Friday, July 25, 2008

Top 5 Nonexistent Bands (That You Wanted to Start)

OK. This is a bit of an awkward list, and I referenced it in my Beatles top 5. It's a bit surreal (as far as this blog is concerned,) but I hope most people can relate. The idea behind it is through the course of listening to music (and writing) one dreams about the bands they could be in. So, it's the top five bands you personally wanted to start (whether through producing them, being the front man as a guitarist, vocalist, whatever.)

Tory's Top 5:

1. The Unnameable - This is my most recent idea, and a band I would actually like to start. I have written plenty of lyrics for it, but it's a matter of finding a couple of guys to go along with everything it deals with. Prog-rock by the simplest definition, but as far as the myspace heading would be it would read Prog Rock / Blues / Folk. The lyrics are mostly topical in nature ie political (Rage Against the Machine being the biggest influence here,) Religious (my own beliefs,) and environmental (my fear of global warming is a big influence here. To list the influences would be too long of a top 5.

2. Tory Fox, All By Himself - For the majority of my writing life, the sonsg I have written have been in the nature of love songs. The biggest influences of thie sband are Bright Eyes and Damien Rice, with a couple other acoustic/singer-songwriter musicians there. The idea behind the band is noted in the title. Me. All by myself with an acoustic guitar and that is all. This band could legitimately take off if I were to learn how to play the guitar well.

3. Awaiting the Moment - This isn't a band that I myself wanted to actually participate in. However, it is a band that I did want to produce. Originally they were created when I first discovered how to make a webpage with geocities. I was there biggest fan, and no one else in high school knew about them. I made sure that everyone heard of them (because hearing them was an impossibility.) The website may still be up: On just checking, no it isn't up. Shucks. This local Va Beach hardcore band (originally from Kansas before relocating) did make it into the script of a mockumentary with them as the stars.

4. untitled band - This band never actually made it to the naming part, but the whole theory behind the band was constructed. Lyrically, the band's influences draw from Slipknot and other death metal bands - essentially really violent songs about murder and whatnot. Musically, the band was going to be an amalgum of distorted 7-string guitars, acoustic guitars, scratchboards, keyboards, synths and of course precussion. They were classified as nu-emo death-electro.

5. Slaves on Strike - Another band that didn't make it too far. It was going to be a band heavily influenced by Rage Against the Machine. As the name says it is obviously a politics-driven band. The singing style was up in the air, as a rap-rock mentality would've been straight stealing from RATM. The farthest I did get with this band was the CD cover art of the first album Geurillas In the Streets. This was the epitome of my Angry White Boy phase.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Me, Huy, and Matt - Basically, two friends and I wanted to make really, really good music based around songwriting, a la Radiohead or Ambulance LTD. We probably had the talent, and we definitely had the drive. The only problem was we had scheduling problems with Matt, who was constantly working. Matt especially gets bonus points because he's actually British, which would have guaranteed our success.

2. Rex Bedlam - This is actually the first and only band I was actually in. It did get started, obviously, so I feel I shouldn't put it at #1. I played bass, and we had a really talented songwriter, lead guitarist, and keyboardist. And whoever was our drummer was usually pretty talented too, but because of scheduling problems with him, the band fell apart just as things were starting to take off. If we ever reunite, though, you'd be best to come to one of our gigs. God knows how many there will be.

3. All Kinds Of Gravity - This is actually a very good Blacksburg band that exists. (Check them out on Myspace.) I co-judged the Rock Music Club's Battle of the Bands in the Spring semester, and this band won it all, including help towards recording a demo. I include them here because of their unique sound - it's something that I would like to try to capture as a producer/engineer, and I suspect that whoever's in the studio behind the mixing board isn't doing it right. I was there from their first gig.

4. Quality Jones - Essentially, this is the band that I want to lead, and this is the band name that I will use. I'm still not even sure whether I'll play bass or guitar, but I will be the primary songwriter. Currently, thanks to how awesome Muse is, I would probably try to take it in the direction of progressive rock, with some additional songwriting kudos to my old heroes Pink Floyd.

5. Phoenix 17 - Another band name from when I was first learning guitar and coming up with my own riffs. Looking back on them, the song ideas were pretty simplistic and not that entertaining, so it would be safe to say that this band would suck. However, the guitar tone would be amazing.

Honorable Mention: I guess if I were an acoustic singer/songwriter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 5 Beatles Songs

An epic list to end all lists--this is what this blog was made for. We are through the looking glass here, people.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. "A Day in the Life" - Sgt. Pepper - I'm not convinced this is my personal favorite (though it very well could be), but this song really is The Beatles at their absolute best. Revolutionary pop rock sounds and the utter cohesion of Lennon (esoteric lyrics--"He blew his mind out in a car..." I don't care if it's taken from a newspaper, it's still creepy sounding) and McCartney (simpler pop lyrics--"I woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head..."). They were masters of the crescendo, and this song has not one, but two, count 'em, two.

2. "Dear Prudence" - The Beatles (The White Album) - Speaking of crescendos... A great song with some rather simple lyrics--just trying to get someone to come out and play. Ruined in a totally useless scene in the movie "Across the Universe."

3. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" - The Beatles (The White Album) - Like I've said before about this song, I'm a sucker for irony. You've got to love the title; it sounds like a Kilgore Trout short story. And the doo-wop background singers (Bang bang, shoot shoot!)... I could go on, but it would just be rambling. I really, really like this song.

4. "Here Comes the Sun" - Abbey Road - I think Eric Idle said it best. I remember seeing him on VH-1 on one of the myriad documentaries about The Beatles (I forget which); he named this song as his favorite song. I can't find the quote online, but his point was that, if we could all hear this song every morning when we woke up, the world would be a much happier place. I concur.

5. "Across the Universe" - Let it Be - Another feel-good song, so 4 almost cancels out 5 (probably in favor of "I Am The Walrus"). But so what? This is what The Beatles excelled at. So feh, non-existent complainers of my wacky self-imposed ranking rules! Feh!

Honorable Mentions: "I Am The Walrus," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane," "All You Need Is Love," "Revolution," "Let It Be," "Eleanor Rigby," "Helter Skelter," and OK, "Hey Jude."

Dan's Top 5:

I agree that this is an epic list, but I certainly hope it's not the "list to end all lists." Let's just say we're blowing the lid off this mug. I've also noticed that your list comprises only later Beatles songs. Interesting strategy.

1. "Dear Prudence" from The Beatles - I'm not entirely sure why I like this song. Actually, that's a lie. I like the song for the cyclical guitar riff. I mean, there are other things to like about the song, such as the childlike simplicity and the lyrics. Yet, all that's needed to gain my affection is a musical hook that repeats endlessly. Perhaps that's why I was so late to join the Beatles camp - it's not what they're known for.

2. "Hey Jude" (released as a single) - Many in music critic-dom will claim that this is one of the best rock songs ever written, or it may even top their lists at #1. Given that this song has so much love from everyone else in the world, I (a) don't feel the need to put it at #1, as my list likely won't mean shit to anyone, and (b) do need to include it, as its omission would be an affront to the Beatles.

3. "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" from Rubber Soul - Okay, so for my criticism of Ryan's list not featuring any earlier songs, this is the only early song that my list has to show for it. It's hard to decide between this song and "In My Life," though I prefer this song for its imagery. "In My Life" is a bit too introspective to include here.

4. "I Am The Walrus" from Magical Mystery Tour - If #3 suggested that I like imagery, this seals the deal. Essentially a massive drug trip for those of us who haven't been fortunate enough to take LSD, this is the Finnegan's Wake of Beatles songs. What I do love is the chord structure behind Lennon's ramblings, as the beginning and the end of the chord progression mesh perfectly. It's a neverending circular song that could theoretically have go on forever. Just listen to the repetitive ending and you'll hear that there's no resolution.

5. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" from The Beatles - What I love about this song is the use of multiple parts. (I'm also a sucker for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Radiohead's "Paranoid Android.") The only reason it ranks so low on the list is because it's been tainted by the film Bowling for Columbine. It was a good movie, but it's like seeing songs by The Who being used as the openings to episodes of CSI: Whatever-City-We're-In. Some songs are just holy and should never be touched. This is such a song.

Honorable Mention: Just about every other song I've heard, but particularly "Across the Universe," "Revolution," "Yesterday," "Blackbird," "In My Life," and a ton of others that I can't remember off the top of my head and would likely exhaust my fingers trying to type out.

Tory's Top 5:

OK. This list is going to be difficult, but I will do it because I have an awesome list that I hope everyone can relate to. Now, even though this list will be hard, I really mean numbers 2-5 are going to be difficult to place...

1. Rocky Raccoon from The Rocky Raccoon Single - I only assume that is the album it's from. It might also be on the White Album, but I'm pretty sure that was the hit single from said album.

2. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da The White Album - There aren't too many songs at all (whether by the beatles or not) that make you feel like nothing is wrong at all in the world, even when a lot of things have gone to shit.

3. Yesterday Help - This was one of my favorite songs of all time for a really long time. I still like it a lot though, and it's brilliant because it's really only about 4-8 lines sung over the course of 2 and half minutes. But it still holds an incredible sense of depth.

4. I've Just Seen A Face Help - I never heard this song until that travesty Across the Universe was made, but the introduction of this song is enough to allow that pretentious piece of shit exist (unless there was some other way for me to be introduced to this song, in which case, let that film fuck itself.) Either way, I'm realizing that Help was a pretty good alubm with these past two entries.

5. Girl Rubber Soul - I'm a big fan of really depressing songs, and this has got to be in that top 5 for beatles songs too. It's also got some unbelievable unobstruced vocals to start the song off.

Honorable Mentions: Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Let It Be, Norwegian Wood (I suppose Rubber Soul was pretty good too,) While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Top 5 Songs For a Monday Morning

(Note for Ryan and Tim - After trying to scan old posts, I've noticed now that it's better if the individual entries are bolded - along with "[name]'s Top 5:" and "Honorable Mentions" - to better set the important text apart from the commentary. I propose we use this format from now on, especially since it's easier to put the html in.)

Another list idea borrowed from High Fidelity. I'm unsure what criteria I want to use to judge whether a song is good for a Monday morning. I think personally, it's going to be (a) a personal extra-favorite, and (b) something that's uplifting or powerful in some fashion. Really, these are the songs I use to feel good and be thankful that I know how to find music I like. Ryan and Tim can use alternate criteria for your own lists.

Dan's Top 5:

1. "All Around The World" - Oasis - This is pure sunshine somehow harvested and stored in musical form. I'm just waiting for that point at 5:34 when they break into that "Laaaa la la, la La la, la La la la La-La Laaaaa." At that precise moment, it's like balloons and confetti are raining down on me, and I should probably be having some psychedelic drug experience that made hippies claim the word "love" as their own. If it's in my car, then I have the volume cranked and I'm singing/shouting along. God help anyone who happens to be in the passenger seat.

2. "Stockholm Syndrome" - Muse - The best Muse song ever if Black Holes and Revelations didn't exist. To see this song played live is a real treat, and it's usually their last song. Accomplishes both being uplifting (the piano arpeggiation behind the lyrics, "This is the last time I'll abandon you") and extreme, powerful, ass-kicking (literally every other moment of the song.) If only I had discovered Muse between the release of Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations, then I probably would have listened to this song every single day, while constantly being blown away. Wait, no... that's what I did anyway.

3. "My Iron Lung" - Radiohead - This used to be my favorite Radiohead song ever, but now the spot is disputed. Anyway, I feel this is a superb example of balancing a simple, quiet, melodic two-chord verse with a raw study of ass-kickery in the chorus. It also scores bonus points because it was the band's follow-up to "Creep" from the prior debut album, and the lyrics reflect how the success of that single had constrained their creativity ("this is our new song / just like the last one / a total waste of time / my iron lung"). Creep is alright, but I hate it for being the atypical signature song that people identify with this band.

4. "Everyone's a V.I.P. to Someone" - The Go! Team - I remember putting "uplifting" as a possible criterion for populating this list, so I realized that I just had to include a Go! Team song. At first, I was averse to this song because it was introduced with the banjo, but then I realized that I don't hate the banjo, just a majority of music that features it. I now regard this as one of the best feelgood instrumental tracks I know of, possibly even better than "Feelgood By Numbers," ironically, which is on the same album.

5. "Novacane" - Beck - "Monkey, baby!" This is one of my favorite badass songs, and probably should have been included back when we did Top 5 Songs to Blast While Driving. When the song peaks at "NOVACANE!" you feel like you could probably punch or shoot something. You know, one of those faux-badass moments. However, the energy isn't sustained, and the song quickly settles back down for the bizarre effects-laden outro, which really takes away from the force of the song.

Honorable Mentions: "Sabotage" - The Beastie Boys, "Feelgood by Numbers" - The Go Team, "The Number of the Beast" - Iron Maiden, "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" - R.E.M., "A Town Called Malice" - The Jam, "Invincible" - Muse, "The Infanta" - The Decemberists

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Top 5 Flight of the Conchords Songs

This was an idea I had a while back. At first I thought this would be too difficult to do--how do you rate these jokes against those jokes? It's impossible to be objective. Then I thought: when the hell has that ever stopped me before?

Ryan's Top 5:

1. "Bret, You Got It Going On" - Episode 6 of FOTC is to episode 4 of The Office (UK) as this song is to "Free Love Freeway." (That analogy vaguely makes sense, try not to think about it too much.) Anyway, I know every word of this song and must complete the entire thing whenever I think of any line. It wouldn't be much fun to talk about it, so just watch. I just laid there and spooned you...

2. "I'm Not Crying" - It's just been raining... on my face. Again, just watch it.

3. "Pencils in the Wind (Sellotape)" - "Another way that love is similar to tape... that I've noticed..." "And people are like paper dolls / Paper dolls and people, they're a similar shape." Every other line is good, too.

4. "If You're Into It" - The best love song ever written? You decide.

5. "Think About It" - A smorgasbord of hilarity. I think my favorite line is: "What's wrong with the world today? Nah-say-nah-say-neigh-neigh-neigh..." But, again, everything else is great.

Honorable mentions: Every other song, Business Time, Inner City Pressure, Leggy Blonde, Mutha'uckas, Robots, Albi the Racist Dragon, The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room, etc.

Tim's Top 5:
Well, it was bound to happen someday. Dan and I must have been editing at the same time, so it's a good thing I typed it elsewhere.

This list would have forced me to just re-watch every episode of the show, but I lent my copy to a friend to do my part proselytize Flight of the Conchords. So we'll have to make do with the two CDs, Ryan's list, and my memory to get us through.

1. "If You're Into It" - Sure, part of it makes me think of another HBO classic track "Double Team" from Tenacious D, but Jemaine's deep-as-Barry-White voice makes this an unmatchable classic for me.

2. "The Most Beautiful Girl (in the room)" - You could be a waitress, an air hostess from the '60s, or a part-time model (but you'd have to keep your normal job). And depending on the street, you're probably in the top 3. Nothing says romance like hedging to achieve honesty.

3. "Robots" - Two words -- Binary solo. That's not the only thing I love about this song, but I love it so much I couldn't possibly move this song down any more. "We no longer say yes, instead, we say affirmative." Like most of the songs, there's a couple different versions, so choose for yourself the TV version or the full version. Well, there's no more elephants.

4. "Think About It" - This song asks the timeless question "Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when they're made by little slave kids? What are your overheads?" It really makes the existence of the Black-Eyed Peas song "Where is the love" worthwhile.

5. "Bret, You Got It Going On" - Read Ryan's post, I'm too lazy to add more.

Honorable mention: "Not Crying", "Inner City Pressure", "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros", "Pencils in the Wind (Sellotape)"

Dan's Top 5:

More importantly, Ryan, since when have we ever tried to be objective?

1. "Sellotape (Pencils in the Wind)" - A song not only about love, but also racial tolerance. Clearly the best part of this song is the end chorus. "Brown paper, white paper, stickin' together with the tape, the tape of love."

2. "Inner City Pressure" - A classic song about the hardships of trying to make it in the city. "You know you're not in high finance, considering secondhand underpants." (Youtube link)

3. "Business Time" - The sexiest song ever about boring, mundane sex. "You know when I'm down to my socks, it's time for business; that's why they call them business socks, ooh!" (Youtube link)

4. "Bowie" - I'm still amazed at how well they're able to impersonate Bowie in this song. Of course, the lyrics aren't nearly as funny as other songs. "Bet you do, you freaky old bastard, you." (Youtube link)

5. "Goodbye Leggy Blonde" - Murray's shining moment about lost potential for love. "I'll never get to tear your clothes off on the photocopier." (Youtube link)

Tory's List

I am going to do a top five. And maybe another. And maybe... another.

1. Bret, You've Got It Goin' On - Hilarious. The funniest song I've ever heard by a non-Tenacious D entity.

2. I'm Not Crying - This song makes the list almost solely for it's intro: "If you wanted to break my heart / you're plan was flawed from the start / it's liquid / it melted when I saw you." P.S. That is half quote - half paraphrasing.

3. Jenny - This one is a bit of a technicality since it's not in the show. I did double check the title of the post and doesn't say anything about songs from the show, so I am putting this unbelievable song (which can be heard on their One Night Stand HBO show - they open with it.) It's hard to quote a song that is seven minutes long, but it's about a girl named Jenny who sees someone she met once, but he doesn't remember her quite as well. "'We talked about how the lights from the buildings and cars / seemed like reflections of the stars / that shined out so pretty and brght / that night' / ... / 'It was daytime.' / ... / 'The daytime... of the night.'"

4. Prince of Parties - This selection was a mixture of both I like the song and wanting to be different. Granted, the lyrics are not what solely takes the cake. The entire concept behind this song from it's context in the show to it's video are what make me love it so much.

5. She-Wolf - Cold-hearted bitch, diggin a ditch

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Top 5 Most Hopeless Franchises in the NBA, NFL, and MLB

The three big ones--in other words, screw hockey. I was feeling another sports Top 5.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. Washington Nationals - The Nationals have a long way to go. Cristian Guzman currently is their best offensive player, Lastings Milledge has the team lead in RBI (followed by Jesus Flores), and their pitching is scant. It's harder to turn around a franchise in baseball than in the NBA and NFL, so the Nationals get the nod over the teams to follow. They continue to employ Jim Bowden.

2. Miami Dolphins - The NFL is the league of parity, but you need some parts before that can happen. The Dolphins need way too much magic to happen at too many positions for them to become good. For starters they need one of their quarterbacks to become good, and by good I mean decent, and by decent I mean mediocre, like, better than Rex Grossman. I don't know if that can happen.

3. Memphis Grizzlies - This is probably a bit high, now that I think about it, I mean they do have that Spanish force in the low-post... oh no wait, they traded him to the Lakers for a can of beans. Yeah, you're going to need an inside presence to compete in the Western Conference. So they draft one (Kevin Love) and trade him away (for OJ Mayo). I just don't see it happening for a while, guys.

4. New York Knicks - The Celtics proved you can turn around a horrible team pretty quick in the NBA. That said, you need to have the parts to pull off trades like that. There's talk of them getting LeBron James in a couple years. OK, so, James goes from a Cleveland team with a poor supporting cast to a New York team with a worse supporting cast? Great, the Knicks will be able to make the playoffs in the wacky all-inclusive NBA and get beat in the first round. They need to make a play for an inside guy.

5. Seattle Mariners - Richie Sexson sucks. Jeremy Reed sucks. Kenji Johjima sucks. Adrian Beltre sucks. Carlos Silva sucks. Jarrod Washburn sucks. R.A. Dickey really sucks. Erik Bedard is getting paid way too much money. Etc. OK, they have money so they probably have a decent-ish shot of turning it around, but still, they deserve mention, because they really suck.

Honorable mentions: Kansas City Chiefs (as long as Carl Petersen is around, who knows what's going to happen...oh, right everyone--we're going to lose. Brodie Croyle does not inspire confidence and Larry Johnson is still owed too much money), Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Braves (I hate the Braves), Denver Broncos (Jay Cutler sucks)

Dan's Top 5:

1. The Pittsburgh Pirates - The worst thing that Barry Bonds ever did (beyond steroid abuse and leaving an irreparable stain on the entire game) was kill the Pirates. Since the very early 90's, the Pirates haven't had a winning season - that's 15 straight years under .500. This season, from what I can tell, Nady and McLouth have led the Pirates to their best first half in years, and they're still 41-47 (only one game ahead of last place). If they manage to have another losing season, they'll have broken the record. After my Cubs win a World Series - which may even happen this year - The Pirates are becoming my new masochist-fan team.

2. The Oakland Raiders - Remember the last time the Raiders were good? Yeah, me neither. I was too busy graduating from high school. I do remember them having Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver in the game's history, and still falling short. The only thing that keeps this team alive are the crazy, god-awful Raiders Fans. They are like cockroaches. Over the past five seasons, the team hasn't achieved more than 5 wins, so I equate that to about two nuclear blasts. But the fans are still there. Only good thing about the Raiders? DeAngelo Hall. And that's a personal bonus more than anything.

3. Seattle Supersonics - Quite literally a hopeless franchise, as the team is packing its bags - borrowed from the Expos - and are headed to glorious Oklahoma City. About the only good thing they have going for them is Kevin Durant, who doesn't seem to be enough to get the team to even break .250. Have fun trying to climb out of the league's basement and win fans in a new location at the same time.

4. Washington Nationals - Man, this team blows. Good thing I hate them.

5. Atlanta Falcons - Really, I think that if they just sort out the quarterback position and adjust their game plan into something that isn't Vick-centric, they should be able to do moderately well. Their place here is more of a testament to how reliant they were on a single player. Perhaps they should take a page from modern businesses and do background checks on their players before they sign them. It could have saved a lot of money in Michael Vick merchandise that has to be burned.

Tim's Top 5:

Might as well start where we all know I’m going to start –

1. Cincinnati Bengals – This team was great enough to make the playoffs once in the last 17 years, and on their first offensive play, Carson Palmer goes down with a knee injury. They have been in defensive rebuilding mode since…Tim Krumrie broke his leg and haven’t been able to draft impact players because they’re too busy replacing injured players (Chris Perry’s hurt? Draft Kenny Irons in the second round!), suspended players (way to go, Odell Thurman and Chris Henry), players threatening to hold out (We’ll show Chad Johnson, we’ll replace him with three rookies) or shitty players (everyone else). The good news is that the team is one step from returning to playoff contention. Unfortunately, that step is going to be really difficult, since there’s not that many elevator shafts that owner Mike Brown could fall into.

2. New York Knicks – Because of basketball’s funky salary cap, it’s hard for teams to make an impact via free agency, and it’s hard for any team that allows Isiah Thomas to run things to make any positive impact in anything. They had the highest payroll in the game, going way over the salary cap – a fact that I don’t even comprehend because of the NBA’s bizarre salary structure that says "Hey, Rashard Lewis…we have a salary cap, we can only pay you $20 million a year."

3. Washington Nationals – Ryan was spot on, this team isn’t going anywhere (in the standings), and it has no reason to, because it has no fans -- which is why they will be going somewhere (sorry, DC...). They threw a huge marketing campaign behind Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young. That tells you all you need to know about how bad this team was at the season’s outset – the players they considered their best…played the same position. Nick Johnson’s hurt again, Austin Kearns has scuffled all season, Milledge is okay, but nothing special. Really, all this team has to be excited about is Elijah Dukes playing adequately in recent weeks to give them a left fielder, and the team’s impending move to Las Vegas in 2018.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates – At least the Royals have cracked .500 in the last 15 years. Once. This team was supposed to be founded on a great young rotation – Duke, Snell, Maholm, Gorzelanny, … and who the hell cares who the fifth starter is! Did you read who the first four aces were? I’m not saying wrap up the World Series trophy…I’m saying pack it in foam, we have four young pitchers who can dominate games and turn this team around. Or…one (or fewer) of them is decent in any given season and they don’t pitch well until the team’s completely eliminated from contention for .500. This was one of the most loaded teams in baseball circa 1990. Since Drabek, Bonds, and Bonilla left via free agency, they’ve replaced none of them. Interesting fact – of the four pitchers I identified above, only one has a WHIP below 1.55 – Paul “Ten Finger” Maholm with a 1.31.

5. Chicago Bears – This team is a shambles. Their defense sucked last season, they chose the wrong running back in Cedric Benson, the wrong quarterback in Rex Grossman (or Kyle Orton), and their defense was awful last year too. They may still finish with a decent record, but that’s because they play in the dreadful NFC North. They make the list primarily because their hopelessness is so remarkable considering where the team was a year or two ago and because I want to dance on their grave, rather than the Arizona Cardinals, who mean nothing to me.

Honorable mention: Houston Astros – they put all their weight behind winning this year, trading a boatload of players for Miguel Tejada and dealing Brad Lidge for magic beans. They’re not going to win this year, so their team’s just getting older; Minnesota Timberwolves – before looking them up, I could name one player on their team – Rodney Carney, who was just traded to them by the Sixers; Carolina Panthers – who are hopeless only at meeting expectations, considering that every other year they’re supposed to be an amazing team and then they finish second or third in a really terrible division; Cincinnati Reds – they hired Dusty Baker. Enough said.; New England Patriots – sorry. I read 'hopeless' as 'shameless'.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Top 5 Travesties in the 2008 All-Star Game

Tim's Top 5:
In case you hadn't noticed, and unless you were me, you hadn' is The Top 5's first birthday. Instead of something truly special to commemorate its first birthday...I'm going to complain about how much baseball fans are truly ignorant and how much worse baseball players and managers apparently are. That's right, I need two blogs to do this now.

I can be silent no longer! (note: in fact, I've already created a facebook group called "Jason Varitek is not an all-star", so it's hard to claim I've been silent thus far). This year's All-Star rosters have several travesties, which are hard to even reduce to such a brief list. So this list commemorates the awful inclusions, exclusions, and other potentially abhorrent aspects of the 2008 All-Star Game.

1. Jason Varitek is named to the AL All-Star Team - This one's on the players. Jason Varitek's offensive numbers just barely beat out my own. He's batting a whopping .217 with seven home runs, 27 RBIs, and slugged .360 in 242 at bats, when he's batting around guys like Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz. In contrast, Kelly Shoppach, who has filled in as part of baseball's least potent lineup while Victor Martinez has been on the DL, has hit .270 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs while slugging .493! in 148 at bats. I don't hesitate to say that I would take every single American League starting catcher over Varitek and I know that every one of them could be defensible on a purely statistical basis.

2. Ichiro Suzuki -- again -- This one's on the fans. Yeah, here we go again. Japanese people should not be permitted to vote for the All-Star Game, because they really make a mockery of the All-Star game, electing both Ichiro Suzuki and Kosuke Fukudome as starters (thank god for Chase Utley, otherwise Kaz Matsui was almost assured a spot of his own). Kosuke is certainly unworthy, but not nearly unworthy on the level of Ichiro. Ichiro has warranted being in the All-Star game in years past, but this is not one of them. He's .304/.362/.376 for a whopping OPS of .738, an OPS matched only by 22 other outfielders in the American League, out of 32 who are eligible. Yes, Ichiro steals bases, and yes, that brings some value, but even if we added those thirty three steals to his slugging percentage (turn 33 singles into doubles), which is an utterly preposterous exaggeration of their value, since doubles are hits that lead to other batters scoring more frequently, whereas steals only help if people after Ichiro get hits...Ichiro has an OPS of .920, which would be good for the second best in the American League...except that if we did that for everyone else, he'd still barely be clinging to the top 10. He has the 13th best OBP among qualifying AL outfielders, he's not a good defensive player in centerfield (.879 zone rating, roughly equivalent to Josh Hamilton (.874), way behind Sizemore .922 and Granderson .909), and his inclusion leads to Brandon Morrow missing an all-star game even though he has an ERA of 0.65! and has become an effective closer (7 saves in 7 opportunities) after dominating in a setup role.

3. Joe Crede? Seriously? - Joe Crede is having a perfectly adequate season for the surprising White Sox. Except whoops...Evan Longoria and Mike Lowell are the only people who have a claim to this spot, given that Guillen is a lock because of his lousy teammates. You can't even blame this one on old-school people who are enamored with batting average to the exclusion of OBP and OPS, because Crede is worse than Lowell and Longoria in substantially worse than both Lowell and Longoria in average, OBP, and OPS.

4. Derek Jeter - This is on the fans, but would have been on the players, who would have chosen him anyway. This guy is a really shitty baseball player, and I am so tired of seeing him get sucked off by baseball as a whole. He's not even the second best shortstop in the American League (see my analysis on, which has only been skewed more in Peralta's favor since I wrote it), but he gets voted in without even a thought as to whether another person is more worthy. In fact, no shortstops are particularly worthy, Pedroia should just be forced to play shortstop in the all-star game to make room for adequate infielders, but Jeter is definitely not worth starting.

5. It "counts" - This one's on the commissioner. The home field advantage for the World Series is stupid and reeks of Bud Selig trying to make things "relevant".

Honorable mentions: the fact that someone other than Cliff Lee will inevitably start the All-Star game, Miguel Tejada, Brian Wilson, Pat Burrell being left behind despite leading NL outfielders in OPS, Miguel Tejada, the fact that I have to admit Jason Giambi's steroided ass is worthy of playing in the All-Star game, Xavier Nady being left off.

Dan's Top 5:

Now, I haven't been paying that much attention to baseball this year, but I have been paying attention enough to realize that the Cubs are one of the best teams in the majors, at least in terms of winning percentage. Being the superstitious fan I am, I refuse to pay further attention to the game until I am sure that they have secured a playoff spot and cannot possibly collapse. So that's my disclaimer - I haven't been paying attention this season. And I'm too lazy to look up any more than the most basic of stats.

1. The Boston Red Sox - Wow, Boston be representin' with seven players. They must be lighting up the standings. Wait, what's that? They're not even winning their division? Where the hell are the Rays? Don't tell me that the reason that Tampa Bay is 4.5 games ahead of the Red Sox is because of Navarro and Kazmir alone. Now, to be fair, I'll give you #2...

2. Seven versus Seven - Both Boston and the Chicago Cubs have seven players elected to the All-Star Game. Even as a fan of the Cubs, I think this is a bit much. Let the World Series come at the end of the season, no matter how badly you wanted to see both teams make it in 2003. Wait, my whole argument assumes that there are other players in the NL that are suitable for the All Star roster... How about Xavier Nady or something? He's batting fucking .321. (I actually hadn't even looked at Tim's list for this idea before I wrote this one.)

3. Derek Jeter - I see that he's already made Tim's list, and after reading his capsule review, I wholeheartedly agree and have nothing of value to add. Why the hell do the people of New York like this asshat more than Alex Rodriguez anyway?

4. Yankee Stadium - This is the stadium's last year, right? OK, so there's a hint of wistful nostalgia here. But remember that this will essentially be the Cubs versus the Red Sox. Let's pray that it doesn't turn into the Cubs versus the Red Sox versus the drunk, pissed off New Yorkers. Then again, that would make for a hell of a Youtube video highlight.

5. Jason Varitek - Ok, after doing a bare minimum of research, I can see how this was Tim's #1. I think I'd rather have Kelly Shoppach on the All Star team than Varitek. Apart from the funny name, that's not even a joke. (Again, thought of this before I read Tim's response.)

Honorable Mention: Only Two Rays? - This was covered in #1 already, but seriously, it deserves one more mention.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver - I realize that by now we should be resigned to the fact that Fox owns the All-Star game. But I'm sorry, watching any sports on Fox makes me sad. Joe Buck's voice makes my skin crawl. (This and this pretty much sum it up for Buck.) As for Tim McCarver... well, I have a natural hatred for anyone associated with St. Louis (see Buck). And Fox is hiding the Family Guy clip I want to link to, so here's the dialog:
Brian Griffin: Well, I guess Stewie couldn't be any worse than Tim McCarver is at sportscasting.

[cut to Tim McCarver sportscasting]

Tim McCarver: In my view, as good as the Yankees were in the first half of this game, that's how as bad they've been now.

2. Jason Varitek - I agree with what Tim and Dan said. This really is the biggest All-Star mistake, I think everyone should agree with that.

3. 2/3 of the Cubs Outfield Starting - Anyone whose stats compare favorably with Alex Gordon this year shouldn't be starting in an all-star game. Also, if these two get in, shouldn't David DeJesus, who's arguably having a better year than both? The answer is no. None of them should.

4. Brian Wilson - This was the first name that jumped out at me (after, obviously Varitek, Soriano, Kosuke, Ichiro). Do we need two Giants in this game? Is the National League that bad? The Royals are a better team than the Giants, but we only get our best player in the game. Look, give this spot to Cole Hamels, please. Or another reliever--Jon Rauch? (The Nationals aren't that far off... though Cristian Guzman really shouldn't be in this game, I am not going to look at his stats, it's common sense, it's like you telling me the Chiefs would be in the Super Bowl next year.); Takashi Saito, Hong-Chih Kuo, Francisco Cordero, etc.?

5. Evan Longoria - First he gets left off the opening day roster, now the all-star roster. Come on, folks. Give the rookie his due. I'd much rather watch an up-and-coming superstar than Joe Crede (see Tim's list) or Mike freaking Lowell.

Dishonorable Mention: I hate the Home Run Derby, but I will watch it, and thus I will have to listen to Chris Berman for the first time since football season.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Top 5 Games on the NES

All I can say is I can't believe we didn't think of this before. So here's to all the wasted hours of my youth spent with the Nintendo Entertainment System!

Dan's Top 5:

1. Super Mario Bros. 3 - By far the best game in the entire system's history. It's hard to take a side-scrolling game - much less a Mario game - to a new level, but SMB 3 did it. This game was so huge, it required a major motion picture to unveil it. Of course, a more thorough review of both the game and the movie can be found courtesy of James Rolfe, the Angry Video Game Nerd.

2. Dragon Warrior - I really need to thank this game for saving me from what could have been an unhealthy obsession with the Final Fantasy series. I got the game free somehow - I seem to remember it being associated with my subscription to Nintendo Power magazine. Anyway, this game is the entire reason I've ever touched any subsequent RPG, and why I've never been surprised that I need to keep walking around outside to level up.

3. Marble Madness - The soundtrack to this game is burned into my memory. Really, it's a remarkably simple game taken from the arcade where you steer a marble towards a goal, trying to avoid both obstacles and the effects of physics. Like the board game Othello, it takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. Unlike Othello, this game will make your eyes bleed.

4. Battletoads - It seems that there might actually be mixed opinion on Battletoads. If so, then that's bullshit. Battletoads was such a unique idea that was so well-executed that it really breathed new life into the side-scrolling action genre later on in the platform's lifetime. In essence, it was the Vectorman of the NES. Know how much I loved Battletoads? I still remember that it was the cover-page game in issue #25 of Nintendo Power. And no, I didn't look that up.

5. Rampage - A giant lizard and a giant ape climbing and destroying buildings. That's it. This game is awesome enough that I don't need to write any more than that.

Honorable mention: Bases Loaded 2: Extra Innings, Dr. Mario, Duck Hunt, TMNT 2: The Arcade Game

Ryan's Top 5:

Surprisingly, I think this brought up more painful memories than happy ones. (I refuse to consider those fucking asshole crooks in Home Alone, a game I didn't beat until I had an emulator.)

Note: I was one of the rare kids who never owned MegaMan, Zelda, or Metroid. I think there's a support group now.

1. Super Mario Bros. 3 - I'm sorry, this is #1, period, on anyone's list. The day my mom bought me this game remains one of my most powerful childhood memories. If I spent one-tenth of the time and energy I gave this game on something more worthwhile, we'd probably have a cure for cancer by now. My bad, folks.

2. Castlevania - I suppose I spent more time watching my dad play this game than actually playing it, but that's like saying I spent more time on War and Peace than on Les Miserables. (Read it again folks, the weirdest analogy ever.) Anyway, this game scared me when I was a kid in the same way that rated-R movies did; it left me wanting more, more, more. If we ever go vampire-hunting, I'll be the one smashing candelabras and scouring the shards for hearts.

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 - The first game in the series reminds me of that riddle about the boulder; can God create a game so hard that even He can't beat it? Anyway, it didn't dampen my enthusiasm for all things Turtle (up to and including this), so when game #2 came out, a little more light started shining in my world.

4. Duck Tales - If you never played this game, then you're probably puzzled by its presence in a Top 5 list. If you played this game, you know. You know.

5. Mike Tyson's Punch Out - It was this or Jaws. This game I easily watched more than I played, at my friend's house with every kid in the neighborhood. Who cares? I remember specific bouts with King Hippo or Don Flamenco better than any real-life boxing match. And hey, why has no one ever made a remake of this game?

Honorable mention: Jaws (probably my #6), Super Mario Bros 1, Tecmo Bowl (Joe Montana 94 was the first football game I was obsessed with), Tetris (more of a gameboy thing), Double Dragon 2, Ninja Gaiden (damn it, I did the whole list and left out Ninja Gaiden, damn it, damn it, damn it, all right, let's pretend this didn't happen, move along, move along...), Duck Hunt, Bubble Bobble, Marble Madness, NOT HOME ALONE.

Tim's Top 5:
Because my parents loved us, they didn't have to give my brother or myself a NES until we were almost too old to enjoy it. Emphasis on almost. Thus, we could stop making friends with people based on the available gaming options they had. However, it also shows because I owned...four of the games that get mentioned on the list at all (SMB3, Super Off Road, NES Play Action, Darkwing Duck, Baseball Stars) -- the rest were rentals, so my love for them was developed quickly, but has lasted to this day. I also didn't have any Zelda games (good for me, I've since determined), Metroid, Tecmo Bowl...

1. Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves - I have endorsed this game to everyone I know that I have ever so much as mentioned a Nintendo game to. Basically, four people. I didn't own the game, but I rented it, and that was enough to make me want to play it forever...but then my Nintendo died. The best thing about it was that you could play as multiple characters, including Azeem, which is the closest you'll ever get to being Morgan Freeman. It gives you multiple perspectives (who can forget melee mode?), and you kept adding people to your crew, including Duncan, who is blind. It mixes RPG elements with the actual gameplay. If you never played it, you can see it on this guy's Youtube review, although he hates the game.

2. Super Mario Bros. 3 - I was actually the asshole who enjoyed Super Mario Bros. 2, but I was outvoted 1-1 by my brother, so we never actually owned it. This game just had a lot of great stuff in it. The graphics were a huge improvement on anything we'd seen from Nintendo, it was in the awesome movie The Wizard starring Fred Savage, the raccoon tail that would enable you to fly...that came from a leaf (none of these things are indicative of flight in the outside world), the Tanooki suit that was all but unusable, but cool anyway. The frog suit that would be awesome in some levels and a total hindrance if you managed to keep it beyond the water levels. The only real downside was that it was too easy to get all of these things, so there was no real challenge to the game when you got the strategy guide free with Nintendo Power.

3. Dr. Mario - All right, I only ever played this for the Nintendo 64, but it's one of the greatest games ever concocted by human minds. Even though it's very similar to Tetris, it discriminates against the color blind. Good enough for me. Oh, it also turns out that I'm really really good at Dr. Mario 64. That's all it takes.

4. Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's Super Off Road! - Ah, Ivan "Ironman" Stewart, your fame will never...begin. To this day, I have no clue who you are, though presumably you drive a truck through mud and run over nitro tablets. It was one of the rare games where I could occasionally beat my brother, though even that was rare. I'm not sure what it was that made me so videogame incompetent then, though I know that it probably carries on to this day.

5. NES Play Action Football - This was the football game I played, not that stupid Tecmo Bowl that everyone remembers. It's really not a very good game, and its comical reduction of football teams to only two or three changeable positions and a bizarre ratings system that made Maurice Carthon a tremendous running back and Ottis Anderson a drooling mental defect incapable of outrunning a defensive tackle or breaking a tackle from a cornerback with a 'boop' noise were among this game's many charms. It also reduced the NFL to 10 teams, but still included Sammy Winder.

Honorable mention: The Mega Man series, Darkwing Duck, Ninja Gaiden, Baseball Stars - you could upgrade your was an amazing innovation, though ultimately self-defeating since you would get better ... and then the game would get easier, Star Wars (not The Empire Strikes Back, that game was ludicrously hard, I don't think I ever got beyond the Ice Planet Hoth), Not Bart vs. the Space Mutants. We paid a lot of money for that lousy game.