Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Weekendly Fail

I was asked by two separate people today to post my predictions for this weekend's NFL playoff games...I didn't know the public interest in seeing me intellectually stumble was so high. I mean, TWO PEOPLE! What's next, three people? Or four? Yipes.

So I'm going into Conference Championship Weekend with my head held high, because I know it's absolutely impossible for me to go 1-3 this time with my picks. 'Course, the probability of my being wrong across the board is much higher, but...well, whatever. Here're my picks.


Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints

Now here's a bit of weird history/storyline stuff for you: the last time the Saints made it to the NFC Championship game, they played the Bears. The Bears beat them and went on to lose Super Bowl XLI to the Colts--who are playing for the AFC Championship. Okay, that's not so awesome. But this should be a good game. Both teams feature explosive offenses, stellar players, and lots and lots of wins. If this becomes a passing duel, I'll call it for Brees and the Saints. He's got the weapons and the younger arm. But under any other circumstances, I have to go with the Vikings (despite my hatred of them). The Vikings have that dominating quality, that killer instinct that's SO important. They have the crafty gunslinger Brent Favre at QB--all that experience HAS to be worth something. They have my homeboy Percy Harvin, the Offensive ROY, and AP. And most importantly, they have a solid defense. New Orleans can match Minnesota weapon-for-weapon, but the difference in D will be the difference in this game. It will be a close game, but I'm calling this one for Minnesota.

Minnesota 34, New Orleans 24


So how 'bout them Jets? They're the George Mason of this year's NFL playoffs. The final four teams remaining in the playoffs are seeded #1, #1, #2, and...#5? But the Jets are for real--or they've gotten incredibly lucky. I'll go for "they're for real", and I'll add that this will be a dangerous game for the Colts. Talent-wise, the Colts have it where the Jets don't--but I am going to be a maverick and pick the Jets to win this. Why? The answer is simple: the run game. I asked a friend about his opinion on this game, and he basically said that Indy has to make Mark Sanchez beat them. I agree with that--if it's Sanchez vs. Manning, Manning will win. But I don't think it'll be Sanchez vs. Manning--I think this game will end up being Jets Running Backs vs. Manning. And if the running backs have some sort of success, the Jets will win. Here's the good news for New York: Indianapolis has a terrible run defense. So...I'm calling this one for the Jets. Manning will do his level best to win it by himself, but I think he's not going to be able to scrape together a win.

New York Jets 28, Indianapolis 24

There it is. Sorry Saints and Colts fans...I had to. :D

Long live statistical stuff!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm Back, Again!

The hilarity just won't go away!

Here. Caution: the haikunizer takes its lines from the book Fight Club, which isn't the most...child-friendly work ever. It's no House at Pooh Corner, that's for sure. But it's really, really funny.

Long live brief 'uns!

A Repost, and Cogitations

To begin, I must repost a grand story, originally posted by my esteemed colleague the Renaissance Biologist, which is just...well, beyond description. I am usually wary of these sorts of stories, because of their sentimentalistic overtones, but seriously? Dude. This is amazing.

On to me cogitations!

I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer-winning 2007 book The Road. The story of how I hooked up with it finally is kind of weird, and since I'm in a perverse and wordy mood, I'll recount it.

It started with a picture on's slideshow-style "hot story" display. The story was small--just new pictures from some movie called The Road--but what caught my attention was the "cover image" for the story. It was Viggo Mortensen in a dirty-looking hood and a huge beard. The Other, who was with me at the time, commented that "Aragorn look[ed] like an ent."

I was intrigued. I hadn't heard aught about this movie, but I have sort of a bit of respect for Mr. Mortensen (even though I hated his Aragorn), in part because of A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. So I did some research, and the more I discovered the more I wanted to see the movie. I happened to mention it to a roommate, and he proceeded to buy the book. He loved it, and passed it to me...and here I am. I finished it a few hours ago.

The book is beautiful. It's a work of art. It's a postmodern novel--the ideas of "plot" and "character" are discarded for a mostly-hidden but extensive subcreation, philosophical discussions of morality, and word-painting. The last characteristic is probably what drew me the most...

Four of my favorite writers of all time are C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, and G.K. Chesterton, and they're near the top because they "get it". They realize that word choice is vital to creating mood, and consistent word choice at that. For example: read Tolkien's descriptions of Mordor. Painstakingly the death and devastation permeates the writing--there's nary a lapse. Another example: Chesterton's Father Brown story "The Honour of Israel Gow" and its heavy tone of grotesquery.

This is what McCarthy does. I hate to use the word "relentless" because so many people use it to describe The Road's subcreated universe. But he is relentless in his language, using and reusing words like ash, gray, slush, and black until they almost lose their meaning--until the reader begins to see the world, our world, precataclysmic, in grayscale, and to feel the cold wet seep of melting snow flooding footwear.

This is a simply-written book. McCarthy doesn't need to use aureate diction to communicate this world. The spareness of the style mimics the emptiness of the world he crafts--there's nothing left, so he doesn't need flowery language to describe it.

And thematically! I absolutely refuse to spoil it, but I will say that this is one of the most uplifting books I've read in a long time. It's not a fun book to read, but it is without doubt one of the best of the last 50 years, and should be on the reading list of any self-respecting intellectual. I give it 5/5.

Long live those dreams that may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil--those dreams that must give us pause!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It's A Conspiracy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm watching the Arizona-New Orleans game on TV, and I think there's a conspiracy against me. The NFL is reading my blog and deliberately fixing games so as to make me wrong. Whatever. I just need to remember to NEVER, NEVER take up betting on football, because my hunches are horrible.

(Alliteration all up in there.)

In other news, the Pants on the Ground phenomenon is quickly becoming this year's Big Thing--maybe like the rickroll, but less evil and vicious. For those who don't know, the final act of the Atlanta edition of the American Idol auditions was a 62-year-old man singing a song of his own composition called "Pants on the Ground." The audition performance itself was hilarious enough, as the video below proves.

But there's more! I was cruising Hulu today, and I found this if-possible-even-more-hilarious Attack of the Show "Pants on the Ground PSA". Win, I believe.

So...yeah. That's all. I now have to decide: do I keep randomly Hulu-ing, or do I go back to watching my predictions be destroyed by Roger Goodell's Evil Empire, Ltd.?

Long live decision-making!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fail is...Ian's NFL Predictions

Well, now...

I know I made complete predictions last week, in the pride and glory of my heart. But I failed on nearly all of my picks, so I'm doing things differently this time. I'm just going to pick this week's games. Then, if I fail, I won't feel QUITE so bad.


Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

I hate both teams in this game with a passion, and I pretty much hate them equally. Furthermore, the more I've researched them and thought about them, they're pretty equal. I think Minnesota may have the edge in terms of pure talent and ability--Percy Harvin, the Offensive ROY, is a Viking, and you can never count out Favre. That defense, too, is a monster. But on the other side, you have the Cowboys, who made a liar out of me last week, with all the momentum in the world (including two straight, meaningful wins over a bitter rival). Grading on talent, too, the 'Boys are no slouch--Miles Austin has huge-play ability, and it seems Romo may have exorcised his December-January demons. In the end, I think it'll come down to the location; the Vikings are at home, and their home is loud. As much as I hate to say this (and I know I'll draw the unmitigated ire of all my Cowboys-fan friends for picking against Dallas two straight weeks), I think Minnesota wins this.

Vikings 21, Cowboys 13

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints

Another tough one here, and I'm beginning to reconsider. The Cards get this air of invincibility every now and then, and I'm starting to detect whiffs of that. I mean, the way last week's game ended? Yeah...

This one may come down to defense, or lack thereof. The way Warner picked apart the vaunted Green Bay defense, I think it'll take a miracle for New Orleans' D to hold the Cards. The thing is, the Arizona D was pretty bad last week too, and the Saints have been an explosive scoring team. I actually think we'll get our second NFC score-fest of the playoffs this week in this game, with the slightly less horrible Cards D being the X-factor here and making the one stop needed to keep Arizona ahead.

Cardinals 38, Saints 31


Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

Now, this one I didn't expect. I did not think the Pats would drop last week's game, and I fail because of that. I don't know that much about Baltimore, but I think they'll find themselves overmatched in this contest. I was wrong about their drive--they may have stumbled into the playoffs, but they sure as heck want to stay alive. They'll put up a fight, but Joe Flacco isn't quite there yet. It'll be Flacco (214 ypg) vs. Indy's 14th-ranked pass D (212 ypg) and Manning (282 ypg) vs. Baltimore's 8th-ranked pass D (207 ypg). I think Manning is more able to stretch Baltimore than Flacco is to stretch Indianapolis. This one will be interesting, especially if Ray Rice gets going against Indy's bad run D, but I think this one goes to the Colts.

Colts 28, Ravens 17

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers

The only matchup I got right last week was Bengals-Jets. I picked the Jets, and I was right. And, wonder of wonders, I'm not second-guessing my prediction of last week--Chargers win. One thing I didn't really take into account was the bye week, which may not be very good for San Diego momentum. I think the Chargers will be rusty early, but sharpen it up later on in the game and win this one convincingly.

Chargers 21, Jets 10

Here's hoping I don't go 1-3 again this week. That would be really sad.

Long live retrieval of one's good name!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Alexey Pajitnov and Trailers All Up In Here

What's this? Two entries from Yours Truly in one day? Can such things be?

(As a matter of fact, Can Such Things Be? was the title of a collection of Ambrose Bierce's horror stories, and it was published in 1893.

Yeah. I know some stuff. Yeah.)

Now that I've captured your attention, all you nondescript, nonexistent nonentities who are not reading my blog, allow me to indulge in a brief paean to Alexey Pajitnov, who is possibly one of the greatest minds of our generation. Mad props to anyone who actually knows who Pajitnov is without googling him or otherwise cheating.

Now, movie trailers. First, The Book of Eli releases...tonight, actually, and I probably WON'T go see it, because critics are really divided. I don't know; I just don't know. But that's not the focus of this section of Teh Blog; the focus of this section is one of the TV spots that's currently airing for Book of Eli. Apparently some brilliant reviewer decided to portmanteau a few cliches and came up with the amazing "This movie will rock your soul". Not "This movie will wrench your soul" or "This movie will rock your world" or even "This movie will rock your socks." No, our fearless reviewer (who some fearless online research proves to be one Jake Hamilton) decides to create his own cliche. But it's a silly cliche. For the record, folks--leave the cliche-composing to the pros. Here's the trailer (I'm experimenting with embedding.)

The second doodad I want to be excited about is the first trailer for the A-Team movie. Now, let me go on record as saying that I am NOT an A-Team fan. I don't dislike the show--I just never got into it. Thus, I won't be horrified if they butcher the source material--not as horrified as I was prepared to be about Sherlock Holmes, at least. So here's the trailer.

I like the part where the VO is almost the same as the TV show's intro sequence. Heh heh heh. I may actually go see it--the operative word there being "may".

That is all for now, flocks. Long live pontification! And also, pontificators!

In Praise of Ambrose Bierce

This will be a brief 'un.

Very, very brief.

But I've been reading a lot of Ambrose Bierce recently. He's not very well-known--he's like a lesser-known Stephen Crane. But he did some really good stuff--like O. Henry with teeth. Funny how the War Between the States prompted so much amazing literature.

But so here's a link to one of Bierce's stories that's super-amazing. Enjoy.

Long live brief 'uns!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lamentations, A Thought, and My Inconstancy

This is a three-parter, folks.



LAMENTATIONS: The Packers lost. I am a Packers fan. Therefore, I lament. Now, the referees were definitely failing, including missing some pretty blatant fouls by Arizona. But there were some no-calls on Green Bay as well, and I don't like making excuses, so I don't think the refs were to blame for the Green Bay loss. Green Bay was to blame for the Green Bay loss. This wasn't a streaky Cardinals team hitting a hot streak--Arizona didn't win the game, Green Bay lost it. The Packers' constant miscommunications on defense made Kurt Warner look amazing. The defense was rattled, or psyched themselves out, or was nervous in the big game, or...something. Whatever happened, the Arizona Cardinals can thank the Packers for handing them a game which they probably wouldn't have won otherwise.

A THOUGHT: What if there were a ban--something copyrightish or something--on referencing or even being influenced by any recorded creative work? What if people were forced to be truly (*gasp*) creative on their own? No remakes or reboots in the film world; no covers in the music world; no visual influence in the realm of visual arts; no fanfics in appealing thought, is it not?

MY INCONSTANCY: is that I went to see Sherlock Holmes. Yes, I did. Even after that scathing review I wrote way back when...see? Toldja I was inconstant! Oops, I feel some Shakespeare coming on.

This is Balthasar's song from Much Ado About Nothing, II.3.60-75:
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
Or dumps so dull and heavey;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey, nonny, nonny.

There. I'm doing better. Anyway...where was I? Oh yes, my inconstancy. I went to see Sherlock Holmes, and I was entertained. I shouldn't have gone, because Guy Ritchie does that to me—his films entertain me. I didn't walk out of the theatre, though perhaps I should have, the travesties committed on Holmes' character were so blatant. But that belongs in my synopsis.

Which is here: Sherlock Holmes is the most complete, most expensive, most culturally acceptable entry in the steampunk sub-subgenre that I have yet encountered. As an interpretation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's groundbreaking detective works, the film fails, except for in one regard: the story would have been acceptable to Conan Doyle. I'm going to turn over a new leaf here and not be a spoiler, so I'll just say that the formula, narrative and thematically narrative, is one which Conan Doyle utilized repeatedly in some of his later Holmes stories. I will not discuss the characters, except to say that I thought Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler was not as bad as I expected. I'd heard horrible reviews of her, and--while she was certainly not the Adler I envisioned--she was convincing in the role. Holmes' relative modern-ness (Tony Stark Goes To 1890's England was the alternate title I composed for the film, back in July) I will not address, because nothing needs be said about it. Downey, Jr. is not Sherlock Holmes--that sums it up. Jude Law does a passable job as Dr. John Watson, Mark Strong's villain is a bit flat but nevertheless intriguing, and Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) is excellent indeed. Cinematographically, it's steampunk, but it works. There's my analysis.

Oh, one more thing. It seems that some are assigning homosexual overtones to the Holmes/Watson relationship (including Mr. Robert Downey, Jr., himself). I was concerned about this, too, because it would be a VERY serious character departure from the canon--Holmes is a depressingly sour misogynist AND misanthropist, and Watson is speculated to have had as many as five wives. After seeing Sherlock Holmes, I don't believe that Holmes/Watson is meant to be
homosexual--homoerotic, perhaps, but not homosexual. The men are both exceedingly straight, and while there are moments which could be construed as homosexual by someone looking to "twist the facts to fit their theories", the scenes, when viewed in the context of the entire movie, color more richly the unique pre-"bromance" relationship which Holmes and Watson share—in the film and in the source material. They appreciate each other's abilities--they even feel friendship or camaraderie for each other--but, in true British fashion, won't say anything, because that would be peculiar. This leads to interesting scenes like the one where they're sitting side-by-side on the bed, not saying much, but each obviously appreciating the other's important role in all of their work to that point. It's easy to see how that scene could be construed by a biased or a sloppy observer to be homosexual, but I think that the most that can be objectively assumed is accidental homoerotic overtones.

So that's all from me. I must retire to weep over the fall of the Packers.

Long live three-parters!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Football Predictions, and Other Conformities to the Norm


Well, to start off...I didn't exactly Watch a lot of pro football this year. I got a bit distracted part-way through the season and started doing a lot more theatre, etc. Nevertheless, here are my predictions for the NFL postseason. Some of you nonexistent readers may ask why I presume so, to make predictions without knowing what I'm talking about. To you, imaginaria, I say this: LOOK AT THE NAME OF MY BLOG!


Here's a nice bracket for you. I will now break down said bracket, going weekend by weekend.

(Everyone always starts with the AFC, maybe because they've been more successful recently. I'm going to start with the NFC, because it's more interesting to me.)

Wild Card Round

The National Football Conference

Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) at Dallas Cowboys (11-5), Saturday, January 9, 8 pm ET

Philadelphia 21, Dallas 17--The Eagles prove that the shutout was a hiccup, nothing more, but Dallas nearly rallies to win it.

Green Bay Packers (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (10-6), Sunday, January 10, 4.40 pm ET

Green Bay 28, Arizona 10--The Packers continue to peak at the right time; Woodson's injury doesn't slow him, and Arizona's streaky offense looks lost.

The American Football Conference

New York Jets (9-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-6), Saturday, January 9, 4.30 pm ET

New York 21, Cincinnati 13--New York surprises the Bengals for the second time in two weeks and ends their dubious Cinderella story.

Baltimore Ravens (9-7) at New England Patriots (10-6), Sunday, January 10, 1 pm ET

New England 24, Baltimore 14--Wes Welker's injury slows the Patriots, but it doesn't stop them. Baltimore plays from behind the entire game.

Divisional Round

The National Football Conference

Philadelphia Eagles (12-5) at New Orleans Saints (13-3), Saturday, January 16

New Orleans 31, Philadelphia 28--New Orleans struggles defensively, but Philadelphia's rally is the one that falls short this time.

Green Bay Packers (12-5) at Minnesota Vikings (12-4), Sunday, January 17

Green Bay 23, Minnesota 21--In a rivalry that only seems to get hotter as time passes, Green Bay avenges two regular-season losses in dramatic fashion, with a field goal as time expires.

The American Football Conference

New York Jets (10-7) at San Diego Chargers (13-3), Saturday, January 16

San Diego 31, New York 7--In the first true blowout of the playoffs, San Diego runs roughshod over the outclassed Jets, dominating on both sides of the ball.

New England Patriots (11-6) at Indianapolis Colts (14-2), Sunday, January 17

Indianapolis 24, New England 20--Indianapolis plays from ahead for most of the game, but the Colts' weakness against the run keeps New England in the game.

Championship Round

The National Football Conference Championship

Green Bay Packers (13-5) at New Orleans Saints (14-3), Sunday, January 24

New Orleans 21, Green Bay 16--New Orleans finally clicks again, and Green Bay's offense can't get it together. Green Bay has to settle for field goals on three trips inside the red zone, and their offensive line can't protect Rodgers. New Orleans' offense overpowers Woodson and the Packer defense, and reminds everyone why the Saints started 13-0.

The American Football Conference Championship

San Diego Chargers (14-3) at Indianapolis Colts (15-2), Sunday, January 24

San Diego 34, Indianapolis 28--San Diego continues its hot streak, winning its 13th straight and surprising the Colts. The two worst rushing teams in the league combine for a pass-happy score-fest, but San Diego scores last in a back-and-forth affair with little defensive ability displayed.

Super Bowl XLIV

San Diego Chargers (15-3) vs. New Orleans Saints (15-3), Sunday, February 7

San Diego 38, New Orleans 21--The score is deceptive; this is San Diego's game all the way. The Chargers continue their hot streak and decimate an off-balance Saints defense. New Orleans scores twice in the 4th quarter, but it's too little, too late, as San Diego wins their first Super Bowl.

So...there it is. We'll see how terribly wrong I end up being...

Long live predictions!