Sunday, September 27, 2009

NFL Picks, Week 3

Many more weeks like last week and I'll stop doing this. Geez. My football knowledge is taking a beating -- last place in this pool, last place in one fantasy league, lower-third of other picks pool (second place in another fantasy league, though).

Once again, this isn't a spread pool -- straight pick-a-winner:

16 - Green Bay over St. Louis
15 - Baltimore over Cleveland
14 - New Orleans over Buffalo
13 - Denver over Oakland
12 - Indianapolis over Arizona
11 - Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
10 - Minnesota over San Francisco
9 - Philadelphia over Kansas City
8 - Jets over Tennessee
7 - Carolina over Dallas
6 - Houston over Jacksonville
5 - Giants over Tampa Bay
4 - San Diego over Miami
3 - Atlanta over New England
2 - Detroit over Washington
1 - Seattle over Chicago

* * *

In the "corrections" category, proving that you should always get a second source when I say anything, the fake restaurant at the filming location by me is called "Fraiche," not "Friache" or "Frioche." I fully expect to notice that it's spelled completely differently when I leave the house again in a bit.

And the movie they're filming is "Life As We Know It."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tinseltown

They're filming a movie 30 feet or so from my place. I forget the name, but it's a Warner Brothers production, and there seems to be significant cash behind it: they've basically bought out a local coffee shop for the month of September, gutted it and put up new fake signs (reading "Frioche," which I'm pretty sure is not anything in any language)(edit: it's "Friache," which actually is something), and taken up the parking lots of two fairly well-trafficked restaurants across the street.

This seemed really cool when it started but it's getting irritating, moreso by the day. First off, coffee shop being closed means that if I haven't bought coffee, I'm fucked. Second off, there was a flatbed trailer blocking my driveway as I tried to leave for work this morning. Third off, when I got home from work, I had to show my driver's license to get onto my street -- they aren't allowing non-residents near the filming.

This all changes if I somehow make it on screen, natch. Watch the movies hitting in early 2010 -- if there's a guy in the background, scowling and wearing a ratty Old 97s t-shirt yet somehow exuding a magnetism akin to Bogart, this all becomes worth it.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

NFL Picks, Week 2

Why not? I'm in two NFL pools this year -- unless it gets too embarassing (I'm already in last place after week one), I'm going to go ahead and post my weekly choices in the straight-up pick-a-winner pool.

Here we go. It's weighted so top picks are worth more, etc.

16 - Minnesota over Detroit
15 - Tennessee over Houston
14 - Indianapolis over Miami
13 - Atlanta over Carolina
12 - Pittsburgh over Chicago
11 - Green Bay over Cincinnati
10 - Washington over St. Louis
9 - Denver over Cleveland
8 - New Orleans over Philadelphia
7 - Dallas over NY Giants
6 - Kansas City over Oakland
5 - San Diego over Baltimore
4 - New England over NY Jets
3 - Seattle over San Francisco
2 - Jacksonville over Arizona
1 - Tampa Bay over Buffalo

Looking at it, I'm struck by my lack of confidence in the Patriots. Not sure why, I'm hardly a Jets believer.

Thoughts? Want to point out what an idiot I am? Have at it!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I'm an Addict

#67 -- "Smiley's People" by John Le Carre

Someone step in FAST, before I order sixteen Le Carre novels. Remind me that I thought "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold" was just okay. Remind me that just because I enjoyed each of the Smiley novels progressively more, it doesn't mean that pattern will continue. Do this quick.

This is the third and last of the "Karla Trilogy" novels centered around George Smiley and his merry crew, and I leave them absolutely impressed and a bit upset at myself that it took me decades to try JLC's books. It's a masterpiece. It's brilliant. It's remarkably peaceful for a thriller -- there's one scene of on-screen violence and it lasts two pages. Instead there's 400 pages of tension. No gunfights, no savage beatings, just a whole lot of nervousness.

I'm sorry to be done with these. Absolutely fantastic books.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Day My Sense of Humor Died

The last 24 hours have provoked a whole lot of harsh self-examination: I finally watched "Anchorman," a movie I was pretty damn certain I was going to love, and I may have laughed three times total. I laughed more at "Paradise Now." "The Seventh Seal" was a laugh riot by comparison.

I'm really worried that the problem is me. Everyone I know (everyone who's expressed an opinion on "Anchorman," at least) liked it, and I respect those people and their opinions. But I just looked on, wooden.

There were a few great moments, mostly when the film got gleefully anarchic -- the newscasters' brawl, the flute in the restaurant. And I'd have to be dead for "Go fuck yourself, San Diego" to not produce a snort. But the rest -- they seemed to stay on jokes a beat too long, or laboriously explain things that should just emerge naturally.

And this was a movie involving the two kingpins of 21st century film comedy, Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow. If I can't laugh at their work -- what hope is there?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Careful What You Wish For

A couple days ago I complained to the world at large that it kept threatening to rain but not coming through, and the result was a heavy, humid, oppressive feeling at all times. "Just rain," I said. "Just do it."

Now we're in day two of wrath-of-god deluges and the weather report shows nothing but clouds and lightning bolts in the days to come. Sorry, everyone in Atlanta. Don't know my own power.

* * *

#65 -- "Down and Out in Paris and London" by George Orwell

#66 -- "The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football" by Paul Zimmerman

A couple years ago I pledged to read more Orwell; I promptly dove into "Burmese Days," and I still haven't found the strength to sludge through. This, though, is much better. Not really clear if it's fiction or not; it certainly reads like non-fiction. It doesn't romanticize but also doesn't waste time getting weepy. Extremely readable.

I decided to read Dr. Z's book again after last weekend's note, and boy is it good. He's got an ear for a great anecdote and explains the game so well and so passionately. After reading this again I feel like I could become a defensive coordinator with just a little planning. I probably shouldn't pursue this line of thinking, though.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Really am Ready for Some Football

We gathered the other night to watch the Titans-Steelers on NFL opening night, and right after kickoff, a friend said (more or less) "just think -- right now we have the maximum amount of football ahead of us." At the time, tipsy on the joys of football and Heineken, it seemed like earth-shattering wisdom.

I'm overjoyed about the season's arrival, though I don't have much reason for optimism -- if either the Broncos or Buccaneers hit 8-8, I'll be even more overjoyed. In just a few hours, I'll be in the windowless back room of a bar, snarfing down wings and cheap beer, clad in a jersey and acting foolish. Sunday football is just so comforting. It's like the missing element has snapped back into my life. The weather's starting to get bearable and football's back. Months of Sunday beer and wings and shouting await. It's church for us secular types -- and for us secular types, church is FUN. (Plus, honestly, if God exists, you think He isn't choosing to spend his Sundays watching football?)

I'm also extraordinarily pleased that hockey is on its way, with perhaps even less reason -- the Avalanche are one of two teams in the West with absolutely no shot at the playoffs, the Thrashers might have a shot at an eighth slot (thanks, Brian Burke, for your European-hating ways and ridiculous trades). But who cares? I wish that season would follow suit and hurry up and get here.

If football is AC/DC (always satisfying, invigorating, fantastic showmanship) in my life, hockey is Die Kreuzen or Infest (less polished, more intense, makes me want to punch things). I may be in the mood for AC/DC more often but my passion for the other bands is a bit more heartfelt. Like football and hockey, I think! If hockey is hardcore punk, the people writing about it, then, are... the equivalent of Maximum Rock 'N' Roll. That fits too. When I first discovered hockey blogs, they seemed exciting and amazing -- much like MRR did. Now we're in the stage where the whole scene seems to be a bunch of humorless goofballs arguing about internal politics and who's the purest/most correct fan, much as MRR was in the mid-'90s. (This means someone in hockey blogging is the equivalent of Spitboy -- I nominate Red Wings bloggers) The Bug-Eyed Billionaire vs the Jerks is the hockey equivalent of the once-raging major label debate, and about as much fun to read about.

But for the stuff on the ice, I can't wait. I'm heading up to Thrashers camp at some point this week, just to check it out. I'm planning to see a lot more minor league hockey this season, something I've been bad about. I'm even stoked to see how the Avalanche kids do.

(Overseas update: in one game for Barys Astana, eternal hero Tomas Kloucek has four penalty minutes and no points. Meanwhile in the top Czech league, HC Kometa Brno is winless after two games and entrenched in the relegation zone. Pick it up, Kometa!)

* * *

Something I've meant to note for months, but haven't. This marks the first football season in, well, ever that is kicking off without the writing of Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman. He suffered a stroke last year and a few more later on, and while I don't know his current status (apparently the most frequent updates are in Peter King's columns, which I have a deep-set belief against reading) he's obviously not in any shape to write these days.

Dr. Z is, simply put, my all-time favorite sportswriter. Even after two and a half decades of watching football, I kept learning new things and new ways of watching from his weekly column. He was clever, he was insightful, he injected his personality without being overbearing. Z did something that lesser writers can't: he'd go off on digressions, tales of wine or travel, and keep them interesting to people who were just there for the football.

I always looked forward to his writing and while I doubt we'll see more of it, I'm keeping hope alive. I wish him well.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I Danced Up and Down the Street

September's crept up on me, and we're already in the middle of the month -- the middle of a month three-fourths of the way through the year. Can I take a mulligan and go back a few? Accomplishments are few and I don't see that changing any time soon.

I've got a week off now, though, and for once I haven't burdened it with expectations -- I plan to watch loads of sports, watch some movies, eat food. I haven't set the usual goal of "finish novel" -- if it happens, it happens.

Look for many chapters on eating wings and watching football.

* * *

#64 -- "After the Wake" by Brendan Behan

Another in the list of books I bought because of band references, and the Pogues trump Sonic Youth here. I'd never read Behan, knowing him more through others' (Shane MacGowan, Garth Ennis) references to him, and kind of expected maudlin wistful gazing upon old Ireland. But no, these stories were tough and blunt, funny in ways that I didn't expect. I'm probably about 15 years behind on reading old Brendan, but as he's long dead, I doubt he cares much.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Best Text of Last Night

Stripped of all context -- "wiffleball. who are you people?"

* * *

#63 -- "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman

I'm still a bit caught off-guard by Gaiman's celebrity -- as if the past two decades hadn't passed, I still think of him as the new writer on the "Sandman" and "Black Orchid" comics. I've actually never read any of his prose fiction before this. "Neverwhere" has been sitting on my shelf for a decade now, I think, but I've never been too excited about it.

It's fantasy of the type I eat up -- I don't give a crap about elves and orcs and barbarians, but I dig the "there's another world, running parallel to ours, just out of sight" idea. In this case, it's centered around the London subway system.

Reading this, I enjoyed it but wasn't nuts about it -- but -- at the end, I noticed that I was really sorry to say goodbye to the characters. And I was sorrier to come online and find out that there's no sequel. So I guess it kind of crept up on me.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Technophobic


I've got the new computer and I'm back online, and not a moment too soon. I now have one dead laptop and one that's on life support so it's a pleasure to have something that works. And works really nicely, in most cases -- it's light years faster than anything I've ever had and it looks nice and sharp, at least until I start slapping Kometa Brno stickers on it.

On the other hand, it took a full day to get it to stop randomly opening Photoshop, and I still have all sorts of printer issues. Bah. Please, no one tell me how great Macs are.