Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Night Football Titans v. Texans tied in 4th quarter

The NFL's  Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans are tied in 4th quarter at Reliant Stadium in Houston and in a game that's burning up the Internet. 

With 5:14 to go, it's 17 to 17 and possibly headed to overtime, this game's not without its great plays, players and dirty play.   

Houston's star wide receiver Andre Johnson had over 100 receiving yards. Texans Quarterback Vince Young was effective both running and passing (he ran completely around Texans Rookie Linebacker  Brandon Cushing) as was Texans Quarterback Matt Schaub.

It's one of those game where just when you think one team's going to score and pull away, they don't.  The clock's running down; now under 3 minutes. 

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Titans 20, Texans 17 with :47 seconds left.

UPDATE: Titans win as Houston Texans missed a 42-yard field goal with six-seconds left.

Pixar's “Partly Cloudy" heads international list of 10 animated shorts for Oscar

On Friday, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that 10 films were named to advance in the voting process for the "Animated Short Films" category for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards to be held March 7, 2010 at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center and televised on ABC (in case you weren't used to going to ABC to see The Oscars every year).

It's an international list with movies representing production companies from Australia, France, America, Canada, and other countries.

Emeryville, California-based Pixar's “Partly Cloudy" is the American entry and is considered by some to be the front runner for the awards but only because its the most high-profile entry. Frankly, this awards category has been almost impossible to predict in the past, so anything could happen.

That said, here's the list of competitor films:

“The Cat Piano,” Eddie White and Ari Gibson, directors (The People’s Republic of Animation)
“French Roast,” Fabrice O. Joubert, director (Pumpkin Factory/Bibo Films)
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty,” Nicky Phelan, director, and Darragh O’Connell, producer (Brown Bag Films)
“The Kinematograph,” Tomek Baginski, director-producer (Platige Image)
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte),” Javier Recio Gracia, director (Kandor Graphics and Green Moon)
“Logorama,” Nicolas Schmerkin, producer (Autour de Minuit)
“A Matter of Loaf and Death,” Nick Park, director (Aardman Animations Ltd.)
“Partly Cloudy,” Peter Sohn, director (Pixar Animation Studios)
“Runaway,” Cordell Barker, director (National Film Board of Canada)
“Variete,” Roelof van den Bergh, director (il Luster Productions)

The next step is for the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee to select five nominees from the 10 titles on the short list above. The Academy reports that the movies will be screened for members in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco in January of 2010. (No specific date was given as of this writing.)

For more information, visit

AMA Music Awards: Taylor Swift tops Michael Jackson; Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga go off

The American Music Awards gave talented singer Taylor Swift another massive round of fan voted awards to take home this year, as the country pop star took home honors for Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist, Favorite Country Album (for Fearless), Favorite Female Pop/Rock Artist, and Favorite Country Female Artist.

This is Taylor Swift winning for Female Pop/Rock Artist:

But what was shocking was that Taylor Swift beat the otherwordly legend that is the late Michael Jackson for Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist. But even with that Michael Jackson took home awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist, Favorite Pop/Rock Album (for Number Ones), Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist, and Favorite Soul/R&B Album.

But the news of Swift beating Jackson caused controversy on Twitter, with a large number of tweets of protest like this one:

FeeshaD I can't believe Taylor Swift beat out Lady Gaga & MJ @ the AMA's! People have gotten so lame. less than a minute ago from mobile web

But then there are a lot of repeated tweets in anticipation of the 2010 Grammy Awards, like this one:

_Julia13 just voted "TAYLOR SWIFT" on "WHO WILL MOST LIKELY WIN A GRAMMY 2010????" vote too ➔ 3 minutes ago from POLLpigeon

Regardless of the tweet, it's clear that 20-year old Taylor Swift is having a year that one could only dream about. And all Swift had to do was sing, oh, and surround herself with the right publicist. But for some, creating nutty moments at the AMA gave their publicity hacks easy work: Adam Lambert and Lady GaGa.

Adam Lambert decided he was going to let is loins get the best of him and do some sexually provacative things during his singing number that really he could have done it without. I'm not going to give those actions video airplay.

Lady GaGa's bottle breaking spell during her number was less controversial but still questionable - and the piano was on fire, too!

It's as if the show producers decided to conspire with the performers to create as many Internet-viral-producing moments as possible just to keep us talking about the AMAs long after the show is over.

That strategy is very much like what I believe was done for the halftime show at Super Bowl 38 in Houston, when Justin Timberlake took off Janet Jackson's bra. It proved the impact of the Super Bowl on American culture because it was the pop event conversation for all the rest of 2004 and just at the time when the NFL was renegotiating its television contract.

To me, that was no accident, just as the AMA events of Sunday night were no accident. Both actions were created for the media and both actions worked to generate buzz. Look for more of this approach in the future and perhaps at The Grammys.

Oakland Raiders' Bruce Gradkowski posts awful 73.529 passer rating

Bruce Gradkowski

Oakland Raiders' Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski has become the darling of the Bay Area mainstream media because he replaced JaMarcus Russell and the Raiders won 20 to 17. Because of this, the commonly myopic mainstream media types have fallen all over themselves in praising Bruce Gradkowski. 

Time for this blogger to add a dose of much-needed sanity.  

Bruce Gradkowski was 17 of 34 for 183 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and posted an awful 73.529 passer rating according to the Quarterback Passing Calculators anyone can use online. I didn't have to use it to tell you the Oakland Raiders passing game is still terrible.

Let's get down to the basic fact that this is an under-performing passing game. If Bruce Gradkowski had attempted 34 passes and completed 26 for 270 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions that would have been a passer rating of 128.3, and then we could pop the corks.

But the design of the Oakland Raiders passing game, and the way it's coached, does not offer a snowball's chance in hell of a quarterback hitting that passer rating objective. 

By contrast, Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford's passing attack has produced several quarterbacks with excellent passer ratings over his career.  The latest example being quarterback Kevin Riley with a 133.49 rating for the season thus far and was 17 of 31 for 235 yards and one touchdown and one interception against Stanford (he was at just 54 percent and I know why), giving him a 122.71 rating for the 27th Big Game. (And thanks to Tedford and Cal Offensive Coordinator Andy Ludwig for using the Big Game to install the short passing game surgical strike I've called for all year long.)

But I digress.  

Yes, the passer rating formula does have its problems and that's another blog post, but one can't argue that throwing more completions as a percentage of attempts and for more yardage helps the achieve a solid victory, rather than a three-point win.

The Oakland Raiders must understand how to first throw short, timed passes that can be ran again and again and second, drill the passer to throw to a specific point at the receiver depending on the route, third, move the "launch point" of the pass using rollouts, sprints, and play action passes, and finally use the hashmarks and throwing points and route landmarks.

I've blogged that point again and again. So much so I'm tired of doing it. It does not matter who's placed at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders, the result - a poor or less than stellar passing attack - will always be the result.

This is nothing personal against Ted Tollner and Paul Hackett who are the passing game architects; it's professional. These two men have seen a lot of passing attacks and posted a lot of years of coaching. They must be held to a higher standard than what's being produced to date.

The Oakland Raiders' passing game is terrible. Bruce Gradkowski can't fix what's broken by design.

Modern patriotism isn't so different

To be a true patriot, a pro-republic American, is to recognize the role of civic virtue, of participation in the public affairs of the community, and to be among the men and women of whom future generations of Americans will say, "They were worthy of their city and their nation."

Gary Hart, in a recent Op-Ed, said:
"No single step would revitalize our fearful national spirit than a new era of civic republicanism. The single best vehicle to achieve this goal is the proposed Serve America Act sponsored by Senators Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch. It is a genuinely bipartisan response to President Obama’s challenge to Americans of all ages to serve the national community."
It would be refreshing to see the media focus less on the whining of political wanna-be pundits and apologist politicians whose goals have obvious resonance to special interests that have overhwelmed the relationship between elected officials and those they represent, and more on the inspirational leadership exemplified by the late Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch in authoring that bill.

Reporters, and news producers, love controversy - it's good for ratings, and the coverage of "news" is clearly a business in the 21st Century. There's never been a sexy sound-bite to be found talking about, VISTA, Habitat for Humanity, or the Peace Corps - you have to work much harder to tell these compelling human-interest stories.

But the country I want to leave to my son and his generation is much better when we take the time, and initiative, to help our neighbors and give to our communities - and so, too, are my son and his peers better when they join us in those efforts. The dangers of debt-fueled consumerism have become old news, as the pundits have led us on a hell-bent ride to blame whoever makes the best target in terms of their ad revenues, without any investigation into how best to recover.

A great way to start as we mark the quintessential American holiday, Thanksgiving, is for each of us to look within ourselves, to recall the lessons we've learned, to recall that our community matters -- to give a little.

Thomas Hayes
is an entrepreneur, journalist, and political analyst who contributes regularly to a host of web sites on topics ranging from economics and politics to culture and community.

Notre Dame's Charlie Weis excepts blame for Huskies loss

Love him or hate him, you've got to give Notre Dame Fighting Irish Head Coach Charlie Weis credit for pointing at himself for the team's loss to the University of Connecticut (U Conn) Huskies 33 to 30 in overtime Saturday.

At the Sunday Press Conference (you can watch this video from part of it below) Weis was asked if he would understand if Notre Dame elected to release Weis from his contract. He said that he would and that six wins and five losses "doesn't cut it."

But Weis was quick to add that the losses were by a touchdown or less. And I will add that had Notre Dame scored at the last second to tie and went on to beat USC earlier this year his job would not be in trouble. It's hard to think beating Stanford this Saturday would not help Weis keep his job.

My view is Notre Dame should retain Weis for one more year, but give a more specific set of expectations: a floor and a ceiling. The floor should be 8 and 4; the ceiling is to go undefeated or close. That's it; keep it simple. Otherwise, Notre Dame would reportedly have to spend $18 million to buy-out Coach Weis' contract, about $2 million for his assistants, and then perhaps another $10 million for a new coaching staff. That's a $30 million waste of money in a recession.

Hard to justify that expenditure; at least to me.

Here's the Weis Press Conference video:

Twilight / New Moon: my review and moviegoer views

I saw Twilight / New Moon on its opening Thursday night November 18th at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, and I have to say it was "OK." I wasn't overwhelmed by the movie or the story but it held my attention and that was surprising to me.

The movie kind of plods along. It has a lot of long, drawn out scenes that could have been more elegant in their direction. But that written, people I talked to said this second movie in the series more closely followed the book that did the first movie, Twilight.

What I liked most about the story was that Bella's - who was played by Kristen Stewart - father was involved. This story doesn't try to hide adults; if Bella's lost, he's out there trying to find her. He knows about Edward Cullen (Rob Pattinson) but not that he's a vampire. I liked that the relationships between adults and teens was about as real as one could expect for this kind of movie.

Bella's constant interest in bad guys was what I hated the most, but that is (to a degree) the point of the storyline. I'm told that Bella eventually grows out of this but that happens about four books in. I've not even read the first one.

But that said and written, the simple fact that I am picking out these details means I was paying attention and that the story had meaning. Twilight / New Moon is not a bad picture; it's a cross between Dracula and All My Children. It has a lot of character "stuff" that gives its fans something to consume and talk about, but the story is presented well enough to create new fans.

In all Twilight / New Moon accomplishes the objective of appealing to fans of the series but not alienating people who are new to it like me. It's not 'Oscar: Best Picture' material because there's not a certain message that carries it yet can be applied to life. But it's a good story to watch unfold on the big screen.

Rob Pattinson's Publicist Shuts Down Ryan Seacrest

HLN calls talk show host and producer Ryan Seacrest "Mr. Hollywood", with a popular radio show on KIIS-FM, a $45 million new property production deal, and deals to be on programs like American Idol, Ryan Seacrest can make or break new stars, like Twilight: New Moon's Rob Pattinson.

Trouble is, someone forgot to tell ob Pattinson's movie publicist.

In this video from Ryan Seacrest's YouTube channel, we see the nervous flack jump in an stop Ryan Seacrest from asking the question on the minds of Twilight: New Moon fans: is Rob Pattinson dating movie co-star Kristen Stewart in real life? Or as Seacrest put it:

"What do you say to your fans that are desperate to know about you and your costar Kristen Stewart," said Seacrest, "what can you tell them?"

Seems harmless enough to me.

Here's the video:

I think she went too far and backfired in the process. Now the question's hotter than ever and Rob Pattinson and his publicist will be bugged with it over and over again. Sometimes publicists can get too involved in what their celebrity clients do or say. In this case, less would have been more.