Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Golf Is The Greatest Game Ever Played

I can't take credit for this list, but it was too good not to post. Special thanks to Rongo Jugataris for this one.

1) The PGA doesn't have some of its golfers in jail every week.

2) Golfers don't throw bottles at or kick dirt on other people.

3) Professional golfers are paid in direct proportion to how well they play.

4) Golfers don't get per diem and two seats on a charter flight when they travel between tournaments.

5) Golfers don't hold out for more money, or demand new contracts, because of another player's deal.

6) Professional golfers don't demand that the taxpayers pay for the courses on which they play.

7) When golfers make mistakes, no one is there to cover for them or back them.

8) The PGA raises more money for charity in 1 season than the NFL does in 2 seasons.

9) You can watch the best golfers in the world, up close, at any tournament including the majors, all day every day for $25 or $30. (I'm a bit skeptical about this price, but I'm too lazy to do any research this morning.)

10) Even in the nose bleed sections, a ticket to the Super Bowl will cost you over $300 to $1000 from a scalper.

11) In golf you cannot fail 70% of the time and make 9 million dollars a season, like the best baseball hitters (.300 batting average) do.

12) Golf courses don't ruin the neighborhood.

13) And best of all, here's why golf courses have 18 holes, instead of 10 or 20: During a discussion among the club's membership board at St. Andrews in 1858, a senior member pointed out that it takes exactly 18 shots to polish off a fifth of Scotch. By limiting himself to only one shot of Scotch per hole, the Scot figured a round of golf was finished when the Scotch ran out.

Here's my two cents:

-Golf is the only game where there are no referees, officials, or umpires. Players are expected to, and always do, call penalties on themselves.

-Golf is one of the few remaining sports that demands players be both gracious in defeat and humble in victory.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Promote Whatever You Want On My Blog

I dropped the ball on this last month, but I would like to keep this going. So, a reminder about the rules:

1) Promote whatever you want by leaving a comment.
2) You cannot, under any circumstances, promote anything for me.

I'll leave this post up for the next few days. Don't be shy if you haven't commented on this blog before - this is a great way to reach a new audience, even if it's only a drive-by commenting.

I'm promoting the kick-ass thriller, Fifty Grand, by Adrian McKinty. I will be posting a joint review on this book shortly, but for now, I'll say this: it's a great story that really moves.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Who Pulled The Stake Out of Duval's Heart?

The US Open has been plagued by bad weather this year, but it has suffered from no shortage of great stories. My personal favorite is that of David Duval's possible return to form.

Duval, until he practically fell off the face of the earth during the 2003 season, was my favorite pro golfer for several years. I loved how he went about his business on the golf course: the guy was more stoic than Hemingway's eponymous Old Man. He never bought into being a celebrity, and didn't really care to be one, either. Blessed with one of the most rhythmic swings on tour, Duval became one of three pro golfers to shoot a 59 - yes, a 59 - in competition, and he did so in the final round of the Bob Hope Classic ten years ago by eagling the 18th hole to win.

He dethroned Tiger Woods as the world's number one player for a time, and he quickly earned the dubious distinction of being the best player never to have won a major. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride seemed to be his cruel fate in major after major. That is, until, he captured the Claret Jug by winning the Open Championship in 2001. I'll never forget that tournament. I was living down the Jersey shore for the summer with a couple of buddies and it just so happened I had the place to myself when Duval figured out a way to win while not even playing his best golf.

And then, as they say on every E True Hollywood Story, tragedy struck.

Some say it was the swing. Some say it was physical injuries. Some say it was a form of vertigo. Some say it was personal troubles. Who knows why, and even Duval himself might now know why, but for whatever reason or reasons, he lost his game. As the oft-repeated saying goes, you never own the game of golf; at best, you only borrow it for a short time.

He'd played a cut swing for most of his career, one that was so finely tuned he'd all but taken the left side of the golf course out of play. But suddenly he was hitting hooks and couldn't find a fairway. His motivation and his competitiveness, right around the same time, left him. He struggled. Every once in awhile, he would show flashes of brilliance, popping back up on the radar screen just long enough to make us wonder. But he couldn't seem to break through.

And that's why it's so exciting to see he's currently tied for third at the US Open, with sixteen holes left to play. This isn't a flash in the pan, play well for 18 holes sort of thing. Duval has put in a wonderful performance at one of the toughest venues out there: Bethpage Black. Though he's five shots behind the leaders, it IS the US Open, so anything can happen, especially at a course known to wreak havoc. It would be the golf story of the year if he were to win.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three Good Scenes And No Bad Ones

Howard Hawks gets my vote for the most versatile director of all time. The man could direct anything. Comedy, noir, horror/sci-fi, and Westerns. Sure, many other directors have worked in several genres, but Hawks's contribution to every genre is incredible. Consider this:

-His Girl Friday is considered by many to be the quintessential screwball comedy.

-The Big Sleep. It's either this or The Maltese Falcon that's the best hard-boiled detective/film noir movie ever made.

-I'm partial to Rio Bravo, but Hawks also directed Red River. Two of the finest Westerns ever made. If you've never seen Rio Bravo, just watch the first five minutes - it's one of the best openings to any movie I've ever seen. There's literally no dialogue for most of it, yet we learn everything we need to about the characters, and we feel like we absolutely have to keep watching the film to see what happens to them.

-Let's not forget that he was largely responsible for The Thing. He's listed as producer, but apparently he oversaw most of the production and some claim he took over as director halfway through filming. The Thing is the perfect blend of old school sci-fi and horror.

-He also directed Sergeant York and To Have and Have Not.

The title of the post refers to Hawks's belief that, in order to make a good film, all you needed was "three good scenes, and no bad ones." That may be true, but most of his movies contain three great scenes and many, many good ones. It just doesn't get any better than when Margaret Sheridan opens the door and The Thing is standing right there; than when Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson pass the time between shoot-outs by singing a couple of tunes; or than when Bogart and Bacall...basically do anything together.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Buy Rita's Book!!!!

My good friend, Rita Vetere, had cause to celebrate yesterday: her second e-book, Born of Darkness, was released through Lyrical Press.

Here's the blurb:

"There's no escaping black karma, even for immortals.

Meet Jasmine Fairchild, outrageously gorgeous and extremely persuasive -- unnaturally so. Jasmine is a Cambion, part mortal, part succubus.

Enter Ahriman, an ancient and evil incubus. For centuries, he has exploited the secrets of reincarnation to reach his goal of immortality and the eradication of humanity. All he needs now is a portal, an opportunity...and Jasmine.

She stands alone as the only force powerful enough to immortalize or destroy him, and her dual nature makes Ahriman's task a little tougher than he thought..."

Rita is a great writer and, more importantly, just a wonderful person. Here's a link to an excerpt from Born of Darkness. Check it out if you get a chance.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I've Been Tagged

Those of you who know me well know I don't like to talk about myself. Perhaps that's why I sometimes struggle to come up with material for this blog. Today I am going to write about myself a little bit, but I have a good excuse: I was tagged to do this 4X4 meme by the notorious Seana Graham. I've tweaked it a little bit as you'll see.

Four golf courses I'd like to play:

1. Augusta

2. Pebble Beach

3. Pine Valley

4. TPC Sawgrass

My four favorite Westerns are:

1. The Searchers

2. Rio Bravo

3a. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

3b. Once Upon a Time in the West

4. Unforgiven

PS - When will we see a revival of this genre? I hope soon. It is one of America's greatest contributions to the cinema.

Four books that I recommend to friends, family, and strangers:

1. Dead I Well May Be

2. The Shadow of the Wind

3. Noble House

4. Bernard Cornwell's take on Arthurian Legend

Four reasons why The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie ever made:

1. George Lucas didn't direct it.

2. George Lucas didn't write the screenplay.

3. No Ewoks, Jar Jar Binks, or bad dialogue.

4. "No, I am your father."

Four languages I studied in high school:

1. English (yeah, it counts)

2. French

3. Latin

4. Greek

And no, I don't really remember any French, Latin, or Greek, and even English is a struggle these days.

Four stories I want to write before I die:

1. Screenplay for a biopic on Caravaggio

2. Sci-fi western set on Mars

3. A book that makes money

4. Screenplay for a sequel to this year's Star Trek

Four people I'm tagging to do this as well

1. Jenna O'Rourke

2. Nate Green

3. Nicklas Hughes

4. Matt Damon

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Keep Passing The Tapes

When the subject of favorite TV show inevitably comes up at cocktail parties (has anyone actually been to a cocktail party in the last twenty years?) or in annoying Facebook copy and paste lists, most people rattle off the standard answers: Seinfeld, The Simpsons, MASH, The Cosby Show, I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Friends, Star Trek, etc.

My answer is not so standard, though I do have one of the most loyal cult followings to back me up here. My favorite TV show of all time is none other than Mystery Science Theater 3000.

There's a good chance you've never heard of it. That's okay, because you still probably know what it is. If you've ever seen or heard about "that show where three guys watch and make fun of appallingly bad movies," then you know what I'm talking about.

MST3K was created by Joel Hodgson (who also starred) and enjoyed a decade long run on various channels, beginning life on public access TV in Minnesota. From there, it spent several years on Comedy Central and ended its run on the Sci-Fi Channel. About halfway through the series, Joel Hodgson left, and Mike Nelson, the head writer, took his place on the Satellite of Love as the man trapped in space forced to watch bad movies.

Yes, for literally ten years, all these guys did was make fun of bad movies. The premise: a guy is shot into space by an evil mad scientist, builds a couple of robots for company, and is forced to watch terrible movies as part of an experiment.

Admittedly, the show had its low points. The creators themselves will be the first to say it took them a few seasons to really get what they were doing and perfect it. And then there were times when the movies they were watching were so bad (Manos: The Hands of Fate to name one), they literally couldn't do anything with the material.

If you've never seen the show, I recommend starting out with one of these episodes:

-Pod People
-Future War
-Time Chasers

The title of my post refers to a line that appeared in the end credits of the show. MST3K enjoyed a huge cult following, and it became customary for die-hard fans of the show to tape an episode and pass it along to people who had never tuned in before. The creators heard about this and actually encouraged it to entice new viewers, because the show, like many good ones, was always a stone's throw away from the gallows.

Monday, June 8, 2009

HarperCollins To Release Two More Books From Michael Crichton

Today was the first time I went back to Michael Crichton's website since his passing, and I was treated to some great news. HarperCollins plans to release two more books by him. One of them was discovered in his files, while the other one will be developed from his notes and files.

I was truly saddened by the loss of this man, so this is indeed great news.

Friday, June 5, 2009

I Need A Primer on....Primer

Netflix has this great feature called Play Now for some of the films in its ginormous library, which is large enough to impress even the likes of Burgess Meredith without his glasses. Anyway, based upon several recommendations, including one from my alter ego/son, Nicklas Hughes, I watched the film Primer through Netflix on my computer. I felt wonderfully high-tech and hip while doing it, which means I am neither.

The opening scene of Primer sucked me right in, and the hyperrealistic dialogue, as un-understandable as it was, had me reeling in a good way. Basically, the film follows two friends, who are amateur inventors looking to make the next big discovery, when they realize (SPOILER ALERT - YOU'VE BEEN WARNED) the anti-gravity machine they've constructed also doubles as a time machine of sorts.

The film moves well and has an uneasiness permeating every scene. You keep waiting for that inevitable disaster to happen, and it does....or at least I think it does.

You see, once the third act began, I couldn't follow a damned thing that was going on in the movie. This is to be expected somewhat when you're dealing with time travel, paradoxes, multiverses (?), etc., and especially when the story is about two engineers speaking in jargon the entire time. But alas, I couldn't piece together what was happening at the end, and not even a little quality time on the IMDb forums was much of a help. To sum up, here's what I read about the movie:

a) It requires multiple viewings. And even then, you still might not get it.
b) Many, many things are left unexplained.
c) No one can actually agree what is going on in the film.

Now I for one enjoy a lively debate about a movie as much as the next guy, but when the confusion reaches a certain point and when there is so much left up to the viewer to decide, I think a story has lost all meaning and worse, any sense of purpose. I'm not talking about a "Lady or the Tiger" scenario, I'm talking about where you just have no effing clue what is going on in a story, and even the people who praise the story don't seem to know much more than you do about it.

So, where's the line between complex, mysterious, thoughtful and subjective meaninglessness for you?

All that being said, I do recommend Primer because it is well-filmed, moves quickly, and was shot for a ridiculously low amount of money. It goes to show that creativity can triumph over low budgets and limited resources. My hat's off to Shane Carruth, the writer/director. I'd love to see more movies from this guy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Join Rita's Monthly Chat: June 8th at 8:00 PM EST

All are welcome to join Rita Vetere's monthly chat, being held on June 8th at 8:00 PM EST. This time around, SW Vaughn and Denise K. Rago are Rita's guests. As per usual, there will be prizes, including:

-A copy of SW Vauhgn's Hunted
-$10 gift certificate to Lyrical Press's bookstore

And, Rita will give away an ADVANCE COPY of her upcoming novel, Born of Darkness! So come one, come all. Rita's chats are always a good time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why Are We Even Arguing?

After the Cleveland Cavaliers' loss to the Orlando Magic in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron James walked off the court without congratulating any of the Magic players or coaching staff on their victory. There is now a debate raging in the sports world as to whether King James committed an athletic faux pas.

That there is even a debate speaks volumes about the current level of professional sports. This is one of the very first things we teach kids when they start to compete - you always, always, always shake your opponent's hand after the game, win, lose, or draw. (Of course, if your opponent plays dirty or disrespects you during the course of the game, then all bets are off, but that wasn't the case here.)

If this had happened at the end of any golf tournament, the golfer who shunned his opponent after the final round would be universally condemned, no ifs, ands, or buts. Yet another reason why golf is my favorite sport.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that I'm hating on LeBron. He's a gifted athlete, and when all is said and done he'll be known as one of the best basketball players in history. But even more importantly he's a nice guy, who usually brings a lot of class to a sport where class is in short supply. His emotions got the better of him in this case, and I can certainly understand that. What bothers me is the fact that there's even a debate about this. He should have shaken his opponents' hands after the game, end of story. And everybody knows it. Or at least I hope they do.