Friday, July 28, 2006

Stephen Colbert is funny 

Last night's The Colbert Report featured what has to be Colbert's best "Better know a district" segment. You'd be a fool not to watch this clip. Why? Because it's funny and only Hezbollah likes things that are not funny.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lady in the Wordplay 

Guess which two movies I saw recently?

It's a lot of fun, very light, and a perfect excuse to sit in an air-conditioned room for two hours to escape the heat. It's a really enjoyable documentary, but, as I watched celebrity after celebrity carry on about how much they love the New York Times crossword puzzle, I couldn't help but feel that this film was anything but cinematic. The competition in the second half of the movie never comes close to approaching the drama or resonance of the now classic Spellbound, but that was never it's intent. Wordplay never pretends to be anything other than fluffy and quirky. You can make plenty worse decisions on what to see this summer (more on that later). Also, I am still, four days later, having the most difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that former president Bill Clinton features in this documentary about crossword puzzles. For eight years, he was the most powerful man on Earth, and here, in the little film, he's articulating his fondness for crossword puzzles. Can you imagine any other former head of state from around the world granting such candid access for such a trivial topic? It's incredible. Really. It also hurts a little to hear Clinton express his thoughts so clearly and then think of who replaced him in office. Hurm...

Lady in the Water
To everyone in the "Hoping against hope that Shymalamadingdong isn't a total hack" camp, here's the good news: this movie is not completely awful. In fact, my expectations had been lowered so much, that in some twisted way, there is an illusion that the end result is somewhat passible. But in reflection, immediately upon leaving the theater, you realize that this is not the case. At all. As others have found out already, this movie is amateurishly bad. The first hour may be one of the clumsiest, most passive set-ups in recent memory. The third act? Well, there really isn't one, it's mostly just spill over from act two. The thing about Lady in the Water is that, given the nature of the film and the baggage that Shyamalan and his critics carry with them, it's incredibly easy (almost too easy) to hate. It's got a fairly undeserved bad rap. Don't get me wrong, it's still bad, but not to the vitriolic degree that the reviews would suggest. It really is infuriating, though, how all the action and plot is both lazy and passive. The side characters are all cheap jokes whose purpose for later in the film is telegraphed almost instantly upon seeing them. As for this being M Night's most pretentious effort, raising the level of pretentiousness to a whole new standard... I don't know. Aside from casting himself as an "important writer" and being cheeky about Bob Balaban's "scene" (I won't spoil it, just in case), I didn't find it that offensive. Incidentally, I've ruined Bob Balaban for myself. Be it in this movie, Capote, Seinfeld, Midnight Cowboy, whatever, my internal monologue just screams "BALABAN!" in the Henrietta the chicken from Return to Oz voice. So, to recap, it's absurdly lazy in every conceivable way (exposition, action, etc.) and a waste of Paul Giamatti's talents, however not uninteresting. It certainly held my attention far more than the nothingness of Pirates 2 and, despite it's predictability, was less predictable than Superman Returns. I'm tempted to say that you should give it a chance just to see for yourself that it isn't the worst movie in the world, but really, you don't have to do that.

**Bonus fun question for those who've seen this movie**
How long before someone "assassinates" Shyamalan?


Monday, July 24, 2006

I'm not usually one for rallies 

But you had better believe that I was at this one yesterday. I'm incredibly happy that I went. Featured speakers included several local Jewish leaders, several officials from churches across Los Angeles, and, of course, the Governator and Mayor Villaraigosa. Three very important things were stressed at the rally: 1) This is not a war against against the Lebanese and the Palestinians, but rather a war against Hezbollah and Hamas with disarmament of the former as the goal of this current conflict. 2) Israel has the right to defend itself and any other country facing these same conditions would react the same. 3) As Mayor Villaraigosa appropriately said, "We're here to affirm the basic truth that there can be no peace without security." You know your cause has resonance when peace activists are affirming the use of military action.

This might be my favorite part of the article, in which the "others" complain of bias against them:
"The mayor is with Israel," Hathout said. "The people of Los Angeles were not consulted on that."

They said Villaraigosa failed to show up at an interfaith rally at the Islamic Center a week earlier.

However, Villaraigosa's aides apparently did try to balance his appearances this weekend. Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, said the mayor's office contacted him Friday night to ask if any public events were planned by Muslims during the weekend. Syed told him there were none.

That's funny. Again, very glad that I went. It was very comforting to see so many Israeli and American (and even a couple Ethiopian) flags waving side-by-side.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Top Model has writers 

Believe it! You should strongly believe the threat of a strike, too. "Free to be," eh? Apparently not. CW better give them what they want tout suite.


Lady in the Water 

...is getting absolutely shredded. It couldn't possibly be worse than The Village, could it? I feel like I need to find out for myself. Unpopular as he may be these days, Night is still the same guy who made Unbreakable -- a movie I love. Call it benefit of the doubt, but I'll be going in with an open mind.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sports Guy goes EPL 

I'm elated that such a wildly popular sports columnist as Bill Simmons has turned the corner from "boorish American who dismisses soccer as boring" to "enlightened sports fan." In a previous article, he noted something that should resonate with all American sports fans, (paraphrasing) that he's not necessarily a fan of soccer, but he is a fan of exciting sport of the highest quality. That's why he's decided to adopt an English Premier League team to support (you'll note that he hasn't given any consideration to MLS). The World Cup converted him and that is fantastic to see. I do have to say, though, that I'm slightly crushed by his decision to choose Tottenham Hotspur over Liverpool as his team of choice. Congrats, Trumbo. Simmons' reasoning is pretty arbitrary, but isn't the whole article? For a novice, he actually offers a pretty decent breakdown of what each EPL team is all about with a few notable missteps. For example, under absolutely no circumstances should Theo Walcott ever be referred to as "the LeBron James of the EPL."

Still, reading this column has me all excited for the start of the next season. Only one month away!

Walk on!


Thanking Jeff 

A few months ago, Jeff turned me on to a brilliant online strip called Achewood. Here are ten good'ns he linked to (plus my beloved Marmaduke and Cathy prank calls). Anyway, this strip is pretty great. We should all read it regularly. Today's (7/19) issue is a gem. "Daaamn! That answer could use some work!"


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hey, Alex Muniz! 

Don't jump!

I've no vested interest in the Sonics, but it would be kinda sad to see them leave Seattle. Hopefully, they can sort out the mess with Key Arena (which I always think of as relatively new). ESPN is asking whether Oklahoma City deserves a permanent NBA team. I'd say, "no," but I'd also say that the Hornets would be better served to stay in OK City rather than to try muster up business in disasterous New Orleans. Unless, of course, all that disaster relief aid is going towards basketball tickets.


Monday, July 17, 2006

The Itchy and Scratchy Movie 

It's been rumored for years. I remember vehemently dismissing the notion countless times in high school and college whenever it was brought up. But now... now... it is upon us. Hopefully, this tent-pole event will signal the merciful end of the once-greatest show on television.

Of course I'll see it.


Haku asked 

So he shall receive. Here's my abridged view as I find it draining to expound upon. I'm getting tired of talking about it already, but hey, this is the world we live in.

That conflict in Lebanon certainly is happening. I've been following pretty closely, but I actually took the weekend off from the news because it was so depressing. Israel has a right to defend itself, the force that they're using in retaliation appears excessive but certainly is not without conviction and a clear, strong message. Ultimately, Syria (again!) is to blame for much of this as they're pulling the Hezbollah strings. The Lebanese are pulling the short straw, here, but last I checked, any country guilty of harboring terrorists (like Hezbollah) is deemed a threat. It's a really unfortunate situation for them.

Would you believe that President Bush has the most succinct path for how to shorten this latest conflict in hopes of finding a resolution?

Monday, July 17, 2006; Posted: 10:30 a.m. EDT (14:30 GMT)

The Middle East crisis prompts a frank exchange between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (CNN) -- An open microphone caught President Bush in an unguarded moment Monday as the escalating crisis in the Middle East prompted him to use an expletive in a conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Bush and Blair were unaware that an event at the Group of Eight summit was a photo opportunity, with media representatives present. Blair later turned off the microphone.

The president was expressing frustration at the United Nations' stance on the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon.

Apparently not expecting an open mike to pick up his remarks, Bush told Blair: "See the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s___ and it's over."

The reality is that Washington is hamstrung with regards to the Middle East. We're ill-equipped to forcefully deal with the situation (our military is already spread so thin, the Iraqi war is wildly unpopular) that the best we can do is lead a charge in the U.N. against Syria. Whether or not other nations will follow our lead is another matter -- one I'm very pessimistic about.

At any rate, this war seems to be escalating enough to soon include Iran's involvement. That's when it gets really scary. This whole situation sucks.

**UPDATE** Israel offers condition for cease-fire.

JERUSALEM - Israel would agree to a cease-fire in its six-day-old offensive against Hezbollah if the Lebanese guerrillas withdraw from the border area with Israel and release two captured Israeli soldiers, a senior official said Monday.

Seems reasonable to me. After all, it was the capturing of Israeli soldiers that ignited this whole thing.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Time for a change 

To look at the news, lately, is to know that our world is doomed. Be it in Israel, Mumbai, whatever... We're all going to die. Horribly.

That's why I choose to distract myself with sports! Moving right along...

He's finally out! Changing of the guard for Team USA.

I've always thought that Bruce Arena was a good coach, but Team USA's performance last month really encapsulated all the reasons why a change at coach should have been made sooner. Arena has taken this team as far as he can and eight years as the head coach of a national team is unheard of. It's a mentality unique to the US that if it isn't broken, don't fix it. Around the world, no national coach is ever secure as soccer federations are always striving to be better. It's a shift in perspective that US soccer sorely needs in order to reignite the progress they had been making before their setback in Germany.

Anyway, if Marcello Lippi can step down, Bruce Arena can definitely be let go. Change is good. I firmly believe, too, that the new coach does not need to be American. In fact, I think grabbing a coach with European pedigree might be just the thing the national team needs. With that in mind, how easily can you see Jurgen Klinsmann on the sideline for the US? Not saying it will happen, but I can very easily imagine it.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I guess I shouldn't be surprised 

It's not like I didn't have a crystal clear idea of what I was getting into when I saw Pirates of the Carribean 2. The experience was sort of a strange one, mainly because when the movie started I was still buzzing (both euphorically and with alcohol) from Italy's World Cup win earlier in the day. It's kind of like the time I saw Crossroads (shut up) in the theater. I was pretty drunk and some friends said, "Hey, wouldn't it be hilarious if we went to opening night of Crossroads?!" Like a shmuck, I didn't hesitate to race to the theater. But then, when the opening credits started rolling, it finally began to sink in that I was about to watch freaking Crossroads! That'll sober you up quick. You might say my experience with Pirates... was very similar. Only I was completely bored for all but twenty minutes of the movie -- which feels like the exact inverse boring-to-entertaining ratio I got out of the first one. The chaos once they hit the beach and everyone is chasing after the chest is pretty fun and the big wheel was a nice set piece. I just felt like every other part of that movie served only to stroke itself. "Hey, did you like all this wacky pirate stuff we did in the first one? Well, now we're going to make it even bigger and longer, but less interesting and not so much motivated by story! YOU IN?!" No. Can't say that I was in. And I still think Orlando Bloom is a terrible actor.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Here's another reason why my job is fun 

I just made one of the loggers list an unidentified person/character as "Mediterranean Mark Walhlberg" in the database. Now, if I ever need to find this guy in the future for a search or some such thing, I can just type in "MMW." He is a swarthy gentleman, indeed.



Let me preface this by saying that I don't watch All-Star games. I think they're pointless and of no consequence (I don't care that baseball mangled an exhibition game to the point where it determines HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE IN THE WORLD SERIES because the very idea is just plain stupid). However, on my drive to work this morning, I had All-Star game promos jammed down my gulliver. Caught that the starting pitchers for today's contest are Kenny Rogers (AL) v Brad Penny (NL). Really? Really? Kenny Rogers and Brad Penny?? I admit that I haven't been following baseball too closely this season and that I am aware both of these guys had a good first half, but... really? Rogers and Penny? The guy who assaulted a cameraman during a practice on the field because the cameraman was, you know, doing his job vs the guy who bet a batboy that he couldn't chug a gallon of milk right before game time. The batboy, needless to say, threw up all over himself and was unfortunately fired from the team. These are your All-Star game starting pitchers? Huh. Okay. I guess we've been spoiled over the years with guys like Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Roy Halladay, John Smoltz, Roy Oswalt, Barry Zito, etc, etc, etc. You know? All-Star caliber pitchers as opposed to journeymen like Rogers and Penny. But I guess I'm just being silly.

Oh, which reminds me, not that it wasn't unattractive before, but how boring is the Homerun Derby, now? Household names Ryan Howard and David Wright went toe-to-toe, last night. I know Howard is a star, but hardly one of the renowned names in baseball. He carries just a smidgen more clout than Bobby Abreau (last year's winner). Don't tell me that they're the best, either. If fans were interested in "the best" then they would've voted Joe Mauer as a starter over Jason Varitek. They didn't. But David Wright? "Name talent" like that evokes the days of Brent Barry and Desmond Mason winning NBA Slam Dunk contests. Which is to say, I could give two grapes.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Dudes... Deadwood 

He poked out his fucking eye! Dangled from the socket, it did! Thank God I was watching on a TV equipped with TiVo because we watched that scene about eight times. Truly disturbing.

Bravo, Deadwood.

P.S. - I really love Entourage. I'm contemplating picking up the DVDs.



If I could manage to type out a series of nonsensical laughter so that it read coherently, I would. But I can't. Finally, the World Cup trophy has come back to Italy! And in a penalty shootout, no less, which has been the Italians' undoing in three of the last four Cups. The monkey, the gorilla, the ape, the baboon, the gibbon -- all off their back, now. Fabio Gross, once again, with the kick that sent Italy into raptures. Sweet irony: the last time Germany won the World Cup was in 1990 when it was hosted by Italy. How delicious that it comes back full circle. Technically, Italy should've won this game 1-0, as the call for a penalty inside the first ten minutes wasn't a penalty at all. Materazzi never touched Malouda. All the sweeter that the Italians won, then. What a game for Materazzi. Gets whistled for a phantom penalty, scores the equalising goal off a perfect corner kick, and gets head-butted in the chest by France's great hero.

The MVP of the tournament was also it's biggest disgrace. I'm sure Zidane will be remembered for all of the positive accomplishments throughout his career in years to come. But for now, his legacy is being a selfish moron who perhaps cost his team a chance at the ultimate prize. A coward and a cheater. Oh, but there is precedent for Zizou's idiocy, my friends. This is not an anomaly. Let me take you back to World Cup '98 in a group stage game between France and Saudi Arabia. A Saudi player is down on the ground. The play is dead. Zidane is about to walk over the fallen player, but decides to viciously stomp him in the chest. He gets suspended for just one game. That is Zinedine Zidane.

This is my favorite sporting event in the world. There are no doubts. The first two days of NCAA March Madness rival it (and in terms of condensed, wall-to-wall sports, probably top it), but there's no beating the World Cup. Great that it ended on such a high note (for me, anyway). Now, I can go back to not watching summer sports. You heard me, baseball (go A's!).

I'm going to spend the rest of the week on YouTube looking up celebrations for Italy's fourth Cup.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Excited and cautiously excited 

Before I leave work (yay Saturday!) I do want to mention a couple things I don't find bland.

The first is, of course, the big match tomorrow. For all the marbles, Italy v France. I like the Italians (both as the team I'm rooting for and my pick to win). It looks a pretty even matchup on paper -- far closer than Italy/Germany, I'd say. Both teams have looked strong on defense, though I give the edge to Italy (again, no one has scored on them). The Italians also enjoy a superior advantage at GK with Buffon perhaps being the best in the world. Meanwhile, France have to hope against hope that Barthez doesn't committ a series of blunders and become the irrational horse's ass he so often is.

The key to the game is Zidane. The master has lifted France on his shoulders the last two matches and has elevated the play of everyone around him. Ribery should have been a shoe-in for first XI of the tournament and, of course, we all know what Henry can do. He's easily the best striker Italy will have faced in this tournament. In spite of this, I believe that Pirlo and Gattuso will anchor a strong possession game for the Italians, similiar to their match against Germany, thus limiting the Frogs' chances. Toni and Gilardino are no slouches up front and the collective age of France is about 5,300 years old. What it basically comes down to is that Italy are deeper and more balanced as a squad.

All these things taken into account, I'm taking Italy to win their fourth World Cup, 1-0. I'd love to get some revenge for Euro 2000 and WC '98.

Cautiously excited
Look, I'm busting just thinking about South Africa hosting the World Cup in 2010, but I know that it'd be foolish to think that, as the slogan goes, "one game changes everything." Amid all the revelry and happiness yesterday in Berlin, where the torch was passed on to S.A. to host the 2010 edition, were some very real concerns about infrastructure. Thabo Mbeki, shmuck that he is, would have you believe that everything is rosey and that the event will go off without a hitch.

I'm a bit more of a realist. So is Grahame Jones of the LA Times who wrote an excellent, scathing piece on why the next World Cup has disaster written all over it and how the wool is being pulled over our collective eyes. I'd say it's a must-read.

My opinion on the matter? Well, as I said, I tend to agree with Jones. However, staging the event would do wonders for the economy in S.A. What the blundering government does with that money is a totally separate issue. If that windfall of cash can be translated into education and hospitals, it will be worth it and all the better for South Africa. I'm pessimistic that it will play out that way. On several levels, they are not fit to host in four years time. Plus our team sucks balls, right now. Seriously. They're so bad. If it weren't for the rampant AIDS, crime, poverty, and corruption in South Africa, the soccer team would be declared a national disaster. I'm not kidding.


I think it looks bland 

I can't muster up any sort of motivation to see the new Pirates of the Carribean movie. I thought that the first one was fun, but the last twenty minutes (after the story had ended) were really boring. Looking at the reviews for the sequel only reinforces my ambivalence. Honestly, is there any possible reason why this film has to be 2 1/2 hours long?


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Everyone watches the World Cup 

Even Americans who don't like soccer! Bill Simmons may not be a soccer fan, but his ten reasons for watching the World Cup are pretty much on the money. And, on top of his many great points (you're watching the best of the best, no one will ever switch off a penalty shootout, etc) he brings up an hilarious, excellent suggestion:

3. The red card/yellow card thing. Nonsensical, completely arbitrary, even crooked to some degree … I love it. Why hasn't the NBA adopted this yet? Can you imagine how many yellows and reds the Mavericks would have gotten in the Finals?


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Patent pending 

Don't even think about stealing this one because the copyright is already in the works. Belts. They're great, aren't they? They keep your pants up, they're shiny, we love belts! What else do we love? Bears! Duh! I propose a "bear belt." Who doesn't want a couple of giant bear paws clasping around their waist? It's like if you're doing the dishes and then your honey sneaks up from behind you and wraps their arms around your waist, holding you ever so close and tight. Just like that. But bears. We're not talking imitation bear, either. Two full on bear arms fashioned into a belt. I'm going to be so rich. Fuck P.E.T.A.

Other things...

- I had quite the freakout when Italy beat Germany today. It looked a certainty that the game was headed for penalty kicks a.k.a. Italy was sure to lose. However, when Fabio Grosso scored that goal to make it 1-0 late in extra time, I, as well as the rest of Big Wangs sports bar and grill, erupted into a frenzy. Trumbo and I were picking each other up in the air, screaming like crazies. Poor Adam was about to cry in his beer, German flag wrapped around his neck like a cape. And then when Del Piero made it 2-0? Oh, forget it. Total ecstasy. I don't much care who wins tomorrow (I suppose I'd prefer to see the French come out on top), but I can't wait for Sunday. This Italian squad is going to do it.

- I still really dig San Diego. What a fun city. That being said, a memo to Pacific Beach: Dudes, invest in a fucking parking structure.

- While in SD, took a tour of the USS Midway. I'll keep it short: it was very cool. I have an urge to join the Navy, now. Civilian life is for squares. "And I'm proud to be an American..."

- Dude. Fireworks. Yeah.


And then there were four 

World Cup semis are today and tomorrow. Not since 1982 have all four semifinalist hailed from Europe. We haven't seen a quartet this strong since 1990 (seems that the trend lately was to have at least one shock semifinalist). I like one team remaining (yup, Italy). Here's a little rundown of who is left.

Germany - The hosts are playing out of their heads, lately, definitely surprising the world (including their fans) by making it this far. They still look a bit soft in the back, but their attack has been really sharp thus far. Although, the game against Argentina was pretty much a stalemate. I wonder if the Germans produce the same kind of effort today that they had in the quarterfinals, would they be able to sneak into a penalty shootout? I don't think so.

Italy - The last of the four teams heading into this World Cup that I believed could take it all (Brazil, Holland, Argentina being the other three). They whaled on an overmatched Ukraine in the quarters and that was fairly expected. It also was probably exactly what the Italians needed to inspire confidence in their forwards -- particularly Luca Toni who was bound to break out for a bucket of goals sooner or later. Toni and whoever starts up front with him (probably Gilardino) are going to give the Germans fits in the back. Remember, as recently as March, Italy came into German and walked out with a convincing 4-1 victory. Have the Germans improved that much in so little time? I'm not betting on it. Azzuri on to the final. Remember, Italy have conceded exactly one goal in this entire tournament... it was scored by Cristian Zaccardo, an Italian defender.

Portugal - The other half of this semifinal draw present a dislikable side of cheaters and a dislikable side of fading stars. The cheaters are Portugal. Anyone watching their last two games against Holland and England, surely, would have to agree. That red card handed to Wayne Rooney for accidentally crunching a defender's nuts was a bit much. And let's not get starting on all the slight breezes that blew through the Portuguese hair, causing them to drop to the pitch like a tons of bricks. Anyway, Portugal definitely have the skill to be this far. They were finalists at Euro 2004, after all. But it isn't their skill that delivered them a birth in the semis. I think they'll need to start relying on their performance as soccer players rather than as actors if they're going to advance.

France - It's pretty astonishing that the Frogs are still alive. Collectively, I think this team is over 1,000 years old. But to see them play against Brazil was to understand that they're not finished. Not by a longshot. Zidane & Co. outclassed the Brazilians in every facet of the game, limitiing the attacking chances of the defending champs to a couple weak attempts on goal. France were hardly tested at the back, they controlled the run of play so easily. Zidane had a game of sublime brilliance. Henry's finish on the free kick was clinical. Ribery has to be a shoe-in for first XI of the tournament. Vieira (!) is attacking with confidence. I think the French may just buzz right through Portugal tomorrow.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?