Wednesday, September 27, 2006

let your mind do the walking

We are now three weeks into the 2006 NFL season, so I thought I'd share my thoughts about how this season is going. I'll start by looking at the AFC, and if I feel like anyone actual cares, I'll take a look at the NFC next.

AFC North:
Cincinnati Bengals (3-0): With such a tough schedule, I couldn't ask for a better start (duh, how do you get a better start than winning all your games?). Sure, they haven't all been pretty wins, but that's what good teams do; they don't choke when things get ugly, they just find a way to win. We've had some bad injuries, but so far we've proven that we have a deep roster with great play from guys like Kevin Kaesviharn and Rashad Jeanty. Going 4-0 before the bye week would be a great start to a tough schedule. If we can keep this up, we stand a good chance of not only winning the division but getting a first-week bye in the playoffs.

Baltimore Ravens (3-0): I knew the Ravens would be better this year, but I didn't think they'd be doing this well. The defense looks scary, and should stay that way if they can remain healthy. Steve McNair's quarterback numbers haven't been off the charts, but he's doing what the Ravens need him to do: not screw up at crucial times. If they can keep it up, I see them as one of the AFC wild-card teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2): I really am surprised that they're off to such a bad start. Roethlisberger has looked terrible. With the way the Bengals , Ravens, and Jaguars are playing, I have a hard time seeing them climbing out of this hole and making the playoffs.

Cleveland Browns (0-3): I didn't think the Browns would be a good team this year, but I didn't think they would look this bad. I thought we'd be seeing an improved team, but there is no sign of it so far. The running game has been horrendous and Charlie Frye is no gem either.

AFC East:
New England Patriots (2-1): All their personnel losses are finally coming around to haunt them. Not resigning kicker Adam Vinatieri and keeping former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch are obviously hurting the team.

New York Jets (2-1): Wow, this team is one of the big surprises of the year so far. I didn't think they would be any good at all this season, but so far they are very impressive. Chad Pennington has made a good comeback. They were almost 3-0; the sole loss was a closely-fought loss to New England which in itself was an impressive showing.

Buffalo Bills: (1-2): Despite their losing record, the Bills have also been better than I thought they would be. They've performed well even in their losses, almost beating New England and the Jets in close games.

Miami Dolphins (1-2): One of my preseason AFC wild-card picks, the Dolphins have been extremely disappointing. I thought Daunte Culpepper's terrible season last year was a fluke, but he doesn't look any better this year. With weapons like Chris Chambers, McMichael and Ronnie Brown at his disposal, there's not much excuse for his poor playing. The team had a good chance of upsetting Pittsburgh till Culpepper literally threw the game away.

AFC South:
Indianapolis Colts (3-0): Despite losing star running back Edgerrin James, the Colts have still been impressive. Still, their lack of a rushing attack and inability to stop it on defense are going to hurt them this season.

Jacksonvillle Jaguars (2-1): I didn't give this team much credit going into this year, and they've rubbed it in my face. They shut out the defending Super Bowl champs and almost hung with the Colts in Indy. If they keep this up, they're a lock for one of the wild card spots.

Tennesee Titans (0-3): They can call this season a rebuilding year if they want, I just call is a disaster. We'll see Vince Young take over at QB in the next few weeks but that won't save this season. At this rate, they might even finish behind the Texans.

Houston Texans (0-3): Yeah, they probably should have taken Reggie Bush in the draft. David Carr is doing better this year, but the rest of the team still stinks.

AFC West:
San Diego Chargers (2-0): Looking better than I thought they might. Philip Rivers hasn't made any big mistakes so far. If they can keep that up and LaDainian Tomlinson can keep running wild, they could take the division.

Denver Broncos (2-1): They were my preseason AFC pick for the Super Bowl, but after losing to St. Louis and barely beating Kansas City 9-6 I think I've lost faith. Sure, they beat New England in Foxboro, but I just don't have faith in Jake Plummer to stay consistent. But with the AFC West weaker this year, they still have a shot at winning the division or at least a wild-card spot.

Kansas City Chiefs (0-2): Yes, Larry Johnson is a great running back but this offensive line is awful without Willie Roaf. With Trent Green out, there's no reason for team's to do anything but put eight or nine players in the box to stuff the run.

Oakland Raiders (0-2): This team is just awful. Really, they're probably the worst team in the NFL.

The Playoffs: Indianapolis, Cincinnati, New England, San Diego; Wild Card: Jacksonville & Baltimore (or Denver)

Sure, I'll make a Super Bowl pick. Everyone seems to pick Indianapolis which seems strange since they have a worse running game. But they do have Adam Vinatieri, who would have made that clutch kick against the Steelers last year. Since the AFC is weaker this year, I'll still go with the Colts (I feel biased if I pick the Bengals). But I think the Bengals have as good of a shot, providing we don't choke.

feel the little pieces bleeding through

According to a new teaser trailer on the Nine Inch Nails website, Trent will be releasing a new live dvd in early 2007, Beside You In Time. Two shows from the 2006 spring tour (Oklahoma City and El Paso) were filmed in their entirety for the dvd release. The new live footage will be released as Halo 22. I thought the visuals for the show in Cincinnati were great, so I can't wait to see this. In my mind, it would have been great if NIN released a two-disc live dvd, where one disc was the winter '05/spring '06 tour and the second disc was the 2006 summer tour, but sadly it doesn't look like we'll see the summer tour on dvd.

Monday, September 25, 2006

tell them their pillar of faith has ascended

After a hectic weekend, I've finally gotten around to posting about the Tool show Jon and I went to see in Columbus. It was at the Nationwide Arena, which is a very nice venue. The facilities are all in great shape; I'd say it's much, much nicer than U.S. Bank Arena. The opening band, Isis, took the stage at 8 PM. I was actually surprised that they really weren't half bad. I'd say their style was fairly similar to Tool's except that they were mostly instrumental. They played long, jam-filled songs. When the vocalist did sing you couldn't really understand what he was saying, and half the time he decided to do death-metal screaming instead of actual singing, and that was just awful. But overall I thought Isis was actually pretty decent.

Tool came on around 9:10 to a solid white stage that was mostly barren except for the drum set, a couple amps and the lone microphone stand. Behind the white stage there were white projection screens about six or seven feet high, and above that was a plain black backdrop. Throughout the concert, the band would project visuals onto the white projections screens, the white stage itself, and the big square scoreboard in the center of the arena ceiling (the kind of scoreboards you see in basketball and hockey arenas). The visuals were mostly computer-generated images and designs, and I thought they really added a lot to the show.

"Stinkfist" was the opening song, which was a fine choice in my opinion. I like the song a lot and really got the crowd into it. Both it and "The Pot" both had little extended "jams" by the band which were great. The band played some brief little guitar and keyboard intro before "Forty-Six and Two", which is another favorite of mine. After a good version of "Jambi" the band launched into "Schism", which naturally got a big reaction from the crowd. The visuals for this was just the same music video, but considering that it's one of the strangest videos out there I had no complaints. "Schism" isn't my favorite Tool song due to the radio always over-playing it, but it was fantastic live. The band sped the middle of the song up to double-time, which was a refreshing change to the song. The instrumental "Lost Keys" led right into an extremely intense "Rosetta Stoned". The rapid-fire vocals at the beginning of the song didn't transfer as well to a live performance, but the rest of the song was fantastic. Very powerful.

Next the band played "Wings for Marie" and "10,000 Days" as one very long song, and in my mind it was the highlight of the show. The laser effects made their debut during "Wings", and I definitely thought it was a good choice to save them for this part of the show. These songs were written about singer Maynard James Keenan's recently deceased mother, and in my mind they represented a musical and emotional high water mark for the night. The show was both musically and visually at it's best during "10,000 Days". The combination of the screen projections with the new laser effects was amazing, and the song just blew the crowd away.

Tool's take on an encore was refreshing. Instead of ended the regular set with the lights going out and walking off the stage for five minutes while everyone cheers before returning, the band simply finished the last song of the regular set, grabbed some bottles of water, and sat in the middle of the stage. They'd talk to each other or to various roadies, all the while bathed in blue light while all the fans cheered and applauded. At one point one of the band members held up a lighter, and everyone in the crowd with one followed suit, which looked pretty cool. Then after a few minutes the guys simply got up and went back to their instruments.

"Lateralus" was the first song of the encore, and showcased new lighting effects from the previously bare black backdrop. Then they band played a long, ambient instrumental intro before launching into a blasting rendition of "Vicarious", the first single from
10,000 Days. Then they closed with "Ænema" (my favorite Tool song) which probably got the most reaction of any song the whole night from the crowd. It was awesome to see the entire arena so into it. I could have sworn that Maynard swapped two of the lines in the song around, but that's just nit-picking.

By the end Tool played for at least an hour and forty-five minutes, probably closer to two hours. The set list could have been a little longer, but the length of the concert is evidence of how long each of the songs is. I thought it was a fantastic show; I would definitely want to see them again. No real complaints about the set list either. I would have liked to hear "Sober" (we actually heard nothing off Undertow, but that's not a crime like not hearing anything from The Fragile at a NIN concert is) or some of the less well known songs off
Ænima and Lateralus. "Right in Two" is the only other real song from 10,000 Days that we didn't hear, which was a shame because it's a fantastic song. But still, every song Tool played was fantastic, so I cannot complain. One of the best concert's I've been to, that's for certain.

Set List:
The Pot
(short intro)
Forty-Six & Two
Lost Keys
Rosetta Stoned
Wings For Marie
10,000 Days

(ambient guitar-keyboard-drum intro)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

big black hole gonna eat me up someday

After the number of injuries the Bengals sustained against the Browns, its difficult to not be pessimistic about this Sunday's showdown in Pittsburgh. David Pollack is lost for the season and Rich Braham, Dexter Jackson, and Tab Perry have all been ruled out for this week. I think we've been jinxed after bragging about having the deepest wide receiver group in the NFL, as Chad Johnson, Kelley Washington, and the newly signed off the practice squad Reggie McNeal are our only uninjured receivers. Chris Henry is listed as probable on the injury report and should play, T.J. is questionable and I have a bad feeling he won't play, Antonio Chatman is doubtful, and Perry is out. So we may have only four active receivers Sunday.

Pittsburgh's offense played horrible on Monday night, but that doesn't make me feel much better for this week. In fact, I'm not sure I want to play them after an embarrassing loss like that. I have no doubt that we can beat them, but it won't be easy; the offensive line will have to protect Carson and open holes for Rudi, and the defense will have to not give up big plays to Willie Parker, Hines Ward, and Heath Miller.

Going up to Columbus tonight to see Tool. Apparently they canceled their show on Tuesday due to an illness in the band, but no such news so far for tonight...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

the machine takes pictures of us

A bunch of us went to Springdale last night to see a sneak preview of Flyboys that Jen won tickets too. The story follows the exploits of the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of Americans who volunteered to fly for the French army prior to the United States' entrance into World War I. It was fairly entertaining, but I really can't recommend that you go see it. First of all, like so many movies these days, it was entirely way too long. Remember, that's coming from someone who happily sat through all three Lord of the Rings movies back to back to back (and the first two were the extended editions). It seems that after the success of Lord of the Rings every editor in Hollywood was fired and directors were told to run wild and be as self-indulgent as possible. Peter Jackson himself made that mistake with King Kong, it's the reason I wouldn't even see Pirates of the Caribbean II, and we see it once again in Flyboys.
The movie was over two hours long, and certainly could have been trimmed down. There were too many unnecessary additions to the plot (most of the obligatory romance story, the one guy being accused as a spy, etc.) that didn't much of anything to flesh out the side characters or advance the story. Naturally, no Hollywood movie would be complete without a romance being forcefully jammed into the story, although the love story in Flyboys is less painful than many of its counterparts (Pearl Harbor, for example). At least they didn't turn it into the usual love-triangle.

Obviously the main draw of the film is the action sequences in the air, and the dog fights are mostly successful in entertaining. The main problem with them is that they get fairly predictable and a little absurd at times. To be honest, much of the film's entertainment value was in laughing at whatever ridiculous scene was unfolding on the screen. Something tells me that landing your plane just behind the front line trenches to rescue a downed comrade stranded in no-man's-land isn't very accurate. I don't want to spoil much of the movie, but I'll just say that most of the movie was so laughably idiotic that late in the film, we were actually able to predict that one character would pull out a pistol and shoot another pilot right in the face with it. As they were flying in the air. That guy must have been the greatest shot of all time to hit the tiny target of a person's head in one moving plane from another.
Snakes on a Plane could learn a lesson in comedic lunacy from Flyboys; the latter was for more fun and entertaining.

The characters were mostly straight from your typical Hollywood cookie-cutter. James Franco plays the rugged, handsome, cocky main character that is cast first on looks, second on acting ability (apparently no one realized that there probably were not many World War I pilots with blond highlights in their hair). He wasn't horrible, but it was obvious he was cast on looks. Then there's the stereotypical grizzled veteran who doesn't care about anyone else because everyone he cared about has been killed, the African-American who must overcome the prejudice of other pilots (at least that part is probably accurate), the son of a wealthy businessman who is a disappointment to his father because he'd rather become an artist, and so on. The actors themselves really weren't bad, but their characters could have used more fleshing out and more originality.
So if you just want to be entertained, then by all means, go see Flyboys over the aforementioned Snakes. But if you really want to see a good movie this weekend, go see Jet Li's Fearless. Li's final martial arts flick is a great story. The plot is very good, Li's character is well-developed, and above all, the action scenes are very well done. It doesn't have the visual style of Hero, but it's an excellent martial arts epic about a Chinese legend and a fitting end to Li's career.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

do you like the way the water tastes

Rob, Doug, Jon and I went to the Family Values Tour last Tuesday at Riverbend, where we met up with Christy, Alex, Alex's sister, and their friends (actually Christy rode with us but let's not get picky). The gates officially opened at 2:00 but seeing as we didn't care about seeing anyone until the Deftones (the only band I cared about) we didn't get there until 6:30. That still ended up being too early and we were stuck listening to most of Stone Sour's awful set. Obviously it had been raining all day so the lawn was very, very muddy. Thankfully it barely rained the whole time we were there, and we managed to mostly keep out of the mud.

The Deftones took the stage right around 8. They opened with a good version of "Feiticeira" followed by the popular "My Own Summer." After that came "Beware the Water", which I believe is a new song from their upcoming album. Next came "Passenger" which was the song I'd hoped to hear the most. The
White Pony version is my favorite Deftones song, and while the live version doesn't have the guest vocals by Tool's Maynard James Keenan, it was still the highlight of the show for me. "Change" was another highlight and probably got the most reaction from the crowd. They threw in some good tracks from Adrenaline like "Nosebleed" and "Root" and "When Girls Telephone Boys" from their self-titled album. We got another new song with "Hole in the Earth" before they closed with "Headup" and "7 Words". I thought it was a good set and the band sounded really good live. The shortness of the set was disappointing (11 songs in about 45 minutes) but since the Deftones were not the final act it wasn't too surprising. Jon and Rob wanted to stay for Korn so we did. I'm sure it was a good show if you're a Korn fan. As far as their music goes they actually weren't bad, but I'm just not a fan. They played for too long, and then we went home. Riverbend was really, really muddy (and half the people there were intentionally covered in it) but at least it barely rained while we were there. Even though the Deftones set was short, it was well worth the $10 lawn tickets to see them live. Their new album comes out October 31st; their previous effort wasn't their strongest but after hearing two of the songs, I'm pretty excited about Saturday Night Wrist.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

since i'm so broken down, why don't you fix me?

Audioslave's third studio release, Revelations, comes just a year after their sophomore album. Out of Exile was a mediocre effort; it had some strong tracks on it but for every good song there were two that were bland and unoriginal. Revelations starts off fairly strong with the opening title-track and "One and the Same" which both feature some good rock-funk riffs from Tom Morello. The first mediocre song arrives by the third track, "Sound of a Gun". Then comes "Until We Fall", one of the mandatory acoustic tracks Audioslave seems to need on each album. It's also a run-of-the-mill song; not bad, but nothing special. "Original Fire", the first single from the album, is one of the better songs from the album. Then the low point of the album with uninspired garbage like "Broken City", "Somedays", and "Jewel of the Summertime". There are a couple other average songs before the album closes with a couple other fairly strong tracks like "Wide Awake" and "Moth". Morello once again displays why he's probably the best guitarist in the last twenty years, fusing his funk and Led Zeppelin-rock inspirations into some great riffs. Chris Cornell's lyrics are above average in some places and downright awful in others. I'd say that Revelations is a half step above Out of Exile, but it's still disappointing that the band seems stuck in a vein of mediocrity and unable to replicate the quality of Audioslave.

Monday, September 11, 2006

finger deep within the borderline

I think we are finally settled in here at the new house. We still need to get our own wireless network set up so we can stop using the same one as the girls. Hopefully then the internet will run much faster.

It wasn't the prettiest performance by the Bengals yesterday, but you can't complain about opening the season with a win on the road, especially at one of the toughest home stadiums in the NFL. The defense had some good pressure going on the quarterback and they held Larry Johnson to 68 yards rushing. That scoring drive by the Chiefs in the 4th quarter was somewhat disconcerting, but overall I was fairly impressed with the defense's performance. I thought Rudi showed some great moves too. He was finding a lot of holes and breaking many tackles. Poor Trent Green, I hope he recovers fast. That was a monstrous hit by Robert Geathers. Of course Herm Edwards and the Chiefs players displayed their thinly veiled anger over the hit after the game, but A.) Geathers was already airborne when Green started to slide, B.) the Chief's Eddie Kennison ended up pushing Geathers towards Green when he tried to block him, and C.) it never looked like a helmet-to-helmet hit to me, which is what all the Chiefs seem to claim it was. Every time I saw the replay, it looked like Geathers's shoulder hit Green's helmet. But the Bengals started their very tough 2006 schedule off with an important win, and we open at home with the Browns next week. I would chalk it up as an easy win, but you never can when we play Cleveland.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

now i'm bored and old

I have a lot to catch up on. Wisdom teeth taken out. Moved into new house. We made the mistake of trying to share the wireless with the girls upstairs. The problem is that they have the router, the router is currently not working, half of the girls are out of town and the other two are no where to be found. Very frustrated with that situation. We're about to just get our own Roadrunner. More to come whenever we get the internet up and running again.