May 20, 2009
American Idol: it's about the music, stupid
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I'm really curious about how they're going to position this. Last year was easy, because they were both Davids and they actually were very different, but this week they just seem like a couple of affable, talented dudes. In the opening Adam's all lit with devilish red light and Kris with heavenly blue, but I don't think it's going to go that way. I think the election and the last horrible eight years are still too much with us, so it's natural to think it's going to be about normal vs. not normal anymore. That whole Red State/Blue State thing seems really obsolete at this point. The only people still yelling about it are the stupider conservatives who think you can actually describe a person in those terms, but I don't mind them, because they've been buying that one for so long it would be impossible to explain at this point.
Stupider conservatives and stupider liberals have been trying to frame this season of American Idol as some kind of second election. If Adam wins it's some kind of vindication for coastal liberals and gay rights. If he loses it's because middle American hates gay people. Really. Even Iowa.
The New York Times went so far as to frame the finals as a battle between an Elvis (hip, cool, Adam) vs. a Pat Boone (lame ass middle American Kris).
I feel sorry for Kris in that such a perception implies that there is no reason to have voted or not voted for him other than your feelings about Adam's lifestyle and image. Apparently, Kris' own musical talent or lack thereof has nothing to do with it.
What's lacking here is a sense of history. Adam Lambert isn't a pioneer. He's a throwback to 70s-era rock gods. Likewise, Kris isn't Pat Boone. He's a throwback to sensitive 70s singer/songwriters.
Choosing between a Robert Plant and a Jim Croce doesn't require a similar choice in political philosophy and sexuality. It's a choice of musical style. No more. No less. And, honestly, how many of us have music collections that include both? I reckon most of us do.
May 19, 2009
Some American Idol Polls
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With the American Idol finale, I thought it'd be fun to have a few quick polls to gauge the pulse of the nation (or you know, the three people who read this site and also watch American Idol).
May 14, 2009
Preakness Stakes Pick
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There are a lot of misconceptions about the Preakness: the race is geared to front runners, the turns are too tight, Triple Crown newcomers are "fresh" and have an advantage. They're simply not true.
Generally speaking, the Preakness isn't biased towards front runners, the turns are no tighter than most major tracks and horses that ran in the Kentucky Derby tend to win the Preakness. That last point is important. The fact of the matter is is that there are rarely good "fresh" horses in the Preakness. If you have a three-year old good enough to win the Preakness, you'd run them in the Derby. Of course, there are exceptions like Bernardini in 2006 and the filly, Rachel Alexandra, this year.
So, basically the Preakness comes down to two questions. First, was the Derby a fluke? Second, is Rachel that good?
The answer to the first question is harder than you think. Looking at the speed figures, the horses that finished right behind Mine That Bird, Pioneerof The Nile, Papa Clem and Musket Man all ran about the same as they always do. Is there reason to think they'll improve suddenly? I doubt it at this point. Can Mine That Bird repeat his Derby performance? That, I think is more possible. Finally, can the beaten Derby favorite, Friesan Fire rebound?
Okay, that was more than two questions. Here's my overall take. I think that Mine That Bird isn't a great horse, but he won the Derby because he ran a good race while his competition didn't. I think that Rachel Alexandra, on speed figures alone, towers over this field. She really is that good. However, I think that there's more pace in this race than she's used to and, frankly, three-year old fillies can be flakey and I hesitate to put money on a flake.
My pick, then, is Friesan Fire. He had no shot in the Derby and has rebounded from that nightmare with an awesome workout this week. I think he'll run the race he was supposed to run in the Derby on Saturday and that that will be enough to win the Preakness.
What do you think?
May 13, 2009
American Idol impressions from someone who barely watches the show anymore
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I haven't watched much of American Idol lately, but I've kept up with the season online, so I still feel like I'm entitled to my opinions on the top three (soon to be top two). In a nutshell:
Adam: has an incredible range, but is almost too polished to really be a rock star. I never get the sense that Adam is out of control and I think that with real stars, you should always feel like they're on the edge. For all of his looks and attitude, I don't really think that Adam is that edgy, although he is a really, really good singer.
Danny: I've never liked Danny's breathy voice and endless pimping by the show's producers (hey, did you know that his wife tragically died?). I don't think Danny has any sense of what is cool or current and is ultimately destined for a career in lite Christian rock, whether he wins Idol or not.
Kris: I totally underestimated Kris. He doesn't have a great, showy voice, but he has the ability, like David Cook last year, to make songs not only sound current, but to sound like they are uniquely his. I think his version of "She Works Hard For The Money" is one of the top performances ever on Idol. It's not as spectacular as Adam's "Ring Of Fire", but it's less gimmicky and therefore more lasting.
I guess I want Kris to win, although I think he'll probably be booted off tonight. Boo!
May 12, 2009
The GOP is dead. Long live the GOP (or not)
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Time Magazine's cover story this week breathlessly wonders if the GOP is an endangered species.
I doubt it. The political fortunes of each of our only slightly different major parties shift from election to election. The GOP is no more dead than the Democrats were in 1994 or 2002. Sometimes I think our view of history is so limited. Sweeping changes don't happen overnight. In fact, sweeping changes rarely even happen in the course of 6 or 7 years, unless we're talking about the plague.
Anyway, speaking of plagues, since our two major parties basically offer voters small variations on the overall theme of "Yay! Government!" it's hard to imagine that just one of them could be radically out of step with the voting public. Sadly, they're not. McCain got 46% of the vote. That's not a dead party, that's a losing party, and those are two different things.
The Time article takes the position that the Republican party stands for "strong defense, traditional values and economic conservatism". Really? If that's the case, then good riddance. I mean, sadly, that really is the case. So, the problem isn't that the American public has suddenly shifted from the right to the left, it's that the Republican party shifted from the right to the further right.
What I mean to say is that I debate what Time claims the essential Republican values are. Maybe some people think that being a conservative means that, but I don't. I don't think Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan thought so either. "Economic conservatism" is not the same as small government.
To put it simply, I don't think the American public suddenly fell out of love with conservatism. I think, rather, that the Republican party bastardized the idea of conservatism and turned into something that was big government and "values" driven.
I truly believe that the traditional definition of conservatism, a la Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, is still something that's extremely appealing to the American electorate. The problem is that the GOP has strayed so far away from that that they're now nothing more than liberals in preacher's clothing.
The GOP might be dead (for now), but don't go throwing out conservatism with the Bush bathwater.
May 06, 2009
Dear Brett Favre
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I hear you're thinking of moving to Minneapolis. I appreciate your desire to move closer to me, but I've got to be honest. It's over.
I'm not gonna lie, we did have a great 17 years together. The mid-90s were so much fun. I really did love you. But, like you, I can't live in the past.
Every year, when you hemmed and hawed about retirement, I had your back. I told myself and others that it was an important decision and that the Packers owed you the time to make up your mind. Last year, when you really did retire, I was sad, but I understood your reasoning and I wished you all the best. And even then, if you had really decided to un-retire in March, I would have been thrilled and so glad to have you back.
Even last summer, when you claimed you wanted to come back, I didn't hate you for it. I was starting to think you were a fickle little drama queen, but I didn't hate you and I wouldn't root against you.
That's all changed now. You changed it. When you and/or your friends talk about wanting to "stick it" to Green Bay, I don't know if you realize that that means you want to "stick it" to me too. To ME! To fans that stood behind you through your drug addiction. To fans that wept with you at your personal losses. To fans that sent money to your foundation after Hurricane Katrina. To fans that bought your wife's book and donated to breast cancer foundations in her name. Heck, even to fans that followed you and rooted for you with the New York Jets. That's who you're "sticking it" to, Brett.
Brett, I know you've got problems with Ted Thompson. They might even be legitimate gripes, but what you've done to Green Bay Packers fans and your teammates is unforgivable. Did you think about the loyal Green Bay fans when you called the Detroit Lions and offered them advice on how to beat the Packers? Did you think about Gregg Jennings and Donald Driver when you complained, after a 13-3 season, that Ted Thompson didn't bring you Randy Moss?
I watched that NFC Championship game, Brett. The reason the Packers lost wasn't because you didn't have Randy Moss to throw to. The reason the Packers lost was because you were outplayed by Eli Manning. And that's okay.
And now, you're probably going to be a Minnesota Viking, huh? Why the Vikings? It really can't be because you just want to win a Super Bowl. I mean, it's the Vikings. They're not winning a Super Bowl.
It seems to me that the reason you're so set on being a Viking is for that chance to "stick it" to Green Bay. But you know what, Brett? Do you think Ted Thompson and the Packers management has any special hatred of the Vikings? Of course they don't. The only people that have any particular feelings about the Vikings are Packers fans. To us, the fact that you desperately want to play for the Vikings just seems like you're trying to find a way to hurt us the most.
But the thing is, is that you've already ruined our relationship. You can't hurt me anymore. In fact, a big part of me hopes you sign with the Vikings so that I can watch my team beat you twice. Brett, you can't hurt me, but you can give me some sweet revenge.
I read this in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Brett, I think this describes you perfectly:
One of the funniest comments I've heard on all this was when NFL Network talked to Mooch on Total Access last night and he said that the GB fans would forgive Brett and remember the 16 years we supported him. He doesn't know GB any more than he knows quantum physics.
It's like if you have a party and there's the guy who made it more fun for everyone, all night, hour after hour, got people talking, got people dancing, but then got drunk and stupid at the very end of the evening. Are you going to remember him as the guy who was the life of the party, or the guy who puked on your sofa and gave you a black eye when you had to kick him out the door?
Brett, I'd tell you, "Don't be that guy." But, you already are that guy. It's too late. I know that time heals all wounds, but this is going to take a lot of time. Next time you need something from those Green Bay people you so desperately want to stick it to, remember that. Don't call us. We'll call you. Maybe. Someday.
May 04, 2009
Kentucky Derby: What the Heck Happened?
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When a horse race has a bizarre result like this year's Kentucky Derby, as a horseplayer, you have to do three things:
- Figure out what really happened
- Decide how to apply what you've learned
- And, finally, get over it
I'm not ready to get over Mine That Bird's shocking victory, but I am ready to analyze it. What happened was this: Mine That Bird's winning Beyer Speed Figure for the Derby was a low 105 (compare this to the 108 Rachel Alexandra got in the Oaks, the first time, by the way, that the Oaks winner received a higher figure than the Derby winner). The horses that finished behind Mine That Bird - Pioneerof The Nile, Musket Man and Papa Clem ran a little bit worse, figure wise, than they normally do. The inexperienced Dunkirk predictably bounced from his big effort in the Florida Derby and Friesan Fire practically got his hoof torn off at the start of the race and had no chance. Mine That Bird, on the other hand, got a perfect trip and was basically the only horse in the race to run better than he normally does. There's your winner.
I have an eight question guide to picking the Derby, but Mine That Bird's victory is going to make me add a ninth question. Who has won two or more stakes races? This year, seven horses in the field of 19 had. Boxing them together would have gotten you the $41,500 trifecta. If you looked for horses who had won at least one graded stakes race, you would have also found the $557K superfecta as well as the Super High Five that not a single horse player cashed on. Not bad for a day's work.
The lesson I'm learning for this Derby is that you should put on horses who win races. Forget about the potential of horses like Dunkirk and go for horses that performed well at two and like to win at three. Even with that question, you still wouldn't have gotten Mine That Bird, but you would have gotten closer.