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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thank You For Playing Bubble Hockey

I saw Thank You For Smoking today (first movie I've seen in theaters in a while), and it was outstanding. Lived up to all the good things I've heard about it. I highly recommend getting out to see it. That's all for my review - for some real reviews, go here (ignore the bug up the New York Times's reviewer's ass).

However, I can mention one thing about the movie that probably no other viewer caught. During the scene where Nick (Aaron Eckhart) goes back to his apartment with Heather (Katie Holmes, refreshingly unCruised), you can see, in the background, that Nick has a bubble hockey table. I really doubt that anyone else is going to catch that detail, especially during that scene. But trust me, it's there.

Apparently the director, Jason Reitman, is a fan of air hockey and has a table of his own where Eckhart and Cameron Bright, who played Nick's son, played while they went through the script. My guess is either that Reitman wanted to incorporate that into the film somehow, and either brought in a similar game, or he mistakenly called bubble hockey "air hockey." It's definitely bubble hockey in the movie - you can see the dome (no, not that kind).

Anyone know of any other movies where bubble hockey makes an appearance?

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Final Alias Fix

There are three shows on TV that I watch whose season finales are this week: 24, Alias, and American Idol (no comments on my choice of television, please). Alias typically airs on Wednesday nights, beginning right as American Idol's results show finishes, so there is usually no conflict. However, all three shows are running two-hour season finales. Alias wisely doesn't want to go up against the ratings juggernaut that is AI, so it moved its finale to tonight - where it will go up against the 24 finale.

In L.A., I had DVR, so this would be no problem. Here in Portland, I don't have DVR, but I have a solution, so if you're in the same bind I am, here's your answer. ABC.com streams old episodes of some of its shows free of charge, Alias included. All of the season's episodes are available, so I'm counting on the finale being posted sometime in the day after it airs. Now I can watch all my finales.

By the way, if you like Alias, this may interest you: a charity auction of props and wardrobe from Alias. The big items (as expected) are Rambaldi artifacts and Sydney's alter ego outfits, but if you're built like Sloane, Dixon, or Weiss, you can get some nice suits for cheap (assuming the bidding doesn't go nuts). I guess what remains of the show's fan base is female. For $0.99 (no bids yet), I think I can make this one look better than Weiss did (with a few alterations, of course).

Chief Justice Roberts Is Misinformed About Hockey Fights

Today, the Supreme Court, in its opinion in Brigham City v. Stuart, compared the role of a peace officer to that of a hockey referee, noting that "an officer is not like a boxing (or hockey) referee, poised to stop a bout only if it becomes too one-sided."

As far as I'm concerned, this raises two problems. First, Chief Justice Roberts is wrong - it's often the linesmen (not the referees) who break up fights, and they frequently stop a fight before the participants even begin throwing punches (admittedly, sometimes to my dismay). NHL Rule 41(f) specifically notes that while the referee tells the combatants to stop, it is the linesmen who physically separates them.
Any player who persists in continuing or attempting to continue a fight or altercation after he has been ordered by the Referee to stop, or who resists a Linesman in the discharge of his duties shall, at the discretion of the Referee, incur a misconduct or game misconduct penalty in addition to any penalties imposed.
The other issue that the Chief Justice's comment raises is a more serious one - the fact that people who don't follow hockey think that the NHL is a bunch of thugs on skates who only go around pummeling each other. (I'm assuming Roberts isn't an avid hockey fan, but you can try to prove me wrong.) This is far from the case. The new NHL rules seriously cut down on the amount of fighting in the league. The NHL has a reputation of being a goon league, which it isn't - there's an unbelievable amount of athleticism on display, especially with new rules opening up the ice.

Someone please send the following videos to Chief Justice Roberts:

And then please note this one:

Zdeno Chara, who stands 6-9, 260, pairs off with Vincent Lecavalier (6-4, 223), who is normally a big guy, but not compared to Chara. Chara has the chance to throw a knockout punch as Lecavalier tries to escape into the fetal position - but he doesn't, even though the ref is late to intervene. Instead, Chara shows some serious respect for his opponent, who is one of the best players in the game, one of its most marketable stars, and not a guy who typically goes out to fight.

While fighting is still a part of the game, it's not what hockey is all about.

Know Your Hockey Players/Pacific Northwest Chain Stores

In Portland, I have already come across Fred Meyer, a supermarket chain here in the Northwest, as well as Fred Meyer, a chain of jewelers (which is apparently owned by the supermarket chain, which is in turn owned by Kroger).

Neither of these are to be confused with former Boston University and current Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Freddy Meyer.

Here's a handy reference:An easy way to keep the two straight is to remember this simple rule of thumb: The supermarket and the jeweler both are in business during the months of May and June.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Gimme Some Morse

I went to the trouble of figuring out what Jason is spelling in Morse code in today's FoxTrot, so I might as well share it:It says, "Someday I will rule you all."

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Some Ballpark Irony

Today was my intern orientation at the ballpark. One of the things we did was go down the list of the season's promotions. On Thursdays, beers are a dollar. This is a standard minor league promotion, and it apparently only resulted in one fan's ejection last season, which is good, because you never know when I might have to work the pub area on a Thursday.

However, this season, Senior Citizens Day happens to fall on a Thursday. The next week, the team hosts "Faith and Family Night" on a Thursday. Should be interesting to see how the drinking crowd gets along with its grandparents/bible thumpers.

Also, the team holds an annual "Patriotic Night," where the team offers some promotion to members of the military, has a color guard for the anthem, arranges a fly-by, etc. It all sounds good, except that this season, Patriotic Night happens to be a game against the Vancouver Canadians. I guess we'll just have to remind them which country is in charge, eh?

(Seriously, though, I hope the fans don't go down the San Jose Sharks road and boo the Canadian anthem.)

One final ironic note - as we took the tour of the stadium (a nice minor league ballpark, by the way - I believe seating capacity is 4,600), we passed the door to the visitors' clubhouse, which bore a sign reading, "No visitors allowed."

Tiger Stadium used to have a famous sign similar to this, but I don't think it was a deliberate homage.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Portland Trail Blazer

This evening, after a long and arduous trip, I arrived in Oregon to begin my summer job. Unfortunately, the trip took a little longer than expected because my wagon tongue broke, not to mention the fact that a fellow traveler died of dysentery. I had to trade my iPod for a spare wagon tongue. I don't even know what a wagon tongue is. Those Dakota Sioux are crafty dealers. I did manage to bag a sweet buffalo, though. I was only able to carry 200 pounds of meat back to the car.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Screw Top Letters

I was thinking about having a glass of wine before going to bed last night, but I didn'’t. Why not? I don'’t have a stopper, and I didn't want to uncork a full bottle for just one glass. The obvious solution to this problem is to have wine bottles with screwcaps.

Now, I can get a stopper pretty easily, but screwcaps would still be a good thing, because it would prevent wine from ruin at the hands of a crumbled cork. Corked wine is nasty and should be avoided like a Rob Schneider movie. (Professor Stephen Bainbridge, an oenophile/UCLA Law prof with whom I haven't had a class, frequently mentions his preference for screwcaps/distaste for cork.)

Unfortunately, screwcaps are not going to become prevalent any time soon. The wine industry digs on tradition, and cork is a big part of that. There'’s a whole ritual involving sniffing corks and whatnot, and there are wine accessories where you can make things out of your used corks. When you bring wine to a restaurant, they charge you a "“corkage"” fee. I suppose they'’d charge it if you brought a screwcap bottle, because they still bring you glasses, but you could try to argue semantics.

Simply put, screwcaps aren'’t sexy. Screwcaps are sneakers, sweatpants, and a t-shirt; cork is [insert trendy shoes here], [insert trendy designer here], and those dumbass-looking oversized sunglasses that everyone in L.A. wears. Just like screwcaps are associated with Two-Buck Chuck and Mad Dog and not Opus One, you don'’t see sweatpants walking on Rodeo Drive.

The problem is that it'’s not the clothes, it'’s the wearer. Any woman can try to look sexy when she's all made up and dressed to go clubbing, but a truly sexy woman can pull it off lounging around in warmups. Similarly, it'’s all about the wine inside the bottle -– if it'’s a superb wine, you can pour me a glass regardless of whether you unscrewed or uncorked the bottle.

Of course, trends aren'’t set from the bottom. Unless Scarlett Johansson attends the Oscars wearing clothes from Target, don'’t expect to see the fashion parade to make a run on sweats. The industry won'’t change until its all-stars blaze the trail. Until then, it'’ll just be a few outliers and Boone'’s Farm.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Now Serving #715

I just wanted to throw this prediction out there, since I made it on April 27 and there's a chance it could come true. I wouldn't want to miss out on the credit in case I get it right.

I entered deadspin.com's contest to pick the pitcher who will join Al Downing in the "I gave up someone's 715th career home run" club (the contest is now closed).

My pick: "Bonds will hit #715 off of Jae Seo, continuing the odd trend of Korean pitchers giving up landmark home runs (Chan Ho Park - Bonds's 71st & 72nd, Cal Ripken Jr.'s final all-star HR; BK Kim - 2001 world series)." (By the way, why is Byung-Hyun Kim's nickname "B.K.?" Shouldn't it be B.H.?)

When I made that pick, Barry was sitting on 711, having gone yard three times in his last five games. I did a little projecting, made some random assumptions, and guessed that Bonds would reach 715 right around when he faced the Dodgers at home on May 12-14. Jae Seo, as I guessed a couple weeks ago, is still scheduled to start on May 14, which makes my pick a likely possibility. The Giants have five games between now and Sunday, but two are the classic day-game-after-a-night-game that Bonds frequently sits out, so I'm thinking Bonds will only play four of those games. If he homers in one of them, then Seo will be on the hot seat on Sunday, and I'll have to root for Bonds to hit a homer (shudder).

Monday, May 08, 2006

See, I Really Have Been To These Places

About a year ago, I wrote a post entitled "One Hundred Credit Cards I Would Rather Get Than A New York Yankees Credit Card." As part of that post, I mentioned three credit cards:
43. The Grand Canyon card. Once, on a flight from Phoenix to Boise, I flew over the Grand Canyon on a sunny day and took a couple really cool pictures that look better than the one on this card. Unfortunately, I lost them when my computer crashed.
42. The Mount Rushmore card. I also lost pictures of Mount Rushmore.
41. The Old Faithful card. Yep, I lost pictures of Old Faithful, too. I had a really cool sequence of seven or so pictures of that thing going off - gone forever.
As fate would have it, I happened to come across a CD I had burned prior to my computer crashing last April. On that CD - you guessed it - the pictures from that trip. Might as well share them with you.

The Grand Canyon, from an airplane:

Mount Rushmore:

Old Faithful doing its thing:

Guess those pictures aren't gone forever after all. I really need to get around to getting an auxiliary hard drive so I can back up the rest of my files now.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Is There Really A Debate Over Why Barry Bonds Is Hated?

I was thinking tonight (in between sporadic bursts of studying) about why, exactly, Barry Bonds is so hated by everyone outside of San Francisco.

The obvious answer is that Bonds has been found guilty in the court of public opinion of using steroids, and while that may be true, that's clearly not enough to draw the kind of ire that Bonds draws. Jason Giambi has been painted as a juicer, and he apparently admitted to using steroids in his BALCO grand jury testimony, but fans don't venomously hate Giambi. Rafael Palmeiro looked like an idiot after he got caught using, and he was booed, but he wasn't hated like Bonds. Mark McGwire was a beloved figure during his 70-HR season, despite the fact that he was using androstenedione (legal at the time). So I don't think steroids are the reason people hate Bonds, although that certainly provides additional fuel for the fire.

I also don't think, as Bonds and some others have suggested, that racism is a major factor. I think it would be naive to think that there is no racism at all in baseball, but at the same time, if people were so anti-Bonds because he's black, then why don't other black players receive similar treatment? Derrek Lee, Dontrelle Willis, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Pierre, Jimmy Rollins, Chone Figgins, Carl Crawford, Randy Winn, Coco Crisp, Vernon Wells, Prince Fielder - the list goes on and on - and if you ever hear anything negative about these guys (and for some, you won't), nobody ever links it to racism. Griffey gets hurt every year, but nobody chalks that up to his being black. Rollins doesn't walk enough for a leadoff hitter, but whenever someone pulls out that criticism of him, it isn't because he's black. So why, when someone gets negative on Bonds, does it suddenly become about race? I'm very skeptical of this.

This column from USA Today
, which ran a month ago, posited that steroids and racism were the reason for Bonds's bad image. It's wrong. The reason people hate Bonds, quite simply, is because he is, to put it kindly, a thoroughly contemptible, detestable person. Allow me to illustrate:

Bonds said no when he was asked at his news conference if he would sign the ball if a fan [who caught his 713th home run] wanted an autograph. Moments later, when an official asked if there were any more questions, Oliveras [the fan who caught the home run] piped up:

"Will you sign my ball?"

Bonds smirked and said nothing.

After his news conference, Bonds shook Oliveras' hand and took a picture with him.

"I'm happy because I got a picture and he shook my hand," he said.

There was one signature needed though. Oliveras had to sign a waiver for Bonds' reality show.

Isn't this outrageous? The guy who catches the ball can't get an autograph from Bonds, but has to take the time to sign a waiver so he can appear on Bonds's reality show? That's just nauseating. To really put it in perspective, consider the fact that Carlos Olivares, the fan who caught the ball, is enlisted in the Air Force.

Now compare that to this story from 1998. The fan who caught McGwire's 60th home run of the season returned the ball to McGwire, and in return, asked for season tickets for the following season and the chance to take batting practice with the Cardinals. Seems a little excessive, especially after hearing that Bonds won't even sign one autograph. Guess what? McGwire and the Cardinals gave him exactly what he wanted. McGwire's quote: "If that's all he wants, we can work it out." Meanwhile, Bonds can't even be troubled to sign a ball.

Bonds and McGwire may be of different races, but that's not the reason McGwire was a hero and Bonds is a villain. They put themselves in those roles simply by playing the part.

Don't Mess With Kyle Farnsworth (Revisited)

I've noticed that I get a decent number of hits on this site from people searching for video of the Kyle Farnsworth-Paul Wilson brawl that I mentioned in a post back in January. So I'll do those people a favor.

Here's the video of the fight. I don't know what the hell Paul Wilson was thinking in calling him out - Farnsworth (a) wasn't trying to throw at him in the first place, (b) needs little incentive to beat on someone anyway, and (c) outweighs Wilson by 30 pounds.

Check out Farnsworth's sweet body slam.

Sunday Morning Staying Up

During final exams, my sleep patterns get completely screwed up. I pretty much start sleeping when I'm tired, as opposed to by any fixed schedule. So last night, after watching a disappointing episode of Saturday Night Live (except the Chili Peppers, they were good), I studied for my Entertainment Law final for about 2 1/2 hours. It was 3:30 a.m., I still wasn't tired, so I played a couple games of NHL 06 online (and discovered just how bad I am at that game - I lost to one guy 3-0, but I got outshot something like 30-2).

At about 4:30, I decided I should just stay up and go see the sunrise. The Getty Center is probably the best place around from which to watch the sunrise, but I didn't think the tram would be running at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday. I decided to see if Malibu would be a decent place to watch - I figured that since the shore faces south, I could see the sun rise in the East. I checked weather.com for the time of the sunrise - 5:59.

Unfortunately, once I got to the beach, I realized I hadn't bothered to check the actual weather (turns out it was mostly cloudy). It was pretty hazy when I rolled up at about 5:40, and I was hoping the clouds would burn off. As 5:59 approached, it became clear that it wasn't going to become clear. Nevertheless, I took some pictures.

These were taken right when I got there, at around 5:45.One thing that was kind of cool about being there at that hour was that there were a few dozen surfers out in the water. I thought there might be a few, but I wasn't expecting so many, especially before 6 a.m. on a Sunday. I guess I went to the right beach.In this one, those specks in the water are all surfers out there, waiting to catch a wave in.This was taken at 5:59. Great frickin' sunrise, huh?As I was driving back from the 'Bu, a couple thoughts occurred to me. First, if you want to get anywhere in Los Angeles, 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday is a good time to do it. Second, I think the sun probably rises a little bit north of due east after the spring equinox, so even if I could have seen it, it would have been rising over the mountains, not the ocean. Next time I get this kind of brilliant idea, I'll try to pick a clear day in December.