Friday, February 29, 2008

Feel Good Friday: Bag Of Toys Edition

Last night I went and checked out this band called Bag Of Toys, a band whose tagline is "acoustic surf rock that doesn't suck" and whose album is titled "Nooner" {respek}. That alone had me interested, as acoustic surf rock is right up my alley- plus they are a local band from SF trying to make a name for themselves and seem to be on the verge of bigger things. They were very good. Apparently they are starting to become an up and coming group, and their song "Share" was recently featured in a commercial for the Zune.

"Acoustic surf music that doesn't suck" = right up my alley

If you like Sublime/Slightly Stoopid/Expendables or even Jack Johnson then you'll probably dig these guys, and you can get in on the ground floor in the event that they blow up.

I really dig the first tune off their first album, which is called "Surf Song". Here's the studio version of the tune set to some random dudes surfing:

Makes Cubicle Land more bearable for 4 minutes

Here's the full version of "Share"- there aren't any other studio version of their tunes on the interwebs other than their myspace page, but I bought their album last night and it's really quite good. Definitely worth $10 to check out their show if they come to your town.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend, whatever you get into.

William Gallas: No Entiendo

Another thing that has been rattling around in my brain all week was the reaction in Britain to Arsenal captian William Gallas' behavior at the end of the Birmingham-Arsenal match. He kind of freaked out a bit when Birmingham was awarded a last minute penalty- he stormed off to the far end of the field, then when McFadden converted the penalty he kicked the shit out of the advertising board, and then at the final whistle he fell to the ground and was pretty emotional.

Hard to describe unless you saw it. As Myles said:

In that moment, Gallas saw 8 months of hard work by 30 people go down the toilet . Having started the game by witnessing the most horrific injury he'd ever seen, Gallas ended it with a close-up view of the most stupid defensive error he'd ever seen.

Anyhow, what struck me through the week is how the press in Britain reacted to his actions. He was universally criticized, and he was slammed pretty hard for acting inappropriately, especially for a captain, and some even said that Arsenal should strip him of the captaincy or sell him. Like the injury porn thing, I couldn't help but compare this to how this would have been reported in America. I'm pretty certain that here he would be praised for being emotional, that showing emotion would be a positive thing, showing his team how much he cared and how they should to, setting an example to the team & younger players, he cares so much, etc, etc.

Interesting to say the least.

Furthermore, this is the country who counts Gazza's emotional outburst when he broke down crying in the middle of a match at World Cup 1990 as one of the defining moments in their sporting history, and this was lauded rather than condemned.

Would the reaction to Gallas' actions be different if he wasn't Gallic but rather British?

Color me confused.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Eduardo And Injury Porn

Went to the pub to watch Birmingham-Arsenal on Saturday morning. Two minutes in and Martin Taylor tackles Eduardo hard, and Eduardo is down in a heap. After a moment it is obvious that he is really injured badly. Then I see something I have never seen before- the cameras show his teammates, and they are visibly freaked the fuck out, like they literally saw a ghost. Cesc is angry and really rattled, Hleb has both hands on his head in disbelief, Adebayor is beyond shocked and stunned, as is Sagna- who just lost his 29 year old brother last weekend- his hand is over his mouth in utter shock and disbelief {if you think I am exaggerating I think that they will show these reactions tonight on the Monday night Fox Sports World report on FSC}.

Sky didn't launch into all the replay angles like normal, and soon word comes that the injury is so horrific that Sky is refusing to show any replays. Then I see that Eduardo is not conscious and is being given oxygen through a tank/mask thingy. After attending to him for 9 minutes, they place a white sheet over his body before stretchering him off, something that I have never seen in any sport other than horse racing when a horse breaks down and has to be euthanized on the track {they put up a giant sheet to shield the procedure from the stands}.

Forget the game, which is a whole nother story, but what got me thinking during and after the match was the Brits decision not to show any replays, and how 1) I liked that and 2) how different an approach that struck me as versus American sports coverage.

When horrific injuries happen in American sports, it's serious injury porn time. They typically show 100 replays of it, from every angle, use the telestrator to circle it, and point it out in excruciating detail time after time after time. Then, on the highlight shows, they often continue the injury porn by saying shit like "if you have a weak stomach, then you really should turn away for a few moments or leave the room", which strikes me as the exact same thing as a website telling a 15 year old boy "EXPLICIT SEXUAL MATERIAL- DO NOT ENTER IF YOU ARE UNDER 18". Tyrone Prothro, Bryant Young, Tim Krumrie, Joe Thiesmann, et al...

Anyhow, it just struck me as respectful and classy of the Brits to refuse to participate in the injury porn, especially considering it was Sky {owned by Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox and several tabloid newspapers the world over}. In this day and age the injury porn seekers will find the video and pics on the internet in short order, and some injuries are so bad that it seems exploitative and gratuitous to show them several times over. I really wish that American sports media would follow the Brits lead on this, although I am beyond certain that they never will.

I didn't feel the need to rush home and find the pics on the internet, but Sunday I did break down and click through on a link to some pictures from an Arsenal blog, and I wish I hadn't, there were 9 pictures and after 2 I was done and wondering how long it would take for me to ever get that image out of my head. Now there's apparently slo-mo replay of it from other angles out there, but I'm going to pass: after seeing the scene at the match, seeing 2 pics, hearing his teammates talk about it, and hearing that the surgeons were seriously considering having to amputate his foot, I know all I need to know, and anything more seems pornographic at this point. If I live the rest of my life without ever seeing the video I'll be just fine.

As far as the injury itself/the incident/Martin Taylor/the rules which govern such things/etc, I completely agree and could not add anything to what Arseblogger said so eloquently about it yesterday {where he has a stunning picture just before impact to completely dispel the story that it was an innocent case of missing the ball} as well as today, so if you want an excellent and reasoned opinion about the situation read his stuff.

My thoughts and wishes are with Eduardo, who is well liked by his teammates and seems like a really good guy. So shitty for him that at age 24 he was really coming into his own and ready to lead Croatia at this summer's Euro2008 after leading them to qualification. He may or may not ever play again, but I just hope that he is able to recover to full heath and be able to walk and function normally. Best wishes man, forget about soccer right now and just get well.

Get better, man

Even if we never see this again,
here's hoping for a return to full health

Also, happy 25th birthday today, or as happy as it can be considering the circumstances.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Academy Awards: 4 out of 5 Ain't Bad

I saw JUNO on Friday night and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN last night, getting me to 4 out of 5 of the Best Picture nominees. Unfortunately, THERE WILL BE BLOOD won't get viewed in time{sorry, Doug, I can't help you out on that one}.

Random thoughts...

JUNO and NCFOM wre both good, but personally I don't see what all the fuss is about- I neither loved nor hated both of these. JUNO is a George W Bush film {a great divider}, and people are either raving about it or hating on it hard. I'm right in the middle- I didn't hate it but it's not the most amazing shit I've seen either. As far as the dialog, yeah maybe it was mildly annoying, but hell I have no idea how 16 year olds talk these days, so no biggie. My problem with this movie is that although it was wonderfully acted, I just didn't find Juno's character to be that believable or realistic. I find it hard to believe that a 16 year old would really be so nonchalant and flippant through that whole experience, and that her dad would be so chill as well. That's more down to the story and the writing, as I said the acting was great- I especially liked how Jason Bateman played his likable character and Jennifer Garner played her not so likable character so well.

NCFOM did an amazing job of creating truly suspenseful/tense/scary scenes that were unpredictable and made me genuinely on edge, but methinks that falls more in line with the Best Direction category than Best Picture. The unresolved ending didn't really bother me, as this movie doesn't seem to be about a linear storyline rather than the theme of being an old man and trying to come to terms with the world passing you by, so no worries there. The story was good but not great, and I'm trying to figure out if all the violence was really merited or if it was violence for violence sake & a bit of violence porn like in PULP FICTION.

Anyhow, that leaves ATONEMENT and MICHAEL CLAYTON, both of which I personally liked better than the aforementioned two, which along with THERE WILL BE BLOOD seem to be getting all the buzz. They are pretty damn different, so it's had to choose between the two, but I suppose in the end ATONEMENT gave me more to think about afterwards and got me pondering some pretty philosophical shit- how to you make amends for a sin that is unforgivable? etc, etc. On the other hand, I'm sure if I had read the book before hand I wouldn't have liked it, since the next movie that is as good as or better than the book will be the first.

So of the 4 I saw I would rank them 1A ATONEMENT, 1B MICHAEL CLAYTON, 3 NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, 4 JUNO.

Bardem was good in NCFOM, but not to the level that everyone is freaking out about. I thought that Wilkinson was better in MICHAEL CLAYTON, and I thought that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was better than both of them in CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR.

I didn't see 4 of the 5 films for Best Actor, so no use in talking about that. I did think that Tommy Lee Jones was outstanding in NCFOM fwiw.

And although I failed to catch either of the 2 documentaries about Iraq, or the one about the Afghan taxi driver, I did see SICKO and WARDANCE, and I am pulling hard for WARDANCE to win Best Documentary- I thought the movie was amazing, and if it doesn't win then I am running out to watch what beats it, cause you are going to have to come pretty damn strong to beat that.

So there it is. My $0.02, even though I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as Solon, whose Oscars breakdown can be seen here.

Show's in 1 hour. Enjoy.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Feel Good Friday: Raising Hell Edition

Oh, you wanted music for Feel Good Friday? Right...

I was also reminded today, thanks to iTunes shuffle, just how awesome a tune My Adidas by RUN-D.M.C. is:

Before corporate selling out, they flipped it
on it's head and pimped what they liked for no pay

And that always leads to Peter Piper, which bats leadoff on Raising Hell and 22 years later is still one of the greatest rap songs of all time

A great tune about JMJ: RIP.

Happy Weekend.


Feel Good Friday: Tecmo Bowl Edition

Remember this???

Even better than "rubble-ribble"
*note: that's Tecmo Super Bowl above; they didn't have the original on the youtubes :(

If you're +/- 5 years of my age, then this was one of the crowning achievements of your youth: Tecmo Bowl, in all of it's 8-bit beauty. Ahh the memories... Jack Trudeau's super slow ass rainbow lobs, hearing "Ready! Down! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut!" while you switched to your preferred dude on defense 100 times in 15 minutes, halftime leads of 70-0, all of it.

Many thanks to SMQ for taking me down memory lane and reminding me how wonderful this game was with this video of what has to be the greatest TD run in Tecmo Bowl history:

That's Bo Jackso, one of the 2 uber-legends of the game, who was simply programmed to be that much better than anyone else to where he could do anything. He'll always be Bo Jackso because my old ass TV when I was a kid cut off his name when it was in the upper right {I played against him more than with him}. The other legend of course, was LT, who got an extra few lines of coke from the programmers which made him unfair fast- in fact, he was really the only one who could stop Bo Jackso.

Me? I liked playing with the 49ers, because by the quirks of the programming of the game, the crossing pattern to Roger Craig was simply uninterceptable {-ible? guess it doesn't matter when you are making up your own words} and with them I was damn near invincible.

This last vid made me think of how much more fun it would have been, in a different way, had it come out when I was an adult that when I was a kid, as Tecmo Bowl pretty much predated F-bombs for me:

I think the next time I am back at Club Mom & Dad the NES is coming out.

The Oscars According To Solon, 2007 Edition

For years, film aficionado Solon has sent out a lengthy email to all of his so-called mates in which he breaks down the Oscars. Last year I shared it here and it generated some discussion, so here is this year's email, which I received last night. It's the shortest one ever, but still damn good as always.

If you really want to dork out, Solon's much more in depth review from years past:

Oscars According To Solon 2006

Oscars According To Solon 2005
Oscars According To Solon 2004

FYI the Academy Awards are Sunday night. Enjoy

Greetings all.

First things first, the PhD applications really stuffed me this year, so my movie-going experience is not nearly as prolific as it is most years--in fact, truth be told, I've seen less than 20 movies (as opposed to my usual 50 or so). But I have seen all of the big ones and people are asking, so I'll produce. But don't be offended if I missed your hip little independent film, I just didn't have the time.

Also, the format's a little different this year. Next year I'll be back to my normal lists. Until then, hopefully this will suffice. Enjoy.

Best Picture
Should win: JUNO

The standard beef with NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is that the ending is poor. In reality, it is not that it is poor, but that it is uninteresting; I have not seen a movie lose so much momentum toward the end since (ironically) MAGNOLIA. It has other flaws as well--Woody Harrelson's character is unnecessary, for example--and while it's wonderfully shot, it most assuredly does not live up to its hype as a "classic American film" the way that THERE WILL BE BLOOD does.

I do not think THERE WILL BE BLOOD is Paul Thomas Anderson's best work--that honor still goes to the outstanding BOOGIE NIGHTS--but I can see where people are coming from when they call it an epic. I think it probably falls a bit short with what it is trying to get across--it's a poor man's CITIZEN KANE, largely since Plainview isn't as well developed as Kane is--but, as I said, I would not begrudge someone for believing the movie pulled off what it sought to accomplish. As for the story, while I did not particularly care for the ending--I think it descended a little too much into absurdity--at least it held my attention.
The year's best offering, however, is JUNO. The haters are out in force for this movie, telling everyone who will listen that the character of Juno is annoying, that the dialogue is unrealistic, or that the movie tries "too hard to be cool," but all of those people can just go and get stuffed (I mean, seriously, is there any more dickheaded appeal than saying something "tries too hard to be cool"? Please, let me know what is sufficiently cool, so I can bow down to you for making that determination for me.). I mean, anyone can get a stick up their ass and talk about how people who like a movie they hate don't know anything about movies--hell, I should know, I did it the last two years with LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE and CRASH--but it doesn't mean they have any idea what they are talking about. For the record, I asked my 15-year-old niece if she thought the dialogue was unrealistic, and she pointed out that not only is Juno set in a different part of the country than she lives in, but that even at her high school not everyone talks the same way. In any event, she didn't find the dialogue to be unrealistic or distracting. Of course, she also has the benefit of not being a pretentious ass, so I suppose that helps.
Where to start with JUNO? The screenplay is great, of course, but the acting is also perfect--everyone's so wonderfully cast, it's hard to imagine any improvements. With a few minor exceptions, the characters aren't played for laughs--sort of the opposite of an Alexander Payne movie. All of them have good qualities, but they are all flawed as well. The plot is original and, for the most part, unpredictable (take that, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE) and I was fully invested in the story and the characters. It is, as I read somewhere, one of the rare movies that can warm your heart and break it all at the same time. Is some of the dialogue strained? Sure it is, but why isn't anyone bitching about "What business is it of yours where I'm from, friend-o" as much as they are bitching about "Honest to blog"? I mean, you want to talk about some seriously stupid shit, it's some psychopath calling someone "friend-o." Let's face it, most movies have a line or two that hurt it, but it doesn't ruin the movie unless you want it to.

Best Director:
Will win: Joel and Ethan Coen, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Should win: Paul Thomas Anderson, THERE WILL BE BLOOD

I like the Coens, but I think they are immensely overrated. I never really understood the hype surrounding FARGO, which is fine but strikes me as more of a quirky movie that caught on as opposed to an actual legitimate film (sort of like a lesser GHOST WORLD or HEATHERS--or, for that matter, a lesser THE BIG LEBOWSKI). In terms of direction, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is certainly the best thing they've ever done, but, to be perfectly honest, that isn't saying too much (what's it better than--BARTON FINK and O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU, I guess--and neither of those is a classic by any measure). I don't mean to imply that the job they did here wasn't good--because it was outstanding. And, in most years, they'd deserve an Oscar for the job they did--in fact, Bardem is going to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar as much because of their direction (and Deakins' cinematography) as for his acting. But this year they are second-best.
The ironic thing about Paul Thomas Anderson's job in THERE WILL BE BLOOD is that one of his greatest strengths as a director--his ability to match the perfect music to a scene, where he is arguably the equal of Scorsese, and better than Tarantino--is not really in evidence here. Jonny Greenwood's score is getting a lot of hype, but I thought it was a little heavy-handed, myself, and I found it to be a great disappointment given the effectiveness of Anderson's use of music in the past. That said, the rest Anderson's direction was pretty amazing; the movie is one great scene after another. The scene with the oil fire is one of the great scenes of recent years, and it's rare that such a great scene lasts as long as that one does (though this year there was a similarly great long scene, the Dunkirk scene in ATONEMENT)--and it's the one time in the movie that the music fits perfectly. I was a little concerned about Anderson after PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE--but he has come back in a big way here.

Best Actor:
Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis, THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Should win: Daniel Day-Lewis, THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Daniel Day-Lewis--who, amazingly, has only been in 3 movies in the last 10 years, and only been in 8 since MY LEFT FOOT nearly 20 years ago--might have been the only actor who could have pulled off the character of Daniel Plainview, but pull it off he did. His character does seem to derive from John Huston in CHINATOWN, but that's not too bad a thing--Cate Blanchett won an Academy Award recently for playing a caricature, and she wasn't nearly as good as Day-Lewis was. I wish the character had been more developed--why does he have a competition in him, and not want anyone else to succeed?--but that's not Day-Lewis' failing. Sure, he probably takes the last scene a little too far, but I'm not sure there's a better way to play it--and even though he's also a nutter in the penultimate scene, he isn't too over-the-top in that one despite the necessary theatrics.

Best Actress:
Will win: Julie Christie, AWAY FROM HER
Should win: Ellen Page, JUNO

This is the strongest of the major categories this year, which I feel confident in saying despite not having seen Blanchett. Christie and Cotillard will battle this one out, but I think Christie rates the edge here. Both are great, but I personally think Cotillard overacts a little, whereas Christie's performance is much more subtle and that will likely serve her well. I was pretty amazed that Cotillard won the BAFTA but I think the Academy will turn the tables and Christie will get a well-deserved second Oscar. Also, Sarah Polley's direction was so great that it would be a tragedy if the movie wasn't rewarded in some way, and she won't win for adapted screenplay.

Ellen Page, though, dominates JUNO and gives a performance the equal of Day-Lewis' in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Her great performance is no surprise--she was outstanding in a difficult role in HARD CANDY and has received accolades for her completed-but-unreleased performance in AN AMERICAN CRIME--but what's unfortunate is that it's easy to lose sight of how good her performance is. One can argue about how true-to-life Cody's screenplay is, but it's not really possible to argue that Page struggles with it even though it's a pretty demanding role. It requires her to wear many hats, and she runs through them all pretty seamlessly. Sure, she's great when she cries in the car, but she's even better when she's talking about shooting babies out of t-shirt guns in China. She's helped by a strong cast--no one in the movie is bad--but it's her show, and the movie is only as good as it is because she carries it.

Credit also is due to Anamaria Marinca in 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS, who is outstanding (and I rate it as the 3rd best movie this year, behind JUNO and THERE WILL BE BLOOD). The three best performances this year are Day-Lewis', Page's, and Marinca's, and there's not much to separate the three of them. Her scene at the dinner table is arguably the most powerful scene in any movie this year, and it's pretty much just her facial expressions. Amazing. It's unfortunate that she isn't getting more credit for her performance, especially considering that it's her cinematic debut.

Best Supporting Actor:
Will win: Javier Bardem, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Should win: Tom Wilkinson, MICHAEL CLAYTON

The only thing that stuns me more than the hype for NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN is the hype that Bardem is getting. Sure, he acts like a crazy fucker, but he doesn't do much other than look like a nut and has a crazy look on his face. Really, he's only got three scenes where he does any "acting"--at the Texaco station, with Woody Harrelson, and with Kelly MacDonald--and, for the most part, the other person in each scene out-acts him (maybe not in the Woody Harrelson scene, but this is the weakest of the three). In my estimation, in his signature scene--the one at the Texaco station--he's not the one who dominates that scene, the old man does. "You have to call it, this is the best I can do"? "This coin took 22 years to get here"? Big fucking deal. Compare Bardem's performance to Ben Kingsley's performance in SEXY BEAST, and, well, there's no comparison. Kingsley's a small guy who comes off as this seriously intimidating scary dude, whereas Bardem just has a crazy look on his face and a gun (or that cattle stun-gun thing).
On the other hand, Wilkinson is great in MICHAEL CLAYTON--the scene where he is arguing with Clooney about his coming to terms with his life's work is amazing ("I am Shiva, the god of death."), as is the scene where he sticks it to Clooney when he is challenged on his area of expertise. To be perfectly honest, having worked in the legal field for so long, and seeing the complete lack of intellectual integrity on the part of many high-powered attorneys probably had me wondering why breakdowns like his don't happen more often, and had be cheering for him a little bit. Still, it's not easy to play a man in his position undergoing a breakdown with conviction, but Wilkinson doesn't take a wrong step. Unfortunately for him, he is a bit player in what is probably the year's most memorable scene, which, for the record, is much scarier than any of the shit Bardem participates in.

Best Supporting Actress:
Will win: Amy Ryan, GONE BABY GONE
Should win: Saoirse Ronan, ATONEMENT

Here is where my ignorance catches up with me, as I have only seen Swinton and Ronan of the nominees.
The favorite is Blanchett, but I can't imagine she'll win another Supporting Actress Oscar for essentially playing another caricature of someone with whom everyone is familiar. Ryan is by all accounts excellent in GONE BABY GONE, and while she's won her share of awards this season--enough to suggest she can win the Oscar--she hasn't won so many that the Academy will feel the need to even things up with Blanchett. So take the price and go with Ryan.

I didn't think much of Swinton in MICHAEL CLAYTON, which makes my decision pretty easy; and, in truth, watching her struggle with an American accent gave me a lot more respect for Day-Lewis' performance in THERE WILL BE BLOOD. But Ronan is quite good--probably not good enough for a win, but certainly good enough for a nomination. Really, all of the Brionys in ATONEMENT are good, and while Redgrave is probably better her role is so tiny that there's little question which one of the three is the most impressive.

The Academy Awards are this Sunday, February 24th. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Prediction: Soulja Boy At Sanford Stadium, 2007-2007. RIP.

Been meaning to write this for a while now...

I believe Crank Dat by Soulja Boy was first played at the UGA-Ole Miss game- the players really dug it, and among others Thomas Brown & Knowshon really got into it. I am sure that they were really digging that a current song that they liked was being played rather than the usual fare. I know this because when I was in charge of the sound system in Western Kentucky's Diddle arena in the late 90s and also tutored some dudes on the basketball team, they mentioned how lame the music was and how they wish there was better music for them to get hyped up to rather than the dated songs that seemed geared toward the much more conservative audience- as I hip hop head I commiserated with the situation and took it upon myself to upload some current tunes, and when I started playing them during warmups the players were mucho appreciado- I am guessing that something similar happened at UGA last fall with this tune.

Anyhow, they did it again at Troy, but then it really took off during the Auburn game when everyone was fully liquored up and totally hyped up for "the blackout", especially since Georgia had just stormed way ahead of Auburn and were basically putting a close battle against a huge rival out of reach- it was just after a TD as well as the break preceding the fourth quarter, and everyone went fucking nuts- the offense and the defense on the sidelines, and the special teams standing on the field waiting for the TV timeout to end so they could kickoff. It was more than your typical PA system song at a football game, and even CBS took notice- and participated:

Anyhow, the whole thing just blowed up for UGA, but this was also happening at other places across the country. Crank Dat was becoming a big time dance craze- it was silly and fun, and people enjoyed the superman part.

They played it at UCF when the Golden Knights hosted Texas, and the road team got their groove on. They even cranked the words over their PA system, which speaks to the point that I eventually am going to get around to making in a minute:

Wisconsin is never known as being hip, let alone hip hop, but even Badgers basketball coach Bo Ryan was getting into it:

And Patrick Ewing, Jr. was teaching Jerry Rice how to do it in front of thousands at Georgetown's march madness, where the words were also played:

"Kanu: good God, man, make your point- I'm falling asleep."

As often happens with the older, traditional masses, they sometimes don't understand what something from young, hip culture means. And I'm damm sure that UGA & UCF athletic administrators, nor Bo Ryan or Jerry Rice know just what the line "Superman dat ho!!!" {do not click through if you are easily offended} means as they do the most fun part of the dance.

My point: as soon as the Ned Flanders' of the world find out about this song lyric, they are going to go totally and completely apeshit and complain hard to anyone and anything involved in any promotion of this song whatsoever. And that is why, my friends, I do not think that it will ever be played in Sanford Stadium again. Whether you love it, hate it, or are ambivalent, I don't think it's coming back. Like "skeet, skeet, skeet" before it, in time people who were probably better off not knowing what it means will find out what it means.

Personally, I think it is hilarious when youth culture gets the establishment to celebrate something that otherwise it wouldn't touch with a 100 ft pole, it's ironic and funny and mischievous. It's similar to my eternal amusement at the Republicans using the song "Born In The USA" all these years when the meaning and message of the song are the exact opposite of what they think it is, although that is a little different than this situation. Wait till Bill "I Heart Ludacris and Jay-Z" O'Reilly gets a hold of this and calls for a boycott of UGA and Bo Ryan's resignation. It will be funny to laugh at the out-of-touch crowd if and when they figure it out and see that youth has been chuckling at their use of it all along.

On the other hand, it is probably a good thing if this doesn't get played in 2008 and beyond, because by next fall the fad will have passed, and there will be new hot hip hop songs and silly ass dance crazes, and we wouldn't want the repeat embarrassment of UGA playing "Who Let The Dogs Out?!?!!?!?" in Sanford a full year and two years after that fad was beyond played out, and everyone who wasn't a suburban housewife was rolling their eyes in embarrassment and thinking "why don't they just play the Macarena while they are at it?"

One thing is for sure. No matter what, no matter if there is the biggest backlash and outrage in the world against this song and its lyrics, they will still rock that shit down in Miami, because that's just how Da U rolls, playa:

Sebastian The Ibis: keepin' it gangsta fo life, bitches

*Footnote: despite 4 repetitions of the line "supersoak that ho", the artist himself denies any intended sexual meaning to his lyrics {fwiw, I don't give a shit either way}.

Cote D'Ivoire Isn't Camelot; It's Sir Mix-A-Lot

"Well, hello..."

Before Tuesday I already liked the Ivory Coast just fine- a French speaking African nation full of friendly people who are also soccer mad and have one of the best teams in all of Africa, including Arsenal players Kolo Toure, whom I love and Emmanuel Eboue, whom I tolerate. Hell everybody loved them after they were the feel good story at the 2006 World Cup when ESPN hired Bono to tell us how their qualification for their first ever World Cup led to a cease fire in their civil war.

Well now it's safe to say that I full-on *love* the Ivory Coast after learning of their recent and fervent celebration of the big round booty.

Good, better, best

It's called "Bobaraba" which literally means 'big bottom', and is a hit song and dance craze from 2007 that is still going strong. Even the Ivory Coast national soccer team were doing it during goal celebrations at this year's African Cup Of Nations, which seems rather a propos when you consider that the French word for 'goal' is 'but'.

Les Elephants dansent le bobaraba apres un but

It is a dance/celebration for both men and women, although of course the women are getting the lion's elephant's share of attention. That being said, it is being pushed as less misogynistic and more empowering by the group who made the song:

"There are women today with large bottoms who are embarrassed, so it's to say don't be ashamed - be comfortable"

Way better than the bookends on my bookshelf

Anyhow, here's the video:

I can't help but think that I'd really like to see Serena, in the catsuit, doing this dance.

{big time HT to DC Trojan and something called Twitter, which appears to be a sort of love child of blogging and instant messaging}

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On A Partially Cloudy Night, In A Metro Area With Considerable Light Pollution, A Lunar Eclipse Looks Like...

... well nothing really.

{click on pics to enlarge}

Move along- nothing to see here.

It looked cool on the walk home as half of the moon was covered, but during the 50 minutes of total eclipse you couldn't see anything moon-wise, from the rooftop- it was as if the moon wasn't there.

No biggie, it's always cool up there in the evening, and I figured out the night setting on my sort of new camera, so I was able to take some pics during the couldn't even tell it was there total eclipse.


Golden Gate Bridge

Bay Bridge and TransAmerica Building

An hour later, the moon is back like cooked crack

AC Milan Beat Arsenal 0-0

Arsenal 0-0 AC Milan

That's quite a remarkable headline when you consider that:

1- AC Milan were outshot 17-8, out corner kicked 9-2, and outpossessed 57%-43%
2- Arsenal did not concede a road goal to Meelan
3- 0-0 means that Arsenal have a considerable advantage going to the San Siro in 2 weeks, as any scoring draw means that they will go through on the away goals rule {and hell, 0-0 gets them into extra time}, and if Arsenal can score a goal at the San Siro then Milan will have to score 2 to avoid elimination

Those three points above would make you think that Arsenal "won" this round 0-0. If you didn't watch the match that is.

Cesc and Rino enter The Matrix. "Whoa!"

Arsenal's youth, speed, and incessant work rate pressured Milan in the first half and never allowed them to get going, they were always under pressure, the kind they just do not see in Serie A. Arsenal particularly stifled Milan's extremely talented midfield and never gave them any space to do their thing or get into any sort of rhythm at all. Arsenal had the better of it even though no clear cut chances came of it. However, close to halftime, as you saw the Milan players really huffing and puffing and trying to catch their breath when the ball was out of play, you knew that the second half would be trouble for them.

And it was. Arsenal absolutely dominated the 2nd half, ran circles around Milan, and started creating great scoring chances one after the next after the next. It seemed only a matter of time, but Arsenal either had good shots right at the Milan reserve keeper {who looks exactly like George McFly} {also- Dida hurt his back while sitting on the bench last weekend- and had to be stretchered off from his own bench! How very Dida...} or they fell victim to the old Arsenal problem of trying to walk the ball into the net instead of shooting when a decent chance was available. To Milan's credit, they never panicked at the back when they were under siege, they were as cool, calm, and composed as you would expect them to be.

As the clock ticked down the fear became that AC Milan, after getting completely dominated for damn near the whole match, would sneak a crushing road goal from a set piece or a Kaka moment of brilliance- that would be sooooooo AC Milan. It didn't happen, and then Arsenal dominated the end of the game, only to see more shots right at McFly and then Adebayor to smash a header off the crossbar in the final minute of extra time.

How did this not go in? {nice grab Massimo Oddo}

Arsenal really would have deserved the goal that they so desperately seeked, such was their domination. They will have to settle with having the advantages described above going into the return leg in 2 weeks. A goal will would require conceding 2 to get knocked out, so hopefully they can score first. Of course, cagey old Meelan are the absolute masters of weathering storms and then beating opponents with a moment or two of brilliance, and taking their chances when they get them.

So AC Milan "won" 0-0 because they really should have been put to the sword tonight, but managed to survive and lived to fight another day: Tuesday March 4th to be exact.

Frustrated, nervous, and hopeful am I.

In other action:

Lyon 1-1 ManUtd
Manchester United got a late equalizer from Tevez in the 86th minute to get a draw in Lyon 1-1

Celtic 2-3 Barcelona
Barcelona came from behind twice to beat Celtic 3-2.

Fenerbache 3-2 Sevilla
Fenerbache got an 87th minute winner to beat Sevilla 3-2, but Sevilla's 2 road goals put them in a pretty good position: 1-0 or 2-1 at home and they are through.

Yesterday's results:

Liverpool 2-0 Inter Milan
I watched the first half on Slingbox and the 2nd half at the pub. Materrazzi was controversially sent off in the 30th minute after picking up his 2nd yellow card, each of which was fairly ticky tack and dubious and could have simply been given as free kicks. But sometimes you pay when you have the well earned reputation as one of the dirtiest players in world football, and here it came back to bite him in the ass. It almost seemed that the referee knew that he had fucked up, as he turned down at least 3 hand balls in the box by Inter- the first two were not intentional but PV4s, although not intentional either, was a move more likely to be witnessed on a volleyball court than a soccer field.

Even with a man advantage for 60 minutes Liverpool were pretty shit, squandering their chances, and it looked like Inter would escape with a 0-0 until Johnny from Kobra Kai Dojo Dirk Kuyt got a lucky goal off a wicked deflection that left Inter keeper Julio Cesar no chance. Stevie G made it 2-0 at the death with a great goal that might have taken a deflection as well. I still think Inter will beat their ass in the San Siro and at least get to extra time if not win. One thing is sure for Inter- they cannot concede unless they plan on scoring at least 4.

Roma 2-1 Real Madrid
With the crucial road goal, Madrid will still be favored in the eyes of many to get it done at home and go through.

Schalke 04 1-0 FC Porto

Olympiakos 0-0 Chel$ea
Can Olympiakos nick a goal at Stamford Bridge and make it interesting, forcing Chel$ea to score 2?

Return legs are in two weeks, Tuesday March 4 and Wednesday March 5 and should be a great 2 days of knockout round CL footy as the field is narrowed to 8.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happy Weekend

3 day weekend + 68 and sunny all three days = Big Sur.

I'm off to maybe the most beautiful place I have ever been. It's like freaking fantasyland down there.

"Tranquilo" doesn't even begin to cover it

That's Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park above. I'm also hoping to hit Point Lobos State Park and maybe even do Hearst Castle for the 2nd time.

Y'all have a great weekend, and be safe.


Asskicking Doesn't Cover It. Trust Me.

Manchester United 4-0 Arsenal.

The most remarkable thing about this match, looking back on it, is that it finished only 4-0. It should have been 4 or 5 nil at halftime, and that was before Arsenal played the 2nd half a man down thanks to continually idiotic Emmanuel Eboue.

I'll write more thoughts on this later, but for now this is all you need to know: Darren Fletcher scored. Twice. That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Is there anything more indicative of a total and complete annihilation than Darren Fletcher scoring two goals? I suppose there is one thing: a Darren Fletcher hattrick.

Congrats to ManUtd, a well deserved thrashing.

For Arsenal, fuck it: one less thing to worry about, and now they can concentrate on the EPL first and CL second.

More later- it's way too nice outside for me to be in here typing. Laters.

Who Said The Romance Of The FA Cup Was Dead?

Liverpool 1-2 Barnsley.

With 10 of the remaining 16 teams going into today NOT from the Premiership, it was already the year of the underdog in the FA Cup, a throwback to the olden days before the money of the modern game put such famous upsets on the endangered species list.

Well apparently Liverpool were not content with their 4th Round performance, where they drew semi pro Havant & Waterlooville at home, then managed to fall behind not once but twice, 0-1, and 1-2, before sorting themselves out and winning 4-2. Today they hosted Barnsley, a mid-table team in the division below the EPL. And they topped their performance in round 4 against the semi-pros by coming from 1-0 up to not only stare down the prospet of an embarrassing replay at Barnsley, but going ahead and getting knocked out by a 92nd minute winner by Barnsley. At Anfield. Wow.

In the final 8 there will be a maximum of 4 premiership teams, so the little guys still have a chance to get to Wemberley. The best thing for them would be for the ManUtd-Arsenal winner to draw Chel$ea in the next round.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Feel Good Friday: Home Sweet Home Edition

Greetings from my apartment, where I have not been for the last 15 nights as the massive water damage to mi casa was repaired. Tonight has been like a first night in a new place all over again, putting furniture in place, unpacking, etc. I just got all of the electronics plugged back in, so I'm here to pay homage to how nice it feels to have a home again that you can just chill out in.

First thing that came to mind was of course The Crue {sucks that my keyboard doesn't have the two little thingies}, and I think that in the short history of this place I have yet to post a vid of a makeup wearing hair band, and that just cannot stand any longer:

Next up is Donovan Frankenreiter & Jack Johnson singing "I'm Headed Home":

Finally is the sing "Home" from Jack Johnson's most recent surf movie, A Brokedown Melody:

Suffice to say, I'm happy to be back in my place. All that's left is about 10 loads of wash, as everything in my closet adopted the sweet smell of mildew, finish putting everything back in place, and then set about trying to get 1/2 a months rent back from my landlord, which will be barrels of fun.

Wherever your home is, and whether you are at it or far away from it, have a wonderful weekend.

How Hard Will Arsene & Sir Alex Try Tomorrow?

FA Cup 5th Round {round of 32}

Bristol Rovers-Southampton
Carfiff City-Wolverhampton
Coventry-West Brom
Chel$ea-Huddersfield Town
Sheffield United-Middlesbrough
Preston North End-Portsmouth

Unlike seeded tournaments such as NCAA March Madness and tennis, in the FA Cup, after each round is completed, every surviving team is thrown back into the hat and a new draw is made for the following round {in each round the draw sees a match played at one team's ground, but if that match results in a draw then there is a "replay", or another match, at the other team's ground. If it is still tied after the replay, then it goes to extra time and then penalties to determine the winner}. As a result, you get shit like Manchester United-Arsenal in the 5th round {round of 32}, whereas in any seeded tournament they would be placed such that they could not possibly meet until damn near the end.

Is this good/bad/better/worse/fair/unfair? Dunno, but it is kind of exciting, cool, and quirky, and I kind of dig it. That is, until your fave team gets selected to play Man United at Old Trafford while Liverpool draw Barnsley at home and Chel$ea draw something called Huddersfield Town at home. Them's the breaks. But fuck it, if you are going to win a big competition then you are going to have to slay giants at some point, so bring it on I say.

Both teams are battling for the EPL title, with Arsenal 5 points ahead with 12 games remaining in the season. Even more pressing is that the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 is Tue/Wed. So as important, historical, prestigious as the FA Cup is, how much are Arsene and SAF going to try tomorrow? They both would love to win the FA Cup obviously, but that being said it still probably comes 3rd right about now for each team/manager, after the Champions League and Premiership title {in whatever order you prefer, but both are most likely more important than the FA Cup these days}.

So will Wenger rest Fabregas/Adebayor/Gallas/Hleb? Will he start Walcott & Bendtner? Will SAF rest some of his key players as well?

We'll have to wait to find out, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some key stars on both sides on the bench tomorrow, at least to begin with.

The winner tomorrow will have the spoils of victory and still have a great chance to win multiple titles this season, but they will also pick up some serious fixture congestion in the next two months, where the Premiership will be decided. The loser on the other hand, will be relieved of such additional fixtures and can focus on the Premiership Title race and the Champions League, which may be significant, especially in the race for the Premiership. Just look at money grubbing ManUtd, who during their 5 day break 2 weeks ago traveled to Dubai to play a match in exchange for 1 million pounds instead of resting their players before a set of midweek internationals. Their next two Premiership matches? A 1-1 draw at Tottenham where they scraped a point by scoring on the last kick of the match, and a 1-2 home defeat to local rivals Man Citeh. With Arsenal winning both weeks, just like that ManUtd went from tied on points and +5 on goal difference to 5 points behind and their goal difference eliminated. Was the whoring side trip to Dubai directly responsible? Of course not, but surely it played a part, and at this point of the season every bit of rest helps. Of course, that didn't stop ManUtd #2 Carlos Quieroz running his mouth to the press about how the midweek international schedule is unfair and was the direct cause of them losing to Citeh, nevermind that Citeh has a bunch of international players themselves and oh, yeah: you went to Dubai to pimp yourselves out for 1 million quid while everyone else was resting, you fucking douche.

Of course, if they draw tomorrow then there will be a replay at The Emirates next week, in which case it's rinse and repeat everything I just wrote.

War Dance: Go See This Movie. Really.

I didn't get out of my test last night in time for the show, but I did get out in time to catch the late viewing of a movie that has been on my radar since it came out.

Trailer, short version

It's called War Dance and in addition to the dozens of other awards that it has already received, it is up for Best Documentary at next Sunday night's Academy Awards.

It is amazing, and amazingly well done. It is the simultaneously tragic and uplifting story of children from wartorn northern Uganda who are refugees in their own country and how the music and dance program at their school gives them a little bit of joy and hope in their otherwise extremely difficult lives. Another well needed reminder to us that when we as Americans think we have stresses and problems in life, 99% of us really have no comprehension of how insignificant those alleged stresses and problems are compared to people such as these.

Extended trailer with some scenes that were not in the movie

If Cry Freedom, The Constant Gardener, The Last King Of Scotland, Blood Diamond, et al. were up your alley at all, then you simply must see this. Bring tissue, or a long sleeve shirt at least {Brain, bring a roll of Brawny}.

Wardance Official Movie Site

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

My thoughts haven't changed about VD {or Valentine's Day, either...}, and I still highly recommend my advice to y'all from last year: Fuck Dr. Phil, this is worth a minute of your time for sure.

The Good
Perhaps my favorite band these days, Slightly Stoopid {if you liked Sublime: Sublime begat Long Beach Dub All Stars; LBAS begat Slightly Stoopid}, are opening their spring tour right here in SF. Tonight. Even better, a Santa Cruz stoner band still on the verge of blowin' up, The Expendables, are opening. They are great, and even more a propos, they have the most romantic stoner song of all time, "Bowl For Two". What better way to escape the bullshit of Valentine's Day than go see two awesome stoner bands in concert?

The Bad
Not only do I have Spanish class tonight, pero tengo un examen gigante esta noche. So no concert for me. Oh well, I'll see them again next time. Fuck.

The Ugly
My goofy ass. But I just remind myself that's just a testament to how much game I have ;)

I'll leave you with the only cool thing about Valentine's Day: Andre 3000's funky-ass, cupid impersonating take on it:

And remember, if you love someone, then fuck Valentine's Day- you should be doing random thoughtful sweet shit for them on May 12th, August 3rd, October 27th, and various other random and frequent times throughout the year, not on the 1 day that society reminds lazy men to do so, and Valentine's Day should be banished to its proper place: irrelevance.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

African Cup Of Nations: The Goals And Celebrations

Some of the best goals, and celebrations, from The 2008 African Cup of Nations group stages, set to 'Mama Africa" by Senegalese Akon:

For me, Kalou's matchwinner against Nigeria (2:35 mark above) and the goal after it, Sulley Muntari's last minute gamewinner for Ghana in the opening match, and Zidan's brace in the first Egypt-Cameroon match are special, along with the ones from new Angolan sensation {and ManUtd target} Manucho.


Pharoahs Are Champions Of Africa

African Cup Of Nations Final
Cameroon 0-1 Egypt. FT
Abou Tricka 76'

Egypt have just won their 6th ACN by defeating the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon 1-0. It was a very exciting 0-0 for 75 minutes, with several good chances for each team, including Egypt hitting the post early in the second half, but then a pretty massive fuckup by Cameroon captain Rigobert Song allowed Egyptian sensation Mohammed Zidan to use his considerable skill to win the ball from Song and square it to Abou Trika who coolly slotted it home just inside the far post. Sad for R Song, who not only has a nice Bob Marley look going but who is the veteran rock of Cameroon's team- dude has not only played in 7 straight African Cup of Nations but played every minute of every match. This might be his swan song for the Indomitable Lions and what a shitty way to go out. Despite Song's error, Zidan did amazingly well to win the ball and toe poke it square to his teammate to set up the goal. And to top it off, he went all Vanilla Ice today with 2 lines shaved into his hair all around the edges and a giant "Z" shaved into either side of his head.

Egypt on the other hand are now back to back champions as well.

The "Smiling Assassin", coming soon to the big time stage...

Abou Trika was easily the man of the match, and not just because of the goal. Dude was everywhere, ran his socks off, and was dangerous every time he got the ball. Already known on the continent, this tournament surely vaulted him into the spotlight, if not of the world the certainly of the scouts of Europe. Currently playing for El Ahly of Egypt, I would be absolutely shocked if dude is not signed by a major European club in the summer. Certainly one to keep an eye on, and he seems to be a very good guy on and off the field.

Yesterday Ghana beat Ivory Coast 4-2, coming from 1-2 down. A predictable result really, Ghana had much more to play for, as they were the host nation and were motivated to put in a performance and win the bronze medals in front of their home crowd, while Ivory Coast were surely disappointed not to have completed their mid-tournament anointation {is that a word?} as the best team in Africa, and possibly the best African team of all time. Ghana will look back and think of what might have been had their captain Mensah not been suspended for their semifinal, causing Essien to have to play centreback, or their original captain Appiah not been injured for the whole tournament.

And Ivory Coast remain the most talented team in all of Africa but have not been able to translate it to titles. They will still be favored as the African team to do the most damage at World Cup 2010, and rightfully so, but there can not yet be any more talk of them being the best African team ever, as this bunch has not even yet managed and ACN. You still have to say that the golden generation of Nigeria, winners of the 1993 World Youth Championship, 1994 African Cup of Nations, 1994 World Cup round of 16, ,and 1996 Olympic Champions {first 'major" international title won by an African nation, were better based on results. And probably Cameroon as well, 1984 ACN champions, 1986 ACN runners up {PKs}, 1988 ACN champions, and revelation of World Cup 1990, where they became the first and only 1 of 2 {Senegal 2002} African teams to make the quarterfinals of a World Cup.

That being said, Ivory Coast have as good a chance as any African team in recent memory to make to the quarterfinals and beyond of World Cup 2010, and they'll also have the ACN in February 2010 to once again realize their full potential.

The World Cup is only 2 years away, and although host South Africa look pretty rubbish recently, it looks like the chances are good for African success on the home continent. Ivory Coast can compete with anyone and just need to put it all together, ditto for Ghana when they are at full strength, and Cameroon and Nigeria are perennially strong. And then there is Egypt: no longer can people dismiss their 2006 ACN triumph as a fortunate one-off aided by being contested on their home soil. They have proven that they are also an African force to be reckoned with.

A great tournament overall, with 97 goals in 32 matches- the most goals ever scored in this tournament. In 2 years the ACN will be played in Angola, and I believe will also serve as World Cup qualifying for Africa.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Feel Good Friday: Cool Like Dat Edition

No special reason, just feeling the sweet 15 year old beat today.

I'm hoping to get my apartment back this weekend, I have been homeless for going on 9 nights as they repair the crazy water damage from two weeks ago. FC Red Stripes are back for the attack this weekend as well, as we kick off our new spring season. Other than that it is lots of chilling and taking it as it comes.

Have a great weekend whatever you get into.

I jazz like that, I freak like that, I zoom like that, I'm out, I'm out.

I'm Going, Going Back, Back to Cali, Cali Derby, Derby...

Last year I did not travel to the Derby for the first time since 1998. I was hoping to go this year, but after running the numbers of all my vacations later this year {1 week in New England, 2 weeks in South America, 1 week in Arizona, and a long weekend in ATL}, and the fact that flights were frustratingly expensive, I ruled out Derby 134 about 2 weeks ago. Sucks, but hopefully next year.

So last night for shits & giggles I looked at airfare again, and lo and behold I found one that was much, much more affordable, so so I said "fuck it!" and booked it on the spot before I could change my mind.

So I am in for Derby 134, one of the coolest events there is and always a fun time. Solon and Tasso are already in, as well as our hosts Brain and The Hit. We also have our friend RJ losing his Derby virginity this year, and a few others may come through as well.

This will be my 10th Derby, a nice milestone as well.

Since first attending back in 1997, I am batting .400 on betting the winner, going 4 for 10 {had to work and totally missed 1998, and last year had the winner in an online account even though I didn't attend}. That is really good winning percentage, so the odds are that I shouldn't have another Derby winner for several years, but I guarantee I'll be trying my ass off to find the winner again this year.

Suffice to say I am jacked, because I had already written the possibility off. To celebrate I am reliving my 4 Derby winners.

1997: Silver Charm, 6-1

My first Derby, and we all got stuck in 35 degree weather in the infield with shorts and t shirts. Amidst all the standard flashing of tits in the 3rd turn, a beautiful bare ass was flashed right in front of my face, and I thought it might be a special day. $10 to win on Silver Charm, who was I think 3rd or 4th choice, and we managed to get over to the finish line on the infield and see him come home first in a super exciting finish. What a great first Derby- I was hooked.

2003: Funny Cide, 12-1

Empire Maker was damn near even money as a massive favorite, so I passed and eventually settled on Funny Cide, who seemed to offer the best value and maybe a chance to win at 12-1. It was sweet to get my 2nd winner, but I didn't cash in too large because I cast a wider net than usual with my variety of bets.

2004: Smarty Jones, 4-1

This was the first time that I really believed in and invested emotionally full-on in a horse. I was telling anyone who would listen that this horse was simply a freak who was going to do something special, and I actually believed it. This was by biggest and best win to date: I had $20 across the board on Smarty, and I also nailed the $1 trifecta for $486 with a partial wheel that successfully snagged Smarty Jones/Lion Heart/Imperialism. I think I layed $169 and cashed out $712. Euphoria followed by a round of juleps for all my mates. Still bitter that Stewart Elliott fucked up in the Belmont and blew Smary Jones' triple crown and shot at immortality, but this Derby was super special and I will always love Smarty- I would love to visit him one day.

2007: Street Sense, 9-5

I hate betting the favorite, but after analyzing the form over and over, this was the best horse by miles and I had to bet him because I didn't see anyone else beating him besides Curlin, who I didn't believe was quite ready. I had $10 across the board on him. One of the most amazing moves through traffic I have ever seen- having money on a horse and having him 19th place with 1/2 a mile to go, only to have him come back and win was a pretty exhilarating experience, and although I wasn't there, I was screaming at the top of my lungs in my apartment as they came down the stretch to the point that I think many of my neighbors were probably freaked out.

So 4 for 10 and 3 of the last 5- I can't wait to touch down in Louisville for an epic Derby 134 weekend. Added bonus is that my going should spur me to write a bit more about horse racing on the road to the Derby this year than I did last year.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fun + Stress + Fun + Stress + Fun + Stress + Fun + Stress = Birthday Ski Weekend Review

Click pics in the post to enlarge.
For full pics of the weekend adventure, click here.

I did what stupid people do- went to Tahoe when there were pretty big storms forecast. But it was my birthday and damnit, I was going skiing. So skiing we went.

Friday rocked. I managed to score free coffee in the morning from Peets then free lunch from the sandwich shop, but the coolest was when I got up to my sister's pad in Sacramento. I chose Chick Fil A for my birthday dinner, as I wouldn't get to eat it on Sunday, it would be easy with the kids, and well, I love it. We get there and I casually strike up a conversation with the manager, who happened to take my order. It came out that it was my bday, and she said she would hook me up with a free brownie or something, which I said was not necessary. We talk some more, and long story short she was so jazzed that we were from GA and CFA addicts that by the end of our ordering she comped my entire meal. And Bonita's too. I told her not to but she insisted. Way cool. The only thing better than your every once in a while CFA, is your every once in a while CFA on the house.

In addition I got to have my favorite dessert of all time, Mud Pie, and play with my neice & nephew before bed. A great finish to a fun bday.

Left Sac at 6.30 a.m., knowing a storm was coming through Tahoe in the morning. I knew it would be a race to beat the storm and chain control up over the Donner Summit {7200 ft} on I-80, but I was hoping to get to Alpine Meadows by the time it opened at 9, or maybe 9.30 if I had to use the chains- it's about 90 miles and with clear roads takes 2 hours.

It took 4. As we rose out of Auburn, CA it started to snow and I kept checking the radio for the status of chain control- still clear but I had a feeling that we might not beat the storm. Then a little up the road when in the other direction I saw 2 SUVs rolled over onto their roofs with the windshields and back windows smashed out, and then a jackknifed 18 wheeler, I knew that playtime was over. Cue stress of frozen bridges, then mondo snow, and soon thereafter chain control.

I put the chains on in the ever faster falling snow, and 30 minutes later we were rolling. The road was pretty gnarly so max speed was 20-25, and we were still almost 30 miles from Donner Summit outside Truckee. Finally made it over and down to Truckee, and the roads were ok, so I took that chains off. But the the road from hwy 89 up to Alpine Meadows was all snowed over and was really tricky for me without chains, I had to go like 10-15 and it was still sketchy. Got to the parking lot at 10.30, a nice 4 hour 100 mile trip. It was snowing so hard and so windy that it was apparent that it would be a whiteout all day, so I decided to put the chains back on in the parking lot so that I wouldn't have to do it at the end of the day when I was tired, it was getting dark, and there was a foot of snow on the ground. Another 30 minutes and then getting tickets, getting ready, blah blah blah.

We got our first chairlift at 12:20 p.m., and it was windy and snowy as hell, but we paid our money and we were determined to ski our asses off until the lifts closed at 4. I have skied in worse whiteouts where you couldn't see 5 feet in front of you, and this wasn't quite that bad- you could just barely see what you were doing most of the time. But the winds were crazy- up to 50 mph, which made things tricky, especially at the top of lifts.

Still it was mondo fun. At the top of the Lakeview lift is the only view of Lake Tahoe from Alpine meadows, and it is a fine view at that. For the sake of comparison, check out the view from this spot that I took last March when I skied Alpine with my sister:

Alpine Meadows lake view, March 2007

OK, now here is the same exact view from Saturday:

Alpine Meadows lake view, Saturday

Anyways, we rocked the conditions with a good attitude and enjoyed the great snow which kept accumulating throughout the day, making the snow tip top when you could see what you were doing, which at times was tricky:

At the end of the ski day it had snowed over a foot, and the stress of driving once again reared it's ugly head. We had to go from Alpine down to Tahoe City and then over to Incline Village, where our hotel room was. It's about a 20 mile drive on 2 lane state roads. We were delayed about an hour as there was a multi-car accident on the access road getting down the mountain from Alpine. Finally we managed to get out of the parking lot, but even with the chains it was apparent that this was going to be a scary drive. The roads were atrocious, and between the blizzard snow coming down and it being pitch dark, I could barely see 10 feet in front of me even with the wipers on hyperspeed.

Although there were times that I was certain we wouldn't make it and I would end up crashed on the side of the road, we finally made it to the hotel in one piece. Driving the 20 miles took an hour and a half, and although I have had to drive in storms with chains several times, these were the worst road conditions I had ever driven in. By the time we got to the hotel I was frazzled and pretty fried, and just thankful to be there in one piece. One thing was for sure- we were in for the night- there was no way I was going back out on those roads in that storm.

Our hotel ruled. Great room, indoor heated pool, hot tub, and high speed wireless which proved invaluable as we finally found a place that would deliver us a pizza in the storm. All of the aforementioned things contributed to allow me to detox and enjoy the rest of the evening, although we crashed early from the exhaustion of the day.

We woke up to see that 1.5 to 2 feet of snow had fallen, and the driveway of our Inn was snowed in.

The parking lot, STFI: Snowed The Fuck In.

We thought we could take the shuttle to Diamond Peak, but then found out from the front desk that the shuttle was not running because it has snowed so much. After a while some dude just appeared with a tractor/front end loader/snowplow, and in time he cleared the driveway enough that we could attempt to get out and up the hill back to the main road. Eventually we did. A check of the roads in the morning revealed that I-80 was completely closed from Colfax, CA, over Donner Summit, through Truckee, all the way to the Nevada state line- over 70 miles of closed interstate- wow. I had never heard of it being closed that badly. We hoped that with the improving weather that they could clear the road during the day, and we would play leaving & the Super Bowl by ear.

It was only about 1 mile up to Diamond Peak from our hotel, and once we made it up through the snow and ice it was time to reap our reward for all the crazy road stress. It had snowed 2 feet of fresh powder, and we made it onto the hill by 10 a.m.

Should have taken this pic the 1st time up instead of the 5th or 6th

Even better, the summit chair was on delay, and so by the time it opened we got about the 30th chair. This means only one thing: fresh tracks. First run was epic, as well as tricky and challenging since I grew up on the icy east coast and although I had a few powder days out here since I moved, I had never skied in powder this deep. It was amazing, and super fun, and 10x more work and tiring for the legs- Quadbuster City, USA.

Battleborn trail, Diamond Peak, 3rd person

Diamondback trail, Diamond Peak, 3rd person

Crystal Ridge Trail, Diamond Peak, 1st person

Diamond Peak is renowned for it's amazing lake views, and although it was mostly cloudy we got a few glimpses of the lake. I'd like to ski there again on a clear, sunny day for the million dollar view.

Even on a 'meh' weather day, the view is pretty amazing

We skied the shit out of it until about 2, then broke for a snack/lunch and realized that our legs were so toast that we should pack up and take off, and try to beat the afternoon storm, especially since we found out that I-80 was once again open going back from Truckee with no chain control. If all went well we could get back to my sister's in Sacramento in time for the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, and we could listen to the 1st half on the radio.


The mountain road back down from Alpine was totally clear, so I took the chains off since it is a smaller road than the state road through town. Oops. The state road was covered in snow, so I pulled into a shopping center and put them on again. Another 30 minutes, and a return to top speed of 20 mph while trying just to stay on the road.

Past Kings Beach the roads were again clear, and the radio said no more chain control in Truckee or on I-80, so I stopped and took the chains back off. Back up to 50-60 and hoping to beat the roads icing back up as it started to get dark.

Made it to Truckee and I-80 and started out of town through some rain and roads that were wet but appeared to be on the verge of freezing back over. On the lower slopes of the climb, it started to snow like a mother, and soon thereafter the cars in front of started to swerve and lose control a bit. Another mile and I knew from my own comfort level that it was time for the chains yet again.

I pulled over and by now it was snowing like crazy. By the time I got the 1st chain on, CalTrans had setup chain control behind me about 300 yards down the road. By the time I got both chains on, it had snowed an inch in about 20 minutes. Shit- a mondo snow squall that just got worse and worse.

Long story short, it took 4 hours to get from Truckee to my sister's house in Sacramento{again, 90 miles}. It was so hairy and stress mode that listening to the 1st half on the radio was not an option, and by the time we got there the game was over. I was disappointed to have missed it, but much more relieved and thankful that we made it back in one piece, and ditto for my car. Side note- never in my life have I been so happy and relieved to drive into a town named Auburn in my life.

I watched all the highlight shows and felt better that I didn't have to watch that shit live as it unraveled {if that ever happened to Georgia in a National Title game I'm sure that lots of shit would get smashed by yours truly}.

Too exhausted, dirty, and tired to go all the way back home, so we stayed and came back to SF early Monday morning, only to find out that 2 skiers from SF were missing and were last seen at Alpine Meadows on Saturday late morning- thankfully they were found Monday morning. Pretty freaky, as we were there. Also, that there was an avalanche on the access road to Alpine Meadows that we had just been on the evening before and the resort we skied at on Saturday was closed down on Sunday.

Overall the nuttiest storm/road conditions I have ever dealt with, and I had my share of Tahoe chain control war stories going in. It might be enough to turn me into a Ski Princess like my sister, who no longer fucks with the storms and will only go up there if the roads are clear and the sun is out. On the other hand, Sunday was the most epic powder day of my skiing life. Still don't think it was worth risking life, limb, and car over. For now I'm probably somewhere between the stupidity adventuresomeness of last weekend and Ski Princess.

ACN Final Four: Clashes Of The Titans

Today 9 a.m. PST


Today 12:30 p.m. PST

Ivory Coast-Egypt

Three of the 4 biggest powerhouses of African football {Nigeria, being the fourth, were eliminated in the quarterfinal} plus the defending champion Egypt, makes for an awesome final 4 in the 2008 African Cup Of Nations.

For a rundown of the quarterfinal results, including Nigeria's underwhelming choke job of coming from a goal up and a man up to lose, click here.

Ghana are the hosts which makes them favorites to get through to the final, but Cameroon are no joke and Samuel Eto'o has already surpassed the ACN all time scoring record {16 goals} in this tournament {note he is only 26 so he should shatter this record by leaps and bounds by the time he retires}.

This should be an epic battle.

The second semifinal features not only two teams who have won every match thusfar in the tournament, but also a rematch of the ACN2006 final, won by Egypt 4-2 on penalties after the teams played to a 0-0 draw. The Pharaohs are no joke and have defended their title well, but Ivory Coast are by far the strongest and best team in the tournament and one of the very best African teams of all time, and there are not many people outside of Egypt who think that the Elephants can be beat {expectation for this one is on the level of the Super Bowl last weekend}. Ivory Coast have destroyed everyone in front of them this year and people are already talking about this being the team that can get Africa it's 1st ever World Cup semifinal in 2010.

I bought the final stage pass from AllSoccerAfrica for $14.99 {all knockout round matches} and I hope to watch much of both matches today.

One last note- my favorite team at this year's African Cup Of Nations is easily and without question Mali, who in beating Togo 2-0 in their final qualification match back in October knocked Togo out of the competition and ensured that Emmanuel Adebayor would stay with Arsenal through January & February, where he has scored 11 goals in his last 8 matches in helping Arsenal to the top of the table. I love you, Mali.


Ghana 0-0 Cameroon. Half Time.

Good game. Cameroon just missed a screamer form outside the box, and later Geremi hit the junction of the post & crossbar with an swerving screamer of a free kick from a good 35 yards out. Ghana has a good chance from the edge of the box but dude shot it kind of right at the keeper.


Ghana 0-1 Cameroon

Totally against the run of play, and a thing of beauty. Ghana were dominating possession and chances, and in minute 68 Cameroon's Geremi cleared a shot off the line with his head. Two minutes later Cameroon caught Ghana on the break, Nkong-Eto'o-Nkong, beautifully slotted goal. Accra Stadium is stunned and silent.

Ghana hit the pause button, go into the game menu, and change their team strategy to "All Out Attack" for the final 20 minutes.

Black Stars 0-1 Indomitable Lions. Final.

Cameroon did it. They weathered the storm, and the last 5 minutes with 10 men after a bizarre but merited sending off, to upset the hosts and advance to their 5th ACN final. Amazingly, the Indomitable Lions have won the ACN 4 times previously, and each time they defeated the host nation in the knockout round along the way, which is damn impressive, and now they have done it again.

They await the winner of Ivory Coast-Egypt in the final, which 99% of people think will be Ivory Coast.


Ivory Coast 0-1 Egypt. 12'

Ivory Coast are dominant early, but after an Egypt corner a shot from the edge of the box deflects off of not one but 2 defenders and into the corner. A bit of a lucky, fluky, pinball goal, but they all look the same on the scoreboard. This makes things interesting to say the least...

Elephants 0-1 Pharaohs. Half Time.

Once more Ivory Coast have had the better of it, but unable to put the ball in the back of the net. Drogba managed to shoot right at the keeper from 4 yards out, when scoring would have been easier than not scoring. Later he had a bullet header from a corner kick well saved by the Egyptian keeper, but again it was right at him. It was so hard that had it been anywhere else on goal it would have been in.

Worse for the Ivory Coast is that their keeper, Barry, was injured and had to be substituted. A double whammy, because 1) he is generally regarded as the best keeper in the whole tournament and has conceded only 1 goal through 4 matches {well, 2 now, but it was not his fault}, and 2) now Ivory Coast only have 2 tactical substitutions left rather than the standard three.

So it is very much on for the second half. This isn't quite Georgetown-Princeton, hell Egypt are the defending champions, but if they were to hold out it would easily be the biggest shock & upset of the whole tournament. They apparently are the masters of "closing up shop", but still have another 45+ minutes against Drogba, Kalou, Keita, Zokora, Y Toure, Eboue, K Toure, and the rest- a formidable task. That being said, they are not scared, and are playing with the confidence of a team that knows it can win because they beat Ivory Coast in the 2006 final by holding them scoreless for 120 minutes and then winning on penalties. Ivory Coast on the other hand are growing visibly frustrated as the game creeps on and they still find themselves behind even tough they are by far a better team and have made more chances.

It all sets up for a super interesting final 45 minutes...

Holy Shit.

Ivory Coast 0-2 Egypt. 62nd minute.

After total and complete domination by Ivory Coast, and 2 more great chances shot right at the Egyptian keeper, Egypt scores against the run of play on a header from a corner kick off the underside of the crossbar.

Ivory Coast are really up against it now...

Game On!

Ivory Coast 1-2 Egypt. 63rd minute.

Less than 1 minute later, Keita scores on an absolute missile/rocket shot from outside the box that is unsaveable and rips into the side netting. This is turning into a great, great match.

Ivory Coast 1-3 Egypt. 67th minute.

With Ivory Coast going forward in waves of almost desperation, Egypt score against the run of play yet again. A long ball from the goalkeeper, a flick on, a great ball fake, and then a shot from the edge of the box into the far low corner.

Ivory Coast are really up against it now. 23 minutes to save themselves...

More chances from Ivory Coast, 3 really good chances, but again all right at the keeper.

Ivory Coast 1-4 Egypt. 92nd minute.

Ivory Coast wide open at the back as they came forward in waves of desperation, and Egypt finishes it off with a nice 2 on 1 and damn near tap in. Game, Set, Match.

A stunning result.

Elephants 1-4 Pharaohs. Full Time.

A pretty stunning result, an not at all an indication of how close the match was. Bottom line: Egypt took almost all of their chances, and Ivory Coast squandered theirs. Biggest culprit was Didier Drogba, who had no less than 2 free headers as well as a free shot inside the 6 yard box, as well as a bullet free header from a corner from about 9 yards out, and all 4 were right at the keeper. A striker of his quality, arguably the best player in the tournament {Eto'o, Essien, Kanoute, etc.} should have done better.

Egypt are extremely reminiscent of Greece from Euro 2004: extremely well organized, difficult to break down, and when they get their chances, they take them. And in Mohammed Zidan they have an exciting player- like many before him, including C Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, he has matured from being all tricks and flicks all the time and is a more complete player and much more dangerous. He is an exciting flair player who excites every time he touches the ball, and I guess it doesn't hurt him that his name is so close to a legend {Zizou} and that he looks damn near another legend {Ronaldo}.

Everyone was expecting a Ghana-Ivory Coast final, or perhaps a Cameroon-Ivory Coast final, but instead it is Cameroon-Egypt who will play for the title in Accra on Sunday. Four time champions Cameroon in their sixth final and trying to win for the 5th time, against 5 time champion {most ever} Egypt trying to defend their 2006 title.

Not the glamor match that everyone wanted, but still should be quite good. It will be a replay of their opening group stage match, where Egypt beat down Cameroon 4-2 behind 2 really great goals from the aforementioned Mohammed Zidan, who kind of announced himself to the world stage for those who hadn't already seen his tricks & flicks compilation vids on youtube. BTW, that match also reminds me of Euro 2004, where Greece upset Portugal in the opening match of the tournament, and then replicated their upset in the final.

Me, I'm rocking my FCB Eto'o jersey tomorrow on casual Friday and pulling hard for the Indomitable Lions.

Final, Sunday at I believe 9 a.m. PST


You can watch it streaming live on your computer at AllSoccerAfrica for $5.99 with either English or French commentary, and I have to say that the streams are very good. I purchased the final round knockout stage pass, and with that I can also view highlights from every game in the tournament, as well as any of the games in its entirety 'on demand'- I would hope that even if you do the $5.99 pass that you could see all of the highlights at least, as there were some absolutely fantastic goals in this exciting tournament.