Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I've started watching "Wonderfalls" on DVD. It's marvelous.

You could always Wikipedia it if you wanted, but I'll give you a brief history of the show: it was a quirky drama/comedy (I've sworn off the word "dramedy," I suggest you do the same) that premiered in 2004 to solid critical acclaim and almost no viewership. The "Save Our Show" campaign started the night the pilot aired, which is awfully early even in these treacherous days of viewer-starved networks. The show made it through its 13-episode run but wasn't picked up again, which is a shame because it's one of the best and most original shows I've ever seen. But here's the thing:

I remember when the show came out. I remember seeing the promos airing, pitching the show to the public, trying to pique our interest. and I distinctly remember thinking "that show looks horrible! Who would want to watch that? That show is going to get canceled so quickly!" I even remember being glad when I heard that it was getting canceled, thinking "good riddance." And this is without ever watching any part of any episode of the show. That's how bad the promos were.

This got me thinking. If a show this good could look so bad, how is anyone to ever to know if a show is good or not? The only way we discover shows is by these advertisements. The timetable for keeping shows on the air is far too short now - the ballyhooed "Smith" lasted 4 episodes last fall - for word of mouth to spread and get people to watch them. These advertisements are the only methods we have for discovering shows, and yet the networks seem to put such little work into some of them. The big shows get huge, flashy promos played incessantly each episode, smaller shows are lucky to get their promos played at all. I used to work for an executive producer who sent endless memos to the head of the network (out of caution, I promise I won't mention which one), pointing out that while it was rare to see a promo for his show at any point during the week, promos for "CSI: Miami" (alright, that might have given away the network there) played literally every commercial break. They still do, in fact. Turn on CBS right now (I screwed that oath, didn't I?).

The fact is that if a network doesn't know how to sell a show - and with most clever, thinky shows that can't be boiled down to a 8-second spot, they don't have any clue - it doesn't have a chance. NBC knows how to sell "Las Vegas" (shots of dice bouncing on craps table! shots of girls in party dresses grinding on each other! shots of whichever current washed up celebrity is guesting! Roll title graphic!), but not "Studio 60" ("I don't know how to condense six minutes of clever repartee into this ad, boss." "Just put in the last two lines, and we'll add a stinger so it sounds like a punchline. We've got to keep moving on this so we can focus on the 3-D effects for the 'Deal or No Deal' spot.")

In the past few years, we've lost "Firefly," "Arrested Development," and "Freaks and Geeks" without ever noticing what we'd lost until too late, because the shows never manged to find the audience they needed - and deserved. In a few months, we'll probably lose "30 Rock" and "Friday Night Lights" for the same reason (though props to NBC for sticking with 'em this long). I just wish we could find a way to alleviate the problem. Because until further notice, we've placed all our entertainment choices in the hands of the advertisers. And that's just not right.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Michael Vick

I caught a good deal of ESPN's town hall meeting about Michael Vick, held in a large auditorium in Atlanta. The crowd that turned out was about 85% in support of Vick, draped in No. 7 jerseys and "Free Michael Vick" shirts, and quite vocal in their support of the disgraced superstar. The panel announced an ESPN poll currently showed that about 40% of people thought Vick had been set up to take a fall in some way, whether because of race or celebrity or the need of a scapegoat or some combination of the three. A few audience members suggested that if Vick hadn't been a rich black football player, it's unlikely that PETA would have targeted him so forcefully (these people have clearly never met any members of PETA), but these suggestions were met with loud cheers.

More intriguingly, the black members in the audience loudly booed the two black members of the panel, who had (apparently) voiced opinions condemning Vick’s actions. One of these was Terence Moore, who had written a number of columns expressing his disappointment and anger at Vick. Audience questions reflected a deep vindictive streak towards Moore for this, feeling he’d abandoned the black community. A friend of Vick’s carried a message from the embattled quarterback, who had said the only thing he was guilty of was being too good a friend, which I thought was an awfully forward thing to say for someone who had just confessed to dogfighting, but this was again greeted with cheers.

Now, up to this point, I had been in agreement that the Vick scandal had grown out of proportion to the crime. But since everyone can agree that simply allowing animal mistreatment is not something anyone can support, regardless of whether Vick was there to actually sic the dogs on each other, it gets easy for people to gang together against Vick. But how could anyone reasonably say that Vick’s been set up? He confessed. As Moore noted, "It's not like there's a grassy knoll or a second gunman. There was one gunman in this case. It was Michael Vick." There's nothing like a JFK conspiracy theory reference to clear things up.

Just as I was about to switch sides again and rejoin the anti-Vick crowd, Selena Roberts, for the first time in her life, said something that changed my mind. She pointed out that the dogfighting articles about Vick have ranged from commenting about how he’s switched from cornrows to an afro, to wondering how smart he is, to all sorts of topics you couldn’t get away with commenting on in any situation other than this one. It suddenly occurred to me that it might tough for anyone to look at the breadth of the articles and not begin to wonder if maybe race is starting to play a role.

In fact, all of the really high-profile sports legal cases of my lifetime have delved deeply into America’s sensitivity about race, from O.J. Simpson to Kobe Bryant. And anyone who thinks that the only cases that rise to the surface are ones where people are looking to take potshots at the black community are welcome to spend some time with the Duke lacrosse team this season (by the way, props to the NCAA for adding a year of eligibility to each of those players’ careers. It is, quite simply, the least you can do). This issue is deeper than that.

I don’t have answers, obviously – I’d consider myself quite an asshole if I thought I could solve any racial issues by typing up a two-page blog post - but it bears considering. The fact remains, will always remain, that race will continue to insinuate itself throughout the sporting community anytime something like this comes to light. And it’s time to admit that our two warring instincts – denying race is an issue each time, or making it the only issue – are both wrong.

Look, what Vick did was wrong, and newspaper writers have been right to denounce him outright for it, regardless of what race he or they are. But that is never an excuse to take it one step further, to make comments that in any other situation would be considered inappropriate. Even as disgraced as he is, Vick supporters are right to feel insulted that anyone would view this as a time to make a comment on the significance of black hairstyles or snide comments about black intelligence in this situation. It’s cheap, racist opportunism, and it should never be condoned.

But neither should Vick’s actions. We have a responsibility to ferret out racism from the debate on Vick’s sentencing because it unfairly clouds a clear right-and-wrong issue, and allowing to happen in this situation makes it okay in other situations. And that’s something no one should ever feel comfortable letting happen.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fantasy Football Week Two Breakdown

I actually updated my blog twice this week, but I accidentally updated one of the external blogs I have linked to this one rather than my correct blog. I don't care enough about the posts to retrieve them, though.

Anyway, Week Two went no better for me than Week One. Well, technically, I did better (if you consider 8 points an improvement), but my opponent did much better than the week before, so I ended up losing by 54 points. A real barnburner of a week for me.

Naturally, part of the trouble has been the opponents I've been facing - my friend Kevin and I have both garnered 557 points through the first two weeks, but he's 2-0 and I'm 0-2. The main trouble I've had is my quarterbacking team.

Through the first two weeks, I have had 5 QBs - 3 of the got injured, and not a single one has played anywhere close to decently. Two weeks into the season, and already rumors are swirling of signing washed-up veterans to replace them, or handing the reigns over to rookies. That's a bad sign.

So, I have one more receiver than I can start, and I need to try to parlay that into at least one starting quarterback. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fantasy Football: Week Two Preview

Oh, I completely forgot to mention the name of my fantasy team last time. We're "The Yardbirds." Can you feel the excitement yet? You'll get there.

I mentioned yesterday to a co-worker that was in my office at the time that I was getting all wrapped up in my fantasy football team. He looked at me pathetically and said "that's sad." Fortunately for my psyche, this guy is about the most boring man alive, so I actually took it as a positive and moved on.

Alright, here's my Week One lineup. I cut out all the statistics and narrowed it down to just fantasy points earned. Those positions marked "BN" are the people I benched for the first week:

So, that's a total of 275 points... that's not so good. What's worse, I'm playing "Throw Down In Motown," who garned 297 points last week, tops in our league. Still, my major problem was that I didn't start the right players - if I'd started Moss, Pennington, and Harrington, I would have garnered 308 points, which not only would've won me the game but would've put me above "Motown." Ah, well, as AVI pointed out last point, "woulda, coulda, shoulda." Let's move on to next week.

Here's "Throw Down in Motown's" lineup for this week, which does not bode well for me. Not only did he destroy everyone last week, he also bolstered his lineup for this week's matchup against me. If he'd rolled this lineup out last week, he would've made 310 points:

The worst part about it is that there's no reason his team shouldn't get even better this week. Leinart had an off game, so did Colston, why shouldn't they bounce back this week?

So this week is the ultimate test of my fantasy team. I'm going to apply the lessons I learned from last week:

Lesson One: Start your best players if they're playing. Don't try to figure out if their
injury is serious enough to hold them back - if they're playing, play them.

Lesson Two: Don't worry too much about matchups. If it's a toss-up between two players,
pick the one with a better matchup, sure. But don't bench a good quarterback against a
good defense. He's still a good quarterback, regardless.

So let's see how I end up doing. Here's my lineup for Week Two:

If I'd rolled this lineup out in Week One, I would've had 344 points. 344 points! That's so incredible I have to go back and check my math.

Yup, 344 points. Wow. But then, there's no reason to assume this team will do anywhere near as well this week. McCown and Pennington are both uncertain to play this Sunday, which means I might be starting Harrington and Losman again. And it's certainly unlikely that Burress, Moss, and Miller will have games anywhere near as good this week. Still, Chicago's defense should bounce back, and so should Fred Taylor. I feel pretty good about where all of this is going.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I hear the love theme from a Zeffirelli film in my head...

I am smitten. I am obsessed. I can't sleep nights. I keep hitting refresh on my inbox, waiting for replies. I never want to lose this feeling. I love fantasy football.

I thought I would, of course. I'm a numbers guy, I like looking at stats and making predictions, I like competing in things that don't involve running. But I never knew how much it would take me over, like a werewolf bite. It's fantastic.

Understand, first of all, that while I like football, and I like the NFL, I have no great affection for either. I watch maybe an hour or so, idly, on a Sunday afternoon after church. I root for the Pats, though that's hard to do down here in Houston. I watch the playoffs if I can, and of course the Super Bowl (but then, watching the Super Bowl is to being a football fan as... going to a museum is to being a paleontologist. There's a lot more of the former than the latter).

But suddenly... I care deeply about J.P. Losman's uncertain start in Buffalo. I worry about Chad Pennington's ankle injury. I skip around cheerfully at the waiver wire addition of Josh McCown, and I don't even know who Josh McCown is. I rejoice that my Chad Johnson-Reggie Williams-Vernand Morency for Tatum Bell trade, which I had faith in even though it looked mediocre on paper, turned in to such a lopsided stunner (Johnson, Williams, and Morency - two of whom started for his fantasy team - combined for 16 fantasy points. Bell had 29 points all on his own). I still don't seem to know jack about the NFL, and yet all of sudden I feel deep pain that Frank Gore's hand injury disabled him enough that he only ran for 55 yards, which ended up costing me my first game.

Oh, yeah, that's right, I lost my first game. By just 4 points, 279-275. And you want to know why it happened? Because I benched Randy Moss for the first game, figuring he was probably still hurt and wouldn't be any help. Instead, this happened. Yaaay.

My goal, this season, is to learn how to be a fantastic fantasy owner. To make the moves necessary to win, week after week. Honestly, I want to win a fantasy championship my first year out. In fact, I'm going to win a fantasy championship my first year out. And I want you to come along for the ride.

Each week, I'm going to make little updates on this blog, documenting everything happening with my team. And I know, I know, you're not interested, I hear you. But you will be. It's addictive. It's like a virus. You, too, will debate my decision to bench Roy Williams and Shaun McDonald, since they're facing such a tough pair of cornerbacks this week. You, too, will wonder how much Steve McNair's groin injury will impair him in the coming weeks. You think you won't, but you will.

I'll give you a full Week One update in a day or two. Prepare to start caring.


Until October 10th

In an effort to counteract my truly outrageous soda intake, for the next month, I will drink only water.

My hair has now gotten as absolutely long as it ever has since I first became self-conscious of my receding hairline. My mother always urged me to keep it long, but there's nothing so unattractive as the half-covered baldness. Short hair has always suited me better anyway, more so now that the peak of my hairline is so pronounced, but I've decided that it might be time to experiment a little. I'm growing my hair out until further notice.

I stumbled across this little tidbit: Mischa Barton played Vicky Austin in a film adaptation of Madeline L'Engle's A Ring Of Endless Light a few years ago. I'm horrified. Vicky Austin is one of those female protagonists you don't mess with; this is the equivalent of Goldie Hawn playing Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. It just boggles the mind.

I just learned today that's New York Times ad, "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" (clever!) was written and sent in long before the General had even written his statements on the war in Iraq. The ad states, essentially, that General Petraeus has said a lot of vaguely positive things about the war in Iraq in the past, so he must be in league with the White House and Bush, and therefore is a traitor to the American cause. The reason House Democratic leadership hasn't denounced the ad is that some Democratic Congressmen asked and similar organizations to start kicking up a fuss about Petraeus. I'm not sure if I really believe all of that last bit, but one way or another: by not denouncing the ad, the Democratic party has essentially stated that any leadership figure who supports the war, or even feels positive about the war in any context, is a traitor.

One more reason I'm not voting Democrat this year.

Y'know, it's really remarkable that a country that hates their Republican President this much could still not necessarily be convinced to vote the other way in each election. It takes a special kind of leadership to achieve something like that.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 10, 2007

Circling The Drain

A friend of mine expressed excitement at seeing Britney Spears open the VMAs tonight - not in a "hey, it’s going to be fantastic” sort of way, of course, but more a “it’s going to be terrible, I can’t wait to see her fail” sort of way. “She’s circling the drain,” she noted, making a looping motion in the air with her finger. It sounds harsh – it is harsh – but then, my friend is a girl, and like virtually all girls, loathes Britney to the very core of her being; and like virtually all girls, rejoices to see her fail.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before (and you’ve heard this before), but until Lindsay Lohan stole her crown a year ago, there hasn’t been anyone in the past five years as perpetually in the spotlight as Spears, and (until Lindsay) no one has wilted as quickly or as badly. And so somewhere, deep down, I was hoping that Britney would do well tonight. There’s something heartbreaking about how wretched all her life has become, and even the most callous of us, on some level, have to feel a little sorry for her. Let me go search through some gossip columns and confirm that.

Hang on…

Okay, I’m back. I was lying, I’m the only person in the world who seems to feel sorry for her.

But why not? Britney’s performance tonight was the stuff of superstar flameout legend. She half-heartedly stumbled through her show-opening number, out of shape, barely lip-synching, even looking somewhat like she’d been drugged, frankly. I’m not a conspiracy theory man (though I have substantive evidence that the automobile industry might have it out for me), but I truly think MTV set her up to fail. Shot from every unattractive angle possible, the song started with a close-up on the back of her head, hair extensions clearly visible even to those of us not personally acquainted with such details, the whole set-up seemed staged for maximum embarrassment. Hell, the song was choreographed by Criss Angel, who is qualified for such a task because he’s weird, and he’s got his own TV show, and featured a good bit of awkwardly staged faux-humping (now that is a good name for an album title: “It wasn’t until the group released their double-platinum rocker, Awkwardly Stage Faux-Humping, that their career really took off”). And then the ignominy of having Sarah Silverman arrive on stage right after Britney left it to rub salt in her wounds with about two minutes of “you’re a failure” and vagina jokes. A classy evening all around.

Frankly, though, the whole event felt more than a little forced: joining bands playing tiny shows at their “hotel room parties,” cutting to presenters hanging out in the middle of the crowd with guests peering over their shoulder, having most the performers playing their songs in the hotel’s event rooms (guys, we know you’re at The Palms, but all of these rooms look the same. Its like seeing famous bands playing at a succession of poorly-lit proms).

Thanks for re-inventing your crappy awards ceremony into something even less interesting, MTV. At least you’ve promised to not play this one over and over again, for once. It means we get to watch re-runs of The Hills and Life of Ryan over and over again, instead, which is of course what we always wanted.

I’ll look forward to reading lots of “that was a disaster – MTV has lost its touch!” articles in USA Today and Entertainment Weekly and similar publications in the coming days. If the negative hype keeps rolling, I might even get to see Anderson Cooper, looking very grave, explaining all of the network’s troubles on CNN in a day or two. There’s nothing like a good post-mortem to make everyone feel glad they watched such a train wreck. Let’s see how you guys fare.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

It's an Infinity I 30

Hello, all. I'm twenty-four today.

Many people have expressed interest in the car that I'm buying, given my spectacular history in car purchases. My automobile choices would charitably be described as "varied," and more accurately described as "cursed." With that in mind, I thought I'd send you a link to the vehicle I'm purchasing, which I'm referring to as "my first real car."

We pick up the car on Thursday. Fingers crossed everyone, for the drive home.