Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The City

This is filler; I admit it. A view of San Francisco, taken yesterday morning.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Good Omen

On my run this morning, the shuffle playlist brought up a nice tandem - "Life in the Factory," a song about Lynyrd Skynyrd by the Drive-By Truckers, followed by "Sweet Home Alabama."

That's got to mean something good, right?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Yes, I know that doing anything to support Mel Gibson in this day and age is not popular. But I don't think that adding "Apocalypto" to the Netflix queue is going to make the difference between making or breaking Mr. Gibson.

It's an odd film, and I doubt that it would have gotten made had it not been for Gibson's previous success as a director. I don't recall that people were clamoring for a movie about the Mayan Civilization, with subtitles, and featuring a group of actors that no one had ever heard of.

"Entertaining" may not be the word for a movie this violent, but "Apocalypto" is never less than interesting. I have no idea whether it is accurate in its depiction of the Mayans, but I'm not sure whether that really matters in the consideration of whether it is a good film. The parts that got the most publicity for being disgusting are indeed disgusting, and the extended chase scene which comprises the film's final act is as exciting as everyone said it was. And the final scenes of the "visitors" coming on to shore, while entirely predictable, do pack a bit of a punch.

So, a mixed bag.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Deathly Hallows, Part I"

With “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I,” the Harry Potter journey is almost over. And while none of the individual films seem destined to take their place in the annals of cinematic history as all-time greats, taken as a whole the series has been quite remarkable.

Aside from the characters, there is very little in common between the first film – “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” released almost a decade ago – and the newest entry in the series. We are now familiar with Harry, Ron and Hermione, and we know what is going to happen to them (I say that because I think it unlikely that anyone who hasn’t read the books is going to bother trying out the movies). “Deathly Hallows” doesn’t need to spend time on character development, because these characters have been fully developed. They are not children anymore, though they’ve had their childhoods stolen from them. They have faced adversity together, and sometimes that adversity has threatened to tear them apart.

The tone in “Deathly Hallows” is dark; even in the celebratory moments like Bill and Fleur’s wedding, disaster lurks right around the corner. And in the end, Harry, Ron and Hermione must go off together in order to find the answers to the nightmares that lurk before them. The first part of “Deathly Hallows” tells the story of that journey, in preparation for the final confrontation yet to come. It is a movie of moments, none greater than that moment (which I don’t believe appears in the book) when Harry and Hermione set aside their cares for just a moment, and share an impromptu dance. Danger and tragedy have brought them together. But in that sweet moment, you see that they have not lost their humanity.

The movie ends abruptly, which should come as no surprise to anyone. But it accomplishes everything that it sets out to do – setting the stage for what should prove to be a compelling finale.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Better Way...

...to get the holiday weekend started than a game of "Nazi Zombies?"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Awesome

Sheila O'Malley's take on Moon, and Sam Rockwell's acting in it.

I chose Moon as my favorite movie of 2009, and wrote about it (not as well, and in much less detail) here.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Patterson Hood writes about "Darkness on the Edge of Town," and sings songs from "Darkness on the Edge of Town."

On Aquarium Drunkard.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


You have to look carefully.

Big Game 2010 - A Bear Disaster!

Today was my 12th Big Game with my friend Steve, and with Stanford's 48-14 victory, he took a 6-5-1 lead.

I took this shot just before the game started, and what you see here is a near brawl breaking out during the pre-game captains handshake. Yep, Big Game indeed.

We got lucky in that the torrential rain held off until the drive home, but it was cold and windy. Definitely the worst weather we've had, in all the years we've been going to the game.

Friday, November 19, 2010

American Top 40 Flashback - Billy Swan and Ringo

It's been a while since I've done one of these...

"I Can Help," Billy Swan, the #1 song on this day in 1974. In this clip, I particularly like Bobby Vinton's jacket, Billy Swan's shirt, and the jeans being worn by the bass player. Classic 70's stuff. It doesn't seem fair to call Swan a "one-hit wonder" given what a professional he was for so many years, but I don't recall ever having heard another song by him. But this was a great one.

And to make up for the long break, here's another:

This isn't much of a video, but it's a great song - "Photograph," Ringo Starr, the #1 song from this week in 1973. If I recall correctly, George Harrison wrote this one, and it is a classic slice of pop that still sounds good today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's All About the Work

The vagaries of blog hits are interesting. I don't think I've written anything interesting for a week, yet my hits have gone through the roof in the past few days (assuming that SiteMeter is to be believed). I'm not sure what it is that triggers these runs, but they do happen every now and then.

Right now it's all about the work, the busiest time of year in a year that, shall we say, has been somewhat unusual. Things are looking up and going well, but it is probably not a coincidence that, as my mind was wandering the other night, I was thinking about how I felt shortly after I got my first job - at McDonalds.

Back in those days (we're talking the late 1970s), the work force of McDonalds consisted almost entirely of high school kids. The approach to training was somewhat stringent, and not unlike throwing a small kid into the deep end of the pool just to see what would happen - you either sank, or swam. There were a ton of rules - the boys wore white shirts, ties, and those nifty little paper hats, and hair wasn't allowed to touch the ears. Don't even think about being late, and do what you're told. And if you didn't do it well, you could expect a manager to point it out, and usually in a way that was not very polite.

And, funny though it may seem now, it was hard work. If you were on the grill, you worked one of three stations - meat, which meant that you slapped the patties on the grill, turned them, made sure they were done correctly, and then slapped them on the dressed bun. Buns, which meant you were responsible for toasting (excuse me, carmelizing) the buns. Trust me, it was harder than it sounds. And dressing, which means you got to whip all of those condiments on those buns, while at the same time watching those filet of fish and apple pies. Timing was everything, and it only took one bad cog in the machine to throw the whole damn thing off.

When I was trained, they really didn't spend enough time on training (something I tried hard to change when I became the training coordinator for the grillmen after a year on the job). So it was pretty much guaranteed that you were going to screw something up, and you either picked yourself up off the floor and learned how to do it, or you were out of there. No in-between.

Let me tell you, I hated that job for the first three months. To the point where I would lie awake at night before a morning shift and hope that the whole building was going to burn down before the alarm went off in the morning. Really.

And then, all of a sudden, one day at work I realized that I knew what the hell I was doing. I stopped being nervous, and I actually started to make some friends. Some of whom are still friends today, more than 30 years later.

So what's the point of all this? I'm not sure, but it felt good to write it down.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Posnanski on "The Promise"

It's bad enough that he writes brilliantly about baseball, and just about every other sport you can imagine...but writing brilliantly about Bruce Springsteen as well?

Well, that just doesn't seem fair.

But that shouldn't stop you from checking it out: Joe Posnanski on "The Promise."


I have to admit that this isn't ours - it belongs to our neighbor.

Black Ops

This is a great commercial, but what it really proves is that when you use "Gimme Shelter" as your theme song, you're guaranteed an audience. It's impossible to avoid looking at the screen when this comes on, and it's the music that grabs you. And that's why it's the Stones' greatest song, and one of the great songs in the history of rock and roll.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Flock of Eagles

The Pleasant Grove High School marching band, at today's Veterans Day parade in Elk Grove.

Happy Veterans Day!

The giant flag flying across Elk Grove Blvd. at the annual Veterans Day parade.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Surprised He Lasted This Long

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a sports team that I dislike more than the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe the Miami Heat will pass them by the end of the season (it probably depends on how many times that ridiculous commercial runs), but for now and for a long time it's been Dallas.

When the Cowboys hired Wade Phillips, I was pleased, because there was no doubt in my mind that Wade Phillips was never going to take the team - or any team - to a championship. Phillips is a nice guy and has a great football mind, but he's just one of those guys that is better suited to be a coordinator than a head coach.

At 1-7, Jerry Jones really had no choice. But no one should be patting Jones on the back right now, because he never should have hired Phillips in the first place.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lazy Sunday

Time For A Netflix Catchup

As son #2 keeps reminding me, I'm way behind.

Sideways. I liked this one a lot. Paul Giamatti pulls off a difficult trick, which is making a guy who is kind of a snob, kind of a geek, and a bit of an ass come off as friendly and likable. Thomas Haden Church is great as his friend who definitely is a jerk, especially when it comes to women. You can't help but like the guy, and I'm sure that everyone has met a guy like him at one point or another in their lives - the frat boy who never grows up, who has money and acts as if he is entitled to have or do just about anything, including treat women poorly.

At its heart, it's a road movie. And the road trip in this case is a fun one, a wine trip. I'm a Cabernet person myself so I didn't really get the obsession with Pinot Noir, but I can definitely agree that Merlot is not anywhere near the top of my list.

The real surprise to me was Sandra Oh, who - for reasons that are not entirely clear - I was prepared to dislike. I ended up liking her character quite a bit, as I did the character played by Virginia Madsen. They're both level-headed people who seem to have come to grips with life's little vagaries much better than their male counterparts.

Get Smart. Not great, but fun. Nothing could come close to the original TV series, but this was definitely a lot better than "The Nude Bomb," the 1980 flick starring the original stars of the series. Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway were fine as Agents 86 and 99, but the real acting highlight was probably Dwayne Johnson, who has a pretty darn good touch when it comes to comedy.

Rushmore. This was my first exposure to Wes Anderson, and I can't say I was that impressed. It had its moments, but overall there really wasn't a single character that I cared about, and most of them - particularly Jason Schwartzman in the lead role - I just found annoying.

Slumdog Millionaire. It's a good thing I knew this one had a happy ending, otherwise I might not have made it until the end. Overall I thought it was very good, but it's going to take me a while to figure out whether it really deserved the Oscar. The concept of using "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" was brilliant, but I'm not sure that the execution was up to the idea. The questions seemed a little too easy, and (and this is hardly the movie's fault) every time I looked at the host, I kept thinking of the actor's role on "24" last season as the leader of an unnamed Arab country. The movie was expertly done, but struck me as a little contrived.

Flying the Giants Colors

In case you were wondering, the blog will be "flying the Giants colors" for the entire month of November.

On December 1, we'll move to a holiday color scheme to celebrate the 3rd annual Musical Advent Calendar.

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I've tried a lot of beers in my life, but this is my all-time favorite: The Anchor Brewing Company's Christmas Ale. Sometimes hard to find, and only available from November 1 until shortly after New Year's Day.

Each year is slightly different from the one before. But one thing you can be assured of is that it's going to be awesome.

Find it today!

"Biodynamic Grapes"

This is the wine we're having for dinner tonight - it's a new one, courtesy of BevMo's 5-cent wine sale.

It may be hard to see in this photo, but if you look at the bottom of the label, you'll see that this wine is made with "biodynamic grapes." I don't really know what that means.

Fairytales Don't Always Have A Happy Ending

She came out on the track, her groom leading her to the barn to be saddled. She knew she was the center of attention, and she seemed to instinctively know that she was at the most famous track in the land. She also seemed to have a sense that, one way or another, history was going to be made on this day.

And she pranced. She strutted. While her groom tried very hard to keep the crowd quiet, she seemed to revel in the attention. She took it all in, and it was as if she was thinking to herself, "yes, I am the best, and I know it. It's time to have a little fun."

The race began, and she quickly dropped to last place. The gap between her and the horses in front of her was amazing. "Something must be wrong," I said to my wife. At any moment, I expected Mike Smith, her jockey, to pull up and lead her off the track.

He didn't. And as the field ran down the backstretch and approached the final turn, she began to look as if there was still something there. Mike Smith led her through the pack, and then to the outside, where it was time for one last, desperate stretch run.

It was one of the most amazing scenes in the world of sports that I can remember. It brought to mind Dave Wottle's amazing 800-meter run at the 1972 Olympics, with Jim McKay screaming "He's got one Kenyan! He's got the next..." as Wottle stuck his head in front of Yevgeny Arzhanov at the tape to win the gold medal.

She had a clear view of the finish line, and she was clearly the fastest horse on the track - the best horse on the track. She gained ground, with blazing speed.

And she lost, by a head, for the first time. But even in losing, she was a champion. And now she will be able to prance to her heart's delight, out in the field, without having to worry about running down those pesky, arrogant boys.

Zenyatta. A great champion.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

"The Empire Strikes Back" Is the Best Star Wars Film - And I Always Knew It

Yes, that is a pretty vain headline, obnoxious even. But it is true.

Thirty years ago, there was no doubt in my mind that "The Empire Strikes Back" was a great, great movie. I've kind of lost count over the years, but I think that my brothers and I saw it at least 7 times that summer. Or maybe I saw it seven times, and just a few of them were with my brothers.

30 years later, everyone seems to agree that "The Empire Strikes Back" is the best Star Wars movie. So now, the film is getting its due. Like this interview with director Irvin Kershner in Vanity Fair.

Films of fan and fanboys alike bitched about the prequels. I saw all of them in the theater, and there were parts of each of them that were great (particularly the final prequel). But there's little doubt that none of them reached the heights of the original trilogy, and part of that has to be laid at George Lucas' doorstep. I don't know what happened between 1980 and 1999-2005, but all you have to do is read this remembrance of Irvin Kershner to know that something changed:

There was really only one disagreement [with George Lucas]. It was the Carbon Freeze scene when Princess Leia says, “I love you.” Han Solo’s response in the script was, “I love you, too.” I shot the line and it just didn’t seem right for the character of Han Solo. So we worked on the scene on the set. We kept trying different things and couldn’t get the right line. We were into the lunch break and I said to Harrison try it again and just do whatever comes to mind. That is when Harrison said the line, “I know.” After the take, I said to my assistant director, David Tomblin, “It’s a wrap.” David looked at me in disbelief and said something like, “Hold on, we just went to overtime. You’re not happy with that, are you?” And I said, yes, it’s the perfect Han Solo remark, and so we went to lunch. George saw the first cut and said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. That’s not the line in the script.” I said ““I love you, too’ was not Han Solo.” Han Solo was a rebel. George felt that the audience would laugh. And I said, that’s wonderful, he is probably going to his death for all they know. We sat in the room and he thought about it. He then asked me, “Did you shoot the line in the script?” I said yes. So we agreed that we would do two preview screenings once the film was cut and set to music with the line in and then with the line out. At the first preview in San Francisco, the house broke up after Han Solo said I know. When the film was over, people came up and said that is the most wonderful line and it worked. So George decided not to have the second screening.

Cleveland's Response

Cleveland's classic response to LeBron's horrific piece of narcissism in his latest Nike commercial.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Random Thoughts on the New Nike Commercial with Lebron James

- It may be the single most narcissistic advertisement ever to feature an athlete.

- Don Johnson looks great - unless, of course, that's old footage made new through the miracle of modern technology.

- My advice, assuming Lebron is serious with his question? STFU. The sooner, the better.

Suddenly It's Christmas

Yeah, This One's A Keeper

Quote of the Day

"I like our chances. I know we were picked for fourth place this year. We've got to at least be moved up to third -- you would think."

- Giants closer Brian Wilson, when asked about the Giants' outlook for 2011.

Year 26 - Sacramento Kings

My dad and I went to the Sacramento Kings game last night, and it was a disconcerting experience - not the fact that the Kings lost to the Lakers, which was expected, but the fact that almost half of the crowd was Lakers fans. If there was ever a clearer demonstration that the Kings have not yet won back their fan base, that's it, right there.

I don't want to say that we're getting old or anything, but when we first started going to these games, dad was 50, and I was 25. Now I'm 50, so...you do the math!

This is action from the 4th quarter, with Kobe at the line. To give you an idea of the tenor of the crowd, there were chants - loud ones - of "MVP! MVP! MVP!" that could be heard at this moment.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Savoring a Giant Championship

I rarely listen to the radio when I'm in the car, but this morning I made an exception. I turned on KNBR from San Francisco, because I knew they'd be talking about the Giants, and even though it was election day, the Giants were all I really wanted to think about.

The timing was perfect - they were replaying the 9th inning, so I got to hear Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow call the end of the game. Classic stuff.

The rest of it wasn't particularly deep or meaningful, but it didn't matter - at that point, all I really wanted to do was savor the win. They played recordings of interviews with players like Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson. They played an interview with Brian Sabean. They talked about what it was like on the late night plane coming home from Texas last night. They talked about tomorrow's parade. It was all wonderful.

As sports analysts do, on sites like SI.com and ESPN.com, the experts are already talking about what the Rangers and the Giants will have to do to repeat their success next year. And you know what? At this point, I don't even care.

This was a very special season that will never be repeated. It was the story of great pitchers and not-so-great hitters who always seemed to come through when it mattered the most. It was the story of a city and a group of fans that fell in love with a team over the course of a season. Giants fans are very lucky to have Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Jon Miller as their announcers - because even when the games are a lost cause, they make things entertaining, and without trying they manage to create a community around a team. Some of the most fun moments watching "Kruk and Kuip" are when the games get out of hand, one way or another - because they work to find things in the crowd that are interesting and fun, whether it be someone with a panda hat on their head, or a kid at his first game with his glove ("wear a glove, get a ball"), or even the lonely Dodgers fan who is just ASKING to have his face erased on the telestrator.

As long as we keep this group of pitchers around, we're going to be competitive. But you know what? Whatever happens from here on out matters less than what just happened. We've got our championship. No one can ever take it away from us.

"Torture's Over"

In Case You Were Wondering...

Yes, it feels just as good the next day.

Monday, November 01, 2010

World Champion San Francisco Giants

It just sort of rolls off the tongue.

This may have not been the best team in San Francisco Giants history, but it will now always be remembered as the greatest team in San Francisco Giants history.

Aubrey Huff.

Freddy Sanchez.

Juan Uribe.

Edgar Renteria.

Pablo Sandoval.

Andres Torres.

Pat Burrell.

Cody Ross.

Buster Posey.

Aaron Rowand.

Nate Shierholtz.

Travis Ishikawa.

Tim Lincecum.

Matt Cain.

Jonathan Sanchez.

Madison Bumgarner.

Jeremy Affeldt.

Santiago Casilla.

Guillermo Mota.

Ramon Ramirez.

Sergio Romo.

Brian Wilson.

Javier Lopez.

Mike Fontenot.

Barry Zito.

Bruce Bochy.

On July 4, this team was 41-40. They always had a great pitching staff, but something began to happen in the summer and it carried on throughout the fall. It may have been torture...it often was torture...but with a pitching staff like that, the Giants were almost always in every game.

From the time the playoffs began, I had a feeling this was the year. THIS was the team that was going to bring the trophy to the greatest city in the world. A team with a bunch of characters; a team with a bunch of castoffs. Guys that you had yelled at in August and September? Those were the same guys who came through in October.

Anyone who knows me knows what a huge sports fan that I am. I've been lucky; there have been a lot of great moments along the way. But I'm not sure I've ever felt exactly like I did when Edgar Renteria hit that 3-run home run. The only thing that comes to mind is Joe Montana to Dwight Clark, against the Dallas Cowboys in January 1982.

World Champion San Francisco Giants.

Giants Flair

It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm already nervous. But then again, games don't come any bigger than this:

- The first game the Giants have ever played in November.

- The first World Series game they've played with a 3-1 lead in the series.

Part of me wishes they could win it in front of the home fans, but man, I want this to be over.