Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My friends, my readers...

Since I've been on blog-hiatus for almost three months I've decided that the best way to kick start this page would be to follow a schedule where new content would be posted about three times a week.

As it stands I'm looking to fill Mondays with Sports. (Which I've been writing a bit frequently over at SB Nation under the non de plume: The Brain Part II, most of it deals with baseball and statistical analysis. Fun stuff.)

It's my plan to to devote Mondays (and possibly Tuesdays) with write-ups dealing with football and baseball from both a statistical and fantasy perspective - and complete with charts like this:

And this:

Fun stuff, I say!

On Wednesdays I'm looking to fill that spot with Politics and other matters of state. In all honesty, I'm not looking to get too political since I have found myself becoming increasingly fatigued by political discussion. Those who know me or have read my early posts know where I stand in this rat race but in today's highly divided, post-Rush Limbaugh/Christian Coalition atmosphere debate seems almost irrelevant which I find sad; yet since this is my blog and I still find myself following blogs that offer smart political and financial writing (some can be found here and here) then I'll do the same if I find what I want to discuss to be somewhat new or interesting (to me, at least).

Finally, on Fridays I'm looking to do a cultural write-up. This is a broad subject so everything from movies to food to comic(book)s will be on display. I actually have quite a few ideas for this part so filling this slot should be no trouble.

That's all. Hopefully I'll keep to this schedule; however, a few days next week may be stretching it since I'll be out of town but I figured I'd get this re-introduction out in the open and go from there.

Until then... my readers... my friends.

Monday, June 29, 2009

This Week on The Auteurs 2...

Because you demanded it, I'm posting a second round of Auteur debating for all of my cinema loving readers to again enjoy...


Enjoy readers!

Best Film to Watch on Father's Day:

What about that horrible movie starring John Travolta as the jilted dad who has to put up with his son and ex-wife shacking up with the villianous Vince Vaughn? I think it was somewhat recent.


In fact, scratch that! I got it. The 1980’s classic starring Peter “Robocop” Weller and Teri Garr….. “First Born”

Rate the Woody Allen Films You've Seen:

@ Fredo This is tough:
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Hannah and Her Sisters
Annie Hall
Husbands and Wives
Sweet and Lowdown
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Match Point
_______________________________________ (great movies)

Stardust Memories
“Oedipus Wrecks” from New York Stories (in fact this was the first Woody Allen film I ever saw)
Bullets Over Broadway
Manhatten Murder Mystery
Anything Else
Broadway Danny Rose (although I do want to see this one again)
Take the Money and Run
Vicky Christina Barcelona
_______________________________________ (his okay movies)

Everyone Says I love You
Mighty Aphrodite
Deconstructing Harry
Radio Days
Cassandra’s Dream
Another Woman
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex*
Small Time Crooks
Melinda and Melinda
Shadows and Fog
Love and Death
Hollywood Ending
Curse of the Jade Scorpion
_________________________________________ (his horrible movies)

Marie Antoinette: Yay or Nay?:

@ Berjuan
The more I think about MA the more I like it. I’ll admit I found myself very underwhelmed after seeing it for the first time. Of course the bad reception it received when it debuted at Cannes may have tarnished my intial feelings (along with every other movie reviewer) but Coppola’s decision to avoid politics and concentrate on the aesthetics actually makes sense when dealing with such a vapid character/historical figure who probably found politics and sociology to be rather boring.

Instead of making an overtly political film or presenting MA as a victim deserving of complete sympathy, I think Coppola was more interested in celebrity culture and how the trappings of being born famous can be corrupting. It’s a theme and attitude that still resonates even if its just the clothes and music that changes.

Favourite Films of the Decade (So Far):

In no particular order:

The Dark Knight Returns
No Country for Old Men
Mulholland Drive
Fog of War
Casino Royale
Kill Bill (vols 1&2)
Let the Right One In
Lost in Translation
Freaks and Geeks (First and only season)
The Wire (entire series)
The Office (original UK version; both seasons)

I know I added a few TV series but to me this decade was a boon for television in its ability to really transform itself into a viable medium in terms of storytelling and direction – a lot of which began in the 90’s where TV creators/showrunners became famous and found respect as “auteurs”

This is F***ing Ridiculous:


Notable First Films:

Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter
Terence Malik’s Badlands
John Huston’s Maltese Falcon
Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap
Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali
Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night
Michael Moore’s Roger and Me
Francois Truffaut’s 400 Blows
Steven Spielberg’s Duel (if we’re not counting student films and TV episodes)
Quentin Tarantino’s Reservior Dogs
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accattone
Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane

Regarding acting performances here are a few off the top of my head:

Brigitte Helm in Metropolis
The Marx Brothers in The Cocoanuts
Gene Wilder in Bonnie and Clyde
Anna Karina in A Woman is a Woman
Natalie Portman in The Professional
Eddie Murphy in 48 HRS

I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot more, so forgive me…

A Note to My Dear Readers...

If anyone is interested in the fundamental concept of baseball, especially the fragile and combustible dichotomy that exists between pitchers that are deemed "starters" and "closers" then I suggest you follow this link that I published over at Pinstripe Alley analyzing Philip Hughes brief career as a Yankee reliever.

I promise the piece is both brief and so very rewarding!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This week on The Auteurs...

For those who don't/refuse to follow me on The Auteurs, here is a little something that I auteurized on their forum this week:

In regards to the Dead Trilogy:

@ Josh
I agree on it being entirely subjective. That’s the beauty of zombie films; they work under any kind of sub-genre and topical commentary because to us death can symbolize many things – from the fear of its finality to the death of an idea or the sense of feeling powerless to a force more powerful than one can imagine. It’s something both frightening and absurd.

For me, NIGHT still resonates as a tightly told and completely subversive horror movie. To this day I still find it very horrifying in its simplicity and its ability to transcend the time it was made (sorry, Josh, although I agree with 99% of what you said I don’t agree with the notion that NIGHT is dated. Most of the metaphors are still very relevant today).

Regarding DAWN, I’ll always admire Romero’s bravery in his attempt to top his 70’s horror colleagues by creating the ultimate horror expression of 1970’s America. It has Nixon’s paranoia and Carter’s admirable yet failed optimism and the humor and manic sense of action devolving into ambivalence is perfect.

Finally, DAY is probably the most densely layered and for that many fans consider it a classic. When Romero made this one he wasn’t praised in the same manner he is today and I think it was this lack of acclaim that allowed Romero to take further chances. We all know the production of DAY was littered with budget battles since the process of American filmmaking was much more restrictive during the 1980’s (if you were making a horror film not immediately marketable to teenagers you’re probably looking at a major uphill climb). However, the chances Romero took i.e. the satirizing of America’s hero worship of Rambo and the military complex, the progression of zombie sympathizing (the portrayal of Bub was perfectly funny and tragic and made me wish Romero would further this by making a Dead film completing told from a zombie(s) point of view), the inclusion of the “gay” couple (I know it was never said but I always got the sense that the two men living together and represented sanity from the male perspective were gay), as well as the final shot of the survivors on the beach living in perfect peace almost immediately after the zombie attack (?)… I had a discussion with a film professor of mine that made the argument that this shot represented the human POV of life after death and that we should take it as Romero offering us the idea that life as a zombie isn’t necessarily negative since if one believes that our consciousness is separate from our body who knows where that could take us after death. It’s an interesting theory and one I’m not sure Romero ever addressed.

In regards to Horror on Criterion:

I would love for a really good edition of the 1932 Rueben Mamoulian version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I also think it would be a lot of fun if Eclipse would release a set of essential Hammer horror films.

@ Robert
Yes!!! On Martin being included! I’m kind of on a Romero kick and I rushed over here to say that Martin (quite possibly the most un-vampire of all vampire films) be included with all the bells and whistles.

In regards to Top 20 Horror Films:

@ Fake Shemp
Horror movies do not blow and here’s why:

Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Night of the Living Dead
The Thing (1982 Carpenter version)
Friday the 13th Part 2
It’s Alive
Day of the Dead
Let the Right One In
Silence of the Lambs
The Fly (the Cronenberg one)
Halloween (original, obviously)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (the sexed up pre-code Mamoulian version)
The Bride of Frankenstein
Cabin Fever (sorry film snobs)
Rosemary’s Baby
Island of Lost Souls (1932 version)
Dawn of the Dead (original version; although the remake wasn’t bad either)
Near Dark
Helter Skelter (the Manson documentary from the 70's that scared the shit out of me as a kid)
The Exorcist
Horror of Dracula
Curse of Frankenstein

In regards to Which director NOT currently represented in the Criterion Collection do you want to see included:

Nicholas Ray – Bigger Than Life
Pedro Almodovar – Talk to Her
Satyajit Ray – Apu Trilogy (Eclipse)
Alejandro Jodorowsky – El Topo
Leo McCarey – Make Way for Tomorrow (strong rumor of this happening)
Michael Cimino – Heaven’s Gate

Stay tuned for more...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Another 2009 MLB Mock Draft Part III: The Brief Update

Yesterday I slightly revised my draft and had it posted over at Driveline Mechanics. Here is the link.

Looking over what I posted here I decided to tweak a few things before I publishing over there. First, I included Kyle Gibson (despite his recent injury) since his status shouldn't be too downgraded compared to earlier doom and gloom reports that he damaged his elbow or shoulder.

The other possibility that is gnawing at me are reports that Matt Purke will be demanding Josh Beckett and Rick Porcello type of money come draft day. I like Purke but his status as a raw LHP puts him nowhere near the talent of either of those guys. This demand is ridiculous and definitely moves him out of the first round (unless the Yankees think of grabbing him with the 29th pick but - despite their desire for left-handed pitching - I don't think Purke is elite enough to waste a compensation pick on). The only team I could see taking him would be the Dodgers in the supplemental round but with his commitment to TCU thrown around as leverage - it's not like the Dodgers will get any value by grabbing him late.

Anyway, I'm excited for tomorrow.... can't you tell?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Another 2009 MLB Mock Draft Part II: The Supplemental Round

This post will focus on the supplemental round, a round that is in "limbo" as the insiders of baseball see it. This isn't the first round nor is it the second, it just sits there between the two and serves as compensation for teams who lost important and vital players via free agency.

Editors note: to avoid any confusion please note that the names in parathesis immediately following the team name are the last names of the free agents lost.

33. Seattle Mariners (Ibanez) – Tyler Skaggs, LHP Santa Monica HS (CA)

After taking two offensive players in the first round it would only seem logical that the Mariners dip into pitching and Tyler Skaggs, a prep LHP from California, would make sense. Skaggs has a projectable body and has a quick arm with a decent fastball (around 92 mph) that could see an increase in velocity as he further develops. On the negative side, his curveball has excellent break but it is slow (72-74 mph) and he does have the tendency to slow his arm down a bit when delivering it.

Scouts cite his delivery as being erratic and this can affect his control from time to time (causing his fastball to elevate). Skaggs is an attractive commodity for teams looking to grab a high upside player that can be easily signed.

34. Colorado Rockies (Fuentes) – Slade Heathcott, OF Texas H.S.

After investing in two quality pitchers in the first round and not having selection until 25 picks later, I think the Rockies would benefit by taking a high upside bat. Slade Heathcott is another high ceiling 5 tool capable player. He’s considered an above average hitter left-handed hitter while projecting above average power to all sides of the field. Defensively, Heathcott possesses an arm that is above average from the outfield and despite recovering from ACL surgery last season but has shown no signs in decreased foot speed.

He also projects as a quality LHP with a two-seam fastball clocking in between 88-91 mph and a four seamer that has touched 95 mph. He also throws a curve and changeup that grades as average. The only negative surrounding Heathcott is his commitment to football and if he is ready to give up his status as a two-sport athlete. He is currently committed to attending the University of Texas in the fall.

35. Arizona Diamondbacks (Hudson) – A.J. Pollack, OF Notre Dame

With another pick coming later in this round, Arizona would be smart to grab the best available bat. A.J. Pollack is an excellent option for a team looking for a polished college bat. Scouts have praised his good approach to the plate along with his ability to recognize pitches well. Pollack does, however, struggle with power and some think at best he’ll be a 10-15 HR guy. Those power numbers shouldn’t scare off a team looking to develop a prototypical leadoff hitter and Pollack does fit that scheme since he is graded as a very fast runner and should be a base stealer in the pros. He is adjusting to CF well and is athletic enough to stay there. Scouts think he has the ability to play 2B which would make him more attractive to speculating teams.

36. Los Angeles Dodgers (Lowe) – Colton Cain, LHP Waxahachie HS (TX)

The Dodgers love to draft and develop young pitchers and with their first pick in the draft they may dig into their pocket books and grab Colton Cain, a young lefty out of Texas. Cain is not as polished as the other prep LHPs but he is tall and does have a solid frame (but at 220+ lbs he could run into weight issues in the future) along with an excellent 94 mph sinking fastball.
Scouts find that he has good command of his fastball on both sides of the plate but it’s his additional offerings that are very interesting. Since learning how to pitch last year, Cain has been developing his curveball that some scouts say have plus potential as well as having a plus slider in his future. He has a “feel” for a changeup and if that pitch takes off, he’ll be something special. Cain has committed to U. of Texas for football and baseball and it will take a lot of bonus money to sign him. High risk/high reward and I believe worth the gamble.

37. Toronto Blue Jays (Burnett) – Keyvius Sampson, RHP Forest HS (FLA)

Without another pick until the middle of the second round, taking a pitcher here would benefit the Blue Jays. Keyvius Sampson is an athletic pitcher with a solid frame and a quick arm that produces a fastball that has touched 96 mph and power curve that projects as a plus, Sampson also has a feel for changeup that will be critical to his development.

The drawback to Sampson is his arm slot that differs with each pitch. To be effective Sampson will need to learn a consistent arm slot or learn to throw other pitches with varying arm angles in order to gain command. Regardless of his positives and negatives, Sampson will be a project that could pay benefits in a few years.

38. Chicago White Sox (Cabrera) – Rich Poythress, 1B Georgia

Chicago might take a flyer on last year’s first rounder Gordon Beckham’s teammate. Poythress is a big burly guy who resembles a Matt LeCroy or Sean Casey type, his swing isn’t very pretty and is more strength-generated – a good power pitcher should handle him well. He has below-average speed and is not much of a defender. Although the video below can argue otherwise:

He is currently putting up monster numbers in the SEC and it’s his approach at the plate that draws his fans. Poythress can also be valuable in terms of pitch recognition and his ability to draw walks should attract a good number of teams. But his status as a pure power bat will be debated and decided in a few years.

39. Milwaukee Brewers (Sabathia) – Alex Wilson, RHP Texas A&M

As much as I wanted the Brewers to grab a bat like Brett Jackson I decided after looking over their prospect depth chart that another pitcher would serve their organization better. Alex Wilson would be an intriguing pick if still available. He is coming off his first year after TJ surgery and his prognosis looks good as, this season, scouts have reported that his sinking fastball can hit 95 mph while riding in on lefties. He also has a plus slider as another out pitch and has a changeup (which he admits still needs work) in his arsenal along with good command. What keeps him back is his laborious delivery (hip rotation is a bit off) and ¾ arm slot could point to more potential problems in the future – some teams have flirted with the idea of making him a closer.

40. Los Angeles Angels (Teixeira) – Matt Davidson, 3B Yucaipa HS (CA)

Looking over the prospect depth chart, the Angels could benefit by adding another bat and (again) as much as I wanted to type Brett Jackson’s name here I couldn’t avoid the fact that Matt Davidson would make so much more sense. Davidson looks mature for a high school player, he stands at 6’2” and weighs a solid 225 lbs and has the plus power potential which has intrigued scouts during his last few HS seasons. What keeps him away from Borchering-status is his tendency to be overpowered by quality pitching, it’s a weakness that needs to be addressed but it’s not a consistent problem and many scouts blame it on him pressing and opening up his swing too early (has a slight uppercut in his swing).

His glove at 3B is so-so (his range is good but his arm is below average) and will probably move to a corner OF position or 1B in the future. Another negative is his below average running speed and a verbal commitment to USC which could slightly drive up his asking price.

41. Arizona Diamondbacks (Cruz) – Brad Boxberger, RHP USC

In this slot I’m expecting the Dbacks to grab a safe college pitcher, Boxberger has long been praised for having excellent velocity (95 mph fastball) but stamina issues have haunted him in the past. He has shown some progress working deep in innings but control and command can be an issue (giving him a high frequency of walks). Boxberger is considered a good “polished” college pitcher and repeats his delivery well and changes speeds well with a good slider and curveball.

Right now scouts think his cutter is a capable major league ready “out” pitch. He is improving as a pitcher and at worst he would make an excellent reliever.

42. LA Angels (F. Rodriguez) – Brett Jackson, CF University of California

The Angels having another pick in this round sold me on them taking Brett Jackson. Scouts praise Jackson as one of the top college bats and shows excellent power for a leadoff hitter. Hitting from the left side, he does swing more slap-heavy and shortens his swing for contact but his size (6’2” 210 lbs) points to someone with more power in his future. One troubling aspect of Jackson’s game is his propensity to strikeout – he has fanned 58 times out of 206 ABs. Jackson is an excellent runner and has good instincts for base stealing. On the field, Jackson shows good range and an average arm but some scouts question how long he’ll stay in CF – if he moves to a corner he’ll have to show more power. He is usually compared to Aaron Rowand.

43. Cincinnati Reds (Affeldt) – Chris Dwyer, LHP Clemson

I know the Reds have placed a premium on left-handed pitching but with Matzek gone by the time they selected eighth I figured they would take Alex White over Matt Purke. I could be wrong so with this pick it would be obvious they’d grab the best LHP available. Scouts don’t know what to make of this 21 year old freshman genius; he obviously has the athleticism but book smarts? I don’t know. It’s been reported that Dyer is a regular Daniel Desario, with news that he was held back a grade in elementary school and was “talked into” adding another year of high school to his already impressive academic transcript. On a side note, I wonder if Dwyer was ever faced with taking a big test and resorted to doing this.

Anyway, enough of me being a smartass – besides he’s getting the last laugh since he’s set to receive a high six-figure bonus while I’m sitting here, like a schmuck, blogging about it…

But on a professional and serious level, Dwyer’s delivery looks clean but he has struggled with his command causing his fastball to elevate and become hittable. He can dial up his fastball to 95 mph but it does come in rather straight but his curveball is decent and has plus capability and comes in between 78-80 mph. Dwyer has been up and down this year at Clemson struggling with command during big games but as a lefty to two capable pitches some team will grab him early.

44. Texas Rangers (M. Bradley) – Madison Younginer, RHP Mauldin HS (SC)

In terms of raw talent I like Younginer a lot. He has been recruited by Clemson as both a pitcher and offensive player so it may take a little more money to pry him away. Most scouts like what they see but they still consider this kid to be a bit unknown in terms of projectability. He has been used mainly in the bullpen but he can get his fastball consistently in the mid-90’s with a power curve that projects as a plus. Younginer is very raw and tends to be a bit of a "head-jerker" in his delivery but he has lots of upside. Concerning his delivery, he needs work on repeating his slots and watching his arm action. He also tends to throw long which can be attacked by good hitters. Scouts have said he does work on a changeup on the side but hasn’t found the need to use it in games.

45. Arizona Diamondbacks (Lyon) – Aaron Miller, LHP/OF Baylor University

The more you read about Aaron Miller the more you like. He probably has the best swing among all college bats but his progress as an LHP the past few seasons has made teams think pitcher first, hitter second (if he fails to develop or gets injured a la Rick Ankiel).

Miller has a fastball that sits between 91-94 mph and has an excellent slider which is devastating against left-handed bats. Miller has the size that can house more muscle (currently he is listed at 6’3” 200 lbs) and most scouts think his command will improve once he focuses on pitching full time. At this stage, Miller is a solid pick.

46. Minnesota Twins (D. Reyes) – Victor Black, RHP Dallas Baptist

Minnesota can afford to develop a few starters in their organization and Black should be an easy sign. This season, Black made a big jump by improving his velocity (can top off at 96 mph) and command. His fastball could use a little more movement but it is consistent and his stamina allows him to throw it deep into games. Black also utilizes a good slider and his changeup has shown signs of being effective this year. Scouts love his durability and his size (6’4” 204 lbs) and should develop into a capable starter for the Twins.

47. Milwaukee Brewers (Shouse) – Drew Storen, RHP Stanford

Storen is too good to pass up at this point and with two consecutive picks in the middle of the second round, the Brewers can afford to take a fringy bat then. Storen was used primarily out of the bullpen in college due to command issues. He has a fastball in the 91-94 mph range with good movement along with a hard breaking ball. Scouts say he has a feel for a changeup even though he hasn’t used the latter pitch much out of the pen.

Storen believes he can still start but he will have to work on his command and possibly tweak his delivery. The team that takes him will probably develop him as a starter and then go from there.

48. Los Angeles Angels (Garland) – Jiovanni Mier, SS Bonita HS (CA)

Except for Heckathorn it’s been all bats for the Angels but with a scarcity in middle infielders and the Angels own lacking of quality SS prospects – it only makes sense for them to take Mier. Scouts are high on the lanky Mier due to his solid approach at the plate. He has quick hands and a tight swing but right now he lacks power. Scouts see him developing into a #2 hitter with 10-15 HRs per year when he fills out a little bit. On the defensive side, he has excellent instincts and a strong arm to stick at short.

49. Pittsburgh Pirates (Scheppers) – Nick Franklin, SS Lake Brantley HS (Florida)

Sure, the Pirates could use a serviceable catching prospect but with another early pick in the second round they should have a number of choices available by then. Franklin has the ability to go earlier but with Mier already taken, Franklin becomes all the more valuable. Scouts praise Franklin for his potential to be a five-tool talent, but the only problem is: he isn’t blowing anyone away with his skills. He is a solid defender with a strong arm and good range. He makes contact well and has the potential to develop excellent power. He stands at 6’1” and is a bit lanky but his speed and “solid” baseball skills and athleticism show promising potential.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Another 2009 MLB Mock Draft (with expert commentary and video!)

It has been my obsession for the past two weeks to finish up on my personal notes and project how the first few rounds of this month's Major League Baseball draft will carry out from June 9th until the 11th of this year.

To my estimation, this will probably be one of 55,000 mock drafts posted here on the international internets but, hopefully, my readers will taste the difference and deem my mocking as the best. Let's finally begin:

1. Washington Nationals – Stephen Strasburg, RHP San Diego State University

No surprise here since everyone involved or formerly involved with the organization have made their intention to grab Strasburg public knowledge. Although, the real surprise will be if the Nationals give in and pay Strasburg the money he feels he is owed.

On the talent side, Strasburg has been labeled as the best college pitcher to enter the MLB in the modern draft era which dates back to 1965. His numbers and pure stuff are truly unique and he could easily be named as a #2 Sp on most teams.

2. Seattle Mariners – Dustin Ackley, CF/1B North Carolina

If Ackley is capable of playing CF then he’s a sure top-3 choice. Considered the best pure hitter in the draft, he has the contact and eye to be a consistent .300 hitter, however, his power is sub-par (averages 30 ABs per HR) and his swing and frame ( he is 6’1” but his small shoulders limits his frame) doesn’t allow for much development in that department. However, the last few weeks we've seen a significant power surge from Ackley further pointing to the argument some scouts have made concerning his unattractive yet deceptive swing.

Looking at the video, Ackley's swing and bat control are perfect but it’s how he finishes his swing that leaves many to question his power potential. Upon examination, one can see a slight uppercut in his swing that can pick the ball up and his open stance does allow him to pull the ball easily and he goes to all points of the field well. He was limited in ’09 to playing 1B after recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has experience playing the OF.

3. San Diego Padres – Aaron Crow, RHP Fort Worth Cats (Ind. League)

There is a lot of talk about Kyle Gibson going before Crow but I have a feeling the Padres will pinch their pennies and grab a polished/high ceiling player that is much more "obtainable" this season. I'm sure Crow and co. will try to use the #3 spot to leverage even more money than last season and negotiations will drag until the deadline but for Crow not to sign and go back slinging it in the Independent League while waiting for 2010 will obviously be detrimental.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates – Tyler Matzek

considered to be the top LHP in this draft. His fastball is a plus offering hitting 95 mph with some sink and his slider has bite but his curveball can a bit slurvy at times and is considered an intriguing work in progress. His frame is perfect for putting on more weight as he matures and his legs and hips seem very strong. With three capable plus offerings as a LHP, Matzik should be an easy top 10 choice but there are rumors that he may be expensive to sign.

5. Baltimore Orioles – Jacob Turner, RHP Westminister Christian HS (MO)

The Orioles will be targeting the best available with preferences for pitching or a solid corner bat and since the O's don't have a pressing need for a young future CF, I think the Jacob Turner will be the obvious choice.

many love his smooth, easy delivery and three solid pitches. His plus fastball registers between 90-94 mph with good sink and his curveball has plus potential (can be slurvy at times). Turner also has a feel for the changeup but doesn’t need to use it much at his current level. Entering the draft at 6’4” and 220lbs, Turner has the prototypical pitcher’s frame.

6. San Francisco Giants - Donavan Tate, CF Cartersville HS (GA)

From a player development standpoint, Tate's swing has a soft front which has caused him trouble hitting the ball squarely. Many scouts believe this flaw can be reversed as soon as Tate commits to baseball full-time. The video below shows Tate hitting after 1:04 in.

Although considered the top prep player in the country, Tate remains a project and I believe his status as a high risk/high reward player will be attractive to the Giants who have a history gambling (with success) over the past few drafts. Tate Has 5-tool talent and a lot of upside and is also an above average defender and should be a solid CF for some time. Some scouts have described him as a man playing among boys.

7. Atlanta Braves – Zach Wheeler, RHP East Paulding HS (GA)

Looking over the past few drafts, the Braves tend to favor prep talent from the southeast and this year should be no different. Wheeler has a lot of upside with a plus two-seam fastball that sinks in the zone and can top off at 98 mph but his curve needs work as it does tend to show plus potential. His command does tend to suffer with an inconsistent delivery but scouts believe this flaw can be easily fixed. His body type is perfect and Wheeler is especially good at using his legs and has excellent arm strength.

8. Cincinnati Reds - Matt Purke, LHP Klein HS (TX)

Cincinnati will be looking for quality LHP early and with Matzek already gone I can see them selecting a high upside prep arm like Matt Purke.

Most scouts praise Purke for his maturity on the mound and is considered the second best high school LHP. He has a projectable frame (stands 6’3” 180 lbs) and throws a heavy sinker along with a four-seamer that can consistently hit 94-95 mph which should play well in Cincinnatti's bandbox. He also has an impressive curve (2-7 break) that he can throw with confidence. A major negative can be seen in his delivery. Looking at the video, Purke mainly uses his upper body while pitching. Being an “upper body” pitcher combined with his three-quarter arm slot can lead to overcompensation and possible arm injury.

9. Detroit Tigers – Grant Green, SS USC

Detroit never shies away from grabbing the best available despite questions of signability. It’s worked in recent drafts with pitchers Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello falling into their lap after being passed up due to money concerns and now both are key members of their current rotation. If Green is still available I can’t imagine the Tigers passing him up especially with no blue chip SS prospect due to come up in their organization.

Green has become a rather controversial player in this draft due to his slow start after a productive 2008 season. Over the past few months his offensive stats are back to normal but there are still a lot of negatives to factor in. First, Green has excellent power and makes reasonable contact despite his BB% being a bit low. This season Green has improved his bb/rate to a more respectable 10% but his k/rate has increased to 20% which can project a low BA in the pros. Another major negative is his BABIP, a closer look at this number reveals a .472 BABIP which is abnormally high given the PAC-10 average is .333. This does point to luck being a major contributor to his recent surge and does give validation to the scouts skeptical about Green’s transition to the pros. On the defensive side, he has made 15 errors this season at short but many say they were uncharacteristic and came early in the season during his hitting slump. If Green’s glove can play then, despite these negatives, he is still a first round pick even with Scott Boras being another factor.

10. Washington Nationals – Mike Minor, LHP Vanderbilt University

Despite Washington’s insistence that they will pursue the best available at #10, their organizational philosophy will dictate otherwise. Most experts feel they will go after a polished college pitcher with minor upside, on paper Mike Minor isn’t the type of pitcher to wow anyone but as a LHP with three serviceable pitches he will be sought after.
His fastball sits around 90-92 mph and tends to run in on righties. Minor also has a good slider that has a tight break and a good feel for a changeup that he doesn’t use that often. His command was a bit iffy early on in the season but it has improved as the season has worn on. Minor has good size and frame and with his mature mound presence; the only major red flag is his usage esp. last season – reports have come in that Minor suffered from a tender elbow last offseason but this season he has been healthy.

11. Colorado Rockies - Alex White, RHP University of North Carolina

With two picks in the first round, I expect the Rockies to grab what they feel is the best available college pitcher early. Alex White has struggled a bit down the stretch but he is hailed for throwing a quality fastball (between 91-94 mph); he also throws his plus slider with confidence along with a plus splitter. His curveball is considered ok along with a changeup he rarely uses. Some scouts point to a flaw in his delivery where he tends to throw across his body and his lead foot tends to land on the right side of the rubber causing him to release the ball slightly early.

Of course these are correctable with proper coaching in the big league level but one thing that gnaws at me is his build. On paper, White possesses the perfect pitcher build (6’3” 200lbs), his shoulders are wide enough to hold more muscle but his legs and hips are incredibly narrow for the average pitcher. For pitchers, legs and strong hip rotation are essential and considered to be their core muscles – if a pitcher is lacking in one or more of these groups (see Chin-Ming Wang’s problem earlier this season) then one’s arm strain is maximized and consistency becomes elusive. For me, these negatives keep White from being a top-5 pick and with proper mechanical adjustment I can actually see White with his plus fastball and slider projecting as a capable closer.

12. Kansas City Royals - Shelby Miller, RHP Brownwood HS (TX)

Kansas City tends to select prep players early and Miller has all the tools of a solid HS pitcher, he throws 93 mph consistently (and can reach up to 98 mph) with a deceptive sinking fastball and excellent release. His curveball has the potential to be a plus pitch and comes in around 73-78 mph. He stands at 6’3” with a projectable frame and looks athletic.

The only problem is his command especially with his curveball – his fastball does have the tendency to stay up in the zone. He could also be helped by developing his changeup (which he has “attempted” which is common among most high school arms) as a third pitch in the future. Miller is a solid early first round project and has helped himself with very good recent outings during the Texas state championships.

13. Oakland Athletics - Mike Leake, RHP Arizona State University

Oakland traditionally goes after college talent in the first few rounds. If Mike Leake is still around I would expect them to take this near mlb-ready RHP, Leake has a feel for 4 different pitches and consistently pounds the strike zone with his 92-94 mph sinker. Many scouts have questioned his size (allegedly 6’) and it’s the only factor that keeps him away from being a top 5 pick since many love his poise and competitive spirit. He has excellent command, good sinking fastball, hard slider and a plus changeup. I see him as a durable #2 SP but if he works on his curveball his upside will be higher. If all goes right, look for Leake to help anchor a good Oakland staff in 2011.

14. Texas Rangers – Tanner Scheppers, RHP

The Texas front office has made it public that they would love to grab a pitcher and if declared fully healthy I expect them to take a shot at Tanner Scheppers. Considered a top 10 pick last season, Scheppers ran into shoulder trouble before the 2008 draft. The Pirates took a chance and selected him in the second round but Scheppers refused to be undersold.
Many scouts who have watched him recently say he is pitching well and has improved his delivery. His 2008 scouting report states when healthy he can touch 98 mph with his sinking fastball and has an above-average power curve. Scouts who have watched him this year feel that his changeup does come in a little fast (88 mph) and it’s still considered a work in progress.

15. Cleveland Indians – James Paxton, LHP University of Kentucky

Cleveland is another organization that likes take college players early and I think Paxton would be a good selection here. A tall lefty with a sinking fastball that ranges from 92 to 98 mph, Paxton has had command issues esp. to the third base side of the plate. He does have a hard slider and has flashed a changeup now and then. Despite his height (6’4”) Paxton doesn’t have much of an athletic body, but his delivery is consistent and if his changeup develops into a potential out pitch, he could become #1 material.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks - Wil Myers, C Wesleyan Christian Academy (NC)

May look like a slight stretch but with four picks in the first and supplemental rounds, Arizona has the leverage to get creative. Since I have Myers as the best upside catcher available, I figure Arizona will be shopping for one and Myers could be gone come supplemental time. What makes Myers valuable is his excellent athleticism along with the agility and arm to stick behind the plate. He also has the potential and bat speed to hit for power. His one glaring offensive weakness is that he tends to pull the ball excessively which leaves him susceptible to pitches on the outer part of the plate. Again: Myers with his size and projectable frame is one of my favorite prep catchers, he blocks the ball well, has excellent power and his instincts and skills as an athlete should reward the team that drafts him.

17. Arizona Diamondbacks – Rex Brothers, LHP Lipscomb University

The other half of their first round picks will probably go to pitching and Rex Brothers who has a plus 4-seam fastball that clocks in at 97 mph would make a fine pick. He also has a plus slider and both are certified out pitches. Right now he has a feel for the changeup but it’s still in its development stage.

Brothers is still learning how to pitch effectively and his control is showing improvement, some scouts still think he’s too green while others have him rated much higher than I do. His delivery does require some effort and if he doesn’t produce an effective changeup he may be better served coming out of the bullpen.

18. Florida Marlins - Matt Hobgood, RHP Norco HS (CA)

I like Matt Hobgood a lot. He’s a big strong righty with an explosive fastball and a plus 11 to 5 curve, some scouts say Hobgood’s curveball is the best among prep pitchers this year. His slider is a little slurvy but it’s serviceable, however, some say he has no feel for a changeup. Hobgood should go early but he is still a project especially in his delivery which does have a bit of a hard landing that can cause his fastball to stay up in the zone (some scouts say it’s fixable since he mostly throws hard as a way to attract the radar gun).

Hobgood will also have to tweak his delivery in that his release point since his fastball is easy to see coming out of his hand and it does tend to come rather straight. Also, as you can see in the video, his delivery tends to cause him to stand straight up. More flex in his back leg would benefit him in helping to keep his fastball down. Regardless, Hobgood is confident and not afraid to come after hitters but without a serviceable third pitch (i.e. changeup) and without the necessary tweaks to his delivery, Hobgood’s ability to become a #1 starter may be a stretch.

19. St. Louis Cardinals - Chad Jenkins, RHP Kennesaw State University

St. Louis usually plays it safe and goes for college talent(except for maybe last year when they gambled on taking the Walrus, which I do feel was a great pick) and this year I see them grabbing Chad Jenkins. Some scouts are skeptical of the quality of talent Jenkins has faced but he does have excellent command (only 15 BBs in 92 IP) and a good sinking fastball that sits at 92 mph. He also has a decent slider and his changeup is still a work in progress and, unfortunately, doesn’t project to be much of a pitch.

20. Toronto Blue Jays – Bobby Borchering, 3B Bishop Verot HS (Florida)

Toronto loves to draft offensive players and if Bobby Borchering is still around it would be very tough for them to pass him up. Borchering is considered the top prep bat in this draft, I know Donavan Tate has a little game but as a pure hitter it would be a crime if Borchering never saw the big show. Focusing on the negatives, his glove stinks (most HS non-SS do) but his bat can play anywhere. He has excellent power and bat speed and can hit from both sides of the plate, although he can struggle against good breaking balls (but who doesn’t?). He projects as a future 1B or LF and should hit in the middle of the lineup.

Anyway, check out the video below and revel in the pure awesomeness 0:46 in:

21. Houston Astros - Chad James, LHP Yukon HS (OK)

I slotted Chad James here because Houston has a tendency to overdraft in the early rounds and James seemed like a semi-safe overdraft. However, if I had any say in their front office I would definitely advise against grabbing an LHP early since Houston’s park already does a great job in neutralizing left-handed bats. On the talent side, James is a big projectable lefty with a solid frame and a 93-94 mph fastball. His curveball flashes some potential but its consistency is lacking. James has a feel for a changeup but doesn’t use it in games.

Scouts say he can throw three different pitches for strikes but his delivery has kinks and would need to be smoothed out. Considered a good athlete, James has the making to be a power LHP with three good pitches but he will take time to develop.

22. Minnesota Twins - David Renfroe, SS South Panola HS (MISS)

Minnesota tends to go after high upside prep talent and Renfroe is an excellent athlete with the size to get bigger. He doesn’t exactly have the range to stick at short but his hands and arm are excellent and with his powerful bat and excellent bat speed he should make the move to 3B with no problems. His speed is also above-average. If he stays at short he’ll be incredibly valuable and have the skills to be a 30-20 .300 hitter.

23. Chicago White Sox – Eric Arnett, RHP Indiana University

The White Sox is another organization that grabs college players early, this draft I see them picking Eric Arnett who made a big jump his junior season as his fastball increased from 92 mph to 96 with excellent sink. Some scouts have criticized Indiana’s decision to keep him off his changeup and instead he’s been throwing a splitter which is so-so and tends to flatten out (along with his slider at times).

His delivery has been inconsistent but scouts believe his change has plus potential and could propel him to an elite SP. Arnett isn’t afraid to pitch to contact and trusts his sinking fastball to get him infield outs. His control greatly improved this year but watch his effectiveness and overuse. Arnett tends to throw a lot of pitches and the wear and tear could cost him which isn’t good for a work in progress.

24. Los Angeles Angels - Tim Wheeler, OF Sacramento State

With two consecutive first round picks one would have to assume they will dip into both pitching and offense. I’m split between them selecting either Michael Trout or Tim Wheeler, both players fit their needs and offensive schemes but in terms of polish and being near MLB ready I think the Angels will go with Wheeler. One of the more interesting OF prospects, he has plus speed and could become a consistent SB threat in the future. Wheeler makes consistent contact from the left side and has a good eye and pitch recognition. His size 6’4” and frame has scouts wondering how much power capability he has, in the past he wasn’t known to be a power threat but this year he has displayed power consistently and that has caused his value to skyrocket. All this and the tools necessary to become a proficient CF makes him a first round talent.

25. Los Angeles Angels - Kyle Heckathorn, RHP Kennesaw State University

Heckathorn has the build of a Kyle Farnsworth but, unfortunately, pitches like him as well. He has a big straight fastball that can touch 96 mph. He has the potential for a power slider but his command is rocky and he tends to get his pitches up. His poise on the mound is a little shaky as he tends to get emotional and excitable causing him to lose focus and overthrow. Scouts have seen some promise in his changeup (great arm speed) which has some sink to it as well as a slider that can be developed into an out pitch.

Heckathorn is known to pound the strike zone and his lack of any true offspeed offerings leads me to believe that he may find himself very hittable as he progresses as a starter (esp. in later innings) which leads me to consider him as a future closer.

26. Milwaukee Brewers – Andrew Oliver, LHP Oklahoma State

Milwaukee is another team looking to grab a pitcher and Andrew Oliver could be a fit. He has an excellent fastball that ranges from 92-97 mph with good sink and rides in on hitters. Oliver also has plus command and a plus changeup giving him a repertoire to get out hitters now. His lack of a third pitch keeps him back but any lefty with his arsenal is a rarity. Oliver has struggled this season due to legal concerns involving the NCAA but he should be easy to sign making him more attractive to the organization.

27. Seattle Mariners – Jared Mitchell , CF LSU

With a new front office that in their short history has focused on pitching and defense, my guess is that they'll gamble on the offensive/defensive side and go after Jared Mitchell now and focus on pitching later (since they have the first pick in the supplemental round which is 6 picks later).

I know they already grabbed Ackley second, but Mitchell can serve as insurance and as a potential 5 tool talent with a very high ceiling the Mariners can afford to be patient. Mitchell has plus speed and plus power but always struggled to hit for average until this season. Mitchell improved his plate discipline but still strikes out too much. His swing does tend to uppercut a bit much but his athleticism and ability to play CF well draw teams to this raw project as he commits to baseball full-time.

28. Boston Red Sox – Max Stassi, C Yuba City (CA)

It’s obvious that Boston is looking to shore up their catching and they may get what they want by selecting Max Stassi. Being considered one of the elite prep catchers, Stassi comes from a baseball family and his instincts and leadership skills are excellent behind the plate. His swing is balanced and even though he doesn’t have plus power he can still go deep. Stassi stands at 5’10” and could add more muscle since his speed isn’t a factor. The only drawback is the shoulder tendinitis he suffered from earlier this season but, so far, it’s not considered serious.

29. New York Yankees – Michael Trout, CF Millville HS (NJ)

The Yankees are one of the teams that can afford to pursue expensive talent and since I have the high priced question marks like Green, Tate, and Crow already off the board – and with no other pick until the middle of the second round my guess is that they’ll go after speed and offense and select Michael Trout. With an organization already grooming Austin Jackson, the organization would be comfortable grooming Trout in hopes that he will reach his high-ceiling. Trout doesn’t look like your typical CF (6’1” 195 lbs with a stocky build) but he does have the first step quickness to be a base stealer and a good fielder. Trout’s bat has a smooth balanced stroke and shows flashes of good power in the future. He is still raw as he learns to switch-hit and could be a steal in the draft.

30. Tampa Bay Rays – Tony Sanchez, C Boston College

With young developing talent in almost every major position this team should have the opportunity to select a promising catcher. Tony Sanchez should be a safe and promising pick. Sanchez has the prototypical catcher’s physique and with his quick feet and agility he’ll have no problem staying behind the plate. He has quick bat speed but doesn’t project to hit more than 15 HRs a year but he has a good work ethic with average running speed.

31. Chicago Cubs – Everett Williams, OF McCallum HS (TX)

Apparently the Cubs have a reputation for slavishly selecting players in the first round that hail from the Midwest. Looking over the past five years the Cubs have used their first round choices on players nowhere near the flyover states. But with every analyst worth their slat predicting that the Cubs will select Notre Dame product AJ Pollack if available (he is), my guess is that they will be turned off by his lack of power and select the Texas project Everett Williams instead. Williams is much more highly regarded than I see him, yes he is a polished runner and plays the outfield well in terms of range although but his arm is rated as below-average. He is small (5’10”) and although he swings the bat well and has shown plus power, he does have a tendency to strikeout often. Scouts are mixed as to whether he is an everyday player but the consensus believes his athleticism can help him make the necessary adjustments.

32. Colorado Rockies – Garret Gould, RHP Maize HS (KS)

This should be an interesting pick and with excellent young players established up the middle, I think the Rockies should use their early picks to shore up pitching (especially with their previous pick being possibly expensive). Garret Gould would make a fine choice here. He’s considered an easy sign and his increased fastball velocity (91-94 mph) and emerging changeup has impressed many scouts. Gould also possess a quality curve that could develop into a true power pitch. He stands at 6’4” and should develop even more muscle on his 200 lb frame. The one glaring negative seen by scouts concerns his maximum effort delivery causing many people in player development thinking he’ll be better suited for the bullpen (which would be a waste and improbable if his changeup and curveball further develops).

* Soon I will predict the supplemental rounds (stay tuned).

Friday, May 22, 2009

can you believe it?

Again, Charlie's Angels is on TV and, again, the kids are watching it!


I should get on Twitter so I can just tweet about this already.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How Fast a Love Affair Can Change.... or Why I'm No Longer Excited to See Terminator Salvation

Just a mere two days ago I was so excited and jazzed to see the new Terminator movie this weekend but then reality (being the bitch it sometimes is) hit me when this review came pouring in.

Usually I stay away from reading reviews when it involves a movie I've already set my mind to see. If I hear any negative buzz then I'll just store it in the back of my mind and watch it anyway and come to my own conclusions but the thing that's been nagging me since I first heard about the film was its director, McG. Looking over the work of this guy all I remember seeing were the Charlie's Angels movies (once for each) and not being that impressed with either of them; not that they were bad movies they just seemed to.... exist.

And since those movies pushed its way into theaters and into homes (my girlfriend's kids always seem to turn on one of the Charlie's Angels when its on TV... God Damn You HBO!) all I've ever heard was how that master of self-promotion (McG, I'm still talking about) would be attached to this project (Superman before Bryan Singer) or that project (Wonder Woman after the studio let Joss Whedon go) and every time I came across those bits of news I would let out a silent groan. It's that same feeling I get when I hear that fatso hack Brett Ratner is attached to a cool project, although I am happy to hear he is finally off the Conan project. Here is another self-promoting asshole that I wish would stick to lame buddy action movies or music videos but, anyway, this blog has devolved into something very angry and heartbreaking and I'm still shocked that I've found the energy to blog about it.

p.s. at least my girlfriend Gail was happy to hear the news that we won't be seeing Terminator Salvation this weekend. After refusing to see Star Trek with me, which I remind her everyday how great it was, I guess she felt bad and figured she owed it to me to at least sit through this one. When I called her today about the bad news - she sounded relieved.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Remakes, Reboots, and Retcons: Looking at the Superhero Narrative in Relation to Non-Comic Book Movies

Looking over all the summer movie previews I couldn't help but notice how relatively scarce films based on comic books were this season. Coming from last summer where it seemed as though every other week featured a new "comic book" movie, I must admit I am a bit surprised (although that alleged piece-of-mediocrity officially titled X-Men Origins: Wolverine counts but I'm just not excited enough to drive out and see it). However, taking in a few movies released this year I couldn't help but see certain literary devices traditionally used in comic books popping up in a few non-comic book movies.

In general terms, a comic book movie is seen as either a.) based on characters originally and/or predominately featured in comic books or b.) a movie where one or more characters are not based on any published character but exhibit traits and superhuman powers generally found in a superhero comic. Films borrowing from all different genres like Mystery Men, Unbreakable, Dark City, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and even both Kill Bill (Vols. 1 & 2) and The Matrix trilogy can be included in this category (among others of course). These films all play a major part in creating the film language of the superhero/comic book genre and sub-genre. However, is it possible for a film based on previously established characters not associated with comic books (or any of the above categories, for that matter) be qualified as a comic book movie by using continuity devices typically found in traditional superhero narratives?

In this blog post, I will attempt to make the argument that the recently released Star Trek (2009) along with the last two James Bond films (Casino Royale & Quantum of Solace) can be certified as self-conscious examples where modern comic book narratives can inform another medium on pure textual level. To begin: in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, a film originally conceived on television and later carried on in movies, spin-offs and books; the main plot is triggered when a gang of newly-extinct Romulans along with the elderly Admiral Spock accidentally create a black hole sending each other back in time. The viewer learns that moments before the initial time travel the planet Romulus was destroyed when plans to disengage a supernova went awry (thereby creating the said “black hole”). The few Romulans who survive become good and pissed and decide to take action by waging war on Admiral Spock and the entire Federation of Planets but inadvertently change key moments in our heroes past. Without rehashing any more of the plot the film wisely uses the time-travel angle as a way to “retcon” which allows Abrams and other future Trek filmmakers a sense of artistic freedom to deviate from its long established canon.

The term retcon is a fusion of two words "retroactive" and "continuity" and is used by adding new information to either explain or to deliberately change established facts in a work of serial fiction. It's argued when the term "retcon" first came into use but it really took off during the mid-80's superhero upheaval in DC Comics. In 1985 a 12 part story called Crisis on Infinite Earths was published in an effort to clean up 50 years of convoluted storylines by killing off any unnecessary multiple Batmans and parallel-Earth Supermans. Today, this story is considered a classic and it sparked a full-scale wave of retconning that's still being felt and debated today.

Off topic, slightly, here is an example of one of my favorite retconned moments.

Since many of the popular superheroes were established generations ago, the superhero comic thrives as a medium conscious of its own history. One unique advantage of the superhero comic is its ability to engage in a level of narrative play that a less staunchly followed medium might not be able to maintain thanks to its devoted readership. In superhero comic books, revisions of superheroes traverse time and space to engage in dialogue with their previous iterations and if that doesn’t work or fails to make sense then comic book writers are afforded the luxury to clean up and retcon any discrepancies away.

In the Abrams film, new dynamics and relationships are established when the timeline is changed causing all kinds Oedipal conflicts and budding romances never fully explored in the original series. The appearance of the elderly Spock (or as the Internet insists on calling him: Spock Prime) reminds me of the 2006 comic series Infinite Crisis where the elderly Earth-2 Superman (DC's re-offering of the Superman of the 1930's and 40's) fights the current Earth-1 Superman over grief and conflicting values (they eventually make nice and realize their battle was merely a distraction orchestrated by the story's true villain: Earth-3's Alexander Luthor (trust me this story actually makes sense)). Luckily, both Spocks never exchange fists, or Vulcan pinches, but with their divergent memories and shifting attitudes one can't help but look at them as the same yet (tragically?) different.

In 2005 producers of the James Bond franchise made the announcement they were going to restart the series despite the fact the previous film Die Another Day was the most financially successfully Bond film to date. To be fair, the Bond formula was successful in deviating away from the serial structure of the original Ian Fleming novels and instead focusing on the fashion and sexual mores of the times while also being keen to possible technological advancements. In all Bond films, events (for the most part) seemed to occur independently and had no connection from one film to the next. Most major villains and Bond girls/allies operating outside of Mi6 had no further purpose once the film was over and usually played no part in shaping the subsequent film (the exception being the villainous Ernst Stavro Blofeld who appeared in five films and served as the inspiration for Mike Myer's Doctor Evil character).

With the release of Casino Royale in 2006, I believe the filmmakers made the conscious choice to streamline the narrative by giving Bond a true centralized villain (Mr. White) and making him part of a large organized criminal empire that’s still early for both Bond and the viewers to fully understand. With the recent release of its sequel Quantum of Solace, the Bond franchise seems committed to follow a serialized structure where characters both alive and dead seems to inform subsequent narratives. Of course there are no parallel-Bonds and Earth-3 Vesper Lynds but the filmmakers do effectively retcon aspects of the Bond character to make him more vulnerable and modern (one effective touch, which probably sent Ian Fleming into a coffin tailspin, was the moment where Vesper Lynd literally constructs the image of Bond by putting him in the tuxedo and upgrading his beverage from rum and sodas to high-end vodka martinis).

The retcons used in the recent Bond films have a more necessary feel than the imaginative angle Abrams takes but like all works of continuous fiction - the comic book genre has always stretched, ruptured, and often exploded its boundaries in order to reshape its identity to meet the demands of similarly shifting and transforming audiences and cultures. And it is this rampant revisionism and convergence that the superhero genre continually reinvents itself and it would serve other genres and mediums, especially stories with a long canonical history and multiple authorship, to follow suit.

Monday, May 11, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Bad People: Reflections on Jacqui Smith and the Blacklist

A little late but sometime last week, British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith published a list designed to “name and shame” 16 individuals that have been deemed to harbor and/or practice extreme views. Those named are part of a larger list of people barred from entering the United Kingdom. According to press releases, 101 names have been compiled since August of 2005 but this is the first time select names have been made public. Home Secretary Smith’s decision to release these 16 names is a curious one and even though the British government has been careful not use the word: blacklist. The objective is clear.

To the Home Secretary, entering the UK is a “privilege” and those advocating hate and committing violence against a certain ethnic group are being told that privilege will be revoked. Looking over the 16 names a banishment seems reasonable; however, a government sanctioned blacklist (both public and private) tends to negate any positive efforts made while giving those named, especially to a slimy demagogue named Michael Savage, the opportunity to play the victim. Forget for a moment, Savage’s long documented rants some of which he believes are meant to “inspire thought” forget his hostility towards non-Christians or Hispanic landscapers or homosexuals in all their shapes and sizes or, even, autistic children (I dare you to read or hear his thoughts on that and not laugh from shock) and ask yourself if his inclusion on a list with known murderers and their rabble-rousers is warranted?

I could make the argument that other “name and shamees” haven’t committed violence either. Look at Eric Gliebe, for years he has been holed up in West Virginia recruiting angry runaways and leading the neo-fascist National Alliance. Another name is Yunis Al Astal a militant preacher and member of Hamas who provokes and glorifies terrorism in the Middle East. Others include the “Jewish extremist” otherwise known as Mike Guzovsky. He’s famous for being the leader of Kahane Chai, an organization labeled as a terrorist group in many countries including Israel. Another demagogue on the list is famous homosexual-hater Fred Phelps. Of course like Savage and a few others on this list, Phelps isn’t violent per se he just likes talking about violence and instigating violent behavior against those he considers irredeemable.

I could go on but you get the gist of it. Savage has publically stated that he is looking into legal action against the Home Secretary but does he really have a case? Historically, those who have formed blacklists haven’t been too successful in staying on the right side of things. If you google the word: blacklist you’ll see beyond all the links explaining IP addresses and spam blockers passages about how unfair the HUAC hearings were and that whole Alger Hiss mess, the Hollywood blacklist as well as cases documenting those who supported the American Revolution and the measures they had to take to keep their feelings private. All of these examples are seen today, by most, as being incredibly wrong-sided and oppressive. But what if we turn the language around and replace blacklist with the word: excluded?

In the official report written by Jacqui Smith to members of Parliament, the Home Office was careful in not dropping the B-word and, instead, included “on to existing policy" the "exclusion from the UK of those individuals who encourage violence or hatred in support of their ideology.” Much of this language and policies fall under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005. Created after the July 2005 terror attacks in London where three London Underground trains and a city bus exploded killing 52 people and injuring over 700. In these provisions a control order was placed where the Home Secretary has the power to "restrict an individuals liberty" who has been deemed as an extremist and thereby use their ideology to instigate terrorism. And most notably, these measures apply not only to citizens but foreigners as well.

For Michael Savage to make his case he'll have to prove his words were never meant to incite violence. Savage is no stranger to filing lawsuits and even having them dismissed and since British law doesn't recognize 1st Amendment rights (instead it uses a form of self-regulation that can change according to editors and communication officers, etc.), Savage will have to stand by his words and accusations. Face it, Savage is a demagogue plain and simple. He likes to present his rants as a fresh and honest approach to his listeners who are fearful and suspicious of liberal humanist ideology (at best) and hateful to those of different races and creed (at worst). However, Savage will get some face time and threaten legal action since a government official across the pond has put the kibosh on his reputation as a "free-thinking and thoughtful, independent voice" thereby painting him, again, as a victim of political correctness and stifling liberal elitism. When, unfortunately, the real victim(s) could be on this list. Of course I seriously doubt they are among the 16 named (H.S. Jacqui Smith can be a clumsy legislator but not that clumsy), but what about those who do sit on the side of Muslim rights and could present their views in a qualified and thoughtful way. I'm sure it's achievable and may require those in power to listen to everything that's good, bad, and ridiculous.


Author's note: I know this blog has danced its way into the realm of flippant law study. Of course I may read like a qualified scholar of the law but I assure you.... I am not. I am a man like any man curious about the role of humanity and in fostering the one unique trait that keeps us separate from our gorilla and chimpanzee relatives - for which trait is that you may ask?

Well, isn't it obvious?

That trait is the pursuit of JUSTICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Handicapping the U.S. Supreme Court pt.1...

To properly christen my new “serious” blog I’ve decided a serious topic would be in order… and since nothing’s more serious than the United States Supreme Court - then to that I say: “Let the seriousness begin!!!”

With that said, let me tell where I’m coming from – I’m a registered Democrat that has a vested interest in whom President Obama will choose to fill Justice Souter’s seat come October. The President, who previously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago before embarking on his more famous political career, has recently laid out his criteria in terms of evaluating prospective judges. Of course the GOP is promising a contentious battle, many insiders are wondering how fierce it will be since Justice Souter’s announced retirement will trigger the first Democrat Supreme Court selection since May 13th, 1994 (when President Clinton named Stephen Breyer to the bench). Of course many media outlets seem to pass around the same list of potential nominees, most agree that President Obama will lean towards picking a female Justice; and in the grand tradition of journalistic incest I’ve decided to use my wit and street smarts and gather all the preliminary names being tossed around and handicap the chances each one has in both being nominated and confirmed.

Sonia Sotomayer of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sotomayer is a Clinton appointee to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and seems to be the odds on favorite to pass. Many believe she meets President Obama’s empathy criteria, having grown up poor in the South Bronx, as well as Obama's preference for sterling credentials (graduated from Yale Law School as well as serving as the editor of the Yale Law Journal). Sotomayer began as an Assistant District Attorney in New York before entering private practice and specializing in intellectual property litigation. Viewed as a centrist and respected on both sides, Sotomayer should face an easy confirmation process. 1 to 3.

Harold Koh, Dean of Yale University Law School. Currently Obama’s nominee to be the chief legal adviser at the State Department, but his nomination has encountered heavy opposition from Republicans due to his interpretation of international law which consisted of condemning the Iraq war and publicly opposing torture. He is considered a liberal pick. 55 to 1.

Elena Kagan, U.S. Solicitor General. Former dean of Harvard Law School, Kagan served as deputy domestic policy adviser in President Clinton’s White House. Clinton nominated her to the D.C. Circuit in 1999 but she never got a hearing. Kagan is considered liberal but has a record of reaching out to conservatives while at Harvard. 3 to 1.

Kim McLane Wardlaw of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The first Hispanic American woman appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Wardlaw was a respected California litigator and Democratic supporter before being named by President Clinton as a District Judge in 1995 and then, later, an appellate judge in 1998. Both nominations enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Some legal insiders find her to be less progressive than Sotomayer thus making her a favorite among Republicans. Even.

Sandra Lea Lynch, chief judge of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Longtime litigator and President Clinton appointee in 1995, recently caused controversy among the religious right for authoring a court’s decision regarding parental rights in public schools. 15 to 1.

Diane Pamela Wood of the 7th U.S. Court of Appeals. A longtime academic, Wood still teaches as a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. She has written countless essays and decisions and holds memberships. She also serves counseling positions on numerous boards and organizations. Recently, Slate.com reported this piece detailing an opinion Wood shared with potential nominee Judge Ann Williams that may be brought up if either one is nominated for the high court. The case in question is entitled Doe v. City of Lafayette and it concerns a convicted child molester and his rights to dispute a public park ban placed by the city. The initial three panel hearing (comprised of Wood and Williams along with Judge Kenneth Ripple) settled on a 2-1 split where Judges Wood and Williams voted to reverse the city’s ban based on it violating the plaintiff’s 1st and 14th Amendment Rights. The case proved to be complicated and further reading of the Slate piece is essential but the controversial stand made by Judges Wood and Williams could be detrimental if either is nominated. 8 to 1.

Leah Ward Sears, chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. Sears became the first African-American female Chief Justice in the United States as well as the first woman and youngest person to sit in the Supreme Court of Georgia. Sears announced her retirement from the Georgia Supreme Court when her term as Chief Justice ends in June of 2009. Considered to be a liberal member of the court, Sears has hinted that her retirement will allow her to focus on both academic and pro bono social justice pursuits. 6 to 1.

Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts. Only the second elected African American Governor in the U.S. Worked under President Clinton as Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division where he was labeled by GOPer’s as an Affirmative Action hawk and soft on crime. Seen by the Left as pro-labor but will be grilled for his position on the Board of Directors for Ameriquest for which he resigned after 2 years in 2006. Considered a liberal pick. 30 to 1.

Cass Sunstein an Obama friend from the University of Chicago Law School and Obama’s nominee to run the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. He once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Considered a moderate. 18 to 1.

Ruben Castillo of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Easily confirmed in 1994 following President Clinton’s nomination his legal career has been committed to advocating on behalf of many Mexican-American issues. No major controversies have followed his career and may be considered moderate. 12 to1.

Johnnie B. Rawlinson of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In 2000 Rawlinson became the first African American woman to sit on the ninth circuit. Her credentials lack punch and many find her intellect and legal curiosity to be comparable to Justice Clarence Thomas. It’s pretty much accepted that her nomination would disappoint many who view the court with high regard (regardless of political preference). 100 to 1.

Merrick B. Garland of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Having a long and distinguished career in the Attorney General office – began as a special assistant to deputy with the U.S. Department of Justice, Garland was named to the D.C. Circuit and is considered a judicial moderate. He is considered a male front-runner. 8 to 1.

M. Margaret McKeown of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. An expert in intellectual property law, McKeown made enemies with the religious right by authoring a three panel decision regarding the unconstitutional display of Government supported religion. 18 to 1.
Pamela S. Karlan, law professor at Stanford University. An experienced advocate before the Supreme Court, Karlan is a committed legal scholar and is a respected expert on matters of anti discrimination and constitutional law and has written extensively on many legal matters. Considered liberal. 10 to 1.

Jennifer Granholm, Governor of Michigan. Serving her final term as Michigan Governor, Granholm has seen her approval ratings slip due to budget and financial crisis. Before elected Governor, Granholm served as Attorney General for Michigan and supported regulations to protect consumers. Publicly supports pro-choice policies and civil unions and same-sex marriage. She has been seen by the media as a major front-runner although many legal experts wonder what qualifies her as a constitutional scholar. 20 to 1.

Kathleen Sullivan, Dean of Stanford Law School. A leading scholar on constitutional law, Sullivan will face scrutiny for being openly lesbian and for her aggressive advocacy in promoting and arguing for gay rights. 18 to 1.

Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary. Since becoming Senator of Colorado in 2004, Salazar has made friends on both sides of the aisle. His confirmation as Interior Secretary was unanimous, has a track record of being environmentally friendly although his confirmation of Gale Norton (G.W. Bush’s pick for his previous position) caught the wrath of many environmentalists and his favoring of industry over the environment. Served as Attorney General of Colorado from 1998 to 2004. Salazar is considered a moderate. 15 to 1.

Janet Napolitano, Chief of Homeland Security. Has a contentious connection to the current Supreme Court by serving as attorney to Anita Hill in 1991 against current Justice Clarence Thomas. Her time as a private attorney focused on consumer protection and improving law enforcement, she served as both Attorney General and as Governor for Arizona before joining Obama’s administration. Napolitano is currently caught in a controversy for releasing threat memos warning about possible far-right extremist groups working to recruit returning veterans upset about Democratic policies. 45 to 1.

Ann Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. An African-American woman, she could be tough for Republicans to oppose because she was first appointed as a federal district court judge in 1985 by Reagan. Clinton elevated her to the appeals court. She is considered a moderate but her involvement in the Doe v. City of Lafayette decision (previously posted under Judge Diane Wood) could derail her. 4 to 1.

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Considered an influential lawyer during the 1970’s, Clinton was raised as a conservative until joining a number of Democratic causes in college. After law school, she would go on to crusade for a number of organizations dealing with child law and family policy. Seen as a polarizing figure in politics, Clinton would surely face a contentious nomination process if selected. 35 to 1.