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Found 14 results

  1. Cousins was a terrible pick for the 'skins. Picking Cousins undermined RGIII. When Cousins played, he played just well enough for the 'skins to tag him, but not well enough to get the team anywhere, and not bad enough to not pay him year to year. So year after year, the 'skins didn't make the play-off and didn't suck enough to get a high draft pick. So how's picking Cousins brilliant?
  2. I read Stephen Hawking's (R.I.P.) "A Brief History of Time" not long after it was published in 1988, and even though everyone is saying how simple it is, I'm pretty much in the Charles Krauthammer camp: I found it almost 'incomprehensible' at the time. Granted, I'm much, much more educated now than I was then, so maybe it would be a walk in the park for me now, but it was not easy reading for me at age 28-ish. (I should add that Richard Feynman's book, "Six Easy Pieces," put me in the same boat: They were *not* easy. And then, I was foolish enough to tackle "Six Not-so-Easy Pieces," which I read more as a personal challenge than anything else - I remember nothing about it.) I think the problem might be that, while these are two scientific geniuses, they aren't great authors. Honestly, I question the myriad of five-star reviews, and all the comments saying they were reading "Six Easy Pieces" to their grade-school children. I don't believe it! There are two kinds of people who say they enjoy these books: those with a degree in physics, and those who are trying to impress people - I am neither. Grade-school children, my eye.
  3. Here's "The Cat Came Back" - I saw this in the theater in a "Tournée of Animation" when it came out - it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1988.
  4. The 1988 British film, "Madame Sousatzka," is one of "those" movies that's a personal favorite, but also one which you tend not to recommend to others, since it's so esoteric and focused - you just don't think that most people will enjoy it. I'd seen John Schlesinger's film revolving around an eccentric piano teacher (Shirley MacLaine in a uniquely quirky performance as Irina Soustazka), and her current young piano prodigy, Manek Sen (played excellently, and (just as importantly) with pretty convincing piano, by 16-year-old Navin Chowdhry). Anyway, I'd seen Madame Sousatzka at least twice in the past - once when it was released, at least one additional time on video, and then over-and-over again with some of my favorite clips on YouTube. However, a couple weeks ago on Amazon Prime, I rented it again, and began noticing scenes that I simply did not remember. At first, I thought the passage of time had dimmed my memory, but this continued to occur, and then it became obvious that in the past, enormous portions of the film had been edited out - perhaps almost as much as thirty minutes. I had always felt like this was a charming film, full of brilliant moments, but also with wasted potential throughout; now, I know why I thought this: It's because, for whatever reason, editors had gutted enough scenes to leave the versions that I saw nearly incoherent at times. Now, for the first time ever, I feel like I've actually experienced Madame Sousatzka as Schlesinger intended for me to see it - the difference between this experience, and past experiences, was remarkable enough so that I can't think of another film that had been so thoroughly stripped of its vitality and essence. I now realize that what I'd previously thought as simply foibles in the story, was actually tragedy in the editing room - this film had been denuded of what makes it great, and *now* I can finally say, after nearly thirty years, that Madame Sousatzka is a great film. The more you know about classical music, especially the standard concert piano repertoire, the better. Chowdhry isn't actually playing the pieces, but his fingers are hitting the notes, even in the most difficult pieces, so he was clearly a high-level amateur pianist that had studied the instrument for years. He was also utterly charismatic, charming, and the oldest of old souls, considering he played a sixteen-year-old. If you've ever watched Madame Sousatzka, and feel as I felt (that it was a "fun, cute movie with lots of holes"), please do yourself a favor and watch it on Amazon Prime. I remember during this Charlie Rose interview, David Lynch's outrageously terrible flop, "Dune" (which I contend is one of the worst movies I've ever seen), is revealed by Wallace to have been completely butchered by editors, to the point of rendering it incoherent. Although not as bad as "Dune," what the editors did to "Madame Sousatzka" is surely in the same vein - they very nearly killed the movie. (Full disclosure: I think Frank Herbert's "Dune," beloved by many science-fiction fans, is one of the most interminable, arduous books I've ever read - it took me over six months to read, and I hated myself for finishing it.) I won't spoil the plot for you, but this is not action-packed, and is very much of a cerebral film (with a couple of very hair-raising moments). Please give Madame Sousatzka another chance - it's a wonderful film, and I never even knew it. It's remarkable that I can't find *anything* on the internet about it ever having been butchered (or restored). One last thing: There are numerous supporting roles (close to a half-dozen) that are all superb - this is a very, very strong cast. Yes, even Twiggy.
  5. This human pogo stick deserves his own thread. I can think of three unstoppable shots off the top of my head in NBA history: Elvin Hayes backing in to the basket on his strong side, then turning around and shooting a fadeaway bank shot; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's sky hook, and Kevin Durant's jump-back from 25 feet. Critics say all he needs to become the "total offensive weapon" is to put on some upper-body muscle; I disagree. Let him wait until later to muscle up; right now, he's so quick that he can do anything - drive past you and tomahawk it, or back off and shoot a three. When he's in his 30s, then he can hit the weights - let him stay slender while he's young. The only comparable player I can think of, style-wise, is Dirk Nowitzki. Tonight, he broke his string of 12 consecutive 30-point games, and he did it by scoring 24 points, going 10-for-12 from the field, sitting out the entire 4th quarter, and dishing out 7 assists - many of them to Serge Ibaka who went 12-for-12 from the field: the two combined to go 22-for-24! This is just crazy what we're witnessing right now. Jordan, Bryant, Maravich, Erving, Bird, James - I've never seen more jaw-dropping highlight reels (although some of Jordan's and Bird's come close). All Durant needs is longevity, and he could well become the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
  6. Yeah, *you* try and watch the ending without tearing up. A friend asked me what one word would I use to describe what this movie was about - I didn't have an answer. We watched it together, and she correctly replied, "friendship." Yes, perfect. Friendship - beautiful, untainted, pure friendship. I'm pretty sure that I've only seen two of Tornatore's films in my life: "Cinema Paradiso," (his second) and "Everybody's Fine," (his third) - both fantastic pictures (the latter starring the misty-eyed Marcello Mastroianni). I'm not going to summarize the plot because I think the whole concept of that (in this day and age) is silly; suffice it to say, it's just a great movie that merits all accolades heaped onto it. "Cinema Paradiso" is a movie I love, and a movie that will bring tears to your eyes unless you have no heart. It's beautifully realized, directed, filmed, and acted, and I recommend it highly to those of you who wish to watch an intelligent film that will have you choking up at the end. How beautiful can a movie be? Well, it can be - if it's extremely well-done - *this* beautiful. Please do yourselves a favor and watch it. I believe you'll thank me, and I relish your upcoming comments about this film. It's just ... beautiful. I recently saw it for the second time, and I would love to see it again for a third. Beautiful.
  7. Now that Kevin Durant has become a Golden State Warrior ... "Russell Westbrook: Nowhere Else I'd Rather Be than Oklahoma City" on espn.com I don't blame Kevin Durant at all for leaving, but I *love* Russell Westbrook for staying. He may be an Ernie Banks - someone with the talent of a Mays or Mantle, who never had the championship to complete his legacy, but I have endless, undying respect for Ernie Banks. It's even tougher for Westbrook than it was for Banks, because Banks at least played in a major market - I only hope that Oklahoma City rewards him at the end of his career by letting him stay with the Thunder when he's in his twilight years - one-team players have a special place in my heart, and the onus is on Oklahoma City to fulfill their end of the unwritten agreement.
  8. After having finished "Voices from Chernobyl," I had a two-week gap without anything to read, so I decided to fill it with something short - "The Alchemist," a 1988 novel by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, had been left at my house by a friend, and was just about the perfect length and level of difficulty (based on a quick perusal). This book is a phenomenon - it has been translated into 80 languages, and Coelho has sold over 200-million books, making him the all-time best-selling Portuguese-language author. For whatever reason, I had thought "The Alchemist" was an important, Nobel-level work of literature, but in retrospect, I think I confused Pablo Coelho with the names Camilo José Cela and Pablo Neruda, both of whom I've read in the past: Make sure you know what you're getting into when you pick up this book. For me to trash "The Alchemist" would be too easy - like trashing Forest Gump, for example. The book is low-hanging fruit for any literature snob, and is absolutely a book for the masses. It is self-consciously written in "parable" format, and well-suited to teenagers in a way that Shakespeare is not - why 8th graders are assigned "Romeo and Juliet," I will never understand; they should be reading "The Alchemist" instead - something they can understand and learn from: At just over 150 pages, and with very few words greater than 2-3 syllables, this book is really written at a teenage level, and I don't mean that as an insult. The last time I read a bestseller, it was "The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold - it was given to me as a thoughtful gift by someone I used to know, and I have a personal rule that if a friend gives me a book, I read it - out of respect and courtesy. The book was absolute pablum, and is very similar to The Alchemist in terms of difficulty and mass appeal. While I'm not going to say this is a great work of literature, it's something like "The Wizard of Oz," in that an entire generation (maybe two, since adults seem to enjoy it as much as teenagers) will have fond memories of The Alchemist. Coelho seems to have found a sweet spot among the average reader, and I'd be lying if I said I hated this book. It's saccharine, and it's somewhat predictable, but it also deals with simple, universal truths, so for those of you who don't want to spent the eight-hours-or-so it takes to read, here's my rendition: "The Alchemist (Abridged Edition)" Translated by Don Rockwell It's better to be a happy Park Ranger than a sad Neurosurgeon. The End.
  9. And after this game, Stephen Strasburg is now 6-0. "Washington Nationals 6-4 Over Miami Marlins: Stephen Strasburg Improves To (6-0) With The Win" by Patrick Reddington on federalbaseball.com About Strasburg's contract, I just found this: "Stephen Strasburg's $175 Million Contract is Mostly Smoke and Mirrors and is a Brilliant Ploy by Super Agent Scott Boras" by Cork Gaines on businessinsider.com (Here's the thread on Scott Boras.)
  10. "Because the winds were blowing to the northwest that day." Continuing Al Dente's quest for the remote, mysterious and dangerous parts of our world, I'd like to add the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve to the list. In 1986, the main reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant experienced a full meltdown, and the U.S.S.R. covered up the incident for as long as they could - several days - until one day, in *Sweden* of all places, nuclear-plant workers began setting off dosimeters - meters that read how much radioactivity is on your body and clothing - sort of like when you step through a metal detector - started showing abnormally high readings. Workers at Forsmark, a nuclear power plant a couple hours north of Stockholm, began setting off these detectors, and naturally, all attention turned towards Forsmark itself. When nobody could find anything wrong, people began suspecting a nuclear bomb went off somewhere in Europe, but there were no reports; eventually - within a matter of days - the trail led to Chernobyl, and the U.S.S.R. government had no choice but to end their cover-up and admit that the worst-possible situation had occurred: Chernobyl's core reactor had experienced full meltdown. Yes, it is the *Swedes* we have to thank for alerting to the world to Chernobyl! How could this be, when Forsmark was over 2,500 kilometers away from the accident? And nothing at all was reported, or even detected, in Kiev, which was less than 150 kilometers away from the disaster? "Because the winds were blowing to the northwest that day." Other than at Chernobyl itself, where a relatively small number of people quickly died of radioactive burns, there weren't any immediate symptoms - the skies were blue, the birds were singing, the animals were being animals, and everything looked and seemed normal, except for this strange, unearthly light coming from the center of the reactor. and the Soviet men working on the ceiling - "liquidators" they were called - bore the brunt of it, and many died quickly - but what was yet to come was an invisible, silent killer. Instead of dying quickly from nuclear burns, people began dying more slowly of radiation sickness, and it occurred in a much larger perimeter - miles and miles in diameter, instead of immediately on the rooftop of the reactor. I will soon be reporting on a book about the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster - an important book, a book that everyone should read. But for now, I'm here to discuss the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve - a park immediately to the northwest of Chernobyl, just beyond the village of Pripyat (which got hit the hardest), and across the border into Belarus. Many people think Chernobyl is in Belarus, but it's actually in northern Ukraine (see the town at the northern end of the Dniepper River? And see how close Kiev is down on the southern end?) This map also shows that the Reserve is almost all inside of Belarus - because the winds were blowing to the northwest that day. The Reserve - acting as a buffer between the population and Chernobyl - was founded in 1988, two years after the explosion, and is not all that large: less than 40 square kilometers. Ironically, due to the virtual absence of humans, both flora and fauna are developing in beautiful and encouraging ways that has caught the attention of biologists. Nevertheless, if a human were to live there for an extended period of time, radiation sickness or related conditions would occur, just as they'll be occurring for tens of thousands of years. Sadly, that is not a typo, and yes, the flora and fauna have shown signs of nuclear contamination, but you cannot stop birds from flying unless you kill them all, and believe me, an early effort was made to shoot *all* animals within proximity of the plant. This surely qualifies as being one of the most mysterious and dangerous places on earth, even though it's unfortunately not one of the most remote. Here is their official website. If this hasn't jogged your memory about the nuclear plant being struck by the 2011 tsunami in northern Japan, it probably should. Sushi lovers have conveniently put things out of their minds, but they must be out of their minds, so to speak.
  11. "ESPN's World Fame 100" lists the '100 most famous and well-known athletes in the world.' Here are two basic facts: China has over 18% of the world's population, and not one single athlete from China is on the list. Here's a video about Ma Long for the experts at ESPN to watch when they have a minute:
  12. Stephen Curry: His unique version: Float Like a Butterfly Sting Like a Bee Stephen Curry has surprisingly risen to the very upper echelon's of professional basketball. Last year he led his team, the Golden State Warriors to a tremendous regular season record and an NBA championship. He was the league MVP. His play epitomizes the changing nature of the pro game of basketball-> more outside in than inside out. His ascendancy is surprising. While he was a relatively high draft choice, he had been a very slight shooting guard from a small school. He only played point guard in his last year of college so he was not an accomplished ball handler. His father, though, was a noted NBA sharpshooter before him. Curry's improvement is spectacular. He is clearly one of the premier, most important, most valuable players in professional basketball at the moment. With all that Curry is extraordinarily fun to watch. He really seems to float, not run. Its as if his feet and coordinated extraordinary ball control are moving in a different dimension but all in sync and only he knows where he and the ball are going. On top of that he has the deadliest outside shot, with a quick release. He is dangerous. And to top it off, he is a "dancing celebrating athlete in his prime". Watch him play and dance. Entirely different but reminiscent of Mohammed Ali in his fighting, floating, stinging prime. "Best of Steph Curry's Incredible Start" on espn.go.com
  13. I suspect some of our younger members have never heard of "The Thin Blue Line" (1988), but due to a Facebook post by Sweth, I was inspired to watch it again last night - the only other time I'd seen it was when it was released in theaters 27 years ago. I was raving about the film when it came out, and I think every bit as highly of it now, even though I knew exactly how the story ended. This is a non-fiction exposé of a murder conviction that might have been incorrectly decided. The two principal suspects, Randall Adams and David Harris (I'm purposely not linking to them so you don't peak at their fates since 1988) play a central role in this crime-re-creation (*) documentary which is about as *exciting* as any documentary I've ever seen. "The Thin Blue Line" is an incredibly important film, yet is only the 95th-highest grossing documentary produced since 1982, grossing a mere $1.2 million - unbelievably, this great film lost money; nevertheless, it is timeless, and will be just as great in 2042 as it is in 2015 as it was in 1988. One thing I never knew is that the music is by Philip Glass (see "Koyaanisqatsi"), but I was jolted into noticing the opening theme song, and when Glass's name came on the screen, I just smiled - he really is a terrific composer for the medium. Watch this movie on Amazon Prime ($3.99), and if you don't like it, I'll pay you back. (*) I originally didn't hyphenate crime-re-creation, but it came out as crime-recreation.
  14. Oh, come on...Lynyrd Skynyrd wasn't twangy, wasn't hillbilly and wasn't crap! And who doesn;t love those Molly Hatchet album covers? You want twangy hillbilly crap, you got to listen to the Rolling Stones
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