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Rick Moran

Rick Moran is PJ Media's Chicago editor and Blog editor at The American Thinker. He is also host of the"RINO Hour of Power" on Blog Talk Radio. His own blog is Right Wing Nut House.
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Red Sox Pitcher Ryan Dempster Suspended 5 Games For Hitting A-Rod

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 - by Rick Moran

If you haven’t been following the baseball scandal involving a Florida anti-aging clinic that dispensed performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) to at least 13 Major League ballplayers, there’s some background here. It’s a black mark on the game and has initiated some introspection on sports and society that is long overdue and may, in the long run, actually do some good.

The biggest name caught up in this mess is the New York Yankees superstar third baseman, Alex Rodriguez. The man who signed a quarter of a billion dollar contract — the richest in professional sports history — has denied taking any PED’s knowingly. But the doctor at the center of the controversy, Tony Bosch, had documented proof that A-Rod was a cheat. Each player who used the clinic to get steroids was carefully monitored with dosages and the kinds of drugs being taken written down in ledgers. A-Rod was toast and he knew it. And in a shocking display of arrogance, Rodriguez purchased most of the records revealing his steroid use from a business associate of Bosch who started a bidding war between players and MLB for the evidence of wrongdoing. The league considered this an effort by A-Rod to hinder the investigation, for which he got a penalty of 211 games — twice that of any other player.

But the scandal has also touched the game of professional baseball in ways that other scandals have not. For the first time, the Major League Baseball Players Association, the owners, and the league office have all agreed that the scourge of PED’s must be eradicated if the integrity of the game is to saved. And this has led to players speaking out forcefully against their brethren whose “bad choices” threatens to undermine the game of baseball.

Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster took “speaking out” to the next level in a game against the New York Yankees on Sunday. In the second inning of a game at Fenway Park with Rodriguez leading off the inning, Dempster whistled a 89 MPH fastball behind the knees of the Yankee slugger.

In baseball, this is a no-no. It is a message to the batter that he has done something the pitcher doesn’t much like. Usually, the throw behind the hitter gambit is used if the opposing pitcher has hit one of your players. But in this case, Dempster wasn’t being very subtle. In an old school sort of way, he was expressing his — and most ballplayers in the league – displeasure at A-Rod’s steroid use and his attempts to cover his tracks.

The next two pitches were “brush-back” pitches — sometimes designed to force the batter back from the plate but in this case, another means of expressing Dempster’s outrage.

Then, on a 3-0 pitch, Dempster reared back and fired the ball right at the batter, hitting A-Rod in the elbow and the ball caroming off his back. It is extremely rare for a batter to be plunked on a 3-0 pitch, which gives even more credence to the idea that Dempster knew exactly where he was throwing the ball.

What happened next, courtesy of ESPN:

After the hit-by-pitch, home plate umpire Brian O’Nora issued the warnings as an enraged Girardi charged out of the Yankees’ dugout, gesticulating wildly. Girardi was kicked out after one of his gestures, which looked like a left hook, nearly hit O’Nora.

After the more than-four-hour game, Girardi was still fuming, pointing out that Dempster had hit only five batters in 145 1/3 innings. He said that he will be “disappointed” if Dempster isn’t suspended a long enough period by MLB that he misses a start. And that he wishes that Dempster had to bat for himself.

You can’t start throwing at people,” Girardi said. “Lives — people have had concussions. Lives are changed by getting hit by pitches. Whether I agree with everything that’s going on, you do not throw at people and you don’t take the law into your own hands. You don’t do that. We’re going to skip the judicial system? It’s ‘My Cousin Vinny.’”

Rodriguez was asked if he agreed that Dempster should be suspended.

“I’m the wrong guy to be asking about suspensions,” Rodriguez said with a chuckle. “Holy mackerel.”

After he was hit, Rodriguez stared out at Dempster before slowly walking to first base, trailed by Yankees trainer Steve Donohue. Groups of players from each team’s bullpen spilled onto the field, as well as a few players from the Yankees’ dugout, led by a clearly agitated Brett Gardner. But no punches were thrown and order was quickly restored.

Rodriguez has been insufferable since the league handed down his suspension. He is fighting with the Yankee front office. He is fighting with some of his teammates. He is fighting it despite the fact he doesn’t have a prayer. The league has him dead to rights and he knows it. The 12 other players suspended have already apologized and accepted their punishment without appeal. But Rodriguez, who admitted taking steroids from 2001-2003, refuses to acknowledge the obvious and take his punishment.

Manager Girardi is right — theoretically. Yes, a baseball is a weapon. But players today wear a lot of protective equipment. The batting helmet is engineered to absorb 100 MPH fastballs. Players wear shin guards and toe guards to protect them from foul balls that ricochet off their legs. And the ball that Dempster hit A-Rod with smacked him right on his heavily padded elbow guard, probably preventing an injury that would have kept him out of the lineup for at least a couple of games.

Everyone in baseball knows that Dempster deliberately tried to hit Alex Rodriquez, and they know the reason why. And yet, the league, perhaps sensing the mood of the players, suspended Dempster for only 5 games — a ridiculously small punishment for what ordinarily would be a serious offense that might have garnered a suspension of 10 or even 20 games under different circumstances.

Dempster used an old school device to send a message to a modern day cheat. And with it, baseball may have turned a corner toward a better future.

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Major League Baseball Finally Lowers the Boom on Steroid Cheats

Monday, August 5th, 2013 - by Rick Moran

It took about 20 years, but the people who run baseball have finally gotten serious about the game’s drug problem. Twelve players caught up in a performance-enhancing drug (PED) scandal involving a Florida clinic have been been severely punished with suspensions ranging from 50 to 212 games.

Among those suspended are three players who participated in the All-Star Game last month: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers outfielder; Everth Cabrera, San Diego Padres shortstop; and Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers shortstop. Cruz and Peralta are on teams contending for a post-season berth, and their loss for most of the rest of the season may impact the race for a playoff spot.

But the two biggest names caught up in the scandal are Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun, who accepted a suspension for the rest of the year last week, and the New York Yankees’ superstar third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for 212 games — the rest of this year and all of the 2014 season. Rodriguez will be allowed to play while his appeal goes forward, but it seems hopeless. That’s because Major League Baseball has him cold on the PED charges.

The scandal involves a quack clinician with a fake medical degree named Tony Bosch who has been supplying major league ballplayers with steroids for years. At his Biogenesis clinic in Coral Gables, Florida, Bosch kept voluminous records on his customers. Various investigations uncovered the names of Rodriguez and Braun, as well as Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who was not suspended despite being prominently mentioned in Biogenesis records. (Gonzalez passed a drug test and cannot be directly tied to using PEDs.)

Rodriguez had admitted using PEDs previously — from 2001-2003. But the reason his suspension is so much longer than the others is that MLB investigators believe he was actively hindering the investigation. That, and the fact that he refused to take his medicine and will appeal the decision caused MLB to lengthen his suspension considerably.

After the news broke today, Rodriguez refused to comment on whether or not he used PEDs:

The last seven months have been a “nightmare,” he said.

It “has been probably the worst time of my life for sure,” said Rodriguez, “obviously for the circumstances that are at hand and also dealing with a very tough surgery and a rehab program, and being 38.”

Asked directly whether he had used performance-enhancing drugs, he declined — repeatedly — to comment.

“I think we’ll have a forum to discuss all of that, and we’ll talk about it then,” Rodriguez said.

Earlier in a written statement, he said that he was disappointed with the penalty and intends to appeal. He thanked family, friends and fans for their support and stressed that he was eager to get back on the field with his teammates.

His suspension is set to go into effect on Thursday, the league said. But officials also said that Rodriguez could keep playing if he appeals.

He arrived Monday in Chicago, where he was scheduled to play in a game against the White Sox. The Yankees’ roster lists him in the starting lineup, batting in the fourth spot and playing third base.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Rodriguez’s suspension won’t affect the team in Monday night’s game in Chicago.

“He’s here. He’s going to play,” Girardi told reporters. “It really doesn’t change anything for us.”

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The NBA Belongs to LeBron James

Friday, June 21st, 2013 - by Rick Moran

Ten years after his debut in the NBA as a gangling 18-year old playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James has done something that few ever thought he would. He has exceeded the high expectations set for him by the sports commentariat and now owns the league.

James, whose Miami Heat took the title 95-88  in a thrilling seventh game with the San Antonio Spurs, finds himself in rare company, indeed. Only two players have won back to back league MVP and Finals MVP — James and Michael Jordan. The temptation to compare the two superstars should be resisted, however. They belong to different eras — two entirely different games. Besides, how can you quantify pure athleticism? Both men had skill sets that fit the times in which they played, both competed ferociously, and both possessed the gift of making those around them better players.

But LeBron James, like Jordan before him, is now the unquestioned owner of the National Basketball Association. He wrested that title  from the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant whose aging body is beginning to betray him. Bryant, who succeeded Jordan as the dominant superstar of his era, won 5 championships during the first decade of this century. James, still a relatively young 28 and with 2 titles already under his belt, seems destined to surpass Bryant and perhaps even Jordan’s 6 titles.

And James has the opportunity to dominate the game in ways that Jordan and Bryant never could. At the moment, there is no one on the horizon who could challenge James for supremacy. He’s too big, too fast, too talented for any defender currently in the NBA to consistently guard him. Every other superstar in the league today clearly suffers by comparison. And as long as the Miami ownership is willing to build teams around him that can compete — and barring serious injury — his run as King of the NBA may last a while.

But James may end up being the most unpopular superstar ever to own the league. Since his ill-conceived live show to announce his free agent plans in 2010, LeBron has become the athlete everyone likes to hate. This is a trifle unfair given his charitable and philanthropic activities which are legion. But the image of James “taking his talents to South Beach” while his Cleveland fans wept with rage and disgust, has proven to be a lasting impression on the sporting public.

As for the seventh game of the NBA finals, the line for James reveals how much he was able to dominate the Spurs; 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists. He plunged the dagger into San Antonio with less than a minute to play with a sequence of plays that  achieved instant legend status. San Antonio’s future Hall of Fame center Tim Duncan took one of his patented sweeping hooks that failed to go in with 50 seconds to play.

James followed with a jumper — the shot the Spurs were daring him to take earlier in the series — to make it 92-88, sending San Antonio to a timeout as Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On” blared over the arena’s sound system.

He then came up with a steal and made two free throws for a six-point lead, and after Ginobili missed, James stalked toward the sideline, knowing it was over and that he was, once again, the last one standing.

The great ones always seem to come through at crunch time. That’s why they’re considered great. And that’s why LeBron James has been able to slough off the criticism and mount the dais to receive his just reward as the unquestioned owner of professional basketball.


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A School-Sponsored Toy Gun Exchange in California

Monday, June 10th, 2013 - by Rick Moran


I don’t know exactly why the idea that a school is promoting a “toy gun exchange” bothers me. Perhaps it’s because it plays into the false meme that guns are bad, bad, bad and that children shouldn’t be playing with toy guns. Perhaps it’s the insufferable moralists who actually think that a kid trading in a toy gun is going to curb violence, or make the kid a better human being.

How many generations of boys grew up fighting outlaws or indians, or played “soldier” in the backyard?? Were they any more or less violent than this generation? How did it happen all of a sudden that toy guns promote violence, or are somehow bad for kids?

A school in Hayward, CA thinks it’s a grand idea:

Strobridge Elementary Principal Charles Hill maintains that children who play with toy guns may not take real guns seriously.

“Playing with toys guns, saying ‘I’m going to shoot you,’ desensitizes them, so as they get older, it’s easier for them to use a real gun,” Hill said.

Huh? This horse’s ass is a principal? That statement brings to mind the song “Little Known Facts” that Lucy sings to her little brother Linus in the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown:

D’you see this tree?
It is a fir tree.
It’s called a fir tree
Because it gives us fur
For coats
And it also gives us wool
In the winter time

This is an elm tree
It’s very little
But it will grow up
Into a giant tree
an oak!
You can tell how old it is
By counting its leaves

Where’s old Lucy when we need her.

Enter Schroeder, the rationalist. Or, in this case, a gun rights advocate:

A gun rights advocate questioned the idea that playing with toy guns desensitizes children to real weapons.

“Having a group of children playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians is a normal part of growing up,” said Yih-Chau Chang, spokesman for Responsible Citizens of California, a group whose goal is to educate the public about the facts behind gun rights.

“While the intentions are obviously good on the part of the school administration, this doesn’t really educate children about guns or gun safety,” he said. “Guns are used in crimes, but they are more often used in defensive ways which prevent violent crime from occurring in the first place.”

Chang also questioned whether toys can look like real weapons.

“Toy manufacturers are forced to paint guns in bright colors, usually orange or yellow, that make it virtually impossible for an officer to mistake it for a real gun,” Chang said.

Not half as sexy as guns “desensitizing” kids so that when they grow up they want to shoot policemen, but it has the virtue of at least being rational.

I suppose I shouldn’t be so hard on the school administration. They’re going to have a gun safety lesson as well as a fire safety lesson in conjunction with the toy gun exchange which is information most kids could use. But it’s attitudes like the one held by that principal — glorying in their own ignorance and being so smug in their supposed moral superiority — that really gets to me.


Cross-posted from PJ Tatler 

image courtesy shutterstock /de2marco

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Jason Collins: Much Ado about Nothing Much

Monday, April 29th, 2013 - by Rick Moran

I think Allahpundit hit a home run in his analysis of the impact that pro basketball player Jason Collins’ self-outing will have on the country:

Easy prediction: 75 percent of the public will be casually supportive or casually disapproving but either way almost entirely indifferent. Fifteen percent, including lots of pols, celebrities, and the media, will support him enthusiastically. The other 10 percent will hassle him on the court or from the stands either because they dislike gays or just to spite the 15 percent of “opinion leaders” on the other side. Collins will get a standing O at his first home game next year — if he ends up being signed — and some fans on the road will get nasty with him when he fouls someone too roughly. He’ll do a few ads. Then, after a few months, with rare exceptions, everyone will get bored with it.

I’m already bored with it and it’s been just a few hours since the story broke. I am happy that Mr. Collins is at peace with himself and can now live his life freely. But is he a “hero” for coming out of the closet? Anyone with half a brain could have predicted the outpouring of love, support, and sympathy from most of the country who cares about these things. Everyone wanted to rush out their statement, or Tweet, or Facebook posting, trying to be first in proving just how tolerant they are. I suppose this is better than the alternative, but really — can we try to be a little more realistic and place Mr. Collins’ action in perspective?

A marginal pro athlete at the end of a solid career (you don’t last 12 seasons in the NBA without being a good contributor) admits to the world that he’s gay. I’ll admit it’s a novelty — the first active pro athlete to publicly declare himself a homosexual.

But what does it change? How many bigots will alter their views of gays and come to embrace them? If the reaction from some haters is any indication, not too many. Within minutes of the story breaking, ESPN sportscaster Chris Broussard was telling the world that Mr. Collins wasn’t a Christian:

Personally, I don’t believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly, like premarital sex between heterosexuals. If you’re openly living that type of lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits. It says that, you know, that’s a sin. If you’re openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, whatever it maybe, I believe that’s walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. So I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I don’t think the bible would characterize them as a Christian.

And American Family Association spokesman Bryan Fischer couldn’t help himself, I suppose:

“I will guarantee you,” said Fischer, “if the ownership of whatever team is thinking about bringing him back, or thinking about trading for him, and they go to the players on that team and they say ‘How do you feel about an out active homosexual being in the same locker room, sharing the same shower facilities with you?’ they’ll say no way. I don’t want that. I do not want some guy, a teammate, eyeballing me in the shower.”

A little projection by Fischer?

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Opening Day Reverie

Monday, April 1st, 2013 - by Rick Moran

There was a time when Opening Day of the baseball season was one of the most anticipated annual events in America. For most Americans, the significance of the day transcended sport, marking the welcome change of season, and the arrival of warm weather and an alteration in the landscape from burnt umber to a glorious green. The day also rekindled hope in the breasts of baseball fans everywhere. Everyone had a favorite team whether you lived in a city with a pro franchise or not, and before any wins or losses were tallied, the dream of post-season glory was alive in every beating heart.

For those born after 1970, it is difficult to describe the hold that baseball had on the national consciousness. Today, despite record-setting attendance at ballparks, gigantic television contracts, and four 24-hour sports networks, Major League Baseball has fallen from its perch as the most dominant game in America, replaced by football in the hearts and minds of sports fans.

There are a plethora of reasons why this is so. Overexposure is a big one. When baseball was king, there were only one or two nationally televised games a week. Even if you were lucky enough to live in a city with a pro franchise, roughly half the games would be televised. I have fond memories of taking a transistor radio to bed, hiding under the covers to listen to Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Elson call a West Coast game, or sitting on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon with the game on the radio and the family gathered around.

Today, every single game is televised, with the all-sports cable networks broadcasting replays and highlights all day long. Something special went out of the game when baseball became so ubiquitous. It lost some of its mystique, its perception as a special event.

I wrote this back in 2005, while the White Sox were making their magical run to a World Series crown:

While there are many that bemoan the fall of baseball from its preeminent position as the number one sport in America, you cannot escape the fact that the game has fallen victim to what is the essence of America itself: an unalterable and inexorable fact of life in this country that things do not remain the same, that society and culture are in a constant state of motion.

America has changed. Baseball hasn’t.

Baseball couldn’t change. The game itself is draped in tradition, in memory. There is no other game seen through the prism of remembrance quite like baseball. Sitting on the back porch in 1950s and ’60s suburbia listening to the hissing, static filled play-by-play on radio while the fireflies blinked to announce their presence and the sweet smell of Jasmine filled the nostrils with the scent of summer, of family, of a shared passion. Or perhaps in the city you sat on the front stoop with every other house on the block blaring out the call of the game, a broadcast legend conducting a city wide symphony of sound, mothers with babies, fathers with sons, and the young, the old, laughing, talking, arguing, loving. A neighborhood, a community united around a passion so intense that enmities were temporarily forgotten as “the boys” or “the bums” performed extraordinary feats of effortless athleticism with both the workmanlike attitude of the blue collar hero and the pizazz of a circus performer.

Yes, that America existed at one time. And while memory may skew some of the details and gloss over much of the unseemly realities from those times, there is no doubt that baseball for much of the country occupied a privileged position in the hearts and minds of the people. In a time before the total saturation of sports, before ubiquitous replays, before free agency made players into hobos, before steroids turned the players into Frankenstein monsters, before rape trials and murder trials and divorces and scandal after scandal there was the pitcher, the batter, and the lovely dance of strategy and possibility. To bunt or not to bunt. To swing away or hit and run. To pitch out, or put the rotation” play on, or simply to play “straight up.” This was actually part of the national conversation when baseball was king.

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Things Are About to Get a Lot Quieter at MSNBC

Thursday, March 14th, 2013 - by Rick Moran

Ed Schultz, the bombastic host of MSNBC’s The Ed Show, has been dumped from the network’s weekday lineup and exiled to the weekend.

I suppose if screaming at the camera and conjuring up bloodthirsty deaths for your political opponent is your thing, you will probably miss Mr. Ed and his strident, take no prisoners liberalism.

For the rest of us, relief that we can remove the cotton from our ears that we used when listening to his show.

Allah captures exactly the right mix of haughty disdain and astonishment at Schultz’s reaction to the humiliating demotion:

Rarely will you see a crap sandwich devoured with the sort of gusto displayed in the video below. If prior media reports are accurate, this is not a guy who’s reacted well in the past to seeing his profile at MSNBC lowered. Last November, when the whispering began that he’d soon be replaced, he handled it … predictably. And yet there he was last night, practically ready to high-five the cameraman over his banishment to the Island of “Lockup” Re-Runs. If he’s feeling bold, he should end tonight’s show with the clip of Ian Faith talking about Spinal Tap’s appeal becoming “more selective.” Have fun with it!

Dylan Byers at Politico:

Like former MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan, Schultz suggested that the move was his choice: “I’m very proud of the work our team has done here at 8 PM, but sitting behind this desk five nights a week doesn’t cut it for me,” he said. “I want to get out with the people and tell their stories. This show has been a show that has been a voice for the voiceless. That really was my mission when I came here and it remains.”

Sources at MSNBC told POLITICO that that was a very generous interpretation of events. Schultz was pushed out to make way for new talent, they said.


Media Decoder points out that the real reason for the decision was demographics:

The change is predicated on the belief that MSNBC can win a wider audience with Mr. Hayes than it did with Mr. Schultz, a champion of the working class whose bluster didn’t always pair well with Ms. Maddow and the channel’s other prime-time program, “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” Mr. Hayes, on the other hand, is just as wonky as Ms. Maddow and Mr. O’Donnell, and is a regular contributor to both of their programs.

“Chris has done an amazing job creating a franchise on weekend mornings,” said Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC. “He’s an extraordinary talent and has made a strong connection with our audience.”

Mr. Hayes, 34, will be the youngest host of a prime-time show on any of the country’s major cable news channels, all of which seek out youthful viewers but tend to have middle-aged hosts and a core audience made up of senior citizens. Of Mr. Schultz’s one million viewers last year, for example, only 249,000 were between the ages of 25 and 54.

At least when Hayes savages conservatives he does it quietly. That will be a huge improvement from Schultz who now gets to exercise his vocal chords on a virtually empty stage over the weekend.

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In Defense of Cats

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 - by Rick Moran

John Hawkins penned an article for PJ Media advancing the notion that cats are inferior to dogs “in every way.” He gave five reasons trying to prove this theory — tried and failed. In fact, though Hawkins’ entertaining article was written largely tongue-in-cheek, the underlying bias against cats came through loud and clear.

We cat lovers are used to this. Forget everything you know about race, ethnicity, religion, ideology, or political affiliation. The great schism in humanity is between those who love cats and those who don’t, and it’s been that way going on 5,000 years.

I suspect John really doesn’t hate cats. If he does, it’s because cats don’t like him very much. Felines have an unerring ability to size humans up and decide if they can be properly enslaved to do their bidding. In short, unlike with dogs, humans don’t choose cats. Cats choose them. Dogs have absolutely no dignity or discernment when it comes to giving their love and loyalty. Anyone who feeds them, pats them on the head, or, best yet, throws a stick that they can mindlessly fetch earns their ceaseless — and boring — adoration.

It’s been this way for tens of thousands of years. Genetically speaking, dogs are failed wolves. It is probable that the first wolves domesticated by man were Omega wolves — the lowest-ranking wolf in the pack — that hung around human campfires hoping to get a few scraps of food. The Omegas were kicked around by their own pack and this complex carried forward through the ages so that a dog today will do anything to please its master.

Not so, cats. From the cat’s point of view, it is we that should do anything to please them. Do they turn their nose up at the food we put in front of them? Try a different dinner, stupid human.

Busy and don’t want to be bothered petting them? Try ignoring a cat determined to have you pay attention to him. If you do, he is likely to deliberately knock over that glass of soda on your desk right on to your keyboard. Those who think it an accident are delusional.

As for Hawkins’ 5 ways that cats are inferior to dogs, I will make short work of his thesis.

1) Dogs are much smarter than cats.

Scientific studies prove that dogs are smarter than cats. But this is silly. There isn’t a scientific study that has been devised that can hold a cat’s attention for more than two minutes. Any test a dog can pass, a cat has no use for. It’s like asking an MIT grad to take the same math test as a second grader.

Besides, cats have a vested interest in keeping their superior intellect hidden from humans. The absolute worst thing that could happen to cats would be if we started to take them for granted.

2) Your dog loves you. Your cat couldn’t care less if you were murdered by clowns.

What appears to a dog lover as indifference is actually a sign of a cat’s psychological health. Dogs have massive insecurities and feel they must constantly demonstrate their love. Cats are totally secure in the knowledge that they have you by the short hairs, so to speak, and feel absolutely no need to give any outward manifestation of their affection. They believe it says volumes that they allow you to exist in almost the same space as they do, although not on the same plane of the universe.

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NFL Says Clown Car Refs Missed Call at End of MNF Game

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

The National Football League issued a statement today confirming what anyone who’s not a Seattle Seahawks fan and who wasn’t masquerading as a professional football official already knew; Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate committed blatant, obvious, and criminal interference on the last play of the game that cost the Green Bay Packers the contest.

As for the other egregious error by the Pop Warner officials — the sure interception by Green Bay cornerback M.D. Jennings — the league stood behind the decision of the referee who decided that one hand by Tate on the ball constituted “simultaneous possession,” despite the fact that Jennings was clutching the ball to his chest and clearly had sole possession of the rock.

For those who missed it, a brief summary:

On the final play of “Monday Night Football,” Russell Wilson heaved a 24-yard pass into a scrum in the end zone with Seattle trailing 12-7. Tate shoved away a defender with both hands, and the NFL acknowledged Tuesday he should have been penalized, which would have clinched a Packers victory. But that lack of a call cannot be reviewed by instant replay.

Tate and Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings then both got their hands on the ball, though the Packers insisted Jennings had clear possession for a game-ending interception.

“It was pinned to my chest the whole time,” Jennings said.

Instead, the officials ruled on the field that the two had simultaneous possession, which counts as a reception. Once that happened, the NFL said, the referee was correct that no indisputable visual evidence existed on review to overturn the touchdown call.

That’s nonsense. Replays clearly showed Jennings in possession of the ball before Tate managed to get a hand on it. By the time the referee sauntered over to take a look-see, Tate had wrapped both hands around the ball — while it was still glued to Jenning’s chest.

In a perfect metaphor for the abysmal officiating that has plauged the games this season, the referee raised both arms to signal a touchdown for Seattle while the line judge, who was actually closer to the play, waved his arms to stop the clock — a signal for a change of possession. Here’s the pic:

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Startling Discovery by NASA’s Kepler Telescope

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

Every once and a while, a discovery is made that throws previous theories into a cocked hat and sends scientists scurrying back to the blackboard to try and explain the new information and tell us what it means.

NASA’s Kepler Telescope has made such a discovery and our theories of how planets form will never be the same.

Coming less than a year after the announcement of the first circumbinary planet, Kepler-16b, NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered multiple transiting planets orbiting two suns for the first time. This system, known as a circumbinary planetary system, is 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

This discovery proves that more than one planet can form and persist in the stressful realm of a binary star and demonstrates the diversity of planetary systems in our galaxy.

Astronomers detected two planets in the Kepler-47 system, a pair of orbiting stars that eclipse each other every 7.5 days from our vantage point on Earth. One star is similar to the sun in size, but only 84 percent as bright. The second star is diminutive, measuring only one-third the size of the sun and less than 1 percent as bright.

“In contrast to a single planet orbiting a single star, the planet in a circumbinary system must transit a ‘moving target.’ As a consequence, time intervals between the transits and their durations can vary substantially, sometimes short, other times long,” said Jerome Orosz, associate professor of astronomy at San Diego State University and lead author of the paper. “The intervals were the telltale sign these planets are in circumbinary orbits.”

The inner planet, Kepler-47b, orbits the pair of stars in less than 50 days. While it cannot be directly viewed, it is thought to be a sweltering world, where the destruction of methane in its super-heated atmosphere might lead to a thick haze that could blanket the planet. At three times the radius of Earth, Kepler-47b is the smallest known transiting circumbinary planet.

The outer planet, Kepler-47c, orbits its host pair every 303 days, placing it in the so-called “habitable zone,” the region in a planetary system where liquid water might exist on the surface of a planet. While not a world hospitable for life, Kepler-47c is thought to be a gaseous giant slightly larger than Neptune, where an atmosphere of thick bright water-vapor clouds might exist.

The reason that this discovery is causing such excitement in the planetary science community is that Kepler 47-B and 47-C defy current theories that tell us how planets form. The standard model for stars like our sun is that a ring of gas and dust called an accretion disk orbits the young star and inside that ring, grains of dust are attracted to each other, gradually forming larger and larger bodies until planet size balls emerge.

But a circumbinary system was thought to be too unstable an environment for the dust to eventually form into planets. The likelihood that one of the stars would act like a bowling ball, careening through the accretion disk scattering any nascent planetary bodies thus not allowing the planets to coalesce makes the Kepler discovery something of a mystery:

“The presence of a full-fledged circumbinary planetary system orbiting Kepler-47 is an amazing discovery,” said Greg Laughlin, professor of Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the University of California in Santa Cruz. “These planets are very difficult to form using the currently accepted paradigm, and I believe that theorists, myself included, will be going back to the drawing board to try to improve our understanding of how planets are assembled in dusty circumbinary disks.”

The Kepler Telescope has already revolutionized our notions of extra-solar planets. Kepler was “specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.” It’s a remarkable scientific instrument:

The Kepler instrument is a specially designed 0.95-meter diameter telescope called a photometer or light meter. It has a very large field of view for an astronomical telescope — 105 square degrees, which is comparable to the area of your hand held at arm’s length. It needs that large a field in order to observe the necessary large number of stars. It stares at the same star field for the entire mission and continuously and simultaneously monitors the brightnesses of more than 100,000 stars for the life of the mission—3.5 or more years.

The telescope is able to determine the size and orbit of a planet by observing its transit across the face of the star, measuring the infinitesimally small decrease in brightness — likened to being able to measure the brightness of a firefly flying in front of a spotlight from 2,000 miles away.

So far, Kepler has confirmed the existence of 116 new planets in 67 systems with thousands of candidate bodies still being looked at. Several planets have been confirmed to orbit in the habitable zone — where water can exist as liquid. Kepler-22b is a little more than twice the size of earth and represents the best candidate body found so far where life could exist.

The Kepler Telescope is expected to be in operation through 2015.

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Happy 80th Birthday John Williams

Sunday, August 19th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

What would the last 40 years of pop culture be without John Williams? It’s hard to imagine Lalo Schifrin scoring Star Wars or Alfred Newman composing the soundtrack for E.T. The Extraterrestrial.” Don’t get me wrong. Both are wonderful artists. But Williams gave life to each and every film he has worked on, elevating film from a primarily visual medium to a complete experience of sight and sound that meshed with such perfection we barely noticed how completely we were taken in by the magic.

Yesterday, at Tanglewood, a star-studded event was held to honor John Williams on the occasion of his 80th birthday.

Tanglewood, one of the country’s premiere summer music festivals and summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, celebrated John Williams’s 80th birthday on Saturday, August 18, a highlight of the festival’s 75th anniversary season which continues through Labor Day weekend (details at Pictured above from left to right are Jessye Norman, John Williams, Steven Spielberg, Yo-Yo Ma, Keith Lockhart, and James Taylor.

Steven Spielberg and James Taylor made surprise stage appearances, with President Barack Obama, The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, George Lucas, Brian Williams, Seiji Ozawa, and Gustavo Dudamel featured in special video birthday messages to Mr. Williams. The musical program featured the Boston Pops Orchestra, conductors Keith Lockhart, Leonard Slatkin, and Shi-Yeon Sung, and guest artists Yo-Yo Ma, Anthony McGill, Gabriela Montero, Jessye Norman, and Gil Shaham, as well as members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The program opened with John Williams’s Olympic Fanfare with the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, followed by beloved themes from E.T., Harry Potter, Star Wars, Schindler’s Listand Memoirs of a Geisha.

No word on whether they recorded the event for future broadcast, but I would imagine that we’ll see it on either PBS, or one of the arts channels in the near future.

A five minute film of the evening’s festivities can be downloaded here.


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Sale and Strasburg: Shut Them Down or Let Them Pitch?

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 - by Rick Moran

Two young pitchers with nearly unlimited talent are facing the prospect of their seasons ending prematurely because their teams don’t want to take a chance of injury to their arms.

Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox and Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals are so valuable to the future of their respective franchises that ownership for the Sox and Nats are seriously considering severely limiting the number of innings each will pitch this year. With both youngsters on pace to pitch more than 200 innings — a feat neither has come close to in their amateur or pro careers — the concern over whether the wear and tear of throwing a ball close to 100 MPH, 100-120 times a game over 25-30 starts will cause permanent injury to the shoulder/elbow/wrist has forced the front offices of both teams to consider radical options.

Those arms are worth at least a combined half a billion dollars when one considers that Sale, at 23, and Strasburg, at 24, have a good 15 years each of productive work ahead of them — barring major injury. It is not unreasonable to imagine at least two $100 million plus contracts for each during that time. Both players will be free agents in 2017.

The dilemma facing the White Sox and Nationals is historical in nature; pitchers, no matter how good or how durable, are frequently hurt. There are very few major league hurlers who have gone through a career avoiding major injury. Trips to the disabled list are common, as is surgery. The tremendous strain placed on a pitcher’s shoulder by the unnatural motion of throwing the ball overhand threatens the delicate and complex construction of the joint. Rotator cuffs, labrums, muscle tears, and severe inflammation can make it impossible for a pitcher to work effectively and result in long stints on the disabled list or reconstructive surgery.

To avoid that, the Washington Nationals are seriously considering ending Stephen Strasburg’s season after only about 170 innings:

When we signed Stephen I made a promise to him and to his parents that I would take care of him and that’s what we are going to do,” Rizzo said. “I told them we would always do what’s best for him. This is a kid who has never pitched more than 123 innings in a year.

We are looking at not only competing for the playoffs this season, but also in ’13, ’14, ’15 and beyond. Stephen is a big part of those plans and I will not do anything that could potentially harm him down the road.

As for those thinking Strasburg could be given a few weeks or a month off, then return, Rizzo says don’t count on that happening.

“When it happens, Stephen will not pitch again until spring training (in 2013),” he said. “We tried something similar with Zimmermann last year and he just could not get going again. We won’t make the same mistake.

Last year, the Nats shut down their other prized young pitcher, Jordan Zimmermann, but at the time, they were out of the playoff hunt. This year, the Nationals are in first place with a legitimate shot at the playoffs. It would be unheard of if the team were to sit Strasburg in September when the stretch run for the playoffs is underway — or have him on the bench if the team makes the postseason.

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Yes, the Three-Breasted Woman Will Make Her Triumphant Return in Total Recall Remake

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

There were many questions about the Total Recall remake that fans were anxious to have answered.

1. Will Colin Farrell speak with an Austrian accent?

2. Kate Beckinsale vs. Sharon Stone: Who would you rather wake up next to?

3. Will the three-breasted prostitute from the original version make an appearance in the remake?

Thankfully, Farrell decided against using an Austrian accent. As for question #2, are you nuts? Does it really matter?

And yes, the reboot of the iconic 1990 actioneer will feature perhaps the most interesting character from the original; a mutant with three breasts who comes on to Arnold Schwarzenegger at a sleazy bar on Mars. At the recently completed Comic-Con in San Diego, actress Kaitlyn Leeb caused a sensation when she walked around the convention sporting her barely concealed triple mammaries.

“You’re gonna wish you had three hands,” Leeb’s character purrs to Colin Farrell’s Quaid/Hauser in the Total Recall trailer as she opens her shirt. The same character (played by Lycia Naff) caused a sensation in the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, but thanks to a Comic Con appearance and the internet, Leeb has gone global.

Leeb is back home in Toronto after a stint in Calgary where she’s working on season six of CBC’s family drama Heartland, playing veterinary assistant Cassandra.

She made an appearance at Comic Con in San Diego with Total Recall castmates Farrell, Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel last weekend, stealing their thunder with a skimpy costume that revealed the realistic-looking prosthetic trio.

“Total Three-Call,” trumpeted London tabloid the Sun, while photos from the event flooded the web and were published around the world.

“It’s a tough industry and I’ve worked very hard for it,” said Leeb, who was also an amateur figure skater before starting to work as an actress. “It feels amazing that you’re recognized. It’s surreal, the past couple of days. It’s all new and exciting.”

But while “it’s cool to be in this situation,” Leeb stresses she can’t take all the credit. “All three of them are not mine,” she said.

I predict that “You’re gonna wish you had three hands” will become as famous a film quote as Roy Schieder’s warning to Quint after the shark nearly took his hand off in Jaws, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Director Len Wiseman has an impressive track record, having directed Beckinsale in the first two Underworld flicks (he produced the final two installments), while also helming the fourth film in the Die Hard franchise, Live Free and Die Hard. All were blockbusters and there’s no reason to believe that TR will be any different.

Colin Farrell might not have Arnold’s muscles, but he appears athletic enough to carry off the role of Douglas Quade. Both Beckinsale, who plays Quade’s wife Lori, and Jessica Biel, who plays the sultry resistance leader Melina, are the action heroines of their generation — strong, beautiful women who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. The last trailer for the film reveals a much different landscape than the sterile atmosphere in the original:

The biggest problem the film will have is common to all remakes; everyone knows the ending. The big surprises in the original won’t be a surprise to those who have seen the 1990 version, but because of the near cult status of the Schwarzenegger version, fans will no doubt accept that fact and enjoy the ride regardless.

As summer escapism, it doesn’t appear to get much better.

Total Recall opens nationwide on August 3.

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Historic Collapse by Adam Scott Hands Open Championship to Ernie Els

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012 - by Rick Moran

It was extraordinarily painful to watch. Adam Scott, the 13th ranked player in the world, had a 4 shot lead at the Open Championship being played at Royal Lytham and St. Annes with 4 holes to play. His closest pursuer was Ernie Els who last won a major tournament a decade ago.

In a matter of half an hour, Scott had bogied 4 straight holes while Els, who birdied the 18th to finish the day at 7 under par for the tournament, could only marvel at his good fortune — while feeling for Scott and his historic collapse.

Associated Press:

“I’m a little numb at the moment,” said Els, who was on the practice green behind the clubhouse when he won. “First of all, I feel for Adam Scott. He’s a great friend of mine. Obviously, we both wanted to win very badly. But you know, that’s the nature of the beast. That’s why we’re out here. You win, you lose.

“It was my time for some reason.”

The wind finally arrived off the Irish Sea and ushered in pure chaos — a mental blunder by Tiger Woods that led to triple bogey on the sixth hole, a lost ball by Brandt Snedeker that took him out of contention and a topped shot that made former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell look like an amateur.

Nothing was more stunning that what happened to Scott.

He failed to get up-and-down from a bunker on the 15th. With a wedge in his hand in the 16th fairway, he went 30 feet long and missed a 3-foot par putt. From the fairway on the 17th, he pulled his approach into thick grass left of the green. And on the final hole, he hit 3-wood near the face of a pot bunker.

Scott still had a chance to force extra holes with a strong shot into 7 feet on the 18th for par. The putt stayed left the entire way. His chin buckled, and it looked as if he might start crying on the green. He composed himself and mouthed one word: “Wow.”

“Wow,” indeed. Scott is one of those players that golf pundits have dubbed “Best Player Never to Win a Major.” There is no doubting the young man’s talent or work ethic. But when a young golfer who has never won a major tournament is in the lead during the final round, and makes that last turn on the 9th hole toward glory and immortality, the gut tightens, the muscles twitch, and it becomes difficult to breathe. Golf, a game that demands control and patience, can become a nightmare when you lose both.

Scott lived that nightmare, and will probably continue to do so for a very long time.

For Ernie Els, most observers believed that at age 42, his best golf was behind him. Injury and inconsistency had haunted his game the last 5 years, but the man they call “The Big Easy” because of his tall frame and graceful, effortless swing, proved many doubters wrong. He played a masterful final round, shooting a 2 under par 68 when most of the rest of the field struggled. His course management was superb, taking what Royal Latham was giving while his solid putting got him out of trouble several times.

In 1999, Frenchman Jean Van de Velde went into the final hole of The Open with a 3 shot lead. He scored a triple bogey 7 which forced a playoff that he eventually lost. “Maybe it was asking too much for me,” Van de Velde said.

Scott won’t admit it, but the same could be said of him.

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Ballplayer Who Defected From Cuba Welcomes Parents He’s Not Seen in 5 Years

Thursday, July 5th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

When Chicago White Sox star shortstop Alexei Ramirez defected from Cuba in 2007, he knew he would be unable to visit his parents due to US travel restrictions and the probability that he would be unable to leave once he stepped foot on Cuban soil again.

But just in time for the 4th of July, Ramirez celebrated Independence Day by welcoming his mother and father to Chicago who left Cuba 10 days ago for the states:

Alexei Ramirez returned from the White Sox seven-game road trip Sunday night and sat in the driveway leading up to his house for close to 30 minutes.

The White Sox shortstop had to be tired after playing in New York’s sweltering weekend heat, but this particular pause had nothing to do with exhaustion. Ramirez was about to be reunited with his parents, Armando and Edith, who came from Cuba to Chicago while Ramirez was out of town, and he simply was trying to compose himself.

“I was so nervous, and there were so many emotions running through me,” Ramirez told Wednesday, through translator and White Sox manager of cultural development Jackson Miranda. “It took me a while to calm myself until I saw them.

“When I saw them, there was just a lot of crying and a lot of hugging. It was a lot of love. It was great.”

Upon being asked how his parents made their way from Cuba, Ramirez chose not to go into specific details.

“I’m excited to have them here,” said Ramirez, whose parents will live in Chicago with his family during the season and then in Florida with them during the offseason. “I just thank God. It’s a great dream to have come true.”

That dream moved to another level on Tuesday, when Ramirez’s parents saw him play live for the first time with the White Sox. On Wednesday, Armando threw a ceremonial first pitch to his son before the start of the contest against the Rangers.

Ramirez said that his parents already have taken to Chicago. After not seeing them since 2007, when he came to the United States to start his Major League career in the ’08 season, Ramirez can’t wait to make up for their lost time together starting with this special Independence Day.

“You can’t make back five years, not being there,” Ramirez said. “But I treasure that every day from now on I’ll be able to be with them.”

Circumstances surrounding the elder Ramirez’s arrival in the US are unclear, but it is not unusual for the State Department to work through channels to reunite families of Cuban nationals in the United States.

A star for the Cuban national team prior to his defection, Ramirez put on a show for his mom and dad who attended the White Sox game against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night. It was the first time they had seen their son play since his defection 5 years ago. In a 19-2 blow-out win for the Sox, Ramirez had 3 hits in 5 at bats and batted in 2 runs. Since his parents arrived in the US, Ramirez is hitting .387.

Then, on Wednesday, Alexei got another thrill; his father Armando threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game with the Rangers with his son behind the plate. After catching the throw, Alexie trotted out to the mound and embraced his father.

Ramirez’s defection was not as dramatic as some Cubans who have risked much to play in the states. Escaping the watchful eyes of the Cuban secret police who accompany the national team when they play in international tournaments is not easy. But as more and more players find ways off Castro’s island prison, the Cuban government may be softening its position on their players signing with Major League teams and might eventually give in to the inevitable.

For now, though, Ramirez is one of the lucky ones. And reuniting with his parents probably makes his dream complete.

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Hypocrisy Writ Large in NFL ‘Bountygate’ Scandal

Thursday, April 5th, 2012 - by Rick Moran

So, one NFL team got caught paying its players to inflict injury on key players on the opposing side. Be still my palpitating heart. You mean to tell me that pro football is a nasty, violent sport played for keeps and with no holds barred and where teams will do anything — up to and including trying to injure an opposing player — to win? Perish the thought.

The hypocrisy of the league, the teams, the fans, and especially the sanctimonious twits who style themselves “sportswriters” is incredible. The teams pay players to knock the snot out of the other fellow — the harder the hitter, the more dollars in his contract. The fans pay big bucks to watch them do it and cheer wildly at the mayhem. The league markets the game with not so subtle hints at the ferocity of its players. And sportswriters run out of adjectives describing hits on opposing players that, if delivered outside the lines of the field, would constitute probable cause for assault and battery.

The New Orleans Saints — specifically, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and 22 players — pooled their money to pay bounties for knocking opposing players out of the game. Williams, hired as defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams this past offseason, has been suspended by the league “indefinitely.” Head coach Sean Payton, who apparently tried to cover up the activity, got a one-year suspension. The team was also fined and lost a couple of draft picks.

The league took this action not so much because they are concerned about “sportsmanship” or “fair play” but because paying bounties is against the rules. There is a perfectly legal and far more elegant way for teams to accomplish the exact same thing the Saints managed to do: Pay massive contracts to players with a reputation for pulverizing opponents. Some of the highest paid players in the game are also some of its hardest hitters. Hitting an opponent like a ton of bricks is likely to cause some kind of injury whether it slows the player down or puts him on the sideline for a couple of games. Bone, sinew, muscle, tendons, cartilage — the human body, no matter how well conditioned, did not evolve over the last 2 million years to be crunched by a 260 pound linebacker who runs a 4.4 40 yard dash. The collisions rattle bones, and even brains, as concussions are at an all time high in the NFL.

And there is a far more effective way to police this kind of thing: let the players and opposing teams deal with it in their own way.

Warren Sapp, former all-pro defensive lineman:

“We don’t keep many secrets in the NFL, if you knocking a dude out, you getting paid — that’s going to get around,” Sapp said on CBS This Morning. “Once that gets out, the league’s going to come down on you even more then. Teams are going to start coming after your guys.”

There you have it: mutually assured destruction. You take out our guy, we go after two of yours. It worked in baseball for 100 years until the league began to butt its nose into the nuances of the game. If a pitcher threw at the head of an opposing player, he had best be ready to duck when it was his turn to bat. Or sometimes the payback would come in the form of a bean ball thrown at the other team’s best player. A balance of power was maintained in this imperfect manner, and it protected players and pitchers as well.

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John Carter Headed For $200 Million Loss

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 - by Rick Moran

For those of us who are fans — and always will be fans — of the marvelous Edgar Rice Burroughs series John Carter of Mars, the news that the film version will lose somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million is depressing. The BBC critic Mark Kermode summed up the movie’s major problem:

The storytelling is incomprehensible, the characterization is ludicrous, the story is two and a quarter hours long and it’s a boring, boring, boring two and a quarter hours long.

The film cost a staggering $250 million to make and another $100 million to promote.  A Disney spokesman confirmed to the Daily Mail the bad news, saying, “In light of the theatrical performance of John Carter, we expect the film to generate an operating loss of approximately $200 million.”

What went wrong? One of the most beloved sci-fi series of all time is set to become the biggest financial flop in Hollywood history.

Some critics point to the director and producers as being in over their heads. That’s one of those criticisms that is impossible to prove, but sounds like the critic knows something about making movies. In fact, the director, Andrew Stanton, was no stranger to blockbuster projects, and treated the source material with respect — even reverence.

But I agree with this notion from Rick Liebling,the Creative Culturalist at Y&R New York:

Indiana Jones on Mars? Sequels and theme park attractions? That’s why movies like this (or just about any other “blockbuster”) suck. They are viewed as franchise vehicles or cross-promotional, money-spinning opportunities. I’m not opposed to those things by the way, but when they are the raison d’etre, well all you’re going to get is a steaming turd.

Beyond the Hollywoodisms and other inside-industry explanations, there is the cultural chasm between the world in which John Carter was originally created by Burroughs and the less literate, less imaginative, more realistic world into which the film was released.

Chris Queen did an excellent job of fleshing out the history and background of the John Carter novels for PJ Media prior to the film’s release. In 1911 when the first story appeared in in the pulp magazine The All Story, the Civil War had been over less than 50 years. Almost everyone knew a veteran from that war, or saw them during parades and other patriotic events. The war was still alive for kids and young adults at that time, making the character John Carter live in ways that we can’t even imagine.

While Burroughs’ time was more literate, it was the imagination that forged a connection to the stories and characters and created such a powerful hold on our affections. In an age before film, before TV, before radio, there was only the reader, the written word, and however we imagined the world being created by the author. Burroughs’ prose could be turgid at times — to our ears anyway –  but the compelling way in which he described his world of Barsoom far surpassed any attempts we might make today to translate the author’s imagined adventures to the screen. There are simply no cultural touchstones that connect the world of Burroughs with our world today. A young boy living in pre-World War I America imagined Barsoom far differently that I did in the 1960s. And it is likely that most kids today hadn’t even read the books, waiting instead for the video game.

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Mainstreaming Wild-Ass Liberalism

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 - by Rick Moran

What would the liberal intelligentsia say about David Duke being given an anchor job on Fox? Or Michael Savage? Or Alex Jones?

Already the proud purveyors of loony-toons leftism by featuring the unbalanced rants of Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow, MSNBC has jumped into the deep end of demented derangement by hiring the race baiting, self promoting Reverend Al Sharpton for its 6:00 PM anchor slot.

New York Times:

After giving a nearly six-month tryout for the Internet talk show host Cenk Uygur, the cable news channel MSNBC is preparing to instead hand its 6 p.m. time slot to the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Mr. Sharpton’s imminent hiring, which was acknowledged by three people at the channel on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been signed, is significant in part because MSNBC and other news channels have been criticized for a paucity of minority hosts in prominent time slots. Mr. Sharpton, who is black and is a well-known civil rights activist and radio host, has been guest hosting in the 6 p.m. time slot for the last three weeks.

There had been uncertainty about the 6 p.m. slot ever since the channel’s marquee anchor, Keith Olbermann, departed in January, prompting Ed Schultz to be moved to 10 p.m. from 6. Suddenly Mr. Uygur, who had been made a paid contributor to MSNBC months earlier, was handed 6 p.m., a big coup given that he had earlier campaigned to have his progressive Web show “The Young Turks” picked up by MSNBC.

He earned solid but not stand-out ratings; in late June the channel’s president, Phil Griffin, decided to try out Mr. Sharpton, and offered Mr. Uygur a new contract that included a weekend show, but not a higher-profile weekday show.

By any definition, Al Sharpton is an extremist. He has proven himself an inveterate race baiter, a nauseating anti-Semite, a convicted libeler, a crook, and a class warfare demagogue of the first order.

I know that MSNBC was looking to hire loud, opinionated, leftists who will deliver spittle-flecked rants against the Republicans and the right, but Jeez…

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First Look: John Carter (of Mars) Trailer

Friday, July 15th, 2011 - by Rick Moran

The much anticipated trailer for the Disney treatment of the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs sci-fi adventure series John Carter of Mars was released yesterday.

YouTube Preview Image

How cool is that? Love those Barsoomian ships. But after drooling over Frank Franzetta’s voluptuous renderings of “the incomparable” Dejah Thoris on book covers for years, the shock of seeing her with a top on will take some getting used to.

Fans of the last major series by Burroughs not butchered by Hollywood are holding their breath that for once, Tinsel Town will get it right and capture the vision of one of the most imaginative writers of the 20th century.

So far, there are signs that cause both trepidation and hope. Most worrisome is dropping “of Mars” from the original title. Now it is simply John Carter set for release on March 9, 2012. Disney – marketing geniuses? Maybe they know something the rest of us don’t.

They are also being coy about the look of some of the fantastical Martian beasts – especially the humanoid Tharks. John Carter’s experiences with the 15 foot tall green skinned, 4 armed, be-tusked “hordes” is a central part of the story. Also wondering about Carter’s Calot (dog) Woola who stands as tall as a Shetland pony with 10 legs and the head of a frog.

What about Carter’s superior strength and agility, bulging muscles and giant “thews?” Carter could leap 30 feat at a time in the weaker Martian gravity, which gave him an enormous advantage over any adversary. It’s the reason he’s dominant on the planet so you wonder if  they can remain true to that part of Carter’s personae.

And they better not screw up the thoats. (great Wiki on Barsoom here).

On the good side, Andrew Stanton (Wall-E and Finding Nemo) is helming the project which is already into post-production. Stanton, who also penned the script, swears that he has made a “true Martian movie.” Famous last words. And judging from the trailer, there doesn’t appear to be anything cheesy about the backdrops — a fault that ruined The Martian Chronicles.

The stars are a mixed lot. I’m dubious of Willem Dafoe playing Carter’s best friend, the Thark Tars Tarkas. But Lynn Collins (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as Dejah Thoris seems fine. Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) as John Carter is going to be hit or miss. I think he’s too young (Carter was a Civil War hero) but he looks great in the trailer – suitably heroic. Hard to think of who might have played the role today. Contemporary action heroes just wouldn’t fill the bill. How about Robert Taylor or Victor Mature? Errol Flynn might have been OK too.

I apologize if my cynicism is showing through but so many films have disappointed upon being transferred from literature to celluloid that I am fully expecting disaster. I think the best those of us who are fans of the series can hope for is that they stick to the story and not overload the film with a lot of syrupy exposition and non-essential romance.

IMDB page here.



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Is Falling Skies going to go all PC on us?

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 - by Rick Moran

[Some Spoilers Below]

There’s so little good sci-fi on TV anymore (the “SyFy” channel lost me at the 10th anaconda movie they produced) that when a decent series comes along, you want to get up out of your Enterprise captain’s chair and cheer them on.

TNT’s Falling Skies has a heavyweight production team, a monster budget, and just the right mix of terror and wonder that all good sci-fi shows should have. It’s an ancient story line but why reinvent the wheel if it isn’t creaking?

The series begins in medias res with the aliens well on their way to wiping humans off the face of the earth. The beasts are suitably icky and, well, beastly — especially since they capture children as slave laborers, controlling them by putting an icky wormlike critter that attaches itself to the backs of the kids and makes them into automatons.

As you might expect, there is a resistance — poorly equipped and hardly a real soldier among them. The main character, Tom Mason (played by Noah Wylie), is an ex-military history professor whose knowledge of war doesn’t impress hard-bitten Captain Weaver (Will Patton), but whose respect he is gaining as his missions get ever more dangerous. Mason has a kid in one of the alien labor brigades and most of the first three episodes revolved around his efforts to get him back.

Mason became a hero in Episode Two when he actually captured an alien (called “Skitters”) alive. And herein lies the seeds of the show’s possible destruction. Mason’s putative love interest is Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood). While Dr. Michael Harris (Stephen Weber) is busy trying to dissect the creature, Anne wants to study the beast. Who knows, maybe it has feelings? Actually, she has a good idea — getting to know the enemy — but the way she goes about it is a little strange. She gives the beastie water. She talks nicey-nicely to it. She asks it what it wants from us. She actually protects it from Harris who sees a lab rat, while Anne sees…what? A kindred spirit? You get the feeling that she sees the Skitter as a minority.

Meanwhile, the Skitter doesn’t know what to think. Not enamored of Anne’s obvious anatomical gifts, he can’t ply her with nylons, perfume, and other stuff with which GI’s would bribe their guards in WW II movies. So he tries the next best thing: He makes a grab for her and tries to eat her.

Anne gets away but later, Harris isn’t so lucky. The Beastie grabs the doc as he is trying to prevent one of the Skitter’s former slaves from releasing it and makes literal mincemeat of him.

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