Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fixing College Football: The Apartheid of the Mid Majors

Teams in Mid Major conferences have no realistic chance at winning the national title. Their only real hope is to be the top team in the mid majors for an extended stretch, then pray that a BCS conference decides to expand. Even then, there are limited opportunities, and the last time this occurred was when the Big East expanded in 2005. Three teams have moved up from the mid majors to be able to contend in the last 4 years. This is an unacceptable situation.

The other side of the coin, however, is that often times when a highly touted mid major team rips through their schedule and win a berth in a decent bowl game, they find themselves outclassed by BCS conference teams that placed 2 or 3 slots below them in the standings of their conference. It's a fact that the inability to be competitive has caused the Mid Majors to stagnate, creating a disparity that cannot be easily repaired. The Mid Majors are easier conferences, and one of my key tenants is the standardization of schedules.

The question becomes, how can I reconcile the disparity in scheduling with the unfair policy of locking the mid majors schools out. To that, I look at football, of a sort. The English Premier League utilizes a system of promotion and relegation to ensure that the top conferences always have the top teams. This is the solution. The champion of the Mid Major conference will be promoted to the BCS conference, and the last place team of the BCS conference will be demoted to the mid major conference. This way, any school is no more than a year away from being eligible for a national title.

Each BCS conference will be wedded to a Mid Major conference, those links will be unveiled as I unveil the new mid major conference configurations.

From the Vault: Casshern

I own a ridiculous amount of movies. Some are good, some are bad, some are classics, and some are cult films. In an effort to jump start a more regular blogging pattern, I'm going to pull one off the shelf at random every other Wednesday, and review it. We're going to kick this off with a Japanese import. The film is called Casshern.

What is it?: Casshern is the live action adaptation of the 1973 Japanese animated series Neo-Human Casshern. It was among the first films to use a green screen back lot almost exclusively.

Where did I get it?: From the discount bin at Hollywood Video.

Why?: I had watched a couple of Protomen Youtube Music Videos using the film. It looked amazing. The next day I went to rent a movie, and there it was. It was like fate.

What is it about?: Casshern chronicles a world at the end of a 50 year war that has devastated the planet. The Eastern Federation defeated the robotic armies of Europa, but the price was high. The environment was laid to waste, and because of this, disease and famine run rampant throughout the world. Most of the leaders of the Eastern Federation are dying slowly from a multitude of maladies related to the high levels of contamination.

But there is still hope. A brilliant scientist named Dr. Azuma has discovered Neo-Cells. Found only in a certain ethnic group, who are essentially pure breed humans, Neo-Cells can become any body part, transplanted without fear of rejection... stop me if you've heard this before. The military quickly backs Dr. Azuma with copious amounts of funding. Soon, Dr. Azuma's work is flourishing, whole banks of organs and limbs have been constructed, and the testing is preparing to move into the next phase.

However, tragedy strikes Dr. Azuma's life. His son, Tetsuya, had been serving in the military fighting against the terrorists in Zone Seven. A trap left by the enemy killed Tetsuya, and the military was bringing the body back home. At the same time, disaster strikes Dr. Azuma's work. Lightning crashes into the lab, causing the banks of organs and limbs to reconstitute themselves into sapient beings. The military cracks down almost immediately, killing most of them. But a few of these "Neo-Sapiens" escape into the wilderness. His son dead, and his work in shambles, Dr. Azuma gets a crazy idea. He takes his son's corpse, and dips it into the goo left behind by the escaped Neo-Sapiens. Tetsuya is reborn, and like Steve Austin, he's better, stronger, faster than he was before. However, his new found strength is tearing his body apart, and he's forced into a special suit of armor designed by his fiance's father.

The Neo-Sapiens that escaped fight their way through the unforgiving wilderness, and find an abandoned castle. This castle was one of Europa's automated robot production facilities. With the robotic armies of Europa at their command, they swear vengeance upon the Eastern Federation. In one of their early attacks, they blast into the facility where Tetsuya is being kept. As Tetsuya fights them off, he realizes that he's the only one who can fight against these superhumans. As he begins to take the fight to the Neo-Sapians, he gets closer and closer to the ugly truth about Neo-Cells.

Why would you like it?: If you're a fan of action films, this is amazingly over the top. It really does a good job of capturing the action style of Japanese action animation. It looks fantastic. The artists had a field day with this one. They managed to make it look modern and filthy at the same time, which flies in the face of the typical "the future will be painted white" that gets put forward too often. The soundtrack is pretty sweet, including a theme song performed by Utada Hikaru.

Why it might not be for you: It's all in Japanese, with no dubbing. The story isn't as deep as it seems. Although that might simply be due to things being lost in translation, as I've heard that the subtitles are a butchery of the script. The ending is kind of baffling, too.

What the critics think: They don't. Casshern didn't see a mainstream American release, so it didn't get a metareview.

What I think: Casshern is a niche film. Japanophiles, action fanatics, and especially Japanophile action fanatics, will love this film. A more mainstream audience probably won't find this near as enjoyable. But I think it fills its niche well. I give it a 6/10.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fixing College Football: The Pac 10

For those of you who have been following my grand scheme, you know that the Pac 10 is, in my opinion, the model for conference configuration. A true round robin every season and every team has a hated rival.

The University of Southern California
The University of California (Los Angeles)
The University of California
Stanford University
The University of Oregon
Oregon State University
The University of Washington
Washington State University
The University of Arizona
Arizona State University

And I have a New Commander in Chief

Congratulations, President Barack Hussein Obama! May your term be prosperous and successful.

But your work has just begun. Ultimately, the measure of a president is what he does during his term. Few people really remember what the president has done in the election campaign. I, for one, reserve judgement of Mr. Obama until November of 2012.

However, I think the inauguration ceremony was a good start. Obama's speech was extremely well written and delivered. It tied in very well to more famous documents, such as the Preamble to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independance, while still putting to rest concerns of the present. I find myself constantly impressed by Obama's oratory skills. The oath of office got fumbled though... But no one's perfect.

John Williams' composition, performed by some of the greatest instrumentalists in the world was just spectacular. Aretha Franklin delivered a powerful rendition of "My Country 'Tis of Thee". I wonder what the band is thinking when she stretches one word into a 45 second improv. Gah! There she goes again! The poem by Elizabeth Alexander was a little to disjointed for my tastes, but for those who like that sort of thing, it was a good choice. Two girls in New York made complete asses out of themselves during the National Anthem. Obama's children looked incredibly bored and restless, and Michelle had her hands full keeping them in line. Most importantly, Craig Robinson, the esteemed and honorable head basketball coach of Oregon State University, was right next to them, sporting the orange. You can't buy that kind of publicity! Let's see you do that Phil Knight! Reverend Warren's invocation was a little long and bland, while Reverend Lowery's benediction was too long, too hoaky, and quite frankly, offensive. I wish that it had ended on a better note.

One thing that I don't like however, is the assumption by the media that the country somehow changed overnight when Obama was elected. I heard it said that "This couldn't have happened yesterday." I disagree. The country hasn't changed simply because Obama has been elected. Obama got elected not because he was a good cadidate. I think America has been in a state where a black candidate could be elected for at least ten or fifteen years, the problem is that the black candidates who wanted the mantle were tools. Colon Powell would have been elected in a heartbeat, however, he declined to run. Al Sharpton, who did run, didn't have a chance of being elected. With candidates like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, America didn't refuse to elect a black candidate, they refused to elect a bad candidate. There is a difference, and it's one that too many people fail to recognize. If anything, that failure simply perpetuates the notion that skin color actually matters. It doesn't. Obama's successes and failures will be his own, as the 44th president, not the black president.