Friday, February 29, 2008

Lost - "The Constant"

What Aaron Liked: Anytime we get a minimum of Jack/Kate/Sawyer/Locke and a maximum of pretty much anyone else, I approve. After last week's stinkbomb, Henry Ian Cusick's performance this week was an absolute joy to watch. I was pretty ambivalent towards the "sees-the-future Desmond" of last season (and I abhorred "hatch Desmond" from season two), but Cusick's back-and-forth between the past and the present actually had me rooting for a character on this show for the first time in forever. Favorite scene: Desmond trying to convince 1996 Penny (Sonya Walger, who was phenomenal in her short amount of screen time) to wait for his phone call. And, whaddaya know…some forward storyline progression on the island, too.

What Aaron Didn't Like: Time travel stories like this one rely heavily on the viewer to look the other way and not think too hard. Back to the Future and Terminator immediately spring to mind as movies that, with a few minutes of thought, completely fall apart at their premise. That said, the ridiculous "You can't change the future!" explanation used last night was weak. And, maybe I'm in the minority on this one, but stereotypically squirrelly scientist Daniel Faraday (played by Jeremy Davies) was an anchor whenever he was on-screen this week. Nervous tics and bed-head = unappreciated genius? Still? In 2008? Also wasn't feeling Fisher Stevens' "communications guy-gone-cuckoo" character, but his wild-eyed exposition was appreciated.

Verdict: Nitpickery aside, this was easily the best episode of the season. I can't squeal enough over Henry Ian Cusick's performance last night – just a superb turn that really puts Sawyer's troglodyte grunts and Kate's buck-toothed bravado in proper perspective. I kept waiting for Harold Perrineau's "Michael" to return as Ben's mole on the boat or the radio saboteur, but I'm happy to be wrong when the good is this good.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

That Birthday Boy

I've got friends out there who have blogs. Their blogs are used for "family updates", photos, etc. These people sicken me. They're the ones who sent you the "Year in Review" letter inside their Christmas card back in December. Tell you what: let's stand unified in our hatred, while collectively looking the other way as I offer up this family photo update from my son's 4th birfday:

Daddy's matching shirt=not so cute and racially divisive

Forgot his birthday? You'd be surprised what kind of magic is made with junk mail envelopes and a stapler. Thanks, Grandma

Might be time to take these khaki slacks out in the crotch a little

See that little red car by Jalen's foot? Only birthday present he still plays with everyday. $3.99. Easily could've stopped there...

New bike. I think he's rode it once (and by "rode", I mean got on and fell off). Nice untucked shirt, no shoes look for me, though.

Monday, February 25, 2008

This Nick'a Did It First

Over the weekend, the always-awesome sports humor site, Deadspin, posted a link to an extended review of B-Ball's Best Kept Secret. It was the usual "OMG, look how bad it is when basketball players try to rap" piece written by someone who knows nothing about rap.

Now, I'm not trying to say the album was good, it's just that better, more knowledgeable writers have already covered this sarcastic territory. In fact, nearly four years ago, my Friday Music News co-conspirator wrote that this excellent piece (scroll down about 1/2 way through) celebrating the album's 10-year anniversary. The following week, due to some of the best feedback I'd ever received on anything Bootleg-related, there was a song-by-song follow-up (again, about 1/2 way through the column).

I just axe that you ignore ALL of the way-dated jokes that I wrote before and after the "Nick'a Please" segments. Hard to believe those Farnsworth Bentley, Kara Wolters and Cosby Kids quips of mine haven't stood the test of time.

On the other hand, my all-too-rare reference to the first of my three straight 411/Inside Pulse "Writer of the Year" awards is simply timeless.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lost - "Eggtown"

What Aaron Liked: As has been the case since his debut in the middle of season two, Michael Emerson's manipulative spin on "Ben" is always a kick. His nitpicking indignation at the "$3.2 million" demand was terrific. John Locke seems to be falling apart, which is OK by me. How's it feel to not have any of your damn questions answered, Johnny? Kind of feel like you're entitled to the occasional revelation or two? Why don't YOU just "trust the writers", John?!

What Aaron Didn't Like: Sorry, kids, but this was one of those episodes. Kate-centric? Steee-rike one. Now, I'm not going to complain about being jerked around by the network, but didn't last week's teaser promise another "Oceanic Six" reveal? And, it's Kate…who was already revealed as such at the end of season three. I know the writers are really damned if they do and damned if they don't, but considering there are still unanswered questions being teased and hinted (yet, never resolved) each week, the whole Law & Order 30-minute trial of Kate felt like a whole lotta deus ex machina.

And, don't get me started on that big "reveal" at the end. I mean, sure, they played the standard "shocking" music and immediately cut away to the "LOST" screen as if it were a "Luke, I'm your father" moment, but no one was surprised by this, right? Someone online wrote, "I totally didn't see that coming!" Really? Then, you're an idiot. Strike Two.

Let's just lump "strike three" all together at the end. I'll give the writers credit for at least using some dialogue to acknowledge how ridiculous the concept of Kate, Claire and Sawyer sittin' on the front porch, sippin' coffee on a tropical autumn morn was to watch. I will now remove said credit for including it anyway. And, Ben's line (paraphrased) that everything is as it was before, except "he's just in a different room" was all too true.

Lightning round of rhetorical questions: How did Hurley go from ersatz bad-ass a few episodes ago only to u-turn right back into the buffoon who gets "Scooby-Doo'd"? How much longer is "Sawyer with his shirt off" going to be considered a viable plot-forwarding device? Which is the real Locke: the knife-throwing killer of mocha-colored chicks with cockney accents or the indecisive nancy who throws breakfast trays in frustration, while trusting bulbous loads like Hurley to keep a secret?

Verdict: Boo.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Michael Jordan Saves Black People From Themselves!

My new issue of ESPN – The Magazine arrived last week and I was jarred by the cover. Michael Jordan – the greatest athlete of our lifetime – looks old. His cheeks and jaw line are obviously softer, while the once piercing intensity of his eyes has been extinguished…replaced with the yellowing glaze of middle age mixed with nicotine.

Inside this issue, Jordan gives a first-person account on the state of the NBA. His is an odd opinion to seek out on this matter, since his last stint as an active player – with the Washington Wizards – was a fantastic disaster in no small part due to his failure to connect with younger, Hip Hop-centric teammates, opponents and fans.

Still, I'd probably have a lot less of a problem with this piece if Jordan had stayed on topic (the NBA), instead of trying to…well, you'll see. With apologies to FJM for the format theft…and, once again, Jordan is ostensibly the "author" of this article:

The NBA doesn't have an image problem.

It has young guys who have young ideas. Maturity comes later, and sometimes too late to realize you should've done this or you should've done that.

Last weekend's All-Star Game in New Orleans seems to have scared up all sorts of pro-NBA angles. And, whether it's from Michael Jordan or Bill Simmons or ESPN's other myriad of media tentacles, the obvious conflict-of-interest aspect can't be ignored. The league needs its signature brand (which could be either Jordan or ESPN on any given day) to sing the company line.

But, as long as the NBA is populated with large, tattooed Black guys in scary hairstyles, it'll always have "an image problem" with a large segment of the American population. Y'see, somewhere between Latrell Spreewell, Allen Iverson and Ron Artest is when every African-American in the league got painted with the ol' "thug" brush.

Kids shouldn't come out of school as early as they do. A year in college isn't enough. They shouldn't be allowed to come out until they are adults—21 years old.
Now, why shouldn't a black kid who isn't wealthy have a chance to provide for his family? That is an issue; I'm not walking away from that.

Check the article yourself, kids. Jordan walks away and doesn't offer up a solution. I don't pretend to have an answer, either, but I find it interesting that Major League Baseball has no qualms with sending a Spanish-speaking 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic to Rookie Ball in Idaho Falls (a city and state that I'd feel uncomfortable walking around at night).

I was a mature guy coming out of North Carolina, so when a negative thing happened—someone misinterprets what gambling means to me—it didn't stick. But I was a lot more mature when it happened. If I'd been in that position and had been asked that question at 18 or 19, I may have had a very different way of handling it.

By most accounts, the Jordan gambling stories didn't break nationally until the end of the 1992-93 season – when MJ was 30. I'm not sure what Jordan's point is here other than teenagers might not be able to deal with intense media scrutiny, but Jordan's example renders that point moot. Of course, players are more equipped to deal with similar controversies when they're older. And, one might argue, the sooner they came into the league, the sooner they could adjust to the bright lights and attention.

When I turned pro, the league was looking for a change. I had the personality and the game and a style of play, and all that came together at the same time. All the stars lined up and catapulted everything that came after—23 different shoes, Jordan Brand, everything. It's a phenomenon. How do you explain a phenomenon? You can't.

Ummm, it sure sounds like MJ did a decent enough job of explaining the "phenomenon" of himself. I'd take issue with a few points, though. Jordan really had no discernable "personality" during his playing days. He spat recycled athlete clichés in interviews and carefully used his hand-picked friends in the media to cultivate an image that he wanted us to see.

And, while it might seem unfathomable today, Jordan's "game and style of play" were openly criticized as selfish ball-hogging, before the Bulls put championship-caliber teammates around His Airness. Jordan oversimplifies how he got where he is when, in actuality, it was a meticulously crafted marketing plan by millionaires and billionaires including, but not limited to: NBA Commissioner David Stern and league ownership, Nike CEO Phil Knight, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Jordan's longtime agent David Falk and Jordan, himself.

One thing to learn from me is that everything I've ever done has been me, not something that someone calculated me to be.

Four words, Mike: "Republicans buy sneakers, too."

It goes to my upbringing, my parents. I didn't grow up in the inner city. I grew up in a rural area, where values were magnified. You were taught how to operate in society, to be articulate, honest. Kids growing up in the city, they're more materialistic.

In summary: You Godless, amoral blue-state heathens should be more like Michael Jordan. And, if you f*ckin' spooks would pull up your pants and add "ing" to the end of your verbs, you'd be more about honesty and values than wanting to drop $200 on my new shoes…exclusively at Foot Locker!

I can wear a suit today and jeans with holes tomorrow, and yet people know they are seeing the real me in either outfit. I had cornrows when I was a kid, but it was before anyone knew who I was; would the public or corporate America accept me if I had them today? If I was willing to say, "This is who I am, I'm not trying to be so-and-so," maybe, but even then I'm not sure. When you see Michael Jordan today, you see Michael Jordan as a totally honest person, and when I say honest I mean real, genuine. I am who I am, and that's comprehensible to the masses and in many languages.

I wanted to break this up, sentence-by-sentence, but it holds up better all together. I mean, really…is there anyone on earth who knows the "real" Michael Jordan? His ex-wife obviously didn't and it's not a stretch to assume his kids didn't either. So, you'll forgive me if I don't believe that the "masses" know him any better.

And, his need to mention that he wore cornrows as a kid just kills me. "Hey, America…I was REALLY Black when I was younger. Would the public accept me if I grew up to be Allen Iverson?" I'm finna say "no", Mike.

It's a tough task for the league to create a similar image for itself. It has to find the right mix between corporate and street, believe in what it's doing and live with whatever the response may be.

The "response" is that the league has an image problem. Your entire article is a rebuttal to that opinion. The NBA has gone to great lengths to "clean up" the league in an attempt to make it safe and palatable for the middle-class white families and upper-class white sponsors who feed the league its revenue. No one – including you – is "living with whatever the response may be".

Monday, February 18, 2008

TBG Reviews: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

The ol' Netflix queue has become top-heavy with documentaries and an exceptionally fascinating one arrived in my mailbox over the weekend.

The King of Kong tells the tale of two men (Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe) and their respective attempts to defend and challenge for the title of "Donkey Kong World Champion". Of course, most of you are already making the same mistake Mrs. Bootleg made after catching two minutes of the movie from the corner of her eye – "They made a documentary about a video game?!"

The decades-old arcade game is merely the backdrop for this extended peek into the frighteningly insular world of two men who are obsessed with each other, while completely oblivious to how awesome their lives already are. Wiebe is a respected 7th grade science teacher, with an inexplicably understanding wife and two great kids. The mulleted Mitchell is a restaurateur and chicken wing sauce magnate, whose wife has huge porn star boobs. Why do these guys need video games?

The answer is a lot more complicated than you might think.

Mitchell, the reigning champion, revels in his ersatz stardom and rules his Donkey Kong kingdom with an aluminum-sided trailer park fist. The overt reverence that other old school gamers (and his parents!) hold for him is unquestionably pathetic, but there's never a sense that anyone realizes how absurd it all looks, which, believe it or not, is a big part of the movie's charm.

Wiebe is probably the more "normal" of the two, but his quiet, everyman aura belies an insanely obsessive need to beat Mitchell. Wiebe ups and flies off to gaming tournaments on the other side of the country at regular intervals, all the while trying to rationalize away his addiction with the same words heard from those who favor booze n' drugs. (In fact the movie's best line comes from Wiebe's young daughter, who casually mentions how often people "ruin their lives" to get into the Guinness Book of World Records).

Wiebe's sad-sack Wile E. Coyote chases Mitchell the Road Runner throughout the movie. At one point, Wiebe appears to have wrestled away the championship, only to be foiled on a technicality that could ONLY happen in a world inhabited by omnipotent, self-appointed commissioners and referees. In fact, the question of whether Wiebe and Mitchell will ever meet in an 8-bit mano a mano builds to the movie's somewhat anticlimactic conclusion.

Still, the ride to the end is helluva lot more fun that it had any right to be. Personally, I was mildly disappointed that the ending of the actual movie required not one, but two postscripts (the first in the form of on-screen text, the second as part of the DVDs "special features"), but I still didn't mind the 80-minute investment of time.

Must-see viewing for anyone who remembers the arcade craze of the early '80s. For the rest of you, it's easily worth a rental.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

C-Webb Radio is Sic! (sic)

I've previously mentioned that I'm an XM Radio subscriber. It's cool, I s'pose. Mrs. Bootleg got it for me a few birfdays ago, primarily for the Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, that's a bit of a blessing and a curse, as I can no longer procrastinate on weekend errands with "I'll leave in 10 minutes. I wanna see Kurt Suzuki hit in the eighth." (Screw you, readers…my A's will be good again, someday!)

As for the music, I spend most of my time with XM's dual "urban" stations. And, this past Saturday, I was handsomely rewarded for my hood loyalty with the debut of "C-Webb Radio" on XM's Raw (Channel 66). Y'see, it's hosted by former good basketball player Chris Webber.

You know the routine: "celebrity" DJ promotes his new endeavor while spinning albums in a desperate attempt to remain relevant.

Well, the great thing is that C-Webb had nothing to do (this week's edition was recorded before he signed with Golden State Warriors a few weeks ago), so all we were left with was desperation!

Now, for the record, I listened to maybe an hour of his two-hour show. It was entirely on my way to and from the barber shop. I didn't jot any notes down, but the following were all random quotes and moments from Chris Webber, the host of "C-Webb Radio". (Most are from memory and, consequently, paraphrased, but it's all as close as I can get it…)

"When you talk about that old school West Coast gangsta sound, just one word comes to mind: Ice Cube." (Awkward pause as some producer's gotta be talking in Webber's ear.) "That's two words?"

"I'mma play something from m'man Common. But, I don't wanna play one of his songs that y'all have heard a million times. How 'bout this one…?" (opening notes of "I Used to Love H.E.R." hit…)

"You know what song I'm feeling right now? You know what song I wanna play for all y'all, right now? I wanna play that new one from Beanie Sigel featuring Styles P. Umm, I don't know the name of it, but it's HOT, though! C'mon, DJ…it's like track four on Beanie's last album."

"Aww, yeah…that was off that, uhh…Outkast…uhh…'Aqua-MAN-nee' album. 'A-QUEE-meen…' I mean, I can't pronounce it, but it was HOT!"

"That's my n*gga, Andre 2000…"

"We're nearing the end of the show, it's the ninth inning stretch…"

OK…I get that not all of y'all follow rap, so the above Ralph Kiner-isms probably went right by you. But, trust me…I just scratched the surface with C-Webb. Better than anything else I mentioned were the times (plural!) when he'd introduce a song, then proceed to spit an entire verse from said song before it began. And, by my count, he was getting every third word wrong. For f*ck's sake, who doesn't know the words to "Nuthin' But A G Thang"?!

Hello, weekly TBG feature!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lost - "The Economist"

As much as The Cam Fam loves us some Lost, I've found that the show is much more watchable when we can catch it on DVR-delay and plow through the commercials. Last night, Mrs. Bootleg and I decided to give Lost a 30 minute head start before we jumped on. (In the interim, we watched the spectacular car crash of The NAACP Awards on Fox. There aren't enough keystrokes to capture all the unintentional comedy, but trust me when I say that EVERYONE should be rooting for Ruby Dee to win the Best Supporting Actress award at the Oscars later this month. Her acceptance speech last night was equal parts paranoia, senility and Abe Simpson.)

What Aaron Liked: Anytime we get a Sayid-centric episode, Aaron approves. Naveen Andrews consistently manages to raise his performance above the two-dimensional writing that's saddled his character since season one. The payoff in the opening sequence raised my expectations for the subsequent 56 minutes and, afterwards, was still the easy highlight of the week.

What Aaron Didn't Like: While I still believe that the flash-forwards are an effective story-telling device, it finally hit me that we're really not being told anything new. Sure, "The Oceanic Six" are off the island, but Jack's still a tortured soul, Hurley's back in the nuthouse and Sayid's still…well, let's be semi spoiler-free and say he's still "living a violent lifestyle". What's worse is that a plot-oblivious idiot like me called the episode-ending "turn" on Sayid a few minutes after his new love interest was introduced, while Mrs. Bootleg – who married into "plot-oblivia" – identified Sayid's "sponsor" from the sound of his voice on the phone. And, while it's still early, I'm not sure I'm going to dig where this whole "time disparity" angle is going. How about explaining the seemingly supernatural stuff you've already introduced, Lost writers, instead of piling more smoke (monsters) and mirrors on us?

Verdict: Meh. The writers have spent three years over-saturating the airwaves with Jack-Kate-Sawyer, so it's hard to get worked up about Sayid's fate when the viewers haven't been given any good reason to care about him. The musical chairs with the "rescuers-as-someone's prisoners" slant is equally uninteresting. A decent hour of entertainment, but enough with the BEST SEASON EVER exaggeration, lemmings.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Why yes it IS, thank you for asking!"

Five years ago today, an eclectic collage of dated music news and pop culture references burst onto the internet landscape. Check out how comically awful the first "Friday News Bootleg" was, as I tried to write a "straight" news column with a minimal amount of segues and digressions.

Was I really as desperate for readership as I sounded in those first two paragraphs? (Answer: Yes)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Aaron's iFAQ #3

"Have you ever been fired from a job?"

Wow, what a timely question! This month just so happens to be the 10th anniversary of my dismissal from my first paid post-college gig.

But, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

In the fall of 1997, I was finishing up the greatest individual year in academic history. I'd taken four units during the abbreviated winter session, seventeen units in the spring, seven units during the summer and, for dessert, thirteen units for fall.

As a degree in marketing was within reach, I spent the last few months of '97 sending out dozens of résumés – while finding new and inventive ways to ensure each job interview was worse than the last.

There was the interview with an office supply company. I met with two of their regional managers and nerves got the best of me. It might've lasted 15 minutes and I'm pretty sure I rambled on for about 14 of 'em. I literally heard them laughing out loud the second I left their office and closed the door behind me. I didn't get the job.

I interviewed for a media relations position a few weeks later. The first words out of the interviewer's mouth were, "I don't think you're qualified for this position, but I'm open to changing my mind." I didn't get that job.

Sometime after that, I flew up to San Francisco to meet with a finance company. I spoke with the guy who would've been my immediate manager and killed it. He insisted that I talk to his boss and I was even more awesome. They showed me where I'd be sitting "if" I got the job and told me all about their Friday Happy Hours and Saturday softball league. Then, I met with the president of the company. "We don't normally do this all in one day", I was told, "But, we'd really like him to meet you."

Three minutes later, by my guess, I was heading back to San Francisco International Airport. I didn't get that job. BTW, here's some unsolicited interviewing advice: When the president of a company asks you define something (let's say, "marketing"), then tries to correct you midway through your explanation, let him. And, don't try to correct him. They don't teach you that in college, kids.

By now, it was early December and my last final was on the 14th. I was facing the prospect of real unemployment and I'm not talking about the acceptable kind that's inherent in the word "student". So, I interviewed with a company called Blue Data.

They were a small outfit (maybe 10 people, total) that specialized in something called "data mining". I was told that I'd be working in sales – business-to-business cold calling, with the requisite ridiculously low base and 4% commission.

I absolutely did NOT want to work in sales or telemarketing, but they offered me the job right there on the spot. This was all phenomenally humbling, as I'd gotten every job I'd ever interviewed for to that point. Admittedly, we're not talking CEO or anything, but I vividly remember popping off to anyone who'd listen, "Just get me an interview…" Now, in an inexpensive and ill-fitting wool suit, I was reduced to sweaty-backed desperation. I got the job.

After my first two sales calls, I knew I had made a horrible, horrible mistake.

Sales requires a uniquely nuanced personality…someone who won't take "no" for an answer and can sell (natural element) to (something/someone who lives near natural element). It also helps if you don't tear up when a lead hangs up on you.

So, for the next seven weeks, I surfed the internet, made fake sales calls to my pager's voice mail and tagged along on everyone else's on-site presentations "just to get my feet wet". I had been called on the carpet once or twice and told to close a sale, but they were in no hurry to fire me and I was in no hurry to restart the sh*tty interviewing process all over.

Then, in early February, I decided that I'd had enough. I brought the want ads and a stack of online job listings into work on Monday, with the intent to send out resumes all day, every day, until I was out of there.

Now, why does my computer say: "ACCESS DENIED. CAMERON_AJ IS NOT A REGISTERED USER"?

I immediately knew that the jig was, as they say, up. But, why didn't they just call me sometime between Friday night and Monday morning to tell that I was sh*t-canned?

My manager was at his desk, so, of course, I feigned ignorance. He told me to sit tight until the owner got in. And, I would've took my medicine like a man, if my manager hadn't condescendingly gestured to the stack on my desk and said, "Why don't you read your little paper for awhile?"

The nerve! Sure, I was essentially stealing money from a small start-up company for a few weeks, but (1) it wasn't that much money and (2) that didn't justify being mean to me. So, I quit. OK, so it was the ol' "you can't fire me, I quit" kind of quitting, but let's not pick nits.

A short time later, I got a call from the owner – a genuinely nice old man who retired from IBM, cashed in a mountain of stock to start the company and gave me a chance when no one else would – to let me know "this wasn't working out". He never used the words "fired" or "letting you go" or "sh*t-canned". He even thanked me for the seven weeks and wished me well.

To this day, I still don't know why I was…well, why I don't work there anymore.

I mean, I know why, but I was never officially told. Best guess is that my manager got my phone records, saw about a thousand outgoing calls to (619) 904-7612 and put two and two together. Although, only an idiot would've needed the second "two".

Monday, February 11, 2008

Your Oakland A of the Day – Dave Henderson

In my never-ending quest for blog content, it came down to writing another "Oakland A's Monday" (which would've included insight and commentary on our two latest free agent signings: RP Keith Foulke and 1B/DH Mike Sweeney) or this "past player spotlight" thingie, which I blatantly stole from the one of the best baseball blogs out there.

Since the former post option would require me to either feign enthusiasm ("Hey, if they perform well through July, we could have some quality bait by the trade deadline!) or state the obvious ("They've got nothing left in the tank."), we'll go with the latter.

Dave Henderson spent six seasons (during a 14-year career) with the Oakland A's. He was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the first round of the 1977 draft (Harold Baines, Paul Molitor and Bob Welch, among others, were picked before him that year, Terry Francona, Mookie Wilson and Ozzie Smith were among those picked after).

He made his debut in April 1981, but didn't become a regular until 1982. Henderson wasn't very good during his stay in Seattle, save for a batting average-assisted flukish 1984 and the first few months of the 1986 season, when he was traded to Boston in mid-August. As a testament to both Henderson's talent and baseball's prehistoric talent evaluation skills, at the time, Henderson was basically a throw in. The Red Sox wanted good field/absolutely no-hit SS Spike Owen for the stretch run. Henderson was a 4th OF and late-inning defensive replacement.

Of course, Owen would kill the ball in the playoffs (.478 OBP/.524(!) SLG) that year after hitting .183/.283/.238 with Boston in the last six weeks of the regular season, while Henderson hit two of the most famous home runs in Red Sox postseason history.

In 1987, Henderson was the Opening Day CF, but only held the job through April before Ellis Burks would run away with the gig after an early season call-up. Henderson finished the year on the bench with the San Francisco Giants and was ineligible for the team's NLCS series vs. St. Louis. He signed with the A's (1 year/$225K) as a free agent on December 21, 1987.

Oakland was coming off of an 81-81 third place finish, which was their highest AL West standing in six years. That '87 team featured an outfield of Jose Canseco, Mike Davis and Luis Polonia, with longtime CF Dwayne Murphy injured for large swaths of time. During that offseason, the A's let Murphy and Davis walk, then handed the starting CF job to the 29-year-old Henderson who, to that point, had barely been a league average player.

Then, out of nowhere, Hendu had the year of his life in 1988.

Manager Tony LaRussa slotted him in the #2 spot and there's no doubt he benefited from unlikely leadoff hitter Carney Lansford in front of him (.366 OBP when batting 1st, 29-for-37 in SBs) and Jose Canseco's career year behind him. Henderson hit .304/.363/.525, won something called the AL Comeback Player of the Year and was one of the few A's who showed up for the team's embarrassing World Series choke. Amazingly, Henderson got less national press than Oakland's no-stick shortstop, Walt Weiss, who stole the Rookie of the Year award in '88.

In 1989, Henderson's anonymity was compounded by the A's mid-season acquisition of a much better "Henderson" and the fact that Dave Henderson's numbers nose-dived from awesome to awful. He lost nearly 50 points of OBP and almost 150 points off his slugging pct. He did go 9 for 32 in the postseason, though, with eight extra base hits, including a home run in Game 3 of the World Series, in which he ran about halfway up the first base line backwards.

The rest of Hendu's A's tenure is memorable for two things: (1) injuring his knee against the upstart White Sox in 1990 and (2) his white-hot start to the 1991 season.

His knee injury was originally thought to be season-ending and it opened the door for the A's to acquire OF Willie McGee from the Cardinals. Aside from upping our ugly quotient, McGee was leading the NL in hitting at the time of the trade. The A's also traded for DH Harold Baines on the same day, which reduced our ugly magic number to zero.

The following year, Henderson was hitting .367/.427/.680 on May 21. He got the requisite write up in Sports Illustrated and was voted to start in the All-Star Game. We won't mention that from May 22 to the end of the season, Hendu (chuckle) "hit" .245/.318/.391. He'd spend two more injury-plagued seasons in Oakland, before signing with the Royals for the 1994 season, Henderson's final year in the bigs.

The numbers really don't tell the whole story with Hendu, though. Dude was always smiling. He'd never hesitate to chat up the fans at home from centerfield or trash talk the ones on the road. During a game at Yankee Stadium in 1990, fans threw coins and dollar bills at Canseco, who'd just signed a huge contract extension. Hendu spent the rest of the game picking up every cent he could find out there and pocketing it. The following year, after a long at-bat against the Mariners' Erik Hanson, Hendu laughed out loud, pointed to the mound and gestured off the plate when he drew ball four.

Somehow, I doubt I'll remember Mike Sweeney stories 20 years after the fact.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

TBG Reviews: Cloverfield

Off the top of your heads, think of the first horror movie cliché that comes to mind. Now, the second cliché. Then, the third, the fourth and so on. Bet'cha all of 'em are in the new J.J. Abrams monster flick Cloverfield!

As I watched a damn fine, uh, "unofficial" copy yesterday, I was thrown by how quickly I turned on the half dozen or so central characters. The movie's first 20 minutes take place at a raucous going away party for Jack Robert, who's about to become plucky boy vice-president for a company in Japan. Everyone's captured that too-cool-to-care vibe, guaranteeing the interminable first act to be more painful than anything these idiots will experience over the next 60 minutes.

Then, the monster attacks.

Commence running.

Not so fast, kids!

Y'see, Robert's kinda-sorta girlfriend is trapped in her apartment, so he's gotta save her! Let's leisurely walk towards the danger! Yes, I typed "Let's", cuz it wouldn't be a monster movie if the entirety of Robert's posse didn't roll with him on this suicide mission. The crew includes:

Lily – Quite the unaffected spitfire, this one. Someone close to her is one of the earliest casualties of the monster, but she barely secretes a tear while running 4.4 40-yard dashes in 3-inch heels through the streets. When she takes off her shoes to climb the stairs of a 40-story building, I wondered aloud: "Now they hurt?!"

Hud – Comic relief! Or, whatever the opposite of "relief" would be in this context. I'll grant him the movie's best line ("I think they're closed.", in response to the rampant looting of an electronics store), but he gets no more credit from me. The Hud-Man holds the camera for the entire movie. With danger literally scaling the walls around him, he never thinks that having 100% of his attention on his immediate surroundings would be a good idea. Moron.

Marlena – She's the aloof bitch with the heart of gold. After rejecting Hud's advances at the party, she risks her life to save him later on the movie. That particular scene involves a subway tunnel and several smaller, crawly…uh…well, let's just say that these "things" absolutely overwhelm the might of our armed military in an earlier sequence, but these kids fight 'em off with fists and gumption.

Beth – The cause of this all. Seriously, readers, did/do ANY of you love someone enough in your early/mid 20s to the point that you'd go looking for them when a monster the size of a skyscraper was destroying everything in its path? Bullsh*t…and I met the future Mrs. Bootleg when I was 22.

Anyways, the final act covers everything that the first two forgot: the monster's dead…wait, no it's not! The military weighs the option of blowing the whole city up. And, the last of the two "heroes" we see on screen are the two who you KNEW we'd be seeing at the very end.

There's already been talk of a sequel.

C'monnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn, monster.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lost - "Confirmed Dead"

Just a reminder, if you're a fan of the show, make sure you swing by the NEW Low Resolution site for another angle. Joe's site is now brighter than a supermarket at 2:00 AM, so, for Christ's sake, don't read it in direct sunlight! And, ECB has a look back at season two mixed in with his hourly New York Giants/New York Mets updates of love.

What Aaron Liked: Hmmm…I'm thinking. Well, I guess I'm digging the table-turning perspective of the original castaways coming off as aggressive "Others-ish" a-holes towards the four newcomers to the island. It's still way too early to pass judgment on the four "who are not who they say they are", but I don't overtly loathe them out of the gate as I did with Ana Lucia in season two.

What Aaron Didn't Like: Hey, more shadowy characters! More flashbacks! Can't get enough of those. I'll join the rest of these internets and profess my man-love for Ken Leung's "Miles", but his Asian Peter Venkman gimmick seems…I dunno…can I call it "implausible"? Even on a show that leans so heavily on smoky monsters and women who have immaculately hairless armpits after all this time and other characters who…talk to ghosts, Miles felt like the writers needed a back door out of their own storylines. And, while everyone else is all orgasmic over the storyline "progression", I wasn't all that impressed with the laughably pathetic references to "taller Walt" or the polar bear remains in the desert. Yes, we still remember them from Season 1, guys. Way to run in place.

Verdict: A step back from last week's outing and it's not a good thing that the hook for ABC's preview teaser for next week was the fourth "Oceanic 6" reveal. Isn't the story still on the island?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Another Cheap Read Public Service Announcement

Last week, I made passing reference to Black Enterprise magazine.

And, in the Bootleg Family's never-ending quest to present positive African-American media imagery to our son, I went and bought a three-year subscription. Yes, that should cancel out my West Coast music collection quite nicely. Anyways, I wrote a post similar to this one about a year ago, but it bears repeating:

Get your magazine subscriptions from eBay.

Three years of Black Enterprise = $2.95…total, Nicka!

Now, between the ages of 4 and 7, our son will be exposed to pictures of Black professionals from the imaginary lands of Atlanta, Washington DC aaaaand, I dunno…South Central Atlanta? Meanwhile, his parents will read stories on how African-Americans should better manage their money ("try to leave the dice game before it gets robbed") and the magazine's annual "100 Most Powerful Blacks" feature ("There's a NEW #1! Kidding, it's still Oprah.")

Happy Black History Month, y'all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Piggy Bank Song

So, my Wednesday hasn't gotten off to the best start. I'm coming down with a cold, Barack Obama was thumped by Hillary Clinton in the California Primary and for some inexplicable reason, the excellent East Coast Bias blog is now inaccessible here at the Unnamed Defense Contractor.

All of this, however, was somewhat muted this morning when my son took a quarter and put it in his awesome piggy bank while singing the chorus of this song.

Today: the chorus…

Tomorrow: the first verse…

Monday, February 4, 2008

"Omigosh! I Forgot the Primaries!"

My first election was in the fall of 1992.

Up until that point, my memories of past presidential campaigns were fractured and fleeting.

I remember Walter Mondale getting annihilated in 1984 and USA Today showing (in color! in color!) a map of the United States, highlighting the lone state Mondale won drowning in a monochromatic sea signifying the rest of the country.

I remember a little more about 1988. Gary Hart's image was splashed across the tabloids, saving us all from six more weeks of Jessica Hahn's elongated elephantine face. There was the "you're no Jack Kennedy" line that came this close to making the man who would become the second most powerful force in the universe cry. Aaaaand, there was the Republican Party's blatant race-baiting scare tactics. You stay classy, assholes.

In 1992 – and stop me if you've heard this one before – the world was a different place.

Voting was cool and all the kids were doing it.

I remember that election vividly.

There was Pat Buchanan's bat-sh*t insane orthodox ravings as the centerpiece of Republican ideology during their National Convention. There were Bill and Hillary Clinton unconvincingly reassuring America that their marriage was strong on the post-Super Bowl (Redskins 37, Bills 24) edition of 60 Minutes. And, who can forget the diminutive, home-spun wisdom of former Mexican midget wrester, Ross Perot?

Like I said…the world was a different place.

And, in no place was that difference more overt than in the Black community.

In the late 1980s, a renaissance of sorts had occurred and African-American culture was influencing all walks of life. Remember when Spike Lee could still get major studio financing for his movies? Remember when mainstream Black music was still optimistic, instead of opportunistic? Remember when this new Black Pride was expressed through bright men and women – oftentimes, wearing even brighter colors – as our differences from the rest of society were celebrated?

Not in a "militant" way…just a "different" way.

In 1992, there was a palpable hope that change was on the way in the political landscape. And, at the time, if you'd told this to anyone just coming of voting age, you would've had them at "hope".

"Change" would've been great, but we were content to hang our hats on "hope".

More than 15 years later, I feel exactly the opposite and that's pretty damn sad.

Y'see, I've got a mortgage, a car note and a kid in a private preschool. Hope don't pay the bills.

So, as I approach the 2008 California presidential primary, I'm looking at it through the jaded eyes of someone who's firmly entrenched within the establishment. While, I think it's incredible that either a woman or an African-American is going to be the Democratic candidate for the presidency, I just can't get all caught up in the "hope" angle that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have made the centerpiece of their campaigns.

But, I'm OK with "change".

I've spent time recently researching both Obama and Clinton's views, voting records and post-election plans. All I gleaned from that is even the "hope" and "change" candidates are capable of saying nothing with 100,000 words. Still, I found myself leaning one way, but wasn't quite committed until I saw the most recent Democratic debate on CNN last week.

Truth be told, I actually missed the debate, but caught the "wrap-up show", as it were. Soundbites rolled, the audience seemingly applauded everything and even the "experts" couldn't agree on who "won". That's when one of the talking heads reminded me that for the last 28 years there's been a Bush or a Clinton in the White House.

I'm OK with change.

I'm voting for Obama.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Playoff Pickery: Super Bowl XLII

Last Week / Overall


Joe: 1-1 (7-3)
Aaron: 2-0 (9-1)

Vs. the Spread

Joe: 1-1 (5-5)
Aaron: 1-1 (5-5)

N.Y. Giants vs. New England Patriots (-11 1/2)

Aaron: I can't do it. Jesus, Joe Reid, & Mary, how I wanted to, but I just can't. All credit due the Giants, as a lot of people with very short memories have compared them to the 2005 Steelers, who also won three on the road in January to make it to (and win) the Super Bowl. But, this Giants squad punched three much better teams in the mouth, while the Steelers were gifted two of those three wins and won the Super Bowl on the whistle of some lousy officiating. Lost in the hoopla of the Patriots' greatness is how great the Giants are playing RIGHT NOW. But, I hate the two weeks off for the Giants' momentum. I hate that this Tom Brady ankle non-story has become another "Schilling's Sock" moment for the unimaginative media. And, I hate the thought of betting my life on the arm of Eli Manning until proves he can win the big game. Umm, I mean THE BIG GAME. Y'know, the Super Bowl?

New England Patriots 38, N.Y. Giants 17

Joe: God, I didn't even think of the Brady non-jury as a potential bloody sock moment -- GOD this is going to suck. I pretty much echo all your thoughts, Cam. Many props to the Giants for their phenomenal run, and I will be cheering for them to the point where I'll be indistinguishable from all the Giants fans who came out of the woodwork in New York this month.But thus far, the only thing that's holding the universe back from a full-on Massachusapocalypse is Mitt Romney's unelectability. Of course, this isn't interesting if Cam and I are picking the same outcome on the last pick 'em of the year, so I guess I'm calling the Giants to cover. Godspeed, little doodles.

New England 31, NY Giants 23

Lost - "The Beginning of the End"

With the return of my favorite show to the abandoned television landscape, I'd planned to post a short review of each of the eight episodes slated to air this season. Then, I got to thinking how unoriginal this idea was, since there are two bloggers you can find slightly to the right who are doing a better job at this than I.

But, since I'm nothing if not "unoriginal"…

What Aaron Liked: I was a little skeptical before, but I think the flash forwards are not only an effective storytelling device, but very necessary, as well. The nods to Jack's crazy-bearded downward spiral were pretty nifty, if not at all subtle and the reference to "The Oceanic Six" was a nice way to keep us lemmings strung along this season. I hope that Michael Emerson's performance as "Ben" is as strong all season as it was last Wednesday. Just a brilliant turn and with only a few lines, to boot. When he derisively asks Jack for permission to go with Locke's group, I wanted to applaud. Speaking of which, I'm ecstatic to see someone stand up to – and reject – Jack's de facto leadership.

What Aaron Didn't Like: Sorry, but I've never been a fan of the "Hurley" character. You can't spend three seasons writing him as a snarky blob, and then expect him to have any credibility as a "serious, emotional" load. It's like when a pro athlete dies or is paralyzed or something and the ESPN Sportscenter anchors have to switch from bad comedy and catchphrases to "professional broadcast journalist" tone. To that end, the writers need to do something about the characters who add nothing to the story. They've failed to develop several personalities (Jin, Claire, Rose, Bernard and, I'd even argue Sayid, among others) beyond superficiality, at the expense of keeping uninteresting arcs like Kate and Sawyer strong. It's time to cut bait with most, if not all of the chafe. Now, THAT'S how you mix a metaphor, kids.

Verdict: Solid, but not great, with a little too much "here's what happened in our last episode" catch-up. Good start, but it can – and has been – better.