Tuesday, October 30, 2007

RIP, Snoop Doggy Dogg

"Sexual Eruption" – Snoop's new single.

And, so it ends.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #8

Cleveland at St. Louis

Aaron: The Browns have steamrolled over some of the league's worst teams and m'thinks the 0-7 Rams certainly qualify. But, the Browns are 0-2 on the road this year, you say? Those games were against New England and Oakland, I retort. Ahem. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Okay, here's where you have to start thinking that the Rams are bound to win at least one game, and so every home game becomes possibly The One They'll Win. Not having the first damn clue whether Cleveland is actually a decent team or not doesn't help. ...Oh, hell. Pick: St. Louis

Detroit at Chicago

Aaron: The Rex Grossman-version of the Bears lost to the God-rooting-for-Kitna version of the Lions last month. Grossman is now on the bench and I'm hoping God's attention has moved a few thousand miles to the west. Specifically, to the Taco Bell a half mile from my house. And also to my house. Pick: Chicago

Joe: I think Detroit has become my "pick them at home, pick against them on the road" team of the season, much like the 49ers last season. Pick: Chicago

Indianapolis at Carolina

Aaron: If the Panthers had even an average QB behind center on Sunday, I'd call this the very definition of a trap game for the Colts. Indy's got the Patriots next week and Carolina's QB combo of Carr/Testeverde should provide a nice preseason-esque warm-up. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: Just so long as nobody calls out the Pats after the game and invokes The Great And Terrible Vengeance Of Belichick's Half-Sleeves for next week. Pick: Indianapolis

N.Y. Giants at Miami

Aaron: This has been quite the challenging out-of-conference schedule for the Giants this year, no? And, of the Giants eight games after this, only three should pose a challenge. NY writers will credit the retirement of Tiki Barber and maturation of Eli Manning as the reasons for this 12-4 season. The moral? Mike Lupica is a f*ckin' idiot. Pick: N.Y. Giants

Joe: Glad you've caught up to the rest of us. Pity that he never got swallowed whole by a brunch-crazed Bill Conlan, mistaking him for a strip of bacon, back in the halcyon days of The Sports Reporters. Aw, remember the classic days of The Sports Reporters? Where have you gone, Dick Schapp? ...Oh. Pick: NY Giants

Oakland at Tennessee

Aaron: My Raiders are done winning for awhile. And, news this week that 20% of the team had been sold was muted by the fact that it wasn't any of Al Davis' 20%. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Here's a question that should keep everyone busy until kickoff time: are the Titans any good as a football team? They've won some games, but...you know? They don't seem all that good. Not like this week will be of any help. Pick: Tennessee

Philadelphia at Minnesota

Aaron: As long as the Vikings keep their most dynamic player out of the offense on almost half their plays, every one of their opponents has a chance. Minnesota head coach Tobias Funke might wanna unleash Adrian Peterson against the Eagles tough run D. Die with your boots on and all that rot... Pick: Minnesota

Joe: At halftime, Peterson and Brian Westbrook will have a summit at the 50-yard-line where they will discuss how sick they are of propping up a crappy team all by themselves and pledge to buy the Buffalo Bills and run it on their own, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, once Ralph Wilson finally dies. (...Man, if Ralph Wilson somehow dies this week, I am gonna feel like a shit.) Pick: Philadelphia

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

Aaron: The Bengals still have a pretty nice offense and the Steelers did look bad in last week's inexplicable loss to Broadway Jay Cutler and Denver. The difference here is that pride's at stake. It's Western Pennsylvania vs. Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky! Really...no one wins! Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: If the Steelers hadn't lost last week, I'd say the Bengals have a chance to catch them on an off week, but not so much anymore. In other news, anyone who wants to witness me commit Hara Kiri in public as I consider once again how I could have had TJ Houshmandzedeh (in addition to the Randy Moss I already have) on my fantasy team this season, please meet me in Central Park on Sunday evening. Pick: Pittsburgh

Buffalo at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: Two bad offenses meet two bad defenses. At 1-6, the Jets are the bigger mess, though. Then again, they're at home, where they won their only game of the season. Against Miami. F*ck it, where's my coin? Pick: N.Y. Jets

Joe: I pledged to pick the Bills only once this season, and it paid off last week. This week, I go back to picking against them and hoping I'm wrong. Pick: NY Jets

Houston at San Diego

Aaron: For one week, I'll keep my Chargers bashing to a minimum. San Diego does love this team of steroid cheats and crybaby "classy individuals". Conversely, the Chargers bond with the community is as strong as any other team in the league. They won't lose a game that uses "dedicated to..." a million times between now and Sunday. Pick: San Diego

Joe: If you keep holding your nose like that, Cam, you won't be able to inhale the fragrant aroma of that lei they give you as your board your plane back home from Hawai'i. Pick: San Diego

Jacksonville at Tampa Bay

Aaron: The Jags have some key injuries on offense, while the Bucs have two cupcakes and a bye spread over their next four weeks. And, we're talking bad cupcakes like those Hostess chocolate cake/chocolate frosting ones. Not, good cupcakes like those Hostess yellow cake/chocolate frosting ones. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: Jacksonville versus Tampa...in the battle over which Floridian city you'd least want to make your vacation spot? No, football, I guess. My gut says Tampa, but we've been too similar in our picks this week. Pick: Jacksonville

New Orleans at San Francisco

Aaron: Put it this way: whether it's 75% of injured 49ers QB Alex Smith or 100% of sh*tty back-up QB Trent Dilfer, it doesn't matter. The Saints are in the middle of one of those short-lived "we knew they weren't this bad" stretches that won't end until they win a few more games. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Yikes. I thought New Orleans would be a slam dunk last week and yet they limped all the way past freaking Atlanta. Maybe they really are just that shitty. So are the Niners, of course. Pick: New Orleans

Washington at New England

Aaron: In the span of a few hours, the Pats will lay waste to the Redskins and the Red Sox could finish off the Rockies in the World Series. Enjoy the next six months on the east coast, dear readers. Pick: New England

Joe: Didn't you just finish telling your readers that we all live on the East Coast, via your wah-wah, boo-hoo, we have to hear about New York and Philly and Boston East Coast Bias rant? Enjoy the next six months, everyone. Pick: New England

Ed. Note: I can just turn off ESPN for the next few months. Even if you did, Brooklyn Joe, you couldn't escape Mike & The Mad Dog, the NY Tabloids and the idle chatter of the crazy guy next to you on the underground railroad you call "Sub-way"

Green Bay at Denver

Aaron: Brett Favre had a week off to rest his tired bones. Can his Monday Night Mojo win out, even without a running game? I hear he's got a friend/relative/neighbor who's sick/dead/dying. I feel safer not knowing this guy. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Hey, if John Madden and Peter King aren't going to be there, maybe Brett will forget there's even a game to be played. I don't think Denver was nearly as bad as they were being made out to be. Pick: Denver

Maui – The Miniseries, Part VII

It's our last night here in paradise, before returning home to…well, paradise. (Sorry, but I'm going to have to postdate that line until the smoke clears in Southern California.)

Anyways, before The Cam Fam left the mainland, I posted about the three things most likely to be blog fodder from Hawaii. And, during this past week, I've covered the flight from San Diego and the whole "sports come on too damn early out here" angle.

Which leaves us with the grub.

If any of you ever make it out this way, you'd be a damn fool not to try Maui Tacos – a chain restaurant that's something of a Hawaiian-Mexican fusion. We ate there two or three times and tonight they served me a spicy fish burrito that was about the size of my head. Like everything else out here, it's a little pricey (you might not wanna drop $9.00 on a burrito), but I guarantee it'll crack the top two of your favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican joints.

We also did two lunches at The Tiki Lounge. And, while the food was equally awesome (God bless the man who finally decided to Kahlua barbecue all those pigs he was slaughtering) it's actually a bar with live music (Lupe Fiasco's here next month?!) when the sun goes down. If I was young and/or alive and/or the wife was still in San Diego, I'd be out on the prowl with all you crazy kids doin' the motorcycle dance and such.

Then, there's the Spam.

Well, there was the Spam…once.

Three menu items, two ubiquitous fast food restaurants and one encounter with Hawaii's favorite processed pork product.

Portuguese Sausage Platter: "Burger King" and "breakfast" aren't usually two words I associate with each other. In fact, breakfast for me usually consists of three cups of coffee and the knowledge that I'll be in the office for the next ten or eleven hours. But, our friends at BK brought the goodness with three kind-of spicy sausage slices, a mountain of sticky rice and a serving of surprisingly tasty scramby eggs.

I passed on the two packets of Soy Sauce (on the mainland, we call it "soy-dium sauce") that came with it, but I still think I got the "island experience" without them. Grade: 4 (out of 5)

Haupia Pie: I caught a local McDonald's commercial for this dessert and opted to order one after a ginormous late lunch at a separate restaurant a few days ago. Not really sure what I was thinking, since Haupia is a kind of coconut/coconut milk pudding that's a staple at luaus…and, I don't really like coconut. But, for a buck, I was game. On the plus side, the McDs out here still deep fry their pies. The wonderfully greasy crust saved this one from a negative rating, but the too-rich-for-my-blood innards were overwhelmingly coconut. So hot…haupia was a bad choice. Grade: 1

Spam™ & Eggs Platter: It was back to McDonald's for their take on this classic Hawaiian favorite. And, the locals should be lighting their torches and sharpening their spears in violent, stereotypical protest. Christ, this was awful. I mean, it's Spam™, so it's not like I had any expectations, but still.

The meat wasn't fried (which is supposed to be the best way to eat it) and tasted like it was just warmed from can fat to microwave. The eggs were that dark yellow color signifying either "overcooked" or "cooked, cooled, cold, then reheated". From the taste, I'm going with the latter. And, the rice was just good ol' Uncle Ben's, not the sticky kind that accompanies similar cuisines. I'm stickin' to McGriddles. Grade: - 5

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Maui – The Miniseries, Part VI

In hockey, they call it the "playoff beard".

For me, it's the "vacation beard".

A razor hasn't touched the delicate butterscotch features of my face in two weeks.

It's also, quite possibly, the worst "beard" in human history.

Imagine – if you will – a patchy thatch of scraggly stubble. The mustache portion curls down the side of mouth, but only about half an inch. It also doesn't want to connect at the center of my upper lip, like every other acceptable cookie duster.

I've kept a soul patch for as long as I can remember. It's really the only facial hair aspect that (normally) looks normal on me. But, after 14 days of neglect…well, just take your right hand and put your wrist (palm of hand facing the ground) to your bottom lip. Now, spread your fingers as far as they'll go.

Since I can't grow sideburns, my "beard" really connects to nothing. The bottom of my jaw is populated with follicles and so are the sides. And, for some reason, my chin seems to be the only other area of my face that got the beard-grow memo.

I freely admit it looks like sh*t, but on the plus side, it's one of the rare times when I can compare myself to …an actor of moderate acclaim.

It's a long story. Y'see, my grandmother's white on my mother's side and…ah, never mind.

Maui – The Miniseries, Part V

As I type this, the Rockies lead the Red Sox 1-0 in the top of the third inning of the 2007 World Series' second game.

It's 3:15 PM, Hawaiian time.

Before I reached this savage land of alcohol served from floating bars in the pool, I thought that early-in-the-day sports would be one of the best things about being out here.

How wrong I was.

People are still at work and kids are still in school. I watched most of yesterday's World Series game while Jalen took his mid-afternoon nap. It wasn't "convenient"…it was creepy. Even with the usual eight-hour nationally televised playoff game rules in play, the final out came before sundown.

Back on Sunday, the first NFL games came on the air at 7:00 AM! I cracked a Sam Adams and enjoyed a leftover slice just as the Patriots and Dolphins were kicking off.

At 7:00 AM!

Look, we can all agree that East Coast fans have it the worst. National games in prime time often don't end until 1:00 AM or later, while they have no choice but to ignore any team that plays in the two leftmost time zones of the contiguous 48 states. Sure, they're rewarded with 24/7 coverage of their teams, good or bad, on the ESPN family of networks, but still…

Which is why – to quote the late Negro poet Tupac Shakur – "the West Side is the best side".

We get the shoved-down-our-throats news and notes of all teams from such far-off outposts as New York, Philadelphia and Boston, plus we can catch the games from teams who finish their games just as the 2:00 AM, (11:00 PM PDT) Sportscenter is coming on the air. It's the best of all worlds, kids.

And, that's why Hawaii should have their statehood revoked.

If you want to follow your favorite baseball team out here, you'll need $169 for the MLB Extra Innings package and a boss who'll let you leave early if you want to watch a Yankees home game start at 1:35 PM local Island time during the week. Sure, you can DVR it, but good luck avoiding the score for five or six hours.

If you want to watch some pro football, you'll have to curtail your Saturday night drinking so you're sober enough to watch the kickoff. If you'd rather live dangerously, you can still stay out late, but you're running the risk of stumbling in the front door at 5:00 AM Sunday morning only to find Emmitt Smith's slaughtering of syntax on your plasma screen as ESPN's NFL Gameday is starting.

This is a beautiful place…but, backwards in so many, many ways.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Maui – The Miniseries, Part IV

In the midst of the least relaxing family vacation in 25 years ("I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose!") I'm left as acting Bootleg Family Leader while the wife remains glued to the laptop for news from San Diego. One of her girlfriends from home reports that Stately Bootleg Manor remains intact, so keep those fingers crossed for the only Black people that most of you know.

Now, normally, I abstain from watching the national media and especially when they're breathlessly covering a tragedy with their voices set on "solemn", "maudlin" or "Owen Hart". But, we're a six hour plane ride from home, so we make do with what we've got on Hawaiian television.

Overall, the CNNs and MSNBCs and Oppressed Rich White Guys Network Fox Newses have been informative with only a minimal amount of sensationalism. Just a few quick hits:

(1) Rancho Bernardo isn't a city, news guys. If you send us a letter, you have to address it to "San Diego". We're not on the outskirts, we're not a suburb, and we're still San Diego.

(2) San Diego is a good two hours from Los Angeles. The national notion that "Southern California" is one humungous homogenous community is laughable to anyone who lives out here. Furthermore, San Diegans hate Los Angeles. My heart still belongs to L.A., but I'd never live in that gridlocked cesspool of traffic and Crips, ever again.

(3) Finally...could someone tell the media to cool it with the whole "boy, this sure isn't like the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina" angle when reporting from Qualcomm Stadium and the 20,000-some evacuees who are there? The subliminal media message is obviously that San Diegans are more civilized, but the two situations are – to quote the most recent post at FireJoeMorgan – like apples and turds.

Anyways…back to the usual TBG crap, shortly. I went to Burger King this morning and enjoyed a "Portuguese Sausage Platter". Tomorrow, it's McDonald's and their Spam meal. Who wins? Who cares? Hey, you're the one reading this.

And, I thank you for it :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Maui – The Miniseries, Part III

Ask me how my day was.


We're still trying to get acclimated to this whole "three hours behind civilization" gimmick that Hawaii has, when the wife received a frantic phone call at 3:00 AM.

It seems our San Diego County community of Rancho Bernardo is…well, you've probably heard.

So, day three in Maui was spent huddled around the laptop and watching streaming local news feeds about fast-moving fires and calling anyone we knew who might be in harm's way.

OK…I did hop in the pool for an hour and make another smoothie run, but I'd planned the day around these things, anyway.

For those wondering, we appear to still have a home for now.

Oh, and our 17-year-old, cancer-surviving, thyroid-addled cat was evacuated from the pet boarding locale at around 5:00 AM this morning. I swear to God, that bastard will outlive us all.

Hang in there, adopted hometown.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Maui – The Miniseries, Part II

In my sleep-deprived haze, I forgot to mention one part of the story that's rather germane to the rest of Saturday. Earlier this month, I had the second of two major surgeries, as my temporary crown was replaced with a permanent. A couple of days before the permanent crown, I started having pain in and around that whole TMJ area, which has only gotten worse in the past few weeks.

I went to the doctor on Friday, handed over my $25 co-pay and was told pretty much the same thing that I found with my own internet self-diagnosis. The doctor did tell me two things, though: (1) Flying wasn't a good idea and (2) if I do fly, don't try and chew gum if my ears won't pop.

12:01 PM - My ears are killing me. The pressure is akin to a sinus headache that's been localized within my right ear. After an hour of this, I get some gum from Mrs. Bootleg.

12:10 PM - We're driving down one of Maui's million or so unpronounceable highways and passing street names with two or three superfluous reverse apostrophes. Mrs. Bootleg is holding the map, which is always an awful idea, but like my once-a-year lunch at McDonald's, I keep doing this and always regret it.

12:20 PM - And, we're lost. Y'see…Mrs. Bootleg reads map directions by looking at the entire page of left turns and right turns and final destinations, instead of traveling one landmark at a time. As I told her, I don't care what I'm supposed to do when I get to Main Street if I haven't even gotten to Main Street yet. Now, try to imagine her unique brand of over analysis-cum-nonsense with street names like Puukoll'i Road and Kaahumanu'u Ave, which she describes for me – the driver – as "Kah…Kahma…something".

12:30 PM - We don't stay lost for long. I've since snatched the map from Mrs. Bootleg's hands – and with an exaggerated dramatic flair worthy of a daytime Emmy. Meanwhile, the right side of my head has caved in from the ear/jaw pressure that hasn't been alleviated. Seems the gum has only made things worse.

12:45 PM - We arrive at our timeshare/condo dealie and inquire about checking in early (check-in is usually at 4:00 PM). We're told our room isn't ready. Meanwhile, Little Boy Bootleg – who had been screaming bloody murder for the past 20 minutes – has finally regained custody of his Disney Cars™ Sticker Book that he dropped earlier in the car ride.

12:46 PM - Jalen has lost the book again. With Mrs. Bootleg no less than three feet from him, the boy has lost the book that I just found for him not 60 seconds ago.

12:46 PM and 30 seconds - Mrs. Bootleg has completed her exhaustive "search" for the book, unsuccessfully.

12:47 PM - A once-again screaming child, a throbbing jaw/ear and a disinterested wife lead to my inevitable once-a-vacation blow-up at everyone. Mrs. Bootleg quickly – and, cruelly – responds that she'll never go on vacation with me, again. We're currently two hours and 47 minutes into a week-long stay.

1:00 PM - Nothing soothes spousal wounds better than Jamba Juice. Three "Strawberry Wilds" between us and everyone's back to barely tolerating each other.

1:30 PM - We drive back to the condo and opt to walk over to the beach which, like every place in Hawaii, is right across the street. Fun Fact: Maui is actually a suburb of the sun. Those picturesque Hawaiian sunsets just might be the planet Mercury. I will be bitching about the heat for the next seven days.

2:30 PM - We don't even last an hour in the water, as we're already back at the condo. No one could find the sunscreen and me n' wifey had seen The Farrelly Brothers' The Heartbreaker last weekend. If you haven't seen it, this entry will be entirely lost on you. Of course, I could just say we were afraid of getting sunburned, but that's just lazy writing…

2:45 PM - Our room still isn't ready, so we drive over to the local Safeway for some groceries. Now, I always laugh when I hear people cry about the standard of living in California. I suppose it's expensive to live out here, but our salaries are also higher than the average American's, so in my "Econ 101" mind, it all evens out.

My friends…Hawaii is expensive. Seven bucks for a bottle of orange juice? Seven bucks for a gallon of milk?! Six bucks for a 12.75 oz. bag of Lay's salt n' vinegar chips? $5.69 for Cheez-Its? Jesus, Joseph & Mary…how do these surf-all-day leathery locals afford to eat? Amazingly, a pack of Hebrew National hot dogs was just $3.00. These cost about $4.50 on the mainland. Is there cheap Kosher livestock under all those sugar canes?

3:15 PM - Jalen puts the capper on the afternoon when he asks to go to the bathroom. I generally loathe doody duty in public restrooms, as my son is still at the age where he touches everything. But, I sucked it up and entered – without any hint of hyperbole – the dirtiest public restroom I've ever been in. And, I've been to bathrooms on the beach, kids.

Without getting into too much detail, let me take you back to my first year at San Diego State. At my second college party, an inebriated Aaron Cameron staggered into our host's upstairs restroom to puke booze and any non-functioning organs in the privacy of someone else's home.

I lifted the lid, only to find that the previous user had bombed it from the other end, which, naturally, led me to projectile wretch over everything else in there.

This restroom at Safeway was worse than that.

Without getting into too much detail.

Maui – The Miniseries, Part I

I'm typing this from the beautiful livable Worldmark Resort at Keihei.

It's five-frickin'-thirty Hawaii time…and I've been up for the last three hours.

Y'see, at two-frickin'-thirty Hawaii time, Little Boy Bootleg came looking for his Radiator Springs Lightning McQueen race car, which he apparently thought was under my pillow. It wasn't. And, my threat to put him under my pillow was met with a toddler's laughter. (This, by the way, negates any felonious overtones that the threat of death by suffocation might imply.)

Time's a wastin'…here are the highlights from the first few hours:

6:18 AM - It's Saturday morning. Our flight from San Diego leaves at 8:30 AM and we're almost 20 minutes behind the wife's meticulously militarized motorcade schedule. We haven't even left the house yet and Mrs. Bootleg is a jangled mass of exposed nerve endings. I'm not moving fast enough for her liking, but we've got the garage door up and the engine's running. The Cam Fam's going to Haw…

6:19 AM - I forgot my wedding band. Mrs. Bootleg huffs out of the car – like I did this on purpose – and storms back inside.

6:20 AM - She's back. And, now The Cam Fam can head to Haw… I just realize that I forgot to pack pretty much all of my toiletries. I keep this little omission to myself.

7:15 AM - It takes a little longer than the wife planned for us to get to the airport. There was some unexpected early morning traffic as the residue from the overnight road construction crews had us goin' pretty slow for a few miles. This is always a hoot when driving with Mrs. Bootleg. She's just 4'8", anyway, but she'll stand up in her chair and crane her neck around other cars in a sad attempt to see what's holding us up. My suggestion to roll down the window and shake her fist at the guys with orange-reflector vests in a comically threatening manner falls on deaf and annoyed ears.

7:30 AM - The wife finds out that our seats aren't together. It's times like these that I wish all those people who tell me how "nice" my wife is could be here.

7:40 AM - Mrs. Bootleg successfully negotiates the relocation of my seat, but only to the row in front of the wife and the boy. All things considered, I think I still make out ahead, here.

8:00 AM - At the gate, we run into the Director of my department (my boss's boss). He's going to Maui, too. Same flight. How cool is that?! And, by "cool" I mean "f*cked". He offers us one of those "Things to do on Maui" books, which we accept, but, curiously, he doesn't disclose where he's staying or suggest that we "get together" when we get there. Of course, this is fine by me, but it would've been nice to at least have a chance to half-heartedly accept before spending the rest of the trip avoiding his phone calls. Before this, I didn't think he was racist, but now…

8:30 AM - This is one of those big-ass planes with the 2-3-2 seating set-up. I'm in 41B, while the wife and boy are in the two seats in row 42. Just as the doors are about to close, the empty seat next to me is filled with a bit of delicious. Her name is Meredith and, knowing what I'm thinking, Mrs. Bootleg (or "my mother", as I introduced her to Mer) pinches my arm.

11:00 AM, Hawaii Time - The flight was uneventful, for the most part, save for the fact that Jalen was awake the whole time. Unbeknownst to me, Mrs. Bootleg had been doing some reading on her own. (I know!) It seems there's been a bit of a hubbub over children's cold medicines in the news, so she opted for natural sleep for the boy…which never came. On a five and a half hour flight. I asked Mer to let me know if he was ever a problem and I'd have them both moved, but she seemed fine. Fine.

11:15 AM - Hawaii should lose their statehood for the fact that the baggage claim at Maui's airport is outside. I mean, it's kind of enclosed, but only in the way that a parking garage is "enclosed". There's a roof over your head, but there aren't any walls around you. Savages.

11:30 AM - We've got all our bags and we're starting the long walk to the rental car kiosk, which is as good a time as any to bring up this up: Remember when I went to Sacramento a few summers ago? How 'bout my business trips to St. Louis and Orlando earlier this year? Well, Maui is hotter and more humid than the three of them, combined. Hell is actually Satan's vacation spot from his year-round home on the coast here. Christ. (There…that should balance out the blasphemy.)

12:00 PM - The shuttle takes us to our rental car and the "laid-back Hawaiian vibe" that everyone talks about rears its too-tanned melanoma mug, immediately. Unlike every other rental car arrangement I've had that assigns its car to the customers, the National Car Rental of Maui drops you off and tells you to pick your own. We leave with a surprisingly beat-up Pontiac Torrent. It was the best of a sorry lot that included a Saturn SUV. Savages.

We've got a shaky internet connection, so there's a chance I'll be off more than I'm on, but come back for Part II and watch Mrs. Bootleg's head explode…before we even get to our room!

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #7

Arizona at Washington

Aaron: Where's your God now, Kurt Warner?! Last week's loss at home to Jurassic Testeverde and his salt-and-pepper perm doesn't bode well for the future. Pick: Washington

Joe: Even worse for 'Zona, they may have to start Tim Rattay (that's French for "ratty") this week. In other news, Black Quarterback Jason Campbell (tm Cam) makes his first appearance in my fantasy ball starting lineup. Don't make me regret it, kid. Pick: Washington

Ed. Note: Joe's original pick ended with the word "boy". Changed to bring his racially dismissive tone into the 21st century.

Atlanta at New Orleans

Aaron: In my defense, I came this close to calling last week's surprising Saints win. Between that and my lukewarm support of FOX's "K-Ville", I feel infinitely better about not donating to that whole Red Cross Disaster Relief thingie two summers ago. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: "Lukewarm support" doesn't put food on Anthony Anderson's table. Here's where the Saints fool people into thinking they can make a run at the playoffs. Pick: New Orleans

Baltimore at Buffalo

Aaron: Once...just once...I'd like for Joe's Bills to be on the "famous" side of all those "infamous" NFL moments they've played a part in over the years. Frank Reich, notwithstanding. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Take your pity and stuff it in a sock, Cam. Here's where I make my annual overly-optimistic homer pick. Pick: Buffalo

New England at Miami

Aaron: At this point, what's more likely to happen: Pats win by 50 or Bill Simmons gracing us all with another Monday morning column about New England's domination? Heaven help us all if the Red Sox beat the Indians. Pick: New England

Joe: I actually can't root for Miami here, under Champagne Toast Ordinance, Article VI. So I'll do what I normally do: hope for a big fantasy day for Moss and seethe with resentment. Pick: New England

San Francisco at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: Wait...when did Eli Manning get all "not bad", again? And, which juggernaut do we credit him for taking down - the Jets or Falcons? Pick: N.Y. Giants

Joe: Hey, remember the early 1990s? When this was the matchup in the NFC? Now it's just the Giants' latest chance to fatten up on a crappy team in preparation for their annual late-season swoon when they all quit on their coach. Pick: NY Giants

Tampa Bay at Detroit

Aaron: The Lions' 2-0 start was just precious. I'm equally unconvinced that this Bucs squad is legit...but, they're hot and my usual "who's got the better helmet" pick strategy hasn't worked so well. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: Am I the only one who remembers that A) the Lions are at home, B) they've got one thousand WRs who love to score TDs, and C) Tampa doesn't have a running back? Pick: Detroit

Tennessee at Houston

Aaron: Titans QB Vince Young is reportedly a game time decision. If he starts Titans win, if he doesn't, the Texans will take it. Just covering my ass, kids. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: I miss thinking that the Texans might make the playoffs. Pick: Tennessee

Kansas City at Oakland

Aaron: Well, the Raiders were nicely exposed for anyone who thought they were strong underdog play (+10) last week. This week, they're actually 2 or 3 point favorites at home. This one's free money, kids. Pick: Kansas City

Joe: No faith in your boys, Cam. You're not fit to wear those spiked shoulder pads. 'Course, neither am I. Thank God. Pick: Kansas City

N.Y. Jets at Cincinnati

Aaron: Chad Johnson has announced that there'll be no more end zone celebrations until the Bengals start winning. Way to be all unselfish in the same week you've got the Jets, Chadwick. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: I'd kind of love to pick the Jets here, but that's when I remember that they can't run, or pass, or stop the run, or stop the pass. The weird thing is, three of those four things were true last year, too, and they made the playoffs. Pick: Cincinnati

Chicago at Philadelphia

Aaron: Adrian Peterson, Schmadrian Peterson...the Vikings are horrible and the Bears' season officially ended last Sunday. Donovan McNabb's statue lives another week. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: I shall continue to ride the sinking ship knows as the 2007 Chicago Bears. It's just me and Lovie right now, drinking out of coconuts and talking in pirate voices. Pick: Chicago

Minnesota at Dallas

Aaron: Were the Cowboys really talking trash after last week's annihilation vs. New England? Hard to believe the 'Boys were actually the less douchey of the two teams going into that game. They still are, but Dallas has closed the gap. Pick: Dallas

Joe: They're still the class of the NFC, and by a wide margin at that. Pick: Dallas

St. Louis at Seattle

Aaron: Rams QB Marc Bulger is back! Believe it or not that could actually be the difference. It won't be, but, damn it...it could. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Shaun Alexander, you should be ashamed of yourself. Pick: Seattle

Pittsburgh at Denver

Aaron: The thought of this Steelers defense against the wonderfully shaky game of Broncos' QB Jay Cutler just warms the coldest corners of my heart. F*ck him up, guys. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: For the record, it's comments like Cam's that scared me away from starting Cutler on my fantasy team this week. Expect a call from my attorney if the Broncs light things up this week. Pick: Pittsburgh

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

Aaron: The Jags have beaten Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver and Houston. The smoke and mirrors act ends here. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: 'Specially if Joseph Addai is back. Not that we didn't all love Kenton Keith. Doesn't that sound like the name of an old jazz musician who the Huxtables would have known? ...No? Pick: Indianapolis

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

We Call It…The Good Morning Burrito!

Can this be true?

If so, three things about the article:

1.) "Food porn"!

2.) I think "country breakfast bomb" actually would've been a better name.

3.) It's available in a combo meal with a side of more deep fried grease and salt?


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Maui? Wowie!

This Saturday, the Bootleg Family heads to Hawaii for our second annual family vacation. Last year, we spent a week in the Pacific Northwest (four days in Seattle, three days in Vancouver). The highlights included (1) Lay's Ketchup Potato Chips, which are only available in Canada and (2) my run-in with rapper/actor/raconteur, Ice Cube.

I'm taking my laptop, so I'm hopeful that there'll be relatively real time updates here at TBG. And, you'll want to make sure to be here next week for updates on the three most intriguing things about this trip – in no particular order:

The Flight - Pray for me. It's a 30-minute drive to the "Park n' Ride" shuttle parking lot from our house. Then, we'll unload a week's worth of luggage from our car once we get there. It's another 10 minutes to the airport and 20 more to get through security…if we're lucky. We'll wait an hour or so at the gate and then we'll finally be allowed to board our flight to Maui.

That would be our six hour flight to Maui.

As all of you know, we have a 3-year-old son. He's flown a few times, but never more than 2 ½ hours, so the wife and I have been stockpiling new toys and movies in the hope that we can buy his silence for those 360 minutes of flight time. Mrs. Bootleg and I have meticulously planned this like a military assault on our son's senses ("Let's not show him our big guns too soon. We'll start with The Cars™ coloring book and work our way up to the Benadryl. Remember, this is a round-trip that we're contending with!")

Live…on Tape Delay - Curiously, I can't seem to find a consensus on this. Will Sunday's slate of NFL games really start at 7:00 AM local time on the island? Various Google search seem to indicate that ESPN airs Monday Night Football live at 2:30 PM, then replays it at 7:00 PM and that's all well n' good.

But, can I really start drinking at 7:00 AM this Sunday? And, does ESPN's pre-game NFL scream-n-yell actually start at 5:00 AM out there? I'll let y'all know!

The Spam - F*ck it. I'm doing it here…aaaaaaaand, doing it here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #6

Cincinnati at Kansas City

Aaron: The Chiefs have looked better recently, while the Bengals are coming off a bye week. In "Psych 101" terms, it's the "recency effect" vs. "the recently had the week off" effect. No contest. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: This would probably be a more exciting game if it featured Ickey Woods versus Christian Okoye. As it stands, the Bengals have to beat somebody soon. Pick: Cincinnati

Houston at Jacksonville

Aaron: A loss to the woeful Falcons and a squeak-by win against the woe-fuller Dolphins has officially started the "fraud clock" on the Texans. I sure hope the media still has a few hundred "Houston, We Have a Problem" headlines in them. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Once again, I shall try to undermine Jacksonville's success with the power of prediction. Pick: Houston

Miami at Cleveland

Aaron: Sooo…how's that whole "draft Ted Ginn, Jr. over Brady Quinn" decision working out, Miami? Meanwhile, funeral services for oft-concussed Dolphins QB Trent Green shouldn't conflict with the opening kickoff. Pick: Cleveland

Joe: Yet another week of the "Derek Anderson: Shitty QB With Awesome Numbers" show. Pick: Cleveland

Minnesota at Chicago

Aaron: Well, on the one hand the Bears upset the Packers (and the traveling "Friends of Favre" phalanx in the media) last Sunday. On the other hand, they didn't break any of Favre's bones as I'd hope. Can't call it a "win", Chicago. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Save for Adrian Peterson, Minny's one of those "I never knew they were THAT bad" teams. Pick: Chicago

Philadelphia at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: I got burned by the Eagles two weeks ago, when I picked them against the other New York team. I look at this as a do-over for everyone involved. Everyone, Donovan. Don't make me regret this. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Two teams I have absolutely no handle on whatsoever means I'm...picking the home team? Not if Brian Westbrook's back, I'm not. Pick: Philadelphia

St. Louis at Baltimore

Aaron: Pretty sure that the Ravens' 9-7 win last week set the league back by 35 years. Winning teams who don't break 10 points should be demoted to the Canadian League for a week. Doug Flutie was like White Jesus there, y'know. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Hmmm, we're definitely into "it's gotta happen sometime" territory with the winless Rams. But not this week. Pick: Baltimore

Tennessee at Tampa Bay

Aaron: Interesting match-up of two otherwise anonymous teams. And, the previous sentence couldn't have been typed without "h-o-m-e t-e-a-m". Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: It is an interesting matchup. This could be where we see how serious a contender the Bucs are this season. Pick: Tennessee

Washington at Green Bay

Aaron: How many more weeks before we can seriously start contemplating a Brett Favre v. Tom Brady Super Bowl? With the huge P.R. hit the NFL has taken this year, is the fix in for a contrived storyline that would collapse our very solar system? Did you hear that? Peter King just came. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: All that QB talk and not a peep for Jason Campbell? The guy who's going to win this week? Pick: Washington

Carolina at Arizona

Aaron: C'mon…Cards QB Kurt Warner at home on The Lord's Day? And with his spiky-haired adopted son Brenda in the stands? Just keep that roof open so Jesus can peek in! Pick: Arizona

Joe: I...can't compete with that. Pick: Arizona

New England at Dallas

Aaron: Cowboys fans remain among sport's most obnoxious, but the ones who talked sh*t after that game in Buffalo last Monday night are the worst of them all. That was a "team win"? That was Cowboys' football? New England…destroy them. Pick: New England

Joe: Much as I hate the Cowboys after last week (Nick Folk can burn in hell with all the other kickers who have wronged this team over the years), I hope they rock the fuck out of the most hated team in football (probably). Pick: Dallas

Oakland at San Diego

Aaron: The Raiders are a mediocre football team without a fraction of the talent of the Chargers. Keep in mind, though, that six weeks ago, San Diego was printing Super Bowl tickets. Today, they're settling for a week-long parade after vanquishing the Raiders. Pick: San Diego

Joe: "Keep in mind, though"? Oh, Cam. How the mighty have...remained fallen. Pick: San Diego

New Orleans at Seattle

Aaron: The Saints are going to sneak up on someone and bite 'em on the ass. Drew Brees will put up a 400-yard game out of nowhere and Reggie Bush will score a couple of spectacular touchdowns. On the road in one of the league's toughest places for a visiting team? Nope. But, I need to close the gap with Joe. Hedging…hedging… Pick: Seattle

Joe: Well the Saints certainly won't do anything now that you've jinxed them. Pick: Seattle

N.Y. Giants at Atlanta

Aaron: Eli Manning's unique brand of vanilla…in the heart of Chocolate City! Pick: New York Giants

Joe: It's six weeks too late, but I still think visiting QBs should adopt a puppy from an Atlanta animal shelter the day before the game. Just because. Pick: Atlanta

Friday, October 12, 2007

The 200 Word Knee-jerk Review for ABC's Pushing Daisies

Finally got around to watching the series premiere of "Pushing Daisies" yesterday, so allow me to be the last man alive to proclaim it the bestest show of the new season. At the risk of getting gushy, I honestly can't remember the last time a show made me smile as much. Now, the premiere only had one or two laugh out loud moments ("Bitch, I was in random proximity!"), but from beginning to end, the characters were spilling sheer likeability all over my TV.

Lee Pace plays "Ned" – simple pie proprietor, who is able to bring back the dead with one touch and send 'em back to Jesus with a second. His earnest mug belies the anxiety this power presents and credit the show for embracing this moral conundrum – albeit half-heartedly – in the premiere. Chi McBride, who was a neutered tool in last season's "The Nine", is "Emerson" – a private dick who gently exploits Ned's powers into a partnership for monetary gain. The premiere episode spun a wonderful balance of humor, heart and heartbreak. The challenge, going forward, will be maintaining the show's quirky soul. Simply put: this is the show that's not for everybody, but actually is.

Verdict: WATCH!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Return to The Boondocks

Here in California, ESPN's Pardon the Interruption airs when most of the West Coast is still at work. This is actually a good thing, since the DVR saves every episode of PTI and I can fast forward right past segments entitled "Tiger", "Pats" and "NBA".

So, imagine my surprise on Tuesday evening - as I was preparing to get Michael Wilbon's and Tony Kornheiser's take on that bat-sh*t insane Monday Night Football game – to find that the DVR captured the season two premiere of The Boondocks on Adult Swim. It's been over 18 months since I originally afforded Aaron(!) McGruder's comic-strip series the coveted "record entire series" status and, quite frankly, I'd forgotten all about it.

How does Adult Swim not advertise the new season? Between me and the wife, we have subscriptions to four or five African-American themed magazines and none of them even mentioned this. Not even Ebony, which still runs an annual "baseball preview" made up solely of media mug shots of each team's Black player (singular, remember it's baseball).

For the uninitiated, The Boondocks is about two young boys (Huey & Riley Freeman) sent to live with their grandfather out in the lily white suburbs. Huey, 10, is the thoughtful militant, Riley, 8, is the gangsta-rap influenced voice and their granddad, voiced by John Witherspoon, is a lot like every character Witherspoon has ever played.

The first season was entertaining, if a little uneven, as several episodes sounded strong on their premise (sample titles: "Let's Nab Oprah", "The Trial of R. Kelly") but failed to deliver on any sort of satirical knockout blow. Even if you didn't see it, you might remember the infamous "Martin Luther King" episode on the receiving end of some Sharpton/Jackson condemnation. Still, even that take on MLK Y2K wasn't all it could've been.

Our season two premiere is entitled "…or Die Trying" and revolves around the family sneaking into the movies. The episode works mostly because of the over-the-top exploitation of the "Black Movie Theater Experience". Granddad sneaks in a sumptuous dinner, Riley mans the camcorder and everyone laughs uproariously at "Soul Plane 2: The Blackjacking!"

Speaking of which, Snoop Dogg and Mo'Nique appear in cameos that brilliantly skewer their buffoonish work in the original "Soul Plane". Seriously, did they not know that these voice-overs were essentially a self-referential insult? If so, they're a pair of crazy good sports. Oh, and the guest spot by "50 Cent" was equally awesome, right down to his mush mouth delivery and one-trick gimmick.

Welcome back, Boondocks.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Why I Now Hate the Dentist

Two weeks ago, I had a temporary crown crammed into my mouf. Yesterday, it was my second major surgical procedure in fourteen days, as my permanent crown was ready – which is more than I can say for me.

Y'see, I'd been having increasingly irritating mouth pain since the fitting of the temporary. The words "root canal" had been hinted at by my dentist if the pain persisted and we didn't get off to a good start when the dental assistant and I engaged in the following exchange:

Dental Asst: "The crown looks loose. You won't need Novocain. It should pop right off."

Dental Assistant twists(!) the temporary crown.


Dental Asst: "I guess I was wrong."

At this point, the temporary crown was halfway in and halfway out. I couldn't close my mouth, as Isaac Yankem went off to find a real dentist.

After three(!) injections of anesthetic – yes, three – the temporary crown comes off. Later, the dentist starts applying pressure to the top of my head and the bottom of my jaw as I "bite down" on the permanent crown.

In her words (keep in mind she's Indian – Dr. Namoo Dutta) "You have a big head." Imagine that in stereotypical Apu voice. Hey, thanks, Doc.

After I'm told the permanent crown is secure, another assistant is showing me "how easy it will be to floss around it". Now, I'm pretty sure I learned how to floss the same day I learned how to count to five, but what could possibly go wrong?

So, of course, while she's flossing me, the crown pops right off. And, in my prone position, the only place the crown can go is down my throat. "Don't swallow", she tells me, as the dental assistant goes fishing for the faux tooth top that's now around my esophagus.

I dare say – without a hint of hyperbole – that this is the most pain and suffering over anything relating to a crown since this seminal cinematic scene:

Even my son got in on the agony action. During some ill-advised pre-bedtime horseplay, the boy popped me in the side of mouth (yes, that side!) which caused my teeth to clack together and sent my entire (big) head into a tingling pins n' needles free-for-all.

And, that's why I now hate the dentist.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

I'm Smarter Than John Kruk & Eric Young Put Together

With the AL/NL Division Series behind us – and with me sporting the only 4-0 first round playoff pickery score in America! – your intrepid Bootleg Guy sets his sights on the Championship Series. So, what'd I say back in March?

ALCS: Red Sox over Indians
NLCS: Mets over Diamondbacks

Get on board my gravy train, gamblers! I'll even bring the biscuits. Aaron's sticking with the Sox (in six) over an impressive Indians squad. Favorite Storyline: Can Grady Sizemore replace Derek Jeter as America's favorite bi-racial ballplayer? Answer: not with hair so knotty and an 1870s freed-slave name like "Grady".

Oh, and thanks again, Tom Glavine, for ruining what would've been an unprecedented run of prognostication on my part. It's the Rockies vs. the D'Backs in the NLCS and me thinks Colorado's clock won't strike midnight any time soon. Rockies in six.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #5

Arizona at St. Louis

Aaron: Matt Leinart's post-game snit fits over playing time have become quite the storyline. Only one more week before he goes "Hope Solo" on everyone!. And, like Hope, he'll get complete pass from the media. Can anyone explain the difference between these athletes and "cancers" like Terrell Owens? Oh, wait… Pick: Arizona

Joe: If Matt Leinart were a fast food sandwich, Aaron would give him an absolutely scathing review on his blog. Pick: The Team That Is Not St. Louis. That is to say: Arizona

Atlanta at Tennessee

Aaron: There was something wonderfully ironic about documented Wonderlic idiot, Vince Young, appearing on 60 Minutes last Sunday. And, yes, I do equate Andy Rooney with rocket science. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: I'm guessing Vince didn't take part in one of their bi-monthly "robot computers are taking over our lives! Help Mike Wallace program his VCR!" reports. And yes, I am making fun of 60 Minutes rather than Vince Young because every time I mock Vince Young he scores three touchdowns and beats the Bills. Pick: Tennessee

Carolina at New Orleans

Aaron: The Saints season is washing away like…like…fine, it's been over two years…I can find a better analogy. In fact, I'm just saving it for next week. Meanwhile, the Saints are about as effective as FEMA these days. Fine, mock me. Now, let's all pretend to laugh at Joe's 500th reference to Drew Brees' birthmark. Pick: Carolina

Joe: All sorts of theories bumping up against each other this week. One is Carolina's one-on, one-off tendency (they lost last week, so they're set for a win this week). The other is the fact that a winless team playing at home, in their own division, past Week 4 is always, always, always dangerous. ...Bah, I've picked the same as Cam too much already. Pick: New Orleans

Cleveland at New England

Aaron: I assume the Pats are going to play the "victimized, vilified" role for the remainder of the season. And, with the most loaded roster of any team in over a decade. Come onnnnnn, Cleveland! Pick: New England

Joe: That's right, Pats and Pats fans. Count those chickens before they hatch. Get those fingers sized for rings. Plan the parade. Put that cart before the horse. Win that Super Bowl in October. Pick: New England

Detroit at Washington

Aaron: Hey, it's a rematch of the 1991-92 NFC Championship Game! That I knew this without looking it up belies the fact that I was actually quite popular with the ladies during that era. Reebok Pump shoes and Levi's 501 jeans…works every time. Pick: Washington

Joe: I actually remember that one as well, as it was one of those NFC Championship games with a "Winner gets to beat the Bills in the Super Bowl" stipulation. We woulda beat the Lions, I tells ya! Pick: Washington

Jacksonville at Kansas City

Aaron: Thank you, Kansas City, for turning the San Diego sports-talk airwaves into audio bliss for me this week. I'll understand if you guys want to take this Sunday off. In fact, I expect it. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: My inexplicable hatred for this Jags team continues unabated. Pick: Kansas City

Miami at Houston

Aaron: Watched last week's Dolphins/Raiders tilt. Miami is as bad a team as any I've seen since the Raiders. Last year. Injuries, schminjuries…the Texans will fillet the fish like a Filet-O-Fish. Oh, please. If Kanye West said that, you'd call him a "genius". Pick: Houston

Joe: You think if the '07 Dolphins went 0-16, Nick Buoniconti would shut the eff up? Pick: Houston

N.Y. Jets at N.Y. Giants

Aaron: Wow. Watch out in the stands, Meadowlands…the douchebags runneth over. It's times like these that I'm glad I live on the West Coast, where a-hole fans are properly punished via random stabbings at Raiders games. It's the only way they'll learn. Pick: N.Y. Giants

Joe: This at least limits the number of home market games hogging my Sunday afternoons around here. Of course, the Bills are gonna get slaughtered on national TV anyway, so the benefit is muted. Pick: NY Giants

Seattle at Pittsburgh

Aaron: My wife actually made the "Omar Epps" joke in reference to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin last week. You should've seen her face: so proud, smiling broadly…it was like she'd found the comedic equivalent to the cure for cancer. And, I was really gonna let her have that one (our anniversary is next month) until she suggested I put her "discovery" in my blog. And, yes, I did enjoy bursting her bubble. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: So am I to infer that you passed up the chance to do a parody of Mrs. Bill Simmon's fakey-fake rants in his weekly column by penning a "Mrs. Bootleg Speaks!" column yourself? Do you not want to make your readers happy? Pick: Seattle

Tampa Bay at Indianapolis

Aaron: Anyone seen those Peyton Manning "pep talk" commercials? Okay, of course you have. Why did they have Peyton looking into the sun? His squinty alabaster visage now haunts my dreams. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: My not picking Joseph Addai with the fourth pick of my fantasy draft -- after having him on my first-place team last season -- is what haunts my dreams. Pick: Indianapolis

Baltimore at San Francisco

Aaron: The Bay Area media is actually playing this up as a "revenge game" for 49ers back-up (and former Raven) QB Trent Dilfer, who'll be filling in for the injured Alex Smith. Dilfer v. the Ravens. It's totally "Tupac v. Biggie, Part II" Pick: Baltimore

Joe: I guess the Bay Area media has to do something when they're not convincing themselves that Daunte Culpepper's five TDs off of 71 total yards wasn't an aberration. Pick: San Francisco

San Diego at Denver

Aaron: In all my years of following sports, two of my favorite non-Oakland related teams were the 1991 Atlanta Braves and 1994 San Francisco 49ers. One was the classic underdog, while the other was a cold, efficient other-team-killing-machine. '07 Chargers…welcome to the club! Pick: Denver

Joe: Oh my God, you bandwagoned the '94 Niners because of Deion, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU?! Pick: Denver

Chicago at Green Bay

Aaron: From the network that brought you "Camera-Gate" from all 8 million angles when the Pats played on prime time a few weeks ago, it's Old White Media Darling: The Brett Favre Story. Let the blow jobs begin. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: I've neglected to mention this before, and now that Favre has set the TD pass record it's probably too late, but here's the number one tragedy of the media's over-the-top slobbering over Favre these first four weeks of the season: there are few NFL athletes I've ever hated more than Dan Marino. I hated him as a player, I hated him as an Isotiner spokesmodel, I hate him as a studio talking head, I desperately wanted Lois Einhorn to kill him while she had the chance...hate him. So the fact that Favre -- who I don't hate -- was going to break his record should have been a happy occasion, but thanks to the sports media I couldn't. Thanks a lot, Peter King. I'm totally not sorry I accidentally stole your sandwich at the luncheonette at 30 Rock. Pick: Green Bay

Dallas at Buffalo

Aaron: Ummm…Cowboys cover. Pick: Dallas

Joe: I just hope we don't lose so badly that the Trent Edwards era gets stunted before it even begins. Pick: Dallas

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

MFWNTAK - Beer Snobs

One of the oldest and dearest friends of The Cameron Family sent me an email asking for a favor. Y'see, he's something of a beer connoisseur, who just so happens to live out of state. His request is tied directly to the press release that follows:

ALESMITH BARREL-AGED BEER RELEASES (2005 VINTAGES) AleSmith was one of the first to present barrel-aged beers, and the tradition continues with the release of three more vintages from 2005. Barrel-aged Old Numbskull 2005, Barrel-aged Wee Heavy 2005, and Barrel-aged Decadence 2005 will be made available on Friday, September 28th from the brewery only. Each bottle is numbered and marked as vintage barrel-aged. Because of the limited number of bottles, sales will be restricted to (2) two bottles each of the Old Numbskull and Wee Heavy, and (1) one bottle of the Decadence 2005. This Barrel-aged Decadence is the English-style Old Ale brewed for our Tenth Anniversary and has been previously released. However, a partial barrel was hiding and we now are pleased to say that we have 10 more cases of the Barrel-aged Decadence 2005. The bottle sale will begin at 3:00PM on Friday, September 28th at the rear of the brewery from the 9366 suite.

AleSmith is a small San Diego brewery located almost in the center of the city, shoehorned between dozens of wholesale furniture outlets and a sprawling military base.

My friend had made similar requests over the last few years, but I was shut out on previous attempts to procure these limited-edition suds. The lines form early and the product is often sold out within an hour.

Still, I remain indebted to my friend and his family for two reasons: (1) They'd bootlegged(!) a few cases of Fat Tire Beer across the border back when San Diego didn't sell it. (2) He and his wife got us one of the few wedding gifts that we've used with some degree of frequency.

So, after several (several) previous failures…this time, I wouldn't be denied.

I got down to the brewery just before 2:30 PM. The line snaked around the building and past a parking lot. By my guess, there were about 100 people already there – some with lawn chairs – but, there were free food and beer samples, which was all it took to keep me from turning around and going home.

Now, remember when you were in high school and all the "cool" kids were drinking, while the dorks were collecting baseball cards, playing Dungeons & Dragons and/or named Aaron Cameron? Well, the dorks have double-backed and now…they're the ones drinking.

Unshaven and unkempt white men were all around me, exchanging stories with the strangers next to them about their various beer conquests from around the country.

One guy had tried a beer that was brewed with Michigan Blue Spruce Evergreen needles. Another had "invented" (his words) a "Rosemary Belgium Ale" which, again…in his words…is "great, if you love rosemary". My favorite quote came from the guy right behind me, who was pooh-poohing commercial beer by telling me he can brew five gallons for $25 and it's better than anything I can buy in the stores.

Or, maybe it was 25 gallons for $5.

The point, beer snobs, is I don't care. You're not being clever when you type "beer" in quotes to qualify alcohol you don't approve of. And, you've all got to come up with a new word to replace "swill", which has been overused by you people to the point that it's lost all of its dismissive powers of derision.

Y'all can brew your own beer and I think it's just dandy that the unsanitary conditions of your junior brew kit can produce a stool sample you can actually consume. As for me, my local grocery store had Sam Adams for $10/case. I bought two, yesterday. There was no yeast residue, no pine needles, no rosemary and not a hint of righteous sanctimony.

But, hey, I'm glad your beer helps you feel better about yourselves.

So, anyways, after almost an hour and a half, I made it to the front of the line and bought two bottles magnums, each, of the Old Numbskull and Wee Heavy, along with one of the Decadence 2005. Total price: $100. For beer!

Now, I'm not expecting my friend to pay me back with the full retail price – after all, I never paid him for the Fat Tire. But, I hope I can pay him with some words of advice: get a new hobby.

Oh, and bring your wallet.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The 200 Word Knee-jerk Review for the CW's Aliens in America

This was the critic's underdog darling heading into the new TV season? This was the show that Entertainment Weekly called "funny" and "surprisingly sweet"? Hey, if 30 minutes of an entirely unlikable cast is your glass of bourbon, then whatever. Dan Byrd and Adhir Kalyan are the central characters in this sorry farce that revolves around a Pakistani exchange student stuck in the middle of Middle America. There's an ignorant matriarch (Amy Pietz), a tightwad dad (Scott Patterson) and a breasty kid sister who are all played so over-the-top – well past satire or parody – to the point of incessant annoyance.

The premiere episode introduced "Raja" (Kalyan) to the family as an ostensible pawn towards upping the popularity of the awkward, gawky "Justin" (Byrd). When the family realizes that Raja isn't really from London (see, it was only his layover flight from Pakistan) they fight like hell to send him back. Most surprising, to me, was the mean-spirited vibe that enveloped every scene from the first episode. Really…what's funny about a room full of high school kids raising their hands in agreement with a classmate who is upset at Raja for "crashing those planes into those buildings"?

Verdict: One and done...

Jay-Z and The New York Times Have Lost Their F***ing Minds

An extended interview with Jay-Z ran in The New York Times last week as part of a piece on the upcoming feature film "American Gangster". You know the routine - excerpts of the story in bold, followed by my own commentary.

"Inspired by the Fire Joe Morgan website":

Jay-Z, the rap superstar and president of Def Jam Records, has quietly returned to the studio to record an album of new songs inspired by the forthcoming movie "American Gangster," his first "concept" album and second CD in less than a year.

"…quietly returned…", says one of the most read newspapers on the planet. OK, I'm nitpicking. Let's see where this goes.

Following the underwhelming critical and commercial reception for his "Kingdom Come" CD late last year — and as Jay-Z grapples with whether to stay on in his post at Def Jam — the tie-in to a major motion picture gives him a chance to rebound strong and extend his reach to a wider audience.

Hasn't Jay-Z already reached out to a "wider audience" in recent months? The first single to the aforementioned "Kingdom Come" album was "Show Me What You Got". The video for this indescribably sh*tty song debuted simultaneously on MTV and BET and featured Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt, Jr, whose respective demographics are about as "wide" as you can get from the target of Hip Hop.

The video was also featured during halftime of an ABC Monday Night Football game, with truncated versions of the video airing as part of a Budweiser commercial campaign. "Kingdom Come" was marketed to pretty much every upright American last fall, whether you'd heard of Jigga or not.

At the same time, it could help Universal Pictures excite younger moviegoers, whom it will need to make money on a costly film with a troubled history. Though it's not uncommon for films to be released alongside "inspired by" albums, it is rare for them to be recorded by a single artist, let alone by a major star who had no role in the movie.

Jay-Z is 37 years old, which, in rappers years, is essentially "B.C.". He has no more sway with "younger moviegoers" than you or me. Did any of those myriad Death Row Records soundtrack releases in the 1990s make you want to see "Gridlock'd", "Gang Related" or "Above the Rim"? And, they ALL starred Tupac! Tupac!

The movie, set for a Nov. 2 release, depicts [Denzel Washington's] Frank Lucas character as an underworld Horatio Alger and an innovator who, despite keeping a low public profile, rose to such power that he was able to defy the Mafia bosses who had traditionally dominated the New York drug trade before being brought down by a special narcotics task force. Jay-Z said he thought his fans would be struck by the image of a black man reaching such heights of success, even on the wrong side of the law, much like such ruthlessly efficient Al Pacino antiheroes as Tony Montana and Michael Corleone.

Setting the bar kind of high, aren't we, Jay-Z? First off, I have my doubts that any rap fan will be "struck" by anything about this movie, since every major label rapper of the last ten years has been featured in a direct-to-DVD release with roughly the same plot as "American Gangster", "Scarface" and "The Godfather". Second, any cinematic impact that Tony Montana or Michael Corleone once had has been commercialized and bled bone dry by their transformation into video game characters and rap's lyrical-reference caricatures.

[Director Ridley Scott] said he cast the rappers T. I., RZA and Common in supporting roles, hoping to appeal to a younger audience. But Brian Grazer, the film's producer, said that Mr. Washington also pressed him more than a year ago to consider asking Jay-Z to do the film's soundtrack.

Christ, I could've cobbled together an entire post on this quote, alone. Fine, I'll spot you T.I. The guy's undeniably charismatic even if he's got nothing interesting to say. RZA's commercial shelf life was extended a few months by a couple of "Chappelle's Show" cameos in 2003. Talented? No doubt. Recognizable? No way. As for Common, he's got more crossover appeal than RZA, but that "younger audience" sure isn't buying his music.

Speaking of the young'ins, I'm glad that Brian Grazer, 56, was successfully won over by Denzel Washington, 52, and agreed to hire Jay-Z, 37, to helm the soundtrack. They've obviously got their fingers on the pulse of the playground, the video arcade, the baseball card shop and wherever else one finds kids into Hip Hop.

Instead Jay-Z offered to make his own album and release it in conjunction with the movie; Def Jam is also releasing the film's official soundtrack, which features songs by Bobby Womack, the Staple Singers and Sam & Dave.

Mrs. Bootleg just pre-ordered eight copies of the official soundtrack. My wife's the only woman on earth who's in her 30s, with musical tastes from the 30s.

Though Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, said he'd never heard of Mr. Lucas while growing up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, he still glimpsed much of himself in Mr. Washington's portrayal: "The way he carried himself. The way he went about things. The way he wasn't loud, but he was very strong."

Whoa, whoa, whoa…this entire article has been about the inspiration that Jay-Z has milked from a man he's never even heard of? How does Jay-Z know that Lucas "wasn't loud"? How does he know how he "went about things"? His inspiration is Denzel Washington's performance, which is akin to all those "X" hats that everyone wore 15 years ago leading up to Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" movie. Most of those kids had never heard of Malcolm X, either. Inspiring.

Echoing the "stop snitchin' " campaign among some hip-hop fans and artists, however, Jay-Z hastened to dissociate himself from Mr. Lucas's decision to cooperate with the authorities to get a more lenient sentence.

"Me, I believe you choose your path and you walk your path, and whatever happens you got to accept it," Jay-Z said.

In "No Hook," a song on the new album, he says:
Please don't compare me to other rappers. Compare me to trappers.
I'm more Frank Lucas than Ludacris. And Lude is my dude, I ain't trying to dis.
Just like Frank Lucas is cool, but I ain't tryin' to snitch.
I'm-a follow the rules, no matter how much time I'm-a get.
I'm-a live and die with the decisions that I'm-a pick.

Really, Jay-Z? Good or bad, guilty or innocent, you're going to "live and die with the decisions" that you pick? In 1999, you allegedly stabbed a record executive and pleaded "not guilty" when you were dumb enough to get caught. You had witnesses, alibis and alternate timelines that all "proved" your innocence. So, why'd you ultimately plead guilty to a (misdemeanor) charge out of that incident?

Now, I don't know what happened and I'm not saying you did anything. But, it seems you were willing to fight like hell to beat the consequences of the alleged "decisions" you picked. Too bad Frank Lucas didn't have your lawyers.

His decision to record "American Gangster" is a surprise, given that his last album was released less than a year ago. "Kingdom Come" sold about 1.5 million copies, his lowest figure for a full studio album since 1997. [Jay-Z] ventured that "Kingdom Come" was a little too "sophisticated" for some listeners.

"Too sophisticated"? The "Kingdom Come" album? Here's my initial reaction to that delusional nugget via a quick e-mail exchange between me and our old friend, That Nick'a Guy:

Nick'a: "Is it possible to have that much money and no perspective as to your version of sophisticated vs. most people's version of what sophisticated is?"

Aaron: "The new "sophisticated" = terrible first single + an unreachable standard set by Jigga, himself + only (MAYBE) four good songs on the entire album.

Yeah, it went right over people’s heads."

Jay-Z, I love your work and you've had a great career, but damn, son.


What I Said About the MLB Postseason Before the Season

So, let's revisit my playoff picks from my billion-word baseball preview back in March:

American League Division Winners: Red Sox, Indians, Angels

National League Division Winners: Mets, Cubs, Diamondbacks

Hey, 5 for 6! It would've been a clean sweep if not for...wait...too soon, Mets fans?

Anyways, I'm especially proud of my Indians/D'Backs daily double as NO ONE was picking either of these teams before the season. The Red Sox, Cubs and Angels were slam dunks, so my gloating for those three will be minimal.

American League Wildcard: Yankees
National League Wildcard: Dodgers

This one's win-win from where I sit. The Yankees won the wildcard, while the Dodgers collectively crapped the bed from August to the end of the season. The cataclysmic collapse of their clubhouse (veterans vs. rookies) and the familiar mismanagement stylings of Grady Little ensured another offseason of uncertainty for my 3rd or 4th least favorite team.

American League Division Series: Red Sox over Angels, Indians over Yankees

Again, these were my picks from before the season started. Today, I still stand by the Red Sox topping the Angels (in four). As for the Yankees/Injuns, I'll live with what I wrote six months ago, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Cleveland defeated.

National League Division Series: Mets over Dodgers, Diamondbacks over Cubs

AND, I called three of the four actual Division Series match-ups?! Has this ever happened before? No, no...don't look it up. Let's assume it hasn't. I'm still confident in my D'Backs pick (in four). They're a terrific young team that most of you have never heard of (pfft...east coast).

As for the other game...if the Padres win tonight, bet the Phillies in the NLDS. If the Rockies win, they'll take down Philadelphia.

Do it for the Mets fans, Colorado. Do it for them.