Sunday, January 24, 2010

The typical Vikings fan



Imagine how excited this guy was when the Vikings signed Brett Favre? If signing Jared Allen prompted him to reference "69 sex" on the air, then this weatherman probably ripped off his trousers and masturbated all over the green screen. The funny thing about the video is how he transitions so effortlessly into the wind conditions, as if he didn't just cost himself his job with that bizarre reference.

Anyhow, today the Vikings find themselves one win away from the Super Bowl, which means I am the world's biggest Saints fan on this find NFC Championship Sunday. I can't find it in myself to root for the Vikings even if their quarterback is one of the best players in Packer history. Brett Favre could have stayed with the Jets, or he could have retired, or he could have signed with half a dozen other teams. He chose the Vikings to stick it to the Packers for rightly moving on last year. Any Packer fan who roots for Minnesota is coalescing to this guy's selfish agenda. And by the way, Vikings fans can strap themselves in for weeks of Favre waffling over whether to retire or not, complete with some awkward disclosure that he played all season with some undisclosed catastrophic injury.

Go Saints!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Movie Weekend Live Blog

My wife is back home in North Carolina, the Packers are out of the playoffs and I'm left home to survive on my own. To do so, I've purchased four used movies from CD Warehouse for a total of $19. Let me just say despite getting a good deal today, I feel like their prices are still too high, particularly for new products.

When are specialty stores going to learn that iTunes won't stop kicking their butts until they lower their prices just a little bit.

It's a gorgeous 60 degrees outside, so naturally I'm going to spend my weekend watching movies alone with my dog like a shut-in. I have promised Jackson that I'm going to take him on long walks, but I've also bought him some busy bones to occupy his time while I veg out.

First up today is Big Fan, which I didn't buy, but rented it via Netflix. I've definitely been looking forward to this movie for a while, so I hope it lives up to my expectations both as a movie watcher and a big fan. Off we go...

UPDATE 1: Big Fan was everything I thought it would be. Written by the same guy who wrote The Wrestler, Big Fan is a slice-of-life movie about a sad corner of the universe where I've lived from time to time: fanaticism. The main character is a die-hard fan of the New York Giants who has his loyalty tested when one of the team's fictitious star players beats his brains in at a bar. Given every way out possible, he ultimately choses his team over all else in the world. There are moments the film, like the Wrestler, genuinely makes you uncomfortable. You want to shake him, but you want him to win too. Ultimately he does, in his own way. I highly recommend Big Fan to anyone whose ever been in a bad mood after their team lost, or to anyone who enjoyed The Wrestler as a glimpse into a delusional world. (On an aside, Jackson finished his busy bone before the credits were finished rolling. This required me to take him on a walk and to wrestle around on the floor. Ah bachelorhood).

Next up, United 93. I've always been a little obsessed with 9/11, but I've been reticent to watch the movie. Here's hoping I get my $2 worth.

UPDATE 2: United 93 was incredibly and predictably intense. One thought races through my mind after having watched it. The men and women who took action nearly pulled off the most amazing act in American history. Had they successfully landed the plane, it would have gone down as the most heroic act ever. Even still what the did was awe-inspiring and courageous. Anyhow, it was a worthwhile movie, but those are two straight ending on a down note, so I'm going to watch pick No. 3 -- Hoosiers as my next movie.

UPDATE 3: It took me nearly six hours to get through Hoosiers. First my wife called and needed me to email a video to her aunt. That alone took several hours. Then I decided to deeply depress myself so I watched the bonus features on United 93. I was a few minutes into Hoosiers -- about the part where Gene Hackman starts awkwardly flirting with Barbara Hershey-- when my wife called and told me the Bulls game was on tv. So I watched the Bulls down the Rockets without Joakim Noah (on an aside, Funk-King is the best broadcasting team in basketball), then clicked back over to Hoosiers.

The movie has its flaws -- like the fact Jimmy Chitwood is a combination of Michael Jordan and Michael J Fox from Teen Wolf, and the fact that half the basketball scenes are crowd shots of the angry guy who tried to run Coach Hackman out of town. Then there's the scene where Hackman and Hershey go for a walk in the woods and then kiss before revealing, "it's been a long time" to each other. That part sent chills down my spine in a bad way.

Despite all of that, it's still uplifting when Ollie makes those granny-style free throws to send the Huskers to state. And when Chitwood goes berserk to win the state championship. Sports movie gold. On a personal note, I've been in Hinkel Fieldhouse at Butler University where the final game was shot. It's still a thrill to be able to say I rubbed elbows with Royal Tenenbaum.

Thus concludes today's movie marathon. Two depressing movies followed by a ridiculously uplifting one, sandwiched around a Bulls win. Boom goes the dynamite.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Championship games predictions

Vikings over Saints

Colts over Jets

I will be rooting for the Saints and Jets, partly because I have a soul and could never root for the Vikings, and partly because I find both teams incredibly likable. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the Super Bowl matchup was Saints-Jets. We should all hope the Vikings don't make it to the Super Bowl so that we're spared two weeks of ESPN slobbering all over Brett Favre. That said, the Vikings have a better defense than the Saints and I feel like they'll get enough stops to win the game. The Jets are pesky and Ryan is a cool coach, but they can't pass the ball and Peyton Manning will see this through.

I went 2-2 each of the last two weeks so I'm hoping to get over .500 this week. Although I'm also hoping that I'm wrong so that good prevails over evil for once.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hot streak for good movies

I am riding a bit of a Netflix hot streak for good movies, punctuated by seeing Avatar in 3D at the theater. I saw that a Taiwanese guy had a stroke while watching Avatar. I don't know if Avatar is stroke-worthy, but it was extremely fun to watch. It freed my inner geek.

On DVD, I've enjoyed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Hurt Locker, District 9, Paranormal Activity, The Garden, Julie & Julia and Departures.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs reminded me of an old Simpsons episode, back when the show was relevant and clever. I was surprised that I genuinely laughed out loud several times in the movie, especially when the monkey pulled the evil gummybear's heart out during the fight scene.

The Hurt Locker was phenomenal and I understand the Oscar buzz surrounding the movie. I know "real" is a compliment frequently offered to halfway decent war movies, but THL was the "realest" Iraq movie I've seen and one of the most intense movies in recent memory. While definitely a great film, I don't think it deserves the Oscar necessarily.

District 9 was a personal favorite of mine. I loved the main character. I loved how it was shot. I loved the twist halfway through the movie. Phenomenal. I can't wait for District 10, or whatever the sequel is called.

Paranormal Activity frightened me, no small task because I'm a bad ass who doesn't scare easily. My wife joked that she was going to get up during the night, come over to my side of the bed and stare at me awkwardly. If you haven't seen the movie, you have no idea what I'm talking about. If you have, you know why I was justified to warn my wife that I might accidentally haul off and hit her if I woke up and saw her hovering there like she was possessed by a demon.

Julie & Julia was good, watchable. It made me wanna go back and watch Dan Aykroyd's immitation of Julia Chiles. It's a worthwhile movie for those interested in stories about struggling writers/artists and the effect it has on relationships.

The Garden was a revelation about a small, poor hispanic community in east LA that operated a public garden for many years before a greedy developer decided to sell it. At one point the gardeners raise enough money (thanks to donations from Hollywood elite) to buy the garden, but the guy won't sell because he inexplicably doesn't like them. It turns out the buyer was Forever21, the cheap clothing line, which happily did business with a real-life Cruella Deville. Great documentary, deserved the Oscar last year.

Departures was a simple movie, that did win the Oscar last year for best foreign film. It's about a guy who has a failed career as a professional cellist, but then becomes a sort of Japanese mortician. Only in Japan, morticians do more than merely prepare a body for burial, they conduct these elaborate and really touching ceremonies right in front of the family members. It was a unique movie with an easy-to-follow plot line.

As you can tell from all my movie-watching, I am living life in the fast lane and I hope to get myself under wraps before I spin forever out of control. Living life on the edge isn't safe, but it's the only way I roll.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A hockey game

I attended a Nashville Predators game the other night. A few observations, from this rabid sports fan. There are certain things you hear at a hockey game that you don't hear at other sporting events. One guy in front of me literally said, "I hope there's some just gratuitous fight tonight."

I don't think Yankee fans ever go into a game hoping Derek Jeter awkwardly tries to beatup Dustin Pedroia by grasping at his jersey while umpires stand there within arm's reach and then jump in just when the fight's about to get good.

Whenever there was a loose puck, the woman behind me yelled, "Skate! Skate," to encourage the Predators, who otherwise would have apparently been breakdancing at the blue line without her recommendations.

I saw one of the oddest jerseys I've ever seen at a sporting event -- a woman wearing a "Cameron Fry" Maple Leafs jersey. That would be Cameron Fry from Ferris Bueller's day off, Ferris's mopey friend with the rich parents who nearly drowns himself in the pool. Cameron wore a Red Wings jersey in the movie, so I am completely puzzled by this choice in jersey. But I was puzzled by the fact Toronto damns grammar geeks by making the Maple Leafs and not the Maple Leaves their team name.

Hockey fans also get into strange debates, like the argument over whether a ref can pick up a dropped stick off the ice. The consensus was no, but the bigger guy won the debate so I'm not sure if he proved his point or just scared the guy who disagreed with him. My party wanted to know what a Blue Jacket was, in reference to Columbus's team. I guessed it was some kind of waspy insect. Another guy thought it was a Civil War reference. Apparently I was right.

In conclusion, the night was topped off with a between-periods performance by country music legend Lee Greenwood who sang "Proud to be an American" with such gusto that I'm surprised Toronto came back onto the ice for the second period.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Annoying commercial

One problem with football season is you see the same commercials over and over again. This leads to me overanalyzing certain commercials, and in time almost all of them drive me crazy. The Super Bowl isn't highly anticipated because its commercials are that much better. It's highly anticipated because its commercials are different than the same crappy ones you've been watching for weeks.

The Verizon Wireless ad copied below has come to make me particularly batty. At the end of the commercial when the older gentleman tells the younger guy, "No, no, you're good..." The young guy makes a face that makes me wish you could sue advertisers for being annoying. His lip curls demonstratively to the air revealing his teeth. He looks up inexplicably confused. It's weird.

Quality of Character

You learn a lot about a company based on how it handles layoffs. Times are tight and layoffs are the name of the game, even for companies supposedly turning a corner and seeing their margin improve. What would you think of a cash-strapped company that laid off two genuinely kind people, told them it was because of job performance to hide the fact the company had bitten off more than it could chew and was struggling?

One of the few lessons I've learned over the years is that you can tell a lot about a person based on the friends they keep. Same thing goes for a company. You learn a lot about an organization based on the employees it hires, and fires. And in the end, you can't suppress reality. Word gets out and when it does, a company has to live with its reputation in the community.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Second Round predictions

I'm too angry to offer explanations.

Saints over Cardinals

Cowboys over Vikings

Chargers over Jets

Colts over Ravens

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The loss... two days later

It hurt too bad to write about the Packers' 51-45 OT loss to the Cardinals until today. The football season is over for Packer fans like, except to root against Brett Favre.

At the beginning of the season I thought the Packers would be Super Bowl contenders. I don't know how much separates this team from the best teams in the league. Obviously, despite having the best defensive player in the league, Green Bay's defense needs improvement. Giving up 51 points, even when the deciding final six were scored on a hilarious non-facemask penalty, is unacceptable.

There was a point during the first half when I thought the Cardinals might score a blowout win. Kurt Warner only had two incompletions. Larry Fitzgerald was allowed to toss around MVP Charles Woodson like a rag doll. Even Beanie Wells was unstoppable.

I was watching the game with a friend and fellow Packer fan at a Nashville bar. At about the midway point of the second quarter, we decided we needed a shift in karma. A cell phone call was placed. My wife, God bless her, arrived with a cheesehead. We set it on the table and rubbed it for good luck after after big Packer play. We rubbed it many times over the game's final two quarters. At one point we thought the cheesehead would be enough to give the Packers a trip to the Big Easy to face the Saints.

As bad luck would have it, fate was not on the Packers' side.

Now the question is, did they miss their window? Several key players are free agents, including starting tackles Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, nose tackle Ryan Pickett and Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins. General manager Ted Thompson has been building the team by stock piling draft picks. Now the problem is that during uncertain salary cap times, half the team's starters are free agents over the next two years. There's no way they can all be given long-term deals. This was a top-5 scoring offense and a top-10 defense. That doesn't mean there aren't improvements to be made. Giving defensive coordinator Dom Capers more traditional 3-4 athletes at OLB would be a start.

But the reality is I could see next season being a step backwards just as easily as I could see the Packers earning home field advantage. And now the sports fan in me has only NBA free agency to look forward to for the Bulls, in hopes they sign Chris Bosh or Dwayne Wade, or baseball season for the Cubs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Backlash against the backlash

People hate Vampire Weekend for a dozen different reasons. In the last 18 months since VW ascended to Saturday Night Live/Pitchfork/Letterman popularity, I've heard Vampire Weekend compared to (mostly) Paul Simon, but also Talking Heads, Sublime and even Phish. Whoa.

Can we stop the hate yet? Or are us musical blue collars supposed to naturally resent them because they wear cardigans and have Ivy League degrees in their dens. I know nothing about music. My wife was just showing me the difference between a bass and electric guitar on sight. I only know what I like to listen to, and VW's new "Cousins" sounds good to me. So I'll be joining the backlash-against-the-backlash in April when Vampire Weekend headlines the Ryman.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First round predictions

NFC
Packers over Cardinals
I'm a Packers fan so obviously I'm biased. I think Green Bay is the better team though. The Cardinals have two key players in Anquan Boldin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie hobbled. The Packers crushed them last week and have more momentum overall. The only reason this game is at Arizona is the NFL's funky playoff seeding system. I say Packers by a touchdown.

Cowboys over Eagles
I see no way this game is anything besides a thriller. The Cowboys are hot and the experts have jumped on their bandwagon. With good reason, they're running the ball, playing very good defense and Tony Romo has come on. But I still like the Eagles' coaching, quarterback play and "intangibles" better than the Cowboys. Scary game if you're a Cowboys fan.

AFC
Bengals over Jets
The football fan in me resents that this is a playoff game. The Bengals look flat, including last week's loss to the Jets. That said, I don't like the Sanchize to notch a playoff win just yet. The Bengals need to get back to running the ball and pressuring the quarterback.

Ravens over Patriots
This game is a pick 'em for me. I went with the Ravens because of the injuries to Welker and Brady. The Pats had been playing great and running the ball, but they still sorta seem like a soft team to me.

I'd be unsurprised if I went 0-4 or 4-0 this week, but those are my picks. I feel the least sure about the Cowboys over Eagles pick.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Packers

It was a gratifying regular season for a Packers fan. After back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Tampa Bay, it seemed like the Packers were doomed for another below average finish. Instead something strange happened. They started to live up to their potential. What makes a team's play change just like that? Maybe having their backs against the wall was what it took.

Anyhow, I'll take an 11-5 finish and a first round game against the Cardinals. A playoff win would be nice. Everything after this is gravy though. My prediction: Packers down the Cards then lose a high scoring game against the Saints in the second round. Super Bowl pick is Saints-Chargers.

I'll be interested to see how Brett Favre and the Vikings fare in the playoffs, too.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The text message

I got a weird text message today from a reader in response to a story I wrote. I thought I'd share it with the rest of you:

I read your article today Mr. Nate. Mrs. Nate. Whats-it Nate. Guns don't kill people. People kill people. People kill the mister-misses-whats-it on the other end of the text. Archers killed people in Napoleon's army. Do you long for peaceful times? Do you clamor to be balled up in your mama's lap sucking some sour na-na out of her wrinkled old milk bags? The key to life is honesty. The key to this text is deciphering codes. You strike me as the kind of guy who liked Night Rider. 2008 Night Rider, not the original. When comes the end? When comes my medicated refill? When comes Palin's body under Coulter's head. The feminazis will rule the world and only a home-schoold child can lead them. Read your horoscope closely. Find Frankenmuth, Michigan on a map, immerse yourself in Germanic languages and remember this day, this text, this promise of cyber-revenge. Respond by pressing merely "44" if you wish to fight. Meet me at the alley. You know the one. The gang lords and the pretty lipsticked prostitutes call it home, they call it hizzie, the crooked cops lie there in wait and the sewer rats hold alley cats as feline slaves. Slave to the shadows, to the night, to skyscraping financial institution that rises above. Over your head, under my heel. I'll see you there mister-misses-whats-it.

Tim Tebow

Without a doubt, Tim Tebow will go down as one of the greatest players in college football history -- two national championships and a Heisman trophy will do that. I watched a good portion of Tebow's final game, a dominating Sugar Bowl win over Cincinnati.

I can't help but think, despite his collegiate success, Tebow has no chance of being a successful pro quarterback. Even in his senior season, I don't see Tebow coming to the line of scrimmage, reading a defense, dropping back and making check-down throws. There seem to be about three UF plays. Tebow run, Tebow handoff or playaction pass. On the occasion he does drop back, Tebow locks in on one receiver and often hits him. The Gators have a skilled receiving corps, no doubt about it.

The ball still looks ugly coming out of Tebow's hand and his release is so awkward, he makes Vince Young look like a skilled technician.

I hope I'm wrong, because Tebow is such an incredibly nice guy and he's obviously got intangibles that will make him appealing, but I wonder if he wouldn't have a better career imitating Chris Cooley than Young?

UPDATE: I also meant to make the point that Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike will have a better NFL career than Tebow. Playing a few weeks after surgery for a fractured forearm? Tough cat. Wasn't his fault UC got smashed, they were just outclassed.

Friday, January 1, 2010

'I know that it's true, it's gonna be a good year'



sorry for the commercial at the beginning. still worth it though. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

Looking back at the Aughts

Favorite film: Garden State

Favorite tv show: Lost

Favorite album: The Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca

Favorite band: The Shins, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Animal Collective

Favorite football player: Brett Favre (with a grudge)

Favorite basketball player: Derrick Rose, followed closely by Bryce Drew because of my hometown connection

Favorite baseball player: Carlos Zambrano, followed by Kerry Wood

Favorite journalistic memory: Covering the Atlantic Sun conference championship game between Belont and Lipscomb with an NCAA tournament berth on the line. BU won in OT.

Favorite personal moment: Getting married on the Brooklyn Bridge

2010 New Year's Resolution: To begin my book, for which I've had the idea for a long time. It's a combination of Homeward Bound, the Adventures of Huck Finn, the comic book series Y: The Last Man with a quasi political/religious message. I'm looking for an illustrator by the way.