Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Top 11 for 2008

You have to have a list, right?

Honorable mention:
Wale, The Mixtape About Nothing

So it's a mixtape inspired by Seinfeld. For real. And it's incredibly good - just very odd, to the point of being kind of awkward. I don't think it's the 'best' anything this year, but it's so different that it's worth a shot - Wale is one of the brightest things to come out of 2008, a true cross-over-able intelligent rapper.

Just missed: Lil' Wayne, The Hold Steady, Okkervil River, The Black Ghosts

11- The Knux, Remind Me in 3 Days
I can remember starting college as a freshman and having a pretty extensive collection of very narrow music. Napster broke big, and completely changed my life - that's not even really hyperbole . . . there was a fundamental shift in my mentality courtesy of Napster. Two specific tracks then blew my mind: "Like Today" by Atmosphere, and "Letter from an Occupant" by The New Pornographers. All of the sudden, there was an entire world beyond Moon Records, Sublime and modern rock radio, combining elements I'd never seen mixed before. The Knux record surprised me like no rap record I've heard in a long, long time - not exactly traditional, not exactly backpack, not exactly even hip hop . . .

10- Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours
Music is mostly about moods for me. By that, I mean that most music matches a feeling or time or place in my mind, and I'll usually go back to songs to match a certain place. For In Ghost Colours, that place is my car while in a completely unexpected good mood, such as a random endorphin high after leaving the office and heading to happy hour, or getting good news, or simply feeling good for no damn reason.

9- The Gaslight Anthem, The '59 Sound
Whenever a friend actively apologizes for liking an album (just like my incredible co-author C did, via Facebook no less, in re: this record), I almost invariably purchase/download it immediately. Sometimes this is good (like this), and sometimes it's bad (like ... almost every other time), but the search for a guilty pleasure marches on. I'm not even ashamed. This is probably the record that Craig Finn would have made at 15, if he weren't getting drunk in K-Mart parking lots in Minnetonka instead. We're all glad it went down like it did.

8- Titus Andronicus, The Airing of Grievances
A part of me will always want to light things on fire, or get into fights with assholes during rec league sports, or devastate people who have hurt me in the past, or rage against structure, or lash out at things that are completely unfair even if I can't do a single thing about it. That part doesn't really get out very much, and I'm pretty happy about that. I'm also happy that some bands rely on just that part of them as muse.

7- Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
When the days get shorter and winter sets in, slow nights can become almost interminable. The sun sets incredibly early, and weekdays are met with only brief periods of light. It's almost as if time passes more slowly - I can't tell you how many times I've looked at the clock and said "Holy God - it's only 8:30?" This has that same nearly-brutal quality, like waiting for warmth.

6- Of Montreal, Skeletal Lamping
Schadenfreude is a powerful phenomenon - people love seeing others going crazy, almost as if it validates their own sanity. Yet we also fear it - the guy outside Marlboro Market lobbing imaginary grenades at Charley can touch a little close to home, or maybe we can connect or understand with the way someone like Hannibal Lecter or Gordon Gekko rationalizes things when we know we shouldn't. Still, the spectacle draws our attention - Kevin Barnes is now the spectacle, by choice and by consequence.

5- The Cool Kids, The Bake Sale
In the video for Dude 'N Nem's "Watch My Feet" the group is rocking the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire fucking life: a t-shirt (apparently put out on Shorty Capone's line, which I've never found for sale anywhere), in either black or white, with contrasting rhinestone-laden letters that simply spell out "SHIRT." I have no clue why I think it's so awesome, but I would kill a child for one. Basically, that's how I feel about the Cool Kids at this point, too.

4- Deerhunter, Microcastle
Music reviews throw around meaningless words like "dreamy" or "atmospheric" all the time - these are shitty shorthand, allowing for lazy journalism and truly uninspired review. Still, they perfectly describe this album . . . whoops.

3- Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight
I pulled a series of near-all-nighters to finish up a research study early this year - a good friend and the only other co-writer for that specific material made a tough choice to take another job, and I was left with a ton of work on a tight time frame. Obviously, it got finished, but it required typing in the back of a few bars like the Lift until closing time, knocking back beers with headphones as loud as they go. This was the perfect soundtrack for those nights - including how ridiculous I must have looked to everyone else.

2- TV on the Radio, Dear Science
There's a weird arc to the way sexual interaction happens in a relationship. At the beginning, there's some fumbling and struggling, definite awkwardness - but that's awash in a sort of animal interest, a drive that is both exciting and disorienting (Young Liars EP, Dirty Youth). As the relationship coalesces into the honeymoon phase, the frenzy remains, but there is some focus - you're discovering what each of you enjoys most, and you can apply that learning while retaining some of the fierceness, while still exploring and testing boundaries (Return to Cookie Mountain). Then, finally, you settle into a groove - you can become efficient and effective, and you can proceed with some pace, with just enough experimentation to keep it interesting . . . overall, this is the most satisfying phase, even while lacking many of the positives from the earlier phase. That's where TVOTR are today.

1- Girl Talk, Feed the Animals
It's always better to go to the beach when you're hung over - you can sleep more easily, the beer goes down smoother, and that little bit of dehydration makes everyone seem more attractive (even you, being a little more cut based on an utter lack of water in your body). This record will always be the sound of driving to the beach while hung over, and (hopefully) the party afterward.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The 2008 Mixtape

Most people send Christmas cards (or Moses cards, I guess?). Then again, most people don't do many of the things that I think are generally hilarious - so instead of a silly photo and a list of all the ridiculous stuff I did this year, once again, everyone gets a mixtape. This is actually way better - this has much more to do with how my year went, anyway, and will be around long after memory has faded into Bolivian like Mike Tyson.

I had an incredible year - I mean that in the colloquial sense of "awesome or good or great or fun or cool" but also in the sense of "I'm actually incredulous that some of this actually happened." That's usually a good thing, but the roller-coaster nature of one of the weirdest years in American history is certainly reflected in the tape, just like everything else.

This is the year that rock made a comeback . . . kind of. I feel like the tape is more rock-oriented than years past, although obviously it's nerdy ass indie rock (you don't need me to make a tape of Beyonce tracks, even though "All The Single Ladies" is pretty fucking bomb) - don't read too much into the individual song choices, mostly out of convenience for me rather than any real inability to make a read. Just saying.

The rules are simple: I made it fit onto one standard-length (80 minute) CD, I picked the songs I liked most from this year, one per artist, and I didn't put them in any particular order (save the first track) other than some semblance of genre cohesion.

Download RC's 2008 Mixtape Here

Track List:

-Okkervil River, "Lost Coastlines"
We'll start with the best song I heard all year - somehow, it manages to sound both sparse and lush, with perfect pacing. When the "La-la" chorus hits, it forms a perfect crescendo - unreal.

-Frightened Rabbit, "The Twist"
The best Scottish song about fucking since . . . ever? Anyone who has ever been to a bar or had so much as a single drop of alcohol can relate - and the music frames it perfectly, creating an additional sexual metaphor out of the arrangement, complete with pulsating piano line, drums as heartbeat, and orgasmic climax. The chorus - "So twist and whisper the wrong name/ I don't care, nor do my ears/ Twist yourself around me/ I need company, I need human heat/ I need human heat" - leads directly into a sort of mid-song denouement that sort of makes me poop myself. Amazing - I think I actually lived this song in the last year, which is both amazing and frightening. I'm mostly kidding by the way - feel free to laugh at that.

-The Gaslight Anthem, "Great Expectations"
The proliferation of "emo" as a genre has opened the door to a new emphasis on mainstream music with emotional ties . . . and these Jersey greasers manage to fuse Springsteen to the northeast punk/rockabilly tradition in the process. Who would have thought we'd be better off because of emo?

-And the Moneynotes, "My Kid Smokin'"
I have no idea what to do with these guys as a group, but this song is balls - featuring by far the best chorus of the year. Try not to sing along . . . especially when we all understand that "bros before hoes" (or the female equivalent) often isn't just a cliche - it's an admonition that perhaps mistakes were made.

-King Khan & the Shrines, "Welfare Bread"
So I put the two bands that sound fresh out of the Big Lebowski together, but in reality, they couldn't sound any different - this one is a massive Indian dude pretending to be Jerry Lee Lewis, kind of. Hilariously, I wrote up an entire note about the track "Torture" off the same album . . . not important. Seriously, this song makes me feel like The Dude, to the point where I'm ready to have a White Russian even though it's not even 11am yet.

-Four Year Strong, "Catastrophe"
Yeah . . . this track is pretty much what you'd expect from a guy that owns every single Less Than Jake record (me). How many people in your life would be best described as "Such a catastrophe"? I'm guessing more than you'd care to admit. College rock: not just for people in college?

-Of Montreal, "Id Engager"
There's always that point after a breakup, especially on the 'dumped' end, where you walk outside and the sun shines in just the right way, and you start to feel confident again, like you're a predator and every girl at the bar is made of slow, drunk meat. That's this song - arrogance and confidence and opportunity are the currency we're dealing in. Also it's the only track off Skeletal Lamping that doesn't include overt references to black crossdressers, so there's that too.

-The Black Ghosts, "I Want Nothing"
Yeah, I have a little bit of a problem: electronic music. I try to hide it, but it slips through - it's painful and nerdy, but I have a little Eurotrash in me. However, not only is this a great song, it's the opposite of 'club-ready' - rock without guitars. Another song about being a cold-blooded killer, with the backbone to back it up. In fact, this is what the Killers always thought they would be, post-Mr. Brightside.

-Atmosphere, "Shoulda Know"
It's almost obligatory at this point. Sometimes you follow a band so religiously you start to feel like you "know" them - I forget that the Slug I hear is really a cardboard cutout, an image. Still, I feel like an old friend, so I do what I do to all my old friends: listen, then ignore his advice. Standard. Doesn't change the fact that I should have known better - nor the fact that I really don't care, even in retrospect.

-Deerhunter, "Never Stops"
The sound of floating through something you're not sure you really want to do - whether I'm at my desk or in an airport or riding in a shitty cab to an annoying hotel, this track is it. "Haunts my days" indeed - I have a tendency to pretend I'm facing life head-on because I do things like 'listen to this song in the airport' while I neglect festering real-world core-group issues . . . in a weird way, Bradford Cox taught me how to stop pretending (sort of) and learn how to pretend better (kind of). That has value.

-The Electric Dream Machine, "Dayman"
Literally the greatest thing that has ever existed ever, no hyperbole.

-Bon Iver, "Skinny Love"
The sound of an outpouring - the song is a straight blood-letting, the best track off the saddest, most pained album of the year. I won't even pretend - I went through an awkward breakup early in the year, and this album was a total beating, seemingly made of jagged, sharp ice and insecurity . . . however, it's one of those brilliant pieces of art where I feel like I learned something even as I wanted to die. The "m-my-my, m-my-my-MY-my" chorus makes you shake your head in the same knowing fashion as it was intended, then the hammer drops: "Told my love to wreck it all/ Cut out all the ropes and let me fall . . . "

-Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin, "Some Constellation"
My all-time favorite song is probably the version of "The Orchids" done by Califone. This song almost gets there, but with a sunny disposition (and a shockingly depressing subject). Oh yeah - and the worst band name in history too . . . holy shit guys, who thought this was a good idea? Good weed in Portland, apparently.

-Let's Wrestle, "I Won't Lie To You"
Sparse, rough, fun British rock - straightforward and smart. Party on, sad guy - Everyone can relate to something like "I won't lie to you/ I can't see that things are getting any better." I'm getting a stern look from a few of my friends right now, I can feel it - hey, I'm working on it, OK? Holy balls. You guys are dicks.

-Titus Andronicus, "Titus Andronicus"
Jersey kids who sing like Bright Eyes playing literate, scuzzy rock? Obviously, sign me up - the combination works more that well enough to overcome my annoyance at a song with the same title as the band. Imagine if, like, ABBA or Bon Jovi did this? Actually, I think the Village People did . . . then they got AIDS. Maybe I shouldn't have included this track.

-Lykke Li, "I'm Good, I'm Gone."
So yeah, she jacked "Working in a Coal Mine" - she's Swedish, it's allowed. While this seems like a weird transition from the previous track, it actually makes quite a bit of sense when you listen to the lyrics to each - although I'd much rather have sex with the latter (um, the latter performer, not the lyrics - hi English degree!). She's already an indie-geek sex symbol . . . given the raves about her live performance, a mainstream break seems likely in her future. You heard it here like 10,305th.

-Cut Copy, "Hearts on Fire"
The cheesy "Night at the Roxbury" vibe perfectly frames the song, a backdrop that gives it much more meaning than a track built from its parts would normally carry. The cheesy saxophone in the last third just blows it up when the bass drops back in . . . I secretly want to be Rod Stewart, and this song makes me shake my ass like I'm rich enough to not have to worry about looking like an aging douche.

-Dizzee Rascal, "Dance Wiv Me"
The most charismatic man in hip-hop (he can't really be considered 'Grime' anymore) breaks style to give us the closest thing to a club banger he's ever had - but it's much better suited for the car, or changing up your DJ sets while drunk, because singing is tech. An earworm of catastrophic proportions.

-TV on the Radio, "Golden Age"
The best single from the best album of the year (OMG foreshadowing!) - and a little treat for anyone who actually listens to the CD to the end, since the end puts the toe-tap upbeat shit all together. Total scam, I know.

-Santogold, "L.E.S. Artistes"
A completely un-ironic dressing-down of the Lower East Side crowd that, somewhat ironically, probably helped break her album. Douche bags are douche bags, no matter what.

-The Cool Kids, "88"
As the best things to happen to rap since Clipse got introduced to blow, the Cool Kids tear shit up while bragging about middle-class life, complete with two-door Grand Prixs and a little bit of gold and pager. Two smartasses save an entire genre of music, one jacked beat at a time.

-Lil Wayne, "Dr. Carter"
Whatever. Maybe this should be "Lollipop" - OK, it should probably be "A Milli" (I mean, seriously . . . "They on some f----t bullshit/ Call'em Dennis Rodman" for real?). But there's something about this track off Tha Carter III that hits me a little harder - just listen to Weezy's semi-feigned sigh at the beginning - "Ugh, another one . . ugh!" Perfection, from the best blogger alive.

-Wiley, "Wearing My Rolex"
This ALWAYS happens to me. Totally.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Will Not Reveal the Wu-Tang Secret

So obviously my work travel (in which I added yet another tiny-town courthouse bathroom to the illustrious rolls of "places RC has pooped") ended early, and obviously I got exceptionally drunk at the hotel bar playing live poker then internet poker then live poker again, then obviously the only flight I could get on in the morning is at 7am . . . and STL is an hour and a half away. Boner.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I keep laughing about one of the greatest questionnaire sets I've ever seen in my entire life, which included the following gems:

- A young man of 23 who listed his wife's occupation as . . . "Mother." Dude, how cool would it be if women couldn't vote? I KNOW!

- An old old old man who listed his reasons for not being able to serve as "Prostate has grown - have to pee a lot." There's obviously no better way to describe that - fuck it, let's go with straight-forward. Well played, Guy Who Doesn't Pay Attention To Flomax Commercials.

- And, obviously, the coup d'grace . . . a gentlemen listed his marital status as "widower" and his wife's occupation as . . . "retired." Apparently, permanently. Survey says! "Synonyms for Repose"! Sweet!

Moral of the story: the average person is markedly more stupid than you expect. You think it's bad? It's worse. Way worse. I now must retire for the evening, to the awkward sounds of tears from my non-existent spouse, who will be briefly widowed until I wake up at some retarded hour to drive to St. Louis. Life sucks - be prepared, Joe Buck, because I plan on raping your plastic face should there be any traffic at all. I hate you, and I hate your city, and I hate Rick Ankiel.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


So a MILF nails an incredibly awkward-looking guardsman from the middle of fucking nowhere, IA . . . and it's not even my favorite story of the past 10 days.

Of course not.

You see, getting drunk and sloppily railing a true American (weekend) Patriot? That's par for the course. Honestly, ol' Lois probably hasn't felt that (drunk and) sexy since about 'Nam - she's just reliving her glory years, blowing the entire baseball team in the old abandoned barn behind Carroll Kuemper Catholic High School. I'm cool with that - chances are, the husband knew what he was getting into before he bought the ring, and realizes he won't be doing much better. No harm, no foul, and hopefully no AIDS. I do feel bad for the kids, one of whom definitely looks in the 15-16 year old range - every single one of his friends will be bringing over a box of Franzia and trying to fuck his mom. That's kind of a pain in the ass, I'd bet. It's awkward being 16 and from Carroll, IA anyway - now imagine dudes asking for camera-phone pics of your mom getting out of the shower? FML, indeed.

Let's be honest - she may well have blacked out, she may well have not, and we'll never know the answer to that question. However, we do know there was chanting and cheering, and that's pretty fucking awesome - I love running into people doing it at the bar, and let's face it, the Metrodome has long been essentially a giant, ugly bar for Iowa fans at away games. Pride.

No, clearly the best story is Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the thigh with his own pistol. Shot himself. In the leg. In a club. With his own gun. Let's run through the specifics:

-Bringing a loaded weapon to a club? Check. (This doesn't even bother me that much, given the Collier/Williams/etc. situations - these guys are targets . . . however, I mean, the club. I'd expect a deer would want a gun if it wandered into an NRA convention, but I'm sure there were other options.)

-Holstering said loaded weapon in the elastic waistband of your sweatpants? CHECK! (note here that it is awesome to be a rich black dude - I can barely wear sweatpants around the house and not look like a total douche, but the club? Baller! Also, clearly Plax didn't take a gun class, or he'd know that you're supposed to buy sweatpants with pockets instead of jamming into the elastic. Amateur hour.)

-Gun slips out of elastic (HA) while carrying a drink back to the VIP? Oh mother fuckin' check! (Booze has done a lot to me in its time - I have injuries, I have embarrassing moments, I have burned-in memories of incredibly unattractive girls . . . but booze has never fucking shot me. Wow.)

-Reaches for gun, shoots self? Obv.

The sheer enormity of this is staggering - think of every bad decision that had to happen for Plax to cap his own ass. If, at any time, that little angel on his shoulder had whispered, "Mr. Burress! If I could interrupt, it's important to realize that, perhaps, it is not the best decision to keep a loaded firearm with the safety off next to your penis, with only the loosest of K-Mart sweatpants elastic to keep it from sliding down into the Mandingo - pardon my boldness!" then this had NO chance of happening. None.

Any time you can do something so ridiculous that it makes the connection between "drink fuckload of wine -> vanish from seat -> meet stranger -> insert penis into kidshitter" look positively linear, you're living an awkward and probably cursed life. Here's to you, Plaxico Burress - just when you couldn't be any more of a piece of crap, you raise the bar.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Red Box Menace

This should come as no surprise to anybody, but I'm a nerd. A tremendous nerd - like, just short of comic-book nerd, but way beyond hipster-geek (also note that the very fact I can use these mile markers for different genres of 'nerd' is pretty fucking lame). One area in which I'm consistently dissatisfied with my own nerddom, though, is in film - I love movies. Seriously, I'm semi-hard at a great red-band trailer, and think that the movie is really the last form of transcendent art . . . plus, I laugh at farts, so that's cool too. However, I see far fewer movies than I really should - whether it's due to work, drinking too much, women, or simple laziness (or, likely, all of the above in some combination), I simply do not make the movies as much as I'd like.

Enter: Red Box. First, full disclosure: I'm fucking pissed I didn't think of this idea myself. That's really it - the best ideas are the simplest, and every redneck on EARTH will plop down $1 at the grocery store or McDonald's to see the latest regurgitated bit of shit that Hollywood has steamed onto their chests. Unreal. However, at the same time, the convenience and affordability really represent a new media era, especially as Sony and MS race to get streaming content from Netflix onto their respective platforms - movies are proliferating. This is a good thing - unless you're an idiot like me.

See, the Red Box Era creates a problem - the simplicity means that I can't justify not renting a movie when I have a free evening. After all, I need to catch up on all the shit I've missed, and it's a fucking dollar. However, the Red Box is generally picked over and has shitty selection to start - so we wind up with my last two rentals, which may be the two worst movies that have ever existed in any form anywhere. This is not exaggeration.

(WARNING: Fuck you. Obviously there will be 'spoilers' for the next few paragraphs as I purge my soul of the two films - it will not matter, as they are seriously that bad. I'd rather watch Holocaust footage on loop for days at the National Holocaust Museum than re-watch this garbage. So yeah.)

Flashbacks of a Fool: The Only Fool Was Me

Another confession, while I'm getting all Chris Carraba on your asses: there is a significant part of me that thinks Daniel Craig is the best James Bond, and by a good margin. This is even after the mediocrity of QoS - Casino Royale was actually that good. The brooding, complicated mess of the Craig Bond seriously tops the playboy perfection of Connery, at least in a theoretical sense in my mind - obviously there's no longevity yet, but I'm just laying it out there.

So yeah - the promise of Craig playing a disturbed, fucked-up washout actor with a 'seedy secret' prompted me to think, "Hey, self - this seems like a proven winning formula, there's no chance that a character-driven movie could write itself into oblivion, right?" Yeah. Whoops.

To make a long story short: NOTHING. FUCKING. HAPPENS. EVER. Short of some epic MILF boobs while Young Lead Character goes on a romp with the horny mom next door, absolutely nothing happens. Then, when the "dark secret" is revealed, it's not only a total and complete accident that Craig's character can't possibly consider to be his fault . . . but it involves a naval mine. Like, a mine that you would use to blow up ships. Like this:

Fuck my life. I actually laughed out loud at the denouement - I mean, a ship mine? Plus, this supposedly takes place in some ambiguous seaside village circa 1975-1980 (there is a complete anachronism dealing with timeframe for the flashback - whether this is intentional is completely up for grabs, but surprisingly, this is like the 30th worst part of the movie), and where in the hell would a naval mine from like WWII wind up but on a remote English seaside? Obviously. It's the worst Deus Ex Machina since the Tuck Rule Game against Oakland.

Finally, the movie (mercifully) just ends. I mean that literally - all the sudden, it's back to modern day, and the movie is over. We have no idea if the characters involved learned anything, or whether anything even really happened. We have no real reason to tie the (fucking terrible) plot twist to any sort of realization or character arc. It just . . . stops. It's just Daniel Craig and Eve the Rapper (with her tiger-paw boobie tattoos unfortunately hidden away) driving down the Santa Monica Freeway while I sat slack-jawed and tried to choke myself to death with my bare hands. Holy shit.

88 Minutes That Was More Like 130 That I'd Like Back

I don't even have a cute lead-in story for this one - I'd read the horrific reviews of this movie, but it was literally the only thing on the entire Red Box that I found remotely interesting that night, since I wasn't feeling Ed Norton as the Hulk (note: I'm an idiot). How bad could Pacino really be?

Answer: UNREAL.

Seriously - Pacino's limp-dick 'psychiatric profiler' performance is so badly mailed in that I'd almost have preferred Frank Caliendo doing his caricature of Pacino. The story is so fatally flawed that I wanted to punch myself in the penis during at least seven key points. The transparent attempts to connect the plot holes to Pacino's doting top student (whose unrequited love is so out-of-place, I kept waiting for the 'reveal' to be that she's a Mormon on Rumspringa and can bang with impunity) fall amazingly flat, as you know it's the weird-looking chick who sucks in everything as soon as she makes the crack about the "Law school" in the first 10 minutes. Even worse, the flashback scene unfolds so slowly and lamely that it actually began to make me upset - like "FUCK YOU, just stop with the slow-wipe camera work and the half-diffused look, we know they were drinking, GOD".

Add to this the fact that somehow, Pacino is tabbed as the "prime suspect" in the murders, yet convinces cops to just let him run free for no reason no fewer than FOUR TIMES (including one at gunpoint), and that the movie tries so hard to hide the ending that it becomes convoluted to the point of absurdity, and I can't even explain to you my utter disappointment. It might be the worst movie I've ever seen. Honestly, I can't even go into any more detail, other than to say that an Al Pacino movie was actually worse than a movie whose crux involved a fucking naval mine. Should this keep up, Pacino will rocket toward the early rounds in my death pool rankings for this year - fuck, I might just kill him myself, to preserve his legacy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the NL Cy Young Award -

As first reported by my inexplicably Mormon-loving compatriot (via Facebook, your outlet to the WORLD!), the NL voters definitely got the Cy Young right, ignoring Won/Loss records (somewhat) and going with Tim Lincecum, the only professional athlete whose ass I could probably kick. Now, the strikeouts (A SHITLOAD) sell themselves, as does the sterling ERA, but there's more to the story, as Baseball Prospectus shows us below (click to see the full stats):

SNLVAR is shorthand for, essentially, support-neutral wins above replacement - i.e. how many more wins Lincecum provided his team in an environment devoid of the Pol Pot-level frightening run support Tiny Tim received from the Giants this year. The Giants, remember started a SS opening day that had never put up an OPS above .660 . . . in AA ball. This would be the equivalent of me subbing for a chess Grand Master in a tournament, or me getting Matt Jarmon to take the LSAT for me. LOVE YOU MATTY!

Anyway, the important things to note are that, by really any objective measurement from RA+ (64% above average for Lincecum, 60% for Santana) to SNLVAR, Lincecum put up better numbers while facing approximately equivalent competition (if you haven't yet, click on the image above, and check out Opponent's OPS - now check out the guys in the AL East . . . wow). The NL East simply wasn't good enough to make up the difference in either raw or adjusted numbers between Lincecum and anybody else, but especially not Santana.

Check out Cliff Lee's numbers, though - he's the odds-on favorite to win, and rightfully so . . . hopefully, in a similar season to the NL (where the top teams' top pitchers were markedly worse than the absolute cream of the crop), Lee can pull it out in the AL, and we'll feel all giddy and progressive, like the reverse Bradley Effect from a few days ago. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just don't yell at C - he's sensitive, you know.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Post-election, pre-change: The Thoughts of a Hopeful Republican

I waited to comment on the election, in the hope that the time would allow me to comment intelligently. As a huge Presidential/political dork, I hoped that I would be able to say something thought-provoking or interesting about the election. Additionally, I got involved in a moot court competition (which I did pretty well in) and school stuff, which distracted me. If the following sounds more like the rambling thoughts of an over-worked law student, and less like the intelligent thoughts of a guy with a history degree, well, you've been warned.

As most of the people who read this blog probably know, I'm a Republican. So, this election was a bit of a disappointment for me, albeit a disappointment that wasn't completely unexpected. President-Elect Obama had momentum coming out of the primaries, ran a solid campaign, and never really allowed the momentum to slip. McCain made small gains at certain points throughout the summer and fall, but as anyone who has followed the polls can attest, he never really became a real threat, and the election was all but assured for Obama.

I went through the election with some conflicting thoughts. First, I'm a huge Romney backer, a fact that should be known to most of the readers of this blog. I'm not going to go into the reasons, but, needless to say, I was extremely disappointed when he lost in the primaries. So, after researching all candidates extensively, including Bob Barr, I supported the McCain campaign. Obama is a brilliant guy, with quite the impressive resume, but after doing research, I realized that I couldn't back him with my vote.

As the campaign progressed, I became less hopeful about the direction of the election. When it became apparent that McCain was going to select a woman as his running mate, I thought that Texas Congresswoman Kay Hutchison would be a wise choice. She's smart, has a ton of experience, and could have helped to sway independents. She held a number of conservative beliefs, and was someone I could readily support. However, she is also pro-choice, and while I hope that didn't disqualify her, I understand that the far-right portion of the base couldn't support her. As we all know, McCain chose Palin, and the rest is history.

Somehow, some way, a significant portion of my fellow party members have become anti-intellectual. What began as a way to criticize Obama (essentially, the "pointy-headed liberal" argument used since the Nixon campaigns) became an attack on all intellectuals. To listen to the talk-show hosts and some of the people during the Convention (Mike Huckabee, I'm looking at you), being educated was somehow a drawback. Being educated meant that you couldn't understand middle-class and lower-class America, that you couldn't be a part of the solution, that you were part of the problem.

My biggest fear coming out of this election is that the anti-intellectual portion of my party will only grow in the next four years. That shouldn't happen. Just as the smartest guy (or woman) in the room isn't always the best candidate, the smartest guy (or woman) in the room shouldn't be automatically disqualified. The party should be embracing the intellectual conservatives. We have brilliant conservatives like Romney, Jindal, and others, who could give us a real chance at taking back the White House in 2012.

I believe in the party, I believe in economic conservatism, and I believe that we could have found a way to be more competitive in this election. I just hope the party makes the correct decisions over the next four years, so that we can be in a good position (if not by the mid-term elections) by 2012.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Beat One Wife, And All The Sudden You're A Wife Beater

Bob Nightengale, the guy known for possibly using off-the-record conversations as sources in articles, has graced us with yet another hack piece - this time, truly doing God's work in allowing accused wife-beater Brett Myers the chance to tell his side of the story. Part of this side notes that the whole thing was a giant big ol' cliched misunderstanding. Part of this side can be summed up, somewhat surprisingly, as "BOSTON WAS MEAN TO ME!"

Obviously, this deserves a dissection, FJM-style, and we'll get there in a second. First, though - it's important to note that while Boston is indeed the city that accosted Jason Kidd in the 2002 playoffs for being a, well, wife-beater, it's also the city that embraced Derek Lowe and Julio Lugo, among others. In other words, it's not exactly some bastion of anti-domestic-violence thought, in spite of the vigilant (yet mannish) lesbians protesting something 24/7 outside Marsh Chapel at BU.

Phillies' Myers puts past behind him, on and off the field

Interesting - this actually seems relatively neutral, almost as if the guy is moving on and improving his life. Maybe he's entered counseling, or perhaps he's found Jesus or Jo Bu . . . nope, turns out he's just a pussy:

PHILADELPHIA — Brett Myers still hears the taunts from the stands. He gets the obscene letters.

"I know there are people out there that think I'm a jerk. There are people out there who think I'm a wife-beater. That will never change," says Myers, alluding to a 2006 incident in which he was arrested and charged in Boston with assaulting his wife, Kim.

Seriously - fuck all those people who label me a wife-beater, simply because I . . . (ALLEGEDLY) beat my wife. In all fairness to Brett, he was never charged. That's because, in what may or may not be classic abused-wife behavior, his wife did not cooperate or press charges. However, let's take a look at what eye witnesses said at the time:
"He was dragging her by the hair and slapping her across the face. She was yelling, 'I'm not going to let you do this to me anymore.' . . . He had her on the ground. He was trying to get her to go, and she was resisting. She curled up and sat on the ground. He was pulling her, her shirt was up around her neck. . . . He could have cared less that we were there."

There's also the issue that Brett is 6'4" and 240 lbs, while his wife Kim was noted by the BPD as being 5'4" and 120 lbs. Oh - also, this happened at 12:26am on the way home from the bar . . . and Myers was scheduled to pitch the NEXT DAY, a 1pm afternoon start. This is the "When's the next time I'll be in Haiti?" of silliness. The guy only works every five days, and that's the day he gets picked up for a drunken fight with his wife? If I get in a hatchet fight the night before the LSAT, it really doesn't matter too much whether the fight was my "fault" - how the fuck did I get in a hatchet fighting zone to start?

Look, I'm the last person who will claim eyewitness testimony is all that credible - trust me, it's my job to know that eyewitnesses are notoriously poor as evidence. However, any part of that statement being true kind of invalidates his entire defense. That's a big deal. So, yeah, Brett - some things will never change. Holy shit.

"But you know what, I really don't care what people think about me. … If people don't like me, they can deal with it. This is who I am."

Now, here's something I can get behind - I'yam who I'yam, just like Popeye! Except instead of spinach, I eat shots of booze! And instead of Bluto, I beat up on Olive Oyl! And instead of a blind sailor, I'm a redneck blessed with a golden arm! If you don't like that, you can deal with it! Because if you make me deal with it, I'll punch you in the brain then drag you by the hair all caveman-style, because I don't really care what you think about me!

Also - note that this does NOT, at all, sound like "putting the past behind him." In fact, this sounds like "pretending the past never happened." But maybe he's putting the past behind him in other ways?

This was supposed to be the culmination of Myers' dream. The Phillies were in the World Series. He was as responsible as anyone, going 7-4 down the stretch after a minor league stint and winning his first two starts in the playoffs.

But he couldn't escape the fear of the Phillies' possible World Series opponent. "I did not want to play Boston," says Myers, 28. "If Boston had beat Tampa, I would have gone to (manager) Charlie (Manuel) and told him, 'I don't want to pitch in Boston.'

"I don't ever want to pitch in Boston again."

Oh. Wait. So "putting the past behind him" means "never returning to where it happened" now? Jesus - that's like getting over the death of a grandmother by never seeing another relative, ever. I mean . . . it might "work" in the sense that you'll never "cry" but I'm not quite sure you're "over it." Look, I can see why a rape victim wouldn't want to return to the scene of the crime - same with someone who witnesses a death of some sort, etc. Trauma is incredibly difficult. Brett Myers is not a trauma victim, even if his version of the story is correct and the situation was misunderstood.

Let's skip ahead and see why poor lil' Brett hates Boston so much:

Myers planned to hire bodyguards for Kim if they played the Boston Red Sox in the World Series, he says. The Phillies summoned security when she was harassed by Los Angeles Dodgers fans in Los Angeles during the National League Championship Series, says Phil Myers, Brett's father.

The pitcher, too, heard taunts as he warmed up before Game 2. Fans called out, "How's your wife?"


Yet when Myers pitched the next day [after his arrest] in Boston, he was alone. He heard the vicious chants. He says he was pelted by plastic beer bottles and trash when he warmed up in the bullpen.

"What happened to me that day in Boston, on the field, I wouldn't wish that on nobody," Myers says. "It wasn't just the boos and the things people were throwing. It was just what people thought about me. I didn't have a chance to explain. My lawyers told me not to, so I couldn't talk.

"For me to even pitch that day was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in life."


You know what? I'm perfectly willing to cut the guy some semblance of a break, and/or forgive a particularly stupid drunken moment of his life. No man should really ever lay a hand on his wife, but obviously most of us aren't really in a position to judge. Maybe they are stubborn douche bags and sometimes it gets out of control - OK, fine.

But to act like he's the victim because his actions resulted in fans (in Boston no less) absolutely burying him? To say that no man should go through that? How inane. If you plant the Turd Tree, you're going to get shitty little acorns all over the lawn. If you then mow the lawn, there's going to be shit everywhere. It's not the lawnmower's fault.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Oh . . . Sorry About That, Homey

So, my hero, Charles Barkley, apparently stuck his immensely fat foot in his mouth during a speech given to reporters:

"I think [the Knicks] have a better coach. This coach probably won't try to kill himself."

Totally sweet, Charles - this makes his crack about the Angola basketball team being a "bunch of spearchuckers" look like the Emancipation Proclamation. Seriously, I don't really even follow the NBA, but I can really appreciate a good suicide joke, especially in front of a group of New York reporters. Maybe he can fly to Indy and get some material from Tony Dungy next. I'm sure Isiah sleeps well at night knowing that the fraternity of ex-players has his back . . . actually, he probably sleeps well at night because of the thousands of milligrams of Lunesta still coursing through his veins, but it's still good to hear Charles keeping it real stupid on camera. I would watch the dude eat, or pay money just to sit in the backseat of his car one afternoon.

I'm sure Sir Charles will take a ton of shit for this, and likely deservedly so, but it's actually kind of nice to hear an athlete make a real-person crack on a guy universally considered kind of a douche. Chuck will just have to drown his sorrows by losing hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Palms, or swinging a golf club like it's a live rattlesnake.

Friday, October 24, 2008

RIP Professor Falla

Apparently, I've been asleep for the past couple of months, because I missed that Professor Falla had passed away towards the end of September. I know we're pretty hard on sportswriters on this site (and justifiably so), but Professor Falla was one of the great hockey writers of all time, and a tremendous writer in general.

I got to know Professor Falla when I was a senior at Boston U, and I took his 8 am Sports Journalism class. He always said that he scheduled the class at 8 am because he only wanted students who would be serious about the course. That, of course, is because he was a serious, old school journalist. He had his pet peeves (no exclamation points, for one), and he expected you to work hard at your writing.

At the same time, he was incredibly supportive of his students, and always was willing to help a young journalist. His students have become beat writers for some of the most famous teams in sports, and media relations professionals at the highest levels. If you proved yourself to him as a writer, he became your fan for life, no matter what profession you chose.

I was lucky enough to count Professor Falla as a reference for my first couple of years out of college, and I traded emails with him whenever there was a big story in sports. His impressions were always honest, always to the point, and always on the mark. I consider myself extremely lucky that he was my Professor, and that I got the chance, however brief, to discuss sports with him.

He was an incredibly charitable person, a great teacher, and and a talented writer. He will be missed, terribly. Rest in peace, Professor Falla.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bitch, I'm a Pipe . . .

If you're unfamiliar with the works of Lil' Wayne (HI COLLIN!), he's the most brilliant retard alive in America today. He's the self-proclaimed "Best Rapper Alive," and likely is indeed the best rapper alive, should such a metric actually be possible. For instance, the very title of this post is the lead-in to one of my favorite lines ever:

Bitch I'm a Pipe, she like a crack addict
Saw me cooking eggs, she thought I was back at it

Lil' Wayne also has a blog on I did not know this until today, and I'm planning on murdering every single one of you for not telling me about this sooner - HOLY SHIT this is amazing. Some choice quotes:

"I know the Rays got the Backstreet Boys to sing the national anthem before Game 1, and that's gonna be something. I thought Backstreet Road was closed for construction, but I guess not. Since I went to a postseason game in Tampa, I think they're gonna boo 'em."

"T.O. is an amazing talent but he's definitely a situation. But that's another difference between the old days and now. Back then there's no way you play football and then go cry on TV."

"It ain't Brad Johnson's fault. Everything is falling apart. I think Brad came into a bad situation. To tell you the truth I think the team sucks."

And the coup de grace:

"Did you see LenDale's touchdown this weekend? His little fat self ran 80 yards. They put the timer on SportsCenter and it took him like six seconds, but he made it and that's what matters. That guy is funny."

You heard it here first, guys - Lil' Wayne proudly declares that not only is LenDale White fat (dude looks like a potato in shoulder pads), but that this is proven by his consecutive THREE SECOND 40-yard dashes to score. Hey, it ain't trickin' if you got it, Weezy. This is my new favorite thing ever.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Single Guy's Diary

So it's been a grip since I moved back to the Midwest (we like to call it "Californee-way"), and I used to do a ridiculous examination of every bad decision I made for my friends here . . . since the Boston Coalition (note: not black) is a bit out of the loop, I figure I should let the People (note: still not black) know what's happening in RC's idiotic life.

Yesterday, I watched the Iowa Hawkeyes rape face against the remnants of the Wisconsin Badger Legacy. Sconsin's coach is Bret Bielema, a former UI lineman who has a gigantic Hawk tattoo on his shin. Beating Sconsin is like oral sex - it's perfect, no matter what. I drank a sixer of tall boys before the game, so I was legit drunk from 8am to whenever I stood on my buddy's patio with my clothes off yelling "WILDCARD BITCHES!" at my buddy's crazy girlfriend. That's foreshadowing.

Anyway, I don't want to discuss every bad decision I made last night - I just want to focus on one particular moment. I managed to eat 3 "walking tacos" at tailgate, then knocked down a chicken caesar from Pita Pit on the way back from IC . . . this results in poop that looks like Gerber baby food. I was split peas all day. Shit was gross.

So obviously, instead of pooping at home like an actual human being, I waited until we got to the bar for the Red Sox game. When the dump descended, I was landlocked in the Court Ave district . . . so I committed the Cardinal Sin. I dumped in the bar.

Well, Johnny's Hall of Fame (soft "J" - pronounced correctly "Yonny's") was just gentrified (I <3 living in Richguypartoftown), and the bathroom lights are connected to a motion sensor. My poop was moving like Ice Road Truckers, so I took a little bit more time than the sensors anticipated, I suppose . . . the lights actually turned off on me. I was pooping in the dark. I would have rather been waterboarded than sitting in my own stink in the dark in the bar, at 7pm. I literally considered every bad decision I'd ever made in my entire life that led me to that point. It was a nightmare.

Since the lights were motion-sensitive, I tried to move - I waved my arms like a retard, trying to trip the sensor. I looked like this:

It was so bad that my buddies actually entered the bathroom to check on me - they could see through the foggy-glass window that the light was off. I was mocked mercilessly for my pooping fiasco, and I deserved every bit of it. Also, did not get laid, although I got naked on the 9th floor of the Plaza downtown (while screaming "WILDCARD BITCHES" as previously noted). Just another blue-sign night as a single white dunce.

Friday, October 17, 2008

When a picture is worth 1000 words . . .

So yeah. By Win Expectation, the Red Sox came back from a less-than-1% chance to win the game - that's Some Good. The Sox had a 1.1% Win Expectancy when they came up to bat in the 7th - that means they overcame a 99:1 longshot inside of nine outs. Unreal. You can't even make that stuff up, to be honest.

JD Drew gets treated like Scolari in BaseketBall, even by otherwise rational Red Sox fans - whether it's because of his calm demeanor, his relative inability to smash his helmet or argue with the umpire like Youkilis, or simply because he's from Georgia and, fuck, we sent Sherman after all . . . it's nonsense, but the image of JD Drew as an overpaid, lazy malingerer is still ripe within pockets of Red Sox Nation, like some sort of intellectual SuperAIDS, spurned by the methamphetamine of newfound entitlement felt by pampered and spoiled Sox fans (never though i'd write that . . .).

Well, I wrote about Mr. Drew in the past, but I think today provides us one stat that should usurp almost every other, even after the hangover from last night subsides:

Red Sox total WPA: .608
JD Drew's WPA: .554

Yep - JD Drew's HR and game-ending walk-off "single" (NOTE: I'll never understand why a walk-off ground-rule double doesn't automatically drive in both runs like a HR would, but I digress) accounted for 91% of the total Red Sox WPA for the game. You know our (my?) aversion to context-based stats like RBI on this very blog, but over a one-game sample, I have no problem noting that JD Drew was the balls last night.

Oh, and apparently a few of our friends were among the multitudes that left early last night, missing the entire comeback. I can only imagine this is the sporting equivalent of passing out during sex, or missing your flight to Vegas, or taking the LSAT during a bachelor party - sure, you'll hear about it later, but that has to make it worse, right?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rob Neyer chat during Dodgers-Phillies

Collin, CT: Will people (i.e. baseball writers) ever appreciate Chase Utley? I mean, they're so eager to pat Ryan Howard on the back, it's almost like they miss the fact of how good he is.

SportsNation Rob Neyer: (10:09 PM ET ) That's also true. Last year it was Jimmy Rollins. This year it's Ryan Howard. But Chase Utley is the best player on the team, and I don't think it's even close.

Yeah, that's right - Rob Neyer answered my question during a chat. I'm way too happy about this.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Genuflect at the Altar of Small Sample Size

Today, the Twins and White Sox will gather to play a 163rd game - a one-game playoff for the entirety of the AL Central, the baseball equivalent of the Golden Goal but minus the open racism and flopping and Brazilian dudes with one name and Hope Solo is a lesbian too. Sorry, got a little out of control on the soccer analogy. Won't happen again.

The White Sox won the coin flip (even though Minnesota won the season series), so the game is at US Cellular - undoubtedly, this is an advantage for the White Sox, as both teams show larger-than-average home/road splits (likely because the White Sox can't do anything except hit homers, and the Twins play in a fucking putt-putt course with a baggy on top). Indeed, AccuScore lists the White Sox at a 62% predicted winning percentage, white BP lists the Sox as a 57/43 favorite. Either way you slice it, it's likely that a coin flip made the White Sox a 3:2 favorite in this game. Seems pretty fair, in a Shawshank sort of way.

The most interesting part, at least for me (NOTE: I'm stupid), is how this is explained by the media. The ESPN article above completely ignores everything we know about small-sample historical stats between a specific batter and pitcher - namely, that they aren't predictive over the entirety of MLB. So when ESPN tells us that Mauer and Morneau have shitrocked John Danks (hitting .667 in 12 ABs and .438 in 16 ABs, respectively), that seems pretty impressive . . . except for the fact that it is completely and wholly irrelevant beyond the player himself 'feeling good' entering today.

Additionally, Danks has had a great year . . . except for against the Twins at Chicago. His ERA on the year sits at 3.47, an ERA+ of 132 - but in four starts in Chicago against the Twins, his ERA is 7.45. Sounds pretty rough, right? Well, it's not - in three starts against Tampa (a markedly better team than the Twins), Danks has an ERA of 1.86 and a K/BB ratio of 5.25:1. We're playing the small-sample size game here, and it's eerily similar to falling down the bar skank ladder at closing time - at some point, you're just grasping for something to entertain. There's not much to learn here.

So why the (relatively) big advantage for the White Sox? Well, let's start with the easy one - Nick Blackburn kind of sucks. Now, his ERA+ of 101 is essentially league-average, but it's really not all that indicative of how well he's pitched. His ERA of 4.14 is bolstered by what professionals refer to as a "butt load" of unearned runs, as his RA is 4.86. His peripherals state that's much closer to what his ERA should look like - while his 3:1 k/bb ratio is serviceable, he's striking out less than 5 guys per 9IP. That's flaccid, Jamie Moyer (or Raphael Palmeiro, if you'd prefer a Viagra joke) territory - and without the 'guile' or move the NL that kept Moyer upright. As a result, his xFIP is more like 4.80.

So how is Blackburn doing it? According to Guillen after his win last week, the simple answer is "luck" (I believe Ozzie actually noted that Blackburn was "fucking terrible" and "didn't have shit" as well). As much as it sucks to say it, Ozzie's probably right. It appears Blackburn has gotten a little lucky on balls in play, with a BABIP of .314 but an unusual GB/FB/LD split, with 21% of all balls in play as line drives and a whooping 45% as groundballs. This means that his expected BABIP should be closer to .340. He's also benefitted from a good number of infield pop-ups, rare for a guy with a 1.3 GB/FB ratio. He's an enigma - and he's likely getting lucky, as his past numbers and "stuff" don't seem to reflect such an extreme split. As a result, his HR/G is way low, even though an average number of fly balls are going for homers.

So what to look for tonight? Well, in short, home runs. If Blackburn can get a few strikeouts from the free-swinging Sox (Alexei Ramirez last took a walk when Fidel was still alive, and the team as a whole has more hackers than and continue to get ground balls, the Twins will be well on their way, even though their defensive efficiency is way down from the recent past. Most likely, Blackburn will give up a couple of longballs into the shallow corners at the Cell, leading to the soft underbelly of the Twins bullpen - a unit with the potential to get Ike and Tina'ed at any given point until Nathan comes in. I wouldn't be particularly surprised to see Nathan throw 2+ innings tonight. Hell, Gardenhire has to play to win - Nathan could actually come in at any point and I wouldn't be too surprised.

The Twins will need Denard Span and Alexi Cassilla to keep up their Prestige-like morphing into Pedroia and Drew, and get on base in front of the lefty twins - Danks shows no real platoon split nor any real special ability to be hard on lefties, so removing Kubel for Cuddyer may actually be a mistake in a ballpark where mistakes land in the gentrified rubble of Cabrini-Green.

It should be a great game, with plenty of small ball and longball to keep both me and Tony LaRussa interested until we both pass out behind the wheel driving home. God bless playoff baseball.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Great Moments in Rap History, vol. XXIV

On the way in for work this morning, our local KISS FM station (note: fuck KISS FM) played an all-time classic hip hop track, truly one of the few worthy of the legacy of Rakim, Grandmaster Flash and MC Paul Barman - the inimitable "Shake Ya Tailfeather" by P.Diddy and Nelly, off the Bad Boys II (not 2) soundtrack.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT, under any circumstances, click on the link above - the video for this masterpiece is absolutely, jaw-droppingly retarded. Massive numbers of extra chromosomes. Holy shit.)

I'm sure you've heard the song - it's the classic early-2000's ripoff of basically every latent regional rap trend to that point . . . it has sirens everywhere like it's down-south crunk (even though the artists are from NYC and St. Louis), it has the bouncy, lame "fake-horn-synths" for the beat like it's B-more gutter shit (note: this same trick works beautifully in MIA's "XR2" - well, and in basically any Diplo song), it has black chicks hitting the floor, hard, throughout the video. All in all, it's the balls.

However, at the beginning (about 1:39 into the video linked above, if you're fucking stupid and clicked), one of the most perfect moments in rap music shines its light on us all. As Diddy regales us with stupid ass chatter about God knows what and the women begin (indeed) shaking their tailfeathers, Nelly lets loose with the following declaration, cleverly drawn directly to the front by the over-engineered production:
Note that there is no lead-up to this, nor any indication of why, exactly, Nelly lets loose with this particular phrase. Because of that, it's clear that Nelly is referencing the 1993 movie of the same title, a seminal HBO production describing the rise of AIDS in the gay community of San Francisco in the late '70s and early '80s (note that the IMDB plot keywords has "male nudity" as the very first one - uh, guys?).

Very clever of Nelly to interject a little bit of knowledge into a song that he knew would receive immense airplay from its ties to a cinematic marvel starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence. It's that kind of knowledge injection that led us to drop the moniker Gay-Related Immune Deficiency (GRID) just five short years after the disease was discovered. For that, I wholeheartedly endorse Nelly's insane "AND THE BAND PLAYED ON" as . . . a great moment in Rap History.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Christmas in August -

It's that time again . . fantasy football season! While I haven't had even thirty seconds to really prepare, time waits for no man to be +EV against his friends and coworkers, and the first money draft took place tonight. It's a $20 12-team league, mostly guys having a good time - standard Yahoo scoring with bonuses (+4 for 300 yds/150 rushing/150 receiving), the only real "quirk" being that it's QB/RB/RB/WR/WR/WR instead of /Flex - I did not know this when I made my Round 4 selection, obviously. My team:


Round Pick Player Position
1. (7) Marion Barber RB
2. (18) Braylon Edwards WR
3. (31) Willis McGahee RB
4. (42) Earnest Graham RB
5. (55) Donovan McNabb QB
6. (66) Donald Driver WR
7. (79) Anthony Gonzalez WR
8. (90) Matt Forte RB
9. (103) Jonathan Stewart RB
10. (114) Reggie Williams WR
11. (127) Philip Rivers QB
12. (138) Tony Scheffler TE
13. (151) Drew Bennett WR
14. (162) Indianapolis DEF
15. (175) Josh Brown K

Picking #7 overall is a weird spot - Steven Jackson actually fell there, but Linehan sounds serious about his contract issues, and I couldn't really pull the trigger. I'm wondering whether this is a mistake, but even if it is, it's probably only a handful of points over the course of the season and probably reduces my variance quite a bit.

The Graham pick should likely be Calvin Johnson (who went with the next pick), since it's a 2 RB league (and he has the same bye week as my two starters) - I'll likely try to package him for a middle-tier receiver if at all possible. Past that, I think this is as good as I can reasonably expect to do in a 12-team league - if my starting receivers were Edwards/Johnson/Driver (or Gonzalez, depending on whether Marvin Harrison's knees are made of glass and/or he shot someone) I'd be ecstatic, but I can't complain too much as-is, especially since projecting WRs is basically divining-rod bullshit at this point.

I love Forte, Williams and Bennett as sleepers, especially since I was able to take them incredibly low. This opens up a TON of trading opportunities for me in the regular season, and I can try to find this season's Colston or Bowe without worry of having to drop a "real" player. It's pretty win/win from this angle.

On the whole, I think this is a great example of letting the draft come to you - especially since the Yahoo auto-pick (of which there were four in this draft) overvalues receivers in this scenario because of the imbalance, I was able to parlay some very good players at late positions. I felt like I'd just nailed the prom queen after the McGahee and McNabb picks, and even have a small (very small, like Asian small) amount of backup in case those two get injured (note: both will get injured). Essentially, I got somewhere between 2 and 3 second-round picks, and picked up receivers who may just break through with 10 TD seasons with the right breaks, even after making a terrible pick in the 4th. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Empathy for Alicia Sacramone

Brown sucks.

On a serious note, modern sports media LOVES to focus on the "gritty" individual who elevates his or her game to a previously unexpected level under the brightest lights. We often forget that the opposite happens too - sometimes people "choke" when the stakes are the highest. Usually we empathize with poor Alicia because that is soooooooooo hard, while we shit our pants over those who excel in the "clutch" (the David Ortiz corollary) . . . however, honestly, these are top-tier athletes who have practiced and perfected their respective craft over hundreds of hours. There is no evidence that certain individuals "choke" - in fact, our sample size (often one or two events) means it's much more likely that dumb luck is the biggest factor.

However, "luck" is a shitty lead for NBC - instead, we get a crying 20 year old woman. We live in a weird world - I don't think we can characterize her performance as anything other than "choking" but I'm also not sure that characterization is really all that important. I have no idea why this seems so strange to me, or why I even sat and watched Olympic gymnastics tonight (actually, yeah I do - also I was drinking with friends, but w/e), but there it is.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along?

So I've had more time to explore this invention they call the interweb as I enjoy my whopping 3 week vacation from law school (and by "vacation," I mean working 60 hours a week as opposed to working 50 while taking classes). As a result, I've been "enjoying" Murray Chass' new blog on baseball. To the 5 people who read this blog, you remember my earlier postings regarding an email conversation with Mr. Murray Chass, the Hall of Fame sportswriter previously affiliated with the New York Times. Well, after been reading Mr. Chass' postings, I have noted one important thing: he hasn't missed any opportunity to take a dig at his old news paper.

For example:
and, earlier:

Now, a couple of criticisms of the Times wouldn't be such a big deal, except for the fact that it's taken up an amusingly large portion of his blog postings. Is this a case of bad blood between the newspaper giant and its former employee? Is he starting to understand the blogger's criticism of the mainstream meda? Probably more the former than the latter, but still interesting.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Manuelito: 7.5 years of being the balls

Blatantly stolen from SoSH: A pictorial, Manny-style. It was a great run, my man, you're still one of the most fun players to ever watch wear the whites.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny for Bay: Initial Analysis

Initial Thoughts on Manny for Bay:

Seriously - if as reported here (or any reasonable derivation), I'll punch a midget in the face then buy a medium Snickers blizzard. Also obviously I'm at work at 2am again. Better analysis tomorrow?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mondays with Murray

It's funny that my fellow blogger RC posted about Mr. Chass below because, as luck would have it, I just received an email response from the journalist-turned-blogger. Late one night, after a few hours of studying, and feeling a bit loopy, I decided it was as good a time as any to email Mr. Chass. He was one of the sportswriters I looked up to when I was younger, so it had been a bit disheartening to me to see him come out so strongly against the numbers revolution in baseball. After all, hadn't numbers been a part of the game forever? From Babe Ruth's topping 30 home runs in the 1920s, to Cy Young's 511 wins, to the feats of the present day, baseball has been defined by numbers. You hear 3,000, 300, 755, or .400, and you know the context immediately. I talked about how many of the proponents of the numbers game were guys who had played sports at high levels. For example, Billy Beane was a bench player in the majors for a handful of seasons and Paul DePodesta was a two-sport athlete at Harvard.

So, I emailed this to the great baseball writer, and anxiously awaited his reply...

Well, to cut the suspense short, I didn't get much. He essentially repeated his disdain for the new-age numbers, saying that they cheapened the human element of the game. I obviously don't agree, but the guy was cordial enough in his email, and most importantly, I'm just some random law student who isn't going to change his mind anytime soon. I replied, thanking him for his response, and that was that.

I don't know exactly what I was expecting, and I don't know that it was even worth the trouble to send off that email. But, those of us who are a bit more enlightened can hope that things will change, and can be happy that there are sites like Baseball Prospectus, Hardball Times, and others.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Town's the Fish, People are the Barrel . . . BAM! Fish in a Barrel

I know the guys at FJM have been all over this so far (and let's face it, they do it much better than any of us ever could - that's why he's Mose Schrute and I play a lot of slow pitch), but that Pulitzer-winning curmudgeon and noted hater of VORP, Murray Chass, has a new blog located at his website.

There are multiple problems with this, upon first reading. To start, Chass abhors blogs - his "about" page notes that he one time answered a question on Charlie Steiner's radio program with the succinct and loquatious "I hate blogs." Why on Earth this man would then decide he needs to blog is simply mind-bending, but there it is. Second, for the last few years, Chass has decided to identify himself more and more as an "old school" Baseball Man (R). This means he hates new-fangled statistics, choosing instead to let his ancient eyes tell him who can or cannot play. Now, this is a preference, and I won't fault the preference - but it spills over to actual anger. A lot. No, more than that. This dude is essentially the drunk grandfather we've been trying to forget for years.

Well, in his latest blog update, Chass opines for the halcyon days where any retread former player could be guaranteed a job somewhere in baseball, regardless of his actual ability to coach, manage, fill out the uniform or really do anything beyond cashing a paycheck. The subject of this virtual handjob is Don Baylor - from all reports, a good guy, and a pretty solid player in his own right. Baylor win an MVP award and a handful of Silver Slugger awards, and put up a career 118 OPS+ that puts him at 18% better than league average over the course of his career. He put up solid numbers in an offensively depressed era, and if and when Collin and I open the "Hall of Very Good" just outside Schenectady, I want Don Baylor to cut the faux-velvet ribbon.

What I don't want Don Baylor to do is coach my favorite baseball team. Murray, however, disagrees.

Let's start with the core assertions Chass makes:

  • Baylor is qualified to manage or at least coach
  • Baylor is held back because of his "strong personality"
  • Baylor is held back because pansy ass managers don't want him looking over his shoulder
  • (Insert vague race claims here)
Baylor is "qualified" to coach like I'm qualified to make out with 19 year old sorority girls - that is, his only "qualification" is that he did it twice before, and not to any great success. We're talking about a guy with a career .476 winning percentage, and whose teams finished higher than third exactly one time. Indeed, the 2nd place finish in 1995 was one of only two times in which his teams outperformed their Pythagorean W/L record (the other being his first season), and most of his teams vaguely underperformed relative to their run scoring and run prevention (although the 2002 Cubs finished a woeful 9 games under their Pythag - simply stunning).

In short, there is really no evidence that Baylor's teams benefitted greatly from his presence. Part of that might be Baylor's "strong personality," which Chass notes repeatedly in his don't-call-it-a-blog-post. Often, top-tier athletes do indeed have "strong personalities" - in fact, it is a characteristic that helps define some of the best athletes. For Chass to note it here, then, I can only draw one conclusion: Baylor is an asshole. When I'm hiring a grown man to deal with other grown men (many of whom are also assholes), I'm pretty sure "asshole" isn't on top of my list of desired attributes. I can only imagine people rich enough to own a baseball team agree, or aren't stupid enough to hire people who disagree.

Beyond that, assuming that other managers don't want Baylor looking over their shoulder, ready to pounce and steal their jobs, seems specious at best. It seems just as likely that current managers don't want a hitting coach or bench coach who a.) hasn't really been successful as a coach anywhere and b.) is likely a huge douche bag. For Chass to (pardon) chastise others for passing over Baylor seems like wishcasting more than reporting, analysis or insight.

In short - why? Why are we pining for Don Baylor, Murray? What the fuck is the point? If you'd taken more than 15 minutes to do even a smidge of research, you'd come up with multiple plausible reasons why Don Baylor isn't on anyone's radar, and probably shouldn't be. Dusty Baker destroys young arms, but at least he's gone to the playoffs in the process. I know numbers are frightening, and this whole Internet thing is making you more and more obsolete, but clinging to dinosaurs such as Don Baylor doesn't help in your drive for relevance.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yet another 10x10

Brought to you by "hangover at work," ten more record reviews in ten words or less. Life is easy.

Girl Talk - Feed the Animals
Seriously unreal. Nearly flawless. Jesus.

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
Will grow on you - expands their sound, for the better.

Black Kids - Partie Traumatic
Surprise! The previously leaked tracks are the only good ones!

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Best opening sequence of songs in history. Close to perfect.

Air France - No Way Down
Pitchfork-fueled mirage - not enough substance to overcome monotony.

Cut Copy - In Ghost Colors
Solid effort that sways toward cheesy just a touch too often.

Tapes 'n Tapes - Walk it Off
Surprisingly inconsistent - hasn't caught hold in my CD player. Weird.

Nas - Untitled
Fuck Nas. Seriously irrelevant. This guy made "Illmatic"?

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Pershing
Still the worst name in music, still a great record. (Breaking my own rule but FU: download this. It's this year's "The Orchids" - a very good thing)

Shearwater - Rook
I don't get the hype - way worse than Okkervil River.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And you thought you had a bad day?

So they played the All-Star Game last night, a gala event that plays second fiddle only to basically every other show on network TV, at least according to the ratings. On the bright side, the game was an absolutely barn-burner (barn-burner? Holy shit, how old am I?), a back-and-forth affair that featured multiple great comebacks, amazing pitching (including 34 strikeouts), and extra innings that brought both teams dangerously close to having to pitch position players. All in all, it was likely the best ASG since Ray Fosse got fucked up like Debo in Friday.

J.D. Drew (whose real name is David Jonathan, of course) won the MVP in Yankee Stadium, which is fucking awesome - if you recall my stalwart defense of the man, you'll realize how exciting this is for me. Then again, expecting a guy to improve on his worst season ever isn't exactly Nostradamus material, but whatever.

None of this is important, and in fact Josh Hamilton made all of this irrelevant two nights ago anyway. Still, the most important storyline of the game came to us in the form of a second baseman who looked like he wanted to puke for three straight hours - ladies and gentlemen, Dan Uggla!

Uggla, never known as a staunch defender, showed exactly why when he committed errors on two straight plays to load the bases in the bottom of the 10th. The first error looked like a simple rough hop that caught him on the heel - in short, the sort of thing that happens to a dude who has hands made of stone but hits too many homers to worry about it. The second, however, basically looked like this:Basically, Uggla got Charlie Brown'ed on the second one, so badly that he actually caught a spike and fell over. Well, it wasn't so much a "fall" as a slow-motion crumpling action - when the pitching coach came out to explain just how in the shit they planned to get out of a bases-loaded, none-out situation (run expectancy: about 2.15), Uggla stumbled in with his eyes wide like Kubrick and looking like he wanted to absolutely die. His teammates did the right thing, and completely ignored him while cutting him out of the discussion circle around the mound. Perfect.

While the NL would get out of the jam, Uggla would continue by making yet ANOTHER error (for a record total in the ASG) later in the game. Now, surely this story has a happy ending, right? Surely, the guy who makes the big errors will come up in a big situation and redeem himself, right? This IS a Disney movie, isn't it?


Instead, Uggla struck out with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 12th, and also left the go-ahead run in scoring position later in the game. On the whole, he was 0 for 4 with 3Ks and 6 left on base. His WPA, a measurement of the change in his team's probability to win during his at-bats, was an absolutely dismal -.634, good for worst in the game by about .300. Put another way (that isn't technically correct, but makes for good shorthand), Uggla's at-bats cumulatively made the NL about 63% more likely to lose the game. That doesn't even include his errors. Just an unreal bad performance for a guy whose father grew up in the asshole of upstate NY and wanted nothing more than to see his little boy Danny play in Yankee Stadium.

Here's to you, Dan Uggla - unless I'm beheaded in Tehran and my mom watches the video, it's safe to say I'll never have a worse day than you had yesterday. I hope you got drunker than balls and nailed any hooker that crossed your path at Bemelman's - you earned it (and home-field advantage for the AL).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

RIP Bobby Murcer

Bobby Murcer died today after a long battle with cancer. It's incredibly sad, and the Yankees family has truly lost one of its best.

Pretty much everyone with knowledge of the Yankees knows how beloved Murcer has been the past few years, but the funny thing is, it wasn't always that way. When he came up with the team in the mid-60s, he was seen as the next Mantle. Like Mantle, he came through the minors as an infielder (a shortstop). Like Mantle, he was moved to the outfield when it became apparent that his fielding wouldn't work in the infield.

That's where the comparisons ended, though. Murcer was no Mantle, and for a long time, it seemed Yankees fans held this against him. He never won a World Series with the team, and he never put up Mantle-type numbers. He was probably most well-known as a player for delivering the eulogy at Thurman Munson's funeral, then hitting a three-run home run that same night at Yankee Stadium, when the entire team flew back to play the game.

That's only part of the story though. While he wasn't a Hall of Famer, Murcer was a very good player, the type of guy who deserved more credit than he received. He had a handful of excellent seasons in the 1970s (including back-to-back seasons in 72 and 73 where his OBP was above .980), and ended with very solid career numbers.

No, Murcer attained his popularity as an announcer with the Yankees throughout the 80s and 90s, into the 21st century, and it was in this capacity that I got to know of him. I started following the team in the mid-80s, and I remember my dad talking about following Murcer through the lean years of the late 60s and early 70s. His voice on Yankees telecasts became as well-known as that of Phil Rizzuto, Tom Seaver, or, later Ken Singleton and Jim Kaat. He always gave well-reasoned analysis, and didn't depend on being the loudest guy in the room. He seemed to be a voice of reason over guys like Al Trautwig and Michael Kay. From all accounts, he was as good a person as he was a baseball player and announcer.

When Murcer was diagnosed with brain cancer, there was an outpouring of support. He had finally gained that appreciation that was so lacking during his career.

So it is that today, we mourn the death of a Yankee. My thoughts go out to his friends and family.

Friday, July 11, 2008

CT You Next Tuesday

Surprise! People who live in Greenwich are fucking dicks!

In the interest of full disclosure and Megan's Law, I'm required to tell you that I play whiffleball about 20 times a year. It's one of God's gifts - it's the only place where a limpdick noodlearm like me can strike out 22 dudes per game, it's one of the top 10 best beers you'll ever drink (it's below Concert Beer, Patio Beer and Tailgate Beer, but above Awkward Ex Girlfriend Beer and Coworker Happy Hour Beer), and if you're a lucky idiot like me, your inordinately competitive friends will apply pine tar to their skinny yellow bats. To overuse a teen meme, it's completely sick.

So a bunch of 16- and 17-year-olds got together, cleaned up a lot, decided to actually have some clean fun, and now their douchey neighbors in Greenwich want to boot them. These kids could be shooting heroin, fucking homeless people, or playing Grand Theft Auto 4 to do both - it's definitely important to keep them from playing whiffleball ON AN ABANDONED LOT. ABANDONED. NO ONE FUCKING LIVES THERE. I AM ANGRY.

Well, maybe the neighbors have a good point - let's see what Whiney McRichcunt has to say about it:

Oh. Never mind. Her objection is that kids should stop playing sports when they're twelve? Yes, young Eldrick Woods, put away the putter and start practicing for the CPA exam, you immature asshole. She's pissed because these kids should respect authority? Now, I know Cobwebs DeDirtybox has likely never heard of Tinker v. Des Moines, and I'm 100% sure she hates black people, but for fucking real? Who is the authority for the vacant lot? Some 95 year old neighbor? Come the fuck on.

I would have beat a child to have a field like this to play on as a kid. Maybe I only grew up semi-rich, removing me from the context that allows you to be a self-aggrandizing fuckface, but this is simply amazing to me. These kids have to explain themselves to a neighborhood association? That is absolutely insane. Just for these kids, I'm going to pour a little out for my homeys this weekend, then strike out dozens of batters looking with that sick rise ball.

Sorry, Collin - your state is fucked. Greenwich, you're terrible, and I hope you get Sherman'ed like Savannah. Viva la revolucion.