Thursday, July 31, 2008

Columbus was a Panzy: Book Review of 1421.

The summer usually affords me time to curl up with a good book (or two) and disconnect from television (with the exception of Big Brother). To broaden my horizons, I cracked open Gavin Menzies' historical novel 1421, which focuses on the Chinese nautical adventures taking place during the reign of the Ming emperor Zhu Di. One need travel no further than the cover page for Menzies' unorthodox thesis, which states the Chinese discovered America. By cross referencing the title of the book with an old nursery school rhyme, Menzies places the Chinese in North and South American some seven decades before Columbus took his historic voyage into the unknown. While the book is considered blasphemy by the orthodox historical community, it unearths many fascinating pieces of evidence that are impossible to ignore. I don't want to ruin the book by discussing too much, yet let me say it is worth every page. Aside from the revelation that the Chinese were bad-ass explorers, here are some of the more random facts the book cited while making its case.

5. Indians sported pearls in their penises (for the ladies)

For some reason, Menzies chose to elaborate quite often on the sexual behaviors of fifteenth century India. One passage from the book cites Niccolo da Conti's account whereby he recalled the tinkling noises made when young men walked because they had inserted beads into their penis. The beads were inserted to enliven the sexual experience. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Gross.

4. Chinese trained otters to hunt for fish in the middle of the ocean

Seriously, forget having a trained monkey, I want a trained otter that can catch fish for me. I'm not even joking about this one. The Chinese affixed ropes to the legs of otters which could wrangle schools of fish into the waiting nets of Chinese seamen. So much for running out of food. The Chinese would launch these animals from flooded compartments in the holds of the Junk ships, which leads me to my discussion of Chinese ships and our next amazing fact from 1421.

3. The Titanic doesn't have sh^* on a Chinese junk ship

One of the many technological innovations which the White Star Line (creators of Titanic) marveled at where Titanic's watertight compartments, which could allow the Titanic to stay afloat even if it had begun to take on water. We all see how well that worked, but I digress. The Chinese used a system similar on their massive junk ships, some few hundred years before the White Star Line even existed. The Chinese also employed various shipbuilding innovations that would be copied by other nations around the world for years to come. You'll have to read the book to find them out. They're freakin' amazing!

2. Sea Cucumbers, when eaten, are an aphrodisiac

Much like revelation number five, this is gross. I'm going to turn it over to wikipedia to describe, and unlike other wiki entries, this one is real. Think of it as ancient Viagra.

1. Being a Eunuch sucks.

Zheng-He (leader of the expedition) was a eunuch. If you don't know what a eunuch is, look it up. The most disturbing, and oddly fascinating aspect of 1421 was the description of how Zheng-He became a eunuch and what it entailed. This is another fascinating wiki search, but I will warn you it is not for those with a weak stomach.

While I only listed gross and disturbing facts from the book, there are so many reasons to read it. Unlike other historical novels, it does not read like a textbook. Despite its outstanding prose, 1421's power lies in its ability to challenge everything you thought you knew about the world, while making you ponder about other lies history books propagated on our gullible civilization.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Top 20 Albums of All-Time (From Yahoo Blog)

This article caught my eye when I was doing a search on Yahoo, so I decided to give it a read. There are some interesting albums listed here, and the number one was a total shocker! Check it out and see what you think. Maybe our resident music writer (Bryan would like to make a comment, or submit his own version?) 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Facebook called, and you're application is pissing them off!

Facebook has taken the world by storm because of its ability to keep in touch with people while creating a digital signature of your own. It is kinda creepy that you can learn virtually everything about your friends within seconds, thanks to minute by minute updates of their profile. Additionally, there are other applications that are created by third party developers which will try the patience of even the most peaceful individuals. In this list we pay tribute to the applications this author would like to see eradicated from the Facebook application catalogue.

5. The Entourage Application

While virtually every fan of the show is bound to organize their own Entourage of friends, it is a bit far reaching to think that one person could "roll with" over two hundred individuals. There are few people of historical significance that "rolled" with hundred of people simultaneously, and if one is comparing himself with Jesus, Gandhi, or Louis XVI, then they are delusional. I have no problem with this application, but seriously it should be limited since nobody travels, eats, and arrives with over two hundred people to one place with regularity.

4. Lil' Green Garden Patches

Stop sending me plants for a fictitious garden patch. Also, please stop sending me "pieces of flare" and fish for a fake aquarium. I hate accumulating garbage trinkets in real life, let alone allow them to clutter up my Facebook page. Some people really dig these applications, but I don't understand them. What is the allure of the garden patch? Is it aesthetically pleasing, or does it make one feel good that somebody thought enough of them to send them a fake plant? I guess it's the thought that counts.

3. What ________ character are you?

When I first arrived in the Facebook community I was drawn into these faux tests which can correctly predict what character you would be on your favorite show/movie from a questionnaire. After completing approximately two of these assessments, I realized what a pile of dung they were. Any twit with half a brain can manufacture the outcome of the test to say whatever it is they desire. Very few males want to be diagnosed as Marge from the Simpson's test, so they will fudge a few answers to become Homer or Bart. They should rename these applications "what character from ___________ would you like to be?"

2. The "V" List Live Feed Widget

The V List widget could be the biggest pile of trash in the Facebook application catalogue. In fact, it could easily be the number one on this list, but it pisses me off slightly less than the next entry. This widget took about fifteen minutes to customize using a combination of two websites and some html language. The final product was an application that will not run automatically when the page loads up. It shows that the widget is a movie (which in fact it is not) and then asks the person to click play. Upon clicking on the widget it will take you to another page where a 3 inch widget is set in the middle of a gigantic page, and has a feed of our articles and movies. What a rip off! Facebook should give me the freedom to at least develop an aesthetically pleasing widget that works. Curse you and you half assed developers kit, because now my application is being listed by some site in the blogosphere as one of the worst on Facebook.

1. Mob Wars

I am all about online gaming, however please don't pretend Mob Wars or Vampire Slayer are games, because they are not. There are thousands of other flash games that would be better suited for Facebook, but these two "games" are the most annoying applications out there. I don't mind people sending me invites, but at this point, I could literally be in about 15-20 different "families" if I had clicked the accept button. As a student of Godfather and Goodfellas, I would have been whacked several times over for betraying the advice of Michael Corleone. Everybody knows you never go against the family, something which I would have done some fourteen times over. I also tried vampire hunting and superheroes, but those "games" become equally mundane after a week. I you want to play some serious games, look me up on xbox live and we can do some real damage. As for the Facebook crap that they call entertainment. I'll pass.

NFL 'Fight' Songs

In lieu of my post regarding baseball-related musical renderings, here are some (pathetic, I might add) NFL 'fight' songs, from the likes of the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, and the Chicago Bears, proud minds behind 1985's Super Bowl Shuffle (the video below clocks in at seven minutes, plenty of time to cackle at Walter Payton's line about likening football to 'making romance'). Do tunes like these really get the fans up and at them? If so, aficionados of the gridiron are better off ignoring these songs and indulging in more tailgating and boozing.

5. Green Bay Packers

4. Miami Dolphins, Number One!

3. Fly, Eagles, Fly!

2. Pittsburgh, Here We Go!

1. Da Bears' Super Bowl Shuffle

Monday, July 28, 2008

Celebrating 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame'

There is but one song about our national pastime that continues to be used regularly since its inception 100 years ago: Jack Norworth's Take Me Out to the Ballgame. Originally sung by Norworth's wife, the song has been reproduced numerous times (as it has every seventh inning at Wrigley since 1982, when broadcaster Harry Caray started the tradition; recently, it has been butchered by the likes of Eddie Vedder, Ozzy Osbourne, Vince Vaughn, and Mike Ditka), and yet, it was penned by an individual who had never seen the game played before. Since the song was written, several teams have produced songs that have incited rally cries and inspired fans to get behind their team. Provided for you here are several of those songs, complete with a Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra version of Ballgame and the marketable talent of Batting Stance Guy.
5. Batting Stance Guy

4. Go Yankees!

3. Meet the Mets!

2. Go Cubs Go!!
Note about this addition: folk-singer and Cubs fanatic Steve Goodman penned the song in 1984, the first time Chicago played in the playoffs since 1945 (and sadly, the very year Goodman died). For the past 24 years, Cubs fans sing this tune in unison after every Cubs win; it truly is a sight to behold.

1. Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Can't Say I Saw THAT Coming...

Here's to the highly unlikely in baseball: Bo Jackson's dominance of two sports, Ken Caminiti's addiction to cocaine (sadly ending in death), the Red Sox's 2004 ALCS comeback against the Yankees, the Cubbies' 100 year-long drought, the Mets' 2007 collapse (paving way for the resurgence of the National League champion Colorado Rockies), and Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, & Bonds standing little chance to make the Hall of Fame collectively. These teams and individuals watched as irony and karma struck destiny and glory square in the nuts, showing that any and all is possible---and surely against what you initially intended (row-sham-bow, anyone?). Below are five more storylines to add to the mix, all of which will affect the state of our national pastime, for better or for worse.

5. George Bush: The Next Commissioner of Baseball?
Our nation's 43rd leader, Mr. George W. Bush, will go down in history as America's most disgraced commander-in-chief, whose last act in the Oval Office may involve pardoning a self-proclaimed criminal (see Marion Jones). Prior to his tremendously awful tenure in the White House, Bush served as an adequate 'managing general partner' of Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers, who, under his watch, brought a thrilling close to Nolan Ryan's illustrious career. Speculation behind Bush's potential as baseball's leading man rose long before his stint as governor of Texas, as one-time commish Fay Vincent discussed the possibility of Bush serving as baseball commissioner in the 1990's. Upon leaving the White House, baseball commissioner would be an ideal position for W (unfortunately, it is a dream that will be put on hold due to the extension of current commissioner Bud Selig's contract). With Bush at the helm, who knows what would be in store for the game of baseball?

4. Mark Cuban: The Next Cubs Owner
With July dwindling to a close, Mark Cuban, boisterous owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Internet tycoon, has made the final cut (out of three others) as potential principal owner of the Chicago Cubs, a franchise bolstered by fans in love with the North Side's lovable losers. Imagine the Friendly Confines of Wrigley visited constantly by the NBA's most raucous (and most fined) owner, whose antics often earns the ire of referees and fans alike? Imagine a franchise of tradition (Harry Caray, outfield ivy, the post-game Go Cubs Go sing-along, the raising of the white W flag after each Cubs win, and the 7th inning celebrity Take Me Out to the Ballgame rendition) suddenly infused with new, albeit 'far-from-customary,' blood? Say what you will about Cuban's unorthodox ways (he, not his coaching staff, is often the one jeering at referees), Cuban has pumped enough money into the Mavericks to make them relevant again (they were a game removed from taking home the 2006 NBA championship after spending countless decades as the league's doormat). It's one thing to own an NBA franchise: it's a whole other to man one of baseball's most storied organizations. Mark Cuban may be the next man behind the curtain for Chicago.

3. Albert Pujols: Going Against Doctorly Advice....and Dominating
Prior to the 2008 MLB season, Albert Pujols came face-to-face with a career-altering decision: would he forgo the 2008 campaign for surgery or play through unbearable pain in order to continue his monstrous career and, perhaps, put the Cardinals back in the playoffs? The scenario that medical experts conveyed was rather imposing: Pujols, by agreeing to play, would be one errant swing away from shredding, perhaps even separating, the tendon that holds the elbow joint intact. Second opinions further suggested that Pujols could play, although he would be beset by gut-wrenching anguish. Ever the fiery competitor, Pujols opted to play this season, a juncture that has the Cardinals within 6 games of the NL Central-leading Cubs, all thanks to Albert's .353 average, 20 homeruns, and 60 RBI's, including a recent dinger that bested the New York Mets in 14 innings (on Saturday, July 26th). Now that is baseball legacy in the making.

2. Jeff Samardzija: The Cubs' Next Big Thing
Bo Jackson's turn as a two-sport athlete was logical, when you consider Bo's positions (running back for the Raiders and leftfield for the Royals) were dictated by his blazing speed. While contributing swimmingly in both sports, Jackson paved the way for the likes of Deion Sanders, who starred for the Atlanta Braves and Dallas Cowboys, among other NFL clubs. Unfortunately, Jackson endured a hip injury (later resulting in the condition avascular necrosis, which results in a shortening of the blood supply to the pelvic region) that abruptly ended his career in both sports. Enter Jeff Samardzija. In 2006, Jeff Samardzija helped deliver a 10-win season for Notre Dame, ending his career as an All-American wide receiver for the Fighting Irish. Due in part to Samardzija's success, Brady Quinn became a top-20 NFL pick, the heir apparent to Cleveland Browns quarterback Derek Anderson. Many NFL analysts thought Samardzija was pegged for a spot on an NFL roster, seeing as how his footwork was complemented by a set of hands that could reel in any ball thrown his way. But there was the matter of Samardzija's true passion: the sport of baseball. Putting a prestigious past behind him (Jeff holds multiple Notre Dame receiving records), Samardzija ended up signing a $16.5 million incentive-laden contract with the Cubs in 2007. Due to numerous circumstances (stellar Cubs closer Kerry Wood is on the disabled list with a sore blister and Carlos Marmol cannot get a handle on his location), Samardzija was called up to join the Cubs in their most recent series against the Marlins at Wrigley, a time when Jeff compiled his first major league save with an overpowering fastball and slider. Could this be the Cubs' answer in the bullpen that delivers the Cubs their long-awaited World Series victory? Manager Lou Piniella and a legion of Cubs fans sure hope so.

1. Rick Ankiel: From Bust to Boom
Ask your grandfather: what Rick Ankiel has accomplished has never happened in the history of the sport. At the age of 20, Ankiel began his career as a major league hurler, compiling an 11 - 7 record with a 3.50 ERA and 194 strikeouts, good for seventh in the league. Then came the 2000 playoffs. In spite of his outstanding stuff (Ankiel possessed a 97 MPH fastball and devastating curveball, both of which could deliver a strikeout), Ankiel faced the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs and threw seven wild pitches, five of which were hurled in one inning (the first time that had happened since 1890). From that day forward, he was never the same. The tumult continued in 2001, as Ankiel was sent down to AAA to work on his control. As fate would have it, Ankiel would never pitch in the majors again. By 2005, Ankiel opted for a drastic change to his career: he wished to channel Mickey Mantle, so as to become a power-hitting centerfielder. By 2007, Ankiel was brought up by St. Louis in a late August call-up. His major league experience would continue through 2008, where he is hitting .278 with 22 homeruns and 56 RBI's, wielding a glove that is worthy of best-in-the-league status. Human-growth-hormone controversy aside, Ankiel has proven his value in the mythology of treasured baseball lore.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Man of the World

Team America! F-Yeah! That seems to be the dominant stereotype about Americans. You know, the one which implies that Americans could care less about other peoples of the world when it comes to our national agenda. While other nations view us as a nation of "cowboys" listening to country western music while eating hotdogs, I would share a quite different perspective. American culture is extremely diverse when compared with other nations around the world, and I believe that is something that should be celebrated. So today, honor our cultural diversity with one of these five activities that will make you feel more like a man (or woman) of the world without having to ever leave our native soil.

5. Take in an espresso in place of your morning coffee.

Instead of rushing around like a headless chicken take the time and sit down for a double shot of espresso. Go sit in a park, sip the beverage slowly, and take time to appreciate all the natural beauty of this country. If you want to feel especially cultured and have the chance, go to an art museum for a double dose of culture. I recommend sitting on a park bench, if only to watch others rush about their busy lives. Sometimes the one thing we forget to do in this country is sit back and appreciate the gift of life. That's something we can do better, and because of economic security (when compared with other nations) we have more opportunity than most to sit back and smell the roses. The first step is to get reconnected to the world and all the small wonders it holds.

4. Watch a futbol game on television

While this was much easier a few weeks ago when Eurocup was being televised a few weeks ago, there are still some exhibition games that one can catch on television if they look closely enough. While many Americans don't understand "soccer" and would prefer the NFL or MLB, I would invite them to take the opportunity to sit down with an aficionado of the game and truly learn its nuances and complexities. One will discover that there's a reason why most people around the world love it. There's nothing like watching a closely contested soccer match. World Cup, please return soon.

3. Rent a foreign film from blockbuster / netflix

Skip the summer blockbuster and instead take in a foreign film. You can earn extra bonus points if you watch the movie sans subtitles. Perhaps as a part of the experience you can cook cuisine in the style of the film and invite a few friends over. There are so many films from other countries that will not only broaden your horizons, but will entertain the crap out of you at the same time. This author recommends Pan's Labyrinth to begin your journey into the world of foreign film.

2. Go to a Muslim mosque, Jewish synagogue, Pentecostal church, Catholic church

One of the most beautiful Constitutional rights is the guaranteed freedom of religion that we have in this country. So this weekend take advantage of that freedom and attend a religious ceremony. I recommend going to another type of religious celebration other than your own. If you're catholic, take the opportunity to attend a synagogue. Call ahead of time and coordinate a discussion with the church elder or priest. Tell them you want to learn more about their religion firsthand, and what would be the best way to go about it. Maybe your shy and don't want to jump right in, but sit down and have a discussion with somebody of another religion and listen more than you talk. It will be a great experience to hear about somebody else's faith, while remaining firmly rooted in your own.

1.Register to Vote

Want to feel like you make a difference in this world? I recommend voting. If you haven't heard there's a little thing called a presidential election this fall, and your voice can have a very big impact. Sometimes people are turned off by the parties, politics, and candidates, but no single action (or inaction) will shape the course of the world more than your vote. It is not only a freedom which all Americans enjoy, it is our biggest responsibility. The next president will tackle major issues like the environment, poverty, and war, something that we all care about, regardless of how filled our schedules might become. Choosing the right person to lead our nation is perhaps the greatest thing one can do to ensure THE WORLD is a better place. As for this "V" list author, I'm going to spend less time running around frantically and take more time to smell the roses, and then blog about it. :)

Where y'all at?

I've felt the same disturbance in the not too many chili dogs, that sense of deep unfulfilled longing for the list...the deep need we all have for more v-list action. Where have the V-list cowboys and girls gone...well friends, let me explain with the following V-list. 

5. Our girls won't let us.

You all may not know it, but despite our cromagnon looks (see sidebar) and annoying senses of humor (see 98% of our posts) Mike, Marc, Brian, and I all have committed relationships. And not just to our XBOX, but to women. HOT women (see cultural example, right). There was going to come a time when this constituancy was going to win out over even you our readers. Let's be fair though, how many nights is any self-respecting woman going to split time with a laptop? We needed to be reigned in and we love our ladies for it.

4. Carbon footprint
Al Gore emailed Marc from his blackberry in the private plane. He explained that for the good of the country and the world we needed to reduce our carbon footprint and while he subscribed to the RSS feed, often giggling softly at our quips, none the less he asked us to slow down for the good of the world. Marc blushed a little, then acquiesced. We have since been muzzled. (Brian Pol however refuses to be denied and for that he and he alone has become our underground hero.)

3. The joker scared the crap out of us.

We are nerds and were incredibly excited for the Dark Knight. Then we saw it and Heath Ledger's joker scared the living poop out of us. Now I know it's just a movie, but that's just what the nefarious Joker wants us to think before he launches another horrifying plot just for the fun of it. We had reason to believe all our bat-worship posts might have been us on the Joker's radar. So we decided to slow it down, play it cool, and wait for the man in the purple suit to find new prey.

2. It's summer!
My laptop gets quite warm when it's been on for apartment is not air conditioned. I live in New York City. I am lucky to be alive, let alone blogging most night at my apartment. So while we love the v-list (psst, brian the "b" list my underground vigilante!) we also love swimming, and the beach, and driving, and going to the park and doing all the other things warm weather allow. So maybe we're taking a little impromptu vacation from the's only because....

1. We have lives too.

I know you'd never think it. Working stiffs like us have a life?
Well "life" is a little loose. But there is stuff we like and need to do when we're not slaving for the man. 95% of these activities are legal and harm no one. As we indulge in binge of summer time relaxation, rest assured we have not forgotten the blessed V. So my fellow v-listers, take heart we may have slowed down, and we may not be the hero the blogosphere needs, but we are the hero the blogosphere deserves, we are the list...


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Baseball's Unbreakable Records

In a recent ESPN program entitled Unbreakable Records, Ozzie Smith, who won 13 consecutive Gold Gloves for masterfully manning the shortstop position for St. Louis (a feat that has not been accomplished by any position player), discussed the importance of ten remarkable feats achieved in baseball history by both team (the Yankees' accumulation of five consecutive World Series from 1949 - 1953) and individual (Eric Gagne's 84 save streak for the Los Angeles Dodgers). Prior to the show's airing, 160+ managers, players, and coaches in Major League Baseball were polled to determine the five most arduous records to reach in all of baseball. Brought to you here is this V-List contributor's re-working of this esteemed list.

5. Joe DiMaggio's 56 Game Hitting Streak
Pete Rose came the closest to DiMaggio's impressive mark, stringing together 44 consecutive games in which he was able to reach base via a hit (quite fitting, when you consider Joltin' Joe beat out Wee Willie Keeler's one-time record of 44-game streak of hitting safely). Upon going hitless in the 57th game of the streak, DiMaggio went on another 16-game hitting streak, which calculates to hitting safely in 72 of 73 games in 1941. During this season, perhaps DiMaggio's best, the one-time Mr. Coffee would not win the MVP; that distinction was instead held by Ted Williams, holder of another outstanding record for the ages.

4. Ted Williams's .406 Season
Arguably the game's greatest hitter (and the anti-thesis of quitting), the Splendid Splinter was going into the final day of the season having amassed a batting average of .3995, which would have effectively rounded up to .400, the first time the feat would be accomplished since 1930, when Bill Terry did so. Williams, as recommended by many Red Sox personnel, could have sat out the the doubleheader slated for that day in order to achieve this aforementioned exploit. Instead, Williams played both games, going 6 for 8, raising his collective batting average for the 1941 season to .406. Although George Brett and Tony Gwynn came awfully close, nobody has hit .400 since Williams accomplished the astounding deed in a year that would later live in infamy (the Pearl Harbor bombing would occur months after Williams's greatest summer). As his career average would suggest (.344), Williams was the master of the art of stroking the baseball, a testament to his poise and uncanny sense for dominating opposing pitching like nobody else could.

3. Nolan Ryan's Tandem: 5,714 Career Strikeouts and 7 No-Hitters
Ryan's efforts are ahead of DiMaggio's and Teddy Ballgame's for the sole reason that, in the modern era (post Bob Gibson, who compiled a a record 1.12 ERA in 1968), the game favors the hitters. When you consider (1) the mound has been lowered and (2) the fences have been pulled in through the construction/renovation of many contemporary ballparks, what Ryan did was extremely unfathomable. Randy Johnson most recently passed Roger Clemens on the all-time strikeout list, hoarding an upwards of 4,600 K's. In order for the 44 year old Johnson to pass Ryan, he would have to average 300 strikeouts per season for the next three years (something he hasn't done since 2002). What's more impressive are the seven occasions in which opponents could not register a single hit off of Ryan, the latest of which came in 1991, his 25th season in the bigs. His 292 losses (to his 324 wins) are not indicative of his prowess; for instance, in 1987, Ryan led the league in ERA (2.76), but compiled a win-loss record of 8 - 16, suggesting that Ryan was often the victim of poor run-support. At times, Ryan has been criticized for being erratic (he once walked over 200 batters in his season; in fact, his wild ways earned him a one-way ticket out of New York and California), but his ability to embarrass hitters was truly tremendous.

2. Cal Ripken's 2,632 Consecutive Games Played Streak
Consider this for a moment: the most recent player to come close to Ripken's streak since Cal broke Lou Gehrig's old record was Miguel Tejada, who played in 1,151 games consecutively, some 1,500 games shy of the mark Cal ended up setting. For Ripken to shatter the Iron Horse's record by some 500 games is a testament to Cal's immense capacity to play through bangs and bruises that have made mortals of lesser players. Perhaps the game's greatest shortstop of all-time, Ripken played the game with the ultimate sense of grit and determination that defined the outstanding ballplayer he was. For many, Cal was Mr. Baseball in Baltimore and beyond, the game's truest ambassador whose place in Cooperstown was well-deserved (an honor held in the same year, 2006, by San Diego Padres great Tony Gwynn, the modern-day equivalent of Ted Williams, minus the power numbers).

1. Cy Young's 511 Career Wins
During a time when homeruns were as rare as blue moons in the night sky, Cy Young (for whom the award for the annual best pitcher in the National and American Leagues is named) did things as a pitcher that will NEVER be accomplished, namingly his 749 complete games (Roger Clemens's 118 is nowhere near Young's mark) and 815 starts in a career. Through the use of five-man rotations, bullpens, specialist pitchers, and closers, and the restriction of starts made by pitchers (hurlers may reach 35 starts tops in an injury-free season), Young's feats have truly become a thing of the past, especially his career win total (guys like Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens, the best pitchers of the past twenty years, have only won 350 and 354 games respectively). Despite losing the most games in baseball history (316), Young's standard for winning ballgames is the most unbreakable record in baseball. PERIOD.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I'm Batman

Ever since his appearance in issue #27 of Detective Comics, Batman has surfaced in a number of Hollywood adaptations, some laughable (Batman and Robin) some campy (the 1960's rendition), some downright awesome (Christopher Nolan's reworking of the Caped Crusader's chronicles). Voiced by Kevin Conroy in various animated series, Batman has withstood the test of time as DC Comics' premier figure, one who could rival Superman with his everyman appeal. Listed below are the five men who have played the Batman over the years, just in time for tonight's premiere of The Dark Knight.

5. Adam West
Nothing says onomatopoeia like a 1960's Batman fight sequence. In a series that brought you painted on eyebrows, the stylish red Bat Phone, and the Batusi, Adam West gave campiness a whole new meaning with his portrayal of the fearless knight of Gotham City, a character who seemingly took great pleasure in lecturing his 'gee-whillickers' sidekick, Robin. It's amazing the crap you tolerated as a child; watching this series now makes me cringe with every pun West delivers, not to mention those god-awful capers involving the Riddler.

4. George Clooney
Two words: nipple suit. Clooney's undertaking as Batman was so dreadful, not even an Academy Award nomination (Syriana), three Ocean films, or a touching timepiece (Three Kings) could rid our minds of the disaster that was Batman and Robin. There's a reason this film and portrayal has been bashed in numerous posts these past few days: Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze (he actually delivered the line, "Ice to see you!"), Bruce Wayne's puzzling use of a Bat Credit Card, and the use of too many damn villains made for a deliciously putrid addition to the Batman series, worthy of all the jeers they deserve. If you thought Spiderman 3 was unwatchable, you need to feast your eyes on this steaming pile of feces, a movie that nearly killed the franchise with its juvenile appeal and awkward tribute to the cheesy series that preceded it thirty years ago. Clooney, throughout the course of this dungfest, played Batman like nobody else could, by overacting from one tedious scene to the next. I imagine Batman and Robin would be the in-flight movie on a first-class trip to hell.

3. Val Kilmer
Kilmer's role as Batman was truly underrated, as he compensated for the uneven acting of Nicole Kidman and Tommy Lee Jones's pointless turn as Two Face. It was a pleasure to watch Bruce Wayne as he took Dick Grayson (who would later become Robin) under his wing, showing him the true meaning of fortifying oneself as Gotham's vigilante force. Although Batman Forever set the tone for the technicolor glaze that became Joel Schumacher's calling card in the two Batman films he directed, the movie, broadened by Kilmer's presence as Wayne, wasn't half bad. Even so, Forever started an ugly trend: using Batman for its commercial allure, going so far as to borrow U2 (during their glamorously strange Pop days) for use on the film's soundtrack.

2. Michael Keaton
Although diminutive in size and better associated with silly roles like Beetlejuice and Mr. Mom, Michael Keaton played one hell of a Batman. In fact, Keaton was far more believable as the Dark Knight than he ever was playing the enigmatic Bruce Wayne. Tim Burton's stab at directing the Batman series was dark and intruding, a look into Batman that brought moviegoers to the cinema in droves. Essentially, Keaton's portrayal of Batman was all about pleasing the women, as Wayne tickled the fancy of leading females Kim Basinger and Michelle Pfeiffer, flirtations worthy of a cold shower (like when Catwoman straight up licked Batman's face. Grrrrroooowl).

1. Christian Bale
The man who was made for the role of the Dark Knight, Mr. Christian Bale. For those of you not up on Bale, observe his body of work (The Machinist, American Psycho, The Prestige, 3:10 to Yuma, Rescue Dawn, etc.) and take pleasure in the superb actor he is. His balance in playing both Wayne and Batman (although splendid at Batman, Keaton's role as Wayne often times left something to be desired) is what made Batman Begins so startlingly good in the first place. Bale made Wayne extremely cool (his banter with cohorts Alfred and Lucius is priceless) and Batman a mystery to be unfolded. Just as Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones, moviegoers everywhere can take solace knowing that Christian Bale will be playing Batman yet again after The Dark Knight processes through the theater this summer. While we still wait for a sequel to Superman Returns and the slow death of the Spiderman series, Christopher Nolan's Batman will continue to impress with films that speak to the true nature of who Batman is and has yet to be.

The Verdict is In: Stay Away, Mr. Favre

According to the V-List's esteemed audience, Brett Favre should ride off into the sunset and disregard any attempt at a comeback (a staggering 92% were against his return, a figure that speaks volumes about Favre's tired venture into prolonging a suddenly crumbling NFL legacy). As sparkling a career as the three-time MVP had, Favre has drawn ire from many NFL fans, from even the most diehard of Cheeseheads, who are ready to usher in a new era at Lambeau sans-Brett. Simply put, Favre is ruining Green Bay's prospects the way he impeded on Ben Stiller's chances with Cameron Diaz in There's Something About Mary. Remember how that worked out for Stiller? Mr. Favre was left out in the cold, a Hollywood demise that hopefully ends the same way in reality. The V-List presents a definitive look at why Favre needs to call it quits...for good.

10. The short list of teams interested in Favre: da Bears, the Vikings, and the Ravens, three squads that (1) run, (2) play defense, and (3) have no substantial threat at wide receiver. That's like Joe Montana 'gloriously' ending his career with the Chiefs. Man, did he look ugly in that red, white, and orange get-up. Can you seriously picture Favre in a purple uniform? Yeesh.

9. Check out the Packer website and find the Favre headline, if you will; return or no return, Green Bay still doesn't give a f*%&. Mr. Favre, your former organization has moved on: so should you.

8. The longer he prolongs this, the longer we'll hear Favre mentioned in the talks as one of the five greatest QB's of all-time, a distinction he doesn't deserve. Did you know: the NFL's all-time leading touchdown artist (Brett Favre himself) also threw the most picks in league history.

7. Imagine the recall totals of Madden '09 if Favre were to sign with the Vikings.

6. Ponder if you will this scenario: Favre signs with the Vikings, the Packers' opponent on Monday Night Football, September the 8th. On Brett Favre Night. When his number is supposed to retired. That would be awkward.

5. Prilosec and Wrangler Jeans will have no other choice but to extend their endorsement deals for the graying superstar.

4. David Witthoft is going to get the bright idea to wear Favre's jersey for another 1500+ a row.

3. Aaron Rodgers has become the equivalent of that pet fish you continually forget to feed.

2. Thanks to Brett, Trey Wingo of NFL Live officially crossed the line by referring to the retirement controversy as 'Favre-gate.'

1. Favre is monopolizing headlines with Keven Federline-like prowess. Will we recall Brett Favre the legend or Brett Favre the spoiled celebrity once this is all said and done?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Dark Knight

With vomit-inducing exposure to the likes of Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, Bane, and Batgirl , movie-goers forced to endure the atrocity that was Batman and Robin had nothing good to say about a comic book franchise that had seemingly flatlined the instant George Clooney agreed to play Bruce Wayne's alter-ego, the third actor to reprise the role. With every star (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone) that signed on to to be a part of Joel Schumacher's Razzie-worthy project, the Batman story became more about marketability and less about comic book mythology. Seven years later, Christopher Nolan (mastermind behind the films Memento and The Prestige) opted to give the series a 'reboot,' recapturing the essence of Batman with a dark, introspective look into Bruce Wayne's psyche and Batman's principled origins. Thanks to Mr. Nolan, loyalists to the DC Comics production were given Batman Begins, one of the best comic book adaptations to reach the silver screen in recent years. Starring a devilishly good Christian Bale, Batman Begins thrived off gripping performances by Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Cillian Murphy, who parlayed the film's success into roles in Red Eye and The Wind that Shakes the Barley. Batman's revival allowed for a fresh take on the Caped Crusader, one that will continue with Friday's premiere of The Dark Knight, a film that needs no additional billing. Regardless, here are five reasons to engage in a summer blockbuster that will surely live up to the hype that Spiderman 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End could not.

5. Recall just how important Batman Begins was to the franchise.
It took the directorial efforts of Tim Burton and Schumacher three films before they decided to inject an origin story into the storyline of their collective Batman chronicle. Nolan, giving the crowd exactly what they it wanted, incorporated Bruce Wayne's martial arts background and clandestine findings of the criminal underworld into the lore of the Gotham Knight with his masterwork, Batman Begins. Batman never looked so dark (like Burton before him, Nolan paid homage to Frank Miller's mid-1980's portrayal of Batman), so militant, so aggressive, and above all, so human. His decisions affected the people around him and the city he tried ever so hard to protect, a pursuit met by Wayne's search for his identity and place in Gotham City. Wayne's story was rife with betrayal (Henri Ducard's expectations for a young Wayne's place in the League of Shadows), lost love (his fractured relationship with Rachel Dawes), and ambition (what can a symbol like Batman do against the crime lords of Gotham?). All in all, a bold way of telling Batman's story.

4. Thanks to Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce Wayne will have more astounding gadgets to try out.

As part of Batman's origin, we understand how Wayne procured such mind-blowing technology like the Tumbler: it was all delivered courtesy of Lucius Fox, a character reminiscent of James Bond's Q. With each addition to Nolan's Batman series, fans will be eagerly anticipating the gadgets, tools, and vehicles that will be at Batman's disposal (in The Dark Knight, we will be introduced to the Batpod).

3. Out with the old (Katie Holmes's Rachel Dawes, Neeson's Ra's Al Ghul) and in with the new (Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent, Maggie Gyllenhaal's Rachel Dawes).
At the expense of dumping a boring portrayal of Dawes and a great villian like Al Ghul, The Dark Knight will be replaced by Thank You For Smoking's Aaron Eckhart (a brilliant film in which Eckhart, ironically, starred opposite of Katie Holmes) and a 'refurbished' Rachel Dawes, played by bad-girl Maggie Gyllenhaal. As is custom with any Batman film, the Caped Crusader, at one point or another, will face two villains, primarily, the Joker, secondarily, Dent's reincarnate Two Face. Dent plays an antagonist on a number of levels, going so far as to sweep Wayne's sweetheart Dawes off her feet. Despite the failure of the multi-villain approach (see Batman Returns and the aforementioned Batman and Robin), Nolan made it work in Batman Begins and will surely devise a way of making it work again in Batman's newest installment.

2. Heath Ledger's final performance will stop at nothing to impress.

Film veteran Michael Caine went so far as to favor Ledger's undertaking as the Joker over Jack Nicholson's, a role he was ultra-renowned for. Said Caine about Ledger's performance, "Jack was like a clown figure, benign but wicked, maybe a killer old uncle. He could be funny and make you laugh. Heath's gone in a completely different direction to Jack; he's like a really scary psychopath. He's a lovely guy and his Joker is going to be a hell of a revelation in this picture." While filming, Caine was so taken aback by Ledger's Joker that he could not recall his lines. Channeling the role of Alex in A Clockwork Orange, Ledger prepared for his Dark Knight act by living in isolation in a hotel room for a month, nailing the Joker's mannerisms, psychology, posture, and voice by the sojourn's end. Will it be Oscar-worthy? We'll have Friday's premiere to see for ourselves.

1. Batman is a superhero needing no super powers to fight crime.
Nolan's take on the series is as much about Bruce Wayne as it is the symbol he morphs into on a nightly basis, the Dark Knight himself. By extrapolating one of his innermost fears into a crime-fighting persona, Wayne, ever-so ferociously, battles past demons he felt he created in the first place (the death of his parents). If Batman Begins is any indication of Wayne's fragile mindset, then The Dark Knight will delve even deeper into Bruce Wayne's ego and ambition. Wayne's chemistry with Alfred (or should I say, Bale's connection with Caine) will serve as another great subplot that will only be matched by the Joker's pursuit of the Batman, the heart of a 152-minute epic that will deliver the goods---you have the word of this V-List contributor to back that up.