Saturday, March 21, 2009

March Madness Bracket Breakdown Rd. 1 and Round 2 picks

March Madness 2009

Bracket Breakdown – Round 1

Euripides said it best – “Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.” – Had he lived into the era of big-time college basketball Ol’ Rip might have added, “,,,they first make March madness.” Round one made me mad, as in insane. Thursday was fine, 14-2. The sun was shining, all was right with the world. And then Friday, the madness kicked in. Down goes #4 Wake Forest with three potential NBA players to #13 Cleveland State. Down goes #5 Florida State to #12 Wisconsin. I guess the Seminoles didn’t want to win for fear that like the football team they might just have to give it back. Down goes #8 Ohio State, no big deal really as a the #9 Siena Saints were picked by just about everybody. Except, in a fit of contrarianism worthy of the genius stockpickers of CNBC, me. Down goes overseeded #5 Utah to underseeded #12 USC. (I had this one but it’s here to add to the madness.) And down goes #6 West Virginia who I had thought capable of a deep run, to the #11 Dayton Flyers, a team whose nickname brought back memories of a simpler time, of flying machines and barnstorming pilots landing in haystacks, and who thoroughly outplayed the slick hicks from Morgantown. And even Pitt and Kansas looked very beatable against low, low seeds from East Tennessee and North Dakota. And when the dust settled it said 10-6 and a .625 winning percentage will almost always guarantee a first place finish in baseball, in picking an NCAA pool winner, not even close. So, as Euripides said so famously in Medea, his masterpiece about madness, “On to Round 2.”

Saturday’s Picks Round 2:

East Regional

Villanova over UCLA. Another home game in Philly for ‘Nova and this one won’t come down to a last shot against UCLA.

Texas over Duke. Republican Coach K repeats Republican talking points as he says the President should concentrate on the economy and not fill out brackets. Hmmm? Guess Coach K shouldn’t have lent his (and Duke’s) name to that fundraiser for faux-Senator Liddy Dole years back. Hypocrite with a tiny mouth and a stupid, creatively mispronounced name. (Is it clear just how much I hate Coach K? Good.) I also think Texas has too much bulk in the frontcourt. Now let’s hope they can get some calls in Grennsboro.

South Regional

North Carolina over LSU. The crowd will be all Carolina Blue and the Tarheels will come in waves and the boys from Baton Rouge will be beaten bloody by their own red stick. Could be closer than that but still it’s Carolina moving on.

Gonzaga over Western Kentucky. The best run of Round 1 was ‘Zaga’s against Akron that went on for almost 9 minutes. I give them two four and a half minute runs against the Hilltoppers but it will be enough.

Oklahoma over Michigan. Which player from Michigan will do what Wrestlemania move on Blake Griffin? And after Blake and his brother move on, which Griffin’s next, Stewie?

West Regional

UConn over Texas A&M. Calhoun will be back and even though he doesn’t suit up the Huskies have more than enough to beat the Aggies.

Washington over Purdue. On a day of great match-ups, this has a chance to be the best.
More importantly, it sets up the all Husky match-up in of course, Glendale, Arizona, everybody’s favorite winter wonderland.

Memphis over Maryland. Are the Tigers as bad and as overseeded as they looked on Thursday against Cal State Northridge? Northridge – epicenter of strip malls and epicenters? I think they’ve got one good game in them.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

March Madness Predictions - Friday's Games

March Madness 2009

And here are Friday’s picks:

East Regional

Pitt over ETSU. East Tennessee State sounds like a historically Black college, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Outside of that, not much on the ETSU front. Pitt by 25.

Tennessee over Oklahoma State. Red state match-up. But Tennessee’s guys have the NCAA experience. And I’m betting that the players all voted for Obama.

Florida State over Wisconsin. Toney Douglas will make the cheese-heads look like, well, cheese-heads. The Big 10 can’t win a BCS bowl or this game.

Xavier over Portland State. The X-Men, not to be confused with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, will rule until the government bans them.

South Regional

Temple over Arizona State. Temple’s star is named Dionte Christmas. Or Dionte Xmas. But never Dionte Happy Holidays.

Syracuse over Stephen F. Austin. The Orange parlayed 6 OT’s into a 3 seed. They’ll put this one away by the half.

Midwest Regional

Louisville over Morehead State. Morehead just won the play-in. Now they get to play-out. The ‘Ville by 25.

Ohio State over Siena. And the Saints go marching out.

Arizona over Utah. The 12 over 5 plays out here as ‘Zona has 2-3 NBA prospects and Utah has the ghost of Keith Van Horn.

Wake Forest over Cleveland State. Years ago Cleveland State pulled a major upset and that coach ended up in a crack-house. Gave new meaning to the phrase – “Take the rock to the house.”

West Virginia over Dayton. Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins looks and dresses like an Irish mobster extra from Miller’s Crossing. His players call him “Don.”

Kansas over North Dakota State. The kids playing for the Bison are the only young people left in the entire state of North Dakota. Or as most people call it, “Uhhh, Canada?”

USC over BC. The Trojans have length. And height. And mass. And a win.

Michigan State over Robert Morris. The one Big 10 team that can make a very deep run.
And please, ZZ in Italian is pronounced TZ so his name is IT-ZO, not IZ-ZO. Just as it is PETE-ZA, not PIZZ-A. It doesn’t matter how you pronounce Robert Morris. After this game you’ll never hear the name again.

West Regional

Marquette over Utah State. A good team minus a good guard beats a team with guys in their late 20s back from their 2 year Mormon missions.

Missouri over Cornell. They both go up and down the court with some speed. Only the Tigers will score.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

March Madness - Round 1 Predictions - Thursday

March Madness 2009

I love basketball. My screen name is NY11399 which is the score of the famous Willis Reed game, Game 7 of the 1969-70 NBA Finals between the Knicks and the Lakers.
I was there at the Garden in the blue seats ($5!!!) behind Marv Albert. I was at the old Garden for the famous college basketball game in the ECAC Holiday festival between Princeton and Michigan, Bill Bradley vs. Cazzie Russell. I remember UCLA winning with Goodrich and Hazzard, Alcindor and Jabbar, Walton and Patterson. I saw Texas Western and I saw Dr. Dunkenstein. I love this game.

Here are Thursday’s picks:

East Regional

VCU over UCLA. Eric Maynor is better than Darren Collison. The Bruins foul constantly and get bailed out at home but may not find the officiating as homerific
in Philly as at Pauley. Last chance to see the future President of the Cameroons, Alfred Aboya, and Josh Shipp, a nothing player who will be doing his nothing in Turkey next year if he’s lucky.

Villanova over American. ‘Nova at home in the cradle of liberty playing American.
How fitting. ‘Nova by 20+.

Texas over Minnesota. How the Big-10 got all these teams in the tournament is beyond me. Maybe the Selection Committee thought it was a hockey tournament. Big 12 over Big 10. By 11.

Duke over Binghamton. This could get ugly. But not quite as ugly as Greg Paulus.

South Regional

North Carolina over Radford. Ty Lawson’s toe woes are more interesting than Radford.
And how many of you thought Ty’s name was Tyrone and not Tywon (not China!).

LSU over Butler. Books will not be written about this match-up.

Western Kentucky over Illinois. I listened to Western win last year on a buzzer-beater while parking at Langer’s Deli on Alvarado in L.A. for the best pastrami outside of Katz’s on Houston St. The Illini’s best guard has a bum hand. And tell me how the Big 10 got all these teams in?

Gonzaga over Akron. The Zips are coached by LeBron’s old high school coach. Their nickname is the Zips. If the Zips could go scoreless that would be so great for headline writers everywhere.

Clemson over Michigan. There will be idiots on CBS and ESPN who think they are cool by shortening Wolverines to Wolves. They are idiots. Wolverines and Wolves are separate and distinct animals. Maybe someone on Michigan can call another time-out they don’t have.

Oklahoma over Morgan State. Blake Griffin is orange. Why didn’t he end up at Syracuse?

Midwest Regional

No games Thursday.

West Regional

UConn over Chattanooga. The UConn Huskies (get it? Yukon? Huskies?) against a team named after a “bend in the Tennessee River”. WTF??? UConn by a million.

Texas A&M over BYU. How can you root for a team from a state that bankrolled the hate of Prop. 8 in California? Not me.

Purdue over Northern Iowa. Almost everyone in Indiana has a Robbie Hummel figurine somewhere on a shelf.

Washington over Mississippi State. Huskies at home. If they can get by Purdue in Round 2 they set up an all-Husky game on March 26th. In the old days Husky was a size in boy’s clothing. Very lame.

Maryland over Cal. Maryland has a Puerto Rican guard named Grievous Vasquez.
The best guard ever out of Puerto Rico was Marquette’s Butch Lee who almost led them to an Olympic win over the US. Question – Puerto Rico’s not a country. How do they have an Olympic team?

Memphis over Cal State Northridge. I say Memphis pulls the Matadors apart like so much pulled pork and wins by 35+ as Calipari wants them to show the world. CSUN,
see lose.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Everything Matters - Watchmen Giant Blue Review 3/11/09


Who watches the Watchmen? The first weekend, 55 million dollars worth of viewers; after that, not so many folks. So, finally, all these years later, an answer to Juvenal’s question. (And no, Juvenal is not some misspelled hip-hop artist’s stage name; he of the many pit bulls.) So yeah, Watchmen. I was curious. I was intrigued. I had seen the first trailer and I had read the graphic novel and I was there Day 1. And it was lame. It was boring. It had not a whit of humor or irony or anything resembling a compelling narrative. So, having watched the Watchmen I feel compelled to write.
And I don’t even care about the missing tentacled monstrosity from space. I’m going
to talk about what was there. Cause what was there sucked.
First off, if the movie (and the book before that) were meant to “reflect contemporary anxieties” I call bullshit. It’s set in 1985. We liberals in the West may not have liked Reagan or Thatcher but in no way were we nearing 12:00 midnight on the Doomsday Clock. The Cuban Missile Crisis two decades earlier, yes. But 1985? No way. The idea of five terms for Nixon, now that would cause anxiety, but imminent nuclear annihilation in 1985, the year of a-Ha’s “Take On Me”, nope. If there was anything we were all afraid of it was the next song by Phil Collins.
So the basic premise that we’re given, that we’re all consumed with the potential for global Hiroshima is just false. And boring. How many more Nixons, how many more prosthetic noses and jowly bass voices and beads of flop sweat while dark eyes dance furtively must we see on screen before Nixon as the Devil is put to rest? The actor playing Nixon looked like the guy from Coach with some baker’s dough stuck on the middle of his face. So much for the Dybbuk.
So the timeframe is wrong and the big demon is lame. Well, let’s go to our heroes, our finely deconstructed super-heroes with damaged ids, egos and libidos.
Dr. Manhattan, or should I say Billy Corgan of Smashing Giant Blue Pumpkins, was bland from the get. That stupid new-agey voice. The giant nakedness, the giant blue junk, his oh-so-symbolic watchmaker father (Benjamin Button does the same thing with the whole prelude with the blind clockmaker – the battle lines behind God and behind science both use watchmaker and clockmaker symbolism) just too fucking much. And when he builds his weird gears-within-gears assemblage on Mars, Giant Manhattan Smurf basically does a clock’s inner workings made into a cathedral by Gaudi.
Or Rolex in Wackyland. He built this city, we get it. And it’s sharp and it hurts.
And the good Doctor’s soap opera backstory? The ex-g.f. with the chemo comb-over, revealed on some tabloid news show? Mexican telenovelas have more intricately plotted and more interesting devices. And they’re made for a sub-literate audience still living an agrarian existence. Hmm, kind of like fanboys except fanboys sub take-out for subsistence farming.
But he does have shading. He makes out with the underage Silk Spectre. He cares about humanity, he doesn’t care about humanity. Before the Dark Knight, before deconstructing the superhero ethos, the only questions posed by fans were simplistic ones on the order of, “Who would win a fight between Superman and Batman?” Ah, the good old days.

And that stupid symbol on his head. Is it the old alchemical symbol for gold? Is it a hydrogen atom? Does it matter? Do we care? I find I do as days later that’s the only question I have about the character. He drew a perfect circle. He’s god. Now draw the pirate and the parrot and go to matchbook art school and leave us all alone.
Nite-Owl? Batman with erectile dysfunction? He’s good. He goes to bad parts of town to talk to old superheroes. He doesn’t quite know what to do with women. He’s got a bit of a paunch. He’s boring as fuck. If anyone asks why actors always want to play bad rather than good, point to Nite-Owl and Rorschach. One’s St. Theresa with night-vision goggles and one’s batshit crazy. And one makes you want to watch and one makes you want to leave. And one more thing - Whether or not Dr, Manhattan’s sperm is cancerous or not, there’s no way his bitch, Silk Spectre, sleeps with this avian loser.
And his name – Dan Dreiberg. Can we get any more lame? I can hear Carson as Art Fern saying, “Ewww, Dan Dreiberg.” Try it at home. A bit nasal. No, more. Good. That alone has more shading than the character itself.
And his love interest, Silk Spectre? As they say in L.A., “what a lox.” Pia Zadora wasn’t available? Sally Field selling Boniva, some bone supplement for the soon-to-die set, is more convincing. Malin Akerman is her name. Malin as in Malign. As in Mail-In, like her performance. Just such a nothing. And now never ever say or write her name again.
Ozymandias, the world’s smartest man, blonde Aryan superman, complete with quasi-Nazi accent. So let’s get this straight – he’s obsessed with Alexander the Great yet he names himself after Rameses the Great, an Egyptian pharaoh. Why not Alexander? Well, cause there’s no famous sonnet by Shelley called Alexander whose theme is the hubris of man. We all die, great and small, and our works and deeds are forgotten. The famous line from the poem “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” is ironic because we’re just looking at ruins. In Watchmen all the irony is removed surgically because his works, the destruction of some of the world’s great cities – IS A CAUSE FOR DESPAIR. Thank you Mr. Moore for taking a poem we’ll be reading for centuries to serve in your book which people will stop reading, oh, about ten minutes after seeing the movie.
And the less said about the lame pet of his, Bubastis was it? A plush toy sold in gas stations? What was up with that? Oh, thjs Ozymandias is weird, look, he’s got one of those? When he kills all his workers, scientists, whatever, so they can accompany him to the next life isn’t that the clue that he’s going to die as well? But he doesn’t? He doesn’t drink the Kool-Aid. Pretty smart, after all.
Which leaves us with the Comedian and Rorschach, the only real flesh and blood characters in the movie.
The Comedian kills Kennedy, he kills the Vietnamese woman carrying his baby, he shoots unarmed demonstrators, and he fathers Silk Spectre. All the killing is bad enough but must every sci-fi fantasy story involve parentage that’s traced to the worst of us ala Darth Vader? He’s the Comedian not because he’s funny but because he knows that life is pointless and meaningless – it’s all a joke, a great, big cosmic joke. He dies early in the film but then jeeps coming back into the stories of others for the entire almost-three hours of the film. Having sat through the film, I know exactly how he felt.

But at least he had some character and some blood and some contradictions. He was a human being. As was Rorschach, the man with Mask of a Thousand Blots. With a childhood comprised of equal parts Dickens and Cormac McCarthy, Rorschach is a staunch defender of the truth. It may be his truth, but at least it’s truth. His death at the end gave me the only lasting image of the film – the snow angel made of his blood and viscera. I know it’s in the book but it looked great on the screen. And in terms of a hero, what better hero than a damaged sociopath who only wants the Truth? And since there won’t be a sequel, at the end we are left hoping that his journal gets published so THAT PEOPLE WILL KNOW THE HORROR AND THE TRUTH.
If only they’d published it before I went to see the movie.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Greatest Smackdown Ever of Creationism/Intelligent Design

How to respond to requests to debate creationists
Category: Creationism
Posted on: February 18, 2009 4:15 PM, by PZ Myers

professor at the University of Vermont, Nicholas Gotelli, got an invitation to debate one of the clowns at the Discovery Institute. Here's what they wrote.

Dear Professor Gotelli,

I saw your op-ed in the Burlington Free Press and appreciated your support of free speech at UVM. In light of that, I wonder if you would be open to finding a way to provide a campus forum for a debate about evolutionary science and intelligent design. The Discovery Institute, where I work, has a local sponsor in Burlington who is enthusiastic to find a way to make this happen. But we need a partner on campus. If not the biology department, then perhaps you can suggest an alternative.

Ben Stein may not be the best person to single-handedly represent the ID side. As you're aware, he's known mainly as an entertainer. A more appropriate alternative or addition might be our senior fellows David Berlinski or Stephen Meyer, respectively a mathematician and a philosopher of science. I'll copy links to their bios below. Wherever one comes down in the Darwin debate, I think we can all agree that it is healthy for students to be exposed to different views--in precisely the spirit of inviting controversial speakers to campus, as you write in your op-ed.

I'm hoping that you would be willing to give a critique of ID at such an event, and participate in the debate in whatever role you feel comfortable with.

A good scientific backdrop to the discussion might be Dr. Meyer's book that comes out in June from HarperCollins, "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design."

On the other hand, Dr. Belinski may be a good choice since he is a critic of both ID and Darwinian theory.

Would it be possible for us to talk more about this by phone sometime soon?

With best wishes,
David Klinghoffer
Discovery Institute

You'll enjoy Dr Gotelli's response.

Dear Dr. Klinghoffer:

Thank you for this interesting and courteous invitation to set up a debate about evolution and creationism (which includes its more recent relabeling as "intelligent design") with a speaker from the Discovery Institute. Your invitation is quite surprising, given the sneering coverage of my recent newspaper editorial that you yourself posted on the Discovery Institute's website:

However, this kind of two-faced dishonesty is what the scientific community has come to expect from the creationists.

Academic debate on controversial topics is fine, but those topics need to have a basis in reality. I would not invite a creationist to a debate on campus for the same reason that I would not invite an alchemist, a flat-earther, an astrologer, a psychic, or a Holocaust revisionist. These ideas have no scientific support, and that is why they have all been discarded by credible scholars. Creationism is in the same category.

Instead of spending time on public debates, why aren't members of your institute publishing their ideas in prominent peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, or the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences? If you want to be taken seriously by scientists and scholars, this is where you need to publish. Academic publishing is an intellectual free market, where ideas that have credible empirical support are carefully and thoroughly explored. Nothing could possibly be more exciting and electrifying to biology than scientific disproof of evolutionary theory or scientific proof of the existence of a god. That would be Nobel Prize winning work, and it would be eagerly published by any of the prominent mainstream journals.

"Conspiracy" is the predictable response by Ben Stein and the frustrated creationists. But conspiracy theories are a joke, because science places a high premium on intellectual honesty and on new empirical studies that overturn previously established principles. Creationism doesn't live up to these standards, so its proponents are relegated to the sidelines, publishing in books, blogs, websites, and obscure journals that don't maintain scientific standards.

Finally, isn't it sort of pathetic that your large, well-funded institute must scrape around, panhandling for a seminar invitation at a little university in northern New England? Practicing scientists receive frequent invitations to speak in science departments around the world, often on controversial and novel topics. If creationists actually published some legitimate science, they would receive such invitations as well.

So, I hope you understand why I am declining your offer. I will wait patiently to read about the work of creationists in the pages of Nature and Science. But until it appears there, it isn't science and doesn't merit an invitation.

In closing, I do want to thank you sincerely for this invitation and for your posting on the Discovery Institute Website. As an evolutionary biologist, I can't tell you what a badge of honor this is. My colleagues will be envious.

Sincerely yours,

Nick Gotelli

P.S. I hope you will forgive me if I do not respond to any further e-mails from you or from the Discovery Institute. This has been entertaining, but it interferes with my research and teaching.