Wednesday, December 21, 2005

There's A Tree In The Grand Hotel

You're probably saying "Geez, Chris, I thought you were going to use all this free time of break to blog a lot more?", and I'd have to say "I did, too".

But after a slow start, I'm now on a roll. My Christmas shopping is all but complete, and I just need to wrap everything. I've blogged on the NFL and The OC in the last twenty-four hours, and we've also completed the entirely-simulated-and-in-no-way-accurate Blog Championship Tournament First Round.

I've also been busy having the transmission die in my car, progressing slowly into Catch-22 and enjoying the new 57-inch TV in the Wilson Ranchero living room, otherwise known as my second favorite piece of electronic equipment behind Tivo. I've discovered that you can get the first season of The OC on Amazon for only 30 bucks, or for ten bucks more score both seasons of Arrested Development. I've reserved our room for New Years Eve at Casino Niagara, seen The Family Stone and been blown away by The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

So in case you were wondering, that's where I've been. Let's ramble.

(And in case you were questioning the legitimacy of my genius, the "A-" in Existentialist Themes should inform you I'm a true scholar. Or quality BS-er. One or the other.)


I got to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra Sunday evening down at Mellon Arena, and it was as fantastic as you'd think it be. They really were some weird form of rock classical, with four electric guitarists, a massive drum set and complete classical section all up on stage, along with a green room full of vocalists they'd trot out from time to time. The first part of the show was a Christmas story, so they needed a narrator, and he too was exceptional, although he had the awkward task of sitting up on stage and swaying wildly to every song they played when he wasn't speaking.

They went all-out with the special effects, blowing fake snow out into the crowd, shooting off laser and strobe lights with reckless abandon, keeping a constant flow of fog rolling off the stage and blasting off bursts of fireworks, or just straight fire, at random times. With all these special effects and theatrics, it would be easy for them not to be as great musically, but they really were.

They started with "Wizard in Winter", hit more than a few holiday classics ("Hark The Herald Angel Sings", "Nutcracker Suite") and of course - of course- mixed "Carol of the Bells" in there. They actually played "Carol of the Bells" as the final song of their encore, and had their lead guitarists get on a giant platform that levetated into the sky (?).

So if you're considering holiday CD's to get your through the rest of this Christmas week, pick up any of TSO's holiday trilogy. Good stuff.


Do not pick up Harry Connick, Jr's Harry For the Holidays. Maybe it grows on you or something, but as of now, terrible.


If you're a casual observer of college football and wondering why anyone would care about these stupid bowls leading up to the January 2nd biggies, allow me to inform you that tonight is one of those random games well worth your time.

The GMAC Bowl, live from Mobile, Alabama will surely entertain you on a cold Wednesday night. You've got Carson Palmer's little brother and the strip-club hopping Mike Price leading the UTEP Miners against The Next Big Ben/Byron/Chad Pennington/Awesome MAC QB Bruce Gradkowski.

Last year's game featured Omar The Great vs. DeAngelo Williams in a high-scoring affair, and I doubt this one will disappoint. Just trust me and flick on ESPN some time tonight.


Sticking with the college football vein, I believe the green-and-gold-from-USC Samardjiza will be available at the first of the year, so if you were waiting like I was, your chance is slowly arriving. Look how happy Jeff is that his new threads will be available!


Also in the holiday vein, Ash and I saw The Family Stone Saturday night. It's probably worth seeing for the cast alone, but I'm a softy for ensembles. Sarah Jessica Parker's character is both awkward and loathesome, and completely unlikeable when confronted with the likes of Luke Wilson, Craig T. Nelson, Diane Keaton, Claire Danes and Rachel McAdams. Rachel continues her fantastic run of acing every role, and needs some reward for her consistent greatness that started back with Mean Girls and hasn't slowed down over the last few years.

The main problem with the movie is that while it appears to be a "dramedy", it wanders way too far into the drama realm to have as many comedic moments as it does. It's multi-polar, switching wildly from super-sad to super-funny to super-serious to super-awkward at the drop of a hat. A really heavy hat with no sort of air resistance that came crashing down to make you laugh/cringe/tug at your heart strings out. As Anna put it, "It's stressful on the tear ducts."

Good holiday entertainment, if only for Luke and Rachel, but just be prepared for something that's absolutely all over the place.


Ever since I started discussing taking over the Atlanta Hawks NBA organization with Jake and Dill, they've put together a solid run, winning four of five and climbing within the reach of a playoff hunt. What we figured is that the Hawks were so poorly run that we could come in and immediately inject the life into the entire building that we'd rebuild them into a contender. As of now, though, they're a point guard and some experience for the Josh's and Marvin Williams away from being a pretty tough team. We were going to trade Al Harrington before this minor winning run, but now we're considering building the team around him, Joe Johnson and Zaza Pachulia, giving us a front line of epic proportion.

Of course, we still need a point guard, because the Royal Ivey/Salim Stoudamire/Tyron Lue platoon is not going to do it. Time to trade the Clippers anything they want for the best young point guard in basketball that didn't go to Wake Forest:

That's just exciting to look at.


I feel like everyone needs to take the time with their winter break and go see King Kong. Yes, it's three hours long and that's much longer than any movie should be, but you have to accept that going in. While it certainly feels like a three hour movie at times, some of the time the action is just flying by. It's worth it for the sweet-ass scenes on the island alone, as every manner of scary dinosaur or giant insect is attacking our band of merry heroes.

You don't have to worry about the action completely taking over, because the cast is great. Kyle Chandler from Early Edition, Colin Hanks returning to the big screen and holding his own just fine (Dad must be proud), Jack Black not straying too far into Tenacious territory and the Naomi Watts/Adrien Brody combo doing fine as our romantic leads. Again, it's three freaking hours long, and that's a problem, but it's something you have to expect. There are some logistical questions that go unanswered (How'd they get the monkey into the boat?), but they were unanswered in the 1933 original, so I'll allow it for the sake of continuity.

Overall, it's just a really good movie you won't mind spending the eight bucks on. Hey, you're at least getting your money's worth as opposed to some normal-lengthed two hour movie. Load up on snacks, plan your bathroom break well and rock it out. There's snow and Christmas lights, so it's for the holiday season as much as a Die Hard by the end.


If you didn't attend West Shamokin and have no intent of seeing my wrath towards Coach Nagy, then please skip the rest of this post. Remember, the post office delivers on Christmas Eve, so any birthday presents you might send to me can be rush-delivered from an order as late as Friday morning. I was thinking I'd enjoy getting into Veronica Mars or learning how to build cool shit on McGyver, and I'd take this sweet Barry Sanders throwback. Use your best judgment, or just send a gift card. I'm not a picky guy.

For those of you who stuck around for the tongue-lashing, my feelings towards Coach Nagy's coaching philosophy needs no introduction. It's a belief shared by a majority of ex-players, students and alumni who've seen the man in action. We got to see our first West Shamokin basketball game of the season last night, and while the Wolves hung in there for a while against an insanely athletic, very good Jeanette team, they eventually fell by higher-end double digits. But still, Coach Nagy managed to show his genius in a couple of instances.

First, with about a minute left in the third quarter and Jeanette up 12, the Wolves force a turnover and fast break down back down. Cal Gibson, who I've never talked to in my life (God, I'm getting old), gets a wide open three and takes it. The shot barely avoids going down and Phil was in position to rebound and would have if not for the 6' 5" Coming-To-A-Division-One-Program-Near-You Jarrell Prior snagging it away from him. Now, I don't know if Cal is a great three-point threat, but I can't imagine he's that bad if he's putting that shot up in a varsity game.

During the next time out, Coach Nagy is screaming at Cal for not knowing how much time is on the clock. There was a minute left! I know he might want to stall out the last part of the quarter, but he had a wide open look with a rebounder in position that would have cut the lead to single digits going into the fourth quarter. Considering his shrill screaming didn't attack the type of shot, and only "not knowing the situation", I'm assuming that's not where the problem lay.

Later on in the 4th, after Franky has been flying all over the floor, trying to create for his teammates and getting blanketed by the quick, lanky Jayhawk defenders in their press, Coach Nagy informs him "That he's killing us". No sort of constructive criticism, nothing to help Franky improve, just "You're killing us, Franky!!!" that had us all shaking our heads. Franky wasn't playing that well, but for the sixth consecutive year, a West Shamokin basketball team was completely thrown off by a full court press. Granted, there was a young team on the floor, but because people weren't in position and Franky was trying to get it over the time line in ten seconds, I don't think it warrants yelling at him that he's killing the team.

I've said it once and I'll say it a thousand more times. Equal teams. Best of seven. I win in five simply because my team would not be terrified of getting yanked out of the game for trying to create for a teammate.

(Mr. Powers, I hope you read and enjoyed that, knowing you can never acknowledge it in public but heartily laughing.)

GMAC BOWL tonight, people. Do not miss it, unless your excuse has the words Muppet, Rudolph, Frosty or Jingle in it.

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