weakest movie years in memory. I hope I am not getting too cynical, but time and again (even with most of these films), I left the theater wishing the movie had been better. Last year's three best films (Sideways, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Million Dollar Baby) were all better than any film this year.
SERGIO'S TOP TEN
01. Brokeback Mountain
02. In Her Shoes
03. Capote
04. A History of Violence
05. Good Night, and Good Luck.
06. Match Point
07. Walk the Line
08. Wedding Crashers
09. Syriana
10. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
BEST PICTURE/DIRECTOR/SCREENPLAY: Brokeback Mountain
When the Oscar nominations are announced, people always ask me why the movies nominated for Best Picture but aren't always the same as the ones for Best Screenplay or Best Director. I used to ramble about how certain movies were "performance driven" or "about special effects" or something but now I know this is total crap. The best movies of the year are also the best written and the best directed, period. (This also applies to editing but don't get me started on how the Oscar always goes to the movie with the most edits.) There are some elements that you can can seperate from a movie (individual performances, music, special effects, etc.) but not direction and writing. This is because they are part of the whole. Everything else is a part. For someone to say a movie is the best of the year but not the best directed and/or written is like saying you like Shake Shack's burger the best but you think Corner Bistro has a better chef or Houston's has a better recipe. It's absurd. The only reason the Oscar nominations go all out of whack in this regard is because of the voting process. And since I'm the only one voting on this list, I have the power to keep the absurdity out of it. (Then again, you may read my winners and think otherwise.) For that reason, my best picture, director and screenplay awards all go to the same film.

Brokeback Mountain was the only flawless movie I saw this year. An absolutely believable love story that displayed more raw emotion than any other film. Sure it was about "gay cowboys," but anyone can relate to the barriers and compromises that keep these men from true happiness. Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are superb and the depth and subtlety of their performances has completely changed the way I look at them as actors. Someone said Ledger's performance is as good as anything Brando or Penn has ever done. I completely agree and this is no small praise.

Everything I said about Brokeback Mountain also applies to the direction of Ang Lee and the writing of Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. Praise shoud also go to Annie Proulx for dreaming this beautiful story up. Every detail from her short story was in the movie, including most of the dialogue. McMurtry and Ossana have expertly expanded her work. They also deserve credit for being the ones who first believed in this story as a film project. They are the ones who purchased the story from Proulx and thought to make it in a film. They wrote the screenplay and then sold it to Hollywood. (I've never heard of a film being packaged this way.) That it took almost ten years to get it made is a testament to their faith and perseverence. McMurtry is the author of my all-time favorite book, Lonesome Dove, and I am looking forward to him accepting his certain Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Brokeback Mountain was easily the best film of the 2005. While I have no doubt it will go down as one of the greatest and most groundbreaking love stories in film history, if you get me drunk enough, I will eventually admit that Wedding Crashers will be the movie I keep watching into my golden years. So much for the arty movies.

RUNNERS UP (DIRECTING): Curtis Hanson, In Her Shoes; Bennett Miller, Capote; David Cronenberg, A History of Violence; George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck.

RUNNERS UP (WRITING): Susannah Grant, In Her Shoes; Dan Futterman, Capote; Josh Olson, A History of Violence; George Clooney & Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck.
BEST ACTOR: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
In the tightest race of the year, I choose Hoffman over Ledger by an upraised pinky. Hoffman's incomparable ability to say one thing and mean another is a tour-de-force. The pinnacle of the performance comes at the end when Capote says goodbye to the killers he has come to love and betray. In the best moment of the best performance of the year, Hoffman cries honestly, and lies at the same time. If you haven't seen Capote, jump it to the top of your Netflix queue.

(Though it must be noted that if I could vote for part of a performance, I would vote for Vince Vaughn in the first twenty minutes of Wedding Crashers. He was comedic quicksilver. You can quote me on that.)
RUNNERS-UP: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain; Joaquin Pheonix, Walk the Line; Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man; Tommy Lee Jones, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
BEST ACTRESS: Toni Collette, In Her Shoes
The scene where Collette throws sister Cameron Diaz out of her house for sleeping with her boyfriend is stunning. It is filled with more naked emotion then perhaps any other scene this year and one of the biggest reasons In Her Shoes trancends it's "Chick Flick" label and is one of the best films of the year.
RUNNERS-UP: Reese Witherspoon, Walk The Line; Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: George Clooney, Syriana
Clooney's world-weary spook was the heart of a movie that mostly kept its emotions in check. As a man who comes to the grim realization he is being betrayed by the same people he has given his entire career to protect, Clooney's calculated pragmatism is relevetory. He's a close winner over Rourke's amazing lug Marv from the underwhelming Sin City.
RUNNERS-UP: Mickey Rourke, Sin City; Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man; Matt Dillon, Crash; Ed Harris, A History of Violence
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Shirley MacLaine, In Her Shoes
I called MacLaine's performance "the perfect distillation of human behavior." I can't think of any more praise than that.
RUNNERS-UP: Mario Bello, A History of Violence; Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain; Juliette Binoche, Cache; Scarlett Johansson, Match Point
MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIE: Munich
Spielberg's foray into the Israeli-Palestinian crisis was overly repetitive and surprisingly unmoving. So much for it being my most anticipated movie of the fall.
RUNNERS-UP: Sin City; Domino; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. and Mrs. Smith
ONE SCENE WONDERS
These actors gave memorable, moving performances in ten minutes or less and were wonders to behold. Any one of them would be worthy Oscar nominees.

Dallas Roberts as record producer Sam Phillips, Walk the Line
Roberta Maxwell as Jake Gyllenhaal's mother, Brokeback Mountain
Norman Lloyd as Cameron Diaz's blind patient, In Her Shoes
Ralph Fiennes as He Who Must Not Be Named, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
BEST VILLAIN: Joseph McCarthy, Good Night, and Good Luck.
The former Senator perfectly played himself in all his pasty, sweating, balding, Constitution-hating glory. Special mention also goes to Cillian Murphy and his crazy-blue eyes which were the best special effects of the year.

RUNNERS-UP: Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins; Cillian Murphy, Red Eye; Ed Harris, A History of Violence; the Martian tripods, War of the Worlds
BLOCKBUSTERS I DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO SEE AND HAVEN'T LOST A MINUTE OF SLEEP OVER
Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith
King Kong
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Fantastic Four
So now we're onto 2006. How many more days until Snakes on a Plane?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A real hero...unlike Barry Bonds!

SPORTING GOODS

With FoxSports announcing that the Red Sox have signed Julian Tavarez, I thought I'd do everyone a service and link to this story about Julian Tavarez from a fan who had a bit of a run-in with him.

Tavarez, has had some great moments, most recently when he broke his hand on a bullpen phone after a poor outing. I'm not very excited about this signing, no matter how hard this guy throws.

that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends ...

MANIFESTO

USA Today is reporting that
[j]ust three weeks before an explosion in a West Virginia mine led to 12 deaths, the mine owner was cited for "combustible conditions" that showed "a high degree of negligence for the health and safety of the miners," according to inspection reports released Tuesday.

The Sago Mine was cited 16 times in the last year for unsafe conditions that could have caused fires or explosions, documents from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration show.
Now before anyone celebrates the fact that the MSHA was all over this, it should be noted that for those sixteen violations "[t]he agency has sought $1,221 in fines for the violations." So for potentially catastrophic situations, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is charged with protecting miners, fined the owner of the mine, International Coal Group, an average of $76 per incident.

Everyone who's read me knows that I believe that government's primary obligation is to insure its citizens' lives, liberties, and properties. Clearly, the government has tragically fallen short in this episode. It's one thing to establish an agency that's supposed to insure workers' safety; it's obviously quite another thing for that agency to carry out its charge. It's clear that the government was more interested in the well being of International Coal Group than it was in the corporation's employees' lives. And when such a situation arises ... well, perhaps it's time to "make the most of it."

The entire situation is disquietingly similar to last summer's events in Louisiana wherein another federal agency was unable and unwilling to carry out its charge in the public's interest.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

D-FENCE!

SPORTING GOODS

Manny Ramirez is the worst fielder in major league baseball. At least that according to a new analysis done by David Gassko over at Hardball Times.

Defense is sort of the last frontier for statistical analysis, because there are less concrete measures to define what a player should and shouldn't get to, how good his arm is, etc. So all defensive stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, and they can be very hard to understand some times.

But that said, I found this observation interesting:
"four guys end up with a projection of below .230, which is something like a threshold for playing defense at all (replacement level, if you will). Those players are Russ Adams, Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Michael Young. Adams and Young should be moved to easier positions; Ramirez and Griffey should DH."

And of course, the kickers:

"position-adjusted, Ramirez would be the worst fielder in the MLB."

and

"The Cincinnati Reds, for example, probably have no idea that Ken Griffey Jr.’s defense completely negates his offensive contributions."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Boooooooooooo


SPORTING GOODS

Yesterday, The Hartford Courant featured not one, but two, articles on the meltdown of a Connecticut state trooper. Meanwhile, the shameful public meltdown of he who can do no wrong was countenanced. (See photo.)

While not as fatal as the actions of Victor Diaz, King Jim's actions on Saturday were certainly hysterical.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Tiresome tirades

SPORTING GOODS

So now Manny wants to stay in Boston, after all. God, this is boring.

Meanwhile, Scott Gray, world's most ill-informed and least articulate sportscaster, is hyperventilating over the NHL's possible return to Hartford. Not only is any talk like this premature, but it just kind of shows what a hick town Hartford is, grasping at straws as it is. After all, given the NHL's drawing power, it's foolish to care about the sport anyway.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Coke

FOOD FIGHT

Some of us are coffee lovers, some get their fix from Coke. Is there anyone who wants both...at once? Coke is testing a new product in France this month--Coca-Cola Blak (there should be a line over the "a" in "Blak" so you pronounce it "Black." Haven't a clue how to do that.). Coke wants you to enjoy "the invigorating and stimulating (yeah, no kidding) blend that has a perfect balance of the effervenscent taste sensation of Coca-Cola and natural flavors, with real coffee." It will also have a coffee like froth when poured. I'm not sure if that helps or hurts.

Mets all time win shares

SPORTING GOODS

Carlos Beltran has six more years. David Wright and Jose Reyes will hopefully be playing at Shea well into the next decade. So there will hopefully be real changes to this list in the future.

In the meantime, Piazza and Franco are finally done, and I imagine that players like Cliff Floyd may be starting to sniff the Mets top 25 all time win shares. Let's take a look. Yankees and Sox were done previously.

1. Tom Seaver - 266
2. Darryl Strawberry - 195
3. Howard Johnson - 169
3. Edgardo Alfonzo - 169
5. Jerry Koosman - 163
6. Dwight Gooden - 154

A kind of strange top 6. The two old-time aces who pitched together for the Mets, the two 80s stars / disappointments who will forever be linked, and more recent fan favorites HoJo and Alfonzo, who I'm surprised to see this high. Howard Johnson's 1989 season is the tops in Mets history; Alfonzo's 2000 season is 2nd.

7. Mike Piazza - 149
8. Keith Hernandez - 142
9. Cleon Jones - 141
10. Ed Kranepool - 132
10. (tie) Mookie Wilson - 132

Anyone else surprised to see Piazza so low? For perspective, his Mets win share total is less than Darren Daulton's for the Phillies. I find that very surprising. Meanwhile, Mookie did more than just hit a slow chopper down the first base line.


12. Bud Harrelson - 130
13. Jerry Grote - 116
14. Kevin McReynolds - 114
15. Lee Mazzilli - 104

Yep, when you've been around for less than 50 years, the all-time list deteriorates pretty fast. At least you have some failed managers in this grouping.

16. Sid Fernandez - 101
17. Jon Matlack - 99
18. John Franco - 98
19. Wayne Garrett - 97
20. Al Leiter - 95

Leiter's 1998 and 2000 were quite good, but he would compare unfavorably to a guy like Tim Wakefield for the rest of his years in Queens. Franco barely moved after 2001, he had been tied with Piazza at the time.

21. Rusty Staub - 93
22. Dave Magadan - 91
23. John Stearns - 89
24. John Olerud - 87
25. Tommie Agee - 86

Benitez couldn't quite get on to this illustrious list. So like I said, if Wright, Reyes, Beltran, etc. don't start climbing this list quickly, it will be a big disappointment.

If you're counting...

Cliff Floyd - 55
David Wright - 37
Jose Reyes - 34
Carlos Beltran - 23
Pedro Martinez - 18
Mr. Koo - 1

Somebody Does Something Right

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Jon Stewart is hosting this year's Oscars. Hopefully they can sneak Corddry in there somewhere.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Guide Game

FOOD FIGHT


Getting into the star rating system can be a slippery slope, especially with food. New York magazine has successfully avoided it, but they just can't help themselves anymore and have created their own guide of the top 101. I think the Michelin Guide stirred some competition and now everyone wants in the game. Adam Platt is my favorite restaurant reviewer at the magazine and while he makes it clear that these are his judgments, whims, fancies, I don't think he's off the mark by much. I can't debate all the 5-stars since I've eaten at three (and will probably never eat at Masa until I hit lotto or someone else is buying). I do like the nod to Brooklyn since the culinary scene has real contenders. My favorite is the "most overrated in 2005". Maybe I like him best since we share similar pet peeves: deconstructed desserts (I want pie, not apple glob, flaky cookie, and a dash of cinnamon..besides that's actually very 1995), the use of "a la plancha" (meaning "on the grill" and applying not only your fancy steak but the BK hamburger), menus that require translation and/or assistance to figure out, and making the lobster roll fancy (I'd throw burgers in that category too, but if we're sticking to lobster rolls than NYC has nothin' on CT).

Best of all, while Zagat makes you pay for every format, no one really understands how Michellin works, this is free. Happy restaurant hunting and get ready for what's new in '06 or how to stretch that budget after the holiday $$ hemorrhage.

Strike up the Brass Bonanza!

SPORTING GOODS

Early steps in bringing the Whale back to Hartford are being taken by a Hartford developer.

Strike up the Brass Bonanza!!!

The return of Marcus

SPORTING GOODS

After a disappointing loss last night, and a wonderful performance by Marquette's star Steve "don't call me Bob" Novak, UConn sits alone in last place in the Big East. Strange place for the #2 team in the country to be.

Marcus Williams returns from his suspension with the following line: 23 minutes, 4 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, and 3 turnovers.

Jim Calhoun has an excellent way of kicking his team's ass when they need it. If I were a betting man, I'd give any amount of points to LSU for Saturday's game at home, as I expect UConn to just blow them out of the building.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Save Our Bluths

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

For those of you who were left somewhat confused by last night's episode of Arrested Development, here's one random blogs' take on it. Sounds OK to me.

Great episode. Strange episode. What else is new?

They all fall down

MANIFESTO

I purposely haven't discussed l'affaire Abramoff because I knew I couldn't do it justice, and so many others have followed it from its inception.

Today, however, with news of the possibility of Abramoff flipping this week, the story may get quite interesting for Connecticut denizens. Viz., it's entirely possible that the state's representative from the second district accepted some of the tainted money Mr. Abramoff was dispensing so freely.

I say this only because of Representative Simmons' track record. Specifically, he gladly took (and was forced to return) $9,000 of that felon, Duke Cunningham's, money and is still into Abramoff's pal, Tom DeLay, for nearly $40,000.

There's not a lot of room between DeLay and Abramoff in this scandal. In fact, it appears to have been the case that they frequently acted as one. Given that, it's hard to believe that Rep. Simmons didn't accept money from Abramoff secretly after doing so openly with DeLay.

These may be anxious times in the Simmons household.

UPDATE — Sure enough, I see that Simmons is into Abramoff for $1,250.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Another top ten list

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

I can't help but include the following top ten movie list from Colin McEnroe, a local radio personality who actually has a brain in his head:
Crash

Walk the Line

Syriana

Brokeback Mountain

Capote

Me and You and Everyone We Know

Good Night, and Good Luck

Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic

Wallace and Gromit

Batman Begins
(The first half of this movie was just about as good as just about anything I saw.)
Click here for the entire post, most of which has to do with an appraisal of Me and You and Everyone We Know.

It's better up here

WHATEVER

This time of year we're inundated with "first baby" stories. Here's one from Vacationland that's, like, wicked amusing.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Red Sox All-Time Win Shares

SPORTING GOODS

Time to put the current Red Sox in perspective with their all-time "teammates," using Sox career Win Shares as a measure of relative contribution. I looked at the Yankees here.

Big difference between the Sox and Yankees, is that the Sox only have two players (Teddy Ballgame and Yaz) with more Win Shares than the Yankees fifth highest (Berra). But the other difference is that one can look at the top 25 Win Shares producers in Boston and find no current Sox.

So, if you're interested, you can see the top 25 here, since there is no update needed after 2005. Last year, I noted that Nomar (15th) and Pedro's (25th) counts would be stalling, and that Boggs should enter the HOF in a Sox cap.

But with those issues done and gone, there isn't much new to say, so here's a look at where active players stand in terms of Win Shares in a Sox uniform.

25. Mike Greenwell / Pedro Martinez (tie) - 146

Player - Win Shares (years until catching Pedro and Gator)
Manny Ramirez - 144 (1) One more year from Manny, if it happens at all, and he could jump all the way to 15, passing Nomar.
Tim Wakefield - 126 (2) Tim only averages 11 per year. Slow and steady.
Trot Nixon - 100 (3) He has been very consistent, but his only poor year happened to coincide with a certain World Series title.
Jason Varitek - 98 (3) The Captain has increased his Win Share total six straight years.
Johnny Damon - 90 (3) Smell ya later.
David Ortiz - 71 (3) He has improved each year.

So besides Manny, there are several guys 2-3 years away from even cracking the Red Sox all time top 25. In any case, these guys will be remembered more for 2004 than for how their Sox career compared to Bob Stanley, Mike Greenwell, and Mo Vaughn.

Vital and Legal

MANIFESTO

What Atrios said.

I might add that if Dear Leader is so emphatic about the spying being a "limited" program, then how can it be that the disclosure of this limited program has caused such "great harm to the nation"?

As usual, our illogical leader wants to have it both ways.