Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why the BCS Sucks

I am like many who feel that the BCS is a huge joke that robs fans and college football teams of a real chance to win the national title. Imagine any other sport, professional or collegiate, that allows a biased and imperfect ranking system to determine which team is the National Champion. It wouldn't happen in the NFL, NBA or any other college sport. That is the main reason that the BCS system needs to go. It would be unthinkable to any sports fan for the NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament to be done away with in favor of an arbitrary ranking system that allowed only two chosen teams to play for the championship. Anything is possible if there is a playoff, but instead we get whatever SEC team that wins the conference title, and a Big 12 or Pac 10 team in the BCS Championship, while other, possibly more deserving teams get relegated to lesser bowls. It still angers me that the great Utah team that beat mighty Alabama in the Sugar Bowl a few years back didn't get a chance to play for a title and wound up at number two at season's end.

The system is flawed beyond belief and even as those in favor of it try to make valid arguments for it, we all know the real reason why they want to keep the status quo. Money. Money is the driving force behind why we don't have a playoff in college football. The big automatic qualifying conferences want to keep it a closed shop so that they can line their pockets, but year after year the AQ conferences are challenged by the TCUs and Utahs and Boise States of the world, and a mockery is made of the precious BCS. You can't sit here and tell me any ACC or Big East team is better than either TCU or Boise State this year because they aren't. Unless the big time conferences get their act together and put some good football teams on the field, the argument for keeping the current format gets thinner every year.

I hope that eventually teams will have the opportunity to have a playoff and see who really is the best team in the country. For now, it seems we are left wondering whether or not we have seen the best matchups the NCAA has to offer. The almighty dollar rules the landscape, not the spirit of honest competition.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasance

Few movies are more fun to watch than this one. Based on a true story that inspired a popular book and then this film, The Great Escape is a rousing adventure about British and American POWs in a German camp during World War II. Unhappy with many escape attempts by their prisoners, the Germans put all the best escape artists in one super camp to keep a very watchful eye on them. It isn't a stretch to guess what happens when all the top escape artists get together- they plan to escape.

Leading the escape is British Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Attenborough) who is also known as 'Big X.' Under Bartlett's supervision each aspect of the escape is planned out to the nth degree, as the prisoners work to free 250 men. Among the fabulous cast of characters are Henley (Garner) who serves as the Scrounger, helping to obtain anything the men may need. There is also Cavendish, the Surveyor, Danny (Charles Bronson) and Willy who work as the Tunnel Kings, Sedgewick (James Coburn), the Manufacturer and Blythe (Pleasance), the Forger. Working on his own is Capt. Hilts (McQueen), whose many escape attempts land him in solitary confinement and earn him the nickname of 'Cooler King.' Menacing the prisoners is Kommandant Von Luger, who thinks any escape attempts from his compound are futile.

The Great Escape is full of great action, suspense, humor and various story lines about the many aspects that go into the massive escape effort. The film can really be divided into two halves, the prep work before the escape, and the aftermath of the escape. Both sections of the film are great, but the tone changes from suspenseful and expository to action packed. Even though the film seems tame by today's standards there is a great sense of tension during the actual escape as the Germans threaten to discover it. I always get sweaty palms during certain scenes even though I know the outcome. Also, the action scenes are as good as anything in today's action films. I am speaking mostly of Hilts' skillful motorcycle riding as he evades Nazi pursuers.

If you have an appreciation for the action genre or World War II, this film will satisfy on both counts. McQueen's reputation as an action star was cemented with his work as the 'Cooler King.' The Great Escape serves as a who's who for stars from this time period, and even the minor roles are filled by superb actors who bring a sense of camaraderie and realism to the film.

Things to Watch for-

Elmer Bernstein's iconic musical score
Flying Officer Ives (aka The Mole)
Tom, Dick and Harry
Potato vodka
Ya vas lyublyu

"I was trying to cut my way through your wire because I want to get out."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanks for this

Thanksgiving is the time where we sit down, eat a ton of food and attempt to enjoy our families. What makes it different from every other day of the year is that we take a moment to give thanks for all the things we are grateful for. Here is my list.

I am thankful for Edamame, that is some awesome soy bean goodness. Costco sells them in small frozen pouches.

I am thankful for the fact that my Fantasy Football team has rebounded nicely from an 0-2 start.

I am thankful for my toaster oven. It does things a toaster and a microwave can't do.

I am thankful that I have a great group of friends.

I am thankful for the fact that I am close with my family and don't dread seeing them. I know many people don't get along with their families and that is sad to me.

I am thankful when my dog does his 'business' quickly on cold mornings.

I am thankful for Hooked on Phonics. It worked for me.

I am thankful for Tylenol. It saved my ass recently when I had a wicked bad cold.

I am thankful for Facebook. I'm not sure how I wasted time before it came along. I guess it was T.V., but I can't remember.

I am thankful for the internship I had at KUER this summer. It was one of the best and most interesting experiences of my life.

I am thankful that I have a job and am not unemployed anymore.

I am thankful for stuffing and mashed potatoes- they are the best part of Thanksgiving dinner. Just ask the pilgrims.

I am thankful for my wife's Pumpkin pie. It is the best- don't try to dispute me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book of the Month

This Month,


By C.S. Forester

This is the first of eleven books about Horatio Hornblower, an officer in the British Navy and his adventures during the Napoleonic Wars. While this is the first book in the chronology of Hornblower's career, it is actually the sixth one written by author C.S. Forester, who also wrote The African Queen. Unlike the other books in the series which deal with one long narrative over the course of the book, this one is episodic and features ten separate vignettes about Hornblower's early career.

The entire series, and indeed this book, are fabulous works of historical fiction. Hornblower's adventures are set against the backdrop of real events, and paint a very accurate portrait of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. When we first meet Hornblower, he is a seasick new midshipman who is coming on board his first ship, the HMS Justinian. It is hard from the first story to see anything of the great commander that Hornblower will become in the later books. He is a sad, withdrawn and pathetic officer who struggles to feel at home in the navy.

It isn't long, however, until he is transferred to the HMS Indefatigable under the command of his great mentor, Captain Edward Pellew. Under Pellew's watchful eye we see Horatio distinguish himself in some fun and dangerous adventures. Among the more exciting reads are the chapters entitled, Hornblower and the Cargo of Rice, Hornblower and the Man Who Felt Queer, and Hornblower and the Examination for Lieutenant. Despite some adverse circumstances, poor decisions by the young officer and a liberal dose of dumb luck, by the end of the book it is clear that Hornblower is going to become a great commander that will be the stuff of (fictional) British Naval legend.

If you are at all interested in the Napoleonic Era or the British Navy, the Hornblower books are a great read. I prefer them to the Master and Commander series by Patrick O'Brian because they are much less heavy on the terminology of ships and seamanship. While to O'Brian books are great, the Hornblower books are more about the characters and the adventures and do not require reference books to get through them. Ahoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Al Pacino, Chris O'Donnell, James Rebhorn, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Nothing says Thanksgiving like the adventures of a prep school kid and a blind, alcoholic Army colonel. Set around the upcoming holiday, this film is funny, charming, touching and inspirational all at the same time. As Lt. Colonel Frank Slade, Al Pacino delivers one of his greatest performances, as does a young Chris O'Donnell who plays the naive prep school student, Charlie Simms. The two get paired up when Charlie agrees to take a job taking care of the blind Col. Slade over Thanksgiving weekend to make some extra money.

It becomes clear that Col. Slade has big plans for their weekend together, and he forces Charlie to help him travel to New York for a wild time that will serve as the lonely man's last hurrah. As Slade wines, dines and dances his way through the big city, Charlie struggles with keeping the Colonel under control as well as with some disciplinary issues that await him back at school. Charlie learns a lot about life from Col. Slade over their time together, but as Slade prepares to kill himself, it is Charlie who teaches the older man a valuable lesson. Through their time together, Charlie is able to help Slade realize he has something to live for, despite his handicap.

Once back from their tour in the Big Apple, Slade returns the favor, and helps Charlie avoid expulsion for his involvement in a school prank. The final scenes in the hearing have become iconic. Pacino's gruff, impassioned defense is what I am sure cliched him his first Oscar for Best Actor. It makes you wish you could bring Frank Slade along with you to argue parking tickets, just so you can hear him take the opposition down a peg or two. O'Donnell is a stellar foil for the loud, brash Pacino and makes you feel real emotions as he struggles with his predicament.

If only every Thanksgiving could have Frank Slade around to tell stories about threesomes and juggling hand grenades. Hoo-Ah! That would be something. If you can't get the real thing at your Thanksgiving table, put on Scent of a Woman and enjoy the humor and the drama of a great story.

Things to watch for-

The Tango
Mr. John Daniels
Bradley Whitford as Randy
Baird Men

"Are you blind? Are you blind?"
"No, of course not."
"Then why do you keep grabbing my goddamn arm? I take your arm."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Things I Think

Here are some thoughts from the Brain of Bentley.

I think the Monday Night Football announcing crew of Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron 'Jaws' Jaworski is the best in the business.

I think a really scary idea for a horror film would be something called 'Mickey Rouke's Hands.'

I think that there needs to be some kind of law for how long holiday decorations are allowed to stay up. I'm always appalled when I see nasty rotten pumpkins in December, or Christmas wreaths, lights and garlands in June. I know there aren't a lot of decorations for holidays like Arbor Day, but that's okay.

I think I enjoy certain household tasks. Laundry and vacuuming are my top two. I'm not so excited about washing dishes.

I think it is really hard and kind of a mistake to re-make and re-cast iconic roles that are synonymous with certain actors. This isn't always true (See J.J. Abrams' Star Trek) and I hope it isn't true for Jeff Bridges in the new version of True Grit. I like Jeff Bridges, but I don't think he can fill John Wayne's shoes.

I think I am very lucky that Mary Anne Wetzel agreed to marry me.

I think Robert Downey Jr. would be fun to hang out with.

I think that the McRib is McNasty. I had my first one the other day, and I was underwhelmed beyond belief. The meat was grey and unidentifiable, the pickles were limp and the barbeque sauce had no flavor.

I think the best and most unbeatable super hero team would be, Iron Man, Wolverine, Batman and Hawkman. Why Hawkman, you say? Every team needs someone that nobody likes.

I think it's time for dinner.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Like You

Once again I bring you some people that I like/enjoy/admire/think you need to be aware of. I'm sure you already know about these three individuals, but I'm doing this to offset my Schmohawk posts so that I even out my karma.


What a babe. She's not only the best actress every year, she continues to be hot even at her age. I'm not usually into older ladies, but I'd be hard pressed not to put her high on my list of celebrity fantasy hookups. She's such a well respected woman and she keeps getting better- like a fine wine. The Queen is a great testament to her ability as an actress. (This one is for Elaine)


Who doesn't like this guy? He was my idol as Marty McFly in Back to the Future and won America over as Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties (or as my wife called it as a little kid, "Shoelaces"). He has also overcome a great deal in his struggle with Parkinson's disease and continued to work in spite of it. I admire him a great deal for his skill as an actor, and his perseverance as a human being.


He is by far the best basketball commentator working today. His frank and well informed opinions are at the same time hilarious and insightful. I had some difficulty cheering for him when he played, but now I make sure to catch him whenever there are NBA games on TNT. The Round Mound of Rebound has transitioned nicely into his current gig, and I hope he stays with it for a long time to come.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Judi Dench

This time of year makes me eager to watch James Bond movies because since 1995 a 007 movie has come out every couple of years around Thanksgiving time. Since there won't be a new one this year due to financial issues with MGM (see my last blog entry), I will review one that came out four short years ago. Like many, I was very skeptical about Daniel Craig taking over as 007, but I tried to be objective as I went to see the film on opening day.

Casino Royale marked a reboot of the 44 year old series, telling the story of James Bond's first mission as a 00 agent. After dispatching two enemies in the pre-titles sequence, Bond gets his license to kill and we finally get to see the target of the famous gunbarrel sequence. What follows is one of the most innovative and fun titles sequences in the series, accompanied by a great song. I remember feeling immediately reassured once the first five minutes had gone by because I knew I was in for a special experience.

Bond's main mission in the film is to financially take down the banker behind the world's terrorists in a high stakes poker game. The banker in question is the slimy LeChiffre, an inhaler toting, blood weeping poker genius who has some tough customers for clients. Bond succeeds in setting up the game, but gets distracted by the mysterious and beautiful treasury officer, Vesper Lynd, who is in charge of 007's poker money. The action is very fast paced to start in this film, but slows down when the story focuses on the card game. Veteran Bond director Martin Campbell does a nice job of peppering in some fights around the poker game, as well as ratcheting up the tension as the stakes get higher.

Vesper and Bond fall in love over the course of the film, and it becomes clear why the James Bond we know and love is somewhat closed off with women after his experience in Casino Royale. Even though this film differs from the book in the details, the main characters and sequences are retained, and we see the character of Bond evolve before our eyes. The tragic ending sets up 007's future as an agent and leaves some interesting threads for films to come. We know now what happens thanks to Quantum of Solace, but until that film came out I couldn't wait to see James Bond's next mission with the great Daniel Craig playing the part.

Things to watch for-

Free running on a construction site in Madagascar
M's apartment
Aston Martin DB5
Bond has an itch
Felix Leiter- a Brother from Langley
Chris Cornell's song "You Know My Name"

"How did he die?"
"Not well."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Here Come The Schmohawks

Check out the latest Schmohawks.


These Schmohawks whined and complained for the last two years about how Obama has not done enough to fix all the problems that their boy George W. Bush got us into. With the election last week they got what they wanted and now they need to put their money where their mouth is. Solutions are more than just offering criticism and I'm glad that they will be on the hook to work with the Democrats to get things done in Washington. Responsibility is now the word of the day. Be careful what you wish for, Schmohawks, you may get it.


The symbol of the Schmohawk might as well be a donkey. The Democrats failed once again to get together on a consistent message, and as a result, lost a pantload of seats to the Republicans. Obama can't be held completely responsible for his party's failures in the last two years, but he also hasn't been perfect. Neither have other Democratic leaders who tried to throw the President under the bus in their campaigns. Let's hope that they get out Schmohawked by the GOP in the next two years and regain what they lost this week. Don't be surprised if the Schmohawkery continues, though.


Hawk. Schmo Hawk. There hasn't been this much enthusiasm for James Bond since the 1960's, but you wouldn't know it. MGM, the studio that has produced 007 films for a long time, is in the process of being sold and that has stalled production on Daniel Craig's third outing indefinitely. It is sad that we might have to wait three or four years, or maybe more, before Bond is back on the big screen. Craig will want to move on if the Schmohawks in charge can't get it a script together and decide what is going to happen with MGM. Here's a thought, take 007 somewhere that isn't mired in financial woes- anybody who isn't a Schmohawk would love to be in business with 007.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Vietnam Thesis- Part XIII

Here is the conclusion of the series taken from my undergraduate thesis.

No war before or since Vietnam has unleashed such doubt about the U.S. government. The soldiers who fought were given what was thought to be every advantage available, but that turned out to be wrong. For America, Vietnam was a pivotal juncture in the Cold War, but for the Vietnamese it was just another war in series of attempts to gain independence. The United States had forgotten its own roots when it entered Vietnam in force in 1965. “This time we were the Redcoats and the Viet Cong were the Minutemen,”said William Bentley of the war; “Not a reversal of roles we should ever emulate again.”  The consequences of that role reversal became clear as the troops came home and enlightened the civilians. 

Ideals had trumped military might, and the men in charge could not see why; the soldiers could, however. The only real victory that can be agreed upon by everyone who lived through Vietnam is that prisoners of war were set free from the clutches of the North Vietnamese. Other than that one thing, the peace in Vietnam was not “with honor” as Nixon had promised.

The South Vietnamese were able to hold out for two years, and then in April 1975 Saigon fell to the communists. It was the final insulting chapter of the war, as the South Vietnamese finally collapsed without the aid they had come to depend on from the United States. Of the horrific end of the war CIA, agent Thomas Pulgar said, “It’s like a goddam circus parade gone haywire! The elephants have moved out in front and everybody else is stumbling through their shit.” The vivid imagery in that quote defines how absolutely awful the Vietnam war was handled by the government. Even someone like Pulgar who had ties to the government saw that the handling of the war was a complete fiasco by the end. Very few elements had gone the Americans’ way, and the fall of Saigon was just one last mishap. 

The images that the war evoked in people’s minds were so horrific and damaging that criticism and analysis became indicative of a nation trying to make sense of a wasted effort. The soldiers felt that their work had been for naught, but just trying to do what was asked of them, even though it was not the best course of action, should have been enough to absolve them. The United States should not have gone to war in Vietnam without more planning or better strategy, or they should not have gone at all. 

Richard Barnet concluded about Vietnam that, “The United States cannot make the world safe for America by seeking to shape the political and economic development of other countries...for the attempt will exhaust both our treasure and our spirit.” Vietnam did exhaust the American spirit, and cost many young vital spirits in the process. The soldiers knew that nothing could win them the war, and nobody listened. Hopefully, that will change as we work to free another nation from tyranny and attempt to fight ideals instead of people.