Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Early Oscar predictions

As you probably already know, the 2006 Oscar Nominees were announced this morning. I thought I'd share my early pics in the major categories, as I'm already thinking about the office pool here. I haven't won one yet, but since I work in the film industry, I have a lot of film geeks to compete with. Hopefully, none of you have that same problem. Here are my thoughts so far:

Best Picture

Crash has a good chance, especially with the head of steam it's picked up in the awards shows of the past few weeks, but this one's gonna go to Brokeback Mountain. Everyone involved in this project risked career suicide, and ended up making a fantastic film.

Best Director
Steven Spielberg, MUNICH
Paul Haggis, CRASH
Bennet Miller, CAPOTE

Again, Crash could surprise everyone, but the smart money is on Brokeback Mountain. Spielberg has his Best Director award already, Clooney getting nominated is as good as a win (since this is only his second film), as is Miller's nod. Haggis made a very good film, but I think this will be Lee's night.

Actor in a Leading Role
Philip Seymour Hoffman, CAPOTE
Terrence Howard, HUSTLE AND FLOW
David Strathairn, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.
Joaquin Phoenix, WALK THE LINE

Hoffman has picked up a lot of momentum with the Golden Globes, and last weekend's SAG awards, so it would be hard to vote against him. I liked his performance plenty, but I'll be quietly rooting for Ledger or Howard. Both were 'from out of nowhere' performances, especially Ledger's. If you've ever lived in Wyoming, you knew someone like him, right down to the mumble. But Hoffman's got this one in the bag, especially when you look at his body of work.

Actress in a Leading Role
Felicity Huffman, TRANSAMERICA
Charlize Theron, NORTH COUNTRY
Reese Witherspoon, WALK THE LINE

Reese is the 'it' girl right now, and that's usually how the voters swing. Look back at Erin Brockovich. Was Roberts really THAT good? Same with Jolie's Best Supporting win for Girl Interrupted. I haven't seen Walk the Line yet though, so I can't comment on her performance in this one. Huffman could surprise, but just getting a nod is a win for her. The same can be said for Knightley. Dench and Theron have their statues already. Therefore, it's Witherspoon.

Actor in a Supporting Role
George Clooney, SYRIANA
Matt Dillon, CRASH

I wasn't expecting Giamatti to get the nod here. Same with Hurt, as he's only in his film for about ten minutes (and to me, it was a scenery-chewing ten minutes). A nod for Dillon is pretty much a nod for everyone in Crash, so I doubt they'll single him out. They can't slap a mustache and some grey dye on Gyllenhaal and make him look twenty years older. That puts Clooney at the top of the list, although I'll be honest, I didn't think he had the best performance in the film. Plus, my thoughts on Dillon and the cast of Crash could also be said for Syriana. I'm picking Clooney, but there's definitely some upset potential here.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Frances McDormand, NORTH COUNTRY
Amy Adams, JUNEBUG
Catherine Keener, CAPOTE

Wow, this one is even tougher. I'd like to write off Amy Adams and Michelle Williams, but newcomers have won this award before. They're both outside shots, but either one could happen, as they both were great (Adams especially understands the importance of subtlety). McDormand already has an Oscar, and in order to win another one, you really have to do something special (which I didn't think Swank did last year, but AMPAS disagreed). So it's either Weisz or Keener. I'm going with Weisz, as she had more to do in her film, but this one could go either way.

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, MATCH POINT
George Clooney & Grant Heslov, GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK
Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, CRASH
Stephen Gaghan, SYRIANA

This one is a two-horse race. I'd love to see Syriana win it. Had I made my top ten list later than I did, it would've been number two. The script is a fascinating human geo-political puzzle. It doesn't assume that the viewer is stupid, which is always nice. And it accomplishes more in a two-hour running time than any film I've seen in years. However, Crash is gonna win this one. Personally, I thought the ending was a little too convenient. Haggis wants us to believe that twenty people live in all of Los Angeles. However, none of that matters. In the Oscar world, racial 'feel-good' films almost always trump political 'feel-bad' ones. Haggis has a screenplay Oscar already, but I don't think that will stop AMPAS voters from giving him another one.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Dan Futterman, CAPOTE
Tony Kushner & Eric Roth, MUNICH
Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Last one, and it's an easy one. Even though all five scripts are deeper than any plot synopsis can give them credit for, Brokeback Mountain took the biggest risks. That will count for a lot on March 5th.

So those are my picks for the major categories. For the first time in a long while, I'm not mad about any of the major nominees. Typically, I'm rooting against someone 'undeserving,' but that won't be the case this year, so I'm looking forward to the show.

One more thing. I really hope that Terrence Howard gets to perform 'It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp.' It won't be as funny as Robin Williams performing 'Blame Canada' a few years back, but it'll be just as memorable, especially if he wears that wife-beater:

Democracy: Ain't It Grand?

This is not a crowd of New York Jets Fans

The spirit of democracy cannot be imposed from without. It has to come from within.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

After the initial justification for invading Iraq collapsed like a house of cards, the Bush Administration quickly changed their position from one where the US was trying to prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction against our allies in the Middle East to one where the US invaded Iraq to overthrow a brutal dictator and install a democracy. After all, democracy can't be bad at all can it? Democracy is what the United States was founded on, and WE'RE the good guys, right?
There a multiple problems with the idea that democracy can be created through military occupation, but people have written entire books about that. Democracy in the United States, as well as in other places where Democracy tends to work, has flourished out of necessity and the will of people within that country. While creating a democracy in Iraq would have been difficult, if not impossible, as long as Saddam Hussein was in power, proponents of this strategy for invasion of Iraq can't really play the brutal dictator card to support that invasion, since there are quite a number of totalitarian dictatorships in the world, many of whom are connected to terrorism and many whose list of atrocities trumps even what Saddam had accomplished during his reign. If you're going to invade Iraq for these reasons, we should also be thinking about Syria, Iran and about half of the governments in Africa.
The recent Palestinian parliamentary elections have demonstrated another problem with the idea that one can just "install" a democratic government in a country like you would Windows XP, and that as long as there is democracy, everything will be Ok. Hamas, the most active and influential terrorist organization in the region, won 76 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Parliament. The Bush Administration, being the foreign policy whiz kids that they are, acted shocked that Hamas won such a decisive victory, and proceeded to repeat their favorite Administration policy that was probably stolen from a Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson movie "We will not negotiate with terrorists."
Some officials in the Bush Administration alleged election fraud, which is seriously ironic if you think about the circumstances that led to Bush's election in 2000. But over 70% of those eligible to vote turned out for the election, and unlike the 2000 US Presidential Elections, there have been celebrations in the streets and public jubilation.
The problem for the Bush Administration is that in order to move the Mid-East Peace process forward, they will have to work with a terrorist organization or overthrow a legitimate democratic state.
Democracy, as a form of government, does not prevent terrorism or necessarily make people safer, healthier, or better off than under any other form of government. Dictators often use democratic forms of government to maintain their position within a government. And as we see from the Palestinian Elections, a terrorist group can just as easily win a democratic election as anyone else.
Despite what you might think from reading this, I am not against democracy. It's far from perfect, but it's pretty damned good as far as I'm concerned. However, we shouldn't expect democracy to cure all that ails the Middle East. Terrorist groups probably find it much easier to operate in countries where they have freedoms that allow them to plan and carry out their attacks. This is not to say that terrorism doesn't occur in dictatorships; in those cases, terrorism is generally perpetrated by the government.
The Bush Administration needs to do more than just foster democracy, since terrorists can obviously use democracy as a tool to gain political power and the legitimacy of public support.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Oprah Eats Her Young

Oprah made James Frey a very rich man and it's all his fault.

I don't normally watch Oprah. I think the entire show represents everything I hate about journalism right now. Oprah takes a very emotional (as opposed to rational) view of the issues she discusses on her shows, and consequently it lacks depth and reinforces stereotypical thinking. Oprah is classic for warning the legions of soccer moms that make up her following about "The Dangers that Lurk in your Home" and "Is your teen having sex with Hobos?". The entire thing is quite unfortunate, because Oprah has the resources to do a lot of really great things, and instead she epitomizes a viewpoint that you should read what she reads, buy the expensive, useless crap that she buys, and cheer for who Oprah says you should cheer for. Women of America, whatever you do, don't pick out your own books, products, and financial plans, let Oprah and her cadre of corporate sponsors do that for you.

Because what Oprah promotes lacks substance, she can often get herself into quite a pickle. In an attempt to keep soccer moms glued to their TVs, Oprah has quality guests that include Long Island Lolita Amy Fisher and that annoying skank from TLC's most superficial program "What not to wear." Her picks for her book club have been all over the board, in terms of quality and genre. Everything from John Steinbeck to Romance Smut Novels.

In September, Oprah picked James Frey's A Million Little Pieces as her next Oprah book. She called it one of the most riveting books she's ever read. It prevented her from sleeping on multiple consecutive evenings, and she wanted to share the powerful experience with her fans. Buy this book NOW! Everyone should read this book. What a fantastic fucking book!

The problem is, much like a lot of what Oprah supports, that the book is just merely Ok. Having read it myself, and comparing it to either books written either by or about drug addicts, it falls somewhere in the bottom half in terms of quality. And this is before the revelation by the Smoking Gun that better than half of it was made up. But, even considered as a work of fiction, it's got a lot of stuff that could be taken right out of Leaving Las Vegas, Girl Interupted, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, only it's just not as interesting or tragic.

Yes, I know that Lilly hangs herself at the end of the story, but 99% of stories about addiction end with someone being dead, and that death subsequently changing the life of the addict. Oprah's soccer moms don't read anything accept Nora Roberts novels and whatever Oprah tells them to read, so this point, that the book is formulaic within the addiction genre, is lost on their sad little faces.

That didn't stop Oprah from shouting the book's praises from the hilltops, even after the Smoking Gun report was released. And then came last week and Oprah did a 180 degree flip. James Frey appeared on her show, where she proceeded to berate him about being a liar. All of the sudden, Oprah cares about the truth! She's never mentioned the faulty intelligence and bold faced lies that led to our invasion of Iraq, wherein thousands of people died. As far as I can tell, no one died because James Frey lied in his bestselling book, and one could argue that many people may have been saved, but I don't really care.

The entire issue with Frey's embelishments of the story is stupid. Just because the details of a book are fiction, doesn't mean it can't affect the life of a reader. While I am not one of those people, a lot of people's lives have been positively affected by Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but the fact that they are complete fiction, doesn't change how some people relate to the ideas within those stories. If Oprah wants to claim that every detail of every memoir ever written is 100% accurate, she's as idiotic as her viewers.

Furthermore, this particular memoir was written by a drug addict. Would you ask a drug addict to recount the Presidential Debates between John Kerry and George Bush? If you did, would you expect them to be accurate? Again, only a moron would have these expectations.

The best part of Oprah's hour long cross examination of Frey, was the fact that she takes absolutely no responsibility for the book's success or the issues about the book's accuracy. It's all James Frey's fault. I'm not trying to say it was Ok for James Frey to lie in his memoir, particularly if said lies were created simply to increase the appeal and sales of his book, but Oprah has taken no responsibility, when she could have had a member of her staff uncover in a week, what took The Smoking Gun maybe 4 hours.

Oprah made James Frey what he is, and she has no one to blame but herself for the embrassment she experienced.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

John Elway: Master of the Universe

He did this a lot during his career.

One of the bad things that happens when your favorite football team gets destroyed in the playoffs, aside from the obvious end to their season, is that friends who dislike your team will make all kinds of asinine remarks, even though his team (Kansas City) was sitting at home watching it all on TV, as they have been for the last 36 years. Yes, it's been 36 years since the Chiefs actually played in a Super Bowl. Len Dawson was their QB. Since we'll be talking about Hall of Fame QBs, this is the last reference in this post to Len Dawson, and probably the last one you'll ever hear in your entire life, even if you're somehow related to him.

You can see how 36 years of football futility can drive a person to such lengths as to contend that John Elway sucks. There's no doubt that the Broncos took one up the ass from the Steelers this weekend, but to say that John Elway is merely decent, and then later to say that he's in the same league as Elvis Grbac is ridiculous at least, and destroys any credibility a person has when it comes to their opinions on sports. But, I will give you statistics to show why that is the case.

I do not think John Elway is the greatest QB ever to play the game. That is, without a doubt, Joe Montana. I hate Joe Montana, but you can't deny his place in history as the greatest QB. Much like CowboyLaw, I grew up with the same level of disappointment in the Broncos Super Bowl appearances that he did. And Joe Montana had an awful lot to do with that disappointment. But just because I hate the guy doesn't mean it changes his place in history. I also didn't abandon my team because they lost a Super Bowl. Herein lies some serious irony, CowboyLaw abandons the Broncos for losing in the Super Bowl, yet cheers for a team that hasn't even been to a Super Bowl in 36 years. And he's not even old enough to have been alive in 1970.

John Elway is either the 2nd or 3rd greatest QB ever to play the game. What metric should we use? Elway won 147 games as the Broncos starting QB. That's more than any other QB in NFL history. He was the starting QB in 5 Super Bowls, another NFL record. That's more than the entire Chiefs franchise has ever even been to. He's won 2 Super Bowls. More than the Chiefs entire franchise. 47 game-winning or game-tying drives in the 4th quarter, another NFL record. Basically, when it comes to winning the game, he's the best of all time. If winning doesn't make you a good QB, I guess you either don't understand football or you're just a jealous Chiefs fan.

CowboyLaw mentioned that Defense wins games and championships, and uses the pathetic Chiefs as an example of this fact. I'll give him that the Chiefs have a pathetic defense, but I think this has a lot to do with coaching. The problem with applying this logic to the Broncos is that they never had a great defense in John Elway's entire career. During John Elway's career, the Broncos were rarely in the Top 10 in total defense and never rated better than 6th in the league. There were no Hall of Fame Defensive players in Denver. Champ Bailey might be the first, but not after how he played on Sunday against Hines Ward.

CowboyLaw also uses Career Passer Rating as one of his ways to show how Elway doesn't measure up to the greats. What he does by doing this is illustrate why people who understand football don't rely on Passer Rating to encapsulate a QB's entire career. If Elvis Grbac and Steve Bono, former Chiefs QBs have similar pass ratings to Elway, it shows you how flawed the Passer Rating is at looking at a QB. No one would try to make the case that Elway is in the same league as those two mediocre guys, except perhaps CowboyLaw.

Elway is 2nd all-time in the NFL (behind Dan Marino) in completions and passing yards and 4th overall in TDs thrown. If Elvis Grbac has nearly the same Passer Rating as a guy with this kind of passing resume, it only goes to show you the shortcomings of that statistic. Elway also has over 3000 yards rushing in his career, something that wouldn't be included in a passer rating, but obviously came in handy when they beat Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII and Elway ran for a first down that essentially sealed the game for his team. The Passer Rating is a weak metric, and CowboyLaw proved our point here for us.

He goes on to site the number of interceptions Elway averaged. Given the fact that he's got more victories and Super Bowl starts than any other QB in NFL history, I guess it seems a little silly to even address this one, but again, his logic is highly questionable. You see, Elway not only had the 2nd most completions behind Dan Marino, but also the 2nd most passing attempts as well. John Elway, as evidenced by his 47 career comebacks, played from behind a lot. And consequently threw the ball a lot as well. And Elway NEVER had a Hall of Fame Receiver, like Jerry Rice, and as CowboyLaw pointed out, only had a great running back his last 3 years in the league.

If you break down Elway's Interceptions per Passing Attempt (0.031) and Interceptions per Completion (0.055), you see that he ranks close to some of the more accepted greats like Joe Montana (0.026/0.041), Steve Young(0.025/0.041), and Brett Favre (0.033/0.055). If you just look at the number of Interceptions, it will obviously be skewed in favor of a QB who didn't throw as many passes just based on simple probability. This is how a Passer Rating works against a guy who plays for a really long time and throws the ball a ton. You can see that his Interception Rate was only different from Young and Montana by a statistically insignificant margin, when you're talking about 7,250 passing attempts (Elway's 2nd place mark).

The Broncos may have been humiliated by the Steelers on Sunday, but that doesn't make the KC Chiefs better than the Broncos, since the Chiefs didn't even make the Playoffs. John Elway is one of the greatest QBs of all-time, no matter what metric you choose.

Park City is about to get a little more 'Bling'

'Mister Bling,' that is. On Wednesday morning, I'll be flying to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival. It's times like these when I really, really, really love my job. In less than 72 hours, I plan on seeing the following films:

A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints
Stephanie Daley
This Film Is Not Yet Rated
The Darwin Awards
The Hawk Is Dying
Right At Your Door
Come Early Morning
The Secret Life Of Words

I also want to see The Science of Sleep, American Hardcore, Alpha Dog, and The Proposition. However, I currently don't have passes to these, and plus, there's only so much time in the day.

I'll post an update when I get back this weekend, with some pics and capsule reviews. However, first thing's first. I need to buy me a pair of these:

Monday, January 23, 2006

Donkeys made to look like Jackasses

The Steelers make Jake Plummer stick his hand down his pants and then smell it.

The time has come to recognize a beautiful reality: the Donkeys lost. While I am sure the Midget is crying in his beer as we speak, let us reflect back on a game in which the Steelers not only beat Denver, but made Denver call them daddy.

1. Welcome back, Jake!

If there is one truism in football, it’s that players, in times of stress, always revert back to their roots. Any fan out there who thinks Michael Vick is going to become a prolific passer is in for a disappointment. When the blitz comes, Vick is going to run upfield because that’s who he is. On the flip side, you don’t seen Bret Favre running upfield very often. I’m not making a value judgment here (although I could), I’m just saying that, in the crunch, players default back to their basic makeup. Jake Plummer’s basic makeup is that of an interception-throwing, butter-fingered hack. Even in the Patriots game, Jake’s QB rating was only 78.5. Now, his Sunday rating of 66.3 makes that look like a career game, but generally people don’t brag when they throw as many INTs as TDs (that would be the Pats game again. On Sunday, Jake managed to really upend that apple cart). Once Jake recovers from the mandatory beard shaving and delousing that will once again make him resemble a member of the sapiens species, Jake is going to have to look in the mirror and remember that his primary skill is handing the ball off and getting out of the way.

2. Defense wins championships.

As much fun as it has been to watch my team, KC, roll up yards and points on the offensive side of the ball, watching KC has also confirmed what most football pundits like to preach: defense wins championships. Ordinarily, Denver’s defense is decent. But fans Sunday were reminded of why Denver has a pass defense ranked 29th in the league. And CB Domonique Foxworth (doesn’t anyone know how to spell anymore?) was turned into some kind of mystical automatic first-down generating device. For the Steelers, I mean.

3. Mike Shanahan has won 1 playoff game without John Elway.

Now, I hate John Elway with the red hot passion of a thousand suns (see below). But I will give him this: he’s a decent QB. Mike Shanahan was blessed with both Elway and Terrell Davis during his pina colada years with the Donkeys. People thought the Donkeys success was due to Sha-na-na, but recent history makes a strong case that Donna Shalala is no better at coaching now than he was when he went 8-12 with the Oakland Raiders in 1988 and 89.

4. Why I hate the Donkeys so darn much.

All this vitriol would be unseemly coming from someone who didn’t have a good really good reason to hate the Donkeys passionately. Thankfully, I do have a reason. Like virtually all kids growing up in Southeast Wyoming, I was a Broncos fan. Denver was the closest city to my house and the only city I had any familiarity with. So, naturally, I was a Donkey’s fan. Remember, this is back in the days of the bright-orange prison suit uniforms and the ridiculous D with Donkey logo on the helmet. Then came 1987, 1988 and 1990. In 1987 and 1988, Denver went to the Super Bowl favored to win. I bought a little Donkeys pennant on a stick, poured myself a tall glass of Pepsi and a full bowl of Nacho Cheese Doritos (Now Even Cheesier!), and settled back to watch my heroes kick a little ass and bring some pride back to the hometown. And what I got was to watch John Elway tighten up so much you couldn’t pull a greased needle out of his butthole with a tractor. Two years in a row, the Donkeys choked it away, once to a guy who was coaching high school football about 2 years after dismantling the Donkeys (yes, that would be Doug Williams). When 1990 rolled around, even I could see that the 49ers were going to win the game. And so, to the ongoing dismay of my parents and drunken midgets around the world, I listened to XXIV in the back of my parents Blazer driving back from skiing in Colorado and I rooted for the 49ers. And what was my reward? Why, only the most one-sided Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls. Yes, once again, the Donkeys choked like Little Miss Muffet at a….well, you can finish that analogy. But this time, I felt fine. Good, actually. Because I was rooting against them. And it felt good. So, I continued to root against them every chance I got. And, with the exception of exactly 2 years, I was well-rewarded.

So, in conclusion, let me just add: P3wned!!111!!1

Solutions for Homeland Security

Guess which one of these two guys is in charge?
I think we should put Charles in Charge of Homeland Security. Buddy Lembeck was always trying to get on those girls that Charles was in charge of, and he managed to keep things under control.
President Bush did his best to defend the NSA wiretapping controversy today, while visiting Kansas State University. As you all already know, the Administration has authorized wiretaps without judiciary oversight, claiming that such secret wiretaps are necessary for homeland security. Those of you who follow the Bush Administration can see a pattern emerge here. When we detain terror suspects, even those who are US citizens, without the right to appear in court and without being charged, we're doing it to prevent terrorism. When we invaded Iraq, despite the fact that there was no pre-war link between Iraq and Al Quada, we did so to fight terrorism. It seems that every time the President wants to do something, and doesn't want to be questioned about it, he simply invokes the we're doing this to prevent terrorism card.
It's not a bad move on his part, even though I think it's completely dishonest. It's awfully hard to argue with preventing terrorism. It's like trying to argue in favor of killing puppies or raping children. Terrorism is pretty evil, and you'd feel pretty damned bad if you opposed something which could have prevented terrorism from occuring in the first place. But, the whole arguement is smoke and mirrors.
The Bush Administration claims that we need this information provided by wiretaps, torture and interrogation to prevent further acts of terror. The reason this argument is flawed as a justification for these "tools" is because the Bush Administration had a lot of this type of information and intelligence prior to 9/11 and failed to do anything with that information. If we had a competent administration, who we knew could act on intelligence and information gathered via illegal wiretaps and torture, I would be all for it, even though torturing people is wrong.
I am sort of a utilitarian when it comes to this type of thing. I believe if you can torture one invidual, particularly some seedy terrorist type, and save a couple hundred others in the process said torture is justifiable. You may not agree, but I don't care. The problem has never been, however, a lack of credible information. Even when the Bush Administration doesn't have the evidence or intelligence, the invasion of Iraq shows that they'll just make shit up.
We shouldn't authorize the Bush Administration to do these things, because they need oversite, judicial or otherwise, and because even if we did, we have no guarantee that the data gathered from these activities will help us to prevent further terror. Or we could put Charles in Charge, as I suggested earlier. Scott Baio is looking pretty damned good right now isn't he?

Friday, January 20, 2006

NFL Championship Weekend Predictions

After going 2-2 for the Wild Card games and 3-1 for the Divisional Championship, you math majors out there have determined that I'm a solid 5-3 for the playoffs so far. Not too impressive, but also not anything to complain about either. Most people would love to take that kind of record into Vegas. A guy could win a few bucks picking like that. This weekend, I am looking to solidify my record with two solid picks. The games, both on Sunday, should be damn good.

And despite what you might hear from CowboyLaw, the Kansas City Cheats...I mean Chiefs, are no where to be seen. Here's what CowboyLaw wrote about that in last weekend's comments:
"And as for my favorite team, I will willingly own the fact that it's KC. And they indeed will not be playing. But they are the first team to miss the cut and only the 6th team to go 10-6 in the modern playoff era and not get into the playoffs."

Wow, I'm sure Dick Vermeil is adding that to his list of accomplishments as we speak, while crying, of course. The best part for Chiefs fans, those poor, dumb bastards, is that they have the oldest team in the NFL, and they would need 4 drafts to get all the players their going to need to replace their geriatric talent pool. Saying your a Chiefs fan is basically saying that you enjoy watching the elderly play football.

Now back the the teams who actually won enough games to qualify for the post season.

Steelers at Broncos Sunday 3:00 pm ET CBS (Denver -3)
With all the trash talking going on in the media about how poorly Denver played in their victory over New England last weekend, I am surprised that Denver is favored in this game. Not because I think that they can't win, but because the hype surrounding this game makes Pittsburgh look much better than they really are. There's no doubt this one is going to be a good game, and I am glad it doesn't involve the Patriots or the Colts, since I got tired of the media giving virtual hand jobs to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning all year long. Denver has a balanced attack on offense, and the clock strikes 12 on Big Ben, as John Lynch puts him on the turf at least 2 times. Denver 17 - Pittsburgh 10 .

Panthers at Seahawks Sunday 6:30 pm ET Fox (Seattle - 3 1/2)
Seattle has received no credit all year long. Remember earlier in the year when everyone thought the Cowboys were the second-coming of Christ - Seattle beat them. Seattle beat Indy, granted the Indy starters only played one half, but the Seahawks were leading when Manning and company left the game. Seattle is going to come out and make the Ragin' Cajun beat them. But, with Steve Smith double covered all day, Shawn Alexander and the Seahawks prevail. Seahawks 31- Panthers 10.

If you disagree, too bad.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fans of The Arcade Fire are a bunch of pretentious assholes

I went to a party the other night with some friends after watching some football, and had an experience that I've had probably a million times in my life. At least a million. And each time the collective pain of all those annoying experiences climbs up my esophagus into the back of my throat, or maybe that's just what happens when I drink too much beer. Either way, it seriously pisses me off.

Back when Mister Bling and I were in college, in a little cow town we'll call Greeley, Colorado, 'cause that's where we were, we worked at a retail store that sold music, video, books, software, and tons of pornography. The pornography was mostly because the magazine guy was a total pervert, but I digress. When you work in this environment, customers, particularly young hipster types, will come in and ask if you've heard of a particular band.

It always starts something like this:
"Dude, have you ever heard of the band EVE OF DESTRUCTION?"
or my personal favorite-
"I am looking for this CD by this completely unknown band that you'll probably have to special order for me because no one has EVER heard of them. They're called METALLICA!"

Hipster-type people all like to think that they are among the original fans for their favorite band. It's one of the many annoying traits of people who think that because they listen to shitty music and wear old clothes that makes them cooler than you are. You'll see how this all plays out. Just be patient, I'm setting up my story with background information here.

Back to this party I was telling you about, it was a small gathering of people who I am somewhat acquainted with (because I've been drunk around them before), but none of these people are in my cell phone and even if they were, I would never ever call them. But, they had good beer ( O'Dell's 90 Schilling), which can make up for a lot of annoying shit.

When my friend and I arrived at this apartment, the entire place smelled like a combination of cat piss and marijuana. I never saw any cats at this place, neither. I did see four or five hipster-type people sitting on a couch looking as if they had either just been to the eye doctor and had their eyes dialated (at 9:15 pm on a Sunday night) or smoked 7 pounds of ganja. You do the math.

After a couple beers, I couldn't help but notice that these people were listening to some crappy music. No amount of chemical alteration could make this crap sound better, so naturally, I was like "This shit sucks." I didn't ask who the band was, because I didn't want to know. Hipsters don't like to hear that their music sucks. It's like telling a Republican that they have liberal ideas or telling a hand model her fingers look stumpy, it's an attack on their identity, but I was in no condition to do this kind of analysis at the time.

I proceeded to learn that the band is called The Arcade Fire, and the sonic ass raping that I was receiving was called Funeral. It reminded me of what you would play at your funeral, if you thought that only people you hated were going to show up, just to punish them for being bastards. Otherwise, this album is a complete waste of time and playing it, a waste of electricity.

This didn't stop these people from comparing The Arcade Fire to Led Zepplin. If you've heard Led Zep and The Arcade Fire, no explanation is required to demonstrate how ridiculous this idea is. For those of you who missed out on one or the other let me just say that Cannibal Corpse and the Gaither Gospel Group have more in common than Zepplin and this douche-a-rific band, whose name obviously comes from a story involving the Frogger machine overheating.

Take my advice, stay away from this band and people that listen to them.

I scream, you scream...

I'm not the biggest fan of Guinness, but I know a lot of people who are, and I'm sure a few of them are going to try this. If they can keep from drinking all the Guinness before they're done.

Guinness Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Guinness stout
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons molasses
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a medium saucepan, scrape in the vanilla bean seeds. Add the pod, milk, and cream. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the flavors infuse for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the stout and molasses. Bring to a boil and turn off heat.

3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract. Whisk in a few tablespoons of the hot cream mixture, then slowly whisk in another 1/4 cup of the cream. Add the remaining cream in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

4. Stir the beer mixture into the cream mixture. Cook the custard over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon, for 6 to 8 minutes or until the custard thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.

5. Strain the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Process the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ryan's NFL Divisional Playoff Picks

NFL MVP Shaun Alexander will power the Seahawks to a win Saturday
Ok, Ok, Ok, so last weekend was exactly a primo performance on my part. I was a little overconfident after picking Texas to beat USC in the Rose Bowl, and I really hate the New England Patriots, so I did a stupid thing picking them to lose at home to Jacksonville. I also feel that if Carson Palmer hadn't gone down on Cincinnati's second play from scrimmage, I would have been 3-1 instead of 2-2 on my picks last weekend. Let's see if I can improve.
Saturday's Games
Washington at Seattle Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX (Seattle -9.5)
As a fan of the Seahawks, having lived in Seattle for a couple years, I can tell you that Seattle is the most disrespected team in the NFL Playoffs. Despite the best record in the NFC and being nearly 10 point favorites in one of the toughest stadiums to visit in the NFL, people are still giving the Redskins a chance to pull off the upset. Because theoretically they could. Dick Van Patten could also be the father of the Bush Twins. But Dick has never been anywhere near Lauara, and the Redskins can spit all they want, but they won't be able to tackle Shaun Alexander and they will lose when Seahawks Rookie Linebacker Lofa Tatupu sends Mark Brunnell into retirment. Seahawks 31-Redskins 14.
Patriots at Broncos Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on CBS (Denver -3)
Mister Bling has been a regular Cassandra, foreshadowing doom and gloom on this game, since I posted last weekend's picks. I'm not going to sit here and try to say that the Broncos' week 6 victory over the Pats at Mile High applies to this game. This is the playoffs, and the Patriots are healthier than they were. But, Tom Brady's magical train to the Hall of Fame has a temporary derailment this weekend in Denver. Fox Sports ranked Mile High and the Denver fans the least imposing of the 4 home teams playing this weekend. Whomever made that determination has never been to a game at Mile High. It will be a close game, but Denver prevails 24-21.
Sunday's Games
Steelers at Colts Sunday, 1 p.m. ET on CBS (Indy - 9.5)
While I don't believe the Steelers can pull off a victory at the RCA Dome, as San Diego did earlier this season, I like Peyton Manning and the Colts about as much as I like Tom DeLay and W. I'm sure people think I hate them because they're good, and all that, but what I hate is when the media gets hot and heavy for a team, like they do with the Patriots, the Colts, or USC. I hate all the hyperbole that comes along with that. Unfortunately, the Colts will beat the Steelers 28-10.
Panthers at Bears Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX (Bears -3)
The Panthers looked scary this last weekend against the Giants. The Giants Offense with Tiki Barber and a pretty decent young QB in Eli Manning looked completely out of whack against the Panthers D. I can't imagine the Bears fairing a good deal better than that with Grossman or Orton under center. It will be a defensive battle, Panthers 3 Bears 0.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I have reason to believe that Dick Van Patten is a robot sent back in time to raise large numbers of children

Was 8 really enough?

Some of you might remember Dick Van Patten from the TV show, Eight is Enough. And no, it wasn't shown at 3:30 am on the Spice Channel. If he were in a show on Spice, they'd have to call it Three if You're Lucky or Two is Splendid for a Man of 77. It was a show about a big family with like 8 people in it or something. Sometimes they had adventures, tears, bisexual dorm room experiences.

Need a refresher? Check out the Eight is Enough website with cast bios, comprehensive episode guides etc. If you think I'm kidding, click on it. I promise you won't get fired for looking at pictures of a kid whose haircut could have qualified him as an Ewok body double in Return of the Jedi. That little bastard must be so coked out right now.
I count 10 people.

If eight was enough, why are there 10 smiling morons in that picture. If they had stopped at eight, Bowl-head Billy and Peter Frampton wouldn't even have been in the show. Also, I forgot that like 2 of the daughters were complete foxes. They should have worked those ladies into a spinoff called Two is just Right or Ryan the Angry Midget Satisfies Two Sexy Foxes from Eight is Enough Again For the Third Time. Now that's what I call good television.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


When it comes to video games, I've never been one for role-playing. The name of the genre sounds less like a game, and more like what couples do when they're bored with their sex lives ('Honey, tonight I'll be the police officer.'). And other than the Knights of the Old Republic series, when I play one, I feel like I'm one step away from rolling a 20-sided die in some fat kid's mom's damp basement, arguing over who's turn it is to be Dungeon Master. If that's your thing, good for you. Just keep it the fuck away from me. I like games that involve firing a weapon at other people's faces. 'First-Person Shooter.' Just saying those words makes me smile.

So when I got this month's Official Xbox Magazine, and saw that it came with a free beta test for the Xbox 360 version of THIS game:

... and that I'll be simultaneously playing with people who are on both the PC and the PS2 versions, I thought, why not give it a try? I've never actually played an MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), and it was free. I'm a a big fan of free.

The process didn't begin very well. Getting it installed on my 360 was a major pain in the ass. It took about 15 minutes to set up my name and account information, which didn't bother me. Then when it started downloading the game from the beta disc, a screen came up that said '59 minutes remaining.' I thought, "It can't really take that long." Oh yes, it can. So, after getting caught up on two shows I'd DVR'ed earlier in the week (Dallas S.W.A.T. = Total S.H.I.T.), it was done. Or so I thought. When I went to play it, it said 'Update required.' Figuring this would be like most Xbox Live updates, which usually never take more than a couple of minutes, I wasn't sweating it. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES LATER, I was finally ready to create my character.

Then the game gave me a warning. It was something like this: 'MMORPGs can be very fun and addictive, but please don't neglect work, or your family and friends, to play this game.' Gee, great way to win me over. I'm not even at the character-creation page, and the programmers are already bragging about how awesome their game is, and how I'm gonna get hooked into their little D&D world. And the bragging is disguised as a 'We care about you' message. So, I'm finding myself less enthused at this point, but I trudged on.

When setting up my character, it asked me what job I wanted him to have. Ugh. I already have a job in real life; I don't need a second one. Then we're on to appearance, and since I didn't want my character to look like one of the J.C.Penneys models in the game screenshots, I gave him a bald head and a tattoo on the front of his cranium. Didn't matter. As soon as I got into a battle (with a rabbit, of all creatures), I made him cast a magic spell, and he started prancing around like he was trying out for a Wyoming dinner theater production of 'Dragon Ball Z.' That wouldn't have bothered me so much, except I kept visualising the other people online who play games like this, and that the otaku programmers were trying to make me into one of them. If you like Cosplay, fine. Perhaps you've already noticed, but I don't. To each their own, I guess.

So don't be looking for 'Mister Bling' on FFXI anytime soon. I will be unistalling the beta today.

Too bad no one who plays these games will ever read this, because they're too busy neglecting the rest of the world as they level up and farm for gold, or even worse, they're paying real money for in-game money...

/I live under a bridge

Friday, January 06, 2006

Ryan's NFL Wildcard Weekend Picks

If I have an abundance of anything, it's probably opinions. You could ask me about brands of whiskey (John R. Powers and Sons), beers (90 Shilling), cars (Corvette) , or types of birth control methods (I am not an advocate of pulling out), and I would tell you where I stand. The NFL playoffs are no different. I was also thrilled with the response from USC fans, when I picked Texas to roll over their pretty boy team from the Pac 10, so I figured why not incite pro football fans as well.

Saturday Wildcard Games

4:30 p.m. on ABC -- Washington (10-6) at Tampa Bay (11-5)
Of the four playoff games this weekend, this one will probably be a good one to skip. I can already hear the stupid pirates and sunburned jackasses crying about it, but both teams have decent defenses and mediocre quarterbacks, which means lots of stacking the line of scrimmage against the run. When these two teams met in November, Tampa Bay one by a single point at home, 36-35 on a Mike Alstott two point conversion. Don't expect this one to be that high scoring. Both teams will play this one more conservatively (read: boring). For those of you (Steelers fans) who like games with 75 off tackle plays and 5 points between the two teams in the entire game, this is your game. For the rest of us, it's an opportunity to get our drink on for the next Saturday game. I pick Washington 21-17.

8:00 p.m. on ABC -- Jacksonville (12-4) at New England (10-6)
The funny thing about this game is that Jacksonville only lost 4 games this season and beat Seattle, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and hung in their with the Colts in both games this season. Like Indy, they got to play the Texans and Titans two times each, but the sports media has been giving Jacksonville a hard time and saying they won't be able to compete with New England. New England, as per usual, is getting a lot of love from the sports media. Like USC, New England is the favorite, and like USC, I predict New England will go down in a close game. Either way, it's irrelevant, since neither of these teams stand a chance against the Broncos or Colts, but calling it the Road to Nowhere Bowl might be taking it one step too far. Final Score: Jacksonville 35 New England 3. Yes, 3.

Sunday Games
1:00 p.m. on FOX -- Carolina (11-5) at N.Y. Giants (11-5)
I can't say I have watched a single Carolina Panthers highlight this year, let alone an entire game, so this pick was tough for me just simply based on the fact that it reminded me that Carolina has a football team. A lot of playoff games that I have seen involve kicking field goals. What I DID see this year was Jay Feeley of the Giants miss 3 chances to beat the Seahawks in Seattle. That alone makes me favor Carolina, sight unseen. Carolina 24 Giants 18 (Giants score 3 touchdowns; Feeley goes 0/3 on XP and 0/3 on FG attempts; goes into seclusion like Buffalo Bills Super Bowl Sensation Scott Norwood.)

4:30 p.m. on CBS -- Pittsburgh (11-5) at Cincinnati (11-5)
This match-up between the Steelers and Bengals will probably be among the best games of the weekend. Cincinnati had a great season. Pittsburgh was banged up all year, yet still managed to squeek into the playoffs. I will be cheering for Pittsburgh, but I don't think my cheering for them can help them here. This is the only game of the weekend where I hope like hell that I am wrong about the outcome, since I still harbor rage from the Boomer Esiason days in the late eighties, when he and Icky Woods stopped my Broncos from getting embarassed against the Joe Montana 49ers. I pick Cincinnati, as much as it pains me to do so, with a final score Cincinnati 24 Pittsburgh 17.

Come back on Sunday night and I'll see how my picks stack up. Share your picks for this weekend via email or in the comments section.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

USC Chokes on Vince Young

The Rose Bowl game brought to mind a certain South Park character, Ms. Chokesondick. Why? Because that's exactly what the overrated USC Trojans did last night against Texas. Vince Young made them look completely weak on defense, which he has done to every team he has faced this season. While everyone and their dog was telling you to take USC, I was telling you to respect the Longhorns. Now who's foolish Dave from Des Moines? I don't usually get a ton of email about specific postings, but I got a ton from USC fans after my post last week. And now you can all go back to your coke and Fiji water diets.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Years Debauchery

Dressing your kid up like a Packer fan is technically child abuse.
While the rest of the world was ringing in 2006 this weekend, I set out on an epic journey. My goal: to see the Seattle Seahawks play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI. My accomplices were many and the rewards were significant. I was drunk for over 48 straight hours, and I want to thank everyone who made this epic journey possible.
It started a few months ago like all crazy road trips as a bad idea someone suggested while we were wasted. A friend of mine was looking at the NFL schedule the remained for the Seattle Seahawks, and mentioned that they would be in Green Bay on New Years Day for their final game of the season. Many more sensible individuals would have dismissed the idea as impossible. After all, Green Bay is cold in July, let alone on New Years Day, and if you talk to Packer fans, they will tell you that getting tickets is expensive and difficult. We were not afraid.
My friend Shane finally stepped up and told me he was in. The plan was simple: Drive to from Omaha, Nebraska to Madison, Wisconsin on New Years Eve, party on the infamous State Street in Madison on New Years Eve, live through the night, and make it to Green Bay for the game.
The biggest obstacle, one would think if they talked to Packer fans, is getting tickets. This was no problem. I found tickets from another friend (Brennan YOU RULE!) with no problems and for face value. After all, the Packers had only won 3 games before Sunday, and just saying "New Years Day at Lambeau Field" makes my testicles shiver.
Getting from Madison to Green Bay was a different story. We knew that after spending New Years Day in Madison we would be lucky to be alive, let alone sober. We needed transportation, and my wife would drive me to a brothel before she would drive 3 hours to drop me off at a football game. We were able to find a charter bus that left from Johnson Creek, WI, about 30 miles east of Madison, and we were set. At least we thought we were set.
My disdain for Fox News is well documented. In the interest of being able to show 10 episodes of When Farm Animals Attack Strippers, Fox, who was televising the game, moved the kickoff from 3:15 pm to Noon. This would mean that the bus would have to leave more than 3 hours earlier than we first anticipated. THE NIGHT AFTER NEW YEARS EVE IN MADISON. The bus driver called and the departure time was switched to 6:00 am. You do the math.
Sane people who were concerned with their own well-being might have stayed at home and took it easy if they knew they were going to have to get up and 5 am and drive 30 minutes to catch a bus. But those of you who read this site regularly realize that I'm not sane and my well-being is something that I often debate. After arriving in Madison, we hit a bar called Mondays, an Irish-themed bar where I think they ran out of pop and other things to mix their mixed drinks with years ago. As a result, you could sterilize a hooker's cooch with one of their Captain and Cokes.
After multiple glasses of firewater and a few glasses of $2.50/bottle champagne, the clock struck 2:00 am and I wasn't in bed. I debated just staying awake, but I figured my liver and brain needed a little sleep, even if it only managed a couple hours. I slept for two hours and when I woke up, I felt like my eyes had been rinsed with sulfuric acid. I was still completely wasted, but fortunately one of my companions had thought ahead (Echo doctor rules) and was at least Ok to operate a motor vehicle.
We made it to the charter bus on time, and I thought I would get a chance to sleep for a bit before the game. I did get an additional hour of sleep before a group of elderly ladies, who had cheered for the team since they dated some of the original Green Bay Packers back in 1845, boarded the bus and proceeded to pass out beer and drink bloody marys, all while conducting raffles on the bus for various Packer memorabilia. I didn't win any raffles, but I did manage to maintain my level of intoxication all the way into Green Bay.
We proceeded to tailgate, drink Captain and Coke, and eventually made it into the stadium, where we continued to drink beer. At this point, I was in a zone. I am not the same guy I was in college where I could drink all day and night and not even notice, but I could feel my years of training in bars and at parties paying off.
All in all, a great trip. The Packer fans were courteous, despite the fact that we were drunk Seahawks fans, cheering against Brett Farve in what will probably be his final shootout at Lambeau. I don't figure he'll want to come back next year and play for a new coach in a what would likely be a new offensive system, but I could be wrong.
Also, before you start talking trash about the Packers beating the Seahawks, let me be the first to point out that Seattle didn't even play some of their starters, and only kept Alexander in the game for the first half, long enough for him to win the rushing title, break the single-season TD record, and give the Seahawks a 14-13 lead. The Packers essentially beat Seattle's fifth string. If you're a Packer fan, and you're proud of that, I'm sorry for you, but I guess a 4 win season is a lot to get used to. And if you're a Packer Fan, I would get used to it, since they won't be better next year without Farve.