Monday, December 03, 2007

Redskins Continue to be Mystified by Time-Outs
The Redskins have been haunted all year by poor clock management, which has left them without time-outs in crucial late game situations. Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs performed a variation on this theme yesterday, though, when he managed to get to the final seconds of the game with time-outs in hand. That's the good news, the bad new is that he tried to call two in a row at the game's very end, and the second one resulted in a 15 yard penalty that changed a Bills field goal attempt from challenging to a chip shot. Coach Gibbs found another excruciating way to lose a home game to a poor team, on a day when the whole Redskins organization wanted desperately to win for their murdered teammate and friend, Sean Taylor. Talk about painful to watch.

Prior to last Sundays game, an observer would have to think that it can't really get any worse. Wrong. Then post-game was even worse than the game. Everybody wants Coach Gibbs to succeed. During the press conference, reporters tried to extract something from Gibbs that would mean that, well, it really wasn't his fault. Gibbs stood firm, though, and said yes, it would have been nice if the official would have correctly answered his question about whether he could call a time out, but he still should have known the rule. It was a hard moment, for the reporters at the press conference, and for people like me who have Joe Gibbs on a pedestal. He knew the rule, he said, he just forgot it in the heat of the moment. Stuff like that happens to regular people. But this is Joe Gibbs.

It's hard to say why Gibbs' second regime is such a failure. But he definitely lost something during the years he spent away from the game at NASCAR, playing daddy to a bunch of jockey-sized richboy hotheads. Maybe the fumes destroyed too many brain cells. I hope that's not the case.

I do know, though, that it is time for Gibbs II to end. This season is as bad as it can be, play it out, figure out a plan to get Coach Gibbs into retirement gracefully, and try something new.

Monday, July 30, 2007

AFLAC Trivia Gone Whacky
I was watching the Braves-Diamondbacks game Friday night. About halfway through, it was time for the AFLAC Trivia Question, always a highlight for me. On a good night scanning through Extra Innings, I might hit five different AFLAC Trivia Questions. Great stuff. Until Friday. We were asked to "name nine players who were not All-Stars in their MVP Seasons."

What the hell? A nine-part question? That was the best they could come up with? That's like winning a pick six at the horse races. I think AFLAC's getting tired, they've been running that Yogi Berra ad for about six years now. It was funny most of the first year, just kind of annoying now. I still don't have any idea what AFLAC does. Anyway, the announcers were Sean Sutton and Mark Grace. Mark Grace immediately drawled that he couldn't name one. I had to agree with Grace, despite the fact that I think he's a non-power hitting first baseman who's just kind of used his "aw, shucks" Carolina country boy act to charm major media types into thinking he may be the, gulp, next Tim McCarver.

The next inning, they listed the nine players. I wasn't quick enough to get them down, but I remember that Chipper Jones and Justin Morneau were among them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Death of the Page Number
Sunday I had a pretty calm day. Moving was close enough to being over that I could suspend it for a day or so. I've got a hole in my shin, so I was supposed to be taking it easy, anyway. I hung out on my patio, waiting to welcome birds to my new birdfeeder, and reading the Sunday Washington Post. I got to The Washington Post Magazine, which I try to read pretty regularly, but usually end up just reading the restaurant review, and skimming over the Editor's Query, sometimes checking out the disastrous Date Lab (starting from the Update at the bottom, which is always a variation of, uh, this isn't gonna work out at all).

This week, I had some time, though, and noticed some interesting articles. An article about Simeon Booker, a journalist, began on page 20. Except there was no page 20. There was a page 5, and a page 6 and 8, but then no more page numbers until 33, which was followed by 34 and 35. Then 37 through 40. That's it. A 44-page publication with 10 page numbers. What the hell?

Of course, I was able to find the Booker article, and was able to follow along when it was continued on page 32, which, you know, kind of didn't exist, but I was able to tell that I was there when I came across the page that said on the top that it was continued from page 25, which is I guess where I had been, and, hey, thanks for letting me know about that.

There's got to be a reason for this, right? I've been involved enough in publishing that it would be a pretty big oversight to let something go to press without page numbers. I guess it could have been a trimming error, but if that's the case, I wouldn't think there would have been any page numbers at all. So I have to assume that it was done intentionally. Is it the publisher's way of making the reader go through the magazine page by page, so you see every ad? Clever. But still kind of insulting. It's only 44 pages, don't most people that read it go through virtually the whole thing anyway? Why even have page numbers on the Table of Contents, directing you to a page number that's not there? That's just mean.

This isn't the first time I've been frustrated by page numbers. Try finding an article in one of those really big editions of Vanity Fair (Yeah, Vanity Fair, I know. But it's not just about people with rich parents -- this month there was an article about The Simpsons! And Sly Stone!). Try even finding the Table of Contents, actually. I know that the Vanity Fair people are trying to force you to look at their ads, most featuring ridiculous looking models promoting stuff that, if you can figure out what it is, is affordable primarily to people who are too busy making money to care about The Simpsons or Sly Stone.

Maybe publishers in 2007 are just too cool for page numbers. Is wanting to be able to navigate your way through a magazine too controlling, is it not hip?

If that's the case, then I apologize.

Monday, July 09, 2007

So I Moved
I've been gone for a while, because I moved. I'm glad to be resettled, but it was an intense couple of weeks. Once I actually found a new place, arranged for financing, made moving arrangements and went through settlement, I thought the hardest parts would be over. But I was wrong. Buying a new home is not nearly as complex as transferring your Comcast account. This is no exaggeration. To get cable tv and internet set up in my new home involved 15 telephone calls, three faxes, two two-hour visits from a technician, two trips to the building management office, one totally unnecessary trip to the Comcast offices and one threatening letter. But it's over now. I hope.

There have been other things to adjust to. I used to live in Arlington, now I live in Alexandria. I moved less than 10 miles. In Arlington, there are 7-11s everywhere. Which is great if you need to grab a soda or a newspaper or the finishing touches for dinner that you should have purchased at the grocery store but forgot (usually something like flour or eggs). There's the 7-11 at Wilson and N. Lincoln, which I grew up at, stopping for RC Colas in the middle of my paper route. The 7-11 on Lee Highway off of Spout Run was closest to my last apartment. The one on Lee Highway at Quincy St. was always a good place to stop for Gatorade and beers after basketball. The one on Washington Blvd. as you're heading to 395 had challenging parking and sometimes smelled bad, but it was always good for water on the way to and from softball fields.

Where I live now, the options are limited. There's one, in this lousy little strip center called Seminary Plaza. There's a Magruder's there that I like so far; other than that, not much. There's a CVS that closes at 10:00PM. The people that work there seem pretty nice, though, and it's good to get away from the scary guy with the Scottish accent who works at the Lyon Village CVS. The parking lot is littered with broken glass. There are guys hanging out outside the stores literally all day. And they're not amusing Silent Bob and Jay type guys. I'm not sure what these guys are doing, except for when they're staring at my girlfriend. There seems to be a big problem with grocery cart theft, as they've erected these barriers -- they're like jersey walls for grocery carts -- that prevent you from taking the carts to your car. Which is not too great if you're lugging two cases of bottled water around, and don't want to leave your grocery-laden cart by itself while you pull up your car, for fear of the guy that's been standing outside of the store for the past two days, who may be just waiting for an opportunity to steal someone's chorizos.

Seminary Plaza also hosts a 7-11, which is at one end of the mall, stuck between a Quizno's and a pizza place. It has one aisle! It doesn't really sell anything except for candy and sodas. There's always a line of at least five people, which usually moves something like this:

First guy in line wants to buy chewing tobacco, spends five minutes directing the clerk to the box of chewing tobacco and trying to explain to her how to open the box and extract an individual carton. This doesn't work well, because the woman doesn't understand English, and can't comprehend the motions that he's going through, mimicking how you open the box. She finally gets a colleague, who comes and opens the box for her in about two seconds, and looks at her like she's from Mars.

Second guy in line is about 12 and wants to buy cigarettes. He gets carded, says that they're not for him, but the clerk still refuses to sell him cigarettes. He curses and heads back out in front of the store, where he's likely to remain for the next 24 hours or so.

Third person in line is a woman. Five members of her family are also in the store, they're running around while she stands in line. The clerk calls next, she stands there vacantly, with no indication that she knows why she's even standing there. The clerk calls next again, I, right behind her, say "Hey," to get her attention, but by then a guy just walking in the store walks straight to the clerk calling next, and asks for something like blueberry scented cigars. The vacant woman looks at me and smiles. I scowl. The clerk spends five minutes trying to find these crazy cigars.

Ten minutes later, I'm buying my newspaper and a soda. I walk out, and notice a transaction between the blueberry-scented cigar guy and the under-age cigarette buying kid. Welcome to Seminary Plaza!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Remembering the Federals

This weekend, the old USFL is celebrating it's 25th anniversary. Ah, the memories.

The USFL got going just as my college days were ending --1983, which was also a year that the Redskins had just won a Super Bowl championship. So people were excited about football (pretty much the opposite of the current situation, where people just kind of nervously wait for something disappointing to happen), and it was exciting to know that, even though the NFL was over, the USFL's Washington Federals would soon be storming RFK. Despite the fact that I didn't have, like, an income, a friend and I figured that it would be a brilliant idea to buy season tickets, as, surely, some day soon, seats for the Feds would be as coveted as Redskins tickets, and our brilliance would be recognized. We were so stupid back then, obviously college hadn't work that much for me.

The 1983 Federals were led by Ray Jauch, head coach and and vice president. Jauch had been a big success in the CFL, with the Edmonton Eskimos and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, two teams that, in addition to having cool names, were successful. Though evidently not having any input on the lame name (what, Bureaucrats was taken?), surely Jauch would be able to mold the Feds into the Redskins of the USFL. Not so much.

Current over caffeinated ESPN talking head Craig James was their first draft pick. A guy named Mike Hohensee was their quarterback. Both of them got injured a lot. They played their first game against the George Allen-coached Chicago Blitz, and lost 28-7. They went through a lot of kickers (a strategy that, crazily, has been picked up by the Dan Snyder-era Redskins), including Obed Ariri, who had a cool name, and was good when he was at Clemson. The Feds finished 4-14, and drew an average of 13,850 to RFK Stadum. I think I went to most of the home games, I really don't remember too much except for the fact that the couple with seats next to us was very nice, and I fell asleep at one game, after being up all night celebrating a Caps play-off victory, back in the days when the Caps played against teams from places like New York and Philadelphia. Generally, they still lost, but the series' were exciting, and it was better than losing to teams from places like Columbus and Charlotte.

Next season, well, it was even worse. They lost their opener to the Jacksonville Bulls, 53-14. Ray Jauch was fired and replaced by Dick Bielski, who would go on to become, uh, another pretty unsuccessful coach of the Feds. Ray Jauch was last seen coaching the team at my old high school, which sounds crazy, but is true. I used to drive home from work on those early August evenings, and there he'd be, teaching about 30 kids football in 100 degree heat, and, presumably, hating himself for leaving Canada. The 1984 Feds were 3-15, and drew an average of 7,694, despite trying some rather revolutionary marketing ideas, including the one that I remember the most -- Free Beer. It's true, they'd have beer trucks in the RFK parking lot, and people would just get tanked. God bless the 80s. It was a great party, I don't know how many people actually made it to the game. Innovations like that made Feds games pretty much a must for my friends, which is funny when you consider how few people actually were there. The crowds were so sparse, I remember being at my seat during one of Craig James' more serious injuries, and actually seeing his poor wife's reaction as she ran from her seat down to the field. You didn't notice that stuff at Redskins games.

At the end of the 1984 season, the Feds were sold to someone who moved the team to Orlando. Talk about a slap in the face. My dreams of spending springs and early summers at RFK cheering on the dynastic Federals disappeared. I think that was about the last time I got a free beer in Washington, too.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nats Reveal Nook Logan/Dave Chappelle Hoax

The puzzle that has been Nook Logan's career as an outfielder for the Washington Nationals has finally been solved. Turns out "Nook Logan" is really famed comedian Dave Chappelle, and Washington Nationals' management has been part of Chappelle's latest breakthrough television project, called Chappelle Goes National, where he plays a character named Nook Logan, who attempts to make a career for himself in Major League Baseball.

Many Nats fans have been puzzled by management's dedication to Logan, who was handed the starting centerfield job in spring training, despite not really displaying any baseball skills, other than a couple of good catches last season. 2007 has been little more than an injury, miscommunications in the outfield, and a bunch of strike outs, by a player who looks like he would be overmatched by a stiff wind, not to mention major leagues pitchers. He seems to have no real instincts in the outfield, although he is a really fast runner.

The emergence of Nationals' farmhand Brandon Watson, who is currently one of the hottest hitters in the universe yet remains in the minor leagues while Logan flails at pitch after pitch, has led to increased scrutiny of Logan's presence on the team, which is probably why the Nationals have chosen to end the experiment. Nats General Manager Jim Bowden said, "We were having a laugh. Dave Chappelle is a very funny man, with some DC roots. When he approached us with this project, we thought it would be a good way to give back to the community. We've all had some fun, and we'll all get a lot of exposure on the TV show, but now it's time to get serious. We wish Nook/Dave the best."

Chappelle was unavailable for comment, having immediately left DC for an unknown destination in Africa. Or Ohio.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Joys of a Consumer
So I'm moving in a couple of weeks. After an embarassingly long time at an apartment building that has really gone downhill in recent years (I'll save a final farewell for another post), I'm out of there by the end of the month.

My old bachelor furniture is not really worth moving, and it would be depressing to see it in my new place. So we need furniture. My girlfriend and I spent some time on Memorial Day weekend looking around. It did not go well. I think I said "Two thousand dollars for a couch?" about 10 times. So we regrouped, and by using the internet we determined that you don't really get the most for your money from a high-rent department store. Lower overhead means lower prices. Now I get it.

After doing our homework, last Sunday we headed to a furniture store in a rather tired shopping center that shall remain nameless but is located in, uh, the Seven Corners area. We had received a promotional thing in our e-mail. As we entered the store, we were given a new sales leaflet that advertised similar deals to the e-mail, but not exactly the same. The salesperson didn't really seem to understand the internet. Great.

We continued on. And we actually found something that we liked. The salesperson told us of the great deal that was going on this weekend, that involved no payments or interest for a year. That would be nice, at this particular point in my life postponing debt, interest-free, is appealing. The salesperson led me to the finance office, which was comprised of three young women in burkas in the back of the store. One of them took my information, and said that I'd be paged momentarily.

I was paged and returned to the office. It was explained to me that there are actually two deals out there now, the one that I was aware of, and another one, that involved actually making 12 monthly payments for the furniture, with interest of 24%. At the end of 12 months, you get the interest that you paid back. And this is the only deal that I was eligible for. What the hell?

Several things pissed me off about this: the whole bait and switch, the fact that since I've just bought a home I'm well aware of what my credit rating it (good!) and the part about 24% interest. I mentioned all of these to the woman, and said that this was a deal killer. There's a chance I'd still buy the stuff by paying cash, I said, but I needed to think about it. I managed to have the whole converation without using the word "bullshit," which was difficult.

I told the salesperson, sorry, but I think the finance people are trying to pull a fast one on me. She asked if I wanted to talk to the manager, I said no. However the manager intercepted me on the way out, and asked me how my experience was. Not so good, I said, telling him, among other things, that an interest rate of 24% was unconscionable. He played dumb, and asked if we could talk about it. I kept moving, and said that I was leaving, he had my phone number if something else developed.

We did some other errands in the center. I was kind of in shock, and envisioning a new home filled with pillows, with no furniture at all. That would be preferable to ever having to spend another moment in a furniture store.

About that time my cell phone rang. It was the manager. They'd made a mistake! Turns out, I am, indeed, eligible for the original deal. And because of their mistake, they'd actually give me no payments or interest for two years! As much as I felt like hanging up on him, well, we liked the furniture, the pillow idea wasn't getting much support from my girlfriend and if I agreed to this, we were through with furniture shopping. I told him I'd think about it during lunch, and stop back by the store if interested.

For lunch we stopped at the Chinese restaurant in the parking lot of the mall, which I think is great, though every person that I've been there with doesn't seem to agree. Weird. In addition to good food, they also have good mai tais, several of which I enjoyed. We figured we'd go ahead with the deal, and move on to other things.

So I returned to the store, and was warmly greeted by the manager (who actually was a very nice guy) and the salesperson (same with her). I went back to the finance office, and the burka women seemed happy to see me, which made me suspicious. I finished some paperwork with one of them, while the other two engaged in a conversation using that language that girls in junior high school use when the don't want people to understand them -- not pig latin, but similar, it seems to involve saying something like "to the gee" or "to the gaw" after every sentence. Very professional. I don't think they were talking about me based on their occasional interjections in english, but it was still a little off-putting.

So that was it, I scheduled a delivery and got out of there.

I hope this furniture lasts a long, long time.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rumsfeld on L
I just walked past Don Rumsfeld, who was standing on the corner of Connecticut and L Streets, getting ready to cross Connecticut. He was gladhanding passers-by, and yukking it up with his two companions, two fancy haircut guys in suits who looked like they were about the same age as guys that are getting killed or maimed every day in Iraq.

Rumsfeld looked well-rested, it doesn't look like he's losing much sleep.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Crime in My Neighborhood
I realized something was going on in my neighborhood at about 3:30AM on Thursday morning, as I was driving around trying to find a place to park a U-Haul van (that's a whole different story). There were police cars all over the place, they seemed to be concentrated at the 7-11 at N. Cleveland St. and Lee Highway. Apparently, none of them thought it was strange for a guy to be driving a rental truck around cruising for parking spaces at this time of night, as none of them gave me a second look, even after I parked and walked back to my building.

Three hours later (not exactly a good night's sleep), I was up again, retrieving the truck. By then the area was teeming with media types, complete with those trucks with those huge, skyward reaching antennas that, in earlier times, used to signal that Monica Lewinsky was in the vicinity.

I went on with my day, and didn't give it much thought. After work, I was at the 7-11. There was still a presence. I asked the guy at 7-11 what those three huge trucks were doing across the street. He hadn't noticed. As I left 7-11, I drove through the center of activity. There were reporters standing on the sidewalk. I rolled down my window and asked WTTG reporter Bob Barnard what was going on. He was very nice (unlike Channel 4 reporter Jackie Bensen -- the one who always looks like she's in the middle of a hurricane -- who once acted like I was invisible during a similar inquiry), and asked me if I had heard about the plastic-bag predator, and said that he had struck there the previous night. Wow. I got back home in time to get the scoop on the 6 o'clock news.

Apparently, the guy knocked on a woman's door at about 1:30AM. For some reason she opened the door, saw him and his plastic bag, screamed and shut the door. The guy fled, and the police looked for him. They thought they found him, but they later released the suspect, although it sounds like they still think it might be him.

Later last night, I watched WTTG news, and poor Bob Barnard was still standing on the corner, where he did a live report. He interviewed a woman with distracting eyebrows who was clearly very excited that she'd be able to share her personality with the world via TV, and tell everyone that she was taking a self-defense class. Great.

Here's an article about it in the Washington Post, which is pretty half-assed, as in the second paragraph it refers to the event as happening "near Lee Highway and Cleveland Street in Rosslyn." Lee Highway and North Cleveland Street is not in Rosslyn, Joe Holley. Rosslyn is that area across Key Bridge with all the big buildings.

In any case, it was very exciting for our generally dull neighborhood. I had a more traditional morning this morning, which didn't involve rental trucks, so I didn't notice anything unusual. Be careful out there.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Return of Pizza Pantry, This Blog
It's been a while, I know. A crazy confluence of softball, Nats games, work and some other complications have kept me blog-free for a while. Not that there hasn't been plenty to whine about.

But I'm back. And I'm not whining, I'm here to report that the best pizza in Arlington -- Pizza Pantry -- is also back! For those that don't know, Pizza Pantry was a small storefront pizza place on Walter Reed Drive, right off of Columbia Pike (923 S. Walter Reed Dr.). Up until a couple of years ago, it had been there since 1957 -- my parents went there when they were younger, as a kid, I used to stop by on my bike, often after a trek to Giant Music, rummaging through their bins of $3.99 records. In addition to having great pizza, Pizza Pantry produced something called a Filmore, which is a huge meatball sub, smothered in provolone and tangy sauce, with a perfectly crisped bun.

So it was a sad day when I found out that they were closing. Actually, I remember, it was a sad night. It changed to one of those fly-by-night chains, and I had no interest in checking it out. It seemed to change names once or twice. Still, not interested. Last weekend, for some reason, I was reading one of those advertising magazines that trash up your mailbox. Amongst the ads for carpeting and blinds, I spotted a picture of The Famous Miss Louise, the mastermind behind Pizza Pantry! She's back, the ad said, along with the famous Filmore sandwich and their original homemade square pizza. It's now called Salvo's Bistro and Buffet, but I can't see myself ever saying that. Sorry, Salvo.

So I stopped by last night. Miss Louise was, indeed, back, running things by herself. She said she'd been back since December. I ordered two pizzas. Still awesome. The highlight of Pizza Pantry pizza is a thin, crispy crust. I think I could just eat a whole pie of nothing but crust. The pizzas are square, so I hog the corner pieces. There's not an overabundance of cheese or tomato sauce, and the tomato sauce is perfectly tangy. My topping of choice is sausage -- you get a blob of sausage on each slice. And you end up with a perfect pizza. A large pizza isn't really that large, in my younger days I could easily eat a whole pie. And they're cheap -- last night, two larges, each with one topping (the pepperoni is OK, but I'd stick to sausage), for under $18. I protested that I didn't think that was enough, but Miss Louise assured me she had it right. Soon, I'll be back for a Filmore, which is equally delectable (and also cheap, at $5.99).

So check it out. They're not open late, so give them a call at 703/920-9110, which is a number I just plugged into my phone, after I deleted Ledo's.

Who knows, maybe The Keyhole Inn will re-open next.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Stan Kasten Thinks We're Stupid
Wow, I need to stop reading the newspaper in the morning. The Nats' losses are bad enough, but some of the remarks associated with them are just breathtakingly stupid.

This morning, Washington Post baseball whiz Tom Boswell takes on the Nationals, Stan Kasten and the Plan. It's the usual stuff. Kasten, we know, thinks he's a genius, look at what he did with the Braves. In today's column, Boswell quotes Kasten, in defense of his plan, saying "I know you don't understand the concept 'Money once spent is gone forever,' but it is true, nonetheless. If you waste millions now then you don't have it later when it can help win a pennant." Oh boy.

I guess this is news only to Stan, but we do understand that concept. And it works both ways -- the money that we spend supporting a team that he has chosen to make non-competitive is gone forever. We got some joy out of it, but also a lot of unnecessary frustration. A concept that he might try to understand is "Just because you have a new stadium with a lot of fancy features, the main attraction is the team, and people aren't going to come to games if the team is no good and there's a feeling that team management is taking the fans' support -- emotional and financial -- for granted."

I'll stop there. Tonight I'm going to try not to think about the Nats, and I'll be at The Birchmere enjoying the Gourds, which is about my favorite thing to do. The money I spend at the show will be gone forever, I understand, but it will be well worth it.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Nats' King Gets Fired Up and Other Bad Nats News
Not such a great day for the Nats yesterday, as they lost their seventh straight game and suffered through another pathetic offensive performance. Which I guess is understandable, given the offensive capabilities of the players they had out there. Batting sixth - Brian Schneider, who had two hits which raised his average to .216. Batting seventh - Robert Fick, whose two hits raised his average to .194. Batting eighth - Nook Logan, who got no hits and is hitting .167. Pitcher Jason Simontacchi brought of the rear, and he, of course, is batting .000.

Interestingly, Brewers' starter Dave Bush was 0-2 last night, and he's still hitting .214. So when you pitch against the Nationals, not only do you get a break when you face the pitcher. You get a break for pretty much the last half of the order.

Jason Simontacchi pitched decently, for a chronically injured journeyman who it's not fair to have any expecations of. I was listening to WTEM Tuesday afternoon, and they (DC's sports radio station!) have so little interest in baseball or the Nationals (they were able to squeeze in a segment on peer pressure and office happy hours, though, based on an article in the Post on April 22) that the guy who does the sports updates during the Sports Reporters couldn't even be bothered to figure out how to pronounce Simontacchi's name, repeatedly calling him Simeontacchi. Jeez.

The Nats' roster was shaken up somewhat yesterday. Chad Cordero went on bereavement leave to be with his dying grandmother. That's good for the Chief, and that really is sad.

Josh Wilson, he of the Little League-like error to assist ratio, was sent to the minors. Hopefully we'll never see him again. And Tony Batista was called up. I can't really think of anything to say about him. He'd be easy to bash, but, given this team, well, it's worth a shot.

To me, the most interesting thing about yesterday was the Nats' decision to ban alcohol in the home and visiting clubhouses at RFK, as well as in the visiting clubhouse when they're on the road. Nats' brass was able to turn the death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock into a way to save them a couple of thousand dollars over the season! Great move!

While I'm cynical about the teams' motives, such a ban is not unusual in the major leagues, and several teams (like the Yankees, who we know are clearly not pinching pennies) have recently changed their policies. Which is why the reaction of rotund Nationals' pitcher Ray King is so moronic. The Post's Barry Svrluga reported that this move was met with eye-rolling by some Nats. The move really got the goat of Ray Ray, who presumably is on the team, in part, for veteran leadership (he and his 9.95 ERA would be pretty easy to replace). King goes 6-1, 240, and for those of you who may just be casual baseball fans, he's one of several Nationals who you look at and say "Wait, that guy's a professional athlete?" Yes he is, sports fans, and he makes $850,000 a year. And he's pissed that there's no longer free (light?) beer in the locker room. Bob Cohn and Mark Zuckerman, of the Washington Times, reported that King said "It's really becoming a mockery to where you hate the accident had to happen, but the accident didn't come from him coming out of the clubhouse. It wasn't because he was drunk in the clubhouse. ... How many stadiums can you walk out of and walk to a bar?" He also blathered "Most of the time when we're on the road and we leave the clubhouse, we're getting on the bus or in a taxi. I just think it's a situation where they're trying to do way too much. We don't have a salary cap, but they can do whatever else they want." Yeah, you know, they can do anything, like tell you not to drink at work.

Sometimes you'll read a profile of a particularly high-achieving player and his great work habits, and you'll find out that after a game, he lifts weights or does cardio. Or if he's Gilbert Arenas he shoots 10,000 jump shots. Not Ray Ray. He wants his beer, he wants it as soon as the game ends, and he doesn't want to have to pay for it.

This team is driving even the players to drink, evidently.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Smokers Support Avon Walk for Breast Cancer
Yesterday evening, I was driving around Pentagon City, listening to Chad Cordero give away another Nationals' victory. The car in front of me was festooned with various pink ribbons and other decorations about the fight against breast cancer. This reminded me that the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer was Sunday, and it also reminded me that I'd be owing a couple of people in my office money this morning (and happy about it).

I manuevered my car around the presumed Avon Walker, and pulled up next to her at the stoplight. I glanced over, and she was dressed all in bright pink, with a pink hat, decorated with all kinds of pins and ribbons. She was definitely a crusader in the fight against breast cancer, great for her.

As I admired her adornments she fired up a cigarette. She took a big drag, smiled and hung her cigarette-holding arm out the window. Nothing like your first cigarette after the breast cancer walk, I guess.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nats Add (Yawn) Another Guy Named Ryan
Watching the Red Sox/A's game last night, I couldn't help but notice the hurting situation of the A's outfield -- starting were Danny Putnam, along with the newly acquired Ryan Langerhans and the veteran Shannon Stewart. Putnam has about 40 major league AB's, Langerhans was just traded from the Braves to the A's(for a player to be named later) because his batting average began with .0, and Shannon Stewart is, well, Shannon Stewart. Travis Buck has also spent a lot of time in the A's outfield, and they're so desperate that they're anxious for the return of Bobby Kielty.

In the fourth inning, Langerhans committed a ridiculous error, he completely muffed an easy fly ball, which ultimately resulted in a run for the Red Sox. The Red Sox announcers noted that it was uncharacteristic of Langerhans, known for his defense (good thing, considering his batting average), who had only committed two previous errors in his career.

A couple of hours later, I had the Nationals' game on. I was away from the tv for a while, when I returned Debbi Taylor appeared to be ready to interview a guy who, for a moment, I thought was the late Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter, at the game with two women who were a bit over-dressed for a baseball game, and who seemed to think it was hilarious that they were on TV. I soon realized that it wasn't Steve Irwin, it was Jim Bowden, with two, uh, over-dressed women, one of whom appeared to have a small fox around her neck.

It got crazier when I realized that Jim Bowden was being interviewed about the Nats having traded Chris Snelling for, you guessed it, Ryan Langerhans. They're both left-handed hitters, Langerhans is a couple of years older. Bowden seemed to think that the significance of the deal was that it upgraded the Nats' defense in the outfield. That's one problem I didn't realize that we had, at least when the starters are in. In the Post on-line, Barry Svrluga quotes Bowden as saying how great a defensive outfield Kearns, Logan and Langerhans would be. Yeah, that would be great, too bad neither Logan nor Langerhans appear have the ability to hit. So this seems to me another way to take a shot at Ryan Church, who's been the Nats' most consistent player. One of these days we'll find out why Ryan Church gets treated this way. Probably after he's had a season where he's hit 30 home runs, for a team other than the Nationals.

So with Langerhans instead of Snelling, we get a little older, a little better defensively, a little less Australian, and the Nats save at least $40,000, as Langerhans' base salary is lower than Snelling. That's $40,000 more for the cherry tree fund! On with The Plan!

Monday, April 30, 2007

One Great Quarter Isn't Enough for the Wiz
Saturday evening, I went to the Wizards game. I know, but I had made the commitment to go well before the whole injury thing. And, looking back, it was still a better option than going to a four-hour Nationals loss, complete with drunken Mets fans and a Chad Cordero blown save. And it sure beat driving out to Raljon to celebrate the drafting of LaRon Landry. Which I actually think is a pretty good pick, despite the fact that he's a duplicate of Sean Taylor. I can't figure out how long Sean Taylor's contract is, but there is absolutely no chance that he'll re-sign with the Redskins. His reaction to the fact that Landry is going to be making more money than him should be interesting. I was puzzled by early reports that the Redskins wanted to make a deal so they could draft wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Yeah, that's what they need, another high profile offensive player who will complain about not getting enough touches. Right.

But this post is about the Wizards. I have to say that the game was fun, the Wizards do a great job of making big games like this an event. (Of course, this is from a guy who went to many many Bullets games at the Capital Centre, which was like going to a game in somebody's basement.) It's fun to walk around the concourse before the game, and check everybody out. Unfortunately, we kept running into Danny Ferry. It's easy to get relatively good food, and you don't have to stand in crazy lines and wait for fancy extras, like hot dog buns.

After the warm-ups, the lights were turned down, and Caron Butler came out to get the crowd fired up. Then the players were introduced, and Gilbert came out to an ovation. He wasn't limping that badly, not as bad as the last time I saw Nick Johnson, actually.

Then the game started, and things quickly went downhill. Pretty quickly, the Wiz put themselves into a hole. LeBron James can be pretty deceptive, he looks like he's just standing around the three-point line, but he'll kind of lull you to sleep and suddenly make a ferocious drive to the basket, or a pass that catches everyone off guard. He's good, and at half-time the Cavs had a 17 point lead.

Things got crazy at the beginning of the second half. Led by an inspired Antawn Jamison, the Wizards closed a 17-point gap in less than six minutes. The crowd went nuts, momentum changed and it looked like the Wizards could win. But they couldn't keep it up. Faced with an opportunity to take a lead, inevitably they'd miss a shot, and someone like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was usually unguarded, would make a shot. The Wizards fought hard, but just didn't have enough juice. They scored 31 points in the third quarter, and 17 points in the fourth quarter, and they lost, 98-92.

What this play-off series has shown me is that someone on the Wizards has done a poor job with the bench. It's either that Ernie Grunfeld has not gotten players that are capable of contributing, or the players are fine, Eddie Jordan just can't get anything from them. Given that the Wizards are missing their two best players, I think it's logical to think that they'd have to go deeper on their bench in this series than usual, and deeper than other teams. I read a couple of articles where it was suggested that, hey, this is a lost cause, give some guys a chance to show what they've got. Guys like Andray Blatche, who played four minutes in game one, and hasn't gotten off the bench since. That, I don't understand.

In fact, compared to the vast majority of other teams in the play-offs, all of which are healthier than the Wizards, the Wizards get fewer minutes from their bench. On Saturday, Wizards subs logged 43 minutes, Cavs subs logged 51. Here are the other teams that played Saturday, and the minutes they got from their reserves: Denver - 41, Detroit - 50, Houston - 61, Orlando - 75, San Antonio - 84 and Utah - 87. That doesn't make sense to me. Either the Wizards don't have enough horses, or the coach doesn't know how to ride them. That's a problem, whether you've got Arenas and Butler or not, and the Wizards won't get much better until it's addressed.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Nice Week for O's MASN Crew
On Wednesday night, Orioles' MASN announcer Gary Thorne said that Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli told him that the "blood" on Curt Schilling's sock during Game 6 of the 2004 play-offs was fake, just "p.r." Since it's not true, and Mirabelli says he's never even spoken to Thorne, it generated a big controversy, which Schilling addresses in his blog (38 Pitches) this morning. Whether you like Curt Schilling or not, he was a huge pitcher for the Red Sox in 2004, and without him, they'd still be World Championship-less. And his blog is pretty cool. To suggest that before that particular game, someone with the Red Sox would have said, "Hey, you know what we should do? Put some fake blood on Curt's ankle," is just moronic. But there are people out there that think Bill Clinton has been a cocaine dealer, too, so what other people think is never too shocking to me.

Last night, I turned on the O's pre-game show, thinking they might address the issue. Maybe do something like make an apology, who knows. If that happened, I missed it. Apparently Thorne now says that he "overheard" Mirabelli saying this. Whatever. If that was the case, Mirabelli was kidding.

What I did hear last night was that Under Armour -- the company that makes clothes that just wick the sweat away from your body! -- had 900 people at the game. To celebrate this, O's sideline reporter Amber Theoharis got herself amidst the Under Armour folks, greeted them, and asked one of them if they were having a good time at the game. He replied that "We're having a great fuckin' time!" If Under Armour made a product that could wick the embarassment away from her face, Amber could have used it, as she strode swiftly away from the Under Armour folks. She tossed it back up to Jim Hunter and Rick Dempsey, and Jim Hunter said that he'd see us at the post-game show. If they were still around.

Nice week, MASN. Stay classy, B-town!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Driving While Completely Insane
Saturday night, I was walking to my car, parked in the West End area of DC. I heard a car hitting another car, and brakes screeching, when I looked in that direction I saw a driver doing what looked like a bad job of parallel parking. As I got closer, I saw that there was a guy in a car that was in the first spot on the block -- there was no car ahead of him, which made his parking problems particularly strange. I saw that he had backed into the car parked behind him -- a nice Volvo -- but there didn't seem to be much damage. But he wasn't through.

As I stood on the sidewalk watching this guy, he gunned the car forward, through the stoplight at the corner. Then he threw it in reverse, and slammed into the Volvo, which then hit the car behind it. Then the guy got out of the driver's seat, and hopped into the back seat of the car, never acknowledging that there was a guy there -- me -- watching this whole thing. I didn't have my cell phone with me (as usual, when something interesting happens), but by this time a couple of other guys had shown up, and a guy who turned out to be an off-duty Prince George's County police officer was on his cell phone talking to the police, who it seemed were asking him a million questions.

Next, a guy emerges from the darkness, looks at the car that's done all the damage, and exclaims "My car." I tell him what happened, he sees the guy in the back seat, who, it turns out, was his brother, who had been given the keys and told to sit in the car and wait for him. So he starts yelling at the driver brother, who then gets out of the car and utters some nonsense, and starts running. Non-driver brother chases after him. Still no police, it's been about 15 minutes since the incident, and the Prince George's County officer is still being interrogated on his cell phone. Finally a police car comes down the street and we flag it down. The off-duty officer explains things to the DC officers, who don't really seem to phased by the whole thing, and make no effort whatsoever to find the madman on the loose and/or his brother.

The DC police seem to have no interest in talking to me, which is fine with me. About the time the Prince George's County officer leaves, the driver of the Volvo shows up. He's just a kid, and he's with his friends. He's shocked, and he's even more shocked when I explain to him what happened. I give him my card, if he needs a witness or anything, and move on to my car, so that I can pick up my girlfriend, who's been waiting for me all this time. I pick her up and explain to her what happened, and we stop by the scene so that I can show her. By this time, some of the Volvo kid's friends are there, and I'm asked to tell them the whole story. The DC police are still on the scene, talking to each other, I'm not really sure what they're doing. Then up pulls the off-duty Prince George's County officer. He looks at me and says "Guess who I've got in the car?" Out steps the non-driving brother! The DC cops are very impressed. Non-driving brother is very apologetic to everyone, and then gets questioned by the DC police.

Just a regular Saturday night in DC.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Nats Win, I Think

This evening, I was multitasking. I watched some of the Red Sox/Yankees game, and some of the Nats/Marlins game. Then I was driving around, and scanning between several games on XM Radio. I got disgusted with the Nats when Chad Cordero blew another save, and gave up on them. I listened to the Red Sox come back against the Yankees. I got home, and checked the good old Washington Post website for the Nats score, fearing the worst, and saw the box to the left. Damn. There was no article, but I linked to the summary, which said that Jason Wood hit a home run in the bottom of the 12th to win it for the Marlins.

A little bit later, I was on CBS Sportsline, checking my fantasy team. The guys at CBS said the Nats won! Hmm. According to CBS,Chris Snelling drove in a run in the top of the 14th, and the Marlins didn't score in their half. Jason Wood's supposed game winning home run was a fly out.

I'm not complaining, really, I know the folks at the Post have had a busy week. Besides, it made the victory that much sweeter.

I'm going to bed, and I hope, in the morning, that the Nats are still the winners.
Thursday Afternoon at RFK
I took the afternoon off yesterday, and went to the Nationals/Phillies game. Despite the less than ideal weather, and the Nats' less than ideal hitting, it was a much better way to spend a weekday afternoon than usual.

Staff "ace" John Patterson took the mound, and struggled again. He consistently let the first batter of the inning on base. By the fifth inning, when he was removed, he had absolutely nothing. His fast balls don't seem as fast as they did back when he was good. He topped out at 88 mph on the scoreboard gun. I think he's hurt. He was relieved by Levale Speigner and Saul Rivera, who both pitched well, as pretty much all of the relievers do these days, with the exception of Chad Cordero (now that Ray King is on the DL). I hope Cordero turns things around soon.

I got to the game a little early, and decided to grab some lunch on the Terrace, which was pretty unpopulated about 45 minutes before game time. That's too bad. I felt bad for the guys in the chicken stand, who didn't even look like they anticipated enough business to fire up their deep fryers. I scouted around, and chose to get something from the hot dog stand, which is called something like DC Dawgs. They'll sell you two corndogs, doused with nacho cheese and chilli sauce, with a bag of chips, for $12. Considering plain old hot dogs cost $5.50 from Aramark, this is actually a decent deal. And it covers all of the basic ballpark food groups: hot dogs/sausages, nacho cheese, fried stuff. Jackpot! I was a little wary when I saw how the thing looked, and it was a little messy. But it was damn good. And, unlike everything else that has to do with the Nationals, it was something that I hadn't seen at a million ball games before. So, whatever this is called (and I'll be able to tell you after the next game I go to), I hereby deem that this is the Nationals' signature food. Forget half smokes.

The crowd was about 16,000, most of whom were sitting right behind me, chatting away and not paying attention to the game at all. I guess you can't expect much more for a weekday afternoon game when the weather is not so great. It was truly a dull game, until the ninth inning when the Nationals mounted a comeback. That was about the time that they decided to do that thing where they show no originality whatsoever, and play Sweet Caroline over the PA, with a cheesy Neil Diamond video and everything. That sucked. Sweet Caroline ended and, shortly thereafter, so did the comeback, when Chris Snelling watched strike three with the tying runs in scoring position. At least they made it interesting.

It would have been a nice game to win, before going to Florida with a reasonable possibility of overtaking the Marlins for third place. Which still could happen, especially since Patterson won't be pitching in that series.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie Experience
Yesterday afternoon, I somehow convinced my girlfriend that it would be a good idea to go see Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters. She hadn't been feeling well, so I think I got her at a moment when she was loopy from medication.

Given the nature of Washington, and the fact that it was the first weekend of this important film, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised about the celebrity sightings at the theater. Someone that looked like Tony Kornheiser was in front of us in line, surrounded by what I presume were Washington Post interns with notebooks and recording devices, poised to record their subject's every utterance, I guess so they could maybe cobble together a column. The guy behind me said that earlier there was a little incident at the ticket booth, where a guy claiming to be King of Homeland Security for Prince George's County pulled a gun on the ticket taker, who he accused of making fun of his mustache. Scary, I'm glad I missed that.

As we got into the theater, there was a couple that could have been Paul Wolfowitz and his girlfriend, Ali Riza, you know, the one who works for the State Department and makes more money than the Secretary of State. If it was them, they certainly prove the line about Washington being Hollywood for, uh, not so pretty people. The man's hair was a mess, and he was on his cell phone, yelling something about changing the name of the World Bank to the Wolfowitz Bank. Thankfully, he piped down as the movie started.

Things began with what looked to be the usual old-timey cartoon characters in a little conga line, reminding us to be good movie viewers, and not to disturb our neighbors. Soon, these lovable characters were shouted off the screen by an animated heavy metal band, singing/shouting a song about what they'll do with our cell phones or crying babies if either were to go off during the movie. This was very funny. In fact, it was the highlight of the movie.

Once the movie started, the regular characters -- Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad -- appeared, and then went on a mission to, I think, get some kind of exercise machine repaired. They were joined in this pursuit by all of the usual characters -- Carl, their neighbor; Dr. Weird and Steve; Emory and Ogelthorpe, and, of course, Ignignokt and Err, who famously held Boston hostage earlier in the year.

Eventually, they get the exercise machine rolling, and Carl gives it a test spin, which results in the machine morphing into a bigger machine that then threatens all of civilization. I think.

After they get the machine under control, and save civilization, the ATHF-ers go on a quest for Frylock's parents. Or all of their parents. Something like that. Then an eight layer bean burrito appears, and the movie is over.

Sadly, I had been looking forward to this movie for a while. While it was great to see the ATHF gang on the big screen, I was otherwise disappointed. Too much of Dr. Weird, Steve, Emory and Ogelthorpe, and that robot character with the mohawk, and not enough Ignignokt and Err.

As we walked out of the theater, I noticed the Post interns collecting the discarded snack wrappers from Mr. Tony's row. So look for some kind of collage in a future edition.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Chicken on Board
I left my apartment this morning about 9:00AM to run some errands, at the shopping center at Spout Run and Lee Highway. I had a relatively efficient trip to CVS, and returned to my car to drive over to the Giant. As I was loading my car up, I glanced at the car parked next to me, and noticed what looked like a snow white chicken hopping around in the passenger's seat. I looked away, gathered myself, gave myself a sobriety test (I passed!) and looked again. Indeed it was a chicken, who by this time had noticed me, and was hopping around excitedly just like a puppy dog.

It was a pretty chicken, I guess. It was clean and bright white with red trim around it's face, and seemed very friendly. I looked in the car, and there was chicken feed spread around, though it wasn't really messy. The car looked as neat as a car containing a live chicken and chicken feed could be. I, of course, fumbled to take a picture with my cell phone, which, of course, didn't work, or you'd be looking at it by now. As I was fumbling with the phone, I noticed a guy walking towards the car. He was looking at me, not in an unfriendly way, but I did feel kind of odd thinking it was probably his car, and what would his reaction be to a guy taking a picture of the chicken inside.

His reaction was a friendly: "Chicken pictures, huh?"
Me, articulate as usual: "Yeah, uh, it seems like a nice chicken!"

I put the phone back in my pocket, and we both got in our cars. I noticed that the chicken jumped in his owner's lap as soon as he got in. Just like a puppy!
Nats Win! TV Announcers Lose!
It was nice to see the Nats break out of their losing streak last night. Jason Bergmann pitched pretty well, saving himself a trip to the minors. There was some nice clutch hitting and major league level fielding. And Cardiac Chad Cordero worked his magic, and provided the drama, in the ninth inning as he got his first save.

I've watched several games on MASN by now, enough to have some thoughts on the broadcast. Bob Carpenter and Don Sutton do absolutely nothing for me. They are boring and humorless and they never shut up. I've had the MLB Extra Innings package for the past five seasons or so, so I've heard all kinds of announcers. Some of them actually have personalities. These two do not. Some of them are funny. I'm not talking Dave Chappelle funny, and I'm sure not asking for Bob Uecker, but there are some announcers out there (Jerry Remy, even Daron Sutton) who are able to enhance the enjoyment of watching the game with some humor. These guys are dry, dry, dry.

Some examples of the wit of Bob Carpenter: During one of the slumping Brian Schneider's at bats last night, Carpenter noted that Schneider was "due." He was so "due," that if this was a library, he'd owe us some money. Ha. He also suggested, during a ridiculous conversation about how dark it was in the catcher's, uh, crotch area, making it difficult for the pitcher to pick up signs, that maybe they should add some runway lights. Good one, Bob.

Sutton, who I was shocked to see still sporting that Mark Moseley-esque perm, takes himself altogether too seriously, it's like he's giving a lesson on Baseball 101. One of the things I liked about Ron Darling two years ago was that he was able to express his insight and opinions, as a former high level player, in a low-key and interesting manner. Don Sutton seems to think he invented baseball. He's so smart that he has the ability to foresee where players will hit balls, as last night he implored us all to watch Brian McCann drive a ball to right to advance a runner. McCann hit a hot shot to Ryan Zimmerman, which, Sutton said, was a result of great pitching by Bergmann. Alrighty. I guess it didn't have anything to do with that big hole on the left side of the infield.

Also, they just never shut up. Via Extra Innings, I get to listen to Vin Scully sometimes. He has the great ability to let the game speak for itself. I know these early games haven't been saying much, but these guys seem to have had way to much coffee. There's a feature where you can send them a question through the MASN website. Look for "Tadcranky from Arlington asks 'Can you guys shut up for 30 seconds?'" I listened to the end of last night's game on the radio last night, and the radio guys (who are great) talk less than Carpenter and Sutton.

I've seen bits and pieces of the pre- and post-game shows with Ray Knight and Johnny Holliday up until last night, when I saw all of the post-game show. Ray Knight seems to not know what to do with his hands. Johnny Holliday, with all due respect, seems to not be at his best. Last night he stumbled over whether John Smoltz (who it sounded like he was calling Schmoltz a couple of times) was the losing pitcher of record. Once he determined that he was, he made a big thing about how the Nationals had handed him his first loss of the season. Uh, Johnny, it's April 12. Smoltz is now 1-1. Settle down.

The weirdest thing about the post-game show is when they go to what seems to be called Ray's Roundtable, which involves Knight going to the other side of the set. Then we get a camera angle from behind Knight, where we see mostly his back, and we see a wee Johnny Holliday across the set. Then they talk to each other, just like they did before when they were standing next to each other. I pray that one day Johnny will cup his hands around his mouth and yell "Red Rover, Red Rover, send Ray Knight over."

I know it's early and everything, and at least we can actually watch the games. But, as with everything else Nats-related these days, there's a lot of room for improvement.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What The Nats Need
I picked up the Post this morning, and a headline across the top of Sports said Nats Need a Leader With a Powerful Bat. That was good news to me, as I figured it must signify that they've solved their pitching woes. Not quite the case, as it turned out.

Barry Svrluga admits that, yeah, the pitching sucks, but "Moreover, observers wonder who is the real threat, the man who will make pitchers cower each time up." Uh, Ryan Zimmerman? Maybe Austin Kearns? Who else would it be? If you tell me Kory Casto, I'm going to take a leap right out of this blog.

He says that "the offensive struggles -- and, indeed, the overall performance -- is putting focus on the club's young leadership group of catcher Brian Schneider, Zimmerman, Kearns and infielder Felipe Lopex, the players singled out to help hold things together in the clubhouse. Will that group be able to convey how to handle these struggles?" Dude, they're the ones that are struggling! There's no one else, unless, like Frank Robinson, you're going to blame Ryan Church for this. Soriano is gone, remember? Stan the Plan gave him up, and decided to spend the money on cherry trees, which will result in tens of thousands of previously disinterested Washingtonians becoming avid baseball fans and spending their evenings and their cash in Southeast DC, gazing at cherry trees and a fancy scoreboard.

I think the offense will get better. They've been playing from behind in, literally, every at bat. And it's been like 30 degrees out there most of the time, unfortunately their opponents have the huge advantage of getting to hit against Nationals' pitchers. Mark Zuckerman, in the Washington Times, points out that the Nats "became the first team in the modern era to trail at least 4-0 in each of its first six games." That's a problem.

Here's what I'd like to see this week: Cory Kasto hitting a cut-off man, Jason Bergmann walking fewer than one batter per inning, something positive for us to cling to from Matt Chico, and a quality start by Jerome Williams. And I'd like to see Dmitri Young go another week without the inevitable injury that will result in Robert Fick ending up playing first base. While all that may seem wildly optimistic, I think it's a little more realistic that waiting for the second coming of Cal Ripken to suddenly appear in a Nationals' uniform.

Friday, April 06, 2007

SI Version of Red Sox Nats Trade Talks
The Nationals get a substantial amount of attention in the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated. In the SI Players section, Nook Logan gets The Questions. Nothing really interesting, though. If he wasn't playing baseball, he'd be playing basketball, he says. And if he were commissioner for the day, he'd let kids come to games free. Which, you know, they pretty much do, in that kids at games aren't generally paying for their tickets. But I know what he's saying. Maybe he can establish Nook's Nook, and buy some tickets for kids. He can actually sit up there with them, too, for the time being at least.

The big photo leading off Inside This Week in Sports is Ryan Zimmerman sliding into third on Opening Day. It's a great shot, you see the ball, and him on his way to beating the ball. But it also makes you realize that one of these days Ryan's going to suffer a hand injury sliding like that. And the way things have been going in Washington these days, it could be pretty soon.

But the most interesting Nats mention, in Inside Baseball by John Heyman, is that, before the Sox decided to return Jonathan Papelbon to the bullpen, Chad Cordero was their "best trade option." Except, in exchange, the Nats wanted Clay Buchholz, Craig Hansen (both 2005 first round picks) and Jon Lester (a 2002 second round pick). Right. Maybe they would have thrown Manny in, too. I love Chad Cordero and everything, but that seems a little steep. Not too many players have started out in the bullpen and had long, successful careers as closers. Gregg Olson had about four good years for the O's, if I remember correctly. Needless to say, Boston deemed the move "ridiculous." Apparently they're not completely sold on "The Plan" either.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nats Play Down to Their Potential
The Nats are two games into their season, and things look pretty scary. Going into the season, two of the biggest question marks, from a non-pitching standpoint, were Nook Logan and Christian Guzman, who both immediately got hurt in Game #1. That's bad luck. After the game, when it was suggested to him that he might be moving back to shortstop, Felipe Lopez, the ultimate team guy, said, as reported by Barry Svrugla in the Washington Post, that "I'm playing second. I don't want to switch. I don't want to start all over again. My mind is set for second base." By game time yesterday, Lopez had apparently changed his story. On the MASN broadcast, Bob Carpenter (maybe it was Don Sutton) said that Lopez had misunderstood the question, and he'd be happily playing shortstop starting on Wednesday. Which is good, because I don't really want to ever see Josh Wilson play shortstop again, after yesterday's debacle.

As far as replacing Nook, Kory Casto was called up, and even had a hit yesterday. Casto had a good spring, and now he has a chance to show off his stuff. Let's hope that he does better than previous young Nationals outfielders.

It was difficult to fully guage Shawn Hill's performance last night, as he got no help from his fielders, and had a very long first inning. After that, he settled down somewhat, and I suppose there is some room to be hopeful, although maybe not quite as hopeful as Carpenter and Sutton were, who seem to be unable to utter anything negative.

In an hour or so, Matt Chico toes the mound for his major league debut. I hope that he doesn't get discouraged, and that he, uh, "can lend a helping hand."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Boswell Gets a Jump on April Fool's Day
Washington Post sports columnist Tom Boswell shows off his sly wit in a column this morning, by predicting mind-blowingly great things from the post-2007 Nationals who, he says "will have resources that surpass any team in Los Angeles, Boston or Chicago and may equal the Yankees in their ability to land a free agent." Right, and wasn't it great for Joe Gibbs to come out of retirement to return the Redskins to their glory days?

Boswell attributes the Nats' $36 million dollar payroll (third lowest in baseball, he says) to the genius of Stan Kasten. I attribute it to cheapness. They're saving money so they can spend it on stadium enhancements (cherry trees and a scoreboard is mostly what I hear about, how exciting!), and be poised to, in the future, "sign several of the best players in baseball," which they can do, because they'll be rich when the new ballpark opens next year.

The Nats will be just like the Tigers, who leveraged a new park into a league championship, by developing young players and spending $40.6 million on free agents Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez, Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones. I don't argue that the Tigers got great value and great contributions from those guys. But I think it had less to do with genius than luck. Ordonez had been injured most of the two previous years. People weren't exactly pounding the door down for IRod or Kenny Rogers, for several reasons. And anytime you get a good performance from Todd Jones, consider yourself lucky. Things aligned perfectly for the Tigers last year, and that's not likely to happen again, for the Nats or for any other team, anytime soon.

Boswell doesn't mention the Brewers or the Pirates, two teams that have new stadiums and that continue to not be very competitive.

I hate to be this negative about a team that I'll spend the summer following, live and on MASN, as soon as I find it. But things don't look so rosy to me, especially when I read in the very same edition of the Post that only 30,000 seats have been sold for opening day. Opening day! How many people are going to show up for the Nats/Marlins showdown the next day? I don't think the intrigue of the season debut of number two starter Sean Hill is going to fill many seats.

So the plan for this season is this: Emotionally and financially support a team that did absolutely nothing to improve itself this off-season, that features a starting rotation of an injury-prone "ace" and four minor leaguers, and that includes a probable starting first baseman who seems to be a little unbalanced mentally, significantly overweight physically and can't field or run, because we need to trust the genius of Stan Kasten and company (who can't seem to figure out how to do some pretty simple things, like mail season tickets or distribute cheap MP3 players to season ticket holders in a timely manner), and believe that when the new stadium is built people who can't be bothered coming to opening day this year will be presenting Kasten and the Lerners with boatloads of cash that can be used to outbid the Yankees for free agents.

If you believe that, I've got a Damien Jackson autographed bat that I'd like to sell you (for $350). But I hope I'm wrong, and I'll be sitting in section 212 hoping for the best.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tadcranky Does Northern California
I've been in Northern California since last Saturday, when I arrived at a hotel in a place called Half Moon Bay, which is 22 miles south of San Francisco, and which I had never heard of until a few months ago, when I booked a meeting there. It's a breathtakingly beautiful place, and it's also breathtakingly expensive, so it was fortunate that I was on my company's tab. Not a lot do do there but play golf and marvel at the coastline and, in my case, work, but I guess it's a nice enough place to be for a few days, even if you have to work.

My work ended this afternoon, though, and we headed to San Francisco for a few days of non-work. We're staying at a neat hotel, called the Hotel Diva, which is very cool, and very reasonable (about $140, including parking!). We got here about 2:00PM, and were warmly greeted by a guy named David, who helped us to our room and showed us around, and exhibited more humanity than any of the overly trained kids that worked at the hotel we stayed at in Half Moon Bay showed during my four days there. Not that they all weren't highly competent. They were just dull, and the poor parking attendants had to wear some very embarassing outfits.

We went to dinner at a soul food restaurant down the street, called farmer brown. I was a little skeptical as we entered, given that the only black person that I saw was my girlfriend, and that the drinking water on the table was spiked with slices of cucumber. It worked out fine, though, as my girlfriend was able to enjoy some ox tail, and I had fried chicken. The ox tail was good, though not as good as that made by my girlfriend. The chicken was very good, though, and I'd have to say that it was better than at our favorite Arlington soul food establishment, Flavors. No offense to the people at Flavors, we still love you.

We walked back to our hotel, dodging the highly aggressive homeless people. I always figured DC was the big leagues for the homeless, but I was wrong. Earlier this afternoon when we were in a cab, I was looking out my window, and accidentally made eye contact with a homeless woman who swiftly strode up to my window, and, fairly politely, asked for a dollar. My girlfriend gave her one, and the woman gave her a big smile, and said, honest to god, "Now I can go buy some crack." This was confirmed by the cab driver, who said "At least she didn't lie."

Tomorrow will be another day of exploring and eating, though I'm most excited about not having to get up at a time that begins with 5 or 6, for the first time in about a week.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wednesday Video: Rockpile, from the Early Days of MTV

Here's Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe and the rest of Rockpile, doing Elvis Costello's Girls Talk. I actually remember watching this in college, during a study break in a lounge that had a big TV that was tuned into some new thing called MTV.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bob Dupuy Hates Baseball Fans; Loves Money, Bud, Meals

Yesterday, Major League Baseball entered into a deal with DirecTV, that, as far as I can tell, grants exclusivity of its Extra Innings package to DirecTV, with a caveat that, technically, could allow cable television to still distribute the package, but, in reality, won't.

It was late January when it became public that MLB was ready to fully sell-out its non-DirecTV having fans by agreeing to an exclusive contract with DirecTV. This generated what I would consider a high degree of agitation among baseball fans, especially ones like me that live in apartments without balconies, which makes getting DirecTV impossible. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, though, publicly said (according to Scott Miller of that he hadn't heard much criticism of the deal, showing the tone deafness that has characterized his tenure and made him widely despised.

MLB President and Selig henchman Bob DuPuy (the jowly guy on the right in the above pic, kind of looks like the love child of Dick Cheney and Austin Powers' Fat Bastard) evidently spent the time between the revelation of the potential deal and the recent announcement trying to come up with a way to go ahead with the deal, while diverting fan's wrath away from MLB. Because, you know, baseball fans are stupid and contemptible and all. Hey, everybody hates their cable company, how hard can it be to blame them for this?

According to the AP, "the deal contains a provision that allows its 'Extra Innings' package of out-of-market games to remain on cable television if the other incumbent providers agree to match the terms." I'm not entirely sure what this means, which I'm sure is their intention, but I'd think that if the "incumbent providers" were able to match the terms, they would have already done so. Robert Johnson, president of former provider iN Demand, quickly said that his company couldn't agree to these new terms, and called the agreement a "de facto exclusive deal."

I figured that this was going to play out this way. But MLB has added insult to injury by attempting to shift the blame from themselves to the cable companies. This we know, because DuPuy flat out said "In response to the concerns of our fans, baseball has negotiated with DirecTV to offer the package to incumbents. I hope that those fans who have been directing their concerns to us over the last several weeks will now encourage their cable carriers to in fact enlist for this package. Because I just do not give a fuck." Right, because we know how responsive monopolies like cable companies are to their customers. And, yes, I made up that last sentence.

Any time I think Bob DuPuy cannot get any more disgusting or arrogant, he surprises me. Nationals' fans remember that it was DuPuy who, prior to the 2006 season, said, with a straight, puffy face, that the Nationals weren't at all hindered by not having an owner, which he and his daddy Bud had said they would name by the 2005 All Star game. Then the play-offs. Then, basically, whenever the hell they wanted to. Last winter, at the height of renewed controversy about the Nats' new stadium, DuPuy wrote a condescending editorial in the Washington Post, saying that people in Washington should just shut up and do what he and Bud and the gang wanted them to do. He seemed to think it was important to remind us that the Senators left, 30 years previously, to go to a place where there was better fan and governmental support, without mentioning what a lousy owner Bob Short was, and how, other than the monuments, Washington in the 2000s had nothing in common with Washington in the 1970s. He also noted that, in expansions in 1990 and 1995, "Washington's desire to secure a team was easily outmatched by the enthusiasm and commitment of Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Tampa Bay." Right, Bob, those Florida franchises are really strong, nice job there.

So it looks like I'll have a couple hundred extra dollars this spring. Maybe I should send Bob and Bud some chocolates. Doughnuts, maybe.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wednesday Video: The President, as a Chimpunk

An SNL TV Funhouse cartoon, by the great Robert Smigel, where Bush (and Cheney and The Sopranos) convert to chipmunkism.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bigfoot on the Bay
The authors of Game of Shadows, the book that, they say, "served to crystallize [Barry] Bonds as a systematic drug cheat" have written a new epilogue. It includes some astounding information, from the Giants equipment manager:
Since joining the Giants, Bonds had gone from a size 42 to a size 52 jersey; from size 10 1/2 to size 13 cleats; and from a size 7 1/8 to size 7 3/4 cap, even though he had taken to shaving his head.

What the hell? So his feet , as an adult, grew by almost 25%? He experienced the growth of a teenage boy when he was in his 30's? That's cartoon-like, it's like that episode of The Simpsons when Ken Griffey, Jr., had gargantuanism.

All I know about steroids is what I read, but I had always kind of thought that, given the mentality of a high level athlete where even the slightest physical edge is key, maybe a player using steroids would be able to be 1% stronger, which would result in him hitting the ball maybe .5% harder, which would probably still be significant. But this guy's head has gotten 9% bigger? He's like a science experiment, how much bigger can he get?

This is made more extraodinary by the fact that he's undergone such steroid-induced growth under such crazy scrutiny. Are there low profile juicers out there who don't have to worry about the media or the general public, who can juice their hearts out, that experience even greater growth than Bonds? How could there be, how much can a person grow their feet?

In a few months, Barry will be the Home Run King. Seems like he already is the Steroid King.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wednesday Video: The Smithereens Do the Beatles, Bobblehead-style

This speaks for itself.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Friday Video: Mr. Magoo, Baseball and Beer

So baseball has started, kind of, which is a great opportunity to run a clip of Mr. Magoo doing beer commercials related to baseball.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bad Movie Experience
I just got back from a pretty disastrous trip to the movies, thanks to the good folks at Regal Cinemas Ballston Commons 12. I know that expecting to see a movie at 2:10 on a holiday is a bad idea, but we thought we'd give it a try. We made it to Ballston Commons at about 1:50, which I knew was a little risky. We would have had no problem getting a ticket if theater management had an amount of ticket sellers that you would expect to have in the middle of a holiday, at a complex with 12 theaters. I'm no expert in these things, but I think this amount is a number higher than one. This feeling was confirmed by the 40 people in line. We usually go to Regal Cinemas Potomac Yard, where you can buy a ticket from an ATM-like machine, that you see as soon as you walk into the building. As we stood in line, it dawned on me that, since it was the same chain, it would make sense that there'd be such a machine here. My girlfriend held our spot in line, and I looked around. I found two machines, tucked around a corner. I would have felt stupid about not finding them sooner, but there were only two people in line (one of the machines didn't work), so I guess we were all stupid. Everybody has ATM cards now, so the only reason to explain the shortness of the line was that people didn't know the machine was there. Which worked out fine for me.

So my girlfriend left the line, and joined me at the machine, and we bought our tickets. The ticket taker very cheerfully took our tickets and said something completely unintelligible. We got in one of the two lines for concessions. Which barely moved at all. I noticed some anger at the front of the line, and I also noticed that people weren't walking away with popcorn. There were about six people working behind the concession counter, including a guy who was apparently some kind of manager who kept speaking into a microphone that was clipped onto his shirt. Clearly he thought that what he was saying into the mike was going straight into someone's ear, and not being broadcast to everyone in the concession area, which it was. Pretty humorously, I might add. I hope he took that off when he went to the bathroom.

As we got closer to the front of the line, more people were realizing there was a popcorn problem. The guy with the mike was asked when popcorn would be available. "When the machine heats up," he not so helpfully responded.

This was kind of a key issue, because people waiting in line for popcorn were wasting their time, and missing the beginning of their movies. Not exactly the perfect movie experience. A woman in a fur coat halfway down the line loudly asked if popcorn was available. "Not yet," said the manager. "Then why don't you make an announcement, so people know that before they wait in line." "I just did," he muttered, still not realizing that everyone could hear him. Then he instructed someone else to make such an announcement. "People waiting for something besides popcorn should step to the front of the line," the announcement-maker shouted, to the confusion of everyone standing in line. By this time, though, I was at the front of the line.

I ordered two nacho combos. They seemed to have nachos, and they seemed to have sodas, although it took about five minutes to retrieve both. I asked for peppers for the nachos, and was told they didn't have them. Which was the last straw for my girlfriend, who, $22 into my two nacho combo commitment, told me that she didn't want nachos without peppers, and then walked away from the line. Which left me at the front of the line, with two hands and two huge sodas and two nachos to carry, seriously rethinking why I even got out of bed this morning. Well, actually, one nachos, as I just left hers on the counter and mumbled something to the cashier. I balanced my nachos on the two cokes (which was impressive to some of the folks behind me in line) and caught up with my girlfriend, who had calmed down and took pity on me, and relieved me of a soda, spill-free.

At this point it was 2:25. We'd be sitting in the first row, I was guessing. As we walked into the movie theater, I prayed a quick one to the god of excessive movie previews. Amazingly, the theater wasn't crowded, which I attribute to the facts that most everybody was still in line, and that, well, word was out about Norbit. So we got a seat. And the movie hadn't started yet. After that, things went as well as could be expected. Thankfully (kind of), Norbit's the kind of movie that you don't have to worry about the plot getting too complicated, which I appreciated an hour into the movie as I leisurely headed out of the theater to check the popcorn situation. Plenty of corn, no lines.

Norbit actually gets better towards the end. Tadcranky says "The pimps are pretty funny in the wedding scene," is what they could put in the ad, if anyone really cared what I thought. You still kind of wonder what Eddie Murray is thinking, with all these movies where he doesn't look like Eddie Murray. As we left the complex, everyone else was turning their cell phones back on as I took my brain out of my pocket and stuck it back in my head. I noticed that there were four people working the ticket sales windows. And nobody in line...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Nick Johnson Status: Bad
This links to a video of Nick Johnson at Nats' spring training. Things get started by an intrepid reporter asking Nick if he feels that it's important for him to be here with his teammates, even though he's, ahem, not quite ready to play. Surprisingly, Nick says yes! What a great revealing moment in sports!

I know that Nick being in camp is the right thing to happen, but I'm sure it's not doing great things for the pysche of Austin Kearns, who was involved in the awful collision. Kearns needs to see Nick playing, not limping around and speculating.

The overall interview is certainly not very uplifting. Nick starts out seeming kind of depressed, and he's not very convincing at all when he says he thinks he'll be back by June. I think he's more likely to miss the whole season than to be back by June. Towards the end of the interview, he lightens up a little, which is good. But at the conclusion of the interview, we're given a close-up of him hobbling down the dugout stairs. As I said, not so uplifting.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Endless Highway: The Music of The Band
This is a cd I've been waiting for for a long time. Yesterday, when everyone else in my office was supposedly "snowed in" I had some time to give it a good listen and make some notes. Here goes, track by track:

This Wheel's on Fire, by Guster: Guster is a band that seems to be successful, and gets a lot of attention, for reasons I don't really understand. They continue to leave me unimpressed with their dirge-like version of a song that deserves a lot more life. There are some cool banjo moments, but that's about it. In The Band's version, Levon Helm attacks his snare drum; in this version, the Guster drummer gives some gentle nudges. I prefer the attack.

King Harvest, by Bruce Hornsby: Hornsby bebops his way through an otherwise jam-bandish version of another great song. This also suffers from the lack of the aggressive drumming that contributed to The Band's greatness.

Makes No Difference, by My Morning Jacket: MMJ is a younger band that I like, even though sometimes I get them mixed up with Kings of Leon. I like this version, it does a great job of capturing the spirit of The Band, in part because of the multiple vocalists. This was recorded at Levon Helm Studios in Woodstock.

I Shall Be Released, by Jack Johnson: Pretty much the low point, as Jack Johnson whispers his way through a song that I don't think is meant to be whispered through.

The Weight, by Lee Ann Womack: I really can't stand commercial country music, but I like authentic country, and I wasn't quite sure which category Womack fit into, as I know she's a high profile artist. Based on this, she's the real thing, though, as she gives a sweet version of the song. Initially, I was also struck by how great the back-up vocals were. On review, they were provided by Buddy and Julie Miller, which explains the greatness. If you can't have the Staples Singers singing back-up, the Millers are pretty fine.

Chest Fever, by Widespread Panic: Unsurprisingly, this is my favorite track, as it's one of my favorite songs by The Band, and I also love Panic. John Hermann's keyboards are similar to Garth Hudson's originals, with some cool variations. They're joined by a horn section, including Randall Bramblett (who I'm remiss for not having blogged about his most recent great recording, Rich Someday, which has been in heavy rotation for me for about four months), and showcase new gutarist, and former Allman and friend of Phil Lesh, Jimmy Herring. Widespread Panic seems to have the rare ability to put just the right amount of jamming into their songs. Listening to this song, you realize what a great lyricist Robbie Robertson was: She's stoned said the swede, and the moon calf agreed, I'm like a viper in shock, with my eyes on the clock. I don't know what the hell that means, but I know it's great and I want to listen to it over and over.

Up on Cripple Creek, by Gomez: Gomez is a roots band from the UK. I haven't listened to a lot of their music, but everything I've heard I like. And I like this, too.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, by the Allman Brothers Band: This is recorded live, and I'd heard it live before. As much as I want to really love it, Greg Allman's vocals are a little too world weary. There are some great guitar moments, though, and, unlike some of the other tracks on this collection, the drumming does Levon Helm proud.

Stage Fright, by Steve Reynolds: I'd never heard of Steve Reynolds before. His website describes him as "mercurial," and a "Canadian expat troubadour." Alrighty. Rick Danko firmly established ownership of this song, so this is a tough task, and Reynolds falls short in this raspy, slowed-down version, that doesn't really capture an emotion, unless you consider whininess an emotion. They both may be Canadian, but Reynolds is no Rick Danko.

Raga Mama Rag, by Blues Traveler: Blues Traveler makes this sound like a post-Lowell George Little Feat song, with, surprise, a big harmonica solo. Pass.

Whispering Pines, by Jakob Dylan: This is a beautiful song, and Jakob Dylan does it justice, no doubt helped out by Jim Keltner on guitar and the production of Joe Henry. There are a lot of nice little instrumental things going on, that makes it something you want to listen to often.

Acadian Driftwood, by The Roches: The Roches clearly "get" The Band, and they do a nice version of this song. Lisa Morsberger plays whistles, which adds to the old-timey sound of the track.

The Unfaithful Servant, by Roseanne Cash: On its own, this is a perfectly fine song, but it doesn't hold up well compared to the original. It's a slow song to begin with, and it's slowed down even more, which appears to be a recurring theme throughout the collection.

When I Paint My Masterpiece, by Josh Turner: Like Lee Ann Womack, Josh Turner is apparently a big name in country music, which made me nervous. But this is good, he's got a nice deep, no frills voice. Combine the voice, which sounds similar to Kevin Russell's, and the banjo and mandolin, it almost sounds more like Turner's doing a Gourds version of a song by The Band. But that's OK by me.

Life is a Carnival, by Trevor Hall: Hall, a 19-year old from South Carolina, provides another minimalist version of a song that was made great by it's intricacies. His voice is what they say is full of character, which in this case isn't really a good thing.

Look Out Cleveland, by Jackie Greene: This is an earnest effort, I guess, and it sticks pretty close to the original. If you tied one of Levon Helm's arms behind his back.

Rockin' Chair, by Death Cab for Cutie: I've never really gotten this band, and the only word I can come up with to describe this version is "sleepy." There's really nothing special about it, I don't even know why they bothered. The cleverness of having unusually long pauses at the end of phrases eludes me.

There you have it. So there are six songs I really don't like, and a couple that I can take or leave. And some great ones. As a set, it shows how great The Band was, just a rare combination of great songwriting and overall musicianship. Their retirement seemed heroic at the time, but in its aftermath, it just seems sad. Richard Manuel and Rick Danko, whose post-Last Waltz recordings with Eric Andersen and Jonas Fjeld were great, are both gone. Garth Hudson is 70 years old, and presumably still making some keyboards sing somewhere. And Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson hate each other. That hurts.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wednesday Video: HBO's Extras

This is a clip from Ricky Gervais' HBO series Extras. This particular clip is about the funniest thing I've seen on TV since episode 4 of the original (BBC) The Office, which was also by Ricky Gervais. In this clip, three dorks showcase their womanizing skills. Be patient, things peak during the seltzer water incident.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mooninites Killed Anna Nicole

While the official word is that the autopsy of Anna Nicole Smith, by the Florida firm I Can't Believe I'm a Medical Examiner, doesn't give any clues as to the gold-digging reality star's demise, fingers are starting to point at the two Mooninites -- Ignigknot, the haughty, green one, and Err, the smaller, purple, irascible one -- who recently held the city of Boston hostage. The Mooninites are one-dimensional cartoon characters from the Moon, convinced of the superiority of their people, and determined to establish world domination. To further this goal, sources say that they wanted to procreate with a multi-dimensional being, to create a new race with the intellect of the Mooninites, yet with some more meat on their backsides. The buxom Anna Nicole Smith was selected to be the mother of this new generation, and sources say that Ignigknot was the father of her baby.

The unstable and highly irritable Err, it is reported, grew despondent over the relationship between Ignigknot and Smith, a despondency that reached it's peak on Thurday, when he exclaimed "Eat this," and shot Smith with a Mooninite death ray. In all previous cases, targets of the slow-moving death ray have been able to avoid harm by just stepping away from it. But the heavily medicated Smith did not notice the ray, and took a full-on hit. This would explain why, when the lifeless Smith was discovered, there was no "physical injury, such as blunt force trauma, gunshot wound, stab wounds or asphyxia," according to the medical examiner, who also said that no illegal drugs were found in her room, only Valium and antibiotics. Nor were pills "visible to the naked eye" found in her body. There were "weird track marks" on the carpeting in her room, which were probably from the space ship that Err used to flee the scene. The whereabouts of Err and Ignigknot are unknown.