Friday, October 31, 2008


It's here! It's here! It's here! It's here! It's here!

In California!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Only Five More Days of This Crap!

Those of us here in California have had to suffer through an especially annoying array of commercials this election season. And, like any good little liberal-socialist elite, I'm all about sharing.

First is a "No on Proposition 4" spot that would be terrifying if I had a daughter. But, since I don't, it's just really corny:

Here's a "Yes on Proposition 2" commercial that strikes a sympathy chord. Check out how it mixes in a (socially) inedible animal with the caged, decrepit conditions of animals we can eat. I hate dogs:

Next up is the scary gay marriage initiative! They'll teach our kids that boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls! These lessons will apparently occur during gay nap time, lesbian recess and wherever else space can be found within the intense K-through-6 curriculum:

Finally, Senator Dianne Feinstein speaks out against Proposition 8. I can't help but notice that she appears to be an amalgam of all four Golden Girls at this point:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

TBG's Election Guide: Proposition 8

I'm voting no on Proposition 8 – the California ballot initiative that would reverse the State Supreme Court's ruling recognizing gay marriage.

I'm voting no because of my family. In a few years, my aunt will turn 60, yet those six decades may as well have been six lifetimes in terms of societal leprosy. She was biracial before it was cool and before Mariah Carey, Beyonce Knowles, Derek Jeter and Tiger Woods could pick n' choose which race to represent. She was an athlete at a time when any female sporting accomplishment was marginalized and Peggy Fleming was pushed as an "All-American" role model. She's also a lesbian.

I'm voting no because my aunt was a sh*tty babysitter. When my twin brother and I stayed overnight, she'd feed us cake and ice cream for breakfast. When we were seven-years-old, she took us to see Conan the Barbarian. My mom would get mad, swear she'd never leave us with her again, then drop us off a month later acting as if my aunt hadn't given my brother her prescription cough syrup for his sniffles. He was "clinically dead" for 45 minutes! Good times.

I'm voting no because my aunt was never less than herself. While I was 11 or 12 when my mom awkwardly told me what a "lesbian" was and why my aunt never wore skirts or make-up (seriously, THAT was her pitch), I still felt like I was ahead of the curve. I couldn't have been older than kindergarten age, yet I remember my aunt's first serious girlfriend. There are dozens of old pictures – cracked and blurred with time – at my mom's house from birthday parties and holiday dinners, most featuring family, but some with couples from my aunt's circle of friends. Faces that were as much a part of my aunt's family as we were.

I'm voting no because my aunt's 2003 commitment ceremony was one of the most bat-sh*t insane spectacles of all time. Biracial (half white/half-African-American) woman ties the knot with another biracial (half white/half-Hispanic) woman, then buys out a dive bar for the evening reception in one of the most buttoned-up communities in Los Angeles County? I smell sitcom!

I'm voting no because of my co-workers. There was Mike at my first job in college. He mocked my increasingly dated high-top fade, I mocked his entire wardrobe by Bugle Boy. I still regret that we fell out of touch when I moved to San Diego and that I didn't throw a bony fist in the face of those who'd belatedly – and profanely – out him to me. Then again, I guess I'm hypocrite to some degree. A few years later, I worked with Kenny, who proudly outed (and dated) Chad Allen two years before Allen came out himself.

I'm voting no because of Jim. Nicest guy you'll ever meet. Mrs. Bootleg and I ran into him at the San Diego Zoo one Sunday. I introduced my co-worker to my wife and when it seemed obvious that he wasn't going to introduce his partner as his partner, I did it for him.

I'm voting no because of my friends. There's that one guy who inspired me to start this blog and that one girl who confided in me, but has chosen not to come out yet. There's that longtime reader who once respectfully chastised me for something stupid I wrote and another reader – and infrequent poster – who'll be out in California next year to get married.

I'm voting no on Proposition 8.

You Mean You Guys DO Give a Damn?

A couple of weeks back, m'man Movie Joe axed me to plug this charitable endeavor. Seemed like the least I could do, even though I had my doubts that any of my readers would donate. "Tough economic times", I expected to hear. "The holidays are around the corner", would be a convenient excuse. "Aaron is f*cking annihilating me and 18 others in the postseason baseball pool", would've been a good one.

Instead, some of you DID give! Your contributions helped push the total past the $100,000 mark, so a tip of the cap to the TBG contingent who helped out.

Now, as part of my original post, I agreed to offer up a "donator's choice" of blog content for anyone who pitched in. I've got a couple of requests in the queue, but there are a few more of you who donated without – apparently – wanting anything in return. What's wrong with you people?! Drop me an email or leave a comment if you wanna cash in your request.

Meanwhile, I've got some writing to do. Longtime Friend of the Bootleg, "That Mexican Guy" – who married WAY outside of his league – contributed by way of his wife. (S)he used up his suggestion – sorry, just one per household, Mex – on a peek at my spicy tuna salad recipe. Seriously.

Anyone want me to finish that critique of the A's 40th Anniversary Team?



Forget you, 'den.

Oh, I can't stay mad at you guys. My readers kick ass.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

TBG Eats: Burger King's NEW Mushroom n' Swiss Steakhouse Burger

Current Weight: 166.7 lbs.

Last Thursday, a bunch of us from the office of the Unnamed Defense Contractor opted for some post-work pints and a ginormous platter of Irish nachos at an ersatz ethnic pub up the street. Thankfully, I live less than three miles from work (or, in this case, "from drink") so with four glasses of amber sitting heavy on my belly, it was time to soak up the suds.

I remembered not being too terribly impressed with BK's Loaded Steakhouse Burger, which I ingested earlier this year. But, I'm a fan of Swiss cheese and fungus which – when combined with my limited memory and BAC-impaired motor skills – brought me back to the Burger King drive-thru for their Mushroom n' Swiss Steakhouse Burger.

The soggy corn-dusted bun was the same, as was the chewy rectangle of angus beef. There were a couple of squares of processed Swiss cheese oozing all over the place, which isn't anywhere as awesome as real Swiss, but it's fast food, so whatever.

Now, I'm normally the last person to make like Michael Douglas in Falling Down, but when "mushroom" is the first word in a menu item, is it axing too much to see more than three mushrooms on my burger? And, this isn't my usual bloggery hyperbole, kids…I counted. There were literally just three miniature mushroom slivers in there.

I'm not doing much of a sell job on this thing, but it actually wasn't bad. The fried onions (although, there weren't many of those either) were crispier than they were on my last Steakhouse Burger and the sauce tasted more like Heinz 57 than A-1, so I approve.

Next time, I'll just make sure to order one with extra…well, everything.

Grade: 3 (out of 5)

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #8

Last Week:
Aaron: 12-2 (1-0 vs. the spread)
Joe: 11-3 (1-0)
Tom: 9-5 (0-1)

Season To Date:

Aaron: 64-38 (4-3 vs. the spread)
Joe: 64-38 (4-3)
Tom: 51-51 (4-3)

Oakland at Baltimore
Aaron: Kudos to Joe for nailing last week's surprising Raiders' win -- right down to the crappiness of the game and field goal-y finish. Please drop some identical predictive ju-ju this week, Reid. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: While I would love picking against the Ravens this week (or any week), the Raiders did look pretty bad in winning last week, and to make matters worse, Willis McGahee seems back to his old self. Better stock up on prenatal vitamins, single women of Baltimore! Pick: Baltimore

Arizona at Carolina
Aaron: I'm not sure if that whole "West Coast team travels to East Coast" syndrome has any merit, but this season it sure looks legit. Of course, this includes teams like Oakland and Seattle. And, Arizona isn't really West Coast… Pick: Carolina

Joe: Considering said syndrome has become the latest de rigueur excuse to pooh-pooh the Bills' latest win over a decent team, I agree, it's bunk. Ish. All eyes on Anquan Boldin this week as his comeback from broken-face surgery is gonna be a game-time decision. Not like any fantasy owners have to make a decision between him and backup Steve Breaston before game time or anything. I really like the Panthers at home. Pick: Carolina

Tampa Bay at Dallas
Aaron: I've always been indifferent towards Dallas -- save for their awesome Deion-infused mid-90s teams -- but, I'm taking an unusual amount of pleasure in their current meltdown. Although, Tony Romo IS my money-league fantasy QB. So torn. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: It would figure that once Dallas gets a team I actually like (Romo, Barber, Witten...I even had been warming to TO) that they actually get their karmic comeuppance. That being said, I TOLD YOU about Wade Phillips. Pick: Dallas (I am a sucker)

Washington at Detroit
Aaron: At some point between now and December, one of us is going to go out on a limb and pick the Lions while they're still winless. Joe? Pick: Washington

Joe: They're not gonna lose EVERY game this week. But there has to be a home game against a team more ripe for the picking than these Redskins, right? Pick: Washington

Buffalo at Miami
Aaron: The Dolphins' Pop Warner offense got exposed against the Ravens' D. The Bills are a top 10 defense, too, but I think Miami keeps it close enough to win late. Pick: Miami

Joe: I'd be more confident about this pick if I had any handle at all on this Dolphins team. I do believe in this Bills team, though. Pick: Buffalo

St. Louis at New England
Aaron: I'm surprised to see so much of the focus on New England's 41 points, instead of Denver's laughable defense last Monday night. The Rams will provide another false confidence boost until the Pats play a real team again. Pick: New England

Joe: I almost want to pick the Rams -- the suddenly alive again Rams -- here. Until we see Matt Cassel string together two good games in a row, we can't quite believe it, right? I'm picturing a Rams win, a Cards loss, and a whole bunch of "Holy hell, the Rams could win the West!!" reactions. Pick: St. Louis New England

San Diego at New Orleans
Aaron: Saints don't have Reggie Bush and the Chargers barely have 50% of LaDanian Tomlinson. Throw in an expected sloppy field, an uninterested foreign crowd and, uhh "toothy" British groupies… No clue on this one. Pick: San Diego

Joe: Yeah, I think an ugly game (which seems pretty much fated here) favors the Bolts. Pick: San Diego

Atlanta at Philadelphia
Aaron: Here's hoping the Eagles can inspire the Phillies, Chase Utley and everyone who picked them in Sarah Bunting's postseason baseball pool. C'mon, Phillies and Chase Utley! Pick: Philadelphia

Joe: Meanwhile, Ryan Howard must be filming Chunky Soup commercials with Donovan McNabb. That's the best reason I can come up with for his absence from the scoring column. Not that I'm at all bitter. Pick: Philadelphia

Kansas City at N.Y. Jets
Aaron: Brett Favre possibly betrays Green Bay and their fans by discussing his former team's tendencies with the Lions? And, just like that, I like the guy now! What the hell just happened? Pick: NY Jets

Joe: Yeah, but Brett only ended up on the phone with the Lions because he was trying to call one of his grandkids and he got confused and mixed up the numbers. ...Motherfucker's OLD. Pick: NY Jets

Cleveland at Jacksonville
Aaron: You have to admire the vindictive moxie of the Browns' coaching staff. They're going to be blown out en masse at season's end and, damn it, they're gonna keep starting QB Derek Anderson until he takes 'em to the unemployment line. Pick: Jacksonville

Joe: Jacksonville's schizophrenic this year, and Cleveland will remain a tough(ish) out for the rest of the season. Pick: Cleveland

Cincinnati at Houston
Aaron: When the top story out of Cincy is that Chad Johnson will be keeping "Johnson" on the back of his jersey for the rest of 2008… On a related note, welcome back to the sh*tter, Bengals. Your usual table? Pick: Houston

Joe: Houston, at home, against a crap team? I like patterns. Pick: Houston

N.Y. Giants at Pittsburgh
Aaron: And, so ends the Giants' preseason schedule of cupcakes, cream puffs and other assorted high-calorie confections. Commence beatdown…now. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: You think so? I've lost a lot of confidence in the Steelers, who, by the way, didn't exactly beat a world-beating Bengals team last week. Pick: NY Giants

Seattle at San Francisco
Aaron: How did Mike Holmgren -- blessed with some of the most talented teams in the league throughout his coaching career -- turn into a sympathetic figure this season in Seattle? F*** you, Brett Favre for giving him a Super Bowl ring and infinite job security. Pick: San Francisco

Joe: Seneca Wallace as Seattle QB or Mike Singletary and his grandpa glasses as the Niners coach? Here's a dilemma worthy of whatever iteration of that Saw movie opens this week. Pick: Seattle

Indianapolis at Tennessee
Aaron: The liberal media elite insisted that the Colts were back after gutting the inept-on-offense Ravens two weeks ago. How'd that Packers game work out for 'em, CNN? Or, should I say Clinton News Network?! Timely. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: God, how I would love for the Colts to deflower the "mighty" Titans this week and ruin the mid-season coronation of Kerry mothereffing Collins. But...yeah, probably not. Pick: Tennessee

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread:

Aaron: Atlanta (+9) at Philadelphia

Joe: Cincinnati (+9) at Houston

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick n' Dirty WS Thought – Game #1

I've gotten into a few arguments with friends over my notion that "hustle" is overrated. It's certainly not a bad thing, but if you fielded a team with nine players possessing the offensive skill set and "hustlosity" of Eric Byrnes, while I went with nine Barry Bondses and his glacial base path meanderings, my team would crush yours – all other things being equal.

That said, I cannot remember watching another game in recent memory which featured such an egregious act of…well, whatever the hell B.J. Upton was doing in his first two at-bats. Is he hurt? Jesus, dude was all but walking out of the box before commencing with a light jog as he grounded into a pair of double plays. And, a point missed by everyone today is that broadcasters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were making excuses for Upton. Both blamed his sloth out of the box on being jammed on an inside pitch (at least in his first at-bat).

Keep this in mind if when one of them drops some sanctimonious character assault on Upton tonight.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

TBG's Election Guide: Proposition 5

Summary of Proposition 5:

--Allocates $460,000,000 annually to improve and expand treatment programs for persons convicted of drug and other offenses.

--Limits court authority to incarcerate offenders who commit certain drug crimes, break drug treatment rules or violate parole.

--Substantially shortens parole for certain drug offenses; increases parole for serious and violent felonies.

--Divides Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation authority between two Secretaries, one with six year fixed term and one serving at pleasure of Governor. Provides five year fixed terms for deputy secretaries.

--Creates 19 member board to direct parole and rehabilitation policy.

Even a soft-on-crime elitist like me can see through the holes in this one. I'm fine with the "treatment programs, not prison" approach in certain circumstances for first-time offenders, low-level possession charges and the like. But, Prop. 5 is an overreach.

Treatment programs shouldn't serve as a shield for multiple offenders and Prop. 5 would be a get-out-of-jail-free card for anyone who wanted to use drug use as an excuse for their illicit actions. Besides, in 2000, California passed Prop. 36 – a measure that allowed for first and second-time non-violent drug offenders to avoid jail time for treatment, instead. A UCLA study four years later found that Prop. 36 participants were 48 percent more likely to be rearrested for drug-related crimes within a year of starting treatment than those who didn't go through Prop. 36 avenues.

TBG Votes: No. And, you know what I was thinking the other day? Someone should take the gigantic bureaucracy that is the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and divide them into two gigantic bureaucracies. Thanks Prop. 5!

Quick n' Dirty World Series Prediction

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Myth: After being wrong about the Rays in the ALDS and the ALCS, Aaron is ready to concede the world championship to Tampa Bay.

NEVER! Look, there are a number of angles to explore here. Will the Phillies be rusty after a week-long layoff? Did the seven-game split-decision with the Red Sox sap the Rays dry? Do the Rays have any answer for the Cole Hamels Express? Which Phillies offense will show up: the flaccid squad that couldn't hit the Brewers or the not-as-impotent troupe that defeated the Dodgers?

Tampa Bay is simply a better team than Philadelphia. While the Phillies' "O" is stronger at the top, the Rays feature more balance throughout. The same could probably be said about the starting pitching staffs. So, how am I going to talk myself into picking the Phillies?

Cole Hamels had better start the first, fourth and – if necessary – seventh games of the Series. He's so much better than anyone else on the Phillies staff that 85% of Hamels on three days rest is a surer thing that 110% of Fat Blanton and Jurassic Moyer.

Offensively, the Phillies can't afford to fall into the National League trap of playing for one run with small ball tactics. They've gotten to this point with mostly one huge inning in every playoff win. Notwithstanding, while their bench stinks, Charlie Manuel had better be sure that a one-run game doesn't end with either Matt Stairs or Greg Dobbs on the bench. Either one is better than nearly half of their starting lineup.

The Rays – save for their sleepwalk job through game six of the ALCS – have looked fresher than either of the two teams they've faced. If this goes the distance, Tampa Bay might simply be the last team standing. Philadelphia is going to have to take both of the first two games in Tampa to have any shot here. I think they'll do it.

And, they won't be coming back.

Prediction: Phillies in 5

TBG's Election Guide: Proposition 4

Proposition 4, or the Abortion Waiting Period and Parental Notification Initiative, also known to its supporters as Sarah's Law proposes a new amendment to the California Constitution. The initiative would prohibit abortion for unemancipated minors until 48 hours after physician notifies minor's parent, legal guardian or, if parental abuse has been reported, an alternative adult family member.

Here's one more reason to hate the Proposition process. Slight variations of Prop. 4 were rejected by Californian voters in 2005 and 2006. Undeterred, though, it keeps coming back to the ballot with a slight tweak here and there.

The most notable edit is in the inclusion of the "…if parental abuse has been reported…" language. Previously, detractors argued that young women living within an abusive home would be too scared to let their parents know. Now, provided that the alleged victim puts her accusation in writing, someone other than her parents will be notified.

Not surprisingly, Planned Parenthood is leading the "no" support, while an outfit called "The Friends of Sarah" is the organization that got this back on the ballot. "Sarah" was a 15-year-old Texan who may or may not have been part of a common-law marriage with an older man. She died during an abortion in 1994 and had already given birth to one child during this union.

No matter which side of the pro-choice/pro-life argument you fall on, Prop. 4 (and its rejected cousins) remains a poorly-written and agenda-driven measure. As far as I know, underage girls seeking an abortion in this state can already turn to aunts, uncles, older sisters, etc. in lieu of potentially abusive parents. Furthermore, these kids aren't subject to the two-day delay which is only in there in the hope that mom and dad can talk their teen out of terminating their pregnancies.

TBG Votes: No. If those whom this initiative would protect are ostensibly too scared and irrational to make this decision without parental supervision, who can be certain that they'll even come forward in the first place? And, the thought of setting a place at the dinner table for communication mandated by the state's government is… Well, let's just say there ain't enough meatloaf to go around.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quick n' Dirty ALCS/NLCS Wrap-Up

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

What I Said: "Red Sox in 6…This one will come down to the talent on the field."

In my defense, I freakin' nailed that last part. The Red Sox looked old and outclassed even in the games they won. As I wrote to m'man Nick in the immediate aftermath: if Mark Kotsay is getting at-bats in the ninth inning of anyone's game seven, your Plans A thru Y have gone horribly awry. Credit to the Rays – it was an insanely exciting series even when the games were ending at 10:30 PM (yawwwwwn) – but, if any of you saw Jon Lester losing twice, B.J. Upton turning into Bernie Williams or Matt Garza as ALCS MVP, you can kiss my Black azz, liar.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies

What I Said: "Phillies in 7… [The] Phils have threats from the left side to put up a few crooked-number innings."

Ryan Howard kind of woke up, Chase Utley hit .353/.522/.647 and m'man Matt Stairs – the erstwhile Oakland A – hit the most dramatic home run of the series. All lefties. I'm just sayin'. The NLCS was also notable for accusations from Phillies fans that the Dodgers fans were too abusive and Manny's shocking revelation after the series that he'll sign with the highest bidder this offseason. Seriously, Dodgers' fans were shocked at this. Morons.

TBG's Election Guide: Proposition 3

Proposition 3, or the Children's Hospital Bond Act authorizes $980,000,000 in bonds, to be repaid from state's General Fund, to fund the construction, expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of children's hospitals. The annual payment on the debt authorized by the initiative would be about $64 million a year. Altogether, the measure would cost about $1.9 billion over 30 years out of California's general fund.

At first glance, my fiscally conservative "proposition with a dollar sign" distaste is in conflict with That Bootleg Family's firsthand experience with the Mary Birch Hospital's phenomenal neo-natal intensive care unit and the five weeks our preemie son spent there in 2004.

Digging a little deeper, the language in Prop. 3 makes it clear that the proposed monies would NOT be limited to children's hospitals. I, dear reader, am as shocked as you that politicos would use the word "children" to curry favor amongst the unwashed masses.

There's also the little matter of Proposition 61, which California passed in 2004. It was similarly earmarked for hospital upgrades – both architectural and technological – to the tune of $750,000,000 and multiple published reports indicate that only half of those monies have been spent.

TBG Votes: No. Prop. 3 is an obvious end-run around California's increasingly ill economy. The predictive financial models from five years ago were instantly obsolete when Prop. 61 passed and the two-billion-dollar "do-over" that is Prop. 3 appears poised to sucker my home state again.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Tee-Ball Chronicles #3

I've had three games as first base coach to get to know this year's squad. Here's a look at the nine members of the team, besides my son, through my eyewitness accounts of their respective skill sets and the invaluable conversations I've shared with each when they reach first base…

#2 – Nicholas: Small for his age and very quiet. He's fine for the first 30 minutes, and then loses all interest in everything around him. Watching infield dribblers bounce past his statuesque, indifferent defense is a sure sign for the "snack mom" to get her wares ready…the game's almost over.

#3 – Gavin: Best player on the team. Showed up for last Saturday's game (and, coincidentally, "picture day") wearing eye black. Voted by Pirates' coaching staff as "most likely to kill our first baseman with a throw".

#4 – Berlin: Our obligatory girl. She's got a good swing and won't take sh*t from the boys when every groundball turns into a dog pile of preschoolers. Even scarier after the games, as she can push, shove and roughhouse with the best of them. 25 years ago, she'd be that sitcom tomboy who'd show up looking beautiful at the school dance – much to the surprise of Ricky Schroeder.

#5 & #6 – Tyler: While Afro-centric names like "Aaron" are easier to mock, I'd like to remind my white readers that all of these "Tylers", "Morgans" and "Dakotas" will eventually grow up and want nothing to do with their universally ordinary first names. From kindergarten through sixth grade, I knew 200 "Toby"s and 2,000 "Jeremy"s. Pretty sure I don't have any friends or co-workers with either name, today.

#7 – Ernie: Jalen's best friend on the team. Nicest kid you'll ever want to meet. Was absolutely devastated when his throw to first base – an on-target toss from halfway across the diamond – smacked the first baseman in the face. Ernie also indirectly taught me not to yell instructions at the kids. My high-volume "run to second" directive was met with a sea of tears and a boneless jellyfish collapse into his mom's arms. Whoops.

#8 – Corbin: See "Tyler".

#9 – Jason: Funny kid. Late in Saturday's game, he told me that Matthew (#10) "needs a lot of help". When every father near the field took turns reminding Jason that he had to run to second base, he looked at me and exaggeratedly rolled his eyes. Since he's white, that's "intensity". If it was Jalen, he'd be "uncoachable".

#10 – Matthew: Matthew cries when someone else on his team fields a ball…even if he's playing third base and the ball is hit to right field. Matthew cries when he's standing on first base and the other team fields a ball (which, while ostensibly a baserunner, he never fails to chase after). Matthew has gotta weigh at least a c-note. He literally ran over the Red Sox's second baseman on his way to a "triple" that went about 10 feet and took 20 minutes.

Your 2008 4S-Ranch Pirates!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #7

Last Week:
Aaron: 6-8 (1-0 vs. the spread)
Joe: 10-4 (0-1)
Tom: 4-10 (1-0)

Season To Date:
Joe: 53-35 (3-3 vs. the spread)
Aaron: 52-36 (3-3)
Tom: 42-46 (4-2)

San Diego at Buffalo
Aaron: Does any team run so hot and so cold from week-to-week like the Chargers? They've looked skittish in front of hostile road crowds and, knowing Joe as I do, Buffalo is the embodiment of hostile. Pick: Buffalo

Joe: Wow, that link takes me back. Brian Cox and his middle fingers of justice. Awesome. Anyway, I'm tempted to cover my ass and take the Chargers, because I think this game is a total toss-up. But in an odd development, I have some faith in the Bills this season. Not just unchecked hope, but FAITH. This is what the possibility of an Obama presidency will do to you. Pick: Buffalo

New Orleans at Carolina
Aaron: Nothing like the Raiders to make the Saints forget about that punch in the mouf from Minnesota two weeks ago. Welcome back to the NFL, New Orleans. Pick: Carolina

Joe: Yeah, I'd love to keep picking the Saints in any and all situations, but this has all the makings: a letdown game for the Saints, a revenge game for Carolina after getting waxed in Tampa, and a tough divisional game from a tough division; I'm always gonna give those ones to the home team. Pick: Carolina

Minnesota at Chicago
Aaron: The Bears were one of the many, many teams that let me down last week. I hope they're all thinking of this emaciated San Diegan with the broken heart and inspired to show up for four goddamn quarters this week. Please, guys? Pick: Chicago

Joe: While you're cursing and pleading with the Bears, Cam, you might remember they still won you that "under" bet that allowed you to keep lil' Jalen in designer toddler wear (for another week at least). Some gratitude? Pick: Chicago

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Aaron: The Bengals gotta beat someone this season. The Bengals won't beat the Steelers this week. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: If they don't win soon, they might be the first NFL team in history to say "fuck it" in the locker room at about 12:50 and just leave the stadium before some game. As always, I'm rooting on the side of history. (As, uh, any Patriots fan can surely tell you.) Pick: Pittsburgh

Tennessee at Kansas City
Aaron: KC coach Herm Edwards courageously suspends declining running back Larry Johnson for this sure loss against the NFL's last undefeated team. Those principles sure will perk up Edwards' resume during his interviews with Arena League teams next spring. Pick: Tennessee

Joe: No, no, Kansas City. By all means, start all your backups and CFL rejects this week and completely roll over for the Tennessee Paper Tigers. The rest of us totally appreciate it. Pick: Tennessee

Baltimore at Miami
Aaron: The Dolphins' over-hyped sandlot offense hasn't faced a defense like the Ravens yet. For one week, anyway, the Wildcat gets hunted down and humanely destroyed – caught by one of those old-timey exaggerated bear traps favored by Elmer Fudd. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: Speaking of "over-hyped," your 2008 Baltimore Ravens' 2-0 start this season. This remains not that good a team. Pick: Miami

San Francisco at N.Y. Giants
Aaron: The Giants dropped one of this season's singular stink bomb offerings this past Monday night. They sure seemed to roll up the carpet pretty early against a Browns team that the league has been pushing around since last December. They'll beat the Niners, but let's not plan that parade route yet. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: And thus the Giants join their division-mates the Cowboys and Redskins as teams who were indestructible juggernauts up until they actually lost a game, at which point they suddenly became deeply flawed pretenders. Take a good look, Titans. Pick: NY Giants

Dallas at St. Louis
Aaron: This'll be the biggest game of the season for the Rams, while the Cowboys are just hoping to play well enough with either an injured Tony Romo or an already-embalmed Brad Johnson. I'd pick the upset, if I hadn't pissed away so many games last week… Pick: Dallas

Joe: Didn't St. Louis already have their sneak-up-on-a-good-team-while-they're-taking-a-piss game last week? At worst, Dallas wins this by ten. Pick: Dallas

Detroit at Houston
Aaron: The Texans' last three games: OT loss to the Jags, gagged away last-second loss to Indy and a win vs. the Dolphins. None of this matters versus the miserable Lions, but it's one of those "stat things" that all prognosticators have to do. Pick: Houston

Joe: Speaking of projected blowouts, here's where Houston really starts to build up some self-esteem. We should send the Lions to high schools and burn wards and Republican headquarters other places where people really need to start feeling better about themselves. Pick: Houston

Indianapolis at Green Bay
Aaron: I'm going to keep jumping off the Colts bandwagon as long as they're playing respectable (or better) teams on the road. I will climb back on if I am wrong about their demise, which is almost certainly likely. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: I'd love to take the Colts, if only because we're looking awfully same-y this week, Cam and I, but on the road against a Packers team that is getting its groove back, and with Dominic Rhodes in the backfield...not looking too great. Pick: Green Bay

N.Y. Jets at Oakland
Aaron: Boy, that whole "let's open up the offense for JaMarcus Russell" game plan worked like a charm in New Orleans last week. Not to scare Raiders fans – and I know it's still early – but, there's a LOT of JaJeff George in ol' JaMarcus. Pick: NY Jets

Joe: So am I underrating the Jets but continually picking them to lose to terrible teams or am I just a week or two too early on the wheels falling off this team? Either way, I think this has "13-10 stinker" written all over it. Just the way the Raiders likes it. Pick: Oakland

Cleveland at Washington
Aaron: Hey, where'd all that "NFC East = NFC Beasts" talk go? There aren't many teams I'm less sold on than the Redskins, but yes, Cleveland made the list. Pick: Washington

Joe: A Cleveland win suddenly puts them in the playoff hunt again in this formless mass that we call the AFC. I'd almost pick the upset if they were at home. Pick: Washington

Seattle at Tampa Bay
Aaron: Due to certain…financial commitments…I'm forced to root for the Red Sox in the ALCS. (J.D. Drew? True Dat!) So, in return, I'll be pulling for the Bucs like crazy, yo. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: I don't know how you live with yourself. Pick: Tampa Bay

Denver at New England
Aaron: It's only been, what…five games or so? Still, I think it's safe to say that just anyone can't be a winning quarterback in the Patriots system. Pick: New England

Joe: And just no one can cover Brandon Marshall. 3-1 odds Randy Moss hops on the Broncos team bus after this one and defects like it's 1985 and he's a figure skater from Vladivostok. Pick: Denver

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread:

Aaron: Seattle (+10.5) at Tampa Bay
Joe: Indianapolis at Green Bay (+1.5)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

TBG TV: Comedy Central's Chocolate News

Earlier this week, as I settled in for another 10-hour adventure through the cubicles of the Unnamed Defense Contractor, I received an email from m'man Nick. He'd heard that Comedy Central had given erstwhile In Living Color comedian David Alan Grier his own show.

Like me, he assumed this was just a transparent attempt by the network to recapture Dave Chappelle's Black Lightning in a bottle. So, I should probably come clean and confess that I actually liked the premiere episode.

Chocolate News could be written off as an urban, ersatz Daily Show, but damned if it didn't throw everything to the wall this week.

Grier's opening was a contemptuous monologue on the state of Hip Hop ("When did 'Fight the Power' become 'Wait till you see my d***'?!") Sure, the subject is akin to fish in a barrel these days, but Grier had the audience eating out of his hand with effective punch lines revolving around the genre's materialism, dumbed-down lyricism and, of course, Flavor Flav.

The Maya Angelou bit has been done to death by Grier – really, he'll never top "her" interpretation of Kellogg's Froot Loops – but, the facial inflections were dead on. Grier's spin as "Fat Man", a misogynistic rapper miscast as a PSA spokesman, landed its punches better. Ditto for the obligatory mock-the-Caucasian segment involving a recently deceased newscaster who axed the wrong question too many times.

This week's episode finished a little flat for me, though. The "N-Word Peace Treaty" appeared to, umm…"sample" liberally from (in no particular order) Chappelle's phenomenal "Racial Draft" skit; the Geraldo Rivera Show's long-forgotten on-set riot in the late '80s; and some of Chris Rock's unfunny "Nat X" outtakes.

Still, Chocolate News is a perfectly harmless 30-minute escape with enough funny to keep me around for awhile. Or, until it's cancelled.

TBG's Election Guide: Proposition 2

Proposition 2 – the Standards for Confining Farm Animals – would create a new state statue that prohibits the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. It would further eliminate the practice of confining chickens in battery (small, confining) cages. Additionally, it would impose a misdemeanor penalty and a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment in county jail for up to six months to those who have been found to violate the act. It bans cages for egg-laying poultry, gestation crates for sows and veal crates for veal calves.

The most recognizable supporters of this Proposition are The Humane Society (natch) and Oprah Winfrey, while opponents include the entire egg industry – who've graciously taken a break from producing their Lenny-killing, cholesterol-laden egg sandwiches. Disclaimer: While it has been established that eggs contain cholesterol, it has not yet been proven conclusively that they actually raise the level of serum cholesterol in the human blood stream.

Allow me to couch my over-simplistic position on this subject by saying I'm as pro-animal as any other unshaven feminist or unemployed soccer mom who hadn't heard of Michael Vick until he became that Michael Vick. With that out of the way, I'd like to introduce a little Econ 101 to the supporters of Proposition 2.

Y'see, when this ballot initiative passes (and, trust me, it will) Californians will pay more for eggs produced in the Golden State. And, since eggs aren't a product usually associated with brand loyalty, we're going to default right back to paying for the cheapest dozen that the supermarket stocks. These will be eggs laid in Mexico or some place else, other than California, that incorporates the same deplorable conditions that are being decried today.

TBG Votes: No. The California Egg Industry is a $300 million per year enterprise that I couldn't care less about. But, this is simply an election year issue that gets everyone up in arms for a minute or two, and then is forgotten after the initial ballot returns. And, yes, I just wrote 200+ words on eggs.

I'll get to the good propositions soon, I promise.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Give Till I Hurt

In the aftermath of both the final Presidential debate and the Phillies clinching their first pennant since 1993…

I'd like to tell you a little bit about Sarah.

She's not like me or my kind. She represents normal everyday American values and you can bet she doesn't kowtow to the "liberal media elite-selected-select few-choice-Microsoft Thesaurus".

She's also a sports fan. Or hadn't you heard?

She set up the 2008 Postseason Baseball Playoff pool that I'm currently dominating! Quick aside: shout outs to the Phillies and Boston Red Sox (the two teams I picked); Chase Utley and Mark Teixeira (my hitters for the playoffs) and Derek Lowe and Jon Lester (my pitchers). Some of you contributed more than others, but all of you are getting me that much closer to my nest egg of eventual alimony payments. Thanks, guys!

Anyways, Sarah Bunting – like Trick Daddy before her – love [sic] the kids. She's part of an insanely awesome charitable effort that hopes to raise $100K towards innovative educational opportunities for the future Bootleg Guys and Girls out there.

Check it out and, if you can, give.

And, IF you give, I promise to make it worth your while.

I get a fair share of suggestions for content here at this lightly-read blog, so for anyone who makes a donation – regardless of the amount – I'll commit to getting off'a my Black ass and writing up anything you'd like to see.

Someone axed me to bring back the Friday Music News Bootleg to this blog "in some capacity". And, that's just enough of a qualifier for me to consider it!

About a week ago, a reader sent me a nice email on that "Black Actress" spoof of Survivor that me and Movie Joe Reid did a few years ago. We're down for a sequel!

Maybe you just want me to dish on all the behind-the-scenes drama at 411mania and Inside Pulse. Which of my peers did I hate and which ones did I really hate?

Or, perhaps you'd like to know which one of my friends (and regular TBG reader) once dropped $1,500 in the VIP room of a local strip club, then had his credit card stolen by said stripper. I'll even leave you a replica of the freaked-out voice mail he left for me – a delicious stew of hyperventilation, profanity and body glitter.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

TBG's Election Guide: Proposition 1A

Last weekend, I received my official "voters' guide" for next month's election. As I flipped through it, I realized that the dozen or so ballot propositions run the gamut from significant to absurd.

And, this lightly-read blog is nothing if not one of those two things.

Proposition 1A asks voters to approve the issuance of $9.95 billion of general obligation bonds. This would partially fund a $40 billion, 800-mile high speed train under the supervision of the California High-Speed Rail Authority. The train would run between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Anaheim designated as the southern terminus of the initial segment of the high-speed train system.

Estimates are that the train system would be completed in 2030, and that it would take passengers between San Francisco and Los Angeles in about 2 hours and 40 minutes. $950 million of the bond proceeds would be available for capital projects on other passenger rail lines to provide connectivity to the high-speed train system and for capacity enhancements and safety improvements to those lines.

Prop. 1A supporters include Governor Schwarzenegger and the Los Angeles Times, while the opposition is led by the usual collection of environmentalists and the cities of Menlo Park and Atherton. Out-of-state opposition from Ogdenville, North Haverbrook, and Brockway has yet to be confirmed.

As a rule of thumb, I generally vote "no" on any initiative that includes a dollar sign. It seems that every year, Californians are asked to pay for improvements to schools, roads, etc. Every year, these measures pass overwhelmingly then magically re-appear a year or two later with the same "…our state's in dire need…" nonsense.

And, no one ever asks where last year's blank check went.

Earlier this month, our Governor asked the Treasury Secretary for $7 billion on behalf of California. While this request has since been withdrawn, it's pretty much all you need to know about the state of the economy out here, where we were years ahead of the housing market collapse curve.

TBG Votes: No. There are enough weasel words within this initiative to ensure this high-speed train system may never get built. Even if it does get completed, there's no way this Green pipedream finishes on time or on schedule. Honestly, I'm disappointed in my home state as our fiscal boondoggles are usually much less transparent than this.

Monday, October 13, 2008

TBG TV: The Office - Season #5, Episodes #1 & 2

Simply put, I like this show…I just don't love it. The season premiere ("Weight Loss") featured several of the subversive moments that first hooked me in – the two or three beats between Pam stepping off the group scale and everyone trying to do the math in their heads was brilliant. Ryan's "9/11" explanation for his poor treatment of Kelly? Edgy. And, I dig that. It's just that, for one, I'm done with Jim and Pam. These sporadic relationship torpedoes are numbingly dull and formulaic (two years ago, it was Rashida Jones, this season it's "distance"). Gee, I hope they end up together in the end.

The second episode of the season ("Business Ethics") had a ton of potential, but got bogged down in my other beef – Michael Scott. Steve Carrell is a wonderful television actor, but the Scott character has done everything he can to establish himself as a boorishly inept manager without any sense of self-awareness. Watching him rap and/or riff on Let's Get Physical is just stupid at this point. It's similar to how every episode of The Simpsons has turned into "Homer's Wacky Adventures & Friends". That's a shame, because Kate Flannery (Meredith) nearly hit one out by herself with the matter-of-fact delivery of her sex-for-paper discounts-and-Outback coupons revelation.

Points for Jim's needling of Dwight's Battlestar Galactica fandom, though.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Tee-Ball Chronicles 2 1/2 (OMG Pictures!)

"You lose and you're outta the family..."

No batting gloves = gamer

Li'l Can Boyd!

"Now, Jalen...they don't normally allow basestealing in tee ball, but..."

TBG Eats: Taco Bell's NEW Triple Steak Burrito

Current Weight: 163.4 lbs.

OK, OK…the crazy weight loss thing is getting a little creepy. And, after several years of waiting, it appears that the majority of Mrs. Bootleg's friends are happily married and not looking to trade up…so who've I gotta look good for?

I'd actually made a point of avoiding this new menu item in the days since it debuted. It had nothing to do with an aversion to fast food, though. I just can't remember the last time I ordered anything steak-related from Taco Bell and thought, "Mmmmm, steaky!" So, to hedge my bet, I also got a Volcano Taco – which has already established its awesomeness.

A good burrito should have the weight and soft, supple texture of a newborn baby. The Triple Steak Burrito isn't as densely packed as those carne asada pipe bombs you can buy at 3:00 AM from that un-mopped authentic Mexican spot on the corner, but it's plenty heavy.

True to form, there's three times the strangely sweet steak in there. Taco Bell also found room for cheddar cheese, rice, salsa and…reduced-fat sour cream?

Y'know how those fast food burritos are usually made with pre-measured servings of ingredients, so that, say, the teeny bit of guacamole is at the very front or the very back of the burrito? Well, I wasn't expecting sour cream (which I like) and I damn sure wasn't expecting reduced-fat sour cream (which I don't like) and it…was…everywhere.

Whatever low calorie benefits I might've enjoyed were completely negated by the pint-and-a-half of curdled moo goo the steak was swimming in. Order yours without the sour cream and you'll have a perfectly edible "eh" in your hands.

Grade: 2 (out of 5)

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #6

Last week:
: 8-6 (1-0 vs. the spread)
Joe: 7-7 (1-0)
Tom: 6-8 (1-0)

Season To Date:
Aaron: 46-28 (2-3 vs. the spread)
Joe: 43-31 (3-2)
Tom: 38-36 (3-2)

St. Louis at Washington
Aaron: After a pair of impressive road wins in Dallas and Philadelphia, the Redskins could be susceptible to one of those letdown games. If only they were playing a real NFL team this week. Pick: Washington

Joe: Couldn't have said it better myself. I still don't entirely buy this Washington team (yeah, yeah), but at home against the Rams I sure do. Pick: Washington

Miami at Houston
Aaron: Can we all agree that the Dolphins should be paying royalties for their use of the "wildcat" offense to the cast and crew of the mid-80s movie Wildcats? Let's divert the funds towards the reconstruction of Goldie Hawn's obliterated face. Pick: Houston

Joe: I just find it ironic that, well after Nick Saban scurried back to the cushy confines of the NCAA, Miami's fining their first success in years by reverting to a college ball offense. Acknowledge the irony! Pick: Houston

Detroit at Minnesota
Aaron: Pick the Lions again this week, Joe. Pretty please. Pick: Minnesota

Joe: I believe I've spotted you a big enough lead already. Pick: Minnesota

Oakland at New Orleans
Aaron: The Raiders are coming off of a bye week. And, they've promised to give QB JaMarcus Russell more freedom with the passing game. And Russell should have a lot of LSU love from fans in the stands. I irrationally pick Oakland once a year, people. Pick: Oakland

Joe: I know I continue to overrate the Saints this season, but if Martin Gramatica had been shipped back to Fistpumpania at the beginning of the season instead of allowed to plague yet another NFL team with his unreliability, this team would be 4-1. He won't be able to hurt them anymore. Pick: New Orleans

Carolina at Tampa Bay
Aaron: That change from Jeff Garcia to Brian Griese sure lit a fire under the Buccaneers, eh? But, as long as they employ Negro Ewok Warrick Dunn and a top-10 defense, I ain't picking against them at home. Well, this week, anyway. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: How does a team defense hold the Broncos offense to 13 points and still manage a mere 3 fantasy points? It's almost literally not possible. Here's hoping they remember what a sack looks like this week. Pick: Tampa Bay

Cincinnati at N.Y. Jets
Aaron: Brett Favre against this pass defense?! Let's set the over/under at 7.5 touchdown passes and start accepting that the old man is coming back next year. Oooh, I hope teases us in the offseason by waiting until June to announce his intentions! That scamp! Pick: NY Jets

Joe: Oh, how soon we forget. First we forgot that even the most embattled Brett Favre seasons included the 6 TD score-running-up outburst at home against a mediocre team. And now we're forgetting that he's also got that 3 INT game-killer in him too. Much like that other famous gunslinger in the news these days, Favre's crazy erratic. And wrong for this country. Pick: Cincinnati

Baltimore at Indianapolis
Aaron: Peyton Manning's ascension to the upper echelon of Teflon athletes was complete last week with all the credit he received for leading the Colts to the most gift-wrapped victory of his career. Ravens…destroy him. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: I'm not sure I agree with your premise, Cam. All I heard last week was the evisceration of Sage Rosenfels which, coupled with the quip-happy ESPNers bending over backwards to make note of Sage being a Jew (guess he's got one more thing to atone for, et cetera) made things awful uncomfortable for viewers. But don't let that interfere with your zealous hatred for all things Manning. Pick: Indianapolis

Chicago at Atlanta
Aaron: Hmmm…Kyle Orton on the road vs. Michael Turner running on the Bears' stingy defense. And…holy crap…the over/under is 43 1/2?! I'm taking the remains of my 401K, betting the under and pre-ordering The Dark Knight: 2-Disc Edition! Pre-ordering! (Seriously, take the under.) Pick: Chicago

Joe: Who'd have thought at the beginning of this season that this would be one of the most interesting games on the schedule? Lucky for me, I get to watch the Bengals and the Jets. YEAH! Pick: Atlanta

Jacksonville at Denver
Aaron: The Broncos are arguably a favorable ref's call and a missed field goal from being 2-3. Unfortunately, home field trumps perceived suckiness. Pick: Denver

Joe: Speaking of perceived suckiness: The 2008 Jacksonville Jaguars. They're the Washington Redskins of the AFC, only without the wins and with an opportunity to feel smug because the Bills beat them. And yet... Pick: Jacksonville

Philadelphia at San Francisco
Aaron: It appears the seeds of the Eagles annual midseason demise have been sown. Can't say I'm glad to see the Brian Westbrook injury as the cause, though. But, a loss to the 49ers should cheer me up! Pick: San Francisco

Joe: Just because Philly's the clear worst team in the NFC East doesn't mean they're not better than the #2 team in Division 1-AA the NFC West. Pick: Philadelphia

Green Bay at Seattle
Aaron: This one just won't be the same for me without the pre-game "Brett Favre used to play for Mike Holmgren" hype. And, now Matt Hasselbeck is out? That's the fill-in storyline for the week? Always, wantin' the spotlight, those Hasselbecks. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: I'd have gone with the Seahawks if Matt "The Only Tolerable" Hasselbeck were playing. Damn him for lessening the fantasy value of Bobby Engram! Pick: Green Bay

Dallas at Arizona
Aaron: Good to see the Cardinals move out of the NFC East a few years ago hasn't stopped the league from scheduling this annual beatdown. Looks like another "half-assedly contemplate retirement" week for Kurt Warner. Pick: Dallas

Joe: If the Cardinals are going to win the West at 8-8 (and they are), they've gotta get checked before they get too ahead of the curve. Pick: Dallas

New England at San Diego
Aaron: New England hasn't beaten a good team all season, while the Chargers have looked shaky against the Raiders and Dolphins in recent weeks. Yep, I'd give them the Sunday Night prime time slot, too, NBC. Pick: San Diego

Joe: What, you don't want to watch Not Shawne Merriman terrorize Not Tom Brady? Elitist. Pick: San Diego

N.Y. Giants at Cleveland
Aaron: Maybe every nationally televised game should just be "tentative" from week-to-week. Pick: NY Giants

Joe: Remember that comment the next time you bitch about the Giants perceiving a lack of respect. Respect lacker! Pick: NY Giants

The Sure-Thing Suicide Spread:

Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets (-6)

NY Giants (-7.5) at Cleveland

Friday, October 10, 2008

TBG Eats: The NEW Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl's Jr.

Current Weight: 165.0 lbs.

Late yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Bootleg texted me with the shocking revelation that our son wanted pizza for dinner. My wife has dutifully narrowed our family's pizza possibilities down to two places: Borelli's – a tiny little hole-in-the-wall connected to a strip mall about a mile from Stately Bootleg Manor and Round Table – a semi-famous chain with a location right across the street from Borelli's.

After agreeing to pick up her phoned-in order after work, I asked – essentially – if I should be turning left (towards Borelli's) or right (towards Round Table) once I reached the intersection. Mrs. Bootleg helpfully reminded me that the boy prefers Borelli's, but if I wanted Round Table, I could go to both places.

Both places.

As in…two stops after work.

Proximity be damned, people. The boy is four-and-a-half years old. I've seen him cram an entire slice of Sbarro's awful mall pizza into his mouth and swallow it in the same motion. I'm not making two stops for a preschooler's imaginary palette preferences. But, I will make a second stop for some food-flavored blog fodder.

The Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburger at Carl's Jr. is…well, it's those three things in its name, plus lettuce, tomato, onions, pepper jack cheese and "Santa Fe sauce". The union of these ingredients would normally be cause for a cardiac celebration, but here they were spectacularly unexceptional. The burger didn't have much of a "kick" and while the mashed avocado was plentiful, it was also plenty bland.

That it was served up gazpacho-cold didn't help, either.

On the plus side, Carl's Jr. finally got rid of their soggy, not-salted-enough fries and replaced them with those skin-on "natural cut" fries. Maybe the fries just siphoned the heat from the cheeseburger in the same bag, because these were crisp, nicely salted and steaming hot.

Thankfully, Mrs. Bootleg and the boy helped me finish my medium order. And, I didn't even have to ask or offer any to them.

Grade (Guacamole Bacon Cheeseburger): 2 (out of 5)
Grade (Carl's Jr.'s New French Fries): 4

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quick n' Dirty ALCS/NLCS Predictions

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Myth: Home field advantage will be the deciding factor in this series.

Fact: In baseball's postseason, there really isn't any significant statistical edge to the holders of home field. This one will come down to the talent on the field. The Rays make for a cute, cuddly bunch of base stealing scamps who have a whale of a pitching staff, but an inferior offense to the Red Sox. I'll be the first one to call myself out for eating it with my White Sox/Rays guess, but unlike Chicago, Boston's "O" can run with Tampa's (3rd vs. 1st in team stolen bases) and reaches base better than anyone in the AL. Throw in a comparable allocation of arms on the mound and I see a competitive series, but one that's still easy to call.

Prediction: Red Sox in 6.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Myth: Manny and the Dodgers will Manny their Manny into the World Manny.

Fact: The Phillies didn't hit a lick in the NLDS and now they're facing a Dodgers pitching staff that's deeper and better than the Brewers. Much was made of how the right-handers in Los Angeles negated the Cubs' righty leaning line-up, but the Phils have threats from the left side (Howard, Utley and the switch-hitting Rollins) to put up a few crooked-number innings. Philadelphia's rotation will take their lumps – Jaime Moyer and Fat Joe Blanton should ensure at least a six-game series – but a decisive Game #7 within the confines of the caustic Philly faithful will be the deciding factor in this series. See what I did there?

Prediction: Phillies in 7.

An Open Letter to the Makers of Odwalla Bar – Superfood™

Current Weight: 166.4 lbs.

To Whom It May Concern:

A couple of months ago, I took my son Jalen to the San Diego Zoo. It was late August, he was off from school and, quite frankly, I needed a break from my 30-day Sounds of Summer write-ups. BTW, if you haven't read that feature, you can find a link to the right of this post. It was a lot of fun for me, personally, and I've heard from a pair of Major League Baseball broadcasters who really enjoyed it, as well. Whoops, sorry. I'm told I do digress at times…

Anyways, a trip to the zoo with my son has followed the same pattern since he started walking: get there when it opens; grab an XL black coffee for me and a giant chocolate chip cookie for the boy; hope the boy will show even a passing interest in the animals; laugh when he runs from the ducks that inevitably chase him; leave after two hours to ride the kiddie train and carousel at neighboring Balboa Park; curse our annual zoo membership fees.

On this last visit, I purchased one of your Odwalla Bars to chomp with my coffee. I'm not much of a breakfast guy these days, but the thought of cheap joe on an empty stomach…I mean, have you seen the restrooms at the zoo?! I'm convinced the animals have the run of the place when the sun goes down and all the humans go home. (Yes, I often steal material from popular culture. I believe that last line was the plot from Madagascar.)

I chose the banana nut flavor as I'm a caloric sucker for banana nut muffins and your wrapper included words like "nourishing", "folate" and "food". Also, at just 240 calories and six grams of fat, I could enjoy one morning with a little less self-loathing.

Kudos (no pun intended) to you, Odwalla. That banana nut bar was terrific. Moist, chewy and surprisingly filling. From that day on, you had a loyal customer. My local supermarket sold them for a buck apiece (on a related note, you should really talk to the San Diego Zoo about their 200% mark-up on your products) and I literally bought out every new box they'd put on the shelf.

Unfortunately, that left me with quite the conundrum. Yesterday, I stopped by the store, only to find that they had no more bars in the banana nut variety. My wife, Mrs. Bootleg, had previously purchased some of your other flavors, but I wasn't much impressed with the chocolate-peanut or the trail mix bars.

I left the store with three of your Superfood™ flavor and two of the strawberry-pomegranate.

At work this morning, I carefully unwrapped a Superfood™ bar. One of the wrapper words that caught my eye? "Banana"! I pulled the bar out and…ummm…are they supposed to have all that green crap smeared on top? I re-checked the wrapper for the expiration date. December 2008. Then, another word on the wrapper caught my eye. Spirulina.

Years ago, I managed an ice cream/smoothie shop and seem to remember spirulina being a supplement of some kind. Armed with this vague recollection, I deemed your bar suitable for consumption and bit into it.

In my entire life, I can only remember one other instance when my gag reflex so violently kicked in. Have you ever seen Jackass: The Movie? Remember that part where one of 'em pees on a snowball and eats it? Well, if any of them wants to eat sh*t for a sequel, I know what to recommend.

I've eaten fried frog legs and rattlesnake in the last year or so. I once finished a platter of tacos de sesos from a stand in Tijuana. I like Subway. But, your Superfood™ bar is neither "super" nor "food", Odwalla. In fact, it should be forever placed between this guy and this thing as the most evil and harmful things to ever be deemed "super".

Around these parts, I use a five-point scale for my food reviews. For hyperbole's sake, I'll occasionally rate something a "500" if it rocked my world or a "-500" if my readers should avoid it all costs. There simply isn't a negative number in existence that can convey the absolute experience of ass that met my mouth for a few seconds on this warm Wednesday morning. (I know what you're thinking: "It's San Diego. Isn't it always 72 and sunny?" Well, we've got this weather condition out here called "Santa Anas" – hot, dry winds from the east that roll through in October/November. It's supposed to be 99 today!)

Tell you what, Odwalla. You find a way to keep the North County communities of San Diego stocked with your banana nut bars and I'll pretend Superfood™ never, ever happened. I will, however, have to leave this post up as a warning to others. But, don't worry. Most of my local readers are a collection of drunks and degenerates who prefer an entirely different kind of bar for breakfast.

Warm Regards,

Aaron Cameron
"That Bootleg Guy"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Quick n' Dirty Division Series Recap

Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

What I Said: Red Sox in 4 ("Should we ignore the Angels' 8-1 record vs. the Red Sox this season? You bet'cha.")

I didn't realize this when I wrote the above last week, but about a third of those regular season Angels wins came at the apex of the Manny Ramirez drama when it could be argued that the Red Sox were playing a man down. The Angels are still living off of their 2002 reputation as a hustling bunch of gritty pixies and trying to play that game with an aging roster. That the Halos' vaunted "smallball" approach was one of the overriding factors in their elimination makes it all the more delicious for me.

Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

What I Said: White Sox in 5 ("Tampa has a couple of starters who don't miss many bats and a couple of relievers prone to the long ball.")

It's not every day that an entire team's offense is summarily dismissed, but I managed to completely miss the point with Tampa. I totally lost sight of a lineup that trots out above-average (or better) hitters throughout two-thirds of their line-up, with a borderline average hitter at second and an ostensibly healthy Carl Crawford for the first time in a few months.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Philadelphia Phillies

What I Said: Phillies in 4 ("Now, dig that Phillies line-up and commence with the bed wetting, Brewers.")

The Phils didn't exactly whack the cover off of the ball in this series, but thankfully for them, their pitchers didn't need it. And, part of me is glad that Fatbathia got lit up in Game #2. All of these starts he was making on three days rest were bringing out too many of the crusty old school farts who lament pitch counts and long for the old days when pitchers started 80 games a season.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs

What I Said: Dodgers in 4 ("'Good pitching beats good hitting' is one of the most tired (and inaccurate) clich├ęs in baseball, but what the hell….")

How did everyone on earth ignore a Dodgers pitching staff that includes Chad Billingsley, Derek Lowe in his walk year and that ridiculous lights-out bullpen? And, watching everyone act shocked n' awed that Alfonso Soriano was missing pitches at his shoestrings and around his eyes was just…I mean, have you never seen him play before?

Finally, Joe Sheehan over at Baseball Prospectus makes the point that Joe Morgan doesn't want you to read:

In fact, the Division Series round validated the idea that you win post-season games not by scratching out a single run using small-ball tactics, but by using short-sequence offenses—power—to score, and by putting up crooked numbers. The team hitting more home runs in a game went 12-1 in the Division Series. In all seven NLDS games, and nine of 15 overall, the winning team scored more runs in a single inning than the loser did all game long.

So, once more with feeling…eat it, Angels.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Tee-Ball Chronicles – Week #2

San Diego – Jalen Cameron made his tee-ball debut for the Pirates in an exhibition game against the glorious hated A's on Saturday. Despite the threat of inclement weather and a shocking amount of base running incompetence from his preschool-aged teammates, Jalen went 2 for 2 out of the leadoff spot with a game-tying grand slam in the 2nd inning.

Disappointment to the Power of 10, 4 1: Jalen was still bummed about being a Pirate, but the thought of wearing a real uniform top was keeping him emotionally afloat. The coaches called the team over and started handing out these garish mesh black and gold tops (ick…glad I'm an A's fan…). Jalen was handed #10 to which he responded, "Ten?! That's my favorite number!" Unfortunately, there were two jerseys that were intended for the two obligatory fat kids assigned to each team and this was one of them. Fortunately, Jalen's REAL favorite number is four, so I asked for that on the grounds that the coaches had broken my son's heart. Guess what number the other big-boned boy on the team got? So, Jalen got #1.

That First Base Coach Guy: I volunteered to "coach" first base. My job duties included yelling "first base!" to the kids in the hope that they'd pump their stubby baby legs up the line after hitting the ball; then yelling "second base!" to get them off the bag and – more importantly – off my watch; and, finally, backing up the first baseman on the, umm, occasional throw that got by him. And, look, they've put my son at first base to officially kick off his tee-ball career.

"Now, just because I'm his father, he will get no special treatment. He calls me coach just like everyone else. Which he'll be doing, as our new starting quarterback first baseman!" - Homer Simpson from "Bart Star", Episode 5F03.

The New Hot Corner: Coach Chris gave Jalen a lucid, detailed explanation of what to do at first base. Jalen apparently heard "hold out your glove" and stopped listening. Thankfully, I brought my glove and saved about 100 runs in my half-inning of work. Two things: nearly every child failed to throw the ball directly into Jalen's glove (as per this parent's tee-ball expectations) and, Jesus, some of these children have kid-sized cannons for arms. I've never popped a glove with a throw in my life. That's cuz I'm "crafty" in baseball parlance.

Even Better than the "Oakland" Nickname: As an armchair baseball analyst, I suppose I'm forced to question the construction of the Pirates' batting order. As Jalen's dad and unabashed fan of Rickey Henderson, I've gots noooooo problem with the coaches telling the kids to line up one through ten based on their jersey numbers. Leading off for your Pirates, #1…Jalen Cameron! He legged out an infield single, just ahead of the "throw" that got there…eventually.

The Jig is Up: After coming around to score, Jalen and the Pirates went back out into the field. This time, the boy was assigned to centerfield. Try as he might, he could not understand why no one was hitting the ball to him, so he remedied the boredom by running after every…goddam…ball. Grounder to short? In comes Jalen. Dribbler in front of home plate? In comes Jalen. I should just sign him up for soccer and expedite my misery.

Chip Off the Old Block: Despite the fact that this is one of those "we don't keep score" tee-ball leagues, the score was 10-6, A's. Oh, please, like I was the only parent keeping score. And with the bases loaded, Jalen brought 'em all home on one of those "only in tee ball" comedy of errors (that the official scorer correctly ruled a home run). The hour-long adventure ended 10-10, with another hour on the adjacent playground to follow.

"OK son, just remember to have fun out there today. And if you lose, I'll kill you!" - Homer Simpson from "Lisa on Ice", Episode 2F05.

They tied, he lives.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

TBG's 2008 NFL Pickin' - Week #5

Last Week:
Aaron: 7-6 (1-0 vs. the spread)
Joe: 6-7 (0-1)
Tom: 6-7 (1-0)

Season To Date:
Aaron: 38-22 (1-3 vs. the spread)
Joe: 36-24 (2-2)
Tom: 32-28 (2-2)

Tennessee at Baltimore
Aaron: The Titans are 4-0 and it's getting harder and harder to dismiss their hot start. Then again, after last week's results, nothing makes sense in this league. Pick: Baltimore

Joe: I'm not going to all of a sudden be as gay for the Titans as Bill Simmons has become, but I've kind of turned the corner on them not sucking. Whatever. Pick: Tennessee

Kansas City at Carolina
Aaron: Put it this way, in the realm of inexplicable comebacks by Black entertainers, I've got Larry Johnson's week #4 resurrection lasting about as long as Pam Grier's after Jackie Brown. Pick: Carolina

Joe: How dare you, sir. That woman was brilliant in The Adventures of Pluto Nash! Pick: Carolina

San Diego at Miami
Aaron: The Chargers have begun their trek to 12-4 and a first round bye. Games like this one are a small price we have to pay to watch them lose at home to the Steelers sometime in mid-January. Patience, children, patience. Pick: San Diego

Joe: I don't think I'm quite so ready to pull the trigger on the Chargers just yet. I'll settle for Tomlinson staying healthy for the rest of the season. Pick: San Diego

Washington at Philadelphia
Aaron: It'd be a huge help if you'd let me know that Brian Westbrook is going to be inactive before I make my picks, Eagles. I should pick the Redskins just to spite Philly for last week. I'll do it. Don't think I will? There, it's done. Pick: Washington

Joe: Here's something weird: I'm taking the recent Redskins success as a personal affront. I have no idea why -- I don't particularly dislike their players or fans. They haven't been spoiled by overwhelming success lately. Nevertheless, seeing them hovering around the top of the NFC East is super annoying, and I kind of want that to stop right now. Pick: Philadelphia

Indianapolis at Houston
Aaron: The tattered rags known as the Colts' offensive line is going to get Peyton Manning murdered at some point this season. I should start DVRing their games, cuz you KNOW the liberal sports media won't ever show us an instant replay of that. Pick: Houston

Joe: Okay, so many people are picking Houston this week that it's making me incredibly nervous. Yes, the Colts have been underwhelming, and yes the Texans have a running game now, but this feels like a game the Colts put the clamps down for. Pick: Indianapolis

Seattle at N.Y. Giants
Aaron: The Giants take the week off, and Brett Favre throws for six touchdowns. This is insane. Has a defending world champion ever had their media spotlight dimmed in the following season? ESPN couldn't even get more than a morning's mileage out of Plaxico's suspension. And, here, they get another week off. Zing! Pick: NY Giants

Joe: All eyes on Bobby Engram and Deion Branch this week. Which I guess takes the attention away from the Giants even more. They'll have to make do with the best record in the NFC. Pick: NY Giants

Atlanta at Green Bay
Aaron: Road game for Atlanta? Yep, road game for Atlanta. Pick: Green Bay

Joe: In lieu of making a smartass comment, I'd like to make a sincere plea to my readers: anyone who has any information as to the whereabouts of Ryan Grant, please call your local authorities. Please. Any information can be of help. Pick: Green Bay

Chicago at Detroit
Aaron: Look, Lions fans…I get your hatred for Matt Millen. Believe me. But, all the mock funerals and tombstones seemed a little much. You've had the Pistons and Red Wings win titles recently, with the Tigers winning a pennant in there, too. Save the whiny football entitlement to everyone east of you. Pick: Chicago

Joe: Kyle Orton on the road. Chicago ready for a letdown after a big win. Jon Kitna filled with righteous Christian anger. Once again, I head into the breach with the Lions. Maybe I'm just a fan of the cerulean. Pick: Detroit

Tampa Bay at Denver
Aaron: Nice of these Broncos to turn into every Mike Shanahan team after John Elway retired: look like world-beaters for three weeks, look like ass for the next three, repeat. Last week was game number one of the "ass" stretch. Pick: Tampa Bay

Joe: They'll be winning ugly all season, and their best offensive player right now just might be Ike Hilliard. And yet...I like this Bucs team. Pick: Tampa Bay

Buffalo at Arizona
Aaron: Really, Arizona defense…six touchdown passes for Brett Favre last week? You guys are destroying this country by making him look good. Speaking of "destroyed", if anyone's seen Anquan Boldin's face, please spoon it up and return to the team. Postage paid. Pick: Arizona

Joe: You guys, seriously, that Anquan Boldin incident hurt my heart. It made me ill. I mean...he had that touchdown. The ball was in his hands. And then one thunderous shot to the back followed in quick succession by a helmet-to-helmet decapitation hit and he drops it, dooming my fantasy team to a tie rather than a win. I guess I just prefer guys to play with some heart. Oh, and I'm not just reverse-psychologizing -- I think the Bills drop their first game here. Pick: Arizona

New England at San Francisco
Aaron: Only because the Pats had last week off and should be, like, rested and sh*t… Pick: New England

Joe: I am SO tempted to pick the Niners here, but I think their defense is juuuust crappy enough to get beat. But they're gonna keep it close. Ish. Pick: New England

Cincinnati at Dallas
Aaron: Ocho Cinco has promised he'll kiss the Cowboys' on-field star logo when he scores a touchdown. I hope he does it with the Bengals down 38-7, then says to the press afterwards, "Hey, I ain't said nothing about winning the game." Pick: Dallas

Joe: I like the idea of Dallas having too much offense, and that's why they lost to Washington. Because of choice paralysis, I guess. It's a flimsy excuse, is what I'm saying. Pick: Dallas

Pittsburgh at Jacksonville
Aaron: The Jags could legitimately be 4-0 or 0-4 right now. I don't believe they've had a game decided by more than seven points all season. What's this mean against the Steelers? No flippin' clue. Pick: Pittsburgh

Joe: The Steelers are looking is rough shape right now, but they're still 3-1. If they can weather these injuries without falling into too deep a hole, they still have the inside track to the playoffs. And yet... Pick: Jacksonville

Minnesota at New Orleans
Aaron: Did I really take goddamn Gus Frerotte on the road last week? Joe, too? Won't be making that mistake again. Pick: New Orleans

Joe: Me neither. In other news, I got the bright idea to pick up Lance Moore and promptly sat him on my bench last week as he caught two TDs and I (like I said before) managed to tie and not win despite having the highest point total in the league. Let's hope he manages to keep scoring now that it counts. You know, for me. Pick: New Orleans

The Sure Thing Suicide Spread

Aaron: Washington (+6) at Philadelphia
Joe: Tennessee (-2.5) at Baltimore