Monthly archives: July 2006
The Yankees Get Richer, The Pirates Get More Piratey
While Major League Baseball has proven over the past few seasons that money doesn't buy championships, the trade deadline still points to its almost total lack of equity. As has been discussed continuously on everything ESPN has to offer, the Yankees scored a major coup by obtaining Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle. This deal mainly happened because New York could take on Abreu's salary. Competing against the Yankees is like playing Poker against the trust-fund kid, as despite how much they are down, they always have the ability to reach into their pocket and try to bail themselves out. I'm not about to break down the Yankees' deals, as Alex Belth of Bronx Banter does the best job of that on the web. My focus is on the other side of the fiscal ledger. The Pirates.
For years and years, (hell it getting close to decades and decades) the general managers of the Pirates make stupid move after stupid move. Current Pirates GM Dave Littlefield has done a lousy job. I would argue that no organization is more poorly run than the Pirates. With this dismal track record, it was little surprise that they would make such bad trades at the all-star break.
One of the few decent moves Littlefield has made during his tenure was signing Roberto Hernandez. In the current climate where veteran bullpen pitchers are more overpriced than crude oil, Hernandez has been solid. Considering that the Pirates are in their customary late July fetal position, it was a good idea to flip him for a young player who had the potential of being more than just a replacement player. So typical of teams like the Pirates, they in return obtained a mediocre player in Xavier Nady, who has a career OBP of .754. While Nady has a slugging percentage of .487 this season, if you look at his splits you will see that the guy loves Shea Stadium, as his OPS is .940 in New York and only .681 on the road.
If it was a straight-up trade, I don't write about this deal, but Olvier Perez was thrown into the package, as well. Now I'm aware of the steep plunge that Perez has taken over the past 2 seasons, but I still think he is worth holding onto and trying to solve his poor mechanics. I mean this was the same guy that people in baseball in 2004 were discussing in the same breath as Johan Santana. Perez is 8th on the all-time single season list of strikeout per 9 innings for his 239 K's in 196 inning year of 2004 . Perez is only 24, but the Pirates needed to give him away.
Another trade which seemed to be a case of the Pirates just wanting to get rid of a disappointment was the dumping of Kip Wells. While Wells doesn't look to be much more than a 4th starter at best, this is worth a lot more than what the Pirates got in return. Let me mention that now that Wells is gone, can the idea that Kenny Williams made one of the worst trades in baseball history when he obtained Todd Ritchie for Wells and Josh Fogg be retired? Over the past 3 years, Wells has had an ERA over 5.00, a WHIP around 1.60, and an overall record of 14-30. Williams definitely made a bad deal, but it wasn't the historically bad one that some try to make it out to be. At least Williams can point to numerous good decisions, something Littlefield continues to strikeout trying to achieve.
No player has been a bigger symbol of how the Pirates don't know how to use the talent they possess than Craig Wilson. Putting a capper on Wilson's often wasted ability in Pittsburgh, he was sent to the Yankees for the lousy Shawn Chacon. The past few years I've had a rooting interest in the Pirates, as I've liked the young talent they have, but it seems like the team is incapable of having a coherent plan on how to best exploit this ability. With the deals they have made over the past couple of days, the Pirates front office have taken further steps in sending the franchise permanently down in the depths of the cellar.
Considering the complete opposite directions the NFL and MLB teams have achieved, it would appear that football season will happen earlier and eaarlier in the nindsets of fans in the 'Burgh. Marketing campaign for the Pirates in 2007: "Yeah our team is dismal, but our ballpark is pretty!" Sad plight for a franchise that one of the best during the 70's and 80's.
The Exception Game (AKA: Laminated List)
Early on in my comedy career, I wrote a bit about a couple that were friends of mine playing something called the exception game. The concept was that you were able to pick 3 celebrities that you were able to sleep with that would not be considered cheating. This was back in 1995, so the 3 guys the wife chose were Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Tom Cruise. The husband then responds by saying that "go ahead, knock it out, if you think you can do it. Cuz I would sleep Cindy Crawford is she offered." The wife then proceeds to start crying saying "how could you do this to the sanctity of our relationship?" As the mediator, I step in and mention that she should calm down and look at the reality of the conversation. I offer up to her "that do you think that Cindy Crawford is trolling the streets of the (insert your favorite redneck hamlet) looking for a 400 pound plumber?"
Some comedy bits don't translate well to the written word and while I would not rate it as one of my best jokes, it has been money in the bank since '95. I found out later that the following year, there was a "Friends" episode that discussed this topic, only calling it the laminated list. Will has been threatening to put up his own list all year, but maybe Harold Reynolds' lawyer gave him some advice to keep it to himself. Below is my list. Please feel free to offer up your own selections.
Scott's 2006 Exception Game List
Elizabeth Shue- The only woman to be on my list for the past 20 years, I've had a thing for Ms. Shue since "Adventures in Babysitting." She proved her acting chops in "Leaving Las Vegas", while she was sexy even in brain-dead fare like "Cocktail." She has a degree in government from Harvard, so she's smarter than me, but I could look past that.
Gina Gershon- Co-star with Shue in the movie "Palmetto", Gershon just oozes sexuality. With the most sensuous mouth I've ever seen and an attitude that says she is kinkier than you've ever thought of being, she hits me as the ultimate one-night stand. Bonus: If you watch "Bound" or "Showgirls", it would appear that she might be willing to bring a friend along for the ride.
Charlize Theron- The most beautiful face I've ever seen. I know this sounds creepy, but I could be physically satisfied just looking at her head on a pillow. (Calling David Cronenberg.) Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, but she has a really cool personality when she appears on talk shows. And in the celebrity world we live in, the best way to get a feel for a person is watching them on Conan.
Eva Mendes- From the first time I saw her appear on the screen in "Training Day", I was floored by her beauty. A latin Cindy Crawford is how I would describe her. She's sexy and has proven she has a comedic flair as well, but let's be honest, a face and an ass like hers trump funny in any contest.
Eliza Dushku- I've never been a regular watcher of any TV show she has appeared on (Buffy, Angel, Tru Calling), but everytime I see her on the screen, I have to stop and gawk. She has gorgeous brown eyes, a luscious mouth, beautiful long hair, and it appears like every part of her body is built for pleasure.
These are my Top 5 for this year. I have listed 5 more smokin' hot babes that just missed my illustrious list. Sorry ladies, but don't be discouraged, there is always next year. (insert smiley face)
Hottest TV actress: Katherine Heigl
Now it's your turn.
(UPDATE: Will chimes in)
I've resisted putting up my list for a better portion of a year, so Scott has to taunt me into it. Here's my list, sans comedy gold.
1. Jodie Foster: Smart, sexy, confident, and always willing to go her own way, Foster's been a longtime list denizen for me. I love women that will look as good at 40 as they do at 20 and Foster just gets better with age. I'm sure Mistah Tony will be saying that she's "still getting it done" years from now.
2. Shakira: I have no idea what she's saying most of the time, but hearing her say it is enough to make me want to learn Spanish. Then again, I don't really care what she's saying. She had me before hello. Jenny from the block may have made Latin hot, but Shakira perfected it. (Roselyn Sanchez gets an honorable mention here.)
3. Lindsay Lohan: She's bad. She's drunk or drugged out half the time. She's talented and wasting it. That's fine. She still has the potential to go back and recapture the form of the young Ann-Margret she once was and grab an Oscar. America loves a comeback and I'll admit a weakness for underdogs, redheads, and freckles.
4. Kristin Bell: Veronica Mars might be the best show on TV, but it's certainly competing with How I Met Your Mother for hottest cast. Kristen Bell is talented (check out her singing, always a way to get me), loves to cook, and gets ten points for "sassy."
5. Jenn Sterger: I won't rehash my gushing here. You can page down for that. She's my Isabella Rossellini.
Hottest TV actress not mentioned: Marg Helgenberger
Is this the Best AL Race since 1967?
Well, lookie here. We have a 3-way tie for the AL Wild Card, as the White Sox, Twins, and Yankees are in a dead heat. The Blue Jays are 3 games back and the Red Sox are 2 games ahead, so we have 5 teams within 5 games of each other, battling for just 2 playoff spots. The A's and Angels are tied in the West, with the Rangers just a game out.
Only the Tigers look to be a lock for an AL playoff spot and considering their schedule over the next 5 weeks, I expect they will come back to the crowd. Detroit plays their division foes Chicago, Minnesota, and Cleveland each 6 times in this period, while facing the Rangers (4 times), Yankees (3), Red Sox (3), and Angels (3). Only their 4 games versus the Devil Rays being against a squad not in Scott's Top 10 teams in MLB. As the White Sox demonstrated last year, it doesn't take much to lose a big lead in August, especially when you have a hot team on your tail. I'm not saying they won't make the playoffs, but the heat of August will be felt in the Motor City.
As great as this race looks to be, it still won't be able to match the excitement of 1967. Going into the final week of the season, 4 teams (Twins, Tigers, Red Sox, and White Sox) were all within 2 games of each other. This was before multiple divisions or wildcards, so only 1 team would make it to the post-season from these 4.
The White Sox preceded to lose their last 5 games to fall-out of the race, but going into the final day of the regular season, the Red Sox and Twins were tied at 91-70, while the Tigers were 90-70, with a double-header against the Angels. Boston beat Minnesota and the Tigers lost the second game of their doubleheader versus Los Angeles, so the Red Sox went on to play the Cardinals in one of the great World Series of all-time.
1967 was my favorite season to read about in baseball history, because of all the great stories. The epic AL pennant chase, Yaz's triple crown, Bob Gibson battling Jim Lonborg in the World Series, Tom Seaver and Rod Carew being named rookie of the years in their respective leagues. What a magical season. Here's hoping that 2006 will provide some of the same thrills. It's shaping up to be a lot of fun.
Where's Jay Mariotti?/ Lemond....Armstrong....Floyd?
Does anyone know what happened to Jay Mariotti? If you haven't been following, American's biggest sports writing Jack Ass, has been missing from the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times since June 26. Since this was not much after the whole Ozzie Guillen incident, it is very curious to understand why he has decided to take an 8-week vacation. I'm guessing if you asked Ozzie, he would tell you that the last he heard Jay was taking a holiday in Key West.
Has anyone ever heard of a columnist even taking half that much time off, let alone right in the middle of the baseball season in a city that has 2 of the best teams for a writer to cover? Even though he is in the midst of his vacation, J-Otti has no problem belching out his foul exhaust on ESPN's Around the Horn. It's pretty amazing for someone to have a homosexual slur thrown at them and not be able to get victim status, but J-Otti is a big enough douche that few came to his defense.
Considering that Roger Ebert started as a sports writer, isn't time for the Sun-Times to have their best scribe move into J-Otti's digs? If he doesn't want to do it, why not see if his aisle seat partner, Richard Roeper wants the gig. That is if Roeper can spare the time, between writing his general interest column at the paper and oiling up more chicks than Colonel Sanders. At least Roeper has spent time at the ballpark the White Sox play in.
So America continues to dominate the Tour de France. First there was Greg LeMond, a name born to be a championship cyclist in France. Following him on the winner's stand was the most All-American athlete name you could come up with, Lance Armstrong. Now a third champ comes from our great land. Floyd Landis? Why do I think it will be a little harder to market a guy name Floyd?
Landis does have a great backstory, though, as he was raised in a Mennonite community in Pennsylvania. Being a logical sort, Landis doesn't follow the church's beliefs. If you not down with the Mennonites, they are Amish-lite. Is it long before the Farelly Brothers make a movie based on Landis' life entitled "Kingcycle." As long as Bill Murray plays his nemesis, I'm there on opening night.
One interesting side story in regards to these 3 men is the venomous relationship of LeMond and Armstrong. Greg says bracelet boy Lance is a drug cheater, while Armstrong offers back that it's bull and LeMond is jealous. In between is the new champ, Floyd, who LeMond lauds as a great champion who won without doping, whole Armstrong wants to sign him for his Discovery race team. It would seem like these LeMond and Armstrong are wearing too tight lycra, as they are behaving like a couple of men who are being pulled by their short hairs.
The anti-Mariotti, my man Dan Le Batard, has a great column in the latest issue of ESPN the magazine on the glare of being an athlete. In it he discusses the similarities of Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds.
Damning books have been written about both Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds. Both have a mountain of accusers beyond that. You can argue about the differences in their situations---the number of times Armstrong has been tested, the leaked federal grand jury testimony on Bonds, but here's the truth. We believe Armstrong because we want to, and we don't believe Bonds because we don't want to. That's because one is viewed as likeable and the other is isn't, and those opinions exist despite the fact that we don't know either one of them at all.
Wanted to thank all my new friends in the Cincinnati area who caught me at the Newport Funny Bone last weekend. Great club and a very underrated city. One of the highlights of the week was appearing with Lance McAlister on AM 1530 Homer. One of the great parts about doing sports radio in Cincinnati is that you can talk baseball anytime of the year. I can name only about 5 cities that you can say the same for.
Finally, it was great to read Will's excellent post on so many different topics. If you are not aware, Will is a busy guy between writing for Baseball Prospectus, being a guest on way too many sports radio stations, and other ventures (I write mysteriously), so during the baseball season, he doesn't appear here as often. I mention this just so you don't think he was on one of those Mariotti "vacation" plans this summer. Unfortunately, our benefits package here at the Toaster doesn't give us paid leave. I need to speak to our union boss, Alex Belth about that. (I nominate Alex, as he wrote a great book about Curt Flood, so I figure he's got to be our leader in dealing with the higher-ups.)
Gammons Homage Notes
All the more appropriate title these days. While respecting the privacy his family has requested, all reports have been extremely positive lately. I've spoken to several people close to Peter and all gave things the best possible spin. Bud Selig is considering extending the trade deadline to allow Peter to recover.
How do you really identify yourself? When asked "Who are you" in a real, not a metaphysical sense, how do you answer? Some will identify themselves by occupation or standing. Most of us are fathers or husbands, sons or daughters. Maybe our hobby or tribe defines us.
I've answered "baseball writer" to that question for the past couple years. Then again, more people know me for radio than writing and I write about football as well as baseball. Is my answer less valid or more telling?
How often should that answer change in one's life?
I don't get Paris Hilton either. I like the idea that she's playing a role, as she's suggested, but if so, she's Marlon Brando without the eating.
Now, Lindsay Lohan ... I get. It's like finding a muddy dog, washing it off and finding that it's a show quality purebred. With Lindsay, if you could just get the muck off and out, I'm convinced that young Ann-Margret is still there. There's flashes now and again. Not that kind.
I'm convinced the trade deadline is going to be less active than last year. GM's are playing scared. To use a poker analogy, everyone at the table is holding pocket sevens. It's not a bad hand, it could get better, but there's a lot that beats it. This week's the flop, the weekend the turn and Monday's the river. I have to quit playing online; everything's poker analogies.
There is no Jamba Juice in Connecticut or Indiana. The world is NOT fair.
The Braves are making me look smart. I think it was Matt Kleine's youthful enthusiasm that made me pick them as my wild card team when asked at the ASB. They're the Michael Myers of baseball. Do not take off your top or go off alone when the Braves are around.
Is there a better team site than Larry Borowsky's "Viva El Birdos" right now? Not in my book and this despite the fact that everyone in his domain thinks I hate the Cardinals.
I love my new Shure earphones. The downside is that they have such a good acoustic seal that I feel almost claustrophobic. They did help me realize that Muse's "Map of the Problematique" is painfully close to Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence." Painfully close. Anyone else have a set of Shures? Any tips for adjusting to them?
There's no better airport in the US than Pittsburgh. There's no worse airport than Cincinnati. Guess which one I'm switching in tomorrow. Ugh.
Mark Prior in 2003: 19 starts, 4.3 WARP3
Rich Lederer should have stuck with his guy.
Check out Adam Dunn's quotes about Austin Kearns' "miserable days" in Washington. Anyone get the sense that Dunn's statements might end up costing him in Cincinnati?
More and more interest in the gyroball. I've had writers from three separate national publications asking me about the pitch. Now if I can just get one reasonable quality pitcher ...
And with that and a more liberal Dennis Miller-style flourish of the electronic pen, I am out of here.
Paris Hilton in a Cage
I've never understood the Paris Hilton phenomenon. Without any discernible talent, except for a tabloid-friendly name and a long blonde mane, she has spent the last few years being covered breathlessly by the entertainment media. Personally, I don't even think she's that hot. Considering that Hilton craves public attention, I think it's time to put her in a zoo.
(Voice of tour guide) Next we will visit a North American Dizzy Debutante named Paris. Many believe she is a descendant of the Native American tribe, The SKANK-a-HO. We at the Columbus Zoo strongly suggest that girls under the age of 16 not see this exhibit, as she does set a horrible example on how to behave for the young and impressionable. As we step up to the cage, let me suggest to listen carefully, as you will be able to hear (hissing sound) the air actually leaving her head. Please do not feed her, as the Dizzy Debutante will scarf and then barf whatever she ingests. The only protein Paris can keep down after swallowing is human semen. Speaking of this, let's next go to the Clay Aiken cage....
We don't do a lot of linking here at thejuiceblog, but here are couple of really funny pieces of video to catch at youtube.com
The first is Clerks 2 director talking about his experience writing the script for a Superman movie that was never made. Smith has never been funnier and even though it's over 19 minutes long, it's well worth checking out.
The second is a site called lafflink.com, which has compiled stand-up material it appears from old A&E shows like Evening at the Improv. Fun to watch early routines from guys like Dave Attell, Norm MacDonald, and Dave Chappelle. The one I recommend you check out first is from a comedian named Dan Whitney, who became better known as Larry the Cable Guy. Truthfully, it's hard to believe it's the same guy, especially with him wearing a pastel dress shirt, khaki pants, and a pair of shiny new white sneakers.
I've been pretty tough on this year's Last Comic Standing, but last week was a great example of why comics try so hard to get on the show. Each of the 5 finalists were given 5 minutes to do their act and all 3 men that are left, showed off their talents well. Ty Barnett, Chris Porter, and Josh Blue are 3 excellent young stand-ups, who deserve the boost the show is going to give them. Blue is set to be the major break-out star from LCS 2006, as his timing is remarkable.
The 2006 Cubs: Suicide is painless. But we're not.
I was working recently with a very funny comedian from Chicago named Ken Schultz. When we first met he said, "are you the Scott Long who writes thejuiceblog.com?" This either spoke well for my blog fandom or poorly for my comedy career, but after talking to Ken for a bit longer, I realized he is just what most of us that frequent the Toaster are: baseball addicts. After reading one of his blog entries at his myspace page, I thought it would fit well on our site, as it mixes baseball and music. (By the way, join my friend list at myspace.)
Let me note that I consider the Cubs' the Grateful Dead of baseball. Both show some promise, but generally are underachieving and overrated. The biggest similarity that the Cubs and the Dead share is that they have a passionate fanbase, with the majority enjoying the elements surrounding them more than the actual playing. At least Deadheads have psychedelics to get them through their 20 minute space jams, while the Cubs fans have to rely on cold Buds to blur their scary reality. Now on to Ken Schultz breaking down the 2006 Cubs.
Last year, I wrote that the 2005 Cubs season played out like something from the Depeche Mode songbook. The Cubs organization took notice and made several bold moves to rectify that during the offseason. And now, the 2006 Cubs make the musical output of recovering heroin junkies sound like the original cast recording of Annie. To push the analogy well past its breaking point (Hey, when you've got a skill, you exploit it as much as you can, people...), if the 2006 Cubs were a piece of music, they would sound like The Cure running over Morrisey's puppy. If the 2006 Cubs were a movie character, they would be Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. And at least he got to die having sex with Elizabeth Shue. I think I speak for all of us when I say that Cubs Marketing Boss John McDonough had better plan a similar way to celebrate the death of this season. Best. Fan Appreciation Weekend. Ever.
In other words, this team really...really...really sucks. Usually the Cubs are good fodder for snarky blogging material every week during baseball season. But after watching three and a half months of this year's edition, typing the word "really" with bold and italic font is the best I can do. The 2006 Cubs have sucked so bad, they have managed to suck all the creativity I have to describe the ways in which they suck.
Naturally, Cub fans have worked up a lot of righteous anger over this. And as is to be expected, there is much debate in Chicago over the future of manager Dusty Baker. For instance, one side argues that he should be fired. Meanwhile, the other side argues loudly that he should be fired. It is hoped that eventually these two sides can reach a compromise that will be mutually beneficial to both parties. Former President Jimmy Carter is ready to be called in at a moment's notice. Not so much to mediate but to explain to Dusty that even an 81 year old former peanut farmer knows you should never ever bat Neifi Perez second.
Let me be clear: the past three years have provided more than enough grounds to terminate Dusty Baker's employment. When the act of watching this team starts at booing the 2004 chokejob and then descends to the level of A Clockwork Orange's Little Alex in a straightjacket yelling "IT'S A SIN," changes needs to be made. (And let's face it...if Alex were forced to watch this year's Cubs, he wouldn't need an injection to induce nausea.) But when Dusty is mercifully put out of our misery, that's not going to produce any real change. To get to the heart of the problem, it's time everybody started looking at General Manager Jim Hendry.
Lost in all the exciting memories of the 2003 playoff run was the fact that the Cubs' offense was maddening. Although the pitching staff from that year made certain that the Cubs were in just about every game they played, fans could never be sure if the bats were going to show up that day or not. And every year since then I have said to myself, "I'm not sure this team can get any worse offensively." Naturally, that turns out to be the one category in which the Cubs have annually risen to the occasion. They have tried every strategy possible in assembling an offensive unit from 2004's "home runs or nothing" to 2005's "utter horsesh*t" to 2006's "speedy players who can run from the batters box to the dugout after popping up faster than anyone."
The one strategy that Jim Hendry has stubbornly refused to adopt? That would be the one that the rest of baseball is recognizing as more and more valuable to building a winning team: finding players who get on base. The Cubs are routinely at the bottom of the league in on base percentage and because of this, no matter how high their batting average or home runs, their rank in runs scored ranges from "mediocre" to "draining our will to live." (I would venture to guess that the last words of several elderly Cub fans have been "Jesus Christ, TAKE a G-Damn pitch!") The Cubs are an organization that likes to say that they preach "aggressiveness" throughout their farm system. It is no coincidence that this system has not turned out a major league hitter since Mark Grace. And yet, the media brings up on-base percentage to Hendry, he dismisses it as if the idea that hitters who get on base frequently have a better chance of scoring runs was merely the product of unathletic geeks who couldn't catch a baseball to save their lives typing stats into a computer so they don't run the risk of having to talk to actual women. (OK, I'm a bad example here. But still...) The fact of the matter is that teams that surround their powerful hitters with guys who get on base are the teams that are offensive forces. Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen have David Eckstein. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez have Kevin Youkilis and Mark Loretta. The Cubs? Juan Pierre's pop-outs to shortstop don't cut it.
And that just scratches the surface of Hendry's follies--there's also the bizarre inability to recognize that when Kerry Wood goes on the Disabled List eleven times and Mark Prior follows him with seven, that (Gasp!) constitutes a pattern. Or his downright fetishistic desire to fill the bench with banjo hitting second basemen. (DUSTY: OK guys, we've got the bases loaded with one out and I need a foul pop-up to third...looks like we've got it covered!) And his ludicrous claim that 20 games under .500 at the All Star break means it's time to "start evaluating" his team. These being the Cubs, Hendry was rewarded for assembling this juggernaut with a two year contract extension five days into the season. Because apparently the Cubs' goal for this year was to win three games. And to be fair, given the way things have shaped up, that's turned out to be a pretty lofty achievement.
Rethinking The Cowgirl
So I walked into a bar with Jenn Sterger ...
It's a great start to a story, isn't it? Better because it's true. I did this on Wednesday, meeting the famous "FSU Cowgirl" as part of ... well, I can't say much about it yet. Beyond the initial "wow" factor, the meeting taught me more about myself than I expected.
For those of you unfamiliar with Jenn's story, her and a couple friends dress up rather provocatively and go to football games. A crowd shot showed them and Brent Musberger said "Every red-blooded male just decided to sign up at FSU." Deadspin and other sites tried to find out who they were and did so through Facebook and MySpace. Then the media machine started. You can go to Deadspin and follow the saga.
When I found out I'd be meeting with Jenn for a project, my expectations were low. I hoped that the girl wouldn't be too fake, that she'd speak in complete sentences, and that she wouldn't annoy me too much. I figured the last thing the world needed was another Paris Hilton or Tara Reid, someone who'd been in the right place at the right time after meeting with the right plastic surgeon.
Then I met her.
The first thing I noticed is that she's stunning. I was doing a radio interview via phone when she first walked into the room and I unconsciously gave a very Keanuesque "whoa" in the middle of a sentence about Mark Prior's oblique. The pictures do not do her justice.
The second thing was that she was smart and funny. Throughout dinner, she was engaging, quick-witted, and even self-deprecating. The reactions she gets are amazing. As we went back to the hotel bar after dinner, I was walking about ten feet behind her, giving my a great vantage point to watch her almost literally stop a room. Heads turn. Men stared. Women stared. At another point, I was walking next to her into the bar and I noticed guys looking at her, then me. Some were thinking "What's she doing with HIM?" while others quickly looked away, figuring I could kick their ass or something.
I realized quickly that my thoughts of her had been dictated by the media, that the stereotype of the silicone celebrity doesn't hold in all cases. I think of myself as an open-minded guy, one not controlled by the media, but in this case, I was. Jenn Sterger is a girl that, looks aside, I'd want to hang out with. I just hope she feels the same.
Updated with picture:
The Best Rock Album of 2006?
The English band, Muse, has been put in the Radiohead clone category since coming on the scene with their excellent "Showbiz" record. Their next release was the epic "Absolution", which is one of the TEN best CD's of this decade. "Absolution" was Radiohead, if they really wanted to be a killer rock band, instead of Kraftwerk for the new century that they've become. Well, Muse's newest effort, "Black Holes and Reservations" is the record that should push them past the Radiohead-clones status. "Black Holes..." is the most diverse, big sounding record since the heydays of Queen.
With cover art like something from a Pink Floyd or Alan Parsons Band record, Muse is not afraid to take elements from great art rock bands of the 70's, but they do it with the technology of today. Out of the gates is the first cut "Take a Bow", which is what I imagine Queen, in their prime, sounding like today. Brian May and Roger Taylor should have hired singer Matthew Bellamy to front their nostalgia act, as he is almost as bombastic as Freddie Mercury.
The second song is "Starlight." Glam rock meets electronica here and it's an example of how different "Black Holes..." is from "Absolution." Unlike Radiohead, Muse takes chances, but never forgets to write hooks. Up next is "Supermassive Black Hole", which is the first single off the record. Bellamy demonstrates a great falsetto on the song. While I wouldn't have chosen it as the first single, it's still as funky of a rock riff that I've heard in quite awhile.
"War of the Problematique" has a rhythmic hook right from the best of New Order and I can't wait to hear the re-mix of it, as a DJ could make this a dance floor jam. 4 songs into "Black Holes" and the band has went seamlessly from genre to genre, jumping around like Queen, T. Rex, Prince, and New Order were in the studio. Next is a beautiful ballad entitled "Soldier's Poem." While Bellamy is constantly compared to Thom Yorke, his voice has a register more like Rufus Wainwright, which really comes out in "Soldier's Poem."
Number 6 is "Invincible", which might be the hookiest thing on the record. Muse has opened for U-2 in the past and this song has a U-2 feel to it. "Assassin" would have been my choice as the first single, as it rocks as hard as anything Wolfmother has put out. While they have art-rock ambitions, Muse is a band that seems like they listened to their share of Iron Maiden, as well. "Assassins" shows the kind of musicianship that Rush would be proud of.
Unlike art rock bands of the 70's, Muse is capable of being funky. "Exo-Politics" proves this point, as it has a groove featuring a crunchy wah-wah guitar sound. Like many songs on "Black Holes", it features a chorus with harmonies that drip with Queen's "Night at the Opera" sound. I mention this because the following song, "City of Delusion" is Muse's "Bohemian Rhapsody", starting with acoustic guitars, then on to an Eastern mystical groove, which blend into strings off of a Goo Goo Dolls ballad, only to take on Mexican horns. (Take a breath, phew.) Bellamy vocals are spectacular on "City of Delusion", especially combined with producer Rich Costey's crystal clear sonics. Not only is "Black Holes and Perversions" the best record of 2006, it's the best sounding release of the year, as well.
Number 10 is "Hoodoo", which is the kind of dramatic type of opera that few will attempt in rock music. It sounds like Jeff Buckley backed by a rock band led by Ennio Morriconne. The closing track is the epic type needed to close such a huge sounding record. "Dark Side of the Moon" keyboards, heavy metal drums, Queen choruses propel "Knights of Cydonia." It's the kind of song a band like Darkness could only dream of making."
If you're not familiar with Muse, they are considered in Europe to be one of the best live acts to see. While they've been headlining amphitheatres across the world, they are virtual unknowns in the US. I suspect "Black Holes and Reservations" will change that.
Second Half Preview
I decided to go back and look at what my thoughts were in my pre-season preview, so I could give some perspective on my evolving state of mind.
AL East- I thought that the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and yes, the Orioles would all finish within 10 games of each other. Oops on the O's. My second half crystal ball sees the Red Sox winning the East, as the Yankees can't overcome losing Sheffield and Matsui. I think the Blue Jays will fade, making it a 2 team race.
AL Central- The best division in baseball, I predicted that the Wild Card would come out of here and it does look to be a good bet to happen. I thought the Indians would have the best record in baseball, so I was way off on that measure. Look for the Tigers to fade behind Chicago in August, but I think they will have enough to hold off the Yankees and Twins for the final playoff spot. I'm not the Under the Knife part of the thejuiceblog.com, but I do see a lot of Detroit players being second-half injury risks. The idiot moves at the start of the season will cost the Twins the final spot in the AL.
AL West- I was one of the few that thought the A's were vastly overrated, with worries about a young pitching staff and a lack of power. I also lamented the loss of Chris Young, by the Rangers, so I went with the Angels. I'm sticking with them to win the weakened West, as they have the best pitching staff and I think a couple of their top prospects will make the difference down the stretch.
NL East- Here is some vindication, as I liked the Mets to win their division, with the Braves falling to third. It looks like I was off on the Phillies, but with just a little better starting pitching, they still have a chance to be the NL wild card pick I dubbed them at the beginning.
NL Central- I wrote that I wouldn't be surprised if the Cardinals won 10 less games than in 2005 and still won the division. Seems like a pretty fair chance of happening. While you can make a case for the Astros, Brewers, or Astros getting the wild card, I think they will fall just short. Should be a great race, though.
NL West- I had the Padres repeating and I will stick with them. While I suspect that Nomar will go on the DL soon, I still think they have enough to get the wild card. I had the Rockies finishing 4th and I still think that will happen, as I see the second half of the year being unkind to the Diamondbacks. The West will be a 2 team race.
I had the Yankees beating the White Sox and the Cards sliding by the Padres in the LCS, at the beginning of the year. Here is my revised choices.
White Sox over A's
Mets over Dodgers
White Sox over Mets
Please list your choices in the comment section, as the only way to win is to play.
TV Quick Hits: Supergroups, Supernovas and a Tourgasm
Some quick hits on the summer TV season.
As Will Carroll mentioned a few weeks back, VH-1's "Supergroup" is great. The best reality show I've seen in the past year that didn't feature Danny Bonaduce. Former Skid Row lead singer, Sebastian Bach was the break-out star from the show. It takes a lot to steal the series from the motor city madman, Ted Nugent, but Bach is David Lee Roth minus 50 IQ points. Each week it was like watching the movie "Big", with Bach playing the role of a grown man inhabited with the behavior of a 12 year-old. Best moment was when the 5 band members were trying to come up with a name. It was as funny as anything in "Spinal Tap".
Keywords by Sebastian: "I'm a Savage Animal! You're a Savage Animal! We're all Savage Animals! This has to be the name of our band! I can't accept any other name. (Half-second pause) Damnation. Let's call the band **Damnocracy!"
Vh-1 has figured out that Heavy Metal music is the most telegenic genre to cover in music. It's like Pro Wrestling, as the performers live their lives like they are "Caligula". Director Penelope Spheeris proved this when she followed up her great documentary on the early 80's LA punk scene "The Decline of Western Civilization" with the even more entertaining "The Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years" which put a microscope on the ridiculous late 1980's Sunset Strip LA hard rock bands.
Ever since VH-1 moved away from being the adult-contemporary video channel, they have given us a steady diet of Behind the Music and History of Metal episodes. It's not like the music is good, but the back stage stories and behavior make them TV Gold. While Bach is undeniably the star, the other members of "Supergroup" are interesting as well. Biohazard member and former actor on "OZ", Evan Seinfeld is a great story of how rock and roll can score you a woman way out of your league. His wife, porn star deluxe, Tera Patrick makes-out with Bach's wife, while Seinfeld photographs them in one episode. Seinfeld looks like some villian from "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome", but still manages to have some hypnotic charm over his physical goddess.
Take it from the guys at The Juice. "Supergroup" is must-see TV.
Readers here will remember that I was a serious pimp for last summer's show, Rockstar: INXS. Well this season kicked off last week and I'm not as confident in the quality of year 2. Number 1 problem is the idea that a band consisting of Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Jason Newsted (Metallica), and Gilby Clarke (sorta Guns and Roses) could make music in 2006 worthy of being considered a supergroup. Can someone tell me the great song that any of these guys wrote? Newsted wasn't allowed to get anywhere close to songwriting from bandmates Hetfield/Ulrich, while Clarke wasn't even with GnR when they recorded their first 3 albums. While Tommy Lee is a kick-ass drummer, I always thought the other 3 members of the Crue were the more involved composers. Whoever the band chooses better be able to write some songs.
While it's too early to tell if the crop of singers on the show are of the same quality as last year's contestants, it does seem strange that no one in the first week sang a metal song. I will say that 3 of the performers during the first week showed rock star talent. (Dilana, Lukas, and Toby) Dilana has a unique voice, with a dynamic stage presence. Originally from Australia, she is like some hypnotic blend of the lead singer of the Divinyls combined with the edge of Courtney Love. Lukas is almost as strange and in the rock business that's a compliment. Australian Toby has the movie idol looks and a great voice, but does he have the pipes to sing metal songs? It will be interesting to watch the performers, though I predict whoever the band chooses to front them won't matter much, as the rest of the band is past their prime. How about some truth in advertising, CBS? Instead of Rock Star: Supernova, let's try Falling Star: Supernova.
HBO has a new sitcom called "Lucky Louie" which was created by writer/stand-up Louie CK. The first few episodes of sitcoms are always difficult to make funny, as you have to set-up characters and develop chemistry between the actors. (If you don't believe me, watch "The Seinfeld Chronicles.") While uneven, "Lucky Louie" has moments of great comedy, with Louie's wife, played by Pamela Adlon, stealing every scene she is in. The scene in episode 2 where Adlon and CK are still trying to figure out each other's bodies just might have been the most realistic sex ever shown on TV. No perfect bodies, perfect movements, or perfect music playing in the background. Just 2 people who've done it way too many times for any BS to enter in to their marital bed.
Louie's neighbor, Jerry Minor, also is a stand-out. CK is at his best, when dealing with the racial components that occur with living next to Minor and his wife. I'm not sure what to think about the appearances each episode by Jim Norton, except to say that when he is on-screen, it's like the sitcom scenes from "Natural Born Killers", with Rodney Dangerfield. Besides Norton, Louis CK has added comic friends like Laura Kightlinger, Nick DiPaulo, and Todd Barry, which is a positive, as stand-ups as actors generally force more reality into a scene.
While it's still in its developing stage, the show's adult nature and the way it's the anti-thesis of the glamorous life portrayed by "Sex in the City" and "Friends" that is most refreshing. Keep an eye on this show, as it has the potential of reviving the modern sitcom.
Also on HBO is a documentary about a comedy tour led by Dane Cook called "Tourgasm." If you were not aware, Cook has become a stand-up sensation. Many people ask me what I think about his comedy and I'm a fan, though I explain that he is bigger than just a stand-up, as he crossed over into that world of being more like a rock star. Dane has brought his comic friends, Robert Kelly, Gary Gulman, and Jay Davis on the tour. Kelly has stolen the show, so far, as he has star power. Gulman might have the best material of anyone on the "Tourgasm", but the rock show atmosphere that Dane Cook shows have don't seem like the best place for him to shine. Davis is one lucky bastard to have such a great friend like Dane Cook, who has given him such an incredible opportunity to get so much attention.
In case you are watching "Tourgasm" I will let you in on a little secret. What happens on the show is nothing like what stand-up is like for us mere mortals. We don't have assistants. Our tour buses are small Toyota's. We perform for audiences between 20 and 200, not a sold-out show at the Fleet Center.
I like the show, overall, as it does a nice job of showing stand-up comedy in a positive light. I cannot say the same for this year's version of "Last Comic Standing." The first season of LCS was a bit too East Coast/West Coast in it's flavor, but I still thought it was a high-quality reality show. The second season was loaded with really talented comics who demonstrated the talent and substance that top-notch stand-up can offer. This summer the show seems to be more of a traditional reality program, worried about filling demographics more than demonstrating a positive view of the business. Some of the comics that made it to the house this year are talented, but being put through challenges like heckling each other and being forced to go into a no-win situation on a morning radio show are very uncomfortable for me to watch. Hopefully, the challenges will improve.
Finally, Jay Mohr is completely missed from the show he helped intially develop. New host, Anthony Clark offers nothing. He's like Dillinger in the way he steals money each week. I take that back because at least Dillinger put some effort into his heists, as Clark performs with all the energy of a cue-card reading robot. Having said this, I would gladly trade with one of the comics on the show, as it is a completely unique platform to demonstrate your talent and personality to Millions of people.
From Here To There
It should be simple. I want to be entertained, in the manner of my choosing and the format of my choosing. It's not that simple.
I buy a CD. I rip it to MP3, or in my case, AAC. (Smaller, fit more on the iPod.) I can listen to it on the iPod. I can listen to it in the car, either off the CD or play the iPod through the car stereo line-in. I can stream it through Tivo (as long as it's not a file I bought from iTunes. Then Apple's DRM cuts in.) All that is relatively easy. Cumbersome. Expensive. Possible.
I buy a DVD. I want to watch it. I could put it in the DVD player. I can rip it to the laptop and watch it there. I can go through some complex steps and get it on the iPod. But here's where things get sticky. I can't play the iPod on TV without significant new equipment (and my home theater setup makes it even more convoluted.) There's no way to stream a movie from my laptop to the TV. If I downloaded the file (illegal, yes), then burning it to a DVD is possible -- but even with legal software, it seldom works. (I use Toast 7, paid for, thank you, but a piece of crap thus far.) TivoToGo doesn't work for Mac, despite promises and promises and even then, I can't use the Humax Tivo DVD Recorder I love. I can't stream what I can see on my laptop screen (MLB.tv) up to the big screen.
Why can't I watch those things I want to watch where and when I want without all the various pieces of technology getting in the way? I'm not sure who to blame -- Apple, Tivo, the RIAA, the MPAA, the bastards that make six different expensive and incompatible wiring standards (S Video must be used throughout, but not with DVI or HDMI).
If someone has a simple, consistent solution, I want to hear about it. I want to buy it and evangelize it. I just want to get THIS from HERE to THERE, whether it's a movie, a TV show, a DVD or pictures of my dog. Is that so much to ask for?
It was such a good idea that I immediately downloaded it (heck, it's free) and realized that I had no use for it. There's nothing wrong with it - it does what it does well, exactly as advertised. It just doesn't work with my process.
There's not a time where I write in an "undistracted" state. I'll usually have Firefox up and running with MLB.com, Rotowire, and a couple other sites going. I'll have MLB.tv or XM for my baseball game watching/listening. The Sidekick II can't seem to stop ringing or taking texts. Adium is open. If I'm not listening to a game, I'll have iTunes going. Yojimbo is always there for my notes.
And yet I continue writing. UTK is a stop-start, note taking, multi-sourced process that is as much prep as actual writing. On the other hand, when I do longer-form stuff like one of my regular columns or even a book, my process is much the same.
I realized that distraction is my process. I'm sure it doesn't work for everyone, but it does for me. I've often said that UTK writes itself; injuries happen, I research it and then write. I don't have to sit down often and say "What the heck am I going to write about?"
For all the talk amongst writers about freeing themselves from distraction and avoiding the dreaded writer's block, I just don't get it. Steven Goldman once said "I had writer's block once. It was a terrible hour one Tuesday afternoon in spring." I'll side with Goldman and Gore Vidal: "You're not cut out for this. Plenty more where you came from."
Writing, like blogging, has to be inspired, even when it is a defined product like UTK. I'm interested in what inspires you, the readers, and what your process is, since it seems like everyone is a writer these days.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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