Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fuck You, Fans!

A few months back, I made mention of the retirement of Brett Favre. While I was glad to see him go (because fuck Packers fans), it was regrettable that one of the game's great retired.

That is, until two days ago, when Favre submitted his reinstatement paperwork. By doing so, he basically forces the Packers into trading him, releasing him, or putting him on the roster. Which is exactly what the Packers hoped to avoid doing with him retiring.

As someone who revels when anything goes bad for the Packers, I'm loving this. The level of animosity between Favre and the Packers has risen to hilarious levels. If you believe Favre, he didn't want to retire, but was forced out by the Packers. There are reports that, when Packer management went to visit Favre in Mississippi earlier in the week, they offered him a multi-year contract to stay retired: free money to not play football again. The Packers have claimed that Aaron Rodgers is their guy and Favre would not be the starting quarterback for the Packers again, even if he's just sitting on the bench.

This is great. And both parties are equally to blame. The Packers are so stoked to get Rodgers going that they almost literally shoved Favre out the door. And Favre has been playing this "will-he-or-won't-he" game for so long that the Packers couldn't wait for him to retire. They both fucked themselves.

But the best part is what happens to the fans. After years and years of crowing how their beloved Favre is the greatest quarterback ever, they are going to be rewarded with Favre playing starting quarterback, on Opening Monday Night, in Lambeau Field, for the Minnesota Vikings. I hope he throws for 450 yrds and 6 touchdowns.

I think I just became a Favre fan.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"In Five Minutes, This Place Is (Un)Becoming A Starbucks"

Last Friday, Starbucks came out with a list of 600 stores it would be closing in order to shore up expenses. (The Wall Street Journal has a map of the store closings here.)

This is just the other shoe dropping for Starbucks. I think they've realized that you can't open a Starbucks in every available storefront property and not expect to hit a wall. Eventually, much like what happened with Krispy Kreme, you reach a saturation point where you have more retail outlets than you have demand for. It amazes me that they went almost 5% past their breaking point before realizing they might have overextended a little.

But, there have been some unexpected side effects. While I have never heard of anyone petitioning the company to have a Starbucks opened in their community (as, if you wait long enough, one will just show up regardless), there are now people who are now petitioning Starbucks to keep their doomed stores open. A rather high profile example is right here in Wisconsin, where the mayor of Madison is petitioning the company to keep open a store it is closing there.

Now, I'm willing to bet Starbucks didn't just pick these locations out of a hat. I imagine they looked at the financials of every store in every market and found the weakest ones, or ones that were cannibalizing business from stores they'd prefer to keep open (like a kiosk stealing business from a storefront outlet). I'm know they're smart enough not to shut out a city completely unless they know they can't make money there. Here in Wisconsin, the only city that is losing its sole Starbucks is Marshfield, but only like 17 people live there, so fuck them. The mayor of Madison is going to have to live with the fact that, after her beloved downtown location closes, there will only be nine other Starbucks in the Madison metropolitan area to choose from, including one less than half a mile away from the closing store. It's even on the same street.

That's what we in the business call "a lot of fucking Starbuckses."

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Dark Knight Returns

I was soooo psyched up for this to be the greatest movie ever. It had incredible word of mouth; there was the Peter Travers' review in which he came all over himself; everyone was calling Ledger's performance Oscar-worthy. Just so many reasons for this movie to be great.

So, I went and saw the midnight showing on Thursday...and got sucker-punched by a 2.5 hour-long movie that wasn't even as good as Batman Begins.

Because I really don't feel like typing any more on this disappointment, I'm going to take the lazy way out and let you hear Nick Degilio's review, as he sums up my talking points rather nicely:

I will come out on my own and say one thing: as much dirision as I heaped upon the casting of Heath Ledger, he may be the only reason to see this movie. He really is that good in it. (However, Bale's "Batman voice" may be one really big reason NOT to see it. It gets so bad that people were laughing toward the end.)

Oh, and when Heath Ledger died, I made some comments in regards to his role in this movie. Not to give away any spoliers, but read this, and...oops.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Snubs Are In!

The Emmy nominations came out today. Some thoughts, as always:

Outstanding Comedy Series
Do the producers of Two and a Half Men have naked pictures of someone? Because that's the only reason I can explain why they get nominated for this year after year. There ARE much better shows. Like, where, pray tell, is Pushing Daisies, probably the best new show last year? And it's nice to see that Emmy voters realized Desperate Housewives is not a comedy (or a drama or an anything, since it didn't get any nominations for anything).

Outstanding Drama Series
Network TV needs to be worried. There are two shows from basic cable that got nominated here, one of which garnered 16 noms. And that show won the Golden Globe (remember those?) this year, another bad sign for the "Big 4" network shows. Personally, I don't think Mad Men is as good as Damages or Dexter, but what do I know.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
A field so talented, they upped the nominees to six (same with Best Drama Series) to fit them all in. I'll root for the underdog in Bryan Cranston, because a win means Breaking Bad will be back.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
This is when Glenn Close wins this one, as she should have in '05. Two of the other nominees have already won it the past two years, and if Kyra Sedgwick was going to ever win, she'd have done it by now. And Holly Hunter already has an Oscar, so I like Close's chances.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
The entire cast of Lost gets snubbed...with the exception of Michael Emerson, who has supplanted Terry O'Quinn as the best character on that show.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
So, this is where Denis Leary ended up when he got pushed out of Best Drama Actor. He'll lose here too.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
You have to give this to Kristin Chenoweth, because she's so adorable. She's only six inches tall, you know.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
WHHHAAAAAATTTT?!?! No Katherine Heigl??!?!? Shocker!!

Outstanding Reality and Reality Competition Program
I think it's about time for Antiques Roadshow to win this, since Bullshit! wasn't even nominated this year. Because fuck those other shows. And Amazing Race will win the Competition one, because it wins it every year.

Outstanding Reality Program Host
Really? REALLY?!? Seriously.

Check back in September to see that all your faves lost.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Terminator 4 Is Coming (Soon)

The trailer for the next Terminator movie is out. Check it out.

Now, to be quite honest with you, I didn't even know this movie was going to happen. Apparently, the film had some legal problems with the rights. But they've been resolved and the movie's been shooting for a month or so.

Also, in the past, I expressed my doubts about this movie, as it would have no Arnold in it. But they appear to have somehow wrangled Christian Bale, who's a respectable actor, into this supposed trainwreck, so, honestly, how bad could it be?

Oh, wait...wasn't Christian Bale in that movie about the gun karate?

Maybe this will turn out to be a turd after all.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Greatest," My Ass

During one of my internet clickathon sessions, I came across this: Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time List. It's actually rather old, but this is the first time I'd seen it.

Now, if you've ever read this blog before, you know exactly where this is going, but I'd like to digress for a moment.

When I think of what makes a great guitarist, I think about three criteria: mastery - how technically adept a player is; innovation - what this player is doing that no one else has done; and influence - how this player has influenced others. High marks in those three categories, in my mind, would make you a great guitarist. Rolling Stone, however, appears to have some different criteria.

They have a lot of the greatest guitarist on the list; there's no squabbling with that. But I think there's a lot of people on there who shouldn't be, and, even if they should be, are ranked waaaaay ahead of some who are much better.

Take, for example, Kurt Cobain at #12. Cobain was a great songwriter, combining a great ear for pop with a punk's musical taste. But that doesn't make him a great guitarist. If you listen to the records, Kurt's really not that great a player; it's all a lot of sloppy noise.

Or, take Jack White at #17. A talented guitarist, but he's not doing anything that someone like Rory Gallagher wasn't doing much better 30 years ago. Or Johnny Ramone at #16, who literally never played anything but power chords. Or The Edge at #24, who's a good guitarist, but not anywhere near as good as, say, Buddy Guy at #30. There are at least 100 more that I have problems with, but...

As I was going through this list from the start, I saw a lot of the greats, guys who are great players that everyone knows and follows; guys like Hendrix and Clapton and Stevie Ray and Chuck Berry, Jeff Beck, Page, etc, etc. But as I kept going, there was a couple of names I wasn't seeing. And it took me a long time to get to them.

Absolutely buried at #70 is a guy who is top 5 material, easily: Eddie Van Halen. If you got a number of guitarists together and asked them who their influences are, I'd bet 80% of them would have Van Halen on their list. He's a guy that basically redefined the heavy metal music foundation laid out by Jimmy Page and Tommy Iommi. He could all-out play stuff that you'd never heard before (try to think of anything prior to "Eruption" that sounds like that). This is what a great guitarist is. And I think the only guy on this list that got jobbed more than Van Halen did is Randy Rhoads. For a guy that's been dead for 25 years and had only two recordings to his name (Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman), he's only slightly less influential than Van Halen and just a good of a player.

And then there's the outright omissions. Like, where's Robin Trower, whose playing influenced guys like Van Halen and Rhoads and just about every other player in their generation? Or Yngwie Malmsteen, whose insane virtuosity has led to the writing of countless books on "How to Play Like Yngwie." Or Steve Vai, who's playing is actually better than Van Halen's, AND he could probably teach doctorate level courses on music theory on top of it. And I know these are kinda obscure names, but...who the fuck is Glen Buxton? Or Mickey Baker? Or Scotty Moore?

I don't know, but apparently they're some of the greatest guitarists ever. Couldn't prove it by me, but, hey, what do I know? I only a meager guitar player; I'm not a music journalist, so how would I know what a great guitarist is?

After seeing this list, I suspect they don't know either.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Don't Know Why I Bother Anymore

I enjoy going to the movies. I enjoy it so much and do it so often that I actually refer to it as a hobby rather than a way to pass the time.

Summer is the time to see movies; this is when all the big movies come out. During a summer, I'll see a dozen or so movies. But, despite my love for watching movies, I'm beginning to wonder why I feel the need to see the piles of shit that the studios are passing off as movies these days. As of right now, I have seen everything in current release (with the exception of Sex and the City, Zohan, American Girl and Kung-Fu Panda), and I can safely say I'm quickly losing confidence in Hollywood's movie-making ability.

Take Hancock, for example. I've always thought the idea of the scumbag superhero was an entertaining one. Superman turning into a drunken lech was the only good part of Superman 3. So, why wouldn't a whole movie of that same thing be great? Because, once you get away from that idea, which this movie does at about the 45 minute mark...well, it's just shit. Rumor has it that the original cut of this movie was two and a half hours long; I wonder if they cut out all the good parts.

And then there's Wanted, the movie in which Angelina Jolie looks to weigh about 87 pounds (skeletons are sooo hot this year). Here we have some of the most mind-blowing action scenes ever filmed entangled with one of the most harebrained plots ever. Director Timur Bekmambetov's previous movies were less nonsensical, and they were all in Russian!

Then there's this weekend's new movie, Hellboy 2. As is the case with most of Guillermo del Toro's movies, he gives us things to look at that are absolutely beautiful and other-worldly, but, unlike his previous movies, he attaches them to a plot that a two-year old would consider simple-minded. (Maybe it's just me, but I'm noticing a pattern with the "beautiful visuals with no plot" theme in movies.)

In fact, the only thing in current release I would recommend anyone see is WALL-E, which I had no expectations for, and was presently surprised that it turned out to be the best movie I've seen all summer. (Yes, it's better than Indiana Jones.) Considering there's like a dozen or so movies in wide-release right now, that's a pretty bad average.

So, to commemorate "The Summer of Shit" (much like I did with last summer's "Summer of Sequels"), I've changed the poll to "Worst Summer Movie So Far." There's plenty to vote for, so don't be stingy.

And, hopefully, the season will turn around when The Dark Knight comes out next week. But I'm not holding my breath.

Last Five Movies

And while I'm piling on the movies, here's some others you maybe should/shouldn't see:

Definitely, Maybe (2008)
I don't know why I feel compelled to watch Ryan Reynolds' entire filmography, but doing so requires me to watch movies like this. So, that's why this got watched.

Be Kind Rewind (2008)
Only from the strange, twisted mind of Michel Gondry could a movie like this come. It's so goofy that I can't even decide if it was any good at all. I do like the idea of the all VHS video store, though. About eight years ago, I could have shown you a half dozen places like this; I don't even know if they exist anymore.

Sukeban (1973)
Speaking of stuff that doesn't exist anymore, the bad sense of taste and judgement required to make a movie like this has regretfully gone the way of the dodo. Which is a shame, since the amount of nudity and violence in this movie and the others like it makes it better than most movies made today. Oh, how one longs for those simpler times!

Cleaner (2007)
So, this is what Renny Harlin's career has been reduced to: getting the A-list cast of Sam Jackson, Eva Mendes, and Ed Harris to star in a direct-to-video movie. But, that's what happens when you almost single-handedly bankrupt a studio. Just ask Michael Cimino how his career's going.

Just the general cult greatness of this one keeps Sukeban out of the top spot:

Q, The Winged Serpent (1982)
Michael Moriarty, chewing more scenery than Godzilla, discovers the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl roosting in the spir of the Chrysler Building, and holds New York City for ransom. Possibly the craziest plot ever concocted (by the crazy mind of Larry Cohen), supremely cornball effects, and some rather flippant acting make this something that everyone should see at least once. You may not like it, but you need to at least see it.

Check it out.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Only 168 Day 'Til Christmas!

I happened to glance into the Hallmark Store at the mall today, and noticed that they were putting out their Christmas ornament display.

Just for the record, it is July 9th, 168 days from December 25th.

I thought the ornaments were coming out a little premature last year, when I noticed them in August. But, here it is, the second week of July, and the Christmas shit is already coming out. Just to make sure this was as ridiculous as I thought, I walked down to the Carlton Cards store to see if they had their ornaments out. They didn't, so just Hallmark is insane. I mean, I understand wanting to get a jump on your Christmas shopping, but five and a half months early? That's getting a little out of hand.

Anyway, if you too are a person who likes to do their Christmas shopping half a year early, check out Hallmark's website and get your ornament orders in. They're sure to be flying off the shelfs, what with Christmas just around the corner and all.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Brewers Do Something Sensible For Once

Today, the Brewers did the ballsiest thing they have ever done, and made a blockbuster trade that brought reigning AL Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia to the team. This gives them both Sabathia, who's having a kinda slow year so far but is still a great pitcher, and Ben Sheets, who's already one of the better pitchers in the NL.

Now, while I think this is a good move in the short-term, as the Brewers get Sabathia for a handful of minor leaguers, this has absolutely no long-term implications. Sabathia is on the last year of his contract, as is Sheets, and Prince Fielder has made it clear that he is going to rape the Brewers in the ass when his contract comes up for arbitration after the season. So, unless the Brewers are going to raise their ticket prices to $1000 a pop, someone or someones have to go, which means that if they don't win the World Series this year, they pretty much rented Sabathia for nothing.

This has worked for other teams, however. The Diamondbacks won a World Series with this same strategy, and the Marlins won two. Mind you, the Brewers are doing it the stupid way, and just signing one player at a time per year, but when have the Brewers not done something stupid? If it weren't for the Cubs, the Brewers would be the stupidest team in baseball.

Who knows. Maybe it will all work out. But I doubt it.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Baseball Requires No Talent

I just happened to catch SportsCenter tonight, and saw that the Tampa Bay Rays had just swept the Red Sox, which I thought was odd, as the Red Sox are the defending champs, and the Rays may be the worst team in the history of baseball.

I then saw that the Rays have the best record in baseball, in a division with both the Red Sox and the Yankees. Which led me to this conclusion: that winning in baseball is not a factor of talent or payroll, but is merely based on luck.

Seriously, you're going to tell me that adding Eric Hinske and Troy Percival to the worst team in baseball, a team that has never finished better than fourth (and they only did that once), suddenly turns them into the best team in baseball? I can't see any other reason than plain old luck to explain it.

And, while were talking Rays baseball, when did the Devil Rays become the Plain Old Rays? Does the "Ray" still mean the same thing? Are they still in the ray family, with the stingray and the manta ray? Or are they, like, energy rays, like gamma and ultraviolet? Or maybe it now refers to a conglomeration of people named Ray, like Ray Romano and Ray Bolger? And why did they change it? Did they not want to be involved with the evil implications of the word "devil"? Or are they trying to distance themselves from the stigma of the animal that killed Steve Irwin, much like how the Washington Bullets changed their name to distance themselves from the #1 cause of death in their city? Or maybe they found out that you're able to win baseball games if you change your team name.

Interesting theories, all. WAAAYYY more interesting than the fact the Rays are in first place. In fact, it's really a waste of mental capacity to wonder why, because you know exactly where they'll be next year: right back where they've always been.

And all will be right with the universe once more.