To Fuss is Human, To Rant, Divine!!

Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


I just saw the Underworld: Evolution trailer. Why someone would want to make a sequel to "Dracula vs. the Wolfman" I don't know, especially considering it wasn't that huge a hit in the theaters. Did the DVD do really well or something?

In any case, it looks like someone made the cognizant decision to have this "franchise," if it can be called that, mirror the Blade Trilogy. Now, the first Blade movie was actually somewhat entertaining, but the second was a piece of trash. I'm told that the third movie gives trash a bad name, which is why I've stayed away from it.

But the movie is filled with really dark sets and silly lines like "Find the girl, and bring her to me." I thought the priest who spoke the line was Ian Holm, who played the exact same role in The Fifth Element, but IMDB says it's someone else. I guess Ian Holm wasn't available. (As an Ian Holm aside, did he get the crazy Bilbo look from The Fellowship of the Rings from his previous role as the "placid guy who's really a murderer" in From Hell?)

Kate Beckinsale is probably a perfectly capable actress, but I can't think of anyone who has taken worse acting roles recently. At what point during Underworld 2, Underworld 1, Van Helsing, Serendipity, Pearl Harbor and Brokedown Palace should she have realized that she needed a new agent? Isn't it kind of scary that Underworld 1 is probably going to be the best in those films? Granted she was in The Aviator, which is just about the only substantive role she's been in recently (being in tight leather doesn't really count).

Monday, October 17, 2005


Someone who knows baseball better than I please tell me why Scenario A is more common than B or C:

Scenario A: Speedy Leadoff Man (hereafter known as Player A) gets on first base to start an inning. High Contact Man (hereafter Player B) comes up to the plate. On the first pitch, Player B lays down a sacrifice bunt that moves Player A over to second. Player A is now on second and Player B has made the first out of the inning.

Scenario B: Player A gets on first base to start the inning. High Contact Man comes to the plate. On the first or second pitch to Player B, Player A steals second. If there are not two strikes, Player B lays down a bunt and moves Player A to third. Player A is now on third, with Player B making the first out. A sacrifice fly will score Player A.

Scenario C: Player A gets on first base to start the inning. High Contact Man comes to the plate. He takes/swings away until there is one strike (which could take one pitch on a strike or a foul, or more, depending on the pitcher's location) or he draws a walk. If Player B does not walk, after he gets a strike, Player B bunts, moving Player A to second.

Now, in my mind, both scenario B or C (at least C) are more lucrative than scenario A. Why?

In A, you take an out in exchange for moving a player. You risk popping the bunt up for an unproductive out, or laying a bad bunt that doubles up the man on first (a double play).

In B, you risk a double play, a caught stealing or a groundout/flyout that is unproductive, but there's more gain. One might argue that the risks are higher with B, but consider that your leadoff hitter should be a good basestealer. Shouldn't you play to his strengths?

I see even more advantage in C. Your Number 2 hitter is supposed to be a high contact hitter, so let him swing at least once or take a strike before giving him the bunt signal. You do risk a double play. But there are at least as many good scenarios as bad.

There are five neutral situations (1 - Fielder's choice on ground ball that moves Player A to second, 2 - Flyout that moves Player A to second, 3 - bunt that moves player A to second, 4 - double play ball, 5 - unproductive out) and at least 3 positive situations (1 - Player B gets a hit, 2 - Player B bunts when the third baseman is not expecting a bunt, both Players are safe, 3 - Player B walks, moving Player A to second).

Furthermore, you make the pitcher throw more pitches. Why is it that people advocate small ball, but laud players who bunt on the first pitch. At least take an extra pitch.

I know conventional wisdom says when playing smallball, bunt. But can someone show me the statistical advantage of bunting on the first pitch?

This scenario of course changes if it is not a speedy person on base, or if the person at the plate does not make good contact, but I've seen a leadoff hitter (#1) get on base to open an inning and then the #2 guy just casually lay down a bunt. You could argue that the chances of a double play or an unproductive out are higher when the player is swinging rather than bunting, but then again, I don't know that the positives aren't worth the risk.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


The Fiona Apple album, Extraordinary Machine, has been held up for a long time due to various issues, ranging from charges of unmarketability to obvious problems in editing and quality.

I wrote about it in an earlier post (below my liberal arts rant), in which I hightlight the album's desire to experiment, especially with brass instruments and a Big Band sound, but at a cost of hiding both Fiona's vocals and an overall loss in musicality. Several songs could have been salvaged with a mere tempo change midway through the song or a crescendo at a climactic moment.

Jon Brion, who was supposed to produce the album initially, did not do a very good job bringing Fiona's voice through the music at all, instead choosing to literally accentuate the singer's voice with bells and whistles that distracted the listener from both the lyrics and Ms. Apple's voice. The initial version of the album seemed to stay on one dynamic for the entire CD, and for the first time in any of her albums, I found myself bored by Fiona's voice.

The new release, which is supposed to actually hit the markets in a couple of days (Oct 4), is much more successful. Gone are much of the brass and synthesizer sounds that made the album often sound like something from the movie The Untouchables or the videogame Alice.

The bass lines in most of the songs are much stronger, often with a hip-hop feel (which is not surprising, as the person brought in to re-mix the album has Dr. Dre on his resume). Often, all it took to make the songs sound better were better introductions and solo sections, as is evident in the song Better Version Furthermore, the original version of the album suffered because for all its experimentation, it only experimented with one sound. This made for a rather boring album, as once you got the point of the experiment, which came for me around the third song, the rest of the album kind of lost its way. The new version gets rid of the Big Band Jazz sound in a couple of ballads and encorporates a hip-hop beat in some other songs, making the album more interesting as a whole. If they were worried about coherence before, the album is still plenty coherent, as Ms. Apple's voice is still very strong and unmistakable. Several of the vocal tracks have been re-laid with much success, as someone had the brilliant idea to incorporate some well-timed decrescendos and syncopations to break up the monotony of the songs.

For instance, the song Window was extremely weak on the old version - it didn't inspire very much with Fiona's voice, and it didn't move very much from a lyrical or dynamic standpoint. With the remix, the are several variations on the chorus which create a stronger sense of flow throughtout the song, from the quirky beginning, featuring very interesting synthesizer and percussion work, to the climax of the song, in which Fiona's voice is allowed to break through. Some of the experimentation remains in the burst of strings and brass, but it works much more effectively in the background. The old version really just went straight for the top and didn't come down.

With a song like Tymps, the new version is completely different for the first 20 seconds, as the new mix plays with a xylophone introduction and eases the listener into the song. The song is very bare for the first minute and a half, featuring only Fiona's voice, the continued xylophones and a strong bass beat, until it explodes in a burst of synthesized organ and jazz riffs. The top-hat is used to excellent effect to end the rising phase, and the song settles back down to the chorus. With the more professional orchestration, Fiona's voice works much better as well.

The album does sound more "mainstream" due to the more recognizable beats, but it would take a lot to convince me that there were too many creative sacrifices to re-mix it and even more to convince me that any of the sacrifices were a bad thing. Even though some of the hip-hop staples that help hold the songs together are evident, it's really a huge improvement over the old version.

The song Red Red Red on first mix barely sounded like a song - it was too fast and the lyrics didn't jump at all because the only memorable part of the song was Fiona singing how she sees "Red, Red, Red" louder and louder as she was accompanied by a percussion line that also increased in volume. The new mix takes the out-of-place strings and turns the song into more of a ballad. I actually distinguished and was amused by the color imagery in the first line, as well as the lyrics "Don't understand diamonds and why men buy them. What's so special about diamonds besides the mining?"

My favorite song from the old version, and incidentally also the only one I would actually listen to or put on a mix tape, Oh Well, is more languid, and the piano is allowed to resonate more, which serves to bring out Fiona's vocal anger at about the third minute of the song. Also, you understand why the song is called Oh Well - at the end of the song, after her outburst of anger, she sighs "oh well." This is brought out much more in the newer version, and really makes the song into more of a story and a complete song.

"Extraordinary Machine," one of the tracks that was leaked to radio station way back in March, seems to have been kept pretty much the same. This is a pity, as it still isn't very strong, and now seems out of place on the CD. The fact that it sticks out is worse because it's the title track. But for the most part, this CD is definitely a "Better Version" of the old one.