Monday, February 28, 2011

Classic Sesame Street, Part IV

Our weekly Sesame Street blast from the past continues with none other than Oscar the Grouch, a character that has unfortunately been cast aside in many ways due to his alleged 'negativity'.  He was always one of my favorites and here he sings what would rightfully be his theme song - 'I Love Trash!'


Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Look At The Levels Of Losing

Brilliant Author;
Gigantic Dork
I was rummaging around ESPN’s Page 2 archives and I came upon one of my favorite articles from the days of old – Bill Simmons’ “Levels of Losing”, in which he describes thirteen different levels of losses, because as we well know, not all losses are created equally. For example, to a baseball team, a loss on April 15th pales in comparison to a playoff or World Series loss.

Simmons gave his own personal reflection about each level based on his Boston fandom, and I thought, you know what, I am going to do the same, but with Philadelphia sports. Most of the following are Philadelphia sports losses, but there are a couple here in which the teams of Philadelphia actually inflicted the loss – although that is not exactly something that is common.

I will give Simmons’ definition, then my example. If you want his examples, follow the link above…

Level 13 – The Princeton Principle
Definition: When a Cinderella team hangs tough against a heavy favorite, but the favorite somehow prevails in the end (like Princeton almost toppling Georgetown in the '89 NCAAs) ... this one stings because you had low expectations, but those gritty underdogs raised your hopes ... also works for boxing, especially in situations like Balboa-Creed I ("He doesn't know it's a damn show! He thinks it's a damn fight!") ... the moment that always sucks you in: in college hoops, when they show shots of the bench scrubs leaping up and down and hugging each other during the "These guys won't go away!" portion of the game, before the collapse at the end.
I can’t think of too many examples of this, precisely because there hasn’t been too many times in which a Philly team could be considered a ‘Cinderella’ in any meaningful sense. However, I will open up the floor for comments and suggestions regarding this one.

Musings On A Sunday Morning

- It is Cardinal's Appeal weekend in the Archdiocese of Washington.  We in the congregation listened to a message from Donald Cardinal Wuerl in lieu of a homily today and then we started filling out the Appeal envelopes containing our pledges.  They would be picked up by the ushers using their baskets.  When the usher came to my section of the church, the lady in the pew right before mine just mindlessly put a five-dollar bill in the basket.  Hmm.  Let's see - a collection before the general intercessions and lots of huge envelopes being put in there.  Have a little more awareness of your surroundings, lady.  And later, she didn't put anything in the basket when the actual collection began.  Of course not.

- Even on a Sunday morning, Walmart is a mad house.  Some things were needed, including lunch food for the week and Q-Tips.  The checkout line we entered was the express lane that also contained the cigarettes and dip.  The price of cigarettes is absolutely outrageous!  A pack of Marlboro Reds costs $7.47.  Wow.  As a former smoker (Marlboros were my choice), I was used to paying between three and four dollars per pack, depending on the state in which I was (WV and OH for the lower end, MD for the higher end).  At least $3.50 ($2 MD excise tax, $1.01 US excise tax, plus MD sales taxes) of that $7.47 is some kind of tax or another.  In other words, the governments of Maryland and the United States make more money than the tobacco companies do.  

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Curse Of The Guaranteed Contract



It has always been a maxim in sports that 'it is easier to fire the coach than it is to fire (fill in the blank amount) players'.  However, there comes a point when that maxim crosses the line into absurdity and farce.  The first link has to do with this; the second doesn't, but what both of them show the inherent problems of guaranteed contracts in professional sports.  Simply cutting the player for insubordination (Exhibit A) or personal problems (Exhibit B) isn't within the purview of management in those leagues with such contracts.  

Once the dotted line is signed, the franchise puts itself on the hook for that amount of money and other than a clear violation of contractual obligations by the player, there is no way to recoup the money if the player becomes washed up or is just generally a pain in the ass.  There is only one solution to this - eliminate the guaranteed contracts.  The players obviously will resist this, but this is why there is certain to be some kind of lockout in the NBA.  Something has to give.  It remains to be seen who will blink first.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ben-Hur Rowing Scene

One of my absolute favorite scenes of all time.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Classic Sesame Street, Part III

I remember this one used to freak me out a little bit.  This, though, was in a golden era of Muppet-human interaction and this particular sketch makes A Night At The Museum look like utter insanity and foolishness.  


Spring Training #2 - The Phillies Pitching Staff

Last week, we covered the Ten Questions concerning the Phillies; this week, we take a look at the full pitching staff, complete with a discussion of their strengths and weaknesses.  Ryan covered the starters and I covered the bullpen.  Any further discussion can be had in the comment thread.  -- J.L.

Starters

Roy Halladay -- 21-10, 2.44 ERA, 250.2 IP, 219 K, 7.9 K/9, 1.1 BB/9

Strengths -- To me, he is the best pitcher in baseball at the moment. He came over to the National League and just dominated. He constantly throws strikes. His cutter is one of the best in baseball. He uses it to get right handers chasing, or to jam a lefty. Then, he has a curveball that drops off the table and is a perfect 2 strike pitch. He developed a change up last year under Rich Dubee and it became an effective pitch for him. It drops off the table like a spilt-finger pitch. All of his pitches are above average and he seems to have this pinpoint control that most pictures don’t have. This control is his biggest strength because he has total control of the strike zone with all of his pitches. He doesn't walk many.

Weakness -- He really doesn’t have a weakness. One thing I will say is that he nibbles at times, but that’s really it.

Sunny Day...

...and we are off from school!

We had gotten a few inches of snow plus a lovely glaze of ice and that was enough for Prince George's County to call the whole thing off.  But as I look outside my window right now, it's a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day.

Granted, it's still only about 27 degrees outside now, but it was 72 just a couple of days ago. Such things wreak havoc on the sinuses, I must say.  

I would venture a guess that this will be it for the winter season.  The temperatures should warm up considerably over the next few days and within one week, it will be March, and my favorite month will finally be over.  There have been some wild storms in the month of March (1993 comes to mind), but I would bet against it.  Maybe Punxsatawney Phil will be right.  

However, I would seriously bet against that also.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dear Ruben Amaro - WE WANT ALBERT!!

PLEASE COME
HERE ALBERT!!
Ruben Amaro, Jr. did an interview with Mike Missanelli on 97.5 the Fanatic in Philadelphia recently, and one of the questions he got asked by Mikey Miss was whether or not he would acquire the great Albert Pujols if the Cardinals came requesting a trade for Ryan Howard.  His response was the following...
“That’s a very silly question. It one of the most silly [questions]. You know it’s one question one wouldn’t answer. That’s the silliness. We have a great first basemen. We’re very happy with him.”
In other words...are you kidding me??  HELL YEAH, I'd take it!! On The Good Phight's "Smug Advisory System", this may rate a Yellow (Disdain) for his comments.  At least this is how we interpret the comments here in the Lattanzi Land Baseball Command Center.

It is obvious that Rube has the thought on his mind.  We would like to encourage him.  It isn't that we don't like Ryan Howard, but it's Albert Pujols.  You have your mission, Rube.  Don't disappoint us.  

There are some people who will disagree with this....all of 100 of them, that is, plus the surfer guy in the Long Drive videos (NSFW).  They need to realize that Rube always has our best interests in mind, and he doesn't need the help of us little people.

So let it be written, so let it be done.  Bring us Sir Albert.  

Amen.

The Intercounty Connector

After so many years of acrimony and complaining, the Intercounty Connector (ICC) will finally open its first section on Wednesday morning.  I have been a supporter of the ICC as something that needed to be built for people to drive from the upper sections of Prince George's County and lower sections of Howard County across to the middle of Montgomery County without having to either take the Capitol Beltway or winding roads such as Briggs Chaney and Van Dusen.  Nick has more about some of the technical aspects of the highway, including the toll structure.  

I, for one, welcome our new ICC overlords!

Calling Mark Twain...

"The rumours of my death have been greatly exaggerated"*

The New York Times ran a story today talking about the death of blogs.  Apparently, because the youngins' prefer to have their cultural ADD affirmed, they are not blogging as much.  Instead, Twitter and Facebook have become the primary outlet.

However, not all is lost.  While those in my age bracket (an odd 18-33 years old) have also declined in their use, those who are over 33 have increased their blog usage.  The same holds true for Facebook as well, which leads me to think that the younger crowds will begin leaving that medium in droves, as it is 'uncool' to participate in the same arena as their parents and, God forbid, their grandparents.  I agree with some of the commentary that says that social media isn't the enemy; I use Facebook and Twitter to share my blogging as well.  It's not a dichotomized situation, it's complementary.

Anyway, time will tell, I suppose, as to whether the trends in the story hold true.  Otherwise, we will continue to provide commentary here as long as we can.  Hopefully you will continue to read it.

*The actual Twain quote is "The report of my death is an exaggeration", but the above is one of the more eloquent misquotations we have.  Therefore, it stays.

My Final NASCAR Post...Maybe

I was on Deadspin last night and I happened to see a cross-promoted post from its sister site Jalopnik (all part of the Gawker network) talking about the Top Ten Greatest Crashes in the Daytona 500, even providing video and so forth.  I went through it and watched the videos, but as I went from ten to one, there seemed to be one glaring omission...

The 1979 final lap crash between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough.

The crash itself had overwhelming consequences for the race and for NASCAR itself.  Allison was leading and Yarborough was behind him, drafting closely.  The crash allowed for Richard Petty to come around and win the race, even though he was several seconds behind the two of them.  That doesn't even include the fight that broke out on the infield between Allison and Yarborough, which also brought in Allison's brother Bobby.  Watch for yourself...




If they are going to include significance as a criterion for 'greatest crashes', then this has to be in the Top Three. Dale Earnhardt's death crash is number one, and the 1979 crash should be number two just because of its long-lasting significance to NASCAR.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

My Experience Of The Daytona 500

I spent the afternoon over on Maryland's delightful Eastern Shore with friends to watch the Daytona 500 (allow me to give a shout-out for the great party thrown by our host and hostess!). Each person had a four-member pool of drivers to win.  My drivers included non-favorites such as Martin Truex, Jr. and David Gilliland.  Some of the race was really exciting, but there seemed to be too many cautions; something which I guess we could expect with a brand new racing surface.

Toward the end, I started gaining hope with David Ragan in the #6 car.  He was leading heading into the final laps when a caution occurred, causing the race to finish with the so-called 'green-white-checkered' scenario.  However, Ragan screwed up his chances by jumping lanes right during the restart.  That was kind of a pisser.  The checkered flag dropped with a twenty-year old rookie named Trevor Bayne crossing the finish line first, becoming the youngest man in Daytona 500 history to win the race.  Congratulations to him on that.

I only pay cursory attention to NASCAR, but I can speak intelligently about even as I poke fun at it for making only left turns and going around and around.  It is indeed a sport, and its drivers are indeed athletes. That being said, it's now time for me to turn back and continue waiting patiently for baseball to return to its rightful place as the most superior of all sports.

Anyway, welcome back to Sprint Cup racing.  Enjoy the season.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Fascinating Look Inside The Hollywood Mindset

Mark Harris over at GQ has written a piece called 'The Day the Movies Died', a look at the sort of vicious circle we have entered in our movie-viewing culture.  A lot of the piece focuses on how the film industry has become the incestuous and unoriginal behemoth that we have come to know and love.  Harris assigns the blame in several places, and generally sees the industry beginning to slide in the mid-1980's, especially with the release of the 1986 film Top Gun:
Adults were treated as adults rather than as overgrown children hell-bent on enshrining their own arrested development.

Then came Top Gun. The man calling the shots may have been Tony Scott, but the film's real auteurs were producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, two men who pioneered the "high-concept" blockbuster—films for which the trailer or even the tagline told the story instantly. At their most basic, their movies weren't movies; they were pure product—stitched-together amalgams of amphetamine action beats, star casting, music videos, and a diamond-hard laminate of technological adrenaline all designed to distract you from their lack of internal coherence, narrative credibility, or recognizable human qualities. They were rails of celluloid cocaine with only one goal: the transient heightening of sensation.
In other words, marketing became the primary motivation for the studios.  That shouldn't be too much of a surprise, but as Harris later points out, the obsession with brand became one of the industry's downfalls even as it continued to make money.  Hence all the constant sequels, optioning of comics, remakes of previous films, and even films based on toys and Saturday-morning cartoon.

The NBA All-Star Weekend: A Lost Love

The NBA All-Star Weekend has gotten underway once again, with the celebrity game (completely unwatchable) and the Rookie-Sophomore Game (generally entertaining, but with no defense) being staged last night; tonight presents the 3-point shootout and the slam-dunk contest and tomorrow's climax includes the actual all-star game.

However, it just doesn't feel the same anymore.

When I was a kid, the festivities surrounding the weekend were something to which I looked forward each year.  We could always see the best players in the slam-dunk contest (Jordan, Wilkins, Dr. J.), the sharpest shooters in the 3-point contest (Bird, Price, Miller); the game itself would have a handful of moments that would be seared in memory.  I remember Magic Johnson's heave-ho three-pointer toward the end of the 1992 game and Scottie Pippen's gigantic red sneakers in the 1994 game.  My family would actually surround the television for all the events, since both of my parents were big basketball fans and we would pick sides and root for and against the players we liked and hated, respectively.  We always rooted for the eastern conference to win, even if it meant rooting for players such as Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, and Bill Laimbeer to perform well.  

Somewhere along the line, the festivities fell off.  The players who got involved with the non-game aspects of the weekend seemed to be more second and third tier players; the NBA started tinkering with the formula by adding strange things such as 'skills challenges' and WNBA players.  As I have written previously, no one cares about the WNBA, and the addition of WNBA players to the NBA festivities is just a cynical and shameless attempt at publicity for their failing subsidized league.  The game itself, while it is meant to be a fun experience, didn't seem to have the rivalry and pride aspects that it used to have.  

I have paid cursory attention to it for the past few years, but none of it holds the same meaning as it did even ten years ago, and eons less than it did 15-20 years ago.  Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin make the dunk contest a little more palatable, but that is just one guy per year.  The game itself is just one big circus and marketing experience now.  It's sad, but in a lot of ways, I used to hold up the NBA All-Star weekend higher than even the baseball all-star break.  Not anymore.  It was something that I loved and revolved an entire three days around. I suppose there is some truth in what Tennyson wrote: 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

But I guess that this is one love that will never really recover.  It is indeed lost, and probably forever.  But hope still remains for a recovery.  It just won't be this year.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Observations On Wisconsin

- I am quite disturbed by the images coming out of Wisconsin.  Whether you have people comparing Governor Scott Walker to Adolf Hitler, or holding up signs that try to compare themselves to the people protesting Egypt, it makes me wonder sometimes...

- The public sector unions are acting like big babies....really, because you might have to contribute to your own medical insurance and pension costs?? Boo-hoo.  Welcome to the reality that there are no free-lunches.

- I wish the various media outlets would at least get this part of the story right - the bill in the Wisconsin legislature would not 'ban unions' - but would eliminate collective bargaining for public sector unions.  Notice that private sector unions will go untouched here.

- All of this brings into stark focus the question of why we even have government employee unions in the first place.  The last time I checked, state and federal employees already have fairness protections in place.  They don't technically need a union, although I don't know if I would call what they have an actual union - since they don't actually ever negotiate with the 'other side', i.e. the taxpayers who pay for their salaries and benefits.  Public sector unions are grossly incestuous - the dues received ultimately come from the taxpayer, which is really what all of this is about - not wanting to lose that built-in subsidy.

- The rest of us in the real world have to tighten our belts and suck up things such as inflation and the ever rising prices of basic staples and commodities.  We make do.  It's time that the people who are 'protesting' grow up and come back to reality - that Wisconsin (and almost every other state) has money issues that were predicated on ballooning public sector wages, benefits, and pensions.  Yes, it's painful, yes it isn't fair.  But as they should have learned from an early age - life isn't fair.  Not by a long shot.

- I don't know whether to laugh or not over the Wisconsin Democratic state senators wimping out and getting on the short bus to go to Illinois.  Just utterly shameful, and to say that running away is 'defending democracy' is a sheer amount of chutzpah.

- Another form of chutzpah comes from the numerous teachers who 'called out sick' to go to the state capitol to whine about the legislation.  There has been some claims that they are protesting 'for the children'.  Please.  Denying children their education to protest for the children's benefit?  Doublethink, at best.  They even brought the kids with them.  I wonder if Gov. Walker is going to emulate Ronald Reagan vis a vis PATCO and give the teachers and other public employees an ultimatum.  With unemployment as high as it is, I am sure there are a plethora of people out there who will be ready and willing to step in.

- It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out, and whether it spreads anywhere.  Ohio looks like it is the next one up, and with shortfalls occurring in so many states, we'll see how much the authorities will put up with the temper tantrums that we have seen on display over the past couple of days in Madison, Wisconsin.

Discontent In Wisconsin

I find the events in Wisconsin to be ludicrously tragic, or tragically ludicrous, if you prefer. More to come on this later. There is much of which to be disturbed.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Classic Sesame Street, Part II

The sweet, beautiful, and ever-haunting song of Ernie, 'I Don't Want To Live On The Moon'. It still moves me to this day.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Can't Even Fathom This...

Would you base a
sitcom on this??
...a sitcom based on the life and career of.....

Colin Cowherd.  

Good God.

Deadspin has a leaked pilot script.  It is AWFUL.  I read it twice just to be sure it wasn't a joke.  Tommy Craggs' fisk of each slide of the script alone is worth the read.  I had thought that the networks had learned a valuable lesson from the failed show Listen Up!  Guess not.  

By the way, I hate Deadspin's new site layout. 

Fine Lines

This story demonstrates a couple of fine lines that we all tend to walk in society, namely:

a) Free speech and employment. Mostly, free speech has to do with the political process more than anything else. It won’t necessarily protect you from your employer when you badmouth it or the clients, in this case, the students.

b) The difference between wit and stupidity. Some people’s stupidity shines forth. I can understand that this lady wants to vent, but for the love of God, don’t vent about your employer or clients online where everyone and his brother can get a good look at it. Everyone has frustrations about work, but as the great line from Ecclesiastes 3 says: ‘there is a time and season to every purpose under the heavens’.

As a teacher who blogs, I have a very straight-forward philosophy about this particular medium - don't share anything that you wouldn't have as public knowledge.  This blog functions as a place for commentary on outside events and things that interest me; the personal stuff is few and far between.  I think this woman erred by being so explicit about her negative comments regarding her students and place of employment.  I don't know if she deserves to be fired, but it should be a warning that anything put into cyberspace can be used, as this one guy found out two years ago.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Spring Training #1 - Ten Questions About the 2011 Phillies

Welcome to the Lattanzi Land Spring Training Preview! Over the next seven weeks, Ryan and I will be going through the various aspects of the Phillies and the rest of baseball. At the beginning of each week we will cover a new part, culminating in our predictions for how the season will play out during the final week. Of course, there will be other Spring Training talk, but nowhere near as organized as this series will be. This week's inaugural installation has us answering ten questions about the Phillies. I had done this last year, and it's sort of fun to see how well it goes. We would love your feedback, either in the comments or via email. Enjoy! -- J.L.

1) Can the Phillies win their fifth straight division title and beyond?

Ryan: The Phillies seem to be poised to win their fifth consecutive division title this year. The core is a year older, but it seems with the addition of Cliff Lee, the rotation will carry this team to its 5th consecutive division title. As for the beyond part of the question, that is the bit question for this organization. With all the success that they have had over the last few years, you have to wonder about the minor league system. They have their top prospect, Domonic Brown (zOMG), coming up this year. The problem with that is that is the only talent they have on the top level of the system, but as you look deeper into the system, they have talent. With talents such as Jared Cosart and Jonathon Singleton, they seemed to be poised to keep the winning ways going after this core is gone.

Josh: I hate to talk about anything as a foregone conclusion, but I can say that I have never been so optimistic as I am this year, and people who know me well know that I am pessimistic as hell – always waiting for the other shoe to drop and so forth. Beyond this year, I can’t say. I am just so excited to watch this team, even if there are some question marks involved, more of which we will get to below this response.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Presidential Religion

The 'what religion is Obama' question has manifested itself again, but from an unlikely source - Bill Maher.

Maher said that he has a hard time believing that the President is a genuine Christian; instead, he considers Obama to be a secular humanist.  I find it interesting because through last year, there were low-volume rumblings  of people who increasingly believed Obama is a Muslim.

I believe that Obama is a Christian, but I can see why the varying parts of society are convinced otherwise.  It was amusing to see the mainline media's reaction in the summer time to the polls that showed nearly one-fifth of Americans believed the President is a Muslim - it had a very Seinfeld-ian feel to it:

HE'S NOT A MUSLIM!!!  Not that there's anything wrong with that...

I can't remember any president in history that has had as big a perception problem regarding religion as this one, and I don't think that problem is going away any time soon.

*UPDATE* Speaker of the House John Boehner must have read this blog post.

Those Magical Four Words

Pitchers.

And.

Catchers.

Report.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Winter Sports

Note: This coming week will begin the Lattanzi Land coverage of Spring Training, both from a Phillies perspective as well as a league-wide one

It has always been clear; at least I have tried to make it clear that baseball is, was, and always shall be my number one sport.  There are so many beautiful things about baseball that it would take a month to enumerate them here.  I like football, but its primary purpose is to provide something for me to watch between October and January.  That leaves us with February and March.  There is bowling on Sundays, but that takes only about two hours and doesn't give me anything for the other hours of the day and week.

And yes, Spring Training occurs during those months, but there aren't any games to actually watch; it's mostly anticipation for early April when the real games do begin.  What does that leave us with, then?  Basketball and hockey.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Will It Be Enough?

Egyptian 'president'* Hosni Mubarak has resigned, and now Egypt is being ruled by its military.  The fundamental questions, though, are a) is it enough to assuage the protesters and b) will it be enough to rest 

The answer to that is - it depends.

I had actually thought that Mubarak was going to stick around until September as he had said last night, but I feared that it would lead to a similar series of events as occurred in June, 1989 in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, complete with a military crackdown.  However, the military crackdown that hasn't occurred (yet) would probably be the only similarity with the 1989 events in China.  

Not a lot of people are getting a good reading on the protesters, myself included.  The only unifying sentiment seemed to be anti-Mubarak.  The one variable here is the Muslim Brotherhood.  If they get a hold on the people protesting and by extension, any kind of election, then Egypt may well turn into an extremely hostile state to America.  No matter what James Clapper says, the MB is not a 'secular' organization and never has been.  

Elections are allegedly going to be held at some point.  It remains to be seen exactly how the various factions slug this one out.  Either way, the relationship between the US and Egypt will be changed and the reality on the ground in the Middle East will also be changed.  Good or bad?  I can't say, but I would bet on the latter at present.

*I hate it how we just grant the title of 'president' to many heads of state.  In the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003, there were so many stories that called Saddam Hussein the 'president' of Iraq.  Right.  Just as Castro is the 'president' of Cuba.  Mubarak was a dictator, end of story.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lattanzi Land Press Conference and Statement

Thank you all for attending this press conference.  I would like to read a statement...
On the advice of my counselor, the esteemed Dustin R. Holt, I shall from hereon refrain from any and all talk concerning the National Football League, its game, players, or legal battles until either a lockout occurs or a collectively bargained agreement is reached between the league and the players.  I regret this course of action, but with all the attention-whoring the league has demanded with its attempt to be a 12-month per year organization and its butting into all facets of media, I have decided to simply avoid conversation about the NFL.  
This was not an easy decision, but I had to consider my family's feelings in the matter. There is just too much at stake to be devoting so much attention to professional football when there are other more important issues - baseball, politics, the world, and entertainment - that bear discussing and dissecting.  Any further inquiries regarding this position can be taken up my PR team.  Thank you for your time.
Now we will open up the floor for questions.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

BWS In Unexpected Places

Holy Sh*t!!

I went to read The American Spectator’s website expecting to find commentary on various political issues and I find this article by Quin Hillyer. I have to say that I am kind of disappointed and disgusted. Usually, Battered Wife Syndrome is something we tend to find in sports media who have a vested interest in seeing the NFL continue business as usual (see here and here for what I mean). I expected better out of Hillyer, whose writing I generally enjoy reading. Here's a small sample, just to get the flavor…
The National Football League has one of the best things going in the history of team sports. Its owners and players are on the verge of blowing it entirely, leaving the fans in the lurch. The game should belong to the fans who pay for it. If the owners and players ruin the coming season, may a serious pox be on both their houses.
And that’s the OPENING paragraph!! It only gets worse from there.

Just utterly disappointing....

High Speed Rail = Boondoggle Extraordinaire

I want to know who exactly is clamoring for this. If it were wanted, it would have been built already. That’s how the market works. Sometimes, it would just be better to leave well enough alone.

Enough with the comparisons to Europe and Japan – they are much smaller countries, so that kind of comparison is apples to oranges in the first place.

Secondly, the government already has a train system that hemorrhages money – Amtrak. And now they want to put in $53 BILLION more into developing a high-speed train system. Give me a break. Is this the best they can do?

“Investment”, they call it, using tax money, but we’ll end up having to pay for it twice.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Classic Sesame Street

Ernie tries and fails to find four elephants in this picture. Bert, being the smart one, naturally just gets it.

A Few Further Thoughts On WND

I was saying to Adam V. (or here) on the comment thread from the last post that part of WND’s problem is that they focus on the wrong end of the story. This tendency stems in part from trying to be ‘alternative’ and ‘non-conformist’, which can be good in some ways, especially since the mainstream media often drops the ball or outright ignores the story.

That being said, if one wants to focus on the creeping up of Sharia law in the United States, screaming about halal, idolatry, and non-conformity to Acts 15 is precisely the wrong way to go about it. The same thing holds true on something like, say, the Obama birth certificate story. WND has been at the forefront of it for some time, but they go about this the wrong way as well. They tend to focus on the more outlandish conspiracy theories within the bunch rather than what it is really about. Does this discredit the story? Not really, but it’s akin to that old Boy Scout skit which has people looking for the quarter by the lamp post rather than down the dark alley where the quarter was actually lost because ‘this is where the light is’.

I understand they want to know about eligibility and so forth, but to me, the real question is: what is the President hiding? I don’t buy that he isn’t an American citizen or anything like that. I also don’t buy the conspiracy that people would plant birth stories in a Hawaiian newspaper in August of 1961 just in case people had doubts about a candidate in 2008. That kind of thing just doesn’t add up and it’s just another thing on which the more hardcore ‘birthers’ whiff, including the WND folks.

My feeling is that there is something on the birth certificate that would destroy the ‘official’ Obama narrative, whether about his birth itself, or about his parentage, rather than show that he was born in Kenya or that he has dual citizenship or anything to that effect. The longer he hides it, the more people will suspect something is up, and those numbers are already rising.  I would just prefer it if he released it and then we got on with our lives.  Alas, it just feeds the frenzy of an outfit like WND. 

And that's too bad.  

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Fundie Times Strikes Again!

I remember about ten years ago, I came upon a curiosity known as WorldNetDaily (WND). They positioned themselves as a large independent news source, which is somewhat true. But one thing that seemed to be consistent all the through the reporting and quite a bit of the editorial board was its fundamentalist Christian worldview.  They even used to give Hal Lindsey (of Late Great Planet Earth fame) a weekly column to discuss modern-day Israel's role in prophecy fulfillment and the end times.

Normally, that doesn’t bother me, but some of its stories and opinion pieces veer closely to utter kookery and some outright cross that line. This story, for example, talks about a pastor in Washington state who warns that people are ‘eating food sacrificed to idols’ – and by idols, he is talking about food that is known as ‘halal’, or permitted for those of the Islamic faith. In other words, he believes that Allah is some kind of false god, which he even says in the story.

WND runs with the story, and screams about how it violates the rules of the Apostle James in Acts, chapter 15 that Gentiles should avoid food sacrificed to idols. Anything with the halal marking shouldn’t be consumed by any Christian, because it would be idolatry!

Except that it isn’t.

‘Allah’ is simply the Arabic name for God. Christians who speak Arabic also pray to ‘Allah’. Are they idolaters? Of course not. Likewise, Muslims who pray to Allah aren’t idolaters.

This isn’t to say that Islam isn’t problematic as a religion, but seriously, if you are going to focus on the issues, let’s try something other than whether or not Allah is some kind of false idol. I get what they (the fundamentalists) are trying to do – show Allah as a false god and everything else falls apart. On this score, they are wrong, and they take their eye off the ball and strain at gnats while swallowing camels, and the Fundie Times (WND) aids and abets them.

Thank God For Dick Cheney!

Say Goodnight to the Bad Guy!
No, the title isn’t really trying to say that Dick Cheney is a panacea, a wise man, or even a good one. I saw the headline ‘Cheney calls Mubarak a good friend, US ally’ and the first thing I thought was ‘he is half right’ – right on being a US ally, but wrong saying he is a good friend.  Later, the full quote published had Cheney calling Mubarak a 'good man' too.  Ick.  Now,  I realize that sometimes we have to support less than savory characters for whatever geopolitical purposes, but the only way to do that is to still hold them at arm’s length.

One little tangent – I am tired of the way we throw the word ‘democracy’ around. Any study of history will show that democracy is a failed experiment, whether it was the good folks of Athens in the time of Socrates or the people at the Praetorium in Jerusalem chanting and shouting ‘crucify him’ at Pontius Pilate. What they should be saying is they want these countries to have a constitutional republic or a parliamentary system, rather than democracy. Pure democracy is a failure from the start, and any kind of strongman system is ultimately doomed.  Hell, all earthly systems are doomed, but we need to find the best one to survive. Some kind of representative system is that best way to prevent the shenanigans, and I know that they mean this when they talk ‘democracy’, but it’s still time to change the terminology, anyway.

Of course, we must always keep in mind that clarity is the politician’s mortal enemy and obfuscation is his best friend.

Closing The Book On The NFL Season

These are my final thoughts and words about the 2010 NFL Season and especially concerning the Super Bowl last night.  Once this post is done, I go on hiatus regarding all things football (aside from lockout or free agent news).

- Let’s start with some advertising – some ok, some horrendously bad. The Doritos finger-licking commercial was one of the worst ever; it is going to be a long time before I eat Doritos again, but for whatever reason, people loved it. The Darth Vader VW commercial was cute, but the fact that it was on the internet long before Super Bowl Sunday sort of took a lot of the steam out of it.  As reader Doyler (who hosted the fantastic Super Bowl party I attended) said yesterday. 'the internet ruins everything'.  Indeed. 

- I didn’t watch the halftime show, so I can’t properly adjudicate it. From all accounts, though, it wasn’t that great. If someone out there would like to enlighten me on the greatness of the Black Eyed Peas, please do so.

- Christina Aguilera’s rendition of the National Anthem was disappointing, to say the least. At the very least, try to know the words. Beautiful voice normally – crappy singing yesterday.

- Apparently….and I didn’t know this, and maybe you didn’t know it either, but there was a football game played in between the stage show and all the advertising. Anyway, congratulations to the Green Bay Packers for winning their fourth Super Bowl title.  More after the jump...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Programming Notes

Tomorrow, I will wrap up both the Super Bowl coverage and the NFL season with a final post. This week will not have much sports in it besides the final word on the 2010 NFL Season. Next week, though will start coverage on Spring Training as pitchers and catchers report.

Congratulation to the Green Bay Packers.  I got the Packers' score right - 31, and I was close with the Steelers (I picked 27, and they got 25).  Aaron Rodgers is your MVP and Disney World representative this season, which gives him more MVP's than Brett Favre ever got in the Super Bowl.  Good game, but not a top ten game, no matter what anyone says.

Come by tomorrow and read the final thoughts and last words as we close the book on this here 2010 season in the National.  Football.  League.

The Super Bowl Preview

It's here!  It's here!  Super Bowl Sunday.  Welcome to the final edition of Lattanzi Land picks for this 2010 NFL Season.  Unfortunately, Ryan has beaten me in the picks game, although luckily for me, I didn't lose any money; it was just for family bragging rights, which is actually more important than money in some ways.  These forecasts are not for gambling purposes, although if you do want gambling stuff, check out Nick's post on prop bets.  As always, you are welcome to place your pick in the comment thread.  Enjoy the game...and the (somewhat ridiculous) commercials - J.L.

Jerry World Cowboys Stadium
6:29 PM
FOX - Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (Plus a cast of thousands)

Ryan’s Take: It’s finally here, the Super Bowl! At this point, I just want the game to get over with so we can get on with our lives. The Super Bowl being in Dallas seems to have been marred by the winter storm that came through the area most of the week. This should really worry the NFL considering that they will be having it in New York in 2014, but that for another time. The Super Bowl has put the most talented team in the Packers and the most cohesive team in the Steelers against each other and boy it is going to be a dandy. The Packers have the best passing attack in the NFL. Speared by Aaron Rodgers, it can dissect any defense if it is on top of its game. Now add to that a solid running game with James Starks, it will be a formidable challenge for the great Steelers defense. That defense will have a tough task in defending this offense, but it will be up to the challenge with players such as Troy Polamalu and James Harrison keeping them in check. You also can’t discount the reliability of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and how he can devise complex and creative game plans to confuse this offense.

As for the Steelers offense, they have talent, but their offensive line is a mess. They recently lost their Pro Bowl (like that means anything) center in Maurkice Pouncey (GATOR!!! Had to mention it) and that may cause confusion on this offensive line. As I say those things, I still believe Big Ben will keep the Steelers in this game with their defense. Roethlisberger seems to be able to make plays out of nothing and that will help keep that offense alive when this attacking Packers defense. This Packers defense is one of the best in the NFL. They have a terrorizing menace in Clay Matthews, who will put pressure on Roethlisberger all day and some great cornerback play by Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams. Along with Dom Capers, who was helped along by Dick LeBeau in creating his Green Bay defense, this defense will be putting pressure and creating turnovers against this offense at some point in the game.

This Super Bowl is going to be quite an exciting one, methinks. I honestly think this game will come down to the last drive. Since I have always been one to side with more talented teams, I think the Packers will have that final drive with Aaron Rodgers winning the MVP on his way to being the Madden cover boy and allowing Michael Vick and the Eagles to dominant the NFC next year (I can hope, right?).

Green Bay 28, Pittsburgh 24

Josh’s Take: We have finally got to the Super Bowl Big Game. One of the reasons I hate the NFL (as an organization) so much is that they have a tighter ass than George Lucas when it comes to protecting their interests. I understand copyrights and intellectual property and so forth, but there is a line that is crossed when they send a cease and desist letter to a church because they had the temerity to call their gathering a *gasp* SUPER BOWL party!! The horror!! Of course, double standards are nothing new to the league, just witness their deal with Stub-Hub over resold game tickets. If you are an ‘official’ sponsor, you can call it Super Bowl; if not, you are SOL. Bring on the lockout.  Please.  I can't take the suspense any longer.

Oh yeah, the game! Looks like it will be a good one. It will not, I repeat, will not be a defensive struggle. There will be at least six touchdowns scored in this one. I (and thousands of others) feel that the loss of Maurkice Pouncey will be significant to the Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger has been especially vulnerable this year and postseason against pressure and the blitz. Centers are usually the anchor point and can call the protection. Watch for Big Ben to be running for his life a lot of the night. This, of course, doesn’t mean that he won’t give the Packers fits; he is one of the better quarterbacks on the fly and can improvise very well.

Ironically, the guy who is even better at getting out and doing the same is his Packer counterpart, Aaron Rodgers. The Packers are essentially a dome team who play quickly; the arena and surface of Dallas are ideally suited to their purposes. However, as hard as the Bears defense was two weeks ago, they are getting a different animal in the Pittsburgh D. The real key to the game when the Packers are on offense is the play of the Steelers’ secondary. The front line of Pittsburgh may get some pressure, but with Rodgers’ ability to move around, it may not make a difference, so thus it will be up to the defensive backfield to shut down the formidable receiving corps of Green Bay.

So how will it end up? Let’s just say that the Steelers’ ability to win ugly will come to an end tonight. They either win in a blowout or they lose a game they had a shot at winning. My bet is on the latter. There is no way this game is a blowout either way, so I am going to take the Packers winning in a relatively close fashion. My feeling is the score is going to look close, but it will actually be similar to Super Bowl 13 when the Steelers beat the Cowboys, 35-31 – it was actually 35-17 at one point, but Dallas made it closer at the end. I envision this kind of outcome.

Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 27

Thanks for following along this NFL Season.  Be sure to join us as we begin our baseball previews next week!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday Sports Roundup

- The Boston/Dallas NBA game was fantastic to watch....or is that FANNNNN-TASTIC?  Jason Kidd shows himself once again to be an assassin in addition to being one of the finest point guards ever.  However, sometimes the presentation of the game on TV leaves a bit to be desired.  I don't turn it on to see Ray Allen's mother, or any celebrity that happens to be in attendance.  I.  Just.  Don't.  Care.  Too bad we are such a star-f*cking culture.  I'm sure someone cares that Jack Nicholson and Jimmy Kimmel attend Laker games.  Unfortunately, they also happen to inhabit the board room of ESPN.

- I sort of feel bad for the Cleveland Cavaliers; we sort of knew they would hit the abyss after LeBron James decided to take his 'talents to South Beach'.  I didn't think it would be this bad...23 straight losses?  Ouch.  I was thinking about the Phillies' Major League record 23 straight losses in 1961.  They didn't have ESPN or the internet to trash them, and baseball provides the opportunity to get out the next day and try to end it.  The NBA doesn't play day after day; there is often time in between games to think about the ever-increasing streak.

- The NFL may have some egg on its face after the weather fiasco in Dallas Arlington "North Texas".  Many others have suggested it, and I agree, just have a four or five city rotation.  If they are going to play in cities with the possibility of cold weather, why don't they eliminate the neutral-site concept and play the game in Pittsburgh, as the Steelers would have had home-field advantage.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Bowl Pre-Preview

The Super Bowl is coming on Sunday. The Lattanzi Land picks for the Super Bowl will also come on Sunday. 48 hours before game time, here are some goodies...

Read Nick's Super Bowl preview series that has been happening all week.

Last year, Dustin and I did the top ten Super Bowls. It's never a bad time to look back at them again!

Bill Simmons has his preview.

Follow along Dan Shanoff's new media outlet - Quickish.

And last but not least - no Super Bowl look can be complete with the ever-present 'Super Bowl Shuffle'. It's hokey as hell, but damn it I love it! Enjoy...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Dan Snyder's Foibles Make Me Laugh...

...but only because I am not a Redskin fan.  It has been a few months since it originally came out, but Dave McKenna's guide to Dan Snyder has been back in the news again, since Snyder is most likely going to sue McKenna for defamation, also accusing him of being an anti-Semite.

Some of my favorites from the 'Guide'...
Dan-Jazeera: How Al Koken, a former employee of Snyder-owned sports station WTEM, describes the Redskins owner’s media operation.
Smokin' Al is absolutely right, and quite a zinger directed at ESPN 980. Although I must admit, aside from the coverage immediately surrounding the games, there isn't a whole lot of homerism involved. Except for Kevin Sheehan, of course. Can't win them all, I suppose.
George, Jeff: Quarterback and one of many Snyder-era free agent busts. Snyder brought George to D.C. on the advice of friend and former Redskins star Sonny Jurgensen. Terry Bradshaw pooh-poohed the George signing on the FOX pregame show: “Both Jurgensen and George have one thing in common—they’ve never won anything,” said the four-time Super Bowl winner.
ZING! (And I despise Bradshaw, but man, that was a good line)
“More than 200,000”: Number of names that Snyder claims are on the waiting list for Redskins season tickets. So why were the Redskins reduced to putting ads on the sides of Metrobuses this season?
*I* have gotten calls and emails from the Redskins asking if I want to buy season tickets. Come on. I guess it's just that Anne Arundel County outreach, eh?
Sponsored Sponsors: A technique created by the Redskins Broadcast Network in the Snyder era to cram in all the advertising sold on Redskins radio broadcasts. No segment of a Skins game goes unsponsored, leading to fabulous listening moments such as: “The GMRI scoreboard brought to you by McDonald’s.”
An unfortunate trend that has now permeated much of sports broadcasting, especially on the radio, since there are no visuals. What used to be parody is now real life. I once heard something about life imitating art...
Zorn: Verb meaning to humiliate an employee into quitting so the employer can avoid paying severance. The word was brought into the lexicon early in the 2009 season, after Snyder engineered a public emasculation of head coach Jim Zorn. Zorn’s play-calling duties were handed to consultant Sherm Lewis, who was working as a bingo caller at retirement communities in Michigan when Snyder hired him. At the time, Zorn had a year and $2.4 million remaining on his contract. He didn’t quit.
In other words, Dan Snyder is a massive d'bag.

Read the whole thing. If you are not a Redskin fan, you'll laugh. If you are, you will either cry or get angry. Either way, let me know which one is your favorite entry.

This Is The Kind of Thing....

...that pisses people off.

If you are going to pass rules, regulations, and laws, no one should be exempt from them just because they happen to be buddies with the folks in charge or donors - whether it is GE in regard to carbon emissions, or the over 700 waivers from the healthcare law.  

It's too much to ask, apparently.  Transparency!  Openness!  

I guess those were just buzzwords meant to fool an electorate.

The Day the Music Died...

February 3, 1959 - immortalized in Don McLean's "American Pie"...



That being said. Is "American Pie" the quintessential American song, or is it completely overrated? Tell me in the comment thread and bring it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

In honor of Groundhog Day and its namesake film, I present to you the following "lovely" song...



Somewhere, Bill Murray is having nightmares.

By the way, Punxsatawney Phil didn't see his shadow, which means he is still 61% certain to be wrong that Spring is just around the corner.

Just sayin'...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February - The Dog Days

I hate the month of February.

Thankfully it is the shortest month of the year.  Granted, there are some positives to the month, such as the Presidents' Day weekend, the celebration of Black History Month, and the start of baseball's spring training.  But that's about it.

February is truly the 'dog days' of the year, especially given what I do for a living.  School in February is the toughest because it is as far away from any meaningful break at either end of the year.  The only other month that comes close is October, but there is still the baseball post-season and football season to which we can pay attention.  What does February have?

The Daytona 500

Pfft.  (Sorry, Dustin)

(And yes, I am well aware the Super Bowl now occurs in February, but let's be honest, it will always be associated with January - as the rest of the NFL playoffs occur in that month and is the actual month in which it should occur.)

September has all the optimism that start the school year; November has Thanksgiving and December has exams and Christmas!  January has some breakage and a new semester beginning.  March has spring break, April has Easter, and May has the end.  June, July, and August are vacation months.  Even though people call August the 'dog days', you can't go wrong with it being vacation.

So back to February.  There's....Groundhog Day.  Does anyone care whether or not Punxsatawney Phil sees his shadow?  There's St. Valentine's Day, which I do not celebrate. College basketball, the NBA, and NHL.  Mildly interesting at best.  

Baseball, please come back.  Warmer weather, please come back.  Naturally, as I write this, it is a possibility that the weather will not cooperate and drop half an inch of ice on us here in the great state of Maryland.

February has just begun, but I want it to end already.

Mr. Pot, May I Introduce Mr. Kettle?


I have to say that the claim is a bit rich.   Glass houses and all that...

Anyway, I had predicted when the bill was passed just under a year ago, that the individual mandate would be struck down as unconstitutional, but I was a bit surprised that the whole thing got struck down...
The 'mandate' that everyone must buy some form of medical insurance will be struck down as unconstitutional. It is not in the purview of the federal government to force its citizens to buy a particular product and therefore the lawsuits that will be brought on almost simultaneously the moment the president signs the bill will prevail.
In a way, the decision striking the entire law is a logical extension of striking down the individual mandate; the individual mandate is the engine that makes the whole bill work.  No mandate means a bill that makes no sense.

I imagine that the case will be on the fast track to the Supreme Court; I don't think the administration will waste its time in an appellate court.

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