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Some Blog I Wrote

stuff i think about and then type on a keyboard

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Cubs Streaking; Rocket Red; etc.

The Cubs extended their win streak to four games and put themselves above .500 last night by defeating the Dodgers. Color me impressed when they manage to put themselves more than one game above .500. Also, I'd like to see a Cubs closer not give up a run no matter what the margin for error. Tonight's pitching match is between Carlos Zambrano and Brad Penny, which should be interesting.

Poor Roger Clemens. He polished another gem for the Astros only to see it scuffed and scratched by the bullpen and cold hitting. Some say he might try to get out of Houston by the All-Star Break if things don't turn around, but I don't see it happening. Of course, why would he still play unless he wanted to tally more wins, which has proved difficult, or make a few more playoff appearances, which seems impossible right now? In short, how fickle is the Rocket and how airtight is his big fat fancy contract?

The AL East is still confusing as all hell. The Yankees should get some free wins against the Royals while the Orioles and Red Sox beat up each other. That sound you hear is the ticking of the timer counting down the Yankees eventual (and unexciting) rise to the top of their division. Such is the fate of the "walking All-Star squad."

My hometown Rangers have the hottest winning streak in baseball -- eight staight. They've beat up on quite a few teams this season, including the currently #1 White Sox, but can they pull ahead of a usually tight division race?

Posted by GiromiDe @ 3:55 PM
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Ralph's World

Megan has become a huge of fan of Chicago-based children's musician Ralph Covert, and so have we. He produces music that appeals to both children and parents, because parents are the ones stuck with listening to the same music repeated ad infinitum. He mixes original music with his own versions of classic children's songs. He even offers his rendition of Sinatra's classic "Fly Me To The Moon".

(Ralph looks a bit like one of my dear friends and old college roommates Michael.)

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:45 AM
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Juxtaposition in Wisconsin

My family spent Memorial Day Weekend 2005 in Rochester, MN with our dear friends the Ruffs, who were gracious enough to host us. They relocated to Rochester from Chicago two years ago so that Kevin could serve his residency at The Mayo Clinic. The city itself is more scenic than I expected -- hilly and wooded with many well-maintained historic homes.

This was my first time driving from Chicago to Rochester. One need only follow I-90 for most of the trip. Along the way, I spied a few interesting landmarks. The ones that generated many road trip laughs were signs advertising The Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bicycle Museum in Sparta, WI. Someone or a group decided to combine the legacy of Mercury Seven member and Sparta native Deke Slayton with the history of bicycles. They also decided to create a website for the aforementioned museum that was marginally acceptable in 1998.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 10:00 AM
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Thursday, May 26, 2005

There's No "Meh" In "Team"

The Cubs decided .500 wasn't for them last night, allowing the Astros to end their latest extended losing streak with a 5-1 victory. While Maddux's pitching wasn't terribly reliable, the Cubs hitters failed to execute again. They helped Backe more than their own ace. Here's what Dusty Baker said last night after the game:
"'Can't' and 'don't' are negative words I don't use. We can [score runs]. We're just not hitting as a team. We get a couple guys hot, but we haven't had three or four guys in the lineup hot at the same time."
The Cubs are certainly not hitting as a team. No, Dusty-We-Trusty, it's not a matter of hot and cold. At least it shouldn't be. You're not hitting as a team because you're hitters aren't being efficient. Case in point. Sixth inning, down 2-1, the Cubs have runners one first and third with one out. Next batter, Jeromy Burnitz. Pops out on the first pitch. Next batter, Aramis Ramirez. Pops out on the first pitch. Inning over.

Such is the archetypal inning for the Cubs. Their hitting style remains "longball or leave 'em", "grand slam or strand 'em." When they finally get to the pitcher, they do nothing beyond loading bases. Batters come up expecting to pound on the pitch, even if it's the first pitch. They want the big homer or maybe the big hit, but the big homer gets the fans all giddy. All they needed to do was move one runner to home plate to tie the game and hopefully do some psychological damage to the pitcher. It's called smallball. It's called playing loose. It's called being opportunistic. It's the kind of baseball that's helped the Cardinals, White Sox, and Yankees, who happen to be hot teams at the moment.

Perhaps Baker's overall management style is too "big picture" and "hands off" to be effective. Too bad we lost today, but as long we play good down the stretch, we'll be okay. As players come back from the DL, our team will be better. Some day enough of our hitters will be hot to make some dents against good pitchers. He lets his hitters hit the way they want. He lets them showboat at the plate, giving the fans the best show possible. Yes, sports is entertainment, but Cub fans (the smart ones) are tired of seeing good talent wasted. Baker must think he's managing the Exhibition Cubs, the WGN Cubs, the Cubs-as-Brand, the Lovable Losers, the team with the showboat key player who hits the home runs while the team loses games. All the Jim Hendry deals in the world won't make the Cubs any better so long as the team mentality is stuck in 2001. Maybe all this talent we supposedly have flock to Dusty Baker because they know he'll let them play their own way, on a team that's not greater than the sum of its parts.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 12:00 PM
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Lost in Reflection

After watching the first season finale of Lost all I can say is, Huh? It's a good Huh, but a Huh nonetheless.

Dr. Heimlich has already compiled a great list of comments.

I was very pleased with the finale. Nothing was wrapped up, but characters continued to let their guard down. After all, Lost is more a broad ambitious character study than just a survival story. Jack and Locke finally butted heads. Hurley and Kate discussed numbers, then Hurley threw a well-deserved fit upon (finally!) seeing his numbers on the hatch. Claire, Shannon, and Sun engaged in light female bonding while Jin, Michael, Sawyer, and Walt established an odd comaraderie. Charlie proved his heroism to Sayid, but Sayid unwittingly introduced Charlie to the heroine stash (finally!). Dr. Arzt opened up very literally and very suddenly.

After the finale, we still don't know the significance of the Others, the Numbers, the Hatch, or Walt. If elements of the supernatural are at work, the writers have done a great job burying it in the general mystery of the Island. Even the "reveal" of the Monster didn't offer much other than sounds and actions that were more mechanical than animal -- possibly confirming my suspicion that the Monster is a machine, a literal security system, built into the entire infrastructure of the Island.

All I have left to finish is Alias, then it's nothing until Sci-Fi Friday returns in the summer.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:15 AM
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No More Turns! No More Turns!

Viral advertising is here to stay. On the heels of the Counter Counterfeit Commission comes Civilization Anonymous. Video material can be found here.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 10:45 AM
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Fun With Amazon Images

What's wrong with this picture?

One, Apple would never allow Amazon to mark down a perfectly good Dual 2.7 GHz PowerMac G5 by 99%. Two, Steve Jobs doesn't want anyone to "look inside" his stuff. Stay out!

With the help of a Peanuts site (of all places), we all know about Amazon's non-dirty non-little non-secret. Now, you too can waste valuable time falsely marking down Amazon merchandise.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 3:03 PM
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a funny thing (or three) happened on the way to the "W"

Last night, the Cubs extended the Astros losing streak to seven games by performing an often impossible task for the club -- clutch hitting. They scored all of their runs in the eighth inning after a dominating performance by veteran ace Roger Clemens. The Astros record on the road is now 2-21, and their fans must be beyond frustration.

It's one thing to watch an ace like Mark Prior collapse, as he did the last time he faced the Astros, giving up seven runs in one inning. But Clemens was note perfect save a groin pull that forced him to leave the game early, and his bullpen destroyed all his hard work. With the mild groin pull, even one missed Clemens start could be further devastating for the struggling Astros, as he has often been a reliable skid stopper. Astro fans had better pray nothing happens to Roy Oswalt.

I hope the Cubs can reach the .500 mark tonight. They have too much raw talent to be stuck in the doldrums of the NL Central, though raw talent means nothing thanks to the "hands off" management style of Dusty Baker. Seven games separate them from the Cardinals, and the Brewers are proving themselves competitive adversaries in the Division with good pitching and Cub-killer Carlos Lee (thanks, Southsiders!). The Cubs must play consistent above-.500 ball if they want even a shot at a Wild Card berth -- the NL Central is currently the only Division with a second place team below .500.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:15 AM
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Jack Bauer, Hitchhiker... er, Fugitive... er, Starman... er, Hulk...

My wife and I were only one day late finishing the last season of 24. Our household would be grateful if at least Alias returned to a normal fall to spring schedule next season. Two series airing an uninterrupted stream of new episodes is a bit daunting in light of all the other series airing new episodes.

What can I say? The finale was uneven, but it did set up the possibility for a great fifth season. The motive behind killing Jack before he's turned over to the Chinese government was plausible, so faking his death was equally plausible. Even poor Kim believes her father is dead, which is for the best as she would be endangered otherwise.

Let's hope the fifth season actually delivers on the promise of this season's finale. (I'm looking at you, season three!) Jack should remain persona non grata, and CTU should remain in the background at best. I'd love to see a Mission Impossible style off-site reunion of Jack, Chloe, Tony, Michelle, and President Palmer, and I'm so very sick of CTU. I'm sick of the dim lighting that requires almost all lights in my living room to be turned off. I'm sick of the incessant string of bullheaded, unimaginative superiors at CTU and from Division -- whatever the hell that is. I'm sick of CTU being a carnival of fools and an arena of backstabbing while Jack remains The Only Man Who Can Save America From Terrorism.

I have little reason to doubt that next season will be disappointing. 24 will add Manny Coto and David Fury. Coto was the man behind the brilliant but short-lived Odyssey Five who was later tasked to save Enterprise. Coto seems like a "think outside the box" kind of producer, though his attempts at helping Enterprise in its fourth season were more for the sake of plugging continuity holes than of telling good stories. Regardless, I think he'll steer the show in a new direction. Fury is best remembered for contributions to Angel and Buffy, but he's also written some of the best episodes of Lost ("Walkabout" and "Numbers") and is a writer for the summer series The Inside, which early reviews say is worth a look. He has a knack for building good characters, so we might see some real depth next season.

Tonight's viewing features the finales of Alias and Lost.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 10:50 AM
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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Revenge of The Low Expectations

Though I haven't seen it yet, I'm injesting all manner of discussions about Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. John Scalzi offers a great subjective-objective review followed by great duscussion while Kevin Smith might have some fiscal/career motivations behind his glowing review. (He's likely to helm some aspects of the upcoming Star Wars TV series.) My friend Dr. Heimlich retitled the film using a simple anagram of "Sith," so you can imagine his feelings. (When my friend Scott bothers to write a review, I'll add it to this post. No pressure, Scott.)

(And, yes, when I bother to see this, which might be when it's quickly ported to DVD, I'll offer up one big fat review.)

As I wrote above, the comments attached to Scalzi's post are as good as the post itself. Here is a quote from poster Jeff Zugale:
I just can't take it seriously enough to get offended at its flaws too much.
Perhaps that's all that needs to be said about the Star Wars franchise. The trouble is that the franchise was deadly serious for an entire film and part of two films before Phantom and Clones were released. All the canonical-until-Lucas-says-no books that filled the Star Wars fanboy's cravings during the "franchise drought" were fairly serious as well.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 3:05 PM
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Treason or Objectivity?

A Congressman caught a rerun of Real Time where Bill Maher said Army recruiting efforts recently failed because "we're done picking all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit." The Congressman is crying treason.

While what Maher said could be construed as insulting, I would never call it treason. It seems directed more at the Pentagon than at the actual troops. His earlier rebuttal to the notion that the 9/11 terrorists were cowards was also not an act of treason. He's rocking the boat and bucking the trend, but he's not undermining the security of this country. He's being objective if a bit snarky. This latest statement will likely find sentiment among many who feel the Iraq War is ultimately a failure and that all the Army wants for this war is cannon fodder.

Jingoists also publicly bemoaned Susan Sontag when she said the 9/11 terrorists weren't merely evil haters of freedom and liberty who cowardly flew planes into buildings. She dared say that the issue wasn't so black-and-white, that American actions in the past dictated the actions of the terrorists, that the terrorists had a legitimate reason in their own minds to do what they did regardless of the bloodshed involved. In other words, 9/11 didn't happen in a geopolitical vacuum. An ultimately objective view might say that America has done the same or worse.

Statements like these might rile jingoists, but they should be said and consumed because they might get people to calm down and see things from a different perspective. At the very least, these statements aren't as subjective, hyperbolic, and mean-spirited as the average Ann Coulter soundbite. Objectivity, even if it slants away from the vocal majority, is still better than unopposed subjectivity.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:50 AM
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Monday, May 23, 2005

Problematic Placeholder

From The Dallas Morning News, The Associated Press, and Knob-Fil-A:
Yearbook lists student as 'Black Girl'

02:01 PM CDT on Monday, May 23, 2005

Associated Press

WAXAHACHIE, Texas - A North Texas school district is having four pages of its high school yearbook reprinted to correct a photo caption that identified a student as "Black Girl."

All white students are identified by name in the photograph of Waxahachie High School's chapter of the National Honor Society. The teen identified as "Black Girl" is the only black student in the photo.

The district apologized for the mistake Saturday, a day after the yearbooks were distributed. The label apparently was meant to be a placeholder until the yearbook staff could track down the student's name, district spokeswoman Candace Ahlfinger said.

Ahlfinger said Monday that administrators have asked the publisher to reprint the affected page, its companion page in a two-page layout, and those two pages' back pages.

"We will never be able to minimize this damage, but this will change it so that it is not a constant reminder, so it won't be a forever," Ahlfinger told the Waxahachie Daily Light.

Students will be asked to bring in their yearbooks so the old pages can be torn out and the new ones glued in, Ahlfinger said. The district expects to have the reprinted pages by Wednesday. The last day of school is Thursday.
I wonder how many students will want their yearbooks replaced.

While a high school yearbook is a tedious thing to complete given the divided attention of the staff, this is quite a rude thing to leave in the final copy. I assume this is an innocent mistake on the part of a few non-black students with a sense of humor that should have been kept private. I hope the unnamed student has a sense of humor.

Imagine the uproar if the word "token" were used. On the other side of this, would "Fat Girl" or "Disabled Girl" have drawn as much attention?

Posted by GiromiDe @ 4:04 PM
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Alias TiVo Buffer Cleared!

My wife and I finally caught up with Alias on our TiVo last night. Only 24 remains, and we should be done this week.

After dismissing Alias as past its prime earlier this season, I admire the writers for trying to tie everything in the four seasons together. The past several episodes gave us glimpses at Bill Vaughn, SD-6, The Covenant, the Blackwell Index, the Helix Protocol, Rambaldi, Arvin and Nadia on the run, The Derevko Sisters (coming to a dinner theatre near you!), Jack's poignant past, and Arvin's poignant past. Here are some quick comments and questions:
  • Are we going to see Elena, Irina, and Katya together? That would pretty much rock.
  • Why oh why must Michael Vaughn still be referred to as "Vaughn" by those closest to him? I cringe every time Sydney says "Vaughn."
  • With both the Helix Protocol and Brainstorm, someone would be capable of completely duplicating an individual, which forces me to ask why Elena didn't completely duplicate Arvin Sloane rather than duplicate his memories.
  • We see the softer sides of Jack Bristow and Arvin Sloane -- two episodes in a row! And, we now know that Jack confided in Laura/Irina about his real job.
  • While the Mueller Device (Big Angry Red Ball) is a bit silly, it works within the mythology of the show. At least we finally see it doing something rather than just for the sake of awe.
  • I appreciated the science-meets-religion aspect of Rambaldi brought to the fore by the Mueller Device and the apiary. One could argue that when Man originally fell, God changed the DNA in all creatures to exhibit some natural aggression towards Man, including Man himself.
  • The writers poked fun at themselves with the whole "endgame" talk. We're sick of it, too.
  • I would express remorse at Lena Olin not returning to the series last season, but I think ABC's meddling in the unguided writers' affairs did more damage than her holding out.
  • If only the writers could have something for Will to do. So he's not necessary as there's no love triangle. Fine, but his character was really good!
With Alias renewed for a fifth season, not everything need be tied up, and I doubt the season finale will give many answers, if they even exist. As Alias is airing against Survivor next season, I can only imagine next season will be the last, so I hope they have a reasonable roadmap and an (gulp!) endgame. If Jennifer Garner were pregnant as is rumored, the show might take some odd turns.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 12:30 PM
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Separation of Church, State, Penis, and Vagina

Last night, 60 Minutes ran a piece about what I'll call the "Abstinence Movement." The federal government is dumping money into programs that (in at least one case, literally) preach abstinence. The piece covered Silver Ring Thing, a faith-based movement that asks teenagers to pledge not to have sex until marriage. Also covered was the growing number of abstinence programs offered in public schools throughout the country. In both cases, abstinence is taught at the total expense of safe sex. In the case of the Choosing The Best curriculum taught at schools with the help of $4 million in federal aid, the percentages of safe sex failure are to be highlighted instead of the percentages of success.

My biggest discomfort with Silver Ring Thing was that the program's founder, Danny Pattyn, eschewed condoms and safe sex. The best cults be they secular or religious always try to set up an Eschewable Other to be dismissed or hated "because the cult says so." He said he would tell his own daughter not to bother with a condom. If he meant this in the context of one facing the consequences of one's actions, I see his point. Regardless of the context, what he said touches on my biggest issue with this movement.

To what extent are the parents of these pledgers involved? Do so many of them hope that sending their kids to a Silver Ring Thing seminar or to a Choosing The Best class will be enough to scare them away from premarital sex? While both programs offer tools for parents, knowing the current state of family politics in this country, I find this as yet another opportunity for parents to passively-aggressively deal with their children's problems. These are faith-based movements being backed by the federal government (for the time being), so once again, we have government-sponsored programs instructing children on sexuality at the possible expense of parental involvement. Remember that federal funding would likely be revoked should safe sex be taught. Instead of a more progressive safe sex program that pundits on the right would decry as a "wacko far left agenda to encourage kids to have sex whenever they wanted", this is a right-leaning sex program that pushes abstinence but offers no fail-safe.

The secular part of my brain says abstinence and safe sex should be taught and urged if only for the sake of public heath, and the religious part of my brain thinks families should be more open about sexuality and use it in the context of religious teachings. Abstinence for the sake of the same sense of "cool" as used in the context of promiscuity is never going to work.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 10:00 AM
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Nugget of Wisdom

My dear friend Sean offered this insight on Knob-Fil-A:

[J]ust as [the United States] have every right to go into Afganistan or Iraq, I think we also have the right to go send troops into Darfur to, you know, STOP THE GENOCIDE there.... or into Uzbekistan where the government is gunning down people in the street. How about Saudi Arabia, which produced 10 of the 12 9/11 terrorists and is refusing access to UN weapons inspectors? I don't mind [the United States] being an arsenal of democracy and I don't even mind being the world's policeman.... I just don't like that we are becoming the world's LAPD of the early 90s, responding to 911 calls when houses in Studio City or Beverly Hills are threatened by crime, but doing nothing when gang-bangers are shooting down kids in the streets of Compton or East LA.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 9:21 AM
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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Crosstown Series 2005, Round Three

The final: White Sox: 3, Cubs: 4

2005 Series (thus far): White Sox: 2, Cubs: 1

Mark Prior threw 126 pitches for a complete game as he stopped a Sox sweep at Wrigley Field under ideal baseball viewing conditions. Prior struck out seven and walked one, improving his record to 4-1 and the club's record to 19-22. The Cubs runs consisted of a solo shot by Henry Blanco a three-run shot by Jason DuBois.

The Sox started newcomer Brandon McCarthy (Yet Another Young Tall Pitcher) in place of El Duque. McCarthy was impressive in his first Major League start, fanning six, walking one, and giving up two runs.

In other news, former Cub Matt Clement pitched a complete game for the Red Sox against the Braves, throwing 110 pitches and striking out seven. His record improves to 5-0, pitching the first complete game for the club this year.

The Astros were swept by the Rangers, extending their losing streak to five games. (They face the Cubs at Wrigley tomorrow.) After two close wins, the Cardinals lost to the Royals, slightly shrinking the buffer between them and the rest of the NL Central, who all remain below .500.

Desperate statistic posted on WGN: Prior is 11-0 in starts after consecutive losses.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 4:00 PM
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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Nugget of Wisdom

From a correspondence with my friend Dr. Heimlich who offered his opinion on Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith here:

...I'm resigning myself to the fact that more people disagree with me than agree on [Sith]. I don't know if it's that I am really being too easy on the classic trilogy, too hard on the prequel trilogy, or if other people are just too eager to forgive [George] Lucas the abusive boyfriend and accept him back for another beating -- but far more people like [Sith] than don't.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 10:59 PM
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Crosstown Series 2005, Round Two

The final: White Sox: 5, Cubs 3

Cubs center fielder Corey Patterson continues his good will campaign with Cub fans.

Carlos Zambrano was excellent on a beautiful afternoon. Jose Contreras also had a good outing, giving up only one run. Unfortunately, Zambrano's work was torn down by the Cubs bullpen (gasp!) in the 8th inning. With two outs in the 8th and the Cubs leading 1-0, the White Sox scored four runs, a rally which began when Corey Patterson failed to catch a fly ball from Paul Konerko.

At the bottom of the 8th inning, the bright center of the Cubs universe Derrek Lee started a two run rally, moving the Cubs to a one run deficit. Alas, pinch hitter Jermaine Dye scored a solo insurance run off of LaTroy Hawkins at the top of the 9th. The Cubs tried to rally again at the bottom of the 9th with their fastest runners at 1st and 2nd and two outs, but unlike the White Sox hitters, who thrive on taking the plate with two outs, the Cubs came up short.

In other news, my old home town team the Texas Rangers pounded the Houston Astros 18-6, posting two franchise records in the process: most home runs in a game (8), and most home runs in an inning (4). The Cardinals continue to edge past (?) the Royals. Misery loves company, and in the NL Central, if you're not the Cardinals, you're buying a lot of drinks.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 10:25 PM
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Friday, May 20, 2005

Crosstown Series 2005, Round One

I might not be watching this on TV or listening to WGN, but between MLB GameDay and this live blog, I have all I need.

The final: White Sox: 5, Cubs: 1

The best team in baseball improves their record to 30-12, being the first team to reach 30 wins this season. The Cubs drop to 18-21. As the Cardinals are facing the Royals the next three days, if the Cubs don't improve against the Sox, they'll be nine games from first place come Monday.

Why are the two three-game series between the Cubs and White Sox called the Crosstown Series? The Mets and Yankees have the Subway Series. As the same CTA El line feeds Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field, and as the two ballparks are actually quite close to each other, can't the local papers call these games the Red Line Series?

Perusing the rest of the interleague matches this season, I'm scratching my head as to why the Orioles aren't playing the Nationals in 2005. Is Peter Angelos still so bitter about the Expos organization's move to "his turf" that the MLB were touchy-feely with the schedules?

Posted by GiromiDe @ 3:53 PM
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Separation of Church, Pomp, and Circumstance

A pregnant Catholic high school student banned from walking across the stage at her graduation ceremony announced her own name and did so anyway. The father of the child was allowed to walk with everyone else.

Does she deserve some credit for not using birth control? At what point in the Catholic dogma does premarital sex trump the fact that said sex was performed without birth control? While what the school did was their choice to make, if she was to be shamed, the father of the child should have been shamed as well.

Perhaps what we don't know is that the father of the child disfigured himself for his actions.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 12:35 PM
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Joan Martyred

Joan of Arcadia was officially cancelled by CBS this week. My wife was a devoted fan of the series, and, though I didn't follow it as closely, I admired its ambition. Following the episodic structure of Quantum Leap with high school student Joan Girardi as Samuel Beckett and a denominationally-neutral "God" as Al Calavicci, the series maintained several entertaining and compelling character arcs while also trying to unify philosophy, religion, and science. The second season finale suddenly thrust the series into the realm of the apocalyptic, setting up a battle between Joan and "anti-Joan" Ryan Hunter, whose true nature and motives are unclear.

The first season is available on DVD.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:45 AM
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The Cardinals And The Five Dwarves

As of this writing, the St. Louis Cardinals are leading the National League Central Division by six games, and all other teams in the Divison are below .500. I recall last season listening to Chicago sports talking heads who were convinced the Cardinals were going to hit a cold streak. This was being said when they were running away with the Division with a nine game cushion and several weeks left. The 2005 Cardinals finally hit a cold streak... during the World Series.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:22 AM
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Eight Is A Magic Number

Hot dog bun maker S. Rosen signed a "Piece Treaty" with hot dog maker Vienna Beef. They will produce compatible numbers of buns and weiners in their respective packages. If I allowed myself to eat more than four hot dogs each year, I'd be thrilled.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:20 AM
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A Yooge Mistake?

The live third season finale of The Apprentice ended with the hiring of Kendra over Tana, extending the Book Smarts win streak to three seasons and giving Donald Trump his first female apprentice. While Trump dwelled more on their respective performances on their final tasks, George and Carolyn, as expected, looked at their overall performances over the monthlong period (not "thirteen weeks") during which they were asked to perform a string of 48-hour tasks with competitors while being deprived of sleep. Nevertheless, Trump wanted someone who seemed to be more a team player rather someone who seemed to want the job more.

My wife and I take issue with the final tasks upon which they were judged. Kendra was given the easier of the two. The venue was smaller, the scope was smaller, and the number of VIPs was smaller. All she really had to do was stroke the egos of Best Buy, Electronic Arts, and Sony. Tana had many more balls to juggle in the same amount of time. While Tana's outward attitude toward her assigned underlings could've been better, her performance elicited positive comments from some number of VIPs at the event.

A bigger problem we have is that Kendra flew under the radar for quite a long time while Tana stuck her neck out at every opportunity. She went so far as to rally for herself in the live finale, publicly announcing she thought of the circular shape of the Pontiac brochure that catapulted Kendra to "rock star" status. She also reached a bit by saying she was 28 credits short of a college diploma and that her sense of humor "didn't show" when she refused to share the limo with her assigned underlings after her final tasks ended. This aside, she seemed more willing to fight for her job than Kendra, who was coasting on the same "I'm better educated" fumes as Jen last season.

Kendra isn't a bad choice, but she doesn't stand out as much as Tana. Yes, Tana is rough around the edges, but put her in a more relaxed environment than the constant artificial stress of the show, and she could find her footing in the corporate world quickly. Her biggest mistake in the show was electing to sleep while Kendra pulled an all-nighter on the Pontiac brochure, but she should be allowed that mistake. She had earned an exemption from the previous task, and given the aforementioned stress, I can't blame her. And, Tana would've been a perfect fit for working with the Miss Universe Pageant, which is still popular for some reason. I don't think the editing was unfair to Kendra or Tana -- I recall Tana's circular concept for the Pontiac brochure was included in the footage aired.

Should anyone ultimately care? After all, it's just a TV show whose sole purpose is to cram viewers' eyeballs with yet more advertising, be it some gaudy Trump construct or weekly show sponsors. And, the "winner" get a "prize" of a job with a million-dollar salary. Will I bother with next season after being sucked in this season? Maybe, if new "mentor" Martha Stewart discards the public mask of reasonability she donned for so many years and shows anything close to the dark side hinted at by so many.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:15 AM
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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Sawyer's True Name

Last night's Lost revealed Sawyer's true name -- James Ford. (It also featured him shirtless on many extended occasions, much to the delight of my wife.) As another character, John Locke, has a noted real-life counterpart, below are some notable Google results for a real-life James Ford.

James Ford, New Orleans Saints Running Back

James Ford, "Satan's Ferryman"

James Ford, M.D., Oncologist at Stanford

James Ford Bell, Founder of General Mills and Benefactor

James Ford Rhodes, Civil War Historian

Posted by GiromiDe @ 10:30 AM
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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Car Porn

Richard Jeni once defined human pornography as "things that never happen to you." I define automobile pornography, or "car porn" to the layperson, as "things you'll never do with your own car."

Advertising is rife with car porn, be it a Hummer 3 in rough sandy terrain, a Bonneville in the Salt Flats, a BMW on a speedway, an Xterra parked on the side of a mountain bike trail, or a Lexus driving down a deserted, winding, wooded, scenic road. In many cases, these are incidents of lifestyle advertising -- a capitalist/consumerist take on identity politics.

How about a Hummer ad featuring the driver with a goofy grin in his or her face holding a 1040-A featuring the windfall from the tax loophole his or her household received just from purchasing the unnecessary behemoth? A Hummer ad featuring onlookers giving the driver the finger? An Escalade ad with the driver fueling the car and gazing at the meter with a sickened look on his or her face? A Cadillac with nothing visible in the cabin but big poofy hair and hats? Any brand of truck in Texas or Florida being used for nothing more than transportation?

Once in a while, someone comes from left field and offers some great viral advertising. The Counterfeit Mini campaign is the most recent example.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 7:45 PM
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Let The Floridian Beware

Allstate recently announced they will gradually discontinue 16,000 commercial policies and will not renew roughly 95,000 policies in Florida, which will be passed along to Universal Insurance. In addition, Allstate Floridian will raise insurance premiums to pay for a two-year $1.6 billion reinsurance program. The company began cutting back new policy sales last fall.

Last summer, the state was hit with four hurricanes within a two-month period, resulting in "substantial" losses to the company. How many hurricanes will pass through Florida before insurance companies try to drop the state altogether? Will our nation's more fortunate elderly be forced to join all the others in Arizona or Nevada? Please don't tell me Andrew Jackson's murder spree was for naught.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 7:15 PM
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To Boldly Go Nowhere...

TrekToday posted a quick blurb about a TV Guide interview with Connor Trinneer. Though he wasn't happy with the script, he enjoyed that his character was the only Enterprise regular with an official send-off.

One paragraph in the post stood out:
Having the Star Trek: The Next Generation stars reprise their roles as Riker and Troi was scheduled before it was known that "These Are the Voyages..." would be the series finale, said executive producer Rick Berman. "If we hadn't gotten the ax, it still would have been our season finale," he said, noting that the six-year jump forward in time would have made it possible for Tucker to stay alive for the remainder of a seven-year television show.
Following the observations of many including my dear friend Dr. Heimlich, if this were true, Rick Berman was setting in stone absolutely no major changes to the NX-01 crew over the next few seasons, let alone over the next six years. And, we'd always have in the back of our minds the knowledge that Trip, the only dynamic character in the crew, would die needlessly. In other words, those of us who demand some quality to our entertainment are all the better that this franchise has been shut down.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 3:45 PM
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America Loves Quantity

Steve Johnson, who is adding content to Eric Zorn's blog for a while, found the Everybody Loves Raymond finale to be "almost a cop-out".

It certainly did nothing to combat the idea that this series, while remaining funny and well-crafted, could just as easily have departed three years ago, that it had pretty much said all it had to say by then.

I disagree with this, but not on principle. Some great episodes were produced in the final three seasons, including the unforgettable "Baggage" I mentioned previously. With this comment, Mr. Johnson is continuing a thread he started in a previous post on the blog about American television viewers' collective obsession with quantity over quality.

The disappointing "Raymond" denouement makes me again think about the charm of the British model of TV, where, instead of dragging a show out for a decade to feed the syndication beast, they let it end with viewers wanting more.

The best recent example of this is the original version of The Office, which spanned only two seasons (or "series" as the Brits call them) of six episodes each followed by an extended Christmas Special that put the series dangerously close to giving the series (or "programme" as the Brits call them) too quaint of an ending. Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant could have dragged out every possible office scenario, as the American version will undoubtedly do, but the series was more of a character study and as such said all that needed to be said about those characters.

Jerry Seinfeld believed strongly in the axiom "Leave the audience wanting more," which he put into practice by turning down obscene sums of money to give NBC a tenth season. Many have argued his series who have benefited from being cut one or two seasons short, and even this Seinfeld fan would be forced to agree.

I ask each reader to think of his or her most favorite series -- comedy or drama -- and list his or her favorite episodes and then list his or her acceptable episodes. After this, find a website containing a complete list of all episodes of that series. (I'd recommend tvtome if their site were more reliable.) Any reader would be shocked to learn how many episodes might actually be forgettable -- or worse, complete filler. This favorites-to-filler ratio varies from series to series, and I find Arrested Development and the new Battlestar Galactica thus far has the highest ratio. (If one could calculate a Jump The Shark index and pair it with this ratio, we may have something far better than lifetime Nielsen numbers.)

Unfortunately, the network television model in America doesn't allow for seasons to be shorter, for writers to have time to cultivate a series rather than "make it up as they go" as so often happens in even the seemingly structured series. Cable series such as Deadwood, Sex in the City and The Sopranos are closer to the British model, offering new seasons when possible and not sticking to the 20-plus-episode model of network series. I worry about the second season of Battlestar Galactica as the shortened first season "forced" each episode to boldly stand out, but I think this show's writers have more freedom and control than those on network series. I also worry about Lost as the standard set by this first season is uncharacteristically high, but such happened with Alias, and we all know the rest of that story.

Does this discussion not go back to the writers and what is asked of them each season by the networks and the audience? Is the audience becoming too fickle given the broadening variety of programming available? Is the "demand for quantity" in American television the ultimate problem? Such demand ultimately hurt breakthrough series such as Twin Peaks, Alias, and E.R. while causing a proliferation of repetitive procedural spinoffs, e.g., the CSI and Law & Order franchises.

Perhaps series DVDs are the answer, giving short, unsyndicatible series continued life and at times new audiences. Perhaps some day, short series will debut on DVD rather than on television. If four Law & Order or CSI series can coexist for one season, and if Joey and Yes, Dear can continue to be renewed in spite of themselves, anything is possible.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 1:00 PM
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Everybody Loves Sitcoms

Everybody Loves Raymond ended its run of nine seasons Monday night with a half-hour episode titled "The Finale". Unlike other past sitcoms, this finale didn't involve anyone moving far away or making some other kind of drastic life change. Nor did this one end with Bob Newhart waking up next to Suzanne Pleschette. It ended as it started -- modest, poignant, silly, and clocking in at half an hour. The writers already teased viewers with The Sitcom Big Life Change earlier in the season when the elder Barones briefly relocated to a retirement community. In the finale, Ray has the slightest brush with death after slight difficulty leaving anesthesia, but the end brought only the affirmation that the extended Barone family are as tight as ever, whether they like it or not.

Some might dismiss the passing of this family sitcom as "no big deal", but it's a significant event. The television market has grown so diverse and fragmented since Raymond debuted in 1996 that the family sitcom has become a minority format. And, much of what is left of this format are derivations of Raymond -- slow, ignorant, funny, and/or overweight husbands or fathers married to far more attractive wives, sometimes living with children who are far more clever than the parents. The original outshines the copycats in many ways, most notably because it lacks those Very Clever Children. The Barone children were "in the picture" even if they were rarely on screen. Family and marital sexual politics were always front and center in Raymond, which made it a family sitcom for adults only. So many episodes hit home, but none as strongly as the seventh season episode "Baggage", where Ray and Debra engage in a silent standoff over an unpacked suitcase. (I encourage every couple to watch this episode if only to laugh at themselves.)

I'm not one of those pop culture observers who's declaring the sitcom or the family sitcom dead. Looking at this year's upfronts, the sitcom appears alive and well, though with a little help, it is evolving. Perhaps Raymond will simply be written down as The Last Great Live Audience Sitcom, in the same pantheon as Cheers, Frasier, Friends, and Seinfeld, which is fine with me. I've grown somewhat tired of the format, and I think it's been explored as far as it can be. Raymond nailed the family sitcom concept, which even the most issue-oriented family sitcoms failed to do. Arrested Development, The Office (either version), Scrubs, Malcolm in the Middle, etc. have proven that the sitcom -- family or otherwise -- can successfully combine the realistic with the bizarre without the three-wall, live studio audience format. The writing can successfully evolve beyond consistently entertaining a live audience with easy payoffs. In the case of the Scrubs and Malcolm, a sitcom need not employ the lauded mockumentary format to achieve a sense of style.

Time will tell if I'm completely wrong, but I hope I'm not. After all, we can relive the greatness of The Live Audience Sitcom in reruns or on DVD until our eyes bleed. Right now, one can even revisit the honest wackiness of the recently departed Raymond five nights a week. Let's leave the first run time slots for a new generation of sitcoms.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 9:45 AM
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Monday, May 16, 2005

Les Cousins Dangereux, Partie Trois

Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori announced his official pick-up since taking the job is ordering a third full season of Arrested Development!

What will be the consequences of The Kiss?

Will George Michael return to the chaste arms of what's-her-name?

Will Maeby learn the truth of her conception?

Will Oscar convince the feds they have the wrong twin?

Will Franklin's accidental bleaching and mangled face transform him into a metaphor of Michael Jackson as I hope?

Can Tobias break into show business?

Will GOB ever find the loose seal that took Buster's hand?

The good news is these questions can be answered!

Posted by GiromiDe @ 4:45 PM
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Sunday, May 15, 2005

No Touching!

E! Online reported on Friday that Arrested Development has been renewed for a full 22-episode season, though earlier reports said Fox ordered two such seasons. I hope Fox doesn't shave off four episodes at the last minute, and I hope they put it in a strong timeslot and heavily promote it. I say park it in the vicinity of 24 or American Idol. An aggressive summer rerun campaign is a good start.

Let's hope we can all meet at the Big Yellow Joint for many years to come.

The Defamer weighs in.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 11:30 PM
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root, root, root for the triplets

Our dear friends Ron and Jen are expecting fraternal triplets -- all boys. Jen has spent every day of the past four weeks at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston due to preeclampsia. When we last spoke, which was unfortunately over a week ago, her protein count wasn't where it needed to be, but other factors were normal. This Wednesday will mark Week 28 of the pregnancy, which is a milestone under the circumstances. As of this writing, my wife and I don't yet know if Jen has given birth, but I have a feeling it could happen some time this week. Why?

Ron is a die-hard Yankees fan, and I told him over the phone a few weeks ago his sons won't enter the world until they reach .500, which has been a strangely difficult task for them this season. As of this writing, the Yankees are 18-19 and are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak. (Eagle-eyed readers would have noted that Ron lives in the headquarters of Red Sox Nation.) Needless to say, this recent streak has made me nervous about my prescient abilities.

Whenever the birth, we pray father, mother, and children will leave this ordeal healthy and happy.

UPDATE: Today marks Day 38 of Jen's hospital stay. The doctor's are optimistic that she will give birth around 30 weeks. Also, Ron has found employment in the Boston area at an office that happens to be close to where they will be living for a while.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 3:15 PM
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Saturday, May 14, 2005

First at Last!

After six second place finishes, 2004 Rookie of the Year Kasey Kahne won his first NASCAR Nextel Cup Race at Richmond International Raceway tonight after earning the Bud Pole and leading 242 laps. Tonight's race featured the same kind of late oil slick accident that removed Kahne from last year's race at Dover after positioning himself to win.

As recent converts to NASCAR fandom, our household picked him as our driver last year. My wife fell in love with him after the 2004 Daytona 500, where he crashed and later looked very pale in an interview at his trailer. He's suffered all kinds of tough luck last year and this year, which proves highly compatible with following the Chicago Cubs.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 10:51 PM
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Those Were The Voyages...

For the record, Scott Bakula is two-for-two in starring in tangential series finales.

The series finale of Enterprise, "These Are The Voyages...", has come and gone, and, despite the fact that Rick Berman and Brannon Braga resorted to framing their "valentine" episode around a more beloved series that launched 18 uninterrupted years of Star Trek programming, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Somehow, within the span of one hour, they delivered a decent franchise finale.

One could question if the popularity of Lost and of Terry O'Quinn's John Locke prompted Berman and Braga to use the events of "The Pegasus" as the impetus for Commander Riker and Counselor Troi to examine the final voyage of the NX-01 through the Holodeck. The audience never sees Admiral Pressman this time, but I couldn't help but make the connection. The audience instead is treated to new shots of the 1701-D flying through empty space and through the Devolin asteroid field that somehow convey the massive size of the ship for the first time. Brent Spiner squeezes in a great cameo as Data's disembodied voice deciphering yet another human idiom.

The final voyage treats us to one final guest appearance by the talented Jeffrey Combs. Six years after the events in "Terra Prime", Shran finally cashes in his favor from Archer by asking him and his crew to rescue his daughter. She is held prisoner by Shran's former underworld associates on Rigel X, the planet the NX-01 visited in the series pilot "Broken Bow". On the way back from a successful rescue, Shran's associates find the same super-secret access hatch used by the Augment Malik. Trip distracts them and sacrifices himself to save... Archer? the ship? Shran? Regardless, I'll take a deliberate conduit explosion over an Armus bitch-slap any day. We close with Archer realizing the destiny revealed to him by Daniels, which he may not remember.

A funny moment occurs while Riker is interviewing the senior staff while posing as Chef. His conversation with Reed transitions to a conversation with Sato using the line, "Do you find [Trip] attractive?" The question is directed at Sato. I'm certain the remaining gay fans of the series were pulling their remaining hairs upon witnessing one final missed opportunity to out a gay Star Trek character.

The episode ends with a montage of Enterprises. The familiar, abandoned Star Trek prologue is recited by Picard as we see the 1701-D leave the Devolin field. As it passes behind a lone asteroid, we see the 1701, and the narrator is now Kirk. As we sweep past the port nacelle, we see the NX-01, and Archer finally gets to chime in with the big finish, "where no man has gone before." We watch the NX-01 fly toward some nebula that I'm certain holds some significance of which I'm not aware. I must admit a few tears were building up during this montage. It's the only part of the show I rewatched several times using the TiVo. It's the best possible final scene for this franchise I could imagine.

I can't say I hated this episode. Given the faux-lofty "historical" nature of this final series, I found it only appropriate that more popular characters from the 24th century have a peek at the events leading to the founding of the Federation. My wife wasn't very happy with the "cop out" Holodeck-based narrative, and she certainly wasn't happy that Deep Space Nine received no props in the final montage, though she admitted the series featured no ship named Enterprise. (Deep Space Nine was the show that indoctrinated her into sci-fi. She loves her Sci-Fi Fridays, thank you very much.) I agree with her that the finale should let the series stand on its own two feet, but in the context that this is the last hour of Star Trek after 18 years, it works for me.

I'm in the camp that believes Paramount will take a page from Ronald Moore and hit the reset button on Star Trek the franchise if it were resurrected. I believe the final montage was Paramount directing a wink in my camp's general direction. I don't know if Roddenberry's quaint sterile 1960s utopia has any place in the television market of the near future, as the next group of creative minds will undoubtedly need to make compromises if they want to compete with the grittier, character-focused series like the new Battlestar Galactica and The 4400. A reset would force the writers to tell compelling stories about compelling, evolving characters rather than pay lip service to a 704-hour, 10-movie canon that's as full of holes and contradictions as Sam Beckett's memory.

I'm glad I can finally put Star Trek behind me, and I know I'm not alone.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 2:30 AM
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

passive peer pressure

With so many friends who have run blogs in the past and present, I feel I must stake my claim in the blogosphere. I hope I have something to offer whoever might stumble onto this blog. I plan to discuss culture, history, popular culture, politics, religion, family, friends, and my daily life. Prepare yourself for... something.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 4:00 PM
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