September 30, 2011

Total Eclipse of the Plot



So when we last left our saga at the end of New Moon, Edward (our pasty-white hero) has agreed to acquiesce to Bella's request to be turned into a vampire -- but only if she agrees to marry him. And if she doesn't get a little more fangy and a little less heart-beaty soon, the Volturi (La Policia Nosferatu Italiano) will come and kill Bella, Edward, and the entire Cullen clan.

So, Bella hems and haws and reads poetry to her immortal beloved, invoking all the foreshadowing fairies in the universe to hang over her while she laments that marrying young doesn't mean that a couple is in love, but rather that they "got knocked up." 


And besides, it would be a buzzkill before graduation.

She is also so grounded by her Dad for her having disappeared to Italy for three days at the end of the last film. (Some parents just don't get it!) But he agrees to let her out of her room to visit Jacob and the rest of the Werewolf family. 


However, it's really a trap! They sit Bella down and show her a "The More You Know" PSA, trying to convince her that vampires are evil -- a short film about how centuries ago, one of the  undead monsters almost killed their entire tribe. Fortunately, they were saved when a brave woman -- referred to only as "the Chief's third wife" -- stabbed herself, distracting the vampire with the scent of her blood long enough for the Chief to defeat her.

See, Bella? Werewolves are much better than vampires, and this heroic woman is still celebrated today on "Chief's Third Wife Day" -- her name lives on, whatever it was! Come live with us and join our forward-thinking group. Misogyny much? 


Then Jacob kisses Bella, despite her protests, and she breaks his nose.


Meanwhile, Fergie, the last Black-Eyed Peas Vampire standing, is in Seattle. Apparently, the Grunge scene, dead since 1994, is a great place to sire a "newborn army" since those newbies are super-strong and easily manipulated into attacking the Cullen clan on her secret say-so.

The Volturi stand around, just watching the whole situation, looking rather poncy and goth, as they do, because you know -- carnage, fun!


Anyway, even the werewolves realize that an army of the undead will likely send property values spiraling downward, so they agree to take part in an 80's training montage with the Cullens and set aside past disputes in order to keep Bella alive.

To mask Bella's scent, Jacob carries her away to a frigid mountaintop and snuggles shirtless with her in order to boost tween fangirl ticket sales. Then he finds out she's accepted Edward's proposal and freaks out. She kisses him in order to shut him up, and to try and keep this lame "romantic triangle" storyline from completely flatlining. He goes off to join the fight in warmer climes.


Eventually, Fergie and her new main man Riley figure out where Bella is stashed, and arrive to finish her off. Edward and Bella try and convince Riley she's just using him. And Fergie's all like, "I make them boys go crazy. Can't no other lady put it down like me. Honey, get some patience, then you'll get a taste."

Then Bella goes all Chief's Third Wife and the scene plays out as expected.

There's an awkward scene with the Volturi as they won't admit that they knew what was what the whole time, and the Cullen's pretend they weren't all chummy with the furry next-door neighbors. And to prevent any further unpleasantness, they give the Volturi invites to the wedding -- please, no gifts necessary.

That's about it… can't believe there's still two more of these films to go. Maybe they'll get LMFAO into the mix now that the Peas are all dead? Until then… everybody just have a good time.

September 22, 2011

Chapter and Verse


I just realized I've never posted a complete chapter listing for my book...  and so I shall recitfy that in this post.

Hopefully, at least a few of these tantalizing titles will tickle your fancy... if so, you can get the book at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or for the Nook - and at a bookstore near you...

1 - Christmas Eve with the Iversons - An account of my unfortunate first-hand experience trying to figure out "The Answer" at an Atlantic City casino.

2 - WWJD: Who Would Jesus Draft? - An interview with Catholic Answers' Jimmy Akin explores what kind of fantasy commissioner the Bible's first-round draft pick would have made.

3 -  Alone on an Island - Jury consultant Marshall Hennington helps me understand why people simply can't change their minds about how they feel about certain players.

4 -  Sylvia Browne Told Me to Bench A-Rod - Noted skeptic DJ Grothe joins me for a discussion on why fantasy experts are given far less leeway than psychic charlatans.

5 -  Wall Street and Huston Street: Is There a Magic Formula? - Financial genius Paul Wilmott ponders whether or not the performance of athletes can ever be boiled down to a simple mathematical formula.

6 -  Matt Millen, Bring Me Your Torch - We take a look at art of the deal, and what Survivor's Yau-Man Chan learned from his attempts to bargain for a million dollar prize. 



7 -  Shall I Compare Thee to Tom Brady? - In which the Reduced Shakespeare Company doth offer pithy insight into what maketh a game a game and a sport a sport. Yea, verily. 

8 -  Looking for Kevin Love in All the Wrong Places - We all irrationally covet certain players, much to our fantasy team's detriment. Hear what Steve Ward of VH1's Tough Love thinks we can do to fix that.

9 - Why the Founding Fathers Would Have Hated Bill Belichick - When politics rears its ugly head and people try to game the system, fantasy sports league work about as efficiently as Congress.

10 -  Smarter than Stephen Hawking - Don't think you understand quantum physics or time travel? I'll bet you really do - and I prove my theory to astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

11 -  The Dark Side of Fantasy - Darth Vader probably never won his fantasy football league, and it has nothing to do with his penchant for early drafting of kickers. Alec Sulkin, Family Guy writer, muses intergalactic.

12 -  The Thrill of Vicarious Victory - With an emphasis on "fantasy", we talk to writer Jane Espenson (Buffy) about why people need these escapes, and then talk to Damien Echols, while he was still unable to escape from Death Row.

September 12, 2011

How Fantasy Sports Explains - Hurricane Irene


When Hurricane Irene was heading for New Jersey, where I currently live, it wreaked a lot of havoc on my fantasy football draft, which was very odd since the storm wasn't due to hit until sometime Saturday afternoon, and my draft was scheduled for Friday night. 

Part of the problem was that two of the owners in my league were vacationing in Ocean City, New Jersey and were told that there was a mandatory evacuation on Friday afternoon, and they had to pack up all their stuff and leave town, pronto. They ended up coming over to my house, ended up spending the night, and then headed out first thing in the morning so that they could get home to Connecticut in plenty of time to enjoy a power outage for over a week. 

Meanwhile, we got very lucky and although we lost one tree in the front yard, there was no significant damage, and in fact, we didn't even lose power. In fact, much of the area that was evacuated in South Jersey, because of the fact that the storm had weakened significantly by the time it arrived, ended up being just fine. 

What boggled my mind, though, as I watched the local television coverage as Irene slowly marched across the state of New Jersey, was how unwilling the anchors and meteorologists were to admit that the storm was not in fact going to be the end of life as we knew it, which is how it felt like it was being sold to the public by Governor Christie in an attempt to get people to evacuate in the first place.  

This footage - pretty much at the worst of Irene - was typical of how things were that night... certainly bad, but not nearly as severe as the "if you stay, you will die" tone before the storm arrived.

View more videos at: http://nbcphiladelphia.com.

One reporter for this station had been on the Atlantic City beach all afternoon, and each time the anchors threw to him, they'd say something like, "If you haven't evacuated yet, you need to do so... it is not safe to be in Atlantic City. Now, let's go to our reporter in Atlantic City...you look wet, Justin." And Justin would laugh and say he was and point to the one garbage can that had blown over as proof that the storm was going to be a killer. 

The fact is that we simply can't predict the path of a hurricane with complete accuracy anymore than we can predict how many yards a certain running back will gain when he takes the field this week. While we can get a general sense of the possible outcomes and potential paths that massive storms will travel, it's still only a guess -- just as we may have a sense that Steven Jackson is more likely to gain 100 yards than Ben Tate in any given week. But when Jackson gets hurt after two carries in Week 1, and Tate ends up as Houston's only healthy back halfway through his game, strange things can happen. 

Tate having 116 yards on the ground and Jackson only 56 was certainly not an expected outcome, but after having happened, it still wasn't an outcome completely out of whack with what someone might have predicted, albeit at the extremes.

So, while I am certainly not upset with the decision to evacuate coastal towns where the flooding could have been deadly -- because it certainly could have been that bad -- at some point, it would have been nice for the news to stop being fear-mongers and simply admit that the storm (thankfully) was simply not going to be as bad as it legitimately could have been -- just as at some point, although that point is not after just one week of play -- those who nay-sayed the fantasy value of players like Cam Newton should be willing to eat crow, provided he continues to excel.


I'll close with a video of a bit by Lewis Black, who correctly asserts that Al Roker and his ilk are often wrong -- by enormous proportions. I first saw him do a version of this bit in person in the early 90's, and at the time, he was talking about how if you predict 7 inches of snow and there's 14 inches of snow, nobody gets too upset because at least there was a "shitload of snow" but if you miss by the same amount in the other direction, and it doesn't snow, then there's going to be hell to pay. 

He closed the routine (when I saw it) by suggesting that if Roker wanted to impress him, he should predict something interesting -- like actual shitballs falling from the sky! "Get that right and maybe I'll listen to you from now on, but until then, no, I shan't be sure to bring my umbrella on this day."

My experience tells me though, that even if that was Roker's forecast, and it actually took place, a large majority of people would treat such an occurrence just like Cam Newton's Week 1, shrug it off and say,"He got lucky. Let's see him do it again." 

And so it goes...

September 9, 2011

Ten Years


I originally wrote this in 2006… but given the approaching anniversary, I have updated these words slightly and decided to share them again with you today… 

I was not feeling well that morning.

I couldn't quite figure out what was wrong with me, but whatever it was, I decided to call my doctor and see if she could fit me in. Unfortunately, the office was not yet open, and I decided to head into work anyway, and called the office to let them know I might be a few minutes late. I ran out of my apartment and headed for the subway.

Looking at my watch, it was 9:00 on the dot. I was going to be late, but not by too much. I was only two blocks away. The thing about living in New York is that people are always on their cellphones and talking loudly, and nobody really pays too much attention to the people around them, especially when you're in a hurry.

Still, I couldn't help but notice that EVERYONE was on a cellphone and all were looking in the same direction, and pointing, and standing still. I turned around to see what all the commotion was about and saw a large plume of dark smoke pouring out from a ways behind Chase Manhattan Plaza. From where I was standing, only the South Tower was visible, and I merely assumed there was a large fire in a building somewhere. So, I kept walking and reached the corner of Pine Street and ordered my usual morning bagel and coffee from the street vendor.

That's when the world changed for me.

It was 9:03.

First came the sound.

Take a piece of paper and tear it in half. Now magnify that sound by about one hundred thousand and have it increase in volume as it comes closer and closer to you.

My arm fully extended, my hand still held one end of the dollar bill. The vendor held the other end of the bill, as our heads turned in unison and watched the plane fly into the building. The explosion. The bits of paper falling from the sky. I remember standing there for a minute or two trying to wrap my head around what I had just witnessed. And then I walked towards the water, following a little voice in my head that told me that the building was going to fall.

Cellphones were now useless, and I could not get through to my wife, who was working in what was now the tallest building in the area that wasn't already on fire. I circled back towards the subway station and heard President Bush on a car radio saying the country had suffered an "apparent terrorist attack". It was 9:30, although I could have sworn only a few minutes had passed.

The conductor came up out of the subway station to the street and screamed, "Last train to Brooklyn" and I instinctively got on. Standing on that particular street corner was not going to be a safe place to be.

I got home in time to watch the first tower collapse on TV. That video of the giant cloud of smoke and debris surging around the corner of a building… my wife's building… time stood still.

The rest of the day, the week, is a blur. We had to leave the city for a time because the smoke from what was now called Ground Zero was constantly seeping in under our apartment door. Even when we returned to our jobs weeks later, the air was thick with the acrid smell and the twisted charred metal served as a constant reminder of the tragedy.

We were not sleeping. We needed to leave. We put a bid in on a house in South Jersey in December and moved away at the end of February.

These were the lemons we were dealt.

Ten years have passed. But it feels an awful lot closer. Had it not been for that day, though, my wife and I would probably still be in New York, and most likely would have decided not to raise a child in that environment.

As my son boarded the bus this morning for his third day of first grade, he stopped for a moment and turned to give me a hug, just because. I can truly say, he is the sweetest lemonade there could ever be.

Hug your kids. Call your parents. Take a moment to reflect. Then make yourself some lemonade.

"A man builds a city with banks and cathedrals. A man melts the sand so he can see the world outside. A man makes a car and builds roads to run them on. A man dreams of leaving, but he always stays behind."

Dedicated to the memory of Craig Staub and Gopal Varadhan, two of the many who died that day.
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