31 December 2007

The Writer's Guild Strike

The Writer's Guild Strike has been going for eight weeks and a day. I don't want to go over all the details, but from what I understand, I'm with the writers here.

Writing is what makes movies and television shows. The greatest actors in the world will stink if given a horrible script.

Everyone uses writers. Jay Leno and David Letterman use writers. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert do as well.

And honestly, I think writers get overlooked way too much.

Which is what the strike is all about, I guess. America notices when there aren't new episodes of House and Law and Order. Obviously the big corporations are loath to part with more of their money, but if writers want a bigger piece of the DVD-sales pie (as well as the online-media pie), then I think NBC and the others are going to have to give in eventually.

Heck, as much as America loves reality T.V., we can only take so much Amazing Race and Big Brother 8.

Apparently Letterman and others will be broadcasting new episodes this week. Dave worked out some agreement with his writers, but Leno will be flying solo. Should be interesting. I might even have to watch a couple shows. Ugh.

Why do guys like Letterman and Leno have their jobs? If they don't write their own stuff, it must be because of their delivery or something, right? But even that isn't very impressive. I don't get it.

Scott Pierce, entertainment writer for The Deseret Morning News, wrote about the effects of the strike today.

JUST A COUPLE of weeks ago, I wrote with confidence that because "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" both rely almost entirely on scripted material ... there's no way for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to return to work until the strike is over.

So, yes, I was rather surprised when Comedy Central announced that both shows will return — without writing staffs — on Monday, Jan. 7.

You can sort of see how Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel can do it. They'll do lots of interviews.

But while both Stewart and Colbert do interview segments, neither show is about that. And, thus, they can't possibly be the same shows when they return next week.

I write that with confidence ...

We'll have to see.

The Official Dwight Howard Love Post

I've been putting off this topic long enough.

I love me some Dwight Howard.

I know, I know, "Welcome to the bandwagon," you say. It's true that he's pretty much the worst-kept secret in the league. Last year he skated under the radar pretty well, but this season, his penchant for 20-rebound games makes it hard to not notice him.

Tonight he recorded his third-straight 20-rebound game, pulling down 22 while scoring 17 points and blocking five shots.

He grabbed 21 rebounds in his last two games, as well.

Howard is averaging 21 and 15 on the season. And he's 22 years old.

His one problem is that he can't hit free throws to save his life, averaging 59% from the line on the season.

But heck, when you're hitting 61% from the field, missing a few free throws isn't that bad.

And then there are the things you can't measure statistically. The power. The jumping ability. His massive throw-downs of any pass Jameer Nelson lobs his way.

Seriously, how much does Nelson love his job? Toss the ball anywhere near the hoop, and Howard will dunk it home. I don't understand how Jameer isn't averaging more than six assists a game.

Howard will be more dominant than Shaq when all is said and done. Mark my words.

Here's a Howard highlight reel to cap off this lovefest:

Huckabee is a slimeball

I've been reluctant to comment on Huckabee until now. The first time I saw him speak was on Glenn Beck's show a few months ago, and I was impressed with his articulation and likability. He seemed to stand for a lot of things I agreed with, and I started watching him more closely.

Then the Iowa campaigning began and he set his sights on Romney.

This would be fine, except Huckabee has almost exclusively been using the "Mormons aren't Christian" line in his attacks. His attempt to pander to the evangelical vote in the state is disgusting. As I posted earlier, people shouldn't refuse to vote for someone because of their religious beliefs. Focus on the issues and character traits like honesty. If someone doesn't vote for Romney because they see him as a flip-flopper, I'm fine with that. I disagree, but it's a much more valid reason than "he thinks there are living prophets today, so I'm choosing Huckabee."

As annoying as Huckabee's moves have been so far, today's actions really take the cake.

Huckabee had been "planning" on releasing an attack ad targeting Romney today. He called a press conference and announced he had experienced a change of heart, and was not going to release the ad after all.

He then showed the ad to all the reporters who had gathered, many of which who had cameras.

What a dog.

So far, Fox and CBS have somehow obtained copies of this ad and aired them.

Hey, free advertising for Huckabee!

Weird. I'm sure he didn't anticipate this at all.

Seriously, I hope Huckabee goes down. We don't need another two-faced, smiling dog of a President from Arkansas.

Dave Barry 2007 Year in Review

Dave Barry is my hero.

I've been reading his columns since I was about eight years old, and I love his writing. When I grow up I hope to be as good as he is.

Sadly, he stopped writing weekly columns four years ago and all we get now are his "Year in Review" articles and the odd book.

So here is this year's review.

Some of my favorite parts:

-In other economic news, retailers report strong holiday sales although shoppers remain wary of Chinese-manufactured toys after a Tennessee Wal-Mart is leveled by what an investigator describes as "the worst Polly Pockets explosion I have ever seen."

-Upon taking power, the Democrats, who campaigned vigorously against the war in Iraq, and who hailed their victory as a clear voter mandate to get the troops out of Iraq, immediately get down to the business of being careful to not do anything that might actually result in the removal of troops from Iraq, in case that might turn out to be a bad idea.

-In sports, a Los Angeles team signs glamorous British soccer star David Beckham to a $250 million contract. This raises eyebrows, both because of the amount of money, and because the team is the Dodgers. But Beckham's glamorous presence quickly boosts ticket sales; within days the Lakers sign Angelina Jolie.

Love this guy.

30 December 2007

More thoughts on the Korver trade

A friend on mine who lives in Delaware expressed concern that the Korver trade would cause the Sixers to suck even further.

I read an alternate view this morning, but I can't remember where I read it and I can't find it again. So if I'm plagiarizing someone, let me know and I'll correctly attribute these thoughts.

The Sixers are definitely rebuilding around Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert. They'll most likely ship Andre Miller this summer as part of a process to free up cap space, which is also the reason they moved Korver. He was under contract for at least two more seasons at $5 million a year, and Giricek's $4 million contract expires at the end of the 2007/08 season.

So this leaves the Sixers with a lot of cap space for the summer of 2008; they should be able to shop around for a star player to help the team. As good as Iggy is, he is not the kind of guy who can carry a team all by himself.

The lesson here is that both teams benefited from the trade, it's just that the Jazz got some help now, while Philly managed to help themselves in the long run.

We'll see which team improved itself most over the next few years.

And for Jazz fans, here's a highlight reel of Korver. His quick release makes for an effective catch-and-shoot. I'm excited to see him hit a few 3's for Utah.

Great acting

This is the second part in my series of what factors make movies great, in my opinion.

It may seem simplistic, but I believe great acting a major component in movies that make you say, "Wow."

There are a few things that make a performance great acting.

Do I believe in the character? In other words, when the actor is acting sad, do I believe the character is actually feeling that way? Or do I think to myself, "Boy, this guy is acting sad in order to earn his huge paycheck"? See: Keanu Reeves.

Is the character being portrayed consistently? A lot of this depends on the writing, but do I get to know the character so well that I can easily predict how he or she will react in any situation?

A simple example here is Bruce Willis in the Die Hard series. When the bad guys kidnapped McClane's daughter in Live Free or Die Hard, everyone knew he'd hunt them down and kill them. On the other hand, if I'm constantly scratching my head over how the character acts, I chalk it up to either bad acting or the character is bi-polar.

The last factor only applies to well-known actors like Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Sylvester Stallone, Renee Zellweger, Matt Damon, Natalie Portman. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, etc. Often when I'm watching movies with these actors in them I find myself thinking, "Well that was a dumb thing to do, Cameron Diaz," because she's playing herself.

Will Smith is often in this category, but in I Am Legend, he did a good job of playing someone other than his wise-cracking, super-cool self. As his character Neville desperately tries to maintain his sanity while deprived of human company, he slowly slipped into instability.

Bottom line, when an actor can make me forget that I recognize him or her, I'm impressed. Examples include Russel Crowe (A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator, Master and Commander), Christian Bale (Batman Begins, The Prestige), Cate Blanchett (Lord of the Rings, Elizabeth).

So there you have it. Some actors can pull off legendary performances on a consistent basis, while others are somewhat hit-and-miss. Jim Carrey often does his slapstick-manic character, but sometimes he'll do a Man on the Moon or Truman Show and blow everyone away. I suppose this is because really becoming a character is a difficult task.

But that's the way life is. We appreciate it when people make an effort. With actors, their work is so much more visible than the average Joe that they come under scrutiny a lot more.

29 December 2007

Jazz trade Giricek for Korver

Wow, am I ever surprised by this trade. It's been apparent for years that Giricek doesn't get along with Sloan, and though I think Giri is a good shooter, I've never been much of a fan of his. It was so widely known that the Jazz were not happy with Giricek that I'm surprised Utah got anyone for him.

So for the Jazz to get Korver, one of the best shooters in the league, for him makes me happy. Even though his numbers are down, Korver will still help clear some space down low for Boozer to work. He hit 132 3-pointers last year, while shooting 44% from the field (43% from the 3) and 91% from the line. The field-goal percentage especially is impressive for someone who shoots so many 3's.

I think this is a great trade for Utah, and Korver will help the Jazz get back on track.

28 December 2007

Retro day

Today I've been looking up old-timey stuff from my childhood. I just ran across this book, Sideways Stories From Wayside School. What a classic.

And it's so twisted. There is no Miss Zarves, the three Erics, Leslie's talking pigtails, Sammy, the student who is actually the dead rat that keeps sneaking back into the classroom.... weird stuff.

I hope kids have quality books like this one to read these days.

This is why you don't gamble, kids

Bill Simmons, writer for espn.com, writes a column every Friday where he picks who's going to win the NFL games over the weekend. This year he got his wife to make her picks, too, and they kept a running total over the season to see who was more accurate.

Turns out, she picked way more effectively than he did. This week, he let her write the column and give us insight into how she did so well.

It's luck, boys and girls. She used factors that ranged from mascots to where her friends live to the weather to celebrity news. As she writes:

I have probably seen a total of six minutes of football and never turn on ESPN because I'm always afraid someone yelling is going to make one of my kids cry. After 16 straight weeks of not watching football, then finding out at the end of every weekend that my picks had beaten Bill's picks, I came to realize that it's an advantage not to know anything and continue to ignore all things "football."

Then there's Bill. He goes to a friend's house on Sundays so he can watch five games at once. He watches Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, Thursday Night Football and Saturday Night Football (two more nights than we agreed on in our prenup). He's in two fantasy leagues and a picks league that, combined, somehow involve everyone he's met over the past 25 years.

So there you go. Gambling on sporting events in a crap shoot. Might as well blindfold yourself and make your picks based on how many times the dog next-door barks over the next ten minutes.

Wii shortage continues

27 December 2007

Jazz beat Mavericks

The Jazz got another solid win last night, beating Dallas 99-90. After beating Orlando last week, it looks like Utah might be back to their winning ways.

I watched most of the game last night, and it seemed to be a carbon copy of the losses the Jazz have been experiencing lately. They led for most of the game, then in the fourth quarter Dallas came back and cut the lead to four with three minutes left in the game. Dirk started hitting 3-pointers and I steadied myself for another late-game letdown.

But this time was different. The Jazz got rebounds, played defense, deflected passes. Boozer made a couple big shots late and the Jazz managed to pull away.

Factors in the Jazz win:

  1. Home game. Utah plays a lot better at home. They shot 50% from the field and 20-26 at the free-throw line, which is about average for them in Salt Lake.
  2. Andrei had a good game; 17 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. He shot 6-6 from the free-throw line.
  3. Ronnie Brewer chipped in 15 points and four steals in an efficient performance.
  4. And finally, Collins played only four minutes, recording one foul.
I just wish the Jazz could play this well away from home. Deron was unstoppable, getting to the rim almost at will while scoring 17 points and dishing 12 assists. He's been struggling, so it was nice to see him have the kind of game I expect from him now.

The Jazz play next at the Lakers on Friday. This game worries me. I watched L.A. beat the Suns on Christmas, and they looked really really good. Bynum is coming along, scoring 28 points and pulling down 12 boards in a very Dwight Howard-esque line. Kobe was Kobe, scoring 38, but the rest of the supporting cast was very efficient. Ariza, Fisher, Odom and Farmar all had good games.

If the Jazz can somehow stop Bynum down low (how? I have no idea), and Brewer can do a decent job slowing Kobe down, the Jazz will win.

Pakistan opposition leader assassinated

This is not good.

Benazir Bhutto, opposition party leader in Pakistan, was killed today in a suicide-bomber attack that left 20 others dead.

The assassination could very well lead to widespread riots in the country... which is a nation that happens to have nuclear weapons.

It'll be interesting to watch this situation and see where it goes. If Pakistan implodes, the implications for the U.S. would not be positive.

26 December 2007

The happiest news stories of 2007

Since the media are often criticized for only covering negative stories, MSNBC put together a list of their happiest stories of the past year.

It seems MSNBC really likes people who win the lottery and keep working.

My favorite story is about a dog that almost kills his owner, then saves his life to make up for it.

I wonder if Lassie ever pushed Timmy into the well.

Houston overrated.... again

Ever since the Rockets acquired Tracy McGrady, the experts have picked them to be an elite team in the NBA. I never understand why, but it keeps happening.

Tracy McGrady has never won a playoff series. Neither has Yao Ming. As much as I like both of these players, neither one is quite "take his team to the next level" good. As the classic big-slow-post-player, Yao will not thrive in a league that is getting smaller and quicker.

McGrady can't seem to shake injury problems that have hounded him for years. He was hurt again on Sunday, and though he shouldn't miss any playing time, it still affects his play. On the season, he's averaging 22 points, five assists and four rebounds a game. Impressive, but not the numbers you want to see from "the guy" on your team. Yao is averaging a decent 21 points and 10 rebounds to go with two blocks a game, but again, those are not exactly elite stats.

Offensively, the Rockets struggle. Their two stars combine for only 43 points a game, and the average ppg for NBA teams is 98. That means to be average, you need guys like Shane Battier and Bonzi Wells to combine for over 55 points a game, and that's difficult when no one other than Yao and Tracy is scoring in double digits.

When Houston was under Jeff Van Gundy, they were known as a defensive-minded team. I guess that made sense; if you can't score with the Golden States or Phoenixes of the NBA, you might as well try to slow them down to your level of offensive play. That seems to be working for the Rockets, as they are fifth best in opponent's points per game, at 94.

But until the Rockets can really crack down on defense or pick it up on offense, they won't perform much better than they have been. Right now they are 13-15, which is good for fourth place in the Southwest Division.

So stop picking them to win it all in the preseason, NBA guys. Looking good on paper is not the same as backing it up on the court.

Just ask the Knicks.

24 December 2007

Collection of clutch Cougar plays

BYU's had a number of clutch plays over the past 25 months or so.

First we have the game against Utah in 2006:

Then there's BYU down late and pinned in its own endzone. Fourth down and 18 yards to go:

And finally there's the blocked field goal in this year's Vegas Bowl (this is the best video available on Youtube right now... I'll replace it with a better one once it becomes available):

Wowsers. I think the Cougars have used up all of their good karma lately. I look for the ball to bounce the other way a few times in 2008.

Playing the Wii...

Not many posts over the next two days. I'm busy with family stuff and throwing my arm out playing Wii Baseball.

But here's a link to an interesting column I read yesterday in the Deseret Morning News. It's written by a mother who experimented with boycotting everything from China.

Seems China has us by the economic throat more than I realized.

23 December 2007

Feeling a bit better about the win

A day or so after watching my Cougs squeak out a win in the Vegas Bowl, I'm feeling more positive. UCLA played extremely well, especially on the defensive end, and looked better than their 6-7 record indicates.

They did a great job stopping the BYU's run and denying the pass to tight ends and running backs, the Cougars' bread and butter this year. I wish Hall had gone deep to Reed or Collie a bit more; UCLA was leaving their corners in one-on-one situations on the outside and were burned a few times.

And really, the blocked field goal was a great play. Sure, it was lucky, but the effort of Manumaleuna and Denney was herculean. A great cap to a hard-fought game.

BYU is 22-4 over the last two seasons, and returns a ton of starters for next year. I'm excited to see how Hall progresses over this offseason... he was almost great this year, and with more experience, he'll get there.

The future looks bright.

22 December 2007

Ugly choke job salvaged by miracle

BYU beat UCLA tonight 17-16 in the Las Vegas Bowl.

I've never felt so bad after a win.

The Cougars couldn't stop the run all night, allowing 163 yards rushing.

BYU also was completely stifled in their running game, gaining 36 yards on 28 attempts for a stellar 1.3 yards a carry. A main reason for this was UCLA's defensive line completely blew up BYU's O-line every single play all night long. I've never seen anything like it.

Harvey Unga, whose praises I've been singing all season, was consistently hammered in the backfield by linebackers and UCLA D-linemen.

Max Hall did okay, going 21-35 for two touchdowns and no picks. In the second half he didn't do much of anything, though.

I still can't believe how the half ended. BYU was up 17-6 with about 18 seconds left and on their own five. I tell the television, "Take a knee here and go into the locker room with an 11-point lead."

Then BYU runs the ball, Unga is hit IN THE BACKFIELD, EXACTLY LIKE HE HAD BEEN ALL NIGHT, loses the ball, and UCLA recovers.

Two plays later, UCLA scores their first td of the night and is only down four.

I was fuming. Whoever made that call, whether it was coach Mendenhall or offensive coordinator Robert Anae, needs to hear about that for the next nine months. It was seriously the most boneheaded decision I've seen in a loooooong time.

Then comes the completely offensively ineffective second half, and BYU finds itself needing to stop UCLA on a final drive. A great special teams play pinned the Bruins on their own two-yard line with two-plus minutes to go. A tough situation for a team that hadn't managed an offensive first down all night, but UCLA was only down one and did have all three of its timeouts.

UCLA runs the ball down BYU's throats for a couple 10-yard gains, then passes for a bunch more as BYU can't get any pressure on their fourth-string quarterback, allowing him to stand in the pocket and sling passes all over the field.

After I've lost all hope that the Cougars will stop UCLA in their own territory and win the game, I begin to focus on hoping they can force a long field goal. This isn't instilling much confidence in me, however, as their kicker had already nailed two 50+ yarders earlier in the game.

This all became a moot point as the aforementioned fourth-string walk-on QB hits UCLA tight end Logan Paulsen for 32-yard gain that brought them to the BYU 13 yard line.

That was the end of the game, as far as I'm concerned. For such a talented kicker to make what is essentially an extra-point is a foregone conclusion. 99 times out of a hundred, this kick goes between the uprights.

Sure, tonight Eathyn Manumaleuna manages to get a hand on the ball and knock it enough to fall short. Tonight the fates decide BYU should win the game. Tonight, this game of inches is decided in BYU's favor.

But the Cougars had no business winning.

The recipe of "can't run" + "can't stop the run" + "turnovers" is one of the surest paths to losing in college football. That BYU managed to win this game is nothing short of amazing.

Which is why I feel so awful. Technically, we won the game, but logically, we lost in horrible fashion. A one-point win over a 6-6 UCLA team who fired their coach and was running with two marginal quarterbacks is not impressive in the least.

But for BYU to win 11 games two years in a row for the first time since 1984-85 is nice. Ugly victories are still victories. Here's hoping the team can improve a lot in the offseason and go undefeated in 2008.

More on the positives tomorrow. I'm too down right now to focus on them.

21 December 2007

Wii Fitness parody

After hearing I'd scored a Wii earlier today, Anna pointed me at this great parody of the Wii Fitness game.

Excellent. Sarcastic Gamer has some really funny stuff.

The Patriots and cheating

Warning! Obvious opening sentence alert!

The Patriots are a pretty durn good football team.

I've been a casual fan of New England since they won their first Superbowl in 2002. Back then, they were a team of no-names who managed to beat the juggernaut Rams, who featured sold-his-soul-to-the-devil-in- return-for-two-great-years-at-quarterback-in-the-NFL Kurt Warner and star running back Marshall Faulk.

I didn't follow New England religiously or anything, but I appreciated their defense and the way a bunch of non-star players could perform at such a high level.

I also never considered myself a Patriots fan. I'm not a fan of bandwagoning, and in my opinion, you should stick to rooting for the teams you grew up cheering for. For me, that's BYU and the Jazz. There isn't an NFL or MLB team in Salt Lake, so I never developed any allegiances in those sports.

Then the Patriots won two more Superbowls and the novelty kinda wore off. I paid attention to their record and watched highlights of their games from time to time, but didn't really care if they won or lost.

This offseason, New England picked up Randy Moss and Dante Stallworth and immediately destroyed the Jets in the first game of the 2007 season.

Then Cameragate happened.

Here's my take. Belichek was busted for having someone use a video camera to record the signals of Jets coaches during the first half of the game. This recording in and of itself was useless. The only way it could give New England any advantage was in conjunction with game film, as signals from the coaches could be synced with the plays that were run.

And then the signal-to-play information would have to be memorized and applied to future plays.

The only time they'd have time to do this would be during halftime or after the game was over.

So really, not much of an advantage was gained, in my opinion.

Also, what is the difference between a.) using a camera to record signals and b.) hiring someone (or a team of someones) to stand on the sidelines and write down the signals the opposing coaches make on the opposite side of the field?

The former is against NFL rules, and the latter is not. I don't see much of a difference.

Nevertheless, using mechanical means to record signals is against the rules, and as such, I'm fine with the punishment handed out by the NFL.

I also believe it happens all the time in the league, and assuming only the Patriots have done so it naive.

The Patriots play Miami on Sunday and will destroy the Dolphins. Miami is in a major state of disarray.

Tough times to be a Phins fan, the hiring of Big Tuna notwithstanding.

There is some weird stuff on the internet


Apparently, I could take quite a few five-year-old kids at once.

I'd always wondered that.


Thanks to a tip from a poster on Cougarboard.com, I found out the Orem Target had six Wii's available as of 12:59 p.m.

Quickly estimating how long it'd take to get there (distance, road conditions, traffic, how long they'd last), I decided to go for it.

I hopped in my car and took a main route to the store.

I luckily guessed the correct entrance to get to their Electronics section and ran over there. Sitting on a check-out counter in there were two Wii's. A lady on a cell phone had just called for one, so I made eye contact with one of the guys and told him I had the other one, hoping none of the other guys in the area had already done so.

No one had, so it was mine!

It's a game of seconds, I tell you. Ten seconds earlier at Toys R' Us this morning or ten seconds later at Target today would have made all the difference.

I don't know how people do this every year. Parents who spend days and weeks searching for the must-have gift for their kids every Christmas are insane.

Heck, I only spent about 24 hours looking for a Wii before I found one, and I'm still stressing.

Wow, I'm a whiner. :)

Anyway, I'm excited to play with my wife and siblings. I've got five little brothers, four under 15, so it should be fun.

And this little piggy went, "Wii, wii, wii," all the way home.

Sometime yesterday I decided to buy a Nintendo Wii with my Christmas bonus money. After bargaining with Mandi (she told me I had to sell the PS2 and games first), she agreed that this was fine.

Of course, the Wii is this year's Tickle-Me-Elmo, so it's darn near impossible to find one locally.

I've been watching wiitracker.com for announcements that sites like toysrus.com or walmart.com have received shipments. To give you an idea of how in-demand this console is, once these announcements are made, it takes no longer than 7-8 minutes before the retailer is sold out again.

Another major obstacle to my purchasing a Wii is that all of these online retailers force you to buy Wii games and additional accessories, sometimes taking it to ridiculous levels.

For example, Walmart will sell a Wii to you online if you pay for $427.38 of additional Wii stuff.

The basic Wii console and Wii Sports game costs $250 retail.

Oh, and it's $40 to ship the bundle at the cheapest and slowest rate, which would arrive "sometime between December 27 and January 3."

So while I could get the Wii from Walmart and take all the extra crap back to the local store and get a refund, I don't want to deal with that hassle in addition to paying $40 for shipping and waiting up to two weeks.

That leaves me calling local stores trying to randomly catch them after a shipment has just arrived.

This morning I called the Toys 'R Us in town at 8:45 and asked if they had any Wii systems. The lady on the phone told me they had three in stock.

I buzzed over there and within four minutes I was in the store's Gaming section. After scouring the area for two or three minutes trying to find the Wii boxes and coming up empty, I wandered over to the counter where there were two salespeople checking out customers.

Turns out they were both helping customers who were buying Wii's. "Oh great," I thought.

But I figured there was, at worst, one more left. While I waited in line as the employees gathered every conceivable amount of information they could from these customers ("What is your home address? What is your mother's maiden name? Who was the first girl you kissed?"), I became more and more frustrated.

Somewhere in my frustration, a woman somewhat in front of me (it was iffy who came into the section first, and the line after the two people that were being helped was nebulous), got dibs on a Wii that was behind the counter. Apparently the Toys R' Us employees had taken to hiding the consoles there, the better to prevent people from dashing in, grabbing one, and dashing out, all the while setting off two sets of alarms and running a couple hundred feet to the exit.

After waiting about fifteen minutes for the employees to help these people buy their Wii's, it was my turn. Pointing to the Wii being checked out on the counter next to me, I asked, "Is that the last one?"

Sadly, it was.

I cannot tell you how much it has been bothering me that I was one person away from getting a Wii. And there's the vague sense I got robbed by the lady who got the last one.

Back to calling stores around town.


20 December 2007

For the Ute fans in your life

Msnbc.com ran a nice preview of the Utah vs. Navy Poinsettia Bowl today.

The headline?

In other news, UCLA QB Ben Olson probably won't play in the Vegas Bowl against BYU on Saturday. Seems he injured his knee.

Poor guy isn't having a great career in Los Angeles.

ANC has its candidate

As discussed previously, the African National Congress, a political party in South Africa, had a bit of a rough time choosing their candidate for the upcoming presidential election.

Apparently they got all the wrinkles ironed out and have chosen the favorite, Jacob Zuma. Zuma has gained popularity by campaigning among the poorer citizens of the country, a strategy that some worry will lead South Africa to a more socialist government structure.

On a positive note, Zuma has called for the HIV-AIDS crisis to be considered a national emergency. South Africa needs to pay a lot of attention to this problem, and a president who understands this would be a big help.

Of course, Zuma has yet to win the election, but if he does, it will be interesting to see how he performs in office.

Some people...

I've come to the decision that America needs to experience an economic depression.

When people have enough expendable income to spend on stuff like this, we have way too much money.

Open for biznazz!

Jazz lose yet again... fans jumping ship

In what has become a running feature here at the blog, the Jazz drop another road game. Last night they lost to Charlotte 98-92.

As a Deseret Morning News article noted this morning, Utah's favored method of defeat is falling apart in the fourth quarter. The Jazz are not getting blown out during this seven-of-eight game losing streak... the average margin of choke is only eight points.

Close losses notwithstanding, Jazz fans are displeased. Here are some excerpts from e-mails and IM's I've received recently:

"I don't even like the Jazz any more."

"So a struggling team has a stretch of Portland, Seattle, Atlanta, Charlotte, that ought to get them out of the slump right? No, they go 1-3 through that stretch. What the heck is going on? I'm going to start rooting for the Knicks or something."

"What a farking joke." (though this one may be in relation to the free-throw disparity between the Bobcats and Jazz last night)

To all fans who consider abandoning their Jazz-fandom, I say, "Hold, good sirs!"

One of the sweetest moments in sports comes when your team wins after you've endured years of losing.

I believe Red Sox fans who hadn't seen a World Series victory in 90+ years really really really enjoyed the 2004 title, mostly due to the decades of futility they experienced previously.

BYU's 10+ wins in 2006 and 2007 were that much more enjoyable considering their horrible seasons from 2002-2004.

After losing to my brother Matt in one-on-one basketball 37 times in a row, when I finally beat him, it'll be a great feeling. I'm sure of it.

But if you've abandoned your team in their time of less-effective-ness, coming back to them when they start winning is lame. No one likes a bandwagon fan.

So stick with the Jazz. Sure, it's painful to watch them now, but keep the faith. Once they make a trade for a decent interior defender, they'll be back on top.

Or maybe if Fesenko develops quickly enough the Jazz can use him. We'll see.

19 December 2007

I am a genius

Long story short, my collegiate career has been less than stellar. I failed my first two semesters at BYU and the third after I came home from Madagascar.

Then I came up to BYU-I and have been doing a lot better, though I've been taking a smaller class load. With a 11 or 12 credits, I've been keeping a 3.0-ish GPA.

I did attempt to take 15 credits over the summer semester, but ended up dropping out of one class and not completing another.

With trepidation, and knowing I wanted to graduate before I turned 30, this semester I signed up for 16 credits of upper-level classes.

Mind you, I still work 40 hours a week.

Anyway, with the semester over I was feeling pretty good about the classword I'd done over the past few months, but wasn't sure about a couple classes. Constitutional History and African History especially made me nervous.

But I checked my grades just now and discovered that I earned a 3.34 GPA for the semester. Lowest grade was a B- in Constitutional History, which I am very pleased with.

Woo hoo! Best semester ever. Just two more to go and I've got my bachelor's.

18 December 2007

How my faith affects my support for Romney

A anonymous commenter posed a few questions regarding my support of Mitt Romney after my latest post on Mitt.

I think they are fair questions that deserve a fair response, so here we go:

I'm interested to know if you would have the same positive feelings towards Romney if you two didn't share a religion. Would he still have all the answers? Would he still be your (apparent) favorite?

It's difficult to say for certainty whether I would or not, since the question is hypothetical.

But I believe I would support Romney if he were Lutheran. It's his policies that attract me to him, not his faith.

Harry Reid is a card-carrying member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I can't stand the guy or his policies. The fact that we both believe The Book of Mormon is scripture doesn't endear him to me at all.

You've mentioned how it is unfair for Huckabee supporters to base their opinions on Romney based on his religion; how many LDS voters automatically think Mitt is that much of a better candidate because he is also LDS?

A valid point. I'm sure there are plenty of LDS voters who have Mitt bumper stickers just because "he's one of us." How many of this kind of people are there? I have no idea. How many Catholics voted for JFK, Jr. in 1960? How many people from Arkansas voted for President Clinton because he was from their state? How many voters will choose Hillary because she's a woman? Who supports Obama only because he's black?

Voters often check the box next to the name of the guy they identify with most. It's not the best aspect of democracy, but it's something we have to live with.

If we're taking religion out of the race out of fairness, doesn't it work both ways?

Yes, it does work both ways. People should be able to put aside their bias for Mitt because he's a Mormon just as people should be able to put aside their bias against Mitt because he's a Mormon.

And if it's impossible to TOTALLY distance your feelings from Mitt because of mutual religious persuasions, how can you expect the other side to forget their possible biases against Mormons and vote for Romney anyway?

This is the most difficult of the questions you pose.

My first response is that I don't expect anyone to vote for Romney. What I expect is for people to give him a fair look, just like I expect the other candidates to get a fair shake.

Also, the goal is not to be able to completely distance myself from bias for Mitt because we have the same faith. The goal is to be able to distance myself enough that I can objectively choose whether to support him or not.

I can't ask someone to overcome years of anti-Mormon feelings in a couple months. What I can do is ask them to ask themselves if these feelings are rational or not, and if not, to put them aside enough to objectively accept or reject Romney based on his political qualifications.

I don't even know if Romney will make it out of Iowa. There's a great chance he won't get the Republican nomination come next September. But from all I've read, both supporting and criticizing him, I believe Romney is the best-qualified person to be president.

If you disagree, I'm fine with that. But if I can get you to see eye-to-eye with me even a little, that's fine, too. :)

The U.S. in financial trouble; Romney the answer?

My approval rating of President Bush is higher than your average American, if the polls can be believed (and that's a whole other post topic), but I'm not happy with how the federal deficit has ballooned while he's been in office.

I'm not an economist, but my understanding is that the government is outspending tax revenue by a few billion dollars a month, and the total federal deficit is in the trillions.

In short, we're in big trouble down the road if we can't fix this.

Who of the major candidates for president is best qualified to deal with this problem?

If anyone can do it, it's Mitt Romney.

His career in business has given him the experience required to look at the numbers and identify key factors in the deficit problem.

He's a Washington outsider. A big reason for all this federal spending is politicians who owe their careers to special interest groups. When the NRA or Greenpeace come calling, these politicians end up spending unnecessary tax dollars to repay the favor. Romney doesn't have those ties.

Romney has done similar things - on a smaller scale - in Massachusetts. He balanced the state budget and brought about a sensible 'universal health care' plan that might be a blueprint to solving the nationwide health care issue.

Oh, and he did it without breaking the state budget.

He also turned the 2001 Winter Olympics from a $400 million failure into a $100 million success.

If you vote based on what who will make the most financial sense, Romney deserves a solid look.

Wait, which group represses free speech again?

After President Bush was elected, I heard cries that the government would stifle free speech and we'd all live under a totalitarian regime where dissenting thought was not allowed.

Yes, this has happened, but strangely, it hasn't come from conservatives.

Mark Steyn, author of the book America Alone, in which he details his theory on how Islamic extremism is overwhelming Western nations, is being charged under hate-speech laws in Canadian court.

And in our own country, those who believe global warming is not entirely the fault of humanity are being compared to Nazis.

"When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards - some sort of climate Nuremberg." -David Roberts, Gristmill, Grist Magazine, September 19, 2006

Good grief. Why is intelligent discussion such an evil thing? What is it about these topics that bring out the fascist in certain individuals?

There are plenty of viewpoints I disagree with. There are plenty of viewpoints I think are stupid and completely wrong. But I'll never work to ensure that they cannot be voiced.

The way to deal with incorrect views is through fair and honest debate.

One day, maybe we'll figure that out.

Meanwhile, liberal speech condemning President Bush's policies is freely broadcast without penalty, as it should be. Movies portraying American actions in negative light are coming from Hollywood one right after the other.

Is anyone demanding they be censored? Not that I've heard.

In other "where has all the common sense gone?" news, a ten-year-old student in Florida faces felony charges after bringing a small steak knife to school, which she used to cut her food.

"She did not use it inappropriately. She did not threaten anyone with it. She didn't pull it out and brandish it. Nothing of that nature," explained Marion County School Spokesman Kevin Christian.

I understand the concern administrators have about preventing violence in their schools. I'm all for taking measures to avoid another Columbine, but sometimes their zeal goes too far.

Hopefully these charges get dropped as the prosecutor realizes how stupid this whole situation is.

Sportsy Post (tm)

Thoughts from the world of sports:

-The Suns beat the Spurs last night 100-95. True, the Spurs were missing Tony Parker, but this is still a victory for the sport of basketball. San Antonio represents everything that is wrong with the game. I hate how they slow the pace of games down so much. I hate how Tim Duncan whines about every call that doesn't go his way. I hate how Ginobili initiates contact as the offensive player and gets calls. I hate how Parker drives wildly into the key and gets calls. I hate how Bowen gets away with slapping and grabbing on defense because of his "reputation as a great defender."

So when the Suns, a team I love to watch, beat these guys, I'm okay with that.

-Roger Clemens probably won't be speaking at a Texas High School Baseball Coaches' meeting in January.

The title of this aborted speech?

"How I played so long [in professional baseball]."


-Gotta love fantasy football. In one of my leagues, my team scored 35 points for the week.


To give you an idea of how bad that is, my previous low point total was 56 points. My high this season is 151 points. My starting QB, Tom Brady, has frequently had weeks where he scored over 35 points by himself.

In my other league, I'll be playing my little brother Matt for the title. If you could please root for Drew Brees, Donovan McNabb, and Chester Taylor this Sunday, I'd appreciate it.

-I love watching the train wreck that is New York Knick basketball. After following this saga as Isiah Thomas put together a horrible team and was then forced to coach it, the story gets more interesting all the time.

Seems Isiah has decided that questioning the heart of his players is a great coaching strategy right now. After losing to the Pacer 119-92 last night, Thomas said, "Very rarely do we discuss something that happened strategically. I look forward to that day when I'm not talking about heart and courage.''

Did lack of heart cause the Knick players to miss 20 straight shots last night? Is fear the reason New York is 7-17 on the year? That they are are 116-185 since Thomas arrived, 36-58 since he became the head coach, and 7-24 since he received a contract extension?

Maybe Isiah should take a closer look at himself when trying to figure out what's wrong with the Knicks.

-So Brett Favre finally passed Dan Marino to become the NFL's record holder for all-time passing yards at 61,367. I guess since he's already won a Super Bowl, something Marino never did, Favre has to be seriously considered as the greatest QB ever.

I believe Favre's biggest secret to his success has been longevity. For him to play 17 years in the NFL at quarterback is unheard of. As defenses have gotten faster and stronger, the fact that he's avoided major injury has become even more impressive.

Sure, Brett plays with reckless abandon and makes stupid mistakes at times (he holds the record for most career interceptions with 286). Heck, he didn't know what a nickel defense was until he'd been in the NFL for a few years.

But he has fun when he plays, and that's fun to watch.

Here's hoping Brett doesn't die on the football field, like Joe Paterno will one day.

But it's looking more and more like they'll need to physically drag him off the field to get him to stop playing.

-Finally, Bill Simmons released his seventh-annual NBA Trade Value Column today. It's always an interesting read; this year Dwight Howard is ranked second-most-untradeable. Howard's getting his own post here soon. Trust me.

Santa doesn't get paid enough

I received these pictures from my uncle Craig. Why do parents do this to their kids?

Late-night jaunt to Arctic Circle

After attending a high-school performance of Once Upon a Mattress last night in Idaho Falls, Mandi's pregnant belly craved some kind of delicious drink. The closest vendor of such thirst-quenching products was Arctic Circle, so we headed there.

Arctic Circle, for those of you back East, is a mediocre fast-food restaurant chain located mainly in Utah and Idaho. Occasionally I'll eat their food, mainly because they have fry sauce, but in general I'd rather hit Sonic or Gandolfo's.

But I remembered that Arctic Circle has a drink called the lime rickey, and that may fill my wife's craving.

Some part of my mind understood that the lime rickey is often alcoholic, but I doubted the Arctic Circle version would get Mandi drunk.

Anyway, we made the five-minute drive to the restaurant and pulled up to the drive-thru. I noticed that the menu offered both a lime and cherry rickey. To the purveyor of quickly-prepared sustenance inside I made the query, "What exactly is in the cherry or lime rickey"?

The response, garbled as voice usually is when transmitted through drive-thru speakers, came after a Napoleon Dynamite-ish lengthy sigh.

"We put lime, cherry, or grape in it."

Mandi and I broke into muffled laughter at this extraordinarily helpful definition.

The wife decided to order the cherry rickey, despite her only vague understanding of what it is. Near as we can tell, it's Sprite with cherry flavoring in it.

Why they don't just offer Cherry 7-Up, I don't know.

17 December 2007

Jazz lose to Hawks, I blame Collins

Go Jazz go!

Good grief, will the bad times never end? After losing to Atlanta tonight 116-111, the Jazz have lost seven of their last eight games.

Not impressive, especially considering the Hawks haven't beaten the Jazz in five years before today.

You can point to a few different factors when trying to figure out this loss.

Deron shot 3-12 from the floor.

Boozer, despite racking up 39 points and 12 rebounds, shot only 9-14 from the line. That's 64%, Booz. The team as a whole shot 69% on the night. Not good enough.

Four Hawks players scored 15 points or more. That's offensive efficiency the Jazz haven't seen in I don't know how long.

But a major and long-term problem the Jazz face?

Jarron Collins.

Up front, let me be clear that I have no problems with Jarron as a person. From all accounts, he is an intelligent, friendly, and wonderful guy.

But on the court, he's horrendous.

For 2007, Collins is averaging two points, two rebounds, and a tenth of a block in twelve minutes a game.

Tonight, Jerry Sloan gave him many of the injured Mehmet Okur's minutes, and Collins responded by scoring six points and hauling down three rebounds, while going 1-4 from the field, in 30 minutes.

With all of this evidence at his disposal, Sloan said yesterday that the Jazz "execute pretty well when [Jarron's] out there, and he passes the ball and tries to play the game the right way."

Did I mention Collins dished out two assists tonight?

When Paul Millsap, object of many a Jazz fan's mancrush, is averaging eight points and six rebounds a game in 20 minutes, I'd rather have him at the five than Collins, even if Paul does give up three inches to the Stanford graduate.

The handy site Basketball-Reference.com puts Millsap's per-40-minute stats for last season at 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Collins recorded nine points and seven rebounds per 40. Considering Millsap was a rookie is only going to get better, I know who I'd choose to play on my team.

Millsap has a supernatural sense for where the ball is going to come down. He was the only player in NCAA Division I history to lead the nation in rebounding for three consecutive years, starting when he was a freshman at Louisiana Tech.

Meanwhile, Collins is at his best when taking a charge.

Excuse me for not being overly impressed.

Looking ahead, the Jazz's next five games are against Charlotte, Orlando, Miami, Dallas, and the Lakers.

That's Okafor, Dwight, Shaq, Diop/Damiper, and Bynum, if you're interested. Utah will need solid play from their 5-spot if they want to win these games, and Collins is not the answer.

Until Sloan gets over his irrational Jarron-love, the Jazz are going to be trouble for the foreseeable future.

Of course, even when Okur is healthy, the Jazz don't get much from the center position. The need for a Utah to make a trade seems more and more clear every game.

We'll see if anything happens.

South Africa turmoil?

Having spent four months in South Africa a few years ago, I have an interest in news that comes from that country.

The African National Congress (ANC) has a tumultuous history. Initially formed in 1912 in response to the oppression blacks found themselves under from British and Afrikaners who were taking control, the group didn't become prominent until Nelson Mandela and other young black South Africans came about in 1944.

After apartheid rule was passed in 1948, the ANC used non-violent methods for years to oppose this racist rule of law. The ANC used strikes, boycotts, demonstrations and civil disobedience in an effort to stop white minority rule, following the example of leaders such as Ghandi.

However, white South African leaders proved to be extraordinarily stubborn. Factors that helped civil rights movements in the United States, such as media coverage, were no present in South Africa. Thousands of blacks, including students, were arrested, beaten, and even killed.

Faced with the realization that these non-violent activities would not force any change in the government, Mandela and others moved to violent methods, bombing governmental buildings and military locations.

Eventually, Mandela was arrested and imprisoned for almost 30 years.

Upon his release, which was possible thanks to South African President F.W. De Klerk, Mandela did a lot to end apartheid and prevent violence between the races. His idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which allowed people of all races to be absolved of past wrongdoings if they publicly admitted to them, was hugely influential in keeping the country together in the wake of apartheid's fall.

Since the ANC was born out of a need to tear down the establishment, it's not surprising that the party has had trouble functioning as the establishment.

Current president Thabo Mbeki has faced criticism for his handling of several issues, one of which being the AIDS epidemic in his country.

The ANC is now faced with nominating a candidate for the upcoming presidential election. Reports coming from the country say there is quite a bit of infighting, but Jacob Zuma seems to be the frontrunner.

I'll be watching this closely over the next few days.

Monday thoughts

-Boy, this blog is less than a month old, and already my prognostication record is horrible.

First, I go off on how great the Jazz are, and they promptly lose six in a row.

Then I post about how the Dolphins will most likely go 0-16 on the year, and they immediately beat Baltimore, albeit in overtime, ruining a potentially historic season.

And after insinuating that the Patriots might lose against the Jets on Sunday, New England squeaks out a 10-point win in the snow.

Let's just make it clear early that I am horrible at making predictions.

-The first full-length trailer to Batman Begins, named Dark Knight, is available here. This film looks to be as good as its predecessor; Batman Begins is one of the seven I've given legendary status to. Christopher Nolan may be my favorite director, and Christian Bale is among my top-five favorite actors. I need to dedicate an entire post to this.

-The Seattle Supersonics: Cure for What Ails Ya! The Jazz finally won a game, beating Seattle 96-75 Saturday. Of course, since the Sonics have become "Rookie Kevin Durant takes 40 shots a game", forgive me if I'm not overly impressed. Utah plays Atlanta tonight for a shot at winning two in a row.

I'll be posting more later tonight.

16 December 2007

The Star Wars Holiday Special

This is a two-part post.

First off, I'm sure many of you have seen the music video for Weird Al's "White and Nerdy." If not, here it is.

I could watch Donny dance all day.

Anyway, one of the scenes in the music video shows Al paying for a copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special. This was a two-hour television special broadcast on CBS in 1978. It was unfortunately only broadcast one time, much to the dismay of Star Wars fans who enjoyed seeing the franchise sell out.

Because it aired only once and has never been released on VHS or DVD, this wonderful special hasn't been seen by many people who aren't hardcore Star Wars nerds.

But thanks to the magic of Youtube, you can find most of the special online, for free!

Here's a clip of what the guy who posted it describes as "a coked-up Carrie Fisher" singing about who knows what.

Oh, and apparently Chewbacca's family takes a prominent role in the show.

If there's a better way to get into the Christmas spirit than watching this crud, I don't know what it is.

Merry Christmas!

Pet peeve

I like to think I don't get riled up easily. There aren't many things that can set me off.

But parents who give their kids stupid names sure do.

This includes parents who name their kids dumb stuff like Oranjello and Lemonjello or Espn or Velveeta, as well as kids who are given creatively-spelled names like "Mikheael" or "Kathrin."

Or a name I saw a few days ago, "Ahslee."

Come on, parents. I know some of you think you're giving your kids unique names; a way for them to stand out from the crowd, but really you're giving them a lifetime of mockery from the public at large.

It's hard enough being a teenager; imagine going through high school with a name like Aquanetta.

So knock it off, mom and dad. I realize that new names become accepted as they are given to thousands of babies over a long period of time, but you can't all be trendsetters.

Stick with Tyler and Heather and James and Christopher and Yolanda.

Your children will never know of your kindness, but the best charitable acts are the ones that go unrecognized.


15 December 2007

BYU basketball team not bad

This year's Cougar basketball team is pretty darn good. They've got several players that are playing very, very well.

1. Trent Plaisted. As Dick Vitale shouted on ESPN a few weeks ago, "Remember this name! Trent Plaisted! Trent Plaisted! Trent Plaisted!" Putting aside the fact that Dicky V is insane, he knows his college basketball. If he's talking big about Trent, that's good.

For him to say "Trent Plaisted is the best center you've never heard of!" is nice, too.

I think Dicky has used up his lifetime quota of exclamation marks.

Tonight Trent had a Dwight Howard-esque line of 18 points and 18 boards against Pepperdine. If he can keep this up, he'll declare for the NBA after this season.

2. Lee Cummard. This kid is good when he can stay out of foul trouble. He's long, quick, a great shooter and a great defender. Tonight he had a Kirilenko-esque line of 21 points, five rebounds, six rebounds and five blocks. He also shot 10-12 from the field.

3. Jonathan Tavernari is from Brazil, and is a shooter if I've ever seen one. When he's on, he hits five 3-pointers against Louisville. When he's off, he shoots 4-12 against Pepperdine. Tavernari has one of the quickest and smoothest releases I've seen from a college player.

Others like Jimmer Fredette, Ben Murdock and Sam Burgess have been great contributors to the team, as well.

The Cougars sit at 9-2 on the season, losing only to #2 North Carolina and #9 Michigan State.

If they continue this high level of play, BYU will win an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1993, when they beat SMU in the first round, 80-70.

Mark it down.

Sportsy Post (tm)

Some thoughts on a few current sports topics:

The Patriots can complete the first perfect regular season with by winning its final three games. This would be the first perfect season since the Dolphins did it in 1972. New England's next game is against the Jets. Conventional wisdom prior to this week was that the Pats would destroy this team, mainly because Jets coach Eric Mangini was the one who ratted them out in Cameragate.

But after learning that the forecast in Foxboro for Sunday is snowy with 40 m.p.h. winds, I'm thinking it wouldn't be that much of a shock if the Jets won. The Patriots have been less than impressive on the ground, averaging 78 ypg on the ground over the past five games. Sure, this is mainly due to the fact that Brady has been slinging the ball around like he's Brett Favre, but I'm not sure that Laurence Maroney can run the ball 30 times in a win.

The other fun aspect of the Pats' quest for perfection is that the Dolphins are winless, and have a great chance to go 0-17, setting a new NFL record for futility. The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14, but 17 losses is that much more impressive. The Fins have no defense and a horrible offense. Former BYU QB John Beck started a few games for Miami and didn't achieve any better results than Trent Green or Cleo Lemon have this season.

For one team to go unbeaten and one team to go winless in the same season would be pretty historic. And for the team that went winless to be the same team that first went unbeaten is even more interesting. I think Dolphins fans may commit mass hara-kiri.

Why did the Mitchell Report cost $20 million to make when it basically says, "A bunch of MLB players took steroids and HGH. Roger Clemens is one of them. We got this information from a couple batboys and Jason Giambi."

In other news, the Jazz still stink. They lost to Portland last night, 91-99. Two more games like that and Utah will sit at .500 on the season, after starting 13-5.

Go Jazz go!

Hey Rexburg, maybe you should plow your streets

Ever since the snow finally arrived in Rexburg, the roads have been horrible. As usual. For whatever reason, the city refuses to plow its roads, and as a result, stuff like this happens.

I enjoy how you can see the tire track of the car that ran it over... and it continues straight on to the main road.

I have to wonder if city council feels the cost of running snowplows is more than the total cost of car accidents that result from not doing so.

14 December 2007


When it comes to movies, I can be pretty picky. There are several factors I consider when deciding if a movie is good or not. If, after considering these factors, I decide a movie is good, then I'll see it again in the theater. If after this I still love the movie, I'll buy the DVD.

Currently, I have awarded seven movies "great" status by purchasing them.

This is the first in a series of posts explaining the criteria I use.

1. Competence. This is about characters doing things that make sense. When they do things that are obviously stupid, suspension of disbelief is hard to maintain. Tip: if the audience is screaming "NO! DON'T DO THAT!", the actor on screen is doing something incompetent.

Classic examples of this are: teenagers going off alone in a haunted house, bad guys explaining their entire plan to the good guys, and protagonists ignoring obvious warning signs that they are about to get shot in the back by a team member.

A common complaint about The Lord of the Rings movies is this: if Gandalf had huge eagles available to haul Frodo and Sam home from Mordor at the end of Return of the King, why not use said eagles in the first movie to drop the Ring into the lava in the first place?

Obviously because the movies wouldn't exist, but still.

Incompetence can come from both sides of the coin... though I often watch the bad guys more closely for signs of it, as it seems to be more frequently the antagonists who mess up. I prefer a movie where good triumphs over evil without evil tripping over its shoelaces.

An couple examples of bad-guy competence are found in Spiderman 2. In the scene where Doctor Octopus has kidnapped Aunt May and taken her up the building, there's a part where she sneaks up behind the villain and prepares to whack him with her umbrella.

Now, in a lesser movie, she would have successfully cracked him over the head and knocked him out, or at least distracted him enough to allow Spiderman to win the fight.

But no, Doc Ock sees it coming and easily brushes her aside with his robotic arms. No easy win for Spidey.


Later in the movie, Spiderman is fighting Doc Ock on a runaway train. After using the limits of his superhuman strength to stop the train from running off the tracks and killing everyone, Spidey passes out and is brought into one of the train cars by the passengers.

Dr. Octopus comes looking for our hero. In a display of courage often seen from the citizens of New York City, the train passengers form a barrier around Spiderman. "You want to get to him, you gotta go through me! " one of these brave souls declares.

Again, in a crappier film, these not-supernaturally enhanced people would defeat this supervillain and everyone would happy.

Instead, Dr. Octopus shrugs and physically crushes the passengers against the walls.

Simply fantastic.

The final example of bad-guy competence comes from The Bourne Ultimatum. On the off chance someone reading this hasn't seen the movie yet, I'll just reference the scene where Bourne is trying to save the life of the CIA-guy-turned-source in Madrid. The antagonist pulls off an excellent maneuver to trick Bourne and ultimately achieve his goal.

I guess the reason competence in film is so important to me is because I have an over-developed sense of fair play. Beating the other team in basketball is almost worthless if their best player is out with a broken arm. Winning a game of Uno because you stacked the deck before dealing is just lame. And if the good guys beat the bad guys because the bad guys screwed up multiple times, it hardly feels like a victory.

More factors to come. If you haven't seen Ultimatum yet, do it over the break. It's about to become the eighth movie I own.