Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

Congratulations to...ME!

McBone, the NOML, the NIML and the AMA congratulate me, Nate Bowler, for my 2008 Australian Open championship. In between my job as a cook and my writing, I like to play a little tennis.

I offer condolences to my vanquished finals opponent, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and all others who lay slain on the path to victory.

The win in Australia marks my first grand slam title.

To the fools who said I had no chance I say this: you will soon be crushed in a vice-like grip of pain.

nwb

Pictured above: me hoisting my 2008 Australian Open championship trophy.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

There Will Be Blood: A McBone Mini-Review

Oil and religion are two of America's biggest addictions, and both are driving forces in There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson's tour de force story of greed and ambition run amok.

The first fifteen minutes feature the film's antihero, young Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis cementing his place as the World's Greatest Actor) digging in the desert for silver. No dialogue mars the scene. There is only Plainview, his mine and his relentless pursuit of what's in the hole. This is cinema at its peak and perhaps the finest opening sequences since Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. Here we get a peek at Plainview and what will follow: a man to whom accidents and injuries are trifles.

As time passes, Plainview's interest turns to oil. Oh, and he scoops up an orphan along the way whom he takes in as a son and a bargaining chip. "I'm a family man," he insists, and towns take the bait, offering him leases on the land with the promise of shared prosperity. Family, as it turns out, is Daniel's greatest weakness. The boy, F.W., played impeccably by Dylan Freasier, is the lone outlet for Daniel's affection. Otherwise he has little use for people, who to him are either expendable tools or obstacles meant to be brushed aside. But watch him bristle when the topic of F.W., who loses his hearing in an explosion, is breached.

It is in the town of Little Boston, during the California gold rush, where Plainview makes the deal that will secure his fortune. He also meets his arch rival, the evangelical healer Eli Sunday (a superb Paul Dano, placid and terrifying). Both hold sway over the town. Both are ambitious. Neither is willing to give in to the other, and their mutual contempt will culminate in a showdown by film's end. Until then, watch oil and evagelicism wreak havok on turn of the century America. Both are on the rise, and There Will Be Blood is a masterful portrayal of the toll both take.

Both the photography and the score highlight the film's physical and spiritual desolation, and the direction is painstaking in every way. But the real centerpiece here is Day-Lewis, whose gruffly amenable veneer barely hides his slimy inner workings. His voice is at once hypnotizing and hateful, and his moustache, his bushy eyebrows and hair seem dripping with the oil he covets.

Nate's McBone rating: 5.0 McBones.

There Will Be Blood is an official McBone Must-See, and a candidate for McBone Movie of the Year.

A McBone movie rundown for 2007

*There Will Be Blood: 5.0. A brutal portrayal of oil and religion run amok.

*No Country for Old Men: 5.0. Anton Chigurh is one of the top villains in movie history.

*Atonement: 4.5. Devastating heartbreak at the hands of a jealous child.

*Charlie Wilson's War: 4.5. Hilarious take on the horrors of American foreign policy.

I Am Legend: 4.0. What could be better than zombies in a post-apocalyptic New York City?

Rendition: 2.5. So-so tale of US torture policy.

The Orphanage: 3.5. Effective but flawed horror film.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: 3.0. Overrated and overacted.

Ratatouille: 4.0. Superb story of a rat with a passion for haute cuisine.

Sweeney Todd: 3.0. My kind of film, but enough with the singing already. God.

Dan in Real Life: 2.5. I hated the family in this movie, but otherwise passable.

The Golden Compass: 3.0. Biggest disappointment of '07.

*Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 4.5. Hey, G.C., this is how fanstasy should be done.

Juno: 3.5. Very well made, but too cutesy. Ellen Page is dynamite.

American Gangster: 3.5. The epic that never reaches those heights.

Fido: 3.0. Delightful little zombie pic the whole family can enjoy.

*Sicko: 4.5. Michael Moore wants to save a country that doesn't want to be saved.

La Mome: 3.0. Ray, Walk the Line...this is the billionth well-acted biopic and I don't want any more for a while.

Superbad: 4.0. Superfunny.

*Darjeeling Limited: 4.0. Wes Anderson is perhaps the best comedy director alive.

Becoming Jane: 2.5. Kind of flimsy and forgettable.

Spider-man 3: 3.0. The weakest of the three movies. Too many villains, but still rather delightful.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3, At World's End: 3.5. Still not as charming as the first, but much better than the second. I love pirates.

The Savages: 3.5. Brilliant and depressing as hell until the feel-good meltdown at the end.

Michael Clayton: 4.5. Most underrated film of the year.

The Kite Runner: 3.5. Beautifully made and acted but ultimately flawed.

* McBone Must-Sees

nwb

Monday, January 21, 2008

Nate's Monday Sports Extravaganza!

Lots to talk about this week, so let's hop to it.

Cavaliers

McBone Sports congratulates head coach Mike Brown on his recent contract extension. While fans may dislike his defense-first approach, the Cavs got to the NBA finals in just Brown's second year at the helm. After two years he is number one in Cavs history in terms of winning percentage, playoff winning percentage and, incredibly, playoff wins. If you have a problem with that, go root for Phoenix and have fun getting wiped out in the playoffs every season. Great offenses win regular season games. Great defenses win titles. I'll take Brown and the latter every single time. This move receives the official McBone Seal of Approval: McB

All those asinine mid season MVP arguments are swirling right now, so I suppose I should address the topic as well. In the month of January, the Cavaliers are 9-1. LeBron James is averaging 33-10-7 in those games. Know who else is putting up those kind of numbers? No one. Apologies to Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Tim Duncan, but LBJ is the best player in the NBA. Steve Nash? Please. Need more proof? James is averaging nearly 10 points in the fourth quarter, which, by the way, is winning time. In second place? Dwayne Wade, at two points less. The Cavs are 22-12 when LeBron plays. Without him? 0-6. More? James dominates the game at both ends of the court. At the end of games he demands to guard the opposing team's best scorer. Throw in two steals and a blocked shot per night (watch LeBron defending the fast break--he has become masterful at swatting easy baskets from behind) and you have an all around player that the league hasn't seen since the days of Jordan.

Recent wins on the road over Dallas and San Antonio are pretty clear indicators that the Cavs on the whole are rounding into shape. While this might be a favorite team to dismiss, this is also a squad that is built for winning in the playoffs.

After all the holdout hullaballoo, Anderson Varejao is looking like a guy who should be making 10 million a year. Really, he is leaps and bounds better than Drew Gooden by now, and that is why he gets more minutes and finishes games. He's even added a reliable little jumpshot to his repertoire. Varejao, should he remain healthy, will get his payday. He's a special player that conjures memories of Rodman. Does that mean he was right to hold out? NO! You have to show you've improved before you get the raise.

Interesting to see Damon Jones back in the rotation, and with a vengeance. Not only is he actually playing, he's shooting and passing the ball as well as he has in his 2+ years with the club. The real shocker, though, has been his defense. Lately it's been competent enough that he has closed out some tight games. Three weeks ago, he seemed to have found a permanent place in Brown's doghouse, after refusing to enter a game in garbage time. Since then he's been a model citizen.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the world's most underrated player, has played center pretty much as well as anyone (with the notable exception of Dwight Howard) in the conference this season, and he deserves his 3rd all star appearance. Never happen, but his 13 and 10, while impressive, don't fully illustrate his contribution. He blocks and changes shots in the paint, dives for loose balls, sets great screens and has been far more mobile on defense this season than he has been in years. He also continues to be the best offensive rebounder in the league.

Indians

I suppose it was inevitable. Jacob's Field, named for the the owner who oversaw the team's rennaissance in the 90s, is no more. The Indians will now play their home games at the recently renamed Progressive Field.

So the name of a goddamn insurance agency will adorn one of baseball's most beautiful parks, yet another soulless corporate moniker cheapening our game. Now I have to stop, because I just threw up.

Oh, and don't forget the hopelessly generic logo that was unveiled the other day:

Now we have Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena (formerly Gund Arena). The P and the Q? God help us.

Browns


The firing of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham last week was totally justified, as the Browns' defense has gone from bad to worse in his three years. True, Grantham had little to work with, but it's the coordinators job to maximize the talent he is given. Grantham didn't.

Give the team credit, though, for not making dismissing Grantham in mid season, when such moves are rarely productive and usually disruptive.

Promoted to the vacant spot is former defensive backs coach, Mel Tucker, but the onus here is really on head coach Romeo Crennel, a defense-first coach whose teams have played no defense. An offseason of draft picks and free agent acquisitions should give Crennel more to work with, so let's see if he can shore things up, if only slightly. Defense, after all, cost this team a playoff spot.

nwb

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The McBone Mailbag

As you can imagine, we get quite a lot of mail here at McBone Headquarters, and our tireless team of unpaid child laborers works around the clock in the mailroom, making sure that each and every letter gets the careful treatment it deserves. More often than not, letters arrive from advice seekers, and why not? McBone's uniquely atheistic, anti-mayonnaise viewpoint is right in line with the international mainstream.

Naturally we can't publish every letter we receive, but in an effort to appeal to our wide-ranging audience, and to spread around a little of that good old-fashioned McBone wisdom, we have decided to select a choice few that merit special attention.

So, without wasting any more time, let's get to those letters!

Dear McBone,

I can't seem to get enough of McBone. I spend 17 hours a day reading and re-reading your fascinating articles, and, to make matters worse, I think I have a crush on Jeff Bowler. I find myself giggling like a little schoolgirl every time I log on. My wife and children have forsaken me. My friends too. Is there anything I can do to curb my obsession?

Sincerely yours,

Addicted in Albuquerque

Dear Addicted,

No.

McB


Dear McB,

I am a registered democrat, but I admit myself intrigued by the fresh-faced vigor of Fred Thompson. His Nixonian countenance could really be the face of a nation in need of new ideas.

I also loved him in that one movie. You know, the one with that other guy, what's-his-name?

Any thoughts?

Myrtle F. Grimes, Miami, FL

Dear Myrtle,

Though Thompson's late entry into the race no doubt pumped serious life into the Party of the Living Dead, don't be fooled. He is GOP through and through--a global warming skeptic and an ardent advocate of the Iraq invasion. He therefore cannot and never will receive the McBone Seal of Approval. Never. Ever. No.

Oh, he was pretty good in that one other movie, too, where he played a governor or a senator or a CIA chief or something.

McB


Dear McBone,

I just recently got back into the "dating scene" and I'm more than a little nervous. Have times changed since I was in high school? I don't know what these "modern women" want. Take this story:

I met a lady on one of those ubiquitous online dating sites and we arranged a date. I picked her up at her place. We seemed to "click" right away. We both follow the local soccer team, have similar tastes in movies, and like Dave Matthews Band. So far, so good!

That is, until we got to the restaurant. I let the lady order first. What a shock! Her meal was to be drowned in mayonnaise! Her sandwich was smothered in it, the potato salad swimming in it, and she even asked for extra mayo to pour on the french fries we ordered together.

What should I do, McBone? She seemed so perfect for me except for her love of mayo. Should I keep seeing her and try to ignore my disgust, or is this relationship doomed from the start?

Man Afraid of Yucky Non-Organic Treachery


Dear MAYNOT,

First off: Did you, at any time during the date, consume mayonnaise? Did you inhale mayonnaise fumes? Did your skin come into contact with mayonnaise, no matter how little? Remember, even a good-night kiss, though innocent, can result in a dangerous exchange of saliva.

If so, do not panic. Help is available. Call our 24 hour mayonnaise hotline to arrange a detox. A mayonnaise officer will be dispatched promptly to your home. You will then be driven to your local mayonnaise control center and given the care you require. Remember, many people manage to lead perfectly normal lives, even those suffering the severest cases of mayonnaise contamination.

Now, regarding the dame: flush her immediately. Change your phone number, the locks on your doors, and, if possible, your name.

McB

nwb

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Atonement: A McBone Mini-Review

The plot of Atonement is simple enough. Two lovers (Cecilia is rich, Robbie is not) fall victim to the prying eyes of Cecilia's jealous, overimaginative younger sister, Briony. Ever watchful, Briony sees what she believes is Robbie raping her underaged cousin. After a case of mistaken identities, the young gentleman is carted off to prison. To escape his sentence, he enlists in the army. World War II is waging, and the British military needs some able-bodied men.

So, the question that evolves from all this is: Will the lovers have their happy ending? The answer, without giving a thing away, is yes and no.

I thought I was watching a clever bit of romantic intrigue until about halfway through the film-- good stuff, but nothing I would remember a few months from now. Then comes a shot--The Shot, I should say--after which all becomes richer, deeper and more complicated. The shot in question is a surreal, minutes-long panorama of an army awaiting transport on a beach in France. Our enlisted lover, Robbie (the handsome and understated James McAvoy), wanders in and out of this portrait that is remiscent of an Ensor painting and nothing like the hermetic realm of the country estate where he grew up and his mother was a servant. On the well-to-do manor, chaos is imposed by a thirteen year old aspiring writer (acted magnificently, by the way, by Saoirse Ronan). Here, in war, chaos is the rule.

Meanwhile Robbie's Cecilia (Keira Knightley, excellent), ever faithful, carries on as best she can as a war nurse, having exiled herself from her family. In the middle of it all is our hero, Briony, ostensibly trying to make amends to her sister and would-be brother-in-law. We will learn, after she has aged into Vanessa Redgrave (in a perfect performance), whether she has earned that coveted sentiment after which the film is named.

Director Joe Wright, who made 2005's Pride and Prejudice, is a superb storyteller, eliminating dialogue when images and music will do. Even so, words are at the heart of this story. One word in particular, deemed by many to be the foulest in the English language, sets things in motion. It is what Wright spins from this one word, innocently typed by Robbie on a note to Cecilia, that makes Atonement a McBone Must-See and a sure-fire candidate for McBone Movie of the Year.

Nate's McBone Rating: 4.5 McBones.

nwb

Monday, January 14, 2008

McBone Presents

McBone Films, ltd. is proud to present our first and presumably last film, Todd the Snowman. Find out why critics are calling Todd the Snowman "riveting," and "the feel-good story of the year."



McBone presents, a Nate Bowler film.

Directed by Nate Bowler

Produced by Nate Bowler and Jeff Bowler

Casting by Nate Bowler

Cast

Guy with shovel------Nate Bowler
Todd the Snowman---Lawrence the Snowman
Giggling person-------Jeff Bowler

Cinematography------Jeff Bowler

Editing---------------Alex Hidalgo

Gaffer----------------None

Video Transfer--------Katie Collins

Filmed at McBone Studios at Akron, Ohio.

Special thanks to Katie Collins for her technical assistance, without which this project would not have been possible.

One snowman was harmed in the making of this film.

Dedicated to the memory of Lawrence the Snowman.

McBone Films, ltd. 2008. All rights reserved.

McBone Films, ltd. is a division of McBone Inc.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thousand Island: Dressing of Doom

I recall an event from my youth, in the early days of my restaurant-going, that no doubt will mark me until my dying day. I must have been nine or ten at the time, and the establishment was an Akron institution--Gus' Chalet, a Greek-themed chophouse that my family frequented.

Even at that young age, food was becoming exciting for me. While I might not have been fearless yet in the dishes I was willing to try, I was at least expanding my horizons a little. Seafood was still out and I was a long, long way from the realm of organ meats, but if the cuisine sounded reasonably appealing, I would generally give it a shot.

Then one dark night at Gus', I was asked what kind of dressing I might like on my salad. Innocent enough, that question, and the options, looking back, were predictable: Italian, French, bleu cheese, ranch, honey mustard, raspberry vinaigrette, and, quite naturally, thousand island.

My answer was almost automatic. Italian, I wanted to say, but I checked myself. Perhaps something different today. Thousand island sounded interesting. Exotic even, as though it came from some place far, far away, where the sun was always shining and women danced in grass skirts. Where were these Thousand islands, anyway? The South Pacific? The Caribbean? I had to unlock the mystery, and so I smiled at our waitress:

Thousand island!

I sipped my Shirley Temple and sat back, giddy, and not a little proud of myself. Then the doubts began to creep in. What if I don't like it? What if it's slimy? What if there was something funny in it? Suddenly, I had to know.

What's thousand island? I asked my mother, but she was busy with a pile of sauerkraut balls. I turned to Dad, but he only sipped his martini and gave me that look that said, don't bother me now, kid.

I started to squirm, and desperately sought our waitress, Barb, I think her name was. She had been so nice and patient in repeating the specials twice for mom, even with Dad sighing and conspicuously checking his watch. Barb would tell me, but she was nowhere in sight. Quickly I excused myself to the bathroom, where I splashed cold water on my face. Get ahold of yourself, Nate. It's just a salad. Lettuce. A few tomatoes. Cucumber. You don't have to eat the radish. How bad could a dressing be? I took a long look in the mirror, snatched the comb from the jar of blue fluid and flattened my cowlicks. Calmly, I returned to the table, where Dad was hollering for another martini, this one with some ice in it, for Christ's sake.

Mom, picking a shred of kraut from her teeth, flashed a smile as I took my seat: Hungry? she asked, to which I giggled some bit of nervous blather. Our waitress approached, setting our salads down, one by one. Italian for Dad, bleu cheese for Mom, ranch on the side for my brother.

And then I beheld my own.

My first reaction was: who got sick all over my salad? For my greens swam in a pale sea of pink. Were all these little green chunks the thousand islands they spoke of?

Is this my salad? I asked, praying a mistake had been made.

Barb winked, thousand island, right?

I nodded and raised my empty glass. I'm going to need another one of these.

The others tucked in and were nearly done before they noticed my reluctance.

What's the matter? asked mom with a full mouth, a mist of bleu cheese coating my face.

Nothing.

Don't you like it?

I haven't tried it.

Well, why the hell not? said Dad, eyes blazing, ordering more than inquiring. I picked up my fork and stabbed a few leaves of iceberg, one question burning in my mind.

Is there mayonnaise in it?

Oh, for Christ's sake! said Dad. I swear, if you make me miss the kickoff--

No honey, smiled Mom, attempting to buffer my father's growing impatience. Of course not.

What's in it?

Dad pounded the table. It's dressing, kid! Just eat it!

Try it, sweetie, winked Mom. Your father's right. It's dressing. It can't hurt you.

Well, I was cornered on this night. Doomed. Dad's glowering eyes said it all: By god, boy, I'm paying for that salad....

Today, at the age of 32, I am less innocent. I have long been aware of what thousand island dressing is: some psychopath's mix of ketchup, mayonnaise and pickle relish. Recipes vary as recipes will, but the core ingredients do not. Exotic? Hardly, and together they blend into something roughly the color and consistency of months-old salmon.

Needless to say I tasted my salad, and needless to say, quite a scene ensued, or so I'm told. Slapped back to consciousness by Gus himself, I lifted my head to find Mom fanning me with her napkin, mascara streaking her cheeks, the same bit of sauerkraut lodged in her teeth. Thousand island dressing coated much of the non-smoking section. Behind Mom paced Dad, martini in hand and murder in his eyes.

Five years went by before I entered another restaurant. Though Mom and I have had our laughs about that night, I still haven't shaken the monikers that Dad has since preferred, little sissy and girly-boy being the least injurious of them.

But I don't hold a thing against my folks, in spite of what my therapist tells me, because I know it's my fault. My fault for being weak, like Dad says, a spineless mommy's boy and a destined loser.

nwb

Monday, January 7, 2008

Go Bucks!

McBone wishes the best of luck to Ohio State in tonight's BCS National Championship game. Ohio State has been underrated all season long. Let's just see which is the better team.

Personally, I don't see how LSU can win.

Akron native and Garfield grad Beanie Wells just set a record with a 65 yard TD run on the opening drive!

Destroy the Tigers!

nwb

Halftime update

Ohio State is being totally outclassed in this game on both sides of the ball. Good night, OSU. The SEC wins again. Whatever, it's college football.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Nate's Monday Sports Extravaganza!

Cleaning up Baseball

Hall of Fame voting results will be announced Tuesday, so let’s forget Barry Bonds for a while. Ditto Mark McGwire. And Roger Clemens.

It’s time to make amends with some real Hall of Famers.

Alan Trammell. Lou Whitaker. Jim Rice. Tommy John. Bert Blyleven. Dave Concepcion. Goose Gossage. Dale Murphy. Jack Morris. Don Mattingly. Andre Dawson. Joe Carter.

What about these guys?

If you’re a statistics junkie, you probably don’t care for baseball in the 1970s. Ditto for the 80s. Both decades favored the pitcher. 35 home runs were enough to lead the league. 100 RBI meant MVP consideration. 50 homers was an aberration.

What do all the players listed above have in common? All played in one or both of those two decades. All were considered among the best of their generation. Every one of them was an all-star. All, in my opinion, belong in Cooperstown.

And not a one of them has been linked to steroids.

Baseball is emerging from its Chemical Age, where home runs were not the exception, but the norm. No doubt the gaudy statistics of the 90s and early part of the new millennium have influenced the Hall of Fame voting. Vote for shortstop Alan Trammell, when Alex Rodriguez is good for 50 homers a year at the same position? Trammell topped twenty only twice in his career.

But these players played the game the right way (this is not an accusation of A-Rod, for the record). They played hard and they played at a high level for a long time. They were the elite of their generation. They were the class of the league.

Isn’t that what Cooperstown is all about?

Trammell has only been retired for 11 seasons. Doesn’t anyone remember how good he was? Whitaker last played in 1995. Seems like no one talks these days about all the gold gloves he and Trammell won when they were the American League’s best double play combination. And the World Series winner they played on in ’84. All the Gold Gloves. The All-Star games.

Instead of indulging Roger Clemens’ horseshit about vitamin B-12 injections, why not focus on long-time Hall of Fame snubee, Blyleven? All he did in 22 seasons was win 287 games, good for 26th all-time. He won two world series, and was a superb postseason pitcher, going 4-1 lifetime in eight starts with a sparkling 2.47 ERA. He used one of the most devastating curveballs in history to strike out over 3,700 batters.

He did it all without steroids.

I’m not going to lay out my case for all these terrific ballplayers, and I can certainly see where some of them are borderline Hall of Famers. I just think their achievements should glow all the brighter in light of recent revelations. Maybe honoring a couple of them would help the healing process along.

Browns

Congrats to the Browns for their 10 win season. They are much improved, but remain, alas, pretty bad. Don’t be surprised to see a much better team win about the same amount of games next year, when the schedule will be a lot tougher.

McBone All Stars for the 2007-08 season: Josh Cribbs, Joe Thomas, Phil Dawson, Eric Steinbach, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, Jamal Lewis.

Runnners up: Derek Anderson, Joe Jurevicius, D’Qwell Jackson.

McBone MVP: Cribbs. The Browns’ explosive offense began with the great field position Cribbs gave them, every single game. Cribbs is the Browns’ best special teams tackler and the best return man in team history. Not bad for an undrafted free agent from Kent State.

McBone LVP: Ted Washington. The globulous mass of a nose tackle was the poster boy for all that is wrong with the Browns’ defense, which, except for undersized, overachieving D'Qwell Jackson, is not represented on the McBone All-Star team.

Some might say that Anderson deserves All Star, or even MVP consideration, but I say he peaked around midseason and then faded. Derek Anderson, I repeat, is just keeping it warm. May he prove me wrong.

Cavaliers

I am happy to report that the Cavs have surged back to respectability, and stand at an even 17-17. They have done so to the tune of 5 wins in 6 games.

How did this happen with two starting guards, Larry Hughes and Sasha Pavlovic, who can’t buy a make?

It’s called DEFENSE. And caring. The two are directly related. When this team cares about winning, it defends. I mean, why not defend, when that’s what got you to the finals last year?

Now, to break down the recent winning trend in more detail:

Anderson Varejao has officially found his legs. He is playing like a man possessed, even showing off some offensive ability. Still, it’s his defense that makes him one of the best reserves in the league. You want Drew Gooden starting games and Anderson finishing them. That formula has been a winner for three seasons. If he stays healthy, Varejao will get his big contract, from someone.

LeBron is playing like he did before the damned knuckle injury. He is the best player in the league. Sorry Kevin Garnett. Sorry, Kiwi.

Big Z continues to be the best offensive rebounder in the league.

Daniel Gibson is burning off the bench, where he belongs, at least in this stage of his career.

Devin Brown brings big time hustle on both ends of the court. In more than one game, his all-out effort turned the tide in a win. He’s not the most skilled guy on the team, but hustle is contagious. See Anderson Varejao.

The frontcourt has three players averaging 8 rebounds or more, with LeBron just a notch below.

There are still some creases to iron out. Sasha will find his shot again. I guarantee it. Maybe Larry Hughes will find a rhythm, though I doubt it. There is still no truly reliable ballhandler besides LeBron.

Still, there is a chemistry developing again, and not a moment too soon. Fifty wins may not be in the cards, but this is a team built for winning when it counts. By the time the playoffs roll around, the Cavs should be ready.

nwb

Pictured above: Bert Blyleven as a Pittsburgh Pirate, sans red beard and featuring the classic Pirates pillbox hat.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War: A McBone Mini-Review

Warning! Definitely contains spoilers!

The scariest people in the world to me are not terrorists, but the ones sitting in rooms in Washington, deciding how the world should be run. These are the men and women who depose and invade and sell arms and generally ruin one country after another. Just ask Chile, Columbia, Iraq, Vietnam, or the star of the movie in question, Afghanistan.

Charlie Wilson's War is the true-life story of how congressman Charlie Wilson (an excellent Tom Hanks), heretofore a womanizing liberal on the verge of a cocaine scandal, makes it his personal mission after some, er, coaxing from born-again, anti-communist socialite Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts, also quite good), to rid Afghanistan of warring Soviet commies.

Those with a cursory knowledge of recent Afghan history (like me) know that the U.S.S.R. lost its war with Afghanistan, and that its withdrawal left the country chaotic and wide open for the Taliban to seize power. It was also wide open for the U.S. to swoop in like heroes and rebuild. Where were the freedom spreaders when the fighting ended? Well, that is Charlie Wilson's legacy, if not his vision. The film, the wonderful, humorous and horrifying work of Mike Nichols, tells the story of how Wilson won funding and weapons for the Afghan people, who in turn won their battle.

The acting is unimpeachable (well, except maybe for Hank's Texas accent), particularly scenes with Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays CIA sidekick Gust Avrokotos in an unforgettable performance. Together they hatch the plan to save Afghanistan, but only Avrokotos foresees what the aftermath will be.

The script of Charlie Wilson's war is witty and impeccable. Laughs abound, but you'll be sick inside, knowing what happened in the ensuing two decades. To me, that's the genius of the film. Wilson is portrayed as a charming, hard-drinking ladies man who addresses his team of sexy interns and secretaries as "jail bait." The tone of the movie is lighthearted and carefree, punctuated with moments of gravity, none more poignant than when Wilson tries to secure funds for rebuilding. "No one gives a shit about a school in Pakistan," argues a fellow congressman. "Afghanistan," corrects Wilson, in a harsh lesson about where the priorities of U.S. foreign policy lie.

Oh, how history repeats itself. Are you watching, George W. Bush?

This film earns an official McBone Must-See.

Nate's McBone rating: 4.5 McBones.

nwb

PS: Don't hate me, Craig. I know how you feel about Tom "Wanks."

PPS: Hoffman's moustache, while superb, is under investigation by the NOML as a possible fake.

Vote Mike Gravel, '08

Remember, while we are engaged in a phantom war, led by a mass murdering, phony Christian, there is a candidate out there with real vision of peace for the future. He is a 77 year old former senator who earned 0% of the vote in yesterday's caucus in Iowa.



nwb

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I Am Legend: A McBone Mini-Review

I love zombie movies, but let's face it: zombies are kind of a one-trick pony, right? Sure there are the slight variations on the theme. You have your classic, slow, lumbering zombie of the Romero movies, and on the flip side is the 28 Days Later zombie--rabid and quite capable of running. In the end, though, the zombies all want the same thing: to devour your warm, living flesh.

Zombies for the sake of zombies, however, just won't cut it. There has to be a story in which to place the zombies, and it better be good. Scary movies tend to be far scarier when you actually care about the charaters and what's happening to them. Otherwise you're left with 1981's Oasis of the Zombies.

I take that back. Any film about Nazi Zombies can't be all bad.

But we're talking about I Am Legend here, and the ruins of Manhattan are no oasis, not to Dr. Robert Neville (a more than capable Will Smith), who, though slowly deteriorating in his solitude, manages to keep up his daily routine of hunting deer and finding a cure for the virus that wiped out 99% of the world's population. Of course he's not totally alone. His German shepherd, Samantha, is ever at his side (except when getting into heaps of trouble). Still, a dog is just a dog and not a replacement for the family Neville lost during the evacuation of the city. Neville is thus battling two enemies: those who come out at night to prey and the one that makes him have conversations with store mannequins. The question is: how long does he want to keep up the fight?

Now, what I love about this film's take on the zombie is that these living dead do something I've not seen before: they think! While their hunger is insatiable, it is not so overpowering that it precludes problem solving. I like that, and it makes things twice as tough for our hero.

Kudos as well to director Francis Lawrence and his effects crew for the creation of a crumbling, empty Manhattan, which proves a far more effective horror set than I thought possible. Scares and suspense abound.

Negatives? There weren't many for me. The last chapter of the story felt crammed into a tiny space. Also I guess the look of the CGI zombies was a little off, but I'm nit picking.

Nate's McBone rating: 4.0 McBones.

nwb

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Baptism of Baby Cameron

Normally I feel about as comfortable in a church as George Bush would in a fourth-grade reading class. It's just way over my head. But for the baptism of Cameron M. Foliglio (son of the preeminent poet, M. Patrick Foliglio), Alex and I had to make the trip up to Euclid. Besides, I was already feeling crummy about missing his older brothers' dunking.

Well, the first thing I noticed was how confoundedly rainy it was. I mean, it was coming down in sheets. An ill portent? You bet! Sure as shit, all the parking spots were taken, the last siezed by a diabolically grinning, moustachioed Stephen Foliglio, the balding grandfather with a surgically repaired knee. Quickly I flipped the bird and found a place to park, ten blocks away.

But the foul climate was not to spoil the proceedings, God be praised! And we made it in inside with moments to spare. Greetings and hugs ensued. The whole famdamnly was there, well-scrubbed and dressed to the nines.

The last time I visited this church, I was in the wedding that would eventually spawn the child in question. Like then, I found it a remarkably clean place of worship. Cleanliness is close to godliness they say, and, by gum, God must've been mighty close on this blessed Sunday morn.

And like the last time I was there, I was feeling nervous. Nervous then for my friend's wedding. Nervous now for the kid. What if he screwed up? What if he cried a lot? What if he messed up his lines? Did he have any lines? I mean the kid is only ten, for crying out loud. Months that is.

A service preceded the big plunge. My ears perked up. The pastor of the church is a lovely woman with an equally lovely voice and I was really pleased that she delivered a homily about Joseph, who in my opinion pretty much gets the shaft in the grand scheme of things. I mean, sure, you see him in those old paintings and usually he even has a little golden halo around his head. But almost always he's sort of off to the side and his halo pales next to baby Jesus' way bigger halo.

Well, not this time. Joseph was the star, and it was all about how he didn't freak out when Mary turned up all pregnant without him having done the honors. He didn't have her stoned, as commanded in the O.T., and in fact protected her by getting the hell out of Dodge.

The pastor had a great, soothing voice, and used it to urge us to take a broader interpretation of things, as Joseph did, despite being a devout Hebrew. So refreshing in these days when the fundamentalists are drowning out the ones with real wisdom.

I also appreciated how she walked up and down the aisle during her homily. That made it feel less like preaching and more like discussion. Although I did have to keep moving my head back and forth, kind of like watching the world's slowest tennis match.

One of the things I really like about the few church services I've attended (and this includes the creepy Johnny Cash's sister thing) is when everyone is instructed to turn to their neighbors and shake hands in the name of peace. That always makes me feel good about humanity. It's like a great neighborly gesture in times when we are less and less inclined to love our neighbors.

There was also a lot of singing but I didn't know the lyrics so I just listened. All I can say about the choir is that these were no spring chickens.

Then came the moment. I half expected the floor to open up and reveal a great, deep baptismal. Was I disappointed when they wheeled out a pedestal with a little basin in the top? I confess that I was a little, but that all evaporated when the ceremony commenced. Remember, I'm skeptical to the bone about his kind of thing and an atheist for crying out loud, but the pastor was there with her wise voice and she was making jokes with the new godparents, Cliff and Amber, and the parents, Mike and Heather, and brother Matthew, and I remembered how I'm a godfather and how much I like it and how this is about bringing a child into a community of worshippers, and how worshipping something as a community brings about a feeling of solidarity, and I felt all good inside, like when I drink just enough but not too much, but this was alcohol free, except for communion, of course, but is that really wine?

I digress...

Well, the kid didn't wanna bend over, so the pastor drizzled some water on his forehead and lo, he was baptized. Everyone was happy and smiling and for one day I could put my cynicism aside and get it, if only for a while, why people go to church. Yeah, there's the god reason, but there's also this connection that people make with each other, which, for an observer like me, seems equally important.

All went according to plan, no need to be nervous.

Special thanks to Bob and Kathy Kinison for brunch afterward.

I confess: I stole a pencil from the church.

nwb