Sunday, January 31, 2010

Big Ten Expanding - Is Pitt It?

Word on Twitter has Pitt announcing a jump to the Big Ten. The official word could come as early as Thursday.

Of course none of this is official.

First off, the only reason I can see for waiting until Thursday to make the announcement is to avoid conflicts with National signing day. (By the way, is there even precedence on what a shift in conference would mean to recruiting?) Regardless, I'm not putting much hope in hearing anything official in the coming days, and that includes denials.

But should Pitt join the Big Ten, the magical 6-team divisions would be one of the next major announcement. Looking at football, this would mean that teams would play all divisional opponents plus half of the other division. At present, Big Ten teams have two exempted rivalries permanently on the football schedule. Seeing as Pitt would supplant one of Penn State's rivals, the dominoes fall. It will be interesting to see if any school wants to revisit their choices (a la Purdue's selection of Northwestern).

How then will the new divisions balance rivalries and geography? Here's how they might break down.

East & West
  • East: Pittsburgh, Penn St, Ohio St, Michigan, Michigan St, Indiana
  • West: Purdue, Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa
North & South
  • North: Iowa, Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan St, Wisconsin, Minnesota
  • South: Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio St, Pittsburgh, Penn St.
Rivalry Sensitive
  • Purdue, Indiana, Penn St, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Minnesota
  • Michigan, Ohio St, Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Michigan St.
End result: These divisions are gonna be a tough mash up. One completely insane idea would be to go with three 4-team divisions.

OK, that won't happen. And let's not forget, this whole Pitt thing might not happen either.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bad Idea Field Trip: The Conan O'Brien Chicago Rally

I believe that buried within the subtext of Martin Luther King's Lincoln Memorial speech, he had a deep a profound hope that one day the citizens of America would unite on his holiday to march in protest of a talk show host getting fired.

This is the only possible exclamation I can deduce from the fact that protests were held in four - FOUR! - different cities today to voice displeasure at NBC canning Conan O'Brien.  What possible reason could there be to hold a protest in Chicago for a talk show that takes place in Los Angeles?  I have no idea, but I decided to venture down to the NBC5 Tower and see how the crowd was.

I encountered about 150 or so protesters toting signs, home made masks, spray-painted orange mop-tops, and a variety of orange clothing.  What was particularly fun about this "protest" was that it essentially consisted of 100 or so people wandering around.  Once in a while somebody would start a "CoCo!" chant, or "Masturbating Bear!" chant, which would last about 15 seconds, and then people kept milling about.

My favorite moment was when somebody decided to start this age old protest battle cry:
Guy:  "Who do we want?"
Crowd: "Conan!"
Guy: "When do we want him?"
Crowd: "[Indecipherable nonsense, as 1/3 of the people shouted "Now!," 1/3 shouted "11:30!" (the time the show starts on the East Coast,) and 1/3 shouted "10:30!" (the time the show starts in Chicago.)]"


Here's a bit of the footage I threw together to give you a taste of the bizarre scene.  If you notice toward the end of the clip, you'll see my favorite sign of the day: Jon Hamm Should Play Captain America.  That guy's got a point.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Best Music Videos of 2009

I did it in 2007. I did it in 2008. And, though a bit belated, I now bring you the top videos of 2009 (remember that year, back when Conan hosted The Tonight Show?).

I decided to narrow it down to only 10 this time around (I'm not late and lazy with my blog!). No particular order here.

The Avett Brothers – “Slight Figure of Speech”

The first time I saw this, I assumed it came from This video doesn’t acknowledge its existence as a music video, or even the band, until 2 minutes in. Before that, it’s a collection of VHS dubs from someone who was fascinated by QVC. I’m sorry, TAB. Once the band shows up to hawk their CD, it’s not long before they opt to destroy the studio, for motives unknown. Best line from the host: “It’d look pretty weird to see a guy cleaning.”

Grizzly Bear – “Two Weeks”

Ok. I think the creepiness of this video comes from the eyes being slightly larger than they typically are in proportion to the rest of the face. Sort of like if Simpson characters were actual flesh and blood. It utilizes slow motion, which as you’ll see from this list, I’m obsessed with. AS they video continues, you try to pinpoint what’s going on. Are they angels? Are they just really bashful? Are they radioactive? Oh, of course. They’re robots.

Jookabox – “You Cried Me”

Jookabox = Indianapolis’ next great hope to conquer Europe! This video is the what happen when a Scooby Doo episode, a Charlie Brown special, and Radiohead's “Paranoid Android” video do mushrooms and make a baby. And if you like this, you’ll love “Don’t Go Phantom,” which is what happens when The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pacman, and the opening credits of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse do ecstasy and make a baby.

Matt & Kim - “Lessons Learned”

I listened to Matt & Kim’s Grand quite a bit in 2009. But somehow I missed this video until a few weeks ago. I was slightly fascinated with Kim…..until this video…..that took care of that. I just watch this, imagining the Naked Cowboy watching Matt & Kim do what he’s been half-assing for years in Times Square. Come on, Naked Cowboy. You’re clearly not a cowboy, but everyone can be naked. Oh, and don’t stop watching until you see what happens the last three seconds. It comes out of nowhere.

Depeche Mode – “Wrong”

TC wrote about this one (and a couple others) earlier in the year. All I know is that when I watch it, I’m disoriented. Is the car going backwards? Is the video being played backwards? Are my eyes going backwards? Oh, of course. It’s Jason Voorhees, trapped in an automated car. Doy.

Lenny Kravitz – “Let Love Rule” (Justice Remix)

OK. If had to rank one of these my fav, this is it! I’ve got three sweet spots: (1) Lenny Kravitz songs that embrace his Beatles impression, (2) Justice, and (3) Back to the Future!!! Marty McFly guns down some dude, gets the girl, and the credits start rolling….until they get caught on this sleeve. Whu whu what?! Visual gags galore the rest of the way through.

Unkle – “Heaven”

Spike Jonze + slow motion + skaters + dynamite = me willing to sit through a 7-minute song that sounds like Enya.

Carl Sagan – “A Glorious Dawn” ft. Stephen Hawking

I have no idea what’s happening here. But ha! I tricked you into learning about science.

Phoenix - “Lisztomania” (Brat Pack Mashup)

I am confident that Phoenix wrote this song by watching The Breakfast Club on mute and imagining what was in Anthony Michael Hall’s heart. Too bad all the Mannequin clips get in the way. I don’t mind Ducky, though. Try not to smile while watching this. I dare you.

She & Him – “Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?” ((500) Days of Summer edition)

I still haven’t seen this movie, but did see JGL (waaaaay more dreamy than JTT) on SNL (he did a flip during the monologue!). The video is reminiscent of Catch Me If You Can starring Christopher Walken and “Weapon of Choice” starring Christopher Walken. Clearly, JGL should have revisited the Continental. Try not to smile while watching this. I double dare you.

And, as a final special treat, I give you the Spike Jonze/Kayne West/Kanye West's weird creature that lives in his belly's "We Were Once a Fairytale." Epic, I say. Let's see Taylor Swift stumble around pretending to pretend to be drunk!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kicking Television

Sunday night, I watched The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special.  While it took about 20 seconds to remind me how much I despise Morgan Spurlock, there was some worthwhile content within the program, as well as this clip, which may now serve as a spoiler alert:

Obviously, the internet is tilted in choosing which side to back in the Leno vs Conan war.  Anyone online who is actually taking Leno's side is likely doing so from an AOL account in between visits to the Columbia Record Club.  I can only speak for myself, but it seems the most impressive thing about Conan's statement today is the backbone he's shown by passive-aggressively calling out NBC and Leno himself.  Keep in mind that while it's easy to look at this as simply a "Jay vs Conan" battle, the fact remains that NBC also disrupted the lives of hundreds of Conan's staffers (most of whom are not millionaires!) to have them move across the country, only to change their mind six months later.

That said, I can't help but be curious as to how many of those pledging their loyalty to team Conan have actually been watching The Tonight Show on a consistent basis.  Again, I can only speak for myself, but my DVR is set for Letterman every night, and to be honest, the sporadic Conan clips or episodes that I have seen in the last several months have been subpar for the most part.  His guests have been mediocre (I swear Bradley Cooper is on once a week), they still don't properly know how to use Andy Richter, and aside from the reliable by-the-numbers "fish out of water" bits, the writing hasn't shown any bite.  This is another key reason why Conan's words today seemed so shocking - they had a fearlessness to them that has been missing from his personality on the air.  

Hopefully this is just another turning point for Conan.  After all, he spent most of 1993 trying to "be a talk show host" and was basically canceled for his efforts; only when he realized that the end was near did he finally show his real personality and succeed.  Perhaps this week is another turning point, though this time his success will likely come with another network.  For what it's worth, I'd be leery of any involvement with FOX, but if Conan is willing to take a pay cut in the name of freedom, he'd no doubt be able to put together a killer 2-hour block with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central.

Then again, the pastures of Spain are lovely this time of year. 

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Good Time to be a Mastadon

Thursday night, the Indiana University -Purdue University at Fort Wayne fighting Mastadons will square off with Summit League rival Southern Utah Thunderbirds. Not only will this be a battle royale of mythical/extinct animals, it just might decide who's the nation...sort of.

IPFW enters the game 4-9, smarting from a recent loss at Oral Roberts. Yet if the Mastadons prevail and the communicative property of sports upholds (which it never does) IPFW may be the best team in the nation.

Let the dominoes fall.

  • IPFW defeats Southern Utah
  • Southern Utah defeated UC-Riverside 76-65
  • UC-Riverside defeated Long Beach St. 69-67
  • Long Beach St. defeated Wisconsin - Green Bay 81-69
  • Wisconsin - Green Bay defeated Wisconsin - Madison 88-84
  • Wisconsin defeated Purdue 73-66
  • Purdue defeated Tennessee 73-72
  • Tennessee defeated #1 Kansas 76-68
Were these games the only ones ever played, the Mastadons could make a case for world domination. Somehow, I feel Texas and Kentucky might have an edge at the top of the polls though.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Bad Idea Photoshop Jeans: The BIG FAN DVD Cover

This movie poster was used for the theatrical release of Big Fan earlier this year.  It's a pretty great image, don't you think?  The design is simple and pointed, as a character study should be.  Without knowing anything beforehand about the film's concept, you can look at this image and realize that there's a world of subtext behind Patton Oswalt's face paint.  It's unsettling while remaining compelling, in the vein of simlilar "lonely man" genre classics like Taxi Driver or Raging Bull.  It grabs your attention with striking focus, and conveys so much and so little simultaneously.

I was not able to see Big Fan during it's theatrical run, but considering that Robert Siegel wrote my favorite movie of 2008, it's been on my list to check out when the DVD comes out.  Last night I found myself thinking that the date would likely be approaching soon, and a few clicks later, Amazon told me that in fact the DVD would be coming out next Tuesday.  But that was not the only information I got from the Amazon page.  It also provided me with the DVD cover art, which proved to be bothersome on a completely different level.


I'm sorry, WHAT MOVIE IS THIS?  I clearly must have been off base with my assessment.  That first poster had me expecting a gritty and likely troubling character study, perhaps of a social misfit who inadvertently crosses the understood boundary between a fan and the object of fandom, then realizes that he can never quite go back to the ignorance he cherished earlier.  But now that I see how this DVD is marketed, I have to assume that Patton Oswalt is playing a kindly retarded man who just wants to score a touchdown of his own...a touchdown in the game of life, we can only hope.

Look at him smiling away in his very own jersey, just dreaming about candy and birds while yearning for the day that maybe he'll be picked to play with those logoless, jersey number-less football players at the bottom of the image!  Finally, white people have a Radio of our own!  This truly looks like fun for the entire family!  If only it had come out a few weeks earlier, it would have made for a terrific impulse buy when doing last-minute family shopping at Target.  "Everyone gather around for the annual Christmas night movie!  I hope Grandma doesn't fall asleep before Patton gets brutally assaulted in the strip club!"

Big Fan will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray January 12.  Right on cue for the playoffs.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The NFL Can Stop Restings its Starters: Here's How

The NFL is in quite a quandary. What are they to do when teams that are resting peacefully in the playoffs find themselves still stuck with regular season games? If you're the Colts and Saints this year, you sit the starters to stave off injuries, or rather sit them to maintain records (Drew Brees's season completion percentage) or start then sit them to maintain records (Peyton Manning's consecutive starts).

That philosophy doesn't fly well with fans.

So the NFL is exploring what possibilities it has to make these final games a bit less like pre-season cake walks. The opportunities of maintaining the status quo yet compelling the Colts and Saints of the world to play on with their starters are bleak. Should the NFL demand teams NOT in the playoff picture play their established starters and eschew giving backups and rookies a chance? Additionally, how long would a mandate last after Tom Brady gets his Bernard Pollard on again and a playoff contender loses a valuable contributor (oops, there goes Wes Welker)? In short, the NFL has no way to (and never would) demand that teams play "starters." That would only add an additional layer of Belichick-esque gamesmanship as the league tries to quantitatively define what is a "starter."

So, what's a league to do? I have three options.

THE MODEST FIX - Stop seeding all divisional winners 1 through 4.

Take the Green Bay Packers. They're stuck in the NFC 5 seed at best. Despite their win/loss/tie versus Arizona today, they cannot play into the top 4 and gain a home game because Minnesota already has the North division locked up thanks to the Vikings dominance in head-to-head. Yet if the Packers beat Arizona (head-to-frickin-head) the Pack is still in 5th place even though their record is better than the Cardinals, who are resting the aged Kurt Warner (possibly because of osteoporosis).

If the league allowed the teams to be seeded on their overall record, a Green Bay win today might mean a home game for the Packers. That's definitely something worth playing for (even if the Packers are playing to NOT be the 6 seed). Equally, Arizona would definitely need to play for their seeding. Still guarantee a spot for division winners, but take away a bit of the spoils for such a feat because like it or not, winning the NFC West isn't the same as winning the NFC East.

While this scenario is meaningless to teams locked into top seeds like the Colts and Saints, it could potentially remove the impetus for lower seeded playoff teams to rest starters. Give them more to play for.

THE MODERATE FIX - Weeks 15, 16, and 17 are exclusively divisional matchups.

After head-to-head, the next tiebreaker for two divisional teams is the division record. For the Colts, these 6 games finished in week 15. For the Saints, week 17. Green Bay knocked out 2/3 by week 10 with both Chicago games left in weeks 12 and 16. So teams looking at playoff opportunities may have tiebreakers decided relatively early. (I know, I know. If you want the playoffs, win the games.)

If the final three weeks are round-robin divisional matchups, then both top tiebreakers come into play. If a team lost the earlier matchup, then they get a chance to knot the head-to-head total. At the same time, 50% of the weight of the second tiebreaker (division record) is still in flux entering week 15.

Now, I'm woefully ignorant on what it takes to schedule a 256-game NFL season, but I think they could find someone to make this division-only flurry work. Hell, maybe even pride might compel teams like Dallas not to rest starters against rivals like the Eagles.

THE NUCLEAR OPTION - Add a team. Three conferences with no divisions, top four from each advance.

Why not blow the place to hell. Here's a wild solution that reaches in lock-step with the NFL's plan of world dominance. The Jaguars move to Los Angeles and the league expands internationally with the new London/Montreal/Mexico City franchise to push the total teams to 33. Abandon all divisions and say adios to the AFC and NFC.

Welcome to the Western, Central, and Atlantic Football Conferences, each one comprised of 11 teams. The newly realigned league will now play a round-robin divisional schedule (5 home, 5 away) along with 3 teams from each of the other conferences. The top four teams from each conference will advance to the playoffs and be seeded 1 to 12 with the top 4 getting first round byes.

The head-to-head tiebreaker may or may not survive the lack of home and away matchups. But the season-ending divisional flurry (maybe only the final two weeks) would remain. This would make a division championship all the more impressive (10 games vs. 6) and worthy of playoff fates.

What might it look like?

Western: Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Arizona, Denver, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis.

Central: Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Tennessee, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Buffalo

Atlantic: Philadelphia, New England, NY Jets, NY Giants, Baltimore, Washington, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Miami, Mexico City/London/Montreal

* * *

The key to all of these options is making the final weeks' games pivotal and not so easily meaningless. With no way of forcing starters and stars to play, the whole season must be re-envisioned. The playoffs (12 teams, 4 rounds) are sound and don't need much tweaking after they get going. But the NFL must solve the problem of sneaking more full-price, pre-season games into weeks 16 and 17 or the fans will start voting with their feet.

Friday, January 01, 2010

LewJack is "feeling real good"

Purdue's huge test with West Virginia will be the basketball story of the day and possibly Purdue's story of the regular season until MSU or Wisconsin comes to play.

Still the Boilers are soldiering on without preseason starting point guard Lewis Jackson. LewJack is nursing one of those damned nagging foot injuries that just need more and more precious time to fully heal. Early word has been a February return for #23, but the Boilers may end up using a redshirt on the lighting fast Jackson. To this point, Purdue is averaging under 12 turnovers a game, but the play making and passing ability of LewJack would be invaluable for a long tournament run.

Just yesterday, the Boilermaker faithful might have received some reassuring news from the horse's mouth.

Sure it's only one workout, and of course he WANTS to feel good and he's still not a doctor, but come on. We need a light of hope in this story.

At least, as far as you can trust twitter, LewJack's spirits are up. It has to be tough watching from the sidelines as your #4 in the nation teammates continue on a storybook season. Hopefully his diagnosis pans out.

Now go take down the Mountaineers!