Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bye

I'm calling it quits...at least for the next 4 months.

As I watch the blank spaces on my 2009 calendar quickly become not so blank, it becomes quite clear that I will have very little free time this semester. I have more responsibilities with my job and more extracurricular commitments than I did a year ago, and I know that if I were to attempt to sustain this blog, whatever quality it once had would sharply decrease.

Thanks to everyone who ever stopped by, especially those that stopped by more than a few times and the few that even provided some content.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Extended Vacation

The last few weeks have really flown by, and I have not had much free time for blogging. Besides my winter reading list, I've been occupied mostly with this. We've got a gig this Friday and next Saturday, so if you're in the Milwaukee area, be sure to come check us out (it's free!).

I will probably only post sporadically until the 26th, when classes resume and I get back into a routine.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Finished!

At 3:15 pm, History 636 gathered around the Old Abe Monument at Wilson Park to hand in our final papers and receive a quick lesson about the famous war eagle and the Wisconsin 8th Infantry. Thus came to an end my third semester.

Finals week turned out to be less hectic than I thought it would be, but it was still long and full of work.

Next semester promises to be my toughest yet, with thesis work, studying for the comps, and an increase in work assignments. Actually, because of all the research and studying that I'll need to accomplish in the Spring, next semester starts tomorrow.

As for this blog, I'll be taking the next few days off, and posting will probably be lighter in the coming weeks. I plan to do some brainstorming when it comes to the type of posting that I want to do in '09, and reevaluate my goals for the blog.

Happy holidays to everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ugh

This is not good news.

I don't have time to say much, but the idea of another season with Mike Cameron in center field is a punch in the gut.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Films Of 2008 - A Review, Part I

Looking back at the films I watched in 2008, it's easy to draw a conclusion that it was not a very good year. Just like 2007 was a really good year for music, it was also a great year for film. Two of my favorites from '07 were There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men. But I also enjoyed Zodiac, Michael Clayton, Juno, Knocked Up, Superbad, The Savages, and the documentaries The King of Kong and My Kid Could Paint That.

This post is Part I of my review of 2008, because there are a number of movies that have just recently been released or will be released that I want to see and haven't had the time yet to do so. Part II will probably come in a couple of months after I've had the chance to see some of the more "prestigious" films that are always released in a bunch at the end of every year.

So here are the grades of the nine films from 2008 that I've seen so far (also, POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT):

D- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Steven Spielberg)

This is easily the most disappointing movie of the year for me. I even went into it with very low expectations and the movie still was a huge letdown. It was so bad that I've decided that I will stubbornly refuse to acknowledge it ever existed, starting now.

D Baby Mama (Michael McCullers)

Tina Fey may be the star of 2008, but her first starring role in a movie was a complete dud. The one thing that can be said in Fey's defense is that neither her nor her screen partner, Amy Poehler, wrote the script for this supposed comedy. Fey and the rest of the cast sleepwalk through this comedy-by-numbers, and not even a cameo by Steve Martin as an eccentric millionaire was able to save it.

C Hancock (Peter Berg)

Here is a movie that seemingly could not fail. It had Will Smith in the lead, was released in the summer, and it had a really smart idea at its center. Smith plays a drunk, ill-behaved superhuman, whose superpowers routinely bring super-destruction and little thanks from the common man. Hancock's main problem is that it isn't able to effectively blend the comic and serious aspects of the plot together, and the result is a schizophrenic movie that leaves little impression.

C Pineapple Express (David Gordon Green)

When you strip this movie down to its essential state, it is just a stoner comedy with almost nothing new to say. I was hoping for something in the vein of Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead, two movies that satirized while paying homage to their genres. There are some laughs here, but not enough to justify calling this movie anything but average.

C+ Step Brothers (Adam McKay)

Unlike Pineapple Express, this movie does not try to be anything more than a stupid comedy. And it is very stupid. The plot isn't very plausible and the movie is filled with absurdist moments that have come to define the work of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Some of the bits are pretty funny though, and even though Ferrell's shtick may be running thin, he and co-star John C. Reilly make a good comedy duo and now how to deliver quote-ready lines.

B+ Iron Man (Jon Favreau)

Comic book movies have become arguably the most popular genre in the past 10 years, and as such, there exists a basic formula for how the first film in a planned series should introduce audiences to the main character(s). Iron Man treads a delicate line because in a lot of ways, it is quite formulaic. For that reason, a lot of credit should be given to director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr., for providing enough twists and humor to keep the audience fully engaged and entertained.

B+ The Visitor (Thomas McCarthy)

Before I watched The Visitor, I fully expected a critique of the policies and institutions that have developed in the post-9/11 world. That is definitely a major theme of the film, however the director explores these ideas in a subtle and complex manner, and only in the overall context of the human relationships that are explored. There are two main things that struck me afterwards: the great performance by Richard Jenkins in the lead, and the use of music by the filmmaker. The final scene is among the best I've seen all year.

A- Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Nicholas Stoller)

Another product of the Apatow machine, Forgetting Sarah Marshall follows in the tradition of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, which means it is full of vulgar (and funny) humor, while at the same time attempting to interject some serious message. The second part doesn't always work, but the film is filled with memorable comedic bits. Jason Segel does a good job in delivering some of the more original moments, including an unforgettable ending with puppets.



A The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)

It's been a while since a film has both garnered widespread critical acclaim and captured the imagination of a large segment of the public. Currently The Dark Knight trails only Titanic when it comes to the box-office (and the movie is being re-released in January). On IMDB.com, the film has been ranked the fourth best all-time (trailing The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, and The Godfather: Part II). Out of the 262 reviews collected on RottenTomatoes.com, only 16 are negative.

The Dark Knight is both a comic book movie and a crime-drama, but the story takes a back seat to the gritty and enthralling performances. When I first saw the movie I wrote that Heath Ledger's performance was comparable to Daniel Day Lewis' work in There Will Be Blood, because of the powerful energy that inhabits the character. Every scene with The Joker is mesmerizing and chilling.

The Dark Knight is the type of film that reminds you how magical and exciting going to the movies can be, and it truly captivates, entertains, and transcends the usual film-watching experience.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Brrr!

-9, The temperature at 9:15 this morning when I got on campus.

-1, The temperature at 5:24 this evening when I left campus.

What a nice way to start finals week.

Hopefully positive numbers will return tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Brewers News

CC is gone. But to soften the blow, the Brewers have decided to send along his pal MiKe Cameron (that capitalized K is not a typo).

The deal isn't finalized yet, but it looks like the Brewers would receive 24 year-old outfielder Melky Cabrera (Cameron will be 36 in a month). Here is a comparison of the players:

Cameron

2008: 120 Games, 444 AB, 108 Hits, .243 Avg., 54 BB, .331 OBP, 142 K, 69 R, 25 HR, 70 RBI, 17 SB
-1 charged error, but Cameron exhibited decreased skills in the OF

Cabrera
2008: 129 Games, 414 AB, 103 H, .249 Avg., 29 BB, .301 OBP, 58 K, 42 R, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 9 SB
-4 errors last year in the outfield
-In 2007 he hit .273, and in 2006 he hit .280

Are the Brewers getting a fair deal? Cabrera doesn't seem to bring much to the team, but he is young and doesn't strike out as much as Cameron.

Some More Music Lists

'Tis the season for making lists. Last week I presented my favorite music from the last year. Here are a few lists from the professional music critics:

-The A.V. Club tallied up their votes and came up with the 30 best albums from the year.

-Here is a list of the top 40 albums from Spin.

-Paste ranked the year's 50 best albums.

One interesting note from these lists is that the #1 selection for the A.V. Club and Spin, is the #50 selection for Paste. I don't care much about the rankings from these sort of lists, but the nice thing is that they usually provide readers with some new music to check out.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Let's Go Bowling!

What college football bowl games are you looking forward to the most? This article ranks all 34 games (no surprise what #1 is).

Besides the Badgers' bowl game (vs. Florida State, December 27, Champs Sports Bowl) and the National Championship, I'm really not looking forward to any of these games. None of the "marquee" matchups seem that exciting to me:

-Penn State vs. USC, USC already trounced one Big Ten opponent this year and I imagine they'll take care of Penn State.

-Ohio State vs. Texas, Texas has a legitimate case for being in the National Championship game and will most likely destroy Ohio State.

-Alabama vs. Utah, A week ago Alabama's bags were packed for the title game and now they are going up against Utah.

This year's matchups provide yet more support for the argument that the BCS should be replaced by a playoff system (get on this Obama!). Imagine the possible matchups with a playoff system - Alabama vs. USC, Texas vs. Florida, Oklahoma vs. Penn State, Utah vs. Boise State, etc.

How can we get the bigwigs who run college football to change their minds?

Monday, December 8, 2008

CC's Mind Not Made Up

It's been almost two months since the last time CC Sabathia pitched for the Brewers, but according to this report, there remains a slim chance that Milwaukee will be able to sign the coveted free agent.

It's clearly not all about the money for CC - if that was the case, he would've signed the Yankee's $140 million offer. But it's also still early in the free agent season, and being the biggest prize this off-season, I'm sure CC and his people are going to take their time in making a decision.

What are the chances we see Sabathia back in a Milwaukee uniform next year? I'd say about 5%. I'm still convinced that he'll end up somewhere in California. It's nice to dream though.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Badgers Disappear In Second Half

I don't have ESPNU so I didn't get to watch last night's UW-Marquette game, but here's what I could figure out from looking at the numbers:

-The Badgers got cold in the second half. After going 13-for-27 from the field in the first half, UW was 9-for-21 in the second half, including 3-for-12 from three-point land.

-It was not a "Bo Ryan" game, which means the Badgers lost the battle on fouls and turnovers. UW turned over the ball 16 times (Marquette had 12 turnovers), and committed 26 fouls to Marquette's 16. When the Badgers did get to the free throw line, they were 7-for-13.

-Marcus Landry did not show up. These are the type of games where you need your senior leaders to be big playmakers. Last year it was Brian Butch who would sometimes take over in big games, and two years ago it was Alando Tucker. Last night, Landry was just 2-for-5, in 28 minutes.

-Jason Bohannon is still not out of his early season funk. Bohannon was 2-for-7 from beyond the arc, and committed 4 turnovers.

-Badgers couldn't find a defensive answer to Jerel McNeal. McNeal scored most of his team-high 26 points in the second half. It's funny how much attention is given to Marquette's two "stars," Dominic James and Wesley Matthews (overrated), when in actuality the most valuable player on the roster is McNeal.

The Badgers have four more games (all home) until the Big Ten season opens on December 31 at Michigan. The next three games should be wins - Idaho State, UW-Green Bay, and Coppin State. Then No. 8 Texas comes to town, and the Longhorns will be looking for revenge for last year's loss in Austin. Texas just beat No. 12 UCLA, and their lone loss was by a single point against Notre Dame.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Connections To The Past

This article, which came to my attention from one of my professors, discusses an emerging interpretation of the American Revolution, and how it is significant to the current economic crisis.

"The parallels between the current economy and the one Franklin saw highlight a debate among historians: how big a role did economics, as opposed to ideas, play in fomenting revolution?"

Friday, December 5, 2008

Music Of 2008 - A Review

Overall, I would consider 2008 to be a disappointing year for music. One reason why I feel that way is probably because 2007 was such a strong year. '07 saw releases from some of my favorite artists - Wilco, Arcade Fire, The National, Radiohead, Modest Mouse, The Shins, Page McConnell, Neil Young, The New Pornographers, and Elliott Smith (posthumously). Meanwhile, I discovered some gems for the first time in '07 too - Tokyo Police Club, Okkervil River, Liam Finn, and Band of Horses. Heck, it was even a strong year for soundtracks - There Will Be Blood (Johnny Greenwood), Once, The Darjeeling Limited, and Juno.

So '08 was bound to disappoint. Here we are in the final month of '08 and there are only a few albums that I would consider to be on par with most of the releases mentioned above. But that doesn't mean that '08 was a total loss. Of the five albums I chose for my "Favorite of 2008," three are by bands that I had not heard of before January 1, 2008. 2008 also saw some strong sophomore releases, like by Tokyo Police Club and Wolf Parade, even if they didn't quite match the level of their debut albums. And if nothing struck you strongly this year, there's always hope for 2009 (I know for sure that Wilco and Midlake are planning releases).

Without further ado, I present my favorite music from 2008 - my five favorite albums, a number of honorable mentions, and some overrated stuff.

#5 The Dodos, Visiter

This is one of the three bands that I listened to for the first time in 2008. The Dodos are clearly an indie band, but their sound is not one-dimensional and they are confident in shifting gears and focus.



#4 Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut album garnered quick praise, and by March the album was being hailed as the best record of '08. Then by June the band's tunes were being played in baseball parks across America, and by the fall it was losing cred with the hipster-indie crowd. Vampire Weekend draws from many influences to create their unique sound, and even though this album is open to criticisms, achieving mainstream success shouldn't detract from the fact that this was one of the best releases of the year.



#3 Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes

It took me a few listens to warm up to Fleet Foxes, though that isn't rare for me when it comes to new bands. At first listen, I was reminded of Midlake, Simon & Garfunkel, My Morning Jacket's album Z, and the The Shins. But there are definitely other comparisons to be made. One review I saw mentioned a similarity to Pet Sounds, which is an album that is used far too often for comparisons. But there are definitely hints of that album, especially on track 7, "Heard Them Stirring."



#2 The Raconteurs, Consolers of the Lonely

After their first release, Broken Boy Soldiers, The Raconteurs quickly established themselves as a solid rock n' roll outfit. With their newest album, they firmly place themselves as the go-to rock n' roll band around. The album is filled with quick kicks of adrenaline, but the band showcases other gears - "You Don't Understand Me" is a moderate tempo piano rock piece and "Carolina Drama" is a southern rock soap opera.



#1 Tapes n' Tapes, Walk It Off

Tapes n' Tapes doesn't just begin where they left off with their first release, The Loon. The core of what made that album so good is still intact, but the band makes some nice strides with Walk It Off. There is an added burst of energy this time around, and a fuller sound. The interplay between the musicians is tighter and more expressive, revealing a maturity and wisdom that gives the album a quality of timelessness. Every song sinks its hooks into you, and there isn't a weak track on the entire album.



Honorable Mention:

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer, A solid sophomore effort, the final track "Kissing The Beehive" is the gem of the entire album.

Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell, Another solid follow-up to a debut album, but this one seemed to lack the edge and experimental nature of their first release.

Colour Revolt - Plunder, Beg, and Curse, Never mundane or boring, but is at times a forgettable record for me.

Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords, No new material here, but it's hard to get tired of the old stuff.

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges, There is a lot to like about this album, but also a few things to dislike (track 3, "Highly Suspicious," is unlistenable in my opinion).

Bob Dylan - Tell Tale Signs, Another release in the Bootleg series, Dylan shows that 2 discs of his "throw-aways" are better than most artists' A-material.

Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark, Southern rock that leaves an impression.

Stuff I Found Overrated:

Basically, any album that was full of down-tempo, sparse sounding, Lo-fi, minimalist, "atmosphere rock," or repetitive, droning, wallowing sounds - anything like that, I didn't embrace as much as some critics. This includes: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago; Sun Kil Moon - April, Shearwater - Rook, and Deerhunter - Microcastle. There were some good tracks on those albums, but as entire works I couldn't get into them.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Note To My Reader(s)

I hope to pick up the pace when it comes to posting, but this is the end of the semester and it is always a busy time (this past week I had three papers due, a stack of papers to grade, a thesis proposal to finalize, and a constitutional crisis with the department honor society). Next week is the final week of classes, and then it will be finals time (which actually shouldn't be that stressful for me this semester).

Here are a few things to look forward to though:

-Tomorrow I will post my thoughts on the music from 2008, including my favorite albums.

-The Badgers take on Marquette Saturday night, and I'm sure I'll have a few thoughts on that game.

-A funny YouTube video.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nice Road Win For UW

If you missed last night's UW-Virginia Tech game, you missed a rather exciting road win for the Badgers. UW was in control for most of the night, but the Hokies made a frenzy comeback with under 2 minutes to play. With about 7 seconds left, a player for VA Tech hit a game-tying three-pointer, which set up Trevon Hughes for the game-winner.

It's a good road victory for this young Badger team. Until the last minute, the team showed great poise. When the Hokies started pressing on defense, the Badgers had troubles (just like against UConn). But going into a hostile environment, against an ACC team that isn't afraid of anyone, and coming out with a win is always a positive. I think this was a good learning experience for the young guys - Leuer, Taylor, Wilson, Nankivil, and Jarmusz all played at least 10 minutes.

Leuer was in particular impressive last night. In 21 minutes he was 6-for-11, including 2-for-2 from beyond the arc. He finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks. The true freshman Rob Wilson made a slightly different impression. He shows flashes of brilliance on defense, but is too often out of control on offense (kind of like Kammron Taylor when he was a freshman). I think once he learns to settle down and let the game come to him, he will be a good player. But there will probably be some growing pains this year.

Landry, Hughes, Krabbenhoft, and Bohannon all had solid games, as you would expect from the core of the team. Overall, it was a good shooting night for the Badgers. They finished the game with a field goal percentage of 50, and were 12-for-18 on three-pointers (Landry was 4-for-4!).

After playing a number of games in a short period of time, UW can rest until Saturday's showdown at Marquette (8:30 pm, and on ESPNU (boo!)). Marquette just lost to Dayton last Saturday, and definitely revealed some weaknesses, so a victory on the road against the top-25 opponent isn't out of the question.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bowl Predictions For UW

It's the first day after Thanksgiving, so I thought I would spoil the good mood and cheer by linking to a story that offers some bowl projections for college football. The bad news isn't that the Badger football team is projected to be heading to the Insight Bowl (Dec. 31 in Arizona) - the bad news is that according to this story, the game is televised by the NFL Network. What?! Why would the NFL Network (a channel most people in Wisconsin don't have) have the rights to televise a college football game?

OK, now you can get back to your leftovers while I go prepare for some old school sandlot football!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

14 More Games To Look Forward To - NFL

Last week I highlighted 14 December college basketball games that have the potential to be great matchups. Today I offer 14 NFL games in December that will most likely have an impact on the final standings and the positioning for the playoffs.

SUN, DECEMBER 7

Washington Redskins (7-4) at Baltimore Ravens (7-4), 12 pm

Dallas Cowboys (7-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3), 3:15 pm

MON, DECEMBER 8

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) at Carolina Panthers (8-3), 7:30 pm

THU, DECEMBER 11

New Orleans Saints (6-5) at Chicago Bears (6-5), 7:15 pm

SUN, DECEMBER 14

Pittsburgh (8-3) at Baltimore (7-4), 12 pm

NY Giants (10-1) at Dallas (7-4), 7:15 pm

SAT, DECEMBER 20

Baltimore (7-4) at Dallas (7-4), 7:15 pm

SUN, DECEMBER 21

Pittsburgh (8-3) at Tennessee Titans (10-1), 12 pm

Carolina (8-3) at NY Giants (10-1), 12 pm

MON, DECEMBER 22

Green Bay Packers (5-6) at Chicago (6-5), 7:30 pm

SUN, DECEMBER 28

Miami Dolphins (6-5) at NY Jets (8-3), 12 pm

Tennessee (10-1) at Indianopolis Colts (7-4), 12 pm

NY Giants (10-1) at Minnesota Vikings (6-5), 12 pm

Denver Broncos (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (4-7), 3 pm

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Badgers Will Face UConn, Monday Night

UW defeated San Diego earlier tonight, 64-49, to advance to the Paradise Jam Tournament title game. The Badgers will be up against a tough opponent - No. 2 Connecticut. The game will tip-off at 7:30 pm central time, and will air on FSN in Wisconsin.

The Huskies beat Miami tonight, 76-63. UConn (4-0) has also beaten Western Carolina, Hartford, and La Salle, and the Huskies are averaging 86.3 points in their first four games. UConn's center, Hasheem Thabeet, is 7'3" and will certainly pose a tough matchup for the Badgers. In UConn's win over Miami, Thabeet scored 19 points, had 14 rebounds, and 7 blocks - hopefully he tired himself out!

Last year, the Huskies finished 21-6, with a 10-4 record in the Big East. They, ironically, lost to San Diego in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament, 70-69. UConn's roster this year boasts 6 seniors and 5 juniors.

Sarah Palin: Redefining "Idiot" Every Day

Have you seen the video of Sarah Palin giving a news conference with turkeys being slaughtered as the chosen backdrop?

I found this on The Onion's A.V. Club website:

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Arrested Development" - The Movie?

Life in TV Land is not fair.

Horrible comedies like "Two and a Half Men" or pretty much anything on Fox, are allowed to survive despite being contrived, hacky, gross for gross' sake, stale, horrendously unfunny pieces of crap. Meanwhile, shows that display a genius level of writing and acting are frequently sent to the gallows, because not enough Nielsen families tune into good shows (those would be the rubes in your neighborhood who religiously watch every "Law & Order" and "CSI" incarnation).

"Arrested Development," which was lucky to survive 2 1/2 seasons with poor ratings, was cancelled by Fox in 2006. I still remember how the network unceremoniously dumped the final four episodes all on the same night - the night of the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Olympic Games.

Why am I bringing all this up now? Because ever since the final episode aired, there has been speculation that someday an "Arrested Development" movie would be produced. And in the past couple of weeks, there have been multiple reports that such a movie is closer to becoming a reality. Plus, there is now an IMDB page for the movie.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I would be the first person in line at the cinema to see such film, and would probably see it at least twice. On the other hand, even though the show ended prematurely, it did end with a somewhat proper and satisfying finale. Plus, there always lies the danger of a television show not translating to the big screen. One of the funnier shows of the past decade, "Strangers With Candy" (starring Amy Sedaris and Stephen Colbert), led to a quite unfunny film five years after it was cancelled. And though I have yet to see the "Reno 911" movie, I have discerned from others that it doesn't match the series' best moments.

It seems that whether or not "Arrested Development" makes it into theaters will hinge on the series' creator and mastermind, Mitchell Hurwitz. Hurwitz has just one writing credit to his name post-AD, and it appears to have been a show that was never picked up. Hopefully that is a sign that he has been busy at work completing a fantastic script for "Arrested Development: The Movie."

At any rate, all of this speculation gives me the opportunity to post some funny moments from one of the greatest TV shows:



Thursday, November 20, 2008

14 Games To Look Forward To - College Basketball

Below is a list of 14 potentially awesome college basketball games, all of which will be played in December. Looking at the list, Texas easily has the toughest schedule on paper - four games against Top 25 teams, including two on the road. Besides the Wisconsin games, the matchups I'm most looking forward to are Duke at Purdue, UNC at Michigan St., and UCLA at Texas.

What games are you looking forward to? Any games missing from the list?

(All times listed are central standard time)

TUE, DECEMBER 2

No. 10 Duke at No. 11 Purdue, 8:00 pm, ESPN

WED, DECEMBER 3

No. 1 North Carolina at No. 5 Michigan State, 8:15 pm, ESPN

THU, DECEMBER 4

No. 19 USC at No. 12 Oklahoma, 6:00 pm, ESPN2

No. 4 UCLA at No. 7 Texas, 8:00 pm, ESPN2

SAT, DECEMBER 6

No. 25 Wisconsin at No. 15 Marquette, 8:30 pm, ESPNU

TUE, DECEMBER 9

No. 7 Texas at No. 23 Villanova, 8:00 pm, ESPN

SAT, DECEMBER 13

No. 13 Memphis at No. 22 Georgetown, 1:00 pm, CBS

SUN, DECEMBER 14

No. 9 Gonzaga at Arizona, 5:00 pm

TUE, DECEMBER 16

No. 15 Marquette at No. 14 Tennessee, 8:30 pm, ESPN

SAT, DECEMBER 20

No. 5 Michigan State at No. 7 Texas, 1:00 pm, CBS

No. 2 UConn at No. 9 Gonzaga, 3:00 pm, CBS

No. 21 Davidson at No. 11 Purdue, 3:00 pm

TUE, DECEMBER 23

No. 7 Texas at No. 25 Wisconsin, 8:30 pm, ESPN2

No. 24 Kansas at Arizona, 9:30 pm

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reactions To Badgers' Season Opener - GUEST POST

Scott S. on UW's 68-61 victory over Long Beach State yesterday:

Well, the weird thing about the Badgers is that they didn't play that bad. There is just one HUGE weakness: Height. They're just too damn small. I've been ranting about this for months and no one will listen. Here's my rant:

Greg Stiemsma should have red-shirted his freshman year. It was the stupidest move ever not to. He played in 10 games, not one meaningful minute, and scored about 6 meaningless points. I'm not saying Stiemsma is the end all, be all by any stretch of the imagination, but he brought a defensive presence and offensive rebounding ability that this team DEARLY lacks.

Ok, so back to the Long Beach State game. Nankivil is too small to play center, and not a good enough athlete to play anywhere else. Leuer is too weak to play center. Gullickson is too short. Their best lineup is the starting five, minus Nankivil and adding Taylor. They're small and quick.

Unfortunately, its kind of like Marquette. When Marcus Landry (who is the only player who played his ass off) is your center at 6'7", you're going to get KILLED on the glass. I love Krabby, but he can't jump, and thus at 6'6" is too small to play power forward.

Overall impressions of the team? Bohannon is going to be the 2nd best scoring option. Bo isn't happy with Hughes, and essentially gave Taylor just as many minutes. Taylor is a better defensive player than Hughes, and probably by the end of the season will be just as good offensively - really like Taylor. Nankivil was poor with the ball, committing too many turnovers.

The real problem is, when you have guys like Krabby, Jarmusz, Nankivil, Rob Wilson (who someday could be a Flowers-esque defensive stopper) on the floor, you don't really have a lot of scoring options. None of those four scare you, so teams focus on Landry and Bohannon. The absolute X-factor is Hughes, and he played poorly.

I know I've said it a lot, but I want to see what Jared Berggren can do. He's 6'10" and athletic. I don't see how he can be dramatically worse than 6'8" Nankivil. One of the staples of Bo's Platteville teams was that they went 10-deep and applied a hellish full court press throughout the game. Well, these Badgers are 9 deep, and guys like Hughes, Taylor, and Wilson excel at pressing the ball full court. I'm not proposing using it exclusively, but an occasional 3 or 4 minutes pressing action might generate some easy buckets. Defensively, minus the lack of a true center, we're fine. I just don't think we can score enough to compete for a Big Ten title.

Bears vs. Packers, 11.16.08 - Videos




Bears vs. Packers, 11.16.08 - Pictures

The view from section 102, row 1:



The Bears warming up before the game:






The Packers before kickoff:


That annoying FOX sound guy was in our way probably half of the game:


FOX Sports sideline reporter Pam Oliver drew cheers every time she walked by the sections. One fan yelled out "Hey Oprah!"


Rodgers drops back to pass.


Ryan Grant cuts to the outside.

The halftime show included an eagle.


It was a good day for the Packer offense. 37-3, GB wins and moves into a tie for first place.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Badger Basketball Season Starts Sunday

The UW men's basketball team starts the 2008-09 season Sunday afternoon, with their first non-conference game at home against Long Beach St. (3 pm start time).

The Badgers enter the season ranked in both the AP (#25) and the Coaches (#21) polls. There are 2 other Big Ten teams in the top 25 - Michigan St. is #6 in the AP and Purdue is #11.

Last year UW only lost to three teams before the NCAA Tournament, and two of those were during the non-conference schedule. The Badgers lost to Duke and Marquette early in the season, and then lost twice to Purdue during the Big Ten schedule. But those losses didn't prevent UW from winning the Big Ten regular season title outright, which they followed up with a Big Ten Tournament title.

There are a few teams that will provide the Badgers with tough tests before the Big Ten season begins. From November 21 to 24 UW will participate in the Paradise Jam Tournament, where they could play Valparaiso, Miami, and Connecticut (ranked #2 in both preseason polls). On December 1 the Badgers will travel to Virginia Tech for the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. UW then travels to Marquette (#16) on December 6. Last year the Golden Eagles beat the Badgers at the Kohl Center 81-76. On December 23 the Badgers will play host to #7 Texas. Last year UW went down to Austin and beat Texas 67-66 when Michael Flowers made a game-winning three-pointer with seconds left in the game.

Here are a few final notes before tomorrow's game:

-The UW got two national letters of intent signed this past Wednesday.

-Freshman Ryan Evans has decided to redshirt this year. That leaves 4 true freshmen still available to come off the bench for Bo Ryan.

-The Badgers have lost just 1 season opener during the Bo Ryan-era. That was his first opener, back in 2001, at UNLV.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Packers' Rushing Defense: Ugh

After yesterday's demoralizing loss to the Vikings came this bit of bad news out of Green Bay: Nick Barnett is gone for the season.

As the article points out, this will most likely have an impact on the Packers' already poor rushing defense.

Here's a look at what challenges lie ahead for the now depleted GB run defense:

Nov. 16 - Chicago
The Bears are middle of the pack rushing the ball, averaging 110 yards per game. Rookie Matt Forte is averaging just under 80 yards a game, and has over 700 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns, with 0 fumbles.

Nov. 24 - at New Orleans
The Saints are statistically the 5th worst team running the ball - averaging about 90 yards a game. Star tailback Reggie Bush has missed time due to an injury, but he should be back for this game. Deuce McAllister is averaging less than 45 yards per game in the 7 games he has played in.

Nov. 30 - Carolina
The Panthers have one of the better running attacks in the NFL, and are averaging just under 120 yards per game. DeAngelo Williams has 4 touchdowns and is averaging about 73 yards per game, while rookie Jonathan Stewart has 5 touchdowns and averages over 40 yards per game.

Dec. 7 - Houston
The Texans are slightly worse than the Bears, and are averaging about 107 yards per game. Steve Slaton is the Texans' leading rusher, and he is averaging 60 yards a game and has 5 touchdowns.

Dec. 14 - at Jacksonville
The Jaguars average over 115 yards per game, and are led by Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 9 touchdowns in 9 games. He averages just 48 yards per game though.

Dec. 22 - at Chicago - See Above

Dec. 28 - Detroit
Much like everything else about the Lions, the rushing offense is woeful - 2nd worst in the NFL. The team averages just 75 yards per game, and their leading rusher (Kevin Smith) has compiled just 401 yards in 9 games.

Overall, Green Bay won't be catching any breaks the rest of the season. Out of all of the remaining opponents, only the Lions are equipped with an inept rushing offense. The good news is that the Pack won't have to face Adrian Peterson anymore in 2008.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Aftermath

In securing the presidency Tuesday night, Barack Obama won several states which went to George W. Bush in 2004:

Indiana, Florida, Ohio, Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada

And as of today North Carolina and Missouri are still "too close to call," but North Carolina is leaning toward Obama and Missouri is leaning toward McCain.

For me, the biggest surprise was Indiana. Indiana had not gone to a Democrat since 1964, and in 2004 it gave Bush a 21 point lead. No doubt that the economy was a big issue for Hoosiers.

Also, the fact that Obama was able to capture Indiana, Virginia, and presumably, North Carolina, is very telling. I did not think that Obama would sweep all three states, mostly because they all were pro-Bush in 2004. And like Indiana, the last time Virginia went Democrat was in 1964 (for NC, they last went Democrat in 1976).

In the long run, the more devastating losses for the Republicans may be losing Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico - not to mention nearly losing Montana, and showing some vulnerability in North Dakota and Arizona. In 1992, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico were states that went to Clinton, and four years later Clinton picked up Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. In the elections of 2000 and 2004, the Democratic candidate picked up one of those western states only once (Gore won New Mexico in 2000). As traditional electoral power states continue to lose electoral votes (such as Pennsylvania), some of these western states will be gaining electoral votes (Nevada for example may gain 3 after the 2010 census).

I have yet to see any solid reports of the national voter turnout. The Washington Post is reporting the total number of votes for each candidate as follows:

Obama - 63,550,319
McCain - 56,178,736

In 2004 about 62 million Americans voted for Bush, which broke the previous record for any one candidate.

If you take those two totals from Obama and McCain, you get about 119.7 million votes between them - which is lower than the 121 million total votes for Bush and Kerry in 2004. So those record national turnout numbers may not actually happen, but it could be a little while until the numbers are finalized.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't Forget To Vote!

I was number 232 at my local polling place earlier this morning, and it did not take long at all - about 10 minutes.

So go vote - and be weary of those electronic voting machines:

2008 Election Night + TV = Circus

What to expect when you turn your television on tonight for election coverage? According to Tom LeGro at pbs.org, this year's coverage will include:

"Building-size banners, interviews with holograms, a virtual reality U.S. Capitol building, reporter “Launch Pads,” electronic clipboards, magic maps and magic walls"

LeGro goes on to outline what the major networks will be offering.

Here is a rundown of when the major networks begin coverage. And here is another.

The coverage I'm most looking forward to is Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Indecision '08," which starts at 9 pm (central time) on Comedy Central. But before that begins I'll probably flip around a lot, between ABC, NBC, PBS, and FOX.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Eve 2008

Apparently I have two votes.

Yesterday I used the State of Wisconsin Voter Public Access website to verify that I was indeed registered in Eau Claire, and to confirm the location of my polling place. I entered my first name as "Tom," and the page that appeared listed my address from 4 years ago in Madison. Under the "Registration Information" section, it said that my status was still "active."

Then I entered my first name as "Thomas," which brought up a page showing the registration information that reflects my current address in Eau Claire. And it too shows my registration status as "active."

I can only assume that this is some sort of reward for being such a good citizen - two votes!

On a different note, I came across this cool graphic from JSOnline, which shows how the state (county-by-county) has voted in every presidential election since 1964.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Will Tuesday Be "A Seismic Election Day" ?

George Will's column from today looks at several possibilities for Tuesday night.

Some of the things he highlights I mentioned last week in this post.

Badger Basketball Preview - Guest Post

Scott S. watched UW's exhibition game last night, and provides a preview of the 2008-09 season:

My disclaimer to this preview/review is that the game was played against a Division II school, Augustana, though they were a D II tournament team last year. No Badger played more than 23 minutes in the 81-57 win.

STARTING FIVE

TREVON HUGHES - The key word with Hughes is consistency. He can look dominant at times with his combination of speed and shooting range, but at other times commits foolish turnovers and terrible shots. Hughes was relatively quiet, finishing with 7 points. The key, however, was that he only had 1 turnover. He efficiently got the team into their offense, and fed the post players, who had a large height advantage.

JASON BOHANNON - I've been waiting for J-Bo to develop a midrange game as well as the ability to put the ball on the floor. He made great strides last year in becoming more than just a 3 point specialist, and appears to have progressed even further this year. J-Bo played solid D, and contributed 12 points. I was impressed most with his 3 offensive rebounds, including an athletic tip in off a Landry miss. Very poised and controlled on the court, even with the constant substitutions.

MARCUS LANDRY - Landry was simply dominant over the outmanned Augustanians. He put the ball on the floor, hit the spot up jump, and dominated in the post, en route to 21 points in 21 minutes. Landry could turn into the 2008 version of Alando Tucker, an undersized power forward who isn't afraid to bang inside. A definite possibility for Big Ten player of the year, especially since the team has other scoring options to take the pressure away.

JOE KRABBENHOFT - With the Badgers up 15 late in the first half, Krabbenhoft chased a loose ball, jumped over the scorer's table, and landed on some guy in the 2nd row. Someone forgot to tell Joe that this was an exhibition. Krabby is a glue guy, whose All-Big 10 defense was on display yet again. Probably the most consistent player on the team. Solid decision maker who is still somewhat limited offensively, but knows his role and provides toughness.

KEATON NANKIVIL - The Great Question Mark. Nankivil started at center, even though he's only 6'8. He's strong for his height, somewhat like a Mike Wilkinson type player. His skill level, however, is not near that of Wilkinson's. Nankivil didn't score in 17 minutes, but did have 7 boards. Wasn't as dominant as you'd hope against a small front line. Could be challenged for minutes by a variety of players.

THE BENCH

JON LEUER - I'd read the last few weeks about Leuer's added strength over the summer. It appears accurate. Leuer was phenomenal, banging inside, popping outside for the J, and driving inside. He held up much better on the boards than last year, and showed improved footwork as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see him get the majority of the minutes at the 5, especially against teams that don't have a big center.

TIM JARMUSZ - Jarmusz is kind of like a younger Krabbenhoft, albeit smaller. A solid player fundamentally who will make the right decisions on the court, but not a game changer. In 14 non-descript minutes Jarmusz had 2 points and 4 boards. Ryan trusts him, which is the number one factor in the distribution of minutes.

THE FRESHMEN

JORDAN TAYLOR - Taylor was the most impressive of the freshmen, with 5 points and 5 assists in 21 minutes. I loved the lineup of Taylor, Hughes, and Bohannon on the court together. Taylor and Hughes could both get into the lane at will and either finish or dish. Taylor's game is similar to that of Hughes, a quick, strong player who would rather drive than shoot the 3. Played hard and smart, and seemed to understand the nuances of the offense. Bo seemed happy with him, so expect to see him on the court, possibly taking some of Jarmusz’s minutes.

ROB WILSON - The 6'5 swingman from Cleveland was as advertised. Wilson is a strong, athletic player whose specialty is defense. Wilson didn't seem as comfortable on the offensive end, but did attack the hoop when the plays broke down.

RYAN EVANS - Evans only played 10 minutes, but had 6 points. Very athletic at 6'6, but raw. Impressive hops who could be a surprising contributor to the team, though still wouldn't be shocked if he red-shirted.

JARED BERGGREN - I was excited to see the 6'10 Berggren play, and disappointed that he didn't appear in the first half. Only got 5 minutes and didn't do much. Still excited to see him play.

IAN MARKOFF - 7 footer played 4 minutes. Will probably red-shirt, provided the equally 7 foot JP Gavinski takes the role of "Tall 7 foot guy who has a uniform, but doesn't play."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brewers Notes

The biggest news today for Brewers fans is that the club is ready to announce their selection of Ken Macha as Milwaukee's next manager.

Here is Macha's record as a MLB manager, 4 seasons with Oakland:

2003: 96-66, 1st place AL West
2004: 91-71, 2nd place AL West
2005: 88-74, 2nd place, AL West
2006: 93-69, 1st place, AL West

In 2003, the A's lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS, 3 games to 2. In 2006, the A's beat the Twins, 3 games to 0 in the ALDS, and lost to the Tigers, 4 games to 0 in the ALCS.

In other news, Mike Maddux may be on his way out of town, and the Brewers announced ticket prices for 2009. Oh yeah, and Prince Fielder is on the market.

Finally, this site offers a list of free agents, and rumors for every team.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Do McCain And Obama Supporters Have In Common?

Election One Week Away

According to 270toWin.com, the outcome is an Obama victory. Brad V. over at Letters in Bottles sent me a link to this site a while ago, and I've spent more than a few minutes there exploring the different tools and links.

One of the things you can do, is look at each state's presidential voting history, and what the polls in each state are saying for 2008:

Wisconsin, 10 electoral votes
-Has not gone Republican since 1984.
-In 2004, WI went to John Kerry by 4 points.
-Recent polls show Obama's lead in Wisconsin between 7 and 13 points.

Some of the so-called battleground states:

Ohio, 20 electoral votes
-George W. Bush won the state by 2 points in 2004.
-Ohio has sided with the eventual winner in the last 11 elections.
-The latest Reuters/Zogby poll shows a 5 point lead for Obama.

Florida, 27 electoral votes
-Has sided with the eventual winner in 9 out of the last 10 elections (1 exception was 1992).
-Went to Bush in 2004 by 5 points.
-The recent polls for Florida show a slight lead for Obama, but the numbers are well within the margin of error.

Pennsylvania, 21 electoral votes
-Has gone to a Democrat the last 4 elections, but Kerry won the state by just 2 points in 2004.
-At one time, the state held 38 electoral votes.
-Like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania is leaning heavily toward Obama.

Virginia, 13 electoral votes
-Bush won the state in 2004 by 8 votes.
-Has not gone to a Democrat since 1964.
-The Washington Post poll from yesterday shows an 8 point Obama lead.

North Carolina, 15 electoral votes
-Has not gone to a Democrat since 1976.
-NC went to Bush by 12 points in 2004.
-Two polls from last week gave McCain a slight edge, but yesterday's Reuters/Zogby poll gave Obama a 4 point lead.

Missouri, 11 electoral votes
-Bush won the state by 7 points in 2004.
-Has sided with the eventual winner in the last 12 elections.
-Three polls from the last few days give Obama a 1-2 point edge.

Colorado, 9 electoral votes
-In the last 10 presidential elections, Colorado has only gone Democratic once - in 1992.
-Gave Bush a 5 point win in 2004.
-About a 4-5 point lead for Obama in Colorado.

Nevada, 5 electoral votes
-Went to Bush by 3 points in 2004.
-Has sided with the eventual winner in the last 7 elections.
-Yesterday's Reuters/Zogby gives Obama a 4 point lead.

Indiana, 11 electoral votes
- Has not gone Democrat since 1964.
-Bush won the state by 21 points in 2004.
-Two polls from last week gave Obama a lead, but yesterday's Reuters/Zogby has a 6 point lead for McCain.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Looking Ahead - Packers' Remaining Schedule

The worst Sunday afternoon of every autumn, is the Sunday the Packers have their bye week. Here's a look at Green Bay's remaining schedule and what I predict will happen:

Sunday, November 2 - at Tennessee, Noon

The Titans head into their game tomorrow night as the only remaining unbeaten team in the NFL (6-0), and hold a firm grip on first place in the AFC South. Tennessee doesn't boast much on offense, but they have one of the league's best defenses - they are allowing just 11 points per game on average. The closest the Titans have come to defeat was a 13-10 win at Baltimore October 5.

Prediction: Green Bay 20, Tennessee 21

Sunday, November 9 - at Minnesota, Noon

The Packers and Vikings hooked up for the season opener back on September 8 at Lambeau (I think there was supposed to be some sort of retirement ceremony at that game, but it was cancelled). Green Bay won the game 24-19, and the Aaron Rodgers era began on the right note. The Vikings have since then switched quarterbacks, and after starting off 1-3, Minnesota has won 2 out of their last 3 games. Only 1 loss has been by double-digits (at Tennessee).

Prediction: Green Bay 31, Minnesota 27

Sunday, November 16 - vs. Chicago, Noon (Yours truly will be in attendance!)

The Bears are currently tied atop the NFC North with the Packers (both are 4-3). Chicago's defense is not what it once was. In 5 of their 7 games, the Bears have allowed 20 or more points to their opponents (including allowing 41 points to the Vikings last week at Soldier Field!). The Bears' passing defense is the third worst in the league, which should be good news for Aaron Rodgers and the talented group of receivers around him. Surprisingly, Chicago's offense is averaging 28 points per game, good enough for third best in the league. Matt Forte is halfway to 1,000 yards (515 yards, 73.6 yards per game) and has 4 TDs.

Prediction: Chicago 24, Green Bay 28

Monday, November 24 - at New Orleans, 7:30 pm

The Saints are a different team at home (3-1) than they are on the road (0-3). The Packers' pass defense will be tested in this game, going up against Drew Brees and the #1 passing offense in the league (310 yards passing per game). Reggie Bush could be back for this game, which would give the Saints back their biggest weapon.

Prediction: Green Bay 21, New Orleans 28

Sunday, November 30 - vs. Carolina, Noon

The Panthers are 5-2 going into today's game against Arizona, but they have struggled on the road, including a 20-10 loss at Minnesota. The defense is giving up about 15 points per game, but the offense is averaging just 21 points per game. The Panthers, like the Packers, have struggled with penalties this season - Carolina has 54 going into today (GB leads the league with 58).

Prediction: Carolina 14, Green Bay 20

Sunday, December 7 - vs. Houston, Noon

Houston started the season 0-4, but has rattled off 2 wins heading into today's matchup against the Bengals. But, those wins were against the Dolphins (by 1 point and at the last second), and against the Lions (by 7 points). The Packers should have no problem disposing of the Texans at Lambeau in December.

Prediction: Houston 13, Green Bay 31

Sunday, December 14 - at Jacksonville, Noon

The Jaguars, after nearly making the Super Bowl last year, are still looking for a signature win this season. They beat the Colts on the road in week 3, but the Colts are not the same team we've seen the past few years. That being said, the Jaguars have had a tough schedule so far - losses include at Tennessee, vs. Buffalo, and vs. Pittsburgh. Out of all of the remaining games, this is the one that was the toughest for me to predict.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, Jacksonville 23

Monday, December 22 - at Chicago, 7:30 pm

I think the Packers have a better all-around team this year than the Bears, so I don't think it's impossible to sweep the season series in 2008. But if I have Green Bay winning on the road against Jacksonville, I don't think I can have them win back-to-back road games.

Prediction: Green Bay 24, Chicago 27

Sunday, December 28 - vs. Detroit, Noon

This game will be played assuming the Lions fans (those that remain) do not burn down Ford Field because their team is 0-15. Hopefully the Packers will have a playoff berth locked up and will be able to rest up for the postseason.

Prediction: Detroit 10, Green Bay 27

So from my predictions and calculations, the Pack should end the season 10-6, which should be good enough for 1st place in the NFC North (Minnesota has a pretty tough remaining schedule, though Chicago's doesn't look that daunting). This will of course set GB up for a run to the Super Bowl, where they will undoubtedly encounter Brett Favre and the New York Jets. See ya then!

Orson Welles

This Thursday will mark the 70th anniversary of Orson Welles' famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast, and the Journal Sentinel's Duane Dudek looks back on Welles' life, including his early years growing up in Kenosha.

For a quick Welles biography, go here.

Here is the text from the original New York Times article, the day after the event.