Friday, March 30, 2007

A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE . . . TO MEMORY LANE?

(This is in italics on purpose. It'll make sense soon enough.)

Between the busy week I had, and the effort to put together the two-part Mets season preview that nobody asked for, I have about as much left in the tank as an SUV after a trip down the driveway. I'll admit that upon waking up this morning and finalizing the baseball post, I didn't even bother starting up a
Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day. It would've been garbage if I tried.

Anyway, there's no way I'm leaving you to face this beautiful, sunny Friday without the support, the virtual crutch, the cyber cuppa' Joe we all know as the FSMOMYOTD. So, in a display of my overblown sense of self-importance, I leave you with not only a re-run of a FSMOMYOTD, but a re-run of the very first FSMOMYOTD.

(Note how short this was at the git' go.)

Ladies & Gents, the first. And appropriately, it was Thank God It's Friday, from August 25, 2006:


In my constant effort to entertain you, not to mention having no idea what to write about this morning, I now present the first in what might be a Friday Tradition here in the Neighborhood (Or, it won't. I admit my track record on these "Running Themes" is worse than Bush's track record with the truth). Yes, folks, may I present to you, for your coffee-supping enjoyment, the awkwardly-titled, and even more awkwardly conceived . . . Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day.

(And yes, I'm aware that the "Friday . . . Of The Day" construction is completely preposterous, but preposterousness is my goal most of the time).

So, with no further ado, the most-appropriate flick for day one of this inappropriate meme:
Thank God It's Friday
If you've never seen it . . . well, thank god for that fact, and don't do a thing to change it. I haven't seen it in the 28 years since it came out, and I'm planning on keeping that way. I suspect it would fall on the Rocky V side of unwatchable.

But that's not to say I didn't like it when I saw it as a 10 year-old. Cause I did. I actually saw it with my parents, some time in the spring of '78, after the release of Saturday Night Fever, but before Grease. And when I think about it, with Animal House coming that fall, 1978 was a helluva year for me in terms of busting into the "grown-up movie" world.

In retrospect, what the hell were my parents thinking???

I can't remember much about the flick other than lots of disco music, lots of chicks in satiny dresses, and guys with gold chains, leather, poofed-up hair, and all the other accoutrements of that wacky era known as the late-70s. And all I recall in the way of the "plot" was an ingenue played by Donna Summer trying all night to get to the mike to sing her song.

Come to think of it, that's pretty much the whole plot, and the marketing, all wrapped into one. Of course she eventually got the mike, sang Last Dance, and boldly began charting her course to TopOfTheChartsDiscoDiva as the credits rolled.

Finally, check out the credits: The Commodores (including a fully-afro'd Lionel Richie); Debra Winger, fresh off her TV success as Wonder Woman's curvy sister, Drusilla; and Jeff Goldblum, as the owner of the swinging disco where all the fun went down. Still a few years away from breaking into the leading roles he saw in the 80's, I guess it was a step up from the bit parts of the previous years: the guy who "Forgot his mantra" at Tony Lacey's party in Annie Hall, and one of the rapists in the first Death Wish. Oh, the ignominous beginnings of many an actor.

And, oh, the world I grew up to in the 70s: afros, revenge flicks, Lynda Carter in a red, white & blue bikini on a "family show," and Jeff Goldblum trying to remember his mantra at Paul Simon's party in a Woody Allen film. Dazed & Confused, indeed.

And anyway, thank god it's Friday.

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LADIES & GENTLEMEN, YOUR 2007 N.Y. METS (PART II)

Today, I look at Pitching (Part I, The Hitters, here).

That half inning when, according to the rules of baseball, the Mets must lay down their bats, step onto the field, and allow one of the old men, young boys, or eccentric Mexicans to throw the ball with all his might homeward, in hope that the ball doesn't fly back over his head, clearing the fence after it passes.

Or tear his rotator cuff on the follow through.

Yes indeed folks, it's the wacky Met pitching staff, Version 2.0. No Lima Time!, no Trashcan, no Oil of Alay, no Killer Zambie, no Jorge Julio. But entering stage left, may I introduce this year's members of the "Oh Shit" Squad: Chan Ho Park, Ambiorix "The Amburglar" Burgos, Aaron Sele, and Guillermo Mota. It's gonna be fun.

Not to mention, Pedro's on the DL until summer at the earliest; El Duque will be on the DL as of May 1 at the latest; Oliver Perez, our number 4 starter, has compiled ERAs of 5.85, 6.63, and 6.38 in three stints over the past two seasons; and Scott Kazmir is still on the Devil Rays.

(I mentioned that Pedro's on the DL, right? Ok.)

Whew. But . . . I'm a big believer in John Maine, Tom Glavine's gunning for his 300th win, the bullpen still looks pretty good to me, and the Phillie's starters may yield 300 home runs pitching half their games in Citizens Bandbox. Freddie Garcia, alone, looks to be the best candidate in 20 years to knock Burt Blyleven from the top of the "Homers Yielded In A Season" list. And don't even get me started with the Braves starters.

The Mets starters aren't that good either, but they're good enough. Let's look closer, shall we?

1. Tommy Strikezone. 41 years-old, 290 career wins, one ring, more NLCS appearences than Joe Buck & Tim McCarver combined, and a bag of savvy large enough to hold every weird arm angle pitch David Cone & Luis Tiant ever threw. He'll be fine.

After a great start last season, Tommy G struggled a bit in June and July. But he came on strong at the end, making six starts in September, K'ing 29 and walking only 9 in 37+ IP, while winning three times. Then, as everyone besides Albert Pujols knows, he pitched very well in the post-season.

(And you know what? Fuck Albert Pujols.)

I think Glavine'll pitch well early on, gunning for 300. He may dip hard come August due to fatigue and post-Hall Of Fame Clincher Syndrome, but if Willie rests him a bit in the second half, he should be ok come stretch drive and post-season.

Prediction: 187 IP, 4.16 ERA, 118 K, 58 BB.

2. El Duque: I see no reason that he won't pitch pretty well . . . when he pitches. But how often will he actually take the mound? Despite what his baseball card says, he's 73 years-old. He has arthritis. Last season he pitched 162+ innings, his highest total since 2000! His IP figures since 2000? 94+, 146, DNP, 84+, 128+, 162+. I'd figure him for about 125 innings, max. Expecting any more is a sucker's game.

As for his performance, he pitched well last year, going 9-7 with a 4.09 ERA and 112 Ks in 116+ IP for the Mets. He also pitched well in '02 and '04, though not so well in '05 and the brief stint with the D-Backs early last year.

Prediction: 125 IP, 4.31 ERA, 117 K, 52 BB.

3. Johnnie Maine: The pitching key, as far as starters go. I think he's gonna be good. He throws strikes, he works quickly, we saw last October that he can handle pressure, and when he's on, he's very good. He gives up too many long balls, but I'd rather a guy give up some dingers than walk guys and fall behind in the count every other at-bat.

His numbers last year were strong: 71 Ks & 33 BBs in 90 IP. He averaged just under 6 IPs per start, which I think will, and must, improve this year. I'm expecting him to make the leap. If he doesn't, I don't think it spells disaster, but if he does, it's a real bonus until Pedro comes back or Omar deals for someone.

Prediction: 206 IP, 3.54 ERA, 163 K, 68 BB. With good run support and good bullpen help, that can translate to 15-18 wins. I'm thinking big.

(Or maybe I'm just out of my mind. Roll with me, will you.)

4. Oliver Perez: Coop's gonna kill me, but I think we're all getting juuuuust a bit too excited about this fella. He really showed me something last October (and not only that he's a bit crazy), and there's no reason he won't improve from the disaster of the past two seasons. Better coaching, a good ballpark for a power pitcher, good outfield defense (Endy better be in the field when Oliver hurls, or the fans will be hurling as they watch Green and Alou slip, slide and fumble their way around, chasing after line drives into the gaps), and a catcher in LoDuca who'll hopefully get him to take something off the ball and throw strikes.

That said, he's been absolutely atrocious the past two years: 138 walks in 215+ innings. The 199 Ks are good, but not really outstanding, especially with the ghastly BB totals. And you want real ugly? He yielded 33 homers over that span. And if not for Endy's heroics, it would have been one more really big one in October (by the way, anyone other than me think that Aaron Heilman hates Endy Chavez?)

Anyhow, Ollie's our guy, I think he'll make his starts, and I think he'll last the season. He'll be great at times, awful other times, and hopefully the bats and the gloves will tip the balance in his favor.

Prediction: 176 IP, 4.72 ERA, 166 K, 79 BB.

5. Mike Pelfrey: Rookie starters'll break your heart. They've sent home more grown men with tears in their eyes than a double feature of Shawshank Redemption and Brian's Song screened in an onion factory. They will just friggin kill you. Every once in a while you get a Gooden, or a Valenzuela, or a Koosman, or a Mark Fidrich. But more often you get Paul Wilson or Tim Leary. And there are dozens of non-Met rookie flops too. Go look up the rookie seasons of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, or John Smoltz. It ain't pretty.

The lesson here is basically this: if you go into the season needing solid production from a rookie starter, you're rolling the dice. May as well start hitting on 12 every hand. You'll catch some 7s, 8s, & 9s, but over time, You Will Bust.

That said, he's the best pick for number 5 starter. He's better at this point than Park, or Sele, or Dave Williams. He's more ready than Philip Humber. And his name is neither Lima, nor Zambrano, nor Soler. So give him a shot. His minor league numbers last year at A and AA were dominant, striking out 103 in 88+, while walking only 28. Late in the season at AAA and the majors, however, he K'd only 19 in 29+, while walking 17. Is he ready? Who knows? But he's starting, and that's that. Especially with El Duque doing his annual puque sooner than later.

Prediction: 147 IP, 4.66 ERA, 126 K, 68 BB.

Now, the reason it'll all be ok in the end: The Pen. Let's start by saying two things, and then I won't have to say 'em again: Losing Duaner Sanchez isn't that huge a loss, and I hate Billy Wagner.

{Ducks garbage & debris}

Sanchez was great in April last year, and quite good in the brief stint between his weird pinched nerve problem and his late-night munchies. But in May and June he wasn't good: ERA way over 4.00, a poor 19/14 K/BB ratio in 27+. For the season he struck out 44 and walked 24 in 55+ innings. If this is the "best set-up man in the NL," as I've heard so many Met fans saying, I'd hate to see the middle-of-the-road set-up men.

He wasn't even the best set-up man on his own team (but more on my man, AH, in a bit).

And with Wagner, we know three things: a couple horror show blown saves, probably early in the season before he gets his heat; otherwise dominant regular season stats (aka, "A Benitez") as he dominates the poor sisters of the league; and cover-your-eyes, oh-my-god-this-isn't-happening meltdowns in big October games. Deal with it, that's what we got.

Hey, those dominant saves all season long add up to wins. That's important. Gotta win the easy games in baseball. No other way. But for the price, and the brouhaha, and the idiotic quotations, I wish we had a guy that cost less, and did 4/5 the job. Like Aaron Heilman, but more on him later.

Briefly, each pitcher in the pen:

Schoeneweis: I'm not seeing it, but what do I know? His lifetime ERA over more than 800 innings is 5.01. The number of seasons as a reliever in which he's recorded an ERA under 4.50 is two (don't even look at his starters numbers. Willie McGee's face while having an orgasm isn't as ugly as Schoeneweis' starting numbers). And those two under-4.50 seasons as a reliever? 3.96 & 3.32.

In other words, he's actually been good once in his career, as a LOOGY tossing 57 innings for the Blue Jays in '05. And how good was this goodness? Not very: a 1.39 WHIP with the 3.32 ERA.

I don't expect much from him. Hopefully Pedro Dos can repeat last season. Not likely to be quite as good, but I think it'll be ok.

I don't really know anything about Joe Smith, so what can I say? Seriously. I know he throws sidearm, real hard. Last year ChadBrad threw underhand, sort of average speed. Worked out ok. Pitching in Shea can really cover up a multitude of sins. I think he'll do ok.

Burgos, Mota, & Park, PC. Two Dominicans and a Korean. Between them I expect we'll get a lot of strikeouts, a huge number of homers yielded, some great stretches, some nightmarish ones, at least one syringe filled with an illegal substance, some sofrito, a jar of kimchi, and lots of fans based solely on their ethnicity (Shawn Green understands). I'm cool with that; NYC baby!

Once again, these are the types of pitchers who can rise to the occasion in Shea, where the ball stays in the yard, the awful lighting and hitting background turns straight 95 MPH heat into Ks, and the homestyle cooking makes 'em feel all good inside. Mota won't be available til May or June, but he'll be in this mix come that time.

Again, what do know?

Aaron Heilman: Along with Maine, my favorite Met pitcher. Dude was a fucking swaggering gunslinger last fall. Post all-star break: 37+, 25 H, 11 BB, 33K. Lights out. In the postseason: 7+, 6 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts.

And no, I'm not deliberately ignoring it. I watched the game. Of course. I stared dumbfounded & shocked as that slack-jawed, sneering, round-bodied piece of crap rounded the bases. I know, I know. Heilman gave up a homer to a .216 (!) hitter who got hot in the post-season. Molina went on to hit over .400 in the World Series! Was the homer a bad result? Yeah. Is it "on" Heilman? Yeah. But you'd rather have Duaner Sanchez pitching the 8th inning this year?

You're nuts. We're in good hands here. I'm figuring on an ERA in the 3.00 range, with a WHIP of about 1.10. 8-9 K/9 and a K/BB around 2.5-3 to 1. I'd say he's good for 85-100 innings, though I'd like to see it settle in around 90.

Billy Wagner: Yeah, I know I said I hate him, but he's gonna save us a lot of regular season games. Too many walks, too many singles on 0-2 counts with 2 outs in one-run games (arrrgh!), two many "Will you please stop talking" quotations about the Phils, or the Yanks, or other things he shouldn't be yapping about. No doubt. And killer, walk-off homers from time-to-time.

But the fact remains, the Mets bats will bring a lot of leads in to the 8th inning. And Heilman & Wagner are gonna bring most of those leads home. Will they blow a few? Of course. They may not even be the best tandem in the NL in that regard. But they'll protect most of them, and if someone among Burgos, Mota (when he returns), or Park steps up, then the last third of the game is shortened.

And Omar is bound to make some moves along the way.

As to Wagner, gotta bank on an ERA somewhere between 2.00 and 3.00, with a WHIP around 1.00. Maybe 70 IP with 85-90 Ks and 20-25 BBs. Too many of the latter, but he'll be nibbling in April when he can't get the heater over 93 MPH. Figure he'll blow 5-7 saves, most of them in gut-wrenching fashion. That's how it goes. Rather have Tom Gordon?

* * *
So whadda we got here? One of the NL's best offenses (though the raw numbers will be tempered by Shea, plus games in DC and in Florida, also pitchers parks), solid defense, a strong bullpen, and average-at-best starters. I'm going with 90 wins, which I think will be enough to take the NL East, though not by as comfortable a margin as last year.

I think the Phils, Braves and Marlins will all be over .500, jockeying for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place (and a Wild Card slot) with somewhere in the 83-88 win range. We should have ourselves a battle this year, folks.

Should be fun.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

GOTTA RUN . . .

Definitely a "gotta run" morning (though there are some very interesting -- as in "good" -- developments to report on from the work front, which I'll discuss as soon as I can).

Hopefully, things'll free up a bit later today, so I expect to have Part II of the Preview tomorrow, and maybe (but less than 50/50) a very short FSMOMYOTD. We'll see, and I'll do my best.

In the mean time, a couple more choice links to things worth reading to tide you over:

1. DED has a solid little report on Sirius, XM, satellite radio in general, and the efforts of the big media fuckwads including hired gun John Ashcroft, to derail an industry that seems to be doing a good job in that regard on its own. "Huh?" Yeah, I don't know what I mean either. Check out DED's piece.

2. Mort discusses Ron Paul, The Fed, Ben Bernanke, and Cheap Money. I used to post more often on these topics, but it gets me too pissed off. Mort's is worth reading and he remains calm throughout (probably because he's more cynical than I am).

3. Mr. Furious has a comprehensive run-down of all things Gonzo-gate: Gonzalapalooza. Hey, it's his title, not mine.

4. And finally, George mocks our wretched existances, not only by reminding us that he lives in Santa Barbara, but by informing us that he spent three hours last Saturday drinking Belgian Ales . . . and was then driven home by his mother-in-law.

Thanks for bearing with my schedule the last few days. Actual post(s) tomorrow. Truuuuuuuuust me.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

LET'S CALL IT A RAINOUT

Sorry to all those who showed up today, baseball gloves & crackerjack boxes in hand, expecting Part II of the World Famous Mets 2007 Season Preview. I'm a bit busy workwise today (and possibly tomorrow morning as well), so there's just no way to get the pitching preview up in time and in good form.

You see, folks, the baseball season is a marathon, things can't be rushed . . .

I know, I'm a baaaaaaaad man. I'm a tease. Toss all your scorn, derision, and empty beer cups at me (no batteries, please).

But since the season begins Sunday (and since, on average, about 0.6 readers show up on weekends), I will have it up & ready tomorrow, or Friday at the very latest. And yes, that may throw this week's Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day into jeopardy, but what can a man do?! Opening Day waits for no one. No one, I tells ya.

Anyhoo, I hate to leave you with nothing to read. So . . . just as SNY plays "Met Classics" during rain delays, I'll offer up an old post from last season (which no one will read I'm sure, but my ego demands posting it nonetheless) and a small sampling of fine Mets-related analysis & entertainment from some of the other Met Bloggers hanging around on these here tubes. So:

Here's one of my posts from last May
, following the Mets' epic three game set with the Yanks -- the one featuring Wagner's 4-run meltdown, Wright's game-winner off Riviera, Willie's shakiest managing to that point, all the fun stuff.

And now, to change things up a bit, Coop fills us in on all the details of her strange Oliver Perez obsession. (Not that sort of obsession! Coop's a baseball chick. She gets it.) It's a good read, I strongly suggest you check it out.

Moving along, Toasty Joe fills us in on what we can expect by way of the awful commercials on SNY during Met games this year. It's not a pen . . . it's a fishing rod! To ram into the hole in that guy's neck.

And finally, from frequent commenter (at least til recently, hmmmm . . .), Ed in Westchester, we get some pics from his Spring Training visit earlier this month (just to keep you in that Met mood).

Enjoy, folks. Back with Part II of the Preview as soon as possible. And . . . for your sports book needs, my Season Win Total Prediction.

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DECIDING TO END THE ETERNAL WAR

This is good. The Senate & Congress, led by surprisingly ballsy Democrats and a few really ballsy GOPers, like Chuck Hegel Hagel (***thanks to George***), have actually passed the promised "Get The Fuck Out Iraq" Bill. Nice.

Of course, President Camacho will veto it, since he vetoes only those bills that are (a) sensible and (b) representative of the will of the American People. But, as the Decider himself might say, Bring It On!

Because the Dems (plus HegelHagel & Gordon Smith) are talking up a fight. According to Harry Reid:
"We would hope that the president understands how serious we are . . . . Rather than making all the threats that he has, let's work with him and see if he can give us some ideas how we can satisfy the wishes of a majority of the Senate, the majority of the House and move forward."
Ok. Not exactly a toss of the gauntlet, but better than the last 4 years' standard "Thank you sir, may I have another."

HegelHagel added:
"We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam."
Not bad. The quadruple "mis," followed by an "I" alliteration comes off a bit heavy-handed, but the spirit's there. I'd also leave the "we" off from the "arrogant self-delusion." I know that Bush thinks of himself & his country through the royal we, but let's not encourage that, huh?

Anyhow, Bush'll veto this, and the Dems won't get the votes to override. But with all the chatter about Constitional Crises and such, I wanna see this go to the next level. As we all know, Congress and not the Prez controls the purse-strings. If the C-in-C decides to veto a time-table over the war he not only prosecutes but has declared, then here's hoping the Congress decides to veto the funding he needs to continue.

Or even better, veto his presidency.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

HOPE HE WAS AS SMART AS A CAVEMAN

According to A.P., comedian Eddie Griffin smashed up Ferrari owned by producer Daniel Sadek. He'll be ok.

Ok, so Griffin's fine, which means my karma & my mojo are safe if I now proceed to tee off.

Sadek's Ferrari --which is totalled -- was worth $1.5 million. For those of you who don't speak Numberese, that would be One Point Five Million Dollars. According to the story I posted about last week, that may be worth more than all the houses in the city of Detroit.

Uhhh, I meant, may have been worth more than all the houses in the city of Detroit.

Heh, heh (that's the sound of schadenfreude escaping the lips.)

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LADIES & GENTLEMEN, YOUR 2007 N.Y. METS (PART I)

So here we are. After a long off-season filled with stories of Peyton Manning & the tree-dwelling primates that hung out on his back, the parade of liars who hang out at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, and the former dictator who hung out was hanged in Iraq, we arrive at that most glorious moment in the 365 day event we call a year: The Countdown To Opening Day.

Awwwwwwww, yeah. In five nights, the Mets open the season. Reyes & Wright & Beltran, and all the rest.

(And Joe Morgan announcing, and Albert Poo-holes & friends hoisting banners & jack-ass Cardinal fans celebrating. Fuck! But, let's keep it positive . . . hope springs eternal & all that jazz.)

Spring. New season. Let's put it in context: Here's the entirety of my last baseball-related post, shortly after midnight on October 20, 2007:
Damn, that sucks. Yadier Fuckin Molina. Not much more for me to say right about now. I'll write about the series and the amazing season the Mets put together in a few days.

But right now, I need to put my head through the wall, which'll make it difficult to type.
And there I left it. I couldn't really stomach the promised review of the amazing season, and I typed not a word. And as the off-season grew colder, I had no interest in yapping about hot stoves, or about Zito (Baked Zito if one puts him in the Hot Stove?), or about those ridiculous pics of Reyes & Wright in GQ where it looked as if they were the two finalists for the "Baseball Player" role in a Village People revival act.

Nope. That's why it's called the off-season. I was off. But now we're on the verge of the on-season, bitchez. Shea rocking, Keith styling & level-swinging & tumbling, Jose dancing, Wright banging every chick in NYC, LoDuca cruising the Catholic schools. It's all good. So let's get to it. Today, the hitters.

First Base: Delgado's solid, even if he's getting a little old. He'll show up every day, pay attention in the field, approach his at-bats intelligently, jot down notes afterwards, you know the drill. When he's hot the ball's going all over the park with authority; when he's cold he'll strike out 5 times every 4 at-bats, try to pull everything, and do his jotting more immediately after the at-bat than otherwise. Good season: 4 hot months, two cold. Bad season: 2 cold, four hot. Average season, well you get the gist. We know what we're getting from him, and whether he hits .240 with 26 homers or .289 with 37, he won't make or break the season.

My prediction: .266, 29 HR, 64 BB. Let's say 266/345/490. Not great, but fine.

Second Base: 'Stache can't have the offensive year he had last year. It ain't happening. Let's all let out a nice sigh, repeat the following mantra a few times, and prepare for the season: His name is not Ponce de Valentin, he will not sip from the Fountain of Youth this year, I will not expect anything from him when he comes up with two men on and two outs, the magic in the moustache is gone, Willie is fickle and his love has moved on, he didn't hit his weight two years ago and he doesn't weigh very much . . .

There, that wasn't too hard, was it? In fact, it's likely that Willie'll pencil-in Easley quite often, or flat-out platoon him, creating a two-headed, 136 year-old second baseman. When this second baseman turns two with Jose-Jose-Jose, the ball will have to pass through a time machine. But that gets us to the real importance here: last year, despite all the flashy stuff like grand slams, two-homers in division-clinchers, and the cheesiest facial hair since John Holmes shot his big wad, Valentin played stellar defense. Great range, great hands, and some nifty pivots on the DP. That's what we need. Let him hit .235 with a couple homers here & there. Draw a few walks, steal a base or two. What I want is the leather.

And something tells me that a man with that 'Stache knows a thing or two about leather. My prediction: 365 ABs, .241, 14 HR, 42 BB. Sounds about 241/320/425. And I assume Easley gets about 200 ABs, with maybe 240/315/415. Just field well, guys. Just field well.

Third Base: Now this may come as something of a surprise to all who remember that I spent the entire 2nd half of '06 whining about Young Mr. Wright's power outage, but I'm neither worried about him, nor do I think he's one of the Three Offensive Keys™ for 2007.

Why? Because even if he's off, he'll still be good. If somehow, deep in the recesses of his cliche-quoting brain, The Prince of New York realizes that he's lost his power stroke, then he'll adjust. And if -- more likely -- he realizes that he lost his power stroke temporarily last year, then I bet he's spent the offseason figuring out why. And bulking up. And laying (off?) the chicks. And eating his Wheaties. Practicing the correct, cliche-riddled explanation for why he'll skip the Home Run Derby this season:
It's an honor to be selected by my peers to represent the National League in the Home Run Derby. But Mr. Wilpon, Willie, Omar, and all my teammates expect me to represent the NY Mets in August & September. So, for the good of my team, and in an effort to take it one day at a time, to stay within myself, and to spray my seed upon 34% of the young ladies in the greater NY Metropolitan area, I must decline the opportunity to enter the Home Run Derby.
We'll be fine. That said, I'd like to see him be a little more selective this season, draw a few more walks, and stop swinging at the first pitch, trying to loft it over the right field wall. 1 HR and 19 F9's for every twenty first pitch swings isn't the ratio I'm looking for.

My prediction: .311, 31 HR, 83 BB. Sounds like about 311/400/550. Nice.

Shortstop: Ahhhh, now here's the first of the three offensive keys. There is literally is NO LIMIT to what Reyes can accomplish. If he masters English, graduates from the Columbia School of International Affairs and becomes the Dominican Republic's ambassador to the U.S., I won't be surprised. Unless he only steals 34 bases that season. Then I'd be shocked.

If he stays healthy, I just don't know where it stops going up. His improvement last year was so dramatic, so extreme, that I can't even think what he can do for an encore. He doubled his walks while raising his BA significantly. He maintained gaudy triple and SB numbers while nearly tripling the homers and increasing the doubles too.

So why is he a key? Because he can single-handedly put a number of wins on the board all by himself. His upside is that good. But . . . even if he's merely good this year, or only ok, then even though he'll have put up good numbers, the gap between the potential and the actual could be significant.

(Huh? let's all say it together: "What the fuck does that mean, Mike?")

Translated into English: the "distance" from expected-to-possible is much greater for Reyes than it is for Wright or Delgado. Reyes could hit 275/325/425 this year. That's really good for a 23 year-old, excellent fielding shortstop with 50-70 SB speed.

But, would you be surprised if he did 335/380/550? Me either. Not likely, but possible. He's got a lot of pop in his bat and he looks bigger than last year. He could hit 27 or so HRs. A lot of extra runs, and extra wins in that scenario. And the truth will lie somewhere in between.

My prediction: .315, 23 HR, 59 BB, 63 SB, or about 315/375/515.

Catcher: Concerned a little, but not too much. LoDuca's probably not hitting close to last season's .320. (And probably not hitting as many teenage cheerleaders either.) He's getting older. But he'll probably hit .280 or so. And since he gets only about 500 plate appearences, and his power and walks are minimal, it's not like his offense drives the engine.

Just move him out of the two hole. As long as he can squat behind the dish and call a good game, we should be ok. And if I see Mota call him off, I'd better also be seeing LoDuca walk out to the mound to beat his face in.

(Freakin' Spiezio. Goddamn red landing strip on his chin motherfucker. Huh? Nah, I'm not bitter. Just . . . thinking things over.)

Right Field: Milledge, Green, Chavez, Johnson, Newhan, Swaboda, Hickman, who knows who's getting the at-bats here. I want Milledge and Chavez to get the lion's share, but last I checked, I'm not managing the squad. The Elders of Zion seem to be in charge, otherwise I have no idea who else wants Shawn Green playing. He's more than welcome at my Seder, just keep him the hell out of the line-up. But we're obviously gonna see him for a spell. This Johnson guy? I think he's just Xavier Nady back under an alias, which should mean a vicious fastball swing at every pitch. Chavez could hit .233 (which is about what I expect from him this season) and I'd still want him out there for his glove.

And Milledge needs to get the ABs, so why not now? Anyhow, between all these fellas and whoever else comes into Flushing this year, I figure something in the 250/310/425 range. No make-or-break here either way. Not like they got much out of right field last season anyhow.

Left Field: Offensive Key #2. If Alou, who's older than Julio Franco, El Duque and Tom Glavine combined, can stay healthy, keep the urine on his hands, stay away from Steve Bartman, and get somewhere in the 400-500 AB range, this'll be a huge improvement over last season when Cliff Floyd managed to play in about 6 games, somehow recording 450 outs in the process, while batting .074.

If Alou can't stay in the line-up, that may mean Green has to play, because 'Stings'll be taking the field in left. Alou. Must. Stay. Healthy. A lot of wins swing in the balance in my not-so-humble opinion.

My prediction: 110 games, 400 ABs, .284, 17 HRs, 43 BB. That should get him into the 284/355/475 range. Not great, but a big improvement over '06.

Center Field: Offensive Key #3. Beltran was the Mets best hitter last year. Beltran was the Mets best fielder last year. Beltran was the Mets best player last year, and with the arguable exception of Albert Pujols, he was the best player in the majors last year. That said, two things worry me: he missed 22 games due to a series of nagging leg injuries following a season where he probably should've missed about 122 games due to various nagging leg injuries. And last season saw him put up the best numbers of his career.

Simply put, it'll be hard for him to repeat last year's success and play 150+ games. But . . . the Mets need him to put up big numbers again. That's why he's a Key. Because he's capable of doing so, even if he's somewhat unlikely to. I just think he'll be somewhere between 2005 and 2006 level. But if the Mets hope to win 95+ again, they'll need the 2006 Beltran.

I just don't think we'll see him again (and maybe Beltran, Version 3.0 swings at two-strike curveballs). My prediction: 146 games, .268, 36 HR, 107 BB, for~ 268/395/545. Very good numbers, but a large drop-off in slugging.

As to Ramon Castro, Anderson Hernandez, the Ghost of Chris Woodward, Keith Hernandez, even some non-hitting Japanese "star," I'm not that concerned about the Met bench. They have 5 outfielders that'll get real playing time, and if any of the big three infielders go down, it doesn't matter who replaces them in the line-up. Seriously, if (god forbid) Reyes goes down, are you that concerned whether Hernandez hits .215 or .240?

Ugh, I just got sick. Let's not even talk about it. Shit, let's not even think about it.

(Hey! Yeah you . . . stop thinking about it.)

All-in-all, this should be a good offense. Not as good as last year, a season in which the Mets scored more runs than their composite numbers would've suggested (3rd in Runs while only 8th in OBP, for instance). I figure they'll end up around 5th or 6th in the NL in runs scored, which is normally quite good for a team in a ballpark like Shea. It all hinges on the pitching.

Back tomorrow with that half of the ledger & my season predictions.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

RANDOM FLICKR BLOGGING # 6236

Monday (ugh) Morning. Tom explains.

1. "6236," uploaded by "xxxxxxxxx" on March 3, 2007:

***Author's Note: Picture & photographer's "name" removed at request of slightly paranoid anonymous mother***

Now you'll have to wonder what the caption below means. I assure you it's not as exciting as you think.

Whoa, I said "tickle me," not molest me!

2. "6236," uploaded by "cospho" on September 27, 2005:

After one too many arrogant "Western Culture" lectures by Professor Goldstein -- visiting lecturer at The University of Taipei -- Lao Shin was determined to prove once and for all that "those damn Jews aren't the only ones with horns."

3. "_MG_6236, uploaded by "gyomesz1" on November 9, 2006:

Whattaya mean we have to pay for the wedding??? I thought I just say "I do" and take you back to that cheesy room upstairs.

4. "IMG_6236," uploaded by "madhog" on August 14, 2005:

No matter how long they sat & stared, the undeniable fact that cold beers, char-broiled steaks, and scantily-clad college girls weren't popping out of Brad's "Magic Plastic Container" wasn't taking hold.

They were gonna give it just 5 minutes more.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

IT JUST DOESN'T DID MATTER (AKA, MIKE GETS FRIGHTENINGLY SERIOUS ABOUT A VERY UNSERIOUS MOVIE)

It's Friday. The first Friday of Spring. And the second Friday after I opened the floor to reader requests. Last week I did Hardbodies, so I figure what the hell, let's go with one of the flicks that lost out in the tightly-contested battle for FSMOMYOTD supremacy. What the hell am I talking about? I have no idea. Anyhow, let's get to it. Ladies & gents & children of all ages, may I present for your coffee-supping enjoyment, the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day, the 2nd runner-up in the readers' choice vote, none other than . . .

Meatballs


1979. The very core year of what I think of as the "late 70's." Decades, in the cultural sense, always arrive a bit late. "The 60s" began around 1964 or so: just after JFK's assassination; when the Beatles arrived in the US; as the Civil Rights struggle went into full swing; the Gulf of Tonkin Incident never happened, etc. "The 70's" probably started sometime during 1973 -- when the Watergate story broke, the first Energy Crisis struck, and the US gave up on the adventure in Southeast Asia -- and 1974, when Nixon resigned and the US economy started its long slide into the shitter. And that wackiest of decades ended, by my estimates, around 1982 or so, when the Reagan Revolution took hold, the Stock Market began its bull run, and people began to see mousse not as a food, but as a hair-styling product. Essentially when men's hair remained uncomfortably long, but no longer in a style that covered the ears.

(Or maybe it was when parachutes became pants?)

Whew. Enough of the history lessons. 1979 was, therefore, the middle of the "late seventies." And "so what?" you ask. Well, among other things, that means it was the height of the straight/white wave of the disco era, along with its very straight & very white "Disco Sucks" reaction. Disco Demolition Night, at Comisky Park? Summer of '79.

What else? FSMOMYOTD, The Warriors, with its concommitant wave of subway violence, graffiti, and hordes of gang-bangers dressed as Bucky Dent.

What else? The Iran Hostage Crisis began; the USSR invaded Afghanistan; the Stampede (and deaths) at The Who concert in Cincinnati. Finally, the Second Energy Crisis hit, the US inflation rate hit 13% by year's end, and everyone believed the US was destined for third-world status by 1985. Good times alllllllllll around.

Not to say I didn't think life was grand & peachy keen in 1979, because I did. I fucking loved it. I was 11 years-old, I thought the hair-styles and the clothes were great, I dug the cute girls in my classes and at the roller rink with their feathered hair and skin-tight designer jeans. As you all know, I loved the Warriors.

For crissakes, the Rangers even made the Stanley Cup Finals.

And it wasn't a time of respect for authority. Hard to remember that in the times we now live in. We were supposed to "question" authority. Cynicism was "in." Old traditions and standards were under interrogation, under a glare, and under attack. And it was in this world that Meatballs came out: the world where not only did you root for the underdogs, the underdogs were obviously right! How could the "establishment" be right???

The world of movies reflected the world around it: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest won the Best Picture for 1975. In terms of youth-oriented movies, The Bad News Bears set the stage in 1976, with its cursing & smoking kids, a beer-swilling coach, out-of-control parents who gave not a damn for their children. And a non-earnest, non-righteous, yet unmistakable message that it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but it very much does matter how you play the game. Two years later, Animal House blew the stage up, with a combination of a sharp slap in the face of authority, and its irreverent & ridiculous combination of sub-sophomoric food fights, dead horses & jiggling boobs. Man, and what a revelation it was.

And over the next few years, before the 70's unofficially ended, Hollywood actually gave us a series of mainstream movies embracing this anti-authoritarian ethos. Some good, some bad, many quite cynical, these films nonetheless expressed something in America's post-Nixonian mood, with its anti-heroes who were nevertheless decidedly unheroic. And rather selfish (the Me Decade indeed): The Blues Brothers, Stripes, Used Cars, and even a bunch of movies I haven't written about in this series. Even in E.T., for crissakes, the villains were the authorities. Think about it: the aliens were the good guys, the government the bad.

Ok, enough of that seriousness. For those of you who fell asleep, come back. Let's look at the movie itself: a bunch of goofy kids have no self-esteem & no chance to defeat Camp Mohawk in the Camp Olympics. So Bill Murray takes a break from chasing skirt (or short, short gym shorts in this case -- 1979, remember?) to "teach" the kids that it just doesn't matter, let your dick swing no matter what, and kick ass if the ass-to-be-kicked allows it happen.

Or something like that. You know what? It really just doesn't matter. Let's get to . . .

The Cast? Other than Murray, not a whole lot of famous folk in this one, being low-budget, and Canadian and all that. It had Kate Lynch, who actually won a Genie, or Canadian Oscar for this. Cute movie, but a best actress nod? I know it'd be nice for the Academy Awards to realize after 75 years that such a thing as the "comedy movie" exists, but this is pushing it. Kate was also in Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!, which I'm gonna go ahead and put in the "sequels that never should've been made files." Not only was it a sequel, making it 97.4% likely to be SOA, or Sucking On Arrival, but the title contained the dreaded exclamation point, which is a sure sign of disaster in all-but crazy comedies made by the ZAZ Boys (i.e., Airplane! or Top Secret!).

In fact, I'm declaring a new, inexorable law right now: if both a roman numeral and an exclamation point appear in the title of a movie, it Must Suck. I defy any and all to find an exception to this law.

(By the way, for my money, the best sequel ever, in terms of ratio of first movie greatness to second movie greatness, is not Godfather, Part II, but Empire Strikes Back. While GFII is an unmistakably great film, it's not as good as the original. ESB, however, is far superior to the first Star Wars. Ok, back to our regular programming.)

Lynch also went on to log appearences in The Shower (featuring IMDB keywords, "Adultery," "Baby Shower," "Male Nudity," "Sex in Bathroom," and "Sex in Shower) and Amy Fisher: My Story, with former football-star & Heisman runner-up, Ed Marinaro as Joey Buttafuoco.

Safe to say a Genie doesn't guarantee a top-flight film career. Yikes.

Also appearing in Meatballs, as A.L., was Kristine DeBell, who played Alice in the 1976 "independent" version of Alice In Wonderland. If any of you have seen this, you'll know it's the "pornographic, musical" version of Lewis Carroll's opium dream-based fairy tale.

(No, I swear I didn't make that up. Check out the link, it's legit. Really.)

Chris Makepeace played Rudy, the nominal protagonist of Meatballs. He went on to star in 1980's My Bodyguard, about yet another wimpy kid who hires a tough guy to protect him (because he didn't have the coolest camp counselor in history to bail him out that time). It's been many years since I saw My Bodyguard (probably 27 years), but I remember thinking it was decent at the time. I won't say I remember now, but apparently Matt Dillon was in it, as the bully, "Moody." My Bodyguard was the second of three movies in a 2 year run that saw Dillon play under-age tough guys, schoolyard bullies, or straight-out juvenile delingents: Over The Edge, My Bodyguard, and Little Darlings, in that order. Again, we're talking 1979-80 here. Teenagers who smoked butts, smoked dope, got laid, broke stuff, talked-back, fucked with authority . . . and those characters were largely sympathetic. This is the world I grew up in.

By 1984, though, Dillon turned his other-side-of-the-tracks thing into upward mobility, in The Flamingo Kid, a Garry Marshall film. Not a bad movie, but a different beast than he portrayed in Over The Edge, that's for sure. And in The Outsiders, he played Dallas Winston, a role he was born to play. But while Dally lived an outsider's life, filled with violence & whores & drugs and such, he died for his sins! Don't forget that. The book (which I loved so much as a kid I really can't speak coherently about it now) was written in 1967, and the movie came out in 1983, or Year One of the Real 80's. Only in the 70's could an anti-hero live a life outside of societal norms and survive.

It would take the renaissance of "alterna-cinema" in the spectacular movie year, 1989, to get things "back on track" for Dillon.

And playing the bodyguard in My Bodyguard was Adam Baldwin, who is not a long-lost Baldwin brother, but did play "Animal Mother" in Full Metal Jacket. ("If I'm gonna get my balls blown off for a word, my word is poooooon-tang.")

Getting back to Meatballs, appearing uncredited was Brett Baxter Clark, who ended up in a number of movies that . . . had influence in the five years or so after Meatballs: Wrath of Khan, Night Shift, Bachelor Party, and Malibu Express. Not a bad run there.

And finally, getting to one of the real gems of my cast-search, we find that playing one of the Camp Mohawk baseball players was Brian Backer. Brian Backer, Brian Backer? That name sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Yes. Because it is familiar: Brian Backer was Mark Ratner! Yes indeed, Mark Ratner, unrequited lover of Jennifer Jason Leigh in her first of 700 clothes-shedding roles. And more importantly, buddy of the one-and-only Mike Damone, played by Robert Romanus, brother of Richard Romanus, who played loan-shark Michael Longo, who arranged the shooting death of Robert DeNiro's Johnny Boy in Mean Streets.

Got all that? Doesn't matter, so long as you remember that it's all connected.

Getting back to Backer (who rides sidecar in Romanus' "what the hell happened to him?" motorcycle), I see he actually parlayed Fast Times into . . . well, into pretty much nothing. His last role came in 2000, in Loser, a film directed by Amy Heckerling, the woman who brought us Fast Times in the first place. Loser. Damn, sometimes things have their own symmetry.

Because Fast Times At Ridgemont High, remembered incorrectly as one of the true "80's Movies," was in many ways the consummate 70's film: dope-smoking, sex-craving, rudderless children; a casual, almost off-handed treatment of real-life issues like abortion, employment, race, gender, and class; characters living life to its fullest without consequences (Spicoli, let's remember, wins the jackpot for doing nothing other than watching Brad Hamilton save the day); and an emphasis on fun, being young, and moral choices as opposed to morality as handed down by rules or authority figures. All very 70's themes. And what year did Fast Times come out?

1982. The last year of the 70's. A quarter of a century ago. They can keep the inflation, the hostage crises, the baseball stadium riots, and even the hair-styles (though I wouldn't mind the short-shorts). But I want a little of that anti-authoritarianism back. We need it.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

LADIES & GENTLEMEN, LARRY "BUD" MELMAN

As you may have read, 80's-era Late Night cast member, Larry "Bud" Melman died yesterday at 85 years-old.

Like many folks my age, I was a huge Letterman fan in the 80's when the show still clung a bit to its "cult" status. And Melman, with with his "Am I on TV?" mannerisms was a big part of the offbeat charm. I think I watched him 20 or 30 times before I was fully convinced he wasn't an actor, pretending to be this Melman character.

But of course, he was playing Melman: his real name was Calvert DeForest (how pathetic is it that I knew that without reading the article?). And that little dose of post-modernism was a key factor in the whole "ironic detachment"/self-consciousness that informed so much of pop culture, art, and entertainment during that period that bridged the late 80s and early-to-mid 90's.

That overused irony is (rightly) decried now, after a decade of increasingly impersonal expression in film, music, and television. But in the mid-80s, as it began to gain traction, it was freakin' liberating. Letterman, back in the day, was the anti-talk show.

And Larry Bud was one of the anti-pieces of that anti-puzzle. Rest in Peace.

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OH MY

Not sure where it ranks on The "Holy shit, that's fucked up" Scale, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that Necrophilia combined with Bestiality is pretty high up:
A 20-year-old man received probation after he was convicted of having sexual contact with a dead deer . . . . He was found guilty in April 2005 of felony mistreatment of an animal after he killed a horse with the intention of having sex with it.
Whoa, Nelly.

Incidentally, call me a loon, but I don't think the dude should be convicted of anything for what he did to the deer. If the poor brute was already dead, what's the difference what this screwed-up disaster did with it.

Now as for killing a horse so he could get jiggy with the corpse, that's another matter.

And now if you'll excuse me, I need to take a 3 week-long shower.

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MARMALARD, DEAD! NIEDERMAYER, DEAD! ROVE . . .

. . . Dead!

Let's make it happen, folks.

***Disclaimer: To any & all who may be snooping, investigating, or digging for dirt (or looking for Operational Directives from COMINTERN), the use of the term "Dead" is meant in a purely figurative or metaphorical manner. Karl can live, but his political career should not. That is all.***

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IF ALANIS WROTE THE HEADLINE, SHE'D CALL IT "IRONIC"

In one of those juxtapositions of the past, the present, and the absurd that get the pile of gears & levers in my skull all atwitter (aka, from the "Maybe It's Just Me?" Files), we learn from AP that "Vandals" toppled an ancient Roman column at Pompeii.

That's all.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A STROLL THROUGH THE NABE

Not a lot of time this morning, so I'll just give you some thoughts, some links, some a' this, and some a' that.

1. From the "Hmmmm, That's Sorta' Weird" Files, I offer this little nugget, from A.P., about Manny Ramirez:
"the Red Sox quirky slugger with the $160 million contract is selling on eBay a JENN-AIR grill he said he bought for about $4,000."
The bidding, for the grill as well as an autographed baseball:
"was up to $20,201 and climbing"
Manny Ramirez has clearly entered what Bill Simmons called "The Tyson Zone," where nothing someone does surprises you. Manny, unlike Tyson & others, is harmless, but that doesn't change the fact that he is predictably bizarre. Which of the following sounds more unlikely:
a. Britney shaves her pubic hair on pay-per-view
b. Manny Ramirez sells a grill on e-Bay for a 500% profit
c. Angelina Jolie adopts the entire nation of Malawi
d. Dick Cheney eats Nancy Pelosi's German shorthaired pointer in two bites.
They all sound equally (un)likely.

2. My gym ("health club," is that the correct term?) plays a surprisingly decent variety of music. In two years I've heard a live version of The Pixies covering The Jesus & Mary Chain's "Head On"; The Arctic Monkeys "I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor" before it got popular; White Stripes; "classic" R.E.M., you get the gist. Sure, they play too much Gwen Stefani & Sheryl Crow, but since those chicks are poster-children for working out, I can understand it.

But lately they've gone too far. Every fucking time I'm there for the last month or so, they play this crapulent song, "Does The DJ Know What He's Doing To Me?" by a nightmare-inducing warbler named Alison Ray. For point of comparison, she's more annoying than Rachael Ray, if you can imagine such a thing. If you haven't heard this monstrosity, do yourself a favor and do not track it down. It'll stick in your head, and you'll be fucked for life. Don't.

And if you've already heard it, you know what I mean, and you're already fucked. So follow the link, look her up, do whatever you want to further destroy any hope of future happiness. I will hereby make it my life's mission to destroy Alison Ray's musical career. Who's with me?

Does the music selector at my gym know what he's doing to me?

3. From The Disgruntled Chemist, here's a good (and funny) bit on CNN, Intelligent Design Theory, bad reporting, and the ever-famous Masters degree in "science."

4. Finally, I'm sure everyone's aware that our fearless President decided yesterday to throw a bit of a tantrum on national TV (from Josh Marshall), as he dissembled, shambled, grimaced & grunted about Gonzales, Congression subpoenas, executive privilege power, and presidential "precedent."

Anyhow, I love Toast's take on things over at Two Glasses. Check the whole post out (it's quite short), but here's a little taste:
From the Florida recount forward, this administration has brought us to the brink of one "Constitutional Crisis" after another, and every time we have been denied that moment of reckoning . . . I want that reckoning. I want it for all the respectable reasons. It is vital to the health of the United States that this reckless, arrogant vision of a "unitary" executive be officially repudiated, restoring the White House to its intended position as one among three co-equal branches of government. It is an essential point of principle that we demonstrate to the world that we are, still, a nation of laws and not men. It is imperative that we set an example for future would-be domestic tyrants so that they will understand that they hold office at our pleasure, and that we can and will hold them personally accountable for their actions. But there's also something more, something perhaps not altogether wholesome, something personal that feeds this longing for a climactic confrontation: I want to see George Bush and Dick Cheney broken. Not in the sense of "harmed" or "destroyed" but in the sense of brought to heel. I want to see them forced, wholly against their wills, to Do What They Are Fucking Told.
Brought. To. Heel. Hell yeah.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

WHEN THE BLIND LEAD THE STUPID

Now, if I'm Alberto Gonzales (and thank god I'm not), nothing gives me a bigger dose of job anxiety than this, as reported by A.P.:
President Bush sent a powerful message of support Tuesday for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, calling his longtime friend to express unwavering support in the face of calls for his resignation. The White House also denied reports that it was looking for possible successors for Gonzales. "Those rumors are untrue," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. Bush called Gonzales from the Oval Office at 7:15 a.m. . . . The White House disclosed Bush's call to bolster Gonzales and attempt to rally Republicans to support him. "The president reaffirmed his strong backing of the attorney general and his support for him," Perino said. "The president called him to reaffirm his support."
He's doomed. When the "Truth is a Luxury I Can't Afford" Squad gives you the thumbs-up, the thumb in the eye can be, at best, moments away.

I give him til the end of the week.

And, embedded in this story, we get words of wisdom from none other than Tommy "The Hammer" DeLay:
"[this scandal] is just a taste of what's going to be like for the next two years. And the Bush administration sort of showed their weakness when they got rid of Don Rumsfeld . . . . This is a made up scandal. There is no evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever . . . . They ought to be fighting back."
Gee, thanks Tom. No sarcasm, I'm serious. The Tone-Deaf leading the Tone-Deaf can only bring further wrack & ruin to this corrupted disgrace of an Administration. And with the afraid-of-a-fight Dems rattling sabres, but never raising them in anger, we'll need an historic parade of horrors from the White House before they do anything meaningful.

So let's just hope that Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales & Rove lead the bison to the edge of the cliff where even a pathetic tribe like the Congressional Dems can force them over.

Meanwhile -- in case you're playing along at home -- the Debacle in the Desert reaches Year 5; the death count heads towards 3,500; 30,000 new troops in-country since the new year; and a housing market that implodes a little more every day.

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GOING ONCE, GOING TWICE, SOLD TO THE MAN WITH A DECENT CREDIT LIMIT ON HIS VISA CARD

I'm no expert on automobiles, housing, or economics, but I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say the following indicates industry-wide & city-wide mismanagement: Reuters informs us that in Detroit, the cost of a car outstrips that of a house.

Apparently (and this really should come as no surprise), the combination of the failed local automotive industry, urban blight, and "rising cost of mortgage financing for Detroit borrowers with weak credit" is sending housing prices down faster than you can say foreclosure.

A closet in Grosse Point or Bloomfield Hills probably costs more than a house in Detroit city limits.

I'd like to dig further for some snarky commentary, but this really is no joke. People with almost nothing are losing their last shreds of wealth or savings. And the city that once upon a time housed America's manufacturing muscle continues its 40 year slide into the third world. And most ominously, that particular manufacturing sector marches without pause into irrelevance and decay.

Lots of cities, most notably Green Bay, have claimed the nickname, Titletown, U.S.A. I think it should be Detroit, where one can get title to a house at an auction with a checkbook.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

RANDOM FLICKR BLOGGING # 0088

Tom at If I Ran The Zoo explains.

No silly captions today, folks. Just a few images of Spring . . . which is but 2 days away.

1. "---_0088," uploaded by "Shay Mozes" on May 23, 2006:

No caption required.

2. "0088-amsterdam_canal3," uploaded by "aisipos" on January 28, 2006:

I've visited in late Winter, and also in late Summer. But man, would I love to check out Amsterdam in the swing of Spring. Words fail.

3. "IMG_0088," uploaded by "Minneapolis Red Sox" on March 18, 2007:

Baseball's best pitcher mid-delivery, reminding us that opening day approaches. Not sure who was digging in against him, but whatever was on its way plateward couldn't have been terribly hit-able.

There are other images of Spring I had in mind, but I'm limited to "0088." Sorry.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT

The readers have spoken. And they've said, with volume, clarity, and all that jazz, "We are a bunch of horny old men. Give us tit-tays." Confused? Don't be.

You see, last week I failed disgracefully to give the teeming masses the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day they so richly deserve. So after a heartfelt, yet unconvincing, demonstration of contrition, I opened the floor to suggestions, requests, demands, and shout-outs to determine the FSMOMYOTD you are about to read. And from a list that included the sweet coming-of-age-at-camp tale, Meatballs, and a richly-textured journey through the twin worlds of comedy & horror, Fright Night, the dirty old men known as my readers chose a mid-eighties, straight-to-video smutfest.

And let me say . . . well-done, fellas (and ladies -- Maurinsky also opted for this one).

So, without any further ado (and with many a bare booby), I present to you this Reader's Choice Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day . . .

Hardbodies

Take a good look at the poster. The gal in the picture is wearing more clothing than 99.6% of the actresses in the actual movie. Need I inform you that as a 16 year-old, I loved this one?

The set-up: 1984. The peak of the Skin-a-Max classic. The premise of this one, as far as I recall, was three middle-aged, divorced guys go to California to rent a cool house on the beach, with the express goal of bagging dozens, if not hundreds, of the "hardbodies" frolicking on the sands. But, this being a very silly movie, their money, their beach house, and their experience mean nothing to any of the girls they meet. In fact, one of the geezers tries to pick up a girl at a party, and she shoots him down with a harsh declaration: "I don't fuck fossils for free." Ouch.

So they turn to Scotty Palmer, a teenage lothario, to teach them how to score with the babes.

Sil-ly. But -- and this was the key -- the flimsy plot facilitated maximum bare-breastedness. Along with The Beach Girls, Hot Dog . . . The Movie, and Porky's, this may have been the apex of the early-to-mid-80's Cable TV Titty Flick. Hardbodies' IMDB page contains no "Memorable Quotes," no "External Reviews," no "Official Site," no "Trailer." It doesn't even feature a "Photo Gallery," which in the case is very unfortunate. It does, however, contain one piece of "Trivia," which I think comes closest to summing it all up: "Originally made for Playboy TV, but released as a feature film instead."

"Feature film," huh? Film featuring naked boobs is closer to accuracy. Anyways, apart from the main cast members -- "Breasts" -- there's really not a whole lot to say about the movie. So, let's move along to . . . The Cast:

Gary Wood, Michael Rapport, and Sorrells Pickard (who sang a song called "I Don't Fuck Fossils For Free," as he plucked his gee-tar on the beach) played the three old dudes. More on them in a bit.

(And no, that's not Michael Rappaport. It's Michael Rapport; no extra "ap.")

Courtney Gains was, of course, "Rag." Being 1984, and Rag being a surf dude, he wore Vans. And one of those baseball cap-safari hats that were somewhat popular at the time -- a cap with material that hung down in back, covering the neck. Gains was also the random, red-headed gangbanger in Colors, which never made any sense to me at all. His character's name in that one was "Whitey," so at least we know Dennis Hopper cast him on purpose. It wasn't one of those "crazy Dennis" moments. He knew he was white; it wasn't a flashback or anything.

Gains also played one of Patrick Dempsey's two geeky friends in Can't Buy Me Love, one of the "Second Wave" of straight-to-video teenage sex/comedy/horror flicks. These films, which contained far-less gratuitous nudity than their First Wave brethren, always tried to contain some vaguely moral lesson, rather than just embracing the anarchic glee of the earlier sort. Other examples of this second wave include The Heavenly Kid (with Mark Metcalf -- the actor who played Niedermeyer -- as the grumpy-but-kindly stepfather), Just One Of The Guys (with Billy Zabka playing one of his three "Pantheonic Blonde Bad Guys" and Joyce Hyser's beautiful breasts in the unnecessary-but-much-appreciated boob shot), and The Stepfather, which featured one of the 80's most underrated Creepy Guy performances by Terry O'Quinn. These movies showed up in the latter half of the 80s, when every shred of fun that had seeped over from the 70s was ceremoniously purged and sent to prison on trumped-up drug-related charges as the nation marched to the "Just Say No" drumbeat.

Anyway, in Can't Buy Me Love, Gains delivered a heartfelt rant, explaining to Dempsey how he'd sold out to make new friends, be popular, and get laid by hot chicks (somehow innappropriate for a high schooler?). You may recall him punctuating his plea by declaring, "And then you trashed my house!" Very funny scene. Nothing funnier than a bad actor -- and a goofy-looking one at that -- trying to screw on the "I'm angry!" thing.

Speaking of Dennis Hopper, Gary Woods' first role came in 1968's The Glory Stompers, one of those late 60's biker gang flicks, playing "Pony," while Hopper was "Chino." Of course, in West Side Story, it was Chino who shot & killed Tony, which is but one letter away from Pony. Natalie Wood, who played Maria, Tony's girlfriend, was James Dean's girlfriend in Rebel Without A Cause. And who had his first credited film role in that 1955 classic? Dennis Hopper.

(And the point of that ridiculously attenuated association game? I have no idea, but it proves yet again that it's all connected.)

Grant Kramer
, who played the teenage playa/pimp, Soopah Cool Scotty Palmer, had his first film role in George Romero's original version of Night of the Living Dead, also in 1968. He was 7 years-old. Like introducing a kid to porn or weed or violence at too young an age, this exposure to zombies (and black & white filmmaking) during his tender years obviously scarred him. Hardbodies was a foregone conclusion. A co-starring role with dozens of naked breasts, as a teenage pimp for aging divorcees, was the only path his career could take.

Among his other career highlights: Jo's cousin on "Facts of Life"; playing "Mike Tobacco" in Killer Klowns From Outer Space; a part in Auntie Lee's Meat Pies, starring Karen Black and Pat Morita (!); and Leapin' Leprechauns.

(Incidentally, I thought "Mike Tobacco" was the euphemism for "party favors" at my place back in the early 90s.)

Sorrells Pickard left us a few years back (fossils indeed). But before that point he managed to fill his resume with a grand total of three other movies, including Hardbodies 2, and Ultraviolet, starring Esai Morales. Now, admit it: you think I'm gonna make fun of Esai Morales, don't you? I would, but his role in Bad Boys, when he and Sean Penn fought it out with barbells and shivs, is just too cool a role. Penn filling his pillow case with filled soda cans at the beginning of that scene is an image I've never forgotten.

(Though I have to assume those cans exploded in a big way when he decided to quench up after the epic throwdown.)

Anyway . . . so Pickard didn't have much of a career. But he did sit on that beach singing "I Don't Fuck Fossils For Free." I can't keep repeating that fact enough (obviously). And though I've searched high and low for the full lyrics, I can't find them.

Teal Roberts was Scotty's chick, his number one hardbody you might say. Other than a pretty strong suspicion as to her favorite color, I know very little. She "broke into" the entertainment world as an "actress" on Starsearch in 1984, and by year's end had parlayed that moment of exposure into some real exposure, in both Hardbodies and a role in the slasher flick, Fatal Games. From there, you can pretty much fill in the details on your own: Beverly Hills Cop II, Night of the Warrior, The Last Boyscout, and an episode of "Silk Stalkings" as, respectively, "Stripper," "Still Model," "Dancer," and "Dancer." For the last 13 years, her "acting career" has stalled.

Although I don't remember it, apparently there were roving gangs of dorks, nerds, and geeks on the beach competing with the fossils for hardbody action: Marvin Katzoff was "Dorky Geek" in Hardbodies. This role as "nerd in the skin-a-max movie" seems to have been the extent of his career, as he was in H.O.T.S. as "Big Boy," and "Egghead Herman" in Delta Pi, starring Ruth Gordon (!!) and FSMOMYOTD alum, Eddie Deezen, best known as Eugene in Grease. Delta Pi's tagline? "These Girls Go All The Way." In his relatively short film career Katzoff also played "Debater #1," "Cricket," and "Man With Kitten."

Along with Katzoff was Kip Waldo as "Head Geek." Unlike poor Katzoff, pigeon-holed as a nerd for the entirety of his film run, Waldo mixed it up in his six movie career: in addition to "Head Geek," he managed to play "Gang Member," "Waldo," "Gross Waiter" in the ludicrous-but-fun Streets Of Fire featuring a young & hot Diane Lane, "Heckler at Rally," and the "Convenience Store Clerk" in Diehard, presumably the fellow who sold junk food to Reginald VelJohnson before he headed over to Nakitome Towers. Not bad, all-in-all.

I'm not gonna talk about the guy who played "Young Geek," but I will riff a bit on the fellow responsible for bringing "Old Geek" to life: Kane Hodder. Hodder's done plenty of stunt work over the years, in a bunch of not-very-good flicks. But as an actor, his resume is somewhat interesting, including most-notably, Michael Tolkin's almost-great apocalypse/revelations film, The Rapture. But . . . far more importantly for this post, Hodder played none other than Jason Vorhees in Friday The Thirteenth Part VII: The New Blood and Friday The Thirteenth Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. I know we're all more inclined to laugh at this, but that's crazy. This dude played Jason! A lot of people have acted. But not many played a character -- even in sequels -- that everyone knows.

At one of the parties that Scotty, Rag, the old guys & the gang attend, an all-girl band plays: Vixen, which was a real band at the time. I remember the name, but honestly, if you told me that Vixen was the name of an all-male hair-metal band in the 80s, I'd believe you. Anyone own an album? Seen 'em live? (C'mon, you can admit it.)

The wonderfully-named Julie Always played one of four "Photo Session Hardbodies." It shouldn't surprise you, but I think I remember that scene. And during the many times I watched Hardbodies, that might've been the last scene I saw before turning off the TV and heading to bed. When the mission was accomplished, it was accomplished, you know?

And finally, Roberta Collins, nearly 40 by the time she appeared in Hardbodies, started appearing in sexploitation flicks much earlier: The Big Doll House, a 1971 women-in-prison piece; Women in Cages, another 1971 women-in-prison job; Unholy Rollers, a 1972 roller derby movie; and Caged Heat, a 1974 women-in-prison movie. She might as well have actually gone to prison in the early 70's. She was also "Matilda the Hun" in 1975's Death Race 2000.

And her final screen appearence was in Hardbodies 2. It would've been nice to have seen her cast in a better vehicle than that, but I guess they don't cast fossils for free.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

GOTTA RUN . . .

Busy stretch the next couple days (but I got a jump-start on the Friday post over the weekend, so it's coming tomorrow. Hell, high-water, or anything else be damned).

By the way, the show last night was pretty good, even though I still wouldn't know one of their songs if I heard it. They covered a Modern Lovers tune during the encore, which was the best, rockingest song in the show.

Anyone have a good cover-at-a-live-show tale to tell? Or any other cool concert story?

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

PROBABLY JUST ME

(Or maybe George).

Anyhow, I love the juxtaposition of these two headlines in Yahoo! News today:
Bush Seeks Better Ties In Latin America

New Mexico Makes The Bolo The Official State Tie
Apart from the obvious (and amusing only to me . . . and maybe George) connection of "tie" (the tie between ties?), there's the New Mexico-Mexico thing. And then of course we've got the selection of a particularly Latin object as the official something of a state that borders Latin America, and . . .

Ohhhhh, if you like this sort of thing you can extend the conceit yourself. And if you don't like it, you probably stopped reading already.

(Man, I'm goofy sometimes.)

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MY MIRACLE TICKET? OR KICKED IN THE SHINS?

I can't remember when I last saw a concert. Of any size. Seriously, other than amateur bands playing for free in the park as I strolled past, I'm not sure I've seen any live music in years. Which is really odd, because from ~1987-1997 I saw more live music than a rock critic. Just show-after-show-after-show. Small clubs, mid-sized venues, arenas, touring festivals, parties, college campuses, I couldn't remember every show I saw if someone paid me to list them. Well into the multiple hundreds at least, I wouldn't be surprised if I saw 1,000 shows in that decade.

And then I decided to pursue a career, "settle down," save money, etc. Not that I ever decided, "That's it, Mike. You're a grown-up now, no concerts for you." No, that'd be ridiculous. Just went out less, failed to plan ahead for big events as often (the scheduling difficulties that accompany a career as a lawyer - ugh), and ultimately used those "spontaneous" moments for both bigger ticket, and more intimate, experiences. And the upshot of this? I haven't seen any live music of consequence in years.

What a disgrace. Let the ribbing, razzing, and ridicule begin.

Anyhoo, that's not why I'm posting this. I'm posting this because I wish to report that I'm attending my first big boy concert in years . . . tonight! That's right. Applesaucer -- long-time friend, part-time "Neighborhood Commenter," and full-time pain in my ass -- decided for whatever reason earlier this week that he'd harangue me into joining him to see The Shins tonight at whatever they currently call the "theater" under Madison Square Garden (I think they may call it "The Theater at Madison Square Garden" or something equally unoriginal). He has a long history of successfully haranguing me into doing things I don't wanna do, and the results of these successful haranguings has been decidedly mixed: purchasing Rangers season tickets late in the '93-'94 season which gave us first dibs on playoff seats? That worked out pretty well. Joining his AL Roto "keeper league" the same season, when he had Clemens, Key, Cone and Mussina as his starters? Didn't turn out nearly as well (for me). To protect the innocent (and the guilty) I won't even get into some of the others right now.

Tonight? We'll see. I know shit about The Shins. Seriously, I don't know any of their songs. But assuming I maintain a level of sobriety tonight that allows me to remember and recall, I'll report back.

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