SPORTS: Same Old Jazz

Written by Adam Stevens on . Posted in Sports

If you’ve been paying attention to the NBA off-season this summer, it’s no secret that the short time since the NBA Finals ended has been fascinating with all the player movement. Shaq teaming up with LeBron, Ron Artest leaving the Rockets for the Lakers, Trevor Ariza opting for the Rockets over the Lakers, Rasheed Wallace joining forces with KG, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce in Boston, and Hedo Turkoglu leaving the Magic for Portland, then backing out of that and signing with Toronto — all of this activity has kept the NBA at the center of the sports world, and our own Utah Jazz have stayed right in the mix of things. After a decent draft, picking up guard Eric Maynor and center Goran Soutan, the Jazz hoped to solidify the team’s future by re-signing Paul Millsap. Last Friday, Millsap signed an offer sheet with the Portland Trailblazers. However, since Paul is a restricted free-agent, the Jazz had the opportunity to match the offer and keep him in a Jazz uniform for the next several years, and they did so.

For several weeks now, all ears have been abuzz with trade rumors surrounding Jazz All-Star forward Carlos Boozer. The most significant rumor had Boozer going to Chicago in a three-team deal also involving Portland, in which the Jazz would receive Bulls forward Tyrus Thomas, a former No. 5 overall draft pick. With both Boozer and Millsap’s contracts on the payroll, the Jazz will be paying approximately $80 million this year and will be over the league’s salary cap, meaning the team must pay a luxury tax to the NBA. But the Jazz brass made it clear they were willing do so in order to keep Millsap. So whether or not a deal is made to send Boozer packing and ease the burden of his salary is yet to be seen.

However, these NBA goings-on are not the only thing I wish to discuss. Several weeks ago I watched replays of the 2006-07 AFC championship game between the Colts and Patriots, followed by Super Bowl XLI (41 for you non-Romans) between the Colts and Bears. I remember the pain I felt watching the first half of the Colts-Pats game. My beloved Colts were being dominated and could do nothing right.  Or maybe New England could do nothing wrong. Either way, Indy seemed to be doomed to another loss to the Patriots after being down 21-3 at one point. Call it a miracle, call it luck, but I call it sheer willpower that brought the Colts to life, as the defense made huge plays against New England’s nearly flawless offense and allowed Peyton Manning to do what it is that has won him three NFL MVP awards. The Colts would ultimately win by a field goal and go on to face the Bears in the Super Bowl. The Chicago defense had been tops in the league all season, and they possessed a special teams weapon in Devon Hester, who wasted no time in showing the Colts’ special teams unit what he could do on the opening kick of the game: the Bears took a 7-0 lead without their offense even stepping on the field. The Colts would struggle against a daunting defense and hard rain, and trailed 14-6 at halftime. Once again, however, Peyton Manning corralled the troops and methodically led the offense to some quick second half points to get back in the game. Thanks to spectacular plays by their own defense, a couple fumbles by Chicago running backs and some terrible plays by the ever-incompetent Rex Grossman, the Indianapolis Colts rode on the backs of Manning and running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes to a Super Bowl victory.

Watching these games again made me think of the Utah Jazz and how they possess no such greatness. Yes, Deron Williams is one of league’s top three point guards and there is a lot of talent on the roster, but our poor Jazz lack some certain element of excellence. Certainly they’ve won enough games each season for the last 20+ years to make the playoffs and two finals appearances, but it’s been quite awhile since we’ve seen the home team in the Delta Center/Energy Solutions Arena show a killer instinct. Great teams in the NBA kick the snot out of the bad teams. The Jazz usually manage to squeak by and, if it’s a road game, they most often lose.  Great teams can become greater when faced with a large deficit. The Jazz make a few small runs, but still manage to post a double-digit loss. Great teams are able to rely on Derek Fishers, Trevor Arizas, Robert Horrys, Rajon Rondos, Josh Smiths, etc. The Jazz throw in Jarron Collins and hope he gets the rebound if Deron Williams misses the shot.  Is any of this sounding familiar? It should, because not only has it been a trend, but it will likely become a permanent fixture in this organization.  I’m not claiming to have any answers, but I am tired of seeing the same problem and nothing being done about it. The league is changing. The game is changing. The Jazz are not.

I am not challenging the greatness of Jerry Sloan or the ability of any of the team’s players, but rather calling to see more of each player’s ability. If the team doesn’t have the money to spend on big-time free agents, so be it. If Carlos Boozer is dealt (and all indicators say he will be), it is not likely that the Jazz will receive a player equal in ability to him at the power forward position, because there aren’t many. The game is changing and if the Utah Jazz must evolve with a different type of personnel at the power forward spot, then trading Boozer now could prove to be very exciting. You never know — we might see the emergence of CJ Miles and Ronnie Brewer as serious scoring threats. Kyle Korver’s shot should re-appear with more minutes on the court and undoubtedly Deron Williams will continue to dazzle us every time he touches the ball. Perhaps an escape from such methodical, pass-it-to-the-post basketball will spark a new fire in the team and bring a new brand of exciting basketball to Salt Lake City.

I’m only trying to be optimistic though. Realistically, trading Carlos Boozer leaves the Jazz with approximately zero low-post scorers (no, Paul Millsap cannot play the post like Boozer) and we could be looking at some long seasons of wins in the low 40s and some more No. 8 seeds — or even missing the playoffs altogether. The worst part is that we as fans can’t do anything about it.  We just have to wait and see.

Stay on your toes, sports fans. There could be some action waiting to take place with your Utah Jazz and it will likely have pretty dramatic effects on this coming season, hopefully for the better. But that’s why you have to keep watching — you never know what new intrigue lies in each new day of this wild and crazy NBA offseason. May the basketball gods (even though there are none) smile upon Utah this summer and, no matter what happens with our boys in Blue and White (not BYU), let’s keep filling those seats and being the best fans in the NBA.

Adam Stevens is an occassional sports contributor to Rhombus. He spends a lot of time thinking about the Jazz.

SONG OF THE DAY: July 16th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

This post marks the fourth entry of a new feature here at Rhombus: the Song of the Day. In an effort to bring you great music, both local and otherwise, and fulfill our goal of helping you expand your musical horizons to include the best artists available, we will pass along one Rhombus-approved song each and every day for your listening pleasure (barring global catastrophe.) These entries will be shorter than our normal articles, but we will do our best to provide you with the context and reasoning behind why we feel the included song is worthwhile and/or relevant to you. That being said, we hope you come back every day to check out a new song and enjoy reading Rhombus as much as we enjoy writing it. — Steve Pierce, Editor

Animal Collective, “Summertime Clothes”

I mentioned a few albums in yesterday’s “Song of the Day” piece that I considered early contenders for 2009 Album of the Year honors. Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was certainly in that group. The Brooklyn freak-folk band really hit its stride with Merriweather, striking the perfect balance between cutting edge artistic brilliance and mainstream accessibility, which is no easy feat. The album’s first single, “My Girls,” baffled some “average” listeners with its unconventional sound, but generally rocked the face of anyone willing to listen with an open mind.

Merriweather‘s second release, “Summertime Clothes,” is probably more “radio-friendly” (if people still listened to the radio, which they don’t) than its predecessor, but equally awesome. Boasting an arpeggiated synth line, driving beat and addictive melody, the song is pure bliss. The band’s decision to release it as a single last month was particularly timely, given the track’s subject matter. I mean, nothing screams “summer anthem” quite like a song devoted to seasonally appropriate wardrobe items. Sure, the song is about much more than article of clothing, but that’s all below the surface. Most people don’t want to work that hard or dig that deep: it is summertime after all. We just want to lose ourselves in a bouncy, feel-good jam — and Animal Collective provides that in spades.

SONG OF THE DAY: July 15th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

This post marks the third entry of a new feature here at Rhombus: the song of the day. In an effort to bring you great music, both local and otherwise, and fulfill our goal of helping you expand your musical horizons to include the best artists available, we will pass along one Rhombus-approved song each and every day for your listening pleasure (barring global catastrophe.) These entries will be shorter than our normal articles, but we will do our best to provide you with the context and reasoning behind why we feel the included song is worthwhile and/or relevant to you. That being said, we hope you come back every day to check out a new song and enjoy reading Rhombus as much as we enjoy writing it. — Steve Pierce, Editor

Dirty Projectors, “Cannibal Resource”

I’ll just throw this out there at the beginning: Dirty Projector’s might have made the best album of 2009 so far — and potentially of the whole year. Might. There’s some pretty stiff competition out there (Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest, Passion Pit’s Manners, etc.), but Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca is as good as any.

“Cannibal Resource” opens the aforementioned album with a big blast of fun and all-around awesomeness. The song features an off-kilter beat, jangly guitars and beautiful backing vocals that will “ooh” and “aah” their way right into your little brain and stay there. When it comes to the meaning of Dave Longstreth’s lyrics about “the arbitrary life,” your guess is as good as mine. Chances are I’ll never understand them, but that doesn’t mean this song won’t continue to karate chop me in the throat every time I hear it — in a good way.

SONG OF THE DAY: July 14th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

This post marks the second entry of a new feature here at Rhombus: the song of the day. In an effort to bring you great music, both local and otherwise, and fulfill our goal of helping you expand your musical horizons to include the best artists available, we will pass along one Rhombus-approved song each and every day for your listening pleasure (barring global catastrophe.) These entries will be shorter than our normal articles, but we will do our best to provide you with the context and reasoning behind why we feel the included song is worthwhile and/or relevant to you. That being said, we hope you come back every day to check out a new song and enjoy reading Rhombus as much as we enjoy writing it. — Steve Pierce, Editor

The National and St. Vincent, “Sleep All Summer”

I was turned onto this excellent cover just recently by one of my favorite writers, Nick Hornby, via his blog. It’s a mystery how I had remained ignorant of its existence before then: The National and St. Vincent are two of my favorite artists and the mere possibility of them collaborating somewhere in the world should have made my ears perk up like a Doberman hearing an inaudible dog whistle. (These things just happen sometimes.) That being said, the original version of “Sleep All Summer” was written and recorded by Crooked Fingers a few years back and is a formidable bit of musicianship in its own right.

However, this National/St. Vincent version — featured on SCORE!, a compilation celebrating the 20th anniversary of indie label Merge Records — surpasses the original in my mind. The voices of The National’s Matt Berninger and St. Vincent’s Annie Clark meld together beautifully, his deep, soulful baritone perfectly counterbalancing her heavenly pipes. The lyrics describe a melancholic longing without delving into depressing, Dashboard Confessional-esque fare; the maturity of the prose and the song’s persistently rapturous beat refuse to allow it to do so. The addition of an excellent (and tastefully restrained) horn section only makes this version ten times better than should be legally acceptable.

Bottom line: this song should be on your 2009 summer soundtrack. (Said season is in the title, after all.) And if it’s not, well, I don’t know if I can help you. Enjoy.

SONG OF THE DAY: July 13th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

This post marks the beginning of a new feature here at Rhombus: the song of the day. In an effort to bring you great music, both local and otherwise, and fulfill our goal of helping you expand your musical horizons to include the best artists available, we will pass along one Rhombus-approved song each and every day for your listening pleasure (barring global catastrophe.) These entries will be shorter than our normal articles, but we will do our best to provide you with the context and reasoning behind why we feel the included song is worthwhile and/or relevant to you. That being said, we hope you come back every day to check out a new song and enjoy reading Rhombus as much as we enjoy writing it.

Bon Iver, “Woods”

If you attended last Thursday’s Twilight Concert Series show at the Gallivan Center, you were treated to a phenomenal performance from Eau Claire, Wisconsin’s favorite sons, Bon Iver. The band’s beautifully sad sound pulls you in and holds you tight, enrapturing your mind and heart. “Woods” is probably not the most representative song to use in introducing the band to our readers, but I chose to use it anyway.

This song sounds different from every other Bon Iver song in the fact that it uses AutoTune software (see also: T-Pain) heavily. Normally, Justin Vernon and company eschew any technological enhancement, instead opting to play spare, stripped down folk songs with an unarguably organic feel. This is why “Woods” fascinates me so much: to hear such an anti-AutoTune band indulge in the practice so completely and use the resultant robo-vocals to create such a rich, layered feel is truly fantastic to me. If AutoTune should ever be used, Bon Iver should be the only ones allowed to do so. Some may hate this track on principle, but I hope you’ll at least give it a chance. I promise it can (and hopefully will) temporarily redeem AutoTune for the briefest of moments.

FILM: Your Boredom-Blasting Classic Movie List

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Film

Let’s pretend you have nothing to do (which is often the case when you are on the computer). Why not watch a movie? Now you may not want to go out to see some movie at the theater, and thinking up a classic might be too taxing and/or time-consuming. Well, since we here at Rhombus are so keen on making sure you have the resources to have a good time, I’ve included a list of some classic movies below that might help you make it through those late nights and lame-o Fridays.

Comedy

Tommy Boy — Dumb and Dumber — Ferris Beuller’s Day Off* — Anchorman* — Get Smart — Monte Python and the Holy Grail (definitely save this for a late night: it’s better that way) — Groundhog Day — National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — The Pink Panther w/ Peter Sellers (not Steve Martin) — Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery* — Spaceballs* — Ghostbusters — The Three Amigos — The Princess Bride — Ace Ventura: Pet Detective*

Action

Hunt for Red October — Braveheart* — Black Hawk Down* — The Bourne Trilogy (Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy, and Bourne Ultimatum) — The Indiana Jones Trilogy — Terminator 2* — Top Gun — Lord of the Rings Trilogy (you could definitely pull an all-night marathon) — Gone in 60 Seconds — Goldeneye — Gladiator* — original Star Wars trilogy — Back to the Future Trilogy — Alien* — The Last Samurai*

Romance

Casablanca (this is really old, but extremely well done; I totally recommend it) — When Harry Met Sally — The Notebook — It’s a Wonderful Life (a bit seasonal, but it’s still one of my favorites) — Ghost (you may want to take up pottery after watching this) — Pretty Woman* — Pride and Prejudice — Hitch — 50 First Dates — Return to Me — As Good as it Gets — My Big Fat Greek Wedding — How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days — Singing in the Rain — Sleepless in Seattle

Drama

Man from Snowy River — Dances with Wolves — The Godfather* — Lawrence of Arabia — The Shawshank Redemption* — Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — Dead Poet’s Society — Apollo 13 — Bridge over the River Kwai — Schindler’s List* — Life is Beautiful — Rocky I, IV — V for Vendetta* — Frequency — A Few Good Men*

*Rated R or excessive inappropriate content

Now these are just a few and obviously you may think of others. Most likely you will dispute the picks I have made, but guess what? This is where you come in…

Post a list of your favorite movies and recommendations in the comment space below. This could very well become a living database for great movies. So let me know what you think. Here’s looking at you, kid!

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus who also dabbles in film from time to time — but only when his righteous conservative fury subsides long enough to allow him to sit through one.

FILM REVIEW: Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

Written by Mckay Stevens on . Posted in Film

With the latest wave of Pottermania now crashing over the world with the release of the series’ sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, we thought it would be appropriate for Rhombus to weigh in with its first ever movie review. Film writer Mckay Stevens shares his thoughts and insights on the flick below. As always, you are welcome (and encouraged) to give us your thoughts and opinions in the comment box at the bottom of the page. We look forward to reviewing more movies and having a continuing conversation with our readers in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy Mckay’s review below. — Steve Pierce, Editor

I’ve been preparing my thoughts carefully. I want to be extremely cautious on what I am about to say, because I’m afraid of sounding like I did not like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Visually, Half-Blood Prince is the most stunning of all the franchise’s previous films. Everything is intricately and delicately placed right where it needs to be. The special effects are some of the best I have ever seen.

Half-Blood Prince seems to contain much more humor than its predecessors, and for good reason: the kids are growing up and starting to take notice of the opposite sex. This area of the film is very exciting to watch. It seems like just a small taste of what the franchise faithful have been so anxious to see. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, and I give credit not solely to the writers, but to the actors themselves. It is fascinating to watch the actors diving deeper into their characters as their characters dive deep into themselves.

The film’s acting is even more impressive than before. The “Big Three” are completely consumed in their roles and they make it nearly impossible to turn away from the screen while they are occupying it. Alan Rickman is outstanding (as usual) as Snape. Even though I think of the Sheriff of Nottingham every time I see him, it doesn’t matter because he’s just so cool.

Professor Slughorn (played by Jim Broadbent) is also a delightful addition to this film. He represents an essential part of the plot, but I enjoyed watching him for other reasons. He is a goofy old man falling off the edge of sanity and into the fathoms of senility, and he pulls it off with ease.

Viewers will finally find themselves free from the obnoxious bullying of Draco Malfoy in this chapter. Instead, he is granted more screen time, one-fifth the amount of lines and a deal-of-all-deals that will force him to face his biggest fears. Malfoy spends most of the movie alone and he succeeds in exploiting his inner dilemma, bringing it to the surface for the viewers to absorb.

I came to enjoy the acting of Daniel Radcliffe as the title character much more in this film. If you’ve already seen it (or read it), you’ll understand why. If not, let’s just say that Harry employs some bizarre methods for accomplishing his tasks and it’s just plain fun to watch.

The film’s story is both interesting and fun, but for some reason I found myself bored at certain points. Granted, this is possibly because I have never read the books and, therefore, my understanding and appreciation are limited. But I kept getting excited during the build-up of a big scene and then, before I knew it, the scene was over and I felt like nothing special had happened. It felt like there were a lot of people almost doing things throughout the whole movie — and then the movie was over.

But what I’ve realized in the hours since I saw the film is that it was a masterful setup for the two-part finale. The more I replay the movie in my head, the more I like it. There’s a lot of story to cover in two hours and thirty-three minutes, so there may not be as much action as you might expect from a Potter movie. It is a transition of both the characters and the whole story. Our favorite teenage wizards are maturing, getting romantic and realizing that great sacrifice will be necessary now more than ever before. The Dark Lord is expanding his kingdom and his legions, and his network will be too close for Hogwarts to remain a safehouse. The film appears to focus more on telling us what’s about to happen rather than what is happening right now.

And so, as nice as it was to watch the Olsen twins grow up on Full House, watching Harry, Hermione and Ron mature into their own powerful characters has been even more rewarding, with the greatest rewards beginning to present themselves in the hilarious and emotional Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Mckay Stevens is a film correspondent for Rhombus. He apparently enjoyed Full House more than most.

TECH: Best of the App Store: (Part 2: Games)

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

If you missed the first installment of “Best of the App Store,” you can check out part one here.

If you read part one of my “Best of the App Store” series, you will have noticed that this was intended to be a three-part piece. Well, two vacations later I realized that may have been especially ambitious. There was going to be one article about free games and one about paid games. I also discovered that I couldn’t find five free iPhone games that were worth my time and, therefore, yours. So I decided to combine the two into one, so I present to you “Best of the App Store: Games.”

Honorable Mention

  • Space Deadbeef (Free) — For me, this is the best pound-for-pound free iPhone game available. The game is a simple side-scrolling space shooter that boasts impressive graphics and a unique control scheme. Part of what makes this game so addictive is the way the levels are laid out. Essentially you play the same level over and over again. Every time you beat the level it increases the difficulty. Also, you have an unlimited amount of lives so when you die you can keep re-trying the level at the same difficulty. The game displays how many deaths you have and what level you are on so that you can compare your skill level with your friends. If you own an iPhone or iPod Touch and are looking for a free game, this is the one.

Top 5 Games

  • Tiger Woods Golf ($9.99) — I realize this game may not be for everyone. It is a sports game and it’ll cost you $10. However, it is absolutely phenomenal. It is a fantastic mobile version of the console game. The control scheme is great for the iPhone and the graphics are as impressive as I’ve seen. You are presented with a realistic golfing experience right on your phone. I’ve definitely gotten my $10 out of this game; if you like golf, you will too.
  • World Cup Ping-Pong ($0.99) — I love ping-pong. I have spent countless hours in my basement with my brother, destroying all hope in his soul with a barrage of power shots, drop shots and spinning serves — and I have never, ever enjoyed a ping-pong video game. Even the Wii Play version bored me instantly. So I was skeptical of this game, but I figured for $0.99, why not? What makes this game great is that it uses the touchscreen interface just as it should. Its simple: wherever you move your finger, the paddle follows, allowing you to feel like you’re in complete control of the paddle. Therefore, the precision that makes ping-pong a great game is present in a simulated version played on a 3.5 inch screen. There is a free “lite” version available that removes all the different levels of competition and tournaments available in the paid version. So if you want to give it a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose.
  • Flight Control ($0.99) — This game took the App Store by storm some weeks ago and has become a must-have for iPhone/iPod Touch owners ever since. The game is built upon a simple premise: there is a runway on the screen, various types of aircraft begin to enter the screen and you have to land them on the runway without crashing them by tracing their flight path with your finger. Sounds simple, but once more and more aircraft enter the screen it becomes quite difficult. Definitely give this one a shot. It’ll keep you trying to best your high score for hours.
  • Dropship ($1.99) — This game is a fun space shooter that has a slight learning curve, requiring some mastery of the controls. Once you have them down, you’ll find yourself spending hours and hours steering your spaceship around, trying to rescue fellow space cadets and shoot down alien fighters. This is a very fun space shooter and I highly recommend it. Definitely worth your $1.99.
  • Need for Speed: Underground ($6.99) — One of my favorite genres of games from the App Store is racing games. The steering control system is very fun and intuitive. There are plenty of racing games to choose from, but so far this one has been my favorite. The game features fantastic graphics for a game you are playing on your phone. It also features a surprisingly involved storyline and several types of racing modes. You also get the option of earning money to upgrade and customize your car, even down to the color. While its a bit pricey at $6.99, you get what you pay for here. Nothing less then a console-worthy racing game in the palm of your hand.

Well, that’s that. Enjoy!

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus. He apparently has nothing better to spend his money on than iPhone games. Follow him on Twitter at @ben_wagner.

SPORTS: 7 Reasons To Watch The MLB All-Star Game

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports

Based on the wild popularity of my previous baseball article, my dear editor decided to give me another opportunity to write about our national pastime. Believe it or not, it is an exciting time for baseball, because tonight the city of St. Louis is playing host to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. There have been many pundits who have denounced the game, saying that it has lost its magic. I beg to differ. This game is still a quality showcase of the finest talent the game has to offer, and unlike every other all-star competition, these guys actually show up to play. So sit tight and don’t make any plans, because the stars are coming out to play tonight.

7. One of the greatest baseball towns celebrating a great baseball tradition. I’ve been to Chicago and they’re too depressed because the Cubs never win. I’ve been to New York and all anyone talks about is how David Wright is not living up to expectations or who A-Rod is dating. Los Angeles could be a good baseball town, but its allegiance is split between two teams. St. Louis is a true baseball town. I watched a series the Cardinals played against the Rockies, and Busch Stadium was packed for every game. The fans in St. Louis are true baseball fans that are dedicated to their team, win or lose. If there is any city that can welcome the mid-summer classic with class, it’s the Gateway to the West.

6. Tim Lincecum. If you ever saw this guy on the street, you would never guess that he is the most dominant pitcher in the game. He measures 5’11’’ and tips the scales at 170 lbs, completely soaked. He is ranked in the top three of every major pitching statistic, including a league-leading 149 strikeouts and 3 complete games. Not bad for a guy who looks like he is 15. He is the starting pitcher for the National League tonight, so at least tune in for the first few innings to see this guy mow down the competition.

5. Obama Throws out the First Pitch. Throwing out a first pitch is a continuing presidential tradition that was established back with William Howard Taft. President Obama has already thrown out a first pitch, but that was back in 2008 at US Cellular Field in Chicago when he was a Senator. This will be his first official pitch as a president. Five bucks says he shorts it.

4. Albert Pujols vs. Roy Halladay. Gambling should never be allowed when these guys are playing, because it is a guarantee that they will perform. These guys are gamers. Pujols is arguably one of the best hitters ever, while Halladay has been the most consistent pitcher in the league over the past seven years. Put the two together and you have an epic battle on the diamond.

3. Bailey, Hawpe, Johnson… Who? Don’t know who these guys are? Watch the All-Star Game and find out. Andrew Bailey has been nothing short of dominant as a reliever for the Oakland Athletics.  In the 51 innings that he has pitched in relief, he has given up a minuscule 11 runs. Trust me, that’s pretty darn good. Brad Hawpe of the Colorado Rockies is the definition of clutch. His major league leading 33 RBIs with two outs is one of the reasons the Rockies have the fifth-best record in the National League. Josh Johnson is one of the best starting pitchers in the game, but gets little recognition because he plays for the Florida Marlins. I watched this guy outduel Johan Santana back in May at Citi Field and have been impressed with his stuff ever since. The All-Star Game is not only a showcase of known stars, but also some great up and coming talent.

2. An NL Victory… Maybe? The American League has been dominant in recent years, sporting an 11-0-1 record since 1997. I think the NL can squeak out a win this time around. They have a quality pitching staff with a lineup that has an insane amount of power. They’re also playing in a National League park, so this year might be the one.

1. No Manny, No A-Rod, No Problem. We can all thank the baseball gods that these two lowlifes aren’t on the big stage this week. Baseball is getting closer to a game without steroids and the quicker they can eradicate these cheaters, the better.

Now Bud Selig will try and tell you to watch the game so you can figure out who will have home field advantage in the World Series, but that’s a horrible gimmick. Watch the game so you can see the best talent this game has to offer and rediscover your love for baseball.

The MLB All-Star Game airs tonight at 6:00 p.m on FOX.

Jake Welch is a sports writer for Rhombus and also contributes to the magazine’s Munchmobile feature. He is destined to write articles defending baseball’s continued existence and/or relevance FOREVER.

COLUMN: "Alex, I'll Take Socialism For $400, Please…"

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

Have you ever watched one of those VH1 specials that highlights a child actor who grew up into a dismal failure that has a preferred customer card at the local Malibu rehab? (I’m sure you have, there’s been quite a few.) I’m talking about the programs where you watch and ask yourself, “What the heck happened?” Lately, I feel like CNN and The Post have began running the same sort of programming, only we’re highlighting our beloved Commander-in-Chief and the brainiacs on Capitol Hill.

Doesn’t it make you proud to see that the biggest success of the G8 summit was the priceless moment in which our dear president stood gazing at the hind quarters of a Brazilian intern while other world leaders looked on in amusement? Sure, Obama has been soaring from Kremlin to the Coliseum, but the best thing he could discuss was the reduction of nuclear weapons? Sure, the middle east is still in shambles and the world is facing mass depression, but let’s all step back a decade or two and pretend we’re Gorbachev and Reagan.  My guess is that President Obama was catching up on reruns of 24 and felt he needed to give Jack Bauer a helping hand by trying to reduce the amount of nukes available to those bad guy terrorists.

If that isn’t enough, there seems to be a disconnect between Capitol Hill and the rest of the nation. According to a recent Gallup poll:

  • 47 percent of Republicans consider themselves to be more conservative, while only nine percent feel they are more liberal.
  • 37 percent of independents consider themselves to be more conservative, while only 19 percent feel they are more liberal.



And this is the kicker:

  • 34 percent of Democrats say they have become more conservative over the last few years, while only 23 percent have shifted to a more liberal viewpoint.



So there is a general exodus towards the Right. Hmmm. Sounds to me like we had better be listening up to the masses then? But no-can-do, we’ve got to rescue the economy. Apparently, the answer is spend more money, tax the so-called “rich” and basically blow it on ivory policies anyway. According to The New York Times, House Democrats are going to be knocking on the doors of the wealthiest Americans, asking for a extra tax burden amounting to the whopping sum of $550 billion.

Now, for those of you keeping score at home, let’s take a look at the board: so far, the House has tried to push through a health care bill that was aimed at requiring small business owners to provide health care compensation for both their part- and full-time employees.  Democrats were dancing and singing that the new plan would cost $52 billion over 10 years, but in 2007 alone we spent $2.6 trillion dollars for the same type of health care. How can we cover the price tag for socialized health care if the program will only kick back $52 billion per year? I imagine Newt Gingrich almost fainted when he heard the U.S. was going to make a genius investment like that.

So what are we going to do? How about a new tax! That always works, right?  Like daddy always said, “You don’t spend what you don’t have, unless it’s someone else’s money!” If you’d like to see people receive health care, provide larger tax breaks for the “Ma and Pop’ businesses of America that are already struggling to get by . We need to create incentive for these small businesses to grow and expand, not penalize them for the good jobs that they’re doing; and should this new tax pass, you may see money circulate to the public for a while, but you’ll most likely see an overall rise in unemployment and a continued barrage of small businesses closing their doors. It seems as if we’re all stuck in a bad episode of Saturday Night Live’s version of “Celebrity Jeopardy” and we’re losing more and more with each bad decision. Who knew socialism would be so pricey?

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. He always roots for Sean Connery when watching “Celebrity Jeopardy.”