Saturday, February 27, 2010

Congratulations Indian Hill High School Mock Trial Red Team!

Indian Hill High School Mock Trial Red Team is advancing to the Ohio State high school mock trial finals. This is a team that has suffered adversity and overcame it. Congratulations Red. Time to celebrate.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Movie Review

I'm sure whoever at 20th Century Fox greenlit Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief was thinking popular youth book, teenage heroes, and Greek mythology would be a great idea for a movie. Hey, hire Harry Potter's first movie director Chris Columbus and we got a franchise. Not so fast. It takes respect for the audience before you make a great franchise. And Percy Jackson doesn't have that.

The movie starts out with Zeus (Sean Bean) confronting Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and accusing his son for stealing his lightning bolt. He gives him an ultimatum to get the bolt back or there will be war.

You see Poseidon's son is Percy Jackson, (Logan Lerman) a very cute high school kid with ADHD. Ah, it's the magic of casting. Lerman's going to get all the teenage girls to watch this movie multiple times like Titanic. But I digress. A field trip to the museum and Percy is confronted by his substitute teacher who turns out to be a fury. Hey, I knew there was something wrong with substitute teachers. He's saved by a wheel chair bound Latin teacher Mr. Brunner, played by Pierce Brosnan who is probably wondering what happened to his James Bond gig. He reminds Percy's best buddy Grover (Brandon Jackson) who is a satyr, to protect him and take him to a training camp for the demigods. Percy's human mother (Catherine Keener) joins them on their way to the camp. However they are attacked by a Minotaur who takes mom to the underworld where Hades lives.

At the demigod training camp called Camp Half-blood, it's sort of like Hogwarts, Percy meets up with Mr. Brunner who is really Chiron, a centaur. What!? A centaur is a half man, half horse. Okay, how does he fit those horse's legs in the wheel chair? Oh forget it. Percy meets Annabeth, (Alexandra Daddario) a daughter of Athena and forced love interest. Hey, wouldn't it be cool to make Percy gay? We could call the flick, "Brokeback Mount St. Olympus." Okay, back to the plot. While at the camp, Hades makes an appearance and demands the return of the lightning bolt or Percy will never see his mother again. Percy decides to go to Hades and get his mother back. To do so, they must get Persephone's pearls. The pearls are the only means to escape Hades. You see Persephone (Rosario Dawson) is Hades' bored wife and she likes to bring lovers to Hades. So the lovers have to find a way back out of Hades. Now pay attention, young folks. Percy, Grover and Annabeth decide to make the journey. There are only three pearls.

The rest of the movie is about their heroic journey through America to find the three pearls, get to Hades, rescue mom and get the lightning bolt back. Fun fact here. I bet you didn't know the entrance to Hades was under the "Hollywood" sign in Los Angeles? Ha ha. Maybe those right-wingers are correct about the evil of liberal Hollywood? Never mind. The journey is littered with mythology's greatest hits. You want a hydra. Check. How about Medusa? Check. How about a campy Uma Thuman playing Medusa? Check. By the way, they should make a new Academy acting award for Uma. Best Head Without a Body.

The problem with Percy Jackson is the slam bang pacing. The movie feels like it's made for kids like Percy, i.e. those with ADHD. When Percy is at camp, he immediately knows how to wield a sword. What? No training montage? No. That would be too much exposition. Percy falls for Annabeth at first sight with no electricity between them. Oh, and the movie can be brain dead. Remember my point about Persephone's pearls? Sounds like a Jackson 5 song. Anyway, there are only three pearls to get our heroes out of Hades. Let's count. Percy, Annabeth and Grover. That's three. But they must also get mom out of Hades. Percy, Annabeth, Grover and mom. DOH! That's four. Um, somebody should have thought this one out.

IF you're a high school kid studying mythology, you might like Percy Jackson. If you're not, this movie is time filler.
The grade is C+.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thirty Years Ago, A Miracle Occurred in New York

Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice." At the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid in New York, a group of college kids defeated the heavily favored Soviet Union team. Back then, only amateurs were allowed to participate in the Olympics. The Soviets were hardly amateurs as some of them were in the military or had bogus government jobs with advantage of allowing them to play and practice virtually full time. (Wikipedia article on the game.)

How good were the Soviets? The prior year they thumped an all-star NHL team 6-0. Thirteen days before the game, they crushed the Americans 10-3. Meanwhile, the United States seemed to be in a downward spiral. The economy was a mess. Iran had our diplomats as hostages. The Soviets occupied Afghanistan. The Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union still existed.

It is indeed a happy coincidence that we celebrate this day as the United States just upset a favorite Canadian team at this year's Olympics. Mind you the United States hasn't won anything yet, and like that legendary 1980 team sill had some games to go before winning the Gold. But thirty years ago, miracles do happen; David beat Goliath.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Okay, Give This Guy Decaffinated!

Weatherman Jim Kosek's riotous blizzard forecast has gone viral. Check it out.

The Bengals And The Two Mr. Jones

ESPN is reporting today that the Cincinnati Bengals have worked out cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones. What!? Okay, let's go over some of the Bengals who have gotten in trouble. First there was Stanley Wilson who loved drugs more than playing in the Super Bowl, Peter Warrick had a theft offense, a DUI for Justin Smith, ... oh, just forget about naming the offense; Odell Thurman who got booted from the league, Jason Shirley, assault rifle lovin' Tank Johnson and um, some guy named Chris Henry, who by the way had so many demons that it led to his death.

Pacman Jones' problems seem to stem from strip clubs. Cincinnati strippers beware. Lucky for the Bengals, there is basically only one club in the greater Cincinnati area if you exclude northern Kentucky clubs and trust me please do. Why do the Bengals need another cornerback? We've got two good starters in Jonathan Joseph, and Leon Hall. Morgan Trent is also a decent backup and good in the nickel and dime packages. Oops, I noticed that Joseph (marijuana) and Hall (reckless operation) have had problems with the law. Maybe, it's because we need a corner who will commit more serious crimes than them.

The report also notes that the Bengals are interested in Matt Jones, WR. WHAT!? First, this reminds me of the Laveranues Coles signing. Second, he's got drug abuse issues. Let's go over this again, Peter Warrick had a ... oh, forget it. Instead of going after a quality receiver who can help the team, the Bengals are making the same mistakes they always do. They hope to reform some criminal. Yes, I know they did it with Cedric Benson but the record is not that good. Sooner or later, the Bengals are going to get burned again. Maybe getting Matt Jones will lead to some gadget plays because he was a college quarterback. But wait, that would require an offensive coordinator with some imagination. We've got the "genius", Bob Bratkowski.

Update: The Bengals have signed Matt Jones for one year at $700,000. At least he came cheap by NFL standards. He can be assured that Hamilton County has a drug court.

Jon Stewart Ridicules Republicans Over Fears Of Health Care Meeting

Jon Stewart does it again. He mocks the Republicans for their fear of meeting with President Obama on the issue of health care. Later, Daily Show reporter Jon Oliver goes to a Republican National Committee conference in Hawaii to question them over Hawaii's "evil" universal health care. Still having trouble with embedding so here's the video link. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Keith Olbermann Takes On Conservative Stupidity Over Global Warming

Look, I've already posted Rachel Maddow's intelligent view on global warming versus conservatives' anti-science stance. Time to post my man, Keith Olbermann's view. Thank you, Keith for calling them idiots. Here's his take.

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Conservatives argue against global warming because of snow

We've been hearing from conservatives that because there is so much snow on the ground that there is no global warming. Is it too much to ask conservatives for some science? Let me make it simple for you. As the earth heats up, more water and energy is thrown up in the atmosphere. That moisture is the basis for all the snow. Good grief. Why don't we let the intelligent Rachel Maddow and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, explain it for you.

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Lovesick, A Great Movie For Valentine's Day

Are you looking for a great romantic comedy for Valentine's Day? Check out the 1983 film, Lovesick, available on DVD. Take the time to find this gem. It was written and directed by Marshall Brickman, one of the screenwriters for Woody Allen's classic "Annie Hall." (1977) So expect some Allenesque humor.

Lovesick is the story of idealistic New York psychiatrist Saul Benjamin (Dudley Moore) and his patient Chloe Allen. (Elizabeth McGovern) Saul first hears of Chloe from another psychiatrist Otto Jaffe (Wallace Shawn) who is infatuated with her. When Jaffe dies, Chloe calls upon Saul to treat her. But at the first session, Saul sees what Jaffe was talking about. Chloe is warm, intelligent and beautiful. Saul becomes smitten immediately. That brings a visit from the ghost of Sigmund Freud (Sir Alec Guinness) who immediately warns Saul of countertransference, a condition which the therapist redirects feelings towards the patient as result of her influence on him. Freud notices that during a session, Chloe exhibits feelings of attraction towards Saul.

During this time Saul must continue to maintain his practice. We meet his patients, some who are clearly psychotic. There's the paranoid schizophrenic former professor who believes aliens are trying to enter his brain (David Stathairn), an accountant with wild fantasies, and a gorgeous nymphomaniac (a young Christine Baranski) whose erotic tales amazingly have no effect on Saul. Yes, his patients are mined for comedic effect but Brickman respects the profession so he doesn't ridicule them.

Meanwhile, while continuing to treat Chloe, Saul falls deeper in love with her. He fantasizes about her. Chloe also drops subtle hints of attraction leading to numerous Freudian slips. During one session Chloe tells Saul that she keeps a diary and when she leaves, forgets her keys on Saul's desk. He believes this is an unconscious invitation for him to go to her apartment. Saul breaks into her apartment and reads her diary which indeed states she is attracted to Saul. It's there that Chloe finds Saul. Rather than being terrified at Saul's presence, she's delighted. That evening they consummate their burgeoning romance. Later, Saul tells Chloe that he cannot be her doctor and wants to maintain a relationship with her.

Unsure whether he really loves Chloe, Saul seeks treatment from another psychiatrist, Dr. Geller, played by legendary director John Huston. In one of the funniest moments, Geller tells Saul that his love is a neurotic condition. Unfortunately for Saul, falling in love has caused some erratic behavior. This leads to an investigation by Dr. Gross. (Alan King) Asked to a dinner with respected psychiatrists, Saul is invited to grow old in the profession and become more like them or continue to pursue happiness with Chloe.

Dudley Moore plays Saul with restraint. Even what little physical comedy there is, Moore does not go over the top. When we first see Elizabeth McGovern as Chloe, one may not understand why two doctors have fallen in love with her. While very pretty, she can come off cold. Then she speaks. Charm. Intelligence. Her eyes exude warmth. Moore and McGovern have a natural chemistry.

Whereas Moore may be playing it down, Director Marshall Brickman unleashes all of his romantic impulses. New York looks gorgeous. I'm guessing it was filmed in the early fall, a period where it is not hot but not cold either. Perfect. Composer Philippe Sarde's soundtrack reflects his French heritage. It's impressionistic, very sweet, and rich. It captures whatever emotion one gets from the sights of New York. There is a purpose for all this romance. During the scene where Saul and Chloe first make love, the lights dim. Freud appears and addresses the moviegoer telling us that we are animals and that our animal instincts such as the need for sex overtake us. Brickman makes a counterargument by using all of these romantic elements to show that love is not a neurotic condition.

Lovesick is warm, witty, and romantic. There's a magic to it. It has a timeless quality. It's a wonderful film for Valentine's Day. The grade is A.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Twenty Years Ago, Buster Douglas Stopped the Juggernaut

On this date, twenty years ago, James "Buster" Douglas fought Mike Tyson. At the time Mike Tyson was an unstoppable force. He was 37-0 and had a frightening 33 knockouts. Buster Douglas was a 42-1 underdog. Tyson was heavyweight champion. I have been alive for two of the greatest upsets in sports history. The first being the United States Hockey Team's win over the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics. And the second was James "Buster" Douglas knocking out "Iron" Mike Tyson. It was the real life "Rocky." I had tears in my eyes. For once, I believed that the underdog could win and he did.

Republicans Only Interested in Opposing Obama

The conservative Washington Times has compiled a list of Republicans who were against President Obama's Stimulus Bill and now either are trying to get money from it or praising it. What hypocrisy! If the stimulus bill were a passed by a President McCain would there be such opposition and criticism? No. This is all about tearing down President Obama. Last week, President Obama criticized Republican lawmakers who would support a bill but withdraw their support once he signed on with his support. Democrats should pin the Republicans as not caring about the country, only about their right-wing ideology. Rachel Maddow has done a piece on their hypocrisy. You go girl!

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bengals Should Pursue Brandon Marshall

Denver Broncos wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, is aptly named, "The Beast." That's because he's a unique blend of speed and power. After the catch, he runs over defensive backs. For the last three years he has caught 100 or more receptions. He does have baggage. He seems to have minor criminal problems. He was benched on the last game of the season, a game that the Broncos needed to make the playoffs. The Broncos lost that game and didn't make the playoffs. But there is no doubt about his talent. He made the Pro Bowl this year.

It is this talent that the Cincinnati Bengals need for their offense. Let's face it, Chad Ochocinco is the only receiver QB Carson Palmer can trust. Laveranues Coles was a bust as a free agent. Often he was not where he was supposed to be and dropped balls. Andre Caldwell needs more seasoning. Jerome Simpson was a terrible second round pick because he can't get on the field. That pick was especially bad since the Bengals could have had the stunning DeSean Jackson. Currently, there is no good choice for tight end. The difference between the Super Bowl champs Saints and the Bengals is the ability to throw the ball. The Saints can do it and currently the Bengals struggle. Adding another weapon like Marshall will free up Ochocinco since teams will no longer be able to double team him. It will also free up all of Palmer's other targets.

Marshall is a restricted free agent. Meaning after the Broncos tender him an offer at the highest level, any team that signs him must compensate the Broncos with a first and third round pick. That's costly. It's more painful because of the draft picks. But let's face it, the draft is not a guarantee of giving you the type of stud that Marshall is. Plus he's only twenty five. David Krieger of the Denver Post writes that it's likely the Broncos will come to terms with him but there is still a chance that he may be traded. After going 10-6, the time to win is now. Owner Mike Brown should make a bold move and get Brandon Marshall either through trade or sign him off the Broncos. What do you say Mike? Go for it!

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart Take on Sarah Palin's Hand Notes

Let's face it. If Sarah Palin becomes President, she will be comedy gold. I mean you can't ask for material like a presidential candidate writing crib notes on her hand. That's what high school kids did to cheat on tests. Spanish verbs. Math equations. Your core values as a presidential candidate because you're an idiot and can't remember them. Anyway, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart of Comedy Central do hilarious bits on Ms. Palin's hand crib notes she used at the Tea Party Convention.

Here's Jon Stewart of the Daily Show video.

Here's Stephen Colbert's take. I love his explanation of when we can use the word, "retard" according to Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin Can't Remember Core Principles

You know Sarah Palin wants to be President. Yet at the Tea Party Convention in which she was the featured speaker she was caught with what looks to be reminders of her core principles. Stefan Sirucek of the Huffington Post reports that she wrote on her left hand, "Energy, Budget Cuts (with Budget scratched off and replaced with Tax) and Lift American Spirits." It seems from the videos that Sirucek has collected that Palin gazes at the hand during a Q and A session. Before that, she was trashing Obama and one of her criticisms was the use of the teleprompter. What a hypocrite! But the frightening thing is that she can't remember her core principles. Oy Vey. This woman wants to be President? God Save the United States.

Monday, February 1, 2010

GTA IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony video game review

Disco is not dead. At least not in Liberty City, the fake New York City in Rockstar's latest add-on game, The Ballad of Gay Tony, for Grand Theft Auto IV. (GTA IV) You play Luis Lopez, the Dominican right hand man to Tony Prince, night club impresario who owns two dance clubs, the straight Masionette 9, and the gay Hercules. Oh, did I mention that Tony is gay? Anyway, Tony gets into trouble with the mob, requiring you as his muscle to bail him out.

Along the way, you meet up with other characters in Liberty City, a couple who had short roles in the original Grand Theft Auto IV. These guys will have "work" i.e. criminal missions for you to do. There's Ray Bulgarin, the Russian mobster who nearly killed Niko Bellic in an ambush. He's even less redeeming here, a pig of a man. We also finally meet Yusif Amir, the developer. He's probably the most fun loving Arab character depicted in any popular medium. You also get to hang out with your two drug dealing friends, Armando and Henrique from the old neighborhood.

It's hard not to like Gay Tony as his worst vices are drugs and bad gay lovers. After all, he gave Luis a job after prison and a lifestyle of the rich and famous. Luis pays him back by looking after his welfare. It's this relationship that drives the story. As you complete the story, you run into other threads from the original GTA IV and The Lost and the Damned, (TLAD) the other add-on game. Most of them have to do with the diamonds that you have seen all the way from the beginning of GTA IV. So, it helps if you at least played GTA IV.

Gameplay is your typical GTA fair, except that battles are bigger. Expect bigger firefights. There's some wild missions, that include hijacking a train, destroying a large yacht by attack chopper, battling a pursuing biker gang with sticky bombs, etc. These missions make for a more flamboyant affair than Niko's adventures in GTA IV. Hey, it ain't called "The Ballad of Gay Tony" for nothing. One new feature allows you to replay missions after you complete the main story. Add parachute jumping, racing, drug wars, disco dancing and you are a going to have one great time in Liberty City.

There are new vehicles and weapons. Sticky bombs stick to most any surface. You then remote detonate them. Assault SMG is a more powerful SMG. There's an Advanced MG, a belt driven machine gun. The explosive shotgun is an automatic shotgun that can fire explosive shells which can bring down choppers. Two new vehicles are the APC and the attack chopper Buzzard. The APC fires artillery rounds like a tank while protecting you from harm. One caveat, the APC can be destroyed by numerous hits from small firearms. The Buzzard is a chopper that fires rockets along with machine gun rounds.

Of course, this being Grand Theft Auto, expect some satirical commentary from media sources of television and radio. Watch the anime spoof "Princess Robot Bublegum" and the sci-fi cartoon "Republican Space Rangers" to experience some sexually charged comedy. Weazel News makes a comeback as the thinly veiled shot at conservative Fox News. WKTT Talk Radio adds "Conspire" a talk show that features paranoid right-wing fantasies, ala Glenn Beck. Unfortunately, the jazz stations have been removed. But disco lives. Station K100 gets new dance music. Radio VLADIVOSTOK gets taken over by disco. Other missing entertainment are comedy and variety shows.

Not much has changed as far as graphics. Unlike his counterpart, Johnny, in The Lost and Damned, Luis can change clothes. However, you can't buy new clothes from the stores. But, look you don't play any Grand Theft Auto game for pretty visuals. You play for the gameplay.

You can download the game from XBOX Live or buy the game on disc which adds The Lost and the Damned. The difference is that if you buy the game as a disc it will cost you about twenty dollars more. However, according to Rockstar you get an additional radio station in Vice City FM.

The Ballad of Gay Tony is a fitting conclusion to one of the great games of the decade. It's one last great blast of fun from Liberty City. The grade is A.

Reds Sign Orlando Cabrera

The Cincinnati Reds signed free agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera today. The terms are 2.02 million with a mutual option of four million in 2011. Last year Cabrera batted .284 with 77 RBIs. He led the American League in RBIs. Okay, he also had 25 errors. But you are not serious about winning if you run the light hitting Paul Janish out there everyday. Janish can field but he has trouble hitting the ball out of the infield. With offensive production from the outfield in question, you could not afford to start the .211 hitting Paul Janish.

Here's the report from the Reds website.

Bengals Open Dialogue with Hamilton County

It looks like the Cincinnati Bengals are trying to be good citizens. The Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that they are offering 40 million in concessions to alleviate shortfalls in the stadium funds due to declining sales tax revenues.

The Bengals should do so without strings. Since the tax was a sales tax, everybody who lives in the county has paid for Bengals' stadium and made the Brown family rich. This city will always support a professional football team. Drops in attendance are due to poor play not due to a lack of enthusiasm. Let's hope this leads to a more harmonious relationship between the Bengals and the county.