Friday, September 19, 2008

David Foster Wallace

With the recent and sudden passing of author David Foster Wallace, I decided to repost my review of his book, Consider the Lobster. I wrote this only a couple of months ago, but it is bizarre to think how much has changed. I was looking forward to reading the works of DFW for the rest of my life. Now I'll just have to re-explore his past works. Hopefully, this will motivate some people who never read DFW to go pick up one of this works.

Consider The Lobster by David Foster Wallace

One of the joys of my college experience was learning that I didn't have to take a math requirement. As a result I picked up a class titled Contemporary American Short Story. That class, ended up being one of my favorite during my time at college, and one of its lasting impressions was my introduction to David Foster Wallace. DFW has become one of my favorite authors and has the literary work to back it up.

His latest installment, Consider the Lobster, finds the always enlightening and entertaining DFW tackling everything from porn awards to John McCain on the campaign trail. He can write as intellectually and dramatically whether he is discussing double penetration shots or the lull of redundant speeches. The manner in which he, almost easily, transitions from a place of pure absurdity to the heights of intellectual prose is as impressive as it is depressing.

While the lyrical gymnastics DFW goes through makes you love to read his essays, at the same time, any one with any hope of ever publishing anything has to leave disheartened as DFW is certainly the foremost stylistic writer out there. You think he is just writing stream of thought through the way he presents himself, but when you take in the essays as a whole you realize that each piece of writing is incredibly intricate and imaginative that no human could spout out such words in such a format.

For people that aren't familiar with DFW, I probably wouldn't recommend starting with this book, but if you do, you'll know from the first story (the one about the porn awards) whether you're on board or not. The constant footnotes and long digressions could frustrate one that is not ready to commit fully to such a reading, and the reading only gets more difficult as the book progresses.

This book ranks up there with DFW finest works. If you are willing to commit to the reading and want to enjoy great essays on a wide variety of subjects, then give this book a go around.

For the ratings system I wanted to do something different than simple numbers. I want a symbol, like "Two Thumbs Up" like that. So I decided to flip the script. I'm using a symbol, but not a positive symbol. As a result of using a negative symbol instead of a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best, one is the best because more of a negative thing would be bad. Follow?

So, what's something bad, related to books that I can rate these things with? Papercuts. Done.

1.5/5 Papercuts

Saturday, September 6, 2008

NFL Preview: The East

Well, the season begins tomorrow, and I'm pumped. I missed football, and I'm glad it's back. Sure the Giants and Redskins "kicked off" the season on Thursday (if you wanted to call that game professional football), but the whole shebang gets going in 24 hours. Good times. Here are the final predictions for the divisions.

AFC East:

4. Miami Dolphins 3-13 (Last Year: 1-15)

The Dolphins narrowly avoided going winless last year, and will probably go through similar struggles this year. Their division is tougher, but the Phins have a head on their shoulders, so to speak, after bringing in The Big Tuna (ironic) Bill Parcells to revamp the team. #1 overall pick Jake Long will hopefully not be a bust at left tackle, and they plucked QB Chad Pennington from the waiver wire from the Jets. Sure Pennington isn't the long term answer, but he'll give the team some stability as they establish themselves.

Best Fantasy Player: Ronnie Brown, RB - Before going down by injury, Ronnie Brown was a very productive fantasy player. His injury history is a concern and apparently Ricky Williams is back in the mix, but this is Ronnie's year to prove himself not to be a bust.

3. Buffalo Bills 8-8 (Last Year: 7-9)

There is always a buzz around the Bills as an up and coming team. Now that J.P. Losman is thankfully removed at QB in favor of Senator Trent Edwards, the Bills may be turning a corner. As long as Marshawn Lynch can stay out of prison and Toronto brings the Bills north of the border, there are positives to be had.

Best Fantasy Player: Marshawn Lynch, RB - Marshawn had a rookie year of 1,000+ rushing yards and 7 TD's. I would look for those numbers to increase to close to 1,400 yards and 9 TD's. Enjoy it before he gets his new deal out of his rookie contract and subsequently becomes the new Pacman Jones.

2. New York Jets 9-7 (Last Year: 4-12)

Obviously the biggest story for the Jets was the acquisition of Brett Favre. This put the Jets on the map, and will be the move that everyone looks at for the Jets turn around. The real reason will be the Jets offensive line and the addition of All-Pro guard Alan Faneca. Look for Thomas Jones to have a big year. I think Favre will come out firing, but wear down as the season progresses. He'll throw his share of INT's and probably end up costing the Jets a playoff spot. However, if top pick Vernon Gholston turns out to be the beast a lot of people think he is, the Jets could bump up 2 wins.

Best Fantasy Player: Jerricho Cotchery, WR - Cotchery, not Coles will be the largest benefactor of Favre being the QB. Cotchery is a large receiver with good hands, and that is the kind of receiver Favre gravitates towards. Also, look out for TE Chris Baker to add some TD's to his solid receiving yard total.

1. New England Patriots 13-3 (Last Year: 16-0)

What a bizarre season for the Pats. The ultimate highs and the ULTIMATE low carried the Pats season. In the end, the mental strain of being undefeated was too much to handle. The Giants defensive line blew up the most prolific offense in the league, and it will be a challenge to see how the Pats rebound. Now, it's not the Pats goal to go undefeated again. It's their goal to win the Super Bowl. The Pats will almost be relieved when they lose their first game this year just to get that monkey off of their back. The looming cloud over this team is the possibility of QB Tom Brady's foot. Is it cracked? Is it broken? Is it bruised? Who knows? We're certainly not getting any info from Bill Belichick. On a side note, I read a Belichick biography this Summer, and the funniest part of the book was when the author mentioned Belichick's voice mail message. It was, "Sorry to have missed your call." That's it, and it's funny on about 12 levels if you know anything about Belichick.

Best Fantasy Player: Wes Welker, WR - He may not be the most prolific guy, but he's the best bet if Brady goes down to injury. He won't be hindered if back up Matt Cassell gets in the game, like Moss would, and the running game and Lawrence Maroney are a lost cause.

NFC East:

4. Washington Redskins 6-10 (Last Year: 9-7)

For all the good things the Skins did last year, having Joe Gibbs retire and bringing on inexperienced Mike Zorn and implementing the 4th new offense in QB Jason Campbell's career, they took a big step back. The only positive is that a new running approach could benefit Clinton Portis, who was run into the ground last year. Things are gonna get off to a slow start in the nation's capital.

Best Fantasy Player: Clinton Portis, RB - He is their go to guy. Someone has to score the TD's.

3. NY Giants 9-7 (Last Year: 10-6)

No matter how lucky the Giants were last year, no matter what they lost on defense, they are...the defending Super Bowl Champions, and they can't miss the playoffs. Can they? Anyway, I can't really talk much about the Giants. Them and Eli Manning winning the Super Bowl was an absolutely scarring sports experience. Let me also say, shame on all you Eagles fans that WANTED the Giants to beat the Pats. First off, you can never EVER root for the NY Giants unless they're playing an intergalactic football team for control of the planet Earth, and you know what, I'd have to wait and see what the aliens had to say before I made my choice. Secondly, and this is what bothered me the most...the only reason Eagles fans wanted the Giants to beat the Pats was because they hated the Pats because they were jealous of their success. As petty as that sounds, that was the reasoning. What bothers me about that is if the Eagles were in the Pats situation, these same people would be the most obnoxious annoying fans that have ever set foot on this planet. I hate you all. And here is the nail in the coffin for all you "I'm just rooting for the Giants in this game" fans. I hope this makes you sick.

Best Fantasy Player: Plaxico Burress, WR - Let's see, Plax had 1,025 receiving yards and 12 TD's with a bum shoulder, bum ankle, never practicing, and a non-Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning throwing him the ball. I see a better year ahead.

2. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6 (Last Year: 8-8)

This is the first year since I've been doing this that I haven't picked the Birds to win the division, and can you blame me? A couple of lackluster/borderline heartbreaking years have left my beloved Birds at a crossroads. This is it for Donovan McNabb. If he wants to QB in Philly next year, then he has to have an MVP quality year, which isn't totally out of the question. The Birds made some game changing moves by adding CB Asante Samuel and drafting potential Rookie of the Year candidate Desean Jackson. There is a lot to be excited about, and lately the Birds have been picked to go the the Super Bowl (by ESPN and Sports Illustrated)! To be honest, I was gonna pick the Birds to be 7-9 this year, but all this buzz has suckered me into a 10-6 year. I'm looking forward to the year. It could be something unexpected.

Best Fantasy Player: Brian Westbrook, RB - The NFL's leader in all-purpose yards last year will have an absolutely phenomenal year. This is his time to separate himself from every other RB on the planet. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield will be taken to a whole new level, especially with new RB Lorenzo Booker in the backfield. The options are boundless.

1. Dallas Cowboys 11-5 (Last Year: 13-3)

At this point, expecting Tony Romo to perform in the playoffs is like expecting to have your dinner in Hell's Kitchen arrive on time. When you add in the fact this guy is STILL with Jessica Simpson and her idiot brain doesn't say much about his decision making. The Cowboys are going for it, and they have all the cards in place to make a legitimate run. Their defense is overrated by a ton, and Pacman Jones is going to have a minimal impact. Plus, the story line that is going unnoticed is that this team is a powder keg of people. Terrell Owens, Pacman, Tank Williams, I mean come on something has to give. I'm putting the Cowboys on notice, their window for winning a Super Bowl is now at 2 years. The team is getting older, and once TO is washed up Romo won't be as effective and it will be a whole domino effect. When you're entire team rests on the performance and mental stability of Terrell Owens, you have to count your blessings each year.

Best Fantasy Player: Marion Barber, RB - He's a TD machine. Felix Jones isn't a threat to his playing time. Look for a typical 80 yard 1 TD game from Barber. I think he'll make it to 20 TD's this season.

Monday, September 1, 2008

NFL Preview: The West

AFC West:

4. Oakland Raiders 2-14 (Last Year: 4-12)

The Raiders have been bad enough for long enough that there should be some signs of them turning it around. Unfortunately consistent bone-headed moves have left the Raiders in some muck and mire as opposed to a positive outlook. Certain top picks not developing as they should (Robert Gallery, Michael Huff, JaMarcus Russell) and meaningless high price signings (Javon Walker Gibril Wilson, and DeAngelo Hall) serve only to split apart a team identity. Half the players are veterans, half are inexperienced. The Raiders should back off going for the big names with zero returns and try to develop a young mature nucleus. Trading for an overrated player like DeAngelo Hall and signing him to a lucrative contract is a total waste. That money should be going towards Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the best young corners in the game. A lot of their hope is riding on the performance of new first round pick Darren McFadden. McFadden took a bit of a credibility dive in the draft, and his prospect as a #1 RB in the NFL is still something he needs to prove. JaMarcus Russell has clearly not shown the drive to be a top flight QB via his consistent weight gain. The team is a mess filled with overrated and under achieving players with questionable character. Not good.

Best Fantasy Player: Darren McFadden, RB - McFadden has a lot to prove, and he'll be given the keys from the get go. There won't be much help around him on the offensive side of the ball.

3. Denver Broncos 7-9 (Last Year: 7-9)

Jay Cutler is looking to step up and have a much more productive year. He can put his diabetes behind him and focus on winning football games. He finally has a go to receiver in Brandon Marshall, but the Broncos are finding it harder and harder to find a RB they can just plug into their offense. The offensive line is not what it was a couple of years ago, and they need to get more pressure on the defensive side of the ball in order for CB's Champ Bailey and Dre Bly to be effective. I don't see Cutler making the strides he should. It'll be another playoff miss in the Mile High City.

Best Fantasy Player: Brandon Marshall, WR - The plus is that his 4-game suspension has been reduced to 1 game, limiting the hit to his fantasy value. He is a big, athletic receiver and Cutler will not be afraid to throw the ball up for him.

2. Kansas City Chiefs 10-6 (Last Year: 4-12)

The Chiefs lost 9 straight games to end their year in 2007. In spite of Larry Johnson returning from a nagging foot injury, the Chiefs could not put things together. However, with LJ back on track and rested after missing time last year, QB Brodie Croyle developing, and WR Dwayne Bowe emerging as a big time threat the offense seems to be on track. The defense got a boost with 1st Round Pick DT Glenn Dorsey. The loss of Jared Allen to Minnesota is a tough pill to swallow, but if they can get even a little more out of their offense, the Chiefs may be able to surprise some teams this year.

Best Fantasy Player: Larry Johnson, RB - Only 2 years removed from being one of the most dominant fantasy backs in the league, LJ hit some injuries last year. His offensive line isn't good, but he has shown a great ability to find the end zone. His offensive line is suspect, but Head Coach Herman Edwards won't be afraid to feed LJ the ball.

1. San Diego Chargers 12-4 (Last Year: 11-5)

The Chargers have a lot to prove this year. After falling short of the Super Bowl the previous two years, the Chargers are a team right at their peak. QB Philip Rivers has earned the respect of his teammates through his gutsy performance in last year's playoffs, and RB LaDanian Tomlinson is running out of top performance years. The biggest issue for the Chargers are their injuries. TE Antonio Gates needs to come back in full strength from his toe injury, and star LB Shawne Merriman has made the decision to play this year with two torn knee ligaments. Brave? Sure. Should he do it? No. Obviously he thinks he can perform at his All-Pro level, but that remains to be seen. Plus he is at risk at doing severe damage to his knee. Any play this season, his knee could go.

Best Fantasy Player: LaDanian Tomlinson, RB - Just because I said LDT only had a couple years left does not mean he is slowing up any time soon. He's getting pushed by Adrian Peterson for top fantasy guy, LDT's consistency is what keeps him on top of a fantasy draft board.

NFC West:

4. St. Louis Rams 4-12 (Last Year: 3-13)

Injuries are what hurt the Rams last year. Everyone of their key offensive starters went down at one point or another, but it was their defense that leaves them in a rough situation. It also didn't help that RB Steven Jackson held out all of training camp. He is sure to be rusty when the season kicks off. This is a team that is going to need to light up the scoreboard in order to have a chance this year.

Best Fantasy Player: Steven Jackson, RB - The hold out will hurt him, enough to drop him behind Joe Addai on many fantasy big boards. What Jackson does have is the luxury of being able to catch out of the backfield as well. He'll get his touches, but his productivity may get off to a slow start.

3. Arizona Cardinals 6-10 (Last Year: 8-8)

With too many good receivers and too many QB's the Cardinals are a team in limbo. They can't quite decide whether they want to win now or develop young talent. The problem is that the NFC West is so terrible, any of these teams have a shot at winning it. Kurt Warner was recently named the starting QB after party boy Matt Leinert couldn't cut it on the field. Off season disputes with their top two receivers, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, are still a problem with Larry Fitz getting $30 million in guaranteed money and Boldin wanting more in return. If Boldin gets onboard, the offense could be good. A tough schedule may put the Cards on their back this year.

Best Fantasy Player: Larry Fitzgerald, WR - I have a football man crush on Larry Fitzgerald. The guy is just a beast, and he is the top young receiver in the NFL. He has all the tools and abilities he needs to be dominant for years to come. For whatever Warner is, he can get Fitz the ball. TD's aplenty will be coming.

2. Seattle Seahawks 9-7 (Last Year: 10-6)

In a transition, the Seahawks are moving from a running team to a pass happy team. They do have some of the pieces in place to make this work, but they don't have the receivers to make their passing attack truly effective. No one commands a double team, and that makes it difficult to stretch the field. Seattle has been steady, but I think it's about time they had a slip up.

Best Fantasy Player: Matt Hasselbeck, QB - Hasselbeck will benefit from this pass happy offense. He had a lot of passing yards, but still fell short on his TD totals...probably due to the lack of WR help.

1. San Francisco 49ers 10-6 (Last Year: 5-11)

No, this isn't a return to dominance, but the Niners have a shot to make some waves this year. They have invested heavily on their defense the past couple of off-seasons and their drafting has given them one of the top LB's in the league in Patrick Willis. The offense has been the hang up, and with Mike Martz making the play calls, the offense behind RB Frank Gore and new QB J.T. O'Sullivan have the potential to surprise some people. The defense is going to have to step up, but as long as former #1 pick Alex Smith doesn't see the field, it'll be a good thing. Oh, and as for that apology from last year Alex...I think it's safe to say you're not gonna get it.

Best Fantasy Player: Frank Gore, RB - Although Martz's pass happy MO may harm Gore's touches, Martz can't turn water into wine. Gore is his top offensive threat and will have no choice but to get him the ball. This may come in the form of a few more receptions, but so be it.