Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Live, local, late-breaking coverage

Let's have a Usquebaugh-baul. A Scottish distillery will offer a 184-proof whiskey. That's gonna be 92 percent alcohol, which would put it somehwere in between everclear and the Colin Farrell's blood alcohol content level.

Her name is Manley. A special committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame has elected Effa Manley to the hall. She is the first woman to recieve the honor. Is it funny that the first woman in the hall of fame is named Manley?

George Michael is what? Former celebrity George Michael was arrested in England on suspicion of drug use. This comes on the heels of news earlier this year that he would be civilly united with his partner. Drug use? Homosexuality? George Michael, I hardly know you.

Monday, February 27, 2006

While I was sleeping...

There were three major passings during the NaturalBlog's two-day curling-filled break from blogging.

Darren McGavin, who played the dad in the holiday classic "A Christmas Story," died at age 83 in California. The AP says he was less likable in person than he was in that movie, but the LA Times writes a relatively glowing tribute. Did you know: He won an Emmy for playing Murphy Brown's dad?

Don Knotts also died this weekend. His Barney Fife character always reminded me of the police in the little town near where we lived. Barney kept his bullet in his pocket; the police chief in Stoneville, N.C., let her gun permit lapse.

And finally, the search engine Ask Jeeves is retiring Jeeves, and recasting itself only as ask.com. Ask execs may claim he's just retiring, but I know the truth: Google killed him.


Friday, February 24, 2006

This week's news, real and imagined

In other news...

All the pain of junior high, but without the school bus rides. Some web site lets you create an online profile, and based on how attractive and cool you are other people can buy and sell you. The hotter you are and the more desirable your friends, the more expensive you become. This is like a cross between 7th grade homeroom, Ebay, and prostitution.

No additional joke needed. Psychics have joined the search for Vivi, the whippet who went missing after the Westminster Dog Show in New York City last week. The psychics report that the dog is alive, and somewhere warm. Whippet poo was spotted near a heated cargo building. I am not making this up.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

The ankle, the blister, and the rock star

I talked about the Red Sox improved defense earlier this week, so now it's on to pitching.

The success of the pitching staff this year -- and in turn the team's overall success -- will depend largely on three things: the ankle, the blister, and the rock star.

Curt Schilling has had a whole offseason to rehab The Ankle, but he is old, and disliked. The team doesn't need the 2004 version of Schilling (227 IP, 3.26 ERA) to win, but it can't win if 2005 Schilling (93 IP, 5.69 ERA) shows up.

The marquee offeason acquisition is Josh Beckett, formerly of the Florida Marlins. He has tremendous upside, but also nagging blister trouble. He's had nine trips to the disabled list since 2002, two-thirds of them because of blisters. Blisters will not fly in Boston in September. The Red Sox must hire the world's foremost blister expert to head this problem off at the pass. I suggest the Violent Femmes.

The third key to the Sox success: improved production from the rock star who was moonlighting as a No. 5 starter last year, Bronson Arroyo. If he can focus on baseball instead of being in a crappy cover band (and stay away from twin extra long bunkbeds), his presence at the bottom of the rotation will take the pressure off the Nos. 3 and 4.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Goodbye, U.S. Women's Curling Team (2-7)

It was an appropriate way for the U.S. women's curling team to end their Olympics: They conceded their final match of tournament play to Great Britain after just the sixth end.

The match as a whole was a fitting summation of their nine round robin games. They started slow, showed some resolve and climbed back into it, then lost focus and gave up halfway through.

I really wanted to love the U.S. women's team, but the losing made it tough. They came in as medal contenders, but were 1-4 before they knew it. What's worse, they smiled after every loss, like they lacked the competitive fire or killer instinct you expect in an athlete. U.S. captain Cassie Johnson even said at one point "I can always go home and say, 'I'm an Olympian.'"

On the bright side, the U.S. men are surprising medal contenders, and the women's team members are young enough that they'll be back in four years. Hopefully they'll be much more seasoned and honed with the killer instinct, or at least as much as someone from Minnesota can be honed with the killer instinct.

Also on the bright side, the women's second lead Jessica Schultz has a curling stone tattooed near her butt.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Why do male ice dancers look so smarmy?

I can't help but think of Jesus from The Big Lebowski.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Is defense the new offense? Thoughts on the 2006 Boston Red Sox

Most of the Red Sox are in spring training, so it's a good time to take a look at the team and how it's shaping up this season.

When Theo Epstein traded Nomar Garciaparra the last day of July 2004, he said that the Red Sox defense was flawed and that he needed to make the trade, which brought improved gloves at SS and 1B, in order to make sure the defense didn't become a "fatal flaw."

That worked out pretty well (though the Sox did make three errors in each of the first two World Series games that year), so maybe Theo had the same thing in mind in constructing 2006 Boston Red Sox, whose potent offense has been scaled back in exchange for better defense, particularly in the infield.

Edgar Renteria and his 30 errors are back in the National League, replaced by Alex Gonzalez and the cannon affixed to his right shoulder.

Going around the horn, the Sox traded once-a-week catcher Doug Mirabelli for fine second baseman Mark Loretta, though Loretta is coming off an injury.

And finally the 3 in the 6-4-3, pretty much anyone is better than Kevin Millar at first base, including the Kevin Youkillis/J.T. Snow platoon expected this year.

I wonder if defense has become what OPS was five years ago -- the quality that (some) GMs turn to in order to take advantage of market inequity and build a solid team without spending as much money.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

The many faces of Lindsay Lohan

It's clever, people.


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Guilty as charged

I'm coming clean: I love curling. Yes, that matches are three hours long. Yes, the rules are more than a little arcane. Yes, it's about as action packed as chess on ESPN-2 (but I watch that, too).

It's the strategy that I love -- put down a guard when you're laying two go for the kill in the four-foot? Is there any match for the excitement of stealing one in the 9th end, then winning it in the 11th?

The only thing that could make it better would be if the U.S. women's team, led by America's sweetheart wannabees Cassie and Jamie Johnson, weren't so awful.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Separated at Birth: Olympic Edition

The Olympics have a lot of "Hey doesn't he look like..." activity.

Short track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno on the left. Dirty singer Dave Navarro on the right. I wonder if Ohno has ever dated a Carmen Electra lookalike.

Champion snowboarder Shaun White is 19 years old. Carrot Top is twice his age, which explains why Carrot Top's hair is twice as crazy. Give the young man time.

Figure skater Johnny Weir, Willy Wonka has nothing on you.

Earlier separated-at-births here.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Call him Aaron Burr/From the way he's dropping Whittingtons

When I write the definitive book on effective public sector public relations, I will cite the second Bush Presidency as the height of message management and control.

We'll set aside for a moment the success the administration has seen when starting sentences with "The world changed on 9/11," and instead focus on the fallout from Dick Cheney shooting a man in the face.

Take a look at how Dick answered Brit Hume's question on Fox News (What, was Larry King not available?) about whether he had hung White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan out to dry by not telling the press about the story earlier.

Cheney: I had a bit of the feeling that the press corps was upset because, to some extent, it was about them - they didn't like the idea that we called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times instead of The New York Times. But it strikes me that the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is just as valid a news outlet as The New York Times is, especially for covering a major story in south Texas.

Hume: Well, perhaps so, but isn't there an institution here present at the White House that has long established itself as the vehicle through which White House news gets out, and that's the pool?

Cheney: I had no press person with me, no coverage with me, no White House reporters with me. I'm comfortable with the way we did it, obviously. You can disagree with that, and some of the White House press corps clearly do....
Cheney deflects criticism by blaming the selfish petulant Washington media, while giving a tacit compliment to the good people in the middle of the country. It's a master stroke. Truly a master stroke.

But don't say the Brit didn't ask the tough questions.

Hume: Was anybody drinking in this party?

Cheney: No. You don't hunt with people who drink. That's not a good idea. We had ...

Hume: So he wasn't, and you weren't?

Cheney: We'd taken a break at lunch - go down under an old - ancient oak tree there on the place, and have a barbecue. I had a beer at lunch.... We didn't go back into the field to hunt quail until about, oh, sometime after 3:00 p.m.
So you weren't drinking, once you had stopped drinking at lunch. Careful. People who say stuff like that get labeled flip-floppers.

And finally, I would be remiss if I didn't share this little gem from last night's sit-down.

Hume: Well, what - you must have recognized, though, with all your experience in Washington, that this was going to be a big story.

Cheney: Well, true, it was unprecedented. I've been in the business for a long time and never seen a situation quite like this. We've had experiences where the President has been shot; we've never had a situation where the Vice President shot somebody.

Hume: Not since Aaron Burr.

Cheney: Not since Aaron Burr....

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Product review: Super cool five-blade razor

NaturalBlog doesn't splurge on much, but when it comes to innovations in personal hygeine I am the cutting edge.

So when Gillette told me that shaving with three blades was no longer good enough, I said damn tootin' and I shelled out $10 for the height of shaving nirvana, the new five-blade Fusion razor.

I am pleased to report that the Fusion did not leave me bloodied and battered. And after four days of shaving with it (the equivalent of 20 shaves with a regular razor, by the way) I have frightened my face whiskers into complete and utter submission. They've totally stopped growing. Thanks, Fusion.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

On the road again

Like a swallow returning to San Capistrano, the Red Sox equipment truck has left lifeless Fenway Park for Ft. Myers, Fla.

Pitchers and catchers in four days, opening day in 48.


Monday, February 13, 2006

I have become what I beheld, or How I came to love the cone

The NaturalBlog household spent about two hours Sunday shoveling on the street, thanks to the Blizzard of '06. And you can be sure those parking spots will be marked with some cheap outdoor furniture, and possibly an old broken hamper when we leave the house.

Time was, I would rail against those who marked the public streets with cones and barrels and the like, as they saved parking spots after a heavy snowfall. "How dare they!" I would shout. "The hubris -- to claim for themselves what rightly belongs to all, this public way!"

I beseeched the mayor to use his authority to stop the practice, but wouldn't you know it now that he finally has, I've gone over to the other side.

Yes, I am a spot-saver of the worst kind but it's not my fault. Or not all my fault, anyway.

The trouble is everybody else is doing it. So if I'm the only guy on the street not using a cone to save my shoveled out space, it means the jamoke who wanders into the neighborhood will have only one spot to take: mine.

I am not proud -- but I couldn't beat them, so I joined them.

Important Hasselhoff Update

And the legend grows.


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Dick Cheney opposes gun control

The liberal media are reporting that Dick Cheney shot some dude while hunting in Texas.

There are a pair of good nuggets from the AP story:

A witness, apparently fearful the Vice President might shoot her, goes out of her way to blame the victim (He "didn't signal" or "announce himself" before carelessly stepping in front of the bullets fired from Cheney's rifle).

And we learn that the vice president always has an ambulance trailing him. I guess the man who is a heartbeat away from the presidency is also a heartbeat away from death. Wouldn't you be? Being that evil really takes it out of you.


Weekly World News

This cat is better than your cat. My (adopted) cat Abita used to go under the covers of the bed, but this overacheiver actually went undercover. So cute I just wanna throw up.

Not a lucky rabbit's foot, but a whole freaking rabbit. As part of the deal that sent football play-by-play man Al Michaels to NBC, ABC got back the rights to a cartoon rabbit. I just assume John Madden brought the rights to a cartoon turkey, duck and chicken.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

People I Like Inexplicably, Vol. IV

Two words, people: Hasselhoff.

My inexplicable like of David Hasselhoff goes back to the Knight Rider days, which were so good they allowed me to like him even after Baywatch and his wacky European invasion.

His legend only grew when I saw this, from his rendition of "Hooked on a Feeling."

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Friday, February 10, 2006

When it goes down, I want Harrison Ford on my side

The NaturalBlog touched on this idea late last year I compiled a listing of good fake presidents, but I think it deserves to be discussed in a full posting: Nobody kicks ass quite like Harrison Ford.

It doesn't matter who (terrorists in Patriot Games), where (Amish country in Witness) or when (the future in Star Wars). When the chips are down and his loved ones are in danger, Harrison Ford will kick your ass. And the ass of anyone you associate with.

How is it that the bad guys in his new movie Firewall (opening today) didn't realize this? Didn't they see Frantic, Presumed Innocent, or The Fugitive? Why would they ever threaten Harrison Ford's family? Don't they realize Harrison Ford is going to kick their asses?


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Gossip. You want it. I've got it.

US Weekly and the National Enquirer shed new light on the (second? third?) breakup of Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards. Sheen apparently sent emails to Richards that were supposed to go to a hooker named Debbie. Hookers have email?

It's rumored that Tom Brady and his girlfriend Bridget Moynahan have split. Anyone could have seen this coming, especially after Brady's recent Visa ad featured a chick who wasn't Bridget playing his girlfriend. I'm sure that was a sore spot. Also he could have any woman in the world, which was also probably a sore spot.

Some rag says that Tom Cruise is going to keep Katie Holmes "tucked away," so she won't have "the chance to turn into another Nicole." I had just assumed up until now that Holmes was locked in Cruise's basement, so this isn't really a surprise.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How to fix the James Bond franchise

The James Bond franchise is clearly dealing with a mid-life crisis of epic proportions. It's been more than 40 years since Sean Connery starred in Dr. No, under the direction of Terence Young, who is widely credited as the inspiration for Bond. He took Connery to his Saville Row tailor, taught him how to drink and how to smoke, and presumably how to play baccarat, which I am still trying to figure out.

Fast forward four decades through the good times (Goldfinger) and bad (Living Daylights) and Bond fans are wondering: Where have you gone Terence Young, when your country needs you most?

Among the indignities we have suffered just in the last year: the selection of Daniel Craig (who is BLOND, by the way) to replace Mr. Cool (though Mr. Old, lately) Pierce Brosnan. I can't believe we went from a guy named Pierce to some guy with two first names.

And now, we learn that the producers of the new Bond movie "Casino Royale" can't even find a female lead. The latest rumor centers around Rachel McAdams. But don't think of her as Bond's second choice, because Angelina, Charlize and Sienna have all turned the role down. Bond have never struck out so much.

Did the Austin Powers series -- with its deft picking apart of every farcical Bond plot device -- deal the franchise a death blow? Perhaps, but only if Bond refuses to change.

Instead of soldiering on with the same sanctimony, Bond needs a greater dose of irreverence than he's ever had before. Put another way: If you can't beat Austin Powers, join him.

Might Casino Royale be the right starting place for such a change? Maybe moreso than you think -- it was the original Bond spoof, with Peter Sellers as Bond in 1967.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Scraping the bottom of the advertising barrel

The NaturalBlog has already shown a keen eye for commercial actors. Now that I've revealed that compulsion, I'm happy to move on to the next level of madness: recognizing voice-over work.

In the category of "Yeah, I guess he hasn't worked in a while"... Gene Hackman for the Home Depot. Runner up: David Duchovny, who shills for Purina dog food. And don't forget Michael Douglas, who wants you to buy a Honda. (Mrs. Douglas must've told him to find work or find a new wife.)

And to show that commercial voice-overs aren't just for the out-of-work, I point to George Clooney doing Bud Light ads and Julia Roberts for AOL. What are they thinking? They can't possibly need the money. Do they really love beer and Internet service providers that much? Well, the beer I guess I could see. But doesn't Clooney strike you as a Heineken guy? Or Schlitz, if we're talking about the Facts of Life days.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Thoughts on Super Bowl XL

Did anybody else feel like Seattle coach Mike Holmgren was not trying to win the game at the end, so much as he was just trying to get the TD and two-point conversion so he could cover the spread?

And now on to the real point of the posting: a wrap up of the lackluster Super Bowl commercials.

I was disappointed generally in the overall quality this year, and specifically that the Bud Light folks didn't treat us to a new adventure with Ted Ferguson, Bud Light Daredevil. The other Bud Light ads weren't bad, but I wanted more.

There were a few bright spots as companies reprised ads that worked last year. Ameriquest revisited the idea of jumping to conclusions, while Career Builder brought back the dude who works with monkeys. But why would I want to use that job site if that poor guy is in the same crappy job he had last year? And speaking of retreads, is there anything sadder than bringing back a character who wasn't funny the first time, a la this Taco Bell ad (top right).

The Best in Class award goes to Emerald Nuts. You might remember them from when they saturated the airwaves in the 2004 baseball playoffs with "Extreme Nurses" "Egyptian Navigators" and "Envious Nomads" -- people with E.N. initials who love Emerald Nuts. This time, they upped the ante, creating a ridiculous television equivalent of an acrostic: Eagle-eyed Machete Enthusiasts Recognize A Little Druid Networking Under The Stairs. Well done, Emerald Nuts, well done.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Can't miss business plan

Business idea: I will buy used jet engines and convert them into hand dryers to sell to bars.

They will be the only commercially available hand dryers that are more powerful than the Xlerator, above left. While the Xlerator can make your skin ripple, my 747 engines will actually rip damp skin right from your hands.


Saturday, February 04, 2006

People I Like Inexplicably, Vol. III

Only a foolhearted criminal would mess with Sheriff John Bunnell. If his flobie-styled haircut doesn't bring you to justice, his fine command of cliches and alliterative puns will.

Bunnell got his big break when Fox's COPS show visited Oregon about 15 years ago. Sensing the production values that make COPS so compelling, Bunnell realized he needed a big finish after he took marijuana and a sportscar from an empty home, so he wrapped up the segment by calling the home's voicemail and leaving a message saying he had "dropped by." You can catch Bunnell these days on one of those COPS knockoffs on Spike TV.

Nobody likes a showboat, but this guy's charisma is undeniable. I love him. As my friends at the Sheriff Bunnell tribute page say, it's futile to try to describe him with words. Unless those words are "awesome" and "inexplicably."

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Friday, February 03, 2006

The Bump Watch Never Stops

I was willing to forgive Katie Holmes for this Tom Cruise business in part because she was so adorable from her days on Dawson's Creek and in part because of the gift she gave us The Gift. But now I'm afraid my goodwill has run out, because I just can't love a woman with an outie belly button. Sorry Katie, I'm no longer hoping you come to your senses and leave that guy.

And speaking of babies born to freaks, Britney Spears may be pregnant again. While shopping in Malibu, she reportedly grabbed her stomach and shouted "That's right, number two!" This is a typical case of the media jumping to conclusions. Britney was probably just saying that she had to poop.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Well I guess the secret's out

I tried to keep it from the paparazzi, my friends, even my fiance, but now that Lindsay Lohan has gone and lost her diary while boozing, I guess the whole world will know about our secret fling.

Those were eight magical days.

Am I ashamed of being the rebound guy after Wilmer? Maybe a little, but it is nice to know she wrote a song about me.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rest In Peace Mix Tape (1980-2006)

The Mix Tape, which came to prominence late in the last century and provided hours of entertainment to countless drivers and Walkman users, died Saturday. He was 26.

Officials say the cause of death appears to be neglect, though they have not ruled out foul play. Police have identified Apple CEO Steve Jobs as a "person of interest" in the case.

The Mix Tape has no surviving relatives. His parents, Eight Track and Beta Tape, died when he was a child.