Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Birthday Post: Baseball Home Run Extravaganza, Hamilton’s injury and Lacrosse in May


 

There’s one thing sticking out early in this baseball season (you know, besides the growths on Barry Bonds’ head) and it’s defining the success of at least a few teams early in the season. It’s actually a very Barry related statistic; the large amount of home run hitters in the league this season.

 

Before...

Now we knew the Yankees were going to have a few of these guys. This team has always been known, among many other things, as the bombers, and with at least 5 starters (including the DH) having hit 30 homers at least once in their career none of this is suprising. In addition we kind of knew this team would have to produce in this fashion to win a lot of games (although the starting pitching and bull pen have been better than expected). It’s the other teams that have been more surprising. The Orioles’ and Reds’ early season fast starts were defined by home run hitting (and have cooled with the lack of slugging production) while the Rangers we’re trying to keep pace with the Yankees before Josh Hamilton got hurt (and they still have four guys that aren’t him in the top 30 in the league in home runs).

After...

A quick aside on Hamilton’s injury: Didn’t we used to call a guy a gamer for trying to make a play like that? I realize it’s early in the season, I realize that maybe he shouldn’t have been sent home and I know that you leave yourself relatively vulnerable by sliding head first. Still, if that play had been successful and Hamilton had remained healthy we’d all have been praising how smart and tough he was to go head first and reach around the tag instead of sliding. We can’t sit there and scold guys for not selling out on plays then turn around and bash them when it results in them getting injured (and god knows I’ve been guilty of this mistake with my own team in the past). Make up your mind on how you want the game played and stick with it.

Back to the home runs: Seven teams (LA Dodgers, White Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Braves, Brewers and Cardinals) have multiple players in the top 30 in homers and only two have losing records. Now that’s not terribly surprising; we’re now using OPS as the bench mark for hitters in baseball and home runs are a big part of the slugging percentage that goes into that statistic. It’s not a surprise when good home run hitting teams are playing at least .500 baseball.

Before...

The really crazy part of the home run craze is the following; as of early Tuesday April 26th, with only one team having played more than 23 games (the Braves at 24) we already have 29 players with at least 5 home runs. Most teams are barely an eighth of the way through the year and 29 guys are on pace for 40 homers. Doesn’t that seem like a lot? Expand the list to guys with at least 4 home runs and all of a sudden 48 players are on pace to hit at least 30 this season. That’s an average of one and a half of those guys per team. In the post steroid era, where pitchers are having far greater overall success (just look at last year’s Cy Young races in both leagues) these stats become even more astounding. And it’s not like these guys wouldn’t be caught if they were juicing (just ask Manny Ramirez). At the worst a few might slip through the cracks, but even one-sixth of those guys being juicers would still leave us with 40 “regular” guys on pace to break the 30 homer threshold. It will be a development to monitor the rest of the season and I’ll do my best to keep all of you halfwits out there up to date.

After...

On the flip side of the sports world lacrosse is really heating up in the college ranks. Syracuse’s loss to Cornell (a 12-7 lambasting no less) opened up the top spot to fellow Big East team Notre Dame.  Still it’s not as if this undefeated NCAA finals team from 2010 is without its flaws. The match-up between both heading into the conference tournament should be one of the best games of the season…if either team can actually score. The Big East is turning into a formidable lacrosse conference in its second year (not surprising when you build around a team like Syracuse). With three teams in the top 10 (Villanova is the other), this league may start rivaling the ACC for strength. Until the other major athletic conferences get their respective acts together (trust me when I say the Big XII, SEC and Pac-12 could quickly dominate this sport) these two will continue to entrench themselves into Division I’s elite.

There might be a lot of this Memorial Day weekend...

Hopkins has been a revelation this year after a losing season in 2010 (the first in god knows how long). With six sophomores regularly starting for “the Hop” they weren’t supposed to be quite back to their 2007 NCAA Title and 2008 NCAA Finalist levels, but a 10-2 record against typically stiff competition has them eyeing a top four seed in the NCAAs in May. They’ve found their rhythm offensively and are peaking at the right time.

Or a lot of this...

Some other notable teams include Denver, Penn, Maryland, Duke and Cornell. Denver is coached by former Princeton great Bill Tierney and is in line to win the ECAC and make some noise in the top half of the bracket. They’re strength of schedule is somewhat weak, but they did beat Duke recently and played Notre Dame to a one goal contest. Penn has helped make the Ivy League stand out top to bottom this year while Cornell has been typically strong (and the only team to knock of Syracuse this year). I’m worried about Cornell’s reliance on Rob Pannell (hands down the player of the year), but Penn has gone 3-3 against the top 20 this year as part of a rigorous schedule that should have them prepped for NCAA play. Combine that with a 10 win Yale team and a tough Harvard team and the Ivy is right up there with the ACC and Big East. Lastly, two ACC squads appear to be on the way up while their brethren are struggling to keep up. ACC champ Maryland and defending national champ Duke each have been impressive at different parts of the season. The ACC beat up on itself a bit (in typical fashion) but the fact remains that it’s the most talented collection of four teams in the country at any one time. If Virginia even remotely gets its act together we’ll have a three headed monster coming out of the south. But if not, I still expect to see the Terps and Blue Devils very much in the picture by the tournament’s second weekend.  

There will definetely be a lot of this...

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for; “Ichiro Update: .304 batting average, 31 hits in 24 games, 5 doubles, 12 runs, 8 stolen bases and an OPS (.702) that would be higher if this guy didn’t like getting regular hits so much,” “The NCAA is to me as the Iliad is to Homer…impossible,” “Just so we’re clear the lockout is not not over…see how confusing that is NFL,” and “Memorial Day weekend 2011 in Baltimore; it’s gonna get laxy…”

Talladega: The Tour De France of Not France


Trying to add a little travel talk in your life, when you think of the most epic sporting events in the world the Tour D’Franc will most definitely take the cake in a lot of peoples minds. The great finish on the Champs Elysees is one of the most amazing happenings and with some of the most extraordinary athletes in the world. However, if you were to compare this to any sporting event in America I could not think of anything more awesome than NASCAR at Talladega. This epic clash of motor-sport Albert Einsteins defies all rules and creates something so awesome only people with a lack of normal hygiene can truly love and enjoy. I am proud to say that I am one of those people that fits into this most prestigious category of Awesomeness.

The most recent race at Talladega, Aaron’s 499, definitely showcases the most amazing driver’s in the world of American motor-sports, while drawing in the most eclectic crowd of people who lives by the rules of MacGyver. This all weekend event is a perfect way to bring people who have like beliefs and idea, which are that America is the greatest place on Earth and Jeff Gordon is a bitch. There may be some who do not share those ideals, but they will be swiftly dealt with by a drunk old woman with 3 and a half teeth.

I do not mean to belittle or talk ill of the people that attend these gatherings because I attended this showing of American greatness. The people here were some of the nicest I have encountered in a long while. Everyone is very welcoming and has a smile on their face, except when you talk about socialism, soccer and anything that makes the red, white and blue looks uncool.

However outrageous the fans at these venues may be, you must commend the drivers skill to race a car around such a difficult track. These drivers are truly another breed of crazy that takes their racing machines to the ultimate limit. Talladega is one of the few tracks that requires the drivers’ to limit the speed of their vehicles for safety reasons. This 2 and three-quarter mile ring can get these cars up to a speed well around the 220 range if not for the restrictor plate that is mandatory for the race. This by no means make the race any less exciting when, especially when they come of turns bump drafting each other at about 190 miles and hour.

This was the first time I was able to go to one of these races. I can honestly say that I had the dumbest/drunkest grin on my face during the entire race because of the sheer power and amazing ability that was shown by the drivers of these vehicles. I have never been to something so grand in the middle of no-where. If any of you has the ability or wants to experience something a little different, most definitely check out a chance to go to Talladega, Alabama for a true experience of America and how people in the South get down. Do no go their for a girls weekend or a lame gathering of bros because you will easily be bitch-slapped back to reality by the middle-aged man throwing jello shots at you or the blaring country music that destroys anything hipster.

I  promise that a weekend in Talladega will be one of the most epic of your life, even if you have to get out on bond.

Alan Glynn – The Dark Fields/Limitless (2001)


_______

What the hell does this book have to do with Bradley Cooper? Well, I’m glad you asked that question. Alan Glynn’s novel, The Dark Fields, was initially released in 2001  but has been more recently re-released in book stores [as well as in movie theaters] under the title, Limitless. The film version, as you are probably aware, stars Bradley Cooper in the leading role. This review, however, is going to focus on the printed version which, in many many ways, is different from the film adaptation. [For the record, I would without hesitation recommend the book over the film.]

The Dark Fields‘ plot centers on Eddie Spinola, a self-loathing, struggling writer living in New York City (he has a whole Holden Caulfield vibe going for him at first) who comes across his ex-brother-in-law, Vernon, on the streets of the Lower East Side. Vernon, who is a drug dealer, hooks Eddie up with a designer drug called MDT-48, promising that it will change his life. Despite some initial skepticism, Eddie pops the pill, and voila!, his intelligence, productivity and concentration improve one-hundredfold. Following this surreal experience where he is able to finish the book he was working on as well as reorganize his entire apartment, Eddie is hooked. After procuring a large supply of MDT-48, he embarks on a journey of unbelievably successful writing, textbook devouring, stock trading and womanizing. Soon, though, he finds himself suffering from a few side effects such as memory loss, withdrawal symptoms and entanglement with, shall we say, people of an unsavory repute. Through these juxtaposed exploits, the novel takes an interesting look at addiction, super-intelligence and the effects that one, the other, and both have on the human psyche.

This book was an extremely fun read. The concept of science making people smart is simple but Glynn makes it very compelling – as Eddie takes advantage of his newfound power, the reader enjoys the ensuing perks along with him: decadent food, chic fashion, beautiful people and wild nights among New York’s socialites, to name a few. Scientifically manipulated intelligence is an idea also explored in one of my favorite novels of all time, Flowers for Algernon, which, interestingly enough, was also adapted into a film, Charly.

The Dark Fields wasn’t always a breeze to get through, however. Some parts of the book seemed forced; Eddie’s relationship with the Russian gangster, Gennady, felt unnatural. To me, it was lazy writing. Gennady primarily served as a plot catalyst, popping up sporadically to push certain events into motion that the author wanted to happen. On the flip side, a character like Ginny Van Loon served absolutely no purpose except as a page-filler and occasional object of lust for Eddie. Lastly, the ending came about a bit suddenly and may leave many readers dissatisfied and wanting more (I actually liked it).

Despite these complaints, however, The Dark Fields was not only a real page turner, but as I said,  it was an interesting take on addiction and a fun glimpse into the lives of business magnates and public figures. I would recommend this book to a pretty wide swathe of readers: it’s psycho-fiction for your “techies”, a casual beach book for the summer, a mystery novel, a techno-thriller, New York City poplit but most of all, it’s just plain fun.

Beer/Drink Suggestion:
A lifestyle including light to moderate alcohol consumption
Okay, so that’s not exactly a drink suggestion per se, but it is a drinking habit suggestion. As many news articles and laboratory studies have documented, there is a scientifically-proven correlation between light to moderate drinking and intelligence (as measured by IQ). So, if you want improve your cognitive abilities, skip the MDT-48 and head straight for the liquor cabinet. Your brain will thank you for it.

If You Liked This You Might Also Like
Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, Philip K. Dick’s short story “The Adjustment Team”, Isaac Asimov’s short story “Lest We Remember”, Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City, Ted Chiang’s Understand

Rating

4 out of 5 stars

Slippin’ and Slidin’


Posted because everyone should know this song.  A beautiful rendition of “Slippin and Slidin” by the very talented Justin Townes Earle, a NY based singer-songwriter.

Friday Night Lights: Where Have the Dillon Panthers Been All My Life?


My girlfriend and I recently got into Friday Night Lights at the behest of her brother-in-law and a few critics who put it right up there with Lost as an all-time major network TV show. As we finish season 4 on Netflix I’m truly amazed that I didn’t get into this thing earlier, especially when I have the movie practically memorized and loved the book. It’s an amazing mixture of drama, intermittent comedy, good looking people everywhere and some of the best acting ever on network television. I’m not kidding, there have been maybe two duds in the whole thing, and Minka Kelly makes up for it by being hot enough to land Derek Jeter (like, forever). We at Neighborhood Halfwits can forgive such things. Also, they didn’t try to perfectly mirror the book or movie (great stories), but took it in a great direction anyway. Still, as awesome as the show is, here are a few nit-picky random thoughts to kick this thing off (major SPOILER ALERT here):

Minka Kelly everyone...yeah.

  • Minka Kelly is 30, which means she was 25 when filming of the show began. Does this shock anyone else? I thought for sure Derek Jeter was semi-robbing the cradle with his move to monogamy, but I guess its not so surprising when you consider that Zack Gilford (who played my personal hero Matt Saracen on the show) is only two years younger than Kelly. He’s now playing a doctor on “Off the Map”…huh? One last age related question: Are Season 3 Minka and Taylor Keistch officially the oldest high school couple in television history? Somebody prove me wrong.
  • Can I get a blowout win please? I’m pretty sure that if you factor in a few season 4 blowout losses, Coach Taylor’s 4 year head coaching record would have a total point differential in the negatives. This is with two Texas 5A state finals appearances (and three state playoff appearances), less than 10 total losses, and one ring under his belt. There’s no way this is plausible.

The Man...who cant win by more than 3 points...but is still The Man.

  • In that same vein; Coach Taylor = Mandy ReCarthy (Mike McCarthy and Andy Reed you know, in case you’ve never watched the NFL). There is no way his clock management skills should be that bad.
  • Anyone else notice that the TMU field blatantly had Texas State painted in the end zone during season 2? I’m not asking for a different paint job but it was 2007. Are you telling me there wasn’t film editing technology available to gloss over this?
  • I’m guessing Season 2 was tough to get a consistent story line out of because of the writer’s strike. With that said, I’ll excuse the TV season ending 3 games before the state playoffs, the completely forgotten Santiago story line and Street’s tatted up love interest completely falling off the radar. Still, that doesn’t excuse the fact that Landry was able to kill a guy, admit to it and then have everyone outside of him and Tyra act like nothing happened when the charges were dropped. Are you telling me news of this didn’t at least get out to the high school? As Tyra says repeatedly, “this is a small town,” so people would’ve known. Landry’s dad also blatantly tampered with evidence by torching the station wagon. Even the LAPD would’ve suspended him without pay for a couple of hours.

"I killed a guy while I was in high school, but it was glossed over because of a writers strike...nbd"

  • Trust me when I say this, the Texas 5A state championship game is the pinnacle of high school football. It’s the deepest talent pool in the most fanatical football region in the country. If California held actual state championships (they’re divided into some weird division format thing, look it up) it might contend for second place with Florida, but Texas stands alone. So lastly, how many coaches have been fired the year after making an appearance in the biggest game possible in their respective level of a sport? Start listing, because I’m pretty sure Coach Taylor is one of the very few.

Id trust him with the lives of my family and pretty much anything else...just not the liquor cabinet.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am in love with this show. But I wouldn’t be a true blogger, modern day American and Generation Y’er without picking at least some pieces of it apart. Regardless, you need to watch this show. Season 5, which is somehow the last one (this when Two and A Half Men is somehow in roughly its 236th season) airs tomorrow night (Friday, April 15th) at 8 p.m. on NBC. That last part explains why the ratings are so low, but maybe if we all band together and watch the crap out of this thing they’ll bring them all back together for another go. A guy can hope…right?

One more time...

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “Kobe Bryant got fined $100,000 for being a homophobe…why am I supposed to be surprised?,” “Kevin Durant has two scoring titles in 4 years in the NBA…He was the first freshman to win POY in college…He’s been the catalyst to turn around the OKC franchise…Remind me again why Rick Barnes is still allowed to coach anything?,” “Pedro Feliciano was just publicly compared to post-injury Chien-Ming Wang, and it may actually be an insult to post injury Chien-Ming Wang…s***.”

Game Review: BulletStorm


Foot to the face is a subtle way of saying "Fuck You"

Game Review: BulletStorm

Console: PC/Xbox/PS3 (I played the PC version)

Quick Review: Cool if unrealistic murder simulator for single player. Multiplayer is less fun than staring at the sun.

  • Good: Graphics, Character banter, Using the “leash” for fantastic frags,  Fun weapons and gameplay, Points awarded for shooting people in the dick or for murdering someone to death with your boot.
  • Bad:  Character banter (yes it’s in both categories), Glitchiness, A random flashback and poor storytelling, Ridiculously terrible multiplayer.

Score:  5/10

Long(er) Review:

I’m going to start out by saying that I was very excited to play BulletStorm. VERT excited.  This game spoke to me through its packaging and previews. It whispered to me of hours of amazing bloodshed with twisted weapons. I was ready for BulletStorm.

Once I picked the game up from Best Buy, every additional moment longer it took me to get this game to my computer because of shitty (safe) drivers was another small animal I promised to punish.

Don’t blame me kitten, blame the jerkoff in the minivan going twenty five in a FUCKING FORTY

I finally got home, installed the game and jumped right into the single player thinking that I would come back to the multiplayer after I learn some basics first. No need to let some 12 year old wipe the virtual floor with my face because I refused to learn a few things on my own. They have too much going for them already with that whole ‘no responsibilities’ thing.

Fuck 12 year olds

Anyways, in the first controllable sequence with my character I noticed my mouse was fucking up. The mouse sensitivity was next to nothing. Quick fix of adjusting the ingame settings and… same problem. OK. Must not have saved the settings. Go back and surprise! I had saved the correct settings. First 5 minutes and already a glitch. Sweet.

I’m not going to give away too much of the story. You play as an alcoholic angry mercenary out for revenge who ends up getting trapped on some world surrounded by cannibals and tumored monsters. You know, the usual. The story actually has potential and has some fun pitched battles. The cool thing about this game (and most new games) is how the environment can get involved in battle. You can literally kick a hot dog cart at a group of mutants and shoot it’s propane tank to create a massive explosion. You can also whip people around by your ‘leash’ and throw them into spiked walls or electrical wires. The game rewards you with points by how epic and gruesome your kills are. These points can then be used to purchase upgrades and ammo for your weapons. In the end, the story dips off a bit and the end isn’t really an ending so much as an annoying cliffhanger.

So, after beating the single player I thought I was ready to kick the living shit out of some people on multiplayer. Login, join a match and am waiting to be placed in a game. I get in a game and am amped to start murdering people. Game starts and I whip around and unload my gun on the other people running around. I fill one of them with a good 2 clips before I realize that they aren’t shooting back and my gun does no damage to them. The game chat box says the following:

K1dCuD1: lol wut r u doin?

BejeweledAll*24: save your bullets nub

I realize two things instantly. One, kids these days are fucked with a lack of imagination and two, I had joined a coop multiplayer game.  I leave k1dfuckyourself and bejeweledsucksadick behind to go join a real deathmatch… only to find there is no such thing. Nope. ZERO deathmatch whatsoever. The only multiplayer option you have is to coop kill wave after wave of enemies in a closed environment and try to score bigger points with different frags. Shit was stupid.

Not going to get involved with opinions on how to improve the game. Developers should know better. Worth it for $20 but not full price.

-Thebitterbear

Dave Grohl: Mr. Rock n Roll


Where is rock n’ roll?  What music do you hear on the radio these days that you’d classify as rock n’ roll?  I have a hard time classifying anything that comes from my car stereo these days, mainly because there are just too many elements that go into that singular sound emanating from your radio.  There’s an r n’ b hook with a reggaeton beat and a funk bass line with some whirling classic rock keys.  What is that?  I don’t know.  Most of it hurts my senses.

What I do know is that there’s a guy still leading the charge on the war against beat machines and the auto tune army.  He goes by the name of Dave Grohl.

I'm smiling because I'm sitting on a pile of cash in which I earned by melting faces. Kisses.

Most people know his back story, iconic drummer for the legendary ‘Nirvana’ and front man for rock-gods ‘The Foo Fighters’.  Also he has a list of about 1000 side projects that are 100x better than any shit anyone else can come up with including ‘Queens of the Stone Age’ and ‘Them Crooked Vultures.’  But he has managed to transcend into the mainstream and remain in the spotlight for almost 20 years as a rocker.  People know his name as a drummer, they know his name as a guitarist and as a singer.  Fuck, they know his name from being playing the Devil in Tenacious D’s “The Pick of Destiny.”  His lyrics are honest, his guitar playing is hard and his voice growls like a black t-shirt wearing bear.  He is rock n roll.

I want to be friends with Dave Grohl.  He cracks jokes on stage, is constantly snapping his gum and usually has a red solo cup full of beer next to him.  He is the body of rock n roll.  From his mop of a hair to obscure tattoos and unkempt beard, the man has the look and the music to back up anything he says.  Here’s some of my favorite Foo/Dave Grohl videos. Enjoy:

“Everlong” might be the best song Grohl has written. An amazing hard rock love song that can’t be classified as a ballad because if you couldn’t hear the words you’d think you’d be headbanging just as hard. Here Dave goes solo for the first 3/4 of the song in the middle of the 90,000 seat Wembley Arena where Foo Fighters sold out two consecutive shows. Rock.

I think people forget how long the Foo has been around. Heres “My Hero” circa 1995, only one year after the death of Kurt Cobain and the official end of Nirvana. I think it’s a little known fact that the first Foo Fighter album was recorded by Dave alone, he layered all the instruments on top of each other. It was the first music Grohl had made since the death of his former lead singer and turned into one of the biggest rock bands of all time. Love this video. Let’s put the band in a burning house and have a dude run in and save a bunch of shit. Hence, My Hero.

Here’s a little behind the scene footage of Mr. Grohl during the recording of the “Them Crooked Vultures” album. If you haven’t listened to them, stop what you’re doing and make it happen. I’m sure at some point I’ll be writing about them, cause they bloweth the mind. Just a funny video showcasing the normalness/humor of america’s greatest rock n’ roller.

-B-Squatch