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September 30, 2005

Happy Rosh Hashanah! Sad Yom Kippur?

I believe the Jewish high holidays are coming up next week. I could be wrong. They might have been this week. I'm a little fuzzy on all that. I think Rosh Hashanah (I would be amazed if I spelled that correctly) is the Jewish New Year, and I think Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. And I also think Yom Kippur involves abstinence from eating, which, to a Jew, is as serious as a heart attack (which, ironically, is often the result of the Jewish diet).

But that's about all I know. I live on the West side of Los Angeles, which seems to me to be equally Jewish to the Upper West side of Manhattan -- i.e. about as Jewish as the audience at Yentl on Gay Pride day (see, because all the gay Streisand fans would be at the parade, leaving only the Jews...) There are several synagogues on my road between work and home. I could go to one for the holidays, but I wouldn't even know what I'm supposed to do when I get there.

Why am I mentioning all of this? Is it some sort of guilt, or envy of the more spiritual, or a desire to reconnect with a milleniums-old culture? No, it's just so I can say this...

PUNCHLINE: I must be the worst Jew since Jesus Christ.

Posted by JoshHornik at 04:28 PM | Comments (1)

September 27, 2005

Asashoryu come-from-behind win! Asa Slam!

Asashoryu won his 6th tournament in a row

OK, final wrap-up on the Fall Sumo tournament in Tokyo.
Asashoryu won both of his last matches against the Ozeki's. Both were pretty easy. His match against Tochiazuma on the last day was so easy, it seemed almost like a dive. One hit to the side of the head and Tochiazuma crumpled.
Meanwhile, though I predicted 2 losses, Koto'oshu managed to win on day 15 to force a playoff. Unfortunately, Asashoryu was too strong for him in the playoff, winning pretty easily by pushing Koto'oshu out. Asashoryu won his 6th in a row (only ever been done by one other wrestler) and his 14th overall (5th place all time).
Koto'oshu and Kisenosato, who won on day 15 to give himself a chance at the tournament at 12-3, both won Fighting Spirit prizes.

Final scores:

Yokozuna Asashoryu 13-2
Ozeki Tochiazuma 10-5
Ozeki Chiyotaikai 10-5
Sekiwake Koto'oshu 13-2
Komusubi Kotomitsuki 9-6
Komusubi Futeno 5-10 (ouch)
Maegashira #1 Hakuho 10-5 (will return to the top ranks next tournament)
Maegashira #5 Takamisakari 5-10 (back to the bottom of the rankings and a probable 9-6 record next tournament)
Maegashira #10 Asasekiryu 6-2-7 (too bad he got hurt, because he looked good when he was there. if he's healthy, he'll kick ass at the bottom of the list next tournament.)
Maegashira #11 Ama 9-6 (smallest wrestler might be overmatched next tournament)
Maegashira #16 Kisenosato 12-3 (would have been the youngest ever to win. we'll see if he's for real in the middle of the rankings next tournament.)

In Juryo, Baruto finished 12-3 and was the only wrestler to beat Juryo champion Toyonoshima. Expect him in the majors soon.

Posted by JoshHornik at 06:05 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2005

Remember who's the Yokozuna

Asashoryu shows Koto'oshu who's boss

In a match that lived up to the hype, Asashoryu temporarily righted the Sumo world by putting Koto'oshu in his place. Showing crazy quickness that no 300-pound Sumo wrestler should have, Asashoryu pulled off a miracle escape. Having gotten twisted around to where Koto'oshu had his belt and Asashoryu's back was to Koto'oshu (a position that almost always spells doom), Asashoryu shoved Koto'oshu backwards with his shoulder then broke free and spun himself around -- in about 1 second. He then got positioning on a disoriented Koto'oshu and spun him around and down by his neck.

It prevented Koto'oshu from winning the tournament (since Kisenosato had lost earlier), and it was good to see Asashoryu remind him who's the boss. But Koto'oshu still leads the tournament by 1 match with only 2 days left. Koto'oshu (12-1) goes up against Kisenosato (who still has a chance to win it all, at 10-3) tomorrow, then Chiyotaikai (also still in it at 10-3) on Sunday. Asashoryu gets the 2 Ozekis, Chiyotaikai and Tochiazuma (9-4) in the next 2 days.

My prediction: Asashoryu wins both, Koto'oshu loses both. Asashoryu wins the Asa slam without even needing a playoff.

Posted by JoshHornik at 10:41 AM | Comments (1)

September 22, 2005

Happy Birthday, Chachi!

Chachi at 44Today is Scott Baio's birthday. He turns 44 years old today, emphasis on OLD. Hard to imagine Fonzie's little cousin Chachi Arcola turning 44. Even Charles In Charge should never have made it to his 30's. Why, it even makes me feel old thinking about it.

Here's an anecdote I'm sure Chachi can relate to:
I was at the local pizza joint, a frequent lunch spot, grabbing a giant slice and a Coke, and trying to grab some time to read another chapter of The Lost Night (on sale in fine bookstores now). As usual, the restaurant soon became inundated with little punk Gen Y'ers (or are we up to Z by now?) from the high school down the road. So much for a peaceful lunch, I thought, in a curmudgeonly way. When my order was called out and I went to the counter to pick it up, the rugrats were surrounding the counter. I attempted to push my way through, reaching around one to grab my slice, when a girl screamed and jumped into a boy, who flinched and hit my plate right out of my hand and onto the floor. I fought off the urge to yell "DAMN YOU KIDS" and went instead with a withering glare, that surely put that whelp in his place.

And as I went back to my table to wait for them to make a new slice for me, I realized: I'm on the other side now. The adult. The old man. Pops.

So I guess I understand how Chachi feels today (maybe more like he felt about 9 years ago today). But at least Chachi got a part on Arrested Development (funniest show on TV -- Fox Mondays at 8PM). I wonder if he still wears that cool bandana around his thigh...

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

Sumo - Day 12

Quick Sumo update with 3 days to go.

Status quo on the top of the leaderboard, as Kisenosato, Koto'oshu and Asashoryu all won their matches. Koto'oshu continues to lead by 2 with only 3 days left.

The match of the tournament is the last match of the day tomorrow: Asashoryu vs. Koto'oshu. If Kisenosato loses his match earlier, then Koto'oshu will be going for the championship. If Asashoryu wins, however, he's only 1 back. And with Koto'oshu up against Chiyotaikai (who has looked great and is up to 9-3) on Sunday, anything is possible.

Exciting weekend ahead...

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:10 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2005

Asa Slam in jeopardy! Day 11

Big day in sumo today: Koto'oshu won his 11th straight, while Asashoryu and Kisenosato both lost, giving Koto'oshu a 2-match lead with only 4 days to go.

Although he will probably face Koto'oshu on Friday, Asahoryu's going to need someone else to beat him, too, to give him a chance at his 6th straight championship. Not looking good for that.

Koto'oshu looked strong in his match against Ozeki Tochiazuma (now 8-3), handling him pretty easily and pushing him backwards and out. Asashoryu couldn't do anything offensively and Aminishiki pulled a great move, tripping Asashoryu with his leg while pushing him back with his arms.

Tomorrow, Koto'oshu goes up against Hokutoriki (7-4) who has won 4 in a row. Asashoryu goes against Kotoshogiku (7-4). After that, the real matches start -- Asashoryu will face Koto'oshu on Friday, then the two Ozekis on the weekend. Koto'oshu will face Asashoryu, Chiyotaikai, and Kotomitsuki (I think). But Koto'oshu has a loss to give. At least, it will be exciting if Asasohryu beats him on Friday.

Posted by JoshHornik at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2005

Oscar Buzz - part 1 of way too many

The arrival of the autumnal equinox doesn't just mean Scott Baio's birthday is around the corner, it also means the start of the fall movie season, otherwise known as Oscar Buzz season. In which every serious movie that comes out will come complete with buzz about some performance or the film itself and its chances at an Academy Award.

Luckily for me, that also means the beginning of free movie screening season (because Oscar buzz requires word-of-mouth to grow), and I've recently seen 3 contenders.

Exhibit 1 -- deserving the buzz -- CAPOTE, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote in the story of the writing of his most famous work, In Cold Blood. This is a great movie boasting an interesting story, great writing, and tremendous acting across the board. Admittedly, I knew almost nothing about Capote going into this movie. I basically knew him as the guy who, in Annie Hall, walks by Alvy and Annie in Central Park, as Woody Allen says "there goes the winner of the Truman Capote lookalike contest." Therefore, I was fascinated by the portrait of Capote as an egotistical (if deservedly so) attention-seeker who ran with celebrities and literary types, and knew the story of In Cold Blood would make him more celebrated than ever. The direction of the film is great, holding the viewer's interest in both the Capote character sketch and the subject of In Cold Blood, a grisly multiple murder in Kansas. The writing is light and witty at times, and emotionally raw at other times.

But the film is mostly recommended by the acting performances. Included are pitch-perfect supporting turns by Bruce Greenwood, always-reliable Chris Cooper and Catherine Keener as Harper Lee. (The Catherine Keener charm offensive continues -- she plays a non-bitchy character in her second movie in a row. What gives?) The prisoners are just right, playing both menacing and pitiful. And the most Oscar buzz will certainly go to Hoffman, whose portrayal of Capote is nothing short of brilliant. As an impression, I hear he is "spot on". As a performance of a complicated human being, it is even better. Almost every line requires Hoffman to say one thing while almost successfully concealing Capote's true feelings or motives, and he manages to do it naturally and in character. Despite the voice and the affectation, Hoffman's peformance is what makes the character, and the movie, powerful and real.

Exhibit #2 -- less deserving -- OLIVER TWIST, Roman Polanski's new rendition of the Dickens classic. OK, I admit it -- I don't like Dickens, and I find his stories, especially Oliver Twist, to be meaningless and episodic. No surprise, then, that I found this movie meaningless and episodic. There just isn't enough emotional heft to make a viewer really care what happens to any of the characters, including Oliver. The film flies through his early life in the workhouse and various placements with such little depth that no sympathy can build up. Most of the movie is taken up with Oliver's time with Fagin and the gang, where it gets a little more exciting, but still lacks depth. The ending is abrupt, even with a tacked-on and unnecessary (except, perhaps, for building Oscar buzz for Kingsley) scene with Fagin in jail. Kingsley is great, though Fagin remains basically a caricature, and Jamie Foreman is just frightening enough as Bill Sykes. The child actors, including Oliver, unfortunately, are not so good. They make exaggerated faces and movements and seem anything but realistic. The period setting suffers the same way. The sets look very nice, but down to the rats and fistfights in the streets, it all seems like overacting.

Exhibit #3 -- Tim Burton's THE CORPSE BRIDE, which certainly deserves buzz for animated movie of the year. This movie is just plain fun and made me happy, even despite its dark subject matter. It looks great, has a small but tidy story, and is very funny. The songs by Danny Elfman are a little odd -- every time I thought I was about to hear a chorus, I was misled. It doesn't seem like a Shrek or a Toy Story, that you could watch over and over again, but it's got real charm.

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

Sumo - Day 10

As the sumo tournament enters its climactic final third, Koto'oshu remains on top. He still hasn't lost, running off a record (for a new Sekiwake) 10 straight wins -- most likely setting him up for talk of Ozeki promotion after next tournament. His sumo has improved, too. Today he was a little defensive but pulled off a sweet throw at the edge to win.

Meanwhile, Asashoryu keeps rolling. Since his shocking loss on day 1, he has looked basically invincible, with hardly any risk even of losing in any of his matches.

Also at 9-1, 19-yr. old Kisenosato, who is almost the lowest-ranked wrestler in the top division. Which means he hasn't had to face any of the best wrestlers, and at some point, they'll put him up against tough competition. (In other words, don't bet on him to win.)

The final contender is Ozeki Tochiazuma, at 8-2. He'll need some help to win it, but he goes up against Koto'oshu tomorrow and if he wins, there will be 4 wrestlers within 1 win of the lead.

Current standings:
10-0 -- Koto'oshu
9-1 -- Asashoryu, Kisenosato
8-2 -- Tochiazuma
7-3 -- Chiyotaikai (1 away from keeping his Ozeki rank), Hakuho (6 wins in a row)
4-6 -- Takamisakari

Posted by JoshHornik at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2005

Sumo Week 1

We are 7 days into the Sumo tournament now and right now, the stories are:

- Asashoryu lost on day 1. New Komusubi Futeno beat him -- the first time in over 3 years that Asashoryu had lost on day 1 (he was 1 win away from the all-time day 1 win streak record). Asashoryu has gotten himself together since then, winning all 6 of his matches and looking like his normal unbeatable self. Futeno, meanwhile, has lost 5 in a row after winning his first 2.

Asashoryu loses in huge upset on Day 1

- New Sekiwake Koto'oshu is 7-0 and leads the tournament by himself. Although his Sumo hasn't exactly been sterling -- he's doing more moving aside and letting people fall than actually knocking people down himself -- he has beaten everyone he's faced and has looked a little better the last couple days. He is also 1 win away from the record for consecutive wins to start a tournament as a new Sekiwake. Don't ask me why they keep those records.
- Kaio dropped out again due to an injury. Why doesn't he just retire already?
- Chiyotaikai is going to make it interesting in his bid to remain at Ozeki.
- Ozeki Tochiazuma, at 6-1, looks like he will compete for the championship to the end.
- Wakanosato was looking good in his return to Sekiwake, then got hurt and had to drop out.
- 19-yr. old Kisenosato is also 6-1.
- Bald Russian Sumo wrestler (and younger brother to Roho) Hakurozan is one ugly dude, and also not a very good Sumo wrestler.
- Estonian wrestler Baruto is causing a stir in the minor leagues. He's a monster -- almost 2 meters tall and 361 pounds of pure muscle -- and must also have some skill, as he's got his record to 6-1.

Current standings:
7-0: Koto'oshu
6-1: Asashoryu, Tochiazuma, Kisenosato
5-2: Kotomitsuki, oldest wrestler (37) Kotonowaka
4-3: Chiyotaikai, Hakuho, Roho
2-5: Futeno, Takamisakari

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2005

Asahoryu seeks Asa-Slam

Sumo's back! The September tournament starts this Sunday in Tokyo.

Like Tiger Woods with the Tiger Slam and Serena Williams with the Serena Slam before him, Asashoryu goes for a sweep of one full year's worth of tournaments -- a win would give him 6 in a row.

The other contenders are all the familiar names. At Ozeki, there's Kaio, Tochiazuma, and Chiyotaikai. Chiyotaikai is in his 40th tournament at Ozeki (3rd most in history) -- that's a dubious honor, because it means he's never been good enough to make Yokozuna. He's also fighting for the rank, once again. He needs 10 wins to stay at Ozeki. It's his 8th time in this situation, which is another unfortunate record he now holds. To underscore the lack of competition for Asashoryu, this is the 6th tournament in a row where at least one of the Ozeki's has needed 10 wins to keep his rank.

Bulgarian wrestler Koto'oshu has been promoted to Sekiwake, his highest rank ever. He has made the 2nd-fastest rise to this rank in history (fatso Konishiki was the fastest). Wakanosato is the other Sekiwake.

At Komusubi are Kotomitsuki (demoted after going 7-8 last tournament) and major up-and-comer Futeno. Futeno (the Kevin McHale of Sumo -- I just love saying that) is the guy who beat Asashoryu in the high school Sumo championships, and he was also a college champion.

In the Maegashira ranks, there's Hakuho at #1, who got dropped from the top ranks after getting injured last tournament. Expect him to come back strong with at least 10 wins. Kokkai is at #2 and Takamisakari is at #5.

Moving up the ranks and newly promoted to Sumo's 2nd level Juryo are Masatsukasa, who I mention only because I love that name, and Baruto (pictured), the first Sumo wrestler ever from Estonia.

Let's hope it's a good tournament, though I wouldn't be surprised to see Asashoryu win it all by day 12.

Estonian Sumo wrestler Baruto

Posted by JoshHornik at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2005

Jill Sobule at Largo 9/7/05

In trying to get friends to see last night's Jill Sobule show at Largo, I personally guaranteed she would be charming and hilarious and play great music. Although my proselytizing earned her no new converts, I went to the show myself and she didn't disappoint on any of the 3.

Playing a mix of old and new (Underdog Victorious and newer) songs on both her funny little guitar and a mandolin (an instrument that she admitted she "knew nothing about" and had bought only 3 days earlier), accompanied at times by her opening act Goldenboy playing bass, piano and drums, Sobule left the small but appreciative crowd satisfied and well entertained.

The highlights were the new songs, mostly because her backup musicians had actually rehearsed those songs and the fuller sound let Jill loosen the reins a little more. However, it was still the kind of show where an audience member could call out a request for an old, obscure song, and Jill could then spend a couple minutes with the band trying to remember the chords, then singing it (very well) with that same audience member holding up her laptop computer with the lyrics for her to read.

Largo is an intimate (read: tiny) venue, perfect for a performer as charming as Jill Sobule, who spoke freely with the audience about times Paula Cole was bitchy to her, her love for the show The Comeback, and her addiction to Christian Right-wing talk radio.

Finally, knowing Jill's liberal leanings, I went in expecting some amusing commentary on the administration's failings in New Orleans. But I didn't think she would already have a brilliant satirical song written about it. She did. Playing an upbeat hoe-down beat on her mandolin, she sang "High Five" -- a song in which George Bush commends his people on the great job they're doing. "Good job, Brownie. Hey buddy, high five." Truly hilarious, with lines about the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Iraq and their mothers who appreciated his private vacation time, and a line about sharing a drink on Trent Lott's new porch. It was so good, the crowd asked to hear it again later in the show (though Jill would only do it again if people danced the hoe-down jig she invented to go along with it).

And after all the funny and satirical songs, she closed out the night perfectly with the emotionally powerful Somewhere in New Mexico.

Charming. Hilarious. And great music. Tremendous show.

Posted by JoshHornik at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2005

Devin Davis -- Lonely People of the World, Unite!

Devin Davis - Lonely People of the World, Unite!It's been a good year for musical genius auteurs. People like Jack White, Brendan Benson, Sufjan Stevens, and the king of all indie musical genius auteurs, Conor Oberst, have all successfully put their visions on vinyl (or plastic, as I guess CD's would be) this year.

Now add to that list Devin Davis, who, with Lonely People of the World, Unite!, singlehandedly created one of the best CD's of modern but retro-rock instant classics you will find. Davis wrote the songs, played most of the instruments, and sang all the vocals. I guess, since he must have been down in his basement alone working on this music for some time, that it's fitting that it would be an album full of songs dedicated to loneliness and the lonely.

The lyrics are wild and inventive stories of relationships fleeting, past, or never-to-be. Included, and perhaps most representative, is the song Turtle and the Flightless Bird, which tells the tale of a turtle who comes upon a bird with a broken wing. They are a quirky, but beautiful, pair. The turtle sings:

We may not live up in the sky where the air gets scared when the planes go by but you can hop up on my shell when we crawl across the highway. 'Cause we might get flattened today but at least we lived here long enough to say "hey hey, you're the one for me."

This touching and heartwarming fable is quickly followed in the next verse by a story of love lost, where the narrator (perhaps, the turtle himself) drinks himself to sleep and rhetorically asks: Won't you ever come back to me? I haven't got what it takes to wait and see. The theme is repeated throughout the songs: You might find someone, or think you found someone, or want to find someone, but you will never get to be with him/her and we are all alone. In Paratrooper With Amnesia, inability to connect with someone is compared to inability to pull the ripcord (to save one's life as he falls). Giant Spiders is Davis' most optimistic song, with its clumsy but catchy chorus "I won't sit still 'til I'm upside down in the back of your eyes" and the confidence that the singer and his partner can survive everything from oil spills to nuclear holocausts to, of course, giant spiders.

Musically, the songs sound (in the best way) like the classic rock of the 1970's with fuzzy guitars and horn sections, and insistent hooks. Included are both straight-ahead rockers like Moon Over Shark City and When I Turn Ninety-Nine, and smooth ballads (Sandie, Deserted Eyeland) that build from acoustic guitars to large swelling choruses. The melodies are outstanding and despite what clearly is a highly produced sound (since it was one guy doing part after part by himself), the songs sound raw and alive. That is mostly due to Davis' vocals. He doesn't quite hit all the notes, though it's certainly not for lack of trying, and his ardent style fits the songs perfectly.

This is a true gem -- a coherent collection of resonant songs that happens to also contain, individually, some of the best 3-minute rock songs you'll hear these days.

The Turtle and the Flightless Bird

P.S. - Did I mention the 2-measure silence in the last song?!? It rocks!

Posted by JoshHornik at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2005

New T-shirt Design at the R. Pig Store

We have a new section in the Reclining Pig Store: OWLY the Inquisitve Owl.

Owly T-shirt for Kids

Posted by JoshHornik at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)