Some controversy this weekend in the finals of the NCAA wrestling
tournament. The championship bout at 165 lbs. featured
defending NCAA champ Johnny Hendricks of Oklahoma State and undefeated
number one seed Ryan Churella of the University of Michigan.
It's difficult to tell how things went down from still pictures, but I
think the three here are worth looking at. The bout was 4-3 in
the second period when Churella locked up a cradle off a Hendricks shot
and seemed to have him pinned before time ran out. Referee Gary
Kessel didn't call the pin and surprisingly awarded only two backpoints
instead of three.
Going into the third period, Churella had a 7-4 lead and Kessel awarded
Hendricks two takedowns to give him the match 9-8. Here is the
takedown that caused the most controversy as it appears Hendricks
didn't have control.
But Hendricks was awarded the championship and Oklahoma State won their
fourth title in a row. Here is the team photo.
Movie romances can be a huge pain in the ass for screenwriters.
Working on them are some of the least enjoyable moments I have
when working on scripts. First off, you oftentimes don't have any
say in the matter. Yeah there are categories of films that don't
have romances in them (kids movies, horror movies, etc), but whenever a
romance can be shoehorned in (and even when it can't) a love story plot
will be added.
And the thing is, two people getting together and falling in love is
not the aspect of a script or movie that's selling it. At least,
it's not the original, different component that intrigues people
because they haven't seen it before.
is that the requirements of movie love stories are so specific that
you're not really allowed much variation in concocting them.
That's not to say that it's easy to crank them out. It's always
difficult to make an audience WANT to see two folks to get together.
And it's not just the beats of the love story itself that can be
troublesome (boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back)
but also that you have to work so hard to make the characters
relentlessly worthy of each other that they can wind up being kind of
The thing that movie romances seems to stress
above all else is clarity. You have to show the audience that
these two people are perfect for each other. Even when there's
competing suitors involved. Check that, ESPECIALLY when there's
competiting suitors involved. The devices that illustrate the
complimentary nature of two characters often feel quite perfunctory and
unearned to me. What it usually comes down to is that a
normal-looking guy is able to relate to a pretty female on a casual,
often humorous level, whereas the granite-jawed, humorless he-man that
she starts off with just doesn't "get" her.
Here are a few examples.
WEDDING CRASHERS - Owen Wilson can play the slap game with Rachael
McAdams and her fiance can't be bothered to do something so silly.
SAY ANYTHING - I know I'm going to be swimming upstream on this one,
but I had a lot of trouble with the "don't step on the glass"
thing. It just doesn't seem like any kind of genuine measuring
stick of kindness. It's difficult for me to envision Ione Sky
with a guy so sinister that he'd see glass on the ground and
intentionally withhold the information so he can gleefully witness his
date stepping on it. TITANIC - You see, Leonardo DiCaprio can spit with Kate Winslet but Billy Zane is too stuffy to loosen up and just have fun.
WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON - Topher Grace has memorized Kate
Bosworth's "six kinds of smiles" but Tad Hamilton hasn't. I
really didn't buy this one. He' studied her relentlessly.
So what? Pretty passive, non-proactive reason for winding up with
I'm sure there are others equally as annoying. If you think of any good ones, please add them to the comments.
You know what really does stand out to me as a good example of one of
these moments? A BRONX TALE. Chaz Palmenteri warns "C"
about girls who get in the passengers seat of a car where the driver's
door is locked and don't unlock it for their date. When Jane gets
into the car and unlocks the door for "C", it really worked for me as a
moment that shows his interest in her is justified.
I figured I'd follow up on my (admittedly nitpicky) criticism of "The
40 Year Old Virgin" with an old story of real-life
toy-auction-drama. In 1999, I saw a photo of a toy I had never
seen before. It was called "Cosmos 2000" and falls into the
category of "Jumbo Machinder" toys.
I collect these guys quite actively and my mind is often on those which
are not in my collection. I am constantly on the lookout for them
and that one appeared that I didn't know about says something.
That's not to say that it hasn't happened before (or since). As
the collectible toy market has increased in efficiency over the years,
many discoveries have been unearthed in the world of Jumbo
Machinders. With such discoveries, however, it's not been
uncommon for collectors bid feverishly on the first one, only to see
several other specimens auctioned off in the ensuing
However, with C2K, there was quite a
dry spell before another one surfaced. I checked eBay with great
regularity but discovered too late that there are different eBays
across the globe. Searches on the U.S. eBay site don't
generate results in other countries. Long story short, another
one went up for auction in Belgium, few people saw it and I missed
out. I kicked myself for a long time for being so ignorant about
foreign eBay sites.
So after finding out about all
these other eBays, I saved a slew of new bookmarks. After several
years, one did come up for auction in France. Knowing that other
Machinder collectors would soon spot the auction, I made an inquiry to
the seller to see if he'd end the auction early and just sell it to
me. He didn't speak a word of English and I didn't speak a word
of French, so for all my emails to him, I'd type my text in the
Altavista Babblefish translator, translate it into French and then cut
and paste the text into the body of my email.
opening bid of the auction was 1 Euro, so I suspected he didn't really
know what he had. This is the sort of toy that really seems
worthless. It's flimsy, simple, not representative of any TV
character and quite docile-looking (a trait uncharacteristic of the
heroic and aggressive super robots of the 1970s.) I have to think
that it not being an obvious winner with kids is why it was apparently
produced in such small numbers. Wanting to entice him to sell it to me,
but not tip my hand that this toy was a big deal, I made him an offer
of 90 Euros. He surprised me by saying yes.
how much is it really worth? It's very difficult to tell.
None of the four known specimens have had a chance to reach market
value. Although it's rare, I think more specimens of this toy
will show up. Again, it's the type of toy where the owner isn't
going to know what he's got.
I was quite glad to have
crossed Cosmos 2000 off my want list and even more glad to have gotten
such a deal on him. However, although I've had this guy for a
while now, my C2K hunting is not at an end. The third specimen
of this guy that was discovered had the exact OPPOSITE color pattern: a
red body with blue limbs and a blue head. So I've still got to
track down that one. Sigh.
So I finally saw The 40 Year Old Virgin,
one of the two R Rated comedies from last summer that were big
hits. Let me start off by saying that I enjoyed the movie.
I thought it meandered a bit much story-wise, but films like this live
and die by the comedy and I thought there were a sizeable number of
solid jokes in the flick.
In the set up of the
character of Andy Stitzer, we learn that he's a toy collector.
Being a toy collector myself, this kind of thing gets my
attention. Andy has toys on display all throughout his apartment,
much like the office from which I'm writing this blog entry right
now. In the course of the movie, Andy meets Trish, a woman who
works at a store that takes items that people want to sell and auctions
them off on eBay on their behalf. As they get to know each
other, Trish informs Andy that his toys are actually valuable and that
if he would allow her to auction them off for him, he could make a lot
of money - enough money to get going on his dream of running his own
hi-tech equipment store. Andy is surprised to learn this and they
Wow. Where to begin? I suppose first off, let me
say that I don't think that the research required to accurately gather
the specifics of this plotline is that extensive. Look around on
the internet, make some calls... It's just not that difficult to get it
right. We see a lot of Andy's toys throughout the course of the
film, and, believe me, they're mostly junk. Through the
experience that Trish has gained via her eBay store, she estimates that
Andy could get $100,000 from his toy collection. But this turns
out to be a vast undervalue as we learn during their wedding that the
final tally was closer to $500,000.
But let's not
just take my word for it, let's look at eBay itself. Here are
links to active auctions on eBay for the items that are shown in the
movie. I've customized the links to show the highest priced items
first. Granted, auctions for quality items see most of their
action in the last few minutes, but I'm telling you this stuff is
mostly garbage. If you are still skeptical, bookmark any auctions
you like and then take a look at them after they close.
- Andy has a lot of Toy Biz action figures made within the last fifteen
years (Hulk, Elektra, Dr. Doom, Spider Man). Most of these toys
are difficult to give away on eBay. For "Toy Biz" there's
currently over 3000 listings and by the end of the first page, the
items (once again, listed by price in descending order) are down to
fifteen bucks MEGO IRON MAN - Andy's specimen is Mint In Box, but this figure is really not noteworthy in the Mego pantheon. If he had ten Mego Zorro figures (or even just one) then I'd be impressed. Or at least not so underwhelmed. MEGO AQUAMAN LOOSE
Even though Andy's specimen has no box (or card, which is MUCH more
valuable), he acts like it's a big deal that his still has the
gloves. Okay...that brings it up to 21 bucks OSCAR GOLDMAN FIGURE
Yes, it is worth more than the loose Steve Austin in the OSU undercover
outfit that Andy also has, but there's a lot of O.G.s around. And
getting one really won't break the bank. The tough S.M.D.M
toy to find is the Venus Space Probe. VINTAGE G.I. JOE
They say he's got 47 of them in the movie. All mint in box.
Trish says she sold one for a thousand dollars. That's certainly
not impossible, but most Joe's are worth considerably less. The
inference you get from the movie is that's 47 grand right there and
that's simply not the case.
Andy has a lot of monster stuff,
(Creature from the Black Lagoon bust, Mummy standee, etc) but most of
it looks like it's all recent and not any kind of holy grails.
In a fight between the two of them in the third act, Andy says that he
really doesn't want to sell his toys and feels like Trish is just
trying to change him. I found this to be an interesting and
realistic scene (I know of divorces that have come from toy
collecting). But after thinking about it, I believe it's just
subtext. Andy's not really mad about selling his toys, but rather
is upset that he's a virgin. I'll accept this as a part of his
character arc - he's still a virgin because he hasn't been able to
"grow up," but it's still a bit insulting. I speak from
experience when I say there are indeed adult toy collectors in the
world who are not virgins.
I admit that Andy
ultimately getting rid of his stuff is realistic as there are indeed
adults who pussy out and auction off their toy collections, even when
it's not an issue of money. At the end of this month, there's
going to be an auction for Leonardo DiCaprio's collection. It's
got some good stuff in it - way the hell better than Andy's collection
- but we're still talking well below a hundred grand.
By far, the most ridiculous aspect of the toy collecting plot of T40YOV
is that Trish is able to offer Andy any kind of insight at all about
online toy auctions. The internet has changed toy collecting for
all eternity and toy collectors live and die by eBay. A guy like
Andy would have hundreds of auction searches bookmarked and would be
monitoring auctions constantly - even if it's stuff he already has and
even if he isn't looking to sell. Moreover, it's a stretch that
Trish is any kind of an expert at all on high-end toys. The stuff
that gets brough into eBay stores is junk that people just want to get
rid of. I simply can't picture someone with an incredibly rare
G.I. Joe who's taken the effort to keep it mint-in-box saying "Gee, I'd
like to sell this on eBay, but I just don't get raped enough by their
commissions. If only there were a way, I could give up an even
larger percentage of the sale to yet another middleman."
"Hold on a second, Judd. Before we being filming, is that a REAL "Mars Attacks" action figure? I'm not sure how I feel about exposing an artifact like that to light."
Here it is. The greastest, most famous throw in the history of
the sport: Wilfred Dietrich tossing Chris Taylor in the 1972
Munich Olympics. There are many stories about Dietrich greeting
the 420 pound American with a hug in the Olympic village to see if he
could get his arms around the giant and if the throw was even
conceivable. It was...
I recently finished the wonderful book The Napoleon of Crime:
a biography of Adam Worth, the greatest thief of the Victorian
age and the model for Sherlock Holmes arch nemesis, Professor Charles
Moriarity. Worth's saga is relentlessly fascinating, but just as
big a player in his story is Georgiana Spenser, the Duchess of
Devonshire, or rather a painting of her done by Thomas
The saga of this portrait is insanely dramatic. Georgiana and the
Duke had a marriage that was essentially a menage a trois with her
husband's mistress. But when she became pregnant with another
man's child, the Duke threw her out and got rid of Gainsborough's
remarkable portrait of her.
The painting didn't surface again until the autumn of 1841 when it was rediscovered by John Bentley.
"An astute art connoisseur, Bentley owned a thriving dealership in the
metropolis and was much in demand as a valuer of Old Masters.
Over the course of his career, for pleasure and profit, he had made it
a rule to spend a few weeks in every year wandering through the small
villages and towns of England, making inquiries as to whether any of
the local residents had works of art or other antiques they wished to
value or sell. Many a bargain was to be found in this way, and
the practice enabled Bently to shed, for a while, the cares and strains
of metropolitan life in a bucolic and nomadic quest for art."
Being a collector myself and having traveled far and wide in search of
my own treasures, the images conjured by the above paragraph greatly
move me. It's certainly a more glamorous manner of
acquiring than simply winning something on eBay from your home while
eating Cheetos. One can only imagine Bentley's joy upon
discovering the painting in the home of Anne Maginnis, who had no
idea of its importance and had chopped off the legs so that it could
fit above her mantleplace.
The rediscovered, if
mutilated, Gainsborough ultimately went up for auction in 1876 and the
Duchess was all the rage in London. About a hundred years after
its completion, it made a huge impact on Victorian fashion and suddenly
large hats with ostrich feathers were everywhere. Moreover all
men who saw her were smitten with Georgiana. When the auction
finally took place, the bidding was furious and set a record for the
price ever paid for a painting (until 1893).
But while the
winners of the auction put the Duchess on display, Adam Worth stole it
in order to raise money to get his brother out of prison. But as
fate would have it, the officers who arrested Worth's brother made
procedural errors which set him free. So Worth now had his
brother's freedom and the Duchess. So he kept it. He
put it in a false-bottomed trunk and it traveled the globe with
him. He didn't return it to the owners until TWENTY FIVE YEARS
Once returned, it was sold to one of the
wealthiest men alive, J. Pierpont Morgan. Morgan, like Worth,
essentially kept Georgiana all to himself as did his children. It
wasn't until 1994, when Morgan's last grand daughter died, that the
painting of Georgiana went up for auction again. Once again the
bidding was intense and the painting went for a staggering amount to
the representative of a bidder who insisted on having her: The Duke of
Devonshire. So, after two hundred years of being cast out of her
home, the Dutchess returned to Chatsworth House, where she rests today and is on display to the public.
So moved by the drama of this tale, that I couldn't help but want to
learn more about Gainsborough. As luck would have it, there's an exhibit of Gainsborough's "Cottage Door" paintings right now at the Huntington Garden and Library
in Pasedena. I went this past weekend and was quite blown
away. Much in the way that his portrait of the Duchess spawned a
slew of imitators, his paintings of cottages appear to have started and
equally popular trend. Many other cottage paintings by other
artists were on display at this show, but none could really hold a
candle to Gainsborough. The dramatic contrast of his dark
settings and the warm flesh tones of his figures are really something
to behold. I'm going to have to see more of his work. And
one day I just have to see the "Duchess" in person.
In the early nineties, as the standup boom was declining and
alternative comedy was about to take root, there was kind of a backlash
against "slick comedians. What I think had happened was that
standup had gotten so popular that comedians - even those of little
experience - could get so much stage time that they'd be able to
successfully work the road without an act of note...and become very
polished in a short period of time. Moreover, because most folks
going out to a comedy club aren't comedy experts (i.e. able to discern
what material has already been covered by others) a decided lack of
originality popped up in these acts.
Consequently, all these guys who could work a room even if he had an
act not dissimilar to the guy who was there the week before began to
get TV spots. Standup shows were ubiquitous and these slick road
comics were in people's living rooms with great regularity.
...And then, people got sick of them, wanted something different and
the standup world fell apart.. Personal impact aside, I
found the trend rather sad, since I think there's a lot to be enjoyed
from slick comedians ( comics who work very hard to devliver it as
prefessionally as they can) provided they actually have a good
act. And many slick comedians of the day did.
the slickest of them all was Dennis Wolfberg. Wolfberg was very
popular during the boom in standup, had very solid material and was on
TV all the time. Some people didn't like him because of how much
he'd over ennunciate and contort his face while delivering his
jokes. But he was really a cut above most in terms of
technique. He was definitely one of the most methodical
comics ever to pick up a mic.
He was not a big
favorite of the staffs of many of the clubs in which he'd work.
This was because, unlike many headliners, he wouldn't mix his act up
and suddenly bring out fifteen minutes of old material in the middle of
the week if he got bored. Even on a second show Friday night,
he'd still be tweaking the set he'd been doing since he got into
town. The refinements he would make to his act over the course of
a week were definitely with fine grain sandpaper - and most
people wouldn't even notice them if you weren't paying close attention.
Every breath, every flick of his tongue was planned out, tested and
He would kill just about all the
time. I mean really crush a crowd. Yet after each and every
show he would leave the stage and furiously take notes on the
performance. If you were working with him, you'd be like "Dude,
what are you writing? I think you got it down."
the place where his technical skills really stood out wasn't so much in
delivery, but rather structure. Dennis Wolfberg was, by far, the
single greatest seque artist I have ever seen. Over the years,
lots of comics have made fun of segues (most notably,Doug Benson's very, very funny bit on them). However, segues can truly be a powerful ally to a comic.
When one joke doesn't go over, a great amount of audience discomfort
can be dispelled if it comes across like the bit was just leading up to
something else. That it's okay if you didn't laugh, because it
wasn't the REAL point, but rather just an amusing warm up. With
Dennis Wolfberg, for forty-five minutes it really felt like he was
talking about one thing. I've never really seen anyone with that
kind of a refined flow.
Moreover, his 5 minute TV sets were
very tight. One of his appearances on the Pat Sajak show was one
of the best TV spots I've ever watched.
Dennis Wolfberg died of cancer in October of 1994. The relentless
road warrior that he was, he had been performing in clubs up until
August of the same year.
Here's an interesting article
on comedian Dane Cook and his new deal with HBO. Regardless of
what you think of Mr. Cook as a comedian, what a pioneer for the world
of standup. He's really shown the possibilities of promoting a
stand up comedy act through the internet. There may come a time
when other standups have a webpage as amazing as his, but for now Dane Cook's website rules the universe.
This is a huge weekend for college wresting as most of the conference tournaments go down today and tomorrow. My latest article for Revwrestling.com is live which discusses the top twelve potential matchups in these conference tournies.
Since I'm already on the subject, I need to give a mad shout out to my old high school team, which has qualified for the state semi final
next week. Massachusetts has set up a new system this season in
which team points are no longer kept during the individual tournaments
(which take place on the weekends) and the rounds of a dual meet state
championship occur weeknights inbetween. I'm not sure I think the
system is completely working, but I'm really impressed with
Framingham's success in it so far. Go Flyers!