Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Rundown, NBA Playoff Prediction Style

Obviously, I’m a big fan of the internet and its effect on discussions of everything, from politics and sports to movies and television. Before, you could only get opinions or coverage from the national or local media or your friends, which sometimes ended up between “lacking” and “completely worthless”. With the advent of the internet, there are dozens of sites I can go to for my daily fill of news, sports and entertainment, all without turning on a television or going near a mainstream source (although I often do).

My aversion to message boards bleeds over into my aversion towards arguments created and sustained within a comments thread. I like my opinions supported by a laid-out argument and facts, which is why I like it when people maintain websites to publish their thoughts. While they’re still just some random person on the internet posting theories on the upcoming NBA playoffs or why Lost is a good show, they have an identity and location beyond just “IrishRover45” or “LillyLover69”. While I love comment threads at certain places (most of them listed to the left, such as ThrowingThings), others are just a cesspool of stupid people trying to be clever and failing miserably.

I bring this up because Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch addressed the subject, and I encourage you to read the entire lengthy piece, but the gist:

Yet what really got my juices flowing was the response to a friend of mine's review of a Taylor Hicks (pictured) concert in Newsday earlier this month. If you read J. Edward Keyes's text here, you'll see that he actually enjoyed the concert a great deal, calling the Soul Patroller "canny" and "giddy," while allowing that beneath his enthusiasm, his vocals were just "passable." It's a solid, well-written piece of criticism, touching on the Idol fan phenomenon and betraying what seems like a genuine fondness for Hicks himself, which, P.S., totally ruins my friend's hipster music-blogger cred.

And then, just below his review, I found the inevitable comment board... and I was shocked, not just at the negativity (which I've just come to expect lately), but also the total lack of reading comprehension skills on display. Fans thought my friend was mocking Taylor, calling him "rude" and using plenty of capital letters to display their distaste for his "so-called" review. But it was comments from a gentleman writing under the name "Dave Matthews" that stopped me in my tracks: "Wonder why you never get promoted?" he wrote. "Because if you cannot find something good to say about a concert in your area that made money for everyone, who needs ya?" Huh? I mean, ignoring for a second the unnecessary personal attack, there is the implication that a critic's job is not, in fact, to criticize. "Matthews" then went on to post his example of a "winning" review, which you can read here.

And that all came after I had to see a bunch of idiots completely misinterpret a Grant Hill As Knut The Polar Bear post I came across the night before and sent to a few people, simply because I think the baby polar bear is the cutest thing ever. How do you not get that post, and if you don’t get it, why would you bother posting?

My main point is: Despite the fact the internet is great for letting intelligent, well-meaning people discuss their passions and get information on it, it also lets the crazies out to voice their concerns and embarrass themselves. This doesn’t happen in the real world because they can be (mostly) shamed into silence, but sadly, through the anonymity parts of the internet provide, that’s not the case.

(But seriously, though, how cute are baby polar bears? Can I perhaps get one? Please?

NBA PLAYOFF MINI-PREVIEW: 1) Pistons vs. 8) Magic. The Magic started the season off as well as any team, but other than Dwight Howard’s sweet buzzer-beating alley oop over Tim Duncan, didn’t have a whole lot to celebrate in the 2007 calendar year. Is this all because they drafted JJ Redick? You might think not, but I would 100% think so. Darko and Grant Hill return to Detroit and steal a couple, but are mostly overmatched. PISTONS IN SIX.

2) Cavaliers vs. 7) Wizards. This would be a fantastic rematch from last year if Agent Zero and Caron Butler were up and running, but injuries have robbed us of Gilbert Arenas for the 2007 playoffs. LeBron will coast on a night Antawn Jamison goes off, but the sooner this Wizards season is put to bed, the better. CAVALIERS IN FIVE.

As stated here before, the Virginia Tech tragedy is obviously a terrible, terrible thing, no matter how it’s covered. Still, the cable news networks need something to report on with no new information coming out, so I wasn’t overly surprised to see MSNBC pulling out the “Killer played violent video game ‘Counter-Strike’” segment Wednesday afternoon. I figured violent video games being blamed Wednesday mean that by Friday afternoon, it’ll be 24 behind this whole thing.

If we’re going to point out one obviously disturbed person who did something terrible as playing video games, then I think we need to point out everyone who plays violent video games and doesn’t do anything wrong. In high school, Baker, Drew, Dill, Livey, Seth, Todd and I all played Counter-Strike everyday in Mrs. Bart’s room, and last time I checked, we were all doing okay. Most of Dillon Hall played Halo 2 freshmen year, but I think everyone’s doing okay there.

Thankfully, there are sites far more in love with video games than this one doing the dirty work, from pointing out that Dr. Phil (who I guarantee is more screwed up than anyone he helps) got owned by Rush Limbaugh (?) and showing that FoxNews, of course, is spewing completely unverified lies.

But hey, when all else fails, why not blame video games?

Also, beatdown by Chris Matthews on the same FoxNews liar.

3) Raptors vs. 6) Nets. This might be the most interesting series on East, just because Toronto fans hate Vince Carter so much that there will be hate palpable in the air anytime they’re north of the border playing. Raptor fans will say that their team is playing at a high level and will lay out the Nets, who don’t have any match for Chris Bosh inside, but I’ll take Kidd, Carter and Jefferson over anything the Raptors throw out on the perimeter any day of the week. NETS IN SIX.

4) Heat vs. 5) Bulls. Was talking to Pocz, who along with Avants comprises my crack team of Chicago Sports Experts, and we both agreed that A) The Bulls not locking up the 2 seed was the worst case scenario and B) In no way is Kirk Hinrich a “Wade Stopper” or capable of getting into Flash’s head. Shaq cleans up inside, Wade takes care of stuff outside and while Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas do what they play please, no one denies Wade in the clutch. HEAT IN SEVEN.

In “Various Crushes of Mine in Cinema” news, Norah Jones’ first feature film will be opening up Cannes, and yes, I’m still nervous Wong Kar Wai and Jude Law are both involved. I’m not sure how I’ll react if Norah fails at this new venture, but you can bet that my first reaction will be to blame everyone else involved before her.

Also, Rachel McAdams is still sans R-Gos, and will be starring opposite the always game Eric Bana in The Time Traveler’s Wife. This is relevant because the future McAdams-Wilson has been rather selective in her roles after the Mean Girls/Notebook/Wedding Crashers/Red Eye/Family Stone romp of box office destruction and there’s a lot of praise directed towards the novel this film is based on.

1) Mavericks vs. 8) Warriors. I couldn’t be more excited about a series then I am for Golden State to remind Dallas what Nellie Ball is all about. The Warriors and their fans endured a decade-plus playoff drought but were returned to the postseason after a Baron David and Jason Richardson-led late season surge. They define the term small ball, and if the Mavericks want another shot at the NBA Finals, they have a long journey ahead of them. I BELIEVE. WARRIORS IN SEVEN.

2) Suns vs. 7) Lakers. This series was one of the all-time greats last year and will be immortalized by Jack McCallum’s fantastic Suns book, which are memories the Lakers might want to hold onto considering Amare’s back and they’re playing terrible basketball. Kobe goes off a couple of times, Suns take care of business. SUNS IN FIVE.

Glad to have Entourage back, but it doesn’t mean that much if nothing happens, which is exactly what’s transpired in the first two episodes. Although on the plus-side, Sloane made multiple appearances in episode two, which is great. Chance to gratuitously post a picture of Emmanuelle Chriqui? I have no shame:

Along the same lines, lame Challenge and Real World this week, although Brooke flipping out about Random Awkward Guy wanting to take her bowling and Danny, apparently trying to prove his “Bad-Assness” and throwing a tantrum after the battering ram challenge made up for the rather slow episodes.

After I made a comment about not enjoying 30 Rock two weeks ago, Sean, Patrick and Rob all attacked me, so I’ll be sure to point out that it was hilarious last night. Tracy Morgan, Alec Baldwin, “The Black Crusaders”, the happy Cleveland montage. The golden triumvirate of comedy this season – The Office, 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother – have all turned in top-notch episodes over the last couple of weeks.

(If you’ve got a few minutes and want to know why I love HIMYM despite the laugh track, read this entire article. If CBS cancels this, with word that Veronica’s gone and Friday Night Lights is no sure thing, will break me.)

3) Spurs vs. 6) Nuggets. If I wasn’t so excited for the 1/8 match-up out West, this would be the apple of my eye. Carmelo and the Nuggets have lost three straight first-round series, although this time he’s got AI in his corner to help out against the boring, terrible-to-watch, monotonous Spurs. Denver has enough big bodies to throw at Duncan, but I just can’t see them pulling this off. I’m going to pick the Spurs…aw, hell, why not….NUGGETS IN SEVEN. I STILL BELIEVE.

4) Jazz vs. 5) Rockets. Should the Mavericks make it by the Warriors (which they aren’t doing), then I hope the Rockets pull this out to see T-Mac vs. Dirk in a rematch of the 2005 series that went seven. The Jazz are sort of like the Magic in that they’re very foreign, don’t have a “s” on the end of their name and started out a lot better then they finished. ROCKETS IN SIX.

Just a few links to close things out:

I like it when people use math to breakdown rap lyrics. (HT: ALOTT5MA).

One of my favorite McSweeney’s of all-time: Question after listening to “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. My favorite?

33. And even if he didn't get Johnny's soul, what is Johnny going to say to God in heaven when he has to explain that he bet his soul, the essence of life, God's one true gift, on a fiddle contest?

Alberto Gonzales fears coming on Meet The Press, plays (?) dumb in committee hearing. Marker boards are sweet.

The first Spiderman 3 reviews are rolling in, and as predicted after seeing the rather uninspiring trailers, they are not so good. And even if Ocean’s Thirteen is more like Twelve than Eleven, at least they have a sweet poster:

[i] My initial reaction to the concept that “Hey, if this kid was so disturbed, how come nobody knew?” was that “If you start targeting every melodramatic, brooding college student, the administration would be crushed under the weight of its own outreaching ambition”. After reading the plays and hearing the stories from his professors, including Nikki Giovanni, this kid probably needed to be taken to a mental hospital more than once.

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