Monthly Archives: August 2010

Band Pimping: Tapes ‘n Tapes


I'm dating myself a little here: Tapes 'n Tapes!

I don’t care if the buzz band of the moment, circa 2006 (what’s up, 17-year-old me?), is no longer the buzz band of the moment, I still like Tapes ‘n Tapes.  Ignoring the blogosphere’s inevitable backlash of the group they propped up as gods when I was in high school, I popped the Minneapolis band’s debut album, The Loon, into my car’s stereo this afternoon and remain blown away by their stuff, whether it’s the weird Pixies-indebted offerings like “Insistor” or bluesy instrumentals like “Crazy Eights,” the album works for me.  The masterpiece, though, is “In Houston,” with its strange circus-inspired lyrics and doom-laden guitars.

Awesome, eh? Listen, enjoy, comment, etc.

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Dear Washington, Strasburg Fans, I’m Sorry I was Right.


Strasburg: Tommy John-bound.

Now that the Washington Nationals’ ace starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg has a “significant tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow” that requires Tommy John Surgery (I’m not going to explain it, so read here), it appears I was right all along in my prediction that Strasburg will be the second coming of Mark Prior, and I wish that wasn’t the case.

When I wrote this article last summer after Strasburg signed his record $15 million deal, a few people thought I was crazy, but the fact is, even at 21, I have already seen enough of these “can’t miss” pitchers blow up their arms very early in their careers, including the two cogs of the mid-2000s Cubs rotation, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and Strasburg’s own Washington teammate, Jordan Zimmermann.

The key culprit in these injury-plagued pitchers appears to be the same thing every time: the pitching motion known as the Inverted W (why it’s not called the M, I don’t know), where the pitching elbow is raised above the shoulder during the pitcher’s delivery.  As you can see in this article, which I used in my previous post about Strasburg, every pitcher except the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright — and look out, Redbird fans, because his turn will probably come soon — has spent significant time on the disabled list, with the most notable being Prior, who will probably never pitch again, Wood, who’s been relegated to a bullpen role, and A.J. Burnett, who is always an injury waiting to happen.

See Strasburg's elbow? It shouldn't go that high.

So what should be done about this?  I suggest, starting as early as little league, park managers and coaches should have training sessions about how to keep the kids healthy, and that should include a preseason seminar about the correct pitching motion, like Greg Maddux or Justin Verlander, whose pitching hands are always placed higher than their elbows, which promotes less torque on the elbow and shoulder.  It’s a minor tweak, especially for a young kid, and if those correct pitching mechanics are hammered into these players’ heads from an early age, the amount of elbow and shoulder surgeries in Major League Baseball could be diminished significantly.

Maddux displays the correct way for a pitcher to wind up.

As for Nationals fans, I’m sorry, because Strasburg is less than a year older than me and, while he could still have a bright future, it’s a lot cloudier than it was before he felt that snap in his arm during his last start.  I’m also mad that I wasn’t able to see him pitch before this happened.  Oh, well, bring on the next soon-to-be superstar pitcher.

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‘Iron Fist’ in Theaters? Hmm…


Marvel's first Disney-produced film: Iron Fist?

Iron Fist is one of those Marvel Comics characters nobody outside of the comic reading minority has heard of, and while I’m a big fan of comic book movies, I bet Marvel Studios and Disney’s proposed Iron Fist movie will be a tough sell.

The comics are about a guy named Danny Rand who is a martial arts expert with a magical power that gives him a big glowing fist.  It can be done on the big screen, but this could be a recipe for cheese ball disaster, or it could be a Kill Bill-style romp of awesomeness, but we’ll just have to see.  Hopefully Marvel has another Iron Man up its sleeve with this one.

My casting vote goes to this guy.

I’m not an expert on martial arts movies by any means, so I’m out of ideas as to who would be a good director for this project, but I do have a sort of out-of-left-field idea about who could play Rand: Mark Pellegrino of Dexter and Lost fame.

Sure, Pellegrino’s a bit old to play a character in his late twenties, but a few tweaks here and there could make it work, especially with his background in martial arts like Judo, Thai boxing, and Ju-Jitsu.  Plus, he’s got some range, as he was great as Rita’s abusive ex-husband on Dexter and he nailed the mysteriousness and on-and-off benevolence of a thousand-year-old demigod on Lost.

If the producers find a capable writer/director team and nail a lead like Pellegrino, this could actually turn out well.

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How Did I Miss This? Cee-Lo’s Newest.


I don’t know when it started, but it was certainly before the Gnarls Barkley days when I first heard Cee-Lo Green.  The song was “Closet Freak” and it set my soul-loving heart on fire, as Green’s throwback voice and horn-laden orchestration was phenomenal, and now he’s apparently got a new viral hit on his hands called “Fuck You.”  Obviously the song shouldn’t be heard by children and all that jazz.  You’ve been warned.

How awesome is that?  It’s like Johnnie Taylor stayed up all night getting really drunk and bitter before laying down a freestyle track.  Even the “video” is Sixties-rific with its pop art colors and lettering.

I don’t know how it’s eluded me for this long, but I’m glad it’s finally crossed my path.

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‘The Walking Dead’ Trailer Looks Amazing.


AMC’s announced its newest series, the highly anticipated zombie thriller, The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book series of the same name, will be premiering Halloween night with a special 90-minute episode, and released the show’s trailer today.

You can’t get much cooler than that.  Written, executive produced, and directed by Frank Darabont, who knocked The Green Mile out of the park and whose The Mist adaptation wasn’t half bad (he also directed The Shawshank Redemption, which I’m embarassed to say I haven’t seen), the show looks to be the snazziest genre series premiering this season.

The first season will only consist of six episodes, and although nothing in Hollywood is guaranteed, based on the positive vibes from everyone involved in the production to the excitement exhibited by the journalists covering the series will at least guarantee a second season if the show even has middling ratings.

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Sweet Lou Rides Off Into The Sunset: The Aftermath.


Cubs manager Lou Piniella hastily announced yesterday morning that he was stepping down sooner than expected from his post immediately following yesterday’s 16-5 drubbing by the Atlanta Braves to deal with family issues, and despite the team’s infuriating mediocre 2009 and bottom-of-the-barrel 2010, it’s clear this man deserves all the accolades being tossed around.

Lou tipping his cap during one of many standing ovations yesterday.

And, of course, I have to look ahead at the floundering team’s future, which could be bright, given a few good breaks and a couple of years of player development.

But first, I want to thank Piniella for his almost four years managing Chicago’s National League ball club.  His first two years, 2007 and 2008, were excitement at its finest and despite the team’s poor playoff showings, it’s clear Piniella — and in some ways, his predecessor, Dusty Baker — changed the culture of the team.  Losing is no longer tolerated by the fans or front office.  Look at all the players jettisoned in recent weeks: Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, Ted Lilly, and last week, Derrek Lee, and you get the idea that nobody in the organization will put up with the underperforming team and everyone wants to reload the minor league system to start from scratch.

And nearly all of that can be attributed to Piniella’s influence.  The man has always been a winner, with the exception of his tenure managing the once-awful Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays (and honestly, that was a no-win situation, no matter how you looked at it), and it showed while he was in Chicago.  He expected the most out of his players and punished them when they weren’t performing, like his demotion of opening day starter Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen at a couple different times this season.  Despite the team’s floundering throughout this season, I felt a tinge of sadness when Piniella announced last month his plans to retire following this season, but yesterday’s announcement shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given his two leaves of absence in the last month to  be with his ailing mother.

However, Lou is gone and he’s not coming back — and who could blame him?  Taking over for him is former third base coach Mike Quade, who has the dubious role of ushering this rookie-laden, offensively mismatched monstrosity into a very important offseason, during which the team will find his own replacement.

The team does have some interesting storylines to finish this lame-duck season.  Besides the ongoing managerial search (does anyone truly believe it’s going to be someone other than Ryne Sandberg?), we Cubs fans can look forward to seeing the possible first baseman of the future, rookie Tyler Colvin, transition from his roving position in a crowded outfield as he attempts to reclaim his grasp on a position he hasn’t played since his teens.  Rookie shortstop Starlin Castro could conceivably be the first rookie since Ichiro Suzuki to win a batting title — it won’t happen, but he’s definitely in the conversation for the Rookie of the Year award.  And, with September callups looming, prospects like starting pitcher Jay Jackson and outfielder Brett Jackson (trust me, no relation) could be on the field in coming weeks.

After the season’s over and Sandberg is installed as the next manager, some interesting things could happen.  The team has made no bones about the fact they’d like to be rid of the head case known as Carlos Zambrano, as well as light-hitting right fielder Kosuke Fukudome.  If the former is dealt, even in a desperation “if you take him, we’ll pay for everything” kind of deal, Jay Jackson might get his shot in the rotation next season, and if Fukudome’s out the door, Colvin could go back to his natural position and open the door for a lefty-swinging free agent first baseman like power hitters Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena.

No matter how you slice it, change is afoot for the Northsiders.  With their soon-to-be Hall of Fame manager, Piniella, out the door, it just goes to show how much different this team will be in the coming years.

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‘Black Swan’ Trailer: Queen Amidala Loses Her Mind.


The trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s latest film, a New York-set thriller called Black Swan, was released earlier this week and after watching it a few times, I’m still unsure of what the movie’s about, but I’m intrigued, mostly because of Natalie Portman seemingly going nuts throughout the course of the two minutes.

There are a lot of Aronofsky fans out there, and I guess you could lump me in with them, but I’m no expert on his filmography, as I’ve only seen The Wrestler, which was a great movie, but one steeped in minimalism and gritty, realistic emotion, highlighted by the extensive use of hand held cameras to develop an almost documentary style.  Black Swan looks to be a different creature, with a more polished look, although some of the hand held camera work remains.

As for the story, I’m not even going to venture a guess.  I hope the “twist” isn’t revealing that Mila Kunis’s character is really a Tyler Durdenesque figment of Portman’s ballet dancer’s imagination, and the end of the trailer seems like the film takes a sci-fi turn, of which I’m plenty accepting, and come December, I’ll definitely have my ass in a seat to see just what this thing’s all about.

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Bad Robot Gets Busy with ‘7 Minutes In Heaven.’


The company has another film on their plate.

J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company have been madly snatching up exciting film properties lately, but their latest is an original idea from director Jack Bender called 7 Minutes In Heaven, and I wonder how a one-sentence idea is enough to get the ball rolling on what will probably be a big budget production.

The description of the story is, “two teens go into a closet during a party to play the make-out game 7 Minutes In Heaven, and emerge to find all their friends dead.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but aren’t there supposed to be big meetings with dudes in suits and giant presentations outlining the exact vision of the writers and director?  Sure, the set-up is interesting, but when literally nothing else has been worked out, it could be an unmitigated disaster or a horror flick instead of something very cool, for which the company is known.

Of course, given the talent and consistently great work put out by the company, there’s obvious room for hope, but for this to be a truly exciting project, an actual writer or team of writers — my vote is for Bad Robot cohorts, and Lost and Tron: Legacy writing duo of Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz — needs to take a crack at it and for Bender’s name to be attached to it in a more concrete way, beyond simply offering the idea.

No matter what happens, 7 Minutes In Heaven is a project I’ll be keeping an eye on.

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So Long, D-Lee. Thanks.


Derrek, you will be missed.

The increasingly hapless Chicago Cubs traded first baseman Derrek Lee to the Atlanta Braves for three prospects yesterday, and while it’s nice to know his middling-to-bad statistics and large contract are off the books, it’s sad to see one of my favorite players of the last decade leave, because until this year, he’s put up some big numbers and been one of the most likable Cubs since being traded to the team before the 2004 season.

I understand baseball — hell, all of sports — is a “what have you done for me lately” business, and Lee’s .251 average, .335 on-base percentage, and .751 OPS have all been substandard this year.  However, I can’t stop thinking about the 2004 season when he started the year slumping horribly, then lit up scoreboards from June on, or the entire 2005 season when his MVP-like numbers were the only entertaining part of an incomprehensibly bad team.  Those types of seasons continued through the playoff runs of 2007 and 2008 and he was the best player on the team even a year ago.

But that’s over, and I want to thank Lee for his years on the North Side and all the fun, among other things, he’s provided this Cubs fan, and wish him luck playing for the NL East-leading Braves, while also taking a look into the future.

The Cubs got three young right-handed pitchers in the deal, and while none of them are ready for the majors just yet, they could be serviceable in the future.

The youngest and rawest is 19-year-old Robinson Lopez, a starter-reliever swingman who’s been roughed up a bit in Single-A ball, with a 4.37 ERA, but he has an ability to keep the ball in the park, as he’s only surrendered five homers all year.  If he can cut down on his walks (4.2 per nine innings, yikes), he could get to the bigs in a few years.

22-year-old reliever Jeffrey Lorick is moving quickly through the minors.  Picked by the Braves in the 20th round of last year’s draft, he’s already in his third stop in their system, but he, too, needs to cut down on his walks allowed.

Tyrelle Harris, a 23-year-old also picked in last June’s draft, is the clear centerpiece of the deal.  He’s moved with lightning quickness through the Braves’ system, currently pitching in Double-A, with an eye-popping 60 strikeouts in 49.2 innings pitched.  If he continues dominating batters, he could be in Chicago by next summer.

With this deal, the Cubs wrung the most out of the Braves that they were going to get, given Lee’s contract, age (he’ll be 35 next month), and underwhelming 2010 numbers.  I applaud GM Jim Hendry for being able to get even this much, and again, thank Derrek Lee for nearly seven years of being a reason to watch this miserable team I can’t pry my eyes from.  Seriously, this train wreck season can’t get much worse, right?

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‘I’m Still Here’: Why?


Joaquin Phoenix is a weird dude.  Or is he?  DUN DUN DUN!!!

That is the central conceit of the upcoming documentary I’m Still Here, directed by Casey Affleck.  The film follows Phoenix’s attempt to transition from acting to an outlandish rap/Zach Galifianakis-impersonating career. The trailer’s out now and I am oddly intrigued.

I know this is a thinly veiled hoax and a tedious one at that, but there’s something about it that has me interested in seeing this.  Oh, wait, I got it.  It’s called boredom.  That or tin foil hats.

Or, hell, maybe Phoenix and Affleck really are serious with all this. If they are, that makes it funnier and much more brew-and-view accessible.

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