Sunday, September 30, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #4

Houston at Atlanta

Aaron: Former backup QB Matt Schaub returns to Atlanta in what should be a final, fitting epitaph of the Falcons season. Hey, anything to get the shocking revelation that Mike Vick smokes pot off the front page. Pick: Houston

Joe: Normally I'm all for Michael Vick getting all the scrutiny ad derision coming his way and then some, but I'm with Cam here: maybe if he had smoked MORE pot he'd have lost the initiative to run that dog-fighting ring in the first place. Pick: Houston

New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

Aaron: One of sports oldest clichés is referring to a team riddled with injuries as a "M.A.S.H. unit". It's time to bring that archaic World War II reference into the 21st century. The '07 Buffalo Bills are more akin to Iraqi civilians. Pick: New York Jets

Joe: And now is the time when Joe breaks his vow to only bet against his beloved hometown team so as to avoid disappointment and perhaps enact the rare reverse juju. Pick: Buffalo

Oakland at Miami

Aaron: A cross-country flight to play a three hour game in the moist hell of Miami combined with a week's worth of recycled "something to prove" stories on Daunte Culpepper (who's had "something to prove" since Minnesota dumped him 18 months ago) makes this one an easy pick. Pick: Miami

Joe: What is that intoxicating aroma? Could it be a freshly-opened bottle of Whine? Boo-hoo, your team has to travel cross-country! That's what you get for living on the wrong coast, my friend. Pick: Miami

Chicago at Detroit

Aaron: Cheers to Chicago for benching QB Rex Grossman. Jeers to Chicago for their injury-depleted defense. Hmm, our "TV Guide Test" cancels these actions out. Tie goes to the home team. Pick: Detroit

Joe: This week's episode of Joe Continues To Pick The Bears, To His Peril is brought to you by the memories of Brian Griese's dozen or so productive NFL starts and none of his other ones. Pick: Chicago

St. Louis at Dallas

Aaron: For all the praise that Bill Parcells generates from old school fans, it's obvious that his schtick works fine for veteran teams and not so much for young ones. Put another way, the Cowboys are playing like a team whose collective wives left them. And, took the kids. Pick: Dallas

Joe: I don't know what any of that means, but I do know that St. Louis is suiting up Brett Hull and Nelly to play offensive line this week. Pick: Dallas

Baltimore at Cleveland

Aaron: For anyone still uncertain: the Browns aren't so much "score 51 points good" as the Bengals are "give up 51 points bad". Oakland brought the Browns back to earth. Baltimore will bury them. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Will my irrational hatred of the Baltimore Ravens cause me to overvalue the Browns at home? You're goddamn right it will. Pick: Cleveland

Green Bay at Minnesota

Aaron: Last week, the Packers beat a talented Chargers team desperate for a win and hoping to make a statement. Meanwhile, Minnesota lost to one of the three worst teams in the league. One more week just out of the reaper's reach, Brett Favre. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Has nobody yet figured out that the real Superman in Green Bay is Donald Driver? Really? Pick: Green Bay

Seattle at San Francisco

Aaron: Hey, two of my favorite American cities head-to-head! About five years ago, I puked away a night of beers and shots in a San Francisco alley. Ten years ago, I puked away a night of cognac, cigars and oysters in a Seattle alley. No contest. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Seattle attempts to set the NFL record for most unimpressive victories in the month of September. Good thing the Niners suck. Pick: Seattle

Tampa Bay at Carolina

Aaron: The two week win streak ends here, Buccaneers. I give 'em another month before they're back in their orange "winking pirate" unis to make the transformation complete. Pick: Carolina

Joe: I'm just hoping DeShaun Foster manages to stay healthy long enough to inflate his trade value so I can trade him before the knees give out. Fantasy Football makes me sound like a plantation owner in Georgia some days. Pick: Carolina

Denver at Indianapolis

Aaron: Trap game? Two close calls for the Colts combined with a Broncos team coming off an embarrassing home loss means…well, nothing. Gotta go with integrity and Tony Dungy's sanctimonious moral proselytizing slightly trumps Mike Shanahan's shady ways. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: I'll give this to Bill "Awfully Cocky Now That The Sox Have Narrowling Avoided Giving The Division Away" Simmons: his podcast reminded me just how much Peyton Manning enjoys putting points up on the Broncos. Anthony Gonzalez breakout game? Pick: Indianapolis

Kansas City at Chargers

Aaron: A loss to KC would be deliciously divine, but alas, the Chargers should take out three weeks of offensive frustration here. My consolation prize will have to be all the hyperbolic "Bolts are BACK!" headlines for this win against a Big-12 Conference team. Pick: San Diego

Joe: Any chance Larry Johnson defects to San Diego after this game, like the hockey players and figure skaters of Ye Olde Soviet Union used to do? Pick: San Diego

Pittsburgh at Arizona

Aaron: A quarterback controversy that features Kurt Warner as one of the options can be looked at in one of two ways: (1) the incumbent is ineffective or (2) someone did a sh*tty job of signing an understudy. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: I'm almost tempted to go with 'Zona here, but for Anquan Boldin being reportedly banged up. It's a trap game for the Steelers, for sure. Pick: Pittsburgh

Philadelphia at New York Giants

Aaron: Quite the performances from two teams who walked amongst the dead before last week, no? I think McNabb has more to lose here, as his recent comments were akin to tying his own noose and another loss will lead to…I think I need a new analogy. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: I'm thinking a 50+ point day against the Detroit defense is essentially the same as Cleveland's "not so fast there" point barrage v. Cincy. Eli Manning will continue to throw TD passes to Plaxico Burress until ol' Plax is just a pile of torn ligaments and hairline fractures. Pick: NY Giants

New England at Cincinnati

Aaron: Another prime time game for Tom Brady? Another prime time game for Chad Johnson? I think I'll watch the premiere of Aliens in America at 8:30, instead. Wait…what time does the game start out in Cali? 5:30? F*ck. Pick: New England

Joe: Just so we're clear: if you're not a Patriots fan, you're rooting for the Bengals this week. You are. YOU ARE. I never thought there'd be anything more insufferable than the '72 Dolphins and their annual champagne toast to their being the only team ever to go undefeated, but if there was any team (and fan base) that'd be a sure bet to do something even douchier, it's the '07 Pats. This cannot happen. Pick: New England

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Not Even Close, Coronado. Not Even Close.

It's a little after 8:00 AM on a cool, cloudy Saturday morning here in San Diego.

For the past 45 minutes, my son, Jalen, has been running around butt-naked and playing with the three-piece gang member gift set from the Disney/Pixar movie Cars.

Mrs. Bootleg is upstairs, still asleep, in what amounts to a warm up for the four hour nap she "needs" later in the day.

I'm on my second cup of coffee, while skimming the newspaper. Now, I've mentioned before that this city is proudly locked in a universal goose-step with the Republican Party. I've also mentioned that our major newspaper sits about a million miles to the right of the same conservative citizens it primarily serves.

So, it should come as no surprise when San Diego and its newspaper make an attempt to cover "race relations" that the end result is…

Wait, before we link, a couple of things:

(1) This story actually takes place in the city of Coronado, which is actually a peninsula just slightly southwest of downtown San Diego.

(2) The median cost of a single-family home in Coronado is $1.6 million.

(3) The median familial income in Coronado is $83,000.

Keep these things in mind as you're reading this article entitled: Redheads set apart as living lesson to commemorate Little Rock Nine .

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Only Fall TV Preview You'll Need to Read - Friday

Shows I'm Already Watching: Not a damn thing. Fridays are usually my night to catch up on all the shows that the DVR gathered throughout the week. In fact, Mrs. Bootleg and I have been known to make "theme nights" out of the evening with viewings of three weeks worth of Law & Order: SVU episodes and…umm, did I say I stay in on Friday nights?

I meant to say I ain't got no time for TV on Fridays, cuz you can find me in da club! Yep…getting my drink off (or is it "on"?) Y'all know my motto: everybody in the world love to go clubbin' and after the club it's either breakfast or f*ckin'…! And, don't let the DJ put on "Motownphilly", either. You know that's my jam!


The One New Show That Will be TiVo-ed (for at least one week): Well, I suppose I gotta pick something. Let's see…Fox has The Next Great American Band and Nashville. Our friends at Entertainment Weekly compare the former to American Idol and the latter to Laguna Beach. Moving on.

CBS has Moonlight, which revolves around a private dick with vampire tendencies. Sorry, but I already get my Nosferatu fix from Frank Deford's reports on HBO's Real Sports.

Guess that leaves something called Women's Murder Club on ABC. They say it's based on an adult book series (think "Encyclopedia Brown: The Case of the Broads Who Don't Know Their Place"). The show is about four females (police officer, coroner, reporter and lawyer) who fight against crime and fight for such timely concerns as women's suffrage and equal pay for equal work.

And, it stars the soothing, sandpapery voice box of Angie Harmon? Mrs. Former White NFL Safety/Kick Returner?! Sold!

The One New Show I Ain't EVER Watching: It's not a new show. And, I know some of my readers watch it religiously, but I will never get behind Friday Night Lights. Never. I didn't read the book. I didn't watch the movie. I've been told that both are excellent. The TV adaptation was recently the subject of Mass-hole sports columnist Bill Simmons on in an attempt to save the show. Part of his argument:

"…an improbable cross between The O.C. and every sports show you ever wanted Hollywood to make…"

He lost me at the acronym.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The 200 Word Knee-jerk Review for CW's Reaper

EW called the pilot episode "outrageously entertaining". I wouldn't go that far, but Reaper held my interest from beginning to end. The premise: a slacker becomes Satan's bounty hunter with help from his friends. Bret Harrison, who was excellent in The Loop, is effectively meek and insecure as "Sam", whose soul the devil now owns. Sam's sidekick "Sock" (Tyler Labine – one of the only redeeming qualities of ABC's short-lived Invasion) comes off as an ersatz Jack Black, however.

Most encouraging is the performance of Ray Wise as Satan, himself. It would've been easy to play up the comedic elements of his character, but he's written as the embodiment of evil (death by zamboni!) with a smirk. Missy Peregrym is Sam's love interest (she kind of looks like a female Hillary Swank) but didn't have much to do in the pilot. There's action, drama and comedy here, though the premiere clearly struggled to be a little bit of everything to its audience. My biggest beefs: (1) Sam's first assignment was practically paint-by-numbers, even by "pilot episode" standards. (2) Valerie Rae Miller's "Josie" character is absolutely useless. Please kill her next, Satan.

Verdict: Good opening act, but it's got work to do.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Uneasy Lies the Tooth...

Unlike the rest of you yuck mouths, I've never had a cavity. My secret is a four-part plaque attack plan that anyone can emulate: (1) Plax Pre-Rinse (2) Crest Toothpaste (if you're out of college, more affordable Aim if you ain't) (3) floss (4) Listerine Cool Mint mouthwash.

Twice a day, every day and you, too, can have a smile just like me.

Unless, of course, you need a crown.

Two weeks ago, during a routine cleaning, I complained of some "on-again, off-again" pain in one of my molars. The dentist took out a thin metal rod and touched each of my back teeth until she(!) found the sensitive one. From that point on, my occasional toothache turned acute. And, for the equivalent of a car payment, they could fix the constant pain that they created.

My appointment was for 3:00 PM this past Monday. These were the highlights:

During my 30 minute wait to actually get into the dentist's chair, I was treated to the soothing sounds of several small children screaming absolute bloody f*ckin' murder from behind the walls. Now, I was sitting right next to my then one-year-old son when Mrs. Bootleg clipped off the tip of his index finger while trimming his nails. And, I was also there when my kid's forehead clanged off the bottom of an open garage door during an ill-advised piggy back ride. Those screams from my son were tough to stomach, but these screaming dental victims nearly turned my stomach. Pure uncut terror, right there.

When I finally got in the chair, I tensed up from head to toe. It's a good thing that dentistry isn't exactly a drug-free profession:

"Aaron, we gave you a higher dose of (unpronounceable anesthetic) because our records show you required more than most patients. But, we changed from (unpronounceable anesthetic) to (a different unpronounceable anesthetic) about six months ago, so you probably didn't need as much as we gave you. Could you sign this consent form?"

In minutes, the entire right side of my head went numb…not just the mouth…half of my damn 7 ¾ hat size head. My right ear was tingling. Half of my scalp was tingling. It was like one of those corny, old "Head & Shoulders" commercials.

The smell of burning enamel is something I could've gone without for the rest of my life.

The whole ordeal took over two hours. The chick dentists seemed to get frustrated with me because I wasn't opening/closing my mouth fast enough when they told me to. I wanted to tell them that my reflexes had been slowed 50-60% from their illicit Novocain cocktail. They should've talked into the ear on the side of my head that hadn't suffered a faux stroke.

24 hours later, my whole head hurts and my mouth tastes of cloves, for some reason.

The permanent crown is coming on October 9th.

And, that's the tooth!


The Only Fall TV Preview You'll Need to Read - Thursday

Shows I'm Already Watching: I got hooked on The Office earlier this year through the magic of borrowing the first season DVD from a co-worker, then Netflixing season two. I watched the summer reruns of season three to catch up with the rest of you and now I'm ready for the season premiere this week! So, this is what it's like to be one of the cool kids.

Anyways, I was a little disenchanted with the third season. While the cast and chemistry remain off-the-charts, the writing got a little lazy. The "love triangle" storyline that's been the anchor (double meaning!) of the show for its entire run was moved sideways by swapping out the useless "Roy" character with the similarly superfluous "Karen".

We've also established – quite solidly – that Steve Carrell's "Michael Scott" is an unintentionally insensitive idiot and his socially inappropriate behavior isn't as funny as it was the first 500 times. The rest of the show seems content to keep its characters stuck in neutral, with everyone taking a back seat to Scott and the never-ending adventures of "Pim". Or, is it "Jam"? See what I did there? I took the first names of "Pam" and "Jim" and, as the kids say, I made a "mash up". I mashed up them. Past tense.

Sorry…no, Ugly Betty, Survivor or CSI. But, I'd be remiss if I didn't shout out Grey's Anatomy as it's Mrs. Bootleg's favorite show. The best part is that on the Friday after it airs, without fail, I'll find her on the phone dissecting each episode with her girlfriends as if it were a military debriefing.

One of the greatest moments of our marriage came when I feigned all knowledge of the Isaiah Washington controversy-cum-canning. She meticulously explained every detail, with quotes, counter-quotes, etc. At the end of her presentation, I asked, "Wait, what show is he on?" The doctors said she suffered a mild stroke.

The One New Show That Will be TiVo-ed (for at least one week): Thursday's only new show is something called Big Shots. In the Entertainment Weekly write-up, it's described as a show where "women can see what guys really talk about". I'm inclined to ignore it based on that premise, alone, but now I'm curious. What does an hour-long ABC drama think men talk about? And, hey…an all-white cast! Way to incentivize me ABC.

I did watch a couple of episodes of 30 Rock last year and liked it. EW says the show ranked 137th for the 2006-07 season, which is like…yikes. Still, if I start watching, it'll be akin to a tacit approval of Tracy Morgan. He annoys me.

The One New Show I Ain't EVER Watching: Curiosity's cat-killing ways might get the best of me for a week as I give Big Shots a, uh…shot. So, instead of picking a new show I won't watch, how 'bout an old one? Law & Order: Criminal Intent moves to the USA Network this fall. Thanks to syndication, I've watched practically every episode of the L&O and L&O: SVU franchises. Criminal Intent is cast with unlikable characters, glacial pacing and a palpable Napoleon Complex. Enjoy playing third banana to Monk and the WWE, guys.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #3

Arizona at Baltimore

Aaron: Pretty sure that 'Zona's 0-2 start is the only single-team prediction I've gotten right in the first two weeks. I expect the Ravens' defense to ugly up Leinart's beautiful mug all game long. Hey, Ray Lewis! I hear Leinart got your sister pregnant! Get him! Pick: Baltimore

Joe: It appears that the Cards are slightly better than last season, whil Baltimore is a bit worse, leading them both to meet in the creamy middle of the NFL. Maybe I've just got a hankering for Double Stuf'd Oreos. Pick: Baltimore

San Diego at Green Bay

Aaron: I never thought I could recapture the joy of last January's Chargers Playoff Debacle. Then, came the wonderfully apocalyptic reaction from the imbecilic locals here in SD after last week's loss to the Pats to prove that the joy is still there. I'm going more with my heart than my head (which hasn't done shit for me in picking games, so far). Stupid head. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: Argh -- I hate picking this game. If it's in San Diego, I'm picking the Chargers easy, but the Packers haven't looked half bad, while the Chargers...well, have. Pick: Green Bay

Indianapolis at Houston

Aaron: On the one hand, I said the Colts would hang 50 on the Texans. On the other hand, Texans management insisted that they selected Mario Williams over Reggie Bush just so he could chase down Peyton Manning twice a year. Oddly enough, I like my prediction more. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: The Houston resurgence (or, rather: surgence) is for real, and I wouldn't be entirely shocked to see them pull the upset out at home. But not without a healthy Andre Johnson. (Yes, I realize this is what every hack sportswriter in America is saying. Bite me. Are they saying that too?) Pick: Indianapolis

Minnesota at Kansas City

Aaron: KC has looked like last year's Raiders this season. This pleases me. I like the Chiefs at home versus a so-so Vikings team, but only because I'm guessing that this is the week where Larry Johnson puts up one of those "I ain't dead yet" 200-yard games. Ah, fuck…I can't do it. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: But I can! Pick: Kansas City

Buffalo at New England

Aaron: This past Monday,'s Bill Simmons wrote 100,000 words on how great his Patriots are, while skewering the media for over-blowing the "cheating" storyline from the week before. It's the most bat-shit insane combination of paranoia mixed with stating the obvious (the media blows things out of proportion? Really?) that any of you will ever read. Pick: New England

Joe: Another from the Simmons-is-a-dick files, apparently the Pats won't beat the Bills too bad because we haven't angered the beast by calling them cheaters yet. Well how's this: cheaters! Cheater, cheatery cheaters! There. Now at least when my team loses I'll get a good fantasy day out of Randy Moss. Pick: New England

Miami at New York Jets

Aaron: Who'll win more games, the Jets or the Mets, between now and Sunday? Be honest…you had to think about it. And, if anyone from Pardon The Interruption is reading this, feel free to use that question as part of your amusing "Toss Up" feature. Pick: New York Jets

Joe: Man, the Bills sure have a lot of company for "dregs of the AFC East" status. Pity one of 'em will have to win. Pick: NY Jets

Detroit at Philadelphia

Aaron: The 3-0 Detroit Lions or the 0-3 Philadelphia Eagles…? After this game, which one sounds more believable? Lions QB Jon Kitna has Jesus, but Eagles QB Donovan McNabb MUST win or else face the inordinate amount of scrutiny that comes with being a Black quarterback. Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Maybe we should make a rule that no player should have to play in Philadelphia for more than three seasons. I just see McNabb's will to live slowly eroding. Pick: Detroit

San Francisco at Pittsburgh

Aaron: The Niners have the look of one of those teams that I doubt week after week until they're 8-2 around Thanksgiving. Well, this year someone ELSE will look the fool! Pick: San Francisco

Joe: I will gladly play that fool if it means I don't have to pick this secretly-crappy team on the road. Pick: Pittsburgh

St. Louis at Tampa Bay

Aaron: The Rams have lost two straight games at home. The Bucs surprised the Saints last week. Which result(s) is closer to reality? No clue, but I'll side with the heat n' humidity over the team from a dome. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: When did the Rams get unrepentantly terrible? Why did no one tell me before I drafted Drew "Whitey" Bennett for my fantasy team? Pick: Tampa Bay

Jacksonville at Denver

Aaron: The Broncos were one piece of cheap gamesmanship away from guaranteeing my upset pick of the week year last week. They'll squash the Jags, but at least I can sleep at night, Denver. Pick: Denver

Joe: On a bed of tears, Cam'ron. Pick: Denver

Cleveland at Oakland

Aaron: Can you be undermanned with too much heart? What my Raiders lack in talent, they make up for in gumption. Gut-wrenching loss to Satan's Squadron last week that'll serve to galvanize our spirit and soul. We're like a Terry McMillan book. Pick: Oakland

Joe: I'll never forgive your team for getting their first win before mine does. Never! Pick: Oakland

Cincinnati at Seattle

Aaron: Kudos to the Bengals for one of the most spectacular bed-wettings in recent regular season history. The Browns dropped 51 points on you, Cincy?! The Browns?! At least Cincy still has Chad Johnson. Keep pickin' and grinnin', Chad! Now, dance! Dance for The Man! Pick: Seattle

Joe: Aw, man! You mean I don't get to enjoy Chad Johnson's good-natured antics without feeling guilty? I already feel bad enough about Flavor of Love: Charm School. Can't you leave me with anything?? Pick: Cincinnati

Carolina at Atlanta

Aaron: One of my few wins from last week came from picking agin' the Falcons and I'm nothing if not a lousy picker of football games. Pick: Carolina

Joe: Carolina, on their every-other-season schedule, looks like the favorite in the oh-so-stellar NFC South. The fact that the Bills or Raiders would also be the favorites in the NFC South is none of our concern. Pick: Carolina

New York Giants at Washington

Aaron: 15 years ago, the play of the 1992 NY Giants led to the emotional ruin of then-head coach Ray Handley. One more game should do it for current coach Tom Coughlin, no? Pick: Washington

Joe: Tom Coughlin's the closest this world's going to come to seeing someone have a Falling Down moment, and I for one cannot wait. Pick: Washington

Dallas at Chicago

Aaron: Hey, it's another Sunday night with the Dallas Cowboys. Thanks, NBC. And, that always-exciting Bears offense should make these four hours fly right by. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Just so long as that always-exciting (non-sarcastic division) Bears defense keeps rolling. Pick: Chicago

Tennessee at New Orleans

Aaron: My one week dalliance with Vince Young is over before it even began. And, I've got $100 on Aaron Neville making some kind of cameo: National Anthem, interview in the booth, "celebrity" fan in the stands, etc. I hope his hectic schedule allows it. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: What about Bono and that swollen-faced Green Day guy, huh? What about them? I fear for my favorite birthmarked QB if his team goes 0-3, but the Saints are looking uninspired. Pick: Tennessee

Friday, September 21, 2007

"Take it Easy, Mos Def. Why Don't You Quit Talking For Awhile?"

I've had a hard time getting my mind wrapped around this whole "Jena 6" story.

Apparently, I'm not alone.

Check out this seven minute segment from CNN yesterday. Mos Def, who's the antithesis of most commercial rappers and a decent little actor, doesn't exactly…well, just listen for yourselves.

The video quality sucks, but you'll still get the drift…

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Only Fall TV Preview You'll Need to Read - Wednesday

Shows I'm Already Watching: If we don't count Lost, which isn't returning until early next year, there's nothing on the current Wednesday TV schedule that I watch. Everyone tells me that CSI: New York is only a jillion times better than Law & Order, but I'm still happy with the disposable cop show I've chosen. Maybe I'll plow through CSI on DVD, someday.

As for Deal or No Deal, game shows stopped having any meaning to me after Joker's Wild and Tic Tac Dough left the air. Thank God, GSN still shows classic Press Your Luck ("nowhammiesnowhammiesnowhammies…STOP!") Awesome.

I could be persuaded to start watching Joely Fisher's comely cleavage on Til Death, though. Anyone know if that show is a complete rip-off of the "Al & Peggy Bundy" dynamic from Married…With Children or just a 95% rip-off?

The One New Show That Will be TiVo-ed (for at least one week): I was originally going to play it safe and go with Back to You, Kelsey Grammer's return to TV as an obnoxious newscaster. Then, I realized that the premiere aired last night and I'd missed it. Sure, there'll likely be an "encore presentation", but in case I miss that, I'll go with Pushing Daisies.

The concept sounds kewl…a guy can bring the dead back with one touch, then send them back to being one with the Autobot Matrix with a second touch. ("He's got The Touch…he's got the pow-WER!") Lee Pace plays the man with the magic fingers, while Chi McBride, late of The Nine, is the private investigator who benefits from his new partner's powers.

If this show plays it as a straight-up weekly murder mystery, it'll crash and burn. If they really want to win me over, they'll pepper the storylines with questions about the consequences of giving/taking life (Is it "murder" if you kill someone who was dead yesterday?) and perhaps some honest, all-angles perspective on heaven, hell and the afterlife. I'm not holding my breath.

The One New Show I Ain't EVER Watching: Can we all agree that reality shows are nothing but pathetic attempts at self-promotion? Sure…no real news there. And, can we all agree that all child actors (save for the spectacular Dakota Fanning) add nothing to any entertainment vehicle they're associated with? Ergo…Kid Nation can kiss my Black ass.

I'm not yet convinced that Bionic Woman is going to be worth my time. That whole "with great powers comes great responsibility" claptrap has been done to death and this has the makings of one of those maudlin dramas with cornball dialogue like, "I just want my life back!" Pfft.

Finally, it's rare when a written review actually turns me off, but the not-words "OMG" and "frenemy" are used within a few paragraphs of each other in Entertainment Weekly's review of the CW's Gossip Girl. No lie…I'd rather watch the Wayans Bros. in White Chicks.

White Chicks!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Double-Barrel Will Ferrell

Last week, the Netflix queue kicked out Blades of Glory and Stranger Than Fiction. Some quick commentary:

The farther that Ferrell falls from the idiotic comic apex (and I mean that in a good way) of Anchorman, the less likely it is that I'll include his next movie on my watch list. There are a few good laughs, but Ferrell's white trash ice skater, "Chazz Michael Michaels" was a one-note joke stretched to its limits by a thin, thin plot.

What made Anchorman work for me was the supporting cast. Everyone played well off of Ferrell's "Ron Burgundy", while the film reveled in its absurdity by having the characters act oblivious to it. Blades... tries a little too hard to recapture that magic with Jon Heder's effeminate doe-eyed "Jimmy MacElroy", who is neither funny nor even "pathetically sympathetic". There's an incestuous subplot with a brother and sister who play the cartoonish skating villains and "Pam" from The Office whores up her wardrobe a bit (Aaron approves), but this flick still ain't worth your time.


MAKE time for Stranger Than Fiction. I cannot get across how much I loved this movie. I seem to remember m'man Joe Reid including it on his short list for predicted "Best Picture" Oscar nods about a year ago and I'm floored that it was all but ignored come awards time (Ferrell did win a Golden Globe for it, though).

Everyone I've talked to (who hasn't seen it) either (1) thought it was another "Will Ferrell Movie" ™ or (2) was put off by the premise: an unexceptional man living an unexceptional life suddenly hears the voice of a narrator to his life.

Just a phenomenal performance by Ferrell who nails the physical presence and emotional nuances of an average man wrestling with surreal circumstances. The supporting cast is equally enjoyable with Emma Thompson's author/narrator able to relay eccentricity through more than wild-eyes and uncombed hair. Dustin Hoffman appears as a college professor who helps unravel the mystery behind all of this. Ooh, and can't forget Maggie Gyllenhaal. She's a potential love interest for Ferrell's "Harold Crick" character, if she can overlook the whole "Crick is her tax auditor" hang-up.

The dialogue is terrifically authentic and the pacing is perfect, as Harold Crick's life is turned upside down, which, interestingly enough, presents the first opportunity for Crick to actually have a life.

My only beef, initially, was with the ending. But, with an additional viewing, it ultimately rings truer than the alternative path it could've just as easily traveled.

See. This. (Expletive). Movie.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Only Fall TV Preview You'll Need to Read - Tuesday

Shows I'm Already Watching: Longtime readers might remember that when Baby Toddler Little Boy Bootleg was born, there were some health issues that kept him on house arrest for the first few months of his life. During that time, the Mrs. and I (finally) discovered the Law & Order family of shows.

OK…"discovered" like Columbus "discovered" America, but you get the idea. Years later, I'm still a sucker for Law & Order: SVU. Last season was weakened, somewhat, as the writers had to work around Mariska Hargitay's pregnancy/childbirth for the first dozen or so episodes. Meanwhile, Richard Belzer's "Munch" and Ice-T's "Fin" characters were just afterthoughts, but m'man Chris Meloni upped the intensity level to "Eckstein/Erstad" heights of effectiveness. The show's become a preachy, ridiculously liberal soapbox for executive producer Dick Wolf, but it's still compelling TV when it wants to be.

That's it for Aaron on Tuesdays. No House, Bones or Boston Legal. If we're to believe the previews, Hugh Laurie has "crossed the line" or "done the unthinkable" at least 200 times since House premiered. How does he stay licensed?

The One New Show That Will be TiVo-ed (for at least one week): On the one hand, I love shows that are colossally awful and embrace their ineptitude. I grew up supporting such stink bombs as ABC's I Married Dora, The Charmings and Sledge Hammer!. From there, I found FOX who contributed crap like Whoops! and Babes. And, then there were the first few seasons of UPN and The WB. Anyways, this is my usually long-winded way of saying I'll give Cavemen a spin. Hey, some people watch NASCAR exclusively for the crashes. CW's Reaper actually looks intriguing, but…man, it's like an hour long.

The One New Show I Ain't EVER Watching: I can't work up enough of a defiant lather over Carpoolers. It stars Jerry O'Connell as a "playboy dentist" and three other guys who kibitz on their commute to work. Alternate title: Sex in the Sebring. Thankfully, I can proudly avoid Jimmy Smits' new drama Cane. CBS also digs up the remains of Rita Moreno and Hector Elizondo for this hour-long soap opera of money, bitches, greed and deceit set in New Central America (Florida). Most disappointing? The title refers to sugar cane. Over/Under on how many episodes it takes for sugar cane's older, runny-nosed brother "Co" to make a cameo: 1.5.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Only Fall TV Preview You'll Need to Read - Monday

Shows I'm Already Watching: It might be time to add some more meat to my Mondays. Only the CW's Everybody Hates Chris is on my first-day-of-the-work-week radar. They enter their third season with an October 1 premiere and the hope here is that the writing can return to its Season One roots. Last year, the show became a standard Black sitcom with broadly-drawn caricatures (Tichina Arnold's braying "Rochelle" was the most annoying) and a loss of focus on the familial elements.

When Everybody Hates… first debuted, it was a breath of fresh air and the most realistic depiction of working-class African-Americans that I'd seen in recent memory. Now that Chris Rock's film career is effectively dead and buried, he should devote every waking hour to getting this show back on track. Seriously, how many more cinematic opportunities is Hollywood gonna give this guy? Did you not see Rock's Head of State? It was a feature-length film with Nate Dogg hooks, for God's sake!

And, for the record, I've managed to avoid Monday night fan favorite shows Heroes and Prison Break to this point. Both first seasons are on the Netflix queue, though and it wouldn't be the first time I discovered a great show after everyone else did. In fact, I'm pretty sure I was the LAST person to get on board the Arrested Development bandwagon. First saw it in September 2006. I am not proud of this.

The One New Show That Will be TiVo-ed (for at least one week): I hope no one whose opinion I value is reading what I'm about to write. Y'see, I'm passing over the early acclaim of Aliens in America and the geeky, pocket-protector potential of Chuck and Journeyman for…K-Ville.

It's up against Heroes and Two and a Half Men, so there's no way it lasts more than two weeks in its timeslot, but I'm curious to see if Fox lets the writing run wild with the social, political and economic issues that have enveloped post-Katrina New Orleans. I'm not optimistic, but then I'm probably the only one of you who watched every episode of New York Undercover. Where have you gone, Malik Yoba and the bug-eyed Puerto Rican guy who played his partner?

The One New Show I Ain't EVER Watching: Umm, yeah…so, here's the thing about Christina Applegate. I commend her for somehow, someway successfully escaping the "Kelly Bundy" typecast. Show of hands: who amongst thought she'd still be working 10 years after Married…With Children went off the air? LIARS! It's just that the premise of her new show, Samantha Who?, about an amnesiac biiatch who has forgotten how biiatchy she was sounds more like "mid-season replacement" than "years and years of viewer investment". ABC obviously agrees as they've given Samantha Who? the choice timeslot in between the vapid Dancing with the Stars and vacant The Bachelor in an attempt to manufacture ratings.

Boo, ABC!

The Oakland A's Monday #17

Overall: 74-77 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last (Two) Weeks: 6-7 (1-2 vs. Angels 0-3 vs. Rangers, 2-1 vs. Mariners, 3-1 vs. Rangers)

As the 2007 season slowly plods to its miserable finish for my Oakland A's, there's been one constant explanation that's been cited as the reason why this team was essentially eliminated around Independence Day. The fans and the media are convinced that, were it not for injuries (the A's have used the disabled list 22 times this year en route to 54 different players suiting up for the team in '07) the Athletics would've been playoff contenders.

But, how much did the injuries really affect the A's this year?

Catcher: Jason Kendall played almost every day until his mid-July trade to the Cubs. He (chuckle) "hit" .226/.261/.281 in 80 games for the A's. Injury impact: None

First Base: Dan Johnson had a strong spring training before tearing cartilage in his hip a few days before the start of the regular season. This is a tough one to call, because Johnson's injury led to OF Travis Buck making the Opening Day roster, while Nick Swisher (a few Todd Walker cameos) manned first base. Buck put up a .900+ OPS (in 59 plate appearances) while Johnson was out and Swisher, as usual, had a good first month with the stick. Johnson returned towards the end of April, got hot for a few weeks, and then went stone cold before losing his job right around the trading deadline. Injury impact: Minimal-to-none

Second Base: Mark Ellis has only missed 11 games this season. Injury impact: None

Shortstop: Bobby Crosby's apologists often add "…if he stays healthy…" to their predictions of superstardom for the oft-injured offensive albatross. Well, he played in 93 of Oakland's first 100 games to the tune of a .278 OBP and .341 SLG. I was at the game in Anaheim when a hit-by-pitch ended his season. The A's season had already ended by then. Injury impact: None

Third Base: If we give Eric Chavez the benefit of the doubt, then we must believe his sob story that he's been playing hurt all year. He also claims that he's been dealing with nagging injuries for practically his entire career. You're a warrior, Eric. He's three years removed from his last good year at the plate, so there's no telling if he would've been productive even if he was healthy. Injury impact: Moderate

Left Field: For the sake of argument, let's assume that Nick Swisher was slated to be the Opening Day leftfielder. Swisher has moved all over the diamond to fill in for the walking wounded, so free agent signee Shannon Stewart has stepped in to play 129 games out there this year. A mediocre April and August have blunted his otherwise surprising numbers (.290 BA, .350 OBP). Injury impact: Minimal-to-none

Centerfield: Mark Kotsay had back surgery a few days into spring training, missed the first two months of the season, then came back way too soon. He's been in decline since his career year in 2004, but his defense was sorely missed. Injury impact: Significant

Right Field: Milton Bradley has played 140+ games once in his career. He hit the DL 3 times for the A's in 2007 before being shown the door for clashing with GM Billy Beane. Bradley's tremendously underrated on defense and a solid hitter to boot. His injuries left gaping holes both in the field and at the plate. Then again, Travis Buck put up better numbers than Bradley ever did as an Athletic. Injury impact: Moderate, but not as bad as it could've been

Designated Hitter: Mike Piazza was signed for $8 million dollars and had one home run on May 2, when Boston's Mike Lowell ruined Piazza's shoulder. Jack Cust has been streaky, but sensational, while turning Piazza into a modern-day Wally Pipp. Injury impact: Less than none

Starting Pitching: Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza have only started six games, combined, all year. Fill-ins Chad Gaudin and Lenny DiNardo had extended stretches of effectiveness before turning back into proverbial pumpkins. The impact of Harden's and Loaiza's absences was certainly severe, but it's not like the A's shouldn't have seen this coming. Injury impact: Significant

Bullpen: Huston Street, Justin Duchscherer and Kiko Calero all missed significant time with injuries. With the A's forced to move guys like Gaudin and Joe Kennedy into the rotation, the bullpen turned into a collection of Triple-A stiffs. Injury impact: Significant

So what does this ridiculously subjective analysis mean?

Well, the A's have been lousy on offense all year and I'm inclined to blame that on the absence of 2006's best hitter on the team, Frank Thomas, and not on injuries. If anything, the revolving DL door hit the defense harder than the offense.

As for the pitching staff, the A's were leading the league in ERA for much of the first half, before the workloads caught up with some of the replacement starting arms and the bullpen collapsed upon itself.

All in all, it's been a pretty sh*tty year.

This Week: vs. Mariners (3), at Indians (3)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Only Fall TV Preview You'll Need to Read – Sunday

Our friends at Entertainment Weekly put out their annual Fall TV preview issue last week. So, for the next seven days, I'm going to do the same here. I'll be covering the shows I already watch, the one new show that intrigues me the most and the one new show that I wouldn't watch with your beady little eyes.

Shows I'm Already Watching: Even though The Simpsons peaked while I was still in college, I'm pretty much riding this franchise to its eventual and, likely, unfunny finale. The storylines are recycled, the writing has gone from "pointed" to "sledgehammery" and after years of resisting, the jokes have taken a turn towards toilet humor that my Simpsons never needed before. So, why am I staying? Well, do men ever leave their wives after a difficult 12-year stretch when there are better options out there? Well, do they?

And, how's this for "quickest hypocrisy"…I also watch Family Guy and American Dad. The latter found a nice little groove after a shaky first season, even though I freely admit that its comedic shelf life is limited. Meanwhile, Family Guy has been very uneven since its return from cancellation oblivion, but the week-to-week likelihood of a sequence like this 'un keeps me coming back.

The One New Show That Will be TiVo-ed (for at least a week): Hmmm…only two new shows on Sunday. One's about an American family that moves to South Africa, while the other is a "musical drama". I'm already beginning to regret creating this category. Tell you what…why don't I completely punk out and suggest that I might consider watching Brothers & Sisters? It's not a new show, but up until a few days ago, I only knew of it as "that one starring Harrison Ford's malnourished granddaughter".

So what kind of won me over…uh, almost? There's a terrific interview with two other actresses from the show (Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths) in this week's Entertainment Weekly. Hey, it's a really good interview and the show seems like it's about a more f*cked-up family than mine. This intrigues me.

The One New Show I Ain't EVER Watching: Sorry, Viva Laughlin, but it's not like you were counting on much of the Black audience, anyway. In the EW write-up, it seemed that the show's writers and producers went out of their way to say "It's NOT Cop Rock, ferchristsake!" Well, I don't want to jump to conclusions about a show I've never seen, but I'm going to say…yes…yes it is Cop Rock.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular - Week #2

Houston at Carolina

Aaron: Former Texans QB David Carr is now warming the bench in Carolina and telling the Panthers everything he knows about his old team. After 249 sacks during his five-year Houston career, I'm surprised Carr even knows his name without having to wear his jersey backwards. Pick: Carolina

Joe: What, now that we're simulcasting on That Bootleg Blog (motto: We Review Sandwiches -- Honest To God Sandwiches, People!) we're expected to know statistics? I'm just picking based on which mascot would win in a real fight. You'd think a Panther would have the edge, but Texans? Have guns. Pick: Houston

Indianapolis at Tennessee

Aaron: I've got to stop picking against Vince Young. I've been doing it since the '06 Rose Bowl which, aside from being one of the greatest bowl games ever, was also the last known sighting of Matthew McConaughey. What the hell happened to his career between A Time to Kill and now? Pick: Tennessee

Joe: Is Tennessee going to be one of those teams we never both pick in the same week, also known as the Atlanta Falcons Memorial "Here's Where I Make Up Some Ground" Team? Pick: Indianapolis

San Francisco at St. Louis

Aaron: Last week, if the 49ers had lost and the Rams had won, Joe would've put up a 16-0 week. I think I speak for the world when I say "whew." Besides, I do "insufferable" so much better than Joe. Pick: St. Louis

Joe: Two teams who looked significantly worse than I expected them to last week. St. Louis, in addition, is currently suffering from the Plague or whatever. Pick: San Francisco

New Orleans at Tampa Bay

Aaron: If last week's loss to the Colts was the devastating storm, this week's game for the Saints will be the equivalent of the rapid rebuilding of the, umm…let's see, I need a euphemism for "white", umm…"good parts" of New Orleans. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Damn, Cam, you're getting more mileage out of Katrina than Bono. Pick: New Orleans

Green Bay at New York Giants

Aaron: Back-up Giants QB Jared Lorenzen gets his first NFL start this week. A near 300 lb. quarterback in New York? Ooh, I sure hope the local media and headline writers cover this from every angle. I'm tired of their usual restraint. Pick: New York Giants

Joe: Personally I'm glad Jared Lorenzen is around. I'd been getting sick of being the only fat guy in New York not running a pizza joint. I don't love the Pack, but they've got a good defense, and teeing up against a backup QB and RB should work out for them. Pick: Green Bay

Buffalo at Pittsburgh

Aaron: Nope, not again Bills. Last week vs. Denver, in a single game, I experienced the decades of frustration that the locals have lived through in following this team from birth. I am now one of yours, Buffalo. (At least, until you vote Mayor Brown out of office.) Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: (Uh...pass.) You sure the Bills didn't suffer enough injuries in Week One? Eh, God? Paralysis, broken bones, last-second hurry-up field goals? If J.P. Losman gets injured by a rain of falling toads, I'm officially out. Pick: Pittsburgh

Cincinnati at Cleveland

Aaron: Chad Johnson had all offseason to come up with his first touchdown celebration and he picks a mock Hall of Fame jacket with an iron-on enshrinement date? You'll never make next year's ESPN "Who's Now" bracket with laziness like that. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: I spent the past week writing down the name of every sportswriter and talking head yahoo who slammed the Browns for not playing Brady Quinn so that when Quinn does eventually start playing and inevitably sucking the bag with this crap-ass team, I'll know who the hypocrites are when they start writing off his pro career. Pick: Cincinnati

Atlanta at Jacksonville

Aaron: I think it's safe to say I won't be picking Atlanta again all season. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Jacksonville didn't exactly sprout daisies out of their helmets last week either. But I've picked way too many road teams as it is this week. Pick: Jacksonville

Seattle at Arizona

Aaron: I'm not sold on Seattle, but since no team no-shows the last two minutes of games like the Cardinals, I can't go with 'Zona. And, if Matt Leinart starts showing any interest in accepting his baby-daddy responsibilities, I'm giving up on them entirely. Pick: Seattle

Joe: Matt Leinart might want to start showing interest in completing passes to his receivers first. Besides Edgerrin James -- who looked pretty great -- Arizona's offense barely looked like they were playing football. Glad I made Larry Fitzgerald my top-drafted WR! Pick: Seattle

Minnesota at Detroit

Aaron: Congratulations, Lions! You're now the state of Michigan's new official football team. And who do we root for on Saturday? The Wolverines vs. The Fighting Irish? Both 0-2! I want crowd shots a-plenty, ABC! Pick: Detroit

Joe: I keep wanting to pick Detroit, but my fingers won't allow me to predict a 2-0 start for the Lions. Pick: Minnesota

Dallas at Miami

Aaron: I still don't think Dallas is as good as they looked in week #1. Now, they've got a mid-September game in Miami where even good teams tend to look sluggish in the heat and humidity. Fortunately, Miami needs neither to suck. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Granted, but Marion Barber looks sluggish on the best of days and that still hasn't managed to keep him out of the end zone. Pick: Dallas

Kansas City at Chicago

Aaron: The Bears were exposed by the Chargers as the pretenders to the throne that they are, so they'll take it all out on the Chiefs this week. Larry Johnson should've shown up for training camp and skipped this game. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Not to disagree with you or anything, but I thought the Bears holding San Diddy to 14 points showed that their defense is still every bit as good as they were last season. Their offense is inconsistent as ever, too, but that's still good enough in the NFC. Or against KC. Pick: Chicago

New York Jets at Baltimore

Aaron: On the one hand, the Jets have earned my eternal admiration for their part in exposing the New England Patriots' cheating ways. On the other hand, I am the acting Sergeant-At-Arms of the "Stop Snitching" campaign (San Diego Chapter). Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Speaking of arms, it's a nice change of pace for Steve McNair to have injured his groin rather than his shoulder last week. Good to know he's got broken-down old-man parts down there as well. Pick: Baltimore

Oakland at Denver

Aaron: For the first time in NFL history a team looked past its opening week opponent. For the Raiders, this is their season opener and, probably, their season. This ain't personal bias, it's insanity. Aaron's Upset Special, baby. (And, at the very least, take the Raiders and the points. There's no way Denver covers as 9-9 1/2 point favorites.) Pick: Oakland

Joe: Don't worry, readers. We'll get Aaron the help he needs. Pick: Denver

San Diego at New England

Aaron: Few teams have talked more trash about the cheating Patriots than the Chargers this week. Understandable, since Shawne Merriman's and Luis Castillo's failed steroid tests don't count in football and LaDanian Tomlinson is, in his words, "a classy individual". Me thinks the Chargers desire to shut up the Pats is outweighed by the Pats desire to be media martyrs. Pick: New England

Joe: Once again, Cam, the fact that your hate for the Chargers continues to trump your hate for New England makes me very, very sad. That being said, this game is so obviously going to the game where the Teflon Pats win big and by Monday we'll all be talking about Moss and Brady and not how their coach is a dirty, dirty cheater with a face that could make children cry. Pick: New England

Washington at Philadelphia

Aaron: Dear Eagles coach Andy Reid. Stop sampling your sons' stash and try running Brian Westbrook a little earlier than the middle of the 2nd quarter this week. Hugs, Aaron... Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Tough game to pick. I have absolutely no handle on how good/bad these teams really are, not to mention the fact that their head-to-head games never end up the way you think they will anyway. Flip a coin... Pick: Philadelphia

Thursday, September 13, 2007

50 Cent vs. Kanye West...TBG Cares About Black People

This past Tuesday, 50 Cent and Kanye West released their latest albums. You may have heard of a "challenge" between the two in an effort to see who'll sell more CDs. The whole faux feud was rightfully laughed out of the room, but that didn't stop me from Tivo-ing BET's "106 & Park" earlier this week to see BOTH Kanye AND Fiddy LIVE IN STUDIO!!!!!111

It's running diary time!

6:00 PM - We kick things off with a 10-second "Clash of the Titans" graphic that's somehow cheesier than 1981's 10-hour Clash of the Titans movie. Did you know that Sir Laurence Olivier played Zeus? He would later reprise that role in 1989's No Holds Barred.

And, as if everyone involved with this debacle couldn't possibly embarrass themselves any more, here's ESPN's very own Stuart Scott with a 50 Cent/Kanye West tale of the tape. He knows this whole thing is staged, right? Can someone please talk into his good eye?

6:02 PM - Your hosts for the evening are Terrence and Rocsi, who replaced longtime "106 & Park" hosts A.J. and Free. Umm, or so I've heard. Terrence is wearing nondescript jeans and a blue polo shirt, while Rocsi is rocking a short, shiny black dress. And, in record time, Mrs. Bootleg has dropped the "she looks like a hooker" line.

Do all Black women turn into judgmental Republicans as they age or did I find the only one?

6:05 PM - This is, apparently, still a video countdown show. Hey, I'm as shocked as you. Anyways, the number 10 video is "I'm So Hood" by DJ Khaled and about 100 guest stars. If ESPN forced us to accept "now" as an adjective, I suppose "hood" gets a pass, too. The video only runs for about 30 seconds, but from what I can gather "hood" is the new "ghetto", which means white people will be using it in another year or two.

6:06 PM - Terrence and Rocsi are back out to tell us that a flip of a coin determined who would perform first between 50 and Kanye. The unemployable adolescent studio audience is eating up every word of this manipulative tripe. The wife tells me that "106 & Park" is a corner in Spanish Harlem which, uh…pretty much explains everything.

6:08 PM - Here's 50 Cent with a live performance of the single "Ayo Technology" or, as I like to call it, "Magic Stick, Part VI". Fortunately, G-Unit member Tony Yayo was able to appear on stage, too. I assume Lloyd Banks had to work a double shift at Yayo's street corner gyro wagon to make this happen.

Sample lyric: "…ooh, she wants it…aah, aah, she wants it…"

6:15 PM - 50 Cent solo interview time. He seems a little…off. His speech is slow and laborious as he rambles through the possibility of releasing another album later this year, the Wal-Mart "deluxe edition" of his CD, rumors of a relationship with Ciara and the possibility of Jim Jones joining G-Unit.

I'm probably showing my age, but the only above topic of conversation that I could bring myself to remotely care about is the Wal-Mart thing. Not because I want the album, it's just that I thought Wal-Mart didn't sell "dirty versions" of any album. Thank Allah they've still got guns and ammo, though. All those "Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics" deaths won't be on Wal-Mart's watch!

6:20 PM - 50's "Follow My Lead" video airs. It features Dustin Hoffman as a psychiatrist and Robin Thicke on the hook. Mrs. Bootleg appears shocked that "Bernie Focker" would lower himself to appear here and then she tries to wow me with the "Do you know who Robin Thicke's dad is?" trivia question. Why did I let her out of the kitchen?

6:25 PM - We're back live and it's time for something called "50 Cent's Cash Challenge". Marquita (natch) from the studio audience has been selected to enter the "cash chamber" where all kinds of currency flies around and she's tasked with grabbing as much as she can in 50 (get it?) seconds. With Mrs. Bootleg openly rooting her on, Marquita grabs $1,300 out of the wind tunnel. You be safe on that drive back to the Hamptons with all that cash, Marquita.

6:30 PM - We blow through five-second clips of the numbers seven and six videos for the day: "Money in the Bank" by Swizz Beats and "Promise Ring" by Tiffany Evans. Did I miss numbers nine and eight or did BET skip right past them and assume no one would notice? Back in MY day, countdowns were 10 thru 1, they showed whole videos and "Batdance" held the top spot for the entire summer of 1989. Vicki Vale…Vicki Vale

6:35 PM - Another live performance from 50 Cent and this time it's "I Get Money". Quite the unexplored avenue in rap, no? Now, at the risk of pissing away the last threads of my credibility…I like this track. It's ostentatious and obnoxious, but hey, it's kind of catchy and a great sample. These days, 50's best work is the up-tempo club anthem. He remains a mediocre live performer, though.

And, his reputation takes another hit when he invokes the crowd to do that "hey-ho" side-to-side arm waving thing that hasn't been seen since 19-Naughty-3.

6:40 PM - It's time for the day's number five video and it's Keyshia Cole's "Let It Go" featuring Missy Elliot and Lil' Kim. We just get the first verse, but it's a hot little cut. Extra points to Missy for finally dressing like a woman after all these years. Anyone know if Missy and Tweet ever got married commitment ceremonied?

6:41 PM - Our number four abbreviated video of the day is T.I.'s "You Know What It Is" featuring Wyclef Jean. Y'know, next to Tupac Shakur, there's not one artist out there still suckling from 1996's teet harder than Clef. He killed the Fugees, he ruined Canibus and The Bee Gees…really, who's left? Fine, Clef…finish off T.I., and then just go away.

6:45 PM - Kanye West is finally out to perform "Champion". The response from the audience is positively muted compared to the cheers for Fiddy. Mrs. Bootleg points out two white guys in the audience with the same disdain she has for bruthas who date outside the race. She even throws in a "What are THEY doing there?" This from a woman who likes Justin Timberlake. I know, Mathan, I know…

This isn't one of Kanye's better live spots. His voice is cracking all over the place, which hinders the effectiveness of this cut. He follows this up with "Can't Tell Me Nothing". It's a terrific song and an excellent choice for the first single (radio-friendly, but still risky). The crowd is practically sitting on their hands in an inexplicable silence, though. Have that many Black women ever kept their cry-holes quiet for this long (about four minutes and counting)? Not in my company, kids.

6:50 PM - We're on the interview couch with Mr. West as he addresses his earlier comments toward MTV's Video Music Awards show last weekend: He was apparently promised the main stage/opening act sequence prior to the network handing it over to Britney Spears. It's actually a measured, believable explanation that's further strengthened with an accusation that MTV then promised a stage performance for Kanye as a compromise, only give it to Justin Timberlake, instead. (West's performance was held in the "suite" area, as opposed to the main stage).

West punctuates this mini-diatribe with "Sorry, middle America. Sorry, red states". Hard to believe I hated this guy for so long.

6:53 PM - Fortunately, "level-headed Kanye West" steps aside for his delusional doppelganger. In a terrific back-handed slap, West asks and answers his own question of why an artist of his caliber would collaborate with hacks like Lil' Wayne and T-Pain. In West's words, his albums are "like a time capsule". They're a "snapshot" of the current music scene. He could've just as easily said, "Wayne and T-Pain are kinda hot right now. That's the only reason they're here."

And, did you know that the CD cover art will actually "increase in value" years after you've purchased the album? Kanye said this, so it must be true. Surprisingly, the sycophantic hosts let this bit of bullsh*t go unchallenged.

7:00 PM - Kanye's video for "The Good Life" is played and while I wasn't feeling the acid-trip animation, it's an excellent song…and actually features T-Pain. Am I going to have to stop changing the channel whenever T-Pain appears on my XM Radio? The answer is "no". But, this is a great cut, nonetheless.

7:10 PM - The final live performance of the evening is Kanye's "Big Brother". Another powerful track that's actually helped by the fact that West's voice is almost gone at this point. The song serves as an open letter to Jay-Z and…wait, I need the :o emoticon for this: Jay-Z, himself, comes out in an ensemble that answers the question: Who bought all of Missy Elliot's 1983 b-boy gear?

7:20 PM - We wrap things up on the couch as the hosts, Terrence and Rocsi, collectively kiss both 50's and Kanye's asses. Four things of note: (1) The crowd is heckling 50 pretty hard and he seems torn between shooting the entire audience or beating them with his bare hands. (2) Kanye and 50 are practically in each other's lap, which annoys Kanye to the point that he sits up on the back of the couch…the rest of the interview is with 50 and Kanye's knees. (3) The "Kenny Chesney Question" is brought up and quickly dismissed. (4) A mumbling, distracted 50 cent compares himself to Muhammad Ali, which leads to the line of the night from Mrs. Bootleg:

"He sure sounds like him."

See, she's talking about the Parkinson's version of…ah, never mind. Oh, and your number one video for the show is…50's "I Get Money" and Kanye's "Can't Tell Me Nothing".

Now you can all sleep easy tonight knowing that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Aftermath

Just so everyone knows, this won't be a regular feature of bitching, pissing and second guessing. But, in a week where Joe Reid puts up an ungodly 14-2 against my measly 10-6, I'm left to sift through the ashes of my own torching.

Atlanta at Minnesota - Well, I don't feel as big of an idiot as ESPN's Bill Simmons, who called the Falcons his guaranteed "sleeper" team this year, but it's close. Why didn't anyone tell me that Joey Harrington sucked? What the hell do I have a "comments" feature for, people?

Carolina at St. Louis - Should've seen this one coming since Marc Bulger is one of my fantasy quarterbacks n' all.

Denver at Buffalo - Nothing snarky to say here, as I have no idea how a team goes on when one of their own suffers such a horrific injury during a game. That said…c'mon, Buffalo. I had faith in you when your own fans didn't think you had a chance. This is how you repay me?

Philadelphia at Green Bay - We got this game in San Diego on Sunday. Here's a look into Andy Reid's playbook: "Ignore Brian Westbrook, establish passing game, stick with passing game even when Donovan McNabb is obviously playing at about 70%, ignore Westbrook some more, then go to Westbrook only AFTER the Packers have exposed McNabb, completely and have started stacking the box.

Tennessee at Jacksonville - Never trust a Black quarterback.

Detroit at Oakland - Moving right along…

Monday, September 10, 2007

TBG Reviews Taco Bell's Cheesy Beefy Melt

If you watched even a minute of football this past weekend, you probably saw the above commercial at least once. I'm not really sure what our friends at Taco Bell were going for, as this ad campaign appears to be an ode to fellatio's final moments. Still, if it's a new menu item, I wouldn't be doing my blog-job if I didn't ingest one for all of you.

And, in your marketing shocker of the week, the amount of cheese in mine was nowhere near the mountain of ooze n' goo that they chew in the commercial. In fact, I had a hard time finding anything amongst the seasoned ground beef, "Spanish" rice, sour cream and guacamole that could even be melted. A thin sprinkling of shredded cheese was layered throughout, but it wasn't any more than you'd expect from what is essentially a beef n' rice burrito.

Menu price is $1.99, which is just barely acceptable for an edible, if unspectacular new menu option. BTW, Taco Bell's beef n' potato burrito ($1.29) remains the best damn value on their menu. TB's take on the hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant classic is one of the best "after drinking" meals that you'll find. Get two and thank me in the morning.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

For Your (Razzie) Consideration

The Bootleg Family has been signed up to Netflix for the last several months. And, even though a monthly fee is deducted from my checking account each month, it still feels like I'm getting free movies every time a new one shows up in our mailbox.

Y'see, in my mind, I imagine Netflix is akin to walking into a video store, taking a DVD off the shelf and walking right out. But, when the store's doughy, unshaven assistant manager tries to stop me, I silently flash my Netflix membership in her scruffy mug without breaking stride.

(Hey, kids…get yourselves a marketing degree and you, too, could be thinking up imaginary commercials for your blogs after you've graduated!)

Late last week, Jim Carrey's psychological thriller, "The Number 23", showed up at home. Quick synopsis: an average suburban guy receives a book from his wife that throws him into a downward spiral of obsession, paranoia and – possibly – murder. All because of a certain number that escapes me at the moment.

Yes, yes…I know that all you movie snobs have already snorted out a quick puff of air and you're just now wrinkling your lips ever so slightly to say the "what" in "what did you expect, Aaron". But, I have a viable defense. Shut up. That's my defense.

Carrey is "Walter Sparrow", while Virginia Madsen plays his sympathetic wife, "Agatha". Madsen's performance is solid enough, as she cycles through the predictable array of emotions (dismissive, concerned, fearful, scared-sh*tless) while watching her husband lose his marbles.

My problem with her – and my biggest beef with the movie – is that she's way too quick to be won over by all the coincidental and anecdotal "evidence" that shows how the number 23 controls her husband's life. Hell, their son "Robin" is on board with his dad from the very beginning. Please name ONE teenager that would immediately buy into his dad's "A number is after me! A number is after me!" hysteria.

Wait…"Robin Sparrow"? His parents named him Robin Sparrow and he still supports his old man?!

Anyways, Carrey has shown himself to be quite the accomplished actor, but it's rare when his performance and the material he's given sync up into something sublime. Here, neither is anything to write home about.

Carrey's aww-shucks, awkward charm is a good ten years past its expiration date. Consequently, the leap from "family man" to "Captain Insano" isn't as dramatic as the movie would have us believe. He wears a perpetual look of blank shock on his face that is more "Is the cable out?" than "Am I out of my mind?"

There are some moments when the story tries to rise above the dreck – especially the inventive flashbacks where Carrey and Madsen become the characters from the haunted book – but, even those get old after the first few minutes.

Throw in two nonsensical subplots about a dog that watches over the dead and a wrongfully accused murderer and you have the makings of one of the worst movies of the year. Top it off with a ridiculous "twist" of an ending and "The Number 23" actually doubles back from "awful" and becomes "unintentional comedy".

Then, again…what did I expect?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

TBG's NFL Pickery Spectacular – Week #1

Yeah, yeah…there's been a ton of sports-related material here over the last few weeks. But, even if you abhor professional sports (commie) you'll want to make sure to stick around for the next few months. It's Season Two of my NFL prognostication confrontation with fellow former 411Mania alumnus – Movie Joe Reid!

Joe and I previously teamed up on some of the most (only) well-received features in the three-year history of my old Bootleg column. Remember when we cast "1989 New York Yankees – The Movie"? Did you make it through every episode of our Black Actress Survivor? Were you the ONE Inside Pulse writer who was livid at his inclusion in our 411-IP Draft? How 'bout that time Joe won custody of my wife?

Last year, I beat Joe by a single game. This year, I plan to barely beat him by a slightly larger margin.

New Orleans at Indianapolis

Aaron: Since Tony Dungy's God-obiography is now in its eighth printing, it's safe to assume that Jesus is officially Indy's 12th man. Fun fact: That commitment kept Christ from showing up at Notre Dame's home opener last Saturday. Well, that and traffic. Pick: Indianapolis

Joe: I'll be watching the post-game handshakes very closely to see if Dungy pulls Drew Brees aside and tells him that he can get rid of that giant facial mole he was born with if he just prays hard enough. The Colts "Nowhere To Go But Down" season begins with Pick: Indianapolis

Atlanta at Minnesota

Aaron: Remember when the 2005 New Orleans Saints became football vagabonds on account of some rain and wind? Overcoming adversity, they won on the road in their season opener. In other words, look for 100 soft-focus Joey Harrington interviews next week. Pick: Atlanta

Joe: Remember, folks, when it comes time to address your hate mail, it was Aaron Cameron who equated Michael Vick and his electrocuted dogs with Katrina victims. Aaron Cameron. Pick: Minnesota

Carolina at St. Louis

Aaron: How do I choose between two evenly matched teams? (1) The Rams are at home. (2) The Rams have a player actually named Richie Incognito. A name like that should have "short-lived Fox drama" immediately preceding it. Pick: St. Louis

Joe: I think these are two teams moving in opposite directions. The fact that the Rams swapped one white wide receiver for an even better wide receiver (Drew Bennett, the turf is yours) makes them the more attractive option. Pick: St. Louis

Denver at Buffalo

Aaron: Good luck finding your Bills on local TV, Joe. Now, like the rest of us, you'll have to wait for Stuart Scott to "booyah" your teams' highlights during the 11PM Sportscenter. Pick: Buffalo

Joe: Joke's on you, Cam, I've already found a bar that shows Bills games on Sundays. I'll believe they serve decent chicken wings when I see them, but: baby steps. Pick: Denver

Kansas City at Houston

Aaron: This has the makings of one of those Week #1 wins that gets everyone's hopes up in the belief that a perennially sad sack franchise has "turned the corner". Remember this game, Texans fans. Especially when the Colts are hanging 50 on you in two weeks. Pick: Houston

Joe: I hate it when Cam picks the same upset I was going to. Pick: Houston

Miami at Washington

Aaron: It Was Written: Beginning in 1988 and every 20 years after that, a Black quarterback shall lead the Redskins to the Super Bowl. Bet early, bet often, America. Pick: Washington

Joe: After the game, there will be a town meeting about why asshole college coaches from the SEC smell like poo. Pick: Washington

New England at N.Y. Jets

Aaron: This has the makings of one of those Week #1 losses that gets everyone in a panic in the belief that a perennially winning franchise has "lost their way". Or not. Pick: New England

Joe: Here's the logic behind me picking Randy Moss for my fantasy team: either he does awesome and contributes for my team or else he crashes, burns, and hopefully takes the Patriots team down with him. That, my friends, is win-win. Pick: New England

Philadelphia at Green Bay

Aaron: Can we all agree that Brett Favre is just going to die on the field, someday? He must WANT this to be his fate, because I can't come up with any other explanation for him to keep coming back. And, how much do those "lifetime passes" from the media cost these days? Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: On the other side of the field, Donovan McNabb begins Year Nine of his career-long quest to stay healthy long enough to disappoint Philly fans in the playoffs. Pick: Green Bay

Pittsburgh at Cleveland

Aaron: I'm convinced that this is the year Ben Roethlisberger is exposed as the fraud he is, without any "motorcycles" or "appendectomies" to hide behind. Lucky for him, he can still hide behind "playing the Browns twice a year". Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: It's the "Fat Head" commercials that have made you hate Big Ben, isn't it? Personally, I think he's one illegitimate child away from being one of the best QBs in football. Pick: Pittsburgh

Tennessee at Jacksonville

Aaron: If you'll allow me TWO Black quarterback generalizations in the same week: when picking a game featuring a pair of Black QBs, always go with the team that cut their starting Black QB and replaced him with another. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: According to my priest, I have to apologize to Vince Young three dozen more times and say six rosaries for doubting him last season. But I can still scoff at the pro prospects of LenDale White! Pick: Tennessee

Chicago at San Diego

Aaron: I'm still coming down from the cloud where last year's Chargers playoff collapse took place. Take THAT, adopted hometown! In other news, funeral services for Rex Grossman are pending. Closed casket - no viewing. Pick: San Diego

Joe: Two teams I generally like but who I can't see going anywhere but down this season. And just in time for Cedric Benson and Phillip Rivers to show up on my fantasy team, too. Pick: San Diego

Detroit at Oakland

Aaron: My Raiders haven't won a season opener since 2002. They won all of two games last year, so the league rewarded them with the toughest schedule in the NFL for '07. Not since the Civil Rights Movement has so much unfair oppression been overcome. Pick: Oakland

Joe: True. And if Daunte Culpepper had been handed the reins of the Civil Rights Movement back in the '60s, well...I don't think I'm allowed to finish that sentence. Pick: Detroit

Tampa Bay at Seattle

Aaron: The Jon Gruden Burnout Countdown is in its fifth and final year. Looking forward to him filling the vacant "embittered ex-coach" chair next to Rich Eisen on The NFL Network (which Time-Warner Cable still doesn't carry). Pick: Seattle

Joe: I won't be so clichéd as to use the "Tampa Bay're on the clock" line, but the alternative is making some more Mike Holmgren Is The Walrus jokes. Pick: Seattle

N.Y. Giants at Dallas

Aaron: I think the Giants will be better than people think, while I don't know where all this "10-win" talk in Dallas is coming from. I just wanted to get that out there in case I'm right. Pick: Dallas

Joe: Kudos, Cam, on taking the high road by not gloating about how the rest of the world has caught up to your rabid Tiki Barber hate of yesteryear. I guess that means there's a glimmer of hope that public opinion on Michael Vick can still turn around. Pick: Dallas

Baltimore at Cincinnati

Aaron: Steve McNair's postseason ineptness helped me nail a three team parlay last January during Divisional Playoff Week. You just keep being you, Steve. Pick: Cincinnati

Joe: Blogging about your successful three team parlay eight months ago. Great to have you on Low Res, Mr. Simmons! Pick: Cincinnati

Arizona at San Francisco

Aaron: There was article in SI last month where Matt Leinart's posse was repeatedly called "an entourage" and his out-of-wedlock son was all but glossed over. Finally! I wish I knew what it took to get a reporter to NOT use an athlete's personal life to further his/her own moral and sociopolitical preaching. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: So you're saying we should stop calling Travis Henry's nine kids a "posse"? Pick: Arizona

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

TBG Reviews ESPN's The Bronx is Burning Miniseries

So sue me…I really liked it.

Well, for the most part.

Before ESPN's latest entry in their almost always embarrassing made-for-TV movies debuted in early July, I was struck by the consistency of the critics' three biggest complaints:

1.) The non-baseball scenes (the "Son of Sam" investigation, New York's 1977 mayoral race, the infamous summer blackout, among others) were poorly-executed superfluous filler.

2.) Oliver Platt's portrayal of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner crossed over into caricature.

3.) Daniel Sunjata's afro wig and/or John Turturro's prosthetic ears.

OK, so let's counterpoint this thang…

I can't disagree more with those who believed the miniseries' societal subplots were a hindrance to the primary Yankees story. Sports movies are hard enough to get right, so credit ESPN for mostly following the layered storytelling of Jonathan Mahler's best-selling "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx is Burning" book. The end result is that none of the concurrent storylines ever overstays its welcome.

Especially impressive was the archival footage featuring "man on the street" interviews with New York City residents as the stifling events of the summer of '77 enveloped an entire populace.

As for Platt's performance, it's my hope that the ESPY Academy remembers his work during next year's ceremonies.

Breaking news: George Steinbrenner already is a caricature. You cannot play him "too over-the-top" and Platt pretty much nails the preening, self-absorbed prickness that is the essence of The Boss. From his manipulative "recruiting lunch" with Reggie Jackson in the first episode to his terrific, non-speaking final scene (he watches a replay of his postgame interview in the victorious Yankees locker room), I think it's safe to say that Platt has finally exorcised the demons of Ready to Rumble.

Hell, his delivery of the "Nobody's queer" line in the fourth episode still makes me laugh.

Of course, it wouldn't be "ESPN Original Entertainment" if the World Wide Leader wasn't spending big bucks on marketing and promotion, while throwing pennies at make-up and costume design. Fortunately, neither Sunjata's, umm, hair extensions or Turturro's Dumbo look detract from their performances.

Sunjata's Reggie Jackson sounded like the real thing, even if he lacked some of the original's imposing physical presence. It would've been a cakewalk for Sunjata to dust off the clichéd "insecure arrogant athlete" approach, but instead, he hams it up with a '70s superstar vibe when needed, then dials it down to do "brooding" just as well.

I thought Turturro's Billy Martin was fine when he was battling Steinbrenner or his character's personal demons, but, as a whole, he wasn't as convincing as Platt or Sunjata.

The first four or five episodes of The Bronx is Burning kept everything moving along at a brisk pace and managed to mask the on-field gameplay, which was the weakest part of the story. Once the Son of Sam case was solved (Episode #5) the miniseries became a so-so reenactment of the Yankees' playoff run.

ESPN leaned heavily on actual game footage – which, at 30 years old, was predictably rough and grainy – then cut back to the actors in the same roles, positioned in the same places on the field. Let's be kind and say…that really didn't work for me. In addition, a surprising amount of "blue screen" shots, where the background was obviously superimposed behind the actors, appeared throughout the show's run. Considering the attention to detail that HBO gave to replicating 1961 Yankee Stadium in 61*, ESPN's approach looks even more low-budget.

Still, these aren't huge gripes. Faint praise be damned, but this was easily the best ESPN movie that EOE has produced. Strong performances, an appreciation for historical significance and a few "hey, wasn't that…" cameos by the guy who played Kevin's dad on The Wonder Years, the guy who played "Roc" on Roc and the remains of Jason Giambi were all worth my eight-week investment.

Be sure to check out m'man Tom's review of the book that the miniseries was based on.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #16

Overall: 68-70 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 3-3 (1-2 vs. Blue Jays, 2-1 vs. Tigers)

Lazy Labor Day thoughts on some recent Oakland A's activity…

Esteban Loaiza claimed on waivers by LA Dodgers - In an economic market where mediocrity on the mound is worth about $10M per year (or more if you're "wacky" and "quirky" and "sh*tty" - right, Barry Zito?) it's hard to believe that the A's couldn't get something for a league-average, albeit injury-prone, starting pitcher. Oakland saves about $7M in Loaiza's 2008 salary, which might mean something if the A's intention was to re-invest those dollars into improving the team for next season. Instead, I expect Teflon Beane and the media who won't touch him to tow the "we don't need to make any moves in the offseason, we just need to be healthy" bull-plop line from November to March.

3B Eric Chavez, OF Travis Buck and OF Mark Kotsay shut down for the year - Of the three, only Buck (.288/.377/.474) has contributed anything to the A's this year. He's also the only one with much of a future on this team, so I'm all for getting him a head start on '08. Chavez's bat has been on a precipitous freefall since his 6 year/$66M contract extension kicked in after the 2004 season. His last three seasons can be described as: (1) struggle the first few months (2) disclose a previously undisclosed injury that he's been "playing with all season" (3) win Gold Glove. Offensively, he's a less talented, less passionate JD Drew. As for Kotsay, when Beane signed him to a two-year extension through 2008, he was rolling the dice on a player with chronic back trouble who just happened to be coming of a batting average-carried career year. Every season since has been crappier than the last. "Crappier". "Craps". "Rolling the dice"? Hmm, it read better in rehearsal.

2B Mark Ellis and IF Marco Scutaro expected to return in 2008 - Ellis has got an option for $5M in 2008. He's underrated defensively and perfectly serviceable at the plate. He'll never make an All-Star team with his .260 BA and subpar OBP, but he's got some pop and usually has good at-bats. Bringing him back is an easy call. As for Scutaro, I've beat that horse to death. He's a very good back-up, who's capable of occasional effective stretches in the starting lineup. He's not nearly as "clutchy" as A's fans think, but if he's only getting about 300 plate appearances, I won't complain.

Or, more specifically, I'll find something else to complain about.

This Week: at Angels (3), at Rangers (3)