Bill Belichik and His Kicking Quarterbacks

... A good name for a sixties folk group, I'm sure, but more pertinent for the HC of the NE P's and his late-season plays involving his quarterbacks and their feet.  A couple years ago it was Doug Flutie successfully drop kicking the ball for an extra point against the Dolphins (the first successful drop kick in over 60 years).  Today it was Matt Cassel, punting the ball on 3rd and 8 with 5 minutes left in the game to give Buffalo the ball at their one yard line -- another brilliant call by Bill Belichick, using the awful wind conditions to his advantage and essentially sealing a Patriots win by requiring the Bills to move the ball 99 yards to get at most 8 points with the clock counting down.


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Well That Makes Sense...

Money had long ago become an object for the Northernmost teams along I-95 -- the off season is all about strategy right now: What pitcher on our team counterbalances a batter on their team? What ballpark improvements can counterbalance their new ballpark? And on and on.

Last night the Yankees most definitely outmaneuvered the Red Sox to the point where it's almost a joke. Signing Mark Teixeira not only gives them the most coveted free agent hitter of 2009, it also puts the Red Sox in an extremely awkward corner. Who is the second-most coveted free agent hitter of 2009? Old friend Manuel "Manny" Aristides Ramirez -- that's who. How convenient that the Red Sox and Manny Ramirez had a messier breakup than Brad and Jen this past summer.

The Yankees outspent the Red Sox yet again, and can afford to keep doing so -- revenues from their brand new stadium can almost guarantee this. I can't wait to sit behind a pole in Fenway's right field grandstand next year, directly facing center field and thinking to myself "I really appreciate the ownership throwing the idea of a new stadium away in order to maintain the historical integrity of this place. I don't miss the amenities or financial benefits of something new. More restaurants under the stands, please!"

Still, not all is lost -- the Red Sox were a healthy Josh Beckett away from going to the World Series in 2008, so they certainly won't be a quiet team this year. They still have the 2008 MVP and a 2008 MVP candidate in Pedroia and Youklis, respectively. They have an amazing, young hitter in Jason Bay. Jonathan Papelbon is one of the best closers in the game.

Things do need to happen if they want to get over that hump: the rotation as a whole needs to pick it up a level -- Tim Wakefield needs to retire or move to the pen and the team needs a 4th and 5th starter; Don Corleone needs to grab Jacoby Ellsbury by the face and yell at him to "act like a man!" Shortstop and Catcher positions are still big question marks.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the Yankees have fewer question marks. Really, just two -- the back end of their rotation and the bullpen. If the Yankees knew what was good for them, they'd return Joba Chamberlain to the pen and groom him to be the closer of the future, leaving the 4th and 5th starter spots open and introducing the question of who takes over the 7th inning.

Even if The Yankees need more help in their bullpen, they figure to just outscore opponents enough to make up for any shortcomings.

It's going to be an interesting 2009.


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Oh Netflix, You Know Me So Well

"At a Dresden hospital in 1945, nurse Anna Mauth (Felicitas Woll) cares for badly injured British pilot Robert Newman (John Light), whom Anna believes to be a German deserter. As Allied forces close in, Anna grows close to Robert despite her engagement to Dr. Alexander Wenninger (Benjamin Sadler). The gripping historical romance won the 2006 German Television Award for Best Movie Made for Television."

I did enjoy Curb Your Enthusiasm so there must be some twisted logic in this suggestion.


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Shut Up and Let Me Go

Last Thursday, Wife and I were lucky enough to be guests #234 and #235 at the 235-person capacity Ting Tings show put on by WFNX at Church. The show was great. In case you don't know who the Ting Tings are, you'll probably recognize them by their song, Shut Up and Let Me Go. The have a bunch of catchy dance tunes -- Great DJ and That's Not My Name included. Think of them as the White Strips of Britpop. I love my Britpop, so I had a fun time.

I had never been to Church, but I had heard that it's a great venue for a show -- half true. The space itself was kind of cramped, but to my surprise, the in-house audio was not turned to 11. I could have an actual conversation with the person next to me, even while the band was playing. My only real complaint is that Miller Brewing Company took over the taps while no one was looking -- I ordered a Smuttynose Porter and got a Blue Moon instead.

Special thanks to Special Ed at WFNX's Sandbox show. Since we were the lasts one in before they locked out over a hundred people in line behind us, we didn't get to share a beer as planned. I was harsh in my post about Boston morning radio, but I realize it's a tough market and each show has to cater to a specific, yet broad audience. I'll keep listening, Special Ed, don't you worry. We'll have that beer another time.


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A Quantum of Solace: AYB Review

A couple years ago, in anticipation of Casino Royale, I ranked all Bond films relative to one another. This year I wasn't able to catch A Quantum of Solace right when it premiered, but I have finally seen it and here's the breakdown:

A Quantum of Solace (2008)
The first ever direct sequel in Bond film history -- you can get by with not having seen Casino Royale since it came out, but you'll enjoy AQoS a little bit more if you do.

Plot: James Bond balances his desire for revenge and his his desire to be MI6 Employee of the Month as he investigates the organization behind the events of Casino Royale.

Villain: Mathieu Amalric plays Domenic Greene, one of the most nondescript villains Bond has ever come up against -- his eyes don't even bleed!

Henchman: Like in Casino Royale, a few thugs here and there, but none have superhuman strength or metal teeth, and thus are no match for James Bond and his wits.

Girl: A relatively low Bond Girl count with just two: a rogue Bolovian agent played by tanned Ukranian Olga Kurylenko and the deliciously named Strawberry Fields played by Gemma Arterton. Miss Aterton should have played a henchwoman -- she was born with six fingers on each hand.

Gadgets: Bond gets his Bourne on with not even a holiday card from Q Branch.

Locations: Two visits to Italy, a ride through the slums of Haiti, an opera in Austria and the Bolivian desert.

James Bond: [at a dirty, small motel] What are we doing?
Strawberry Fields: We're teachers on sabbatical. This fits our cover.
James Bond: No it doesn't. I'd rather stay at a morgue. Come on.
[they go to a nicer hotel]
James Bond: [to the hotel receptionist] Hello. We're teachers on sabbatical and we've just won the lottery.

Good: The opening credits sequence, taking place within an astral globe is cool (not to mention the pre-credits car chase and the post-credits foot chase on the rooftops of Siena, which are even cooler). Feminists will cheer this film because Bond does not bed Olga Kurylenko's character -- he does bed Miss Fields, but she ends up dead for her promiscuity. The floating opera scene is an amazing spectacle that I hope to one day see in real life.

Bad: Most of the movie just feels subdued. The final fight has some cool explosions that are set off, but it boils down to a fistfight between Bond and Greene. Bond staples Moneypenny and Q are still not in the picture -- a lot of critics are claiming the Bond franchise is intentionally losing its identity; reintroducing these characters would go a long way towards putting the Bond "stamp" on this film. The character of Villers (M's assistant in Casino Royale) is nowhere to be seen despite the events of AQoS taking place just hours after Casino Royale ends. The prospect of several movies chronicling Bond's fight against a secret international organization of businessmen is as exciting as it sounds.


So where does it rank? It's a tough call -- it's a slick production, but the actual story is "meh" enducing. The luster of the "new" Bond has worn off already -- better than Thunderball but not as good as The Spy Who Loved Me. Impress me in 2010, James. Now, on to the Star Trek reviews for next May.


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How Did That Happen?

It's time to get angry about the modern-day domestic sitcom. How is it that the average-yet-quirky nuclear family now has a schlub husband, a hot wife that no schlub in real life could ever get, a son and a daughter who conveniently appear and disappear when the story calls for it, and several extended family members who exist only to insult the schlub husband? Oh, and they all live in a huge house on one income.

In the movie Knocked Up, Paul Rudd's character comments that "marriage is like an unfunny, tense version of Everybody Loves Raymond; but it doesn't last 22 minutes -- it lasts forever." I'll contend that Everybody Loves Raymond (and its ilk) are an unfunny version of life, and last forever.

This whole trend in three camera mediocrity started with Everybody Loves Raymond, and we have been bombarded by the likes of My Wife and Kids, The King of Queens, Yes Dear, Still Standing, and possibly the biggest offender, According to Jim, ever since.

Why Accoding to Jim? Alan Sepinwall noted that According To Jim, bastion of mediocre, three-camera comedies is entering its eighth season this year. That just ain't right.

Who is watching According to Jim? Is it housewives who wish their life was so much better that they were married to Jim Belushi? Is it schlub and non-schlub husbands who dream of being lazy and married to Courtney Thorne Smith? I just don't get the appeal.

What hurts most is the other side edge of the domestic sitcom sword -- the shows that don't make it because of their popularity. For every Raymond, Jim, Yes Dear and King of Queens, there are several Arrested Developments and Freaks and Geeks that get cancelled because of low ratings. Two networks had to be downsized into one because of low ratings. I'm not saying According to Jim singlehandedly slayed UPN and The WB, but it that it provides further weight to a genre that is suffocating interesting and creative comedies is certainly not helpful.

Ratings are sagging for Jim, so I can only hope for swift and brutal cancellation next summer -- however there may be time to introduce a spin off.


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Christmas = Ruined

Ironically, a few weeks ago, I was going to write in this space how great the Microsoft Xbox 360 dashboard update was -- easier navigation and management, connection to my Netflix queue and even the ability to play games directly off the hard disk.

Well, no more.

Within two weeks of updating, I'm getting this lovely little notification every time I turn on my machine. Luckily my warranty covers servicing -- I do have to mail the Xbox to Microsoft, wait weeks and then hope it's actually fixed when they mail it back to me.

I've been pretty indifferent about Microsoft over the years. They are a necessary evil so that the world at large can get on the Internet, type term papers and get business done. Those days have ended, for sure: Every update my computer downloads from Microsoft slows it down just enough so it's not noticeable, until one day turning on my computer takes an eternity. Having to design a website for with Internet Explorer 6's display quirks in mind makes my job a real pain. The great idea of streaming video and pictures from my PC to my Xbox (when it's actually working) is only an idea -- in practice it's a mess that hardly ever works.

I am stuck with the Xbox 360 for a long time -- that's fine, because it is a great system, but I wish I could somehow mail Microsoft itself to a service facility for some repair.


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Good Morning, Toucher and Rich

The morning radio landscape in Boston has been pretty barren since Charles Laquidera headed for Hawaii in 1996 and Howard Stern decided you should have to pay to listen to him in 2006. I've been making a commuting drive to one job or another for about two and a half years, and every morning my radio has been like an Old Country Buffet for my ears -- plenty to choose from, mediocre quality, and usually causing diarrhea.

I did enjoy the Swayse Show on WFNX while it was on -- decent music, news and interviews with local and national personalities. This was all good until The Swayse Show was replaced with the Sandbox in 2007 -- an un-entertaining mess hosted by three pop-culture expert wannabes who think interviewing the editor of Blender magazine is good radio and pass off the corporate synergy of interviewing Boston Phoenix writers as something objective.

My dial would often turn to Opie and Anthony on WBCN, who had a somewhat entertaining show, despite its New York slant and the on-air talent's ridiculous use of the word "bleech", like Mad Magazine was all the rage.

This past Tuesday, WBCN pulled the plug on the O&A Virus and installed afternoon guys Toucher and Rich in their place -- what a difference a plug pulling makes. I've written in this space before that the T&R show is some of the best radio around and so far the switch to 6am has not diluted their quality. Rather than listen to Opie and Anthony interview Jim Leyritz for the 5th time, I now get to listen to fat intern Adolfo try to have a conversation with a homeless man nicknamed Chili Guy.

The T&R show has also fired several shots at WAAF's Hill-Man Morning show, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out (my money is on T&R).
Anyway, good luck, Toucher and Rich, with your new time slot -- you actually don't need it in this market.


Anonymous Special Ed complained...

Sorry that you aren't a fan of the show. Hopefully having T&R in the morning has saved you from our "mess" of a show.

I do find it odd that you chastised us for talking to the editor of Blender and then link to the blog of EW's E@L. What do I know?

For the record - we never claim to be subjective when we talk to The Phoenix. Ever.

Hopefully you will find it in your angry, young heart to give us another listen.

12/04/2008 12:20 PM
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Blogger Carl complained...

I had originally linked to Mr. Tucker's blog because of his book, Kissing Bill O'Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy: 100 Things to Love and Hate About TV. His blogs early posts were almost a continuation of the book and focused entirely on TV -- since then, he's gone back to EW and uses his space for what looks like his leftover bits from EW and a little bit of self-promotion.

Why don't I remove him? Several reasons: laziness, apathy, dislike of messing with the beautiful HTML I used to create that link. Sometime it could happen (possibly the same day I find myself calling the Voltron Transformer tin can hotline at FNX.

I hope you don't hate me, SpEd, for not enjoying your show. It would be fun to one day have a beer with you and the rest of the gang, though I'm 99% sure Hank Santoro would get real nasty, real quick (or real emotional). There is one thing we can all agree on -- Greg Hill is a douche.

12/04/2008 12:54 PM
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Anonymous Special Ed complained...

We can make that beer happen. Shoot me an email with your name and I will put you on the list for the Ting Tings show on Wednesday. And don't worry about Henry, he just gets grabby.

specialed at wfnx.com

12/05/2008 5:14 AM
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