Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Holding Out For A Hero

As the strike-shortened second season of Heroes meandered on, characterized by mediocrity punctuated with random cool moments, I found myself thinking that Heroes was slowly slipping into Smallville territory. That is, that the characters were acting stupid or out of character, ignoring past experiences or abilities, due to the demands of the plot. It reached the point on Smallville where I basically stopped watching because of this, and look, I read comic books: I can forgive a lot of nitpicky things, but it got bad. As the third season of Heroes dawned, I was worried that this show would also cross the already-high threshold of forgiveness I have for sci-fi related plothammering.

With three episodes of the new season in the bank, how are things shaping up? Better than I feared, but still not great. Thankfully, I still get a charge out of watching the show: its always fun to watch people using super powers, and I still care about some of the characters. I'm also accepting this show might never be a "great" one. It won't ever be Lost, but there's still hope it won't become Smallville.

Let's take a look at good and the bad of the last three episodes. Or, in the spirit of the show, the Heroes and the Villains.

Hero: Quick Resolution
Right off the bat we find out who shot Nathan at the end of last season, while he was on the verge of revealing his super power to the world: A time traveling Peter from a dystopic future (is there any other kind?) in which Nathan's revelations led to the prosecution and internment of all the powered people. Peter shoots Nathan to prevent his future from coming to pass.

Villain: Future Peter and Future Claire
The season opens with Future Peter running furiously to a warehouse. Um...Dingus? You can teleport. If I could teleport, I'd rarely walk, let alone run. Inside, he meets a dystopically-darkened Claire, pointing a gun and determined to stop him. Apparently, the audience is supposed to be so shocked and intrigued by a badass Claire that we don't ask why in the world Claire, of all people, thinks a gun would intimidate, let alone stand any chance of stopping, Peter. Um, Claire? He can telekinetically grab that gun from you, or melt it, or teleport away, or phase so that the bullets pass through him, or stop time, sip his way through a twelve pack, read a book and then causally grab it from you, or, you know, just let himself get shot because he can heal, using your power.

Villain: No limitation on Peter's power
Still no limitation on Peter's power (aside from his existing limitation of not being able to do anything significant unless Nathan or Adam tells him to). Peter is simply too powerful: he almost renders all the other characters obsolete. For awhile, it seemed like he could only use one power at time, which was an adequate enough limitation. But last season debunked that notion. Instead, it seems that the writers like to "trap" Peter to prevent him from having the full range of his powers. In the first season, he was confused and unpracticed, last season he lost his memories, and this season he got trapped in someone else's body. At least until that plot resolved itself in one episode, anyways...

Hero: A limitation on Hiro's power
Hiro pronouncement that he will no longer travel back in time due to the consequences involved was a welcomed limitation. From now on we'll be spared wondering why, whenever something doesn't go his way, Hiro doesn't just go back five minutes into the past to ensure that it will. Sure, one can argue the morality of this self-imposed limitation (should Hiro stick to it even if it means costing someone their life?) but in the meantime, it effectively ends an entire avenue of nitpickery and plothammering for the character.

Villain: Hiro's regression
In an attempt to recapture the glory of Season One the writers apparently decided to transport the Hiro of the first episode into this season, because all the character development he's gone through seems to have vanished. He's trained at his father's side, saved the world (twice), experienced a doomed love affair, and buried his father, yet in the last three episodes he's acted like the goofy office drone he was before all that. I can understand his desire to be a hero and not a sentinel (that certainly fits his character) but beyond that, all of his actions this season clearly show he hasn't learned anything from the last two seasons, which is increasingly frustrating.

Hero: Sylar stalking Claire
A suspenseful homage to classic horror flicks, with the silent and unstoppable killer relentlessly pursuing the teenage girl. And Sylar's ultimate victory and violation of Claire, and the fallout from it, was an obvious metaphor handedly with a deft touch by a show that usually handles such metaphors with a much heavier hand.

Villain: Claire as the teenage victim
I can wholeheartedly endorse Claire's newfound desire to become more offensive: she is in danger of being defined only by her damsel-in-distressness. I was okay with her not just jumping through the blinded windows (she was scared and not thinking clearly) and I was okay with Sylar getting 'stopped' by the cupboard door (he wasn't, really. He was just having his idea of fun). But I've had enough with Claire constantly being the victim or the object of salvation. Give the girl an empowering storyline already!

Hero: Linderman's back
It's great to have Malcolm McDowell back as Linderman, particurlarly since we don't know in what capacity he's back: a ghost? A figment of Nathan's imagination? An illusion or shapeshifter. It's a mystery I'm interested in seeing resolved, but in the meantime, its fun to watch Linderman interact with Nathan again, something they didn't get to do nearly enough in the first season.

Villain: Claire's Mom's back
Look, I'm as big a fan of bringing back old characters as anyone, and I was excited, in theory, to see Claire's real mom back. But since when is she some kind of Zen instructor? Even before it became apparent her fighting lessons were just a veil to force Claire to work through her Sylar issues, what was Claire expecting this woman to teach her? The last time Claire (and the audience) saw her, she seemed perfectly happy living the trailer trash lifestyle, milking Nathan for hush money. Now she's suddenly Yoda? And, nitpick here, how was she breathing while in the super heated container while Claire, who theoretically, may not even need oxygen to live (Adam clearly doesn't), was having problems doing so?

Hero: Ma Petrelli
From the smooth way she took charge of the Company and smacked down Future Peter to her revelation to Sylar (whether she's telling the truth or not), Ma Petrelli continues to be one of the more interesting characters to watch. Plus, we got confirmation of her power, even if Noah seems to think she's normal (he said to her "one of us, one of them" not "one of you, one of me.").

Villain: Mohinder's still a moron
No character has suffered from the demands of plothammering more than Moronder, and he's off to a great start this season. I can buy him being so overcome with scientific zeal that he'd create a power-granting formula despite the fact that, seriously, its going to cause more problems than it could solve. I could even see him injecting himself with it in the right circumstances (Maya is in danger, Sylar comes back, heck, change his "mugging" scene so that he injects himself as a result of the mugging) but injecting himself with an untested serum after a contemplative nightime gaze across the water? Moron, or slave to the plot?

Hero: Bennet is still a badass
From cooling tossing the Steve McQueen ball in his level 5 cell, to springing into action when Sylar attacked to reluctantly donning the Company suit again to track down the escapees, Bennet is still cool, calm and pretty badass.

Hero: Noah's new partner
In theory, the idea of teaming Noah with Sylar to hunt down super powered villains is such a good one I'm willing to overlook the plothammering inherent in making it work (Bennet's really going to be strong-armed into working with the man who metaphorically raped his daughter? The Company is really going to set Sylar loose leashed by nothing more than Ma Petrelli's manipulation?). All that aside, Sylar using his previously-seen acting skills to take charge of the situation was priceless and it was great seeing him wipe the floor with some bad guys for a change. Seeing how Bennet struggles to keep him leashed will be interesting and will ultimately determine how good this storyline is in practice.

Villain: Parkman's in Africa? Here we go again...
One of the biggest problems last season (aside from the Dunder Twins) was Hiro's prolonged stay in feudal Japan, which had the fan favorite isolated from the main cast for most episodes. Now, Parkman is no fan favorite, but I like him, and part of what I liked so much about the first season was watching how all these disparate characters came together against a common foe. Again, the second season faltered because, after bringing them together, it tore all those characters apart. This season, there's far more character interaction but once again, there's the that one character who is too far removed from the main action. Look, writers, we want to see these characters form a league of...justice, or something, not wander around the world meeting new people and increasing the cast size.

Hero: Villains!
It's nice to have some bad guys for our heroes to fight that aren't Sylar or apocalyptic futures.

Villain: Wait, they're captured already?
My understanding was that this volume was "Villains" and it would use, at least as a backdrop for whatever the "future we must prevent" plot would be, the idea that a bunch of superpowered criminals were loose and needed to be hunted down. We see them escape in the second episode. In the third, two are dead and the rest recaptured. That was...quick. Hopefully there's more to this plot-maybe some other villains escaped that still need capturing? Otherwise, that was just one big tease...

Hero: Time Travel. Again.
Yeah, that's right. I'm going to make a stand and be the lone voice on the internet saying that yet another overarching plot involving the prevention of an apocalyptic future is a "pro." I'll be the first to admit that such stories play to my bias, but beyond that, in a show that features two characters that can do it, time travel HAS to be involved in some capacity. And while the whole "prevent the future from occuring" plot seems hackneyed by now, each time it's been done, it's been done a little bit differently. In the first season, the tragic future was avoided. Had the second season unraveled as planned, the tragic future would have come to pass. And this season, it seems, one tragic future is averted but in doing so, a worse one is created, calling into question the mechanics of preventing it in turn: in doing so, couldn't things just get progressively worse? Perhaps that will be the out the writers use to do away with this kind of story entirely, making most everyone else very happy. Am I making excuses for this plot device? Definitely. But I still like it, damn it.

Whew. I didn't intend for that to be so long. But it does cover three episodes. I'd like to do some kind of write-up for each Heroes episode but I'm not sure what format to use. They certainly don't warrant the kind of involved (read:long-winded) analysis I give episodes of Lost.

So I ask you, our loyal readers, what kind of format would you like to see? A continuation of this Hero/Villain dicthomy for each episode? Simpler "what I liked/didn't like" in the episode bullet points? Plot recaps? Or would you rather I just shut up about Heroes?

Monday, September 29, 2008

MLB Headlines Week 25

Yeah, Pessi-Bitz is back. Let's just go over the facts. The Twins pretty much choke against the Royals but manage to salvage a game. The White Sox do something similar but win their one game against the Tigers to force the one game playoff. They do it in semi-dramatic fashion giving them the momentum.
So, you've got the Twins going against the White Sox who have all the momentum playing at the White Sox stadium. The Twins are a terrible road team and the White Sox are a great home team. To top it all off, The Twins manager is saying "Hey, we nobody thought we'd even be in this position. So we're happy to have gotten this far." Which would be fine if you already lost the division, the manager should put some positive spin on it, but when you still got a chance you should not talk about being happy with just settling.
I'll let you do the math on who I feel will win Tuesday night.
Oh, and naming the new Twins ballpark "Target Field" is dumb also. There should only be one "stadium" with the name Target in it in the same city. I mean, what's the over/under on people confusing Target Center with Target Field in casual conversation?
Oh, and I predict that Mauer loses the Batting Average title on Tuesday while the Twins lose. How's that for pessimism?

www.mlb.com Headline of the Week:
With a Win, Mets can live to see another Shea

It's funny, cause they didn't. Now Shea stadium is being torn down. I suppose I'll give a nod to a sign I saw in the Metrodome on last Tuesday that said "I have fever, and the only cure is more Kubel" which was cool since he hit two home runs in that game.

Dr. Bitz:
September 27th, 2008 - Royaks 4 Twins 2
Royal choke job by Twins

September 28th, 2008 - Rays 8 Tigers 7
Lambert lambasted in eleventh

September 28th, 2008 - Pirates 6 Padres 1
Pirates not friendly to pitcher LeBlanc

Teebore:
September 28th, 2008 - Royals 0 Twins 6
Offense cooks up a half dozen runs for Baker but only the White Sox can make it a sweet finale

September 28th, 2008 - Marlins 4 Mets 2
No playoffs in New York as Mets "Shea" goodbye to their stadium and their season

September 28th, 2008 - Cubs 1 Brewers 3
CC clutch against Cubs as Braun powers Brewers into playoffs

I know you're going to say that I'm just being bitter and pessimistic with the first pun. And you're right. But that loss Saturday really sticks in my craw. The Friday loss I can handle. I could accept the Twins going 2 of 3 against the Royals and Friday was the predictable "let down" game. But the Saturday loss was unacceptable. They had so many chances to win that game and they blew all of them. And if the Twins won that game (and the subsequent one) they wouldn't have to worry about going to Chicago.
Anyway, I won last week. And I think I take the crown of the best punner this baseball season. I have 11 Wins and 5 ties. Teebore has 7 wins and 4 ties. So this week doesn't really factor in...but keep up the voting anyway!

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10:58 AM: Well, if you didn't read the summation last week, the championship is two weeks long. If it was just one week I would've won. But after the first week my team collapsed while his did awesome. Still, I had a good Saturday, partially due to the Twins imploding, and this is how it looks:
R HR RBI SB AVG W SV K ERA WHIP
Me: 50 15 50 2 .257 8 11 116 4.75 1.43
Him: 54 14 63 9 .278 8 9 92 4.35 1.31

I'm losing 6-3 at the moment. I have a change at Wins and Runs, but I need on more category, which will be tough. But MAYBE ERA, WHIP, or Average. But it looks bleak. And due to me being...uh...drunk last night I forgot to use my last add on a pitcher. We'll see if it will cost me, as I'd probably take whoever is today's Royals pitcher, Duckworth, to hedge my bets. Which is a bit ominous...But let's see what happens.

1:00 PM: Yahoo's live stat tracker isn't working. Which will make my log harder. Stupid Yahoo...I'm sick of them. Anyway, both Scott Olsen, my pitcher, Carlos Delgado, and Alex Rodriguez are in rain delays. Awesome.

1:39 PM: So I've got Juan Uribe up to the plate with bases loaded in the White Sox game in a tie game. I figure whatever happens is good for me...unless of course Uribe reaches on an error. Which happened. White Sox take the lead but my fantasy team gets no help. Vikings just miss a field goal and are down by 10 at the half. The Twins are playing like a noose is around their neck...it's shaping up to be a great day.

2:08 PM: Scott Olsen has pitched 4 Innings with no runs, two hits, and no walks. I can tell you that that's a 0.00 ERA and 0.50 WHIP, what that means for my team? I have no idea because of stupid Yahoo.

2:09 PM: An error gives the Twins a man on first and third with 1 out, then they hit Delmon Young to load the bases. If I didn't know better, I'd think the Royals WANT the Twins to win the division. Now if only Cleveland can hold up their end of the bargain.

2:15 PM: And the Royals screw up a throw to home and the Twins score. The Royals DO want the Twins to win.

2:16 PM: Just like yesterday, the Twins were one hit away from breaking the game open and relieving the pressure that's been building up. Just like yesterday, the Twins failed to get that one big hit. And I have a feeling, that just like yesterday that failure will bite the Twins in the ass.

2:21 PM: Hey, live scoring is back! And I'm still losing 3-6. Awesome!

2:26 PM: Pujols...hehehe...is 1 for 2 with an RBI and was taken out of the game. God I love end of the season baseball...that's sarcasm. And probably a good reason fantasy baseball should end a week earlier. But perhaps I'm just bitter.

2:33 PM: "Professor" Xavier Nady stabbed me in the back and hit a 3 run homer. I'm losing 6-2 now.

2:45 PM: Justin Morneau popped out. Right now, he's the biggest reason the Twins are struggling. I'm shocked the Twins swept the White Sox the way he played. And frankly, regardless of whether the Twins win the division or not, Morneau does not deserve the MVP. It looks like that honors should go to Dustin Pedroia.

2:57 PM: Joey Votto hits a home run. I'm once again leading that category.

3:08 PM: Jermaine Dye hit a 2 run single. I think my fantasy team is so far out of it that I can't even be remotely happy about it.

3:42 PM: Well, the Twins finally get a clutch hit with Delmon Young's two run single. Looks like the Twins should be winning that game...but the White Sox already wonn. And I just can't see them losing to the Tiger's tomorrow. Looks like a one game playoff is in our future.

4:26 PM: Twins win. I'm still going to lose my championship. Like I said before, I'm sure the White Sox will win tomorrow, so I'm nervous about the Twins playing in U.S. Cellular field.

6:47 PM: I've done the math...and I shouldn't have. According to my calculations, if I picked up Duckworth last night to hedge my bets, which I probably would've done if I wasn't drunk, I would've tied WHIP and won ERA. Making the final 4-4 and giving me the tie breaker in ERA and thus garnering me the championship...and I'm bitter...and pissed at myself...and I don't want to talk about it.

10:44 PM: I suppose I have to do a prologue...:

R HR RBI SB AVG W SV K ERA WHIP
Me: 54 16 57 2 .265 9 11 131 4.35 1.32
Him: 57 16 69 10 .269 8 9 94 4.29 1.30

Yeah...I lose 6-3. But I really think that if I picked up Duckworth on Saturday instead of pass out I would've won 4-4. *sigh*

Nemesis of The Week:
Me...for being an idiot.

Savior of The Week:
No savior...it would've been Duckworth.

The Moral of this week's story is that winners don't drink booze. Take it from me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pessi-Bitz

Do to the timely nature of this post and the fact that I feel the need to get this off my chest I'm posting over Teebore's post within hours of when it was posted. However, I encourage everyone to scroll down and read his summer movie review. He's always so much kinder than I.
Anyway, I want to talk some Twins. The Twins just won their biggest game of the year so far and did it in about as dramatic of fashion as I can think of.
The Twins were down 6 to 1 in the 4th inning where they also lost their starting pitcher forcing them to rely on a shaky bullpen for the remainder of the game.
The Twins scratched and clawed there way to tie the game in the 8th inning. The Twins won it 7 to 6 in the bottom of the 10th inning with a walk off single. It was about as good of a baseball game as you can get and the Twins won it...so why am I filled with dread?
Because I'm a pessimist, of course. But I'll elaborate.
I remember the 2006 season. The Twins were terrible for the first third of the season and then went on an historic tear and ended up winning the division on the final day of the season after their game finished when Detroit lost later that afternoon. It was the first time all season that the Twins were in 1st place in the division. It was dubbed "Twins Magic". That was the last game they won that season. They got swept in the divisional series...badly...and that was that.
The way the Twins celebrated today and the breathless reporting of the accounts of the game would make you think the Twins already won the division. They haven't. They have three games left and the White Sox have four. And I can't help but envision a let down occurring this weekend where the Twins win one of three games while the White Sox win enough games to take the division.
Let's hope the Twins can prove me wrong. They've done it all season. What's one more time?

Summer Movie Report Card

Fall is officially upon us, which means the nights are getting longer, the weather colder, and the movies crappier. So in this transition period between popcorn blockbusters and award contenders, let's look back at the summer that was at the cinema...

Iron Man: A fantastic kickoff to the summer movie season. Easily one of the best comic book movies yet. A superb cast. Usually, the first movie of a comic book series adaptation can be a bit boring because so much time is spent on an origin I already know backwards and forwards. In this case, Tony Stark himself was so much fun to watch that I didn't care how much time the filmmakers took to get him into the Iron Man armor and kicking ass. A+







Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: I think I liked this a little more than the first one, but I'll need to watch it again to be sure. It was a little darker and more action-y without being too derivative of the Lord of the Rings. It was nice to see Susan get some extra attention before she gets banished from Narnia (and the subsequent films, presumably) for liking boys.

Still, I had to chuckle when Aslan admonished Lucy, saying things never happen the same way twice...and then he proceeds to save the day in the nick of time, just like in the first movie. Oh, Aslan, you crazy Jesus Lion, you...B+


Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Let's just get this out of the way: no, this wasn't perfect, or even great, but it wasn't terrible either. It was fun to see Indy in action again, to hear the Raiders March and the crack of the whip in a theater. I liked the offhand remarks that filled in what happened between films, and I thought Mutt worked well (except when his CGI avatar was ridiculously playing Tarzan). I didn't even mind mixing the more sci-fi alien stuff into the Indy mythology in a Stargate-y kind of way, which worked given the setting of the film (atomic age, 1950s, Soviets), though I definitely could have done without the alien actually coming alive and moving at the end.

I did not like that after getting captured by the Soviets, Indy didn't really do anything to figure stuff out; he basically fought Commies and followed Oxley around. And as much fun as it was to see Marion again, and to tie up that relationship once and for all, by the end, between Indy, Marion, Mutt, Oxley and the irrelevant triple agent partner guy, it all seemed a little too crowded. Baroness Van Bitzenhofer said it best, as the credits rolled: "I didn't realize we were seeing National Treasure 3." B-


The Incredible Hulk: Less psychological and needlessly artsy than the previous film and more "Hulk smash!", this somehow felt like it fit in the same "universe" as the Iron Man film (and not just because of the cameo), something Marvel is most likely doing intentionally now that they control their motion picture destiny and seem intent on translating the shared universe feel of their comics to their films. Dr. Bitz felt the plot was a bit slight, and he's not wrong, but I didn't notice it until he mentioned it, so it didn't bother me. Perhaps I'm more conditioned to Hulk stories that don't consist of much more than "Hulk run, Hulk smash, Hulk run again." B




Wanted: Stylish and fun if a bit slight. It speaks to the beaten down office drone in all of us, a sort of violent, gun-filled Office Space in parts. The film casts the protagonist in a more positive light than the source material, I understand, and leaves behind some of the author's politics, which is fine; I enjoyed this enough as a better-than-average shoot 'em up action film.
B








Hancock: Seeing previews for this, I was of two minds: on the one hand, I was excited to see a comic book movie featuring an original character. On the other hand, words can't describe how sick I am of watching Will Smith "aw, hell no"-ing his way through summer blockbusters.

In the end, I was right to be wary, though I had it a bit backwards. Smith was fine but the movie ended up a muddled mess that seemed to end both too abruptley and not soon enough. Jason Bateman was the sole saving grace: give Michael Bluth more work! D+





Wall-E: Gorgeous, well made, thoughtful and touching. No doubt this will stand the test of time as one of Pixar's classic films. A-














Hellboy II: The Golden Army: A pleasant surprise, overshadowed by the other two excellent comic book movies of the summer. The first Hellboy movie was okay, not bad but not great (though I've enjoyed it mor upon subsequent viewings). This one was better, fully delving into the arcane and fantastical world that existed just below the surface in the original film. It had a very universe-building Star Wars feel to it, in that there was so much going on in the background that it felt like there was limitless stories waiting to be told with these characters in this setting. A






Mama Mia: Mrs. Teebore's desire to see this was much greater than mine, but I think I ended up enjoying it more than she did. While she spent the film comparing it to the musical and being dissapointed by some of the omissions and changes, I just kicked back and enjoyed Abba in Surround Sound* and the sight of James Bond singing power ballads.
C

*
What? I grew up listening to my mom's Abba Gold album. They're catchy tunes...






The Dark Knight: What can I say that hasn't already been said? A genre defining movie that not only raises the bar on all subsequent comic book movies, but also, in many ways, transcends the genre in a way few (no?) other comic book films have. I believe in Harvey Dent. A+










Step Brothers: Funny in the expected way but lacking the strong and memorable supporting cast that made similar Will Ferell outings (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) rise above the expected. B












Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Good enough if you're the target audience (kids and Star Wars fans). I am, so I enjoyed it in that regard. It did the job it set out to do: get me excited for the TV series, where the animation will play out a lot better. I'd imagine it's a little dull and lackluster for non fans, though. B+










Tropic Thunder: Funny in an unexpected way, with lots of social commentary, satire, and cameos alongside the expected jokes about actors and Hollywood. Worth it for the trailers at the beginning alone. B+

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This Day in History

According to WIKIPEDIA, today is Celebrate Bisexuality Day, apparently.

Does anyone know what day Elderly Incest Appreciation is observed?

How about People Porking Pork – Barnyard Bestiality Bonanza?

Monday, September 22, 2008

MLB Headlines Week 24

Well, it's gut check time for the Twins. It's kind of weird. Being 2 1/2 games back doesn't sound like a lot, but when you realize there are only 6 games remaining and you start doing the math...it almost feels like the Twins need to win the rest of their 6 games to get into the playoffs.
They certainly need to sweep the White Sox. But we'll see. You'll be shocked to hear that I'm not optimistic.

www.mlb.com Headline of the Week:
Dice-K rolls a one; Sox on verge of October Date

Apparently the Red Sox magic number is one...I wish the Twins' magic number was one....

Teebore:
September 20th, 2008 - Twins 2 Rays 7
Bad outing by Slowey speeds the Rays into the playoffs

September 22nd, 2008 - Mets 6 Braves 7
Braves beat Mets as beleaguered bullpen biffs it again

September 22nd, 2008 - Red Sox 3 Blue Jays 0
Dice-K sends Jays south for the winter

Dr. Bitz:
September 21st, 2008 - Twins 4 Rays 1
Twins sting the Rays

September 21st, 2008 - Phillies 5 Marlins 2
Chase-d by the Mets, Utley unleashes a homer inching Phillies closer to the postseason

September 21st, 2008 - Tigers 5 Indians 10
Detroit's Dontrelle destroyed

Well last week Teebore and I tied at one vote a piece. I think this time it was just he and I voting for each other. Don't worry folks. Only one week left.

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No real log this week, since the finals are 2 weeks long. Which of course means if the championship was one week, like every other week of fantasy baseball, I would've won. But of course they have to give me a whole other week to blow it. And we all know I will. Especially since the iron fist of boots~ laid down a decree that the 2nd place winner in the playoffs gets $20 less than they were supposed to. So I know I'm going to get screwed...but here's how it looks after a week:

R HR RBI SB AVG W SV K ERA WHIP
Me: 27 8 25 2 .231 5 6 67 4.03 1.21
Him: 30 8 36 6 .257 5 5 36 4.47 1.47


So yeah, we're tied. But I won ERA, so if it ended after just one week I would've won the championship. But it's not over, and as of tonight, I'm already losing 5-2...including ERA. Awesome.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What I Watched On My Summer Vacation

Mrs. Teebore and I spent a week up north at my father-in-law's cabin this summer and, well, we watched a lot of movies (and TV-on-DVD). Hey, there's only so much jet-skiing, swimming, antiquing and game-playing a couple can do before turning to movies, especially with only two local TV channels (though I did get to watch Jeopardy a few afternoons). So here's what we watched to fill that time:

Major League-Whilst watching a few minutes of this on TV one day, my wife commented that she had never seen it. So I made sure to bring it along on our vacation, as it had also been awhile since I'd seen it in one sitting (as opposed to on TV, edited and chopped up by commercials). It was a pleasure to once again hear Dorn drop the f-bomb when pumping up Vaughn during the last game, instead of whatever lame "family-friendly" dialogue the censors edit in. Mrs. Teebore seemed to enjoy the movie as well, particularly the slightly pre-fame Charlie Sheen's turn as "Wild Thing" Vaughn.

Also, apparently the DVD version I picked up at 1/2 Price Books for $5 was a directors cut of the film or something, because it had scenes I'd never seen before. Most of them involved fleshing out the relationship between Tom Berenger and Rene Russo, and since I spend most of my time during such scenes in the "cut" version wishing they'd get back to the wacky baseball hijinks already, most of the added scenes in this version were pretty unnecessary.

Lethal Weapon-Another cable TV favorite that the missus had never seen and I hadn't seen uncut in some time. Still a classic of the genre and a lot of fun. Mrs. Teebore particularly enjoyed the work of a pre-reality TV show star Gary Busey.

Like the Major League DVD, this one had some extra scenes added in, again, mostly extraneous. A couple at the beginning reinforced the notion that Gibson's Riggs was living on the edge (the scene at the Christmas tree lot, which on this DVD, is now the third such "Riggs is crazy" scene, did the job just fine on its own). Another added scene showed the morning routine Murtaugh had before getting partnered up with Riggs. It added some dimension to the action towards the film's end when, after escaping from the bad guys, Murtaugh stands at the end of an alley, cracks his neck and quick draws on an approaching car, killing the driver. Thanks to this Directors Cut I now know that was a move he practiced every morning on the gun range.

Stargate-For the last few years, I've been watching a "highlights only" version of Stargate with a group of friends. The wife and I enjoy the show enough that we've expressed interest in going back to watch more of the show (not just the overarching, plot-centric episodes) so for my birthday this year, those friends were kind enough to give me the first two seasons on DVD. Before watching them, though, I wanted to rewatch the movie that started it all.

This was a much more cerebral science fiction movie than the action figures released alongside it would suggest; perhaps this is why the only time I'd seen if before, on video as a kid, I was kind of bored by it. I mean, you stick Kurt Russell in a movie and toss some explosions into the trailer and what else is a 13-year-old supposed to expect? It wasn't until I was introduced to the TV show (which, before friends recommended it, I avoided based on my recollection of the film) that I felt an urge to revisit the film. It holds up much better now, caused, I'm sure, by my famiiarity with what follows it in the TV series and my altered expectations. There really isn't much action to speak of until the last act but it hums along regardless, making the most of its setup (ancient gods were actually aliens) and setting (soldiers trapped on an alien world-how will they get home?) to not really need big action set pieces.

Also, French Stewart plays one of the soldiers, completely straight. I did not know this until rewatching it this summer. Hilarious, but it clearly wasn't meant to be.

This Is Spinal Tap-I'd never seen this before, and sadly, I probably would have enjoyed it more if the funniest bits weren't already so familiar to me. They've become such a part of the pop culture fabric that one can know them without ever having seen the movie. Thus I was already familiar with the best parts.

Still, it's a funny movie, with the same kind of droll humor and wry antics one comes to expect from the creator of Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show. Definitely something I'd come back around to seeing again, and at least now I can say I've seen it.



Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan-An old favorite the missus had never seen and I hadn't watched in awhile (she's more of a Next Generation gal). I was curious if it held up to my recollection, and it did. Like Stargate, it was less action-y than I remembered, which makes sense for a Star Trek movie. Instead of phaser fights and space battles (though there are some) this is a measured look at growing old, the regrets that go along with that, and the strength of friendship. It's also a great examination of obsession, drawing parallels to Moby Dick in the same way the Next Generation crew's finest film (First Contact) will do.

Of course, it also features the Kobayashi Maru, the screen debut of Kirstie Alley, and lengthy scenes in which Shatner and a prosethetic-chest-sporting Ricardo Montalban chew up the scenery and spit it at each other, so it's got that going for it as well. And I have to admit, everytime I watch Kirk's euology for Spock I get a little teared up. "Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human."

The seesaw battle over which original series Trek film is my favorite (this or Undiscovered Country) goes on...

Grease 2-After watching Khan, I figured it was only fair to give my wife her due and watch a movie she had been yearning for me to watch, one of her favorites. It wasn't that bad, I suppose, certainly no worse than the first one, and maybe just a little bit better. The music is fairly derivative and the girl who wanted to go to beauty school in the first movie is back at the high school, for some reason, but it does feature a very young Michelle Pfeiffer and a guy who masquerades as a mysterious motorcyclist, not unlike the Voltron-esque Dark Rider that the Marvel mutant cyclists of Team America form. Yeah, it's as bad as it sounds, but Mrs. Teebore is right: I'd still rather watch this than the first Grease movie.


Thoroughly Modern Millie-A friend of mine gave me this movie for Christmas last year, after I requested some old classics. Sitting down to watch it, we were expecting something in the predictable-but-not-without-its-charms 60s musical genre, something not unlike My Fair Lady or the King and I. Instead we watched one of the most awesomely batshit insane movies ever.

Seriously, you know you're in for something awesomely insane when within the first five minutes of the film you're already treated to a dance-powered elevator. The plot of the film basically involves Mary Poppins trying to:

A. Find a husband
B. Bust up a slavery ring coordinated by her landlady in which single young women are sold to the Chinese.

In that order.

Along the way, there's aerial dog fights, the scaling of buildings, car chases, a young Mr. Myagi, Mary Tyler Moore, several jokes involving knockout gas, and a climatic final battle involving trampolines.

It's like the Adam West Batman movie of 60s musicals.

Noises Off!-After that insanity, it was all comedies for us the rest of the way. We had a bit of a Michael Caine night. I've seen the stage version of Noises Off! but never the film. I was curious how well the third act, which takes place silently and entirely "backstage" of the play the characters are performing, would work on screen. If anything, it worked a little bit better, affording us more opportunities to see the expressions on the actor's faces.

It was also a bit bittersweet, seeing as how the movie starred both Christopher Reeve and John Ritter, but having seen little of either actor beyond their more well known roles (Superman and the Problem Child films...er...I mean, Three's Company, respectively) it was fun to see them doing something a little different.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels-Like This Is Spinal Tap, I'd seen bits and pieces of this movie on TV, comedic restrospectives and Scene It trivia questions, but I'd never seen it from start to finish, and even though I thought I already knew the whole story, it turns out I didn't. I've always had an affinity for Steve Martin, but I usually think of Michael Caine as more of a serious actor than a comedic one; between this, Noises Off and Jaws 4 I've come to see he can be wicked funny as well. Another film I'll probably dust off every few months for a good laugh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Poetic Celebration of Dr. Bitz's Fantasy Baseball Team

For two seasons of Fantasy Baseball now, Dr. Bitz and I have had a standing wager: whenever we'd play each other, head to head, we agreed that the loser of that matchup would have to write up a blog post about how awesome the winner's team is.

If you can believe it, in two seasons we never reached a decisive conclusion: we'd either tie (in which case, technically, whomever had the better ERA would be declared the winner, but we agreed that didn't seem like a REAL victory, worth bragging about) or else face each other during the week shortened by the All Star game (in which we agreed to void our bet since it was a short week; good thing, too, because this season Dr. Bitz CRUSHED me 9-1 that week).

Until now.

That's right, with Dr. Bitz's decisive 6-4 victory over me in the championships last week, we finally have winner in our little wager. Sadly, I was the loser.

So without further ado, here is a poetic celebration of the awesomeness of Dr. Bitz's Fantasy Baseball team.

Mighty Yankee
A-Rod swings the bat.
In awe stands Jesus himself
reborn a Yankee

A Man Named Randy
There once was a pitcher named Randy.
His fastball and slider were dandies.
When facing his foes,
his pitches said "no!"
For at striking out batters he was handy.

Ode to a Second Basemen*








*this space left blank because Dr. Bitz's second basemen went on the disabled list early in the week, and his team is so good, it didn't need a healthy one to beat me.

B is for Baseball

A
lbert Pujols knocks 'em home,
While Dan Haren strikes 'em out,
Ethier keeps on hittin'.
Swing and a miss!
Opposing teams hear.
Many runs are scored.
Every player's a star!

Second
For many kids, hitting a Major League homer is a dream
Most pros are happy hitting one in a game it seems
But for Carlos Delgado, second-half savior
Hitting two home runs in a game is routine.

Talkin' Baseball
(sung to the tune of Talkin' Softball...or the original Talkin' Baseball song, both by Terry Cashman).

Well, Dr. Bitz had done it.
His Skynet team had won it.
With Fausto Carmona sucking
all the while.

Jay Bruce's rookie season
made us swoon.
While Bedard spent the season in
the doctor's room.

We're talkin'...
Baseball.
From Blaine to Mahtomedi.
Talkin'...
Baseball.
Shoppach, Pujols and Dye.

Tejada, and his spicy hits and runs
Ethier, who always get it done.
We're talking homers...
Relievers, and A-Rod.

We're talkin'...
Baseball.
From Blaine to Mahtomedi.
Talkin'...
Baseball.
Shoppach Pujols and Dye.

Tejada, and his spicy hits and runs
Ethier, who always get it done.
We're talking homers...
Relievers, and A-Rod.

Consider my hat off to you, Dr. Bitz. Well played.

Monday, September 15, 2008

MLB Headlines Week 23

It is with a heavy heart that I write this, as explained by our headline of the week:

Dr. Bitz's fantasy baseball team advances to the league championship game by defeating Teebore's team.

Here's some headlines more punny in nature:

Dr. Bitz:
9/13/2008 Twins 12 Baltimore 2
Denard helps Twins span the gap against the White Sox with a multi-homer game.

9/13/2008 Rays 5 Yankees 6
Xavier erases any thought of a Rays win

9/13/2008 Royals 8 Indians 3
Carmona crapola against Kansas City

Teebore:
9/14/2008 Twins 3 Orioles 7
Five homers help Orioles fly high over the Twins

9/14/2008 Pirates 7 Cardinals 2
Pirates weekend sweep sinks St. Louis

9/13/2008 Blue Jays 8 Red Sox 1
Byrd flies the coop after crappy start

Voting to your left. Remember, a vote for Dr. Bitz is a vote for everything you are against.

It may look like Dr. Bitz won this contest last week, but a recount shows that I, in fact, won. Any calls for additional recounts by Dr. Bitz will be overturned by the Supreme Court, which ruled it best we just move on (wow, a 2000 election joke? Really Teebore? Seriously, what am I going to do next, make a crack about N*Sync?).

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

No Sunday log this week, as Dr. Bitz was too busy cruising the sunny seas and my team had this thing lost regardless of what happened Sunday. I suppose my team could have hit five home runs to take that category and then pitch well enough to retake WHIP, but what kind of team can hit five home runs in one day all the while his opponent's team hits none?

Oh, that's right, Dr. Bitz's team did that on Tuesday.

Here's how things ended between us:
R HR RBI SB AVG W SV K ERA WHIP
Me: 24 8 26 5 .226 5 2 68 5.01 1.56
Him: 33 11 44 0 .369 2 1 34 3.83 1.53

Sadly, I was pretty well dominated in 4 of the 5 hitting categories (but my team was able to outrun his lumbering behemoth of a team) so my only hope of a victory was to hang on to steals and force a 5-5 tie in which I had the better ERA (the Yahoo tie breaking category). Of course, this didn't happen when:

A. Dr. Bitz figured this out and conceded wins, strikeouts and saves to me by benching his crappy starters and his various relievers in the hope that without them damaging his ERA , he could take that category and thus force a win in the event of a tie, under the assumption that my team would pitch itself out of contention

B. My team pitched itself out of contention.

In the end, all our ERA-inspired shenanigans were for naught, as my pitching sucked enough to blow that category and WHIP to give him a 6-4 victory. Maybe, just maybe, if he had kept Fausto "Crapola" Carmona and a couple of other starters in the game, his ERA and WHIP would have ballooned enough that I could have taken it all. But I doubt it. Or maybe my team could have hit better than .226 on the week. Either way, the approximately one hundred and sixty four home runs Nick Blackburn gave up in the Twins game yesterday certainly didn't help.

Nemesis of the Week:
So many to choose from. Kelly Shoppach had 7 runs, 3 homers, 7 RBI and a .500 average: as a catcher. But then again, my catcher has done his fair share of damage throughout the season too. Andre Ethier and his .529 average seemed to get a hit every bloody time he came up to bat. But I think my nemesis this week is obvious: the traitorous rookie phenom Jay Bruce. He only had 4 runs, 2 homers and 4 RBI but this week, but Bruce and I have history together. He was supposed to be the GREATEST BASEBALL PLAYER EVER when he was called up mid-season and I felt pretty good nabbing him back then. After a deceivingly torrid start which led me to reject several trade offers (including one from Dr. Bitz in which I would have acquired potential AL MVP Carlos Quentin) Bruce cooled down considerably, forcing me to drop him. His game has picked back up a bit lately, though certainly not to the level expected of him. Still, his help in finishing me off this week was a betrayal most bitter. Et tu, Bruce?

Savior of the Week:
No savior for me, as I must now move on to the consolation match and battle for my pride and third place. I prayed to Jesus over the course of the week, but he never showed. Like seemingly everyone else on my team, he probably had a sore hamstring.

The moral of this week's story is that you can't pin your hopes of winning the week on winning the ERA category. At least I went down swinging against a worthy opponent, and not someone who wasn't even paying attention. And finally, the two season long Fantasy Baseball bet between Dr. Bitz and I comes to a decisive conclusion. But more on that later...

Also, I know how Dr. Bitz's brother felt last Sunday. In one day, I ended my fantasy baseball playoff run, was eliminated from Survival Football by a 33-30 San Fransisco win over the Seahawks in overtime, and the Twins failed to sweep a vastly inferior team. Plus, the Vikings blew a 15-0 lead and never scored a touchdown. Booyah!



Saturday, September 13, 2008

To Better Know A Hero: Green Lantern

Last week we talked about Green Arrow. Now, let's take a look at his bosom buddy and fellow "hard-travelin' hero," Green Lantern.

Real Name:
Harold "Hal" Jordan

First Appearance:
Showcase #22 (Oct. 1959)

Nicknames and Aliases:
Highball, the Emerald Knight, Parallax, the Spectre

Powers and Abilities: Hal possesses a ring which enables him to will into existence physical constructs of anything he can imagine, including shields, cages and giant baseball gloves; the ring also enables Hal to fly, survive in space for extended periods of time, travel great distances, and understand alien languages. Hal is also an accomplished and fearless test pilot and a detective of moderate skill.

Weaknesses and Achilles' Heels: The color yellow and blows to the head from behind.



(this is arguably one of the single greatest panels in the history of comic books)

Gadgets and Accessories: A Green Lantern Corps (GLC) ring and accompanying Green Lantern power battery. The ability to wield the Green Lantern ring is powered by the strength of the bearer's will; the ring itself must also be recharged periodically by placing it in a Green Lantern that's remotely connected to the GLC's central power battery. Fear in the ring bearer will create an inability for the ring to affect anything colored yellow.

Friends and Allies:
John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner (fellow members of the Green Lantern Corps from Earth), Green Arrow (Oliver Queen, his best friend), the Flash (Barry Allen, his other best friend), Carol Ferris (his one-time boss and "Lois Lane"), Pieface (Tom Kalmaku, his Inuit sidekick in the Silver Age), the Guardians of the Universe (diminutive founders of the GLC), the Green Lantern Corps, the Justice League.

Foes and Antagonists: Sinestro and the Sinestro Corps, Star Sapphire, the Manhunters, Cyborg Superman, Parallax, Mongul, Amon Sur, Hector Hammond, Black Hand.



Movies and Appearances: Hal Jordan frequently appeared on the various Super Friends incarnations, in which he once moved the planet to prevent a missile from hitting it, amongst other things. The Green Lantern most modern viewers are more familiar with from the recent Justice League cartoon is John Stewart. No word that I recall as to which one will appear in the upcoming but delayed-by-the-writer's-strike live-action Justice League film.



One-Sentence Origin:
When Air Force test pilot Hal Jordan comes across the crashed ship and dying form of Green Lantern Abin Sur, he is chosen due to his ability to overcome great fear to replace Sur as the Green Lantern responsible for the safe keeping of Earth and the surrounding sector of space.

Memorable Moment: "Emerald Twilight" Green Lantern (vol. III) 48-50 (Jan.-Mar. 1994): After failing to prevent the uttter destruction of his hometown, Coast City, at the hands of Mongul, Hal goes insane with grief, allowing the fear entity Parallax to take control of him, leading Hal to slaughter all the existing Green Lanterns and Guardians in an effort to use their power rings to restore Coast City to life.

Fun Fact: In the wake of the recent Sinestro Corps War storyline, each color in the spectrum received its own emotionally-powered Lantern. In addition to the willpower-fueled Green Lanterns and the fear-inducing yellow lanterns of the Sinestro Corps, there are (or will be) the rage-filled Red Lanterns, as well as Orange (avarice), Indigo (compassion), Violet (love), Blue (hope) and Black (death) lanterns.

Teebore’s Take: The original Green Lantern (Alan Scott) created in 40s, was a solo hero with the powers he gained from the Green Lantern being mystically-based. When DC kicked off the Silver Age in the late 50s by reimagining their existing characters with more sci-fi trappings, the mystically-powered vigilante Green Lantern became a space cop with a ring created by alien technology. And thus was created one of my favorite comic book concepts of all time.

I have no strong affinity for any one of the numerous characters who are considered Green Lanterns. Hal Jordan is probably the most well known but I imagine a fair number of people are now familiar with John Stewart, thanks to the Justice League cartoon. The sarcastic and occasionally goofy Guy Gardner is a fan favorite, and Kyle Rayner, Hal's immediate replacement following that whole "murdering the Corps" incident, was an integral part of Grant Morrison's beloved run on the Justice League comic and became a much-loved "learning the ropes" type of character for fans of that era who didn't grow up revering Hal Jordan.



Because I like the concept of Green Lantern far more than any one particular character so-called, I've always been a bit mystified by the rabid fanbase Hal Jordan has, particularly because the character in and of himself isn't all that interesting. But when Hal was replaced by Kyle during a time when the trend in superhero comics was to replace existing, seemingly old-fashioned characters with younger, hipper and often (but not in Kyle's case) darker versions of the characters, Hal's fanbase cried foul. The most vociferous of these fans formed a group called H.E.A.T (Hal's Emerald Attack Team) and loudly (and in some cases, profanely) urged DC to bring back the "one, true Green Lantern." Ron Marz, the writer of the issues which saw Hal transform into Parallax and kill his peers in the Corps felt a lot of heat as well (pun intended) depsite the fact that he was more or less merely brought onto the title to execute the editorially-mandated storyline.

In time, DC began to slowly rehabilitate Hal, presumably in response to fan outcry. After a stint of time spent fully established as the villainous Parallax, Hal sacrificed himself to save the planet, and was later made the host of the Spectre, DC's Spirit of Vengeance. But the fans wanted Hal back as Green Lantern, and eventually, fan-turned-comic writer-turned-DC Grand Poobah Geoff Johns made Hal a Green Lantern once again, retconning the events of Emerald Twilight so that Hal didn't become Parallax, he was possessed by Parallax due to his emotionally weakened state, and thus wasn't entirely responsible for his actions (Johns also managed to make the Silver Age-required yellow vulnerability kind of cool and came up with an explanation for the stylin' salt-n-pepper temples Hal was sporting before becoming Parallax).



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To me, the whole H.E.A.T thing seemed like a whole lot of unnecessary hubbub. I have nothing against Hal Jordan and don't mind seeing him back as DC's preeminent Green Lantern, but I also had nothing against Kyle taking over the mantle. I certainly don't consider Hal the paragon of everything that is great and right, and ever will be, about superhero comics, the way some people seem to do. What matters to me, far me than who is slinging the ring, is the concept behind the Green Lanterns: space cops with magic rings.

The Green Lantern Oath:
"In brightest day, in darkest night,
no evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil's might,
beware my power...Green Lantern's light!"