Monday, April 30, 2007

Champions League Final Scenarios

Champions League Semifinal 2nd Legs:

Liverpool (0)-(1) Chel$ea
Tue. 11.45 a.m. PST ESPN2

AC Milan (2)-(3) Manchester United
Wed. 11.45 a.m. PST ESPN2

So here are the 4 scenarios, as ranked in order of hideousness {least to most} by me.

Best Case Scenario:
Liverpool-AC Milan
Storyline: Rematch of the most remarkable European final of 2005 in Istanbul, when AC Milan took an insurmountable 3-0 lead at halftime, only to see Liverpool somehow surmount it after all with 3 goals in I believe an 8 minute span midway through the 2nd half. After two extra periods Liverpool went on to win the penalty shootout. Many of the same players remain from two years ago. This would put us dangerously close to my cynical summer prediction that Milan, who were undeservedly let back into the competition after being deservedly banned, would go on to win the whole thing. I would be rooting for The Pool pretty damn hard but admiring the wonderful talent of Kaka as well.

Someone To Root For:
Liverpool-Manchester United
Storyline: Hooligans & fan clashes. You would have two hated local rivals flying all the way to Greece to contest this final, and both sets of fans will bring thousands and thousands of fans who do not have tickets. The challenge for the authorities when it comes to footy is usually keeping the two sets of fans apart. In this case it would be damn near impossible because they essentially are from the same place. Imagine hundreds and hundreds of ManUtd & Liverpool fans on the same flights to and from Athens. Planeful after planeful after planeful. I would have some serious pity for the poor stewardesses that would have to suffer through that. If this comes to pass, then Come On The 'Pool!, obviously.

Bad Versus Worse= Go Bad!
Chel$ea-AC Milan
Storyline: Sheva, more commonly known as Andiry Shevchenko, who just last summer moved from Milan to Chel$ea after several years as Milan's key player and one of the top strikers in the world. He was much beloved by the Milan fans, who were crushed when he left, and since joining FC Billionaire he has struggled this season to duplicate his stellar form that he had in Milan over the years. The other storyline would basically be "old money" Milan versus "new money" Chel$ea. My sentiment here would clearly be Forza Milan!

Fuck, Fuckity, Fuck Fuck. Fuck A Duck:
Chel$ea-Manchester United
Storyline: Kanu's nightmare. Not much to root for other than injuries & explosions, or as the boys over at Georgia Sports Blog call it, the Meteor Game. Shit, truth be told I guess I would prefer for Chel$ea not to win, because they would then have bought the most prestigious trophy in European club football, and I would love for them to never accomplish that goal. Buying their first {and second} English league titles since 1955 seems like quite enough. I could only hope that they played a dire & dismal 0-0 draw that ended with something shameful and left the world commenting on what a terrible display of antifootball these two teams put on for the world. You know, kind of like the 2003 Champions League Final between Juventus and AC Milan.

So yeah, "Come On The 'Pool!" and "Forza Milan!"

Weekend In Review

So obviously the highlight of my weekend was choosing to drive back from Sacramento on Saturday evening and not Sunday, when it would have taken me 5 hours to drive the 90 miles. I remember being a bit irritate that there was a good bit of traffic leading up to the Bay Bridge toll plaza- little did I know how fortunate I was to roll through the maze about 4 hours before it done blowed up.

Hmmm, I think I'll take BART...

Speaking of Sacramento, I went up to see my 5 year old niece play TBall, and I have to say that it was one of the most enjoyable sporting events I have ever witnessed at any level.

Other highlights include the out of nowhere call from my cousin and the aforementioned impromptu pub crawl that ensued, Arsenal beating Fulham 3-1 and ensuring at no worse than a 4th place finish this season which gets them into next season's Champions League, and Red Stripes having only 6 players but still coming from 1-2 down to win 4-2 in our first match of the summer season. If a 7 a side co-ed beer league rec team had fans, they would have been chanting "Six men! We've only got six men, we've only got six men, we've only got six men..." Although 2 of our 6 were women, so maybe not.

In other news, The University Of Georgia GymDogs once again showed that their resistance to the Florida Gator Kryptonite is more heightened than most other teams from either UGA or the current known universe by avenging their SEC Tournament loss to Florida and beating the best of the rest as well to capture their third consecutive National Championship. The Mayor has the full rundown for you in typical splendid detail. Congrats to the GymDawgs on their 8th national title, which ranks them 2nd all time. They will be favorites next year to make it four in a row, as the 2008 National Championships will be held in Stegeman Coliseum on the beautiful campus of the University Of Georgia. Should Yoculan call the plays in The Cocktail Party this year?

"Gainesville, cabron, saluda el campeon!"

Also a word for sophomore GymDawg Courtney Kupets, who is basically becoming the Herschel Walker of the Gymnastics program for what she is accomplishing at such a young age. Last year as a freshman she played a huge part in the team's national title, then went on to win individual national championships in the balance beam, parallel bars, and the all-around competition as well. How do you follow up a freshman year with 3 individual national titles and a team title? Simple really: you lead your team to another team national title, then go out and win the individual national championships in both the vault and the all-around competition. She damn near swept the whole lot, as she finished 2nd on the beam, 2nd on the bars, and 3rd on the floor exercise. Her 5 individual national titles in a career now rank her 1st among all time Georgia gymnasts and place her 2nd on the all time list. And she still has 2 more years to go. A phenom if ever there was one.

Munson should call GymDogs meets so he can say "There Goes Courtney!"

I laughed in flipping the channels at TV personalities fawning over JaMarcus Russell and going a little over the top on how good he is. I'll repeat something now that I said a few weeks ago somewhere else: he's the quintessential dude that NFL people who don’t really watch a lot of college football games but rather see highlight shows get a huge boner over based on his highlights and whatnot. The trick is that people who watch LSU alot see that he can also be a complete disaster waiting to happen, and for every 2 great plays he makes, he also has an extreme fuckup. Lastly, he is more immobile in reality than he might appear to the untrained eye, and like a 1982 Mercedes diesel sedan {0 to 60 in 5 minutes}, he takes a long time to get up to speed. Also prone to very bad decisions. My money is on complete bust.

Finally, 2 bits of bizarro news: New England Patriots go totally gangsta- what the fuck? The draft Merriweather from Miami, who is a stereotypical Thug U player, which was kind of suprising given their entire ethos of team first, individuals 2nd, and character being supremely valued by Belichick and the front office. But then they go out and trade for Randy Moss. Randy Moss? Wow, totally crazy. I can't really see that dude and Tom Brady hanging out too much. But I guess when you can get that big of a talent, {hopefully} with something to prove, for a 4th round freaking draft pick, well you pretty much have to do it. Crazy.

Finally, Titi Henry goes a bit bizarro himself, but in this case I absolutely love it. You see, TH14 rarely talks shit outright, he is usually gives sly clever remarks to interviewers to poke fun at others, very much like Arsene Wenger does. Well maybe he's a little restless at not being able to play for the last couple of months, because he dropped some smack magnifique on hapless Spurs and how they celebrated Jenas' goal at the death a couple of weeks ago to tie Arsenal 2-2 like they had just won the league for the first time since 1961 {or qualified for the Champions League for the first time ever}. Ecoutez:

"What makes me laugh is the way Tottenham always celebrate whenever they get a draw against us," Henry told the Arsenal programme for their match against Fulham.

"I would like to remind them that once again they have not made the Champions League. So I was amazed to see their reaction at the full-time whistle.

"I had to look twice at the score on the TV because I thought they had won it the way they were celebrating."

There is little love lost between two clubs who are seperated by just a few miles and, while Henry is currently sidelined with a back injury, his controversial comments will ensure he remains firmly in the spotlight.

"When I celebrated my equaliser against them at home last season I did so because the goal had a meaning," he said.
"It turned out to be an important goal in the race for fourth place. I wasn't going to celebrate just because we drew against Tottenham.

"It was the same when we won the league there in 2004. They equalised to make it 2-2 that day and when I saw Taricco celebrate so much that he injured himself, I said to him 'you do realise we only needed a point and now we are celebrating the title on your ground."

Normally I am against shit talking,
mais cela est quelque bon merde.

Slightly Drunk, Slightly Baked, Slightly Stoopid.

So Wednesday night I went up to Petaluma, a sleepy town about 45 minutes north of SF, to watch one of my favorite bands, Slightly Stoopid, play at a little joint called the Mystic Theatre. One of the ironies of my liking them so much is that they are a SoCal stoner/surfer band , and I am not a surfer or a stoner. They are very similar to Sublime, although I think they are even better, and they have the added benefit over Sublime of all being still alive. There are not many bands that I would drive so far to see on a weeknight, but they are certainly one. If these dudes come to your town, and you dig Sublime, Long Beach Dub All Stars, G. Love or even Jack Johnson, then go check them out.

The theater was very cool, and old single room movie house that has been converted into a concert venue- pretty intimate. We got there in time to catch the 2nd of the two opening bands, some group called The Wylde Bunch, who were actually very good. They were what would result if Ozomatli and Outkast had a love child of a band: 2 rappers, 2 guitars, a drummer, and a 3 piece horn set, highlighted by a tall woman in a miniskirt playing the shit out of the trumpet. Pretty good stuff actually, and they finished off by back to back versions of "Boyz In Tha Hood" by Eazy-E followed by "Sweet Dreams" by Annie Lennox, and amazingly it worked.

As the intermission wound down I was starting to feel pretty good as I finished my 2nd 22 oz beer and all of the high school and college stoners started to flavor the air around us. Then the boys came on stage, and damn if the saxaphone player wasn't rocking a blue #10 Zizou France jersey- I was so fired up that they could have walked out and announced that the show was canceled and that would have been just fine.

Even if your band completely sucks,
I will be predisposed to like you if
someone in it walks onstage wearing this shirt

They proceeded to absolutely knock it out of the park for 2 hours and send me home a happy, albeit slightly stoned from secondhand smoke, man. I don't really care that I am one of 7 people in the building over 30 or 1 of 7 who isn't blazing up- the music is outstanding and takes me to a happy place. Miles and Kyle both sing, and both play guitar as well as bass, and they switch often during the show. There is a drummer as well as a dude who plays bongos. The addition of a kick ass trumpeter as well as Zizou on sax was outstanding- I can only hope that they will both feature prominently on the new album that will be coming out this summer.

As excited as I was about the show, I was even more excited at the announcement over the weekend of the upcoming "Summer Haze" tour, featuring full sets from G. Love & Special Sauce, Slightly Stoopid, and Ozomatli together in one show. Holy shit- that is 2 of my absolute favorite bands and a third that I like that absolutely rocks their live shows. Oh, and it just so happens that on Saturday Aug 11 they are playing at The Greek Theater in Bezerkely, one of the coolest concert venues there is. Pretty much a dream show for yours truly- the only way it could be better is if Arsene Wenger spoke between sets and PV4 and Kanu had a kickabout up on the lawn above the seats. So don't even think about getting married that day if you want me to be there.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

You Know You're In The Midst Of A Pretty Great Impromptu Pub Crawl...

...when, after not even starting until after midnight, it's 1.35 a.m., you are 3 beers in and at your 3rd destination, a total hole in the wall Irish Pub named "The Dog's Bollix", Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" just finished, AC/DC's "Shook Me All Night Long" is currently playing, and your cousin points out to you that the barmaid just so happens to be about 7 months preggo.

Fun times.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Come On The 'Pool!

Amazingly there is nothing pornographic or untoward about that title. It is what Liverpool fans say to root on their team, akin to "Go Dawgs" or "War Eagle" if you will. The reason I know this is because at Arsenal-Liverpool matches for several years at the BrewHouse in Little 5 Points {ATL} there was a big, bald, hard nut of a Brit who looked like a bad guy in a Guy Ritchie film, and he used to scream it in the pub at crucial times during the match. This was not a dude to be fucked with, and if we were ever sitting within say 30 feet of him our celebrations at an Arsenal goal would be somewhat muted, and wisely so. Anyhow, I now think of him and his hardnut scream and I echo his sentiment in a major way as the final four of the Champions League plays out.

Champions League Semifinals, 1st Leg

Chel$ea-Liverpool, 11.45 a.m. PST ESPN2

Manchester United 3-2 AC Milan, yesterday

Pretty grim options for an Arsenal fan really, with the prospect of hated ManUtd and hated Chel$ea contesting the Champions League Final in addition to the EPL title and the FA Cup final- the thought of that is just too much- talk about the ultimate meteor games. If you are a Georgia fan, imagine watching Florida play Georgia Tech for the national championship in football, and also in 2 other competition finals that are separate from the NC but equally prestigious and desired.

AC Milan? Hard to root for them, since they should not even be in this competition in the first place. Remember that they were kicked out of the competition for their role in the Italian corruption scandal, only to be re-instated during one of their 349 appeals. I predicted back in August that they would win the competition this year just to augment what a joke the massive reduction in punishments for the Italian teams were, and now they are 90 minutes from the final. So I cannot really root for them to win, although I would prefer them winning to United or Chel$ea.

So that leaves The 'Pool, a team that I am pretty neutral about. I don't hate them or love them, they are middle of the road to me. Well with this final four that puts them 5000 miles ahead of the other three, so hopefully they can do the business over Chel$ea and perhaps my least favorite person in all of sport, Jose Mourinho.

Now then:

Manchester United 3-2 AC Milan
Kaka is the shit {thanks, I'll be here all week} and staked Milan to 2-1 lead at Old Trafford, but the old men of Milan couldn't hold on and United ran circles around them in the last 30 mintutes and not only equalized through Rooneh the blockhead but then got a stunning winner from him at the death. But Kaka- holy shit that guy is amazing. No less than 10 goals in 12 Champions League matches this season- insane. I'm no huge fan of Milan but he is a joy to watch. Part of me thinks that Milan are in trouble because they are so old and United so dominated them in the last 30 minutes- I agree with Myles Palmer that Milan are a 60 minute team with all of their old legs. On the other hand they did bag 2 crucial road goals, so 1-0 or 2-1 at home and they are through to the final. And all those old men have a ton of experience in the Champions League, having been semifinalists in 3 of the last 4 seasons, finalists in 2 of the last 4, and champions a few years back.

Hopefully Milan can find a way to eek out a win next week, and Liverpool can do the business against Chel$ea, saving me from a ManUtd/Chel$ea final as well as the possibility of either of those 2 fucking teams winning a treble. That would set up a juicy rematch of the 2005 Champions League final in which AC Milan raced out to a 3-0 halftime lead, only for Liverpool to score 3 goals in a 10 minute span in the 2nd half and then beat Milan on penalties, completing the biggest comeback in European Cup final history.


"Come on The 'Pool!!!"
"Come on You Reds!!!"


Chel$ea 1-0 Liverpool

These two teams were never going to play as exciting or pleasing to the eye match as we saw yesterday, as both are well organized, fairly conservative, and lack any real width. Aside- with both teams playing so horribly narrow, how much more enjoyable a contest would this have been with Liverpool's 'Arry Kewell and Chel$ea's Arjen Robben available and playing on the wings?

Chel$ea's goal was great, an Arsenal 2000-2005 goal: a lightning quick counterattack that went from their own penalty box to the opposition's goal in about 8-9 seconds. Great pass from Carvalho, Drogba made Agger look completely foolish, and a great running one touch finish from Joke Hole. Liverpool never looked like scoring really, and it was hard to see another goal coming from this game. Unable to nick a critical away goal, Liverpool are going to have to keep a clean sheet next week at Anfield, because if they allow Chel$ea a road goal of their own then they will need 3 to win, and that simply isn't going to happen with Cech in goal.

So after an entire season of Champions League footy, these 4 teams now stand 90 minutes from Athens, Greece and a date in the final. Should make for two compelling matches next week:

Champions League Semifinals, Return Legs
Liverpool-Chel$ea, Tue 5/1, 11.45 a.m. PST, ESPN2
AC Milan-ManUtd, Wed 5/2, 11.45 a.m. PST, ESPN2

The Oscars According To Solon, 2004 Edition

To all my movie-loving mates:

Welcome, or welcome back, to my annual list of Oscar predictions. For the initiates, I started doing this a few years back, and the recipient list has expanded to the point where it now numbers in the thousands. As always, your feedback is encouraged and appreciated.

As happens every year, I couldn't see everything I wanted to see. Here are the list of the ones I missed, in case any of you saw one of these and are wondering why I wasn't sufficiently impressed:

The Sea Inside
Last Life in the Universe
Bon Voyage
We Don’t Live Here Anymore

This was a great year for movies in terms of depth, as good as I can remember. That being said, there aren't too many exceptional movies (unlike, for example, 2001)--but the solid ones outnumber my list below.

1 Before Sunset
2 Hotel Rwanda
3 The Dreamers
4 The Motorcycle Diaries
5 Dogville
6 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
7 Bad Education
8 A Very Long Engagement
9 Kill Bill, Vol. 2
10 Badass
11 Maria Full of Grace
12 Bus 174
13 Closer
14 Young Adam
15 Million Dollar Baby
16 Garden State
17 Sideways
18 Kinsey
19 Ray
20 Vera Drake

The top three films stand above the rest. Keep in mind that any criticism of HOTEL RWANDA and THE DREAMERS is only to illustrate why they aren't #1--because all three of these are fantastic movies.

BEFORE SUNSET For an hour, this movie is just like an extension of its incredible predecessor, Before Sunrise. But it's during the last 20 minutes, starting with the scene on the boat, where this movie becomes great. The themes the characters are dealing with are universal--not necessarily in reality, but conceptually--everyone can relate to them. And, the ending is absolutely brilliant. I look forward to seeing the next installment in 2013, at which point the enterprise will hopefully have generated enough buzz to get nominated for best picture. Also, as to whether one has to see Before Sunrise to fully appreciate Before Sunset, there is no question that one does.

HOTEL RWANDA This is as difficult to watch as Schindler's List, which is a testament to how good this movie is. As much as anything else the movie is a character study of the Don Cheadle character, who stands alongside Atticus Finch and Oskar Schindler as one of the greatest heroes ever portrayed on film. Both Cheadle and Okenedo are both excellent here and the story is compelling and suspenseful throughout. The only thing that keeps this movie from being top is that I wasn't as impressed with Nolte and Phoenix as some seem to be, their scenes struck me as a little forced--kind of like how a self-righteous white person would act now, as opposed to how one would have acted when in that situation, if that makes any sense--not that people couldn't have, or wouldn't have, acted that way, it just didn't strike me as authentic (for the most part the Red Cross worker was better, although she has one scene that's a little trite).

THE DREAMERS A must-see for all the cinephiles out there. Bertolucci meshes sex, politics, and movies brilliantly here, intertwining his movie with clips from older classic movies. I don't think this movie has found it's audience yet, but it is a classic, and might be Bertolucci's best. In truth, I wish he had cast someone other than Michael Pitt in the role of Matthew--for the most part, he does a good job (though not nearly as good as Green and Garrel), but he really blows it in the final scene, which, if it had been better, may have made this movie #1.

THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES Probably the most beautifully shot movie of the year, along with A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT. Surely it disappointed some, as it about Che's early years, but I think this movie about his formative years will probably be more impressive than any movie about his later life (and I say this knowing full well that Soderbergh has a chance to prove me wrong in
2006 when he releases "Che", for which he has assembled a killer cast).

DOGVILLE Not sure why this movie got so much shit. Once you get over the fact that it is on a sound stage with chalk outlines (which I thought was a brilliant move, actually, for reasons that should be obvious if you have seen it, but might spoil it if you have not), you are free to focus on the interactions of the characters, which is what the movie is about anyway. I didn't find it anti-American as much as I found it anti-small town, which is something you'll find anywhere. And the truth is, people in small towns really should be ridiculed, particularly if they act like the people in Dogville. As for how I reconcile what I just wrote with the closing credits, there's really no reasonable explanation other than that Lars von Trier is a bit of an asshole.

FYI, Dogville includes depictions of rape.

All of the movies in the top 20 are recommended, and the top 12 are really solid movies. A deep, deep year for the movies.

RE THE NOMINEES It's hard to imagine how the Academy could have done a worse job. Obviously, movies like Before Sunset and The Dreamers are never going to be nominated, but I have no idea how they couldn't nominate Hotel Rwanda--that is just an egregious snub. To be honest, 4 of the nominated films (not Finding Neverland, which is all right but not anywhere close to
nomination-worthy) are pretty solid, but there were a lot of better options out there.

RE THE WINNER Either The Aviator or Million Dollar Baby. I would guess The Aviator, but the recent so-called "controversy" might help Million Dollar Baby enough to push it over the top.

Also, I'd guess that Scorsese edges Eastwood and finally wins the Best Director Oscar for his (1-Raging Bull, 2-Goodfellas, 3-Taxi Driver, 4-Casino, 5-Gangs of New York) 6th best directing job, even though Eastwood probably did the best job of the nominees this year. In a perfect world (i.e., if I were a one-man Academy), the Best Directing Oscar would have gone to Jean-Pierre Juenet, for A Very Long Engagement.

1 Don Cheadle HOTEL RWANDA
2 Jamie Foxx RAY
3 Mario Van Peebles BADASS
4 Kevin Bacon THE WOODSMAN
6 Paul Giamatti SIDEWAYS
7 Christian Bale THE MACHINIST
8 Liam Neeson KINSEY
9 Leonardo DiCaprio THE AVIATOR

Both Cheadle and Foxx are in just about every scene of their movies, and there isn't much to split them. I give the edge to Cheadle, because his character develops on many levels over the course of the movie and ends up being incredibly complex, which is all down to Cheadle. Foxx blows you away at the beginning of the movie, he doesn't really develop the character too much, even though there are (seemingly) a lot of opportunities to do so.
These are two of the best acting performances in recent memory, and it's too bad they both can't win.

Van Peebles is not too far behind the top two. Those three are better than the rest, but everyone in the top 10 is nomination-worthy.

RE THE NOMINEES This category is remarkably deep this year, and it would have been hard not to find 5 great performances to nominate. That said, Johnny Depp should not have been nominated (Eastwood was good, and his nomination is not undeserved). Paul Giamatti and Jim Carrey have obviously pissed off somebody at the Academy.


1 Nicole Kidman DOGVILLE
2 Annette Bening BEING JULIA
5 Catalina Sandino Moreno MARIA FULL OF GRACE
7 Uma Thurman KILL BILL, VOL. 2
9 Imelda Staunton VERA DRAKE

I really believe that when it is all said and done, people will look at Nicole Kidman's Academy Award for THE HOURS (as opposed to MOULIN ROUGE, THE OTHERS, TO DIE FOR, and now DOGVILLE) the way people look at Denzel Washington's for TRAINING DAY (as opposed to THE HURRICANE or MALCOLM X), or the way they’ll (potentiallly) look at Scorsese’s for the THE AVIATOR (instead of RAGING BULL, TAXI DRIVER, or GOODFELLAS)--inexplicable. Not that she wasn't good in THE HOURS, it was just such a small part (although I personally thought it was one of her weaker performances). Here, not only does she carry the movie, which revolves around her, and give a great performance throughout, she gets to deliver one of the best rebukes in movie history at the end. Good stuff.

Annette Bening is nearly as good as Kidman, and fortunately was rewarded with a nomination for a fairly obscure movie. THE DREAMERS is the film debut for Eva Green, who is excellent. She has an amazing screen presence and I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.

RE THE NOMINEES It's disappointing Kidman didn't get nominated, but once the movie didn't go over well she was never going to get one. It's too bad about Delpy too, BEFORE SUNSET was on the radar (nominated for best original
screenplay) and she drives the movie. In the end, though, the Academy did not do too bad here, really. The 10 listed above are all very good performances, and all of the nominees are among them.

For the record, while watching the first half of VERA DRAKE, I thought Staunton had this award wrapped up--and then she didn't change her expression during the second half of the movie. Is anyone else with me on this?

RE THE WINNER Swank or Bening, just like in 1999. Swank deserved it then, and won. Bening deserves it now, but Swank will win again. No one else has a chance.

1 Clive Owen CLOSER
3 Thomas Haden Church SIDEWAYS
4 David Carradine KILL BILL, VOL. 2
6 Paul Bettany DOGVILLE
7 Eddie Marsan YOUNG ADAM
8 Peter Sarsgaard KINSEY

Owen and Portman are the strongest performances in the very good CLOSER, which, while being minimalistic (because it was formerly a play, I suppose), still is as honest an examination of relationships that has been seen since LANTANA. Owen's plays his role (by far the best of the four leads in
CLOSER) with such passion and force (getting to say things like “Thank you for your honesty. Now fuck off and die you fucked up slag.”) that he gets a slight nod over Freeman, who plays wonderfully the same all-knowing-in-retrospect narrator that he previously played in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. Church is also strong, but just a little to goofy to be rated in front of the top two.

RE THE NOMINEES Very good job by the academy here, recognizing 4 of the 5 best performances. The other, Alan Alda, is not bad (in fact, he's very good), but it is such a small role that I didn't rank him (and I thought Baldwin was better anyway). There's not much to separate them, any of the other four would be worthy winners.

RE THE WINNER Freeman. Church and Owen have small chances, but they won't be able to overcome the fact that he narrates MILLION DOLLAR BABY and plays a pretty large part for a supporting actor.

1 Natalie Portman GARDEN STATE
2 Laura Linney KINSEY
3 Kerry Washington RAY
4 Natalie Portman CLOSER
5 Virginia Madsen SIDEWAYS
6 Sophie Okenedo HOTEL RWANDA
7 Cate Blanchett THE AVIATOR
8 Emily Mortimer YOUNG ADAM
9 Juliet Stevenson BEING JULIA
10 Tilda Swinton YOUNG ADAM

It happens almost every year, and it happens here this year. Natalie Portman is markedly better in GARDEN STATE than she is in CLOSER, and gets nominated for the weaker role. I do think her performance in CLOSER is very good--it's very nuanced, and what she does with her character in the last scene with Jude Law, where the character is acting (this probably won't make any sense unless you've seen it), is strong, but not nearly as strong as her performance in GARDEN STATE, where she begins as a bit neurotic and annoying but by the end develops into one of the more likable characters in any movie this year. A lot of people didn't like her performance, but it seems like the complaints mostly stem from her not playing what people expect from Natalie Portman--which is exactly why she is so good here.

I have to throw this out there, and I am willing to listen with an open mind with any disagreement on it--I think playing Katherine Hepburn is not difficult, insofar as everyone has a Katherine Hepburn impersonation--she just isn't hard to emulate. So, when someone does their impersonation, I think everyone thinks, "She's just like Katherine Hepburn!", whereas the truth is, just about anyone could do the same thing, maybe not nearly as well as Blanchett does, but at least somewhat legitimately. Just one man's opinion.

Please note that I am not dogging Katherine Hepburn, who is certainly among the 2 or 3 best actresses ever to have lived, in my opinion. I believe, for example, copying Susan Vance (the character Hepburn played in BRINGING UP
BABY) would be damn near impossible for anyone to pull off--but I just don't think copying everyone's idea of "Katherine Hepburn" is all that difficult.

RE THE NOMINEES A good job by the Academy here too, although they picked the wrong Portman performance. All of the nominated performances are pretty good, to be honest, and any winner among them would be just.

RE THE WINNER Blanchett. Piss.

Please note that the Academy Awards are this Sunday, February 27th. Enjoy.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Eerily Familiar Argentine Brilliance

So while I was Canada last weekend young Argentine Lionel Messi scored a most beautiful goal. Observe:

Gole del Ano en La Liga

As remarkable a goal as that was for young Lionel, the best player in the world under 20, what is generating all of the buzz is how unbelievably similar this goal was to a goal scored by one Diego Armando Maradona in the 1986 World Cup against England, and the fact that Maradona's goal is widely considered the greatest goal ever scored.

"genio... genio... genio..."

And not just that the goals are almost carbon copies but that both men are shortish, left footed Argentine phenoms.

You can see just how similar they are by watching them side by side:

As I said somewhere else, I am just glad that Messi replicated Maradona's 2nd most famous goal and not his most famous one, the legendary "Hand Of God" goal, which coincidentally is from that same 1986 World Cup quarterfinal against England, because I have been a big fan of Messi from the get go and it would suck if he resorted to such cheating.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Kanu Rooftop Experience

So Peter Bean and Orson Swindle have been having me on their weekly radio show here and there, and the lads are especially interested in me calling from my rooftop, so I told them I would get them some pics and a vid to give them the Kanu Rooftop Experience. So here it is- unfortunately it was pretty breezy today so the audio is shit; perhaps I'll redo it sometime on a less breezy afternoon.

Beautiful but windy afternoon

Pac Heights, Marina, GGB, Marin Headlands

Marina, SF Bay Mt. Tam, Sausalito, North Bay mtns.

SF bay, Tiburon, Fort Mason in foreground

Public Service Announcement:
Free Cone Day

Today is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry's, so find one near you and hook it up.

Ben & Jerry's store locater.

Tip for ATL folks from prior experience: don't go to the shop on Highland Ave in VaHi at 7.45 p.m. tonight because they have a habit of shutting down early and claiming that they are out of cones, all the while the dudes inside are munching the shit out of ice cream cones. Yeah, I'm still a little bitter about it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Happy Weekend You Hozers, Eh?

The R&R is coming think and fast- still not caught up from last weekend's SoCal trip, and the week is already slipping away from me.

Tonight I'm catching a bird to Calgary, Alberta and then cruising 1 hour west to Banff/Lake Louise for 4 days of skiing with a good friend of mine.

Lake Louise, Alberta

Masters thoughts still kicking around in the head- those, a SoCal/Santa Anita recap, and pics & stories from this weekend next week sometime when I can catch my breath.

Y'all have a great weekend, whatever you get into.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ummm, Nevermind

ManUtd 7-1 Roma
ManUtd advance 8-3 on aggregate

Valencia 1-2 Chel$ea
Chel$ea advance 3-2 on aggregate

Obviously, I was thoroughly baked, especially in the case of ManUtd, who put an unheard of SEVEN past Roma, a feat never before accomplished in a single match in Champions League history.

Kanu, earlier today.

Valencia were making me look smart when they went up 1-0, and after Sheva equalized it looked destined for added time until Black Star (as in Ghana national, not a race descriptor) Michael Essien got the winner at the death.

So with ManU, Chel$ea, and for all intents and purposes Liverpool already in the semifinals, the only thing for me to say is:


Unless Bayern beat AC Milan tomorrow and then vanquish Liverpool, in which case I will be rooting for Das Germans in the final.

Damn, this is some good shit. I'm off to find some Cheetos...

Perhaps I Am Baked, But I Have a Funny Feeling...

...that both ManUtd and Chel$ea are going out today.

Champions League Quarterfinals 2nd Leg

Manchester United v AS Roma
Roma lead 2-1 after 1st leg
ESPN2, 11.45 a.m. PST

Totti knows that this may be the best shot he ever has to lead this team to European glory, and I think that he may just do it.

Valencia v Chel$ea
tied 1-1 after 1st leg
Setanta Sports USA, 11.45 a.m. PST

The Mestalla is as tough a place to get a result as any in Europe. Here's hoping they can defend their fortress yet again.

Probably just wishful thinking on my part...

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Zach. Zach. He's a Lego Maniac
Masters Winner and Major Champion

Congratulations to Zach Johnson, 2007 Masters Champion, and deservedly so. Well played and good show.

ZJ removed his windbreaker for the outdoor ceremony and
revealed that for a modest Midwesterner he has a little pimp in him, too.

Went to bed at 1 a.m. last night, woke up at 5 a.m. this morning and drove 400 miles to get home in time to watch the final round- I'm too exhausted just now to write up all my thoughts, so I'm off to bed to catch up on some sleep. All of my thoughts on the Masters tomorrow, although they probably won't be up until tomorrow night. SA Derby trip recap sometime after that.

I hope y'all had a great weekend.

A demain et bonnuit.

2007 Pimp Of The Masters:
Is There Any Doubt?

There was a boatload of big pimpin' this year at the Masters, but in the end one dude was just on another level and, like the UNLV Runnin' Rebels at the 1990 NCAA Tournament, just blew everyone away.

Even defending Pimp Of The Masters D Clarke had no answer for this year's runaway winner.

Sorry, Clarkey, but you got smoked.

Of course we're talking about Ian Poulter, longtime loony Brit, top Gooner, wacky dresser, and now officially the 2007 Pimp Of The Masters. You had an idea when he started pimpin' hard during the damn practice rounds, that instead of laying low Mon-Wed and then coming out with a sneak attack, he was putting everyone on notice from the get-go.

"It's only Wednesday and I'm puttin' all y'all bitches
on notice that Big Pimpin I.P. is coming hard for realz.
You better raise up"

Dude came so strong all week that he pretty much had it sewed up before the final round. But then he put the icing on the cake with an ALL PINK version of his getup: pink hat, shirt, pants, and shoes. He finished before CBS came on the air, so if you watched you didn't get to see the pink pimp suit: I caught a brief glimpse of it at some point during a montage I believe on the Golf Channel Post Game Coverage. He posted a respectable +8 that actually got him the last of the top 16 finishing spots which guarantee him an invitation to the 2008 Masters, so we can all rest assured that he will definitely be back to defend his title. Even more amazing is that as of 7.58 p.m. PST on Sunday there is not a single photograph of this incredible outfit on the internet. Yet. But I am determined to find one eventually and share it with you.

He rocked it so hard this week that even though he is a professional golfer I imagine Snoop & Co. would gladly allow him entrance into The PIMP Legion Of Doom.

Big Pimpin' Poulter: Approved by Snoop

So Congrats to Master Ian, the 2007 Pimp Of The Masters. Play on, player.

"I don't know what you heard about me..."

"But a bitch can't get a dollar out of me..."

"No Cadillac, no perms, you can't see..."

"That I'm a muthafuckin' P.I.M.P"

From The Dept. of Are You Shitting Me?:
Welcome To Shingo's House Of Yoga

I have always dug Shingo Katayama, probably because I was at the 2001 PGA in Atlanta when he burst onto the US Golf scene with his great play, constant smile, and wacky yet somehow cool cowboy hat. I'm a pretty big fan of the unconventional, and he definitely seems like an unconventional, cool, & fun dude so I have always pulled for him to do well and kept an eye on him over the last several years, but nothing could prepare me for his wackiness on Saturday at the Masters.

It was really, really cold, unseasonably so, and it was a massive challenge for the players to stay warm and loose.

A massive challenge for everyone other than Shingo, that is, for like everyone else, I had no idea that he was such a Yogini. You know that Arkansas' punter now has a new favorite golfer. Behold:

OK, no biggie:
we've all seen and done this on the golf course before.

Wait a minute, now this is pretty out there.
Is dude a huge fan of the
New Zealand All Blacks?

Dude, WTF?!?!?
Not seen on a golf course outside a local corporate or charity

tournament with Hooters girls or strippers to 'entertain' the participants.

Masters Day 3: Limited Pimpin'

I didn't get to watch the third round on Saturday, as I was at the Santa Anita Derby: I only got to see highlight as well as the 2 hour recap show on the Golf Channel. So very light pimpin' today, but I did find a couple of gold nuggets:

Argentine Miguel Angel Jiminez rocked some shoes that were made of, shined using, and dripping with Pimp Juice. Behold:

Women were rushing him between holes, just giving
him money and saying "Gracias, papi. Te quiero"

Pimp-Of-The-Week-Thusfar Ian Poulter, knowing that it was a Saturday in the South, blatantly catered to all of the Southern college football fans whose teams wear orange: Clemson, Tennessee, Auburn, and Florida.

Pimpin' HARD...

...and better dressed than the 110,000 Tennessee
fans on a fall Saturday in Knox Vegas. Combined.

As far as the tournament and course, when I said welcome to the US Open after round 1, I had no idea it would come to this. Damn. Only 1 round under par today: if this happens again tomorrow it will be the least exciting Masters Sunday in a long, long time.

Enjoy the final round tomorrow, and for those of you who are so inclined, Happy Easter.

Masters Day 2: While You Kanu Was Out

I did not get to watch on Friday, as I was driving down the California coast, I only was able to get some information from the Saturday morning LA Times sports section. However, I was able to find some pimps in the photo galleries for your perusal.

But first, something fairly hideous:
Sergio can come with some pretty sharp getups from time to time, but scored a pretty big own goal on Friday, and I'm not just talking about the 1977 Porn Star beard that he was rocking:

Memo to Senor Garcia:
There are colors that go well with gray.
Orange is not one of those colors.

OK, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tiger is never over to the top pimpin' like many of the international players, but he consistently represents America as well as anybody and did so again with his consistently strong-but-understated pimpin', and today was no different, even showing his versatility and ability to change outfits with the changing weather but still look sharp as hell. Obviously, having gone to Stanford, he is familiar with the necessity to be able to adapt to the all-over-the-place Bay area weather:

Chilly morning: check.

Warmer afternoon? Check.

Ian Poulter showed that Friday's Pimp getup was no one-off, and came with it again:

Whatever the Brit equivalent of "Go Big Or Go Home" is,
you know dude is a firm believer.

Kiwi heartthrob Adam Scott's shirt was very sweet, and would definitely catch the eyes of all those beautiful girls on a fall Saturday in Athens:

This would own the North Campus Quad on October Saturdays

With most all Brits, I really want to know what football side they support, but for some reason with the Brit golfers this desire is even moreso. Take Paul Casey: who does dude support - Arsenal? Liverpool? Wycombe? Stoke? the mind wonders...

Arsenal? The 'Pool? Man Utd? Sheffield United?
Damn I want to know.

Day 1 Newcomer Johan brought the noise again, this time stepping it up a notch by rocking purple pants. Unfortuantely he didn't make the cut, so this is the end of the road, but I had never heard of or seen this dude before: he is definitely one to watch in the future.

Purple Pants? You know LaDanlian Thomlinson loves this guy.

And finally, Hideto Tanihara is obviously such a soccer fan that he has commissioned some shoes from Puma that are basically the golf shoe version of footy cleats, and solid gold no less. Strong

If Puma take over Japan's national soccer team sponsorship
from Nike, their team might just be kicking these at World Cup 2010.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Happy Weekend: Santa Anita Edition

Dodgy At Best turned 1 today, so thanks to the tens of you that check it out from time to time.

Yum. And I hope I get a new binky...

I'm celebrating this weekend by driving down to SoCal and attending the Santa Anita Derby tomorrow. This weekend and next are the final and most important set of Kentucky Derby prep races, and the Santa Anita Derby is the big one on the West Coast. Solon, born and bred in SoCal, is going with me and serving as my sherpa. I am excited to go to this famous and beautiful track and take in the scene. With palm trees out front and mountains out back, it is really a beautiful place from what I have seen on TV.

Eat your heart out, Pimlico.

Amazingly, this will be the first time in my life that I go to any track other than Churchill Downs on Derby Day or Oaks Day. The field is shaping up as shit but I don't care, it will be a really fun time nonetheless.

You can watch the Santa Anita Derby as well at the Wood Memorial and Illinois Derby tomorrow at 1 p.m. PST on ESPN. {Next week the final Derby preps are completed with the running of the Arkansas Derby and BlueGrass Stakes}

I am also excited about the drive down today. Forget the I-5, the most boring expanse of interstate there is- it makes I-16 between Macon & Savannah look like Las Vegas Blvd. Why rush down there just to get paralyzed in Friday LA traffic? Instead were jamminig down to Monterrey on 101 and then hitting Hwy 1 south and driving through Big Sur and down the coast. This is easily the most scenic stretch of road that I have ever been on, and Big Sur is pretty amazing. I have only been as far south as San Simeon, site of Hearst Castle, and I have always wanted to drive Hwy 1 between San Simeon & LA. Well, today is the day, and I'm pretty fired up about it. So we'll mosey down along the coast and soak in the majestic beauty of mother nature- hopefully the sun will be out and it won't be fogged in.

Friday rush hour, or this? Hmmmm...

OK, I'm off. Enjoy your weekend whatever you do, enjoy The Masters- I'll probably be watching a tape of it on Sunday night -full report and pimpin update Mon or Tue.

Masters Day 1: Welcome To The U.S. Open

Last year Augusta National made another round of changes, and after watching the 2006 Masters I strongly felt that they have gone too far and significantly changed the basic character of the Masters. Last year I wrote:

As far as the changes went, I felt like 1 and 17 were tougher but not too affected, and 7 was significantly tougher, but that the changes to these 3 were within reason. I thought that the changes to 4, 11, and 15 sucked, frankly. The 4th playing to 240 with that insane green just seems a little over-the-top unfair. The 11th was already the hardest hole last year, and now they have turned it completely into a US Open hole, whereby by simply making par you pick up 0.5 strokes on the entire field. It used to be a classic Masters hole, with tons of risk reward, and a Sunday pin perched right next to the pond, but now it is totally a US Open hole where there is no excitement and golf is about slogging through and pars are like birdies. There is a place for that kind of golf, and the back 9 at Augusta is not that place- Father's Day weekend is. The 15th was the worst change for me, where one of the most exciting holes in all of golf, with lots of birdies, eagles, and double-bogeys, completely had the fun factor taken out of it. This massively takes away from part of the whole ethos of the Masters, that they set up the golf course, particularly the back 9 on Sunday, to provide as much excitement as possible, where if you hit 2 really good shots on 13 & 15 you can eagle either one. We still saw that on 13, but that excitement factor on 15 seems to have been massively diminished in my opinion... ...I still think this years' event had more of a US Open feel to it, where players were more conservative, and didn't take risks, and that the course is now presenting less and less instances where players feel like they have the "green light" are persuaded to "go for it". That is what makes the Masters so exciting, and I think they are going away from this and making the tournament less exciting. I am interested to hear any thoughts you might have on this, and interested to see how the tournament "feels" next year.

Yesterday's opening round did exactly nothing to change my mind. In fact, many more people seem to be on board with me now- The Golf Channel even did a little feature on it last night. The numbers: Twelve players shooting 80 or higher, and not just the champions from the 60s but current tour pros, and good ones too, average score of 76 (4 over par), etc. etc. And the 11th hole is still straight USGA, averaging over 4.5, meaning that if you manage par on that hole you pick up half a stroke on the field.

Some are attributing the high scores to the weather, which they say will change. I for one don't believe them- I simply think that the days of players shooting rounds in the mid 60s are gone, which means a much more boring tournament: methinks it will be a long time before we see anything as exciting as Jack's amazing back 9 in 1986, Tiger's remarkable Saturday round of 65 in 2002, or Sunday back nines where anyone within 5 or 6 shots of the lead at the turn can still win it because the course is setup in such a way where you could shoot 40 on the back nine or 30 on the back nine. Sucks, that.

OK, on to the pimpin'.

D Clarke came out strong in defense of his 2006 Pimp Of The Masters title by rocking some aquamarine slacks and a snakeskin or alligator skin belt. Unfortunately he shot in the 80s, meaning not many people took his picture. I searched about 20 photo galleries online and only managed to find 1 picture which just gives a tease of said pimpalicious pantalones.

Open his title defense well. Unfortunately he shot
83 and probably won't be pimpin' on the weekend.

Brit oddball and major Gooner Ian Poulter came out full blast with this full on pimp getup.

Poulter comes out swinging

He has recently taken to wearing those hats every day, which on one hand look really cool like he is big pimpin', and on the other hand make him look a hell of a lot like Kid Rock, which isn't so good.

My favorite player from yesteryear, Gary Player, shows that his Pimpin' is eternal: dude is 71 but still bringing it strong- in fact, this year he is playing in his 50th Masters. To mark the occasion he rocked some sweet striped slacks and old school shoes on day 1.

"Still pimpin' after all these years..."

Shingo is a bit of a one trick pony, but as usual he did his thing. I did notice that like so many other international players he rocked the white belt yesterday.

Japanese cowboy pimp

I couldn't find a picture, but Colombian Florida Gator alum Carmilo Villegas went with white shoes, white pants, white shirt, and PINK belt. Normally I would say "Bravo Pimp", but current levels of Gatorhateritis prevent me from doing so.

Finally, some pretty strong newcomers:

Korea's Yong-Eun Yang went red pants/white belt, which is a good foundation to build on. Just lose the uber-dorky golf visor and you'll be just fine, son.

Solid first time effort.
Would fit right in on a Saturday in Athens.

Some dude named Kenneth Ferrie decided the way to attack Augusta National was with some serious bling. Dude is obviously a big fan of Lil' Weezy. I bet every time he makes birdie he turns to his playing partner and says "Ya heard me?"

"Bling, bling,
Everytime I come around your city,
Bling, bling,
Pinky ring belt buckle worth about fitty..."

And finally, Swedish newcomer Johan Edfors, who went all white but wasn't done there, for he threw in a painters cap, something not really seen outside of professional cycling since the early 80s. Oh, and to top it all off dude has a bitchin' mullet as well. Observe:

I like how he eschewed the white belt trend
and went with one that matched his mullet.

Unlike last year's World Cup, there is no competition
here for the Golden Mullet: dude has it locked up.

Available to paint your house this weekend if he misses the cut.

All in all a strong Day 1 for pimpin' if not for exciting golf.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Can Clarkey Defend His Title?

Forget whether Phil can defend his Masters title.

The real question is:

Can D Clarke defend his 2006 Pimp Of The Masters title?

Last year's champion was crowned thusly by moi:

The winner of the 1st Annual Pimp Of The Masters title is none other than Darren Clarke on day 1. With Jesper Parnevik & Ian Poulter not qualifying for the tournament this year Clarke was always the favorite, but he lived up to his reputation and came out with guns (and cigars) blazing on Thursday. A tremendous effort that looks a) sharp as hell b) like a Las Vegas driving range pro from 1982 c) what TCU football fans would look like if they adopted to the University of Tennessee's gameday dress code which states that fans must wear multiple articles of school color clothing that to not match in their shade or tone.

"I'll go ask her for her phone number, Clarkey.
Now you think you could put the cigar down and start
thinking about this 5 iron from 198 that we have left?"

2006 Pimpin' Recap:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4

Will Ian Poulter make a run at Clarkey? Gary Player, perhaps? Or will a new pimp emerge to claim greatness?

Who do you think will take it?

Whomever it is, it is safe to say that is will be a Euro or international and certainly not an American.

Would You Bet Against Toigah?

Sorry, I just love saying & typing Tiger Woods' name the way that Aussie announcer Ian Baker Finch says it.

Say it with him, it's fun: "Toi-gah"

So I read last week that Ladbrokes was offering 5/4 odds on Tiger to win the Masters, which is the shortest odds that they have ever offered on any golfer to win any major.

5/4 sounds completely insane even against a smaller than normal field for a major, but it's really not.

Dude is 4 for 9 as a professional at The Masters, and an even more insane 10 for 18 in par 72 major championships as a professional. That's batting .555 against the field, so 5/4 is actually in the right neighborhood.

If I were betting I would take him, and for about the last 10 years I have taken him at 3-1 against the field in all majors with a friend, and done very well.

My non-master of the obvious pick?

KJ Choi.

I wish I knew how to say "Badass Golf Assassin" in Korean

Of course, the way that the Gators are going right now, it's pretty obvious that Gator alum and fanatic Chris DiMarco is going to win this event that he always seems to play so well in.

Fellow Gator Haters: think it can't get any worse?
It can: this fucker could win this week.

Who do you like?