Field of Very Expensive Dreams

Tonight the Mega Millions jackpot reached $640,000,000. After tax, the winner would have about $400m, which sounds like an awful lot of money to me. In the same week that the jackpot reached that dizzy height, we found that those post tax proceeds would buy a one fifth share in a baseball team.

Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Dodgers were sold for $2bn. This one of the five baseball teams in the state of California. They last won the World Series in 1988, since then three other teams in California have won the title. (A’s in 1989, Angels in 2002, Giants in 2010)

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Frank McCourt bought the franchise for $430m in 2003, using debt rather than cash to make the purchase. He and his wife then funded a lavish lifestyle on the back of the team’s cash-flow. The McCourts divorced with the largest alimony settlement in California history. Part of that settlement involved Frank buying his wife’s share of the team for $130m. This week that looks like a very low price to pay for 50% of a $2bn team. After paying his debts and alimony, Frank walked away from the Dodgers with $1bn profit.

Jackie

A team whose story echoes back through the ages of baseball can now leave the shadows of a couple who saw it as a cash cow. The Dodgers who gave us Jackie Robinson and Sandy Koufax can once more focus on being a baseball team. Let us hope they become the state’s second most successful franchise and overtake the Giants’ six wins.

Whoever won the lottery tonight should know that all the money they obtained is dwarfed by the profits McCourt made by selling a moribund team whose purchase  price he had to meet by borrowing.

Published in: on 30 March, 2012 at 23:54  Leave a Comment  

Thirty Nine

It is conventional wisdom that a team needs forty points in a season to guarantee survival in the Premier League. Since the League was reduced to twenty teams, no club has been relegated with forty points.

After last weekend’s win over Wolves, Norwich have thirty-nine points; one short of that magic total. Last year two teams were relegated with thirty-nine points. Thus one more draw would remove any lingering fear of relegation. One more draw from the last eight games. That seems more than achievable, but the first of those games, away to Fulham on Saturday, brings back dark memories.

The last time that Norwich were in the Premier League, they were relegated immediately. They went into the final game of that season knowing that a win would keep them up. That last game was away at Fulham. With four wins in the previous six games, victory and survival seemed possible. It was a dreadful day, as not only did Norwich fail to win, but they were drubbed six-nil.

I cannot imagine the same fate overtaking Norwich this time; only once have they lost heavily in the League this year: 5-1 away to Manchester City. Should they lose to Fulham, they still have seven more games to add enough points to ensure safety. Granted Arsenal, Spurs, Liverpool, and Manchester City make up three of the final opponents. This time round, the Fulham game is not make or break, but there would be a delight in making safety at the place where Sven seasons ago dreams were so brutally shattered by six Fulham goals.

Published in: on 30 March, 2012 at 6:03  Leave a Comment  

Name Game

There is much less variety in the naming of American major league franchises than there is in British football teams. None of the teams that play in London bear the city’s name. The Scottish team Raith Rovers do not play in the town of Raith – probably because there is no such town.

In the US nearly all of the teams carry either the name of the city or the state in which they play. The New England Patriots of the NFL and basketball’s Golden State Warriors are exceptions, but only just. New England is the name given to a group of six states, and The Golden State is California’s nickname. The only major league team that truly breaks with this pattern is the Major League Soccer team, CD Chivas USA. They are the Los Angeles team for which David Beckham does not play. They are owned by one of Mexico’s most popular teams -  CD Guadalajara; whose nickname is chivas (Which means goats in Spanish). They are the only American team with nothing in their name to tie them to the city or state.

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One of the other Southern California teams manages to cast some confusion  having two cities in their name; The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Los Angeles and Anaheim are two different cities in different counties: Los Angeles County and Orange County respectively.

Published in: on 27 March, 2012 at 7:00  Leave a Comment  

A Movie Just for Me

I have had a long fascination with Vampire fiction. It should be noted that I am firmly in the Real Vampires Don’t Sparkle camp; but nearly any other blood-sucking film or book attracts my interest. I acknowledge that even discounting Twilight fans, I am far from alone in my Vampire interest.

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I also read about American Presidents. I have a bookshelf full of biographies, auto-biographies, and other books about the forty or so men who have held that office. I suspect that there are a fewer people who share that interest. There are clearly enough to justify some films on the subject to be made. Stephen Spielberg will be releasing an Abraham Lincoln biopic, staring Daniel Day Lewis, later this year.

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The intersection between these two areas of interest would seem low. Those who read history about political leaders and those who revel in stories of the blood-drinking undead are not often the same person. At least, that was my assumption. Yet, as this movie trailer shows, Hollywood must think differently. I give you Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

Presidents and Vampires together at last

Which of this year’s Abe Lincoln movies will contain the most historical inaccuracies?

Published in: on 26 March, 2012 at 6:09  Comments (1)  

John Carterostophe

When I got my iPad twenty months ago, one of the first books that I downloaded was A Princess of Mars; Edgar Rice Burroughs first book – predating Tarzan by a couple of years. It features John Carter, an Earthman who dies and wakes on Mars. It is the first of eleven books about Carter’s adventure on the Red Planet.

I had read several of these books as a child and welcomed the opportunity to read it again. An adult saw it with different eyes, especially in the portrayal of native Americans at the start; nonetheless it is an imaginative, fast-paced narrative. Its originality somewhat obscured by so many subsequent stories drawing from this source.

I was excited to see the trailers for John Carter last year. I saw the movie on its opening weekend and loved the way in which the imagined Mars had been recreated on screen. The additions to the book provided some explanation of how Carter gets to Mars and added a stronger narrative thread to hold the episodes of the book together. Thus, I felt that the film’s changes were positive.

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The film looked so splendid largely because of the budget, a massive $250m. Unfortunately, for Disney the film was a critical flop that has been ignored by audiences. Maybe there are not many people who remember the books fondly and would go to see it irrespective of the critical reception. This week Disney announced a $200m write-off on the film. The setup for a sequel is not likely to see a follow through.

Published in: on 25 March, 2012 at 10:28  Comments (1)  

Nýtt Bylgja

 

Bossa Nova is a style of jazz music from Brazil that originated in the 1950s. The literal translation is New Trend.

New Wave is a style of British and American pop music that originated in the late 1970s.

There is a French band called Nouvelle Vague, whose name translates as New Wave. They play cover versions of English language New Wave songs in a Bossa Nova style. Thus the band, the song, and the style of their playing all shares a name.

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I came across the band sat in a Napa restaurant bar. There was a very odd version of Teenage Kicks playing. I have software called Shazam on my iPhone. It will identify a song and artist, most of the time. It identified this song as being performed by the aforementioned Nouvelle Vague. Whilst coding on my Mac this morning, I listened to some of their music. The collection included Say Hello, Wave Goodbye, Love Will Tear Us Apart, and Too Drunk to <fornicate>.

Here is a video of Nouveau Vague playing their version of a Joy Division classic.

Love Will Tear Us Apart
Published in: on 24 March, 2012 at 14:53  Leave a Comment  

More Horsepower

My first car had a 1.3l engine. The next one had 1.4l. Then I had three 1.8l engines. My last three cars in the UK had a 2.0l engine. That trio were, by British standards, powerful cars. They also shared the greatest badge in automotive history.

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The car I bought in the US had a 3.5l engine that generates a little over 300hp. When I push the loud pedal, the car leaps forward in  a manner that thrills every part of my testerone.

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My wife drives a 4×4 which has a 5.7l V8 engine, which produces 390hp. The extra weight means it lacks the wide grin creation  that my car creates, but if you need to overtake it has more than sufficient power.

Aspen

A while ago a colleague from the UK rented a Camaro SS. He allowed me to drive his coupe. (I like to bask in Bacchus’s blessing, but even I have can be persuaded to be designated driver if the price is right.)

This car had a 6.2l V8 engine;exceeding my wife’s car without giving a usable second row of seats, let alone the third row that her SUV allows.  It offers 422bhp. I have never been so grateful of a gimmick as as I was of the Camaro’s head up display. It projected the speed so it appeared to be floating above the car’s bonnet(US=Hood). This was a car that wanted cops to take your license and for you to enjoy every moment until that happened.

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I would show you a picture of the HUD speed display in action, but every shot I can find via Google shows that Camaro drivers are way more sensible than  I expected and the pictures show the car at rest.

I am certain that because US taxes on petrol are much less than those in Europe that Americans make such over-powered cars. My conscious tells me that is wrong, but every time I push down on the accelerator instincts far older and deeper than reason take over. 

Published in: on 19 March, 2012 at 8:32  Leave a Comment  

Historical Accuracy

Outside of the sciences, there are few rules that can be stated with one 100% certainty. I do feel, however, that you will struggle to find exceptions to the following rule:

In any Hollywood historical movie there will be at least one major inaccuracy.

No one should ever use films as a basis for understanding real events. Otherwise you might think that any of the following were true:
The American navy recovered an Enigma machine from a German submarine called U571
Salieri poisoned Mozart
That anything in Braveheart happened as shown.

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At the end of the day, it does not matter. A film should be evaluated on its own terms. All of the above films are entertaining, well made, and worth watching; as long as you do not base your understanding of history on them.

The lack of importance in historical accuracy was demonstrated to me this week. I watched Anonymous. It is a film that puts forward the proposition that the Earl of Oxford was the author of Shakespeare’s plays. It is riddled with inaccuracies, but is a thoroughly entertaining movie. The inaccuracies were delightfully explained by the screenwriter. He observed that The Bard played fast and loose with accuracy. If the greatest playwright in the language felt no need to let facts get in the way of a good story, why should Hollywood scribes?

Given that, why do I find the following advert so annoying?

NO!!!! This is Wrong!!!

The events are clearly supposed to happen in Victorian England. At that time we did not have a decimal currency. The shop lady would have said “fourteen pounds and nineteen shillings”, or maybe “fourteen pounds, nineteen shillings, and eleven pennies”.

This would work only if it was set in the UK after the fifteenth of February 1971, when we Brits accepted that the rest of the world had a point and decimal currencies were not a passing fad.

I find the inaccuracy this advert so much annoying than the previously listed films. Maybe I am happy to accept that art can ignore facts so that it may create great works. Advertising has no higher purpose, so this obvious error irks me. The advert could make the same point if it were set in the American Gilded Age.

Published in: on 18 March, 2012 at 7:11  Leave a Comment  

Spring Training

Spring Training is the name given to the preseason practice for baseball. Teams go to either Arizona or Florida to get into shape and evaluate players. It sounds not dissimilar to preseason football friendlies in the UK from that description. Where it differs is the amount of attention that spring training receives. People take vacations to travel down and watch the practice games. Today, I was even able to watch one of the games live on TV. Granted, it was on one of the local sports channel and featured the San Francisco Giants against the A’s; so full of local interest. Unfortunately, the Giants won comfortably (7-2) with “The Freak” being the winning pitcher.

It was still great to see a baseball game after several months of drought. It help mitigates what seems like a long wait until April and the A’s first real home game. I use the word real, as later in March the A’s will play the Mariners in two games that count as home games for the A’s in Japan.

At least the A’s did not have to wear a bizarrely colour clashing uniform. Today was St Patricks Day, so the Giants had green caps which did not go with their black and orange uniforms.

Freak

In their other preseason game on Saturday, the A’s beat the Cubs  4-3. The A’s record in these warm-ups is 12-4; unfortunately these games have little bearing on actual form. I doubt that this ratio of wins against losses will be reflected in the real season. A 120 win season is not only unlikely given the A’s squad, but also beats the all time record by four games. But at least I can dream for the next few weeks of a post-season run.

Published in: on 17 March, 2012 at 18:35  Leave a Comment  

Ain’t felt this good for an hour

I can understand the lure for a band to lend its name to a product. I do think that bands should select merchandise that match their image and core audience. If I told you that Motörhead had given their name to alcohol, you might agree that was a natural choice; after all their No Sleep Till Hammersmith album bears the following dedication:

Thanks to Smirnoff and Carlsberg without whom lots of this would have been coherent.

So from the wide choice of booze available, what is it that bears the band’s name? Vodka, beer; both would be good guesses. Both would be incorrect guesses. No, you can buy Motörhead Shiraz. The wine is described on the website thus:

The wine has a very fruity aroma with flavours of vanilla, blackberries, plums, eucalyptus and liquorice. It is full-bodied with soft rounded tannins and packs a real punch.
Enjoy Motörhead Shiraz with dishes like grilled lamb chops with garlic and rosemary. Also goes well with other lamb or beef dishes, as well as pasta and flavoursome cheeses. Serve a little below room temperature, around 16 – 18°C.

For grilled lamb with garlic and rosemary is just the food with which Lemmy and the band are so clearly associated. You can also buy these fine glasses with which to drink the wine, for one cannot imagine that Motörhead would ever swig from the bottle

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Tell me that the following video does not make you think of enjoying those finely balanced flavours:

Published in: on 16 March, 2012 at 6:17  Leave a Comment