Monday, December 29, 2008

The Christmas Review

Well, my laptop went tits up a couple weeks ago. Thankfully, it was still under warranty. Two motherboards, one CPU, and one Video Card later, we are up and running today. So, I would just like to take a minute to wish everyone a belated Merry Christmas.

I got some sweet swag for the holiday. My loot tally included a DVD of Rambo, a copy of A Farewell to Arms, a copy of The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemmingway, a Copy of Soul by Seal, a copy of Neon Bible by Arcade Fire, and some clothes and cash.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fixing College Football: The Big Ten

Now we visit up north. It's time to realign the Big Ten conference. We've already sent Penn State to the Big East, and the Big Ten pretty much shakes itself out once the Nittany Lions are out of the mix.

Ohio State University
The University of Michigan
Michigan State University
The University of Iowa
The University of Minnesota
The University of Wisconsin
Northwestern University
The University of Illinois
The University of Indiana
Purdue University

Good rivalries, now we just need them to play good football.

Heisman Thoughts

The greatest individual trophy in sports, the Heisman Memorial Trophy, will be awarded in a little less than two days. The three finalists are already in New York. Sam Bradford, the quarterback for Oklahoma, is my pick to take home the stiff arm. He's competing against last year's winner, Tim Tebow of Florida, and the popular Colt McCoy of Texas.

One of the things that makes the Heisman so interesting is that the ballot simply instructs the voter to select the "most outstanding player." Some voters take that to mean the most valuable, to some it means the best performance, and to some it means the best player on the best team. Because of this, people can make an argument for any of the finalists.

I personally believe that Sam Bradford has a much stronger case than either Tebow or McCoy, given that Bradford is the best player on the number one ranked team at the time of voting. Bradford also enjoys a significant statistical advantage over the other QBs. Bradford has more yards from scrimmage, more TDs, and a higher passer rating than either of his opponents. McCoy has a higher completion percentage, and Tebow has fewer turnovers, but the overall statistics clearly give Bradford the edge. Bradford had the best performance, while playing on the #1 team. Seems like a no brainer to me.

But as always, there is dissent in the mainstream media. Here are a few examples.

Chris Low, SEC blogger for, puts forth this article. He stumps for Tebow based on the argument that Tebow faced much tougher defenses. This might be true, however, he makes several mistakes. First off, he makes the mistake of using raw defensive rankings. This is a problem because it gets you into a chicken/egg argument very quickly as to why scores are so low in the SEC. Do the offenses struggle because of powerhouse defenses, or are the defenses being inflated by offenses the likes of Auburn and Tennessee? Just as QBs like McCoy or Bradford might make a defense look silly, so to do Jonathon Crompton and Kodi Burns make even the most pathetic defenses look like the 1985 Bears. The other mistake he make was claiming that Arkansas was the worst defense Tebow's faced this season. I guess he thought the game against the Citadel was just a scrimmage. That's OK, he wasn't the only one...

In defense of McCoy, Jeff Martin of the Kansas City Star claims that, "Twisted Logic will rob McCoy of the Heisman!" I find this piece hilarious, because the only twisted logic in the article is his case for McCoy. He starts out by dismissing Tebow with this quote,

Tebow is a great college football player. Every television talking head said as much over the weekend. But how can you give him the Heisman a year ago in large part for his statistical achievements — the first I-A player to finish with more than 20 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns in a season — and then turn around a year later and twist the criteria? Now it's about who is most valuable to his team?

So we're going by performance, rather than value to team. That's OK, I can dig it. But then it's down to Bradford vs. McCoy, and Mr. Martin goes all M. Night Shyamalan on us, and brings out the twist!

McCoy and the Longhorns took the Red River Rivalry, 45-35, even though Bradford had the far loftier statistics, not to mention the superior offensive supporting cast.
Maybe this is being too simplistic, but McCoy did more with less all season long, which is why he was No. 1 on my ballot and Bradford was No. 2.

OK... So he's going one of two ways here. Either he's claiming that McCoy deserves it over Bradford because he won the head to head matchup of the teams, or he's completely reversing tack on his argument against Tebow, simply to justify McCoy winning. In the event of the former, it shows a tragic lack of understanding of the nature of the QB position and the sport in general. If it's the latter, then he's a hypocrite who laughably accuses hypocrisy to be the reason why what he believes is right might not occur. Either way, I would expect more out of a major city newspaper sports journalist.

All rhetoric aside, we'll find out which argument was the most persuasive at the Heisman ceremony on Saturday.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blue C Sushi

While dropping my sister of at the U in Seattle after her Thanksgiving visit, we stopped for an early dinner at Blue C Sushi in the University Village. What ensued was a rather unique dining experience.

Blue C operates on a conveyor belt. They have the food laid out on color coded plates, ranging form $1.25 for the greens, to $5.25 for the dark blues. The food sits on this conveyor belt and scrolls around the place, passing by each table, where the customers can grab it at their leisure. Soy sauce, wasabi, and ginger are siting at the end of each table. At the end of the meal, you add up the plates on a scorecard, and that becomes your bill.

The food is decent. There's Sushi, some cooked dishes, and some vegetarian dishes, but if you don't like Sushi, you'll find eating at Blue C to be difficult. However, if you are a sushi fan, or at least find it edible, then Blue C will be an enjoyable experience for you. The seared tuna is delectable. They've got the standard set of drinks, a functioning bar, and the obligatory sake menu, which allows you to quench the fire of the spicy salmon rolls.

The ambiance is solid. The layout is fairly open, and the walls are dominated by either large picture windows, large pictures of the iconic Tokyo Square crosswalks, or large televisions showing bits of Japanese life. The music is forgettable, and the din of the crowd usually drowns it out. The service is a little detached, as it's basically a moving buffet.

To get the best out of Blue C, bring a crowd. Each plate comes with 4 sushi rolls or 2 sushi slices. With more people, you can get more variety out of your meal. It's a little slice of Tokyo Chic in Seattle, and it's a 8/10.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Goddammit. Oregon State dropped the first Civil War game in Corvallis since 1996, and it happened to be when the Rose Bowl was on the line. My frustration knows no bounds right now. So many things went wrong.

Sean Canfield should have been starting. He's a better QB than Lyle Moevao, pure and simple. While Moevao had decent raw stats, he threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Niether of which were great plays by the defense, merely terrible throws by the QB. Moevao's throws were off all night. The recievers were trying their best to make adjustments, but less than a quarter of the passes were in the right spot. Moevao walked into a couple sacks, and constantly missed the open checkdowns.

Without Jacquizz Rodgers, the offense panicked, and went back to that detestable shotgun set. This took the run completely out of the picture, leading to the 60 passing plays, against the 13 runs by running backs. The play calling got worse in the red zone, two red zone opportunities were squandered in the first half when the offense got too cute, and did things like call no back formations and try the fly sweep twice in a row. This caused OSU to come away with 3 points when they should have had 14.

The fly sweep is a fine play. It's the foundation of OSU's offense, however, it is not a red zone play. The whole idea is to put the ball into the hands of Rodgers, Stroughter, or Johnson, have them beat the defense to the corner, and outrun people. OSU made several uncharacteristic mistakes using this play. They ran it with multiple players split wide, and they ran it in the Red Zone. Both these situations create the same flaw. It puts defenders closer to the sideline than the ball carrier. It's one thing to try a play against the grain to try and catch defenders off guard, it's another entirely to do it repeatedly.

Outside of the Red Zone, they didn't use the fly sweep motion enough. Because of the threat of the play, and the visible buildup of the motion, it warps defenses outside of the red zone. Even if the motion man doesn't get the ball, it opens up the pass downfield, and opens up runs up the middle. But OSU hardly ran the motion.

Ryan McCant's didn't get very many carries, and on his best run of the night, an 11 yard run in the 4th quarter, he fumbled. McCant's didn't see too many carries the whole season, because Jacquizz has been a beast. I believe in using a star back heavily, but I also think you need to work the backups into it, for familiarity's sake. It helps cut down on fumbles, and breeds confidence.

On defense, they gave up almost 700 yards. There's a lot of problems.

Problem number one. TACKLING. The ugly beast that rose it's head against Stanford and Penn State showed up again. Too many plays were created by missed tackles. The linebackers were just awful, constantly out of position, and arm tackling too often. The Corners missed several tackles too.

The defensive ends broke containment on almost every play. Especially in a misdirection offense like Oregon's, the key to playing DE against that offense is to never let a player involved in a handoff to get outside of you. especially if you think the play is going away from you. The QB hands off to the running back and runs at you, make sure he doesn't have the ball before you start chasing the running back.

Schematically, Oregon runs about 12 different plays, which is increased based on run pass options, and read options. Oregon's shotgun offense has the same limitations as the offense OSU ran. Based on the alignment of the running back, there are some gaps that the running back can't get to off the first cut. The weakside B, C, and D gaps are out. This brings us back to containment. There are two ways to vary pressure on an offense, blitzes and stunts. OSU ran a lot of stunts, which work well against a conventional offense, however, a read option offense is succeptable to blitzes, but renders stunts useless. All a DE stunt does is automatically blow containment, and open up those gaps that were out before. One player can prevent the whole weakside from being used, which allows you to focus on the strongside. OSU failed to do this, and the same play blew them up, time and again.

The referees were par for the course for the Pac 10, which is to say, God Awful. The review official for the fumble returned for the touchdown in the 3rd quarter should be fired. There is no excuse for that kind of incompetence when you have time to look, rewind, and look again at a call. None of the refs on the field have any clue what pass interferance is. Combined with some terrible spots for the ball, and I have a renewed hatred for the officials of the Pac 10.

All in all, it was a poorly played game. However, I would like to take a moment to thank the Beavers for playing as well as they have thus far this season. No one expected it outside of Corvallis. Good job.

It's also worth noting that the Rose Bowl dream is not over for OSU. Because of the Ducks loss to Cal, if USC loses to UCLA, Oregon State has the tiebreaker in a three way tie too. So, GO BRUINS!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Brad Edwards is an Apologist for All the Wrong Things.

For those of you who don't know, Brad Edwards is a columnist for He recently wrote an article on trying to justify allowing a team that did not win their conference to compete for the BCS title. He's essentially apologizing in advance for what would happen if Missouri wins the Big XII championship game. He claims that the third ranked team in the conference would be the best team in the nation. He attempts to back up his claim by painting a doomsday scenario where the top ranked teams lose out, and don't win their conferences.

Here's my stance on this. If the best teams lose out, then clearly, they weren't the best teams. This is a problem that will have been manufactured by the money grab known as the conference championship games. I am deeply opposed to conference championship games. They undermine the importance of conference play, and they screw up the national title picture. However, it is the bed the Big XII has made, and now they must lie in it.

The fact that he's arguing for the Big XII makes his case even shakier. The Big XII has already screwed up the BCS picture in this exact same manner twice. In 2001, the Big XII champion was Colorado, however, the Big XII sent Nebraska to the national title game. The result? 37-14 Miami. They didn't learn their lesson. In 2003, Kansas State was the Big XII champion, but the Big XII sent Oklahoma to the National Title Game. This time it was 21-14 LSU.

I believe the voters might have learned their lesson. Last season, Georgia was ranked second with only the conference championship games to go. Georgia was not playing, so they figured that their spot in the title game against Ohio State was assured. Far from it. Eventual SEC Champion LSU jumped from 7th to 2nd, and locked the #3 team in the SEC from attempting to play in the title game. The results were quite pleasing to the SEC. 38-24 LSU.

So to answer your question Brad, in case your doomsday scenario does play out, yes, Penn State-Florida would be just fine.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Drink of the Moment: The Vesper

"Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large, thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"

If there's an author this side of Earnest Hemingway who really knew his liquor, it was Ian Flemming, the creator of secret agent James Bond. In honor of the release of Quantum of Solace, I bring you the drink Flemming created through 007, The Vesper.

The Vesper was introduced in Flemming's 1953 novel, Casino Royal. During a high stakes game of Baccarat. Bond invents the drink when asked if he'd like a drink from the bar. When Felix Lighter, one of the other players comments on the drink, Bond says this.
"I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink's my own invention. I'm going to patent it when I can think of a good name."

He ends up naming it in honor of Vesper Lynd, the double agent for the Soviets that he's bedding at this time.

As you can read above, the drink involves Gin, Vodka, and Kina Lillet. However, if you want to make an accurate Vesper, you must keep in mind that this recipe was devised in 1953, when men were men, and alcohol was strong. Gordon's Gin has been cut down in proof, and most vodkas currently sold are 80 proof. Kina Lillet isn't made anymore. They replaced it with Lillet Blanc, which has no quinine in it, so it lacks any real bite to it.

To get around these issues, there are several quick fixes. Many modern gins maintain the 94 proof of 50's Gordon's. 100 proof vodka is easy to find. A dash of quinine powder turns a Lillet Blanc back into Kina Lillet. The quinine powder might be difficult to find, so if you can't get your hands on it, substitute in 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters.

You wind up with 3 oz 94 proof gin, 1 oz 100 proof vodka, 1/2 oz of Lillet Blanc, and a dash of Quinine Powder (or two dashed bitters). Shake until cold, then strain into a Cocktail glass, or a deep champagne goblet if you want to be true to Bond. Garnish with a long thin lemon peel. Take a sip, and picture yourself heads up with Le Chiffre.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Quantum - [kwon-tuhm] -(physics) the smallest discrete quantity of some
physical property that a system can possess.

Quantum of Solace is the latest James Bond film, and once you watch it, the title becomes quite apt.

Daniel Craig stars for the second time as the man with a license to kill. Craig's portrayal of Bond is more in line with the model put forward by previous actors Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Craig's Bond is a killer for his country. Gone are the quips and one liners of the campier Bonds. Personally, I like it this way.

Judi Dench comes back as M, Bond's supervisor. As always, she does a sharp job at this.

Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton play Bond Girls Camille Montes and Strawberry Fields, respectively. Montes is a beautiful Russian Bolivian woman who's on a vendetta against the man who killed her family. Fields is a lovely British redhead working for the British Consulate. Fields exudes the almost prudish form of sex appeal that only the British have mastered.

Mathieu Amalric plays Dominic Greene. The main villain of the film. Eco friendly CEO of a major corporation, and member of the secretive criminal syndicate Quantum. Unlike previous villains, Greene lacks an outstanding deformity. He's probably the most normal villain to grace Her Majesty's Silver Screen. He still comes off as a little creepy though.

Quantum of Solace picks up right where Casino Royal left off. Right off, as in Mr. White, the operative for Quantum that Bond captured at the end of the previous film, is still in the trunk of Bond's Aston Martin. The film jumps right into a pitched gunfight on the narrow European highways, and the action never slows up.

After making his escape from the gunmen of Quantum, Bond brings Mr. White to an MI6 safehouse, where M herself prepares to interrogate him, using unscrupulous means if need be. Mr. White laughs her ominous threats off, claiming that Quantum has people everywhere. Usually when someone says that, it's a setup for someone to be a double agent down the road. Apparently, it wasn't very far down the road, because one of the MI6 agents in the room opens fire, killing the guards. Bond gives chase, leaving Mr. White unattended.

In Bond's furious pursuit of the traitor, we begin to get a peak at the reason why the film was given it's name. The betrayal and death of Vesper Lynd in Casino Royal has made him into an inconsolable font of wrath. He has buried himself in his duties with MI6, and walks a perilous line between his duty, and pure vengeance.

As he chases leads regarding the shadow syndicate of Quantum, he is led to Dominic Greene, the CEO of Greene Planet. Mr. Greene has some shady dealings going on that will bring about the downfall of the Bolivian government, and give Greene control of the worlds most valuable resource.

This is an EON Bond film, so it's rather stunning visually. The stunts are jaw dropping. Picture Parkour on roid rage. The score suits the film well. It utilizes the Bond Theme leitmotif, without becoming dependent upon it. The theme song is well done, but a little unremarkable. I liked "You Know My Name" from Casino Royal better. However, Alicia Keys does a good job singing.

The writing has gone far away from the gadget filled camp of the series prior. For the most part, everything they use is plausible. There are not so subtle homages to Goldfinger and Moonraker. Think black gold. The characters are much more filled out in the Craig films than in any previous incarnations.

The film is 106 minutes long, and garnered a 58 on Metacritic. Most critics complained that it didn't seem like Bond was having fun in this one. I agree, but I believe that that was the point of this film. 007 is no longer the quip producing charmer in control of everything. He's human now. He bleeds, he hurts, and he has doubts. I think this is a great move. I give the film an 8/10.

New Watchmen Trailer!

This is going to be fucking fantastic!

Friday, November 14, 2008

In Bruges

Earlier this week, I rented a few movies. Amonst them was Martin McDonagh's In Bruges.

Colin Farrell plays Ray, a young aspiring hitman who accidently kills a young boy on his first assignment.

Brendan Gleeson plays Ken, an experienced hitman who acts as a mentor to Ray.

Ralph Fiennes plays Harry, their scrupulous employer who decides to send them both into hiding in the Belgian city of Bruges to lay low until the heat subsides. Ray hates it in Bruges. It's a little too... Belgian for his tastes. Things start to turn around when Ray meets a girl, Chloe, and a midget she's working with on a film. Things go south again when Chloe's tries to rob him, and midget turns out to be a jackass, and things just continue to go down. Until Ray decides to kill himself, and Ken is instructed to kill Ray over the boy Ray killed. At that point, decisions have to be made.

While In Bruges is indeed a comedy, it is a very dark comedy. So dark, that light cannot escape it's surface. It's pretty much an hour and a half of watching life kick Colin Farrell in the nuts. The atmosphere captures the feel of a small european tourist town pretty well. The score is fairly minimal, which is good because it doesn't get in the way. The characters of Ray and Ken are pretty well rounded, however the rest of the cast is a little flat. It's also casually profane in a manner that only Guy Ritchie movies have managed.

In Bruges is 107 minutes long, and earned a 67 on metacritic. It's worth watching. I give it a 7/10.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Fixing College Football: The Big XII

It's been a while, but as Bender once said... "I'M BACK, BABY!" Let's take a look at how we would realign the Big XII conference.

The University of Texas
Texas A&M
The University of Oklahoma
Oklahoma State University
The University of Kansas
Kansas State University
Texas Tech
The University of Colorado
The University of Missouri
The University of Nebraska

The first six were all classic rivals. Texas Tech, I'm hoping begins to form a rivalry with Missouri, and Colorado and Nebraska are both traditional Big XII powers that I would feel bad for excluding. Iowa State is more in Big Ten territory, so they're out. Baylor could be a rival with Texas Tech, but the idea of Missouri and TT shooting it out was just too appealing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Clemson needs to fix.

Clemson's the new hot topic, seeing as they just fired/resigned their head coach Tommy Bowden after a 3-3 start to a season that saw them ranked in the top ten in preseason polls. Many people have applauded this move, stating that with the kind of talent that Clemson has, his performance simply has not been good enough. Nine straight bowl eligible seasons and a 72-45 record in his time at Clemson.

My question is, what kind of talent do you really think Clemson has? Do people really think that Clemson has the kind of Talent to match up with major conference championship calibur teams?

Talent is really just a measure of potential. It does not always make a good player, but it does make a good draft pick. So recent draft picks is a good way of measuring what kind of talent a program has been working with in recent years.

Over the last four years, Clemson has had 13 players drafted. This puts them at Sixth in the ACC, behind Virginia Tech, Virginia, North Carolina State, Florida State, and Miami.

Let's look at some of the output of some of the perennial powerhouses. Oklahoma has had 24 players drafted in that same span. Texas has had 21. Michigan has had 19. Ohio State has had 23. USC has had 31. Florida has had 17. LSU has had 22.

What kind of teams have had a similar talent level over the last 4 years? Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oregon, Stanford, and Louisville have all had 13 players drafted over the same span. Together, those 6 teams, in 24 attempts, have 1 conference championship between them. They are also a combined 22-16 this season, which basically averages out to 4-3. Also, with the exception of Oregon, all of these teams have stumbled recently with coaching changes. These are the talent peers of Clemson. This is no longer the 1980s.

Tommy Bowden was not a coach who was going to take Clemson to the BCS promised land. But I don't really think that was a place Clemson is capable of going to. He's pretty much a face value coach, give him a mediocre team, and you get mediocre results. But he was consistent. And in college football right now, consistency equals money. Those eight bowl appearances netted the ACC over a million dollars in prize money. With Tommy, you knew what you were getting. Now, Clemson has opted to roll the dice.

I don't like the move. Coaching changes after a successful season tend to faceplant. I would not be surprised if Clemson falls apart completely the next few seasons. Especially if they hire some retread coach, which, after the dismissal of Bowden, might be all they can get, as the hot names, like Bronco Mendenhal and Will Muschamp will be able to take their pick of the vacancies. Clemson's best bet, assuming that they can't get one of those two, might be an unorthodox one.

Gus Malzahn, the offensive coordinator of Tulsa. Orchestrator of the number 1 offense in college football, averaging 603 yards and 53 points per game. The first step to set the table for him is the benching of Cullen Harper, a senior, in favor of the more talented and less experienced freshman Willie Korn. Get him some experience. Also, do whatever it takes to keep CJ Spiller on campus. Those two, along with receiver Jacoby Ford, will provide the initial nucleus of a new offense Malzahn can build. Clemson has already decided to scrap this season. Don't be surprised if they drop out of bowl contention entirely, which would have been unlikely with Bowden. All Clemson can do beyond that, is pray.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thoughts on the Bailout

For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last week or so, the hot topic now days is the proposed $700 Billion bailout of the lending institutions that overextended themselves on bad mortgages. The senate recently passed it, and it's going to the house. President Bush has endorsed it, and both Obama and McCain voted for it in the senate. It seems almost a forgone conclusion that this will pass. I have only one question...

What the fuck happened to accountability? I always thought that one of the key ideas of capitalism was that you accept both the earnings and the losses. These lending institutions took risks by handing out mortgages to any Tom, Dick, or Harry with a pulse. "You make $25k a year, and you want to buy a $1.5M house? Sure, we'll back you!" Who approved these boneheaded moves?

People talk about the collapse of these lending institutions as if it's the end of the world. They claim it's the next Great Depression. Did any of these politicians live through the Great Depression? It's like claiming that the Iraq War is the next WWII.

People point to the failure of Washington Mutual as if all banks will fail and all the money people have saved will just vanish into the ether. Did these people notice what happened to Washington Mutual? It got bought out by JPMorgan Chase and was open the next day. This is capitalism, people. The banks perform both a vital, and lucrative, service. If there's a void, and there's profit to be made, that void will be filled.

It's not the government's place to insulate businesses from the consequences of their bad decisions. All the government needs to do is ensure that business is being conducted in an ethical manner, and beyond that, fortunes will be made and lost by the hands of the businessman, not the congressman. You aren't solvent enough to cover your debt? Fine, sell assets until you are. Don't whine to the government for free money. If the government has to bail out a business, it should be nationalized, rebuilt, and eventually sold back into the private sector. Put the jackasses who ran that ship into the ground out on their ass.

The other concern I hear about is all the people who will get foreclosed upon because of their bad mortgages. Cry me a river. You're going to lose your house? Cash in your end of the mortgage, let the bank foreclose on you, and buy a house that you can actually afford. What? It'll ruin your credit rating? It should, I wouldn't lend to your dumb ass after you made a mistake that big.

In the end, it all comes back to accountability. People are in this mess because both sides made some God awful decisions. Bailing them out at this point is simply rewarding them for making those decisions. It takes all the risk out of business, and in the end, is tantamount to theft from the taxpayers.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes.

With the new Watchmen film looming large, I think it's a good time to introduce my readers to the source material.

Watchmen was originally published as a 12 episode series in 1986 and 1987. Written by the acclaimed Alan Moore and drawn by Dave Gibbons. The accolades for this work say it all.

Kirby Awards: Best Finite Series, Best New Series, Best Writer, Best Writer/Artist

Eisner Awards: Best Finite Series, Best Graphic Album, Best Writer, Best Writer/Artist

The Hugo Award

Listed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 greatest English language novels

Listed by Entertainment Weekly as the 13th best novel in the past 25 years

The influence of this work permeates the entirety of modern comics. It, along with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, was the first of the dark, mature, style of comics. Eschewing the boy scouts in brightly colored spandex in favor of complex protagonists with very complex, and questionable, ways of doing things. However, no story does it so succinctly, and literally, than the Watchmen.

DC comics had obtained a the intellectual rights to a number of characters created by the failing Charlton Comics. Alan Moore was commissioned to create a series built around those characters. He took a concept called "Who killed the Peacemaker?" that Charlton decided against using. What he came up with was Watchmen. DC execs took a look at his ideas, and realized that if they let him use the Charlton characters for this storyline, they wouldn't be able to use them again. However, they also knew they had something special. So they gave Moore the greenlight to create Watchmen by using modified versions of the Charlton characters. So The Question became Rorschach, the Peacemaker became the comedian, Captain Atom became Doctor Manhattan, and Alan Moore became a legend.

In 1985, the world of Watchmen is not too dissimilar from the way history actually unfolded. The main difference is that America won the Vietnam War, and riding the endorsement of that victory, Nixon altered the constitution to allow him to remain as president.

Watchmen kicks off with a murder. Edward Blake is hurled through the window of his 20th story apartment. Masked vigilante Rorschach, sneaks in to investigate. Upon finding a switch that reveals a hidden costume, Rorschach realizes that Edward Blake was none other than the Comedian, one of two state sponsored masked heroes. As Rorschach begins to dredge up old problems in an effort to find the killer of the Comedian and bring him to justice, a dreadful plot begins to come together. The implications of these schemes are shocking, even in Watchmen's cold war world, which lives constantly under the Sword of Damocles that is the threat of Nuclear War.

The artwork for Watchmen is very clean, though the colors are a little on the drab side, with a lot of yellows and greens. However, there are layers within layers in the art. Look for the smiley face. The writing is masterful, and even deeper than the art. The characters are complex, and with one notable exception, are all normal people. Realism rules the majority of this novel. The masked heroes are exactly the sort of people who would don a costume and fight crime in the real world. By that, I mean mentally unstable. Megalomania, Apathy, Idealism, Absolutism, Nihilism, and pretty much any other neurosis you can think of make their appearance.

In the end, Watchmen is as fine a deconstruction of a comic as will ever be written. The expansive metafiction lends itself well to the medium. This is a work with every bit the weight of any notable written novels. As perfect a comic as one could find. I can only give it a 10/10.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

What USC Needs to Fix.

PANIC! At least according to the media.

Mark Schlabach says that now other conference champions can afford to lose a game, because there's no way USC can leapfrog them.

Ted Miller says that even if the other conference champions lose two games, it guarantees nothing for the Trojans.

Dennis Dodd says that the loss is part of a disturbing trend.

Mike Ventre says that USC can forget about another national title.

These people are sensationalist idiots looking to attract readers through gloom and doom. One of the few respectable sports journalists in the world, Mark Bowden, readily admits that the sports media doesn't know a thing about sports. And it's true. It's amazing that the very people who vote in the AP poll don't know the twisted rules that they themselves cast their ballots by.

Unlike Ohio State, USC's problem is one of execution, not a systemic flaw in the very nature of their program. Undefeated seasons in a BCS conference are rare, because it's extremely difficult to go out and execute at a level needed to win each and every game. It's hard for USC, and it's hard for other teams too. Dodd said that it was part of a trend. No, it's part of the norm. In the last 36 years, USC has gone undefeated a whopping 1 time. Losing happens. It's not some disturbing trend that heralds the collapse of a team into the dark pits of mediocrity. Hell, LSU, last years champion, lost to not one, but two unranked teams. And this is assuming that when it's all said and done, Oregon State will still be unranked, which I honestly doubt.

That's important because it shows us exactly what USC needs to do to right the ship, and unlike Ohio State, they can do it this season. All they need to do is win. If USC wins out, it would take not one, but two BCS conference champions to go undefeated to bar them from the national title game. And it's simply because of the way the voters in the poll naturally cast their ballots. A team losses, and they drop. It doesn't matter who they lose to, that only governs how far you drop. At this point, there are still 18 undefeated BCS teams. They are spread amongst 5 conferences. That means at most 5 teams will go undefeated. If that happens, I will eat my hat. USC will probably drop to between 7 and 11 in the polls. Because this loss happened so early in the season, they'll have plenty of time to crawl back up the polls as the remaining undefeated teams kill each other off.

Remember, in 2006, USC lost to an unranked OSU team that had previously been blown out 42-14 on the road against a WAC team. They still managed to claw their way back up the polls to put them into a position to compete for the national championship. This is a very talented team, that can win any given game if they execute. They need to execute, they need to win. If they win out, they will more than likely be back in the title game. There's no need to panic. If they lose again though, then they're done.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Well, the Pac 10 just shot itself in the foot.

But MAN is it fun to be the one to pull the trigger! Oregon State has upset the number one ranked team in the nation, and suddenly restored hope to what looked to be a very looong season. The way that Riley pounded the running game out of the ace set seemed like he actually reads my blog.

But as I look back, I notice trends that begin to make me realize that my earlier concerns might have been ignorant in the face of the standard Oregon State modus operandi under Mike Riley. Since the beginning of Riley's second stint as head coach in 2003, Oregon State has been a collective 12-13 for the first 5 games of the season, 0-7 on the road in those games. The Beavers have then closed out a respectable 27-11 for the remainder of the season.

In the last two seasons in particular, this is evident. Both seasons began 2-3, and ended 10-4 and 9-4 respectively, with the Beavers winning a bowl game and finishing the season ranked. The strong finish in 06 was keyed by a win over then #3 USC. In 07, defeating #2 California started up OSU's push to the finish.

This season began 0-2, with both losses coming on the road. It remains to be seen if the upset of #1 USC will signal the start of a blazing run to the end of the season. I certainly hope so, and if it does, this loss will look a lot less damning on USC by the time the Bowls roll around.

The only problem this sort of system brings up is the fact that any seasonal ambitions are scuttled from the get go, and for a school like OSU, which doesn't usually have the luxury of a high preseason ranking, getting embarassed in an early road game on national TV also guts the opportunity for decent media coverage for most of the season.

But with next weeks game against Utah, and the eventual showdown with the Ducks at the end of the season, OSU has positioned itself nicely to begin to undo the damage of the slow start to it's image. Hopefully, the early upset means that the strong finish gets started early. If we could end the season 9-4 or 10-3, it'd do wonders for the program.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Drink of the Moment: Kamikaze

Ah, the Kamikaze, the signature drink of Corvallis' Crowbar. Great drink. Rumor has it that the drink was first poured on a US military base in occupied Japan. I doubt it, but it's a good story.

To make the Kamikaze, you'll need Vodka, Triple Sec, and lime juice. Mix them in equal parts in a shaker with ice. Shake it well, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of lime. Sit back, and imagine yourself in Tokyo, with the crazy lights, and hotel rooms reminiscent of Kramer's dresser.

Like any other cocktail, the Kamikaze has a lot of variations. If you add a half ounce of Maui Blue, you'll get a Nuclear Kamikaze. If you add an ounce of cranberry juice, you get a disturbingly named, Kamikaze on the Rag. Swap the vodka for gin, and you get a London Kamikaze.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What Ohio State Needs to Fix

I am by no means a Buckeyes fan, however, some people have written them off as a mediocre team buffeted by a weak conference. This is not the case. The Buckeyes are still one of the most talented teams in the nation. Ohio State has sent 11 players to the NFL on the first day of the draft the last three years. That's as many as LSU (9) and Georgia (2) combined. Talent is not the issue. The issue is positional talent and coaching doctrine.

In terms of positional talent, if you take a look at the three premier losses in the last three years, against USC, LSU, and Florida, you'll notice several trends. Against USC, they gave up 174 rushing yards on 30 carries, 5 sacks, and 2 INTs. Against LSU, they gave up 177 yards rushing on 45 carries, 5 sacks, and 2 INTs. Against Florida they gave up 156 rushing yards on 43 carries, 5 sacks, and 1 INT. This tells us 2 things. They cannot protect their QB, and they cannot stop the run. This creates two problems. Inability to stop the run allows the opponent to set the tempo of the game, it opens up the play action pass. Being unable to protect the quarterback makes your offense one dimensional. Ohio State is already pretty one dimensional as it stands. This adds up to an offense that can't score, and a defense that can't get off the field. That's a recipe for disaster.

You can get a feel for the level of athletes that a program has by looking at the level of players it puts into the NFL. To see if a program can compete on a high level in college, you need to look at how many high draft picks it puts out. From 2000-2008, Ohio State put 17 players into the NFL via the top 2 rounds of the draft. That throws the notion that they simply "lack speed" out the window. Ohio State has sent up 4 WRs, 5 DBs, 2 LBs, 2 Cs, 2 DEs, 1 DT, and 1 K.

Noticeably absent are QB, RB, and OL. The lack of high level O-line talent makes the Ohio State program systemically vulnerable to elite pass rushers. Florida had Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey, both NFL first round picks. LSU had Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson. USC had Everson Griffen and Kyle Moore. The lack of elite caliber QBs exacerbate this problem, as a mediocre QB tends to hold on to the ball longer.

Figuring out the problems with the run defense is a little more deceptive. Ohio State has had a proud tradition of linebackers, and that's been held up by the current team with Marcus Freeman and James Laurenitis. The defensive ends are also fairly recent, with Vernon Gholston on the teams that lost to Florida and LSU. The safeties aren't world beaters, but they're solid. the weakness has come at defensive tackle. The one defensive tackle drafted early for Ohio State was Ryan Pickett in 2001. Since then, they haven't had anyone special.

Solving the defensive problem will require Ohio State to get out of the mold of the cheap interchangeable defensive tackle. Most of their defensive linemen are in the 280-290 lb range. You can get away with it if you have some LBs who specialize against the run, a Jeremiah Trotter or David Harris style thumper. However, Ohio State has done a good job of recruiting the high end sideline to sideline LBs. They've had good success with those style of linebackers, and I see no reason to mess with those. It would be much easier to try and put an emphasis on bringing in some 300-315 lb DTs who can plug up gaps and stuff the run. The loss of pass rush would be negligible, due to the minimal amount of sacks that actually come from tackles in Ohio State's system.

On offense, the inability to protect the QB really stems from the type of tackles that Ohio State has started. Players like Kirk Barton and Alex Boone, while possessing prototypical size, tend to lack athleticism and have shorter arms than their height would indicate. This causes real problems with speed rushers. The problem can really only be fixed by picking up better offensive line prospects.

Both these problems could be worked out by adopting a more aggressive coaching style, but one thing Jim Tressel is known for is his inflexibility. He runs the exact same game plan on a short week against Ohio as he does on a six week break before playing LSU. Chipping with TEs and double teaming with OGs would help dealing with speedy DEs. High risk/reward run blitz packages would help to deal with the weak run defense. But that's not Tresselball. In the end, you end up with a high percentage winning coach, yet a very predictable team. They win the games you think they're going to win, and lose the games you think they're going to lose. Contrast this to Les Miles, who's the opposite end of the spectrum.

Because of these problems, Ohio State will be a second tier team for years to come until such time as Tressel changes his recruiting tactics. I don't expect him to change his coaching style, because it works for him, but changing the recruiting pattern is easily doable. Jim Tressel has built a program that is designed to beat the Big 10, and Michigan in particular, but will struggle against teams with different philosophies. It's really a measure of the priorities at Ohio State.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thoughts on Week 3 of College Football

Forgot to post spread picks. I'm a bad blogger. I know.

Will the voters please cease shackling themselves to the nonsensical "poll rules", and keep Ohio State out of a third BCS game, as they clearly have little competition in the Big Ten? It was clear that Ohio State didn't belong on the same field as USC. The defensive line is woefully undersized, and gets bullied by a strong running game. The two QB just doesn't work, it never does, I don't know why people think it does.

Cal, you have embarassed the Pac 10. Arizona State, you too. Arizona, well, your whole state just sucks. The Pac 10 should have won every one of those games.

UCLA is a shattered shell of itself, so they get a pass. Wazzu's just so damn bad, that commenting on them makes me feel like I'm beating up on kids with Down Syndrome.

Oregon slept through the first half, and nearly paid for it.

Oregon State started slow, but turned things around. They might have stabilized their season. Riley got out the shotgun mentality and began to establish the run. However, opponents have begun to key in on the fly sweep. To reduce the fly sweep to background noise, Riley needs to move recievers to in motion every third play or so. Doing this will cause them to stop keying in on it, and can actually open up the passing game and conventional running game. Furthermore, Sammie Stroughter needs to be running more deep routes of 15 to 20 yards. Throwing those smoke screens aren't as effective as we'd hope. Also, the line needs to block a little bit.

Did Auburn really win a game 3-2? Or did they kick of baseball season early?

Missouri is making a strong case for the Big XII crown. That offense is the scariest in the conference.

Jake Locker must look at Mark Sanchez, and kick himself for picking Washington.

Did anyone see Texas Tech's flooded field? Raiders indeed...

Heisman Watch:

1. Mark Sanchez: Prime time exposure works wonders. Sports fans everywhere are in his debt for crushing USC.

2. Chase Daniels: Well, Nevada was a speed bump.

3. Knowshon Moreno: Need to step up. The game against South Carolina was not good enough.

4. Tim Tebow: Name recognition is keeping him alive until they hit the meat of their schedule.

5. Sam Bradford: Played well as of late. But Sophomore status will require a lot of people to screw up for him to win.

The Protomen

I'm a storytelling enthusiast. One of the most interesting ways to tell a story is the Concept Album. I guess that's why I'm one of the few people who think MACHINA was one of the Smashing Pumpkins' better albums.

In 2007, the metal band The Protomen released their eponymous debut album. It is a concept album that takes the form of a rock opera based on the Mega Man video game. The band is completely engrossed in their tale, touring the nation in their "protobus" and stopping in various cities to do shows, or "battles". The band wears masks to show the character they are singing as. Mega Man is known in Japan as "Rockman", and this band shows you why.

The album paints a picture of a dystopian future where the people are oppressed by Dr. Wiley's army of robot masters. The first track, "Hope Rides Alone" is a Prog Rock track that establishes the background to the current story. Dr. Light labored to build a machine that could over throw Dr. Wiley's regime. In the year 200X, he hits a breakthrough, and builds Proto Man. A powerful robot designed to cut through the robot army. An epic battle against Dr. Wiley's army ensues. Proto Man fights valiantly, but in the end, as the denizens of the city look on, Proto Man is overwhelmed. As Proto Man dies, humanity fails to attempt to save him, looking on as Dr. Wiley orders the coup de gras.

The next track is "Funeral for a Son". A slow instrumental track that represents Dr. Light burying Proto Man, whom he had invested 12 years in his creation.

"Unrest in the House of Light" has a kind of Johnny Cash feel to it. Dr. Light had gone on to build a new robot in the mold of Proto Man. His name was Mega Man. Now Dr. Light is faced with the difficult task of explaining to his new "son" what happened to his brother, and why he refuses to let Mega Man attempt to finish the fight of Proto Man. Dr. Light is bitter about the Kitty Genovese-esque actions of the people of the city.

"The Will of One" is a rock song that noticeably incorporates the old school Mega Man 8-bit theme. Mega Man explains to Dr. Light that he's going to go fight Wiley, against Light's wishes. Mega Man refuses to leave the humans who are unwilling to help themselves to their doom. He also wishes to avenge the death of his brother. As he contemplates the situation, he notices that someone has defaced Proto Man's gravestone with the phrase, "Hope Rides Alone".

"Vengeance" is another fast paced rock song, where Mega Man smashes through Dr. Wiley's forces with ease. As he cuts a swath towards Dr. Wiley, his last defender steps forward from the shadows to challenge Mega Man.

The pace slows down for "The Stand (Man or Machine)". Dr. Wiley's final defender steps foreword. Revealing himself to be Proto Man, thought dead. Proto Man explains why he chooses to stand against humanity. Like Dr. Light, Proto Man is bitter about the apathy of the people that he gave everything to fight for. No one is willing to fight for themselves, expecting a "hero" to step forward and save those who would not save themselves. Mega Man is forced to choose between fighting his brother, or forsaking mankind.

"The Sons of Fate" is probably the heaviest song on the album. Proto Man and Mega Man face off against each other. Proto Man castigates the people for their inaction, as they call for Mega Man to destroy his brother. As the music slows, Mega Man finishes off Proto Man, and defeats Wiley. As the crowds praise Mega Man as a hero, he looks down upon the remains of his brother, and distraught by his actions, turns his back on the people.

"Epilogue: Due Vendetta" is a fast, hard, and heavy track that doesn't really have any bearing on the story.

All in all, the album is an impressive showing for an indy band. The mastering could really use some tightening up, and the guitars and vocals have some harmony issues, but, for me at least, the audacious concept makes up for it. I'll give it an 8/10.

Really illustrating both the feel of the story The Protomen are telling, and the atmosphere of the band live, are the two music videos they've released.

The video for "Hope Rides Alone" really drives home the atmosphere they're trying to construct.

This is the video for "The Will of One", and it's a recording of a live concert. Complete with the Mega Man helmet.

Both Videos can be found in higher quality at the Protomen's website.

Silly Pats Fans...

Awww.... What's the league going to do without Tommy Fawkin' Brady? Suck it up boys. I'm an Eagles fan. These things happen. You better hope that Matt Cassell is a gamer.
Thanks to Kissing Suzy Kolber for pointing this shit out. They're downright clairvoyant...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Navigating the Cable Jungle

A few days ago my neighbors called and offered me $50 if I could come over and figure out how to rig up their DirectTV. What ensued was an ordeal of proportions far beyond what should be caused by a satellite box.

The end state set up was going to be totally sweet. 52" 1080i Toshiba flat screen, four speaker surround sound, DVD, CD, VCR, and DirectTV. great spot in the room, good acoustics, and good lighting, and a shelf set up with the back cut out so as to facilitate the running of cables. They even had all the manuals.

I kicked things off by looking at the manuals, and plugging everything into each other in the manner proscribed by the surround sound manual. CD, DVD, VCR, and satellite, all running into the surround sound, then being routed into the TV from there. Plugged it in and got nothing. So we tried various configurations, using component cables, S Video, and HDMI. Those yielded nil, nadda, and bumpkis, respectively. After an odd mixture of S Video and Components, we finally managed to get the Direct TV picture on the screen. No sound though. So I consulted the manual for the surround sound again.

It listed a system setup needed to optimize the speakers. Ok. So I began to go through the steps. Go through the menu. Check. Select system setup. Check. Verify speakers are attached. Check. Attach microphone and set it at ear level in the most likely to be occupied seat. Huh? Microphone?

Turns out the surround sound has a microphone attachment that you need to plug into the dash, and place at ear level, this starts up a test cycle that'll calibrate the speakers. The first problem was how to get the microphone at ear level without blocking it from some speakers. I feared I would have to hold it up, bearing their hopes for a decent entertainment system upon my shoulders like some relatively unimportant Atlas. Fortunately, their 10 year old daughter came out holding a camera tripod in her hands. Some electrical tape later, we had a working stand for the microphone.

I started the test. It puts out these sonar pings from each speaker. I kind of felt like Sean Connery in Hunt for the Red October. Then, we had to repeat it six more times, once at each place where people were likely to sit. After all these tests, the surround sound box shut itself down as it computed the optimal default volumes for the speakers. I thought we were golden.

Alas, it was not to be. As now, we knew the speakers worked, but there was still no sound, and in fact, the picture had been shut off too. Well... shit. I'm getting frustrated. So I continue reading through manuals, getting nowhere slowly. Finally, I throw in the towel, I call my dad up. He took a look at it, and began to work on the surround sound.

Suddenly, it came to me. We plugged the DirectTV into the Surround sound and the TV. We then plugged the DVD player into both the surround sound and the TV. Then we plugged the CD player in the surround sound. That dual link was a trick I cooked up when I had a Playstation, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 all at once. We fired it up, and tested the systems. All go. I took my money, and went home, immensely satisfied with myself.

The Beer is a Lie! Part Deux!

Later during AT, with only the tune up for the Battalion FTX and the FTX itself to go, brigade decided to give us another break. They scheduled a concert for us in the remains of a quarry.

The remains of the quarry was a nice natural amphitheater. We were told beer would be for sale, and we bought it, again. The lie, that is, not the beer. Instead, all they had was energy drinks for sale. Real smart, it's 108 degrees at noon, and they want to trap us for several hours with no water and only pure caffeine to drink? Do they want us to die from heat stroke? Fucking idiots.

Anyways, the event kicked off with a comedy show. Each company got a shot at making people laugh. Alpha Company came out and bragged about how they smoke their joes, and provided a demonstration, involving a rucksack, rifle, and loincloth. Sadly, they weren't joking. We share a tent with Alpha company, we've seen them do this. It's like watching the monkeys at the zoo. That didn't engender laughter so much as nervous silence.

We were up next. We fell back on the old standard of mocking our superiors. We had the BC complaining about not meeting his salute quotient, the CSM bitching about the water not being ACU pattern, goose stepping OCs executing infantrymen with impunity, and the TOC, complete with spinning plates and circus music. Hilarity ensued.

Charlie Company tried a stand up act that actually got the hook. Delta company just fired their crew served weapons. No one was impressed. HHC has a 1st Sergeant Mishra. He's SF, Ranger, and Airborne. HHC then converted Chuck Norris Facts into 1st Sergeant Mishra facts. There was mild laughter.

Bravo Company won that competition. Then came a break dancing competition between the lieutenants. So that's what they learn in OBC. We had a flyby from an Apache. And then they kicked off the concert. After a rousing rendition of "America, Fuck Yeah!", a local Idaho Rock band, The Unread, kicked off. They were pretty good.

The Unread were followed by Miss Tammi, who I swear had to be here solely as a favor to her brother, Major Reese. She embarked on the worst lip syncing this side of Milli Vanilli. She went through the usual sex songs that are the standby of any female rapper. I wonder what Major Reese thinks of his sister now?

After Miss Tammi, the headliner kicked off. The Sammus Theory, a band from Arizona, named one of MTV's best upcoming bands. These guys were real good. I mean, REAL good. A mosh pit quickly forms. An Army mosh pit is the most violent mosh pit known to man. Rank goes out the window. I laid out Delta Company's CO, and had Bravo Company's 1SGT elbow me in the kidneys. I watched a 1LT and SSG go head to head like a pair of bighorn rams. It was awesome.

The band was great, despite some technical difficulties. Hard Rock. Loud, fast, and energetic. The mosh pit kicked up so much dust, we could barely breath, I can't imagine what it was like for the lead singer.

That night the band slept in our tent, and rode out on the convoy with us for the next mission. After the mission was over, we let them burn out some blanks on our weapons. It was kind of funny watching a band used to playing on top of blaring speakers plug their ears as someone fires a 240B. The guitarist compared it to sex, and lit up a cigarette.

They were great, autographed my CD, and regaled us of stories of some of the bands they've toured with. Apparently Everclear are a bunch of cunts.

Thoughts on Week 2 of College Football

9-10 against the spread last week and 8-10 over/under.

It seemed sagging offenses were the norm. Ohio State, West Virginia, Alabama, and Florida all looked a little weak on O.

I've already said my piece on BYU/UW.

If Oregon State wants to win, they need to get out of the shotgun offense, open up the running game, and teach their LBs to tackle.

Georgia looked real good.

East Carolina looked good. Finally, a team that the Carolina's can be proud of. Given the remainder of their schedule, and BYU's poor performance against UW, I think ECU is the new front runner for the Mid Major BCS Buster.

Penn State looked real good.

Wake Forest's struggles with Ole Miss, VT's dismal performance against Furman, Virginia struggling with Richmond, NC State letting William and Mary hang around, Duke's loss to Northwestern, Miami's Loss to Florida, and Maryland's loss to Middle Tennessee State, have solidified the ACC as the joke conference of the year.

Without Chris Wells, Ohio State will likely get crushed by USC, sparing us another dismal showing in the title game!

Heisman Ranking:

1. Chase Daniel: Another Strong showing puts him as a good statistical leader on a front running team. He needs to keep it up.

2. Knowshon Moreno: Looked real good, with a freakish highlight against an underated Central Michigan team.

3. Mark Sanchez: There's only so much you can do to maintain momentum in a bye week.

4. Tim Tebow: Still hasn't really had a wow game, but survives and advances. Such is life in college football.

5. Josh Freeman: Looked very impressive. We'll see if he can keep it up through the meat of Kansas State's schedule.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Why Conference Championship Games Fail

A question posed in a comment on an earlier post regarded why I was realigning the conferences based on a 10 team setup with a round robin as opposed to a 12 team setup with a conference championship game. The reason why is that the ultimate goal of my conference setup is to send the best team on to the post season. The round robin method is proven to do that, while the championship game method has failed to do so on many occasions.

The first conference to switch to a championship game was the SEC in 1992. In 1994, sixth ranked Florida edged out third ranked Alabama for the championship. Alabama went on to the Citrus Bowl, where they defeated Ohio State 24-17, and finished the season ranked 5th. Florida went on to the Sugar Bowl, where they lost to Florida State 23-17, and finished the season ranked 7th. In 2001, 21st ranked LSU knocked off 2nd ranked Tennessee. In the bowls, LSU defeated Illinois by 13 points, while Tennessee obliterated Michigan by 28. LSU finished ranked 13th, Tennessee finished 6th. In 2005 the tables were turned as 13th ranked Georgia slipped past 3rd ranked LSU. Georgia went on to lose to West Virginia while LSU blasted Miami 40-3.

The next conference to adopt a conference championship game was the Big XII in 1996. That very year, unranked Texas upset 3rd ranked Nebraska. While Nebraska crushed Virginia Tech, Texas got run over by Penn State. Nebraska finished the season ranked sixth, while "champion" Texas finished 23rd. In 1998, 10th ranked Texas A&M upset 2nd ranked Kansas State in overtime. Both teams went on to lose their bowls, and finished ranked 10th and 11th, Kansas State on top. In 2001, 9th ranked Colorado upset 3rd ranked Texas. Colorado went on to be murdered by Oregon, while Texas beat Washington. Washington and Oregon were co champs of the Pac 10 that season. In 2003, Kansas State upset 1st ranked Oklahoma. While most people remember Oklahoma rolling over for LSU, few remember that Kansas State got crushed by Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. 2007 featured Oklahoma knocking off top ranked Missouri. Oklahoma proceeded to get embarrassed by West Virginia, while Missouri blew out Arkansas.

The most recent conference to jump on the band wagon was the ACC in the wake of their rape of the Big East. They got things started quick, in the inaugural game in 2005, where the 22nd ranked Seminoles of Florida State upset the 5th ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. FSU promptly lost to Penn State, while VT defeated Louisville. VT ended the season ranked 10th, FSU was still 22nd.

These are examples from every conference where an inferior team got hot for one game and walked off with the conference championship. Most of these cases ended with the "champion" badly embarrassing their conference, usually on national television. Imagine if the Big 10 had a better team in their conference, and still decided to send Ohio State to the slaughter in the last two BCS Title Games. That does not happen in the Pac 10, or even the Big 10. Almost always, their champion might not win, but they are the best team in the conference, without a doubt. In a playoff situation, not sending the best team would cost the conference millions, and look really bad too.

Why then, do the SEC, ACC, and Big XII, willfully risk such embarrassment? The answer is the almighty dollar. An extra game, particularly one that single handedly determines the champion of a major football conference, produces millions of dollars in income for the conferences. Merchandise, gate proceeds, television rights, it's all very lucrative. However, by limiting the competition from a ten team conference to a six team division, you increase the weight placed on each game. There's really only 5 games that matter in a 12 team conference, as opposed to 9 in a 10 team conference. Football, being a fairly unpredictable sport by nature, will wreak havoc on records due to this. One off game, one fluke play, and you're likely never to recover in a 12 team conference, even if you are the superior team in the long run. By maximizing the number of games that matter, in time, the cream will rise to the top. If you follow the example of the 12 team conferences, all you'll learn is that, in the short term, shit can float.

An Example of What's Wrong with the NCAA.

#15 BYU played unranked Washington Saturday. It was a thrilling game with back and forth scoring. Down 28-21 with 2 seconds left, Washington QB Jake Locker made a clutch scramble to score the TD that only left Washington down by one. Once he crossed the plane, he tossed the ball over his shoulder and lept with his teammates in joy. The referees assessed a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to be assessed on the game tying point after attempt. This turned a 19 yard field goal attempt into a 34 yarder. The kick was subsequently blocked, allowing BYU to escape with a victory.

I don't like excessive celebrations. They rankle me as the actions of primadonnas. They represent everything that is wrong with the game. However, this was not an excessive celebration. There were no cell phones, no sharpies, no dancing, and no planning. This was a kid and his teammates ecstatic about making the big play. Raw emotion and pure victory. It was everything that's right about football, and team sports in general. Without that emotion the game is lessened. It is everything for sports.

The referee who threw the flag was Larry Farina. Pac 10 coaches have the opportunity to "rest" a referee for a game, essentially blackballing them from the game. Mike Riley, head coach of Oregon State, and probably one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, has only used that authority once. He "rested" Farina from refing OSU in 2006. In 2007, he was not given the roster of referees to review before the game against Washington. He trotted onto the field, and found Larry Farina waiting for him. The ensuing game was one of the worst officiated games I have ever seen in my life. Three OSU players were ejected, and a blown fumble call that nearly cost OSU the game. Oregon State's athletic director, Bob DeCarolis, went on a rampage to get the officiating crew suspended.

The lack of oversight and standardization of the officiating of games is another problem. Pac 10 officials have been particularly bad, and Farina's been the worst of the bunch. The entire system needs to be overhauled, and Farina needs to be fired. "Rested permanently" if you'd like to use the NCAA's soft PC language. These games bring in millions of dollars and we're trusting them to part time workers? Hell no. You can throw the refs on the pile of things I'd fix with college football if I were king.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fixing College Football: The Southeastern Conference

Here's where I'm probably gonna hit the most friction. Retooling the SEC. We've already pulled out Kentucky and South Carolina and stuck them in the Big East and the ACC, respectively.

The University of Alabama
Auburn University
The University of Florida
The University of Georgia
The University of Mississippi
Mississippi State University
Vanderbilt University
The University of Tennessee
Louisiana State University
Georgia Tech University

The first eight were easy, traditional, rivalries. However, LSU doesn't have a traditional rival, neither does Arkansas. I decided to pull Arkansas because they are the most decentralized geographically. I threw in Georgia Tech from the ACC to centralize the SEC more in the south east.

Drink of the Moment: Tequila Sunrise

The Tequila Sunrise is another classic western drink. The drink is named for the color spectrum that comes out when the drink settles. It's also become synonymous with an early morning hangover. First made in Arizona, it was popularized in 1973 by the Eagles song, "Tequila Sunrise", again in 1988 after a Mel Gibson movie sharing the name, and again in 1998 after Cypress Hill wrote a song with the same name. The drink has about a 10 year cycle, and I'm bringing it back!

To make the tequila sunrise, you need orange juice, grenadine, and tequila. Take a highball glass, and fill it with ice. Add 3 parts tequila and 6 parts orange juice. Stir the drink, then add 1 part grenadine. Let the grenadine settle to the bottom of the glass, and do not stir. Garnish with a cherry or an orange wedge, I prefer the orange, but to each their own. Take a sip and picture yourself waking up bleary eyed... on second thought, picture yourself enjoying a beautiful sunrise after a night out with some good friends.

There are many variations to the Tequila Sunrise. The Caribbean Sunrise replaces the Tequila with rum, the Siberian Sunrise replaces it with vodka, the Kentucky Sunrise with bourbon, and the Malibu Sunrise uses Coconut rum. If you add 1/2 an ounce of lime juice to the drink, you get an Arizona Sunrise. Throw in a couple ounces of Peach Schnapps, and you'll get the Fuzzy Sunrise, a favorite of the ladies. Replace the Orange Juice with 7up to create a Bloody Hurricane. There is a drink called the Tequila Sunset, that uses blackberry brandy in the place of grenadine.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

College Football: Against the Spread: Week 2

I'm 12-11 against the spread and 7-5 on Over/Under.

1: USC: Bye Week

2: Georgia: vs. CMU, -24, 56 ov, Look for Central Michigan to cover, and take the over. Enjoy the Dan LeFevour show.

3: Ohio State: vs. Ohio, -34, 45 ov, Ohio State will cover, but take the over.

4: Oklahoma: vs. Cincinatti, -21.5, 53.5 ov, Oklahoma will cover, take the under.

5: Florida: vs. Miami, -21.5, 51.5 ov, Take Florida and the Over. Tempers will flare.

6: Missouri: vs. Southeast Missouri State, No spread.

7: LSU: vs. Troy, -24.5, LSU will cover in another cupcake game. Please Les, grow some fucking balls.

8: West Virginia: @ East Carolina, -7.5, 50 ov, Take West Virginia and the Under.

9: Auburn: Vs. Southern Miss, -17.5, 41.5 ov, Take Auburn and the Under.

10: Texas: @ UTEP, -28, 58 ov, Take Texas and the Over. UTEP got lit up by Buffallo, I don't think the oddsmakers caught this one yet.

11: Wisconsin: vs. Marshall, -20.5, 51 ov, Take Wisconsin and the Under.

12: Texas Tech: @ Nevada, -10.5, 64.5 ov, Take Texas Tech and the Over.

13: Alabama: vs Tulane, -30, 43.5 ov, This being Tulane's first game, they've been gunning for Alabama all offseason, Tulane covers, take the Over.

14: Kansas: vs. Louisiana Tech, -20.5, 52 ov, Take Kansas and the Under.

15: Arizona State: vs. Stanford, -14, 53.5 ov, Take ASU and the Under.

16: BYU: @ Washington, -10, 55 ov, take BYU and the Under.

17: South Florida: @ UCF, -14, 53 ov, Take USF and the under.

18: Oregon: vs. Utah State, -35.5, 50 ov, take Oregon and the Over.

19: Penn State: vs. OSU, -16.5, 46 ov, OSU will cover, take the over.

20: Wake Forest: vs. Ole Miss, -8, 47 ov, Wake Forest and the Under.

21: Fresno State: Bye

22: Utah: vs. UNLV, -22, 40.5 ov, take Utah and the over.

23: UCLA: Bye

24: Illinois: vs. Eastern Illinois, no spread

25: South Carolina: @ Vanderbilt, -10, Take South Carolina in their traditional fast start.

Fixing College Football: The Atlantic Coast Conference

Well, the ACC is a mess right now. Let's rework that disaster.

The University of Miami (Florida)
Florida State University
Duke University
The University of North Carolina
North Carolina State University
Wake Forest University
Virginia Tech University
The University of Virginia
Clemson University
The University of South Carolina

Who the hell thought to put the Gamecocks into the SEC? Remember the brawl in 04 that Lou Holtz tried to break up? That's fucking HATE right there. Hate breeds drama, drama breeds interest, interest breeds cash. VT vs UVA, UM vs FSU, Duke vs UNC, NC State vs Wake Forest. This is a Gemini model in the vein of the Pac 10. Everyone has an in conference rival. Everyone has That Game to look foreword to.

Maryland and Boston College are too far north. BC is really a better rival with Notre Dame anyways, and Maryland's most hated foe is Johns Hopkins. Maryland will be a tough one to place. Georgia Tech is really more in SEC territory anyways.

The ACC takes these changes very well, as most of the schools fall neatly into existing rivalries.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder is a stupid movie. However, a quote from the movie itself illustrates just what that means.

Downey: "Everybody knows you never do a full retard."

Stiller: "What do you mean?"

Downey: "Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Count toothpicks to your cards. Autistic, sure. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. You went full retard, man. Never go full retard."

When Tropic Thunder is stupid, it's a hilarious, farcical, deconstruction of the movie industry, and actors world wide. When Tropic Thunder goes completely stupid, it's just annoying. Unfortunately, it skews between the two often enough that it seems the film just isn't sure of what it wants to do.

The cast is star studded. Ben Stiller plays Tugg Speedman, an over the top action star on the downside of his career, similar to another actor on the film.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Kirk Lazarus. The ultimate method actor, the Australian has won five Oscars, and is so dedicated to his role that he underwent a surgical procedure to allow him to portray the Black Sgt. Lincoln Osiris. One part Russell Crowe, one part Robert De Niro.

Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy, a drug addled comic known for his low brow, multi role comedies. Think Eddie Murphy meets Mike Myers.

Brandon Jackson plays Alpa Chino, a rapper, turned business mogul, turned actor. Think P. Diddy meets Gangstaliscious.

Jay Baruchel plays Kevin Sandusky, a young actor whom no one really knows.

Nick Nolte plays "Four Leaf" Tayback, handless Vietnam vet, who wrote the book the film within the film is based on.

Matthew McConaughey plays Rick "Pecker" Peck, Speedman's agent. Basically Drew Rosenhaus on crack.

Tom Cruise plays Les Grossman, a foul mouthed, scheming producer. One part Donald Trump, one part Mark Cuban.

Tropic Thunder kicks off with some fake previews that set the tone for each primadonna actor, followed by a blown scene, in which a $4 million explosion is set off without the cameras rolling. The film is a month behind schedule, only five days into production. Speedman and Lazerus are fighting over creative control, Chino whores out his energy drink "booty sweat" every other line, and Portnoy is wired on heroin. The rookie director is unable to handle the massive egos of the primadonna actors, and with the producer breathing down his neck, he accepts an idea from the slightly unstable Tayback.

The proceed to fly the actors deep into the Vietnam jungle, where a setup of hidden cameras and the director's camcorder would empower them to film the scenes "Guerrilla style". However, the situation changes rapidly as they are found by drug smugglers, and despite their thoughts that it's still a movie, the situation becomes very real.

The film is well done thematically. Things are always satirical. The problem is that it tries to go too many places at once. Imagine The Naked Gun trying to be somewhat serious as a film, despite still being completely scatterbrained. It could really have done with some tightening up, removing some of the "fully retarded" sections.

The acting varies heavily. Stiller comes out a little stiff, and Jack Black has never been a serious actor, simply portraying the same speedball style of shock acting. Baruchel and Jackson are pretty good. Cruise and McConaughey have some scenes that push the stupidity quotient. Downey Jr. does the best. His ability to switch accents is impressive, and the ability to convincingly carry out a person who is convincingly carrying out another person is pretty damn impressive.

The soundtrack is excellent, and accentuates the movie very well.

Tropic Thunder is 107 minutes long, and brought in a 71 on metacritic. All in all, it's a decent comedy, but a little too much of a roller coaster ride. I'll give it a 5/10.

Thoughts on Week 1 of College Football

Well, I went 12-11 against the spread and 7-5 over/under last week. I'll have next weeks picks up by Wednesday.

Darryll Catchings, I'd just like to say that I hate you.

However, Sammie Stroughter is back. Hot Damn!

Coach Riley needs to run the ball more. He also needs to hire an assistant who's sole job is to constantly keep him appraised of the play clock and game clock.

The theory of SEC supremecy just took a blow, as the 18th ranked Tennessee Volunteers just fell to the unranked UCLA Bruins and their third string QB.

Speaking of Kevin Craft, is he schizo? There was a 180 degree difference between his first and second half performance.

The ACC is a joke this year. Their top 2 teams fall in upsets, and even their wins were pretty freaking ugly. 7 points over Delaware? 8 points over McNeese State?

USC is out to prove a point this season.

Jake Locker reminds me of Elway at Stanford. Great QB, with a garbage team around him.

I think Chris Well's injury is worse than they're letting on. If he's still in a boot during practice, it might be broken.

Michigan is in for a long, LONG season. And it makes me smile.

Between Georgia and Auburn, it looks like they gonna drop out of the race due solely to injuries.

Will someone tell Les Miles to grow some balls and schedule a real non conference schedule? Tell the rest of the SEC while you're at it.

Heisman Ranking:

Please note that I rank the Heisman Winners as in, and in order of liklyhood to win. You will not see Armanti Edwards or Vontae Davis on this list.

1. Mark Sanchez: Got off to the hottest start. 300+ yards, 70%+, and 3 TDs against a BCS defense. He's bolstered by the recent performance of Palmer and Leinart, establishing position of USC QB as one of national Prominence.

2. Pat White: He's provided a valuable cushion for his passing stats. 5 TDs through the air puts him well on his way.

3. Chris Wells: He underperformed, and the injury cost the preseason front runner.

4. Tim Tebow: Lackluster day cost him a chance to blow up his stats before Harvin comes back.

5. Chase Daniels: Great Performance in a shootout with a ranked team on prime time.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

At the drive in as a double feature with The Dark Knight, was The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I saw it with Jeff and Amber, and when they fell asleep, I was left as the sole witness in our group to the sad state of the Mummy franchise.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is as much worse than The Mummy Returns as that film was worse than the original Mummy. Thankfully, the Rock's The Scorpion King remains the low point in the series.

Brendan Frasier returns as Rick O'Connell, mummy slayer extraordinaire. His role hasn't changed, he still has a quicker wit than the character lets on, and an even quicker trigger finger.

Rachel Weisz does not return as Rick's wife, Eve. Instead, she's replaced by Maria Bello. I was not a fan of this move. Bello opts to abandon the clumsy stylings of the librarian out of her depth that Weisz conveyed, and replaced it with a kind of airheadedness more appropriate in an episode of the Hills.

Luke Ford plays the now 21 year old Alex O'Connell. He's in the midst of a struggle between himself and his father better reserved for a teenage character.

Isabella Leong plays Lin, Alex's crush, and an immortal Chinese ninja who's mission is to destroy the Dragon Emperor.

Jet Li plays the titular Dragon Emperor. The first emperor of China, who unified the realm, built the Great Wall, and mastered the five elements. Cursed to terracotta form by a witch, he slumbers with his army, awaiting the opportunity to begin his conquest again.

The movie opens with a recap of the life of the Dragon Emperor. The first emperor of all of China, he conquered everyone who stood against him, then cursed them to forever hold up his works, as he had them executed in a mass grave, and built the Great Wall of China upon their bodies. It doesn't take an engineer to tell you that the cursed corpses of the lost and the damned make a poor foundation material. He goes on to master the five elements, but soon realizes that there is one thing he has not yet mastered, death. As he ages, he sends Ming, his most trustworthy general to go find a witch, who supposedly has the secret to immortality. Upon finding her, she turns out to be a beautiful woman, and the emperor immediately declares that no man is to touch her save him. The witch claims not to know the secret to immortality, but she knows where to find it, in a hidden Buddhist monastery. The Emperor sends both the witch, and Ming to find this secret. As they search the many tomes together, they fall in love, and consummate their relationship. Returning to the emperor, the witch cast a spell upon him. Satisfied, he leads her to the balcony, where he asks her to be his wife. She refuses, and he reveals Ming, in the square below them, a quarterhorse tied to each limb. Ming is dismembered, and the witch flees. The spell she casts begins to take effect, turning the emperor and his army into Terracotta.

The film then jumps to modern times with an expose of the O'Connell's opulent home in Oxfordshire, England, earned as a reward for their actions safeguarding priceless artifacts in the Second World War. 13 years after The Mummy Returns, their son Alex is now 21 years old, and secretly conducting an archaeological dig in China, searching for the tomb of the Dragon Emperor. A British diplomat approaches Rick and Eve with one final task, taking the Eye of Shangri-La to the Chinese Government. Eve's brother, Jonathon, now owns a nightclub in China, the aptly named Imhotep. There they run into Alex, and the traditional father son spat ensues. As tempers cool, Alex offers to show his parents the exhibit he'll soon be opening at the very museum that the O'Connell's need to deposit the Eye.

While inspecting the sarcophagus of the Dragon Emperor, Alex's partner reveals a treacherous plan by renegades within the Chinese military to use the Eye of Shangri-La to resurrect the Dragon Emperor and establish China as the center of his new, worldwide, empire. As the emperor reawakens, he escapes, despite the best efforts of the O'Connells. Heading towards a remote monastery, the emperor takes the Eye of Shangri-La, which will unveil the location of Shangri-La, and the pool of immortality. It's up to the O'Connell's to stop him.

The visuals, acting, and story are all what you'd expect from the Mummy series. That is to say, great, sub par, and dumbed down, respectively. The plot is written more for the 10-14 year old demographic, so it seems a little slow for the older viewers. some of the plot points get to be a little excessive, especially when the yetis get involved.

Jet Li isn't nearly as impressive an actor when he isn't doing crazy martial arts stunts. Given his retirement from Wushu films after Fearless, this is disappointing. Brendan Fraiser is still the high point of the film, with his fly by the seat of your pants attitude of Rick O'Connell portrayed perfectly. I've already stated my issues with Maria Bello's job, and Luke Ford comes off as too whiny.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a mediocre film, sufficient for fans of the genre, but not for general audiences. The film is 114 minutes long, and was given a 31 on metacritic.
I give the film a 4/10.