Archive for January, 2008

Two QBs

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Chocker Brett Favre: 19/35, 236 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Clutch Eli Manning: 21/40, 254 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT

Virtually identical passer ratings. The difference was the running game, idiots.

The Emotional Packers Live Blog

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

This is going to be a tough game for me. I love the Packers. And I hate the Giants. I hate Eli Manning and Jeremy Shockey and Tom Coughlin. And I hate the “story” of the Giants surging into the playoffs.

[[Later -- this post is a lot more profanity-laden than my usual stuff. I told you, I get emotional when my Packers are involved.]]
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Attack of the Phantom Sith

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

I’ve been rewatching the Star Wars prequel trilogy while working this week. That I own them on DVD tells you I have a better opinion of them than most people my age. I do think the hatred of the movies is, in some sense, a Gen-X thing. They failed to live up to expectations. I’ve noticed older viewers and younger ones tend to think they’re almost as good as the original trilogy.

I think the thing that frustrates most people — and frustrates me on occasion — is that you occasionally glimpse the great movies buried within just good movies. The prequels were not very far away from being outstanding. The direction — at least the visual direction — is great. The F/X are spectacular and, more importantly, imaginative. John Williams music is up to par. If the movies had just done a few things differently, they might have been great. Specifically:

  • Simplify the narrative. Complex political strife does not work well in the Star Wars universe. Having the droid army simply be the Sith enemy would have made things simpler. Only at the end would it have been revealed that Palpatine was playing both sides.
  • Keep Darth Sidious in the shadows until the last. Darth Maul would have been a better villain if he, and not Sidious, had appeared to be the main villian in Movie 1. And just think how devastating it would have been if Annakin had discovered the truth at the end of Movie 3. The omniscient audience is not always a good thing.
  • Recast and rework Annakin. Having him as a kid in movie 1 was a mistake. Having both Annakin and Padme as teenagers would have started romantic tension right from the first second. By movie 2, they could have been in love but unwilling to act. Having them “fall in love”, if you can call it that, was a big problem. Think about the romantic tension in Empire. It’s clear that almost all of the romantic stuff happened off screen. So it works.

    Accelerating Annakin’s descent into villainy would have done well too. Cast as a teenager in movie 1, he could have shown the ruthlessness and impatience that makes him fall. Movie 2 could have seen him growing more disgusted with Jedi restraint and more convinced that only a firm hand can destroy the Sith, culminating in hims executing a defenseless Dooku on Palpatine’s orders. By movie 3, he would be spinning out of control, unable to harness his own power, paranoid to the point where when Palpatine says, “kill the Jedi”, he does so without thinking.

    Casting someone other than Hayden would have been a good idea as well, although I’m not convinced that was a Hayden-sucks-as-an-actor problem and not a Lucas-can’t-direct-actors problem. His spell as the evil Annakin at the end of Movie 3 was quite good.

    What’s amazing, watching the movies, is how well parts of it work. Obi Wan works. The fights work. Yoda works. What drags things to a screaming halt is the forced arc of Annakin.

  • The problem with Jar-Jar and the Gungans was that they were comic relief. Any movie that has a comic relief character has problems. Humor should flow naturally out of all the characters. It works better. It lightens them up and makes them human. In fact, the biggest problem with the movies, I think, is the lack of humor in certain characters. Moving Jar-Jar from comic relief to “Chewbacca substitute” would have vastly improved Movie 1.
  • Notice I haven’t suggested any radical changes. Just tweaks. Simplify, accelerate, amplify. Star Wars does well with clean story telling. It’s a pity Lucas forgot that. Because instead of three good movies we could have had three great movies.

    Pats Again

    Sunday, January 20th, 2008

    A few thoughts on today’s Pats game:

    God, does New England block well. Late in the game, Brady faked a handoff and tossed a screen to Stallworth. Stallworth stepped backward but still gained six yards — because New England blocked so well.

    Is Kevin Faulk a useful player or what? In several of New England’s close games, he has gotten so many key catches and runs for first downs.

    So much for the meme that New England “can’t run”. Not only did Maroney have a game-defining second half, but NE threw a lot of screens that were basically fancy runs. You can do that when you have a QB as precise as Brady.

    How interesting that Randy Moss has basically been invisible for two playoff games but the Pats have won anyway. Part of the reason is the defenses are obsessed with Moss and leaving the short part of the field open. And Brady is slicing them up.

    One last thought: GO PACK GO!

    Lewinsky at 10

    Friday, January 18th, 2008

    It seems like yesterday:

    Web Posted: 01/17/98 23:32:47 PST — NEWSWEEK KILLS STORY ON WHITE HOUSE INTERN

    BLOCKBUSTER REPORT: 23-YEAR OLD, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN, SEX RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT

    **World Exclusive**
    **Must Credit the DRUDGE REPORT**

    At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!

    The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication. A young woman, 23, sexually involved with the love of her life, the President of the United States, since she was a 21-year-old intern at the White House. She was a frequent visitor to a small study just off the Oval Office where she claims to have indulged the president’s sexual preference. Reports of the relationship spread in White House quarters and she was moved to a job at the Pentagon, where she worked until last month.

    The young intern wrote long love letters to President Clinton, which she delivered through a delivery service. She was a frequent visitor at the White House after midnight, where she checked in the WAVE logs as visiting a secretary named Betty Curry, 57.

    The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that tapes of intimate phone conversations exist.

    The relationship between the president and the young woman become strained when the president believed that the young woman was bragging about the affair to others.

    NEWSWEEK and Isikoff were planning to name the woman. Word of the story’s impeding release caused blind chaos in media circles; TIME magazine spent Saturday scrambling for its own version of the story, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned. The NEW YORK POST on Sunday was set to front the young intern’s affair, but was forced to fall back on the dated ABC NEWS Kathleen Willey break.

    The story was set to break just hours after President Clinton testified in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.

    Ironically, several years ago, it was Isikoff that found himself in a shouting match with editors who were refusing to publish even a portion of his meticulously researched investigative report that was to break Paula Jones. Isikoff worked for the WASHINGTON POST at the time, and left shortly after the incident to build them for the paper’s sister magazine, NEWSWEEK.

    Michael Isikoff was not available for comment late Saturday. NEWSWEEK was on voice mail.

    The White House was busy checking the DRUDGE REPORT for details.

    Thanks to Taranto for the link.

    I was in Santiago, Chile when this story broke. The Chileans thought, in the way that only South Americans can, that this was the best story to emerge from America ever. Everywhere I went, people would spot me for a gringo (not very difficult) and say, “President Clinton!” and make gestures.

    At the time, I thought it was more amusing than destructive. But gradually, my support for impeachment firmed up. What got me on the pro-impeachment side was, ironically, a diatribe by James Carville. He essentially said that Paula Jones was trailer park trash who didn’t deserve fair trial because Bill Clinton was God-damned President of the United States. And the more the libs rallied behind the “Clinton is above the law; Paula Jones is scum” line, the more my support waxed.

    Paula Jones was trailer park trash. She still had a right to her day in court. In retrospect, the impeachment battle probably wasn’t worth it.

    But God, was it fun.

    One last thought. Bill Clinton loves to rant and rave about the “politics of personal destruction”. But until it was discovered that Monica had a stained dress, the Clintonista line was that Monica was a lying psycho stalker. As she said about his biography.

    He could have made it right with the book, but he hasn’t. He is a revisionist of history. He has lied. (…) I really didn’t expect him to go into detail about our relationship (…) But if he had and he’d done it honestly, I wouldn’t have minded…. I did, though, at least expect him to correct the false statements he made when he was trying to protect the Presidency. Instead, he talked about it as though I had laid it all out there for the taking. I was the buffet and he just couldn’t resist the dessert. (…) That’s not how it was. This was a mutual relationship, mutual on all levels, right from the way it started and all the way through. … I don’t accept that he had to completely desecrate my character.

    Neither do I, Mon.

    Inerrancy

    Thursday, January 17th, 2008

    You know, this sort of nonsense annoys me.

    Those of you uninterested in religion can skip this. I’m debating Biblical inerrancy on its own terms, not slamming fundies on scientific ones.

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    Hots

    Thursday, January 17th, 2008

    I’d completely forgotten about this site. I keep expecting a picture of me to show up.

    As the bag, smartasses.

    No Booze For You

    Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

    You know, I agree that a ban on liquor sales on election day is dumb. That’s the one day when everyone needs to drink. And besides, we have a noble tradition, from Washington down, of buying elections with booze.

    But this sort of BS argument annoys me:

    Sales of packaged hard liquor are state-controlled in Idaho, and the state reaps the profits. Nally estimated that every Election Day, the state liquor dispensary loses $350,000 to $400,000 in sales. It also takes lots of calls from angry customers wondering why there’s a Tuesday store closure.

    There is no way in hell the state loses that much money in liquor sales. People simply buy their booze the day before or the day after. It’s not like they’re driving to Utah to buy their liquor

    Oooooh, You Herschel

    Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

    I was mercifully clouded out last night so I’m reading through Joe Posnanski’s archive and came across this long essay on Herschel Walker.

    I was born in 1972. My heros growing up were Herschel Walker and Dale Murphy. You can’t get much better than that.

    Gotta Be the Double-D’s

    Monday, January 14th, 2008

    Once again, Jessica Simpson is being blamed because Tony Romo didn’t play terribly well. My friend Steve — no, other Steve — has the Hot Girlfriend Theory, that many failures in life can be traced to having a hot girlfriend. This applies more to sports stars — who tend to get playboy bunnies and such — and a little less to astronomers.

    But, you know, Romo faded toward the end of last year and honked the playoffs as well — without having access to Jessica’s breasts.

    Soros on the Dead

    Monday, January 14th, 2008

    Apparently, George Soros funded the now-discredited Lancet study that claimed half a million Iraqis were dead in the War.

    Conservatives are getting very smug about how the new study shows that “only” 150,000 Iraqis have died in the War. 150,000 is still a fucking lot of dead people, folks.

    Why Do I Do It?

    Monday, January 14th, 2008

    Seventh 14-hour night in a row tonight.

    Mercury is at a balmy 29 degrees and falling.

    It’s windy.

    I have to go into the freezing cold dome every ten minutes to adjust the telescope.

    Why am I doing this to myself?

    Here is my life for the last week:

  • Between 3pm and 4:30 pm: wake up. Check internets. If enough time, go to dome, refill liquid nitrogen tank, set up flat field calibrations. Take show, if possible.
  • 5:30 pm – dinner in cafeteria
  • 6:30 pm – Open dome. Start observing. Make occasional trips to lodge for bathroom or food through freezing winds.
  • 7:30 am – close dome. Return to lodge to relax for a short time.
  • 8:30 or 9 am – fall asleep
  • That’s a little bit exhausting. Fortunately, I’m taking lots and lots of long exposures so I have plenty of time to do other stuff while observing.

    JoePo Part Toe

    Monday, January 14th, 2008

    Read this hilarious, meandering, all-encompasing comparison from Joe Posnanski of Steve Guttenberg to Tom Hanks.

    One quibble. I think Steve Guttenberg’s career fell off the table because of the declining influence of the stone-cutters.

    Update: If I were a full time writer — a distinct possibility come June — I’d probably write a lot like Joe does. Meandering and crashing into all kinds of (hopefully) interesting asides. The name of the blog comes from the way I think — non-linear.

    A Good Step

    Sunday, January 13th, 2008

    My NFL team is the Green Bay Packers, for a variety of reasons. But I try to like the Falcons as well, since I grew up with them. That they’ve hired New England’s scouting director as GM is the first piece of good news I’ve heard about this team since Arthur Blank bought them. Now if we can just get a coach who is not a conceited dickhead (Parcells) or a job-jumping scoundrel (Petrino), we’ll be in good shape.

    The draft is going to reveal a lot about where this team is going. If they reach and draft a QB in the first round, they have no idea what they are doing. They can take Brohm or Brennan in a later round and be set. If they take Jake Long or somebody to build from the lines, they’re in good shape.

    We’ll see.