The Gist (Formerly 'Game in Review')

July 31, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Brant Brown

Final Score: Phillies 3 - Cubs 7

Jason Marquis was nothing less than underwhelming in tonight's game, but the Cub offense bailed him out for his eighth victory on the campaign. While Lee and Ramirez were kept in check, the rest of the team was able to put together enough puncture wounds against Eaton and Geary to keep the heat on Milwaukee. Even Jason Kendall woke up and decided to participate with a run scoring single in the seventh. Marmol delivered another brilliant 1 1/3 innings, with an at-bat to boot. As of press time, the Brewers and Mets were still tied at two runs a piece in the twelfth inning. Yesterday's heart-wrenching loss, and the inability to stitch together a trade at the deadline to bolster the 'pen had a number of fans writhing this evening. Nothing like a W though to calm the kids down.

Dodger Blue Trade Deadline: Colletti Rapes Cashman

July 31, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Governor X

Welcome to OZ Brian Cashman.

You actually gave the Dodgers more than a case of Natty Ice for the weak hitting, moody, and positionless Wilson Betemit. You've fallen prey to Ned Colletti's Jedi mind trick (incidently, it was the same Jedi mind trick he used to get Betemit for Danny Baez in the first place).

Betemit, hitting a mean .210 as a starter this year, garnered the mediocre Scott Proctor from the Yankees. I heard the Yankees needed bullpen help, but somehow I don't think Wilson is going to help them in that department. Wilson suffered from DTBS - Dodgers Third Base Syndrome. It causes players to ride on the laurels of their potential for years before the team finally wises up and moves on to the next one. At one time, he himself was "the next one" after the failed and excruciating Adrian Beltre experiment.

War Criminal Nomar Garciaparra is now the undisputed least until Andy LaRoche pushes him out of that job like his former AAA teammate James Loney has already done.

In other news, the M*A*S*H corps LA calls a starting rotation didn't get any help. Unless they wanted Matt Morris (umm, no) there wasn't much available anyway. I'm sending a get well card to Randy Wolf.

RAGBRAI XXXV, A Layman's Recap

July 31, 2007 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

The Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa was this past week. You may know it as RAGBRAI, the "beer on wheels" event that takes place every July. The route changes every year, with both big and small towns vying to be on the west to east path. It sounds very simple, like its a bunch of bike geeks who get together just to say that they rode their bikes all the way across Iowa. Well, it's much different than that. It's over 10,000 bikes geeks who take a full week off of work to dip their rear tire in the Missouri River to start, and then ride some 475 miles to dip their front tire in the mighty Mississippi River. 10,000 is the "official" number kicked around, but if you include all of the people who "renegade" the event, I would put the number around 20-25,000. No joke. Oh, and there's a few beers and thousands of pounds of fried food and sweets along the way.

RAGBRAI XXXV started in Rock Rapids, IA and ended in Bellevue, IA. The main stops in between were Spencer, Humboldt, Hampton, Cedar Falls, Independence and Dyersville. The atmosphere in these towns (and all the towns you pass through in between) have a County Fair-like feel to them. Bands, food stands, pie and pastries, hippies selling veggie burritos (yeah brah!!) and fruit smoothies, even young girls clad in sashes that read "Pork Queen 2007", yes, this is Iowa, and small town Iowa at that. When it's all in good fun, you say "congratulations" and keep going.

The rock star of this years Ride was the ever-present Lance Armstrong. Last year Lance did two stages to see what this Ride was all about and to raise money for The Lance Armstrong Foundation. I'm sure the training regimen is a bit different for RAGBRAI than the Tour de France. Instead of ride, ride, ride, you have to ride, drink beer, eat pie, eat tenderloins, ride, drink beer, ride. Lance says he will ride it again (he did two stages last year) after riding from Rock Rapids to Cedar Falls, before hopping on a plane to Paris. Don't expect to ride next to him, though. He rides unbelievably fast on a one-speed bike and is surrounded by an entourage to keep people from trying to sniff his bike seat. Uh...

RAGBRAI for this author was an abbreviated one. Unfortunately I could not take off the whole week, so I was only able to ride the last two stages: Independence to Dyersville, and then Dyersville to Bellevue. Our riding started at 6am each day to beat the heat and more importantly, the crowds. Even at 5:45 while we aired up our bikes, there was an endless line of bikes into the distance. Even as an avid cyclist, you sometimes question the sanity of it all!

As the event is named, it is a Ride, not a race. Going into this ride with two uncles who were doing the whole thing, I foresaw two easy days of lollygagging and putting along, bagging some rays and taking it easy. It appeared that I underestimated my uncles' intensity and fitness levels, as well as their brisk pace. The first day saw us ride (by my bike computer) 76.9 miles of basically flat terrain on a sunny and warm day. It was pretty nice except for at the start of the ride when I realized that I left my cycling shoes in Davenport. Facing a decision of doing it in tennis shoes versus spending $175 on new shoes and pedals, I opted for the former. It doesn't seem like a big deal, but going from clip-in hard soled bike shoes to soft running shoes is like being used to hitting with an aluminum bat and then being forced to use a wooden one. Sure, it can be done either way, but the first is a lot easier and is what you are used to. Such is life.

The second day we rode 55.8 miles of very hilly terrain on a day that bordered on hot. As if that weren't enough, at least 50% of this ride was either into a headwind or a strong crosswind. And since I was the "young guy with fresh legs", my job was to ride out in front and block all of the wind for my two uncles. Needless to say, this was a bit of a long day. One highlight came as we descended into the town of Bellevue down the biggest hill I have ever seen. My computer said I was going over 46mph. Going that fast on an aluminum frame with tires that are about 3/4" of an inch wide is exciting to say the least. We stopped a few times to rest. Once was in the town of LaMotte, the other was just out in the middle of nowhere on a farmer's property who was giving out free Gatorade and water and had massive shade trees to sit under. You see a lot of this on RAGBRAI. Not everyone gives away stuff for free, but many do. The entire route has people along the way, cheering you on, thanking you for coming to their town, offering you a place to pitch your tent, even to take a hot shower in their own homes. That was perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing: the people. It really makes you appreciate the people of Iowa and the Midwest. It's so nice to see genuine kindness and enthusiasm. (Those were two of the sappiest sentences I've ever written)

If anyone has ever thought about trying RAGBRAI, I would highly recommend it. Bring along plenty of sunscreen and be ready to enjoy yourself and all of the crazy people that do it. I know I will again. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back upstairs to continue icing my butt, if I'm able to walk up the stairs, that is. Here is a picture of the current state of my ass.

Deadline Day

July 31, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Only a little over an hour left. Who goes, who stays? So far, besides the Tex trade, the big deal has been Wilson Betemit. (Crickets)

Here's to hoping the Cubs don't trade for Jay Payton and instead give Thunder his due. Though he admittedly didn't help his cause any last night. (in thick German accent) 'Thunda. Yous swinging like za girl!'

Anyway, trades. Discuss.

I Want ACTION!!!

July 31, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

As you may or may not know, I am addicted to VH1's Rock of Love. Yes, I know that it's only been on for 3 weeks, but I don't care. It's the perfect show. There is not one second of the roughly 40 minutes that the show is on that I'm not completely and 100% entertained. And for those of you out there that are alcoholics, you can play a bitchin' drinking game to any episode of Rock of Love by drinking every time Bret Michaels says "Rocks" or "Turned On" or "I really felt a strong connection with XX".

Speaking of Bret, everything is a major turn on for this guy. Part of last week's episode had to do with the 12 remaining girls learning to ride motocross. When some of the girls really picked it up quickly, Bret told us "There was something about how these girls are really picking this up that's a major turn on." When some of the girls fell flat on their asses, he was like "You know, some of these girls may not be the most experienced at motocross, but that's kind of a major turn on." Later on, when one of the girls in the house told him that since she had been born in Poland and hadn't been raised listening to his music, he said "Sure, she might not know much about me or my music...but something about that is a major turn on." I'm thinking that Bret has just been replaced by a robot. A robot with a terrible face lift.

The motocross segment of the show, while interesting, was not the highlight of the episode. There was a fight brewing between two of the girls in the house at the end of last week, and within 20 minutes of this week's episode, they were throwing down.

On the left, we have Lacey (one of my picks to make the final 3). Lacey is a PETA supporter and doesn't wear leather or eat meat. On the right is Dallas ("No, that can't possibly be a stripper stage name!"). Dallas loves meat and wearing dead animals.

Lacey wanted nothing more than to have Dallas out of the house. She thought that if she could provoke Dallas into punching her in the face, Dallas would then be kicked out of the house. Lacey cornered Dallas on a staircase and wouldn't let her walk up the stairs and started jawing at her. Things were getting pretty heated between them, but no punches or anything were thrown. I was starting to think that maybe for the first time in three weeks, I was going to be let down...

That's when Rodeo stepped in.

Rodeo is one of my other picks to get to the final 3. She's...well, she's a big lady. I would say she's about 6' tall (not counting her cowboy hat, which she's wearing at all times), and has the kind of muscular definition and mass that would make Chyna blush. Rodeo, possibly thinking she had to defend her fellow housemate because they shared semi-western stripper names, promptly came up behind Lacey and opened a can of whoopass on her. She had poor Lacey in an honest-to-God Full Nelson in about 3 seconds.

Later that night, Bret tried to play Peacekeeper for the second straight week. Apparently what happens is that any time 2 girls have a problem in the house, Bret sits them down in a couch by his pool and just lets them sit and yell at each other while he kind of zones out and thinks about how much he hates his life. This is followed up with Bret telling the camera from the "confessional" room something along the lines of "This is getting out of hand. Someone has to go home!" while they play this really intense music like someone is about to get executed for treason.

In the end, Lacey got to stay and Dallas was sent home, thus giving Lacey more motivation to fight other girls in the house in hopes of getting them sent home.

And for the second week in a row, Bret did the thing on a date where he would totally eat-your-face make out with a girl...

...while the other girl he was with had to sit there and watch. Is there anything in the history of television more awkward than that??? And on top of it all, next week's preview leads us to believe that there is a three-or-foursome coming up in the near future.

God bless America.

You Make the Call

July 30, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

Lou Piniella..............or............Lou Piniella

Thanks to Hire Jim Essian! for finding that glorious photo of Don Juan Piniella.

RIP Bill Walsh, Tom Snyder

July 30, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Bill Walsh. Synonymous with the 'West Coast Offense' and Coors Light.

Tom Snyder, responsible for the seminal KISS interview of all-time*, known to our generation as 'that old guy that used to be on at the same time as Conan'.

Both good guys. Both gone. Both with white hair.

In honor, I will post clips of what they are both best known for. And when I say, 'best known for', I mean in my ignorant, uninformed eyes.**

*This interview was in the KISS Disco era ('Kissco' if you will), right before they broke up. You probably don't have time to watch both clips at work, as it is quite long, but trust me, it's worth it. I think it's going to be included in the new KISSOLOGY Vol. 2. Ace is wasted, Peter keeps talking about guns, Gene is annoyed and Paul is mildly amused.

**Clearly I am not giving either their proper due. They did more with their lives than I could ever hope to do. But did either of them have a blog? Quite possible, but given their ages, unlikely.

Beware The 2009 Brewers

July 30, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

I will admit it...I am scared of the Milwaukee Brewers. I see them as a potential 90-100 win team.

Oh, I'm not talking about this year's Brew Crew. I'm talking about the 2008-2010 Brewers.

As far as this year goes, I don't see the Brewers as much of a threat. I mean, sure they jumped out to an incredible start, but everyone around here knows how much they've struggled since then. I know that it's taken an insanely white-hot stretch for the the Cubs to close the gap to .5 of a game, but even if the Cubs had played only average-well for the last few weeks, they'd still probably be looking at a deficit of 5-6 games in the division. And you cannot underrate the "Young team jumps out to a huge division lead and then chokes it away" factor. That kind of thing can really affect a team mentally.

The way I see things playing out, the Cubs will win the Central and the Brewers may sneak in as the Wild Card. I only say that because with 3 solid teams out West, they'll all beat up on each other and I don't see 2 of them being able to stretch out enough wins for the division winner AND have the Wild Card too. Although for personal reasons, I am rooting for the Dodgers and the Padres from now on. Being a southern California resident, if the Cubs make the playoffs along with the Dodgers and Padres, I'd be able to get Cubs playoff tickets since they'd have to play one of the California teams in the first round. And I'm sure getting Cubs playoff tickets will be a lot easier at Petco Park than at Wrigley.

Anywho, the Cubs will win the Central, smack around the Padres and Mets to get to the World Series, and beat Boston in 6 games to capture their first World Series title in 135,582 years. The Brewers will hang their heads in shame and find no solace in their "moral" victory of cracking .500 this season.

And that's where the fun ends.

Let's look at this logically...who is going to be the main competition for the Cubs in the Central for the next few years? The Cards have too many bad contracts and not enough talent in the minors. The Astros have to make the jump from older club to younger club, which I think will take a few years (although I do love me some Hunter Pence). And the Reds and Pirates...are the Reds and Pirates.

That leaves the Cubs and the Brew Crew. And the Brewers' future looks so bright, I've gotta wear shades.

And speaking of sunglasses, my fear of all things Milwaukee started with Corey Hart. I'd heard about this guy a lot when I was doing my research for my Fantasy Baseball draft this spring. I kept hearing he was a potential 20/20 guy, but I hadn't paid attention to him all year because my team's outfield was pretty stacked. Just out of curiosity, I checked in on Mr. Sunglasses-At-Night's stats the other day. Do you realize that he's hitting .280 with 16 homers, 44 RBI's and 16 steals? It may not look that impressive, but he's done it in only 314 at-bats, which is about a half-season for a typical leadoff man. So if we extend his stats out to a whole season, we get:

.280 BA, 32 HR, 88 RBI, 32 SB

That's a very Beltran/Soriano like line. And this dude is only 25 years old.

Let's not forget about Ryan Braun. I don't think he's good enough to keep up his current pace for the rest of his career. He's good, but not that good. But what if he is? His season projects him finishing with numbers around .350-35-98-94. And that's in only 114 games! Imagine what his season would look like with another 40-45 games added on?

And let's not forget about Rickie Weeks. Sure he's been kind of a bust so far, but he's still crazy-talented. Same with J.J. Hardy.

The only thing keeping the Brewers back right now is inexperience. Prince Fielder and Hardy are slowing down, probably due to their relatively young age. A number of Brewers have also been hurt, including Pansy-Hands Sheets. But as soon as he went down, the Brewers were able to replace him with Yovani Gallardo who, up until yesterday, had been fantastic. This guy is a definite stud. Add to that the fact that more people are going to Brewers games, which increases revenue, which means the Brewers may actually be able to go out there and sign some good free agents in the next few years, and these guys look scary-good starting with next season. Their pitching is slowing down from their beginning-of-the-year pace. Their bats are slumping a bit (except for Braun). But we can't count on that happening every year.

Look at the Brewers top of the lineup for the next few years, just based on their potential, and tell me you'd like to face it in a short playoff series:

Rickie Weeks
Corey Hart
Ryan Braun
Prince Fielder
J.J. Hardy

That's why the Cubs have to win the Central this year. I know the Cubs have the kids and the talent to be just as good as the Brewers, but this year is probably going to be easier than the next 2-3.

Plus, I believe that Geoff Jenkins comes off the books for the Brewers next year. You have no idea what kind of mental lift that can have for a team.

Also, while doing research for this piece, I found out that prince Fielder's middle name is "Semien". I just thought that warranted mentioning.

A Thunder Matt Movie Minute

July 29, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

The Simpsons Movie: Having not watched The Simpsons regularly in a good 8 years or so, I was indifferent to the idea of a Simpsons movie. I didn't stop watching the show due to a perceived lack of quality or anything like that. No, it was more apathy and laziness. I mean, it's a good show and all, but you sort of lose the sense of urgency to watch something when it's been on for 18 years and is readily available in syndication.* You just figure it will always be there. If I miss all of Season 16, oh well. I can always pick it up in Season 28 and not miss a beat. It's not like I'm missing any character growth (figuratively or literally) if I skip a few seasons here and there.

Having said that, The Simpsons Movie is a blast. It's quick, witty and consistently funny, which is all you can really ask for. The plot concerns Homer having to save Springfield after one of his "D'oh" moments leads to the government (led by President Schwarzenegger), and the EPA quarantining the town in a giant bubble. As you can imagine, animated hilarity ensues.

The movie is not afraid to poke fun at itself** or it's parent company, with a spoof of the Fox News Crawl providing one of the many highlights. No sacred cows here. While there aren't any 'punch yourself in the dick' moments of comedy, it does get away with some edgy stuff you wouldn't see on TV, and there are plenty of big laughs to be had amidst a sea of chuckles. My one complaint would be that we don't get enough of the supporting cast, with most of the focus being on the family members. The other townspeople are relegated to one or two lines at most, though they do tend to make the most of them.***

This is a movie that is sure to please not only the die hard Simpsons fans, but also the casual ones (like me) and even the handful of people left on the planet who have never seen the show and unwittingly stumble into the wrong theatre. (Huh, this ain't Daddy Day Camp!) This one is definitely worth your D'oh. I think that it may even get me watching the show again, at least until my apathy gets the best of me.

Thunder Matt Rating: 4 Thunderbolts Out of 5

*The same thing has happened with Family Guy. Love the show, but I always forget to watch the new ones.
**At one point early on, Homer laments aloud, "Why would anyone pay for something they can see for free?"
***My personal favorite is by Ralph Wiggum, who after seeing a nude Bart skateboard past him comments, "I like men now."

Rescue Dawn
: Going in, this one seemingly had everything going for it. All of the ingredients were there. Christian Bale. Jungle setting. True life tale of survival. War. Directed by Werner Herzog, who brought the world Grizzly Man, one of my favorite documentaries ever. I figured that if there was ever a movie that I was predispositioned to love, this was it.

Boy was I wrong. It's uneven, bizarre and just plain boring. Listen, I'm sensitive to the fact that it had to be rough being a POW. I can't even imagine. Your sanity would clearly be tested. But for a good portion of the movie, you just sit here and listen to the bearded prisoners, who have clearly lost their minds, talk crazy to each other and shit their pants. If I want to see and hear those types of things, I'll just hop on the El Train. Like Homer Simpson laments, 'Why would anyone pay for something that they can see for free?'

There are maddening decisions like ditching a working radio walkie talkie after your plane crashes just so that the enemy doesn't use your radio to send out fake distress signals. Ok, I understand that, but don't ditch your radio before you're even caught! Unacceptable. Or ditching your guns because they are kind of bulky and heavy. No. Don't do that. That's just poor decision making.

The guy behind me was sawing logs like a champ about halfway through and then woke up with a startle and left with 5 minutes left in the movie. Rescue Yawn indeed.

Thunder Matt Rating: 2 Thunderbolts Out of 5

Thunder and Cherry are Back

July 27, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

Just when I finally give you guys an update of how he's doing in AAA.......

It's being reported that Thunder Matt Murton and Rocky Cherry are being called up in time for tonight's game. Billy Petrick and Jake Fox are being sent down. I don't what they're going to do with only two catchers on the roster though. Having three made so much sense.

Murton has fared well against the Communists in his career, batting .302 with 5 home runs in 106 at bats.

Our Not-So-Secret Weapon

July 27, 2007 | Comments (0) | by White Chili

A lot of people have written Kerry Wood off as a one hit wonder not seen since the Macarena. He's pitched over 200 innings in the majors only twice (2002 & 2003) and has barely managed to accumulate that much playing time over the last 4 years combined due to frequent and oftentimes bizarre injuries.

Kerry is currently rehabbing in the minor leagues and has shown some good progress. Lately he's been given one inning to work which he gets through using about 10-12 pitches. His fastball has been clocked at between 93-94 and while he's given up a few hits, he hasn't allowed a run and has struck a few guys out along the way as well.

Even with all this progress there are plenty of people that think he'll never make it back to the majors. I, however, believe that I've found a use for Kerry. It seems like he's good for about 30-40 innings a year before some sort of injury sends him back to Mesa for second opinions. I say that we keep him in our back pocket until we need him at the end of the season for a final push into and through the playoffs. He can stay in Peoria and Iowa pitching and building up strength and stamina while the Cubs continue to chip away at our neighbors to the north. Then, just like hitting a nitrous button to punch a car past the opposition and make it into the drain pipe while they swerve away or smash into the wall, we bring him up towards the end of September and tell him to give us everything he has. If he hurts himself in the process then he'll have the entire offseason to heal (just like every year anyway).

Even Kerry knows that returning as a starter isn't a possibility at this point so he can focus on delivering one or two quality innings of gas at a time. That means if a starter could get to the sixth inning, they'd get to face Wood, Marmol, and Dempster with other guys ready to go in case of match-up problems. That's a tough pill to swallow.

Thunder Matt Update

July 27, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

Hey, remember that guy that played for the Cubs that you dedicated your site to? Whatever happened to him? He seems to have completely disappeared and you guys never mention him any more. What gives?

Alright, alright, take it easy there italicized hypothetical dialogue from our readers. I knew that was coming sooner or later so I thought I'd offer you a little update on the whereabouts, happenings, and what-have-ya's of one Mr. Thunder Matt Murton.

If there's one thing I've learned from time here at the Saloon it's this: Chicks dig Thunder Matt. I'd say the vast majority of comments and emails that we receive dealing specifically with Murton himself are from the ladies. I guess it's fitting then that in a recent "Get to Know" feature on the Iowa Cubs site, Thunder Matt said he'd like to be on the Bachelor claiming he could wind up with "two or three wives". You know what? I have no doubts that he could. Of course that sort of thing is generally frowned upon most everywhere, unless you live in Utah or you're the sultan of some small Asian kingdom.

Speaking of that "Get to Know" page. I see that the Thunder Matt nickname still hasn't really caught on inside the clubhouse. Instead he's being called Big Red. I guess it's better than Orange Guy, but still, Thunder Matt is exponentially cooler every time you say it. That and when I think of Big Red, this is what comes to my mind.

So anyway, for those of you that don't follow the Cubs farm system, you'll be happy to know that Murton has been absolutely destroying the ball as of late. In 151 at bats at Iowa, he's now batting .331 with 6 home runs and 27 RBI with an OPS of .977. On Wednesday, Thunder Matt went off with a 4-6 night including a grand slam and 6 RBI against Colorado Springs.

And now Sweet Lou is saying Matt could be the next guy called up. When that will happen is anybody's guess, but we do seem about due for an extended Cliff Floyd DL stint.

Overrated: The Eagles

July 27, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Take It Easy my ass. I will NOT take it easy! Can someone please tell me how their Greatest Hits album is the highest selling record of all time? Seriously now people. It's campfire music listened to by hitchhikers and passive-aggressive serial killers.

That Don Henley guy really pisses me off. Remember that song he had, 'The End of the Innocence'? That song was so depressing that Bobby McFerrin had no other choice but to write the song 'Don't Worry Be Happy'.

True story. My parents are divorced. Guess what their last tangible effort to stay together was? Attending the Hell Freezes Over Tour in '94. Irony huh? Marriage over.

I will concede that a few good things did come out of their union. Would the doors have been opened for Glen Frey to sing 'The Heat Is On' if not for his past success with The Eagles? One would think, and even hope, not. Joe Walsh was also able to release his poorly received solo album that just happened to have one of the greatest titles of all time, Got Any Gum?

But cleary these postive strides occured after the breakup of The Eagles. I should say that it is no coincidence. Furthermore, it was only after The Eagles reunited that we got ourselves into this mess in Iraq. Once again, coincidence? Let Judge Lance Ito be the judge of that.

The Eagles. Hell has frozen over and I will see you there!

Game in Review

July 26, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Brant Brown

Final Score: Cubs 1 - Cardinals 11

Well, we had to lose one to the Redbirds, didn't we? Marquis was bound to finally drop one to his former team. He was likely conspiring with them, though I can't prove it. The law of averages says that the Cubs are likely to lose one out of every three from here on out, so this L is tolerable. I think. I'm no mathematician. Regardless of the score, we can't be in too foul of a mood. Lee hit a homer. He's rapidly approaching ten. How in the hell does Billy Petrick have a job on the big league club? Anybody? Thankfully he'll be off the roster soon, as Hendry is sure to do something about the bullpen. If not, he'll need to fake another heart palpitation to garner some sympathy. Now it's off to Cincinnati to fight Communism, and perhaps convert Adam Dunn to capitalism in exchange for some minor league talent.

Good thing Bonds isn't a cyclist

July 26, 2007 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Don't feel that you're the only one. I am with you. Yes, we are all perplexed that there has been no Tour de France coverage here at The Saloon. I'll try to remedy that.

We found out Tuesday that the odds on pre-race favorite to win The Tour, Alexandre Vinokourov, tested positive for blood doping. For those who really follow cycling, it came as quite a shock. Vinokourov was a very well-respected and well-liked rider, both in the peleton and in the crowds. He was seen as a "good guy" in an increasingly shady sport. Blood doping has run as rampant in cycling as a date rape drug runs rampant in a Delta Chi frat house - after years of it, it becomes a way of life. Everyone knows it, including the heads of the sport, who in turn instituted what might be the toughest drug testing policy in all of sports. So tough that they've adopted a "guilty until proven innocent" stance.

Late yesterday afternoon, we found out that the yellow jersey (rider who is leading the race) was kicked off of his team and out of the Tour. Oh yeah, as of now, he's never failed a drug test. In the last few weeks, it has come to light that Michael Rasmussen has missed scheduled drug tests and was actually in Italy working with a "doctor" when he alleges he was in Mexico. And you thought the NFL was a soap opera? Now, not only can you be expelled from the race for failing a drug test, you can be nixed for being guilty by association! Normally I would would scream "Injustice!" when I hear something like that, but not here. It is very curious that none of these guys are screaming and proclaiming their innocence. When Vinokourov failed his test, his whole team was kicked out, including his teammate, Andreas Kloden, who was in great position for a top 5 finish. Wouldn't you expect him to cry foul? Not a peep from him or any teammates as of yet.

Being a huge cycling fan, I want to believe that there's still riders out there who are doing it clean. Maybe it's a bit far-fetched and a clear case of wishful thinking. I suppose it's the same stance I take with my favorite sport, baseball. Surely it must be only Bonds and McGwire and Sosa, right? I hate when I look at stats from the current Cub roster and see power numbers that have gone down and weird injuries have gone up since testing was implemented. Wishful thinking indeed. I don't want to get into a sappy moral argument here, but the fact is that when that kind of money is on the table, guys will do anything to get it and keep getting it. And it sure seems as if the chemists will always be a step ahead of the tests.

Speaking of baseball and drugs...

Schilling keeps yapping

Bonds called Bob Costas a midget that doesn't know baseball. Doesn't know baseball? R-i-i-i-ght.

An ex-BALCO chemist tells us stuff we already knew.

File This Under 'You Can't Have Your Cake and Eat It Too'*

July 26, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Steve Stone to sub for Darrin Jackson and announce White Sox games alongside Hawk Harrelson. That's like mixing a fine wine with horse piss.

*George Carlin: "When people say, 'Oh you just want to have your cake and eat it too.' What good is a cake you can't eat? What should I eat, someone else's cake instead?"

Brant's Rant

July 26, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Brant Brown

Motorcycles I will say with all confidence, that if you own a motorcycle (dirtbikes excluded), you are a subpar human. This burgeoning hatred in my soul for the motorized bicycle specifically addresses Harley’s or other large, noisy machines of that ilk, and what are known as “crotch rockets”. Motocross bikes are fine, as long as they are in the bed of your pickup truck on their way to a genuine dirt track or field where I don’t have to see or hear them. On the other hand, if you ride your motocross bike on residential streets, or Christ forbid a freeway, you are amongst the highest order of dipshit.

Three things in particular stoke my fire about the motorcycle. The first is the unnecessarily loud engines that vibrate and echo from the underbelly of a Harley. Specifically, it's the rumbling that sets off car alarms, frightens dogs, and makes everyone in your vicinity abhor you. Many quiet or dramatic movie scenes in our household have been destroyed by these assholes that rumble up to the stop sign outside our home. More often than not, these degenerates and sex offenders will rev the goddamn engine and sit there for 30 seconds, hoping that someone gawks at their annoying motorcycle in adoration. Unfortunately for them, our neighborhood now lacks the skinheads and pedophiles that frequent Harley shops and would appreciate such a machine. Perhaps a noise ordinance campaign should be put in effect.

The second thing that really pisses me off about this sad lot is when the “crotch rocket” hoodlums (who are often high school dropouts and gangbangers) ride their bikes in packs, particularly on crowded downtown streets. Luckily for the normal, law-abiding citizens, the police are often able to pull these packs of kids over, as the coffee and donut shops are conveniently located on the same avenues.

Finally, the weaving. When there is heavy traffic, you, good American, must be extra vigilant, knowing that at any moment a motorcycle could whiz by your car as the maladjusted individual commanding it weaves between cars. This behavior begs for a bloody accident. While it has been so tempting to just open the car door and learn these idiots a valuable lesson, I somehow refrain. I don’t think I’ll ever have it in me to hurt one of them, though I often wish for their injury. I just can’t understand how this idiotic behavior is tolerated.

Public Urination I’m OK with public urination on two conditions: 1) it be done in the secrecy of night, and 2) it be done in an alley in Mexico. Where we live, we have a lot of kids that park their cars on our street, grab their surfboards out of the truck, and run down to the beach. Often they will be gone for a couple hours, but naturally they wait until they get back to their vehicles to evacuate their bladders. Apparently they cannot be bothered with using the public restrooms provided by the city. What really sets me off is when they find it necessary to piss in broad daylight, often on another person’s garage or house (there are precious few grassy areas where we live). When I’m walking by and witness this, I’ve often wanted to stop and piss on their car or truck, just to see their oblivious looks of disgust. Alas, I continue to abstain. Castration is the only fitting form of retribution. I will bring this to the next City Hall meeting.

Vacation When you want to take a few days off of work, perhaps even two weeks, you call it a vacation. Somewhere along the line, possibly in mid to late 2006, it was deemed appropriate to suggest that you were not taking a vacation, but a “vacay”. This abbreviated form of the word is now entrenched in the vocabulary of today’s youth. From what I understand, it may have been popularized in the Will Ferrell film Stranger Than Fiction. I cannot be sure if this was its origin, but I intend on researching the matter further. In any case, the term “vacay” makes the speaker sound pompous, though they may feel they are being witty and ironic. They would be wrong.

This concludes my rant. Thank you for your attention.

Game in Review

July 25, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Brant Brown

Final Score: Cubs 7 - Cardinals 1

Time for the first Brant's Belligerent Ballgame Briefing. If you're interested, here's the rundown:

Soriano breaks the Cubs' 19 inning extra base hitless streak. Praise Jesus! We learned tonight that Bob Brenly never lifted weights during his Major League career. His mustache lifted them in his place. Lilly again put forward a commanding effort, winning his 7th decision in a row, while Floyd, A-Ram, and Theriot were stroking well. Any time you can beat the Cardinals and their khaki-clad supporters, it's a hell of a day. I'm telling you, if the Cubs don't deal for an outfielder, I'm comfortable with Jock Jones from here on out. Albert Poopholes? Sucking a fat one. Tony LaRussa? Getting drunk tonight. Who's the asshole? I'm the asshole.

The Brew Crew traded for Scott Linebrink today. Why didn't we go after Linebrink ourselves? The Padres are in the middle of the playoff hunt, and they gave up one of their best relievers for three minor leaguers? We couldn't have done better than that? F the Brewers and Cecil Fielder's fat son.

For the benefit of your literacy, I will be posting a Brant's Rant in the morning.

Cubs Vs. Diamondbacks, 7/21: "Lukewarm Beer" Edition

July 25, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Last Saturday's game against the vaunted Diamondbacks and their gang of talented no-namers (Luis Gonzalez, where have ye gone?) promised to be glorious. Not as much for the game itself but the conditions surrounding the game. Perfect weather (75 degrees, nary a cloud), three of my good friends whom I see but a couple of times a year coming into town the day prior, and of course, bleacher seats. I'll try to keep the recap relatively brief. If I were to go into too much detail, arrests would be made, readers would be alienated and I would have to go into hiding with Salman Rushdie.

Anyway, the previous night involved crusted steaks, fancy beers and mashed potatoes at Wildfire, a carnivore's wetdream. We scored the one mafia booth in the place, overlooking the main dining room, and proceeded to eat like kings (gluttonous, evil ones) and tell tales of past glories. Then it was on to Louie's Pub, for a drunken night of karaoke and revelry whose sheer decadence and spirit have not been seen since the infamous sing along to 'Tiny Dancer' was captured on film for "Almost Famous".

And then to wake up the next morning hangover free? Roofs were raised. Adopting children in celebration was contemplated.

The only hiccup of the night occurred when we got home and I sat in my boxers, drunk and despondent, trying to blow up the air mattress with our air pump. I sat there for what seemed like a good five minutes, trying to shove the air pump into the hole without success. I finally just sighed and said, 'This is frustrating at best.' Then we finally figured out that you had to use the attachment for the airpump (which was hanging conveniently, seemingly idiot-proof, from the pump itself).

So the morning started off with me trying a new recipe for 'strawberry oatmeal pancakes'. To say that this experiment went horribly awry would be an understatement. It was like someone literally pooped on plate, covered it in strawberries and then had the balls to serve it to respected guests. Lives were almost ended.

We hop onto the Ashland Bus (#9) to get there nice and early for batting practice. Pickup the tickets at Gate 12. So I do. I open the envelope. Terrace Reserved? Shit, I thought I got bleachers. This is frustrating at best (think air mattress). The guys come to my rescue though and say they don't care, this gives us more time to drink before the game. I think to myself, 'but we could just drink in the bleachers too', but I appreciate their attempts to cheer me up so I say nothing.

We decide to go to Merkle's because, well, it has Hawkeye flags, and these are all Iowa boys. Turns out to be a solid choice. No food is consumed, but I devour two Bloody Mary's (extra olives) and the guys put down a few beers. Cold beers at that, what do you know?

We head off to the stadium and take our seats. Section 236, Row 2. Shit, these are good. No bleachers, but we have a killer view and now our beer is delivered to us. We waste no time in ordering the first round of Old Styles. Not a whole lot of action to speak of, save for Angel Pagan's run scoring triple, which really got the kids going. Rich Hill was erratic but mostly effective. You can tell the Cubs really miss Derrek Lee when he is out of the lineup. (Thanks Captain Obvious!)

But that didn't really matter on this day. The company of good friends, 5 rounds of 'lukewarm' Old Styles, some nachos and peanuts all helped to soften the blow. Cubs lose 3-2, but in the game of life we all came out winners.

After the game we walk all the way to Schubas on Southport, where the giant Schlitz sign beckons us. A round of Schlitz all around! It tastes surprisingly good, but perhaps the five rounds of Old Style at the game had something to do with that.

Back to my apartment. Quick naps are taken. Dreams of steak and Ronnie Woo Woo. We shower and change and begin to drink again. My special Sausage Party playlist on the iPod speakers is a hit. There's a stretch where we hit back to back songs by Cash, Motorhead (yes Motorhead), the White Stripes, The Beastie Boys and Eagles of Death Metal that really bring the house to it's knees. Beergaritas are mixed. Insults are traded.

We head out to eat at El Barco (which I dubbed 'best restaurant in Chicago' a while back); you know you get a lot of food when you have four healthy men in your group and order the 'Dinner For Two' and still have leftovers. A sizzling platter of everything from steak to shrimp to octopus to potatoes and rice, all served with tortillas and the best refried beans known to man. From there, I try to impress with a couple of Bucktown clubs which turn out to be way too cool for school. One buddy turns to me and goes, 'We're Miller Lite guys stuck in a Heineken commercial'. Touche.

My three buddies are single and want to 'dance'. I'm married. Not so much. I remember someone telling me this place called Liar's Club is cool. We hop in a cab and tell him to punch it. Liar's Club is nothing if not shady from the outside. In fact, it could be abandoned. But we persevere and head inside. Right off the bat you can tell we're going to like this place. It's dark, slightly dingy and the crowd is eclectic without being scary.

Behind the bar, they have four giant replicas of the KISS Spin Magazine Covers from 1996. That's just fucking awesome. The back of the DJ booth has a cardboard KISS cutout. Someone has drawn a mustache on Ace Frehley. It suits him. I'm reminded of the new Dunkin' Donuts commercial with Ace and I smile. We end up spending the next 3 hours here, staying until 3AM. I haven't danced that much, well...ever. The DJ was playing everything we would request. Granted, most of it aged us horribly and screamed 'drunk out-of- towners' ('Sabotage', 'Fat Bottomed Girls', 'Mr. Brightside', anything by Jay Z or Kanye West), but after a whole day of booze filled excess, who gives a shit? Lots of drunken exclamations of 'greatest bar ever dude'.

I can say sober that it was indeed a cool bar. There was even a little-used upstairs part with a separate bar, pool table and pinball machines for those who would prefer a relatively low key night.

It was a weekend filled with debauchery, beautiful weather, Wrigley Field, Brewers losses, and steak dinners that would make Tommy Buzanis envious. The Cubs may not have won on Saturday, but that's okay. You can't win em all. Though this year, with the Cubs for the first time, I'm beginning to think that yes, yes we can.

Rich really bumped up a few notches in my book when he read the Cubs starting lineup on national tv in the voice of Kip from Napolean Dynamite.

Wrigley Roundtable

July 25, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

Once again it's time for our weekly segment in which we debate a selected matter of interest. The topics could range from the Cubs to baseball or other sports, to movies and music.

Our panel of bartenders will weigh in, and we invite any of our readers to offer their two cents as well. So grab a beer and a handful of stale popcorn and tell us what you think.

Today's topic: The MLB Trade Deadline

It's the most wonderful time of the year again. No child, not Christmas. It's the run-up to the Major League Baseball trading deadline (Tuesday, 4pm EST). However, much like Christmas, the trading deadline seems to lose it's excitement and impact as the years go by. When the potential trading block holds Mark Teixeira, Chad Cordero, and Octavio Dotel as its prized gifts from Santa, the collective sigh can be heard all the way to Japan. The consensus among GMs and scouts is that there are no major deals brewing, as teams have placed too high of a premium on their minor league talent, and wouldn't dare pawn off a few young chips for a relief pitcher who may or may not help in the pursuit of the Wild Card berth. Too many teams claim to still be in it, however unrealistic their logic may be. So who will move? Troy Glaus, Jermaine Dye, Joe Kennedy? The Angels are reportedly pursuing Paul Konerko. Will the White Sox blow everything up and start over? What moves will the Yankees and Red Sox make? Was Jon Lester's comeback appearance simply trade bait? Will the Dodgers find a bat? Will the Cubs solidify their relief corps, or bring in a righty off the bench? Perhaps more importantly, what youngsters will these playoff teams sacrifice at the alter of October. Discuss.

Cubs of Yore: Marvell Wynne

July 24, 2007 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Nickname: Marvell-ous

Played for The Cub: 1989-1990

Random Write-up: What can you say about Marvell Wynne? Obviously from his baseball card shown, he has horrible bunting technique. C'mon, Marvell! You pinch the bat, not wrap your hand around it. That's how broken fingers happen. Maybe Marvell has an excuse though. You see, when he first tried out for a Major League job with The KC Royal, he tried out as a pitcher. Yeah, that's probably not a good sign. Marvell came to The Cub via a trade with The Padre and hit .188 with one homer. We gave up Calvin Schiraldi and Darrin Jackson for him and the wonderful Luis Salazar. I thought I remember the world shaking that day in 1989. But hey, he was on the team that walked into the NLCS buzzsaw against Frisco.

What the Hell?: It hasn't shaken out yet, but he may end up being the second most famous Marvell Wynne. His son, Marvell Wynne II, is a defender in the MLS, a former #1 draft pick of NY, currently playing for FC Toronto, and has garnered one CAP for the US Men's National Team. Young Marvell has a ways to go to top his dad in glory. On September 12, 1984, Doc Gooden K'd Marvell to set the all time season record for strikeouts by a rookie pitcher. As if that wasn't impressive enough, in 1987, Marvell, Tony Gwynn and John Kruk became the first major leaguers to hit three consecutive home runs to start a game. Top that, sonny boy!!

Also of Note: Had his "banner year" in 1984 for The Padre, ranking second in the NL in at bats, singles, caught stealings, and outs. Also ranked 4th in triples and 3rd in plate appearances. After his last MLB game for Chicago in 1990, he went on to play ball in Japan. Estimated career earnings: over $1.75 million. Estimated Cub fans missing Darrin Jackson: nil.

Look What The Cat Threw Up...

July 24, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Rich Funk

That's right...the cat threw up a giant breast implant. Or more like 14-16 of them if you want to get technical.

Sunday night was the second glorious episode of Rock of Love on VH1, the show designed to find Poison frontman Bret Michaels his "television soulmate" or "walking crab farm".

Last week's episode ended with Bret keeping 16 sluts...err...lovely ladies in his house that he wants to get to know better before the next night's cut down to 12. This show was another example of why rich and famous rock stars are better than us. If the average person wanted to get to know someone better, they'd have to do things like "talk" and "listen" and maybe even "go out and do something". But Mr. Michaels has the luxury of feeding these 16 ladies endless amounts of booze, and watching their behavior from a few rooms over.

(I'd like to take this time to ask why its taken so long for someone to say "Hey, you know what would be entertaining? Giving a bunch of strippers a bunch of alcohol and waiting until they inevitably start turning on each other and raising all kinds of hell." Can anyone answer this?)

Anyway, the girls in the house have split themselves into 2 groups: the party girls that get drunk at 9:00 in the morning and aren't afraid to take their clothes off in front of all 27 VH1 viewers, and the girls that have some semblance of "morals". The party girls gave themselves the nickname "The A-Team". Wait...never mind, they actually call themselves "The Varsity Squad". Oh's both. Yes, that's right...they gave themselves 2 nicknames. It's probably because none of these girls have had less than 2 of anything applied to them at one time, if you know what I mean.

Each week, the girls are given a "challenge" to see who gets to go on a one-on-one date with Bret. This week, Bret was going to talk to the girls over the phone while a machine was attached to his...nether regions, to see which three girls could get the biggest... reaction... out of him. The highlight of this part of the show was the fact that the girl who got fall-down drunk in the first episode got fall-down drunk before getting on the phone with Bret and made little to no sense...again.

The three girls that were the best on the phone got to have a special "date" with Bret, which consisted of going into the studio with him, singing terribly on one of his new tracks, and making out with him in front of everyone else. Seriously, there were about 10 times in the show Sunday night when Bret just started making out with one of the girls, and the other 15 had to just stand there and watch it happen. How gross is that? Either way, I felt good because the 2 girls I handicapped as the front-runners in the competition were 2 of the 3 phone-sex winners. Remind me to call Vegas tomorrow and see if I can lay down a bet on Rodeo and Lacey to make it to the final 2.

Either way, there was much making out, drinking, and cattiness. This is the last time I'm going to tell you readers to start watching this show or you'll miss out on television hitting a historic new low. Tune in one of the 8,000 times VH1 is running reruns of this show. You will not be disappointed.

You Make the Call

July 23, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

Scott Rolen..............or............Scott Rolen

Bartender Banter: Yawn

July 23, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

Figures. I actually have a chance to sit down and watch both weekend games for once and they couldn't have been more dull. I even risked life and limb (and self-respect), going to the inner circle of hell Wal-Mart to purchase Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for my wife, thus freeing up my time to veg on the couch and watch the Cubs. Given how great the weather was, it's almost a shame that I wasted my time indoors. If it's any consolation I was next to an open window. That counts, right?

  • -I fell asleep during Saturday's game, and sadly that was probably the more exciting of the two.
  • -Juan Cruz, you son of a bitch! I'm not going to spout off all the stats here, but in the 17 innings he's faced the Cubs over his career he's frickin' owned them.
  • -Yusmeiro Petit helped to keep my "Young unknown pitchers baffle the Cubs" theory alive.
  • -While I'm glad to see the Cubs go 3-2 during the suspension, I'm more than ready to have Derrek Lee back in the lineup tomorrow.
  • -It's been a few days since we traded for a catcher. I'm getting kind of worried. Speaking of catchers, do you realize we've had 7 different backstops play at some point this season? That's gotta be a record.
  • -Did any GM's notice Jock Jones' big hitting display the other day? Well worth the five and a half million dollars if you ask me.

Cesar! the Pirate

July 20, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Jake the Terrible Cubs Fan

The Cesar Izturis Experience came to an end yesterday after it was announced he had been traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the always sought-after "Player to Be Named".

Many probably don't know this, but for some ungodly reason, we sponsored Cesar's Baseball Reference page. I don't really know why I did this. I blame the winter doldrums and too much cough medicine. Anyway, since Cesar is no longer a Cub it seems kind of silly for our name to be on the page for all five people that care about his stats to see. So as a sort of "best wishes" to our friends over at Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?, I decided to let them be the de facto sponsors of his page for the remainder of the year.

Enjoy Cesar. He'll fit nicely into the Tracyball philosophy.

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix

July 19, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Governor X

J. K. Rowling's teenage wizard is back, and this time he's depressed, angry, and horny for a chinese girl (hmmm, why would such a film speak to me???).

As you will recall, at the end of The Goblet of Fire, the evil Lord Voldemort resurrected and had his henchman/Ron's rat murder Cedric Diggory, the Tri-Wizard Champion from Hufflepuff. Harry battles the Dark Lord and fends him off just long enough to gather Cedric's body and return to the portkey that will take them back to Hogwarts.

Well, as it turns out, no one but Dumbledore really believes Harry. Ron & Hermione say they do, but one gets the impression its just to help Harry feel better. He's more alone than ever, and unfortunately for him, back with the loathsome Dursleys for the summer. Just as he's about to have a serious row with Dudley, the weather turns foul and two Dementors swoop in to attack. Harry fends them off with the Patronas Charm, but Dudley is a bit worse for the wear.

Back at the Dursley's, a letter arrives for Harry telling him that he has been caught conjuring the Patronas Charm off campus and in full view of a muggle, and as a result he is henceforth expelled from Hogwarts. Harry is devastated and sulks in his room, but soon Mad Eye Moody & his gang burst in and liberate Harry from his suburban prison. More good news for Harry: Dumbledore has managed to hold off his expulsion pending the outcome of a hearing at the Ministry of Magic.

Moody & Crew take Harry to the headquarters for the secretive Order of the Phoenix to wait for his hearing. Its a reunion of sorts as members of the order include the Weasleys, Professor Lupin, Snape, and most importantly Sirius Black. It seems the order had formed the last time the Dark Lord was loose and it looks like it may be time to reassemble if what Harry says is true.

Time for the hearing & Mr. Weasley escorts Harry there since he works for the Ministry's Muggle Relations Department anyway. Harry has to face the Wizengamot led by the Minister of Magic himself, Cornelius Fudge. In what will become a recurring theme here, they don't believe Harry's story about the Dementors until he and Dumbledore produce a witness to the attack. The Wizengamot acquits Harry allowing him to return to school, but not over the objections of Fudge and a particularly prickly woman named Dolores Umbridge.

Back to school, Dumbledore is making his yearly announcements in The Great Hall, and fuck, wouldn't you know it, that Dolores Umbridge woman has been named the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher; hand picked by Fudge to keep an eye on things as it will turn out. She quickly saps the fun out of the students' favorite class, announcing there will be no need to practice defensive spells since all of this Voldemort nonsense is precisely that, nonsense. They will instead be studying their text book and learning how to pass their O.W.L. exams, since learning how to pass the test is the point of school (No Wizard Left Behind?). Harry melts down faster than Mel Gibson on a California highway and shouts at her that he's telling the truth about Voldemort. She makes him come to her office after class for punishment, which in this case is writing the line "I must not tell lies" with a quill that simultaneously writes on parchment and painfully etches the line into your hand. This bitch has to go down...

After a confrontation with Gryffindor House Head McGonagall about this draconian punishment, Umbridge informs the Minister that things at Hogwarts are "far worse than she feared." Fudge names her High Inquisitor of Hogwarts and she begins to take over the school by interrogating professors & students and issuing decrees to make the school as dull as possible.

The students are officially done with this shit and Hermione persuades Harry to teach defensive spells to a secret underground group that will come to be known as Dumbledore's Army. Some of the kids like Ginny Weasley show a genuine skill at difficult spells like the Patronas Charm, but others like Neville Longbottom can't even handle easy ones like Expeliamus at first (naturally, he gets it eventually). Cho keeps screwing up because she can't take her eyes off Harry. She's a wreck because she likes Harry but was dating Cedric before he was murdered. Harry's a pimp though and gets himself some of that so-so Chinese-Scottish action.

After awhile, they're found out thanks to the help of Snape's truth serum on Cho. The students are all sent to detention with those agonizing quills and because of the name Dumbledore's Army, the minister comes to sack Dumbledore and send him to Azkaban for sedition (You see, the reason the Minister installed Umbridge at Hogwarts in the first place was because he thought Dumbledore only latched onto Harry's Voldemort story to take over the Ministry). He's not going quietly though and makes a fantastic escape with the help of his Phoenix. Umbridge is officially installed as Headmaster.

While all this is going on, Harry is having disturbing visions. It seems his mind is tied to the Dark Lord's so he can see what Voldemort is doing from time to time. He keeps seeing a particular doorway and for the longest time, he can't remember where he's seen it before. After a vision of Voldemort torturing Sirius Black, it finally hits him: The Department of Mysteries at the Ministry.

Dumbledore's Army springs into action and heads to London to save Sirius from Voldemort. They pass through the doorway to find a large warehouse of crystal balls, but no Sirius. Yes kids, its a trap. The Dark Lord is by now fully aware of the connection he has with Harry and planted this to lure him there. One of the balls contains a prophecy about the Dark Lord, but since it has Harry's name on it only he can here it. Voldemort wants it anyway. I'm not sure why, anyone not drooling on themselves and wearing mittens year round has figured out its all going to come down to Harry vs Voldemort in the end.

The Deatheaters, led by Lucius Malfoy, quickly swarm in and surround them. The teenage army does an admirable job fending off the Deatheaters for awhile and ultimately manage to escape having destroyed the entire crystal ball room...or have they? Of course not. These are 15 year olds up against Voldemort's own version of the Republican Guard. Don't be a moron. They're just in another room now. Fortunately, the Order of the Phoenix arrives just in time to continue the battle. Its fierce and one of the Deatheaters, Bellatrix LeStrange, kills Sirius Black with the killing curse (Avada Kadevra!) - not sure why people don't use this more often. It seems these fights would end sooner if they did.

Harry is destroyed by the death of his Godfather and chases LeStrange into the big hall of the Ministry taking her down with the cruciatus curse. He holds her there and we hear Voldemort telling Harry to kill her...its so easy. Then the Dark Lord appears and talks menacingly for awhile like a James Bond villain before launching his attack. Dumbledore conveniently appears via one of the Ministry's portals and defends Harry. Its a rough and tumble battle, and in the end, Harry and Dumbledore are only alive because the Dark Lord chose to leave them that way. Just as the battle comes to a close, Fudge and Ministry officials arrive and get a glimpse of Voldemort before he vanishes. FINALLY they're convinced...

Dumbledore is reinstated as Headmaster, Umbridge is sacked, and Fudge resigns. All is well for now, but shit is really going to hit the fan next year. Oh yeah, the movie was good: 8/10.

Cubs Announcers: Friends or Foes?

July 19, 2007 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Let me start this off by saying we could be a lot worse off. Anyone remember the Dave Otto Project? How about the Joe Carter Debacle? Clearly, I should be in no position to complain. And to be truthful, for the most part, I get along fine with Len and Johnny Cakes Bob.

But....let's go back to Monday night's game against the Giants. For the first time in awhile, our Cubs looked a bit flat, and we were tied up with the Giants. Will Ohman is pitching and the ump seems to be squeezing him a bit. On at least two occasions Ohman hit Kendall's mit right where he held it, yet the ump called them both balls. Len chimes in with, "That was another close pitch from Ohman." My thoughts exactly. It doesn't make a difference, but when we're watching the game on Comcast, what wrong with a little "homer" talk from our announcers. So what does Brenly (the color analyst nonetheless) chime in with? "You know, catchers can frame pitches and hold their gloves to try and convince the umpires that pitches are strikes." Gee, thanks for the support, Bob! Would it kill them to say "that pitch could easily have been called a strike"?

I realize that no one wants to hear someone as biased as the Sox's Hawk Harrelson, and I'm no different. All I want to know is that they have the team's back. They are, afterall, part of the Cub organization. You travel with the team, work in the same buildings, and interact with them all on a daily basis. A little goes a long way.

It appears that Len is starting to come around a bit. Much like Chip Caray, I despised him at first but he kind of grew on me. He's a bit goofy, but he is easily excitable, he has a decent wit about him and he can get you through a long and boring inning. Brenly, on the other hand, is exactly what I feared he would be: bland and impartial. Maybe it's because of his national announcing experience or perhaps (hopefully) he wants to get another managing job and needs to stay in good graces with the blues. Shit, maybe it was because we were playing his old team, I don't know. If he does move on, we definitely need to make a push for a quality, top-notch color guy. Maybe someone with the nickname of "Amazing"?

A Thunder Matt Movie Minute

July 19, 2007 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Sunshine: This fascinating, if uneven space odyssey from director Danny Boyle is one of those films where, when the credits start to roll you just sit there, staring at the screen, eyes unblinking. Kind of wondering, 'What the F?', but in a mostly good way.

The story, taking place 50 years in the future, concerns 8 astronauts and scientists sent to reignite a dying sun with a bomb the size of Manhattan. But Armageddon this is not. Equal parts 2001: Space Odyssey and Alien, the whole movie takes place aboard the ship and in space, with no cutbacks to 'mission control' or 'worried loved ones' that are the hallmark of most disaster movies. This is more concerned with the psychology of these 8 people as they try to remain sane, having spent two years in space and knowing there will be no return.

It is when the movie focuses on this psychology and the ship's personal dynamics that the movie thrives. In fact the first 2/3 of the film is, to borrow a phrase from the British, 'bloody brilliant'. It was one of those rare moviegoing experiences where you are completely immersed and are cognizant of nothing except what is going on in front of you. Then, as in one of Boyle's previous films, 28 Days Later, the movie does a 180 in the final third and feels like a whole different movie altogether*. We go from legitimate sci-fi masterpiece** to a kind of weird, otherworldly slasher film, and the transition is a bit jarring.

None-the-less, the movie remains compelling due to the amazing special effects (The $150 million Transformers has nothing on this $40 million whopper) and the great acting, especially by Cillian Murphy, who is slowly emerging as one of the bigger talents out there. This is one of those, 'catch it on the big screen' type films, but if nothing else it demands to be watched at home with all of the lights off and the volume up.

*The switch in 28 Days Later I refer to is when they reach the army base. Up until that point I loved everything. Wandering around a deserted London, zombies running everywhere. But when they got to the base it shifted gears and didn't work for me quite as much. If you've seen that film, and you were fine with that change in tone than maybe you won't mind the similar one that occurs in Sunshine.
**I am by no means a sci-fi nerd, so I was not predispositioned one way or another to like or dislike the film. I guess that also means me calling something a 'sci-fi classic' should be taken with a giant grain of coarse salt.

Thunder Matt Rating: First 85 minutes, 5 Thunderbolts Out of 5. Last 30 Minutes, 2 Bolts Out of 5. What's that average out to? Lets go with 3.5 Thunderbolts Out of 5.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry:
Really, I have nothing against Adam Sandler. I'm neither for or against him. The Wedding Singer and Big Daddy: Good. Little Nicky and The Longest Yard: Bad. And yeah, I kind of like Kevin James. Probably not going to earn me any street cred to admit that I like King of Queens and even Hitch, but honestly, I probably lost all sense of cool when I wore a leather KISS jacket to high school in 1995, before they put the makeup back on and became cool again*.

But I'll tell you what annoys the hell out of me. The fact that Sandler feels the need to cast every one of his buddies in all of his films. This one is no exception. Christ, it's like an episode of This is Your Life that won't end. Problem is, the majority of his friends just aren't funny. Can someone please pass a law that prohibits Rob Schneider from appearing in films? Ah...anyway, I digress.

Far be it from me to shy away against a good old fashioned joke regarding any of my buddies' flamboyant sexualities (at last count, half the bartenders at TMS were really, really gay) but this film just falls flat. I guess the premise of two straight guys pretending to be gay so one can receive benefits might have seemed 'risque' in the Regan Era**, but the movie uses such broad stokes and stereotypes that it's about as cutting edge as a plastic spork. In fact the only thing offensive about it is the notion that in the movie the gay community embraces these two guys for essentially making a mockery of their lifestyle. The whole 'accept everyone for who they are' message at the end is all good and well, but must it be delivered via an out of control courtroom scene? Ugh.

There are a few funny moments and you hear more anal sex jokes in 2 hours than you probably would during Pledge Week at your older brother's bi-curious frat house, but it's all more scatter-shot than Dick Cheney's rifle.

The real reason to see it (ahem, rent it) is of course Jessica Biel. When she strips down, soaking wet in her bra and panties it almost makes you forget the scene with a very large, very naked Ving Rhames singing 'I'm Every Woman' in the communal shower.

Sure there are some laughs to be had, but you have to ask yourself, "Do I really want to in any way, shape or form support Rob Schneider?" Think about that long. And hard.....that's what he said.

*This 'cool' era for KISS lasted about 6 months.
**Or currently, in Alabama.

Thunder Matt Rating: 2 Sassy Thunderbolts Out of 5

Oceans 13: I will keep this one brief, since it's theatrical run is probably almost over, and frankly, if you've seen the first two, you know the drill. There's not much to go over plot wise. Wisecracking and extremely handsome men rob a casino. A terribly orange Al Pacino chews scenery and over-enunciates. You're never sure exactly what the hell is going on and when it does happen you don't believe for a second that it actually could. That said, I loved it.

Big improvement from Oceans 12, more on par with the first one. It's colorful, it's breezy, it's Vegas baby. Nothing that will stick with you for long after you leave the theatre, but like Vegas, it's worth a visit.

Thunder Matt Rating: 3.5 Stars Out of 5