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Monthly archives: November 2006

 

College Picks 13-4 Over Past 3 Weeks
2006-11-29 19:47
by Scott Long

4-1 in Colleges and 4-2 in the NFL last week, including keeping my 4-star pro picks perfect at 4-0, with an easy win on the Colts. For the year, I'm 34-25 in the colleges () and 27-28 on NFL choices.

This week the colleges have a small schedule and I don't like much of anything. I will go with Florida(-2.5) over Arkansas for a 3 rated selection. On the star basis this year I'm plus 19, which would have made you some real dough. I'm basically even on the NFL (+1).

Here are my NFL Picks

4 star Denver(-3) Seattle
3 star Cincinnati(-3) Baltimore
3 star Miami(-1) Jacksonville
3 star Carolina(-3) Philly
2 star NY Giants(+4) Dallas
2 star New Orleans(-7) San Francisco

Denver played on Thursday night, while Seattle played on Monday. Huge advantage for rest and preparation goes to Broncos. Rookie QB Cutler will be lifted by energized Mile High crowd. Will 4 stars go 5-0?
It seems like a no-brainer to go with Ravens, but put me in the small minority that are not convinced they are in the Colts and Chargers AFC level.
Miami wishes they could start season in week 8 each year, as they are great under Saban in 2nd half.
Philly is a mess and the Panthers have to win.
Despite the Giants pointing fingers, I just think this is the week Romo comes back to earth.
The 49ers are hot, but haven't been playing good teams. They fall short in the Big Easy.

Kramer's Biggest Pratfall
2006-11-26 20:15
by Scott Long

Say it isn't so, Cosmo.

Michael Richards was a part of the best sitcom in television history and might be the top physical comedy actor since Keaton and Chaplin. He is more successful in the entertainment business than I could ever dream of, but I don't consider him part of the same field that I am in. Michael Richards is a comedy actor, not a stand-up comic. Not saying one is a more noble title than the other, but let's be clear in mentioning they have little in common except in their ultimate result, laughter from an audience. While improv comedy performers have the word improv listed prominently next to their art form there is really little improvisation done.

When you see an improv troupe work their magic, they will take suggestions from the audience, making it seem like they came up with everything out of thin air. Not trying to be the guy telling how the magic tricks are done, but there is a basic script that is followed, with the improv troupe trained in how to deal with the suggestions they elicit from the crowd. Taking suggestions from the audience and being verbally harassed are not the same and generally the improv actor is not going to handle it well. It throws them out of their skit.

Stand-up comedy is different, as it all about flying solo, unlike the teamwork that is needed in improv. No matter what style of stand-up it is, the comic needs to project confidence to the audience. I've been traveling around the country for over 15 years, dealing with some drunk generally on a weekly basis, so I feel like this is one subject I have some expertise on.

Probably the most mistaken idea about stand-up comedy is that the comics want the audience to heckle them. We don't. Many times one of these idiots have come up after the show and said to me, "hey, I hope you weren't bothered with me heckling you, I was just trying to help the show."

My response is generally. "Are you delusional enough to think that there is anything interesting enough about you that would fit into my act?"

Now if you have seen me live, you might be surprised that I would feel this way, as I generally leave hecklers in a heap of their own bile, never to be the same again. I'm a good stand-up comic, but I'm world-class in dealing with hecklers. Some of my best shows have been when I have some idiot trying to interrupt my flow, as the attack mode I go on creates a different level of energy. Having said all this, I didn't get into the stand-up business to babysit a-holes, I did it because I have prepared things I want to share with an audience.

Put me in the high majority of comics who have such a large ego they think what they have to say should be heard by large groups of people and at the same time are so insecure they need other's constant approval. Hey, it's kind of like being a blogger. Wow, I am really self-absorbed, huh?

Very few people have the ability to do both improv comedy and stand-up comedy. As I mentioned before, they are really different crafts. Michael Richards is a guy who can create hilarious characters. I can only play the different personalities that inhabit me. Most stand-ups are not acting, but just having a conversation with the audience. Michael Richards is an actor who proved how ill-prepared he was to deal with the situation he found himself in.

I didn't see the act Richards was doing that night, but I have seen him on-stage at a comedy club before and I would probably agree with the two hecklers, as I don't think his material works in this setting. Kind of like me going on a sitcom and preaching my sanctimonious societal criticisms. Have you ever wondered why George Carlin, Dennis Miller, and Bill Maher look so ill at ease when acting in a movie? Just because you are a funny stand-up doesn't mean you can act and vice versa.

This is one of the big problems with the LA stand-up comedy scene. Most of the clubs are run as showcase rooms, with the acts doing 10-15 minutes sets. The ultimate goal for LA comics is not to make the audience laugh, but to be seen by the right casting agent who will make them a star. There is a reason that most comedy clubs in the country follow the format of having a MC do 10-15 minutes, a feature act do 25-30 minutes, and the headliner close the show out doing 45-55 minutes. There is a natural flow to how the general audience connects with stand-up comics and watching a lot of performers do short sets is jarring and inhabits the audience from truly bonding with the performer.

If you want to know my moral judgement on the incident, I felt Richards was an idiot for saying what he said. Now maybe these types of sentiments go over big at the Masonic Lodge, but as much as I'm a fan of cringe humor, it doesn't work when the humor part of the equation is left out.

As much as I felt what Richards said was offensive, the recipients of Kramer's verbal barrage deserve no monetary damages for what was inflicted upon them. From the accounts I read, they showed up late and started the verbal volleying. This doesn't mean they deserved what Richards offered back at them, but just because a guy has a lot of money and says some vile things, it doesn't allow you to seek some kind of financial retribution. Especially when you are at a comedy club. Judge Long rests.

Oh and let me finish up by mentioning that most stand-up comedy shows are conducted without any incidents of heckling. It is something that occasionally happens, but at the best comedy clubs, hecklers are told by a staff employee to put a pipe in it or they will be asked to leave. I wanted to mention this because some of you might be under the same pompous view that Nikki Fine wrote in her misinformed article about the state of comedy clubs in America. I generally like what Ms. Fine writes, but what she wrote in the Huffington Post sounded like a society page debutante breaking down ultimate fighting.

I'm the first to admit that the stand-up comedy world has it fair share of hacks and posers. In its defense, it just might be the last place where truly politically incorrect thoughts are disseminated to audiences all over the country, no matter if they are blue or red states. While it might not provide the high cultural value of a Beckett or Beethoven, anything that brings all socio-economic classes together to listen to one person pour out entertaining ideas shouldn't just be laughed at.

Thanksgiving Spread
2006-11-21 20:58
by Scott Long

Here are my choices for this week. The past weekend, I went 4-2 in the colleges, but only 2-3 in the NFL. I did have a cakewalk in my first 4 star NFL choice in quite sometime, with the Pats crushing the Packers. My 4 star NFL picks are 3 for 3 this season.

Colleges

3 star Purdue(+17) Hawaii
3 star Texas A&M(+13) Texas
3 star LSU(+1) Arkansas
3 star Virginia Tech(-17) Virginia
2 star Pittsburgh(+11.5) Louisville
2 star Florida St.(+9.5) Florida

NFL

4 star Indy(-9) Philly
(rest of games 3 star)
New England(-3) Chicago
Miami(-3) Detroit
KC(-1) Denver
Carolina(-4) Washington
Pittsburgh(+3) Baltimore

Football Picks and Leaning Towards the Buckeyes
2006-11-17 22:19
by Scott Long

Last week I was 5-1 in the colleges and nearly as bad in the NFL, going 1-4. Love the Pats to bounce back. The AFC will prove its superiority this weekend.

4 star New England(-5.5) Green Bay
(Rest of games are 3 stars)
Indy(PK) over Dallas
Miami(-3.5) Minnesota
Houston(-1) Buffalo
Detroit(+2.5) Arizona

Rivalry Saturday is the best one of the year in the colleges. All below are 3 star games.

Iowa(+3) Minnesota
Indiana(+13) Purdue
Tennessee(-7.5) Vanderbilt
Virginia Tech(+1) Wake Forest
California(+6) USC
Auburn(-3) Alabama

I figure I should throw out a pick, even though I would never put money on it. I might have made the Buckeyes a 2-star selection, but the death of Coach Bo makes the game even harder to call. I don't like Lloyd Carr or Chad Henne, so I still lean towards Ohio State plus the 6 and half points.

How Borat Has Wrecked the Modern Day Comedies
2006-11-14 13:16
by Scott Long

Sitting down at the local Cineplex, I awaited the much-hyped Borat movie. Since Borat is a comedy, I was bombarded with previews of other supposed movies set to make the ha-ha. "Let's Go to Prison" and "Balls of Fury" were 2 of the coming attractions and I didn't think one moment was funny in them. Tenacious D's "Pick of Destiny" had a couple moments and I am a big fan of their debut CD, but I'm concerned that this flick is happening a couple years too late. We will see.

So the main attraction began, with Borat giving a tour of his village in Kazakhstan and I can say that without a doubt it is the funniest beginning of any movie I've ever seen. I'm not going to go over each scene, as I'm not a film critic and I would hate to giveaway any surprises. Let me just offer up, GO SEE THIS MOVIE. Just like how shows such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "The Office" have made the TV situation comedy seem forced, Borat is a revolutionary film for the big screen, as it further exposed the formulaic premises that the previews I watched prior to it are built on.

I know some that have put critical jabs at the Borat film are big fans of Sacha Baron Cohen's work on the "Da Ali G. Show" and feel that the movie doesn't live up to this high standard. HBO recently re-aired the show and I DVR'ed them all, so I could refresh my memory on them. While Ali G. has a lot of wonderful moments, I never felt his British rap character had the warm humanity of Borat. Sure Borat says the vilest things, but he does it with a child-like naivety that is hard to condemn.

Cohen has created a character in Borat that takes qualities from comedians like Peter Sellers, Andy Kaufman and Lenny Bruce, but with the added bonus of being a Jewish man playing a Muslim. In the Muslim world where anti-Semitic propaganda is used as entertainment, the character of Borat exposes their bigotry. While there are plenty of racists in blue-state America, Borat spends much of his time in red-state America, as there are more places to go in the South to hit the comedic jackpot he is looking for. Cohen's character exposes how the most taboo subjects are often connected directly to our funny bones. It is an amazing tightrope that he walks and he brilliantly spends the whole film pushing us to our limits.

While I think many animated comedies like "The Simpsons" and "The Family Guy" are filled with great satire, I always point out to their biggest fans that these shows lack of reality make it much easier to pull off. Borat faces his targets head-on, making them players in his twisted Improv troupe. In my lifetime there have been different comedic movies that have pushed the comedic genre to a new level to which Borat can be added to.

I would begin with the early Woody Allen movies like "Sleeper" and "Bananas", which mixed intellectual concepts with slapstick moments on par with the Marx Brothers. The next wave was "Animal House" which led to other films that questioned authority. At around this same time the Abrahams/Zucker Airplane movies, which parodied genre films with a rapid joke pace, exposed the Hollywood formula approach. Christopher Guest's mockumentaries, which began with Spinal Tap brought a new realism that never existed before in comedy.

The best comedy films since then you could point out a strong influence by one of the above pictures listed. Cohen has made a film which takes elements of the mockumentary, but is as strongly influenced by a filmmaker like Michael Moore, who comes directly at his targets. Like Moore or "The Daily Show" (which took the template of Moore's TV Nation), it is fair to question the fairness in the way some are exploited by Cohen. Outside of a few exceptions, I don't look down upon the duped targets in Borat, as I know that most of us have prejudices that could be exposed if our souls were opened for public viewing.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan" leaves all other film comedies in the dust, as it manages to put a magnifying glass to our world, while making us laugh so hard we gasp for air. I can't think of another movie that has ever accomplished it so strongly on both levels. Cohen's monumenental success with Borat will probably make it impossible to develop a sequel of its caliber, as his charlatan character is now out in the open. With the immense talent of Cohen, he will come up with other great characters, but Borat will be his crowning achievement. Congratulations Sacha, you have done something few can ever hope to achieve. Making a mass appeal movie that challenges the mind.

Pastor Ted Haggard Faces Judgement Day
2006-11-10 16:48
by Scott Long

Since so many christian conservatives attacked Bill Clinton during his Monica-period, I think it's only fair that the same is done to their fallen breathren. This is why I suggest that special prosecutor Ken Starr question him. Here is a brief snippet of how I think it would go.

Starr: Reverend Ted, is it true that you used crystal meth?

Haggard: First off, I refer to it as Christian Meth. OK, yes I did experiment with it, but did not inhale.

Starr: Did you allow another man to jizz all over you?

Haggard: Well, that would depend on what the definition of jizz, is.

Starr: Finally, are you now for gay marriage?

Haggard: Just because I like to be mounted by a man does not mean that I think he and I should be allowed to marry. I mean now that is sick!!!

Football Picks
2006-11-10 16:16
by Scott Long

Don't have much time to get into the picks, but as you can tell, I'm all over the dogs again in the college ranks. Oh and for those of you keeping track, Black Earl, producer of the greatest radio show in the world, The Ron and Fez Show hit his 6th straight best bet without a loss, last week. His choice this week is Boise St.(-14.5) over San Jose St. I doubt Earl could point out either place on a map, but he is riding an awesome streak.

Colleges
(All Games are 3 stars)
N.C. St.(+17) Clemson
Georgia(+12.5) Auburn
Indiana(+19.5) Michigan
Alabama(+18) LSU
Stanford(+19.5) Washington
USC(-8) Oregon

(NFL)
Arizona(+7) Dallas
San Diego(-1) Cincy
New England(-10.5) NY Jets
Kansas City(-1) Miami
New Orleans(+5) Pittsburgh

Election 2006: America Wakes Up
2006-11-07 21:52
by Scott Long

The last election around here at thejuiceblog*** was a sad night. Here are a few thoughts on a how much the political tides can turn in just 2 years. (***this blog at the time was titled Will Carroll Presents)

I watched MSNBC, as I like the cast of characters on the channel. I'm bored with the major networks coverage of politics. CNN manages to be even more dull than the commercial broadcasts, as I don't see why anyone watches the channel anymore, except when Lou Dobbs starts slinging his conservative populism.

So this leaves me with Foxnews and MSNBC. I actually watched some Foxnews, as I have this perverse desire to listen to the opposition when they are losing. This is why I will turn it to Ron Santo when the Cubs are playing poorly. While I don't agree with much of what they say, I find Bill Kristol, Mort Kondracke, and Fred Barnes interesting political observers. Following in the Fox tradition, Juan Williams is a poor voice for Democrats. Between him and Alan Colmes, I can see why Foxnews viewers think non-Republicans are lame. Finally, let me offer up that Brit Hume is sleep inducing. Hume is the roofie of TV journalism.

Most of the time I watched MSNBC, led by Crazy Chris Matthews. You never know what's going to fly out of the Matthews meter, as he can offer a great point and a wildly strange idea, all in the same run-on sentence.

Keith Olbermann was the co-host and he was very subdued during the night, playing the part of actual journalist, whenever Crazy Chris stopped to take a breath. KO has been the most brilliant polemicist attacking the Bush administration over the past year. On election night you would never know it, though, as instead he acted like a NFL pregame host mainly just setting up the panelists.

I like Howard Fineman's work for Newsweek and MSNBC. Pat Buchanan was underused, as he is probably the top person on this planet at getting under the skin of the Bush dynasty. The real star of the panel was Joe Scarborough, who has provided a really unique view of the current political scene, as he was part of the Republican revolution of 1994, but has been a strong critic of his own party the past few years. He seems like the kind of guy you love to have a few beers with.

I live in one of the most Republican controlled districts in the US, as there wasn't a Democrat on the ballot for any judge or county positions. Besides going out to cast a protest vote against Dan Burton and a positive vote for one of the few sensible Republican senators, Richard Lugar, the whole voting process is really a letdown for me. So is life when you live as a political minority.

My favorite name of any candidate was the winner of a House seat in Ohio. Zack Space. Those 2 words together conjure up a a few different possibilites, but not one of them is US Representative. Zack Space sounds like a character that would appear on some Star Trek 4th generation show, like Deep Space Nine.

Watched a few victory speeches....
Dennis Hastert really needs to get a bigger podium, as his prodigious obesity made him look ridiculous. When I hear the words pork barrel, I visualize Denny.
Hilary Clinton is a lousy speaker. Bill was behind her and I kept watching him, as I imagined he was desperate to push her aside to energize the crowd.

I like Howard Dean, but here's a guy who always seems one breath away from saying something he shouldn't. While many knocked Dean's plan of having a 50 state strategy, it seems to have worked even earlier than Dean thought was possible.
Rahm Emanuel is a brilliant strategist and should receive as much credit as anyone for the Dems gains.
Ken Mehlman has done a great job as Republican party chairman, so little blame should go his way. Karl Rove overplayed his playing to his base hand and independent voters finally made him pay.

Who knows when we will know who controls the Senate, but a close friend of mine is convinced that even if the Dems have a majority, Joe Lieberman will be a constant fly in the ointment. Knowing this potential issue, I suspect that Dems will offer Dick Cheney's favorite democrat a committe chairmanship.

I've always liked Mr. Smooth, Harold Ford, but I wasn't surprised he didn't win. Corker was actually a fairly moderate Republican and too many old white people I think had a hard time voting for a unmarried, 36 year-old black guy. I really doubt that he will have to struggle too much to get over losing this tightly contested race. The Derek Jeter of the Volunteer state might have run the best campaign of any candidate in America.

The 2 things I most wanted to see was phony George Allen lose and to see Karl Rove's smug face the day after having to explain how the polls that mattered most, his, were so far off. I'm still waiting, but hopeful.

While I'm a bit concerned that the Dems who will takeover the committee chairmanships are among the party's most liberal, I still hope that there will be less partisianship in Congress. While there needs to be some hearings to expose so many of the disgusting actions committed by the current administration, hopefully some of the surviving Republican politicians will take a tip out of Bill Clinton's playbook after the Gingrich-led revolution of 1994 and work together to push through some important legislation. We will see. Here's my advice, Republicans. If you see Rove on your caller ID, pretend that you're not home.

Movie Review: 'Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan'
2006-11-05 23:59
by Ryan Wilkins

It should come as no surprise to anyone with an Internet connection or a mild familiarity with American popular culture that the new film based on Sacha Baron Cohen's character "Borat Sagdiev" -- winkingly titled Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan -- is uproariously, pants-wettingly funny. Extracted from perhaps the most hilarious show ever to hit U.S. television (Baron Cohen's Da Ali G Show), and filmed over the course of a year with writers like Patton Oswalt lending a helping hand, it would have taken an anti-miracle for this project, directed by Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm alum Larry Charles, to result in a lifeless dud.

And yet, despite all the laughs that Baron Cohen provides, I still can't shake some of the disappointment I feel over the film, even six weeks after attending the San Francisco black-carpet screening in which the film's eponymous hero appeared as a guest. Yes, Borat is sidesplitting, but it's also hollow in a way that the HBO show's brief sketches are not. As a satire this film is closer to a facile product like South Park than something brilliant like, say, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

Of course, now that half the audience has stopped reading because it's clear that I'm a no-fun curmudgeon, I should acknowledge what a ridiculous standard that is. But like it or not, that's the standard Baron Cohen has set for himself with Ali G -- a gut-busting 30-minute farce that often contains some of the best, most incisive cultural criticism this side of whatever Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are doing this week. In the pantheon of comedic genius, it's somewhere between George Carlin and Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Enjoy Borat while you can. Annoying frat boys will be ruining his best catch-phrases in three... two... one...

Some of what keeps Borat from ascending to those heights is conventionality. Unlike the HBO show, the film employs an actual plot (however thin) and another actor (played by the rotund Ken Davitian) who pretends to be from Kazakhstan, like Baron Cohen. These additions might not sound like much, but they're the biggest reason why the film stops dead every few minutes, as both characters are forced to act out weak dialogue in order to move the story forward. Unlike his segments in Da Ali G Show where the audience only sees Borat in "news footage," the film gives us plenty of "off-camera" time with the Kazakh reporter -- where there's a deliberate attempt to develop his character -- and it's never particularly funny.

The reasons why these "off-camera" sections flounder are interesting, because they give insight into why HBO's Borat segments work so well. On one level, it's a point-of-view issue. Traditional Borat sketches involve what someone who just spent 30 minutes on the Wikipedia learning about semiotics might call a "triangular performer/audience dynamic": First there's Borat, making outrageous comments strictly for the sake of generating a reaction. Then there's his victim, not "in" on the greater joke (that this is all fake), reacting. And then there's us, the audience, who gets to laugh at both Baron Cohen's audacity and the victim's cringe-worthy response. This dynamic is the hallmark of all the famous Ali G segments, from Borat's "Throw the Jew down the well" to Bruno's "P-A-R-T-Y."

Needless to say, the film contains a variety of stretches -- from the protracted opening in Kazakhstan to almost every moment filmed inside the reporter's van -- that only work with two of these levels in mind. Jokes are told directly to the camera in a way that's not common to the TV show, and the audience is asked to laugh all the same. The problem is, without a "victim," they're only 67 percent as funny. We're missing the "cringe element" that takes them into the stratosphere.

That Borat needs "victims" in order to make his humor work in full force is one of the most delicate issues of the film. Some critics have skirted it by claiming that A) Borat is ultimately satire, B) satire needs to be cutting, and C) his victims deserve what they get.

They're half-right about the last point. Some of Borat's victims do bring everything on themselves. From the old man at the rodeo who applauds "Kahzahkstan"'s stance on homosexuals (according to Borat, they're lynched) to the group of South Carolina frat boys who openly pine for slavery and women who are only used for sex, there are some truly ugly souls in this film. But not all of Baron Cohen's victims are awful caricatures. In fact, for every mouth-breathing southerner who probably spent his youth on the set of Hee-Haw, there are people who genuinely want to help this stranger in a strange land find his way. This doesn't make Borat's description of a pastor's wife as "not so" appealing to Kazakh men any less funny, but it leaves a queasy feeling in my stomach because it's undeserved.

Borat also falters because of a lack of a consistent delivery. Half the time we're seeing canned, sitcom-like dialogue between fictional characters on a fictional quest, and the other half we're watching guerilla video of the most dynamic performance-comedian since Andy Kaufman. The incongruence is jarring.

And worse yet, it results in an audience that's always guessing if what they're seeing is real or if it's fake. This is particularly apparent during scene where Borat and his producer, Azamat, add a full-grown bear to their caravan. While the stunt is certainly shocking, the staging is clumsy and I couldn't help but wonder if this section was also scripted, like so much of the dialogue and plot movement. The sometimes-genuine sometimes-bogus dichotomy in Borat is a real downer, reducing parts of Baron Cohen's film to a product far less ambitious than its inspiration, like an episode of Jackass. (Or maybe Boiling Points. Either way, a Sunday Stew reference seems appropriate here.)

Now that extended digression is finally over, it's important to note the second element that keeps Borat from being a satirical masterpiece -- and that's his target, or lack thereof.

Is it America? Middle-America? Backwards-thinking foreigners? The whole shebang? The subject of Borat's jokes are varied. Like the writers of South Park, Baron Cohen is an equal-opportunity offender. Nevertheless, his lack of focus hurts any grand claims of social commentary, because Baron Cohen is saying everything and nothing at once. Like Mel Brooks, he seems mainly in it for the joke. Getting us to laugh is his only goal.

And that's okay. In fact, I can't overstate just how okay that is, because Borat is the funniest movie I've seen in years. The film is like the grand fight sequence in Anchorman writ large: inspired, absurd and over-the-top. Baron Cohen even saves his most shocking stunt for last -- a sequence that, regardless of its authenticity, will redefine the way our country sees Borders book signings forever more.

But unlike the show, which is parsed into five-minute segments, always with a specific theme in mind, Borat lacks the truly satirical punch of its inspiration. Part of this is due to the extended format that doesn't cater to a laser-like focus. But part is also due to Baron Cohen's aim, which is clearly to entertain as wide of an audience as possible. Despite all the claims about Borat being an elitist exercise, there's very little here that will go over a 16-year-old's head.

And let me state again: There's nothing wrong with that. A laugh is a laugh, and Borat earns many. But any commentator letting you believe there's more to Baron Cohen's film is falling into a trap. Where so many of Borat's victims assume too little about this man, his supporters are making the opposite mistake: they assume too much.

--

Ryan Wilkins is a San Francisco-based writer. By day he's the senior editor of PROTRADE.com, the stock market for sports.

Football Picks Go 7-4
2006-11-02 23:24
by Scott Long

Was 4-2 in the colleges and 3-2 in the NFL, so got back on track. One of the reason's that the football kicks baseball in the national picture is how the sport is so well covered outside of the actual games. Inside the NFL on HBO is the best sports show of its kind, as the analysis by Collinsworth and the inside info by Peter King combine with the great coverage by NFL films in making highlights that are 4 days old still compelling.

College

(All of these games are 2 stars)
Florida St.(-12) Virginia
Georgia(-7) Kentucky
Nebraska(-4.5) Missouri
Iowa St.(+3) Kansas
Colorado(-3.5) Kansas St.

Really bad week for the colleges, as a lot of team's that I can't figure out at all, like Purdue and Michigan State face each other.
The Seminoles and Bulldogs would have been 2 to 3 times a bigger favorite at the beginning of the year, but they have been colossal disappointments in 2006. I will take the talent levels to get them the cover.
Another Big 12 3-pack. Home teams are good in this league. The Big 12 North is a lousy division, but it lends itself to good gambling opportunities.

Note- Black Earl, from my favorite radio show, ron and fez on XM, has picked one game each of the past 5 weeks. He still hasn't lost. This week he goes with Texas (-18) over Oklahoma State.
NFL

3 star Green Bay(+3.5) Buffalo
2 star Tennessee(+10) Jacksonville
2 star Kansas City(+3) St. Louis
2 star San Diego(12.5) Cleveland
2 star Minnesota/San Francisco (under 43)

Not much better on the pro side. I do like how the Packers are playing. Buffalo has no weather homefield advantage, either.
Vince Young is a winner. The Jaguars play often up to their competition.
The AFC is a better league and the Chiefs are still in the wild card chase.
The Chargers are the most talented team in football. The Browns don't have enough firepower to truly exploit Merriman's absence.
Another uder opportunity using the Vikings. Now the 49ers need to not the turn the ball over every possession, unlike last week against the Bears.

Somewhere Between Radiohead and Jeff Buckley...
2006-11-02 23:12
by Scott Long

Continuing in a series of music primers that will appear monthly at thejuiceblog, let's cover a category I will refer to as modern symphonic rock. Somewhere between Radiohead and Jeff Buckley lies a good portion of Indie music. Featuring often higher pitched vocals and dramatic music which often is a mix of alternative and prog rock, this genre of music is a place where many of the most musically talented bands exist. Below are 25 songs you should take a listen to.

Remy Zero- Save Me
Ours –Sometimes
Muse- Muscle Museum
Palo Alto- Breathe In
Travis- Why Does It Always Rain On Me

The first 5 I list are all tunes that some would label as Radiohead rip-offs. Since Radiohead gave up making songs with consistent hooks after "OK Computer", I guess I've been more open to accepting other offerings.
Remy Zero is similar to early Radiohead, as they both show their U2-influence. Fun fact: Lead singer Cinjun Tate was married to Alyssa Milano before she became a baseball Annie.
Another dramatic band is Ours, who's lead singer mentored under Buckley.
OK, I'm the biggest blogging pimp for Muse. This song comes from their first album, "Showbiz". Check out "Sunburn" off this release, as well.
Palo Alto just might be the most Radiohead sounding band that exists. If I was picking the soundtrack for the "O.C." or "Grey's Anatomy", "Breathe In" would close the show.

Verve- Bittersweet Symphony
Coldplay- Clocks
Elbow- Red
Verbow- New History
Doves- There Goes the Fear

Though they had to give most of their earnings to the Rolling Stones for their biggest hit, the Verve's lifted strings did make the song so great. One of the best singles of the past 10 years.
I'm not a big fan of Coldplay, but "Clocks" is a classic song.
Another song blessed with beautiful strings is "Red".
Verbow is virtually unknown, but the Evanston, IL based band made a masterpiece in the cello-enriched pop of "New History".
Chiming guitars swirl around "There Goes the Fear", which has a hypnotic feel to it.

Keane- Somewhere We Know
The Fray- Look After You
Snow Patrol- Run
Starsailor- Good Souls
The Thrills- Not for All the Love in the World

Earlier I mentioned the newest trend in selling music in a genre like this that gets little radio airplay. Get in on some chick TV show. All 5 of these songs fit that category, with great pop hooks and dramatic tension driving the music.
Keane's lead singer still has that Al Stewart tone to his voice, but "Somewhere We Know" deserved to be a radio smash, as it was a great song.
2006's Keane, just might be The Fray. While their first 2 singles are excellent examples of quality pop music, "Look after You" fits this genre better.
I could have chosen many different Snow Patrol songs, but "Run" has most of the qualities that I discussed with Palo Alto's "Breathe In". If you haven't heard Snow Patrols 2004 release, "Final Straw", seek it out.
Both Starsailor and The Thrills have a few songs that could be listed here, but these are the two best representations for this category.

Death Cab for Cutie- Crooked Teeth
Pernice Brothers- There Goes the Sun
Rufus Wainwright- I Don't Know What It Is
Muse- Falling Away from You
REM- I've Been High

I was one of the few hipsters who didn't care much for Death Cab's rookie release, but I'm a big fan of their second, "Plans', with the single, "Crooked Teeth" a great place to begin.
Another fey singing group is the Pernice Brothers, with their ethereal "There Goes the Sun."
If Jeff Buckley had wanted to be Liza Minelli, he would have sounded like Rufus Wainwright. While his CD "Poses" is his best work, "I Don't Know What It Is" just might be his most beautiful song.
I tried to keep from using any artist more than once, but Muse has so many great songs in this genre, that I wanted to list another. Off of "Absolution", this is the group's finest ballad.
While the past few REM releases have been spotty, "I've Been High" lives up to their lofty past standards.

Spoon- The Way We Get By
Johnny Marr and the Healers- Down on the Corner
Blinker the Star- September Already
Clinic- Harmony
Placebo- Running Up That Hill

I'm stretching things to list Spoon in this category, but if you don't know this song, you will thank me for turning you on to it.
Former Smith's guitarist Marr put this gem out in 2003.
Blinker the Star is a hard band to describe. Lethargic singing over jazzy-rock stylings.
Clinic's "Harmony' is my favorite Kid A sounding song. Great harmonica echo sound.
Placebo recently released this great atmospheric cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill."

If you missed the first in this series, I took on the challenge of programming Alternative radio.

http://thejuice.baseballtoaster.com/archives/522564.html

John Kerry Can't Tell One, But He Is A Bad Joke
2006-11-01 12:20
by Scott Long

The most lively debate we've had at thejuiceblog all year was when I wrote that the number 1 qualitfication for the next President is charisma. I took a lot of shots for discussing how John Kerry lacked this quality. Specific to him contemplating running for President again, I offered this point.

Dude, even though our ex-boyfriend (Bush) was an idiot and treated us badly, half us still went back with him because you were such a boring first date. You had your chance and you were unable to make us laugh and at the end of the date the warmest thing you could manage was a firm handshake. Sorry, but there are better prospects, so John Kerry, quit calling us!

So the Kerry robot strikes again, yesterday trying to deliver a line he was incapable of and in the meantime, possibly destroying the Democrats chances of taking over the house and senate. I know many of the intellectuals who check in here are able to judge a candidate on their academic merit, but winning a national election takes a lot more than that.

The Republican party holds Ronald Reagan in such esteem that I'm surprised that they don't refer to him as Pope Ronnie. Bill Clinton is the only living Democrat that proved he could win in the North and the South. Their accomplishments can be argued, but their ability to connect with Independent voters cannnot. Both of them had charisma and the ability to deliver a joke.

While I don't completely buy the whole Playmate Centerfold cliche that their biggest turn-on is "a sense of humor", most women connect with people who have a warm, fun sense about them. To become President, you need to focus on women voters and Kerry and Gore gave up too many votes to Bush, by not being able to project this type of personality.

I think John Kerry is a very smart guy and I don't for a second think he was denigrating the troops. He's a decent Senator and that's all he should be, as the job of President of United States is more than just a SAT exam. Being a successful President is much of the time being able to connect on a human level with people who you might have little in common with. The best way to do this is by being able to convey a sense of humor. Kerry's lack of skill at telling a joke just might have hurt his party once again. It's beginning to smell like 2004 all over again.

Let me finish by answering those of you that say that John Kerry should be cut a little slack, as it was just a misunderstanding. My rebuttal is that when you put yourself out there in the public square, especially if you are running for President, you have to be held to a higher standard. Everyone is capable of making a mistake in such an atmosphere, as even Clinton and Reagan proved, but they had the charm to get themselves out of it.

Just watch Kerry's response to his botched joke and then compare it to Bill Clinton's tirade against Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Both were fiery in their tone, but while Kerry came off bitter and defensive, Clinton seemed like a leader. Clinton manipulated a bad situation into a good one for him, by admitting some mistakes. He showed his humanity and by doing this he was able to point the finger at his accusers. Hey, very few people have it, while most of us don't. Put Kerry in the latter category.

(Stay tuned for my next post entitled "George W. Bush Can Tell A Bad Joke and He Is An Even Worse Joke As A President.")

Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
Frozen Toast
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