Archive for April, 2005

Abolish the Closer

Saturday, April 30th, 2005

Lost in all the coverage of the fact that the Cubs have no closer is the fact that up until 2 decades ago or so, there was no such thing as a “closer.” Nor was there any of this nonsense of relievers specializing in 7th or 8th Inning or Long Relief. Basically, back in the good old days, a reliever came in when the starter was losing his effectiveness and then the reliever would be relieved when he in turn was losing his effectiveness. Back then, the whole idea of having relievers pegged in for certain innings and not to pitch much more than 1 inning a game would have struck any baseball man as insanity. The current way of doing things has lead to a situation where most relief pitchers can’t handle the 9th inning whereas in the olden days, just about any reliever could do so.

If Cubs GM Jim Hendry really wants the Cubs to win, what he needs to do is to bring back the old way of handling the bullpen in the minor league system. This way, relief pitchers will be trained right. When they come up to the major league level, they will be able to handle pitching in whatever inning right without any of the current nonsense about “pressure” getting to them.

At the same time, Hendry could also bring back training minor league pitchers to pitch in a 4 man rotation so that another proven method for winning baseball in ye olden days can be brought back.

Movie Review: The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974)

Saturday, April 23rd, 2005

Throughout history, horror movies have enjoyed periods of popularity coupled with periods when audiences stayed away from them in droves. Perhaps the all time nadir of the horror movie was during the 1950’s. Then, there were hardly any big budget horror films. The vast majority of the horror flicks were small budget affairs that were usually released by the smaller outfits.

Then, in the last few years of that decade, there was a rebirth of interest. This was brought about by the horror movies produced by a British company, Hammer Productions. The Hammer movies were generally medium to high budget flicks that featured high production values and new ideas that were injected into the traditional horror characters of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman and the like. Hammer movies were quite popular for a good long while.

One good example of a Hammer horror flick is 1974’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula starring Christopher Lee as the ever baleful Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as his resourceful archenemy, Van Helsing. This movie is a good example of just how innovative Hammer Productions could be. Dracula is the head of a large corporation run by a sinister cabal of Satan worshippers who aim at evility most foul. Dracula has seduced the leaders of the corporation with promises of blackmailing government officials and aiming at world domination. However, he has more sinister designs in mind. What Dracula wants to do is no less than the concoction and releasing of the “new strain” of the bubonic plague that will unleash a new “Black Death” upon mankind. By doing so, he hopes to ignite the biblical prophecy of Armageddon.

However, there is a problem with Dracula’s little scheme. Some of his minions, most notably a coven of female vampires and some motorcycle hoodlums with buckskin vests, have acted prematurely in attacking the folks whose duty it is to keep vampirism in check. These attacks have served to alert Van Helsing and friends that something is up.

Dracula has every reason to be concerned that Van Helsing is aware that evil things are afoot. The count has expended tremendous time and effort in setting up his satanic cult that includes several prominent businessmen and government officials. Dracula has even selected four of them to serve as his very own Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Now, the ever meddling Van Helsing and his assistants once again threaten to destroy everything that he has set up. Van Helsing has proved himself quite adept in figuring out both Dracula’s little scheme and also where he can find the Transylvanian vampire. This sets the stage for the final confrontation between the two enemies.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula is an innovative horror movie. It combines new ideas such as Dracula plotting to unleash a new plague upon mankind with 1970’s fashions and the two gentlemen (Cushing & Lee) who were the top horror actors of their day. There is plenty of action mixed in with the scares in this flick. The acting is very good as is the script and direction. The Satanic Rites of Dracula is a movie that richly deserves your attention.

Is China’s Communist Government Ripe for an Overthrow?

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

That’s what James Dunnigan , among others, is speculating on. Dunnigan’s usually been right on target in the past concerning such matters, so its best to take the following very seriously:

The government is scrambling to defuse all the unrest unleashed by popular discontent over Japanese textbooks that downplay Japanese atrocities during World War II. It isn’t easy. There are many groups in China, that are unhappy with the government, and are mobilizing to hold public demonstrations in the major cities. The government is rushing additional police and troops to cities most likely to be the scene of these demonstrations. One of the most touchy dissident groups are retired military officers and NCOs. The armed forces have shed several hundred thousand officers and troops in the last few years, as the size of the armed forces were reduced. But each year, over 40,000 officers and NCOs are retired on small pensions, and left to fend for themselves. These retirees believe they deserve better, and they are organizing. This is particularly frightening, as these retired warriors could provide professional advice for a mass rebellion.

Frontpage Blog Expired?

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

Bad news for lovers of unintentional humor: As the redoubtable Justin Raimondo notes , the often feverish Frontpage blog appears to have expired. No longer can we read those off the cuff rants and raves that always brightened our day with the fact that no matter how dumb we may feel on a particular day, there really are folks even dumber than we are.

Jealous Like a Pussycat

Friday, April 22nd, 2005

You can really tell when someone’s jealous of someone else when that person writes drivel like this .

Sample paragraph for those who don’t like clicking on links:

It’s not worth wasting any more outrage on the subject of Ann Coulter. We all know what she is, and can hear in the brief quiets between her brash pronouncements the squeal and squeak of mice running wild in the messy hayloft of her mind. She’s an empty uproar with long legs and long shiny hair and a reputation for extending the cocktail hour indefinitely that casts her with what Paddy Chayevsky emphemistically “an aura of availability.” Middle-aged men and younger can daydream that if they met her under under auspicious circs, as they say in Bertie Wooster novels, they might have a shot, a reverie harder to entertain about Wonkette, whose wedding ring is powered with a special wolf-repellent ray. Coulter may have female fans, I wouldn’t know, but her media stardom is primarily a male fantasy that is both sexist and racist. She is the pinup pundit of White Prerogative, her arrogant vanity perfect for a country and a media-political culture that refuse to recognize its postindustrial decline and decay. A country that still thinks it can whip the world into obeying its will.

Not only does this jerk have pangs of jealousy about a gal who’s more successful than he is, but he also reeks of hatred for both his country and his fellow Americans.

Strange Sports Fan Habits

Tuesday, April 19th, 2005

One thing that I’ve often wondered about is why do so many fans hate players who make a lot of money. This is especially true of players who are hurt in which case lots of fans call sports talk radio and call injured players horrible names.

Many of these same fans are also prone to whining about how low the payroll is, no matter what the payroll actually is. Many of them also call up talk shows hating on the owners for being so “cheap.” Doesn’t make any sense to dump on the players for being “greedy” and then turn around and dump on the owners for not throwing even more money at the allegedly greedy players.

Could it be that a lot of fans just like unloading their vile bile on players and owners? If so, then how many of these folks are really “fans” in the first place?

Movie Review: Brain Dead (1990)

Sunday, April 17th, 2005

Throughout the history of Hollywood, there have been movie projects that have been long delayed, some to the point where the project is ultimately abandoned. Others are eventually made, but the waiting process serves to ruin whatever good qualities that the original concept held. And there are others that were originally intended for TV that were modified for use as a feature film. One such resulting movie is 1990’s Brain Dead.

Brain Dead was originally conceived by the late Charles Beaumont (1929-1967) as a script for the old “Twilight Zone” TV series (1959-1964) for which Beaumont had written 21 episodes. The show was cancelled before the producers had decided on whether to accept it or not. Subsequently, Beaumont sold the script to low budget film producer Roger Corman who was working at American International Pictures at the time. Corman sat on the script for a half hour TV show episode for over a fifth of a century before deciding that he wanted to make it into a full length theatrical feature movie.

Now, you might be wondering why Corman would try to stretch out an idea fit for a half hour show into a hour and a half long movie instead of producing a TV show. The reason is that for some reason, outside of some projects for the Sci-Fi Channel, Corman has never really been interested in producing for television. Chances are it is because the standards of TV executives are generally higher than those that Corman is used to operating at. For the most part, Corman’s pictures have generally been of a low grade and Brain Dead is no exception.

The movie centers around one Dr. Rex Martin (Bill Pullman) who is a researcher operating on the cutting edge of neurosurgery. Specifically, Martin’s research centers around finding the specific place of the brain that harbors certain memories and then either causing them to become unrepressed or to be surgically excised altogether. This is definitely a creepy area of research, one that seems highly unlikely to be permitted by the federal government due to the “mind control” implications.

Martin’s research attracts the attention of the Eunice Corporation that is headed by the sinister Jim Reston (Bill Paxton). Reston wants Martin to extract the memories of certain equations from the mind of one Dr. Halsey (Bud Cort) who is a patient at an Eunice Corporation mental institute. Martin refuses since he both has not done enough research to make him comfortable with doing actual operations on human patients quite yet and also because he does not believe in doing research for corporations. Eventually, Reston appeals to Martin’s lusts for more greenbacks to the point that Martin agrees to perform the needed work.

It is at this point that the movie goes straight to Hell. Martin has a freak accident in the institution’s parking lot when he is attacked by an insane homeless person screaming that Martin has his brain. The viewer is then subjected to about an hour worth of what amounts to padding of random scenes of Martin going through various and sundry experiences only to wake up in bed at the end of each scene. Eventually, the movie returns to its original narrative when the surgeons operate on Martin and it turns out that he’s been brain damaged.

Brain Dead is a movie that could have explored the ethics of certain kinds of cutting edge medical research. It could have been an intelligent, thought provoking movie. But no, producer Corman opted for the easy way out, throwing in all sorts of padding in an effort to convince the viewer that what they are seeing are dreams in Martin’s unconscious mind. This is a diabolically flawed movie that was produced as a quick way to make a buck. This is a shame since in the hands of a producer committed to quality, Brain Dead could have been a great flick.

Misery Loves Company

Friday, April 15th, 2005

So you thought that Dusty Baker was the worst manager in Major League Baseball? Consider this:

As of now, the Chicago White Sox are at the bottom of the basement in MLB in terms of Walks. The team On Base Percentage is the lowest in all of MLB. This is why the team has failed to sweep a single series thus far in the 2005 season.

In his very first SoxFest as manager, Ozzie Guillen said that he “wasn’t paid to take walks” as a player. This is what inevitably happens when you have a buffoon as a manager instead of someone who actually knows what he’s doing.

Poor Chicago baseball fans. All that talent gone to waste due to worthless field managers. Then again, this is not restricted to MLB as shown by the plethora of bad coaches that pro sports teams in Chicago have hired the last few decades. When you get right down to it, Dusty Baker & Ozzie Guillen have a lot in common with the likes of Dave Wannstedt & Dick Jauron.

Movie Review: Lady Frankenstein (1971)

Friday, April 15th, 2005

Throughout history, the film industry has shown a tendency to take a basic idea and literally do it to death. Take the classic novel “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley, for instance. The idea of the baronial Doctor Frankenstein taking dead tissue and turning it into a living, breathing monster has been the stuff of countless movies. The vast majority of these movies have been little more than either straight retellings of the same story or goofy variations on the same theme. All too often, these movies have the same exact cliches such as the hunchbacked assistant.

However, there are some rare exceptions to this trend. One such example is the 1971 movie Lady Frankenstein that comes off as one of the most creative if not the best retellings of the done-to-death Frankenstein theme committed to film thus far. It also stars one of the best actors who ever played the role of Baron Dr. Frankenstein, Joseph Cotten.

The Lady Frankenstein in this movie is the daughter of Baron Dr. Frankeinstein, Tania (Rosalba Neri). She comes home after graduating from medical school with her head filled with all sorts of “radical ideas.” Among other things, she had engaged in unauthorized experiments involving human tissue and transplants. She is determined to assist her father in his experiments.

However, her father rebuffs her and ably assisted by his non-hunchbacked assistant, Dr. Charles Marshall (Paul Muller), he creates his monster. Frankenstein’s plans go awry as the unexpected side effects of the electric shock aspect of his creative process results in a homicidal monster. The monster turns on its creator and kills him and then escapes the castle and spreads fear, havoc and ultimately, death in the surrounding countryside. Compounding matters, Police Captain Harris (Mickey Hargitay) is energetically pursuing any and all leads into the investigation of Frankenstein’s death. This includes the possiblity that the monster that has been systematically killing folks off is linked to the late mad scientist Frankenstein in some way.

This situation presents a challenge for Frankenstein’s young daughter. She proves herself to be worthy of the Frankenstein name by concocting an insane scheme to right the situation. Her idea is to take the brain of the laboratory assistant, who is deeply in love with her, and transplant it into the body of the handsome but mentally retarded servant. This new creation would then go forth into the wild and kill the monster and afterwards provide Tania with a suitable mate. The lab assistant is surprisingly agreeable to the bizarre scheme and after a surprisingly easy laboratory operation, the deed is done. The sharp mind of the lab assistant and the muscular body of the retarded servant are now one and the same.

The most striking aspect of this film is the atmosphere which makes you feel as though you were living in that very village and castle, among those people many of whom has something to hide. This movie features very good acting, in particular Paul Muller as the lab assistant, Rosalba Neri in the title role and, of course, Joseph Cotten as the Baron Doctor Frankenstein.

Lady Frankenstein is as much a tale about obsession, the insane things you will do for love, the risks you will take for money, the games people play with authorities and a complex morality play as a traditional Frankenstein picture, this movie deserves to be recognized. As such, Lady Frankenstein is a movie that is very much worth your time.

Doubleheader From Hell

Wednesday, April 13th, 2005

Due to the rain-induced cancellation of the return of Mark Prior, Wednesday will witness a doubleheader at Wrigley starring the 2 most overrated starting pitchers of our time: Mark Prior aka the most prominent victim of the Curse of Having Dusty Baker as Your Manager & Kerry Wood who has yet to win more than 14 games in a season and still cannot grasp the difference between pitching and throwing. Less charitable sorts might describe the doubleheader duo as being Mary Prior and Carrie Wood.

Hopefully, the slaughter at the hands of the Padres will last no more than 6 hours and then perhaps GM Hendry will set about trying to find bona fide starting pitching for the offense starved team. Speaking of offense, did you see that Sammy Sosa has in his last game hit a Home Run & a Triple and by doing so made the difference between winning and losing for his new team, the Baltimore Orioles?

2nd Series Review

Tuesday, April 12th, 2005

Well, another series has come and gone and this time around, the Cubbies won it 2-1. However, the Home Opener was a colossal embarrassment complete with a dozen walks issued and Leicester coming off like a Kerry Wood imitator in more ways than one. Also, it showed that the much-vaunted Cubs GM Hendry was amiss in not trading for Carlos Lee in that doing so would have converted a Cub-Killer into a Cub-Savior and would have spared poor Todd Walker a knee injury.

Talking about poor, prepare to pity Mark Prior as the San Diego Padres prepare to walk all over him. Folks, this has the potential to be a repeat of last years Home Opener vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates in terms of sheer embarrassment to the North Side. My prediction for Tuesday’s game: SD 15, ChC 2 with Cubs pitching giving up 15-20 walks and numerous base hits and that’s assuming that the winds will be blowing in at Wrigley. Look for Prior to be pulled out by the 4th Inning when his pitch count exceeds the 120 mark.

In other matters, here’s a link to an interesting article about one of my all time favorite Cubs, Dave Kingman:

Dave Kingman

Mark Prior’s Pitching Performance

Friday, April 8th, 2005

Final Score:

Albuquerque 7
Iowa Cubs 5

Been listening to the game on the KXNO AM 1460 Des Moines internet radio.

Stats:

Prior: 87 pitches (55 strikes)
9 hits
2 back to back walks

All 7 runs were Earned making for an awful ERA.

They had Prior on after the game and made it sound like its a done deal that he’s going back to Chicago to pitch for the Cubs. That sounds like fun…..for the other team.

First Series Review

Thursday, April 7th, 2005

Well, the first series for the Cubbies is all over and the team is 1-2 right now. The much vaunted pitching staff is clearly in a lackadaisical condition due to the overwork and bad moves made by both Manager Baker and GM Hendry.

Consider the case of Carlos Zambrano who threw 106 pitches in 4 2/3rds Innings and left the game with a 5.79 ERA. Folks, that is murderous especially considering the fact that Big Z is supposedly the team’s best starting pitcher.

Hendry refused to try to keep Matt Clement on board and on top of that failed to try to find a quality replacement for the Bearded One. Obviously, Hendry believed his own lies about the alleged plethora of quality pitchers in the Cubs farm system.

Starting Friday, the Cub Killers From Milwaukee aka the Brewers will be in town and if last year was any indication, the Baker/Hendry Cubs will be lucky to avoid a sweep. Truly, folks in Pittsburgh must be saying to themselves, “Thank God for the Cubs” since the little bears figure to replace the Pirates as the basement dwellers in the NL Central pretty soon.

Movie Review: Zorro Rides Again (1937)

Saturday, April 2nd, 2005

Back during the Golden Age of Hollywood, there was an unique form of the cinematic experience that came to an end during the 1950’s. This was the movie serial. Serials differed from regular movies in that they were shown at the rate of a chapter every week as opposed to all at once which is what most folks expect from movies. These chapters were generally in the 10-20 minute range with most serials being in the form of 15 minute chapters. There were ususally 12 chapters to a serial with every chapter except for the final one ending in a cliffhanger. The serial chapters were usually shown as part of a matinee bill that included film shorts and cartoons as well as a feature that ususally about an hour long, give or take 5-10 minutes.

One good example of a movie serial is the 1937 Republic Pictures effort, Zorro Rides Again starring John Carroll as the masked man in black.
However, this Zorro is not the Zorro that many of you grew up with. This Zorro is a direct descendant of the Zorro who defended the peasantry of Southern California against the evil overlords (the Capitan and Sergeant Garcia) in the 1820’s. As such, this was a Zorro who lived in the Great Depression where there was Six-Guns, airplanes, machine guns, railroads, automobiles, radios and other forms of weaponry and gadgetry that the original Zorro could only dream about. Another difference is that James Vega aka Zorro is the main investor in the California-Yucatan Railroad that the evil “financial pirate” Marsden is attempting to take over by hook or by crook. Yet another difference is that the mask worn by this Zorro covers his entire face.

Zorro Rides Again takes you back to the days of fun-filled shoot them ups and buckaroo cowboys. This movie also features the stunt work for which Republic productions were famous for including the incredible work of veteran stunt man Yakima Canutt. This movie was an unusually well written serial with the first 11 eleven chapters all ending in thrilling cliffhangers, many of which were pretty innovative. John Carroll makes a great modern day Zorro. There is also great location photography and a good cast of supporting actors. One of these, Duncan Renaldo, is a great co-star in this movie in a role that is highly similar to the Cisco Kid character that he played on TV in the 1950’s. This movie is a rousing actioner on par with many of the best action flicks of today.

The only real drawback to Zorro Rides Again is the fact that Marsden (Noah Beery, Sr.) is not a particularly effective villain. Marsden is basically a mild mannered sort who keeps to his office and only appears in the scenes where he transmits instructions to his chief lieutenant in the field, El Lobo (Richard Alexander). It is unclear why Marsden goes to the lengths that he does to sabotage the California-Yucatan Railroad when it would be much cheaper to buy it fron its investors. Considering the fact that he has some two dozen or so men in the field, it must have been quite a financial burden on Marsden to try to sabotage a railroad being built in the middle of the Depression.

Still, despite this drawback, Zorro Rides Again is a good movie well worth your time.

Why the Cubs Won’t Win the NL Central in 2005

Saturday, April 2nd, 2005

Will the Cubs Pitching Staff be able to overcome Dusty Baker’s Overusage Tendencies to get the team to the playoffs?

In my opinion, no. Granted, both Houston and St. Louis are markedly weaker than they were last year. However, the gap between the Cardinals and the Cubs last year was such that the Cardinals could have lost 10 more games than they did and still have won the division. To overtake the Cardinals, the Cubs will still have to been improved over last year. Position player wise, the Cubs probably are a little better than last year since Nomar should be able to play with good health. Problem is that Wood and Prior are questionable, Maddux always has a bad start and the idea of having the likes of Ryan Dempster in the starting rotation is scary. Additionally, both the Reds and the Selig-free Brewers figure to be improved from last year, adding pressure to the Cubs.

Can the Cubs still make the playoffs? If the position players whose names are not Nomar can come through with great defense and post career years, then the team might still make it to the Wild Card. The only way to really ensure that the team has at least half a chance of making it is to fire the clueless Dusty Baker.