Monday, August 27, 2007

The Best Day Of Jeff Bagwell's Life

On Sunday, Jeff Bagwell had his number 5 retired by the Houston Astros. The ceremony was attended by Bagwell and every other living number retiree, and featured a call from Bagwell's boyhood hero, Carl Yastrzemski.

Now, it's usually a great honor to have your number retired by a team. It's an honor reserved for a team's greatest players, who usually also happen to be some of the greatest ever. For example, the Milwaukee Brewers have retired the numbers of Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, and Hank Aaron. All great players, all Hall of Famers. The Astros' retirees are a different story.

Nolan Ryan: He's a given. Mike Scott was probably the best pitcher to spend most of his career with the Astros. I can even see Larry Dierker, one of the franchise's inaugural players and latter-day manager. But Jimmy Wynn? Jim Umbricht? Jose Cruz and Don Wilson? I don't even know if those are real players. Are the Astros such a terrible franchise that this is what passes for greatness? They played in the Eighth Wonder of the World, for Christ's sake! Theirs is not so much a Hall of Fame as it is a Hall of Pretty Alright.

As for Bagwell, he is well-deserving of having his number retired. As for his chances in the actual Hall of Fame, those are a little more shaky. As a guy whose MVP year was the definition of "serendipity," he didn't play quite long enough, and his stats aren't quite good enough to make him a serious Hall candidate. Had he not become prone to broken hands, and continued to play at the same level for another 5-6 years, he's a Hall shoo-in. As it stands now, he's going to need a pretty big fanbase of sports writers to get in on any year's ballot.

Congrats anyway on a pretty great career.

Oh, and since Jeff ain't much to look at, I thought instead I'd post a picture of the ex-Mrs. Jeff Bagwell, who, shortly after their divorce, received $15,000 from gambling website to sport their logo on her boobs for a month.

I'm sure that was the second best day of Jeff Bagwell's life.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Lionsgate Missed A Defendant

Earlier in the week, Lionsgate Films filed a lawsuit against several companies for selling merchandise with the slogan, "Nobody puts Baby in the corner." That line, of course, is from Dirty Dancing, a film to which Lionsgate owns the rights. They allege that their copyright on the film covers its dialogue as well, and, therefore, anyone using the phrase without a licensing agreement is violating Lionsgate's copyright.

Not that I'm a Johnny Do-Gooder or anything, but I'd just like to point out to Lionsgate that they may have missed a defendant in their case. On the Fall Out Boy album From Under the Cork Tree, there is a song named "Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner," which sounds like copyright infringement to me.

Not that this is the first time they've done this. The titles for their songs "Tell Mick That He Just Made My List of Things to Do Today," "Of All the Gin Joints in All the World," "Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying," "Champagne for My Real Friends, Real Pain for My Sham Friends" are all quotations from movies that I believe are still coyprighted material. Even the line "He tastes like you, only sweeter" from their smash hit "Thnks fr th Mmrs" is a direct quote from the movie Closer.

Hopefully, the assorted copyright holders of these movie quotes will come forward and sue Fall Out Boy, forcing them to change their songs names to something equally pop-cultural, like "You Brought On the Heartbreak (But All I Got Was a Stomachache)" or "Our Lawyer Made Us Change the Name of This Song So We Wouldn't Get Sued."

Oh wait, they already do have a song called that. I guess lightning can strike twice in the same place.

And on the flip-side of this argument, I think there might be a pretty good case against Bayer for co-opting the name of their new birth control/depression medication from the band of the same name.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Free As A Bird (Pretty Much)

On the same day that Nicole Richie served her 80 minute prison sentence, Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to (approximately) one day in jail for two DUIs, two counts of possession of cocaine, transporting a narcotic into a custodial facility, driving on a suspended license, drinking underage and fleeing the scene of an accident.

Ya know, I'm beginning to think that maybe the L.A. County justice system is working from a different set of books than the rest of the country. I mean, this is the same system that gave O.J. a free pass on two counts of murder. Lindsay got charged with more felonies than the average street-level drug dealer gets five years for, and she gets one day in jail, most of which I'm sure will be spent in the lobby. That's not even enough time for one of the corrections officers to sexually assault her (unless that's what Lindsay wants, then there'll be plenty of time). Lindsay committed a handful of crimes in L.A. that make her a danger to herself and others and gets one day in jail, yet, across the country in New York, Martha Stewart got five months in prison and five months house arrest for selling some stock.

I'm confused. People claim it's favorable treatment for celebrities, yet that dude from Prison Break is about to get sentenced to Chino, which is not a celebrity day camp-type prison, but a genuine ass rape-type prison. (Sounds like someone forgot to blow their judge.) You've got to love a justice system that metes out justice from one extreme to the other on a daily basis.

Today's lesson: if you would like to commit any sort of crime, become really famous and move to L.A. County. Commit whatever crime you like and there's about a 67% chance you'll skate on it. The other 33% is the probability that you'll get the chair, but, hey, I like those odds!

By the way, Lindsay's rehab looks fun as hell. I'm thinking of acquiring a meth addiction so I can have that much fun.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jailbait No More

Just thought I'd mention the 18th birthday of Hayden Panetierre, who plays the indestructible cheerleader on Heroes. It is now officially okay for middle-aged men to ogle her without being pedophiles.

I believe this also begins the T-minus three years until she Lindsays herself into a complete burnout. This includes years of non-stop partying and drug use, making friends with scumbag debutantes, around-the-clock tabloid coverage, numerous public meltdowns, multiple stays in rehab, and the inevitable Playboy spread when she hits 35.

Congrats on making it to adulthood, kiddo. It's all downhill from here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Michael Vick Eats It

It really doesn't come as much of a surprise that Michael Vick decided to plead guilty to the interstate dog-fighting charges that he and his boyz were facing. By taking a plea, he avoids the possible 20 year sentence for the RICO bust if this had gone to trial. Now, he's on the hook for about 12-18 months, with a maximum of five years.

What will be interesting to see is what happens to Vick after this whole "dog" thing is over and done with. The Commissioner has already told Vick, "Do not report to training camp, do not pass go, do not collect $200." I suspect that when he gets out of prison that the League will bench him for at least a year. Somewhere in there, I expect the Falcons to negate the rest of Vick's 10-year, $130 million contract. And, it's expected that, when all's said and done, it may be 2010 before Vick is ever allowed to play football again. And that's if he can get anyone to sign him.

Which I think would bring a end to the career of the most over-hyped running back in the history of...wait, he's a quarterback?

Huh. News to me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Last Five Movies

Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973)
In a callback to the very first one of these, yet another entry in Meiko Kaji's Scorpion series. Nowhere near as weird as the previous two entries, this one finds Scorpion on the run from the law. You've got to love a movie where, in the first minute, Scorpion cuts off the arm of the cop she's handcuffed to, and runs through the streets with it dangling from her wrist. Oh, and a note to the actresses of today: Kaji is able to come off as the toughest bitch on the planet while uttering about three lines of dialogue. There's something to be said for having a "presence."

The Lookout (2007)
An entertaining little flick, even if I'm a little unsure that it's possible to have the mental illness that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has in this. Otherwise, very enjoyable. And Jeff Daniels doesn't get nearly enough work.

Fracture (2007)
When I see legal thrillers like this, I wonder if they actually do any legal research when coming up with the plots. This movie gives us the shakiest examination of the "double jeopardy" exception since, well, Double Jeopardy (which had no basis in legal fact). And isn't it about time for Anthony Hopkins to stop playing Hannibal Lector? He does have other talents, ya know.

The Bride Wore Black (1968)
Francois Truffaut's take on Hitchcock (of whom he was a big fan) turns out to be a failure, as no Hitchcock movie was ever this boring. However, let it be said that this is probably Truffaut's best (ie, least boring) movie. Also, fans of Quentin Tarantino will be pleased to know that this film is in his "Movies I've Stolen From" file, as it shares its plot with Kill Bill.

No-brainer on this one...

Superbad (2007)
This has replaced Hot Fuzz as the funniest movie I've seen this year. It's basically Pretty in Pinkfor the Gen-Y set, told from the guys' perspective. If you're averse to raunchy talk about sex, avoid this like poison, because it's basically the plot of the movie. I liked the retro feel of the movie, from the clothes to the music, even the vintage Columbia Pictures logo before the opening credits. I was somewhat weirded out by the homoerotic subtext that pops up at the end of the film, but, honestly, it's not really that out of place, and makes sense, if you think about it. And if only cops were as fun in real-life as they are in this movie.

A great flick; check it out.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What I'm Listening To

Here's what's blaring out of my stereo at the moment (as though you cared):

-Beyond by Dinosaur Jr.
J Mascis got the original Dinosaur Jr back together, and they rock harder than ever. But, don't kid yourself that just because Murph and Lou Barlow are back in the band that this is a return to the "classic" Dino Jr sound. This is pure "late-model" stuff, with layer upon layer of heavy Jazzmaster noise, just like the J Mascis solo records that he passed off as Dinosaur Jr records. Great stuff, though.

-White Light, White Heat, White Trash by Social Distortion
The best Social Distortion record, IMO. Most people cite Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell, but I like my punk rock to actually rock.

-Vena Sera by Chevelle
Pretty basic Gloom Metal.

-Soul Crusher by Operator
Imagine Chris Cornell fronting a crappy metal band (much like he did in the early days of Soundgarden), and you have a good idea of what Operator sounds like. It's a shame that this record is better than the two solo records that the real Chris Cornell broke up two awesome bands to release.

-"Metalingus" by Alter Bridge
I've never been a big fan of Mark Tremonti, as all of his guitar work with Creed could have been played by a talented computer program. But this song, with the band that Creed became after Scott Stapp fell off the earth, is full of cool little licks and riffs. Maybe if Tremonti had played like this with Creed, they wouldn't have been the Gayest Band Ever.

-"Umbrella" by Rhianna
How do you not like this song?

-"Anything" by JoJo
It's nice to see Jeff Porcaro earning some songwriting royalties again. Too bad he's been dead for, like, 15 years. Oddly, The Girl loves JoJo, but hates this song. She has no appreciation of shitty '80s songs, I guess.

-Lite Rock on the Hard Rock station
I was listening to WXRX, Screw City's Home of Rock, the other day, when I heard something that I'm pretty sure was Avril Lavigne. I actually checked the radio dial to make sure I was on the right station. So, the Rock station was playing (I think) Avril Lavigne, who is sooooooo far away from rock that she may actually come all the way back around to being rock. I'm sure there's a Einstein-Rosen theory that explains it all.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Tribulations Of A Guitar Player

I recently decided that taking up the guitar might be a good waste of my time. And, despite that fact that I'm absolutely atrocious, I'm already looking for my next guitar.

No one ever plays one guitar their whole life. They're always looking for another one. Even Eric Clapton and Eddie Van Halen retired their famous guitars for something else. So, this means I spend a lot of time guitar shopping, trying to find that guitar/amp combination that's going to take me to the next level.

The great thing about most guitar shops, particularly the big ones, is that they actually encourage you to play the merchandise. Playing it is the only way to see if it's any good and if it's what you want. You're basically a jackass to buy a guitar you haven't played beforehand (like I did), because you're going to end up with something that's wrong for you.

And while we're talking about guitar stores, I think it's a prerequisite that all guitar store employees a) be able to play the guitar really well, and b) know everything there is to know about guitars. And they're insanely helpful. One at Guitar Center literally inundated me with guitars he thought I might like, one of which was a $1700 Les Paul (which played like a $1700 guitar).

However, the problem with guitar stores is that I'm kinda embarrassed to go in there, as I really am not a good player at this point. It's difficult not to be self-conscious of my guitar-playing ability when a guy the next aisle over has the Zakk Wylde Custom plugged into a Marshall half-stack, tearing the hell out of "Eruption," while I have a ukulele plugged into a five-watt practice amp, struggling my way through, well, nothing. Plus, it's difficult to tell what sounds good when 1) I don't know what "sounds good" sounds like, and 2) I don't know what "sounds good" sounds like.

But, all that being said, I keep going. If nothing else, it's fun to just handle the merchandise. Someday I'll be good. Someday.


BTW, there's another problem with guitar stores, and that's taking The Girl to them. On one trip, I showed her a Gibson Flying V that I thought was pretty cool. Her response was, "That is pretty cool...if you're C.C. DeVille."

My own wife. Wow. I guess it doesn't help that one of the songs I do know how to play is "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."

I bring this shit on myself, I suppose.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Big, Bad Dog

For you fans of Duane Chapman, you'll be pleased to know that Mexican authorities have chosen to drop all charges against Dog and his motley crew stemming back to their capture of Andrew Lister.

So, you'll be able to watch Dog, BeBop, and RockSteady doing what they do best, without any troublesome interference from the federales.

Go with Christ, brah, go with Christ.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Trouble With Barry

Tonight, Barry Bonds hit his 755th homerun, tying him for the all-time record with Hank Aaron. Henry Arron, a genuinely likable guy who fought years of racism to break the previous record of 714, is about to lose his place in history to one of the most hated baseball players since Ty Cobb. (At least Cobb had the decency to admit he was a miserable human being. Shit, he claimed to have killed a mugger in self-defense, and had no problem assaulting the occasional ballpark patron. That's a prick.)

Still, regardless of what kind of an asshole a guy is, it's still impressive to hit 755 homeruns, especially considering that by the time Bonds retires (I suspect) next year, he will have played just as long as Aaron did and will probably have hit more homeruns. I think a lot of other people are just as impressed. What makes it not so impressive is the fact that, 10 years ago, Bonds wasn't on pace to catch Aaron.

"Why is that not impressive," you ask? Well, let's look at the numbers. Through the first 10 years of their careers, it was 366 for Aaron to 334 for Bonds. At this point in their respective careers, Aaron is two years younger than Bonds. Yet, over the next five years, Bonds passed Aaron by 13. Over the next three, leading up to the magical 715, the gap widened to 30. So, a guy who does not have time nor the homeruns on his side suddenly is ahead of schedule by 30. How does that happen?

Oh, that's right: those five years where Barry took the lead were the "magic years," where his head grew eight sizes, he lost the ability to run, and became the most feared power hitter in the game. (Barry once claimed he stopped stealing bases because he was "too old." Rickey Henderson stole 66 bases when he was 40. Yeah: "Too old.") The "magic years" where, at the ripe old age of 37, he eclipsed his previous season-high home run total of 49 (which he set the year before) by 24, and then tacked on another 136 leading up to his 40th birthday. Seems perfectly logical that a guy would hit almost half of his career homeruns after he was 35. Aaron only hit a third of his home runs during that period, so I guess my theory of him being the greatest player ever just got blown to shit.

I also think it's a little odd that it's taken Bonds this long to reach 755, considering the leaps and bounds he's taken in the years leading up to this season. Through the first 19 games of the season, he had eight homeruns. He's hit 13 since then. (That's 77 more games, for those of you counting.) You think he would have jumped all over that by now. Doesn't seem suspicious at all.

Oh well. Hopefully, he break the record tomorrow, so we can all go back to not caring about this anymore.

And for those of you who don't subscribe to the "magic years" theory, the picture at the top of this post is Barry in 2001, the year he hit 73. This picture above is Barry in 1998. Other than the mustache, I can't tell the difference. Can you?

Yeah, that's what I said.


And, while we're on the subject of players perched on the precipice of historical milestones, Tom Glavine has been beached on 299 wins for a while now. And while 300 wins is not as impressive as 755 home runs, because there's been a lot of 300 game winners, it does tend to be the magic number that puts a pitcher into the Hall of Fame. So, Glavine's legacy might be riding on that one win. And while no record is ever safe (A-Rod's on pace to hit about 800 home runs), Glavine winning 300 will be quite an accomplishment, as I believe he's going to be the last one to do it for, oh, quite some time.

Next on deck for 300 is Randy Johnson, at 284. But, with a back surgery and his 44th birthday quickly approaching, he may not get another 16 starts, much less another 16 wins. Behind him is Mike Mussina, who most definitely won't win 55 more games after he's 40. Pedro Martinez, with 206, and Andy Pettite, with 193, are the next best bets, but, at their current paces, they'll both have to play well into their 40s to get there. So, it might be a while.

Mathematically speaking, 300 wins is not impossible to reach. Fifteen wins for 20 years is 300 wins. Unfortunately, it's much harder to do in real life. Greg Maddux won at least 15 games 17 straight years, but he's also one of the best pitchers ever. No easy feat for the average man.

Basically, what it comes down to is that pitchers just aren't as good or consistent as they used to be. None of the pitchers in the top 10 in wins at the start of the decade are in top 10 right now. And, with the advent of the five-man rotation, they don't get as many starts. Fewer starts means fewer wins. I think most current players would be lucky to win as many games as Nolan Ryan lost (which was pretty goddamn close to 300, so, I guess that would be pretty impressive). But, that's if they're lucky. And good.

Good luck, Tom; hope you get 300 and cement your place in the Hall.

(Oh, btw, you may have noticed this post has nothing to do with the movie 300, which is new to DVD and hi-def this week, so feel free to check it out.)