Wednesday, March 21, 2007

JC, buy me this game

I've long been a PC gamer more than a console gamer...but I bought a PS2 once for my son (and also because it played DVDs - yeah, this was before I owned a DVD player, which seems like 25 years ago.) But the PS2 didn't really have enough non-violent children's content - he was only mildly entertained by Sly Cooper - so I sold it to JC, and now his kids use it for science projects.

I have not once missed the console - the PS2 seemed destined for antiquity, with the release of the Xbox and recently the PS3 - but now, years later, a new game is out that makes me wonder if I made the right decision.

By all accounts, God of War II is amazing. An outcast Titan named Kratos spends the first installment of the series fighting his way out of Hades and into the Greek pantheon, eventually defeating Ares in mortal combat and assuming his position as God of War. And now Kratos is back, kicking more heavenly ass than ever.

The scene where Kratos fights the Colussus, as described in the comic (assuming you clicked on the first link), can partially be seen here. If you're patient enough to click around to some of the other videos (and watch the same stupid Army commercial several times) you can also watch him ride a flaming Pegasus, leap onto the backs of griffins and chimerae, and rack up bonus points for ruthless kills.

So get on it, JC. Buy this game, and then invite me over after the kids are asleep. You can play Quake while I dry hump your wife slaughter some Greek gods. After all, without my gracious sale, your kids would have to do real science projects.

And of course, without my monumental assistance, you wouldn't have the intense pleasure of working with Rebuck every day. Time to start pulling your weight in this friendship. Call me when the game arrives, thanks!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Kevin Curtis to the Eagles

As you've no doubt already read, the Eagles signed free-agent WR Kevin Curtis to a six-year deal yesterday.

Curtis, 28, has been modestly productive in his NFL career (best season: 60 catches.) In fairness, he's been buried behind two All-Pro WRs in St. Louis, so he's never been a starter for a full season. He has blazing speed, and has demonstrated both good hands and crisp route-running when he's played. He'll get $9.5 million in guaranteed money, which is definitely a nice chunk of change...but compared to the $20 million in guarantees thrown at a horrible player like Leonard Davis, the Eagles are getting excellent value for their dollars.

I really like this move. After losing Stallworth to the Patriots (excellent move by the Pats, signing him to essentially a 1-year, $3 million contract), the Eagles needed speed in the WR corps, and Curtis is an excellent choice to provide it. He is not as accomplished a WR as Stallworth, but he's every bit as fast, has better hands, and no injury history. Although it's a moderate gamble, since he is unproven as a starter, it's a smart gamble. Overall, Curtis should be an upgrade over Stallworth, because he'll be on the field more.

The Eagles are next looking to find a back-up RB to Westbrook, someone that can carry the ball ten times a game and handle short-yardage duties. Ron Dayne (ugh) was in for a visit yesterday, and the Eagles seem to be leaning toward either him or re-signing Buckhalter. This role isn't vitally important, and I believe either guy could handle it, but I'd rather see Buckhalter back with the Birds. Ron Dayne never scared me when he was playing for the Giants - in fact, I was relieved when the Giants would bring him in at the goalline to replace Tiki. For as big as he is, he's never run with much authority, and goes down way too easily (insert your favorite blowjob analogy here.) The good news is that his last two years have been his most productive, so perhaps he's getting better. Frankly, I'd love to see Tony Hunt from PSU drafted to fill this role, but the Eagles probably don't want to spend a second-round pick on a RB, when they have bigger needs on defense.

I'd really love to see them add Mike Doss - he could move right into the starting SS spot, with Considine eventually taking the FS role after Dawkins retires. Doss would definitely be an upgrade, but since SS is not a dire need for the Eagles, I expect them to be outbid by a team like Cincinnati. LB is another area of need, but I can't think of any remaining free agent LBs that would make a big impact on this team.

The addition of Curtis, and presumably Dayne, essentially eliminates the possibility of the Eagles drafting a WR or RB on Day 1. Expect their first three picks to be LB, S, CB - not necessarily in that order.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Quick hitters

While I was busy watching 300 on Friday, the Justice Department released a report accusing the F.B.I. of mis-using the Patriot Act to spy on U.S. citizens who have no connections to terrorism. If only someone had the foresight to see this coming...if only someone had warned us!

Another report shows that the poor have more leisure time than the rich. I don't really care...class jealousy is pointless in a society that offers the freedom to move between classes...but the author of this article makes an excellent point at the end, which is worth repeating:

Second, a certain class of pundits and politicians are quick to see any increase in income inequality as a problem that needs fixing—usually through some form of redistributive taxation. Applying the same philosophy to leisure, you could conclude that something must be done to reverse the trends of the past 40 years—say, by rounding up all those folks with extra time on their hands and putting them to (unpaid) work in the kitchens of their "less fortunate" neighbors. If you think it's OK to redistribute income but repellent to redistribute leisure, you might want to ask yourself what—if anything—is the fundamental difference.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Movie Review: 300

Oddly, my greatest emotion after watching this movie is a sense of relief. It wasn't the huge disappointment that I secretly feared. In fact, I enjoyed it, and would happily watch it again.

It is less of a coherent movie than a collection of magnificent scenes. Each scene is beautiful to watch and lots of fun. There isn't much holding it together as a movie, especially because the plot they attempted to introduce (Persian bribery of Spartan councilmen, opposed by lovers of freedom and justice) is ahistorical and flimsy.

I wish that 300 had a lot more historical accuracy and less goofiness. The Star Wars bar scene, with the numerous deformed freaks and (I really think I saw this) a goat playing a horn, has absolutely no place in this film. The numerous speeches of freedom felt clunky, because the Spartans didn't fight for lofty ideals - they fought because they were bred to fight. The valor and sacrifice of the other 7000 Greeks who stood with them is downplayed to almost non-existence (although the Phoecians did surrender the goat path without a fight, as portrayed.) I could ramble on about the inaccuracies, but I'll stop with just one more: As Leonidas is leaving for the battle, the council asks him what they are to do, and he replies "Sparta needs more sons." This is actually a distortion of a reported conversation between Leonidas and his he is leaving, she asks "What am I to do?", and he replies, "Marry a good man and raise strong sons." I suppose that the creators of this movie wanted to play up the romance between king and queen, but this obvious twisting of an actual event is disappointing.

Overall, though, these flaws do not ruin the entertainment value of the movie. The battles were fun, but some of my favorite scenes were actually not battle scenes. When the queen grabs a sword and begins to disembowel the traitor, while whispering "This will not be over quickly", I was smiling from ear to ear - Spartan women were not wilting flowers, but were as cruel and hard as men. And I wanted to stand up and cheer when Leonidas stung Ephialtes with the harshest of Spartan curses: "May you live forever."

(Historical note: Ephialtes is actually the name of the Greek who reportedly showed the Persians the hidden path used to surround the Spartans. But he was just a guy who wanted to make a quick buck, not a hunchbacked plot device who felt betrayed by the Spartans.)

It is hard to imagine how ferocious a contigent of Spartan warriors must have been - men who were bred to fight, and taught that the most beautiful day of their lives was their last. Men who were covered in metal armor (not the nearly-naked beefcake outfits in the movie), drilled tirelessly, fought as a coordinated unit, and feared nothing. It is said that the Battle of Thermopylae sapped the will and morale of the Persian army, even though it only put a small dent in their numbers. While many historians dismiss this as a romanticized view of the sacrifice of Greek soldiers, there is almost certainly a grain of truth to this idea. The mighty Persian army, the largest the world had ever seen, returned to Greece to face the only foes that had ever successfully stood against them. Fighting for three days against a tiny force, suffering 50:1 casualties, and only able to finally overcome them by treachery, could not have inspired confidence in the ranks.

This romanticized idea of heroic self-sacrifice, in the face of a ruthless and overwhelming enemy, is at the heart of 300. I am a sucker for even an inaccurate, and sometimes goofy, portrayal of Thermopylae is enough to inspire me.

300 has some problems, but if you're one of the many who skipped to the battle scenes on your Gladiator DVD, then 300 will also find a home in your collection (and require a lot less scene-skipping.) But if you're looking for an intellectually solid representation of a historical event, then watch The 300 Spartans instead.

Go tell the Spartans, passerby,
That here, by Spartan law, we lie.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Free agency madness

This is an exciting time of year for NFL fans, with players changing teams via free agency and the draft approaching quickly. Naively, perhaps, I have long believed that I could do a better job than many NFL personnel gurus and GMs...and frankly, this season of free agency has done little to dissuade me from that belief.

The Ravens win by playing defense and running the ball. So far they've lost their starting OT, OG, RB, and LB. Adalius Thomas signed for $7 million/year in New England, and it was a general consensus that Baltimore simply didn't have the money to resign him at those numbers. I can accept that, maybe, but then Baltimore immediately signed Thomas' backup to more than $4 million/year. They couldn't find a way to restructure someone's contract to pick up $3 million? The difference in athletic ability and production is well worth the extra scratch.

They've added Willis McGahee via trade, and he's an upgrade over Jamas Lewis, but they'll need to pay him a ton of money if they sign him to a long-term deal. At best, this team is moving sideways, but it seems a lot more likely that they are going backwards.

They lost a tackling machine at LB and one of the game's best CBs. They traded away their starting RB. And then they spent $49 million on a guard - a good player, to be sure, but he's never been to a Pro Bowl. Oh yeah, they brought in a tackle from the Raiders too. Marv, feel free to post a salary offer on this thread, and I'll start working on your draft board immediately. It's too late for this year, but in a couple of seasons, we can salvage this train wreck.

Releasing Brian Simmons was a terrible move. They need LBs and they need high-character guys, and Simmons was both. They'll miss Eric Steinbach, but they really didn't have the cap room to overpay him like Cleveland did.

The Browns try again on the OL, signing a big-money free agent for the second season in a row. They signed Jamal Lewis and his 3.3 ypc to a 1-year deal, and they brought in some decidedly mediocre help on defense with Peek and Wright. A lot of analysts are saying that the Jamal Lewis signing takes them out of the Adrian Peterson sweepstakes, but I hope not. Lewis is not the answer, and hopefully the Browns realize that.

Madness. $15 million guaranteed for a blocking TE, $12 million guaranteed for a mediocre RB with character issues, two starters and a draft pick for a CB who's never been to a Pro Bowl. Looks like Denver is becoming the Washington of the west.

Signed 30-year-old Ahman Green for $6 million/year. 30-year-old RBs, especially those with an injury history and declining production, are worth less than a warm six-pack in the NFL, but Houston decided they needed a RB so badly that they overpaid. Still glad you passed on Reggie Bush?

They are up against the cap, and were forced to say goodbye to Monte Reaghor and Brandon Stokely. They won't miss either guy much, as they've both sat out a lot of time last year with injuries. Re-signing Rob Morris was a wise move.

Decided to "upgrade" their underperforming WRs with...Dennis Northcutt. Signed a decent OT away from Baltimore. Re-signed injury-prone Fred Taylor to a big deal.

Kansas City
McIntosh and Harris are ok players that will add depth, but neither one is going to make much of an impact.

They got exactly what they needed: another 30-year-old defender with declining production. What a great way to spend $20 million in guaranteed money! And then they traded away their leading WR and cut one of the better TEs in the NFL. Losing 4 OL to free agency will not exactly help their depth. This team's in a downward spiral, and they'll need a strong comeback from Culpepper if they want to win 6 games this season.

New England
The signing of Adalius Thomas is absolutely perfect. He's exactly the type of hard-working, athletic, and versatile player that Belichick will move all over the field and torment opposing offenses with. I hate to give NE props of any sort, but they deserve a lot of credit for this move - adding this guy is worth 1-2 wins a season. I'm confused by the Wes Welker deal...I don't know why you need to give away two draft picks and over $3 million/year for a guy that is fast and small - the draft is full of WRs that can run, and I don't see what separates Welker from a much cheaper rookie.

New York Jets
Pulled off a real coup by trading for Thomas Jones. All they gave up was a swap of 2nd-round picks. Unless they had compromising pictures of Jerry Angelos, I have no idea what the Bears were thinking when they traded Jones away for almost nothing. Nice move for the Jets.

No moves yet, and who really cares anyway?

I like Mike Tomlin as a coach, but I'm concerned that he's trying to force a 4-3 scheme on 3-4 personnel. They'll miss Porter a little bit, but he was not worth the money he got from Miami.

San Diego
Great job re-signing Kris Dielman. The coaching mess there will cost them a few games, but they are doing a nice job with personnel.

Lost some key contributors in Drew Bennett and Travis Henry. Not sure how they expect Vince Young to keep developing if they don't have any weapons surrounding him.

Ok, I'm bored, I might get to the NFC signings later.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Movie Review: Irreversible


It's how you'll feel watching this movie, and the only way I can descibe the mental state of the writers and director.

You might be intrigued by the numerous awards won by this movie in the Best Foreign Film category. Or maybe you just want to see the exquisite nakedness of Monica Belucci. But unless you are hoping to watch a sadistic teen fantasy through the lens of nauseous camera work, you'll be sorely disappointed by this film.

There are three types of scenes in Irreversible:
1) Sex scenes
2) Scenes of brutality (often including sex)
3) Scenes where the characters talk about sex.

None of the scenes are thought-provoking or engaging. Even though the dialogue is occasionally dubbed in spanish instead of english, you'll never feel like you're missing anything. The dialogue that does get translated is banal and repetitive. This is essentially porn, although you need to see a therapist if it gives you a boner. Irreversible isn't quite a snuff flick (sorry JC, no link) but it takes the same kind of mentality to enjoy it.

I feel dirty for having watched this trash. I feel embarrassed for film critics, and for humanity in general, that this misogynisitic, gay-bashing, mess of a movie would actually receive awards. The only award Irreversible should win is "Best Bludgeoning Death by a Fire Extinguisher".

Ah well, less than a week til 300. Unfortunately, it deviates wildly from historical fact, and instead offers a mythological account of an actual event. But it's pretty fucking cool anyway.