No Such Nonsense

A little of this, that and... what was I talking about again? It's TV, sports, pop culture and politics - all the stuff that really matters in life.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hey there neglectorinos

Bad blogger! Sorry I've been neglecting the blog the past few days. Work got crazed and I just haven't had the will to blog. What's new and exciting anyway?

Well, on Sunday, all the people that everyone expected to win at the SAG Awards did so. Helen Mirren, Forrest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Blah, Blah, Blah. Forgive me, but I have trouble getting excited over the SAG Awards. Here's my rule: if I can't picture the statue in my mind, I'm not watching the awards show. It's a short list: Golden Globes: golden globe in a stick (duh). Oscars: tall Gold dude. Emmys: Pointy angel type thingie. Grammys: old-fashioned gramophone. MTV Movie Awards: Popcorn. And that's about it really.

Part of my lack of enthusiasm comes from the honorees this year, too. I'm sure these are perfectly lovely performances in perfectly lovely movies - but I'm thinking this Academy Awards will be the lowest rated one ever. Has anyone even seen The Last King of Scotland? A few folks caught The Queen, I guess - and the really lucky ones saw the airline edit. Apparently, an overzealous editor bleeped all instances of the word God. As in Bleep Save the Queen. Sounds pretty damn funny actually. Puts one in mind of the episode of Studio 60 where they weren't allowed to say Jesus Christ on the air. All I know is, I once took a flight where they showed True Lies - so, Jamie Lee Curtis running around in her underwear, a-okay. Reference to God - highly dangerous. Don't you just love it?

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Rules of Discourse

Last year, I started reading Antonia Zerbisias's blog, Azerbic. Well, I tried to start. She went on a blog sabatical at the end of the summer and it looks like the blog may be officially dead now. Antonia is the media columnist for the Toronto Star, and her blog would cover all kinds of topics having to do with, well, media, writers, TV, magazines and so on. One of the most notable things about the blog was the loyal group of commenters - most every post would inspire a slew of comments. Some posts would inspire more than a hundred. For a Canadian blog not featuring celebrities and sports, that's damned impressive. Personally, I like Antonia's sense of humour and her writing style, so I was sad to see the blog dying a slow death. I was ever sadder to see the reason why.

It was those commenters, see. Over and over, a seemingly innocuous post - including a brief one about Norman Spector calling Belinda Stronach a bitch - would generate a bunch of comments and before long, somehow, the comments would degenerate into a yelling match between people on the opposite sides of the pro-Isreal, pre-Palestine divide. Some have even suggested that there was a conspiracy afoot to bring down the blog and eliminate reasoned dissent on the issue.

Okay. I know it's an important issue. Far too many people have died on both sides. That said, I don't think its an issue likely to be resolved by name-calling on a message board. But, then again, what do I know? I'm intellectually lazy.

Or so I learned this week.

Many members of Antonia's loyal audience have been spending time on Sooey's blog. Sooey was a regular commenter on Azerbic and she can be pretty damn funny. I don't quite buy into her ideology (me being a capitalist pig MBA and she being a tad on the left-wing), but I'm usually interested to hear what she has to say.

Well, wouldn't you know it - this week she posted on Israel. Oh my, the drama. Before long, one of her commenters compared Zionists to Nazis and I felt I need to respond. I so should have known better. I said that using a Nazi analogy in any context is intellectually lazy and emotionally manipulative. Then, I made a lame joke about Israel annexing Poland. So the original poster called me intellectually lazy for suggesting Israel wanted to invade Poland. So maybe I'm dumb. Or maybe my sense of humour doesn't belong in a debate about Israel. Or maybe I don't belong in a debate about Israel at all.

But I stand by my dismissal of the Nazi analogy. Never, ever, ever compare someone to a Nazi if you want to be taken seriously. Okay - Idi Amin you can compare to a Nazi but that's about it. And online? I'm with the community of bloggers who subscribe to Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies. Godwin's Law suggests that the longer on online thread is, the greater likelihood someone will make a Nazi analogy - and conventional web wisdom further suggests that the use of that Nazi analogy ends the argument and the person who used the analogy loses - whether the analogy was apt or not.

Sounds good to me.

UPDATE: Today, the comments on Sooey's blog degenerated into accusations of anti-semitism, censorship and libel. So, she ended up deleting a bunch of the comments .

There's a widely documented notion called Libel Chill. It's where legitimate journalists become so afraid of getting sued that they stop writing about certain people and subjects entirely - Conrad Black, Scientology, etc. Would this be comment chill? Comment sections make blogs more fun - sad to see how easily they can be hijacked.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Isaiah Washington: Gainfully Employed Homophobe

Okay, if you or I were to use a particularly inflammatory, derogatory term in the workplace - specifically in reference to a coworker - we probably wouldn't be fired right away either. Oh, we'd be in trouble. It'd go in the HR file, that's for sure. Especially if we used the term while engaged in a shoving match with another co-worker. I'm pretty sure that would be frowned upon. And if we repeated the slur in a public forum, while denying we said it in the first place - embarrassing our bosses and angering our peers in the process? Well then, my friends, we'd likely be shown the door. Unless, it appears, we happened to work for Grey's Anatomy.

Words are loaded things. Ask Mel Gibson. Or Michael Richards. But don't ask Isaiah Washington, because he clearly doesn't get it. And he doesn't get it because he didn't have to. Washington got in a shoving match with McDreamy Patrick Dempsey and, in the heat of the moment, called co-star TR Knight a faggot. Reports got out in the press, TR Knight came out of the closet and absolutely nothing happened to Washington. Producers and co-stars closed ranks, arguing that the incident was blown out of proportion, that the media had reports wrong. And the whole thing seemed like it would just go away.

Except that Washington really had said it. He used a hateful word to denigrate his coworker and his bosses just swept it under the rug.

And it would have stayed that way except an emboldened and likely tipsy Washington repeated the slur at the Golden Globes in the midst of denying he said it in the first place. Dumbass, really. At that point, co-stars Katherine Heigl and TR Knight stopped protecting Washington and called him out publicly for his actions. And it was only then - in the face a rising public backlash - that ABC forced Washington to apologize and producer Shondra Rhimes finally issued a statement on the matter. Now, had Dempsey been the one throwing epithets - and he had laid out a certain word relating to Washington's race, I wonder if it would have been excused so lightly. 'cause racism is evil but homophobia, well that's okay as long you're on a hit show.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

So Windows Vista is a Hoser?

Here's a review of Microsoft's latest Operating system offering, according to Slate Magazine. It serves as yet more evidence of exactly how cool the yanks think we are.

"The wait is almost over for Windows Vista. Microsoft wants us to believe that when its new operating system finally debuts on Jan. 30—a date that's been five years in the making—our world will be turned upside down. Redmond's marketers have dubbed Vista's release as a "wow moment—that instant when you recognize that your life has changed." That's according to a letter from Bill Gates himself.

Tech reviewers couldn't agree less. ""Worthy, largely unexciting," yawned Walt Mossberg in his pacesetting Wall Street Journal review. Mossberg makes the "pleasant," "efficient" Vista sound less like a "wow moment" than a passable bore—the Canada of operating systems."

Ouch, eh?

The Snubs and Surprises.

Oscar nominations day is really all about who got snubbed and who snuck in. Here's the breakdown:

Dreamgirls is out, Letters is in
The much-touted musical Dreamgirls got a slew of nominations but was passed over in the Best Picture category for Clint Eastwood's reflective Japanese-language film Letters from Iwo Jima. A companion piece to the un-nominated Flags of Our Fathers, Iwo Jima got surprisingly strong support in a bunch of categories. In fact, Clint got a Best Director nod, and Dreamgirls helmer Bill Condon did not. The Academy sure does love Clint.

Sorry, Beyonce
It was a long shot to be sure, but Beyonce Knowles is officially out of the Best Actress race. From the start, she was totally outgunned by the collective forces of Streep, Mirren, Winslet and Dench. Throw in Penelope Cruz giving what many consider the performance of her career (in Volver) and Beyonce was done. Maybe they'll ask her to sing. 'Cause I need to see her face when J-Hud wins Best Supporting Actress, don't you?

No Jack
Many predicted that Nicholson would get a nod for The Departed. Instead, co-star Mark Wahlberg gets his first nomination. Once again, go Marky Mark!

Borat had a screenplay?
Sacha Baron Cohen is going to the Academy Awards. After his brilliantly funny acceptance speech at the Globes, I totally want him to win for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Also out: Brad Pitt in Babel, Matt Damon in The Departed and The Good Shepherd, Ben Affleck in Hollywoodland. I guess sometimes, being really pretty just isn't enough. Even in Hollywood. hard to believe, I know.

It's a Long Way from Breaker High to the Academy Awards

It's official: Canuck Ryan Gosling has been nominated for an Academy Award! The broody method actor and one half of Canada's cutest Hollywood couple (Sorry Reynolds and Morissette, Gosling and McAdams have got you beat) got a best actor nod for his performance as a high-school teacher/junkie in Half Nelson. And to think it all started with a little piece of televised brilliance known as Breaker High - the story of a bunch of teens attending high school on a cruise around the world. Cheesetastic! Check out the Academy-worthy performance in the opening credits alone!

Of course, fellow nominee Leonardo DiCaprio (for The Blood Diamond instead of The Departed -shocking) has his own early-career cross to bear. He was the cutest homeless kid ever on the dying-gasp final season of Growing Pains. Who knows what those formative years working with master thespians like Alan Thicke and Kirk Cameron did to shape young Leo's acting chops. Thicke will totally come up in Leo's acceptance speech, no? Surely?

And I'm not sure anyone watching this video for the first time would have said "That guy is totally gonna be nominated for an Academy Award some day." Yet here's Will Smith, a second-time nominee. They call that Big Willy style.

That's just in the lead actor category. In best supporting actor, we have an erstwhile rapper and underwear model. Go Marky Mark! There's a former Bad News Bears player (along with Tatum O'Neal and Walter Matthau, Jackie Earle Haley could become the third Bear with an Academy Award on the mantle. Beat that, Mighty Ducks!) And of course, there's comedian and Spice-Girl-impregnator Eddie Murphy. Buckwheat himself. I mean, who didn't predict an Oscar for Eddie after seeing Pluto Nash?

There's a lot of cheese to go around, no? The actress lists seem to harbour a lot less shame, overall - unless you count dating Tom Cruise (bad Penelope, bad!) or finishing 7th on a TV talent contest as shameful. Which, of course, I totally do.

If Tom Brady is the Devil, What Does that Make TO?

The always subtle, never whining Terrell Owens came out in favour of Bill Parcells' retirement - blaming the poor performance of the Cowboys, and his own subpar numbers, on Parcells' old-school, out-dated leadership style. According to MSNBC, Owens thought Parcells fostered an unhealthy locker room environment. In particular, Owens complained that weeks would go by without Parcells speaking to him, and that he felt underused on offense. He was also disappointed that Parcells did not offer any words of encouragement after the 'accidental' overdose incident.

So, when TO underperformed in San Francisco, it was Garcia's fault. In Philly, McNabb's fault. In Dallas, it was clearly the fault of future Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Parcells. Because obviously it was Parcells who was out there dropping all those damn passes this season. And falling asleep in team meetings. And being a total wank.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Shady Doings in the NHL?

I'm no big fan of all-star games. I'm sure it's nice to be recognized - whether by fans or sportswriters or the coaches or whatever - as one of the best in your sport in a given season. But the games are always totally boring; there's no hitting, no edge, no real reason to play. Does any kid really grow up dreaming of scoring the winning goal in an all-star game?

Then there's the voting. All-star games are the ultimate popularity contest. Fans vote not for the best player at a position but for their favourite player. So when an American hockey fan started an online campaign to get folks to vote journeyman defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick into the NHL all-star game, I admit I thought it was a funny idea. I was certainly not all that concerned about the integrity of the event - the event has no integrity to begin with. Before long, the Vote for Rory campaign had t-shirts, YouTube videos and all that. It all seemed like harmless fun.

The campaign got a lot of press - and the NHL all-star game got more buzz than its had in years - especially after Rory moved up to number 2 in the voting ranks for his conference. It seemed he might actually make the team. Another fan released a Rory vote-o-matic that allowed fans to vote for Rory over and over again at the click of a button. It looked like Rory was a lock, and pundits came out of the woodwork decrying the idea - sanctity of the game and all that. Then, Rory's voting numbers dropped dramatically. He fell off the top of list and out of contention. His legions of online fans, it seemed, had deserted him.

Or so the NHL would like you to believe.

Turns out, it looks an awful lot like the NHL rigged the outcome to keep Rory on the bench. At least, that's what the folks at Slate magazine are saying.

C'mon. Gary Bettman screwing over a bunch of hockey fans? That would so never happen.

Tuna Sleeps with the Fishes

Sorry. I had to. Sorry.

News comes today out of Dallas that Bill Parcells has retired as head coach of the Cowboys. Parcells has walked away from coaching before - 3 times if my count is correct - but I figure this one actually has a chance of sticking.

If Tuna wasn't interested in sticking around to work with an improving team and a fresh-face QB with lots of potential (and, apparently, slippy fingers), what would appeal enough to bring him back? We may see him in a GM's office, but I'm not sure we'll see him stalking the sidelines again. Over and over this year, as he answered yet another TO question, you could see him thinking to himself: "I am way to old for this shit."

So I figure he's out of it, at least for a good long while. Never say never, though. After all, Joe Gibbs was too old for this shit, too.

Sad Day in New Orleans too

Oh yeah, there was another game played yesterday. It just wasn't nearly as much fun. Drew Brees saw his Cinderella Saints turn to pumpkins and now Rex Grossman is going to the Superbowl. I'm not sure what else I can possibly say about that.

Hmmm. Well, I guess the game was enlightening in some respects. Here are some lessons learned in the Chicago-New Orleans game:

1. Hey rookie, don't taunt Brian Urlacher.
Reggie Bush had a spectacular touchdown run to bring the Saints within two points of Chicago. He ran for 88 yards and somersaulted his way into the end-zone. But right before the flip, he turned and clearly taunted a trailing Urlacher. Don't poke the Bear, dummy. Not smart, rookie, not smart.

2. It always hurts to lose.
Even after a spectacular season. Even a year after going 3-13. The Saints really wanted to win out there. They did better than anyone expected them to this season, and who can blame them for wanting to go all the way to the big game. It's a shame, really.

3. Mario Williams is totally screwed.
He didn't ask to be drafted first overall. But now, forever, he will be held up to the Reggie Bush standard and he will be found wanting. That's a little bit sad, don't you think.

4. Lovie Smith kinda thinks Rex Grossman sucks too.
Smith didn't actually invite Grossman to open it up out there, did he? Grossman had 144 passing yards on the day. By comparison, Drew Brees had 354. It could be a tough couple of weeks for Mr. Grossman. But at least he's not Tom Brady.

Sad Day in Hell

Since my weary hubby met me, he has evolved into something resembling a football fan. Before we met, he'd never watched a game. Now, he's getting into it - he can tell his Belichick from his Parcells (though not always his Dungy from his Edwards or his Holmgren from his Reid). He's not a fanatic or anything, but there are a few things he feels strongly about. And there is one point in particular on which he is quite passionate: "Tom Brady is the devil."

I tend to agree. My feelings on Mr. Brady are well documented in some of the posts below. I just really, really hate that guy. But I have to admit, he is one of the luckiest SOBs on earth. He's a good but not great quarterback with 3 Superbowl rings, 2 Superbowl MVP awards, a killer big-game rep, a brilliant coach and a string of ridiculously hot girlfriends. If he isn't the devil, Brady's surely sponsored by him (For those keeping score, that means Brady is now pimping shaving cream, fancy watches, credit cards and eternal damnation...)

So there must be some crying in hell today (though, I would imagine there is crying in hell everyday. And whining. And some yelping. Hell sucks. Unless you're Tom Brady.) Yup, mighty Casey has struck out. Finally. The Indianapolis Colts got over the hump that is the New England Patriots. After trailing 21-6 at the half, the Colts came back to win it in one of the most exciting halves of football I've seen in a long time. They're in the Superbowl and already favoured to win it by a touchdown.

No matter what he says, Manning got one hell of a monkey off his back in that second half. With 30 minutes to go, it looked like Indy might collapse at Belichick's feet as they have so many times before. But then Manning marched his down down the field, got the TD and 2-point conversion to make a game of it. And what a game it was. Two touchdowns by offensive linesmen to follow-up an early touchdown by a 310-point guard. Some brutally dropped passes. A mighty rough afternoon for Reche Caldwell. A late scoring drive. A last minute interception. It was a thing of beauty. Unless you're Tom Brady.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

You don't say!

Herein, a little sampling from the world of sports...

So, Barry Bonds gave an interview yesterday in which he argued that Pete Rose and Mark McGwire should be in the Hall of Fame. I'm shocked really. I can't think a single possible reason why Bonds would side with McGwire. Why would Bonds think it is perfectly okay for McGwire to take perfomance enhancing drugs and then lie about it. And that he should then get into the Hall of Fame, regardless. If only I could figure out some sort of link. Surely, there can't possibly be any kind of common factors between McGwire and Bonds. Hmmmmm. Nope. Clearly not.

In other fabulous role model news, Atlanta Falcons QB and coach killer Michael Vick tried to get on a plane in Miami with a tricked out water bottle. Seems the bottle contained a secret compartment - oooo, fancy - with a little something special inside. Per MSNBC, "the bottle was found to have a hidden compartment that contained 'a small amount of dark particulate and a pungent aroma closely associated with marijuana'." A NFL player tokin' up? The hell you say. I thought it was just Ricky Williams.

And finally, last night at dinner my brother told me that Sidney Crosby is going to better than Gretzky. Ummm hmmm. Pardon my skepticism, but I'll believe that when I see it. Sure, he's doing pretty great for a 19-year-old kid. In his first season, he finished 6th in the league, with 102 points and ended up second in Rookie of the Year voting. He led Canada's juniors to a gold medal in 2005. No question, it's a fine start. But let's keep it real, shall we? In 1979-80, Gretz' first full season with the Edmonton Oilers, he had 137 points and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Season 2? 164 points. By season 3, at the ripe old age of 20, it was 212 points including 92 goals. He won the Hart for 8 consecutive years, for Pete's sake. In the last 20 years or so, we've had a whole bunch of guys who were going to be better than Gretzky - Lemieux, Lindros, Kariya, Selanne, Thornton and so on. They were great, but they weren't The Great One. No doubt, someone will surpass him someday. Maybe even The Kid. But I think I'll wait a little longer before I plan the coronation.

Um. Okay. You got me. I know nothing about soccer. Hmm. So, did you hear that David Beckham is going to be playing in L.A.? I seem to recall reading that somewhere. You may have noticed a little bit of news coverage on it last week. You'd think L.A. was getting an actual footballer and not some guy who got kicked off the English national team and hasn't started in Madrid basically the entire season. He sure is purty though.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Counting down to my next abnormal obsession

Once football ends, what oh what will I possibly have to obsess about?

Thanks to CBS, I've already got my new obsession lined up. Starting Sunday, February 18, it's Amazing Race: All Stars.

I've been an Amazing Race gal since the very beginning, marvelling out how the pressures of the Race can bring out the very best and the very worst in people. Got some cracks in your relationship? The Race'll bring 'em to light, over and over again. Some people, and couples, emerge stronger and better for the experience. Others break down into a string of ugly Americanisms, tantrums and self-indulgent whining - a spiral known in my household as 'Pulling a Flo', lovingly named for a certain AR participant who showcased all of these traits and more every damn week while her put-upon partner did all the work.

Purist carp that All-Stars shows are lame but I disagree - I loved every second of Survivor All Stars (other than Amber winning over Rob - dumbass jury) and Big Brother All Stars too. Knowing the players means I'm caught up in the outcome from week 1. And they players knowing each other means that the dysfunctional dynamics are simmering from the start.

45,000 miles. 5 continents. 28 days. A whole bunch of serious meltdowns. Greater cultural awareness and understanding. A least one really gross food challenge. What's not to love?

Here's who is playing this year:

Kevin and Drew - Friends
These guys were the likable pals from season 1. Frat Brothers and New Yorkers, they ride on their goofy everyday guy vibe. They basically have no chance.

Oswald and Danny - Friends
Hooray for Team Cha Cha Cha. Best friends from Miami Beach, they are perfectly fabulous and delightfully bitchy. Expect some excellent soundbites and a certain above-it-all attitude.

John Vito and Jill - Exes
Fan favourites? Hardly. He's a meathead. She's just annoying. From them, we'll get some serious bickering and some seriously thick accents. They were dating on their original race, now they're exes. Hmm, that seems like a recipe for success.

Joyce and Uchenna - Married
Winners of Season 7, Joyce and Uchenna rank as one of the best AR teams ever. Almost unfailingly kind and respectful to one another (and other teams), they emerged as likable and worth rooting for. When Joyce shaved off her long braids as part of Fast Forward challenge, they showed they were tough competition too. The other teams will be gunning for them.

David and Mary - Married
A coalminer and his wife from Kentucky, they'd never been outside the United States as part of season 10. You could actually see their horizons expand as the weeks went on. However, they totally, totally suck at the Race and she is bizarrely nice to everyone else and shrewish to him. In other words, they are perfect All Stars, for the first two episodes or so.

Charla and Mirna - Cousins
Carla is a 'little person' you can't help but root for. Mirna is, well, a whiney bitch who let her cousin carry the load and who you can't help but wish would fall in a dark pit. Mirna also has a creepy crush on Phil, our host.

Rob and Amber - Married
Professional reality-show contestants Boston Rob and Ambuh are back. They used their 'celebrity' to great advantage last time, coming second to Uchenna and Joyce, and they are pretty good at this All Star thing.

Teri and Ian - Married
One pair in a long string of bitchy old people who treat each other with disdain. Fun stuff.

Eric and Danielle - Dating
Eric and his AR partner Jeremy finished second to the Hippies in Season 9. In the same season, Danielle and her partner Dani set out to prove that busty, ditzy, blond girls could win they race. They couldn't. Now Eric and Danielle are dating and have formed a new team. Uh, okay.

Joe and Bill - Life Partners
The team to hate - Team Guido of season 1 - are back in all their nasty, back-stabby colour-coordinated-windsuit-wearing glory.

Dustin and Kandice - Friends
Proof you don't have to be well liked by fans to become an All Star, Dustin and Kandice, the smugly self-involved beauty queens from last season are back for another season of tears and manipulation.

It's all about Joyce and Uchenna people - and watching Rob find new ways to screw people over. Always a good time.

Championship Sunday Beckons

And then there were 4.

4 teams. 2 games. 1 happy Jenster.

So let's get down to it.

Indianapolis versus New England
To say there has been some whining about this match, well, that'd be a bit of understatement. Yes, we've seen this game a bunch of times before. Yes, some of those games have been serious blowouts. But what the weary bloggers here and here can't deny is that Indy versus New England still has some compelling storylines and the games are always entertaining - even if it is in that watching-a-guy-get-kicked-in-the-crotch-repeatedly kind of way. The guy getting kicked? Well, that's our friend Peyton Manning. Regular season demigod. Postseason washout.

Will Manning - who has been less than sharp in his last few outings - totally implode before Belichik, as he has done so often before? Will Brady do just enough to not lose the game and then be heralded as the greatest big-game QB ever, as he has done so often before? Will Gisele Bundchen - Brady's latest rumoured hook-up - be at the game? Will someone explain to her why all the men in tight pants are hitting each other?

This game will in all likelihood come down to - you guessed it - defense. Can the Indy defense keep playing as well as they have the past two weeks, or will they revert to the patsies we saw all season? Does the New England defense still have Manning's number? Ty Law clearly does - as evidenced when the former-Patriot, now-Chiefs cornerback took Manning's lunch money again and again on wildcard weekend. Without standout Law, the Patriots D isn't quite the same. And whether Rodney Harrison will be back in the lineup to torment Manning remains a big question. The Colts lost to the Patriots in the playoffs in 2004 and 2005. Since then, the Colts have actually managed to win a few regular season match-ups in Foxborough. So a home game at the RCA Dome may be just what the Colts need to break the Belichick curse. It'll be no surprise that I'm picking the Colts. It'll also be no surprise when I'm back here on Monday cursing Tom Brady's name. Again. Colts.

New Orleans versus Chicago
Grossman was not total crap last week. How long can that possibly last? The TV guys had all kinds of bizarre Grossman stats that depict young Mr. Grossman as the QB version of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. When he's good, he's very, very good. When he's bad, he's Ryan Leaf. If Leaf shows up on Sunday, Chicago is totally done, no matter how many people Brian Urlacher crushes into a fine paste. It's hard to beat a team with as much emotion behind them as New Orleans. Add in the fact that they are actually a pretty good football team with an above-average QB and a pretty smart coach - and, well, it's New Orleans' game to lose. New Orleans.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Idol Effect

So, in winning a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Musical, does Jennifer Hudson displace Kelly Clarkson and her 2 Grammy Awards as the most successful American Idol alum? Does anyone but me and Simon Cowell really care? Oh c'mon, you know you do too.

If she wins the Oscar, I'd say J. Hud pulls into the lead. But Kelly did sell 11 million copies of her last album and the Dreamgirls soundtrack -featuring Hudson's now legendary "And I am telling you I'm not going" - only moved about 65,000 units last week. Six times platinum seems unlikely. But then, From Justin to Kelly didn't exactly grab Clarkson Hudson-like awards buzz. Hmm. Well, until the Oscars, we'll call it a draw and just agree that they are both very, very happy not to be Justin Guarini.

Of McGwire, Steroids and the Hall of Fame

Late last week, the Baseball Writer's Association of America announced the results of the latest Hall of Fame voting. Considering all the hubbub about the results, I thought the process could bear some explaining before diving into the controversy.

Here's how it works - if you played in the major leagues for at least 10 years and you have been retired for 5 years, your name is automatically added to the Hall of Fame ballot. Along with new candidates, the ballot contains the name of any player who received at least 5% of the vote the previous year. The ballots are send out to a bunch of baseball writers who can vote for as many as 10 candidates. Get 75% of the vote and you're in Cooperstown, baby. Get less than 5% and you're out for good. Get more than 5%, but less than 75%, and you can stay on the ballot for up to 15 years. If you still don't have enough votes after 15 years on the ballot, you're out of luck - unless you can somehow convince the veteran's committee to induct you, which is whole other story. Basically, though, you're done.

According to the Baseball Hall of Fame's website "voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." Note that it isn't supposed to be about just playing ability. Integrity, sportsmanship and character, hmmm. Just like that old, miserable drunkard Babe Ruth, I guess.

Not in the Hall of Fame:

Shoeless Joe Jackson - Jackson was banned for life from Major League Baseball for taking a bribe to throw the 1919 World Series. As such, he is ineligible for the Hall of Fame. Apologists argue that Jackson took the money but actually played his best in the World Series. Of course, knowing that the rest of his team was actively tanking it probably freed him up a bit in that regard. The Hall has a pair of Jackson's shoe's on display.

Pete Rose - Another guy on the ineligible list, he was banned from baseball after kind-of, sort-of admitting to betting on baseball. In fact, as a manager, he bet on games his own team was playing. Integrity, shmintegrity. He's also been whining about his exclusion for years.

Roger Maris - Maris was a soft-spoken, aw-shucks kind of guy who broke one of the legendary records in baseball. In 1961, Maris and Mickey Mantle - his Yankee teammate - spent the summer chasing Babe Ruth's legendary1927 home run record. Maris got it over fan- and media-favourite Mantle, and many have never forgiven him. In claiming the record, Maris took down not one but two beloved Yankee icons. He never got his due in life and he'll probably never get into the Hall.

In the Hall:

Ty Cobb - Widely agreed to be one of the most hateful SOBs in the history of sports, but also one of the best players of all time. What's that about character?

Charlie Comiskey - The tightwad owner of the White Sox - and legendary ass - who inspired such loyalty from his players that they were willing to throw the Series.

And new this year, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn. You can't really argue with either one. The fact that Ripken showed up ready to play for 2,632 games in row is pretty impressive - but let's not forget the guy was also a two-time league MVP. He's probably in Cooperstown even without the streak. Ripken was a throwback to an earlier era - he spent his whole career with one team and played hard every day. His record-setting streak is widely credited with reviving interest in baseball after the 1994 strike. Gwynn's no slouch either. He made the all-star team 15 times and was damn close to the first .400 season batting average since Ted Williams (In 1994, he was hitting .394 when the rest of the season was cancelled.)

And then there's Mark McGwire. When he retired 5 years ago, McGwire's election to the Hall seemed a slam dunk. He was a fan favourite and a home run hero. Yet last week, he got less than 24% of the vote. In five years, his stock has dropped so much that some suggest he'll never make the Hall now.

Let's be clear here. McGwire was a great, if not entirely multi-faceted player. He broke Maris' single season home run record in exciting, convincing fashion. McGwire also took a lot of steroids. Anyone with eyes and a modicum of sense can see that. He also took those steroids before baseball had a rule against it. And he took them in an era when lots and lots of his fellow players, including the guy who was chasing the Maris record along side him, were juiced to the gills. A loophole to be sure, but who isn't above a little lawyerball (certainly not the guy who has since beaten McGwire's home run record).

No, McGwire's problem isn't that he took steroids. It's that he's been a total punk about it ever since. In front of a Congessional panel, after Jose Canseco had laid waste to the house of cards that was baseball's steroids policy, McGwire hemmed and hawed and said he wasn't there to talk about the past. Have we learned nothing from the mess that is Pete Rose? Man up, McGwire! Admit the steroids. Repent taking them because of the message it sends the kiddies but don't fail to point out that it wasn't banned and that all the other boys were doing it too. Just own up to it, for heaven's sake! That alone might be enough to get him back into the public's good graces. Probably not, however, enough to get him into the Hall.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Jake G on SNL

There's been a lot of buzz since Saturday night about Jake Gyllenhaal's performance on SNL. Like Timberlake before him, Jake's got people talking about a pretty damn funny performance, which you can catch here (I totally forget my YouTube password, so I can't just post it here, darn it). Click - it's worth it.

I've been a fan of Jake's since Bubble Boy (What? Don't judge me. Jake made the movie - I just watched it. And it's way funnier than you think it is. And the hubby made me watch it. Oh, just shut up). And I love the fact that Jake would acknowledge his unique fan base (gay men and thirteen year old girls have a lot in common, including Jake) rather than hide from it - which one might expect given the whole tiresome Toothy Tile thing.

Cute. Funny. Possibly gay. So what else is new?

Did I say screw Tom Brady?

Seriously. I hate that guy. I really, really hate that guy. He throws three interceptions and still retains the title of best big-game quarterback in football. Has a Superbowl MVP title that should clearly have gone to a member of his defense. (In the 2002 Superbowl, the guy went 16-27 for 145 passing yards - and those are MVP numbers?) Arg. Seriously. The. Most. Over. Rated. Player. In. Football. Brady without Belichick is nothing, I tell you... nothing!

And the fact that the Pats beat the Chargers to keep me from pick perfection in week two of the playoffs? Well that just makes it all the more perfect doesn't it? Seriously, I hate that guy.

In my opinion, the Pats and Chargers actually made for a pretty dull game until the fourth quarter. Though there was a little extra excitement earlier in the game when Schottenheimer went for a 4th-and-11. The excitement was really just me banging my head against the television, but still. And how does a professional football coach in a close game allow himself to head into the final two minutes with no timeouts left? Is that not, like, coaching 101 - save your timeouts, dumbass. A sad day for fans of Martyball (assuming they actually exist).

In the early game, the Seahawks made a game of it despite a painfully depleted secondary. I mean, they had a guy starting on defense who 4 weeks ago was working as a loan officer in Dallas. And they almost beat Chicago - which I gotta say makes the Saints look pretty good for next week. Grossman was okay, his defense was typically great but the Bears looked really, really beatable out there.

Championship Sunday - which typically features way better games than the Superbowl - is on tap.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Indy, Saints march on

One game was all about defense. The other game, well, not so much. Both, though, had some great moments.

Once again, Indianapolis' much-maligned defense came up big. Once again, Peyton Manning was far less than perfect. And once again, Indy found a way to win. For Manning, it was an up and down day. He controls the clock better than anyone in the history of the game - and he did it again yesterday. I mean, the last Indy drive lasted for half of the fourth quarter. (Here's a drinking game for next week - you take a shot every time Manning takes the snap with less than 2 seconds left on the play clock. You'll be passed out by half time.) But despite his flawless timing, Manning looked pretty flawed out there. In fact, the record will show Manning threw 2 key interceptions, matched by two from Baltimore's Steve McNair. But it could easily have been 4 interceptions for Manning. Twice, Baltimore's brilliant but assy middle linebacker Ray Lewis managed to tip a ball that seemed to be heading for a sure interception. So if Baltimore had a worse middle linebacker, they might have won the game. How's that for a twist on defense wins in the playoffs?

Other than Lewis, who was the most important guy in this game? That's be Bill Polian. Who's that, you say? Well, Polian's the guy who decided to kick idiot kicker Mike Vanderjagt to the curb after last season and replace him with Adam Vinatieri. In 2003, Vanderjagt had a perfect season - he didn't miss a single field goal or extra point. He still ranks as the most accurate NFL kicker of all time. He is also a classic head case who missed a gimme kick in last year's playoffs that lost the Colts the game. So Polian replaced him with former Patriots kicker Vinatieri, a guy who may miss a few kicks here and there in the regular season but who is the very definition of clutch. Yesterday, Vinatieri made 5 kicks, including one for 51 yards. Vanderjagt, who was cut mid-season by Dallas, was presumably watching the game at home, eating Cheetos like the rest of us. Good call, Polian, good call.

I fell asleep in the fourth quarter of the Saints game. I know, I know. But it definitely went past my bed time. That said, it was quite the game. Lots of scoring, lead changes and the hometown heroes took it. Great to see Deuce McAllister - a likeable, hardworking guy who's never been in the playoffs - have a big, big day. Hard to say who is more relieved by the outcome - Sean Payton or Donovan McNabb. If the Eagles had made it to the Superbowl on the back of Jeff Garcia - and, heaven forbid, actually won it - you just know McNabb's life would be looking pretty bleak. As it is, Garcia built a serious rep around Philly - but he couldn't get the to the big game. The off-season should be pretty interesting in Philly.

Friday, January 12, 2007

It's Hard to be an Angel

It's been a rough week for Charlie's girls.

First, Cameron Diaz gave a surreal, ditzy and widely derided 'I'm in a deep and meaningful relationship with my fans' acceptance speech at the People's Choice Awards. Then, she and Justin Timberlake acknowledged in a bizarre 'we don't want to talk about this because we're so above it but for the sake of careers, oops we mean fans, we will deign to do so' press release that they have, indeed, broken up. (I will forgo the obligatory Dick in a Box joke at this juncture - but not that it turns out that particular gift may be going to Scarlett Johannson.)

Finally, Drew Barrymore broke up with her furry rocker boy-toy, Fab Moretti, for the 83rd time.

What to do when surrounded by heartbreak and bereft of boyfriends. Go partying with Lindsay Lohan, that what. The threesome were spotted out and about in Hollywood the other night. For Lohan, the allure is clear. Seems Lindsay felt she had much to learn from the original master of underaged Hollywood debauchery. Drew is her Yoda. By why are Cam and Drew hanging with the young tartlet? Was Lucy Liu really that busy? Or just that easily replaceable? Ditched for a younger, boozier model. Man, that's harsh.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Saints are Coming...

Well, with my wildcard picks at a so-so 3-1 (damn you Tony Romo!), it's on to the Divisional Playoffs...

Indianapolis at Baltimore
Last week, Indy's defense won the the game. Man, I cannot believe I just wrote that. But it's true. Manning threw for three interceptions and still the Chiefs couldn't make a game of it. I presume this week Manning and Marvin Harrison will have worked out whatever bizarre communication miscue led to two of those interceptions. And I also presume that the Indy defense will return to normal - that is, to crap. Baltimore, on the other hand, has one of the top defenses in football and - new for this year- an actual quaterback. Revolutionary. I'm thinking this'll be a close one and I'm picking Indy because, well, I love them and I hate Ray Lewis. Everyone knows defense wins playoff games, but sometimes rationality has to go out of the window. That said, Baltimore's the favourite here for a good reason and you should probably pick them. Not me, though - Indy all the way.

Philadelphia at New Orleans
In a way, Philly is a feel-good story. Written off in due to the debacle that was the T.O. era, they were given next to no chance by the pundits at the beginning of the season. Then, their superstar quarterback and leader Donovan McNabb goes down for the season. They end November at an uninspiring 5-6. Their back-up quarterback is Jeff Garcia, a guy many thought was out of football or ought to be. So what happens next? Garcia leads the Eagles to 6 straight wins, including an exciting last-second win against the Giants last week. That's a pretty good story. Who could possibly beat a story like that? Surely no has a more heartwarming tale... Oh, wait - someone does, and it's the New Orleans Saints. After Katrina, after a season spent homeless, a deeply moving return to the Superdome would probably have been enough for Saints fans. But with coach of the year Sean Peyton, San Diego cast-off quarterback Drew Brees and some kid named Reggie Bush, New Orleans not only made the playoffs but earned themselves a first-round bye and homefield advantage. I like that Philly has momentum, but I just don't see how you can stop the Saints this year. New Orleans.

Seattle at Chicago
Which Rex Grossman will show up? If Chicago's defense plays like it always does and Seattle plays like they did last week, it probably won't matter if Rex stinks it up out there (which he probably will). I'll admit, the Bears probably aren't as good as their 7-0 start made them look and Grossman is a serious wildcard. But defense really does win in the playoffs, and Chicago's got one of the best. Seattle was damn lucky to win last week on the combination of a flukey safety and a Dallas field goal debacle. And that was at home. They're in Chicago now, kids. Take Chicago.

New England at San Diego
New England cruised last week over the Jets in Foxborough. No offense to Eric Mangini, but the San Diego Chargers are no New York Jets. New England's post-season magic is well documented (and often over-inflated if you ask me), but the Chargers are kicking ass this year. It'll be tough for Belichick, Brady and company to move on from here. San Diego is rested. San Diego was the better team in the regular season. San Diego has the league MVP in LaDainian Tomlinson. So far, it looks mightly good for San Diego. But maybe the key match-up here isn't on the field. maybe it's Belichick versus Schottenheimer and in the battle of head coaches, it's no contest. Belichick has 3 Superbowls and a post-season record of 12-2. Marty S? His post-season record is slightly less impressive 5-12. He's often accused of coaching not to lose, rather than to win. Whatever you want to say about Belichick, a singularly unlikable guy, you always know he's out there to win. So who wins this week, the better team or the better coach. Damned if I know. What the hell, let's go San Diego. Screw Tom Brady.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Corporation: Too evil, or not evil enough?

In the past 10 years, much has been written about the evils of the profit motive and the basic immorality of the corporate quest for shareholder value. Many of my MBA profs would have agreed that the only reason for a corporation to exist is to generate profits for shareholders, though they differed on whether this was good, bad or indifferent for society. The small minority that argued for a socially responsible corporation were considered to be fiscally niave and, well, unrealistic.

Critics on the left scream that the Wal-Martization of the world is destructive and wrongheaded. Rather than blame consumers, who embraced Wal-mart and actively forsook those beloved mom-and-pop stores, or the mom-and-pop stores themselves for clearly not answering consumers needs as well as Home Depot, Best Buy and Wal-Mart could, anti-corporate folks have thrown all of the blame for the shift in the marketplace on the big, bad corporations. The corporations give us no choice but to shop there, they drive the little guy out of business with unfair practices, they exploit workers at home and abroad - all in pursuit of the profits for their fat-cat shareholders. That's the orthodoxy, and it is pervasive. Just check out Joel Bakan, Naomi Klein and the bloggerati. The global corporation is the devil, full stop.

But this article gives a slightly different perspective on the whole thing. Part of the argument is that corporations aren't in business for the enrichment of shareholders at all, but rather for the enrichment of their own senior managers. Watching Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli walk away with a $210 million severence package after getting fired for poor performance may lend some credence to that argument. Yet the argument goes further still. Rather than being soulless entities deaf to the public good, corporations may actually be overly responsive to the demands of the left -the loudest and most demanding of the anti-corporate protestors. Do companies - like Macdonald's, Shell and Nike - actually bend over backwards, to the detriment of shareholders, to address the concerns of the vocal left and protect their brands? I'm not sure there is a lot of evidence of that. While I buy the first half of the argument - that corporations exist to enrich their managers - I'm not sure if I agree that the biggest brands have become tools of the left. The left wishes it were so.

Plus, I'm not willing to absolve the consumer in all this. Don't like what a company is doing? Stop buying their crap. Opposed to child labour? Well, then, suck it up and pay more for your products. But moaning about how the corporations exploit people and then supporting them for doing so? Now that's evil.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Why don't you have any kids?

This is why. This, right here.

Wildcard Weekend Prognosticating

It's better than Christmas, it is! This weekend is the start of that joyous season known as the NFL playoffs. Enjoy!

Kansas City versus Indianapolis
Kansas City just squeaked into the playoffs when everyone else who had a shot blew it on Sunday (Yeah, I'm looking at you, Denver. How do you lose to San Francisco?!? At least Cincy lost to a very bitter Steelers side. But San Francisco? Bad Denver, bad!). Indy has a simply brutal rush defense (as in, the worst in the league) and KC has Larry Johnson. So, the Chiefs are going to prep some running plays maybe? Peyton's gonna have to put up one hell of a lot of points to get this win. Thing is, he can actually do it. It won't be pretty, but I gotta go with my boy. Indy.

Dallas versus Seattle
Seattle was one of the biggest disappointments of the year. Yes, their stars got hurt. But after coming so close last year, 9-7 just isn't good enough. Dallas has struggled in the last few weeks and are damn lucky to not be playing the Giants or the Eagles this week. I'm going Dallas - if Romo can just keep it together and Owens would shut up for a minute. Dallas.

New York Jets versus New England
The Jets are on a serious roll lately and have momentum going for them. But, then, the Pats have a way better team. On paper, the Jets look like toast and this should be the easiest pick of the weekend. But wait - Jets coach Eric Mangini is an estranged former protegee of Pats coach Bill Belichick and is going to be way prepped for this game. Plus, the Jets beat the Pats in Foxborough in November. And the Pats star safety, Rodney Harrison, is out for the playoffs. So, this one is actually tougher than it looks. The Jets should make a game of it, but I still think the Pats will make it another week. New England.

New York Giants versus Philadelphia.
This is the game of the week. Philly's on a run with their back-up quarterback, a guy who many thought was done in the NFL. And they definitely want to prove something to all those naysayers who wrote them off in the wake of last year's TO-tainted season. On the other side of the ball, the Giants should be so good. They have stars at all the key positions and talent to burn. But, somehow, they are just never as good as they should be. Kind of like Jeremy Shockey. If the Giants lose this game, coach Tom Coughlin may just lose his job. Bye, bye, Tom. I hear the Dolphins need a coach... Philly.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Welcome to 2007

Well, that was a nice little break from work and from blogging. Now, back to the real world. I head back to work tomorrow, but figured I get back on the blog today. And a good thing too, seeing as how our favourite celebs went cookoo for cocoa puffs over the holiday. Hooray. Cheers to them:

Kate Moss
Goes to Thailand and has a non-binding commitment ceremony with Babyshambles singer/perpetual train wreck Pete Doherty. This is a guy who is arrested for possession every other week, has spritzed blood from a needle at photographers and who allowed someone to take pictures of him shooting heroin into the arm of an unconscious groupie. So classy. And what is better than Kate marrying this guy? Her marrying a heroin addict in freaking Thailand. What, were the honeymoon suites at the Holiday Inn Kabul all booked up?

Kid and Pammy and Tommy
All three members of our favourite white trash menage hit Vegas for New Year's. You know that's gonna work out well. Or, it could end with Kid trying to break down the door to Tommy's hotel room in the middle of the night. Oh, and totally getting the wrong room. Nice one, Kid.

Reports have Brit being dragged/carried/shovelled out of the Vegas club where she was 'hosting' a New Year's bash. Gossips said she passed out from over-imbibing. Manager Larry Rudolph said she was just overly sleepy and, well, fell asleep. I know raucous nightclubs always put me right to sleep.

Justin and Cam
Might possibly, maybe, could have broken up in December. Oh, the tragedy of it all. I'm rooting for Cam and JT, mainly because all the inevitable post-break-up 'will JT and Britney get back together' gossip might just kill me. Let's all just agree that there is no chance JT's gonna tap that again.

Kate and Owen
Us Weekly says its over. And so it must be. The Butterscotch Stallion rides again.

Happy 2007!