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Thursday, March 31, 2005

News: Final and Only Word on Schiavo 

I've avoided blogging about Terri Schiavo, mainly because everyone else is and there's not much more I could say, but also because who am I to say anything in the first place?

There has been an overload of self-righteous posturing and irrelevant debate in our nation during this situation's recent few weeks. Now that she has passed away, we can only pray that she's in a better place than she was previously. I also hope that her family ulitmately finds peace with their loss.

Personally I'm disappointed that death triumphed over life in this case. And no matter how you argue it, that's what it came down to -- death triumphing over life. The only real remaining question is: where do we go from here?

An overwhelming majority of Americans seem to think that Schiavo was, for all intents and purposes, dead long before doctors removed her feeding tube. I don't agree, but that's only pert of the matter. What concerns me is the Pandora's Box that this slippery slope argument has opened.

My grandmother turns 98 in a few months. She's in good health for someone of that age, but her mind is just about gone. She's afraid of her shadow, requires constant attention from one of my parents or my older cousin, and she leaves the house, at most, once per week. Her short-term memory deteriorated long ago to the point that she doesn't remember conversations you have with her even minutes later, and she's incapable of caring for herself.

What separates my grandmother from Terri Schiavo? A simple feeding tube. That's about it. I, personally, hope that I'm never in my grandmother's condition. I'd hate to think that I'd cause such a burden on my family, and that I had reached a point where I was just a shell of my former self. But it doesn't really matter. I still love my grandmother, as does the rest of my family, and no one is going to stop caring for her because she's not the same person we remember from the past. I'd hate to think that if they wanted to, my parents could just stop caring for her and leave her to die. I fear, though, that cases such as Schiavo's could lead to that being a legal -- and acceptable -- situation.

Death triumphed over life today. You're not going to convince me otherwise. May God comfort Schiavo's family in their hour of mourning. And may he take mercy on the rest of us for allowing it to happen.


Blog: Blogroll Additions 

My blogroll has been in disarray for a while, so I finally fixed it. My INsite columns are now updated, and I've added a few new blogs on the sidebar:

Ace of Spades: Not only is a he a great writer with lots of good commentary, he's funny as hell.

The New Vintage: You'll often see this linked a lot at Alarming News. Since I find myself going over there often enough, I figure I might as well link to it.

A Voice in the Wilderness: Another good local blog with a lot of good faith-based posts.

If you don't already read any of these sites, check'em out!


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 3/31 

Final Tour for Lance?: I hope so. You know what I find so amazing about the Armstrong phenomenon in America? He's a darling, despite persistent doping allegations from those within the sport, and the fact that he came back from cancer to win five straight titles despite a previous best of 36th place. The same people that will defend Lance tooth and nail are the ones assailing baseball for the steroids issue, despite largely circumstantial evidence among its biggest stars -- the same kinds of "evidence" Armstrong's accusers hold. Do I think he doped? I don't know, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt until conclusive evidence proves his wins were the product of doping. I'll continue to do the same with baseball players.

Best player in the NFL Draft: ESPN's Chris Mortensen says it's Matt Jones, the former Arkansas QB, who's expected to play WR/H-back in the league. "Best player" might be a stretch, but I've seen the guy play in person twice. At the very least he's one hell of a player. Some team is going to take a chance on this guy and he's going to make them look very good for doing so.

See-saw softball: When we took a 9-0 lead into the 3rd inning last night, I thought T.D. Sanchez was well on our way to a 4-2 record. Three innings later we found ourselves tied at 10-10. Heading into our last at-bat the Old No. 7's had gone ahead 15-10. It was a NY Yankees, 2005 ALCS-esque meltdown. But those guys are pussies. Sanchez never quits. A two-out rally pushed across five runs in the bottom of the 6th, and after three-up, three-down in the top of the 7th, our team made sure the game didn't see an 8th. Two hits and an error later our guy scored the game-winning run, and the game that had looked both in the bag and out of reach ended up as a "W" for the good guys.

NFL beefing up steroid policy: Hold on, I thought only baseball had steroid issues?

Ranking the veteran QB moves: Drew Bledsoe-to-Dallas checks in at No. 8 on the list compiled by CNNSI's Don Banks. Banks has a lot of good info in this offseason report.

Canseco gets 'surreal': SO much for hoping that Jose Canseco goes gently into that good night. He's gone from pimping his book to whoring for more attention, this time on VH1's "The Surreal Life." Cousin Balky from "Perfect Strangers" co-stars.


Blog: One-Year Anniversary! 

One year ago today I laid down my virtual tent somewhere on the outskirts of the blogposphere's mainstream. Since then the Astros won a playoff series, President Bush won a mandate, and I won my way into the hearts of millions.

Maybe not, but two out of three ain't bad.

My first entry last year told you what to expect from the LM Blog. Sports... Politics... Astros... Longhorns... Jessica Alba... Based on the whopping 50+ visitors I get each day, I'd say that formula has worked well. Expect more of the same in 2005!

In fact, this anniversary comes at some odd nexus point in the space-time continuum. Jessica Alba's new film -- Sin City -- opens nationwide tomorrow, while the Texas Spring Football game takes place on Saturday. Then next Tuesday, the Astros kick off another season on the diamond. Bizarre, right?

Anyway, thanks for reading. Let Year Two in the LM Blogging Empire begin!


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sports: The Official LM Blog 2005 MLB Predictions 

Since my NFL Predictions proved so accurate, I'll do the same with MLB. Numbers in parentheses denote by how many games each team wins its division.

AL East
1. NY Yankees (5)
2. Boston*
3. Baltimore
4. Toronto
5. Tampa Bay

AL Central
1. Minnesota (3)
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Cleveland
4. Detroit
5. Kansas City

AL West
1. LA Angels (10)
2. Oakland
3. Texas
4. Seattle

NL East
1. Atlanta (3)
2. Florida*
3. Philadelphia
4. NY Mets
5. Washington

NL Central
1. St. Louis (2)
2. Houston
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Cincinnatti
5. Pittsburgh
6. Milwaukee

NL West
1. LA Dodgers (2)
2. San Francisco
3. San Diego
4. Arizona
5. Colorado

AL MVP: Vlad Guerrero, LAA
AL CY: Randy Johnson, NYY
AL MoY: Mike Soscia, LAA
AL RoY: Huston Street, OAK
First Manager Fired: Tony Pena, KC
First Big Name Traded: Octavio Dotel, OAK
Biggest Surprise: Chicago White Sox
Biggest Disappointment: Oakland

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, STL
NL CY: Roy Oswalt, HOU
NL MoY: Felipe Alou, SF
NL RoY: Luke Scott, HOU (ha!)
First Manager Fired: Ned Yost, MIL
First Big Name Traded: Ben Sheets, MIL
Biggest Surprise: Cincinnatti Reds
Biggest Disappointment: NY Mets

ALDS: NY Yankees over Minnesota; LA Angels over Boston
NLDS: Atlanta over LA Dodgers; Florida over St. Louis

ALCS: LA Angels over NY Yankees
NLCS: Florida over Atlanta

World Series: LA Angels over Florida


Random: the Perils of Piss-Poor Poker 

The worst thing to ever happen to poker was its explosion in popularity.

Last night I made the final table of nine in a 25-man game. I had about 1/10 of the total pool in my stack and was in late position with K-10 offsuit. The four people before me went fold-fold-call-fold, leaving me 800 to call.

Before I said anything, the big blind raised 800, ignoring myself and the two guys after me, who were already preparing to muck. I should have folded, but it was about the 4th time he had played out of turn. He often raises with nothing so I re-raised and decided to take my chances. Then the small blind folded, leaving three of us in the pot. The other guy just sits there until someone reminds him the action is to him. Then he tosses in two 500 chips, forgetting for the 25th that he can't raise a blind less than the big blind amount. Not only that, but he never says he raises and the dealer decides to push in more of his chips to raise another 800.

Now I'm up against a big stack that bets out of turn and a roughly equal stack that doesn;t know when to bet or how much he can bet, and in the mother of all WTF moments, the dealer string bets for him.


At that point it's nearing midnight, and I've already committed almost half my stack to this pot, with another 800 to call. I said "screw it," went all-in, and let my K-10 take on A-8 and J-J. The flop came A-rag-rag and nothing better emerged on 4th or 5th, thus my night was over.

I can't fully blame bad players for my going on tilt. But I saw it as a crossroads. Do I really want to fold and stick around to watch people bet out of turn, not pay attention and fumble their way to bad beat wins for another few hours? Not a chance.

Everyone's a poker expert these days, it seems. I'm hardly a great poker player, but I'm confident that I can sit down at a game and not embarrass myself with poor play and bad ettiquette. Of the field in last night's tourney, I'd guess that half had no business playing a comptetitive game. Getting tanked, smoking bud and barely paying attention is fine for poker night with the fellas. But when you're paying out the equivalent of a week's pay for first place, you should have some idea what you're doing.

The other inexplicable by-product of the pop culture poker barrage is that despite all the WSoP that people watch religiously, many players fail to pick up lessons on how to play the game itself. I heard anecdotes about Sammy Farha getting busted by an amateur, and enough poker lingo thrown around that the group probably owes Matt Damon and the cast of Rounders royalties, but do they emulate the gameplay? No. They still call with trash in a five-person flop, and check with pocket Aces.
Ignorant poker players are the worst, and they make the game unenjoyable for people that want to play, not goof off.

Poker was a lot more fun two years ago.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Movies: You GOTTA See... 

For someone who aspires to be a true movie buff, there are plenty of so-called classics that I've never seen. Lawrence of Arabia? Nope. On the Waterfront? Sorry. Casablanca? I made it halfway through a few months ago.

At some point I intend to see many of these fils. The latter two, in fact, are in my current Netflix queue. They just have trouble rising to its top. You see, I seem to get burned everytime I watch an old movie. People hype them to me and they almost always disappoint. I watched Citizen Kane a few months ago for the first time and wondered why -- save for film snobbery -- people consider it the best movie of all time. North By Northwest, though pretty good, was nowhere near the greatest movie ever as my friend Robert described it. And after an hour I stopped paying attention to Scarface, cinema's most overhyped and not-so-greatest gangster picture, altogether.

So cut me some slack when I hesitate to rush out and watch the movies that my friends tell me I should be ashamed for not having seen. On occasion these do turn out pretty good. I enjoyed Top Gun when I finally saw it last fall, though if you asked me whether or not I would consider it a classic, I'd resoundly answer: no. And despite my affinity for all things mafiaso (see: blog name), I only saw The Godfather I and II a few years back, when I instantly fell in love with them.

By and large, though, "You GOTTA see..." movies are an invitation to disappoint. The only real joy I have in seeing them is that after someone has rolled their eyes and dramatically chastised me for not having seen X film, I get the opportunity to go back and berate them for imploring me to see a piece of crap.

Take for instance, Tombstone. Here's a film I have heard people praise for more than a decade. Last night I popped in the Wyatt Earp biopic, expecting a classic western. Unfortunately it wasn't a classic western, nor was it even really a biopic. It was two hours of muddled awkwardness. I was expecting The Man with No Name from the spaghetti westerns and I got Marty McFly from Back to the Future III. Okay, maybe I'm speaking a bit too hyperbolically, especially since I like the concluding chapter of the classic Zemeckis trilogy. But despite a few flashes of tough-guy brilliance, Kurt Russell's Earp fell flat.

I won't denigrate the greatness of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday or the very underrated -- and as far as Tombstone was concerned, underutilized -- Sam Elliot as Virgil Earp, but the rest of the movie failed to dazzle. A plethora of boring bad guys didn't help Wyatt's cause. How are you supposed to care about the hero when his enemies resemble bumbling oafs? Maybe I'm too harsh on Russell for having to work with a poor script. The point is just that Tombstone wasn't at all what I expected it to be, though based on the referrals I often get, perhaps it's exactly what I should have expected.

Why is that? Often the movies that spawn harrassment are ones from childhood or a time long since past, and the harrassing party hasn't even seen the film in question in years. That's a recipe for disaster, as not all movies age well. Top Gun , for instance, really didn't. The synthesizer soundtrack and cheesy 80s dialogue makes its comedy more unintentional than not. What was cool ten or twenty years ago doesn't necessarily have the shelf life to maintain its hipness over time. It's the Fonzie Factor. The white t-shirt and leather jacket doesn't hold up when the competition switches to bell bottoms and leisure suits.

Then there's the Technology Factor. Star Wars and Citizen Kane fall prey to this. Don't get me wrong -- I love Star Wars. But part of its allure in 1979 were the effects. Spaceships zipped through the cosmos, firing energy beams and blowing things up. Models and puppets sprang to life and seemed real. Now your average schlockbuster features effects that make Star Wars look like a college film class project. With Citizen Kane the non-linear storytelling and unique camera angles made it the groundbreaking winder that it was. B-movies use those techniques now.

Lastly there are some movies that are just bad. Call that the Crap Factor. That's Scarface in a nutshell. That pile of crap didn't age well, but it doesn't matter because at its heart it's awful. Tony Montana is more parody than crime boss, and the Cuban underground consisted of a lot of white people sporting horrible accents. There's not a shred of redeemable quality in the entire film.

No matter which factor a "classic" falls into, I think I'm done with "You GOTTA see..." recommendations, except for the few people who I know don't still live in 1983. As a general rule for you harrassing types out there, though, do your friends a favor and ease up on the referrals. If you do insist on badgering them, though, at least watch a movie again before you pimp it. The rest of us thank you in advance.


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 3/29 

New era in baseball: ESPN's Jayson Stark writes that decreased steroid use might not curb offensive numbers this season. And why should they? A few bad apples stopped juicing, but baseball players didn't stop working out. I hope someone blasts 50 HRs just to show that this whole overblown steroid mess was much ado about very little.

Raw QBs in demand: A lengthy look at NFL teams' growing propensity to look at unproven QBs merely based on potential. It's an interesting story, but how many of these guys will ever work out? Few, if any. Dallas has tried both the raw talents (Chad Hutchison, Drew Henson) and veterans (Vinny Testaverde, Tony Banks) and none of those guys have proven anything more than a stop-gap in the five year-plus quest to replace Troy Aikman. The simple fact is that at any given time maybe half of the league's QBs will be talented enough to win a Super Bowl. Grasping at straws is just that.

Funk takes TPC: What a disaster that was. A marathon of golf yesterday allowed the tournament to conclude only a day late. Fred Funk may have won golf's most prestigious non-major, but rain dominated the field all weekend.

Horns back to No. 1: A week after dropping three games to Baylor, Texas' sweep of Texas Tech in a rain-shortened series vaults Texas back to the top spot in Baseball America's poll. Sure it's still early in the season, but maybe it's time to start pricing flights to Omaha for June.


Monday, March 28, 2005

Astros: Much Rejoicing! 

Timmah finds a new home in San Diego. Houston GM Tim Purpura pulls off the steal of the century by getting an actual, breathing ballplayer in return for the notorius headcase.

I'm torn between this announcement and Roger Clemens' contract signing as the best news to come out of Houston since Game Five.

And what of the new Astro? Humberto Quintero joins the Good Guys, adding another catching prospect to a farm system that seemingly lacks any immediate relief for Brad Ausmus' anemic stick. Ausmus, though, has tweaked his swing this Spring and he's batting .484 in Kissimme with a .645 slugging percentage. If he can manage to hit even .260 consistenly in the eight hole, then it coulg go a long way toward replacing the production lost near the top of the order.

Quintero probably won't make an impact early on, but Raul Chavez certainly isn't the catcher of the future. No matter what happens with Quintero, his inclusion makes this deal a great one for the Astros. Redding's days in Houston were long over, and now we can all move on. Good riddance, Tim. Good luck, Padres fans.


Friday, March 25, 2005

INsite: The Pregame Tailgate (April 2005) 

(the April INsite hits stands next Tuesday, April 5)

The Pregame Tailgate
By Andrew Fox

So… TPT turns 28 this month! No, not the column, it’s just three-and-a-half. Your humble columnist, however, moves into the twilight of his 20s in just a few short weeks – the 18th to be exact.

To honor this momentous occasion, I’d like to look back at my lifetime in terms of the 28 most memorable sports moments that I can recall. Some rocked the sporting world, while others might only matter in my world. But in my almost three decades of existence, they’re what stand out the most.

28. Christian Laettner sinks Kentucky: Laettner’s amazing turnaround buzzer-beater sent Duke to the 1992 Final Four and is synonymous with March Madness. My friends and I tried it hundreds of times afterward, and it never seemed as easy as Laettner made it look.

27. Priest’s vault: Before Priest Holmes was an All-Pro Chief, he led Texas to the 1994 Sun Bowl championship. Trailing North Carolina late, Holmes soared from the five yard line for as picturesque a touchdown as Texas fans have ever seen.

26. Starks shoots blanks: Did Houston win the 1994 NBA title, or did the Knicks merely lose it? Starks’ series of missed lay-ups late in a Game Seven loss embodied his 2-for-18 effort.

25. Van de Meltdown: Jean Van de Velde’s three stroke lead on the 1999 British Open’s final hole seemed impossible to surrender. Yet the Frenchman did, triple bogeying his way into a playoff that he lost.

24. Panama’s swat: The tenth-seeded Longhorns stood one point from the 1990 Sweet Sixteen when No. 2 Purdue drove the lane for a final shot. It never came closer than Panama Myers’ palm.

23. No goal?: Dominik Hasek stymied the Dallas Stars for more than four periods in game seven of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. Brett Hull’s controversial goal ended that in double overtime.

22. T.J.’s heroics: T.J. Ford helped erase a double-digit deficit on the road against Oklahoma. His running floater in the waning moments iced the win, stunned the Sooners, and clinched a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney.

21. USA!: Shortly after America tied Canada late in 1996 Hockey World Cup’s final game, Tony Amonte broke free and blasted the puck past Martin Brodeur. The U.S. added two more goals in the stunning upset.

20. One more yard: Kevin Dyson’s reach proved just short as time expired in Super Bowl XXXIV. It will haunt Titans fans forever.

19. Berry’s stop: Facing a seventh straight loss to rival Texas A&M, Mark Berry saved the day for Texas. He denied A&M’s Darren Lewis of a two-point conversion with a stout open-field stop, preserving a 28-27 win.

18. Jordan’s final jumper: It wasn’t his last, but his last great moment – Michael Jordan shook off Bryon Russell in game six of the 1998 NBA Finals and nailed the nylon to clinch Chicago’s sixth world title.

17. Blood rivals: Colorado beat Detroit – literally – en route to the 1996 Stanley Cup. A year later Detroit returned the favor. Goalie Mike Vernon pummeled his counterpart, Patrick Roy, at mid-ice in the teams’ season finale, before later capturing the Cup.

16. Wide right: It was the best finish in the best Super Bowl. Buffalo’s Scott Norwood pushed his 40-yard field goal wide and New York claimed Super Bowl XXV.

15. No, Leon!: The game was long over, but everyone still watching will forever remember Leon Lett’s gaffe at the end of Super Bowl XXVII.

14. Throw the flag: Cowboys fans will also remember the pass interference that wasn’t. Deion denies it, but what he did to Michael Irvin late in the 1995 NFC Championship game is illegal in 49 states.

13. It’s gone!: Chris Carmichael’s home run in the 2002 College World Series championship was the moment we all knew the Horns were going to win a national championship.

12. Golden: The medals were gold and so were the shoes. But Michael Johnson’s 1996 Olympic performances? Those were timeless.

11. Swish: The Memorial Day Miracle was quite simply the biggest shot in San Antonio Spurs history. Sean Elliot’s buzzer-beater put the team up 2-0 in the 1999 conference finals and they didn’t look back from there.

10. Game seven magic: Luis Gonzalez’s 2001 World Series-winning single was more dramatic, but Brian Hunter’s similar feat in 1991 did the trick, too. They were the two best Fall Classics I’ve ever seen.

9. Chant: Beating Michigan State in 2003 wasn’t dramatic, but chanting “Final Four” with 30,000 Orangebloods in the Alamodome as the clock wound down certainly was.

8. Houston gets Randy Johnson: It was the deadline trade that we never saw coming. I went to sleep that July night in 1998 dreaming of the World Series.

7. Rosenblatt: Simply put, Omaha, Nebraska’s Rosenblatt Stadium is a cathedral for baseball lovers. Walking into it the first time was a religious experience.

6. 4th and Inches: For all his faults, John Mackovic has one set of brass cajones. The Longhorns coach called the perfect play to seal a Texas-sized upset in 1996’s inaugural Big XII Championship.

5. Tiger’s triumph: With his first green jacket all-but-secured, Tiger Woods marched down Augusta’s 18th fairway toward glory. The throngs of fans watching knew a legend was born that day in 1997.

4. 62: Steroids or not, Big Mac’s Maris-eclipsing line drive dinger was a piece of baseball history that will last forever, even if his record didn’t.

3. Coming up roses: For all of Vince Young’s dramatics, the moment of truth belonged to Dusty Mangum. His foot proved flawless in the biggest Longhorn win in three decades.

2. Ricky’s run: Before he was a punch line he was the best. For eight seconds on the way to the end zone, and college football’s most prized singular accomplishment, he was immortal.

1. Game five: Jeff Kent’s walk-off home run gave Houston a 3-2 lead in the 2004 NL Championship Series. “One more game,” he chanted, as he jumped into his teammates’ arms at home plate. If only it could have ended there.
Email TPT at drewfox@gmail.com


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Music: The Tragedy of Music Snobs 

I've written about Cruiserweight on here before, and in the media blitz surrounding their Doghouse Records debut of Sweet Weaponry last month, the Austin Chronicle stood out as one of many fishwraps hailing what was generally a well-received album.

Not all of their readers agreed.


Dear Editor,

Alright, maybe I'm the cynic here, and after reading Christopher Gray's "Cruiserweight, Armed and Ready" article in last week's Chronicle [Music, Feb. 18], I am additionally yet unreasonably aware that I may in fact be the only person in Austin (despite Cruiserweight's singer, according to the article) with any sort of "grumbling" to publicly air about this band, as per Gray's assumption. Yet I feel as if I can't be the only one! After having a recent routine trip to Waterloo darkened by these local impresarios of modern mediocrity, I was suitably chagrined upon finding them featured prominently in last week's Chronicle, lending itself in part to my letter today. However, a point is needed: Here we have a band that fancies itself fashioned from such banal influences musically so as to completely retard itself from the outset, and then seek to transcend those influences to come into its own as, what? Plagiaristic of unoriginality, completely lacking in any sort of redeeming quality save the fact that it is, despite the band's assertations otherwise, part of a ridiculous musical trend that has come and will, hopefully sooner rather than later, be gone. These young locals, as with every bit of music they have constructed themselves after (the whole emo-pop-punk battalion of disaffected musical subnormals), need to hang up their gloves and get out of the ring. It's helpful here to remember why they put the Cruiserweights in their own division: They can't stand up to the heavyweights.

Reed Burnam
Mr. Burnham is certainly entitled to his opinion, and quite honestly, it's almost refreshing to read a letter in the ultra-liberal Chrinicle that doesn't find some petty Bush-assailling agenda. But come on... this is a classic example of musical snobbery run amok. You'll often find that in Austin, but it's rare to see the citizenry here eat its own.

I'm not sure what Mr. Burnham considers "original" or "redeeming quality," but suffice to say I won't lose any sleep over it when I pop in my Cruiserweight CD later today, just to spite his "chagrin." Cruiserweight is a hard-working band, and I've known them for a long time now. The guys and gal have spent five-plus years chasing a dream, busting their ass and sacrificing more than most of us in our lazy society would contemplate, in hopes of fulfilling it.

It's easy for people like Reed Burnham to sit on the sideline and ridicule bands like Cruiserweight. But it's usually the snobs that get their jollies from trying to tear others down that ironically have never even put themselves out there to receive the same criticism. I wonder if Mr. Burnham has traversed the country five or ten times over to try and get his music out there. Has he crammed into a van with three other people for weeks at a time, slept on stangers' floors and saved every last penny to print a few more CDs or t-shirts? And should such a personally tragic fate befall Mr. Burnham as the one Cruiserweight endured year before last -- when every last piece of equipment was heinously stolen from their van -- would he have the moxie to regroup and continue on?

I don't know about Reed Burnham, but my friends did exactly that, and their fans (and friends) are proud of them for it. He can continue to write scathing letters to a newspaper, while Cruiserweight travels from venue to venue, making crowds happy and sharing good music with the world. You just go ahead and live in your sad little world, Reed.


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 3/24 

NYC eyes Super Bowl: Dome or not, people don't want to freeze their butt off at the Super Bowl. Still, the Big Apple should be a more desirable party scene than Jacksonville or Houston. That's good for the fans and bigwigs, but the city that never sleeps will probably keep coaches up all night, wondering if their players are out over-indulging in the night life.

TD Sanchez rolls: My favorite scene in The Sandlot is when Smalls and the gang get a visit from their uniformed rivals. A challenge comes down and our blue collar good guys wipe the floor with the preppies in one of those "everything went right" ballgames. Well last night Chez faced our own nemeses, the Cryco Psychos. The Psychos had bested us five straight times, and a few of those were double digit beat-downs. Not last night. The screaming liners that seemed to find their way into gloves last week, went for extra bases last night. Our defense looked sharp and two outs were no deterrent to ripping base hits. By the time the mercy rule took effect, we had built a 27-4 lead, and the Psychos could only slink off the field in poetic humiliation.

Owners target Roy Williams: Citing safety, NFKL owners want to outlaw the "horse collar" tackle, most associated with Dallas' All-Pro SS Roy Williams. It's unfortunate that Williams hurt several WRs with the maneuver, which involves hauling the ball carrier down from behind by grabbing the back collar, but that's football. It's a violent sport. Williams didn't set out to injure anyone, but you make split decisions on a football field and people get hurt sometimes. You can't target instinct in the NFL, which is exactly what this dumb rule does.

Lost and found: Roger Clemens' orange Hummer turned up in a Houston suburb last night less than 24 hours after it was stolen from his son's high school. I don't know if a Cubs fan was responsible or not, but let's go ahead and that's the case. Clemens needs to retaliate by beaning Nomar Garciaparra or Aramis Ramirez square in the back the first time he pitches against them.

Bruschi contemplating a break: Teddy, sit out next season. Please. You're a respected player with three championship rings and an icon to the entire New England fanbase, as well as those of us that simply like hard-nosed guys that play the game the way it's meant to be played. But a stroke at 31? A hole in your heart? That's serious business. You have nothing left to prove in football, so why risk it at this point?

Goosen aims for Players Championship: I like Retief Goosen. He's probably my favorite non-American golfer (well, maybe second favorite behind Ernie Els), but I didn't even realize until reading this piece that he's ranked No. 5 in the world. He's among the favorites at the Players Championship at Sawgrass this weekend, which hosts the sport's top 50 players. It's not Augusta, but it's not a bad way to spend Easter weekend either.


Politics: Politics and Religion 

Last night's episode of The West Wing, "In God We Trust," touched on an interesting debate -- the role of religion in politics. Forgetting for a moment the tired -- and constitutionally devoid -- concept of "seperation of church and state," exactly what role should a person's faith play in their ability to govern?

Alan Alda's character wrapped up the GOP nomination last night as the show moved toward its sixth season's finale on April 6. Alda plays Arnie Vinick, a U.S. Senator from California that in some regard comes across as a RiNO (Republican in Name Only). Though the show's writers haven't provided his entire platform, they've made two things clear: he's pro choice and he doesn't seem to hold any Christian/religious beliefs.

In a nutshell, controversy ensues when Vinick's chief GOP rival, a Pat Robertson-esque conservative, declines the VP nod due to Vinick's stance on abortion, and invites the Senator to pray about it in his church that Sunday. This leads to a media firestorm about the lack of Vinick's church attendance. Ultimately, during a closed-door meeting with President Bartlet, Vinick offers up a naive and almost insulting rationale for why he shuns God. Bartlet counters with how his own faith steers his administration, but he agrees that a lack of belief in God shouldn't disqualify a candidate from seeking the Presidency.

I won't get into the very clear agenda the show's writers put forth about conservatives and Christianity, but the question is valid: Should a person's religion act as a prerequisite for public office?

We've never had an openly atheistic or agnostic president, as far as I know. I'm not so naive, though, to realize that mere church attendance on the part of the 43 U.S. Presidents has equated to true faith in the White House. I do believe that President Bush's faith is sincere, and that plays a big part in my support of him.

Faced with a hypothetical like The West Wing is set to present -- a Democrat versus an atheist Republican, I honestly don't know whom I'd vote for. I believe in American Exceptionalism and I think that our country's foundation, built on Judeo-Christian values, has made that happen. Though we are tolerant of all beliefs, America has by and large always placed its trust in God and there is no doubt in my mind that His grace is why we have bested evil time and again, and now sit as the world's lone superpower.

To answer the question: no, I don't think a lack of faith should disqualify a candidate from running for President. But it does play a role and it's an important one, and if it's cause for people to pull their support then so be it. I'm a conservative and I'm a Republican, but before those things I'm a Christian. I want my President to reflect my core beliefs, and to me that goes beyond lower taxes and a strong defense.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 3/23 

"Pro Day" at UT (registration): Nine former Longhorns audition for the NFL scouts and coaches today in events like the 40-yard dash and the shuttle run. The two biggest names are obviously Derrick Johnson and Cedric Benson, both of whom Mel Kiper lists as likely top ten picks.

Ricky back to Miami?: New Dolphins coach Nick Saban is looking for a tailback that brings versatility to the position. Williams fits that bill. With his studies in holistic medicine, he could possibly become the NFL's first-ever RB/Team Doctor. He's hoping to impress Dolphins' scouts later this week in events like bowl-loading and bong cleaning.

No date for Bonds' return: Barry Bonds is "tired." I'm just tired of hearing a daily update about him. The guy gets paid a lot of money, so I don't pity him for having to endure a media circus. But the constant scrutiny is more than overblown.

U.S. Soccer hopes to fix Mexican jinx: Wait, this is an entry about sports. My mistake.

Mock Drafting: The guys at CBS Sportsline have a few early looks at next month's NFL Draft. They unanimously have Dallas taking Shawne Merriman at No. 11. I'm holding out hope that Antrell Rolle or Derrick Johnson falls that far. Of course I'm still holding out hope that I'll someday make out with Jessica Alba.


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Politics: DAMMIT! 

How did I miss Laura Ingraham visting Austin?

I realize I spent the early part of last week listening to Jim Rome's show, looking for a Bracketology edge that obviously never came, instead of tuning into Ingraham, but still... how disappointing! She gave a talk at the Renaissance Hotel, which is literally about two football fields down the street from my apartment complex.

The conservative talk radio personality, whose nationally syndicated show airs from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on KJCE 1370 AM, brought her humor and her personality to an appreciative crowd of nearly 1,000 at the Renaissance Hotel at the Arboretum.

"Is it kind of chilly in here," she asked at the onset, "or did Hillary (Rodham Clinton) just blow into the room?" Later, she referred to the former first lady as Hillary "Rob 'em" Clinton.

Ingraham, a graduate of Dartmouth College, a White House speechwriter under President Reagan, a University of Virginia School of Law graduate and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was interrupted by applause throughout her half-hour speech.
This makes last week's softball loss even worse. I'm bummed that I missed her.


Sports: Afternoon Spots Shorts 

Guess I'm on a roll today...

Pro b-ball headed to Austin (registration): We're fast becoming the Minor Leagues Capital of Texas. Will this new NBDL team be more Round Rock Express (record-setting baseball franchise with a plush park) or more Austin Ice Bats (goon-filled roster of rejects in a cattle barn)? The as-yet-unnamed team will make its home in the Austin Convention Center, which could have some leftover mojo after the Texas Republican Party used the venue for successful election night soirees in 2002 and 2004.

Nantz headed to Austin (registration): CBS sends its top broadcasting crew to the Capital City for this weekend's NCAA Regional. It's unfortunate that I'll be out of town. I had hoped to run into Jim Nantz downtown and hear him say something like, "Shiny shirt fratboys, puking in a Sixth Street Bar: A Tradition Like No Other (tm)."

Junior to Houston?: Not sure where the Ken Griffey-to-Houston rumor came from, but it's been circulating lately. The Reds apparently want four top prospects, which is about five more than an over-the-hill, chronically injured stop-gap is worth. Just to ease my mind, I e-mailed Astros beat reporter Alyson Footer about the rumor. Her reply: "Griffey Jr. is one awkward turn at first base away from another trip to the
60-day DL. No way this happens." Thank God.


Sports: Morning Sports Shorts 3/22 

Today I welcome back an old friend.

The Island green at Sawgrass: Is it golf's most exciting hole? I don't know, but among holes at non-majors, No. 17 probably causes more anxiety than any other. I remember going in the drink five straight times on that hole a few years ago. PGA pros don't have the luxury, though, of resetting their PS2 and trying again.

Cavs fire Silas: I guess this means Silas won't be seeing Carlos Boozer next Tuesday? There's a lesson to be learned here; using the mother of all c-words (or even inferring to it with cryptic acronyms) can only lead to bad things, especially when you coach a team that can't win games.

Duncan on the shelf: I actually caught part of San Antonio's Tim Duncan-less fourth quarter meltdown last night against the Knicks (those should be common during the next two to four weeks). If that wasn't enough of a bummer, I had no idea that one of my favorite guys, Malik Rose, was traded to the Knicks a month ago. As you call tell, I'm pretty hardcore about the NBA.

Henry gives Bills ultimatum: Fantasy owners everywhere are no doubt celebrating this news. If Henry sits out this season, we won't be tempted to draft him and subsequently pull out all of our hair when he averages 3.5 YPC again. Thankfully, at 27 he's too young for Dallas to go after him.

TSG's March Madness Diary: If you missed it last week, check out Bill Simmons' running diary of the first two days of the NCAA Tourney. It only goes until 5:20 on Friday, though, which means that like the rest of who didn't work, Bill was most likely falling down drunk by the end of the afternoon set.

Prior aims for April: I'm sure Dusty Baker wants his ace back in time for the club's first series with Houston, starting April 29. Glendon Rusch just doesn't have Prior's control, and Baker will want someone on the mound that can hit the target with all of the beanballs he no doubt plans on calling.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Sports: Busting My Bracket 

My standings after March Madness' first weekend:

SSD-LM/FoLM pool (which I organized): 9(t)/39 overall; 4(t)/17 among people picking North Carolina to win; odds of winning pool ($273): virtually nil; odds of placing in the money (2nd- $78, 3rd- $39) if UNC wins: about 30%.

Orange Whoopass pool: 10(t)/24 overall; 5/5 among people picking North Carolina to win; odds of winning pool (Astros t-shirt): absolutely nil; odds of winning second place (Astros coffee mug) if UNC wins: virtually nil.

Dummocrats.Com pool: 3/25 overall; 1/9 among people picking North Carolina to win; odds of winning pool (at least $25): surprisingly good.

A big "f you" goes out to Kansas, Wake Forest and Oklahoma. I should have known better than to put my money on Big XII teams. It was almost worth it, though, to see the dejected Jayhawk crowd file out of the Fox and Hound Friday night, after they persisted in bashing Texas beforehand.


Blog: Quick Question... 

Anyone remember back when I used to do "Morning Sports Shorts"? Did you like that daily post? I've been thinking about bringing it back.


DVD Review: What the Bleep Do We Know 

What the bleep is this film about? Is it a movie? Is it a documentary? I don't know. It's certainly a snoozer.

This part-fiction, part-non fiction film discusses quantum physics in the context of one woman's (Marlee Matlin) "what does it all mean" life crisis. At least that's what I gathered. I think it was trying to be both empirical and philospohical, but honestly I couldn't tell you because I was bored to tears.

The film injects interviews with scientists into fictional scenes and peppers those with the occasional animation or special effect, that I suppose intends to create some cliched Alice in Wonderland effect for the viewer. It doesn't. The whole thing just comes off like a bad educational film that a lazy prof might show his class when he didn't feel like lecturing.

I turned this movie off after 45 minutes, and I hadn't done that with a movie in a while. Its incoherent intellectual banter just became too much to take. It reminded me somewhat of Waking Life, but unlike that film, What the Bleep fails to create an ambiance that jives with its content. In short, it's an unmitigated disaster of a movie. What the bleep? Bleeping A, man!



Thursday, March 17, 2005

Personal: I Should Be Bill Simmons' Intern 

I've been keeping up with Bill Simmons' (aka ESPN's The Sports Guy) intern contest, and I'm disappointed. The latest round offered such promise, and like the Atlanta Braves come playoff time, they all fell flat.

The contestants were asked the following questions:

1. What's your favorite SNL sketch ever and why?

2. What's the funniest scene in movie history and why?

3. What's your favorite reality-TV moment ever and why?

4. If you could choose any sports scandal to happen, what would it be and why?
Are you kidding me? Except for that lame fourth inquiry, those questions are fat fastballs down the heart of the plate. But the answers? Horrible. Forgetting for a moment that the only reason I didn't enter this Sycophant Soiree was because I heeded Bill's crafty ruse of a 25-and-under age requirement, meant to curb the amount of entries, but not actually enforeced. The subpar efforts on the part of the finalists makes me regret playing by the rules even more. Now maybe I can't top the remaining intern-wannabes, but I'm damn well going to offer my input. I'll expect my official internship offer any day now, Bill.

1. What's your favorite SNL sketch ever and why?

You could make a case for any of Will Ferrell's Jeopardy skits, or a half dozen old Eddie Murphy segments, but I think the hands-down best sketch ever was Phil Hartman leading "The Sinatra Group." Hartman as Sinatra lampooning John McLaughlin was, in a word, classic. It captured the true greatness of the show: parody, wit and humor. Sting as Billy Idol and Jan Hooks as Sinead O'Connor were great complements, but Hartman stole the show. I can't see a rerun of News Radio or a Simpsons episode featuring Troy McClure without thinking of Sinatra telling O'Connor, "I look at you and I think, cue ball, corner pocket."

2. What's the funniest scene in movie history and why? The funniest scene in history? As Kip might tell Napolean, "how could anyone ever know that?" Depending on my mood I might offer ten or twenty possibilities. One movie, however, keeps coming back to me: Old School. From the time Vince Vaugh fake coughs "don't do it," through about the third time the Dan Band drops the f-bomb in "Total Eclipse of the Heart," I find myself laughing non-stop. If we're just going for the funniest moment, then I'd have to suggest the toilet scene from Dumb and Dumber. I almost wet myself laughing when I saw it at 16. I'll probably almost wet myself laughing when I see it at 46. And someday, when senility has kicked in and my depends fit snuggly, I'll let loose and finally realize my lifelong dream of wetting myself when I watch that scene. Immature? Yes. Funny as hell? You bet your ass.

3. What's your favorite reality-TV moment ever and why?The whole scabies incident from "Real World: Philadelphia" is a strong contender, but no, we have to go to Vegas for this one. It might have been the first night, but it was at least the first week. Two skanks -- Trichelle and Bryn, both decide to try and hook up with Steven. Which one will get him? It doesn't matter! Why have one when you can have two? Only this wasn't really a threesome. It was the world's worst-ever menage a trois. Steven and Trichelle mugged down and did God knows what else, while poor Bryn sat off to the side of the hot tub looking like the runt puppy that the rest of the litter shuns. I don't think a real World episode could ever top the sight of that dejected face. No wonder the crazy bitch threw a fork at Steven a few episodes later.

4. If you could choose any sports scandal to happen, what would it be and why?

I'd want Bob Stoops to catch AIDS and die.


Sports: Defeat... 

Bad calls, bad weather and a lot of bad breaks doomed Team Sanchez last night, to the tune of a 13-9 defeat.

We started out with a barrage of first-inning hits, but a horrible ruling from the field ump ended our rally after three runs. With men on first and second, our guy lined a shot to the hot corner. The third baseman scooped up the ball, made a feeble attempt to tag the runner going to third, and fired to first for the out.

We should have had two guys in scoring position for yours truly, but the ump ruled that the tag was "close enough." He said that you get four feet on the baseline tag. I'm not making this up. Later the same ump called one of our guys out on a play at third, which wasn't even remotely close. The opposing left fielder started laughing at that screwjob.

Down 12-3 after two innings, Team Chez climbed back into the game and closed to 12-8. But with the temperatures hovering in the low 40s, the bats just went cold. We couldn't get a rhythm going against The Outlaws' crafty southpaw.

Next up for Team Sanchez: the Cryco Psychos. We haven't beaten those guys in something like seven tries. Hopefully with warmer weather we could see a different outcome.


Music: South By Southworthless 

Yesterday the most "Austin" of the yearly local events began -- SXSW music festival.


So a bunch of bands are in town to play 45-minute sets and people line up around the block to buy $100+ wristbands to get into said shows. It seems excessive, but what do I care? It's their money. Just don't give me that "are you from Dallas?" crap just because I don't subject myself to this asswhip of an event.

The really annoying part is the look that some of the SXSW fanatics give you when you tell them you have no interest in going. They'll throw out obscure bands and tell you how amazing they are and all of that. Nevermind the fact that almost any decent band at SXSW will be back in Austin within the next few months playing a full set, and you won't have to endure un-Goldly traffic and claustrophobic venues to see them.

So I'm out on SXSW. It's kind of nice. For at least one weekend I don't even think about going downtown, and that's good for the bank account. The out-of-towners and the cool kids can have their run of Sixth and Fourth Streets. I'll stay up north and watch basketball.

For those that are going and need some ideas, my friend Porter has suggestions.


Monday, March 14, 2005

Televison: Austin Held Hostage (Day Forty-Five) 

I haven't forgotten about "The Real World: Austin." Well, yeah, I guess I had -- until yesterday.

Despite an absolutely perfect day of sun and warm temperatures, I found myself indoors. The Austin Wranglers battled the Dallas Desperados in an [Jim Rome]epic[/Jim Rome] Arena Football grudge match, and I was on hand to witness the clash for an INsite piece I'm writing.

It turns out I wasn't the only not-so-famous, not-quite-a-celebrity in attendance. Midway through the first quarter a large and, well, interesting band of misfits came rumbling through the press area. They looked too unprofessional to be a part of the Fox Sports Net crew broadcasting the game. I'd guess they numbered between ten and fifteen, with so many visible piercing and tats that I wondered if the Wranglers had scheduled a punk rock show for halftime.

The group of what I assume must have been producers sat directly behind me, while the camera grunts occupied the section over. Still I couldn't think of what station they could have been from. It was only after one of them spilled a tray of beers (in the PRESS section, remember) all over the row behind me that it struck me: it was the damn Real World folks.

I actually didn't realize that the cast was there until later. The camera geeks blocked them out for much of the game. I noticed them in the third quarter, when a camerawoman focused on the three girls (not as attractive as some RW casts, but not bad either... the tall blonde proved quite the dancer) for a good ten minutes.

One of the Wrangler fan promotions is the Kiss Cam, and wouldn't you know it, but the two brunettes made the jumbotron locking lips. God Bless MTV and their encouragement of alternative lifestyle experimentation. The screen operator kept rewiding it and playing it over and over, which gave the crowd something to enjoy, since Dallas had the game well in hand.

I didn't see the "RW:A" guys, but then again, I wasn't looking too hard either. None of them seemed that into the game, but compared to the contingent of hardcore Dallas fans, who occupied an entire section of the lower seating area, and stayed until after the game to heckle Austin fans, I can't fault them.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Music: When Rap Feuds Were Feuds 

I miss the old days of rap. Biggie v. Tupac, Eazy v. Dre, Bad Boy v. Death Row... Those were feuds.

Now what do we have? 50 Cent v. The Game? P'shaw. I don't care that they made up. They shouldn't have been "feuding" anyway. This kind of garbage just gives more ammo to the "rap is crap" types that use any negative publicity to criticize the genre.

Rap is at its best when it's confrontational. I like the laid back stuff, too, and you can't beat kicking back at the pool on a hot summer day with the stereo playing Pac's "I get around." Come on, though; tell me that it doesn't get your blood pumping when you hear the first few bars of "Hit'em up." I'd call you a liar.

"Me against the world"? That was genius. "Dre Day"? Classic. A lot of Eminem's stuff fits the bill, too, though it's more anti-society than rivalry. And I'll even grant you that 50's anti-Ja Rule track, "Wanksta," was among the best songs on his solid debut album.

But Fitty and The Game? Yawn. This "feud" seems borne of nothing, and its shelf life rivals (pun intended) Crystal Pepsi. It's right out of the WWF -- a strategically planned farce that coincides with 50's new album release. Vince McMahon is probably already figuring out how to get 50 and The Game to make cameos at Wrestlemania.

Even if the feud was real, it was boring. Tupac, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E and Biggie were rap icons. 50 Cent has one mainstream album under his belt, and The Game has as much name recognition as your average NBA sixth man. These two guys need to put the gats away and quit using asinine beefs to try and sell records.


Sports: Victory! 

TD Sanchez softball upped their record to 2-1 last night with a dominant 23-8 win over the Outhouse Flys (the Flys?).

Yours truly went 2 for 4 on the night with a pair of RBIs and a stellar play at home plate. Some poor bastard tried to score from second on a blooper to center, and he obviously forgot who he was up against. The throw was low, the hop was high, but -- bang-bang! -- my glove was golden.

Our next victims: The Outlaws next Wednesday.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Movies: My Favorite Baseball Films 

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again."
James Earl Jones gave us the voice of Darth Vader, the voice of Mufasa the lion, and even the voice of CNN. But for baseball fans, the above quote is probably the first thing we think of when we hear that booming baritone. Even the select few that don't consider Field of Dreams one of the finest films ever made about the sport could not deny that there's something magical in the way Jones says, "baseball."

I like to think that's because baseball, despite its checkered past, has a mystical quality to it. It's not just a part of American culture, it's a big piece of our history. Maybe that's why baseball seems to work better than any other sport when it comes to filmmaking. Boxing might have the most highly acclaimed film roster, and golf might have the funniest single film, but top to bottom, no other sport compares to baseball in the number of quality titles.

Each spring I like to dust off my DVD collection and get ready for the season with a few of my favorites. Here's my personal Top Ten:

1. Field of Dreams: I mentioned baseball's mystical side, and no film explores that the way this one does. Between the father-son dynamic and the power of belief in one's self, Field of Dreams transcends the game.

2. Major League: You can't attend a ballpark without hearing a reference to this gem. It's probably the most quotable movie outside of The Big Lebowski, and its colorful cast of characters are by far the best of any sports movie. We'll just try to forget its awful sequel (and even more horrible third installment).

3. Eight Men Out: Possibly the most underrated baseball movie, Eight Men Out gives a sympathetic look at Joe Jackson's 1919 Chicago White Sox. Excellent character acting and brisk pacing make this a definite winner.

4. 61*: Billy Crystal's pet project does for the 1961 Maris-Mantle home run duel what Eight Men Out did for the Black Sox scandal -- it brings baseball's vibrant history to life. It's hard not to feel sorry for Roger Maris after watching Barry Pepper portray the slugger's plight.

5. The Natural: The film's snoozer of a middle is fortunatelty book-ended by some of the most captivating scenes in movie history. Roy Hobbs' heroics still give me shivers. Or maybe it's just that famous theme, which is as ominpresent at the ballpark as a Major League quote.

6. The Sandlot: Baseball, at its heart, is a kid's game. Bennie and Smalls and the crew remind us of that in this lighthearted look at an era that sadly, doesn't exist anymore. If Field of Dreams makes me want to play catch with my dad, The Sandlot makes me want to grab my brother and some friends and head down to the field for an all-day ballgame.

7. A League of Their Own: I don't know if I buy Tom Hanks as a Hall of Fame slugger, but this comedy shows just how important the game was in our nation's past.

8. The Bad News Bears: Again, we see the kid factor shine through. The Bears resonate with me, because in all my years of playing little league, I never played for very good teams. We always had too many Timmy Lupuses, and not enough Kelly Leaks.

9. Soul of the Game: Forget steroids or the Black Sox or juiced balls, the game's biggest disgrace is that it kept guys like Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige from playing in the Majors (though the latter did get in eventually, he was already in his sunset years). Delroy Lindo turns in a great performance as Paige.

10. The Rookie: I remember when Jim Morris debuted in the big leagues a few years ago. It seemed like a great story, and Disney obviously felt the same. Unfortunately, The Rookie, though solid, feels a little flat at times. It just doesn't capture the essence of the game the way some of the other ones do.


Blog: More Posts From Matt Soon 

I promise. And we'll spin the wheel and it will land on one of these topics:

A.) United States/Polish relations in the technology era
B.) Great moments in XFL history
C.) The evolution of the moustache
D.) Minute by minute updates on the health of the Pope
E.) None of the Above


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Politics: Blogging the White House 

White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan "has no visible horns in person," according to Garrett Graff, the first blogger to gain official access to the White House press corps.

From Fox:

Graff said he got his pass after a week of asking. "The briefing room ought to be an inclusive place," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. Historically, he said, the White House has admitted "the traditional media and the nontraditional media, as well as colorful individuals with certain points of view from the left and the right."
The problem here is that Graff really wasn't that colorful, especially for a gossip writer. I suppose I could make a joke here about Neil Armstrong or somesuch, but honestly, I'm not sure whether this is a case of blogging legitimacy or if the whole practice has now jumped the shark. Gossip columnists in the West Wing? Better FishbowlDC than the Wonkette, I guess.

Speaking of the West Wing, while watching Graff detail his experience on "Fox and Friends" this morning, I thought of The West Wing. Could you imagine C.J. Cregg inviting a blogger to her press gaggle? I couldn't, and it seems much more likely on the television show, and it doesn't seem all that likely there. Maybe a blogger could get access on one of Leo McGarry's "big block of cheese" days.

Anyway, good for Graff. I'm sure some of the serious blogger types out there feel a little green today. Personally, if I were going to try to get access to anything via my blog, it would be the pressbox at Minute Maid Park, not the Briefing Room in the White -- the facilities are nicer and you get free hot dogs. But the Houston Astros don't credential non-accredited media. Perhaps I'll try to get SCott McLellan to pull a few strings.


Monday, March 07, 2005

Sports: NCAA Blogger Pool? 

March Madness is now 10 days away. I already have the unenviable task of organizing the office pool here at work, but I thought it might also be fun to organize a blogger pool, too -- no money involved, just web-wide fame and acclaim.

Anyone interested?


Friday, March 04, 2005

Movies: GQ's Greatest Actor List 

I'm not sure where "our generation" starts and stops, but GQ evidently does. The men's magazine recently compiled a list of the Top Ten Actors of Our Generation.

Russell Crowe: Before he finishes he'll add another Oscar or two to his mantle. Welcome to the club, Russ. Let's move on.

Johnny Depp: He's been a pirate, a playwright, and a weirdo with sharp fingers. And don't forget the pinnacle of his career -- the title role in Cry Baby. I think Depp is "this generation's" Sean Penn (the generational line of demarcation evidently came between 1960 and 1963). He's a no-brainer.

Nicolas Cage: What else has he done besides Adaptation? I'll give you Raising Arizona, and maybe Matchstick Men, but come on. Cage's run of late 90's action movies made him a very poor man's Bruce Willis, and let's not even get started on the worst accent in the history of film, which he sported in Con Air. To quote Bill Lumbergh, "Yeah... I'm gonna have to go ahead and, uh, disagree with you here." Strike one.

Don Cheadle: I'd go so far as to say that after Hotel Rwanda, Cheadle not only belongs on this list, but could very well end up making his way into the top tier of it. He's a versatile actor that can pull off both comic and dramatic roles.

Leonardo DiCaprio: His pretty boy reputation has hurt his status as a serious actor, I think, but there's no denying that Leo belongs on this list. If he wants to win an Oscar, though, he might want to work with a director not named Martin Scorsese.

Clive Owen: Strike two. GQ's jumping the gun just a wee bit on this one. Owen's breakout role in Closer received acclaim, but his prior filmography doesn't begin to dazzle. Let's see how he follows up with the next few roles before we put him on a pedestal.

Benecio Del Toro: His body of work isn't huge, but he has an Oscar. He's also shown an ability to both blend into all-star casts, as well carry a film. I agree with his selection.

John C. Reilly: Sure, he's a character actor that has never played a leading role, but look at his films -- they almost always receive heaps of praise. Is it all because of him? No. But it would be a disservice to his talent to say he doesn't contribute.

Jim Carrey: Though he still dabbles in his slapstick roots, Carrey's performance in Eternal Sunshine proved his durability. I haven't seen his other dramatic roles, but plenty of others did and it's hard to overlook acclaim for parts like Andy Kauffman in Man on the Moon. He'll need a solid follow-up to prove he belongs, but his inclusion isn't as egregious as some.

Gael Garcia Bernal: Who? Critics lauded both Amores Perros and Y tu Mama Tambien, but let's get real. How many American movie fans know anything about this guy? I understand an actor is an actor, but his selection further muddles the meaning of "our" generation. Strike three.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Random: In Defense of Merlot 

I'd like to announce that from now on, I shall only drink Merlot when enjoying the occasional vino.

Now I saw Sideways. I found it funny and quirky, and I didn't object too vehemently at its inclusion in the Oscars' Best Picture category, despite the fact that it likely pushed out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. So let it be noted that I have nothing against the movie.

Until now.

It seems that a considerable amount of wine drinkers have recently thumbed their noses at Merlot. Paul Giamatti's (nee "Pig Vomit") snobby "I'm not drinking any f'ing merlot" line from Sideways seems to have played a role in the decrease of merlot sales, which the linked piece pegs at 10-20 percent.

How bizarre is this? Who honestly changes their buying patterns based on the psuedo-intellectual ramblings of a snotty film character? I'm not a wine expert by any stretch, but I do enjoy the occasional glass (or bottle, as the case was at my friend David's wedding last week), and merlot suits my palate just fine.

So until this asinine Sideways-induced, anti-merlot craze wears off, I'm going to pledge my assistance to all the merlot makers out there. The grapes of wrath have been ignited. Let's give'em hell, boys.


DVD Review: Shaun of the Dead 

Things I liked about Shaun of the Dead:






- I dig british girls and their accents.

- The lazy roommate was kind of funny.

Yeah, that about wraps it up. 3/10


Texas: Happy 169th Birthday! 

"Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. And there’s an opening convey of generalities. A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner."

John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley
Steinbeck's observation still rings true today, as there might not be a citizenry anywhere that can compare to Texans in terms of pride and arrogance. And as we celebrate the 169th anniversary of the Republic of Texas' formation, it's not hard to figure out where generations of Lone Star Staters learned it.

Take, for example, the Texas Declaration of Independence, signed this day in 1836 at tiny Washington-on-the-Brazos:

The necessity of self-preservation, therefore, now decrees our eternal political separation.

We, therefore, the delegates with plenary powers of the people of Texas, in solemn convention assembled, appealing to a candid world for the necessities of our condition, do hereby resolve and declare, that our political connection with the Mexican nation has forever ended, and that the people of Texas do now constitute a free, Sovereign, and independent republic, and are fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations; and, conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations.
"Fearlessly and confidently..."

Texans don't lack confidence. Our travel and safety departments boast memorable slogans like, "Texas, it's a Whole Other Country," and "Don't Mess With Texas." And the flagship of our state's higher education system markets itself with a simple, straightforward phrase: "We're Texas."

Forgive us for our arrogance, though, because we only take after our forefathers, who gave the finger to a tyrranical empire and when it came time to back it up, they never backed down. Many paid the ultimate price, but freedom prevailed.

I would go into what it means to be a Texan, but my friend Bob Wheeler wrote a wonderful essay a few years back that I think captures the essence of Texas (it floats around the 'net mis-attributed to Bum Phillips) and gives a glimpse into the pride that we carry each and every day, but which swells even more on days like today.

So, to all Texans, young and old, native and transplanted, residents and expatriates... Happy Independence Day! God Bless Texas!


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

DVD Review: I Heart Huckabees 

What you get out of I Heart Huckabees will likely depend on what you put into it. So despite the fact that a number of adjectives (e.g., pretentious, pointless, silly, superficial...) could describe the film, its lesser points won't necessarily diminish the pleasure you get from watching.

I think there are two ways to look at I Heart Huckabees. If you think it's serious in its existential, talking-in-circles philosophy then it's a disaster, because the script isn't nearly as intelligent as it pretends to be. But... I didn't see it that way. To me it felt intentionally nonsensical, as if the filmakers were trying to poke fun at serious philisophical wannabe masterpieces.

In short, I loved it.

But let's face facts: it's not really a "smart" movie. It has little to no coherency in its story (a word I use loosely in this context), and some of the characters walk a thin line between grating and painful. Then there's Jude Law, who sports one of the worst American accents in the history of British thespianism, as he continues a streak of annoying performances.

But the rest of the cast was great. Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman were wonderful together, as a pair of married "existential detectives." Marky Mark turned in the best role of his that I've seen in a long time, ating as the "other" to Jason Schwarzman's 43rd reprisal of Rushmore's Max Fischer, which fortunately fits in this setting.

I'm really not sure what I Heart Huckabees is about. But I also know that I didn't really care. Must every film fill a void or awe us with its impact? I Heart Huckabees will do neither, but it doesn't keep it from having a little bit of goofy fun. Its humorous antics and oddball characters were enough to keep me entertained.



INsite: The Pregame Tailgate (March 2005) 

The Pregame Tailgate
By Andrew Fox

For those of you that spend as much time trolling Longhorn websites as I do, pardon me while I state the obvious. From the message boards to the subscription sites, with their “inside” information, you don’t have to click on more than a few links to find something that criticizes Greg Davis.

Texas fans everywhere will rave about Augie Garrido’s baseball program; how it’s a near lock to make the College World Series each season. They’ll lavish heaps of praise on college baseball’s all-time winningest coach, and most of them will say the same thing about Rick Barnes’ basketball team, despite the Horns’ somewhat disappointing season.

Yet more often than not, before they’re done the conversation will swing toward Texas’ offensive coordinator. The vile most Orangebloods have for this guy is amazing. In fact, had November’s election been close enough for Texas’ electoral votes to come into play, President Bush would have only needed to promise a change in the OC position to ensure both a landslide win and a subsequent mandate.

Barry Switzer might not elicit as much venom on the Forty Acres as Greg Davis. You think I’m kidding? The Davis haters will rant until they’re red in the face; they’ll call into 1300 The Zone and pass around petitions demanding his removal; and six months before Texas even takes the field in the Red River Shootout, a lot of them will have already conceded a sixth straight loss to OU.

Spring drills started all of two minutes ago, and the burnt orange love fest that we all reveled in back in January vanished quicker than a flask of Jim Beam in the student section on game day. With no upcoming game to distract them, the anti-Davis mob is already in mid-season form.

Am I the only person beaten down by this?

To clarify, I’m not here to praise the guy. I’m just not ready to bury him yet, that’s all. Walking out of the Cotton Bowl last October had me as depressed as I’ve been about Texas football since the 2001 Big 12 title game. The Texas Longhorns should never get shutout, and Davis deserves a Texas-sized portion of blame for that debacle.

I recall, though, a few pretty bad turnovers in that game. Both Vince Young and Ced Benson coughed up the ball at inopportune times, and none of us brought that up when the duo led the way in the Rose Bowl win. Davis received no credit for the school’s biggest win in three decades. Instead people still bring up the goose-egg against OU.

It’s fair game. A high-profile position in a high-profile program commands a level of scrutiny. That part doesn’t bother me. What does irritate me to no end is that too many Texas fans espouse constant doom and gloom, simply because of Davis’ presence in the program.

Give it a rest already.

First off, Davis isn’t going anywhere. Mack Brown’s kept him around for a long time, and with a ten-year contract extension enforcing his own job security, it’s unlikely that Brown will now decide that he needs to make a change. Beyond that, the rabid anti-Davis people should take a moment to evaluate their opinion.

Davis’ offensive gameplans aren’t the sexiest around, but Texas hasn’t exactly had a dearth of skill players move on to the pro ranks. And if you simply look at the big games that Texas has lost in the Brown era, how many of them can you really blame on the offense? Most of Texas’ five consecutive losses to OU spring to mind, but the Horns could have quintupled their point totals in 2003 and 2000 and still lost.

More than thirty years have passed since Texas won a national title, and I know that weighs on the minds of fans everywhere. It isn’t all Greg Davis' fault, though, so try to keep that in mind when you head out to Denius Field for spring practice.

Greg Davis didn’t cause the AIDS epidemic in Africa. He wasn’t the other man on the grassy knoll, and his playbook doesn’t contain an instruction manual for building WMDs. He’s also not to blame for everything that’s wrong with Texas Football.

Even if I can’t convince you to cut the guy some slack, maybe you could at least keep the hyperbole to yourself. Not all of us have given up on the 2005 season already.


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