Friday, July 31, 2009

Walt Jocketty's Folly?

For some reason, the Reds must think they are still in it. Because today they traded two power arms in Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart along with Edwin Encarnacion for Scott Rolen. If baseball is about pitching this could be an error, especially when you are a small payroll team and depend on developing from within. Make no mistake, Scott Rolen is a quality player. He's a five time All Star. But he has endured two shoulder surgeries. He is 34. Like our old friend and GM Jim Bowden, it seems that Walt Jocketty has his favorites since he traded for him when he was GM for St. Louis. The upside? Rolen is obviously a better third baseman than Encarnacion. He is a lifetime .284 batting average. Currently he's batting .320. He will provide leadership to a young team. The question is whether he can stay on the field for the next three to four years.

Shatner reads Palin, part 2

On last night's Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien concludes that Sarah Palin's Tweets are poetry! He again asks William Shatner to read her words. If you haven't checked out his prior reading, click here for that and Shatner's hilarious rendition of "Rocketman." Check out his expression as he tries to make sense of her Twitter posts.

Those crazy Birthers, part 3

Here's more Republican congressmen refusing to say they believe that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Watch Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio, Eastern Cincinnati) run from the question. Remember she was the one who was lampooned by Saturday Night Live years ago. Could you Republican enablers please stop this insanity?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Shatner reads Palin's speech as a poem!

It is simply amazing the last speeches that former Governor Sarah Palin has given. Unlike her Republican Convention speech, these speeches have been rambling, English challenged and illogical. Sunday's farewell speech linked her alleged media abuse to the sacrifice of our troops! She then talked about Hollywood stars criticizing hunting. What is she talking about? If it is about that Ashley Judd PSA, what does this have to do with how her quitting is going to help Alaska and what the future holds for the state? Anyway Conan O'Brien thought this rambling speech was a poem. So verbatim, he has Star Trek's William Shatner to read it as a poem. Of course, this is a take on Shatner's hilarious dramatic reading of "Rocketman" at the Science Fiction Film Awards ceremony, which is added below. Enjoy!

William Shatner reading John-Taupin's "Rocketman" at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards.

Oh, Those Crazy Birthers, part 2

Last night on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann", they had a reporter ask Republican Congressmen whether they believed Obama was a natural born citizen. Not surprisingly, most of them had doubts. Here's the video.

Let's see you crazy Birthers and Republicans. This myth was debunked by FactCheck.Org. There are newspaper stories at the time of Obama's birth in Hawaii announcing his birth. Oh and now the Hawaii Director of Public Health has reported he has seen the original birth certificate and states that Obama was born in his state. Here's the news story. Okay, you crazy Birthers, how else is Kenya trying to destroy the United States?

New "Lost" video

To wet your apetite for "Lost", ABC on the official website has posted the first of five parts of a faux documentary on the Dharma Initiative, the mysterious organization that was running the island before our heroes crashed on it. This fake documentary is reminiscent of Leonard Nimoy's "In Search Of." It's called "Mysteries of the Universe" and is about the paranormal. In this episode the tease is that the Dharma Initiative is a secret society like the Masons. Here's part one, the teaser.

Remember the Dharma Institute's goals on the island were to study meteorolgy, psychology, parasychology, zoology, electromagnetism, and some type of utopian social study. (Check out the Wikipedia article on Dharma.) Maybe that explains polar bears, and the smoke monster. Maybe it doesn't. Here's the first orientation video that the television audience was exposed to. It's from the second season episode called, "Orientation."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Moon" Film Review

"Moon" is a new science fiction film starring Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell and Kevin Spacey as the voice of the moon base's robot, Gerty. The story is about how Sam prepares for his return to earth after mining Helium 3 for three years. He has two weeks left on his contract when he starts to hallucinate and see mysterious figures. During one of Sam's visits to a Harvester, a giant mining vehicle, he crashes his moon buggy into it due to seeing a hallucination of a girl. To give any more details would spoil the movie.

Director and writer Duncan Jones (Rocker David Bowie's son) has crafted a thoughtful and suspenseful movie. He guides Rockwell without special tricks, which is refreshing given the solitary nature of the movie. Rockwell responds and gives a riveting performance. The special effects are more reliant on models than CGI which gives the movie a more realistic feel. There are clear nods to "2001", "Silent Running" and "Outland."

This is an intelligent science fiction movie. We haven't seen this in years. It's only limitations is the lack of more dialogue to help explain the characters motivations. For example, it could do a better job explaining why Gerty does what he does, etc. These are minor complaints. For this is an excellent science fiction movie which explores the nature of humanity and man's relation to technology.

Here's the trailer for the movie. The grade for "Moon" is B+.

The Myth of Baseball Parity

If you remember President Obama's interview during the All Star game, you heard him say there was parity in baseball. Let's just hope he's better on the economy than baseball. Because as the Reds season melts down again, there are some who say there is baseball parity. That's a an urban legend that Commissioner Bud Selig would love you to believe. Here's why baseball parity is a myth.

Parity is more than just new playoff teams every year. It means that lower payroll teams have just as good a chance to make the playoffs as high payroll teams. If the definition is whether there are new playoff teams every year than there is parity in baseball since the high payroll teams alternate on who makes it every year. Don't get me wrong, low payroll teams do make the playoffs but nowhere in the frequency as high payroll teams. Compare this to the NFL, where every team except the Lions and the Bengals have a chance to make the playoffs every year.

Let's look at the numbers. For this analysis, I will say the top third of total team payroll will be high payroll teams or the top ten. The lower third of team payroll will be low payroll teams. From the years 2002-2008, 35 teams in the high payroll category made the playoffs. While only 10 teams in the low payroll category made it. That's not parity.

(Check out the team payrolls that I used to make the analysis from the Biz of Baseball. Here's also a great article on how parity and how the Rays' "lose to win" strategy works.)

The lose to win strategy is where a team loses year after year to get high draft picks with the hope that someday in the future it will work. The question becomes as a Reds fans are we willing to endure years of losing for the big pay day that may never come.

What the Reds need is a balanced approach. Use free agency to sign players to fill needs. That means signing quality free agents, not the Eric Miltons of the world. It may require that they spend more than what the player is worth. So be it. Signing Greg Vaughn in 1999 worked. For the 2003 Marlins, signing Pudge Rodriquez was a good move.

Baseball in the future needs a salary cap. If the mid-level and low payroll teams want to cry poverty, they should vote for a salary cap when collective bargaining agreement is up. Otherwise expect to see the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Cubs dominate the playoff appearances.

C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. You didn't think these guys would play for the Pirates, did you?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Oh, those crazy Birthers

Over sixth months after the presidential election, and crazy right wingers are challenging Obama's election as illegal. They argue that he is not a citizen. They ignore that Hawaii has certified he was born in their state and that a Honolulu newspaper announced his birth. This claim was also debunked by and criticized by Ben Smith of Politico. This calls for commentary from Jon Stewart of the Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
Daily Show
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Political HumorJoke of the Day

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rating the "Harry Potter" movies

Okay, I know that there are two more Harry Potter films to come, but why wait to rate the ones that already out? What fun is there to wait? When those two come out I'll grade those with the rest at that time, assuming that Mayan calender is incorrect and we'll still be around in 2012. I'll admit I did not read the books but I did think all the movies were good, with some better than others. So, let's countdown from six to one which is the best Harry Potter movie.

6. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" The problem with this one is first, Ruper Grint's over the top acting as Ron Weasley. His screaming and crying drove me nuts. Then there's the end in which Tom Riddle aka Voldemort literally describes how the basilisk is going to destroy Harry. Annoying, though I wish more description were available for "Half Blood Prince."

5. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" The school called "Beauxbatons", the French all girl academy, in Triwizard compeition sets back feminism two hunred years. If you have ever coached against an all girl school team, you would know in this century that the girls do not act in this frilly and demure manner.

4. "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" I love the pacing and the dialogue. It doesn't pound you in your seats with constant action. However, this movie is literally too dark. There's no need to drain the movie of color, at least from this Muggle's view. It would have helped during Harry and Dumbledore's mission in the cave to describe how they are going to get the Horcrux. Is that Harry shoving Kool-Aid down Dumbledore's mouth?

3. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" Got to love that wonderfully filmed wizard fight between Voldemort and Dumbledore. It's organic and elegant and quite believeable.

2. "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" This film offers true magic. One believes that Hogwart's exists. Everything from Quiditich to John Williams' brilliant score to a small scene of Christmas at Hogwart's exudes wonderment.

1. "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" While this is the beginning towards a darker Harry Potter film, it's the most mature. There's real warmth between Harry, Prof. Lupin and Sirius Black. This is the best mixture of comedy, action and emotion.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" Film Review

This is the sixth film in the series and is one of the darkest, literally and figuratively. In the movie, Headmaster Dumbledore gives Harry a mission to get new potions professor, Horace Slughorn to divulge a memory about his time with a young Tom Riddle aka Voldemort. Meanwhile, our young heroes, Harry, Hermione and Ron underggo their first boughts of young love.

The movie was shot in a very dark manner. Color looks to be drained from the scenes. Everyday is cloudly. Green is subdued. Perhpas, this is due to subject of the movie, in which the wizard world is at war. However, that much drain of the color leaves the viewer depressed and strains the eyesight. There's no need to continually darken the Great Hall or have every Quidditch match under grey skies.

The teen romance was handled well. Ah, the pairings. Ron and Lavender. Ron and Hermione. Harry and Ginny. Dumbledore and Snape. Okay, the last one was a joke. But if you took out the magic elements, this wss a pretty good look at young love.

I like the pacing of this movie. It's unusual for a blockbuster but that's why it's good. We don't have big action set pieces bombarding the audience. The dialogue was well written. Conversations felt real. Of the series, it features the best acting.

The problem with the movie is the ending. It's confusing. I'll admit I haven't read the books and if you had not, you might need to look at the plot summary at Wikipedia. The movie could use some more lines to explain Harry and Dumbledore's mission and what was happening. This Muggle had trouble finding out what happened in the end.

Overall, "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" is a well made film that should delight fans of the book. The grade is a "B."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Reds should stand pat

We've reached the All Star Break. And the Cincinnati Reds are stumbling into the second half of the season at a season low of 42-45. To finish the season at 86 wins, Homer 1530's Lance McAlister calculates that the Reds would have to go 44-31 the rest of the way. (.587 winning percentage) That isn't going to happen. There are too many breakdowns to demonstrate that type of winning. Let's go over the problems.

The Offense

This was a problem at the beginning of the year. Take a look at our current outfield. Jay Bruce has a broken wrist and is probably gone for the bulk of the year. But he was struggling badly. (Avg. .207) The best I can say about the rest of the outfield is that they are professional major league baseball players. If you look at the last time the Reds were in contention, 1999; that team had Greg Vaughn, and Mike Cameron in the outfield. Vaughn could take you out at will. This outfield looks like a good team's bench players.

The Pitching

This was supposed to be a strength but is now too inconsistent to be trusted. Bronson Arroyo is too streaky. Aaron Harang is also inconsistent and not the rock he is supposed to be. Johhny Cueto looks like the kid that he is. Edinson Volquez is injured and not likely to come back soon. There is way too much dependence on David Weathers as the set-up man. Note to Manager Dusty Baker. Put Nick Masset as your set-up man and demote Weathers to middle relief.

I cannot see a scenario where this team will reel off a long winning streak with those types of breakdowns.

Hold Your Ground.

While I would listen to offers for Harang or our closer Fransico Cordero, I wouldn't trade them away cheaply. Those two should command another team's top prospect, ones who should be ready in one or two years.

I would hold my ground. I still believe that Harang will come around and anchor the staff. That will help Cueto, Volquez and yes, Homer Bailey fill out a formidable staff for the future.

The Future

Enough of the lose to win strategy. i.e., losing seasons to get top prospects in the draft. I don't advocate spending Yankee money but if there are holes such as the offense, you have to fill them. If you have to spend extra to lure a free agent here then do so. It might have costed you more to bring Raul Ibanez or Bobby Abreu here. But look what happened when you brought in Greg Vaughn.

Jay Bruce

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Fringe" and "Star Trek"

Spoiler Alert. If you haven't see the season finale of "Fringe", titled "There's More Than One of Everything", stop reading and go here to Fox's website and watch it. If you don't care or have seen it continue on.

There's a nice set of coincidences between "Fringe" and "Star Trek", the original series. First, there's the creators of "Fringe", J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Orci and Kurtzman were the writers of the new movie "Star Trek" and Abrams directed it. Kurtzman and Orci are trekkers. Then there are the concepts shared between the two shows. Teleportation. Alternate Reality. More on that below.

What about guest stars? In the season one episode, "The Road Not Taken", Clint Howard stars in a hilarious role as a crazy Trekker. Remember him as the alien Balok in the original series, the "Corbomite Maneuver?" Here's that show.

That brings us to Leonard Nimoy, Spock in Star Trek, as the mysterious William Bell in the season finale. First, the concept of alternate realities was explored in Star Trek. Specifically, the second season episode, "Mirror, Mirror" in which Kirk and the away team are accidentally transported to a parallel universe where the Federation is replaced by the not so humanitarian Terran Empire.

In "Fringe" season finale, FBI Agent Dunham goes to New York to meet William Bell. As she rides the elevator there is a flash of light, and she crosses over to an alternate reality. She goes to Bell's office. We see a copy of a newspaper. The headlines read that the Obamas are moving to a new White House. It seems that basketball player Len Bias is still alive. As Bell enters the room, Dunham asks, "Where am I? Who are you?" Check out the backlighting of Nimoy. It highlights his ears! Get the joke? It's a reference to Spock's ears. Check the scene below.

Of course, where she's at is answered when Dunham looks out the window of the building. The camera pans backwards and we realize she's in the World Trade Center, circa 2009 but in an alternate reality. While I enjoyed Abrams' shallow "Star Trek" with reservations, this show like his "Alias" demonstrates the gutsy and very creative story telling that he is known for. It makes one yearn for more answers on the mythology of "Fringe."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"2012" Movie Trailer Parody

Check out this very funny parody of the trailer of Director Roland Emmerich's disaster movie, "2012" or what is going to happen when Sarah Palin becomes President.

Resilient Reds Win

It certainly looked after Monday's slaughter by the Phillies that the Reds' season might be over. But baseball is played one day at a time. The Reds won last night against the world champs in a manner they have done all year. Resiliency. Guts.

It certainly didn't look that way in the third when the Phillies already ahead by three runs loaded the bases with one out. But Aaron Harang beared down and struck out Jayson Werth. He then got then got Greg Dobbs to pop out. Here's the story from MLB.

Like yesterday's loss, this game could be a turning point. If the Reds do well on this road trip and make the playoffs, this game will be pivotal. As it shows the Reds can withstand the valleys of the season.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

NES video game gets $17,500.

Mike Smith of Yahoo Video Games reports that a collector paid $17,500 for an obscure Nintendo Entertainment System video game (NES) called "Nintendo World Challenge," a gold colored version in which only 26 were made. How's that for 2D revenge?

Reds suffer worst defeat in team history

Last night the Cincinnati Reds were dealt the biggest defeat in team history. The margin of defeat was a whooping 21 runs. (22-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies) The question now becomes is this team resilient enough to recover or will they get beat like a rug tonight? If they don't recover, this is the turning point for the season. If it is, you can kiss the 2009 playoffs goodbye. Right now, I would bring up some pitching help after the bullpen has been depleted.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Happy July 4th! Here's a song from the musical "1776" in which John Adams must find a writer for the Declaration of Independence.

David Weathers is Overrated

Last night Cincinnati Red David Weathers gave up a grand slam to Albert Pujols that blew a three run lead. The media always protects Weathers ("Stormy") because his numbers are good. Let me make this clear. Baseball is more than just numbers. USE YOUR EYES. For the last three years, Weathers sinker and slider have been average. Sometimes, they're good but often they are bad. His eighty five a hour fastball doesn't fool anyone. Stormy should be demoted to middle relief. He is not a strike out pitcher which is what you need in late innings. His pitch to contact strategy is just wrong for a set up man. When will the Reds realize this?

Friday, July 3, 2009

President Palin?

In a bizarre move, Governor Sarah Palin has announced her resignation. She cites the need to not be a lame duck and her desire to save Alaska money. WHAT? How about she wants to run for President. I mean you didn't see Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee do this nonsense. Another thing is that she uses a slow news day, one before our greatest national holiday to announce this goofiness, insuring she is the talk of the day. It's time to think about a President Palin. Let's look back at her greatest hit, the Katie Couric interview and her discussion on the bailout of the banks.

YIKES! For some fun, how about the SNL VP debate from last year.

Did you notice how close this skit was to the real thing? The winking. The folksy banter with bad english. And for those of you playing at home, MAVERICK.

The Trouble with Abrams' Trek

So, my fellow Trekkers, you've seen Star Trek three or four times and now when you think about the film, you feel empty. What is it about the movie that makes you feel like a tribble that has just ate the grain on space station K-7?

Canon Fodder

The filmmakers have consistently argued that their film follows the canon of forty years of Star Trek. (Star Trek Magazine, April 2009, pg. 46) Nonsense. When you have a plot that alters the timeline, that' not canon. By destroying Vulcan, and kill Spock's mother before her time, that's not canon. Vulcan is a founding member of the Federation. So under Director J.J. Abrams' timeline, we have to depend on the pig race Tellarites to help us fight off the Romulans and Klingons? God save us.

Under the Abrams' timeline, forty years of great science fiction could evaporate. What stops Abrams from wiping out the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager? Nothing. Instead of being the captain of the Enterprise D, maybe Jean Luc Picard decides to stay a vintner. Yes, I know Captain Janeway changed the timeline in the Voyager series finale, "Endgame." But she didn't change the past but the future. Abrams' film changes the past and the future because the aforementioned TV series now may not exist, at least not in Abrams' timeline. It's like when Mel Brooks' History of the World, Part I, when Moses comes out with fifteen Commandments instead of ten.

What about the humor in the movie? It's a funny film but were we laughing at the situation or Trek conventions? When Kirk is making love to the Orion girl were we laughing because in the light she's green and Kirk is the ladies' man or the situation? This movie at times borders on parody. Abrams says he got spoiled on Star Trek because of the movie Galaxy Quest, (1999) (Entertainment Weekly, 10-24-2008, pg. 28) It shows. The catchphrases were forced. Did you laugh at Scotty's line, "I'm giving her all she's got"? You didn't when you watched the series. The comedy in Star Trek has always arisen from the situation not from looking down on itself. By the way, Trekkers do have a sense of humor. We laughed when William Shatner told us to get a life, and enjoyed Galaxy Quest. And check out the Onion skit below.

Scotty's Technical Files

I appreciate the beauty of the film. The special effects were just great. But about that music. Composer Michael Giacchino is an excellent composer, his scores for "Up" and "Ratatouille" were warm and sophisticated. But his main theme here sounds like it is the music for Vulcan and not the franchise. It doesn't inspire the way, Jerry Goldsmith's magnificent score for "Star Trek the Motion Picture" and theme for "Voyager" does. Thankfully, at the end he decides to use Alexander Courage's theme for the series.

Oh, and watch the excessive use of the hand held camera. This a fictional film not a documentary. Hand held cameras induce nausea on the viewer.

Don't Use the Force

There's too much Star Wars influence on the filmmakers. (Entertainment Weekly, pg. 29) Star Trek is not Star Wars. Star Trek has stood for intelligent science fiction for forty years. Star Wars is science fantasy. While the film moves at warp speed, it lacks the sharp dialogue that Trek is known for.

Star Trek is about ideas. Political. Philosophical. Scientific. This movie is loud. Don't get me wrong, the action is good but some of the set pieces seem illogical. Chekov running to the transporter room before Kirk and Sulu fall to their death is ridiculous. By the time he gets there Kirk and Sulu should have been pancakes. While I don't agree with Roger Ebert's review as far as number rating (it should be a little higher), he makes great points about the film.

The Great Bird of the Galaxy

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie. I just want more intelligence in my science fiction. I hope there is an extended cut on DVD. I am optimistic. Abrams did dedicate the film to Gene Roddenberry and his wife, Majel. Let's hope that the next film not just entertains but inspires the way the series has always done.

Get a Life

Okay, check this faux news report from the Onion on serious Trekkers like me who have problems with the movie. See, we Trekkers have a sense of humor.