Friday, December 14, 2007

Mitchell Report for Dummies

If you want to read the whole entire Mitchell report, you can download it on It's 409 Adobe pages. Double spaced. Mitchell report.

This link is a very comprehensive analysis of the investigation by Howard Bryant. It will take about 20 minutes to read, but very worth it. Howard Bryant article.

This is a breakdown of some of the key listed, who they are and what the report says about them. Thumbnails of key players.

This is a list of all the players named. All the players named.

It is hard to open any web page today and not see an op-ed piece by some columnist taking shots at the report or the people around it. So I will do my best to avoid that. The report is more than just the name-listing that is making the headlines. It outlines MLB's previous drug policies and events that occured concerning MLB and all drugs, not just steroids. It lays out a timeline of steroid related incidents that led ultimately to this report.
It also gives recommendations as to how to go about fixing the problem and implement a stronger drug testing system.

The juice, pun intended, of the story comes from two former Team employees. Both "testified" with law enforcement present because both are believed to be facing charges stemming from their activities. Not exactly the forthcoming volunteers Mitchell and his crew were probably hoping for.

Op-ed (couldn't help it): We will no doubt read headlines of denials. Similar to the ones we heard from Pete Rose and Marion Jones (and CJ Hunter) . And to a lesser extent, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi and Michale Vick. You really can't believe anything anymore, unless it comes from The Loop and The Lou. We have fact checkers workinng around the clock.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

R.I.P. Chip Reese (1951 - 2007)

Poker great David "Chip" Reese died of a heart attack at age 56 last week (as usual we're breaking the story).

Some facts about Chip Reese:
  • The casual fan has most likely never heard of Reese. Although he played for years in the biggest cash games in the world, he preferred to avoid the spotlight (for the most part, spotlight = tournaments). This was mostly due to the fact that a) he cut his teeth in a Las Vegas with a heavy mob influence; a town in which you tried your best to hide your winnings, and b) he's always found the cash games more profitable (I once read a story about Chip using the dinner break of one of the rare tournaments he played to jump in a cash game. He won a pot in the game that was bigger than first prize for the tourney). He entered a few tournaments later in his career for his children, who wanted to see him on TV.
  • Reese went to Las Vegas in the early 70's on his way to Stanford Business School after graduating from Dartmouth. He arrived with $400 and planned to stay the weekend. After 5 weeks he and a partner had built their bankroll up to $60,000. It was at this point that he noticed some of the best of the best (Doyle Brunson, Puggy Pearson, Johnny Moss) playing a game of Stud Hi Lo Split. Having played a lot of this game in college, he noticed that the pros weren't playing that well - at least he thought he could beat them. He convinced his partner to let him take most of the bankroll into the game (the minimum buy-in was $30,000). He bought in on Thursday afternoon and didn't leave until Sunday night. With $364,000. Suffice to say, he never made it to Stanford.
  • Many of the top pros consider Chip to be one of the best players to have ever lived.
  • He was known for his ability to keep his cool. He had excellent "steam control". He also knew how to push it when he was winning (it wasn't unheard of for him to play multi-day sessions), and leave when he was losing (he once left a game when he was $700,000 behind to go see his son's Little League game).
  • I heard Reese tell the story of his longest session ever - 5 days. At the end of the marathon session, he called his girlfriend up to cash his winnings and drive him home. As he hit the winter air on the way out to the car, he got a 16th wind and took his girlfriend out to dinner and a movie.
  • He had a 13,000 sq ft house in Las Vegas (as well as other homes around the country).
  • For all his success in poker, he and Brunson had many business ventures together that failed. Fortunately for them, they always had poker.
  • He won the 2006 H.O.R.S.E. tournament. H.O.R.S.E. stands for limit Hold'em, pot-limit Omaha, Razz, Stud, stud Eight or better. The games rotated every 40 minutes. The diversity in games as well as the $50,000 buy-in made for probably the most elite tournament field of the year. 1st prize netted him $1.8 million.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Putin to Chavez: Don't Be Player Hater

In recent news, Russia and Venezuela both held democratic elections for new dictators. Russians enthusiastically elected Vladimir Putin to an indefinite period of dictatorship, but a similar post was not awarded to dictatorial candidate Hugo Chavez by the Venezuelan public (or as Chavez refers to them, "los estupidos").

Asked if he would ever consider relinquishing any power, Putin chuckled, "It will be warm day in Siberia before that happen, comrade."

When asked for thoughts on Chavez's defeat, Putin mused, "How can he expect to be dictator when he can't even fix election?" Asked if Putin had any words of advice for Chavez, Putin reflected for a moment, then offered, "Start with basics. Kill journalists if they question you. Poison rivals in other countries. Rewrite history and make your country hate United States."

"Done, done, working on it, and done," responded Chavez while feeding his pet bird Pancho Villa. "These things take time, man." Asked how he was taking the defeat, Chavez sighed, "You know, man, you take it one day at a time, man. Senor Ahmedinejhad gave me a call and told me a couple Bush jokes. I watched some episodes of Bill Maher I had Tivo'd. I executed my campaign manager. You know, man."

"But it's not over. There will be another dictator election in a few years, maybe next year if my death squad does its freaking job."

Until then, most of us can rest assured that Venezuela will not be an autocracy in the near future, and that alone may push the light sweet crude down to dirt cheap levels of $85 / barrel. Thank you, citizens of Venezuela, thank you. (Thank you means Gracias).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A-ROD Wins MVP, Opts Out in Search of Bigger Award

In a story that will make even Barry Bonds shake his head in befuddlement, Alex Rodriguez has opted out of the AL MVP award he was awarded yesterday.

While Rodriguez refused to comment, his agent, Scott Bora$$, had this to say, "To present A-ROD with an award like the MVP is akin to spitting in the Pope's eye. I deserve - I mean my client deserves better. Something at the Nobel-level, or at the very least a few Purple Hearts and some General's Stripes. We And we will settle for no less."

After learning the news, second-place finisher Magglio Ordonez shrugged it off, "He did have a pretty good year. It is an honor to finish second to him." At which point Scott Boras (also Ordonez's agent) jumped in, "Oh no, no. Magglio is also opting out of his second-place finish. Magglio deserves the MVP, Manager of the Year, and next year's Cy Young. And we will settle for no less."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

If you don't blog for something . . .

It's hard to believe it's November and we've been at this blog thing since February. Almost 10 months. Well, 9 for me because I took that month of for my cosmetic surgery.

When Roller and I first started bloggin', we left our focus pretty much open ended. We were going to write what we were thinking. When we felt strongly enough, when our creative "juices" were flowing, or when we were to bored to find the remote, we would take to the keyboard to set the Internet ablaze.

Since that time, it's been interesting to see the stylistic developments of the two of us. Roller has got info. You want to know about Saudi private schools. BAM! You thought Google was just for searching. No way sister! Do people still do the Rubik's cube? Uh, huyeah! This is a long way from one of his first posts. A semi-fictional diddy about Ryan Howard and my dad. Still a must read.

I on the other hand have mostly been a commentator. Drumming up questions for discussion. Mocking celeb sightings. Rapping about the weather. And apparently an apologist. In addition to the one above I also sent one apologizing to both fans of TATL. I really need to stand up for myself.

Roller has commented as well, like about the Cardinals. And together we have brought the still to be completed series on Law and Order. Lots of bloggy talk about this series on the blogs where they talk about blogs.

So the question I ask myself and all of you is "What does TATL do, besides an expose on hot Spanish speaking weather ladies, to better itself in 2008?"

The first answer is easy. I, Coovo, need to carry more of the load. I think back to discussing this with TATL commenter Ryan, and he told me that the most important thing was to find stuff to write about and not worry about the quality as much so you can get a high frequency of posts, thus an audience. Let me grade myself on these three qualities: 1) finding topics: C, 2) Frequency of posts: F- 3) Assessing writing: F. Lots of times I sit down to write and I don't like it. So I scrap it, get frustrated and don't write for another week. e.g. I've already gone back and changed the wording of the sentence in red 4 times. I have been busy with work. That is true, but Roller also works and has a family. No excuse. More frequent, less proof-read posts. This is my New Year's Blogalution.

The other answers are up for debate. I think some new serial topics would be good where Roller and I team up for hard hitting assessments. Maybe more issues relating to the two cities that inspired the name of this blog. The sky is the limit. Well, maybe the smog layer below the sky but that is pretty high when you think about it.

Please pass along recommendations. We'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Daily Fixes for the Podcast Junkie

Some of you may know that I'm somewhat of a podcast junkie. I listen to podcasts of many a different topic, length and episode frequency. This post will be the first installment in a three part series on my favorite podcasts. Today I'd like to list my favorite daily podcasts. My other posts will include my favorite weekly podcasts and my favorite podcasts that aren't delivered with a defined pattern. All are free, and subscriptions to all of these podcasts are available in iTunes or your favorite RSS reader by following the links below (or searching in iTunes).

In no particular order:

The Onion: A quick dose (1 minute) of the "news" from The Onion.

The Washington Post's Baghdad Briefing: A ~3 minute piece by one of 7 or so Post correspondents in the Baghdad bureau. Most correspondents are Iraqis. Topics range from day to day life in Iraq to politics to terrorism.

NY Times Front Page: A 5 minute overview of the stories on the front page of the NY Times.

Wall Street Journal Tech News Briefing
: This podcast actually has a morning and evening edition, each about 5 minutes. If you're a geek and interested in the stock market, this is a concise way to stay current.

Buzz Out Loud: CNET's podcast of indeterminate length. ~30 minutes. For true geeks, an entertaining review of the day's top tech stories by Tom Merritt and Molly Wood.

KEXP Song of the Day: Some of it is great, some of it is ok, some of it is skipped before the song finishes. But a lot of it is music I normally wouldn't stumble upon myself, so it's a great outlet for finding new music. And KEXP is based in Seattle, so it must be cool.

60 Second Science
: Length as advertised, a "did you know" type tidbit from Scientific American.

Update 02/08/08:

There are a couple others I have found to be great daily resources:

BBC Global News: This podcast comes in twice a day and usually lasts somewhere around 20-25 minutes. Yes, ~45 minutes a day for one podcast is a lot, but they begin each show with a summary of the stories for that podcast, allowing you to skip to what you want to hear or cut it short altogether. I usually find at least the top story interesting though, and sometimes listen to the whole thing. The BBC has excellent reporting in all corners of the world, and I haven't found a better way to stay informed.

The Real Story with Frank Curzio: As of this posting you will actually find this under the title "The Real Story with Aaron Task". The show is a product of, and Task hosted it until the end of 2007, when he left for a job with Yahoo!. Task was good, but not good enough to make the original list of my daily favorites. Curzio has picked up the job, and does it very well. He delivers sound analysis in a manner that is easy for the amateur investor to grasp. He does great interviews, isn't cocky, and most importantly, isn't boring. And while this has nothing to do with the quality of his content, there's something believable about listening to a guy with a thick NYC accent talk about money.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Geno in the news (finally)

Friend of TLATL and Right-Winger for minor-league hockey team The L.A. Barges, Gene explains why breast-feeding makes kids smarter.

Anonymous donor to TLATL and Left-Winger for major-league political party The Democrats, Hillary contends that the phenomenon is not isolated to kids.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Holy Education, Batman!! (or perhaps not-so-holy?)

In between all the cartoons I watched this weekend, something caught my eye: The King of Saudi Arabia is sinking $12.5 billion into a new university. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or KAUST, which will make for awesome T-shirts like "I got HOUSED at KAUST!", is being built from the ground up in Jeddah.

OK, that headline in and of itself won't pull many people from the draw of a Superfriends marathon, but here are a few points of interest that should:
  • The school will be co-educational. Revolutionary, right? Like many fundamentalists, the Kingdom's wahabi clerics aren't too keen on women's lib. Women can already attend some schools there, but they're not allowed to learn too much.
  • The country's religious police, the Mutaween, will be barred from the campus. The Mutaween are the fun guys who arrest people for not abiding by the sharia, or Islamic Law. Behavior that falls into this category includes dress code and dietary violations, as well as male and female socialization. Something tells me people are going to want to live on campus.
  • Funded by Aramco (and not the Kingdom's education ministry), the school's curriculum will apparently be geared towards Science & Technology, sharply contrasting education in the rest of the Kingdom, which of course focuses on Islam.
  • The King's reasoning for this endowment? This might be the juiciest of all: "The king has broken taboos, declaring that the Arabs have fallen critically behind much of the modern world in intellectual achievement." Broken taboos is right, and I have to say this is surprisingly ballsy for a monarchy that tiptoes around the Kingdom's clerics.
The bottom line is this: The Saudi King and Aramco dumping $12.5 billion into a university is no more newsworthy than Google buying another plane. The Saudis have historically opened up the never-ending checkbook to solve their problems. It's the exclusion of the wahabi element that raises the eyebrow.

And while the frat houses have yet to be built so they can be trashed, and the faculty has yet to be staffed (which the article wisely notes may be the biggest challenge), this is still a notable step in a direction entirely the opposite of most other nations in the region. A small step, to be sure, but in a fundamentalist nation such as Saudi Arabia, it is a path I will watch with keen interest.

And, of course, I can think of only two words with which to sum up the message of this post:


Monday, October 15, 2007

30 Years of Law & Order: Part V - Young Guns

The following is part 5 of a 51 part series on "Law & Order". Other parts can be seen here:

You remember when you were in 7th grade and Young Guns was the coolest movie ever? I don't. It was loved by the same kids who loved G.I. Joe in 4th grade. Not me. I was into Strat-o-matic baseball. They loved Charlie Sheen and his brother Emilio Sheen, while I was more into Fred McGriff and Mike Greenwell. By the way, does anyone know why the Red Sox wear red socks? Answer at the bottom.

Oh right, this is a Law & Order post. Well, welcome back from the break. Most Law & Order episodes start out with Law. The cops. A Crime Scene Unit is processing the evidence as the detectives wander up and our ears perk up for a Lenny Briscoe one-liner. Unbenownst to us, the two detectives are actually classified, junior and senior detective. This certainly makes our job easier. Instead of evaluating 9 different detectives, we can focus right now, on just 4. The juniors.

Some know him as Big, but anyone worth a salt sees Chris Noth as detective Mike Logan. Through 5 seasons and 3 partners, Mike Logan was the staple at the 2-7.

Logan has been described as somewhat of a short fuse, so it comes as no surprise that he didn't get along with Jack McCoy. One half of one of the better detective pairings in TV history, Noth apparently thought his character was more valuable than NBC, and his character was written off the show in 1995. I suppose it's that he was paired with 3 senior detectives that makes his tenure on the show seem longer than 5 years.

Logan's mistake was Rey Curtis's gain. Benjamin Bratt came on board to play detective Rey Curtis. It seemed that every female interogatee had some sort of Briscoe-like quip for the hunky Latino.

The picture to the left exemplifies everything you want to believe about Benjamin Bratt the actor, and thus Rey Curtis the Detective. I mean, come on, his last name is Bratt.

The show smartly played the other side of the coin, though. Unlike bachelor Mike Logan, Rey Curtis was a devoted family man (except for one little slip-up with Jennifer Garner - oops) and a by-the-book cop. His vocal displeasure at some of Briscoe's greasing of the legal engine lead to some friction with Briscoe, another contrast to Logan.

He and Briscoe eventually developed a friendship, but soon after Curtis left the show after 5 strong years.

Jesse L. Martin joined the show as Detective Ed Green in 1999 and at 8 and counting, has more years than any other Junior Detective.

Changing gears once again, Green's character returns the show to the brash, arrogant, whatever-it-takes attitude made popular by Mike Logan. Cultured and in tune with the youth, Green has a keen ability to adjust his interrogatorial style to fit the perp.

When Senior Detective Joe Fontana retired in 2006, Green became the first Detective on the show, and so we can only assume in all of NYC, to be promoted from Junior Detective to Senior Detective. Upon hearing he was a Senior, Green vowed to do nothing but cut class and bag chicks.

When Ed Green was promoted, the Junior Detective spot opened up for Nina Cassady. Imagine the one-liners from Briscoe if the two had been paired. It's like a whole other season of Law & Order in my imagination.

Cassady is from a police family, and has butted heads with Lt. Anita Van Buren, who apparently had her own replacement in mind for the position.

Cassady has only one year on the show, and apparently her character is on shaky grounds at the department. She probably slept with Cragen or something.

That's it, right? Well, not quite. It was only four shows, but while Det. Green recuperated from a gunshot wound, Det. Nick Falco came on board to assist Detective Fontana. On HBO you could see Michael Imperioli killing people and on NBC you could see him catching killers. Bizarre.

Coovo's take: Nina Cassady? Please. She was on the show for a half cup of coffee in which she forgot to put in cream. It's hard to go against Mike Logan. He's an old school cop who actually was demoted for striking a defendant. He's got some gonads. I love cops with gonads. His character has resurfaced a couple times. Most recently as a detective on Criminal Intent, and before in as a member of the Staten Island Harbor Patrol in Exiled: A Law& Order Movie. Rey Curtis was a good cop. A wuss, but a good cop. Ed Green seems to be the easy Choice given his stellar run. I'm a big fan. So it's down to Logan v. Green.

Logan wins points for working with three different partners and for two different captians, but loses points for being on criminal intent.

Green gains points for taking a bullet on the job, but loses points because the reason he was shot was because had to leave the show to film Rent.

Logan gains points for cleaning up the 2-7 in his TV movie, but Ed Green gets points for getting promoted on the job, not demoted.

Logan loses points because the actor who plays him was on Sex and The City, but Green also lose points for his actor being on Ally McBeal.

The deciding factor is that Green gets points for working with Lenny Briscoe longer.

Roller's take: Obviously, this is the Nina Cassady show. The other gentlemen are about as memorable as the last 3 dudes to get bounced on the 4th season of Who Wants To Marry The Bachelorette?

So yeah...This one isn't too tough for me, but I don't want the easy decision to mask the runners-up. I'm a fan of Logan, Curtis, and Green, but in my mind Logan is the original and one of the characters that made the show as memorable as it is.

Coovo's re-take: You know Roller, if you want to mock Law & Order, do it on your own blog, but if you want to have serious discussion about our Television's legal system, then do it on this blog.

Roller's re-take: For a look at the lighter side of Law & Order, check out my new blog

Answer: Because Mike doesn't wear green well. Geno made that joke up in 7th grade.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Back from Hiatus

I've posted apologies on this blog before but none are as profound and heartfelt as this one. My blogger in crime has repeatedly urged me to get my act together and get back to bloggin'. I even promised a post after awesome enough to rearrange his work schedule to take in a businessman's special at Wrigley Field. That was three weeks ago.

I have excuses. My work schedule permits me much less time in front of the computer. Thus less time to blog and more actual work. I have also been studying for the GRE. I'm shooting for my Masters in Blogology. I took it today. Results were fair. To be posted in the comments section. Lastly, the Cubs are in the midst of a pennant race for a change, so focus and energy that could have been spent blogging was spent drinking mai tais on the rooftops.

But in the end I could have carved out 10 minutes her or 15 minutes there to let everyone know what I thought about Detective Ed Green. Or comment on a rare Cubs post from Roller. Which I will read as soon as I sober up.

So all I can say is, Roller, please forgive me . . .

Friday, September 21, 2007

Life is a Rubik's Cube

and if you can solve Life blindfolded in 2 minutes, you just might make the front page of TLATL, too.

This is a cop-out of a post to be sure. I have nothing to offer intellectually. That's ok; it's Friday. But I promise these videos will impress, and the last video will warm your heart for the weekend, and reinforce your stereotypes that Asians are smart.

Matyas Kuti, a shy 14 year-old Hungarian, solves a 5x5 Cube (officially known as the Rubik's "Professor's Cube") - blindfolded. At first I didn't think this would be overly impressive - it's just a matter of muscle memory. Wrong. Notice that the kid doesn't actually put on his blindfold and start solving the cube until his timer has reached 2:45. He spent the first 2:45 memorizing the position of each of the 150 pieces. He then put on his blindfold and made easily over 1000 moves all the while remembering the exact position of each of the 150 pieces. In 8 minutes.

If you don't think you're dumb yet, watch this 3 year old solve the 3x3 Rubik's Cube. It doesn't look like a memorized routine either, there seem to be parts where she stops and examines it.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What Can Google Do For You? (Part I)

It goes without saying that Google has become everyone's answer-man. In fact, Google's proficiency in this has earned it "Kleenex" status, where it has actually become a generic word for its product category.

Coovo, did you get the xerox of my butt?
It made you cry? Here's a kleenex.
No, I don't have another. Try using this q-tip.
Woah - that looks like it hurt. Here's a band-aid for that.
If you're still upset, I'll get you a coke.
What do you mean you already saw my butt when you google'd it?

I know. That was stupid. I'm sorry. That's why I make Tim do this thing with me, gotta have some talent on this zeppelin.

Anyway, Google has plenty of other functions besides search, mail and maps.

Simple tools
  • Perhaps I want to find all urls with "theloopandthelou" in it (coincidentally, one of the more common searches on Google). Entering "inurl:theloopandthelou" as my search criteria will do that. Notice that in the example there is no space between your colon and theloopandthelou.
  • Want the definition of antidisestablishmentarianism? Use "define:antidisestablishmentarianism". Of course, you don't have to actually include the quotes in the search criteria. But if you're trying to define a multi-word term, make sure you put quotes around all the search terms, such as define:"al qaeda". Unfortunately, entering the term define:"Google" does not trigger an infinite loop that breaks the space/time continuum like I hoped it would.
There are many other search operators available for use for your amusement and/or education. And honestly, I think those operators will work on other search engines, too. But that's simple stuff, on to the bigger and better...

Google as your home page

Besides just being a search engine, Google can act as a portal for your content. "Portal" has many meanings. In the I/T world, a portal is a means to deliver personalized content to a user and allow the user to customize his or her experience. Do you have your own MyYahoo or MSN page? Have you told it that you want to see certain sports scores in the left column or stock symbols in the right column? That's it.

Google has the same capabilities. For the average user, I think iGoogle (the name of Google's portal), MyYahoo, and MSN are equally good. I use iGoogle because I use numerous other Google services and they all integrate nicely.

To try it out: sign into Google and start here. You can add as many Google "gadgets" to a page as you want (using the "Add Stuff" link) and create as many tabs as you want as well. Of course, if you want an easy way to stay updated on the ever-changing blog, The Loop and the Lou, you can add a TLATL gadget to your page. In fact, it's as easy as clicking this link: Add to Google

That's all for this edition of "roller the geek". Tune in next time when we'll look at some of the other cool tools Google has developed and gives away for free. And please feel free to share your own ideas for improving the web experience!

Closing poll: iGoogle, MyYahoo, or MSN?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Return of the Email Elbow?

As many of you know, it was reported on Aug 17 that the Chicago Cubs and Carlos Zambrano reached a 5 year / $91.5 million deal. With an average salary of $18.3 million / year, Zambrano has the highest average salary / year for all pitchers with a multi-year deal.

Only 26, the fiery Zambrano is already a veteran of the MLB, with 2007 being his 5th full season in the bigs and 5th strait season with 200+ IP. $90+ million is a lot of money for any player, let alone a pitcher, but the Cubs have secured one of the best pitchers in the NL for his ages 27-31. It's not hard to imagine that the Cubs would have had to contend with 6 and 7 year offers for $20 million / year from the likes of the Yanks, Mets, Red Sox and Angels. Taking all that into account, it looks like the Cubs made a smart move.

Or did they? In last 30 days, Zambrano sports a 1-3 record with an ERA of 7.36 and a WHIP of 1.77. Although he's been healthy throughout his career, in the spring of 2005 Zambrano was told to reduce the amount of time he spent on the computer, as it was feared to be causing the pain he was experiencing in his pitching elbow.

With the talent pool in this off-season's free agent class being extremely dry, Zambrano and his agent surely knew that by waiting till the off-season, they could get an even bigger contract - from the Cubs or another suitor. So why wouldn't he wait? Could the last month of lousy pitching be related to an injury that Zambrano is hiding? Was he worried that a trip to the DL or a pre-signing physical would scare other clubs away?

It's possible, but not probable. I think the most likely reason is that Zambrano wanted to remain a Cub, and wanted a deal locked up now. But stirring the pot can be fun, especially when this site is co-authored by a Cub fan. And I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for any news of health issues with the big right-hander, including tonight as I'll be attending the showdown between Zambrano and Wainwright at Busch.

A question to ponder: who would you least like go up to bat against, an angry Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, or Carlos Zambrano? Someone else?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fan Unappreciation Day

For a number of years, I have held a very small share of season tickets to St. Louis Cardinals baseball with a group of friends. We have good, cheap seats in the 3rd row of the left field bleachers. It was from that glorious site that I was fortunate enough to watch Adam Wainwright strike out Brandon Inge for the final out of the 2006 World Series. But that's another story.

This post is the recounting of a recent Friday night game against the Cincinnati Reds. Upon arriving before the first inning, I noticed that Bleacher Bob wasn't there. Bob is an older gentleman, and about as devout a fan as you'll find. Bob has season tickets for one bleacher seat in row 4, a few seats to our left. I struggle to make it to 5-10 games a year these days. Bob attends every single one. Although he's a pretty reserved man, his love of the game is easy to see, and he's quick with the high fives after a deserving play.

So after some inquiring, we found out that Bleacher Bob's absence was due to his scheduled appearance on the jumbo-tron in the mid-4th inning. This is typically the time when they play something like a "Let's Make a Deal" with a fan. A fan gets 3 trivia questions in increasing difficulty. The difficulty of the first question is something akin to "What is Albert Pujols' first name?" The second question is harder. If they get it right, they can walk away with a prize (usually something like $50), or go for whatever lies in the case held by "That One Guy"'s lovely assistant. The contents of the case can range from season tickets to Cardinals' gear. Season tix seemed like the obvious prize for Bob.

So the 4th inning rolls along and the Cards' #1 fan is up there with a big grin on his face. I look past his right shoulder and who do I see but my good friend Billy. As most of you who read this blog know, Billy once beat the game of Trivial Pursuit at a game of Trivial Pursuit. Suffice to say, he's got a knack for both useful and useless facts. As the contestants of this game are allowed to lean on friends for support, Bleacher Bob was a shoe in for victory.

The first question was so dumb I can't even remember it. Bob got it on his own.

The second question was "What is the capital of Ohio?". Billy whispered "Columbus" in Bob's ear. Correct. At this point, Bob was presented with the option of taking a certain prize (can't remember exactly what it was), or going for the case. Bob pointed at the case and replied, "I want what's in there."

The third question was "Who hit the last home run in the old Busch Stadium?". Billy supplied Bob with "Chris Duncan". Correct again! "That One Guy" now had the pleasure of opening the case to reveal Bob's prize...

5 coupons each good for one Hardee's Thickburger.

Bob was a good sport and smiled and clapped. He should have punched that guy in the face. You bring a perennial season-ticket holder up to compete for a prize, a guy who probably has worked very hard his whole life to afford himself the luxury of buying season tickets to your event, and he gets 5 Thickburgers?

I'm not sure who's responsible for that, but that person should be fired.

p.s. Ballpark food: Nachos or a Hot Dog?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Quick Announcement

When we originally started the blog we configured a setting so that required a reader to be logged in to leave a comment. We figured this would keep us informed of who was commenting, while blocking spam bots that target high-traffic blogs. Also, it was the default setting and we didn't know this was an option that could be changed.

In an effort (read: desperate plea) to drum up more chatter, we've modified the setting so that you can leave "anonymous" comments if you please (read: if you don't have a google id). For those of you that choose to do so, it would be nice if you left your name or some kind of handle so that all of us (writers and commenters) could call you out for your stupidity or praise you for your genius.

Thanks to those of you who read this! Please feel free to drop suggestions on anything we can do better. Rye, we hear ya on the "women of telemundo". Coovo is on it like white on rice. Spanish rice, that is.

-Roller and Coovo

Monday, August 27, 2007

Microsoft is to the OS Market, as Afghanistan...

is to the Opium Market.

"We're going to show Mullah Gates a thing or two about market domination."

- Haji Bashir Noorzai, Afghan Drug Lord

According to the NY Times, Afghanistan increased its share of the opium market from 92% in 2006 to a current 93% so far in 2007.

"With increased bribery, slave labor and old fashioned intimidation tactics, we can get that number up to 95% by the end of 2008," boasted heroin kingpin Haji Baz Mohammed, "and up to 105% by 2011." When told that it was impossible to have more than 100% of any market share, Mohammed responded, "with the grace of Allah, anything is possible." Allah could not be reached for comment.

For years, Afghanistan has produced more opium than all other nations combined, so the 93% market share is actually not much more than their share in the mid 90's (when they had 80-85% share). But to put their production in perspective, Afghanistan produced 4,600 tons of opium in 1998 compared with the estimated 9,000 tons in 2007 (according to the NYT article linked above).

More highlights from the NYT article:
  • "The report is likely to spark renewed debate over an American-backed proposal for the aerial spraying of opium crops with herbicide. Afghan and British officials have opposed aerial spraying, saying it would increase support for the Taliban among farmers who fear the herbicide would poison them and their families."
  • "The report notes that no large increase in world demand for opium has occurred in recent years and that supply from Afghanistan “exceeds global demand by an enormous margin.” It said up to 3,300 tons of opium was being stockpiled in Afghanistan.

    Terrorist groups could be stockpiling the drug, the report warned. “Opium stockpiles, a notorious store of value, could once again be used to fund international terrorism,” it said."

Regarding the first point, I don't see why increasing support for the Taliban amongst farmers is an issue here. Farmers don't support the Taliban because they have a new national health plan and want to reduce government spending. They support the Taliban because AK-47's pointed at their families are pretty persuasive.

"Farmer support of the Taliban" isn't a real issue; it is a symptom of a more obvious issue - the existence of the Taliban. As long as they have power, they will have the "support" of those they can intimidate. If the postulation about the "opium bank" is true... it looks like they'll be in business for a long time.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk?

Some time ago, I heard a song on the radio. A girl was singing a song about her humps, and her bumps, and her lumps. It struck me as very rudimentary rap; the kind of rap from the early 80's. You know, the kind where every song starts with "Well my name is Coovo and I'm here to say..."

I don't listen to the radio a lot, so I didn't know if this was a really old rap, or a new rap that was kind of a joke, or a new rap that was seriously supposed to be regarded as a good song. I thought the last option was the least likely.

Then I saw the video on You Tube, and as far as I can tell, they're dead serious about her humps.

I only found the video because someone sent me a link to a video Alannis Morrisette did mocking the original. I've never been a real fan of Alannis, but she apparently has a great sense of humor. You should probably watch the aforementioned original video linked above before watching this.

And of course, by law I don't think you can write anything like this without at least mentioning "Weird Al" once. What do you get when you combine Weird Al with Japanese humor?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Literature for a post-9/11 World

Here at The Loop and The Lou, we keep things on the lighter side. We'd like to talk more politics and religion, but our audience loves puff pieces. "Coovo's trip to the Zoo" and "Roller's Dirty Diaper Nightmare" have garnered much higher ratings than clunkers like "Coovo's trip to the Senate" and "Roller's Dirty Election Nightmare."

So at the risk of alienating some fans, I'm going to take the opportunity give a quick review of some books that I've read related to 9/11, the CIA, al Qaeda, etc. I've become pretty enthralled with this subject matter, and I'd like to spread the word.

While any of these books can be read on its own, and I recommend them all, I'd push for Ghost Wars or The Looming Tower first. They are so comprehensive, and reading them will provide excellent context for the others. Also, I highly recommend listening to the books. I read Ghost Wars and See No Evil first, and then listened to the rest. If you're a slow reader like me, it helps to digest all this content.

The following 4 books are delivered like documentaries, which is to say they remain objective and the stories they tell are all backed with facts (interviews, declassified government documents, etc.). Although that style sounds pretty dry, the subject matter definitely held my attention. I liken these books to a Tom Clancy novel without bad dialog or a romantic sub-plot.

"Ghost Wars" - This book provides a comprehensive history of the intelligence and military players in Afghanistan from 1979 (invasion of the Soviets) through 9/11. You learn how the intelligence agencies of the USA, Soviet Union, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, along with various regional Afghan warlords played their roles in the fight against Soviet occupation, subsequent skirmish for power and the rise of the Taliban and their symbiosis with al Qaeda.

"The Looming Tower" - This book has some overlap with Ghost Wars, but differs in that it does not focus on Afghanistan, but instead the history of al Qaeda. The book introduces one of the main voices of 20th century fundamentalism (Sayyid Qutb), how he influenced Ayman al-Zawahiri (al Qaeda's no. 2) and, of course, the rise of bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization.

While their paths differ before 1995 or so, both Ghost Wars and The Looming Tower provide an excellent account of the al Qaeda network, terrorist activities leading up to 9/11 (WTC bombing in '93, the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the bombing of the USS Cole off teh coast of Yemen), the planning and execution of 9/11, and what the U.S. knew and did in an effort to neutralize al Qaeda pre-9/11.

"9/11 Commission Report" - This also had some overlap with Ghost Wars and The Looming Tower, but I felt it filled in some of the blanks from the U.S. side; it had a more detailed account of the interactivity (or lackthereof) between various U.S. agencies (CIA, FBI, State Department etc.). It also opened with a minute-by-minute account of the morning of 9/11, including everything that is known to have happened on each plane. I felt this was a balanced, objective report - its criticisms were justified, but I didn't detect any taint.

"No True Glory" - The book includes the invasion in '03 in its intro, but focuses on the battles in Falluja, Iraq, a Sunni town filled with former Baathists, fundamentalist clerics, Sunni insurgents, and your plain ole' run-o-the-mill criminals. Perhaps the biggest problem with the Coalition's approach to Falluja was that they expected residents in Fallujah to welcome troops; after all the troops were there to liberate and protect them. In contrast, residents wanted no foreign presence in their city. Fallujans that were not allied with the insurgents knew that one day the foreign troops would leave, whereas the insurgents lived there and wouldn't forget anyone who even wavered on their support. The book also described the complexities of "instilling freedom" in a country with politics so closely tied to, and yet so fiercely divided by, religion.

The book was filled with the play-by-play of the battles. At first I didn't understand how this was possible, but if you see soldiers in their gear today, they're all wearing microphones as part of their communications. Every minute on the battlefield is recorded, and the stories are about as real as you can imagine. There are no words for the mental and physical toughness of these soldiers. I get a fever and I call in sick for work. These guys get shot and refuse to leave the battlefield.

The following 3 books are told as first-person, first-hand accounts.

"See No Evil" - The autobiography of ex-CIA operative Robert Baer. Although he retired in 1997, he spent years in some of the most hostile, anti-Western places in the world, including Lebanon, Sudan, Tajikistan and Iraq. Baer's career has about 5 Hollywood films worth of material; in fact it was noted that his career was the inspiration for George Clooney's character in Syriana.

"Jawbreaker - The Attack on bin Laden and al Qaeda" - CIA operative Gary Bernsten was the top CIA field commander of the ground assault in Afghanistan post-9/11. This book details the overtake of Afghanistan, from the entry in the Panshir Valley to the chase of bin Laden into the Tora Bora mountains. American military might easily crushed the Taliban, but in the end the most wanted man slipped away as some Afghan commanders' loyalties were up for bidding, and the U.S. wasn't prepared to finish the fight in the mountains. A very captivating book.

"Inside the Jihad" - I've only started this book, but it already has me hooked. This is the auto-biography of a Morrocan Muslim who ended up working for French and British intelligence as a spy. He was initially running guns for extremists in Belgium when he realized the savagery of the fanatics he was supporting. After going undercover, he actually went to al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.

There are numerous challenges with bringing democracy to a nation in which autocracy/theocracy is woven into the fabric of the culture. Democracy is freedom of choice, a fair chance for all. It is impossible to play by "fair" rules when the opponents play by no rules at all. The U.S. and its allies are berated globally for any appearance of heavy-handed tactics, yet it is the insurgents that resort to the blind killing of innocents, cloaked in religious divinity. It is not only that the fundamentalists believe killing "infidels" is just; they actually believe it to be their duty - and that those who do not fulfill this duty are infidels themselves.

The long-term success of democratic governments in Afghanistan and Iraq is, in my opinion, doubtful. These governments will be viewed by many Muslims as puppets of the West, no more loved than the theocratic alternative. As in Fallujah, one day western troops will leave. The insurgents will not. Camps can be leveled, cities can be cleaned, but the supply of poor, uneducated, impressionable Muslim youth is virtually endless.

Job opportunity and traditional education in many Arab nations scarce, but room and board at religious schools (madrassas), funded by fundamentalist sheiks, is not. Students in these schools are indoctrinated with fundamentalism and hatred of the West, and when they leave they are no more trained for a traditional career than when they entered. But they are mentally prepared for the jobs waiting for them on the front lines of the jihad. The strength of fundamentalist militias may ebb and flow, but it will not die, and from what I've read it's as strong now as it's been since pre-9/11.

I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting U.S. troops be pulled out. I have the luxury of spouting my opinions and predictions 6000 miles from the truth, and reading a few books hardly makes my opinion worth anything. I can only hope that those with the true knowledge of the all the variables and causes and effects of these situations can make the best, most pure decisions.

Well, what began as a book review got a little out of hand. You might say it was a little ... extreme (scary music). I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this. Heck, I just hope someone read this far. And of course I'd love to hear any books that have been enjoyed by our sleeper cell of readers. Until then, Allah ak bu ahkd ba du (Dude, yeah, Allah an all them).

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Dia de Freedom

Let the words flow over you like buttery syrup on freshly griddled pancakes:

So you want to get down on the third of July?
You might not even understand why
Take a look around you and you’ll find out
Hangin’ out with good friends is what it’s all about
So come on everybody and raise those glasses high

Let’s give thanks to the family LaBarge
For letting us destroy their really nice yard
It’ll grow back or we’ll re-seed
This party has everything you’ll ever need
Except for Auggie, but he lives really far

So you want to get down on the third of July?
You might not even understand why
Take a look around you and you’ll find out
Hangin’ out with good friends is what it’s all about
So come on everybody and raise those glasses high

There’s lots of other parties on this great holiday
Some have air shows and maybe a parade
But we have fun and we’re really cool
Later on, we’ll be naked in the neighbor’s pool
That’s how we do it, (pause) God bless the USA

So you want to get down on the third of July?
You might not even understand why
Take a look around you and you’ll find out
Hangin’ out with good friends is what it’s all about
So come on everybody and raise those glasses high

We’ve been here for years and there’ll be many more
And every time you come we’ll have something new in store
‘Cause we got beer, and we got chicks
Last time I checked, that’s a really good mix
So dive right in, (pause) what are you waiting for?

So you want to get down on the third of July?
You might not even understand why
Take a look around you and you’ll find out
Hangin’ out with good friends is what it’s all about
So come on everybody and raise those glasses high

Happy Birthday America!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hall of Shame

Howdy, folks. Roller here. McFly recently offered a solid suggestion that we diversify our content. While we still have 47 more Law & Order pieces to do and an approaching deadline for our "T.L.A.T.L.: Behind the Blog" reality show pitch, it wouldn't hurt to flex a different part of our brains. And since we're on the topic of flexing...

This post's topic is nothing original. Hence, the incredibly overused title. But I wavered on this subject for quite some time before finally coming to my own conclusion, and I think it merits a post. The topic: Should Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa be elected into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame?

I asked Coovo if he'd join me on this one, L&O style, and he suggested that we write the post in more of a conversational manner. I agreed, under the condition that I can write as him half the time, and vice versa. He agreed. Or maybe I agreed while perpetrating Coovo.

In any event, I think (hope) the best part will be the comments we get from the handful of loyal readers we are lucky enough to have, all of whom are avid and knowledgeable fans of the Pastime. Play Ball...

Roller: So, we have "the men who saved baseball" at or near the end of their careers, after having piled up power numbers that would make even Josh Gibson raise an eyebrow. In the late 90's, their at-bats put conversations on pause. Fans would linger in a 14-1 stinker just to see their last AB in the 8th or 9th inning (and on the flip side, promptly leave immediately afterward even during a good game). There's no doubt in my mind that I was caught up in it, and I cannot remember giving any concern to performance enhancers at the time. I remember the andro escapade in '98, but felt that McGwire was vindicated in '99 when he said he stopped using it and still hit 65 HRs.

Coovo: If we're going to go into this together, you're going have to stop using big words like "perpetrating", and start using words I can understand, like anabolic steriod or human growth hormone. I talked a little bit about this with a post back in March entitled Pump up the Volume, but the issue here is just about Sosa and McGwire.

I was naive. I just thought that all athletes were tested for steroids. That is why I watched that crazy '98 season with as much excitement as anybody else. I was even at the game where McGwire hit no. 62. I am ashamed as a Cub fan but I clapped for McGwire. Looking back on it now, we are left with nothing but specualtion. I would say that we are left with the words of these men, like when they testified in front of Congress, but too many times in the current sports world we athletes in front of Matt Lauer repenting for their sins.

So Roller. For the sake of argument. As of now, there is no "smoking gun proof", neither player has ever been suspended (for steroids, Sosa had some bad lumber once), and they each have over 580 Home runs. Why wouldn't you vote for them?

Roller: That's a good question. Let's start with this: I think it's obvious that if it was indisputable that neither of them used performance enhancers, and they still put up those numbers, this wouldn't even be a debate. Their first-ballot status would be about as sure a bet as one could make in baseball.

But that's far from the case. So I'll turn it back to you. Do you feel that you'd need proof that they used in order to bar their legendary careers from HOF glory? And when I say proof, I mean more than, you know, Jose Canseco's "The Needle, The Ass, and Biceps of Brass".

Coovo: I'll have to see photos of all of these players' behinds before I can make a judgement. To me, it is Sosa that is the inriguing vote.

We have Canseco's allegations against McGwire, but we also have McGwire not denying he used steroids in front of Congress. That is what is keeping him out of the Hall now, not Canseco. After McGwire went, Sosa denied ever taking them. Then Rafeal Palmerio did as well. Whoops. Sosa sits there literally sandwiched between two "users". Then you look at the evidence against Bonds. Pretty convincing. So of the three players to pass Maris, two have solid circumstantial evidence against them, and again Sosa is along for the ride.

Other than refusing to pee in a cup when asked to out of the blue by a reporter, Sosa's more guilty by association. I believe he was on something, but the proof is less clear than McGwire.

Roller: "Whoops." Nice. I agree with you, although he was never caught using steroids, McGwire's almost tearful refusal to "talk about the past" paints a guilty portrait. And Sosa has never been caught, and has denied using. On the surface, one does look a little guiltier than the other.

Now that I'm done with an objective response, I have to throw in what I believe. Not based on facts, but my gut (and admittedly somewhat biased by my allegiance to a certain ballclub for which McGwire played). I can't help it, I just love those Athletics.

I believe McGwire to be a good person. After signing his first contract with the Cards, he started giving $1 million / year to his foundation for abused children (again just about crying when announcing it). The guy is a softie. I believe he is a good person who made a very, very bad decision. And he knows it. And he feels guilty now. I am in know way suggesting that his good deeds exonerate his (alleged) steroid use, but I believe his conscience won't let him deny using them.

I can't say I've seen those qualities in Sammy. Of course, my opinion of Sosa's character is worth about as much as he can throw me (mixed metaphors rule!). But here are some items that helped formulate my opinion on Sammy:

  • Sammy can speak fluent English. He speaks it incredibly well in most interviews. Yet anytime he gets in a little trouble (the steroid proceedings, the corked bat), he puts on his immigrant smile and plays the "No espeaka de english" card.

  • Like McGwire, Sammy also started a charity organization. His was based in his home country, the Dominican Republic. Now, I heard this so long ago that I can't say if it was on CNN or A Current Affair, but I remember hearing that the charity hadn't received a good chunk of promised money from Sammy, and that Sammy's relatives were driving new cars bought in the charity's name.

You can feel free to tell me to go to hell on these points, because they're not much. And I'd love to hear stories of Sammy rescuing a blind person's HIV-infected kitten from a burning tree. But the guy just seems a little shady to me.

So to sum up this long winded response, I guess I just feel that you have two people who are guilty. One just has a heavier conscience than the other.

Coovo?..... You awake?.....

Coovo: Barely. I've had more intersting reads while presuing the Better Home & Gardens Igloo edition.

I don't disagree with you about Sosa the person, but if being a good guy were criteria for the Hall of Fame, then we'd have to have a recount. The Hall of Fame vote is based on what one does on the field, not with his charity organizations. Unless of course he wagered on what happened on the field.

I have no doubt that now McGwire thinks what he did was wrong. He's probably very regretful. He probably won't let his son do steroids until college. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Who knows what Sammy is (other than being "berry berry good at baseball)? Although I do need to hear some of those "fluent English" interviews. If McGwire did roids a few years in Oakland. Well, that's one thing. But if he used all the way through his 70 home run season, that's another.

Roller: I suppose we'll only know if McGwire tells us (which I have a feeling he will at some point) or if Jimmy Ballgame writes a book about sticking needles in Mac's pimpled arse. I don't think McGwire's size diminished at all when he donned The Birds on The Bat - he actually seemed to be bigger than ever - so I'm guessing that he used during the 1998 season. Honestly, if he only used a few years in Oakland and hit a clean 70 HRs, what the hell is he crying about?

"The Hall of Fame vote is based on what one does on the field, not with his charity organizations." True, at least that's how it's been done in the past. We can save the "Would you vote Ty Cobb into the HOF?" debate for a breather in the "Growing Pains and Wonder Years" mini-series we've got queued up for the Fall.

But my point wasn't really that Sosa should be held from the Hall because he's not a Saint. I was just pointing to traits that, like the "bad lumber" incident, make me inclined to believe he's OK with cheating.

So, we've danced around the answer enough. Point Blank: Given what evidence exists right now, would you vote for either McGwire or Sosa? I'll even say Sosa plays till the end of 2008 and finishes with 625.

You're a point blank. A Grosse Point Blank to be exact.

The whole MLB process in my mind has lost credibility with this issue, and that includes the Hall of Fame. I hate the cop-out, "it wasn't against baseball's rules." Everyone has known steroids were wrong since Ben Johnson lost his gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But even after this event, 10 years before the home run chase, all of baseball--Owners, the Union, the Commisioners office--still ignored the issue. Now, a dark cloud sits over the whole game. And that cloud includes the Hall of Fame and nothing short of a rigged up Delorean time machine will remove this cloud.

I vote yes to both players. In the end, MLB should share as much blame as the players. And we can't penalize MLB. Only the players will know whether the plaque on the wall is a fraud and they'll have to live with it.

I can see your point. It's like that Van Halen song where they're like "I see both sides now". I think it's that one. Either that one or "Why Can't This Be Love?" Cause I'll be damned if I get hung out on the line!

Is MLB to blame? Without a doubt. But the players made their own choices; acted under their own will. What bothers me the most is that Sosa and McGwire were incredibly talented players. We all know McGwire hit 49 HR in his rookie year. Speed was as much a part of Sosa's game as power before his legs got so big that running was a fire hazard. We'll never know exactly what kind of numbers they would have put up. That irritates me.

If you hadn't guessed by now, I vote no to both players. I think a "yes" is essentially saying "it's too late now" to right the ship. Baseball has made many a mistake in the past, but that's no excuse to continue.

Well, there you have it. A split decision. We leave with the actual conversation from the pitcure above.

S: Hey Big Mac! You da man!

M: Hey Sammy. Nice walk.

S: The ump make good calls. He was berry berry good to me. You da man!

M: I know. Your arms are massive dude. Whatcha ya bench?

S: I eat horse pill, my arms double in size, I hit da homer. You da man!

M: Damn right. You wanna do some andro after the game?

S: Only if it make my neck turn into leather like you! You da man!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Greatest Beer Ever

I have tasted many an alcoholic beverage in my lifetime. There are numerous I consider to be excellent beers. Guiness. Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Then I found La Fin Du Monde. Brewed by Unibroue, out of Chambly, Quebec, "The End of the World" is named in honor of the explorers who "discovered" America, which they believed to be the end of the world.

I can go so far as to say that it tastes similar to a Belgian beer. It's color is golden, but not clear, which in my mind reflects its full bodied flavor. I'm not a beer genius, so that's about as best as I can describe it. You'll just have to savor one yourself.

Of course, the greatest beer in the world isn't cheap. I found it at Trader Joe's which has pretty reasonable prices for its superb selection of brews. This beer is sold in 4-packs, to the tune of $8.99 each. With tax that's about $2.50 a beer.

But I rationalize the luxury by the following:
  • A 9% alcohol by volume content means you drink less. 2 Monde's will leave you feeling just right.
  • There were times in my life where I routinely dropped $40 on drinks in one night. $5 in one night makes me feel like I'm saving money.
I do suggest that you pour it in a pint glass. I can't say why, but it just tastes better that way.

Enough of my rambling. At this point you'll just have to treat yourself. I hope we can share a couple in the near future.

One last item - I'd like to hear what everyone else's favorite beer is, and what your opinion of La Fin du Monde is when/if you've tried it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Almost Double Digits

2 posts ago we almost hit the double digit mark in comments. It made my day. I'd still like to hear more about which person people would choose but we'll have plenty of time for that when we analyze the 314 different judges that have taken the bench. Hmmm, can't wait.

I know Roller said that I would talk about jump shots and bacon, but it's June and no one's still playing basketball, right?

I am a big fan of bacon. Not turkey bacon, because well, turkeys aren't pigs. However, I can't tell you how bacon makes everything better. In fact, I tried it on an orange just the other day and I hate to say it, but the orange was better without bacon. And with my newly discovered but not surprising high cholesterol level, I have to learn to say no to this and many other forms of "swine".

I spoke with Roller last night and we have some non-Law & Order posts in the works. Like this one, talking about the possibilities for non-Law & Order posts. How about posts about hot chicks. I'm out of ideas.

This one's for Al Gore. Today at work, I reused the Styrofoam coffee cup I used yesterday. AND, I recycled my nudey magazines yesterday.

Have a great day everyone.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

30 Years of Law & Order: Part IV -Time to cut a deal!

The following is part 4 of a 51 part series on "Law & Order". Other parts can be seen here:

As we continue our assessment of the greatest drama ever to be created by Dick Wolf, we move slightly up the ladder to analyze the District Attorney of New York County.

That the word "Attorney" is included in the title of this occupation is somewhat misleading. Truth is, there's not a lot of attorneying going on. The DA doesn't really do much in the way of prosecuting criminals or sleeping with his hot Assistant DAs. The DA is more of a poli-ticker, guiding the ADA's prosecution based on how the outcome may affect public opinion of the DA office. In their defense (awesome pun), they can also provide sage advice from the decades of experience they have in prosecuting criminals and sleeping with their hot ADAs.

The role of DA in Law & Order has been played by 3 people:

When he retired in 2000, Adam Schiff (played by Steven Hill) was the longest-running current cast member at 11 years. That's a long time to run. Schiff, with a voice as dry and peaty as the single-malt in his right hand, can solve the ADA's dilemma in his sleep: "Your star witness, is a one-eyed, transvestite midget, and your victim is a 3-toed sloth out on parole for the armed robbery of a convent. MAKE A DEAL."

After Schiff left, Edward Scissorhands' mom jumped in for 3 seasons (2000-2002) to fill the role of Nora Lewin. She must have had a hard time seeing, because she squinted quite frequently. I think it was a metaphor for her determination to seek justice. Like David Duchovny always says, "The Truth Is Out There", and sometimes you just have to squint to see it.

Arthur Branch and his booming southern twang made their debut in 2003. It's kind of like a cowboy running the DA's office. He's got a quick trigger finger and ten gallons of don't-make-me-put-you-in-the- Texas-Toaster-boy! for anyone who gets in his way. Well, that's how I'd write it anyway.

Branch is known for his conservative approach, though, which has lead to many a clash with noted liberal hot-head Jack McCoy and his harem. For those who don't know, Fred Dalton Thompson was actually a US Senator (R-TN) before accepting the role of Branch. He's pondered a 2008 run for the Big One. He'll obviously win, so for those who care to know a little more about your next President:
  • Supports the right to bear arms (what cowboy wouldn't)
  • No clear stance on abortion (has wavered but believes it should not be government funded)
  • Supports free trade
  • Thinks Al Gore is a nut
  • Would like to continue to "secure our borders" from job-stealing foreigners

Coovo's take: Was that the only picture we could find of Diane Wiest? Thing is those specs are back in style now.

Chances are if you tune in to a TNT re-run, you are either going to get Schiff or Branch. If the life span of Law & Order were a day, Nora Lewin's tenure would be a quick lunch break. She did her best but in the end she couldn't escape the shadow of the Schiffster.

It always appeared, by his voice and slow motion movement, that Adam Schiff was annoyed with his job. Smiles were at a minimum and he probably holds a TV record for consecutive sighs. The thing I like about Schiff is he always backed up his ADA's even when they completely ignored his advice. And when he plopped on that fedora to take himself home for the evening, he reminded me of a that Greatest Generation of people who never stopped working for what they believed. Man I wish I had that hat.

Arthur Branch however made his money in the private sector and now wants to put people behind bars. He is as resounding as Schiff was subtle. I do like him as a DA. His character is strong and his southern wit always leaves me with a chuckle. But he is new age. He plays the political games. And, he has no hat.

To me, it is no contest. I cast my vote for Adam Schiff.

Roller's take: I never liked Nora Lewin that much. Nothing against the actress or the writers, but the character did nothing for me; she seemed weak. Ole' Tennessee Thompson isn't bad, but he's not the reason you hang around for McCoy's inevitable discussion with the DA.

That, my friends, is Adam Schiff. He's everything you want in a DA. He's old. He's crotchety. He wears those awesome old-man hats. His voice makes Joan Rivers sound like Judy Garland. His calm demeanor is the perfect balance to Jack McCoy's temper.

The show, in my opinion, was top shelf in throughout the '90's, although it started to degrade somewhat towards the end of the decade. That Schiff was still around kept the second half of the show strong, but his departure after the 1999-2000 season left a hole in the show for sure, no matter how small his role was.

In the next episode of The Loop and The Lou, Coovo will dissect perfect form in a jump shot, and I'll explain why bacon makes everything better... stay tuned!!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Who are you? Who-who, who-who . . .

I was talking with my brother last night and he said that he enjoyed our last couple posts. I told him he should have left a comment. And he should have and so should you. Even if it is to tell us that reading this entry wasted 2 minutes of your life that you will never get back. We'd love to know that people are reading, but we also want to hear what people think about the law and order characters. Our friend Ryan Seacrest (the last name has been changed to protect him from his baby's mama) has been diligent in leaving us his thoughts and for that we could not be more appreciative. Of course you will need a Google account, which is kind of like saying you need be alive.

To encourage some comments, I ask the following questions:

Does anyone want to start a petition to increase Paris Hilton's jail sentence? more info

How many of you will watch another horse race before next year's Kentucky Derby?

For those in the Lou, do you need to start sandbagging? Let's hope not.

For those in the Loop, should the Bulls play with a book in their shorts to soften the blow of the spanking the're taking from the Pistons?

Lastly, it looks like our beloved Law & Order might be in some trouble. It looks to be headed to TNT for it's 18th season. Good or bad thing? Discuss.

Tune in soon. Things get dicey, as we now have to choose from the three people who upheld the law in New York County. The crotchety Adam Schiff, the mercurial Nora Lewin, or the staunch Arthur Branch.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

30 Years of Law & Order: Part III - Aye Cap'n

The following is part 3 of a 51 part series on "Law & Order". Other parts can be seen here:
What makes a good police captain? Historically, television (a.k.a. The Truth) has taught us that there are a few traits that a police captain must have:
  1. The ability to go on a tirade, spawned by a general disdain for a rogue, hot-shot detective.
  2. Some sort of medical condition, preferably an ulcer or a heart-condition. This should be treated by handfuls of non-descript pills washed down with Scotch.
  3. Either a multiple divorcee, or an Irish Catholic devoted father of 7.
  4. Without question, the captain is male. Chicks don't get ulcers.
We are pleased to say that Law & Order bucks the trend in this category. The role of Police Captain probably has the least impact of the 6 major characters on the show, but at times is called upon for a one-liner to close a scene, or to advance the story line when the detectives seem out of options.

Comparing Donn Florek (Capt. Donald Cragen) and S. Epatha Merkerson (Lt. Anita Van Buren) is similar to the Stone-McCoy issue; Florek was only on the show for the first 3 seasons, and Sepatha has become the longest-running active cast member. If possible, look past the pictures for our takes on each character.

Coovo's take:
It shocks me to know that Cragen was only on the show for three years. Upon further review, it was four years (1990-1993), but still a short time. It always seems like the originals were there longer than they were.

It took me a while to warm up to Cragen. Dan Florek's previous TV character was some whiny dude from LA Law. I hated that guy and it ruined my interpretation of Cragen. Cragen. I love the way it rolls off my tongue. Nice and Irish.

Van Buren is all balls, well, except for the obvious. She took the police to court after she thought she was passed over for the promotion. She always stands up to the males who try to put her in her place. However, except for a few shows, she just seems to have few lines. They're all something like, "That's strange, why don't you go back to the neighbor's alley and canvas it."

The question is, are we allowed to judge Cragen on his work in the SVU, where in my opinion, he is one badass captain and is making the world safe from pedophiles and rapists. If the answer is yes, I go with Cragen. If the answer is no, I go with Van Buren, because I just can't get that LA law dude out of my head.

Roller's take: Halle Berry is hot. They should do a Law & Order spinoff called like... "Law & Order: Halle Berry Swimsuit Edition". Every episode would have to have some horrible pun title like "The Court of Sex Appeals" or "Behind Bras". Florek has this look on his face like, "She gets her picture with Halle Berry, and I'm in suspenders?"

Anyway, Capt. Cragen was great because he was always stressed. Not so over-the-top as outlined in the intro to this column, but he always had a furrowed brow, and always answered the phone "WHAT?!?". I can't say the show skipped a beat when his character was replaced by Van Buren, but he was good; what you expected out of an NYC police captain.

I was never felt strongly one way or another on Anita Van Buren. She lacked the fire that I thought a police lieutenant would have, although in some scenes that quality has actually scored points with me. I've seen a few episodes where she gets some one-on-one time with the accused, a racist or a psycho, and her moral high ground approach was refreshing.

In the end I gotta go with Van Buren. It's kind of like having Nel Carter run the Detectives Unit, and in a fight Cragen wouldn't last 2 rounds against Nel.