Tuesday, July 29, 2008

100th post.

And now for something completely frivolous.

Sometimes when I'm driving alone in a rural area, I put the car in neutral and let it coast down hills. It reminds of soapbox derbys.

A Day at the Races

On Sunday, in celebration of my dad's 60th birthday, we visited some family friends who own a horse ranch. We pulled in at the Czech Mate Ranch, and promptly got a tour of the grounds. They own mostly fillies and mares, because they have a potential return on the investment that colts don't if they don't run well. They took pride in showing off the horses that they owned. They were nice horses, so I can't blame them. We started off by checking out the weenlings, the horses who are less than a year old.

An interesting fact about thoroughbred horses is that they're all officially born on New Years Day. Even if their birthday is New Years Eve, for racing purposes, they're considered one year old on January 1st. So most Thoroughbreds are born in between January and June, any later, and they'll be so far behind the other horses in terms of physical development that they just won't be able to keep up.

As we walked around, they showed us the yearling fillies who were going to go up for sale pretty soon. They were expecting over $30k for some of them. Impressive.

Finally they showed us their yearling colts. They warned us that the colts are a little more feisty than the fillies. I should have listened. As I petted one of them, it snapped around and bit me on the wrist. Irritated, I grabbed the horses halter and got ready to yank it back down to my level. Then I realized that this horse could be worth over $30k. I let go, backed away from the fence, and apologized. They laughed it off, apparently it's a pretty common occurrence.

They also talked about their prize horse, Enumclaw Girl. Enumclaw Girl is a 3 year old filly that they weren't able to convince anyone to buy as a yearling, so they decided to race her. She had a rather unassuming pedigree, although if you go back 7 generations she's descended from War Admiral. She's had 5 starts, won 3 of them, came in 2nd in another, and 3rd in the last. She's already earned them over $82k. Pretty nice.

We headed over to Emerald Downs to watch the races for the day. They didn't have any horses that they owned racing, but there was one horse they had bred, CatSilverandGrey, in the 2nd race. Cat hadn't done too well thus far, but they placed a bet on her just for the hell of it, and she came in third.

We watched a few races, and decided to hop down to the ground level to watch some of the races in the grandstands. Mom displayed an uncanny ability at this point. We walked down to the paddock to watch the horses being saddled. Mom considered them, and said, number 9 is going to win. Dad placed a bet on number 9. Number 9 won. Next race, number 7 is going to win, placed bet, 7 won. next race, number 8 is going to win, placed a bet on number 8, 8 won. That last race was the most interesting. I had a $1 8 to 7 Exacta bet on it. Coming around the stretch, number 8 was in the lead with number 7 closing fast on his tail. As they passed us, it seemed that number 7 had taken the lead, screwing me out of my bet. They cross the finish line, and declare a photo finish, meaning that it would require some time to verify. I gnawed on my lip as the time seemed to stretch off into eternity. Finally, the results came back, 8 had staved off 7, who finished in second. I won! I was ecstatic. Then the exacta results came out. I won a whopping $6.90... Most exciting $6.90 in my life.

We watched a couple of more races, and we decided to leave after the ninth race. I decided to place one final bet. After helping my aunt with a bet, I placed a $2 bet on Way Too Much to win the ninth race. When I came back, my aunt asked me why I chose to bet on that particular horse. Doris, the old lady who's been around horse racing longer than I've been alive caught me before I could answer.

"He's not betting on the horse, he's betting on the jockey."

Perceptive woman. It's true, Seth Martinez had won 5 races already today, and he was riding on Way Too Much for his last appearance today. Way Too Much won by two lengths. Hot damn.

While I didn't win a whole lot of money, I did have a great time. I hope to go back soon.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Don't Like It When People Do This.

I hate it when people doggedly refuse to accept their limitations. I'm 6'8" with marginal vision, I accept that I'm not going to be a fighter pilot. Muhammad Abdulqaadir refuses to accept that he's not NFL running back material. Maybe he does, but the writer of this article on Conde Nast Portfolio refuses to accept that.

Dan Golden believes that Muhammad should have gone in the middle rounds of the draft, and went undrafted because his father was a vocal supporter of Zacarias Moussaoui. Dan, have you watched the draft? Ever? If Hitler could run a 4.3 and catch a football, he'd get drafted in the 1st round. Here are the facts about drafting running backs.

You want an ideal height ranging from 5'10" to 6'2". Muhammad is 5'7".
You want an ideal speed below a 4.5. Muhammad ran a 4.6.
You want the back to be proven on a top tier team. He played for FCS school Southern Illinois University.

Any one of these things is not good, but not going to kill someone's chances. All together however? No chance. Get over it Dan. All your article is going to do is foment unwarranted resentment towards football from other people like yourself, who clearly have no grasp on the realities of the spot. Go find someone else to defame.

The Dark Knight

Well, I went to go see the Dark Knight at midnight on opening night. However, due to the constraints of the mirror image course, I haven't been able to cook up the review until now.

Jeff and I went to the midnight showing in Poulsbo. To give you an idea of the popularity of this film, Poulsbo had six screens showing at midnight, and all six sold out.

Christian Bale reprises the double role of Bruce Wayne and Batman. As in Batman Begins, he does an excellent job of portraying Bruce Wayne as a billionaire playboy, and no small measure of jackass. As Batman, he's very imposing. Easily the best portrayal of the character to date.

The performance that has everyone abuzz is the late Heath Ledger's role as The Joker. Unlike previous incarnations of the killer clown in both animated and live action, Ledger shys away from the "Clown" and leans on the "Killer". Gone is the laughing gas, gone is the flag pistol. They are replaced by semtex and RPGs. The madness is certainly still there, but it's not humorous insanity, it's very dark. In my humble opinion, it's easily the best acting performance of the year.

Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent, Gotham's new district attorney. He's the purest civilian character in the film aside from Rachel Dawes. Hailed as Gotham's "White Knight" Dent represents the best chance Gotham has to reclaim itself from the criminals without relying on vigilantes like Batman. There's a twist to the character that everyone with a passing familiarity to the Batman mythos will see coming, but for those who don't know it beforehand, it's pretty powerful.

Gary Oldman plays Jim Gordan, a police officer who works with Batman to crack down on the criminal underworld. He's a very sympathetic character in that he seems completely outmatched, yet is determined to do his job.

Maggie Gyllenhal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. Rachel Dawes' role in the story was scaled back from the original film. In Batman Begins, she represented the judicial system, a role that has been taken over by Harvey Dent in this film. She gets involved in a love triangle between Dent and Wayne, but has become much more of a bystander in the second film.

Michael Caine comes back as Alfred, Wayne's surprisingly wise butler. He's pretty much the same as in the first film.

The film is a little cleaner in the visual imagery than Batman Begins, however the plots are much darker. It opens up with a bank being robbed by a group of men wearing clown masks. As each man completes his role in the heist, another man kills him. Eventually the last man standing pulls his clown mask on to reveal a scarred face painted up like a clown. The Joker.

The story begins in earnest from there. Batman has put fear into the criminal element of Gotham. Most low level criminals won't even conduct business when the bat signal illuminates the sky. Furthermore, Batman has inspired other, lesser men, to take up the mantle of the bat in order to fight crime, much to Batman's chagrin. The mob is getting desperate, faced by Batman on the streets, and a fierce new DA who refuses to be intimidated by the mob's heavy handed tactics.

Desperate, they turn to a new face in the criminal element. The Joker. They offer him one half of their combined fortune in order for him to bring down the Batman. Eager for a challenge, the Joker accepts, and launches a campaign of terror, murder, and violence to try and pull Batman out of his anonymity. As Batman's conscience makes it harder and harder for him to remain anonymous as people are dying, public perception begins to turn on him, just as the Joker intended.

The Dark Knight is a superb movie. The visuals are sharp. The audio is a little distorted, and I wonder why it seems Batman felt the need to have microphones built into his knuckles. But other than that it's fine. The acting is simply incredible. The acting is truly what sets this movie apart, that, and it's lack of an editor.

The one flaw for this film is a rather big one. It's far too long. Like an hour too long. When you get a feel for the twist, and you see it coming, you can see the film unfolding in the following manner, lead up, climax, twist, fade to black. That would have been perfect, and a great setup for a sequel. Instead, it goes, lead up, climax, twist, about 30 minutes of meandering dialogue, restart. It seems almost as if instead of taking advantage of the natural cut point in the plot, they simply filmed the sequel, tacked it on the end, and added a poorly done bridge.

The Dark Knight is 152!? minutes long, and earned an 82 on Metacritic. It would have easily been a 10/10 for me if they had taken the time to cut the fat a bit more, but as it stands, I have to give it an 8/10.

Thematically however, there are some very impressive points that I'd like to discuss, however, if you haven't seen the film, I warn you, Here There Be Spoilers...

One of the main themes is 3. There are several distinct character triangles. Initially there is the love triangle between Bruce Wayne, Harvey Dent, and Rachel Dawes.

But more subtle at the same time, is the triangle between Batman, Jim Gordon, and Harvey Dent. Batman represents power, Gordon weakness, and Dent potential. This is manifested in public sentiment around Batman, that he's a vigilante and dangerous to all around him. The perception of Dent is that he's the infallible savior of the city who will sweep away the mob. While Gordon, who is truly incorruptible, toils in obscurity, and usually fruitlessly without Batman's power behind him.

A third triangle is the late film relationship between Batman, the Joker, and Two-Face. They come to represent Order, Chaos, and Chance, respectively. They are primal forces that can be very destructive if unguided. There becomes a certain dichotomy between each character. Batman and the Joker are polar opposites, and the Joker often comments that he won't know what to do if Batman isn't there to fight him. Harvey Dent is often referred to as the "White Knight" of Gotham, even after his fall from grace, while Batman, the titular Dark Knight, takes the burden of being an outlaw upon himself in order to protect the city's perception of Dent. Two Face and the Joker share an air of amorality. Joker threatens to kill both a ship full of prisoners, and a ship full of innocents. Two Face flips a coin to decide who lives and who dies.
These three triangles dominate the film, each taking precedence in a third of the film.

Another major concept is the idea of perception blurring the line between hero and villain to suit the psychological needs of the populace. Harvey Dent goes from hero to villain, but due to the labors of Batman and Gordon, he is always seen as a hero, as that is what the people need. While Batman is always a hero, the perception of him being a hero goes from being questionable, to being a straight up villain over the course of the film.

If you haven't seen this film yet, you're a terrible person.

Well, this could be terrifying.

Someone actually cooked up an offense where all 11 players are potentially eligible to recieve the ball.

It's called the A-11, and it's here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

American Terrorist

So the guard sent me to the Terrorism Research Center's Mirror Image course. This school is an 80 hour program designed to simulate a radical Sunni terrorist training camp, modeled after the Khalid bin Waleed training camps in Pakistan. The idea is to give you a crash course in Arab and Islamic cultural awareness, a brief on how to speak basic phrases in arabic and read arabic numbers, along with detailed studies on major terrorist attacks from Al-Quaeda, the IRA, Hamas, and other groups.

The school was at Camp Rilea from July 20th to July 25th. Upon arrival, they broke us up into cells, and handed out Shawlar Kamishes aka Mandresses to everyone. They're suprisingly comfortable, even with the annoyingly Jared-like pants.

We went down to the "Mosque" and was introduced to our cadre. The "emir" was a former marine who spends most of his time in Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq studying terrorist operations. He has a photographic knowledge of a lot of terrorist attacks, down to the names of the most peripherial entities. The "imam" had a masters in Arab Studies from Georgetown and a Certificate of Advanced Arabic Proficiency from Georgetown. He actually knew more about Islam and Arabic than the Iraqi who was taking the class.

We did the whole nine yards, Islamic prayer at 0515, terrorist operations as a cell, eating hummus. Hummus gives me terrible gas.

I was part of a 13 person cell. This included an E-6, two E-5s, three E-4s, an E-3, and a Captain from the same battalion S-2 shop from Ft. Lewis. There was an American working for an information research company, an Iraqi working for a private security company, a Marine Scout/Sniper, and a platoon leader from Charlie company. And I got selected as the Cadre leader. Dammit. Personality clashes abound.

The E-6 got named ops officer, and decided that she wanted the cell to be run like her battalion, with the S-3 running all the planning, and the leader rubber stamping things. At one point when I came to run my plan by her, she hands me a peice of paper and says "this is what we're doing." What the fuck. I wanted to run it like an infantry squad, seeing as we had 13 people, which is a lot closer to the 9 of a squad than the 400+ of a batallion.

There were some really fun missions. Most involved using sim rounds, which fire colored soap instead of hot lead, which is less dangerous and less painful, but you still know you've been hit. They also used some amped up paintball guns, as the wicked welt on my tricep attests. They also had a familiarization course on the AK-47. The AK is a simpler weapon to break down than my M-4, however, it's got kinda a cheap feel to it, and a block safety and charging lever that make the weapon pretty much designed for left handed firers. It's a real pain to try and use off the bat as a right handed shooter.

Among the guest speakers was former CIA agent, and author of Imperial Hubris and Marching Towards Hell, Michael Scheuer. While there are aspects of his ideas that I agree in, his complete amoralism is terrifying.

Aside from the knowledge I gained from the class, I also got to keep the Shalwar Kamish, a copy of the Quran, and a signed copy of Marching Towards Hell. Awesomesauce. I honestly think that everyone who is going to deploy to the middle east should take this course.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Drink of the Moment: The Chocolate Cake Shot

And now for something a little different.

This is a little complicated and subtle, so this is not a drink to be bought on the fifth or sixth round. Try it early in the night,and don't be stingy, the ladies love these. This drink is a ritual shooter, akin to a Ritual Tequila.

You'll need vanilla vodka, a hazelnut liqueor like Frangelico, sugar, and a lemon wedge.

First things first, take a shot glass and line the rim with sugar. Then take the lemon wedge and coat it in sugar. Next, take one part vanilla vodka and one part hazelnut liqueor and stir them together and pour into the shot glass. Now the drink is prepared.

Unlike the other cocktails I've written about here, this drink needs to be drunk an a particular fashion. First down the shot. It will taste like ass. Next bite into the lemon wedge and suck on it. That aftertaste of ass will suddenly be transformed into the taste of chocolate cake, and if you really buy into it, it almost feels like you're biting into a big piece of chocolate cake.

There really aren't any ways to change it up. Some people proscribe orange vodka instead of vanilla... they are idiots, vanilla's the way to go.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

There is Hope.

I just got back from running the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. My family drew the unfortunate slot of 1 am to 2 am. It was a humbling experience. For those of you who missed out on this worthwhile venture, you can find all the information you need here.

The relay took place on the local track. The track was marked with paper lanterns, each one commemorating someone who struggled with cancer. Each one marked someone's father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter. On the infield, the Relay teams set up tents in the ragamuffin style that is so very quaintly Port Townsend. They had a projector running Grease and later Big Fish, and a popcorn machine.

Walking out there for an hour was an enlightening experience. This is something bigger than any one of us, yet it touches so many of us in profoundly personal ways. Anything we can do to fight it is worth it. I have lost a grandparent on each side of my family, an aunt, and a cousin to the disease. Both my parents have had to struggle against it. I've seen how it can destroy people. But I will say this, when it comes for me, I'll rip its damn head off.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

I will...

Fuck Yes...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog

So this is what guys like Joss Whedon do during the Writer's Strike...

Joss Whedon, of Buffy and Firefly fame, along with the lesser Whedon brothers, Zack and Jed, got bored during the recent Writer's Strike. So they wrote a campy B-Movie Musical, staring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day.

NPH plays as Dr. Horrible, an amateur mad scientist, attempting to gain entrance into the Evil League of Evil. He videoblogs his evil schemes, and answers reader mail, you know, the whole blog crawl. Dr. Horrible has no super powers, beyond what he can build himself.

Felicia Day plays Penny, Dr. Horrible's crush, whom he can't get up the nerve to talk to. She volunteers her time to try and convince people to sign a petition to open a new homeless shelter.

Nathan Fillion plays Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible's arch nemesis. Captain Hammer dislocated Dr. Horrible's shoulder in their last showdown. He was born with a full head of hair and the ability to bench press 500 lbs.

The show is being released in three acts on the website I linked to above. The first act was released on Tuesday, act II will be released today, and act III on Saturday. It has a surprisingly high production value for a web released side project. It looks just like any other live action TV show. The writing is campy and somewhat uninspired, but the music is well done. NPH does a good job both acting and singing. Day has a surprisingly good voice too. Fillion seemed a little out of sorts and I'm not sure how much of that was him and how much was the character.

It's pretty funny, and worth the 14 minutes it takes to watch the act. There's also a webcomic about Captain Hammer available here. Joss really went all out on this thing.

Bitter:Sweet - Drama

Bitter:Sweet is a sweet Trip-Hop duo. The vocals are done by Shana Halligan, and the production and composition is done by Kiran Shahani. Shahani is best known for his work with the LA based Trip-Hop group Supreme Beings of Leisure, and that influence bleeds through noticeably. It's a good thing.

Bitter:Sweet's 2006 debut album, The Mating Game, was featured on Gray's Anatomy, Lipstick Jungle, and The Devil Wears Prada. Following up on that success, they released their sophomore effort in June 2008, entitled Drama.

Drama is a stylistic album that uses Trip-Hop styling, supplemented by jazz melodies. There's a heavy emphasis on swing jazz, light jazz, and lounge jazz. One track is actually a waltz. It lacks the melancholic overall feel of other Trip-Hop groups. It crops up on a couple tracks, but for the most part, it's very upbeat. Halligan has a very sultry voice, that is complemented by the styling of Shahani.

The mastering is tight, but with a distinctive lo-fi feel to the instruments. It evokes a smokey lounge, straight out of some noir film. The album doesn't really vary its pace up until the last song, which slows down dramatically. The track changes are unremarkable, just the standard end, blank air, start, setup. There's no cross fading.

The album is 13 tracks, and 42 minutes long. My favorite tracks were "Drama", "A Moment", and "Drink You Sober". It's a nice ambient feel, very close to Supreme Beings of Leisure, Bjork, or Portishead. I'd give it a 7/10, and if you liked any of the aforementioned artists, you'll love this album.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

I know, another movie. So sue me.

So I'm loafing around the house, and Jeff calls me up, asks me if I want to go to Silverdale, hang out for a bit, and then go see a movie. Jeff wanted to go see Hancock, but I've already seen it, so I talked him into watching Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

I hopped into the little Nissan Light Truck, and drove out to Silverdale. I'm one of those guys who drives at a constant 4 miles above the speed limit, because the overwhelming majority of police officers won't bother you about it. However, I got stuck behind a Lincoln Navigator who was stuck behind some subcompact looking thing that insisted on driving 45 in a 60 mph zone. Oncoming traffic bedeviled any attempt to pass the little bastard. Then things got worse, a semi truck pulled up behind me. For truckers, time is money, and he wanted to do about 70. So he's riding my ass, and I'm several car lengths on the wrong side of uncomfortably close to the massive SUV in front of me. If something happens to the subcompact, I'm going to get sandwiched, and the Nissan I'm riding in feels like the kind of stereotypical Japanese car that might as well be made of rice paper for all the protection it affords me.

Thus we rolled for almost 40, nerve racking, miles. Finally the road split into a three lane freeway. The semi blew past me, I blew past the Navigator, and we all left the subcompact in the dust.

I met Jeff and Amber at Famous Dave's along with one of Jeff's friends from his time staffing Scout Camp, Andy. We hung out, hit the mall, and loafed around to kill time before the 9:55 showtime for Hellboy. But the mall closes at 9:00, and we had almost an hour to kill. So what did we do? Andy ran to his car, and busted out a Frisbee, and we threw that thing around for a half hour in the theater parking lot until the manager sent her minions out to put a stop to us. Aren't we rebels?

But by that point, we had decided to go in to go see the film anyways.


Hellboy II: The Golden Army is the sequel to the 2004 film, Hellboy. Hellboy II stars Ron Perlman as Hellboy, a demon summoned by the Nazis in 1944 in an attempt to beat back the allied invasion. However, Hellboy was summoned as an infant, captured by the allies, and raised by a kindly old professor. Hellboy's true name is Anung un Rama, and his right hand is made of red indestructible stone. Hellboy's right hand is the key that unleashes Armageddon upon the world. However, in a triumph of nurture over nature, Hellboy has been raised to fight for humanity at the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, or BPRD.

Selma Blair stars as Liz Sherman, Hellboy's love interest, and Pyrokinetic. Liz has the ability to generate flames of incredible heat when she get angry. Kind of like a female Human Torch.

Doug Jones plays Abe Sapien, an Icthyo Sapien, or fish man. He's psychic, and the brains of most field operations, possessing an extensive knowledge of the occult and bizarre.

The story kicks off with the story of the Golden Army. Long ago, man waged war upon the fey folk. The elves, ogres, trolls, fairies, and goblins were all slaughtered. In desperation, the king of the elves commissioned the goblin blacksmiths to build a golden army of 70 times 70 soldiers. This army could be controlled by a golden crown that when worn unchallenged, granted the wearer complete control over the army. These invincible clockwork warriors knew no remorse, and butchered the human army. The king, horrified by the carnage, agreed to a truce with the humans. The humans could keep their cities, and the fey would keep the forests. As a sign of the truce, the crown was broken into three pieces, one was given to the humans, and two were kept by the elves. The elven prince Nuada, disgusted with the king's decision to sign the truce, went into exile, training for the time that the war erupts again.

As time marched on, the humans forgot the truce. They encroached upon the lands promised to the fey. Prince Nuada trained, and honed his skills, and saw his moment to act. The piece of the Golden Crown owned by the humans was up for auction, starting at $7 million. Nuada, and his accomplice, a huge cave troll known as Mr. Wink, broke into the auction house and seized the piece. Then as a statement to humanity at large, he unleashed a swarm of Tooth Fairies upon the people in the auction house. These Tooth Fairies are more like anthropomorphous locusts, devouring everything in their path, teeth first, hence the name.

The event is locked down, and the BPRD is called in. Liz, Abe, Hellboy, and two human agents. As they investigate, the Tooth Fairies attack them. Eventually, Liz decides to just incinerate the lot of them. The resulting conflagration blows Hellboy out a window and into the crowd below, blowing BPRD's cover. Out in the open, BPRD is now assigned a new agent to oversee the team. Johann Krauss. Krauss was a German psychic who had his body incinerated by some event during a seance. Now he is just an ectoplasmic fog that binds his soul to this world. Given fresh direction by the resourceful Klauss, the BPRD begins to investigate who was responsible for the attack on the auction house...

The movies is very similar visually to Guillermo del Toro's previous work, Pan's Labyrinth. If you haven't seen one of del Toro's films, think Tim Burton on downers. It's a little creepy, yet whimsical, and dark all at the same time. The acting is a little scattered. Perlman is a pro, but that might be the product of typecasting, given that it seems that every role he undertakes opens with "Enter deformed freak". Blair was disappointing, she didn't take well for the more adjusted direction of her character. Doug Jones was amazing with his body language, but his dialogue was a little labored. The movie's pace is a little schizo too. The score is unremarkable.

Hellboy II is 110 minutes long, and got a 78 on metacritic. It's a fun summer movie, and worth watching if you enjoy something a little outlandish. It's got an irreverent B-Movie feel to it, and it doesn't apologize for it. It's got laughs, drama, and action, what more could you ask for? I'd give it an 8/10

Monday, July 14, 2008

A day at the movies.

I've got three reviews for you. You can guess what I did with my Sunday.

The first film I watched was WALL-E at the Rose Theater. The film is set in a world where mankind has literally buried the planet in garbage. A single universal corporation, Buy N Large (BnL), has caused rampant consumerism, and has decided on a mass exodus from the planet on their luxury starliners while a series of robots cleans the planet. These robots, the Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth Class, or WALL-Es, roam the planet. They scoop up garbage, crush it into a cube, and stack the cubes in ziggurat like structures, dwarfing local sky scrapers. This operation lasts until the year 2700, when there is only one WALL-E left in operation. Without being tended by technicians on a regular basis, WALL-E has developed a quirky personality. He hoards objects that catches his eye, like a Rubik cube, an eggbeater, and a hoard of Twinkies. He has a pet cockroach, and enjoys watching Hello Dolly! on his iPod.

WALL-E slaves away on Earth, until one day, a ship lands, and drops off another robot. This robot, EVE, has the mission to find plant life, off which WALL-E has the only known sample. EVE is sleek, fast, and also a godless killing machine. Why searching for plants of a desolate world requires a plasma cannon is beyond me. But WALL-E flirts with her, and they develop a friendship. WALL-E shows her the plant, and her programming kicks in. She sucks the plant into her chest cavity, and seals up dormant, until the ship returns to pick her up. WALL-E jumps on the ship, and catches a ride out to the mother ship containing the human race. Centuries in microgravity, combined with a dependence on servant robots for even the most minute tasks have led to humanity evolving into obese slobs, incapable of even the most basic tasks. WALL-E struggles to catch up with EVE, and help her prove to the humans that the Earth is capable of supporting life again.

In the end, WALL-E gets a little too preachy for my tastes. But if you look strictly upon the character interactions, it's a classic love story between atypical characters.

WALL-E is 98 minutes long, and pulled in a 93 on Metacritic. The film is beautifully rendered, as any Pixar film is. However, the flaw in using a cartoonish CG setup is that it seems a little garish when contrasted with live action setups. Someone at Pixar forgot to point that out. Thankfully, there are only a few such scenes. The product placement of Apple is a little too blatant for my tastes, with WALL-E's iPod sitting on what could only be described as the shrine of his humble abode, several characters are voiced by MacInTalk and Plaintalk, and EVE design being quoted by the director as an extension of the iPod's design. But that's to be expected when the man who sold Pixar to Disney happens to be the primary shareholder in Disney, and the CEO of Apple. The score is well done, and the closing theme, Down to Earth, by Peter Gabriel is quite catchy. WALL-E is well made, and worth seeing, I'd give it an 8/10

Attached to WALL-E is a 5 minute short cartoon called Presto, it's hilarious. Some real Looney Tunes type stuff.

Later on that night, we decided to go see the double feature at the Drive In theater. Drive Ins are a dying breed. This particular theater is nestled in a clearing, surrounded by old growth cedar trees. And bats. There are bats there, and they constantly swoop in front of the screen. But nobody's perfect. The theater was playing The Incredible Hulk and The Love Guru.

First up was The Incredible Hulk. This film is a reboot of the film series in the same vein as Batman Begins. Ang Lee's 2003 directorial belly flop, The Hulk, was widely panned by critics, and bombed at the box office. As such, the new director, Louis Leterrier went to town with a tomahawk. He effectively erased Lee's film from continuity, and despite the two films sharing many roles, he recast all of them.

The story kicks off 5 years after Bruce Banner was irradiated by GAMMA radiation. On the run, he has sought shelter in the favelas of Rio de Janiero, where he works day labor in a bottling plant and studies techniques to control his emotions under a brazillian jiu-jitsu master. After he accidental cuts his hand, his blood spills into a bottle that is shipped to Wisconsin. A poor SOB drinks it, and drops dead from GAMMA poisoning. This alerts the zealous General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross to Banner's location. Banner is corresponding with a mysterious radiation expert, known as Mr. Blue, in an attempt to try and find a way to cure him of his curse.

General Ross sends an elite team to attempt to capture Banner. This group is led by an operative named Emil Blonsky, who is on loan from the British Royal Marines. They find Banner, however, the pursuit forces Banner to transform into the Hulk, a superhumanly strong creature whose power increases exponentially with his anger. The Hulk trashes the factory as he escapes, leaving Blonsky in awe of his power.

Banner heads back to Culver College in Virginia, site of his accident, in search of the data that Mr. Blue needs to synthesize a treatment. There he meets with Betty Ross, the General's daughter, and Banner's partner in the experiment. After obtaining the data needed, Betty's current boyfriend snitches Banner out to the General, and the general pulls out all the stops to try and catch him. This include dusting off the old Weapon I serum that made Captain America into a Super Soldier in WWII. Injecting it into Blonsky, Blonsky soon becomes addicted to gaining more power, and soon sets his sights on the GAMMA power of the Hulk.

Ed Norton replaces Eric Bana as Bruce Banner. Norton provides a more pathetic Banner, as opposed to the somewhat alpha male performance of Bana. This does much better in creating an effective dichotomy between Banner and the Hulk, making it a true Jekyll and Hyde.

The Hulk himself has been redesigned. He's a little leaner, and more defined than in Lee's movie. I think it brings him closer to the ideal man taken to the extreme motif than Lee's did.

Liv Tyler replaces Jennifer Connelly as Betty Ross. Liv is a little more vulnerable than Connelly was, and becomes more of a sympathetic character.

William Hurt takes over the role of General Ross from Sam Elliot. I disagreed with this change. I think Elliot is the better actor, and he did a much better job of channelling the Ahab-like zeal of the character.

Tim Roth plays Emil Blonsky, and does a very good job of portraying a professional soldier who knows he's running out of time.

Leterrier's Hulk is more action and less angst than Lee's movie was. It also does a good job of starting to tie the film in with the greater Marvel continuity. Little things, like the Weapon Plus logo on the cryo tube containing the super soldier serum, and the appearance of Robert Downey Jr, reprising his role as Tony Stark, making a recruiting pitch for the Avengers to General Ross.

I have one major gripe though. PEOPLE OF HOLLYWOOD, HEAR ME! ESPECIALLY YOU PEOPLE AT MARVEL! I am sick of seeing just straight up inaccurate representations of the machinations of the US Army. We do not wear BDU's anymore, exchange soldiers do not wear US dress uniforms, we do not use M-16A2s anymore, a Humvee wheel does not come off that easily. That's to say nothing of the lousy tactics displayed by the soldiers. I let it go in Iron Man, seeing as those were supposed to be Air Force personnel, but this was supposed to be Army Infantry. I will work for a tenth of what other Hollywood military consultants would work for, and I will make sure that you will not make stupid mistakes like those again.

The Incredible Hulk is 114 minutes long, and earned a 61 on metacritic. The movie is fast paced, and intense. However, I think it was spoiled a bit by the trailers. The first 20 minutes of the movie was intentionally setup to have a strong reveal of the Hulk, but everyone had already seen it. The soundtrack was well put together, and included the nostalgic leitmotif from the "Lonely Man" theme from the classic TV show. It's a good film, and worth a shot. I'd give it a 7/10.

After the intermission, The Love Guru started up. There's 88 minutes of my life I'll never get back. The film is a Mike Myers vehicle. Myers plays the Guru Pitka, a love guru in the vein of Deepak Chopra. He is hired on by Jane Bullard, played by Jessica Alba, the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. His job is to fix the marriage of the Leafs' star player, Darren Roanoke, acted by Romany Malco. Roanoke has been cuckolded by the goalie of the LA Kings, Jacques "Le Coq" Grande, played by Justin Timberlake, and Roanoke has been in a slump ever since.

The movie has a few moments that will inspire laughter, but even those won't last beyond the parking lot. For the most part it's a cavalcade of distasteful puns and shock humor. Everything is outlandish, from Myer's facial hair, which is like the bastard offspring of Rollie Fingers' mustache and Dusty Hill's beard, to the God awful acting of so many of the films stars.

Myers is mediocre in the film. Alba is still scorchingly hot. Malcos is the stereotypical black athlete, which makes very little sense in a hockey film. Timberlake proved he can't act drama in Alpha Dog, and has proven that he's even worse at comedy. Verne Troyer seemed forced. Stephen Colbert was a high point of the film, but he was seated next to Jim Gaffigan, who just sucks the life out of the scenes they share. Ben Oliver can't act period, and was clearly dying out there. Even the regal Ben Kingsley was reduced to the abyss in this film.

The soundtrack, and film in general, draws too heavily on Bollywood stereotypes to be entertaining. There's a reason why the film garnered a 24 on Metacritic. Stay away from this film, it's not worth your time. It's a 2/10.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fixing College Football: The Conferences

Here's where all hell would break loose. There's too much variability in the conferences. The Big East and Sun Belt have 8 teams, the WAC and MWC have 9, the Pac 10 has 10, the Big Ten inexplicably has 11, The SEC, ACC, Big XII, and C-USA have 12, the MAC has 13, and 4 schools think they're too good for a conference. In no way, shape, or form, does that add up to a fair coherent sum.

So here's what we do. We reconsolidate all the conferences into a single uniform model. But as you can see, we have 6 different models, and 120 teams to split up, so how do we do this?

The 8 team model is stable, and capable of having a true round robin be played within, it would require 14 conferences to be established, requiring 3 new conferences to be established. Doable, but a little messy.

The 9 team model still allows for a true round robin, however, it doesn't divide into the 120 teams, requiring either 3 teams to be dropped, or six teams absorbed.

The 10 team model fits nicely into a round robin, and would require 12 conferences, only one more than our current number. As of now, it's the cleanest solution.

The 11 team model doesn't fit into a round robin, and lop sided divisions would make a conference championship a dicey affair. Also, it would require either absorbing a team, or dropping ten teams, if we absorbed a team, it would leave us with an uneven number of conferences, further complicating matters. This goes to show that the Big Ten can screw up more than just National Championship games.

The 12 team model fits the conference championship game model well, and would require 10 conferences, only requiring us to dissolve one conference (Sun Belt, I'm looking at you...). It's another clean solution.

The MAC's 13 team model? All I can say about that is that they were almost certainly high on something when they cooked that one up.

This analysis narrows the choices down to either the 10 team round robin, or the 12 team conference championship method.

The conference championship games were established as a method for a conference to rake in more money by staging an extra game, resulting in millions of dollars in profits from tickets, merchandising, and TV rights. The downside is that by partitioning the conferences, you limit the number of in conference games that matter, and given the fluctuations of teams from year to year, one division might become significantly more difficult than another, as seen in the Big XII, where Oklahoma or Texas regularly crush whatever team meekly emerges from the Northern Division.

By the flip side, by narrowing the determine factor for the Championship to one game, you see some extreme fluctuations. The phrase "Any Given Sunday..." applied to the NFL, but here, it's "Any Given Saturday...". Over the course of multiple games, the best team will typically emerge by ironing out the statistical fluctuations. During one game, if the better team is caught on a bad day, essentially the rest of the season is immaterial. It's happened on multiple occasions in the SEC, Big XII, and ACC. This cannot be said of a round robin.

By playing a nine game round robin, a team can have a bad game and still prove themselves the superior team in the end. Nor can a weak team overachieve and embarrass their conference later on. The truth will out in the other eight games.

This is why the conferences will be overhauled as 12 10 team conferences, to ensure that the best teams make it to the playoff system that is our eventual goal.

Saw this at Hancock.

Well, I can't wait for November...

Monday, July 7, 2008


I have just returned from the Uptown Theater, drinking in the outside ticket booth that apparently required a months down time to install. It wasn't worth it. However, Hancock, the new Will Smith superhero film, certainly was.

Will Smith stars as the titular character, a drunken, irascible man who happens to have phenomenal superpowers. He's essentially superbum. The first glimpse the audience gets of him is passed out drunk on a public bench, clutching a six pack of Gentleman John's Bourbon. Doubles too, not mere fifths. He can fly at supersonic speed, has super strength, and is nigh indestructible. However, as Spider Man often says, "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility." Hancock is a drunk, and as such not very responsible. His first on screen attempt of breaking off a high speed shootout on the freeway results in over $9 million in damages to public property. This does not endear him with the Los Angeles public, and as they vent their frustrations upon him, he responds in kind. However, at the heart of his issues is the loneliness felt as a man who has no equals.

Ray Embrey, played by Jason Bateman, is an eternally optimistic and idealistic PR man. His goal is to make a charity brand, called All-Heart, that would inspire companies to donate their products to the needy for free. This does not go over well. On his way home, he finds his vehicle deadlocked in traffic, and on the train tracks, in the path of the train. As he struggles to free himself, Hancock arrives, flips his car out of harms way, and in the process, derails the train. Once again everyone who witnessed the accident berates Hancock for not simply flying the car away. Only Embrey expresses any gratitude for Hancock's action, inviting him into his house to join his family for their traditional spaghetti dinner.

Embrey's wife, Mary, is not pleased. Portrayed by Charlize Theron, Mary treats Hancock with suspicion and no small amount of curtness, rushing him out of the house as soon as the meal is ended. As Hancock leaves, Ray hands him his business card, offering to put his PR power behind Hancock in an effort to turn Hancock's image with the public around.

Hancock spends a night thinking it over, and decides to take Ray up on his offer. However, the LA DA has issued a warrant for Hancock's arrest, stemming from the massive amount of damage he has inflicted on the city. Ray sees this as a great opportunity to turn Hancock's image around. He convinces Hancock to surrender himself for incarceration, where he undergoes rehab and anger management sessions. As the crime rate skyrockets in Hancock's absence, Ray makes plans to overhaul Hancock's image, and Hancock waits in prison for a situation that requires his abilities...

Hancock is 92 minutes long. It debuted to mixed reviews, garnering a 90 from the New Yorker and an 88 from the Philadelphia Inquirer, but a 30 from Newsweek and a flat out 0 from the Wall Street Journal. Metacritic settled the film at a 49. It starts out as a snarky deconstruction of the superhero genre, and succeeds in that aspect. There's a twist that leads the film down a more serious road. The humor's still there in the second half, but it's more situational, such as when Hancock disarms a gunman using a candy bar. The special effects have a little trouble melding with the film, leading to some breaks with the immersion. The acting is solid, and the score, by John Powell, is well suited to the film.

Hancock strives to be a "superhero in real life" type of story, in the vein of Heroes. However, the film still makes some concessions to the fantasy world. Hancock, despite his super strength which allows him to toss a humpback whale a mile away, refrains from simply dismembering people he fights in hand to hand combat, even in life and death circumstances. A stigma Jessica from Heroes, does not suffer from.

In the end, Hancock is a decent film. It's no Citizen Kane, it's probably not even Superman Returns, but it's worth watching if you have some time on your hands. I'd give it a 6/10.

A little more humor.

It's funny because I could actually see the media doing something like this.

Some people are never happy...

As I'm sure you're aware of by now, Diablo III has been announced by Blizzard. As a former Diablo II player, I'm excited. I simply pray that I'll be able to play it without buying a new computer.

However, there are some fans who are not as happy. These angst ridden souls are so outraged at the thought of sunlight penetrating their Gothic Wonderland that they've formed a petition. They claim that the new graphics don't match the games dark mood, and that they take too much after World of Warcraft.

Cry me a fucking river. I, for one, welcome a game that doesn't require me to jack the contrast and brightness all the way up to eleven in order to make out what the hell it is I'm doing. The art changed slightly? Meh, I enjoy it when a game series evolves. It takes after WoW? Perhaps true, but that's just good cross marketing business practice. Perfectly understandable.

I will say this though, if one of the three unreleased classes isn't a paladin, Blizzard shall tremble...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fixing College Football: The New Athlete

The NCAA still holds a tight grip on the student athlete, through complex rules and regulations as to what is required of the Student Athlete in order to maintain their eligibility to play. The NCAA actually legislates and monitors how much money a student athlete can earn at a part time job during the academic year. Players are not allowed to hold a job when their sport is in season, which for football, stretches from August to early January. The argument is that the scholarship is the compensation. However, a recent study showed that the average athlete comes up $2,500 dollars short a year. That's money that comes out of either his pocket, or his family's. In the light of Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush's recent improper benefits investigation, it's obvious that that money isn't always there.

The NCAA would have you believe that football players are amateurs. In reality, they are professionals. Football is their job. The average player faces a one hour conditioning program in the morning, a two hour practice each weekday, and at least an hour of meetings and film study. Not to mention ten hours spent for each home game, and a whole weekend lost to each away game. All this, and they are expected to have a full time class schedule, and maintain certain GPA requirements.

That is where things go wrong. Here is how to fix it. Allow athletes to carry a reduced class load during the fall quarter to compensate for the time consumed by football, but require them to be full time the other quarters, and make up the shortfall, either through additional classes in winter and spring, or through summer courses. Also, a stipend to be paid by a fund established from the profits the NCAA gets from television and merchandising. each team carries about 80 players, 120 teams, and a $2,500 shortfall for each player. $24 million should cover it. Not too tall of an order given that the 4 year contract with Fox to show just the four BCS bowls is worth $80 million a year, and the 10 year contract with ABC to show the bulk of the games is worth $600 million.

These changes will ease the strain of being a college football player. It will also help keep them away from some of the ticky tack violations. A little spare change goes a long way for the NCAA.

On the Hunt.

Deutlich has brought up another debate.

I'd like to know your take on hunting.

Is it a perfectly legit sport? Do you think it's all right so long as the animals killed are eaten? Or do you think it's just completely wrong?

What about the hunting of nearly extinct animals to make ends meat (no pun intended)? Pandas, Elephants, Tigers and the like are slaughtered for various reasons in some regions of the world, often due to extreme poverty.

I consider myself a conservationist, of the Theodore Roosevelt variety. I am not a preservationist, there is a difference. I enjoy the outdoors. While I don't hunt very often, I understand the place it has in our society.

Hunting is a culture, and at times a necessity. It is a legitimate sport, as it requires skill, physical ability, and discipline. People hunt for food, for profit, or for trophies. All three are valid reasons. However, I feel it must be a fair and sporting event. I detest canned hunts. Go and track, stalk, and take down the animal yourself, don't have someone tie the creature down so you can pull the trigger.

As a conservationist, I understand that rules must be in place and enforced to regulate the use of the land, lest jackasses screw it up for the rest of us. For the most part, hunters have been at the forefront of conservation efforts. Hunters founded conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited and the Safari Club International, they also pushed for congress to pass the Wildlife Restoration Act and the Federal Duck Stamp Program.

As for the hunting of Endangered Big Game, I believe that the populations should be closely monitored, and only a certain number be allowed to be hunted each season based on the recent population estimates. Each kill must be reported to ensure accuracy in the next estimate, and people who poach, should be punished severely. Poaching is essentially stealing from the next generation of hunters, and you know my stance on that.

The Long Weekend.

July 4th is a great day, not just for the historical significance, but because it's the day where outdoor activities, food, drinks, and explosives, all cross paths. It's amazing what a fun combination those can be.

I rode out towards Poulsbo with my best friend, Jeff, and my best friend's brother, Dave. We stopped at an Indian Fireworks booth, and picked up $100 worth of fireworks. 5 packs of sparklers, 2 packs of roman candles, and a mortar with 10 shells. Once those were secured, we stopped by the casino, and played craps. I brought in $40 and left with $55, Jeff came in with $200 and left with $365. The gambling gods were kind to us.

Back at Jeff's place, we played some GTA IV, and killed some time before the girls showed up. The girls promptly decided to try and make things awkward by going and picking up my younger sister. Not going to spoil my fun. I promptly made myself a drink, comprised of 2 oz Malibu Rum, 2 ounces Grenadine, 2 ounces Blue Curacao, filled with club soda. I stirred it, flamed an orange peel, an threw an orange twist in as garnish. Tasted like grape Kool-aid. The orange I bought from Safeway was too dry, so the citrus oil didn't come through like I wanted.

Drink in hand, we marched down to the beach, and proceeded to lob fireworks into the sky. We burned through pretty much our whole stock, save three mortar shells we were going to fire when the girls got back. There were a lot of people there, and therefore a lot of fireworks, but I still kind of miss the massive displays the army would put on for posts. Then again, it certainly beat the pants off the show put on when I was at Fort Benning for the 4th in 2006.

The girls showed up, and decided they wanted to sit in the hot tub rather than set off the fireworks immediately. Killjoys.

Eventually we coerced them down to the beach, and set off the remaining mortar shells, plus a few special bursts. Remember those sparklers we bought? It's amazing what you can do with those.

We capped of the night with a game of beer pong, and went home. I got to sleep at 0330...

And was promptly woken up at 0630 by my dad, with whom I was going to the Heritage Car Races at the lovely Pacific Raceways. Fun, but I would have loved to have slept some more. We picked up a couple of my Dad's friends before we left town, and I have been sworn to secrecy as to their identities. They both have jobs with the city that require them to champion environmentalism, but they were closet car fanatics, and very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. We'll call them #1 and #2.

The ride to the raceway was dominated by two discussions. One was about how the dismal grey sky was just the marine layer, and surely would burn off to reveal a clear sunny day by noon at the latest. The other, and far more interesting, was about cars, ranging from the time #1's first car stopped at a red light, only to watch one of the wheels continue on the route, the time I saw an Enzo parked outside the Staples in Bellvue, to the 959 that Bill Gates got so many speeding tickets in that his license got pulled.

Once we got to Pacific Raceways, we enthusiastically rushed around staring at the cars parked in the club section. Dad lamented selling his 914 as he stared at an infantry blue 2.0 for sale for a little over $10K. #1 kept staring at an old 6 cylinder Jag, even though he knew the reputation for older British cars to be beautiful looking and beautiful sounding pieces of shit. #2 simply mused about what could have been had he not given up racing. I wondered who let all the 300Zs park there. Some of the notable cars in that section included a Lamborghini Diablo, a De Tomaso Pantera, and a Porsche 550 Spyder. But if I had to take a car from that lot, I'd probably go with the Ferrari 575M, most comfortable ride out there, but it'll still turn heads.

We stepped into the vending area, to take a look at what they had to offer. I immediately made a beeline for a specific tent, leaving the old guys in the dust, when they caught up, they saw why. Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Porsche, they had a tent set up. The first car in the display was a rare 917. Not a replica, this was the actual #20 gulf car. While not as important historically as the "Pink Pig" or 'Psychedelic Porsche" that took 1st and 2nd at the 1970 Le Mans, respectively. Or the 917/30 Sunoco that killed the Can-Am series and remains among the most powerful normal fuel race cars in existence. This one was famous in it's own right, being the car that was supposedly driven by Steve McQueen in the film Le Mans.

Alongside the 917 were a couple of early 911s, a 356A, a 550 Spyder, and the newest Porsche Supercar, the Carrera GT. Between the six cars in that tent, there was probably close to five million dollars worth of machinery. But that wasn't all. "Isn't that Al Unser?!", #1 exclaims. Wow. The man with the most Indy 500 wins in history is here. I'm scared. We meekly moved up to him, and presented our programs to be signed, he happily complied. He seems like a nice guy, honest too. "If I had one of these," He told my Dad, gesturing to the Carrera GT he was sitting next to, "I'd be in jail all the time."

We wandered around the paddocks and looked at some of the cars that would participate in the races. We saw some amazing cars, a Ferrari 512, a Porsche 908 and a 910, a bunch of 911s, a 935/78, a few Alfas, and a Ford Escort. Another interesting car that caught our attention was an old fashioned Bentley Speed Six. This car was one step away from being a stage coach. As we examined it, #1 jokingly suggested that it might be coal powered, I raised him one by suggesting that the massive cowling was there to provide room for the midget who shovels the coal in.

Right before lunch, the PA announced a special Porsche only race in honor of Porsche's 60th anniversary. My Dad and I scanned the list of cars in the racing program, and started to talk about which car we thought would win. We both agreed that the 935/78 would most likely take it away, but the 910 might make a fight of it. Then we were treated to a gift that made the whole day worthwhile. As the cars rumbled around in their seeded positions on their pace lap, they came around the corner and came into view. The 935/78 was in first, as expected, the 910 was in 3rd. In between the two rode the 917K that had been sitting in the display tent. That wasn't on the program. Just majestic. And as the race went on, the cars spaced out, and you could really get a feel for the different sounds of the different cars, pure auditory overload. It was great. The 935/78 did win, but I loved watching that 917.

I ate a light lunch of BBQ pork and rice, and drank a lemonade. We moved from the outfield to the infield to watch the races get going. We started out watching the first few uneventful races from just downrange from the downward hill, with a good view of the switchback turn.

We moved to get a great view of the backstretch to watch the Historic Small Bores, and Large Bores. The small bore race was interesting. For the first three laps it was dominated by a Lotus Seven, followed by several Porsche 356s. The Lotus Seven inexplicably had an inside out umbrella stuck to the back of the chassis, it probably should have been black flagged, but it was leading. It lost the umbrella on the 4th lap. It also lost the lead. Porsche 356s took 1st through 3rd, and the Seven came in 4th.

The Historic Large bores was really a two car race. Two late 60's Corvettes, one the A model, one the B model. The Blue and White B Model built up a dominating lead. The American Flag adorned A model kept within a reasonable distance. When they hit the back of the pack and began to lap cars, the A model used the traffic well to close the gap, and nearly make a pass on the last lap right in front of us. The B model clearly had the better driver, and fended off the takeover attempt for the win.

We moved up the the Grandstand to watch the Medium bores. The light rain that had persisted for the last hour let up, and the track began to dry. Up front there was a BMW M3, a White Porsche 911, a blue 911, and a red 1969 Ford Escort. Behind them was a bunch of tiny 2 door BMWs and Alfa Romeros that I can only describe as a swarm, and one very loud, very green 911. What made this race interesting was the changing conditions of the track. The White 911 had opted to go with racing slicks, assuming the track would dry quickly. The Escort and the M3 had opted for Rain Tires, assuming the rain would return. The rain didn't return, but the track dried slowly. The M3 built up a sizable lead, and the Escort forced its way up from 4th to 2nd. The 911 fell back all the way to 5th. However, the track dried. After lap three, the track had dried enough that the 911 could get its wheels on the ground, and put its power to use. As it gained ground, the underpowered Escort fell back in the standings, finishing 4th. On the last lap, the 911 had finally clawed it's way back into second place, and as soon as it hit the final straight away, the driver floored it. Eating up the course, and rapidly closing the gap on the M3. In a photo finish, the M3 staved off the 911's last charge. Great race.

As we moved back to the back stretch to watch the group 7 race, the rain started up again. Group 7 was the showstoppers group. F1, F2, FV, F5000, and some Can-Ams. Unfortunately, a lot of the cars scratched due to the rain. Including the 935/78, the Ferrari 512, and the McRae GM1. The 935 and the GM1 were the real losses, as they were expected to challenge for first. Instead, a Tyrell F1 car laid waste to the field, lapping all but two of the competitors. The real race was for 2nd place, where a Porsche 910 duked it out with two F5000 cars, who should have wiped the floor with it. But due to the weather conditions, the nimble 910 held on for 2nd place.

Once that race concluded, the skies really opened up, leaving rivers of water flowing across the asphalt, and thoroughly soaking us as we made our way back to the car.

I slept the whole way back, with a smile on my face.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Drink of the Moment: Red, White, and Blue

Happy 4th of July people! Today we Americans celebrate our independence from the British. The British can celebrate too, as this is the anniversary of their not being responsible for us anymore.

What better way to celebrate than with a drink. So I present to you, the Red, White, and Blue Martini!

Take 1.5 ounces of Vodka, 1/2 an ounce of Blue Curacao, and 1/2 an ounce of cranberry juice. Stir with ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry dropped into the bottom of the glass.

The drink is going to be sweet, and highly alcoholic. Take a sip, and picture yourself enjoying the fireworks on a nice summer's night. Better yet, take a sip, and actually enjoy the fireworks on this nice summer's night.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fixing College Football: The Authority

The first underlying flaw in college football these days is the lack of a strong central authority. Teams do whatever they want, with by and large no real penalties, save every once in a while when the oddball tribunal decides to sanction a program. Even then, the only team that ever really felt the hit was SMU in 1987.

If you look at the history of the major sports leagues in America, you will notice that each of them came to prominence not by the labors of the players, or the owners, but by a strong commissioner. Great players and savvy owners help, but they will never put a league over the top by themselves. Major League Baseball came into prominence after Kenesaw Mountain Landis stabilized the leagues with an iron fist. Most people give credit to Pete Rozelle with giving the NFL the promised land, but in truth, he was only playing Joshua to Bert Bell's Moses. The NBA was faltering until the steady hand of Larry O'Brien cleaned up shop. Strong commissioners build strong leagues.

As it stands, the NCAA sets up discretionary rules, but the day to day running of the monster that is college football rests in the universities. Each one has its own standards, and looks out for its own interests. This dispersion of authority makes it difficult for broad changes to take place.

In the place of this system, a commissioner of college football needs to be appointed. He should have the power to rule on sanctionable offenses, eligibility issues, funding, and crowning a champion. The commissioner will be empowered to set up deputy commissioners who will oversee the individual cases in each subject.
The Commissioner should be someone with a solid background in mediation. This is evidenced by Landis being a judge, and O'Brien being a cabinet member under LBJ. A footing in business and sports law would be good, but isn't required as much a strong personality. The first name that sprang to mind was Nebraska AD and former congressman, Tom Osbourne. Then another important criterea came up, impartiality. While I would feel confident that Osbourne would be a solid commissioner, I can think of some Oklahoma fans who would be crying foul the whole time. As I looked through the list of former commissioners, most didn't attend an FBS College, and worked through the league office, rather than with a specific team. This allowed for objectivity, which is a must in this situation, not only from the commissioner, but towards the commissioner.

With a strong central authority consolidating power, it will smooth the transitions that college football will go through as it becomes a fair and competitive league.

Drink of the Moment: White Russian

Here's a drink that I often enjoy.

The White Russian originated, like myself, in Oakland, California. The name refers to the "White Movement" an anti-Bolshevik group that operated in Russia during World War I, and the interbellum years. Beyond the name, and the use of vodka, the drink actually has very little to do with Russia, but it's nice to think otherwise.
When made properly, the White Russian is a smooth drink, with a hint of coffee flavor. A sort of alcoholic's mocha. Starbucks should sell these, then maybe I'd actually consider going into one of those pits of despair.

To make the White Russian, you need Vodka, a Coffee Liqueur, such as Kahlua, and a dairy product, either milk, cream, or half and half. Take a old fashioned glass and drop some ice into it. This drink is always served on the rocks, the ice diffuses and chills the creamer. Served straight up, this drink is barely palatable. Next add 1.5 ounces of vodka and 2/3 ounce of Kahlua, and stir. Float 1 ounce of creamer over the top, and slowly stir the creamer into the drink. Take a sip, and picture yourself braving the cold Moscow winter. Be glad you're inside enjoying the drink.

Here are a few variations on the drink. First, if you stop at the Vodka and Kahlua stage, you have what is called a Black Russian. If you substitute the creamer for Coke, you get what is called a Smith and Wesson. Replace the vodka with SoCo, and you've got a Rebel Russian. Finally, switch the vodka for scotch, and you get a drink aptly named, Aggravation.

Fixing College Football: The Overview

Everyone hates the BCS. Few things this side of Hitler incur the kind of grief the BCS pulls in. Everyone wants a playoff. They think that's the best way to figure out who's the better team. Here's the problem, blindly instituting a single elimination playoff while leaving the fundamental flaws in the system will only make things worse.

These are the problems we face in college football.
  1. Lack of strong central authority.
  2. Holding too closely to the idealistic view of amateur sports.
  3. Lack of standardized conferences.
  4. Too much outside influence from the Polls.
  5. The apartheid between BCS conferences, and the Mid Major Majority.
  6. Lack of standardized scheduling
  7. Funding disparities.

These are the fundamental problems that college football, and indeed most intercollegiate sports, have built themselves upon. That said, college sports are not completely without merit. There are certain things that can, and should be preserved.

They are...

  1. Tradition
  2. Rivalries
  3. The concept of the student athlete
  4. The Bowl Games
  5. Integrity

Those five items are what separates intercollegiate sports from the professional ranks. They are what we need to keep in order to keep the identity of college football intact. Everything else needs to get stripped away, and replaced with a more competitive model.

In several future posts, I will go into great detail over how each step should be handled. This will be a dramatic overhaul, drawing ideas from the NFL, the NCAA, the BCS, the English Football League, and others. There is no way in hell everyone would agree to implement my system, at least not immediately, but I'm here to give you a taste of what football would be like, in a perfect world.

Dammit All...

Now I'm going to have to buy a DS...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Language Week 2008

Well, I promised that I would do a post in a foreign language. It's been eight years since I used my portuguese, so I will bet that this is going to be rusty as hell. Do not hold it against me.
Como mencionei em um post anterior, estou viciados para o sol. Tanto é assim, na realidade, que estou escrevendo esta mensagem ao ar livre, ao mesmo tempo agarrada a uma ténue melhor peça de rede sem fio de outra pessoa. Vamos ver se eu conseguir ter o posto máximo.

É incrível como o sol se sente muito diferentes em diferentes áreas. Parte do que é o clima envolvente. No Sul, é um "grosso" sol. É quente, e úmido, e se sente como você pode puxar a luz do sol direita para fora do céu. No Novo México, foi uma dura muito sol. Foi o sol do Velho Testamento Deus, distante, poderoso, e implacáveis. Aqui, em Washington, como eu escrevo isto, estou experimentando um sol muito fraco. Trata-se sentir mal. Mesmo decepcionantes.

Como o sol é onde você está?