Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas Y'All

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thank you 1310 The Ticket, Dallas Texas, for playing my Christmas song request at 445 pm online 12-20-09
Earnhardt's Last Lap: 2001 Daytona 500

By Holly Cain

Over the next two weeks, FanHouse will be covering the top sports stories of the decade. In our first installment, Holly Cain looks back at the 2001 Daytona 500 and the impact that losing Dale Earnhardt had on NASCAR.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Initially it looked like a routine last lap crash in the Daytona 500. Nothing spectacular. Dale Earnhardt had a resume full of last-lap disappointments in this great race.

So on Sunday, February 18, 2001, most of us sitting in the press box high above Daytona International Speedway fully expected the indomitable, rascally Earnhardt to once again climb out of his wrecked race car, wave to the crowd, and argue with the track workers about an ambulance ride to the care center, insisting instead on heading directly to victory circle to congratulate his longtime friend Michael Waltrip for scoring the first win of his career and his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. for a chip-off-the-ol-block, runner-up effort.

Earnhardt's inevitable anger that he crashed would be supplanted by pride for his team, we figured.

Earnhardt's fatal crash into the Turn 4 wall late that afternoon proved to be anything but routine and, in fact, changed absolutely everything routine about the sport.

The 2001 Daytona 500 is FanHouse's pick as Motorsports Story and Race of the Decade.

NASCAR President Mike Helton's painful, shocking pronouncement that sunny spring afternoon, "We have lost Dale Earnhardt" also makes it the biggest watershed moment in the sport's 61-year history.

Mike HeltonNot only did NASCAR fans lose a hero, the sport lost its last genuine link to its gritty roots -- the no-frills, tell-it-like-is, everyman's racer.

Earnhardt was the ultimate combination of old-school grit and new-age marketability. And best of all, there was no one better behind the wheel of a stock car. His seven championships tied him with the pioneering great Richard Petty. And Earnhardt earned his titles racing against the best of multiple generations.

He beat Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Petty and Benny Parsons for the 1980 title. Fourteen years later, he out-ran Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip and Mark Martin for the 1994 trophy.

Earnhardt embraced and fostered his image of the "Man in Black," driving the famous black, Goodwrench No. 3 Chevy, and his well-deserved nickname, "The Intimidator," which gave him a psychological edge over his competition before the green flag even dropped.

NASCAR fans either loved him or tried to hate him, but all appreciated the way he made every race exciting. Earnhardt was all suspense and drama -- whether you watched him because there always the potential for him put his bumper to another car, or just for the sheer amazement in watching him come from 18th place with 11 laps to go for the last win of his life at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in October 2000.

Earnhardt's talents weren't limited to the steering wheel either, and that's what separated him from the rest of the field. Off-track, he led the way in making a million-dollar souvenir and merchandising side-sport that was taking off in sync with NASCAR's exponentially growing popularity in the late 1990s.

The 2001 Daytona 500 was the first race as part of a historic billion-dollar network television deal with FOX Sports and NBC. For the first time, every race on the 10-month schedule through a bevy or new and major markets in Miami, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas and Los Angeles was on network TV instead of being relegated to cable station filler.

This was NASCAR's launch into middle America's living rooms, its chance to prove itself legitimate among the country's top-tier professional sports.

And the already dramatic story of the Daytona 500 and NASCAR's modern-day hero Earnhardt was must-see television.

He and Daytona had a love-hate relationship. Earnhardt had won more races on NASCAR's most iconic track than anyone, but it took him 20 agonizing tries before he landed a Daytona 500 trophy in 1998.

And then three years later to die on the final lap of the his sport's biggest race -- was too tragic even for a Hollywood script.

What it did was spark public outrage, dominate attention and ultimately led to the most significant and widespread safety initiatives in NASCAR history.

Three other drivers had been killed in the year leading up to Earnhardt's death: Cup driver Kenny Irwin, truck series competitor Tony Roper and 18-year old Adam Petty, son of veteran driver Kyle and grandson of NASCAR's King Richard.

However, it wasn't until Earnhardt's fatal accident that NASCAR delivered a serious look and heavy-handed approach to the sport's safety.

The blessing of having mainstream America watching closely also demanded a new sense of accountability.

Overnight, Earnhardt's fatal accident attracted the daily attention of news outlets like The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. Time Magazine put Earnhardt on the cover. Television carried his funeral on a live broadcast.

The morning after the race, the late NASCAR Chairman Bill France Jr. held a news conference in a tent outside Daytona International Speedway only to find the group of 40-50 reporters who had been covering Daytona Speedweeks for the last two weeks had suddenly morphed into a crowded, accusatory, standing room only crowd triple that size. Investigative reporters and hard-news types had pounced.

Fans, drivers and journalists demanded answers. And NASCAR's response, which began in those initial hours and weeks, has directly or indirectly led to many of the most significant safety innovations in auto racing.

From the head-and-neck restraint devices NASCAR now requires drivers to wear to the opening of its Research and Development (R&D) facility in suburban Charlotte, the sanctioning body has never been more proactive in its approach.

And perhaps the most significant improvement to come out of all this is the accelerated implementation of soft wall technology that is now at all NASCAR-sanctioned tracks and many that don't even host a stock car race.

Long after the safety debate quieted, its critics mostly appeased, the news outlets are still keeping an eye on NASCAR reaping praise and offering critique.

It's next-generation stars like Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon are household names, magazine cover material and in some cases, even tabloid fodder.

NASCAR's entry into middle American living rooms came by way of the the harshest and most tragic circumstance. The sport however, responded in a way, Earnhardt would appreciate -- it got back on track, plowed ahead, made the right moves and has proven itself viable and thriving.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Film Review- Avatar

A few things you need to know about the film before I review it. I saw it at CGV in 3D. The cost was 13,000 Won and I did not read any other reviews before I saw the film.

I knew that the film was full of hype and that the film had received some great reviews. I went in to the film with an open mind. After seeing the film, I felt like I had seen nothing new and I felt like I had just seen "Dances with Wolves set in Outer Space" The sad thing is that I loved "Dances with Wolves", this "Avatar" just left me feeling very flat, I didn't feel that I wasted my 3 hours watching this film but I also felt that there will not be a second viewing of this film for me.

So where did the film go wrong for me? In a nutshell, I felt like I was watching a PS3 video game that was being shown at the movie theater. None of the film seemed real to me. In 3D, the graphics so overwhelmed the actors that it was looking more like a ps3 game and less like a movie.

I really didn't have any compassion for either side in this engagement. When the war started, I really wasn't cheering for either side. I kept looking for a reset button to see if the film could get any better and sad to say, to me, the film never did.

I felt that the main actors brought nothing to the film and that the graphic enhanced aliens reminded me of Uber tree hugers or the noble Indians from "Dance with Wolves" If their was a main idea of this film, I never saw it. The film leaves the door wide open for anymore sequels that 20th Century Fox Studios might want to make. The is worth one viewing anymore that that and you will be wasting your time and money.

Grade C-

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hanwha Eagles Sign With 2 Former Major League Pitchers

By Yoon Chul
Staff Reporter

Last season's bottom team, the Hanwha Eagles, has acquired new overseas starters to bolster the team.

The Eagles announced that they had secured two starters - Jose Capellan and Julio de Paula of the Dominican Republic - who have both pitched in the major leagues.

Capellan signed a $300,000 contract, including a $50,000 signing bonus. Paula signed on for $270,000 ($200,000 for annual salary, $70,000 for the signing bonus).

The 1.95-meter, right-hander Capellan recorded a 5-7 record with a 4.89 ERA in 99 appearances from 2004 to 2008 in Major League Baseball.

He debuted for the Atlanta Braves in 2004 after elbow surgery. Though he was touted as a top prospect, Capellan didn't live up to the club's expectations.

The Eagles were pursing the 28-year-old, after he recorded a 5-3 record in 10 appearances with a 2.66 ERA in the Dominican winter league. However, this year, he only generated a 2-10 record with a 7.07 ERA in the minor leagues.

"I will treat Korean baseball like it's the major leagues," Capellan said through an Eagles representative.

Meanwhile, Paula was 0-1 in 16 games with an 8.55 ERA for the Minnesota Twins in 2007.

"I used to pitch in the bullpen but I have confidence in my new starter role," Paula said. "Though I didn't show a lot in the majors I will pour all my efforts into the Eagles."

The Eagles, which lost their reliable closer Brad Thomas to the Detroit Tigers and released Eric Junge, need starters to support their lefty ace Ryu Hyun-jin.

"Both have abilities to control the game. They will construct a solid rotation with Ryu," Eagles official said.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Pondering 'A Little Pond'

The Korea Herald has an article about the Pusan International Film Festival and lists some of the 'must-see' films. Among them is one that has not been heard of in some time:

"A Little Pond"

Based on the harrowing true story of the Nogun-ri massacre that shook the nation, "A Little Pond," chronicles the tragic event in a fictitious account. On July of the year 1950, the country is being ravaged from the on-going Korean War.

In the small village of Bawigol - a rural village in the mountainous region of Yongdong County in North Chungcheong Province - life for its resident go on as normal.

But as the tide of war turns against the south and its allies, the people of Bawigol are forced to evacuate and seek refuge as legions of platoons surge into their tiny village. In the midst of confusion and paranoia, retreating American soldiers massacre villagers trying to escape advancing North Korean forces by crossing U.S. military lines.

The American soldiers, under the command of General Hobart R. Gray, fear they are North Korean soldiers in disguise, and open fire, killing 400 South Korean refugees.

I've written about this film before, and it's title, 'Jageun Yeonmot' (a small pond), is likely named after the 70s folk song by Yang Hui-eun (best known for singing the Kim Min-gi song (and '70s and '80s protest anthem) 'Morning Dew') about two fish who fight each other in a small pond, eventually dying and polluting the pond so that nothing will grow there. Of course, if that metaphor was going to be applied to anyone, you'd think it would be applied to Koreans killing each other in their 'little pond', and not to outsiders killing Koreans, but I don't know how much attention you would get protesting outside theatres with signs calling for the producers to "Stop the misuse of pop-cultural references and inappropriate metaphors!"

As mentioned at Twitch, this has been in production for some time.
After seven years of production made of four years alone spent interviewing the survivors and investigating the facts, three months of pre-production, three months of shooting and a painstakingly long two years of post-production, it seems like we'll finally get to see this one soon enough.
And how many years months days were spent interviewing U.S. soldiers who were involved? I wonder how much mention will be paid to the conditions they faced. As journalist Philip Deane wrote in his 1953 book Captive in Korea,
Taejon's turn is coming soon and everybody here seems to know it. Here a gallant general and five thousand men are trying to stem the Red tide from the north: fifteen divisions, four hundred tanks, thousands of 75-mm. howitzers, armoured cars, anti-tank rifles. It is a flood tide of Communist soldiers, well-led, Russian-equipped, confident and victorious, overwhelmingly superior in arms and numbers, that is faced by the gallant general and five thousand men from a far-off land. Men? Many of the G.I.s in Major-General William F. Dean's 24th American Infantry Division are mere kids of seventeen and eighteen who have gone straight from school into the army [.]
He records a conversation between two US officers in early July, 1950:
Then a burst of anger. 'It's a goddam shame. Not a tank yet, not a three-inch Bazooka, no mines. Sending those kids up the line like that's as good as issuing them with a death sentence!'
Later, he rides in a jeep with a major to Gongju:
The major is watching the refugees pouring past us along the road. There are old men and women, some carrying babies, but there are also thousands of strapping young Koreans marching along in their midst, heads held high, arms swinging. They are the only ones with smiles on their faces.

'We should shoot them all,' the major says. 'I'll bet there's at least a pistol in every pack. They're the ones who shoot our boys in the back at night. We let them through in front of our eyes, and to-night we shall hear that the Communists have infiltrated our lines again. It's sheer suicide!'
As for whether this context is provided, there are a few reviews out there. One says that
[A Little Pond], which is based on the Nogunri incident follows how ‘ignorant’ people who did not know anything about the realities of war were sacrificed. Rather than dealing this situation from a set ideological viewpoint, Lee captures the people as a whole, within a community in the big picture.
Another review:
Once you are drawn into their daily lives the atrocities occur leaving the audience to witness air raids and shooting rampages that are clearly unnecessary and end up really shaking your emotions. Of course, like all war movies this too is one-sided; it's the Korean side of the situation[.]
Twitch provides more information about the director:
Lee [Sang-woo] is one of the most influential stage producers in Korea, with a past as a screenwriter in Chungmuro [...] and managed to put together a pretty strong cast (although the subject was probably another big factor), including Moon Sung-Geun, Moon So-Ri, Park Won-Sang, Jeong Suk-Yong, Kim Roi-Ha, the late Park Gwang-Jung, Lee Dae-Yeon, Kang Shin-Il, and even cameos by Song Kang-Ho and Yoo Hae-Jin. To reflect the ensemble cast feeling of the production, whose motto from day one has been that of faithfully recreating the event, even the new poster has been produced that way.
Here's the new poster:

The original poster was visually a little more catchy:

There was a private screening of the film at UC Santa Cruz back in June, though the poster for it was slightly altered so as to hide the guns pointing at the child.

I couldn't help see that poster and be reminded of another poster I'd seen recently:

As you can see, there's a staggering difference in how the actions of U.S. soldiers during the Korean war are perceived in North and South Korea. Seriously though, it's so nice to see that the North and South can find something to bond over in these troubled times: Baby-killing American soldiers. Of course, Koreans once thought American missionaries were killing babies to make medicine, so there is in fact a long, happy tradition of rumors abounding that Americans are doing evil to their children (I'd thought the child-molesting English teacher had taken over that role, but perhaps not).

This is how the director described his intentions for this film:
“Writing the scenario, I asked myself what story I have to tell. This is not going to be about the incident, not the event, but it’s going to be about the people. It is going to tell the relationships that people had in the small community and how intimate and beautiful they were, and ask them (the U.S. military) if they knew what they were doing. They were destroying these beautiful human beings,” Lee said after shooting the film’s last scene in Sunchang, South Jeolla Province, early this week.
I think the North Korean poster is a little more succinct:

"Do not forget the US imperialist jackals!"

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Derek Jeter named SI’s sportsman of the year

NEW YORK (AP)—Derek Jeter posed in his crisp pinstripe uniform, resting a shiny black bat on his shoulder, while a photographer lying on the ground near the entrance to a Bronx subway station snapped pictures of the New York Yankees shortstop from a low angle.

Photographing the Yankees captain from below to make him look more regal seemed beside the point. Jeter already has an image that is larger than life.

Jeter was back at Yankee Stadium a couple of weeks after winning his fifth World Series title, capping a stellar season with a photo shoot for his latest achievement: Sports Illustrated’s sportsman of the year.

The magazine made the announcement Monday.

“It’s unbelievable. It was completely unexpected. It came out of the blue,” Jeter told The Associated Press during a break in the photo shoot. “When I heard it, what can you say? It’s one of the greatest honors you can achieve in sports.”

The 35-year-old Jeter is the first Bronx Bomber to be tapped for the award that has been given out since 1954. Swimmer Michael Phelps was last year’s recipient.

“That’s even harder considering all the great Yankee players that have played for this organization,” said Jeter, standing under the banners depicting Yankees greats that hang in the Great Hall of the new stadium. “So I hope I’ve done them proud.”

Sports Illustrated Group editor Terry McDonell certainly thinks he has.

“This verifies my idea that he is on the level of Ruth and Gehrig,” McDonell said. “He’s the greatest shortstop in the history of the game.”

Some other baseball players to win the award are Sandy Koufax (1965), Tom Seaver (1969), Cal Ripken Jr. (1995); and the recent nemeses of Jeter’s teams, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling (2001), and the Boston Red Sox (2004).

All business between the lines, Jeter has become one of the untarnished ambassadors in the steroids era of baseball through steady play and quiet leadership on and off the field.

“He’s so classy,” McDonell said. “He brings a dignity and elegance to the game.”

Jeter’s 2009 season was remarkable.

He batted .334 with 18 homers and 66 RBIs with 30 steals to help lead the Yankees to their first World Series title in nine years—a frustrating drought for the player who won four championships in his first five seasons.

And as calls swelled for Jeter to switch positions after his contract expires in 2010, the 10-time All-Star went out and had one of his best defensive seasons: He made a career-low eight errors in winning his fourth Gold Glove.

He also passed Yankees icon Lou Gehrig’s club record for hits, won the Hank Aaron Award as the AL’s top hitter, and was given the Roberto Clemente Award for excellence on and off the field.

The World Series victory might have been Jeter’s most cherished accomplishment this year, but what clinched the sportsman award for him was his philanthropic work. Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation has doled out over $10 million in grants since 1996 to organizations that help keep young people away from alcohol and drugs.

“It’s about the manner of the striving and the quality of the effort, too,” McDonell said. “Off the field he has grown so much as a member of the community.”

Coming 15 seasons into a career full of honors, the award could be seen as a lifetime achievement, but both McDonell and Jeter dismissed the idea.

McDonell was impressed by Jeter’s leadership, how he “stepped in and molded a team” this spring with the arrival of three expensive free agents, and Alex Rodriguez’s admission to using steroids from 2001-03 and then having hip surgery that kept him out until May.

For Jeter, who only looks as far ahead as the next game, he’s nowhere near the end of an illustrious career that could culminate with 4,000 hits.

“I’ll take it one hit at a time. That’s a long way in the future,” said Jeter, who has 2,747 hits. “I’m going to play as long as I’m having fun. Right now I’m having a blast.”