Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry F-ing Christmas!

Let’s get to it. Some random notes and observations and well wishes for the rest of the holiday season. This might be my last entry of 2008 (is it me or did this year fly by?), but that may change if I have anything worthwhile to pass along or add to some current event.

In other words, don’t expect much.

Let’s get to it.

- First, final weigh in was yesterday afternoon. There was a big build up, but not much suspense as the leader was way ahead of everyone. I’ll get to him in a minute, because I would like some feedback on his stats.

I wound up losing 9.3% of my original weight. I was 213 and am now 193 and looking damn fit if I do say so myself (and I do)! While I didn’t win, I finished strong and landed in the top 10, got my $100 back and feel fantastic. More energy, better sleep and – most importantly – I found my lower back hasn’t been bothering me much at all. Guess dropping nearly 20 pounds can do that! I also think it’s because I’ve been doing some serious stretching before my workouts and that’s definitely limbered me up.

Of course, after weighing in I went straight to Al’s Deli and got an enormous chicken salad sub. I’ve been waiting months to have one of those. I also had two beers last night that were two of the best tasting beers I’ve ever had in my life. Mmmmmm, beer.

No worries, I’m not going to start gorging myself. Surprisingly, I enjoy the fruit salads I make myself and I don’t want to go back over 200 again. I’m sticking with my workout routine and minimizing the sweets. Beer will always be with me, but if I do that in moderation I should be fine.

As for our winner, here are his final stats. I should first mention he’s about five foot eight – tops – so he’s not a huge guy. He wound up losing over 42 pounds in nine weeks. More than 22% of his original weight. Now, rumors were circulating that he was doing anything and everything to lose weight, including fasting, laxatives and some bizarre all liquid cleansing diet that is basically supposed to make you shit yourself for days at a time.

He claimed through a mutual friend that he lost all his weight ‘healthfully’. Maybe his definition of healthfully and mine are different, but losing 42 pounds in nine weeks (9 weeks!) can’t be healthy no matter how you do it. Feel free to offer opinions in the comments, but the dude looks like a little boy who’s just been released from a POW camp. One guy who wasn’t in the competition actually asked him if he was sick last week because he had lost so much weight. Probably thought he had cancer or something.

When he had his final weigh in and received his money, the guy in charge of the competition wanted people to applaud him, but I just couldn’t do it. It seemed like we were cheering an anorexic. One other guy said, as the winner took his money, ‘That will pay for the counselor to get you over your eating disorder’, which was a perfect way to end the competition.

By the way, the final pot was over $2600 for the winner. Everyone else who made the final weight got their money back and second place got a bit more than that. Over all, I’m glad I entered in. I’m feeling good, looking better (‘good’ never applies to me, unfortunately) and I’ve learned that fruit actually tastes good. Who knew?

Onto some other thoughts for your consideration:

- It appears that the Red Sox may not be out of the Mark Tiexeira sweepstakes after all. According to Buster Olney’s blog, the Sox may actually be in the driver’s seat after the Angels withdrew their 8 year offer. LA took the deal off the table after they got no response from Tiexeira. They took that as a ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ and are now moving forward. This means it’s between Boston, Baltimore and Washington. Looking at those three teams, which would you want to play for? All will give you the same amount of money and years, but which gives you the best chance to win the World Series?

- It’s not usually in my nature to feel bad for other teams, but I couldn’t help but think the Green Bay Packers have been a jinxed team this year. They play just well enough to win most weeks, but something always seems to go wrong at just the exact moment things shouldn’t go wrong. Last night it was a blocked field goal that cost them the game. On the other hand, isn’t it the job of the head coach to make sure his team is prepared for any and all situations? These little lapses might be a sign of a larger problem.

- Feeling down? Mentally drained? According to this study you may just need to take a walk in the woods. Maybe even just a stroll in the local park will do wonders for your mental health. To sum up the rather long winded document (researchers love to hear themselves talk), they ran two experiments. The first had two groups take a memory test, then had one group take a walk in a local park while the other walked around the city (in this case Ann Arbor, Michigan which might skew the results if you know what I mean). The groups then came back and retook the test.

The second experiment involved taking the test then simply looking at photos of either nature or urban environments and taking the test again. Both experiments showed that those people that took a walk in the park or viewed nature photos greatly improved their test scores. Those that viewed urban photos or stayed in the city did not improve.

Summary: Get your ass outside and look at the pretty flowers and birdies. Just watch out for the ravenous coyotes and rabid squirrels.

- Last weekend…wait…the weekend before last weekend. Not this past one, the one before that. With me? Ok. Two weekends ago, my three year old woke up the entire house with the sound of his retching. He had the dreaded stomach bug. I hate this virus with a passion, not only because I hate puking (my entire body somehow becomes involved and I’m sore for days afterwards) but because it usually starts with the youngest, goes to my second son, then to wifey, then to me. Same path every time. So, while I’m on bucket duty and my poor son is miserable, I’m mentally plotting how the next two weeks will play out and how many days of work I’ll be missing.

Only an odd thing happened. It didn’t pass on to anyone else. It’s been ten days (which is the limit of incubation for this virus. Normally we’d find out in a day or two) and my oldest didn’t catch it. Nor did my wife or I. What the hell? Something this contagious is nearly impossible to keep contained, especially with everyone in the same house and two boys sharing all sorts of toys.

So what happened? Well, maybe a few things. This is just guess work on my part, but I think I may be onto something.

First, my oldest is very aware of washing his hands before he eats now. I’ve finally drilled into his brain that washing your hands is necessary before meals and after using the men’s room. Something grown men in my office have yet to learn. Creating a borderline germaphobe may have prevented the spread. (NOTE: I spelled checked 'germaphobe' and the only suggestion that came up was 'homophobe')

Second, for the second year in a row we did not get the boys a flu shot. I know, it sounds illogical, but last year we meant to and never got around to it. Last year, not coincidentally I think, was the healthiest winter our house ever experienced. This year I told wifey to skip the flu shot and again the boys have been healthier than ever. They’ve both had a cold, but they’ve recovered within days and it never progressed beyond a simple cough and stuffy nose. The last few winters (flu shot winters) colds have morphed into strep throat, asthma attacks complete with nebulizer treatments, and a full fledged – and nasty – double ear infection. The last two years? None of that.

I know the flu shot is supposed to be preventative, but the fact remains you are being injected with a diluted form of the virus. Could the virus, even in diluted form, somehow compromise the immune system and leave it worn and unable to fight off a simple head cold? I don’t actually know, but maybe this should be looked into a bit more. It somehow has become common practice to simply get your kids or elderly people flu shots because that’s what is recommended.

Speaking from my own experience (and that of my boys), we’ve been far healthier the past two years without the shot than we were the previous 3 winters with it.

One last reason for the change could be that we’ve stopped buying antibacterial soap for our every day use. After reading about potential super bugs, studies that say there is no benefit and the long term effect it can have on our immune systems (it kills good and bad bacteria), I’ve only purchased that new foamy (this stuff deserves it’s own entry) regular soap. By using this on a regular basis, I wonder if our family’s immune systems have become stronger and are better able to fight off common viruses.

I’m not saying any of these are the answers, I’m just putting the possibility out there. If anyone would care to test this themselves, feel free. If you’re currently using antibacterial soap, switch to regular and see if you notice a difference after using it for a while. See if you bounce back from colds faster or find yourselves getting sick less frequently. It may take six months to a year to know for sure, but you’ll thank me next winter.

- On a completely related note, a research team at Griffith University (no, I never heard of it, either) may have found a weakness in this ‘rotavirus (stomach bug) that may result in a vaccine or more effective treatment. Imagine getting rid of the stomach bug forever. Sign me up!

- Also, if you do catch this bug two things to take to keep the vomiting to a minimum. I tested this with my son and it worked brilliantly. Ginger ale (or anything that has ginger in it) or peppermint (gum works for me) keeps the stomach from spasming too much. I usually let my stomach purge itself, then chew peppermint gum for a while. You still feel like shit, but you don’t puke any longer. Ginger ale worked wonders for my youngest.

Enough of that talk.

Some holiday wishes:

For Hammen and 10: A Tennessee Titan’s Super Bowl Championship. Always been a fan of Jeff Fisher and hope he gets his due in February. I choose to revoke this if the Pats and Titans meet in the playoffs. All bets are off then.

For DA and family: Health and happiness - stress on the health part. Same as every other holiday. If you already have those two, then independant wealth.

For French: Inspiration to write more often. We enjoy your many blogs, so pick one and stick to it. Also, a Mark Tiexeira signing and another Red Sox ring ceremony in the spring of 2010.

For Chuck: Another whirlwind adventure. Only if you’ve recovered enough from that last one and only if it takes you some place tropical in the middle of January. You make me crave retirement more than ever.

For ML and JL who have been going through a very tough stretch: Health. I’d wish you happiness, but you already have that part down.

For Celtic fans: That this current group can keep up their history making run. Hope you’re enjoying the ride as much as I am. And, yes, they’ll be the focus of an upcoming entry very soon.

For everyone else: Be happy and spread it around.


Today’s distraction: One of the funniest freakin’ web sites I’ve ever visited. You can create fake holiday photos of friends by uploading and adjusting their photos. Hilarious if you get the right person in the right photo. I’ve frightened quite a few people with this already.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Week 16 Postmortem

During the second to last week of the NFL season, we learned a lot.

We learned the Arizona Cardinals are not ready for prime time. Especially on the east coast during a blizzard against a very good team.

We learned that Tim Hightower may not be the answer, after all, and there are serious questions about his fantasy value next year.

We learned that this Patriots team may be better than we thought. Or they simply kicked the tar out of a team that has stopped playing to win.

We learned Lamont Jordan may have something left.

We learned Mike Holmgren may have something left.

We learned that Brett Favre may have nothing left and may be costing the Jets a chance at the playoffs. I know, he’s responsible for getting them this close in the first place, but Jet fans are learning the harsh lessons Green Bay fans learned a decade ago: Favre giveth and Favre taketh away.

We learned Cincinnati is the best crappy team in Ohio.

We learned that when you play a Saturday night game the weekend before Christmas, a lot of people may not notice. I didn’t even realize Dallas and Baltimore had played until I turned on SportsCenter and watched the Blitz crew discussing the game.

We learned Detroit may be one of the worst teams in history. But we already knew that.

We learned that Pittsburgh may not be as good as we thought and that Tennessee may be even better.

We learned Kansas City will fight to the end, even if they won’t win until 2009 (maybe). We also learned that Larry Johnson isn’t really dead. Who knew?

We learned that Miami may actually lose in New York next weekend if their performance against the Chiefs is any indication.

We learned absolutely nothing when San Fran beat St Louis 17-16. Although my fantasy sleeper for next season was the guy that caught the last minute TD pass. Josh Morgan, you will be mine!

We learned Denver just can’t take care of business and may be on the verge of a monumental collapse. What does Shanahan have to do to get fired?

We learned that Darren Sproles – not Tomlinson – should be the Chargers go to guy for the big play.

We learned that the Giants and Panthers will fight to the death if they meet in the NFC Championship game. It will be an epic battle. Have two teams ever been so evenly matched while playing the same brand of football?

We learned Jamarcus Russell may actually be an effective QB sometime soon while Justin Fargas may be the most underrated running back in the league.

At the same time we learned Steve Slaton and Andre Johnson are human, which was terribly disappointing to me.

We learned the Atlanta Falcons are for real. Watch out for this team in the playoffs!

We learned Tampa Bay’s first half may have been a mirage.

We learned Andy Reid really didn’t figure things out. Against the Redskins he had Donovan McNabb pass 46 times and only rushed Westbrook 12 times. Over all the Eagles rushed 16 times while passing 46 times. This led to three points. Nice work, Reid. Keep the ball out of the hands of your best player. In a related note, we learned Reid may be out of a job this winter.

The one thing we didn’t learn: Who’s the favorite heading into the playoffs?

Other news from the weekend.

- I just spent the last three days shoveling – I shit you not – approximately 1000 pounds of snow out of my driveway. Not all at once, of course, but over the course of the weekend and two mammoth snowstorms.

The first hit Friday afternoon and proceeded to dump 10 inches of snow over the course of the next 12 hours. Fine. I can deal with that. The snow wasn’t too bad, but it does build up and there are only so many places to put it. While the boys played on the mountain I built on the side of our driveway, I sweated through three different shoveling sessions. I was not in a good mood.

By the time the first storm finished, the pain in the ass weather forecasters started talking about another ‘less serious’ storm coming in for Sunday. This one was going to ‘only’ be 3-6 inches and should be out to sea by late afternoon. So they said and like much of what they say, it was all bullshit. Try another 8 inches at least. By 8 pm it was still snowing/sleeting/raining/beginning to freeze. It’s one thing to have snow, it’s quite another to have an entire winter’s worth of weather fall in one 10 hour period.

The worst part was this second storm was it was that wet, back breakingly heavy snow that makes me feel 80 years old getting out of bed the next day. Shoveling sessions involved in second storm: three. Only they took twice as long as I was exhausted from the weight and having to shovel the previous day.

Winter is only two days old and I’m looking forward to June. I believe that makes 41 years in a row this has happened.

- My brother and his pita wife were kind enough to schedule their annual gingerbread house building party on Saturday. The problem being they live in the furthest reaches of our state (known to most as East Bumfuck) and it takes us at least an hour to get there. I say at least because if you wind up stuck behind a slow driver you may never be heard from again. The road leading to their house is a throwback to the old country days where every other house is a full functioning farm. You can’t pass the car ahead of you and there are virtually no traffic lights.

On Saturday we not only had to drive this road, but do so while the cleanup continued from the first snow storm. 90 minutes!! That’s how long it took us to get there! Then another 90 minutes back as we got stuck behind a sand truck that topped out at 25 miles an hour the ENTIRE FUCKING WAY!!!

The one good thing about him moving out there is it taught me I’m a city boy. I can’t be that far out in the rural areas as I would most likely turn into Jack Torrance. I should also point out that he had to buy a gas powered generator because his hick town recently went more than a week without power due to an ice storm. A week!! Seven days with no power. Move, motherfucker! Move back to civilization!

- Lastly, as I need to get moving, today is the last weigh in for the weight loss competition. I need to have lost 9 % by today in order to be eligible for some cash refund. Considering I spent all Sunday either at the gym or shoveling snow, I think I’m in good shape.

Will fill everyone in tomorrow on how things turn out. Later!


Today’s distraction: If you’re looking for some time killers at work this holiday season (I know I am), try some of these sites to get you through the day. I’m going to try and catch up on Dexter if I can find it anywhere. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Year in Television - 2008

Ah, television. The companion that keeps me warm on winter nights. The babysitter that keeps my boys entranced for hours on end. The bouncer that keeps boredom on the right side of the velvet ropes.

In a word: savior. Television is my savior. I love it like a child that never talks back but still consistently delights, disappoints, angers, and challenges. Yes, challenges. This year, unlike any before, there have been an influx of intelligent, thought provoking programs that expand my thought process.

So, let’s get to it, shall we?

Biggest Story: The dreadful, ultimately pointless writer’s strike that shortened the season and may have inadvertently reinvented programming as we know it. This is by no means a bad thing. Most seasons are 10 episodes too long, anyway. Why not create two separate seasons with first run shows in each. We see it happening already with ‘24’ and ‘Lost’ not beginning until January and running straight through to May. Prior to that ABC takes a chance on the time traveling ‘Life on Mars’ and Fox runs ‘Prison Break’. Whether you agreed with the strike or not, this could now be the standard. Personally, I like it. Maybe it wasn't so pointless after all.

BEST OF THE BEST

Generation Kill: If you’ve seen this already, you’ll probably buy it when it’s released on DVD. If you haven’t, rent it so you can experience the camaraderie, boredom, comedy, frustration, confusion, joy and horror of the initial occupation of Iraq. Told from the point of view of an embedded reporter in a marine recon unit that was one of the first to enter the region the miniseries is harshly critical regarding the strategy of the war from the outset, disbelieving over the complete lack of experience and common sense displayed by most commanding officers, and ultimately respectful over what all the soldiers had to go through and the sacrifices they make in order to serve us.

Stay frosty, fellas!

The Office: A show that gets funnier by the episode. Takes seemingly mundane and ordinary situations to absurd, hilarious levels. The note on the microwave, last week’s holiday party/intervention, Michael’s entire doomed relationship with the new HR woman, Toby’s return and attempted framing for having salad in his drawer, even last year’s intended proposal at the fireworks display. While those are the highlights, this show does what precious few do: Makes us care about the characters. We watch because it’s funny; we keep coming back because we like spending time with these people. This generation’s ‘Seinfeld’.

House: A show definitely hurt by last year’s writers strike. The last few episodes with Amber’s death seemed a bit rushed and interviews with the producers said that they did have to put in 5 episodes worth of story lines into 3. Despite all that, this is still the most intelligent, funny and thought provoking show on television.

Lost: On the flip side, this show was helped enormously by the strike. By cutting out at least 5 filler episodes, every week was critical to the development of the story, the characters and everyone’s motivation. I still have no idea what’s going on, but that ‘bloop’ when the island disappeared still echoes in my head.

30 Rock: I resisted this for a while, but this now has wrapped me in it’s web of lunacy. Between Steve Martin’s agoraphobe, an imaginary Oprah, a psychotic Jennifer Aniston that Alec Baldwin can’t resist, this show has hit everything out of the park this season. This and ‘The Office’ make the best 1-2 punch since ‘Cheers’ and ‘Seinfeld’ nearly 15 years ago.

Dirty Jobs: What can I say, I fucking love this show. If you aren’t familiar, this is on Discovery Channel and involves the host, Mike Rowe, taking part in jobs like penguin habitat cleaner, blood worm farming, making cheese (which is nastier than you can ever imagine), working an oil refinery and other nasty, uh…dirty jobs. My only complaint is they need to make more episodes as I’ve seen the same ones over and over.


BEST OF THE REST

Bones: Thought they slipped up at the end of last season by revealing one of their most likable and rational characters as an inside man to a serial killer they’ve been tracking for years. Heard that this storyline was also effected by the writer’s strike, but no amount of ground work could have explained that turn of events. Still, this is funny, human and endearing in ways I can’t really explain. I just like it.

Life on Mars: Not quite there, yet, but very promising. Bizarre, funny, tragic and very well cast. Having Harvey Keitel as a 70’s cop can never be a bad thing.

Fringe: Alternates between ludicrous and fascinating. Needs work, but they seem to be heading in the right direction. That I’m looking forward to it’s return next month is enough to put it here.

Myth Busters: I would have had this in the above section, but they seem to be running out of ideas and out of steam. Still watch it whenever I see it on, but hasn’t been as entertaining this season. Although they did try to tenderize steaks using explosives which was a highlight.


DIE, ALREADY!

According to Jim: It’s one thing to be awful (there’s plenty of bad television around), but quite another to be so bad it’s almost mystical. I wish I were exaggerating when I tell you I watched an entire episode in a trance like state trying to figure out why this show is still on. Can anyone explain how this show remains on for nearly a decade (look it up) while truly funny shows like ‘Arrested Development' struggle to stay on the air? Anyone?

John Adams: I’ll admit it. I didn’t get this at all. I’d try to describe it, but there are only so many ways to express ‘mind numbingly boring’.

Grey’s Anatomy: Believe it or not, this show has become so whiny and annoying even my wife has stopped watching. Last time I checked one of the characters was talking to a dead lover who is by her side all the time. Have always hated this show, but at least it didn’t try to cater to anyone but women and wimpy guys trying to score with some chick that was really into it. But this season has become a legitimate train wreck.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: I get it. They’re doing good deeds and helping families in need. I just wish they wouldn’t be so obviously manipulative in a ‘let’s get the family to cry by putting up photos of their dead father all over every room and have Ty talk in his fake sympathetic voice. Are the cameras rolling? Good, get a close up of the ten year old’s tears’ way.


GUILTY PLEASURES

John and Kate Plus Eight: Kate, with her borderline obsessive compulsive disorder, annoys me sometimes, but this show still fascinates me. Not sure why, either, but if I stumble across this I wind up watching the entire thing. Maybe it’s because John seems like a guy I could hang out with. Or that their lives in general are complete chaos. Or that watching this makes me realize how easy my life really is. Let’s go with that one.

American Idol: Got caught up in this for the first time last season. That may not continue this year as they’ve added a fourth judge just as the three main ones got in a groove. Can be bone grindingly awful for the most part, but for some reason I enjoyed it. I know, shame on me.

SHOWS I WILL TRY TO WATCH THIS SEASON

Chuck: That blonde is smoking hot.

Pushing Daisies: Keep hearing good things about this, but can never figure when it’s on. I know, I have DVR, but I’m not good planning that far ahead.

Mad Men: My problem is I hate coming into a show late. I need to watch shows like this from the first episode on. In order. Maybe their network will start showing a marathon one weekend or something.

There we go. If anyone has recommendations, by all means pass them along.


Today’s distraction: A list of the most appalling television shows. I haven’t even heard of many of these. Including ‘Hurl’ which is exactly what you would think it’s about.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Week 15 Postmortem

Things were going so well!

The Patriots needed either the Jets or Dolphins to lose yesterday. The Bills – who are either the biggest over achievers of the first half or the lamest under achievers of the last half – are up three with around two minutes to play.

Up to this point they have been running all over the Jets defense. They just ran for a first down, then ran up the gut for another few yards. The Jets, getting desperate, started calling timeouts in an effort to 1: rest their defense who were getting knocked on their ass and 2: save some time so that if the Bills had to punt Brett Favre would have some time to work his magic.

So the stage is set. All the Bills have to do is rush up the middle one or two more times, kill the clock and hopefully grind out enough yards for another first down. One more and this game is over.

What do the Bills do? Yeah, the exact thing you don’t do in this situation: They pass. Only instead of a ‘pass’ it’s more of a scramble while I’m screaming at the television set ‘What are you doing!!???’

Sack, fumble, fumble picked up by the Jets and run in for the winning touchdown.

You gotta be fucking kidding me. I sat, speechless and stunned, for a solid five minutes. Watching the futile Bill’s offense try to come back from one of the most demoralizing and inexplicable losses this season. It was right there. All you had to do was run the ball.

Now the Jets, Dolphins and Patriots are all 9-5. It’s conceivable the Patriots could win 11 games and not make the playoffs. 11 games! If Miami or New York win out, they win the AFC East. The Colts have the first wild card nearly locked up with their 8-2 conference record and if Baltimore wins out, they’ll take the second spot.

That would leave the 11-5 Patriots on the outside. Ouch!

Now, thanks to the Buffaloser Bills, the Pats best chance is to have New York lose to Seattle next week then beat Miami in the season finale. Or have Miami lose to Kansas City…ahahahahahaahaha…oh, man. Almost got that out with a straight face. Yeah, so the Patriots look screwed. Unless Baltimore loses one more game and the Pats steal that last wild card spot.

That’s the problem with relying on other teams. Too much to keep track of. I can’t do it. Let’s just see how things play out. If you want, here’s a prediction for your entertainment: The Jets feel the effect of flying to Seattle and lay a big, stinking, rotten egg in losing to Seattle. Maybe that’s more wishful thinking, but considering the Jets have lost to Oakland, San Francisco, and Denver and needed a miracle to beat the Bills in the last few weeks I think I might be on to something.

The key will be how mean the Jets are playing in their final game. They play at 1pm, the same time the Pats and Bills finish up their regular season. Technically the Jets will be playing for the AFC East crown, so they better be fucking motivated and take down the Dolphins.

They better.

Onto other thoughts.

- I know it’s only two games, but the Giants have looked exceedingly beatable and mediocre the last two weeks. First Westbrook runs all over them, then the Dallas defense runs all over them. Eight sacks! Any other QB and that’s just a random event, but Eli still strikes me as skittish and anxious at times. Getting sacked eight times can not be good for his psyche. Let’s see if he develops Manning Happy Feet Syndrome next week.

- Any chance Baltimore had of winning their division was wiped out by a questionable call. If you missed it, Santonio Holmes (or, as I refer to him, Fantasy Killer) caught a pass while he was in the end zone. Only it didn’t look like the ball crossed the plane. It was originally ruled no TD and placed on the one centimeter line. They reviewed and it was reversed to a TD. Now, I saw the play and it didn’t look like the ball crossed the line. But whatever. The Steelers would have gone for it on the zero yard line and probably punched it in anyway.

Or maybe not. That Ravens defense is solid.

- I can’t figure out if this score - Minnesota 34 Arizona 14 - means the Vikings are that good or the Cardinals are not as good as initially thought. We’ll find out for sure when the Cardinals come to play in New England next weekend.

- Tennessee Titans’ owner, Bud Adams, has told reporters that Vince Young is still the quarterback of the future for this Titans team. Huh. Considering his on field play, off field behavior and strange comments about not really wanting to play football that’s quite a leap of faith. People make me laugh sometimes.

- If you missed it (and I nearly did by falling asleep watching it), the Falcons beat the Buccaneers in OT. This puts Tampa Bay in a tough spot now. They’ve lost two in a row and now the Falcons and Cowboys have the same record as the Bucs. In fact, Dallas is now in the driver's seat. If they win their last two games, they are in (oh great, more TO interviews and speculation). Tampa Bay better find their mojo soon or they’ll be going home earlier than expected.

- While noticing that Antonio Bryant had another big game, my buddy and I got into a conversation about next year’s fantasy draft. Simply put, who would you take in next year’s draft knowing what we know now.

For receivers we came up with these ten:

1: Steve Smith (argued about this as my buddy says he can’t stay on the field enough to qualify as a good pick. I argued that when he does play there is nobody better.)

2: Roddy White

3: Wes Welker (note, I drafted both Welker and White this year and they have played for me nearly every week. Never spectacular, but they are consistent and good for double digits every week)

4: Andre Johnson (most under appreciated receiver in the game)

5: Randy Moss (took a few weeks off, but still will go high especially with Brady coming back)

6 – 8: Any of the Cardinal receivers. I’m partial to Larry Fitzgerald, but Anquan Boldin and Breaston are also top possibilities.

9: Brandon Marshall (some up and down games, but he’s quickly approaching Randy Moss status)

10: either Greg Jennings or Calvin Johnson.

You’ll notice that Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens are not on this list. After this season full of 3, 4, 5, and zero points I’m staying far, far away from both of them.

Quarterbacks:

1: Tom Brady (argued that there is no guarantee he will be fully healed by next season, but my buddy thinks he’ll go in the first round regardless. I agree, but it won’t be by me)

2: Drew Brees

3: Tony Romo

4: Jay Cutler (great strides this year)

5: Aaron Rodgers

6: Kurt Warner (another one I wouldn’t take next year unless I had no choice)

7: Phillip Rivers (we decided he was on the list after seeing what he did in the fourth quarter yesterday)

8: Matt Ryan (tailing off a bit, but figure he'll be even better next season)

9: Matt Cassel (a lot of this depends on where he lands next season. If he winds up with a team with horrible receivers, then I wouldn’t go near him)

10: Peyton Manning. (we decided he had to be included as it looks like the first half of this season was him still recovering from his knee surgeries. He’s looked like the Peyton of old the last half of the season).

By the way, I’m mentioning four others to keep an eye on for the rest of the season to see how they fare: Tyler Thigpen (solid numbers for a crappy team), Kyle Orton, Shaun Hill (10 TDs to 4 INTs this year), and Seneca Wallace who looked fantastic against the Patriots last week.

Two dark horses for the later rounds: Chad Pennington (over looked again) and Dan Orlovsky (who’s doing a decent job for one of the worst teams in history).

Running Backs:

1: Adrian Peterson (you know which one)

2: Michael Turner

3: DeAngelo Williams

4: Matt Forte

5: Thomas Jones

6: Brian Westbrook (although he is banged up nearly ever week, so make sure you draft his backup later on)

7: Steve Slaton

8: Chris Johnson

9: Clinton Portis (although the miles are piling up quickly)

10: Marion Barber

You’ll notice a bunch of guys missing. Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch, Maurice Jones-Drew, Tomlinson, Stephen Jackson, Jonathan Stewart (who I would try to get along with Williams just to fuck with people), Ryan Grant, Reggie Bush, Kevin Smith, Le’Ron McClain, Ray Rice, Ronnie Brown, you get the idea.

My point is it might be a wise idea to use your first round pick on a quarterback instead of a running back. Figure a solid RB gives you 20 points a week. A quality QB can give you 25 -40 points a week. Just look what Brees, second half Manning, last year’s Brady and even Cassel has done this year. My buddy and I both decided the there are more quality running backs in the league than there are quality quarterbacks.

As anyone who had Brady this year can tell you, it’s tough replacing an elite quarterback.

Neither one of us asked the other whether it was sad we were already planning for next year’s draft. That answer is obvious.


Today’s distraction: Here’s what things would look like if the playoffs started today. I don’t get the Colts having to go to Denver just because the Broncos play in a shitty division. Shouldn’t that be changed?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cold Hands, Hot Stove

To absolutely nobody’s surprise, the Yankees signed CC Sabathia to the most lucrative pitching contract in Major League Baseball history. Judging by the Barry Zito contract, the Yankees have nothing to worry about.

Seven years, one hundred and sixty million dollars and the weight of an entire franchise now falls onto Sabathia’s massive shoulders.

Congrats, Yankee fans. You have your man. Don’t be worried at all the Sabathia kept that same offer on the table for six weeks while pleading with the Dodgers, Angels, Giants and a variety of other west coast teams to just come close to what the Yankees were offering. Don’t worry, either, that the only way CC would sign his name (if he’s even done that, yet) was for the Yanks to insert an opt out clause after year three of this contract in case he really didn’t like playing in New York.

No, you shouldn’t worry that Sabathia made it well known he had no desire to play in New York. At. All. Don’t let it bother you that the Yankees were basically bidding against themselves for his services and seem ready to overpay for both Derek Lowe AND AJ Burnett.

I also wouldn’t worry that your farm system is so depleted the Yankees can’t even make legitimate trades with other teams because they have no prospects other teams want.

Don’t worry about any of those warning signs. I’m sure this will turn out fine.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?


- While I don’t care who signs Burnett, I really hope the Red Sox sign Mark Teixeira. He’s the perfect insurance policy in case Lowell doesn’t come back 100%. Youkilis can move to third, Teixeira at first, Pedroia at second and Lowry at short. I like that infield. A lot!

If Lowell does come back, then I’m sure there is a trade somewhere that can be made.


- The Mets just bolstered their bullpen again today. They traded with Seattle to bring in JJ Putz as the setup guy for K-Rod. Say what you will about the Mets, but they have a need, they do whatever they can to fill it. If Putz and K-Rod stay healthy, that’s one potent bullpen in the National League.


- The Yankees don’t look done, yet, either as they appear to be working on a trade with the Brewers that would send Melky Cabrera to Milwaukee while Mike Cameron would be the Yankees center fielder. I’m ambivalent.


- It looks like Orlando Hudson (one of the game’s underrated players) is available as the Arizona Diamondbacks have signed Felipe Lopez (who I thought played basketball for the Minnesota Timberwolves a few years back. Am I mistaken? Are there two?).


- It’s looking more and more likely that Jake Peavy will be playing for the Padres next year. Unless, Peavy expands his list of approved teams. Like…oh I dunno…Boston? C’mon, Jakey!! It’s a great baseball town! Good looking college chicks that do anything for athletes. We even have a beautiful Ritz condo that a former, dreadlocked left fielder is trying to sell.


- Twins fans should be happy that Nick Punto just signed a two year deal to stay in Minnesota. Does it please anyone else that the Twins have had more success than the Yankees the last few years despite a bare bones payroll?


- In a deal that will effect nothing, the Pirates have signed Ramon Vazquez for 2 years and four million. Um….good for them?


- You know who’s also a free agent but nobody is talking about and could be a total steal? Ben Sheets. Sure he’s got an injury history, but could that be related to playing for the Brewers? Maybe if he gets on a new team’s training program he can stay healthy. Just saying.

That’s all for today. Sorry for the abbreviated post, but our company’s holiday party is today and I have to prep myself for some free booze.

Stay tuned for an announcement that the Red Sox have traded – out of the blue – for Jake Peavy and signed Mark Teixeira because he was looking to get the hell away from the Washington Nationals.


Today’s distraction: My favorite December event: The Winter Meetings. Here is the blog to keep you up to date for the rest of the weekend. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Year in Music - 2008

Must admit, this wasn’t the best year for tunes. A lot of disappointing releases with some down right awful.

Thankfully there are always highlights. Let’s get to it, shall we? These are just the CDs I’ve heard this year. Some maybe older, but I’ve just discovered them.

BEST

Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid: Granted it’s a bit strange, but I can’t stop listening to this. Swings from blues to rock to cabaret to ballads, but all of the songs are fantastic and improve with repeated listening. While Coldplay gets all the hype, this is the band people should be paying attention to.

The Hold Steady – Stay Positive: A band that is getting better every year. Musicianship, song writing, even their lead singer/talker. Their best release so far. There is no limit to what this band can accomplish. We may be talking about one of the best bands of all time when all is said and done.

Kings of Leon – Only By The Night: Soulful, hard charging, mellow, mournful, psychedelic, and that’s just the first half of the CD. Another band that’s improving every year and seems to have no ceiling.

Hot Water Music – Till The Wheels Fall Off: The first time I listened to this I thought it was rather muddy and basic. And yet it kept returning to my playlists again and again. I finally listened to the entire thing again and can’t find a bad song on it. Deceptively good.

Linkin Park – Minutes to Midnight: Angry, political and one of the most kick ass releases in some time. Rap\Rock may be slipping, but with this group around it will never die completely.

Shout Out Louds – Our Ill Wills: More experimental and rock oriented than their first, which – for me – is a pleasant direction to take.


HONORABLE MENTIONS

Alkaline Trio – Agony & Irony: Their major label debut still packs a punch, but leans too much towards the mainstream for my liking. Some of their best material is here, but too many mediocre songs litter the proceedings.

GlasvegasGlasvegas: I know, stupid name, but this is an impressive debut from the Scottish band. If it didn’t have that ridiculous spoken word song it may have made the top list.

Futureheads – This Is Not The World: Would have made the top list, as well, but it wears down after repeated listenings. Still their most straightforward rock album and a very pleasant surprise after their last – somewhat lame – release.


WORST COMEBACK (AKA: PLEASE STAY THE HELL AWAY)

Britney Spears: Granted she looks good, but two kids, two divorces, and fifty drug induced scandals later she’s relying on AutoTune and her tits more than ever.


BEST TRENDS OF THE YEAR

DRM Elimination: Most record companies have been eliminating Digital Rights Management from their CDs. This means you can burn them to you MP3 players, create copies and basically do what you want with them. This is now extending to DVDs which will now allow you to create a ‘digital copy’ of movies so they can play on your computers.

While it’s not officially dead, DRM’s grave is being dug.

Artists With No Labels: Radiohead, The Eagles, Madonna, Nine Inch Nails, and Prince all announced they will no longer be associated with any record labels and release their own music in their own way and in any way they see fit. Radiohead made available ‘In Rainbows’ and offered it for download for whatever you thought it was worth. Brilliant!

Wireless Access: Both the latest Zune and iPod Touch (and iPhone) allow you to purchase songs via wireless internet and download them directly to your device. What took them so long?


WORST TREND OF THE YEAR

Wholesome Rock: The Jonas Brothers don’t smoke, drink, sing well, do drugs, have sex with boys or girls (so they say) and are arguably the biggest act of the year. Is this what rock and roll is becoming? If so, I want no part of it. Let’s hope this is just a passing fad and one of them winds up overdosing on heroin after Hannah Montana’s 17th birthday.

David Archuleta: One of the biggest fads of the year was a mindless, soulless, android who had never even heard of the Beatles until he was asked to sing some of their songs on ‘American Idol’. I would suggest putting him out of his misery, but I don’t think he feels anything. Instead put us out of our misery. Please.


BEST SONG OF THE YEAR

Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire: Just listen to it.


WORST SONG OF THE YEAR

The Killers – Human: ‘Are we dancers or are we human?’ will go down as one of the worst song lyrics in rock history, but I can live with crappy lyrics. What I can’t live with is a once hyper, intelligent rock band morphing into a full fledged synth/dance band. A bad one, at that. Just awful.


MOST DISAPPOINTING

The Kooks – Konk: Not terrible, but I expected more free wheeling, fun rock and roll and not this haphazard attempt to keep their band name on the radio. Seem to be heading straight for the bland, middle of the road, boring bandbox already occupied by The Fray and Maroon 5. Pity.

Kayne West – 808s & Heartbreak: Admittedly I don’t have this or have even heard a note from this album, but considering 10 spent an entire entry trashing it and he’s a huge Kanye fan, I had to put this here. From what I hear, others are in complete agreement.

And on that note (Get it?), I’m out. I might be off for the rest of the week, but that has yet to be determined.


Today’s distraction: Enjoy some free Christmas music courtesy of We7. There are plenty of other songs you can get for free here, too. Go to town!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dangerous Minds

Idle thoughts from an idle mind.

- This past summer – as we all know – gas prices went through the roof. This in turn, or so most businesses told us, caused price increases in nearly everything from flowers to milk to crackers to KY lube. It was understandable. Higher transportation costs cause higher prices in general.

However, I have since noticed that prices in all other items have not come down even though the cost of gas is below what it was last year. The current cost of a gallon of gas, on average, is $1.91. The current cost of a generic brand of cereal is nearly $4!

Since transportation costs have gone down shouldn’t the cost of our groceries and other products be declining, as well?

- As if the ludicrous amount of money the American auto industry isn’t enough, already the CEO of GM is calling the estimated 15 Billion (BILLION!!!) dollar loan a ‘bridge loan’. Says Bob Lutz, the soon to be former CEO of GM, ‘this is simply a bridge loan which will get us into the next administration, where we hope we can do something more fundamental.”

The next administration is less than two months away. Is he really saying he can’t hold onto 3-4 billion dollars for longer than that?

- Anyone concerned about preventing and treatment of breast cancer (which should be anyone that knows a woman) take note: There is a new, highly effective imaging technique that may replace the mammogram for high risk women. It’s called ‘Breast Specific Gamma Imaging’ (BSGI) and is 96.4% sensitive and helped detect breast cancer in six patients that were not detected with mammograms or ultrasonographs. Score another one for boobs around the world!!

- While I’m enjoying the web series ‘Mayne Street’ does Nyquil (the sponsor) have to show the exact same commercial every time? Are there not other Nyquil commercials around? I’m thinking I’ve seen 13,000 or so over the course of my lifetime. One must be available.

- Anyone looking for gift ideas for me, look no further. I’m putting this in my office while I’m on vacation and rigging it to activate any time someone walks in. If only they would invent a douchbag detector as an add on. That would be sweet. Make sure you watch the video of this thing in action.

- If you need some cheap gifts for an office gift grab or just to show you want to get in some co-workers pants, then maybe these will help. I already have number 4 (and still use it frequently) and like the idea behind number 21, but number 16 is now on my ‘must have’ list. I would never leave my office.

- Oh, and here are some gifts you shouldn’t get a coworker. I completely disagree with number 2 (third slide) on this list, by the way. That’s the gift that keeps on giving. At least until they’re gone.

- Take a look at this news story (you’ve probably already seen it). Yeah, it’s cute and touching, but I can’t help but wonder how long they kept the father in the back room waiting for the exact right moment to bring him out. Maybe it’s the cynical, heartless bastard in me (he’s taking over!!), but I feel manipulated. Does everything have to revolve around television now?

- What the hell is going on with Denver running backs? Hillis so severely injured his hamstring, he may have to have surgery to repair it. Reports are that the muscle has been torn from the bone. Ouch! Anyway, he is the seventh – that’s right SEVENTH – Denver running back to be injured this season. Is this the curse of Terrell Davis?

A few baseball notes:

- The Mets just signed K-Rod to a 3 year deal. It actually makes perfect sense and will probably end up horribly for the Mets. Just going by the history.

- Talks are heating up between the Red Sox and AJ Burnett. That this is occurring exactly one day after the Sox met with CC Sabathia says a lot. Still, I don’t know if signing Burnett to a long term, lucrative deal is the best idea. He has an extensive injury and is above average, at best. I guess he’d be protected as in Boston he’d be the fourth starter. May actually be the best spot for him. Can't say the same for the Red Sox.

- If the Padres are so anxious to get rid of Jake Peavy (Boston is glorious during summer, Mr. Peavy. Please reconsider), then just make a fucking deal already.

- In case you missed this, the Dodgers just signed Casey Blake and Mark Loretta (both under appreciated players in my humble opinion). What makes this interesting is there is no place for Nomar to play on this Dodger team. Looks like his LA days are done (Hello, Angels?). It’s a rather uneventful end for someone that was once a superstar in a major baseball city. What happened? We need an ‘Outside the Lines’ dedicated solely to Nomar’s career.

It’s getting late and I have to get home in time for a parent – teacher conference. Good times!!! A parent’s fun never ends.


Today’s distraction: The top 12 most embarrassing tech moments. Love that Boston’s idiotic public transit system made the list. Bozos!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Week 14 Postmortem

Some good news first.

Just weighed in and for the first time in decades, I’m below 200 pounds.*

* Truth be told, I never weighed myself much before this competition. There is a solid chance I was around 190-195 in my late 20s and early 30s but I wasn’t concerned about weight so much as being fit. Then I got married and had kids and it’s all been downhill both mentally and physically.

I was falling back in the contest, too, so this is huge. I had 8 people in front of me which should be fewer after this week’s comeback.

Why am I excited about this? Because I just found out that pot is currently up to $3600. You think I’m not dropping another 5-10 pounds for $3600 (and it will most likely be more than that when it’s all said and done) you’re crazy. Hell, I’ll even give up beer for the next two weeks.

OK, maybe not, but I would THINK about giving up beer. Either way I’m hitting the gym every day for the next two weeks. The final weigh in is Monday, the 22nd and you can bet I’ll be fasting the prior Sunday. Thousands of dollars, here I come!

In other good news it looks like I’ve won the weekly pot in my final fantasy week. Thanks to Westbrook, Welker, Roddy White, Drew Brees (who I will now go out of my way to have on my fantasy team the next 2-3 seasons), and the Arizona Defense, I am 58 points up on the next highest score.

Love then things come together. Too bad it wasn’t often enough throughout the rest of the season. Moments of brilliance, followed by weeks of abysmal scoring from everyone on my roster. With the exception of Brees, Welker, and White, nobody contributed on a consistent basis.

There’s always next year. Oh, and our end of year party which is coming together as we speak. Rumors are swirling about a trophy, but I’d just be happy with the bragging rights and money. Sadly, I’ll have neither.

So where does this leave us? The playoffs!! That's where!! Let’s take a look at the haves and have nots.

NFC

IN

New York Giants: Despite the loss yesterday this is still the team to beat. Although anyone saying the Giants wouldn’t miss Burress quickly changed their minds after watching Hixon drop a sure touchdown pass.

Arizona Cardinals: That’s right. The laughing stock of the league since…well...whatever year this team came into existence just clinched their division yesterday. Can’t say their postseason will last long, but they get a home playoff game, so that’s something. Congrats to the rabid Cardinal fans out there.

Somewhere.

Guess what? That’s it for the NFC. The rest, like my future, is completely up in the air.


FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIVES

Rest of the NFC East: Dallas, Philly (how did they get back into this conversation?), and Washington are long shots, but – believe it or not – that ridiculous tie with Cincinnati may work in the Eagles favor. If they win out they’ll have fewer loses than their nearest competitor.

Look on the bright side, the world will get to see Donovan McNabb puking on the field again. That’s always a highlight.

Minnesota Vikings/Chicago Bears: The Vikings have a one game lead over the Bears, but have three tough games to wrap things up: At Arizona, then home against the Falcons and Giants. If things go well for the Vikings, Arizona and NY will be resting some of their big guns.

Chicago finishes at home against the Saints and Packers then on the road in Houston.

Flip a coin on which of these teams gets booted in the first round.

The Entire NFC South: Imagine how Carolina (9-3), Tampa Bay (9-3), Atlanta (8-5) and New Orleans (7-6) feel when they look to the South and see that Arizona has already clinched that division with a similar crappy 8-5 record. I’m betting there are lots of curses involved.

Tonight’s game is FUCKING HUGE!!!


AFC

IN

Tennessee Titans: While everyone is talking about how great the Pittsburgh defense is, most are over looking that this same 12-1 Titans have given up one - as in singular - more point than the Steelers while putting up 43 more points. In short, there is a reason this team only has one loss.

Denver Broncos: Yeah, you read that right. It’s not official, yet, but they’re three games up with three to play so unless they shit the bed in the worst way and San Diego somehow reincarnates Tomlinson into what he used to be this division is all Broncos.

FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIVES

The Entire AFC East: Except Buffalo. Miami, New England and New York Jets are all 8-5. The Pats, as defined by the tie breakers MUST finish with a better record then the other two. The Jets can tie with the Pats and still be the outright winner. Same with Miami. But, if the Jets and Dolphins end up with the same record, but better than the Patriots…

Well, then….

…uh…actually, I’m not sure what happens. Both have the same 6-4 conference record, but the Jets have the better division record (as of today). Guess we’ll have to wait for that final regular season game. Miami at New York. Yeah BABY!!! It is ON! Who would have thought that this game would mean everything for these two teams. Let’s not forget Chad Pennington coming back to New York with the chance to end their season.

Man, I love the NFL.

If you’re wondering, here are their remaining schedules.

Jets: Buffalo, at Seattle, Miami

Miami: San Fran, at Kansas City, at New York

New England: at Oakland, Arizona, at Buffalo

Basically the Pats need to win the rest of their games (which is more than conceivable as poor Arizona must fly east again) and hope either Miami or New York loses one game before their epic, season ending rumble. Then hope whoever has already lost a game beats the other team.

Oh boy.

Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Ravens: Only one game separates these two and guess what? They play in Baltimore this weekend. Woooooo fucking hoooo! Be ready for a 10-7 game with these two.

With a win the Steelers effectively seal the division, but lose and things get very interesting. The head to head match up and their division records will be tied and the conference record will be one game apart. Basically both teams need to win this game.

Remaining schedule: Pittsburgh – at Baltimore, at Tennessee (ouch!), Cleveland.

Baltimore – Pittsburgh, at Dallas, Jacksonville.

If the Ravens win this weekend, this will go down to the wire.

Indianapolis Colts: Quite a few people lost sight of the Colts while coughing and sneezing on Tennessee's dust. Well, lookie who’s leading the Wild Card charge? With an 8-2 conference record, these guys have a huge advantage over the Ravens, Patriots, Jets and Dolphins. Considering their remaining schedule has the Lions, Jaguars (in Jacksonville) and a ‘no reason to even show up’ Titans left, expect this to be resolved before the AFC East mess.

So there you go folks. This weekend has a bunch of critical games and I’ll be in front of my 47 inch plasma soaking up every bit of it.


Today’s distraction: Some fun and informative trivia about the movie studio logos. You even find out who the boy is fishing off the moon in the DreamWorks opening.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Holiday Re-Takes

Now that I have kids and a lot of the holiday specials have been remastered so they’re watchable again, I’m being reintroduced to some old friends.

Namely, all those Christmas specials that get televised this time of year. My boys just finished watching ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ and ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’ on consecutive nights. These are shows I used to watch as a kid and, considering the boys’ reaction to them, they stand up fairly well over time.

For the most part.

Here are my favorite Christmas specials and my new take on them. In no order, of course. I can never be that organized.

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN


The origins of Santa Claus and still very entertaining. Helps to have Burgermeister Meisterburger (or is it the other way around?) involved and songs that stick in your head (‘Put one foot in front of the other…’; ‘It’s a difficult responsibility…’) for the rest of your life.

Kid Take

- So that’s why Santa uses the chimney! Because he had a bounty on his head.

- That penguin is funny.

- Ew, why does Santa like that red haired girl?

Adult Take

- Mrs. Claus was HOT!

- Why the fuck is there a penguin in the North Pole? Screw it! Love how it does the ‘glung glung!’ sound!

- Was Meisterburger’s town the kid equivalent of Auschwitz?


RUDOLPH THE REDNOSED REINDEER


Obviously based on the song as there is so much filler in here that this really should have been an half hour program. Rudolph gets driven from town because he has a red nose (you should see me with my head cold) and joins forces with a tooth obsessed elf and a border line psychotic Yukon Cornelius.

Kid Take

- Aw, those poor misfit toys
- Don't make fun of those different than you as they can be extremely helpful during a stormy night in delivering your gifts.

- Look out for the Abominable Snow Monster! (aka: Bumble)

- How is Cornelius still alive? I don’t get it.

Adult Take

- Santa’s an asshole.

- Never make fun of someone different as they can grow up and come back to town towing a huge, angry, carnivorous snow monster.

- How is Cornelius still alive? I don’t get it.

- How bad are the elves’ teeth if they’ve never had a dentist and eat truck loads of candy?


HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

That Chuck Jones was responsible for this and the very best of the Bugs Bunny cartoons means this is still a must see every year. Funny, creative and true to the spirit of Dr. Seuss. Basically the exact opposite of the Jim Carrey movie.

Kid Take

- How can anyone hate Christmas?

- See? I knew he’d come around and turn nice.

Adult Take

- You go, Grinch. Take away their shit. Ungrateful bastards!

- No, NOOOOOOOOOO!!!! The street value of that stuff is through the roof. What are you doing!!???????


THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS


This show disappeared for a long time because right wing religious gas bags kept insisting the Heat Miser was really Satan. Fools. He just controlled the tropical climates. Couldn’t they see that? Besides, if Heat was Satan wouldn’t that make Snow Miser God? And wouldn’t that mean God answers to a woman (Mother Nature)? Ohhhh, now I see the problem.

Anyway, this has always been on of my favorites although after seeing it again it’s lost a bit of it’s luster. Like most Rankin/Bass productions, this would have been better as a 30 minute movie and not the over long hour. In this one Santa gets a cold and decides to scrap Christmas since nobody believes in him anyway. Two scrappy elves (Jingle and Jangle!) take it upon themselves to find true believers, but wind up getting their reindeer impounded in South Town. Hilarity ensues when the South Town mayor agrees to release the elves and their dying reindeer if it snows in his town (which, if he’s mayor is technically a city).

Kid Take

- No, Santa! You can’t cancel Christmas. This is the year I asked for Stretch Armstrong!

- Jingle and Jangle are hilarious.

- Heat Miser rocks!!

Adult Take

- Fucking Santa. Little cold and he can’t work the ONE DAY of the year he needs to. Slacker!

- That reindeer looks nothing like a dog. Are they blind?

- Heat Miser rocks!! (‘I’m Mister Heat Miser, I’m Mister Sun!’ Song is going through your head now, isn’t it?)

- Wait, if the Mayor doesn’t believe in Santa why is he singing about it snowing in Dixie? Quite a leap of faith, my unbelieving mayor friend.


A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS


Charlie Brown and gang mull over the true meaning of Christmas, deal with a piano dancing beagle who is also delusi…er…imaginative enough to pretend to be dog fighting the Red Baron all while trying to put on a Christmas play. Chaos reigns. Oh, and there is a crappy tree involved.

Kid Take

- Mom, can we get a beagle?

- Look what they did to the tree! That’s awesome!

- Lucy’s mean.

Adult Take

- Man alive, that dog is exhausting.

- Wait, how the hell did they get the tree to look like that? Thing could barely hold a single ornament before. It’s a fake, isn’t it?

- Lucy is a grade A bitch!


FROSTY THE SNOWMAN


Snowman accidentally comes to life when a wind blows a magic hat onto his head. He proceeds to make all the kids lives around him a lot more fun, makes a traffic cop choke to death on his whistle and somehow avoids an Amber Alert while taking a little girl to the North Pole. Cameo by Santa.

Kid Take

- That magician guy is mean! Boo!! Hissss!

- Frosty says ‘Happy Birthday’ every time he comes alive. That’s funny.

- Santa saved Frosty! Horay for Santa!

Adult Take

- Actually, that hat does belong to the magician.

- Is Frosty retarded?

- Santa saved Frosty…oh good, we get to hear him say Happy Birthday again. Where’s the vodka?

- Thank Christ this is only half an hour.

I would offer up ‘Little Drummer Boy’, too, but I can hardly remember what it was about or how it fits into the birth of Christ, anyway. I’m guessing it wasn’t one of the more popular specials.

I’m off tomorrow, so everyone enjoy their weekends.


Today’s distraction: The 12 worst Christmas songs according to Spinner.com. I agree with most of these (especially number 1), but Destiny’s Child all look hot in those Santa outfits. That makes the song totally worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Year in Movies - 2008

Why wait until the end of the month to start this off? No reason whatsoever.

That's right, another year down the tubes and one step closer to senility. Putting these together are more difficult than I thought due to my impaired memory. I forget what I've seen this year. Alcohol abuse is a terrible, yet wonderful, thing.

Anyway, here are the best and worst movies I've seen this year.

In no order, just like the rest of my life.

BEST

Eastern Promises: Depressing and hopeful; menacing and charismatic; violent and tender, this is a movie that has stayed with me since January. Viggo Mortenson is captivating and director David Cronenberg isn't afraid to show the masochistic side of all of the characters, just as he isn't afraid to show their compassionate side. Complex, involving and memorable.

The Queen: A behind the scenes examination of how the Queen and the Royal Family mishandled the death of Princess Diana. Helen Mirren is perfect as Queen Elizabeth, trapped between tradition and reacting to the will of 'her people'.

Gone Baby Gone: Thought provoking, gritty, and the most accurate depiction of Boston ever filmed. Considering he's been involved in two of the best Boston based movies of all time (this and 'Good Will Hunting'), Ben Affleck appears to be serving cinema better behind the scenes rather than acting.

Tropic Thunder: Just caught this one over Thanksgiving weekend and have never been so subversively delighted in all my life. While it may not be for everyone, I found this to be the funniest goddamn movie of the year. Could be the best work for Ben Stiller (the dumb action star), Robert Downey Jr (as an Australian perennial Oscar winner playing 'the dude that plays the dude that's playing the other dude'), Jack Black (I was laughing so hard when he was tied to the tree I was crying), and nearly every member of the cast. It says a lot about Stiller as director that he allowed more laughs from other actors than he allowed himself. Although his 'Stupid Jack' is going to be remembered forever, as well as the funniest conversation in movie history (I won't even argue) where Downey Jr expains why it's a bad idea to go 'full retard' as an actor. I don't want to give away too many surprises, but if Tom Cruise doesn't get nominated for Best Supporting Actor it will be a travesty.

Once: Simple, low budget, and utterly charming. I've seen this twice more and finally bought the DVD last weekend. A movie that improves with repeated viewings. Helps that the music is brilliant.

SuperBad: Raunchy, crude and offensive in the most hilarious way possible. A plot that's barely there and plays out like most of my high school Saturday nights. Yes, that sometimes involved incompetent cops, lots of illegally obtained alcohol and trying too desperately to get laid. Like most teenage boys, the main characters hide enormous heart and insecurity beneath a thick layer of obnoxiousness and cursing.

The Dark Knight: I know, I know, there were a lot of plot holes in this. Where did the Joker get all his explosives? How did he get anyone to work with him? How did he survive a truck flipping over? Still, this movie sticks in my mind for how it finally got me to view Batman as a tragic figure and not some mentally disturbed rich guy in a bat suit.

Ironman/The Incredible Hulk: I've seen these both multiple times due to my boys fascination with everything superhero (no, they won't be seeing Dark Knight) and must confess they maintain their watchability and entertainment value. Both take their time setting up the characters and plot, then take off like freight trains. Hulk has more action, Ironman has more humor. Your pick.

No Country for Old Men: I debated for a long while whether to include this on the Best list, but in the end that the first 80% of this movie is some of the greatest film making of all time made my mind up. Even the end (which I hated) still contained some haunting moments. While things fall apart drastically, it still worth watching and is one of the best movies I've seen this year.


CLOSE. SO CLOSE.

Hancock: For the first 30 minutes, this is one of the funniest, most original movies of the year. Alas, it quickly degenerates into a standard superhero movie (and a subpar one at that).

I Am Legend: Yeah, another Will Smith movie that showed so much promise only to cop out at the end and ruin an other wise very good movie. Unlike 'No Country For Old Men' this ending does ruin what came before it.

Get Smart: Some very funny bits in this movie, but it makes a tactical error by making Maxwell Smart a competent, intelligent agent. The fun of the original show was that Smart was effective despite his incompetence and idiocy. They messed up the Zeigfried character, too, making him verbally abusive instead of somewhat innocent and absent minded while trying to take over the world. All the components are there for a very good recreation, they just put them together in the wrong order.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

You Don't Mess With The Zohan: Laughed exactly twice. I think the problem with this movie is the opening 20 minutes should have been the main focus with him finally becoming a hair dresser being the 10 minute happy ending.


The Happening: WARNING! SPOILERS BELOW!

Seriously? What the fuck?

I'm going to rant on this movie for a bit, so be prepared. This is the movie with Marky Mark and his very badly acting wife try to outrun some killer virus that's infecting people and making them kill themselves. The opening moments of this film are terrific; the crown jewel being a construction foreman watching as his men continue to hurl themselves off the building they're working on.

But then things start trying to be explained. In this case the trees, grass and plants have decided that mankind is a threat and they're all releasing neurotoxins into the air to make people kill themselves. Ummmm....okaaaaayyyy. I can buy into this, I guess. It is a stupid horror movie after all.

As survivors start figuring out (or hypothesizing, at least) about what's going on, groups start forming. Marky Mark, his wife, and their freind's little girl (yet another kid in peril for M Night only horribly acted in this case) wind up trying to outrun the wind for the last half of the movie. By the way, I mean that literally. 'Here comes some wind! Run!' Oh, I wish I were kidding.

It's really too bad because there are some haunting images around the stupid parts Marky Mark and his wife try to sort out their differences: the tracking of a gun that several people use to shoot themselves, a jeep accident in which a survivor calmly picks up a piece of shattered glass and begins slicing his own wrist, the previously mentioned construction site. But it never adds up to anything worthwhile.

And you know why? Because this is so obviously an environmental 'message' film. We're killing the earth so it's going to start killing us back. Only that makes no sense. First trees and grass and plants would never consider us a threat since we plant them and take care of them. In the very last scene we see another event unfolding in Italy (or France, I can't remember) but it's happening in a city park where trees are lined up perfectly. It's obvious they have been planted there for effect which means these stupid trees are trying to kill the same people that created them. Brilliant! Who's going to treat your bark disease now, motherfuckers?! If anything wouldn't they try to kill off all the cars and industrial plants in the world?

But wait, it gets better. During the last hour there is the implication that this toxin goes after groups of people who are arguing or angry. This includes some crazy lady who inexplicably lets the Marky Mark trio stay over night at her place and decides to kill herself by bashing her face against her own house (Marky Mark avoids being infected by...closing the door). This is near the end of the movie and Marky Mark and his wife have been separated. Since they believe they are going to die, anyway, they meet in a field so they can be together when they start slaughtering themselves (although how they would kill themselves in the middle of an open field was going to be a tough one to figure out).

But they don't kill themselves. Nothing happens. Is it because their main emotion was love? PUKE! Give me a break. This is now two movies in a row (Lady in the Water) where M Night has shit the bed. Maybe he needs to just direct and not write his own movies. Even 'Signs' had WTF moments scattered throughout.

At the very least, M Night, hire a script doctor to let you know when you're getting in over your head and making no sense. We're a long way from 'Unbreakable', I'm afraid.

Today's distraction: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 30 seconds. Oh, and it stars bunnies.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Week 13 Postmortem

Yesterday’s game against the Steelers was supposed to give us an indication on where this particular Patriots teams stands in relation to the elite of the NFL.

Well….

We certainly know now, don’t we. After getting thoroughly abused in the second half, the Patriots are who we thought they were!!! Sorry. Channeling my inner Denny Green there.

The Patriots are an above average team with too many injuries, lacking last year’s MVP, and in need of a tremendous amount of help just to get into the playoffs. They are not part of the elite any longer. They are old and slow on defense, porous on the offensive line and apparently handed out cement gloves to Randy Moss before the game.

Maybe it was just a bad game, but turning the ball over 5 times in a half speaks to more than just a bad game. I could understand Cassel losing the ball once on a sack, but twice? On the same exact play? Learn from your mistakes, Matty! Any comparisons between you and Brady have been put to rest, that’s for sure.

Sadly, yesterday was a perfect chance for the Pats to get back into the division race. The Jets got trounced by Denver of all teams. A win would have created a tie at the top (although I think the Jets would have the tie breakers). Basically, the Patriots need to finish with a better record than both the Jets and Dolphins to take the division.

And taking the division is looking like the only way this team will make the playoffs. Figure Baltimore, Indy and the Dolphins as their major challengers for the wild card spot. Considering the Pats have the lousiest conference record (5-5) than any of those teams, things are looking bleak. Winning the division outright appears to be their best bet.

There is still a chance, of course, but after yesterday’s debacle I can’t see this team going very far even if they make the playoffs. Not that I should be complaining much. I didn’t expect to be even discussing the Pats’ playoff chances after Brady’s knee imploded.

I guess I should be glad there is still a chance the Jets could crumble, the Dolphins could go back to being last year’s crappy team, and the Pats use the Steelers game to motivate and fix themselves.

I should be, but I’m not. Yes, I’m a spoiled brat.

Onto other thoughts.

- I’m very glad to say I didn’t gain any weight over the break. Considering all the food I had to eat, this is a very good thing. I lost only .2 pounds, but I’m betting others put on weight. Time to kick things into a higher gear over the next 3 weeks. Need to get to 193 (less than 10 pounds) by the 22nd. I think I can, I think I can…..

- Not that it mattered much since I’m out of playoff contention, but I played my best man in fantasy this week and lost by a whopping 7 points. I killed him earlier in the season, but considering Welker got his bell rung (and then some!) and never returned and Tim Hightower is regressing before our eyes, I held up pretty well.

- Part of that is because Westbrook scored four times for me on Thursday. Funny what happens when a team gets the ball to it’s best players as often as possible. It really isn’t rocket science, people.

- Speaking of Thanksgiving games, they lived up to the turkey day reputation. By that I mean they all sucked.

- I got to watch most of the highly entertaining Carolina – Green Bay game yesterday and can’t help but feel bad for the Packers. They seem to do everything right and just can’t buy a win. The best lousy team in the league. Wasn’t their defense supposed to be good this year?

- If losing Tom Brady weren’t enough to kick off his fantasy season, my buddy also has Plaxico Burress on his team. Topping his behavior problems, injuries and lack of production is Burress’ inability to figure out how the safety works on his own gun. That the Giants are 11-1 with this tool on their team is a testament to their focus and talent. If I were Tom Coughlin, I would tell Burress to take the rest of the year off. Wouldn’t want him to accidentally shoot Jacobs in the foot while they’re changing in the locker room.

- Teams getting it together at right time: Tampa Bay, Carolina, Minnesota, Indy (although it’s hard to take them seriously as a threat after that Cleveland game), Baltimore and possibly Dallas (the Pittsburgh game this Sunday will give a clearer picture about them).

- Teams faltering at the wrong time: Jets (looked abysmal against a weak defensive team), New Orleans (destined to be .500 until they invest in their defense), Washington, Green Bay, Patriots, Arizona (although it looks like they still have their division wrapped up).

- Teams that can start thinking about next year: Detroit, St Louis, Philly, Buffalo, Seattle, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Houston, Kansas City and the entire state of California.

Other random thoughts from the weekend:

- We had friends over for Thanksgiving for the first time (as opposed to just family) and it was much more fun. One of them got so drunk she wished me a Merry Christmas on the way out the door. This led to much laughter and her husband wishing the neighbors a Happy New Year on the way to the car. Plus, my kids and their kids love playing with each other so they were out of our hair most of the day. It was lovely.

- Is this what the younger generation has become? Invading and randomly killing hundreds of people in an Indian hotel because of some thousand year old grudge or some anti-American hatred they probably don’t even understand. More than ever I’m convinced those guys need to get laid in the worst way. Why do you think most American males aged 18-24 (the age of the terrorists) stay out of trouble? Cause they’re getting some! Or trying to! The ones that don’t either become Columbine-type gunmen or invade random hotels to kill innocent people.

Pussy: The ultimate peace keeper.

- Unsurprisingly, the initial Black Friday estimates are far and away higher than ‘experts’ predicted. Once again the economic gurus are wrong. Can we now strip them of all credibility? Will the media now stop reporting on whatever it is they predict? Will the media now stop over reacting to every DOW Jones drop or bad economic indicator and start looking for the positive signs that are all around us?

Of course not. No news like bad news to get the ratings up.

- Lastly, don’t look now but the Red Sox just signed another Japanese pitcher. Oddly, the contract is only for 3 years and $3 million which could turn out to be an historic bargain or a complete waste of money. He’s only 21 years old and is expected to begin the season in the minors, but with a name like Tazawa how could he not become huge? Look for a marketing tie in between Warner Brothers and the Red Sox when jerseys start showing up with Taz on it. It’s inevitable.


Today’s distraction: 54 ‘Mind Blowing’ digital paintings. Most of these are impressive, but quite a few of them are of hot, fictional girls and can’t help but believe they were created by guys still living at home and getting up the nerve to ask out that cute girl at work.