Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Houston is 52 games into the season, Boston 49

Clemens' agent deny report Rocket picks Astros

The catty rumor would only be exacerbated if an announcement were made before Boston played its 50th game, but after Houston did.

No Punchline Require


Doesn't the NBA do drug-testing off-season?
[Stephon Marbury] believes the current roster is playoff material, tons better than 23-59.

"I hope that every player on this team comes back next season," Marbury said.

"I honestly mean that. Every player. I think we have a great team. I think it will be so much different next year."

The Onion has nothing on Marbury, apparently.

Weird Question of the Day

Has anyone else concluded that Fafnir, Giblets, and the Medium lobster were all Tom DeLay staff members?

Monday, May 22, 2006

This is not your father's--or even my--NHL

With about six and one-half minutes left in the first game (Anaheim-Edmonton) on Friday, my wife valiantly attempted to send me downstairs to get her aspirin.

It was 2-1 and the Ducks looked threatening, so I said what I said throughout most of the late 1990s and early Naughts--I'll go at the next stoppage. Surely, there will be an icing, a penalty, a puck out of play, or a face-off.

The next stoppage was Todd Harvey's Empty Net goal with 42 seconds to go.

And it wasn't a European game, either; the players were hitting; playing the puck and the man, digging in the corners, passing, changing lines seamlessly.

It's one of the few times I've been delighted to have Comcast and its self-promoted "Outdoor Life Network."

The Daily Quickie nailed this one:
Seriously, if we make one plea to you, faithful readers, it is this: Start watching the NHL playoffs.

It's a shame that many cannot; Gary Bettman has to answer for a lot, but that no-risk-to-the-network contract he signed with NBC (which in large part precipitated the lockout of 2005) has marginalized the game he was trying to "save."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Christian Coalition and Moby Agree

It has been fourteen years since Bruce Sterling first published his short story "Are You For 86?" in Globalhead. Among other noteworthy discoveries, he noted that being Christian doesn't at all mean that you don't use the Internet.

The Christian Coalition reconfirms that fact today, speaking up on the side of true net neutrality:
“What if a cable company with a pro-choice board of directors decides that it doesn’t like a pro-life organization using its high-speed network to encourage pro-life activities?” the Christian Coalition fretted in a statement Wednesday, announcing its support for a telecom law that would set rules to prevent network owners from discriminating against any Internet traffic.

The Coalition will have a Strange Bedfellow, though apparently one not invited to speak to the Committee:
Tomorrow, techno-rocker Moby is scheduled to voice his support for net neutrality rules at a Capitol Hill news conference

Monday, May 15, 2006

Anthemic Issues, Again; Someone is Wrong

But No One is Likely to be Lying:

Edmonton's us-against-the-world energy undoubtedly got a boost shortly before the opening faceoff, when many fans loudly booed "O Canada," insulting the Oilers and the 10 Canadians wearing teal uniforms [emphasis mine].

"I didn't think too much of that," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "I'm sure our fans won't do that to the U.S. anthem."

Note the future tense.
Sharks officials thought their crowd was responding to a handful of Canadian fans that apparently could be heard booing the American anthem on the San Jose television feed before Game 4.

So a perceived slight becomes a slight. Soon to become 54 40' or Fight?

NOTE: The original ESPN article made no mention of the boos during Game Four, nor does their Recap of that Game. As with Sinead O'Connor lo those many years ago, did no one think it was an issue until suddenly it was made into one. Or was the sound-mix to San Jose just poor?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Old Team Wins...

...Not likely to face the current one.

Growing up in the Cincinnati area has forever warped my sports affiliations (much as New Yorkers root for the Yankees, even if they remember the pre-George days, or the Mets, if they remember the Yankees).

In hockey, we had the Swords. For a few years, the Sabres farm team played locally, winning an AHL championship, and--best of all--broadcasting all of their games on the radio, with announcers who knew the game.

So, as players such as Peter McNabb moved up, it was the Sabres who got a loyalty (made tenuous when the franchise moved away).

The New York media approach to the Rangers and the Islanders didn't change that, though it weakened over the years. Then we got the Devils, transfers from Colorado.

Wayne Gretzky called them a "Mickey Mouse organization." And one of the radio stations did a send-up of them to the tune (phrase used loosely) of "Men Without Hats."

And I heard a few games, and saw a few games, and was hooked.

John MacLean scoring a goal against the Blackhawks in overtime to give them their first playoff birth. Sean Burke performing well, followed by Martin Brodeur and three Stanley Cups that should have been four. Scott Stevens with a clean check that sent Eric Lindros in the next century, and probably still brings a smile to Rod Brind'Amour's face.

The series against Carolina won't change that. New Jersey has suffered strange goals, including a puck that was kicked in in Game Two:
[T]he puck...bounced off [Niclas Wallin's] skate through Brodeur's legs at 3:09 [in OT] to help the Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 Monday night and take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.

A video review upheld Wallin's first goal of the playoffs.

Buffalo fans know all about pucks being kicked in:
In 1999, Brett Hull and the Dallas Stars "won" the Stanley Cup after Brett Hull scored the winning goal Â? in triple overtime Â? with his skate planted firmly in the Buffalo Sabres' crease. Incredibly, officials declined to review the play (despite several angles showing the infraction) and the dodgy goal was allowed to stand. "Man in the crease, puck is definitely out of the crease Â? you can't explain that one to me," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff remarked. Fortunately, the NHL's supervisor of officials Bryan Lewis had an explanation. The play, he said, had been upheld after reviewing a secret "camera angle from down low that is mounted inside the net and not even available to television."

This year, Buffalo has gotten the breaks
The usually quiet Scotiabank Place [in Ottawa] crowd began to chant "Let's go, Senators!" in the third and Martin Havlat came close to rewarding them when he drove a slap shot off the left post with about 6 minutes left in the period.

Emery stopped Maxim Afinogenov's backhand with 3:54 remaining in the third.

Senators rookie Patrick Eaves shot high and wide on a scoring chance moments later. The rebound bounced off the glass and into the Sabres' crease, where Tallinder reached down and swiped it under himself as players from both teams converged in front of the net.

and needed them all to win probably the closest five-game Best-of-Seven ever:
All five games were decided by one goal in the series that featured a tie score or a one-goal lead for all but 1:40 of total play.

So I am happy for Buffalo, and would love to have New Jersey face them in the conference finals.

ESPN tries to warn that history is not on the Devils's side:
Colorado was the last team to win two in a row after losing the first three games of a playoff series. After falling behind San Jose 3-0 in their 2004 Western Conference semifinal, the Avalanche came back with consecutive wins over the Sharks before losing Game 6.

which would be intimidating except that 2004 was the last playoff season in the NHL.

Three weeks ago, the goal for the year was to face and defeat the Rangers in a playoff series, just because fans of the "1994"s retained only that as their point of pride.

That goal is accomplished. Coming back from a 3-0 deficit may be too much to ask.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

If this is Chick-Lit, where's my Bazooka?

In the midst of a rant last Friday at Sadly, No! about how the current Republican Party was molded almost entirely from the actions of gay men, I decided to post a link to Jessica Cutler's novelization of her blog, as it were. While bn.com is clearly inferior to Amazon, it's "you might be interested" is good.

A bunch of books with bright covers and pastels, curly typefaces, and multicolored titles. Chick-Lit, as it were.

Among the books listed was something called The Starter Wife, which appeared again a few hours later at the New York Public Library, where I was returning a DVD. I figured it was fate.

All of which is to say: I normally don't read this type of book. I don't know the reading protocols and am not in the target audience, any more than the people who read this are likely to be in the Lawrence Norfolk. So I'm not qualified to judge whether this is good, bad, or indifferent Chick-Lit.

(I do know that the author is the Wife Of Brian Grazer, that part of the joy is probably in guessing at the capsule-description-wives at the end of several chapters, and that the book is a pleasant read but not something I need to own--as with those Romance novels that came with DVDs I wanted to own, something to leave at the train station for someone else.)

But I do have to wonder when the Character Most Likely to Resemble the Target Audience--the title character's best female friend--is limned as:
Cricket was the type of mother who made hot lunches and never let another soul put her children to sleep; she was a wonderful, caring mother. Who would someday have to be institutionalized. [p. 54]

Cricket suffered from extreme empathy syndrome. If the friend is getting a divorce, she's getting a divorce; if her friend has strep, she develops a sore throat; if someone in China has a hangnail, Cricket can't get through the day. [pp. 96-7]

I'm just shy of halfway through the book (I couldn't find anything worth quoting in the scene where Cricket declares that the problem with her husband is that he still wants to have sex with her), and Cricket seems to be more sympathetic than the title character.

Does anyone know if this is typical of the genre?

UPDATE: The one loyal reader of this blog e-mails to tell me to stop reading the book now, out of fear I'll start buying Judy Garland records. I can assure him (and anyone else) that the lead character's other Best Friend (no benefits) is, of course, a gay male interior decorator. And he's so Precious he makes me want to play lacrosse or something. One funeral was enough to break me of any idea that I could accept Catholicism in my life; this one novel may well eliminate any vestige of bi-curiosity.

Hypocrisy Sells--and they think you're buying

Via Bitch comes the story of an attempt to manipulate throught the press, and the complicity of same:
So the broadcast begins with the assertion that the website "is causing concern." But as it continues, they make it clear that they, Channel 4 news, brought dianablaine.com to the attention of the administration, not the other way around as implied. [L.A. Channel 4 "reporter" Cary] Berglund even reports that the spokesperson was "caught off guard" when asked about this supposed breach of professorial conduct.

So exactly who is "concerned"? The news never makes that clear because what's really happening is the manufacture of a scandal, for all the reasons detailed above.

As they say in the BlogSphere, Read the Whole Thing.

I wouldn't necessarily be addressing this--better people have done so, including Dr. Blaine herself--except that Dr. Blaine's previous post includes a link to the Channel 4 article and video. Note the advertisement:

A picture is worth a thousand words, but shouldn't Channel 4 have warned about the "Graphic Image" of their advert, instead of just presenting it?

There may even be a happy ending to it all, as Dr. Blaine notes:

I would like to thank those who have declared war on me for bringing me so much attention because I am writing a book on breast implants--why I won't get them in spite of cultural pressure to conform--and I am looking for an agent, someone who wants to make a LOT of money backing a beautiful, articulate, brilliant, highly educated compassionate woman who has tons to say and has the power to change women's lives for the better.

Which is more than Mr. Berglund and the staff at Channel 4--including their web managers--can say.

For those who thought computers were more complex than televisions

Pull Quote:
Wal-Mart's entry into a category can raise alarms because the retailer's persistent price-cutting pressures competitors' profit margins. It has been blamed for bankruptcies in sectors ranging from groceries and toys.

Gee, that's a nice way to put it. Must have come straight from the company's press release.
But analysts said it was unlikely that Wal-Mart would pose much of a threat to the likes of Dell Inc., which mastered the made-to-order computer model and offers a much wider selection. They also noted that Dell makes most of its money selling computers to businesses rather than individuals.

But if I were running Gateway or HPQ, I might be a bit more worried.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why Sportswriting all too often isn't

Winning is the first-nine-paragraphs thing

Don't get me wrong; I'm still touchy about 2001, but that didn't expand to disliking Ray Bourque or Chris Drury or any other members of the Team That Should Have Lost(tm).

What I'm not understanding, though, is how Drury and Ira Berkow got snookered into that title. Let's look at the second paragraph:
Drury, co-captain and center, has helped the Buffalo Sabres to a franchise-best 52 regular-season victories and a 3-2 lead over the Philadelphia Flyers in their first-round N.H.L. playoff series. Few people have won more major championships at so many levels and have captured more individual awards and accolades than the soft-spoken 29-year-old Drury. [italics mine]

Nor does Berkow leave that last without examples:
Drury's athletic success is extraordinary, if not unparalleled. As a youth, his Greater Bridgeport (Conn.) hockey team won the United States national amateur championship in 1989. Five months later, he hit and pitched his team from Trumbull, Conn., to the Little League World Series title with an upset of Taiwan.

He won a state championship in hockey in high school but was not drafted until the third round, 72nd over all. In his first season at Boston University, the Terriers won the N.C.A.A. hockey championship. As a senior, he won the Hobey Baker Award as the best collegiate player in the nation.

Now I'm as fond of that video of Drury catching the final out in that Little League World Series as anyone else who was bored by its broadcast-on-infinite-loop during the 2001 Cup Finals,* but we're now six paragraphs into a story about how Winning Isn't "the Only Thing" with no end in sight.

Indeed, there are three more (mercifully short) paragraphs about Winning before we get to the point:
"Not a day goes by that I don't think of Travis Roy," Drury said in the Sabres' locker room after a recent practice.

Stop. Pause. Take Deep Breath.
Eleven seconds into the first shift in the first game of Roy's college career, he crashed headfirst into the boards trying to check a North Dakota opponent. He fell to the ice, motionless....

Roy had snapped the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Football fans have Darrell Stingley. Basketball people have Hank Gathers writhing on the floor. Baseball people still talk about Ray Chapman.

As Albert Brooks said in Broadcast News, "I buried the lead." And, worse, so did Berkow.

Yesterday was Blog Against Diablism Day, and the human and inhuman stories flowed. Today, the New York Times proves that it's business as usual, and winning is still everything. Or at least the lead and the next eight 'grafs.

Working area of the Government: the IRS

I note for the record that for the past two years, I (well, my accountant) have used the Electronic Filing option with Direct Deposit refunds.

In each year, it has taken 10 calendar days to receive the Federal refund, and 14 calendar days to receive the NY state refund.

The table from filing in 2000 onward appears below.