NACBL Mets June Wrap Up

Well, it’s decision time for me in the NACBL.  My Mets are 2 games under .500, but are still close enough to make a push for the play offs.  Even so, I may be too far out, and should dump my veterans with remaining value before it’s too late.  *sigh*  I just don’t know…

Well, there are some good things happening this season.  The combination of Jered Weaver and Brandon Webb are a combined 18-7, with an ERA around 3.30.  Hideki Okajima (3-0 4SV 0.98 ERA), now has given up 2 ER, both coming on solo HR.  Kameron Loe, who got inserted into the rotation over Jorge de la Rosa, pitched decently enough for me.  Lenny Dinardo, a throw away lefty, is 6-5 with a 4.10 ERA, respectable given his card.  My achilles heel has been the Cuban reject, Livan Hernandez.  He is 0-10, with a 7.10 ERA.  If it wasn’t for him, I’d be doing fine.  Heck, if he just won 3 games, I’d be a game over .500 right now, and in good position.  (Note to self, no more Cubans!)

I really should have known better,  In another league I had El Duque.  In yet another, I had Dennys Baez. None of them panned out for me.  I have no luck with Cubans. 

On the offensive side of things, Garret Atkins got hot.  He raised his average to .290, and now has 20HR (He hit 25 all of last year).  Hunter Pence continues to hit around .330, with some power.  I have no real team speed, so the SB is just not in my arsenal, though I keep sending guys, usually into a caught stealing.  Since being inserted into the everyday lineup, both Jack Wilson and Akinori Iwamura have risen to the challenge.  Jack is hitting over .300 with 4HR, and Aki has 6 three baggers, and is hitting around .312.  Junior Griffey saved a series single handedly by hitting 2 walk off HR.  Dan Uggla though has slipped below .200, at .198 for the season.  Xavier Nady has slipped to .258, but he does have 16 HR (20 last year). 

So here I sit, with a .488 winning percentage, 11 games out of first place.  That leaves me about 4.5 games out of the play offs.  But I do have 5 teams ahead of me.  So I’m in a tough spot.  I’m close enough to mount a charge, but may have too much to over come, with 5 teams ahead of me.  I just don’t know.  Dump and play for next year, or make a move to get a starter and make a run at it.  I suppose I can hold off one more month…

 

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Joe Bruno will not run

Even though rumors of this had been circulating for a few days now, it still comes as a shock.

The NY Sentae Majority Leader, Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick), is not going to seek re-election in November.  For the past 32 years, Joe has been a consistent presence in the Capital District, and as a Senator in Albany, and as Majority leader since 1995. 

The Daily Gazette

Fred Dicker (NYP)

Capital News 9

Fred Dicker needs to stop drinking the conspiracy Kool-Aid.  He reads way too much into the Patterson-Bruno relationship. 

As I said previously, rumor of this decision beagn circulating on Saturday locally.  No one at the time believed it.  After all, Bruno for Senate election petitions were still circulating around the district, and Bruno himself had not given any indication, not even at the three way press conference with Gov. Patterson and Shledon Silver. 

Joe Bruno has been beat on unusually harsh the past few years.  This last year has perhaps been the worst of it.  He had some very public spats with former Governor George Pataki.  He was at odds with ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer since Spitzer was AG.  That exploded into a very public fight, one which eventually lead to Spitzer downfall and ousting.  Perhaps the crushing blow to Joe was the death of his wife Barbara, who died in January.  I’m sure nothing seemed quite as important after that, except his family.

I’ll have more on what happens next later on.  Need to digest and process all the information.

George Carlin

George Carlin passed away yesterday at the age of 71.

One of the comedic greats of our time is now lost to us.  From his humble beginings in NYC, to his international fame as a comedian and actor, he provided everyone he ever met, or ever saw him work, hours upon hours of entertainment.  Not only has become part of the greater American consciousness, but his influence will be felt for many, many years to come.

One of the great things about Carlin, and his routines, was that he had a very broad based appeal.  Your race, color, creed, religion, or politics didn’t matter.  He was completely irreverant, taking on anyone, anywhere, at any time.  No discrimination allowed, as everyone needs to be taken down a notch or two once in a while.  He himself often defied definition.  He was mainstream, he was counter-cultural, he was a “guerrila comedian,” he was an “establishment” comedian, he was all of those things and none.  He simply was George Carlin.

I shoudl note that the past few years have not been kind to George.  His last two HBO specials were not even close to up to par.  Though the last one was better than it’s immediate predecessor.  What was worse, was the Carlin looked old.  Like age had suddenly crept up on him and whacked him with the age stick.  Repeatedly.  The HBO special from a few years ago was really where you can see it.  He was lethargic on stage.  He didn’d sound like Carlin, more like some grumpy old man shouting “Get off my lawn.”  It was a flat, and unfunny performance (but it did have its moments).  His last special was better, but you could still see that time was fast catching up with George.

People have been talking about his routines all day long.  Even ESPN got in on the act, running his comparison between Football and Baseball.  MOst stations and networks are referring to his “Seven Dirty Words” monologue (which grew over the years BTW), as it gets the FCC into a tizzy, and titilates the viewers.  But that’s not his greatest bit IMO.  No, that belongs to his exposition on “Stuff.”

Fans will immediately know of what I speak.  The rest of you will need an explanation (apologies to Dennis Leary).  I don’t remember when Carlin first did this bit, I’m too lazy to look it up, and it doesn’t really matter.  The essence of it was that we keep getting stuff, and need bigger places to put our stuff.  Even when we try to get rid of stuff, we end up not with less stuff, just newer stuff.  There’s a bit that references garage/yard sales as well.  I’m also too lazy to search YouTube for a clip of this.  But if someone sends me a link, I’ll put it up.

So farewell George.  We will forever remember the Hippy Dippy weatherman, silly news breaks during a performance, Seven Dirty Words, and all about Stuff.

 

UN Liability in Bosnia

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/function/0,2145,12215_cid_3423266,00.html

Relatives of those killed at Srebrenica are attempting to sue the United Nations and the Dutch government over the massacre.  This is a civil case in addition to the various war crimes tribunals being held at the Hague.

I have two positions on this.  First off, I don’t think the Dutch government should be held liable, or culpable in this case.  The Dutch “Peace keepers,” were screwed before they got to Bosnia.  Their hands were tied long before they ever set foot on the gorund by UN restrictions.  Things like being unable to carry loaded weapons, or return hostile fire, or enforce UN mandates, or do anything other than give up when confronted by the Serbian partisans.  Those soldiers were put in an untenable position, charged with a task that they were in turn not allowed to actually do.

ould they have done something at that time?  Maybe, but it would ultimately have been futile, and would only have made them out to be “bad guys” for exacerbating the violence.  Besides that, they are good soldiers.  They followed the legal orders of their commanders, who were taking their orders from the duly authorized legal authority of the UN.  I cannot hold them accountable for what they did, as it was exactly what they were told to do, and was confirmed by their superiors in the UN “command.”  I have no doubts, from published accounts, that it galled them no end, and it still bothers them deeply today, a decade later.

The United Nations on the other hand, should be held liable, culpable, and accountable for what happened.  It was thier decisions which allowed this to happen.  the stated “rules of no-engagement,” the direct order to the Dutch soldiers to stand down and give in to the Serbs, the lack of any sort of enforcement capability, directly contributed, and allowed the events at Srebrenica to happen.  In effect, the UN polices regarding thier peace keepers, and the so called “safe zones,” aided and abeted the Serbian insurgents efforts. 

So here’s to hoping the Srebrenica relatives and survivors win their case.  While they may never collect anything from the UN, it will put on record what the UN did, and did not do in Bosnia.  It will enter a legal judgement against the UN for being the ineffectual hypocrites that they are. 

Beat down in Beantown

The crowd went wild.  The faint hint of cigar smoke drifted down from the heavens.  The leprechauns danced.

The NBA Finals are over.  The Boston Celtics are raising yet another championship banner, their 17th.  Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and the long suffering Paul Pierce each have their first championship.  And best yet, it came at the expense of Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and the rest of the trash in purple and yellow.

The game was close after 1 quarter.  That was it.  The Celtics just dominated every facet of the game from that point on.  Proof positive that teams win championships, not individuals.  This was a team effort.  Unselfish play by the stars, team defense, and a winning attitude enforced by the coach is what brought this one home.  And the team as whole deserves the credit.

I admit, I hated Doc Rivers when he was a player, especially when he was with the Atlanta Hawks.  But he’s done alright in Boston, and showed what he’s capable of as a coach when he has players and talent to work with.  I had my doubts last year, but I was willing to give him a second chance with a good team, and not just a bunch of misfits.  I’m certainly glad I did.

This completes one of the greatest turn around season for any team in any sport. 

 

Now it’s time to start planning for net year.

Blu-Ray Movies

Well, I now have 14 Blu-ray movies.  A variety of current and past releases.  Since getting my PS3, and purchasaing movies on Blu-ray, it has become apparent that some movies definitely benefit from the blu-ray treatment, while others gain nothing, or in a few cases, lose something.

So let’s take a movie by movie review of what I’ve got so far…

The Fifth Element:  This one should be the poster child for Blu-Ray.  I saw this in the theatres when it came out.  I bought it on DVD.  I got it on Blu-Ray for Christmas.  As my brother said, “It looks better on Blu-Ray than it did in the theatre.”  And I have to agree.  Pop this one in on a Blu-Ray player, with a surround sound system, on a good sized HDTV, and you will see what we mean.  The effects are supremely sharp, and some of the flight scenes will induce a sense of motion sickness if you’re prone to it.  This is a must have for anyone with a Blu-Ray player and HDTV.

Blazing Saddles:  This Mel Brooks classic is one of those movies that just doesn’t get much from being on Blu-Ray.  Perhpas in part because the original print is not all that, the video portion isn’t any sharper or more defined.  The sound is improved over standard DVD though, but this is not a rush out and get movie for Blu-Ray.  The one aspect worth having is the specials, including the pilot episode of the still born TV series.

Blade Runner (5 disc collection):  This is another candidate for being a Blu-Ray poster child.  Ridley Scott’s film-noir SciFi masterpiece does benefit from being on Blu-Ray, especially his “final cut” version.  The earlier prints don’t gain all that much, from the theatrical version to the later edits, but are improved over the DVD versions, and light years over the now ancient VHS version.  The Final Cut is truly impressive, as Ridley Scott went back over the movie once again, and enhanced not only the print quality, but the effects, and the sound has been reworked.  No self respecting Blu-Ray owner should be with out this one.

Kingdom of Heaven:  Another entry from Ridley Scott.  While not on a par with Blade Runner (or Alien), this is a solid movie, and does gain from being on Blu-Ray.  Due to the movie having a lot of dark settings, a good amount of detail is lost on standard format.  The Blu-Ray format, combined with an HDTV, brings out all the glorious details of this historical drama.  Not one for the squeamish, the blood spatter in the fight scenes is very graphic, it’s amazing exactly how much detail is captured.  If you add in surround sound, you get a very immersive experience.

Justice League: The New Frontier:  Animated features, especially those done in “traditional,” that is non-cgi animation, could be problematic on Blu-Ray.  Older titles, just about anything not made since 2000, may actually “degrade” in Blu-Ray, as the lack of detail in the animation will show more readily in this format.  That said, new releases like New Frontier, done with current animation techniques lose nothing.  The real benefit to be had here will be in the Blu-Ray disc’s increased capacity, which can be filled up with all sorts of special features.

30 Days of Night:  Much like “Kingdom of Heaven,” it’s all about the details.  As this movie is very dark, standard definition DVD’s just can’t bring out all the details that abound in this one.  This was a very refreshing vampire movie, where the vampires are monsters, and not some emo-Eurotrash.  Blu-Ray brings out the monstrous appearances of the vampires, and the setting details are amazing.  As ana example, look at the details of the attic where the survivors hide.

Spiderman 3:  This was the first movie we got on Blu-Ray.  It was simply incredible, and hooked me on the Blu-Ray format.  Just the opening credits alone on this one are worth watching in Blu-Ray.  The effects are definitely sharper in Blu-Ray, from the Sandman’s transformation to the Venom suit.  A definite must buy for Blu-Ray owners.

Pirates of the Carribean 3: At World’s End:  Just about any current release movie with lots of CGI effects greatly benefit on Blu-Ray.  Pirates is no different.  Every thing is sharper, with all the details coming through.  This really shines through in scenes where the ambient lighting is dark, like caves and cabins.  If you like this series, then this should be on your get list, along with the first two.

The Brother’s Grimm:  We got this one on a whim, having not previously seen it.  Over all it’s not bad, and has a lot that gets enhanced from being on Blu-Ray.  This one has a lot of CGI special effects, that come through in very impressive fashion in HD format.  If you want to see what modern CGI effects can achieve, and not have to pay too close attention to the movie, then this is a good candidate.  If you can get it for $20 or less, it’s worth while.

Superman-The Movie:  I thought this one would be better on Blu-ray than on standard defintion.  I was wrong.  If anything, being on Blu-Ray makes this one seem dated.  It’s still a good movie, but the effects look lesser with enhanced resolution.  Fans are better served by watching the standard DVD version on an upconverting DVD player.

Goodfellas:  Really, there wasn’t much to be enhanced here.  Yet somehow, the over all effect is improved.  I can’t put any specifics as to why though.  Yes, the picture is sharper, the sound is improved, but it doesn’t show through.  Not like the movies with special effects.  Comparing this to the regular DVD edition, and you can see improvement, moticable improvement.  But this is not a showcase title.  Even so, worth getting if you like it.  You will not be disappointed.

The Departed:  This is one of the best movies I have seen in a very long while.  It’s Scorcese’s best since perhaps “Taxi Driver.”  Again, it’s in the details where Blu-Ray improves things.  All the little things that get lost in lesser formats are easily seen in Blu-Ray, from Matt Damon’s aprtment to the tenements, to Jack Nicholson’s hide outs.  While the movie itself blew me away, watching this in Blu-Ray really blew me away. 

Dragonball Z-Broly:  I haven’t watched this one.  But my wife and duaghter have.  They were suitably impressed with it over standard DVD, even in upconvert players.  From what I’ve been told, the biggest thing was getting used to the surround sound format, not present on the standard DVD releases.  The other advantage here is that both movies fit on 1 disc, as opposed to two regular DVDs.

Black Hawk Down:  Continuing with my mini Ridley Scott film fest (by accident I assure you), comes a more recent entry.  Based on the actual events that happened in Somalia, this one is a must see IMO.  The cast is terrific (Josh Hartnett, Orlando Bloom, Tom Sizemore, Ewan Macgreggor), the sets spectacular, the cinematography superb, sound, effects, it all adds up.  Blu-Ray really brings it all together in a way that surpasses the standard DVD release.  Pop this one in, turn on the surround sound, and turn off the lights.  It will be one heck of a ride.

I’m now looking forward to seeing several other things on Blu-Ray.  The Star Wars movies top the list of course.  Star Trek is not far behind, more so with the reworked special effects on the original series, and the movies.  I’d love see to the old Disney SciFi film “The Black Hole” on Blu-Ray.  I have it on regular DVD, and it does not look dated at all.  A reork of it for Blu-Ray would be awesome.  Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy should also be impressive in Blu-Ray.  The wealth of details to be seen should become outstanding on Blu-ray.  Recent releases such as “Iron Man” are also going to be “must haves” for me on Blu-Ray.

 

Mugabe threatens coup

But he’s not intimidating voters.

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/function/0,2145,12215_cid_3411648,00.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/africa/06/13/zimbabwe.mugabe/index.html

http://www.independent.ie/breaking-news/world-news/africa/mugabe-threatens-zimbabwe-with-civil-war-1409236.html

I wonder, where the outrage from the left is over this thug?  Of course, any attempts made so far to put pressure on Mugabe and his cronies is immediately met with cries of racism, especially the British efforts.  Anywhere else in the world, and this guys is public enemy #1, just ask the Burmese junta.  But for some strange reason, it’s only those centrists, and those righ of center who think that Mugabe is a thug, and a threat to the stability of Southern Africa.  But I guess his policies of siezing private property, giving it to people who have no clue about the business, turning a thriving economy into a disaster not seen since the 1930’s, raising taxes, buying off voters with this program or that program, just hits too close to home.