Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Having been in 5th grade and young and impressionable when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released, I was forever addicted to the series. I read each new installation the day it came out, though I never went so far as to camp out Borders like some kids. As I grew older, some of the appeal of Harry Potter wore off and I began to ignore almost everything Hogwarts-related. I was actually surprised to find out last night that the seventh and final book in the series was released TWO YEARS AGO. Call me out of the loop.

Regardless of my fading interest in the series, I couldn’t turn down a Wednesday night opportunity to catch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at my local theater. The first several opening scenes rolled, and I felt a strong sense of nostalgia. I had missed Hagrid’s adventures, Dumbledore’s antics, and Harry’s…whatever it is he does. I was pumped to be getting back into the story, and I was looking forward to the rest of the movie.

Unfortunately, my enthusiam was fairly short-lived (that’s a bad thing too, when the movie is 2:15 long). Even in my excited state, the forced dialog and awkward acting was too much of a buzz-kill for me to ignore. It’s been so long since I actually read the Half-Blood Prince that I don’t really remember how well it adhered to the book. Giving the screenplay writer the benefit of the doubt in that regard, the job he did translating character interactions to the big screen wasembarassingly bad. There appeared to be no chemistry between any of the actors, tons of blank stares, and camera shots that lingered on emotionless faces. I ended up laughing at the awkwardness of the scenes much more often than laughing at the intended humor.

The movie did however have some redeeming qualities. Like any huge-budget production, the filmography and special effects were superbly well done. Several times I found myself zoning out of the story and intently watching the effects. Speaking of zoning out, anytime Emma Watson’s character Hermione graced a scene, I lost track of everything else in my field-of-view. In any case, I will be much more apt to check out the next movie if they nix the ‘Harry Potter’ part of the title and just run with ‘Hermione Granger and the Deathly Hollows.’


Royals Trade: Betancourt to Kansas City

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Every time I read the news and see ‘The Royals Trade…’ I get very excited. Anymore, I don’t really know why. It’s not like they manage to bring in premiere talent, and it’s not like they open their pocketbook to go get multidimensional guys. Extrapolating from transactions that have occurred over the last year, I estimate by 2012 they’ll be fielding an entire team of platoon and bench players!

I’m going to keep this short, but the latest deal for Yuniesky Betancourt should come as no surprise to any loyal Royals fan. He’s exactly the type of player General Manager Dayton Moore (GMDM) has been coveting recently. He doesn’t hit for power, he doesn’t walk ever (he has walked 70 times in 2206 career plate appearances), doesn’t hustle on offense or defense, and is a product of the Seattle Mariners system!

I realize sometimes that fans (including myself) can be very quickly condescending or critical of front office moves. The beautiful thing about baseball though, is that quantifiable statistics are widely available. Outside of organizational scouts, the people that make these major league decisions aren’t privileged any sort of exclusive, insider, statistical information that we as fans can’t also access.

Scroll halfway down the page and take a look at this excellent writeup devil_fingers wrote for Driveline Mechanics. Just read that, because I don’t want to breakdown the acquisition from a statistical standpoint, it would probably just depress me. Recognizing that the Royals are dead last in the American League in OBP (.311), it would be a prudent move to bring in a player that couple help the team get on base. Betancourt is a career .302 OBP guy, and is only getting on base at a .278 clip this season!

The terms of the contract are even more baffling. Betancourt’s contract is through the 2012 season. He’s scheduled to make 3 then 4 million dollars over the next couple seasons, with a $6 million club option or $2 million buyout in 2012. As part of the deal, the Mariners will continue to finance this year’s contract, and $1 million each of the next two years. That kind of money almost guarantees him the starting SS position, inhibiting Mike Aviles’s development and all but eliminating the need for Tony Pena Jr. (silver lining!!!!).

Of all the blogs I read, from both Mariner and Royals journalists and fans, not a single one assessed this as a good deal for the Royals. I want to root for the Royals organization so very badly, but moves like this make it almost impossible sometimes. I am inclined to rate this 0/5 X’s, but I’m going to give it a half-X simply because we won’t have to put up with TPJ anymore.


Certain Dri

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I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in Kansas the heat index has been steadily over 100. No, I don’t go outside much, but even thinking about leaving my luxurious, air-conditioned, apartment makes my armpits start pouring sweat.

At a friend’s suggestion, I thought I’d give Certain Dri (not to be confused with Certain Dry) antiperspirant a shot at keeping my underarms dry. I was able to find a stick of it at my local Target on sale for $3.99, though it normally runs for $4.99.

I’ve been using deodorant/antiperspirant now for about 10 years, so at first I laughed at my friend’s suggestion to read the instructions before I used it, but as it turns out I’m glad I did. The instructions in the box said to apply it only at night before going to bed, then use your normal deodorant/antiperspirant in the morning. It’s a good thing I didn’t  go ahead and wear this stuff to a pick-up game, ’cause I wouldn’t have impressed anyone running up and down the court smelling like lavender. Seriously, this stuff straight up smells like one of those crazy ladies that LIVE to run their booth at the flea market. Whoever makes this stuff needs to come up with a new scent for the dudes ASAP.

Other than the fruity old-womanly scent, I have pretty good things to report about Certain Dri. It’s kept me decently “dri” the last couple of days, including a usually stressful trip to casino and an all-night bar hopping adventure in a long sleeved shirt. I’ll probably keep buying and using the stuff, but I’m thinking about emailing the company and letting them know I’m interested in a much more manly “Diesel fuel, cut grass, and cigar” scent.


MLB 09 The Show

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I’m sure at this point you’ve seen the commercials. Sony has heralded MLB 09 The Show as “the most realistic baseball game ever,” though I wish they would’ve just call it “the most realistic and addicting baseball game ever that will eat up all your free time and keep you from doing things you probably should be doing instead.” Admittedly, I love sports games, and am a huge baseball fan, but I think I can unbiasedly say that this is the best sports game I’ve ever played on any platform.

The graphics and animations are mindblowingly accurate (down to Shin-Soo Choo’s batting stance and Zack Greinke’s 68 different release points and arm angles), the multiplayer and rivalry options make it a competitive blast for a group of friends to play,  but this game really shines when it comes the franchise and Road to the Show modes. I wish the game kept track of the total amount of time invested in a Road to the Show player, or maybe I don’t. I’ve definitely clocked in enough hours Dustin Pedroia himself would be impressed.

As great as the game is, leave it to me (and my roommates) to find a couple of things to bitch about.

  1. It’s effing impossible to hit a Tim Wakefield knuckleball.
  2. Relief pitchers SUCK. It’s pretty much a guaranteed blown hold if you sit your starting pitcher.
  3. Running controls take a long time to get used to, and I still can’t figure out how to steal individual runners.
  4. Lag makes it impossible to play online.

These problems are pretty minor, I wouldn’t let them affect my decision to buy this game. Seriously, I’d recommend this game to my grandma – and she hardly knows the difference between a TV and a microwave.