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Friday, May 27, 2005

INsite: The Pregame Tailgate (June 2005) 

(The June INsite hist stands next weekend)

The Pregame Tailgate
By Andrew Fox

Is it June already? It seems like just last week that Vince Young so fittingly paraded through the Michigan defense en route to the end zone in Pasadena, yet here we are actually closer to the 2004 season opener than we were to the 2004 climax (which, granted, did take place in 2005).

The thought of August two-a-days has me as giddy as a third-grader on the eve of Summer vacation, after downing a six pack of Mountain Dew and a dozen Pixie Sticks. Bear with me as I breeze through a few random observations, because I simply don’t have the attention span right now to stick to a single topic.

Speaking of giddy, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the biggest movie event of my life. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith opened last month. I saw it opening night and again three days later. To call it a triumph sells it short. It was reminiscent of Roy Hobbs breaking out of his slump by blasting one into the lights, only with better explosions.

How remarkable was Episode III? If the Houston Astros can make half the comeback this season that George Lucas made with this installment, then Texas pharmacies won’t have to worry about disgruntled Astros fans causing a state-wide shortage of Zoloft. But until Lance Berkman stops doing his best Timmy Lupes impression each at-bat, I’d recommend adding Eli Lilly to your 401K.

Can you believe Hollywood is re-making The Bad News Bears? I realize that the unoriginal Summer movie schedule also includes War of the Worlds, a new Batman flick, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Longest Yard, but isn’t there a line somewhere? The universe has an order to it, and when you start messing with classic movies like The Bad News Bears, you risk untangling the fibers that hold it all together. Still, as long as Ashton Kutcher isn’t playing Kelly Leak, I might check it out.

Summer lines for the gambler in all of us:
• Odds that any newspaper headline about Cat Osterman during the 2005 Women’s College World Series uses the word “Purrfect” – 5-4
• Number of Astros road wins in June vs. Number of Tiger Woods major championships in June – Pick’em
• Over/Under on the number of anti-Greg Davis posts on Hornfans.Com between now and September 1st – 100
• Over/Under on the number of “Roger Clemens to New York” trade rumors mentioned on Baseball Tonight before the trade deadline – 750
• Odds that the Astros actually trade Clemens to New York – 750-1
• Odds that a Texas Longhorn football player will miss the 2005 season because of academic reasons -- No Line

As of press time the Longhorn baseball team seems poised to once again make a run toward Omaha. I wouldn’t call it the near lock of the past few seasons, but does anyone want to bet against Augie Garrido?

I caught part of the new MLS season on ESPN the other day. I’d comment on how goofy it is that the league has decided to “soccerize” its team names (e.g., Dallas went from the Burn to F.C. Dallas). but seeing as this is a sports column I’d prefer to stick to, well, sports.

Prior to Star Wars’ release ESPN’s Kenny Mayne reported (I use that term loosely) on whether or not Episode III is the best sports movie of all time. Though tongue-in-cheek, I found myself thinking that the Jedi Order probably had a kick-ass softball team. Just look at how well they deflected those laser blasts with their lightsabers. It’s a skill that no doubt lends itself to hitting a ball.

Burning question of the month: Who are the bigger geeks – Star Wars nerds or fantasy sports nerds? I’m inclined to choose the latter. Barring a movie release, an occasional convention or the rare event when a tape makes its way to the web, which shows one of them making sound effects while shadow-dueling with a broom-handle lightsaber, Star Wars nerds usually remain in the closet. Fantasy sports dorks bore you to death with stats and ill-timed comments when you want to watch your favorite team – gasp! – play the game.

For all the excitement Texas fans experienced in January, it’s hard to believe that the home schedule this year tops out with Texas Tech and Colorado. Thank the Lord for roadies to Columbus and Stillwater, where Orangebloods can out-party the opposing fans before the Horns out-play the opposing teams. That means expensive flights and hotel costs, but if Texas can finally put together that elusive national title run, then it will be well worth the tab.

And now I’m feeling like that giddy third-grader again, only Summer break is still three long months away. e-mail TPT at drewfox@gmail.com


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Blog: I'm Back, Baby! 

So... It's not hard to see that my updates have been sporadic at best lately. Due to a semi-promotion at work and a busted computer at home, finding time to blog has been... well, difficult.

But I managed to get my glorified calculator of a laptop semi-functional again, so it looks like late-night blogging sessions are once again a reality. And when you get down to it, all writers seem to do their best work late at night. I hope that serves even for the mediocre ones like myself.

Anyway... things you can expect to see covered in the near future:

- The Houston Astros... Hey, they're still my boys. I don't care if they're mathematically eliminated (next week, perhaps?), I'm going to talk about them when I get a chance. I just haven't gotten a chance in the last six weeks.

- Summer movies... We've got Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, and the lovely Jessica Alba in the Fantastic Four. If you read my upcoming Pregame Tailgate column, disregard the jabs I make about the lack of originalituy in the summer schedule. I wasn't being serious.

- The superiority of the State of Texas... We're better than everyone. I can't help it.

- The College World Series... Hopefully?

Things I won't cover in the near, or long, future:

- Star Wars... You're tired of reading about it by now. And I'll have plenty more chances to show my geekiness.

- The Texas Legislature... So, there is this one area where my state sadly does not dominate.

- The NHL Playoffs... [Nelson Munz]HA HA![/Nelson Munz]


Friday, May 20, 2005

Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith 

Forget Anakin Skywalker, Revenge of the Sith brings balance to the force.

Never underestimate the power of George Lucas to tie together loose strings and validate seemingly crappy prior story lines. Thought Anakin was a whiney baby in AOTC? Thought the Clones love story was unnecessary? Now you see why behind them.

In terms of a film, Sith still lags slightly behind Empire, and maybe even the orginal, A New Hope. But combine 28 years of anticipation and the satisfaction that Lucas finally delivered the movie we all wanted six years ago, and you'll realize that no Star Wars film in the saga comes close to matching the breath-taking brilliance of Sith.

Adjectives and superlatives don't do this film justice. In fact calling it a film doesn't do it justice. Star Wars is an experience. Maybe the last two failed to deliver, but Sith more than makes up for it, and once the credits begin to roll after its stunning climax, fans of the saga will no doubt feel a tinge of sadness, knowing that this lifelong franchise has officially come to and end.

I won't give away spoilers, as plenty of fans have yet to see it. Suffice to say that if you've grown up with Star Wars -- as I and millions of others have -- you're inner fan-boy geek will come out many times during its two-plus hours. You might not laugh (the omnipresent Star Wars cheesiness rears its head), but you'll certainly gasp, and you might just cry. 9/10


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Movies: It's Here!!! 

The Saga concludes... in seven hours.

I'm sure it's the same across the country, but at the theater three blocks from my apartment, SEVEN 12:01 a.m. screenings of Star Wars: Episode II -- Revenge of the Sith have sold out.

I have my ticket purchased for 7 p.m. tomorrow evening. It looks like I'll be around the 100,000th person to see it... less than 24 hours after its release. My buddy Trey is so geeked up over the release that he couldn't wait for the Thursday night group outing. He's attending a midnight showing as well. In all there are 21 sold-out midnight showings here in Austin. George Lucas is a genius -- an evil genius, but one nonetheless.

"Bold" prediction: Episode III takes in more money before dawn than every other top ten highest-grossing picture earns in the entire weekend.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Personal: I'm Not a Movie Snob, Am I? 

While waiting in line at Pok-e-Joe's yesterday (obviously meaning I'm not a BBQ snob) I overheard the following conversation:

woman: How was your weekend?
man: We had a Clint Eastwood movie marathon yesterday.
woman: Really? We watched three movies ourselves.
man: Which ones?
woman: National Treasure -- it was great. Then Fat Albert. Let me tell you that was such a cute movie, and funny... Then we had to watch a girlie movie. I don't remember what it was called, but it was cute. You should watch it.
man: We watched Every Which Way But Loose.
Does it make me a movie snob to think that these people should probably just stop watching movies?


Politics: Suggestions for the Texas Legislature 

The 79th Texas Legislature ends its session later this month, thus saving our state an embarrassing summer of more asinine legistlation proposals.

Journalists and comedians alike will have to search elsewhere for material starting in June, but that doesn't mean we won't still have to hear about hard-hitting pieces of legislation, such as the anti-BCS bill, or the sexy cheerleading bill. It's sad that our state lawmakers couldn't have turned their attention to real problems. No, I don't mean healthcare or tax rates or any of the fluff. I mean that if they're going to regulate nonsense, then they could have been much more creative. What about the following?

SB 12: Would redraw the divisional lines in the Big XII conference, placing Texas in the Big XII North with Baylor, Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri and Oklahoma State, thus making it easier for the Longhorns to make the Big XII conference championship game each fall.

HB 40: Bans middle-aged women from performing sexually suggestive songs at karaoke bars, because dammit, it's just uncomfortable to watch.

HB 1: Restricts the use of tip-jars and credit/debit card gratuity spaces only to establishments where an additional service, worthy of a gratuity, is offered. I love my Freebirds burrito, but the guy behind the counter there doesn't deserve a tip anymore than the guy that made my Beef n' Cheddar at Arby's, and Arby's doesn't guilt-trip into tacking on a dollar everytime I use my card.

SB 1836: A formal censure of Texan John Hancock for insulting his Texas heritage with his sorry excuse of a major motion picture, The Alamo.

HB 1974: Establishes Matthew McConaghey's, "All right, all right, all right," and "Just keep livin', l-i-v-i-n," from Richard Linklater's classic film, Dazed and Confused, as secondary state mottos.

SB 16: Prohibits all persons over the age of 16 from seeking out autographs at sporting events.

SB 1134: A proclaimation stating that the post-UT exploits of one Erick Lynn "Ricky" Williams did not, in fact, ever actually happen. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1998, finished his Texas career in the 1999 Cotton Bowl, and quietly left the public eye shortly thereafter.


DVD Mini-Reviews: House of Flying Daggers/My LIfe Without Me 

House of Flying Daggers: Much like its predecessors, Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Daggers offers a beautiful, yet quintessential example of style over substance. Lost in the seemingly endless series of swordfights and ambushes is a simple love story, akin to a Mandarin version of Romeo and Juliet. It teases you with both tragedy and triumph, but after drawing things out at least a half hour too long, by the time it reaches its climax, you just want it to end already. 6/10

My Life Without Me: Imagine learining that you have only two months to live. What do you do with your remaining days? Twenty-three year-old Ann (Sarah Polley, Go) faces that dilemma in this slow-yet-moving Canadian film. If you can get past the opening thirty minutes (I almost couldn't), the remainder is well worth the wait. It reminds of us of our mortality, but it also shows that the beauty of life isn't in how long it lasts, but rather how well it's spent -- even when the lesson isn't learned until the twilight period. 8/10


Monday, May 09, 2005

News: America's 1000 Best High Schools 

So where does your alma mater rank? Mine checks in at #993.

Okay, so I had a long post typed up, full of personal anecdotes and such from high school. Then I realized that my ten-year reunion from this past weekend has left me in some sentimental mode, and my reminiscing ramblings would have to be painfully boring to read for all 30 of you out there. So I deleted the post.

Go ahead and thank me now.

Maybe by the 20th reunion Temple will have climbed back into the Top 800.


Friday, May 06, 2005

INsite: The Pregame Tailgate (May 2005) 

(on stands now...)

The Pregame Tailgate
By Andrew Fox

The “life events” parade rolls on this month here at TPT. Taking a seat: birthday number twenty-eight. Now batting: the ten-year high school reunion. Ten years? Where did the time go? And where did all those people from high school go?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but since commencement I’ve kept in touch with maybe five of my fellow Temple alums, out of more than 350 graduates. Translated roughly, that’s a smaller figure than Brad Ausmus’ batting average, Mack Brown’s winning percentage against OU, and the ratio of salads to greasy cheeseburgers in Michael Moore’s diet (or the ratio of truths to prevarications in his films) – combined.

Oddly enough, I still plan to attend. Like most people I want to see what everyone is up to these days. Who got fat and/or bald? Who still lives at home with the folks? Who else managed to stay single and kid-free? It’s all very exciting once you get past the inherent awkwardness.

It’s also hard to believe that ten years have gone by since high school. That means I’ve been living here in Austin for a full decade, and a lot has changed in that time.

When I arrived at the University of Texas in the fall of 1995 to start my freshman year, John Mackovic still roamed the sidelines at Memorial Stadium, which was still Memorial Stadium, sans the hyphentated “Darrel K Royal” opening. The stadium’s east side had no upper deck then, and a track still circled the Astroturf playing field, which had not yet been whored out to honor Joe Jamail.

Nobody in Austin knew the name Rick Barnes back in ’95. Texas basketball meant Tom Penders, whose “Runnin’ Horns” launched threes at will, played no defense, and always gave high seeds a tough game before bowing out in the NCAA Tournament’s second round.

Over at Disch-Falk Field a legend manned the home dugout, but his name was Cliff Gustafson. Augie Garrido was merely that guy from Cal State-Fullerton, who most Texas fans would begrudgingly admit had surpassed Coach Gus as college baseball’s most dominant figure.

Outside the Forty Acres Austin had very little in the way of sports. Hockey’s popularity explosion had not yet brought the Ice Bats to town, the Astros’ AA farm club made their home in Jackson, Miss., not Round Rock, and arena football was that gimmicky sport that ESPN always aired at 2 a.m. on Saturday.

The Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers ruled the NFL in those days. George Steinbrenner’s Yankees hadn’t even sniffed a division title in years, and the San Antonio Spurs were the team that seemed destined to forever carry the “chokers” tag.

Yeah, things have definitely changed. Author Charlotte Perkins Gillman might have said it best when she wrote, “while we flatter ourselves that things remain the same, they are changing under our very eyes from year to year, from day to day.”

Ten years – that’s a lot of days, and a lot of change. In a sense it’s almost depressing to think how such a large chunk of time is ultimately reduced to fading memories. But then something comes along, like my reunion, which lets you rekindle those memories.

I suppose you could say I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be fun to catch up with old friends and reminisce about the old days, when our biggest crisis was a ten-page senior thesis. We’ll swap stories, discuss our current lives, and if the reunion even remotely mirrors our actual high school experience, someone will likely give me guff about my beloved Longhorns’ failure to win the national title that I always boasted was just a few years away.

I guess some things don’t change after all.


Random: Inside the Bloggers Studio 

If you ever watch James Lipton's pompous interviews on Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio, you'll notice the same ten-question ending each time. Per Michele at A Small Victory, the originator of those ten questions (Bernard Pivot) turns 70 today. Since I'll never appear on the show, I'll follow Michele's lead and answer them here (answers in bold):

1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
4. What turns you off?
5. What is your favorite curse word?
6. What sound or noise do you love?
The opening strains of The Eyes of Texas
7. What sound or noise do you hate?
My voice
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
9. What profession would you not like to do?
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Welcome, my good and faithful servant.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Movies: Random Thought of the Day 

Twenty-two years elapse from the end of Attack of the Clones to the beginning of A New Hope. In that time, how does...




I'm not saying that young Beru Whitesun is Tatooine's Jessica Alba, but the girl is good-looking. In 22 years she turns into that old woman? Even in that desolate, sandy wasteland, I find it hard to believe that such an elaborate aging process occurs.

Forget Jar-Jar Binks in The Phanton Menace or the embarassing musical routine at Jabba's Palace in Return of the Jedi, the tragic transformation of girl-next-door girlfriend Beru into sweet-but-haggardly Aunt Beru is Lucas' biggest failure in the Star Wars saga.

Then again Shmi Skywalker looked pretty old and rough in Menace, and she couldn't have been much older than 35. Maybe they just need an Aveda outlet on Tatooine, or at least a Bath and Body Works.


Austin: Let Freedom (of Speech) Ring.... 

...Unless you're politicially right-of-center and intend to speak on the University of Texas campus. Ann Coulter learned just how mature and articulate the Left can be last night during a speech at UT.

Incessant heckling and shouting culminated in an arrest Tuesday night during a speech by Ann Coulter, an extreme right-wing pundit, at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum.

Shouts became so pervasive during the question-and-answer session that Coulter informed the organizers she would no longer take questions if the hecklers were not silenced
Notice that the writer, Yashoda Sampath, editorializes her lead by throwing in "extreme" before "right-wing." I see the Daily Texan still practices the same quality journalistic standards as they did when I attended.

Where is the "extreme left-wing" tag for the protesters? The accompanying picture shows a student holding the Socialist Worker newspaper. That rag won't pass for mainstream even at liberal UT.

But I digress...

Arrests aren't uncommon at UT speaking events. Former President Bush spoke during my senior year, and "extreme left-wing" professor Bob Jensen caused a scene that led him straight to the crossbar Hilton. It seems that the Left is much better at getting arrested than changing viewpoints, at least on the Forty Acres.

Now I know Righties that dislike Coulter. I'll admit, she's a bomb-thrower. But at least she's funny about it, and she has an education to back up her
"pundit" status. It's not like she made her name as a recurring half-wit character on Saturday Night Live. For protesters to heckle her or hold up signs is expected.

Does anyone on the Left, though, want to condone this?

"You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage," said Ajai Raj, an English sophomore. "How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up the ass?"

UT Police officers approached Raj to arrest him, resulting in a mass exodus of protesters chanting, "Let him go."

"The person had been disruptive the entire event," said Matt Hardigree, former Student Events Center president. "He took the opportunity to say something lewd and offensive and then made masturbatory gestures as he exited."
Apparently Mr. Raj is looking for an internship at Wonkette.

Thanks go out to the Texas Union Student Events Center and Student Endowed Centennial Lectureship Committee for bringing Coulter to campus. And bigger thanks go out to all the junior Marxists that showed just how right America was last November for keeping people like this away from the decision-making process in our government.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Politics: Our Tax Dollars Hard at Work 

Two-four-six-eight, who do we appreciate? Not the Texas House of Representatives.

In yet another stirring example of governmental over-reach, the Texas House has banned "overtly sexually suggestive" cheerleading. No wonder these guys only meet for six months every other year.

"Girls can get out and do all of these overly sexually performances and we applaud them, and that's not right," said Democratic Rep. Al Edwards, who filed the legislation.

Edwards argued bawdy performances are a distraction for students resulting in pregnancies, dropouts and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
In a session that's seen one lawmaker try to outlaw the BCS, as well as a near floor fight over a proposed Willie Nelson Highway, it's not surprising to see out state government produce frivilous legislation. I'm shocked, however, to see a Democrat propose a bill that screams "Religious Right" stodginess (or would that take a proposal to ban homosexuals from joining the cheer squad?).

And let's get something straight. The guys that spend the most time ogling cheerleaders, "bawdy performances" or not, are the guys that have no shot at scoring with any of them. I know; I was that guy. So let's hold off on the hyperbolic rhetoric for a few moments. No one's getting knocked up, and no one's pecker is turning purple, just because a few ditzy gals in skimpy skirts want to shake their God-given goodies.

2005 might qualify as the most worthless Legislative session since... I don't know when. If out-of-control teenagers are dropping out of school and spreading disease (and I wasn't aware these maladies had reached epidemic proportions) then I'd take a stab and say that bad parenting, not bump n' grind cheer routines, is the root cause behind it. So where's the legislation to curb that problem?


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Blog: Is it dying? 

Drew? Are you there?

Maybe this will kick start it...


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