Sunday, August 27, 2006

Feeding the Monster
Feeding the Monster, by Seth Mnookin, takes an in-depth look at the Boston Red Sox, primarily from the fall of 2000 (when the Red Sox were put up for sale, signaling the end of the Yawkey era) through the end of 2005. Mnookin was given unprecedented (that's what he says, at least) access to Red Sox executives, and John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, and Theo (he's like Madonna) are very candid, giving Mnookin the opportunity to provide interesting perspective on the new administration's opinion of Grady Little (not much, even before he didn't take Pedro out), the insanity of Nomar, the magical 2004 season, the loss of Pedro, the not so magical 2005 season, the loss of the formerly beloved Johnny Damon, and much more. Mnookin has definitely bought into the Cult of Theo, but it's not a bad cult to be in. At least until a couple of weeks ago.

This was a worthwhile book to read, and much better than the last Red Sox book I read, which was Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season, by Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan, which took that magical season and made it a dull book, that teaches you that successful novelists are often world class nerds. O'Nan even more than King, if you can believe that.

By the way, Mnookin has a pretty interesting website where he discusses current Red Sox issues. And there are quite a few of them.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Pulse is a grainy movie that takes place in a college town where the students live in crappy apartments, but have great computers and fancy cell phones. And they're not afraid to use them. Kristen Bell, tv's Veronica Mars, plays Mattie, a psychology student whose dorm room is actually pretty nice. Mattie gets suspicious when her boyfriend Josh cold shoulders her, and then kills himself. This leads to the discovery that strange, ghostly figures are appearing on various computer screens, and they're scaring the hell out of people. These strange visitors also have the ability to animate walls and other things that are better left inanimate.

Mattie eventually teams up with Dexter who, like all of the other guys in the movie, doesn't know much about shaving, but knows a lot about computers. As Mattie and Dexter run around a lot, and witness a lot of scary deaths, we find out that this problem has become national, and that these beings can only be stopped by red utility tape, which leads to a lot of cool shots of light streaming through red windows. We worry about Mattie's mom, who's been trying to reach Mattie for a while, but that turns out to be a red herring. Dexter discovers something that looks like a zip drive, and figures out that Josh had been involved in some unsavory hacking that has unleashed these demons, or whatever they are, that literally suck the life right out of you. Mattie and Dexter hurry to use the zip drive looking thing to stop these zombies before life, as they know it, is reduced to ashes, and there is no chance for a Pulse II.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Brotherhood is Showtime's answer to The Sopranos. It's The Sopranos without the humor, without those moments of humanity where you think, well, maybe Tony's not that bad, really.

There are two Caffee brothers, Tommy (Jason Clarke) and Michael (Jason Isaacs). Tommy is a Rhode Island state legislator, a prestigious, but low-paying, gig. He's seemingly got the weight of Rhode Island (fortunately, a small state) on his shoulders, and looks like a man in constant need of a pack of Tums. Hopefully, he has discovered Prilosec. Michael is a hoodlum, who had disappeared for seven years (most thought he was dead), and has returned, much to his brother's chagrin, determined to reestablish himself as a bigshot gangster. He shouldn't have much of a problem, as he's a serious psychopath, with a minor in unmitigated violence. He makes Paulie Walnuts look like Conan O'Brien.

Tommy is married to Eileen (Annabeth Gish), who suffers from a profound loneliness that drives her to at least two affairs: with a mailman, as well as with that smokey-voiced, skunky-smelling seductress, Mary Jane. Michael has a girlfriend of his own, and I kind of doubt that she's going to end up being a good influence on him.

Just when I thought this show couldn't get any better, the last episode involves softball, as Michael puts together a team to make a run at the Division A - Hoodlum League. Their first game lasted a pitch or so before they started brawling.

In addition to great acting, and original writing, Brotherhood, like a lot of these cable series, has some great music, like Heroin, by The Velvet Underground. I catch up with this on Showtime On-Demand. On August 19, Showtime's running all the episodes, marathon-style.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Nats/Metro Buzzkill
There are many things about having the Nats in Washington that give me great joy. High on that list is the beauty of going to a weeknight game. I work a full day, change into shorts and a shirt at about 6:00, and head to Metro. At rush-hour, the Orange Line, in the direction of the stadium, is much less crowded than in the direction of Virginia, which is the way I usually go after work. But on game days, I can walk two blocks to Farragut West and usually be able to not only board the first train that comes by, but actually get a seat. For the ten stops to RFK, I read or people watch or just relax, thinking about how much better this is than going to an O's game. Screw you, Peter Angelos.

I went to the game last night, and everything appeared to be going great, as usual. I got on a near-empty train, and got a seat by myself. At Metro Center, a pretty big group boards the train, and a normal-sized woman sits next to me. We get to the Smithsonian stop, and, as usual, there are a few tourists that board. Among that group yesterday was a family whose members were particularly large. They all found seats, no problem.

We get to L'Enfant Plaza, where my normal-sized seatmate gets off. At which point the mother of the tourist family gets up from her seat and comes and sits by me, who is probably the largest person on the train not related to her. When sitting next to someone on a Metro train, it's expected that there will be some thigh-to-thigh contact. This was a whole 'nuther level. Every part of the left side of my body was against, well, her butt. The right side of my body was smushed against the wall of the train. I started feeling like I was being crushed by some gravitational force. There was only one thing I could do: Get off at Federal Center and wait for the next train.

I did the universal signal indicating "I need to get off, and you'll have to move" -- gripping the back of the seat in front of me, which would also help me propel myself out of the eight inches of space I was crammed into. We get to Federal Center. I spring up. She looks at me: "Are you getting off here?" I say: "No, I just thought it would be even more uncomfortable if I stand up in this little bit of space for five more stops." No, I didn't say that. I said "Yeah." She allowed me to pass, and I jumped out of the train, on to an empty platform at Federal Center. I stood and waited for the next train.

Still beats the hell out of driving to Baltimore, no question.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Descent: Decent
At the beginning of the new movie The Descent three young women with English accents finish a whitewater rafting trip. One of the women departs with her young daughter and distracted husband, who promptly drives their car into oncoming traffic, killing himself and the daughter. Sara, the wife, survives.

Sometime later, the women, plus some other female friends, meet up again in North Carolina to go caving. Apparently, they're Adventure Girls! Juno (as in an old Internet Service Provider, not the capital of Alaska, which we find out during the closing credits) was one of the original three, and is apparently the leader of this adventure. Though not such a good leader, as she leads her friends to a different cave than they expected to explore (she thought it would be more special!), which happens to be inhabited by weird cave creatures, who are scary, even to Juno, who looks a little like Bjork. She also doesn't have any maps, and she didn't leave what they call a "flightplan" with anyone, so when they get lost, they're pretty much screwed as it is, and much more so when the cave creatures discover them.

All of this makes for a very tense movie. There are no minorities in the movie, so it's harder than the usual horror movie to guess who will be next to die. The movie gives a believable sense of being in a cave, which seems like it would be pretty cool, as long as you weren't led by a psycho like Juno, who we also learn has something to do with why Sara's husband was distracted enough to wreck his car. I haven't seen the numbers that this movie made over the weekend, but if there is a Descent II, I'll probably go see it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Walters Sacks Hasselbeck
So on The View yesterday, Barbara Walters told Elizabeth Hasselbeck to shut up and behave like a grown-up. It happened during a discussion of the "morning-after pill." In addition to Walters and Hasselbeck, the discussion also included Lisa Loeb, a singer who had a hit song in 1994, along with a woman who seems like, but I don't think is, Bette Midler. Elizabeth gives the usual pro-life arguments about the pill, in the face of several "what ifs" offered by Barbara, which have to do with the possibility of pregnancy by "wape," or the possibility of being impregnated by some "sex pervert." That kind of talk from her scared me. Barbara upbraids Elizabeth for her poor debate skills and lack of professionalism, and then they go to a break, during which, presumably, Elizabeth is sent to time out. When they return, however, all is well , as a tearful Elizabeth tries to sit in Barbara's lap, and says that she loves everyone, and please don't fire me like you did Star Jones. I don't know what happened to the table between the first and second clips. If this was September I'd suggest that maybe Rosie O'Donnell ate it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Heat
So I'm in Washington, DC, and, as you may know, it's hot here. The word "hot" doesn't even accurately describe how intense it is. When you walk outside, it feels like the molecules of heat are just pressing into your skin, fighting their way to your core. You can't fight 'em, there's nothing you can do.

When I look out my office window, the people down on the street are gamely trying to go about their routine. But I'm noticing how slowly they're walking. They're in slow motion, walking against a pool of those damn heat molecules. Occasionally, someone will just stop. I fight the urge to open my window and yell, "Don't stop. The molecules will just penetrate you faster!" So far, fortunately, everyone has been able to keep moving. It's supposed to be hotter tomorrow, though.

The much-ballyhooed MLB trading deadline came and went, and Alphonso Soriano is still a National. This is good news for Nationals fans, for obvious reasons, and for journalists, who now can write about how stupid it was for the Nationals, particularly GM Jim Bowden, not to trade Alf for a couple of minor league players that at one point were considered hot prospects, but now are just guys that other teams would trade in order to get a good player for a couple of months. I think Bowden did the right thing. And it's not like I love the guy.

Soriano-wise, I'm also amused by the writers who say that one of the reasons it was so bad to not trade Soriano, and try to re-sign him, is because Alf wants a no-trade clause, and Nats President Stan Kasten does not give no-trade deals. It seems to me that a lot of teams give no-trade clauses, and a lot of players want, and get, them. It's not unusual for a player to waive that part of his contract -- Greg Maddux just did it when the Cubs shipped him to Los Angeles. So I say, Hey, Stan, you might want to think about changing your philosophy. If the Cubs can give no-trade deals, we should, too. These are the Washington Nationals, not the Atlanta Braves and their fifty straight divisional champions, so we might want to have a little flexibility. I think Kasten has probably already figured this out. Soon, maybe the writers will.

The Tender Bar
I read this book at the beach a couple of weeks ago. I always like to have a good beach book, and it just came out in paperback, so the timing was good. I liked it. I imagined a book mostly about bar hijinks, and it was really more about growing up and living your life. JR Moehringer's writing style really sucks you in, and he has had an interesting life. This makes for a good book. If I were to talk to JR, I'd ask him about what happened after the book was published. He had lost track of a lot of the characters involved in his life, and I wonder how many he's become reacquainted with. Particularly the book store clerks in Phoenix. So if you run into JR, ask him that for me.

Carry-out Thai Food
My girlfriend called me from work Saturday afternoon, and said she was craving Thai food, and could I pick something up for her and bring it to the mall. I said yes, because I'm that type of guy, and also because there was no baseball on tv, and I could listen to the Red Sox game on XM Radio.

She tells me she wants something called Kra Pow beef, from UrbanThai, in Crystal City. I google Urban Thai for the number, and I also look at their menu, and confirm that they have something called Kra Pow beef (I'm not big on Thai food, although there's a duck dish at a Thai restaurant by my apartment that's great; they have cheap drinks there, too.). Based on how excited she was for this dish, I started to add the number to my cell-phone directory, figuring I'd use it again. I immediately became frustrated with that process, and decided just to dial. Here's the conversation:

Restaurant guy: (unintelligible)
Me: Hi, I'd like to make a carry-out order.
RG: What would you like?
Me: I'll have one order of Kra Pow beef.
RG: What?
Me (refreshing the menu screen on my computer, and making sure I said it right): Uh, I'll have one order Kra Pow beef.
RG: We don't have that.
Me: K-r-a P-o-w beef, I'm probably mispronouncing it.
RG: Dude, this is Pizza Hut.
Me: Oh, sorry. I must have dialed the wrong number.

I really need to figure out how to more efficiently use the cell-phone directory (and I generally don't really like Pizza Hut).