Monday, February 28, 2011

I Think I Need to Get Out of the Prediction Game

I picked the Pittsburgh Steelers to win this year's Super Bowl.

I only predicted two of tonight's Oscar winners correctly. Aaron Sorkin for adapted screenplay (The Social Network) and a lucky guess on Natalie Portman for best actress in Black Swan. I didn't even see her performance.

I suck at predictions. Based on my track record, I am not picking the Cincinnati Reds for this year's National League Central Division Champs.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Oscar Picks! Best Actors and Picture (and some random thoughts)

OK, some more picks:

Best Actress: This is a big guess, as I didn't see any of the actresses this year, so going with Natalie Portman, Black Swan based on my son Brian's review

Best Actor: Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network (tough pick over Colin Firth in The King's Speech and Jeff Bridges in True Grit)

Best Picture: The Social Network (True Grit is my second pick)

Rooting for Aaron Sorkin to win for Adapted Screenplay, The Social Network.

Finally, it would be very cool if Exit Through The Gift Shop would win for Best Documentary. One of the most original concepts for a documentary film I have ever seen. He has been invited to the ceremony, and as I understand it, can show up masked to keep his identity a secret.

My Oscar Picks! Supporting Actors and Director

Here are my picks for Supporting Actors and Director for tonight's Oscar broadcast on ABC:

Supporting Actress: Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit (loved Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech too)

Supporting Actor: Jeremy Renner, The Town (shout out to Geoffrey Rush of The King's Speech)

Director: David Fincher, The Social Network (Joel and Ethan Coen of True Grit could win)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Black Text, a Short Story by Brian Sell

I'd like to see my son Brian write more stuff! This is quality!

Black Text

I picked my head up and opened my eyes at that too familiar sound. The reaction to a text tone is sort of Pavlovian, an immediate learned reaction to that certain personal sound of a personal message received. The anticipation of another’s immediate thought, response or proposition, sent in the moment, rarely left to simmer. The specific reaction may change but there is always the quick jerk and thought, the shift of focus, an excitement or dread, sadness or salivation. Even wasted.

I looked around whatever room I was in, my head and eyes weighed down by too much to remember. Everything was slow and heavy, the night had taken its toll.

I didn’t see my phone anywhere in my blacked-out vicinity. Three bodies I couldn’t identify were on the floor to the left of the too-uncomfortable chair I guessed I had passed out in. Two of the bodies embraced.

A few sudden vibrations shook my leg and another tone rang out, much more clearly from around my groin this time. A closely following second tone is usually attached to much stronger feelings, good or bad, but I couldn’t remember which way I was supposed to feel. What was I talking about?

I felt around on my thighs where the pockets of my jeans would be. I bumped into the candybar bulge of my phone on my left leg. It took every ounce of concentration and strength, plus an audible groan, to shift my weight and reach into my pocket. As I grabbed my phone, I could feel the quick succession of short vibrations leading up to a third tone.

“Fuck,” I mumbled to myself, fighting the urge to vomit from just speaking. As my phone emitted another of its twinkling tones, I wriggled it from my jeans, pockets tight. I was either in some deep shit or doing something cute, or funny, or just right in some way. And all on auto-pilot. I hoped for anything close to the latter but expected the former as I tapped the power button on the top edge of the phone to turn on the screen. Who was I even talking to?

My mind knew it should’ve felt more nervous, or anticipated at least, but it didn’t care, staying tucked in its warm blanket of intoxicants. The screen flicked on and my finger automatically glided in the pattern to get past the lock screen.

I opened up the string of messages and attempted to read but could barely understand anything I was seeing. The first sentence was only half a sentence. I could read words separately but couldn’t comprehend full sentences. I skipped over words entirely and forgot others as soon as I read them. Feeling frustrated and illiterate, my attempt at reading turned into a skimming, catching words sporadically. There were numerous words in all-caps, a few “love”s, more “hate”s, every explicative I could think of and a disconcerting lack of emoticons.

I stopped and took a breath, slowing down and reminding myself that this was serious and no time for skimming. Triple-tone. I started to reread the first sentence which was still unusually cut-off at the beginning. I realized I had been attempting to read the thread in reverse order, the truncated first sentence being the continuation of the message before. I flicked up to the top and gathered myself to start reading once again, this time in the right position. But before I could get past the first “I”, my phone vibrated again, letting out another tone that lost impact every time I heard it. A notification popped down from the top of the screen and quickly disappeared.

The sound, vibration and what I thought was a quick glance in attempt to catch the dropping notification threw me off balance again. I looked back at the messages and noticed I had been bumped down to that most recent text in the thread. I hadn’t even thought to check who I was talking to. I was quickly snapped out of all intoxication when I saw who it was.

The newest message was much shorter than the others, and much easier to comprehend.

“We’re over. Goodbye.”

Movie Review-Toy Story 3 (2010)

I've done my best to try to see all the movies that have been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar this year, but I'm not going to make it. I have The Kids Are All Right DVD is sitting on the counter via my Netflix subscription and I might get a chance to watch it before tomorrow night's Oscar broadcast, but I did recently watch Toy Story 3, so a review is in order.

Andy has turned 18 and is headed off to college. The Toys are accidentally donated to a day care center as Andy is cleaning out his room as he prepares to leave home. Woody, Buzz and the gang run into a gang of rogue toys at the day care center led by Lotso, a stuffed bear who accidentally was lost by his former owner and is jaded by the experience.

Typical of the Toy Story franchise, #3 is has a great screenplay, with very smart dialog between the characters. For those of us who have seen all three of the Toy Story movies, the ending is bittersweet, but ultimately works well as is typical of a Disney/Pixar production.

My son Brian is 20 and grew up with the Toy Story movies. Anyone with a son in the 17-20 age group will find this movie to have real significance as they have watched their sons grow up.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Movie Review-Inception (2010)

I realize Inception was released in theaters this past July, but having just seen the movie and based on the fact that it has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture I thought it would still be relevant to write a review.

This movie takes work to watch. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the concept of the movie is that a technology exists that allows a person to invade the human mind through another person's dreams. Cool concept and the special effects in the movie are outstanding, especially at the outset when Mr. DiCaprio's character, Cobb is explaining the concepts to Ariadne (played by Ellen Page of Juno fame) as he is recruiting her for a major corporate espionage effort.

My initial comment about "work" was based on the fact that one has to really concentrate on this movie as the characters work through multiple layers of their target's dreams to plant an idea which will lead to their final goal. It can get complicated. Don't multi-task while you are watching.

Ultimately Inception is a story of redemption, with a very interesting and heartfelt ending.

Is Inception a good movie? Yes. Does it deserve the Oscar for Best Picture? No. But definitely worth the effort to watch.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Columbus Crew vs Real Salt Lake CONCACAF Quarterfinal First Leg-Opportunity Lost For The Crew

2/22/11: Sitting in my hotel room trying to warm up after attending the first leg of the CONCACAF quarterfinal match between the Columbus Crew and Real Salt Lake in Columbus, Ohio. Don't know what the temperature was, but at least it wasn't windy. I'm guessing 25 degrees at best.

I'm a Crew season ticket holder so please excuse my bias towards the Crew as I write this.

I really didn't expect much from the Crew this match. Their roster has changed dramatically since last season and based on the fact that Real Salt Lake was very strong last year and fielded essentially the same team as last year I felt that a 1 goal loss was the best that the Crew would do tonight.

I was pleasantly surprised and ultimately disappointed in how the match turned out. It ended in a 0-0 draw. Suprising in that the Crew was missing William Hesmer in goal, Shaun Francis at left back and Chad Marshall at centerback, yet played very well in the first half in dominating Real Salt Lake. Disappointing in that Real Salt Lake was a man down for the last 38 minutes of the match (a second caution resulting in a red card in the 52nd, then both teams receiving red cards in the 72nd) yet the Crew couldn't mount a sustained attack to get a home goal. They looked pretty tired in the second half.

The Crew will have a chance to advance when they play the second leg March 1st in Salt Lake City. Away goals are a tie-breaker in the elimination rounds this year, so a 1-1 draw would do the trick for the Crew in the match.

Who stood out for the Crew tonight? Rich Balchan at center back, Sebastian Miranda at right back and Emmanuel Ekpo in the midfield.

Who struggled for the Crew? Josh Gardner at left back

Match report:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ryan Widmer Found Guilty by a Third Jury of His Peers

Ryan Widmer, is led away in handcuffs by Warren County Sheriff deputies after the jury came back with a guilty verdict Tuesday, Feb 15, 2011 in Warren County Common Pleas Court in Lebanon, Ohio. Staff Photo, The Pulse-Journal, Mason, Ohio
If you live in the Cincinnati, Ohio you are very aware of the case of Ryan Widmer, accused of killing his wife Sarah in their Hamilton Township, Ohio home on August 11, 2008.

This afternoon, a jury of Ryan's peers found him guilty of the murder and the Judge sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison.


This was the third trial of Mr. Widmer for this crime. In the first trial, Mr. Widmer was found guilty, but that verdict was thrown out due to juror misconduct. The second trial ended with a hung jury after a decision could not be reached.

This case has been debated in the Internet and on talk radio in Cincinnati for almost 2 1/2 years. It was also featured on an episode of Dateline NBC in 2009.

It seems as though the case against Mr. Widmer was strengthened in the latest trial by a witness named Jennifer Crew, who claimed that Mr. Widmer called her in October of 2009 and told her he had killed his wife Sarah. Ms. Crew came forward after the second trial.

I don't know Ryan Widmer and the death of Sarah Widmer at such a young age is horrible. It just seems to me with evidence that was circumstancial at best, and a supposed confession given to a witness who only came forward after the second trial that there would have been reasonable doubt as to whether Ryan Widmer was guilty. But Mr. Widmer and his lawyers decided not to have him take the stand to defend himself.

If Ryan Widmer was truly guilty, then justice is served. If not, then his lawyers failed him and the jury failed by not understanding the concept of reasonable doubt.

In the end, only Ryan Widmer knows what happened that night.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Friday Night Lights-I Am Going To Miss This Show!

Cast of the final season of Friday Night Lights
One of my all-time favorite television shows just ended a 5-year run. Because I subscribe to DirecTV I was able to watch the final season of Friday Night Lights over the last couple of months and the show's finale tonight.

The cast has changed over the years, but the show has remained excellent! A review at this point is a little useless. I just need to say thank you to the producers, cast and crew for giving us a great show!

Clear eyes, full hearts...can't lose!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Prediction Updated

I was wrong. Congratulations Packers.
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Phil Simms-Hypocritical NFL Analyst!

Phil Simms, CBS NFL Football announcer, decided to confront Desmond Howard yesterday at the NFL Xperience exhibit in Dallas due to criticism Desmond had made earlier in the year about Mr.Simms' son Matt, a quarterback at the University of Tennessee. Apparently Mr. Howard had made the comments earlier in the season on ESPN College Gameday. Security had to step in so that Mr. Howard could continue with his appearance.

This is not the first time that Phil has been oversensitive about criticism his sons have received. In 2005 Steve Young criticized Phil's son Chris for his poor play with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Phil attacked him verbally a day later in a press conference.

Pretty amazing reading Desmond Howard's twitter stream on the incident. The best coverage of the altercation comes from the blog It includes Desmond's twitter feed.

Here is the article link:

Phil Simms and CBS released a statement about the incident:

UPDATE (2:44p PT): In response to today’s incident involving Desmond Howard, Phil Simms released the following statement to through CBS:
"Desmond and I were having a private conversation that became heated. But at no time was there ever a chance of any physical confrontation or that I felt the police officer assigned to me by the event planners for my appearance needed to separate the two of us."

Was this really the forum to air your grievances Phil? In addition, aren't you critical of NFL players' performance during your telecasts? I know we are talking about your sons, but criticism from analysts at big time college football programs and in the NFL is part of the deal. Thinking there are plenty of fathers and mothers of young men you have criticized who may have been upset, but didn't choose to verbally attack you in public.

Phil Simms should resign as an NFL analyst. Or CBS should fire him. Now that I think of it, maybe posting this is a bad idea. Oh well, what are the odds I will run into Phil Simms anyway...

Phil Simms at NFL Xperience.

Desmond Howard at NFL Xperience.

Super Bowl Prediction-Steelers win 7th Title 24 to 17!

Mike Tomlin and The Steelers are Going to Win #7!
After much deliberation, I am predicting the Pittsburgh Steelers will win Super Bowl #7 tonight. Score? Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Green Bay Packers 17.

Take it to the bank!

Friday, February 4, 2011

MLS looking to unveil regular-season schedule on Feb. 10

MLS Commish Don Garber-Thinking About Releasing the 2011 Regular Season Schedule
I am a huge Major League Soccer Fan and a season ticket holder of the Columbus Crew. The first match of the season is Tuesday, March 15th, 2011. 39 days away.

Guess what? The MLS hasn't released their regular season schedule! Crazy right? For a league on the upswing this is very disheartening for me.

I have seen quite a few complaints on Twitter from fans and soccer journalists/bloggers about this situation. Today's press release from MLS soccer says they will unveil the regular season schedule on February 10th. That is 33 days from the first match.

I am not aware of any major sports league in the United States who waits this long to release their schedules.

Quote from the press release: “Assembling the schedule begins after MLS Cup and involves several interdependent factors including competitive fairness, international competitions, stadium availability, broadcast windows and club preferences,” the league said in a statement released Friday. “The 18 home openers were announced Dec. 20, and we have waited until the entire schedule is complete before making it public.”

What an insult to MLS fans. Major League Baseball has 30 teams that play 162 regular season games each. They released their tentative schedule on September 14th, 2010, before the end of last year's season. Does the MLS really think they have more factors to consider than Major League Baseball?

I drive 4 hours round-trip to Columbus from Cincinnati to watch the Crew play. I also subscribe to MLS DirectKick on DirecTV. There are thousands of other fans that invest time and money to follow their favorite teams. MLS is disrespecting it's fans by not releasing it's regular season schedule in a timely fashion.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Modern Museum of Gripes and Grievances

I'm currently reading Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth. With apologies to Mr. Roth, I am now going to open:

My Modern Museum of Gripes and Grievances
My Modern Museum of Gripes and Grievances
Our tour today starts in the Grand Entryway. As you enter the building you will be asked by security to do a quick check of any bags you may have with you. Not outside food or drink allowed. The museum is free, but feel free to donate a couple of dollars to support this not-for-profit institution. The donation box is just to the right of the entrance. I know the building is a little underwhelming, but we have some big plans for expansion.

Today I will highlight just a few our Museum's current displays:

Lance the Winner! How does he do it?
Lance Armstrong-Righteously Indignant Inspiration to Cancer Patients and Survivors Everywhere!

The Second Amendment-Let's Start a Militia!
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution-An Obsolete and Unnecessary Amendment That Protects the Right of Nutcases to Carry Uzis. A Reason for the NRA to Exist.

Rich Rodriguez-A Wronged Man!
The University of Michigan Athletics Administration-A Short-Sighted Institution Who Fired Rich Rodriguez. Coach Rodriguez is the Best Coach Michigan has had since Bump Elliott. Didn't he have the Wolverines Heading in the Right Direction?


Thank you for visiting. Come again soon!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Movie Review-Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)

My son Brian turned me on to the street artist Banksy a couple of years ago. His work is amazing.

He is well known for satirical street art with a purpose (social and political commentary). His work has shown up all over the World.

A book highlighting his work was published in 2007. Aptly named Wall and Piece, it highlights Banksy's work over the years. As you can imagine, much of his work doesn't survive, either having been painted over or washed off within hours of it appearing.

Exit Through The Gift Shop is a documentary film released this past summer (2010) that was meant to be a look at the street art culture through the eyes of Thierry Guetta (aka Mr. Brainwash) a Frenchman living in Los Angeles. He befriends many of the World's most famous street artists including Shepard Fairey, Space Invader and Banksy himself. They let him follow them as they create their art. Most of the time these are covert operations done under cover of darkness.

Ultimately the tables get turned when Banksy realizes that Mr. Guetta has no idea how to take all the footage he has filmed and put it into a cohesive story.

I missed Exit Through The Gift Shop when it was released this past summer. The film wasn't shown in mainstream theaters, but luckily it is now streaming on Netflix.

One of my favorite Banksy works!
Exit Through The Gift Shop is very entertaining, not only for it's revealing look into the street art culture, but also for the story of Thierry Guetta and his ineptitude as a filmmaker. It has been nominated for an Oscar this year for Best Feature Documentary.

A closing thought. Banksy's actual identity is not known. It struck me as I was watching the film that it was a hoax, and that Thierry Guetta was actually Banksy himself. Quite a bit of speculation on this matter has been published on the Internet. Makes the film itself even more interesting!