Anthony Varriano

Anthony Varriano

I’ve been to plenty of stadiums. I’ve been to Miller Park -- a dump in a bad part of Milwaukee. I’ve been to the Metrodome -- a terrible place to watch baseball but loud and fun nonetheless. I’ve been to Safeco Field -- a beautiful, quaint place to watch baseball as long as the roof is open. I’ve been to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City -- a beautifully vast stadium. I’ve been to Fenway Park, which makes me feel spoiled every time I visit Target Field. But even Target Field nor the newly renovated Target Center compares to the decadence that is U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Bathrooms

The most important aspect of any stadium experience is the bathroom experience. Long lines are bad, but dirty, smelly bathrooms are worse. Both the Metrodome and Target Center had urinal troughs omitting a smell no number of fresh urinal cakes could mask. The U.S. Bank Stadium bathroom I used was as clean at the end of the third quarter as it was prior to kickoff of Sunday’s game between the Vikings and Rams.

Not only are the U.S. Bank Stadium bathrooms fresh, they’re smartly located and designed to limit time spent in line. I didn’t spend any time in line for the bathroom, but had I, I wouldn’t have been that disappointed. In our section (C7 of the second level), there’s a lounge with televisions and comfortable seating so you can watch the Vikings game or any other game for that matter.

The Seats

While we didn’t spend much time in them, the padded seats at U.S. Bank Stadium were plush and relatively roomy. The addition of padded seats in Target Center was the second biggest reason for my purchase of a 10-game season ticket package this season (the addition of Jimmy Butler being the first). Baseball stadiums need to start installing more padded seats because a comfortable seat can make people forget about the length of your game. There are a lot of breaks in NFL action, so the fact our butts were comfortable made the inaction slightly more tolerable.

The Atmosphere

Before the Vikings (specifically, Detroit Lakes’ Adam Thielen) started running away from a pretty good Los Angeles Rams’ defense, U.S. Bank Stadium was rocking. It’s certainly comparable to the Metrodome when it comes to crowd noise. During the 1987 and 1991 World Series, the crowd noise at the Metrodome was measured at 125 and 118 decibels, respectively -- the equivalent of a jet airliner and on the threshold of causing physical pain. The decibels at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday were repeatedly measured above 118 -- during a regular season game.

The Vikings do a fantastic job getting the crowd revved up, too. I nearly leaked tears of joy as the Vikings ran onto the field as if exiting a Viking ship that breathes fire to the sound of a blaring Viking horn while former Vikings like John Randle and Randy Moss narrate. As far as player introductions go, it’s a very distant second to the introduction of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, which still gives me goosebumps.

The Eats and Drinks

While eats and drinks, alcoholic or otherwise, were severely overpriced, there is a diverse menu of both available at U.S. Bank Stadium. The only downside is you can’t find a Coca-Cola product in the building, and a cocktail and a domestic beer will cost you $20. A plate of salmon and lobster with chips will cost you $18, but looked delicious, as did a mushroom Swiss burger that was enjoyed by a fan in the row in front of us. If you can afford it, I highly recommend eating a meal at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Product

The stadium experience is also dependent on having a good product inside the stadium, and the Vikings took a big step in securing a first-round bye and a home game in the NFL playoffs with a win over the contending Rams. If the Philadelphia Eagles ever stumble, the Vikings could stay at home throughout the playoffs and have a chance to win their first championship in their own building. Only the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX and Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV have ever played for a championship in their home market. The Niners won and Rams lost. Regardless of who represents the NFC and AFC in Super Bowl LII, U.S. Bank Stadium will quite possibly provide the best stadium experience for fans ever.

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The only surprise from the recent barrage of sexual allegations brought against, first, members of Hollywood’s power elite, and later, members of the political power elite, is that it took this long for victims to air their allegations. It should surprise no one that Kevin Spacey and Louis CK are sexually deviant, and it should surprise no one that men granted political power -- even George Bush and Al Franken -- tend to be predatorily handsy.

Perhaps the victims of America’s politicians needed Hollywood’s victims to come out to feel safe enough to reveal the wrongdoings of their alleged predators. That too should surprise no one. After all, a Hollywood producer like Harvey Weinstein might be able to write a check and make allegations of sexual harassment disappear, but an American politician could make their accuser disappear. All it would take is a bit of evidence planting to place an American citizen in Guantanamo Bay and never give them a trial.

American politics are more like House of Cards than most people would probably like to believe. That show would be a hit with or without Spacey because Americans love the criminal or violent nature of competition in all things -- politics included. Television ratings are indicative of this.

While the 2016 Presidential Election drew eyes away from NFL games, Sunday Night Football was still the most watched television show of the 2016-17 season, followed by Thursday Night Football, then NCIS, a show about investigating violent, criminal acts. Another Thursday Night Football game rounded out the top four. Violence draws viewers.

If you include online television offerings, Orange is the New Black tops the list of most watched streaming shows of last year -- a show about life in prison. Next is Stranger Things, a show about supernatural forces, conspiracy theories and governmental corruption. Fuller House, a sequel to the family favorite Full House, is refreshingly third most-watched, followed by two Marvel shows featuring comic book heroes, and, no doubt, violence. House of Cards was sixth.

American politics were a reality TV show long before Donald Trump or House of Cards. The Red Scare, Vietnam, Watergate, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, the Gulf War, Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, the antics of George W. Bush -- all were watched by all, turning public servants into celebrities. When you put people on a pedestal, they’ll take advantage of it in order to stay there.

Regardless, the problem is not that these men are ill-trained to deal with women in the workplace. Training is not the issue, regardless of what lawmakers say. Men shouldn’t require obedience training in order to recognize that exposing their genitals or grabbing people by the genitals on any floor let alone the House floor is wrong. Every instance of that behavior was committed by someone incapable of serving public office. That’s it, and that’s all.

I don’t care if you grew up when Mad Men office behavior was the norm, and James Bond was still groping Moneypenny. Your inability or unwillingness to change your behavior is exactly why Congress has accomplished fuck all since Obamacare. You are stuck in your ways, and they aren’t the ways of the American people.

This is our problem and our fault as voters. Notice that it’s rarely women accused of sexual misconduct, yet the overwhelming majority of our elected officials are men. This problem could be avoided almost entirely if we elected more women to office.

Less than 20 percent of U.S. Congressional seats are filled by women, and less than 25 percent of state legislators are women. There are just six female governors, and only 39 women have ever served as governor.

So during the 2018 midterm elections, instead of looking for a “D” or an “R” behind an unfamiliar name on the ballot, consider giving women the advantage for once. At the very least, they tend to keep their hands to themselves.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 19:45

Make America great for you

I’ll forward this by revealing that I have always lived in America and have never been outside America’s borders, almost strictly because of economic inability to do so. I’ll also prelude this by saying I don’t necessarily want to leave America currently. While I acquired a passport and New Zealand work visa prior to the 2016 Presidential Election, I decided to give America one last chance despite the election. I figure I’ll give my homeland until after the 2020 election to prove its worth. How did I find happiness in a country I find appalling and embarrassing?

Step 1: Surround Yourself with Like-minded People

I started simple: by putting myself in a place I felt more welcome in America. Not everyone can just pack up and move, though. I’m lucky enough to be a white male from a family that started and maintained a lower-middle-class status thanks to my parents’ union jobs.

I recognize that I took advantage of my economic advantage, and I acknowledge that I’ll never truly understand the economic disadvantage facing minorities in this country. My advice to them is to stand their ground. You might feel yourself becoming less and less welcome in your own hometown as gentrification raises your rent, then forces you to live further from your work, probably in an area where your vote is lost in a sea of suburbia, with the community’s ship captained by an elected official who turns a blind, patched eye as his crew of constituents forces you to walk the plank and maroon you along with your fellow minorities.

You might feel trapped on a deserted island in your suburban community, but you’ll notice the population of that island increase in number and diversity everyday. Gentrification might be the old gerrymandering, but eventually, minorities are going to take over suburbs just as they did cities.

This country is huge, but jobs aren’t following victims of gentrification to the suburbs. Suburban communities best be prepared for an influx of minorities, but something tells me they’re not. Regardless, if you can’t move to improve your surroundings, you must stand your ground, and do so in a manner that’s nonviolent and respectable.

When a member of the minority, it’s essential to do everything cleaner, kinder and gentler than the majority. Think about this: the success of the white supremacists’ movement depends on their opposition looking worse than them. Their entire rallying effort is dependent upon relativity. Sure, what they represent is objectively awful, so their only hope is that they represent themselves more respectably than their opposition. Their message takes a backseat to the reaction to their message. It’s been understandably difficult for them to accomplish given the hate in their ranks, but when it does happen, it allows them to stand behind their unfounded beliefs that non-white people are uncivilized or inherently violent and don’t belong amongst upstanding, white people.

Frankly, if I found myself amongst white supremacists, I probably couldn’t resist fighting them -- and I’m white! I couldn’t imagine the anger and frustration a non-white person would have in their presence, nor the resolve necessary to resist attacking them.

This country is huge and diverse. There’s a place for everyone in America regardless of color, creed, or sexual identification and preference, despite what’s on the news every night. There are  even places for Democratic Socialists, but Eastern Montana isn’t one of them. The first key to make America great for you is to find a place populated with people like you and who accept you.

Step 2: Move to a Place Where Your Interests are Already Represented

First and foremost, I sought the same thing those Boston Tea Party folks were seeking. I wanted to live in a place where my elected officials actually represented my interests and spent my taxes on things I need and want. That sort of representation requires democratic, competitive elections offering something more than the lesser of two evils.

Since Minneapolis utilizes ranked-choice voting and holds no primaries, a vast and diverse ballot of candidates is the result. There were 16 different candidates running for Minneapolis mayor in 2017. My hometown has had the same mayor for as long as I can remember, and he’s never truly been challenged.

Quantity doesn’t always result in quality, however. You can end up with plenty of bad candidates on a ballot if you put yourself in the wrong place. As a Democratic Socialist, my vote in Eastern Montana was mostly pointless except for local bond issues -- and even then I was in the minority.

The “D” behind a name on an Eastern Montana ballot is a death sentence, because Democrats don’t win elections in Eastern Montana (our mayor being the lone exception). I’ve been in meetings with Democrats considering campaigns in Eastern Montana, and they admit their best chance to win is to switch parties and hope to win a crowded primary. So even the Democrats are Republicans in Eastern Montana, making Democratic representation nonexistent.

Since Minnesota has a long, storied history of union jobs and still has a strong union presence, it’s most apt to allow for the growth of a Labor Party. The Democratic Farmer Labor Party is indicative of the strong, Left-leaning labor movement, as is Ginger Jentzen’s near-win as a Socialist for city council in Minneapolis. I went into the election with my interests well-represented and came out of the election with even better representation. The opposite would have been true had I remained in Eastern Montana.

Step 3: Find a Place that Allows You to Enjoy Your Free Time

America is the entertainment capital of the world. Our President is a reality TV star. We built a tourist attraction in the middle of the desert, and we’re the home of most professional sports teams. There’s always something to do in America, but not everywhere in America.

The third step to make America great for you is settling in a place with entertainment you enjoy, because what’s more important than enjoying the few hours you’re not working? And when it comes down to it, Minneapolis is home to everything I love.

I’ve long been a fan of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. Some of my earliest memories are of the 1991 Worlds Series, and some of my most disappointing memories are of Minnesota Vikings football. I discovered that I loved hockey the season before the 2012-13 lockout, and after almost giving up on the sport, the Stanley Cup Playoffs brought me back, and I’ve been a Minnesota Wild fan since.

I hadn’t paid much attention to the NBA since Michael Jordan retired, but I’ve always been a fan of coaches more so than players -- probably because I had very little athletic ability and was always told how good a coach I’d be someday. I grew up in awe of Mike Krzyzewski, mostly because he made a small, unathletic guy like me into a legitimate starting point guard -- Steve Wojciechowski. So when Tom Thibodeau was hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves, it piqued my interest in professional basketball. And when Jimmy Butler -- my favorite player -- was acquired prior to the 2017-18 season, I became a Timberwolves season ticket holder.

I’m also just a mile or so from live music or a play any night of the week and a few miles from the nearest lake to go fishing or boating. But while my entertainment options only provide a means of temporarily forgetting the mess that is America, at least I’m not allowing the mess to dictate my mood like I was in Eastern Montana, where you make your own fun or focus on all the things that depress you.

Don’t let the state of the union get you down. If you can’t move to a place with like-minded people where your interests are already well represented, do your best to reach out to the like-minded people in your community and build a coalition to move your community instead of moving yourself. If you can afford to move, find a place with people you enjoy, where your tax dollars are used on things you appreciate and with entertainment options you enjoy.

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Monday, 13 November 2017 22:15

Twins can afford to be wrong on Ohtani

The Minnesota Twins’ poor history of scouting and signing Asian players shouldn’t prevent them from offering the Nippon Ham Fighters the $20-million maximum posting fee for a chance to negotiate a contract with pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani.

The Twins’ Bad History with Asian Hitters

Twins scouts have dropped the ball in Asia, resulting in the firing of their international scouting director. They’ve been paying ByungHo Park $3 million annually to play mostly minor league games, and they’ll do so for the next two years. He’s appeared in 62 MLB games and might not see the majors again, making Park a worse mistake than Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Nishioka appeared in just 71 MLB games, finishing with a .503 career OPS and 22 runs worse than a replacement-level player on defense. He made $6 million over two years, but was kind enough to opt out of the final year of his contract to go back to Japan, saving the Twins $3.25 million.

The Twins’ Better History with Asian Pitchers

But both Park and Nishioka are hitters. The Twins have had at least some success scouting and signing Asian pitchers who have found success in the majors. Chih-Wei Hu, a right-handed pitcher from Taiwan, might not be with the Twins anymore, but struck out nine batters in 10 innings for Tampa Bay in 2017. The Twins traded Hu for Kevin Jepsen and new chief baseball officer Thad Levine probably wishes Terry Ryan hadn’t.

Ohtani’s Value as a Big Leaguer

Most scouts see Ohtani’s arm playing better in the bigs than his bat, but Ohtani wants to develop his bat. While the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees can offer Ohtani a slightly larger signing bonus than Minnesota, Ohtani will reportedly give preference to a team that will allow him to both pitch and hit in the big leagues. The Yankees won’t likely be willing to allow Ohtani on-the-job training in the hitting department given their abundance of young hitters.

Since any team who signs Ohtani wouldn’t likely risk his health playing the outfield, any National League team looking to sign him is working at a disadvantage. Texas would have the most at-bats to offer Ohtani, with Carlos Gomez a free agent, but this shouldn’t deter Minnesota from posting the maximum $20 million for the right to negotiate with Ohtani for 30 days. They’d only pay the posting fee if they end up signing Ohtani, and Texas will likely post the maximum amount anyways.

The Twins shouldn’t hold back from posting the maximum of $20 million because Ohtani is that type of pitching talent. His triple-digit fastball is enough to make him an effective reliever in the bigs, but his nasty splitter and slider are reportedly just as good, giving him legitimate ace potential. Scoring an ace in his prime for a staff that desperately needs one would be worth the $20-million posting fee. And it wouldn’t cost the team much more to pay Ohtani’s salary next year.

The Twins can Offer Ohtani the Best Long-term Contract

Under the current collective bargaining agreement, Ohtani can only agree to a minor league contract that is subject to signing bonus pools, which would make his salary about $545,000 next season. That would make the entire cost of Ohtani in his first season around $24 million, which is less than the Twins would pay Yu Darvish, who is eight years older than Ohtani. A team’s available signing bonus money and its ability and willingness to sign Ohtani to a long-term deal will be what seals the deal.

The Twins will have just $21.2 million on the books for 2019 if they don’t pick up Ervin Santana’s team option. The Rangers have nearly $54 million on the books for 2019 if they don’t pick up Cole Hamels’ team option, plus $18 million owed to Prince Fielder. The Yankees have $85 million on the books in 2019 if you include Brian McCann’s sunk contract of $15 million. So the Twins are in the best position to offer Ohtani the most in a long-term deal, and while they can’t sign him to a long-term deal immediately -- even secretly -- Ohtani’s representatives from CAA sports will be very aware of this fact.

The Twins have Moveable Designated Hitter-types

While the Twins have plenty of designated-hitter depth, they likely aren’t committed to any of them. To the surprise of some, Kennys Vargas was left on the Twins’ 40-man roster. Vargas was slightly better than a replacement player at the plate and playing first base, but he’s out of options and will be fighting for his job in Spring Training. The Twins won’t hesitate to subject Vargas to waivers, especially with Robbie Grossman on the roster.

Grossman was third amongst designated hitters in on-base percentage in 2017 and is arbitration eligible for just the first time at 28 years of age. But even he would take Ohtani’s potential at-bats since Ohtani swings from the left side of the plate and Grossman is considerably better against righties than lefties. Grossman likely has some trade value since he’s under team control for the next three years, but finding a trade partners looking for a designated hitter who’s a defensive liability will be tough. Regardless, only Texas is in a better position to offer Ohtani at-bats, and the Twins could simply waive players in order to do so.

The Twins can Afford to be Wrong on Ohtani

Since Ohtani can only agree to a minor league deal, the Twins can afford to be wrong on Ohtani. They don’t have to sign him long-term after next season or at all. He won’t be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2020 season, so Ohtani’s betting on himself big time by not spending another year in Japan, which would likely net him a $300 million deal as a free agent following next season. Given Ohtani’s injury history, that should provide a warm, security blanket for Falvey and the Twins. The Babe Ruth of Japanese baseball is well worth the risk.

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If the 2017 elections are any indication of what’s to come in the 2018 midterms, Republicans are in trouble, and not because of a clean sweep by Democrats in Virginia on Tuesday. It was how Republicans lost on Tuesday, and how badly, that should have them concerned.

Democrats Sweep the Big Three in Virginia

The Virginia governor’s race that got all the media attention wasn’t close. Polls had Democrat Ralph Norman leading slightly, but his lead over Republican Ed Gillespie had shrunk from as many as nine points to three or fewer points in a matter of days. Warnings of past polls leaning Left in Virginia gave Republicans hope, but it was false hope, as Norman won by 8.6 percentage points.

The most important election for Democrats on Tuesday was that of Virginia’s attorney general. State attorneys general have been the best (and in many instances the last) line of defense for Democrats against the actions of Donald Trump’s administration, especially the travel ban. Incumbent Democrat Mark Herring beat Republican challenger John Adams by 6.5 percentage points.

Democrat Justin Fairfax completed the clean sweep of Virginia with a win over Republican Jill Vogel to become lieutenant governor. He won by 5.4 percentage points. The real gains for Democrats were made in Virginia’s district elections, though.

Republican Majority in Virginia House Vanishes

The biggest blow for Republicans came in Virginia’s House of Delegates, where they’ve lost 14 seats as of this writing, with two more close races predicted for Democrats and another three tossups predicted to go to Republicans. If Democrats win just one of those Republican-leaning tossups -- perhaps the 94th District, where Republican David Yancey and Democrat Shelly Simonds each have 49 percent of the vote -- the Democratic Party would hold a majority in the Virginia House for the first time since 2000. The wins are especially sweet for Democrats because Republicans experienced their largest majority just last year, holding 67 of the 100 seats.

The success Democrats had in Virginia’s districts is unprecedented. Democrats have never taken back as many Virginia House seats as they did Tuesday. It’s been 40 years since Democrats picked up 13 House seats in the Commonwealth, and they were already starting with a 65-seat majority back then.

The history of Virginia’s House of Delegates is one of epic streaks. Democrats held the majority for a century, and when it flipped to the Republicans, it looked as though it would take another century for Democrats to take back control. It took 100 years for the Virginia House to go from a Democratic majority to a Republican majority and, perhaps, just one night to swing the Virginia House back to the Democrats.

How and Why did Virginia Go Blue?

To say the current administration and do-nothing Congress didn’t have something to do with the Republicans’ losses in Virginia would be naive. Trump’s record-low approval rating is representative of the general sentiment of Americans, and with Republicans in the White House, they’re already starting from behind. The party occupying the White House tends to lose more midterm elections than it wins, and those losses are loosely predicated on the President’s approval rating. The effects on voter turnout are already apparent.

Democrats showed up to vote in 2017. Voter turnout was up 16 percent in Virginia compared to the last election for governor in 2013, but that’s nothing when you compare Tuesday’s voter turnout to that of the 2015 election.

Less than 30 percent of registered Virginia voters voted in 2015, which came to a grand total of 1,509,864 voters -- a decrease in voter turnout of over 11 percent from the previous year. Almost 1.1 million more Virginians voted in 2017 than in 2015. That’s a 72 percent increase, so to say Democrats were motivated is an understatement.

What Does the Future Hold?

Democrats also won the elections they should have in New Jersey and New York, and Maine even expanded Medicaid. But the races that reveal the most about the views of the average American and what the future holds for American elections are those for city council. The ever-changing political leanings of communities debut in city council elections long before they’re seen on the national scale. And no city council election revealed more about the future of American politics than that of Minneapolis’s Ward 3.

Ginger Jentzen, running as a Socialist, received more than a third of first-place votes in a four-candidate race. Since she won the popular vote, Jentzen gets to cannibalize the second- and third- choice votes that went to her from voters whose first choice has no chance of winning. For instance, Samantha Pree-Winston received just 10.5 percent of first-place votes and has no shot at winning the election, so those voters who chose her as their first-choice help decide the election with their second and third choices. Those second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates voters chose as first-choice votes. If there’s still not a candidate with a majority of the vote, the candidate in last place is eliminated, and their second-choice votes are allocated to the candidates they chose as first-place votes.

This is where ranked-choice voting proves its worth at Jentzen’s expense. Jentzen might have won the election using a traditional ballot where voters can choose just one candidate, and the candidate with the most votes wins. But her lack of second- and third-choice votes makes her winning of the popular vote irrelevant, unless she had secured a majority (50 percent plus one vote) in first-choice votes.

Unfortunately for Jentzen, it looks as though she wasn’t many voters’ second or third choice. Jentzen received just 13.7 percent and 18.3 percent of second- and third-choice votes, which makes it difficult for her to pick up the majority needed to win the election. Jentzen’s supporters likely chose just one candidate -- Jentzen -- forgoing their second and third choices, resulting in a lot of first-choice votes and not much else. It’s a sound strategy nonetheless. Jentzen just needed another 1.500 first-place votes or so.

Regardless, the strong showing by Jentzen proves a political point: socialism isn’t a dirty word -- in Minneapolis at least. That might not be saying much given Minnesota’s history of strong unions, but Jentzen’s successful campaign will inspire other Socialists to run for office unafraid of the misinformed perception of their party affiliation. At the very least, this little city council election revealed that Left-leaning voters aren’t afraid of moving further Left than the Democratic Party has been willing to go, which bodes well for Bernie Sanders in 2020.

The Democrats left nothing up for debate on Tuesday. Had they lost any one of the Virginia elections or gained half as many Virginia House seats, Republicans might have been relieved or found reason for hope. Instead, they can see the train coming and can’t get off the tracks.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

Tuesday, 07 November 2017 19:34

Music in Movies: The 10 Best

Long before talkies, music was making movies better. It still is. What would Charlie Chaplin’s “Oceana Roll Dance” in The Gold Rush be without music, or Johnny Depp’s depiction in Benny and Joon for that matter? A more contemporary example would be how Daft Punk’s soundtrack for Tron: Legacy helped make “The Grid” a very real place for moviegoers. That said, here are the 10 best uses of music in movies, based on the lasting effect the music had in the movie and beyond the movie, the popular and critical success of the music and the legacy left.

10. Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” in Boogie Nights

This one might not be on a lot of people’s lists, but the first time I saw Mark Wahlberg, Tom Jane and John C. Reilly attempt to steal from a coked out Alfred Molina to the sound of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian” while a silent, house boy tossed exploding firecrackers around the room, I was mesmerized. It’s one of the most uncomfortable situations ever recorded, and the song makes the scene’s mise-en-scène a must-see.

9. Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Rudy

I used to think Rudy’s struggle to realize his dream made me cry every time I watched him succeed, but I’ve discovered the crescendo of the music when Rudy sacks the Georgia Tech quarterback has more of an effect than the images. I get emotional just listening to the score for Angelo Pizzo’s football masterpiece, and I’m not the only one. The music is now blasted at the stadium in South Bend during Fighting Irish football games. That adoption of the Rudy score from fiction and application in reality makes it one of the best uses of music in movies.

8. Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now” in Rocky and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" in Rocky III

Like the theme from Rudy, the theme from Rocky is blasted at Philadelphia Eagles games (and practiced by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). It is immediately recognizable by almost anyone. The song features both uplifting highs and terrifying lows -- mirroring the conflict of Rocky’s life -- in and out of the ring. “Gonna Fly Now” was nominated for the 1977 Oscar for Best Original Song, but fell to Barbra Streisand’s “A Star is Born” from the movie of the same name. It hasn’t come close to becoming the pop culture icon that “Gonna Fly Now” has. The Rocky franchise is responsible for creating two iconic songs, and ranking which is more recognizable is problematic. People probably associate the music of both songs with the Rocky movies equally, but some couldn’t give you the title of “Gonna Fly Now.” Everyone knows “Eye of the Tiger.” Most of Rocky III was about Apollo helping Rocky get his eye of the tiger back after Mick dies. Sylvester Stallone should be glad Queen denied his request to use their song “Another One Bites the Dust” for Rocky III. While the song would have been fitting given the beating Rocky takes and then gives Clubber Lang, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” somehow cut through the cheese to become a movie classic. It even spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and was the second-best single of 1982 behind Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical,” winning Survivor its only Grammy Award. The song was also nominated for the 1983 Academy Award for Best Original Song and has become the anthem of workout movie montages. You can’t even make a workout movie montage using another song without it being parodied with “Eye of the Tiger” laid over the top anymore. South Park went with Joe Esposito’s “You’re the Best,” but even that was originally written by Allee Willis and Rocky’s Bill Conti for Rocky III, only to be replaced by “Eye of the Tiger.” “You’re the Best” got its chance to make movie history when Rocky director John Avildsen decided to use it in Karate Kid. It didn’t make this list, however.

7. The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

The best synchronized dance scene ever shot had more than the music to thank, but the music choice was so good that it actually influenced the shooting of the scene. The scene was shot during the Von Steuben Day Parade and on another Saturday in Chicago that saw more than 10,000 people attend thanks to radio stations inviting people to take part in the John Hughes film. Several of the people seen dancing in the scene, including the construction worker and the window washer, originally had nothing to do with the film. They were simply dancing to the music being played, and John Hughes found it so funny that he told the camera operators to record it. Those natural actions helped make Ferris Bueller’s Day Off the highest grossing film Hughes directed, with an adjusted gross of nearly $170 million.

6. B.J. Thomas’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and later, Spider-man 2

Written by Hal Davis and Burt Bacharach, the song won the 1970 Academy Award for Best Song, as did the original score. It makes for one of the most iconic movie montages ever in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The song is so great, it was one of the few redeeming moments of the Spider-man 2 movie. When a song can make a bad movie better, the song is objectively great.

5. Marvin Hamlisch’s “The Entertainer” in The Sting

No song is likely more often associated with a movie than Hamlisch’s version of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” Like a younger generation associates “Gonna Fly Now” with Rocky, and an even younger generation “Eye of the Tiger” with Rocky III, most people aware of The Sting can’t hear “The Entertainer” without thinking The Sting is on television somewhere. But unlike “Gonna Fly Now” and “Eye of the Tiger,” which were written specifically for movies and released as the movie did, Joplin’s “The Entertainer” debuted 71 years before The Sting was released. Hamlisch had a good year in 1974. He won the Academy Award for Original Song Score or Adaptation for The Sting as well as the Oscars for Original Dramatic Score and Original Song for The Way We Were -- another Robert Redford movie.

4. Cliff Edwards’ “When You Wish Upon a Star” in Pinocchio, and later, RocketMan

This gem written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Disney’s Pinocchio in 1940 was so popular it became the official song of The Walt Disney Company and accompanies the Disney logo prior to any Disney movie. My favorite rendition is performed by actor/comedian Harland Williams in RocketMan, who does a spot-on impersonation of Jiminy Cricket.

3. The Bee Gees’ “Night Fever” in Saturday Night Fever

The best opening credits ever recorded have The Bee Gees and John Travolta to thank. Saturday Night Fever producer Robert Stigwood even asked The Bee Gees to change the name of the song to match the movie. The Bee Gees declined because there were already too many songs with “Saturday” in the title -- including Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright” (For Fighting), the Bay City Rollers’ “Saturday Night” and Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park.” Saturday Night Fever didn’t need the name of the song changed to reach a massive audience, grossing over $237 million worldwide on a $3 million budget. It made back its budget and then some in its opening weekend.

2. Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O” and “Jump in the Line” in Beetlejuice

The scenes of Beetlejuice featuring Belafonte’s music are the two best scenes in the movie. The “Day-O” scene couldn’t have been done better using any other song. The lip syncing to “Day-O” in Beetlejuice is the reason why it’s such a popular chant at baseball and basketball games. I’m certain that wasn’t the case prior to the movie’s popularity. I specifically watch the closing credits to Beetlejuice for the dance scene with Winona Ryder suspended in mid-air while dead characters dance to “Jump in the Line.” I’m a fan of Harry Belafonte, whose album “Calypso” became the first LP by a single artist ever to sell a million copies 30 years before I was born. I now own that LP because of Beetlejuice and chant “Day-O” at Minnesota Twins games because of Beetlejuice.

1. Q Lazzarus’s “Goodbye Horses” in The Silence of the Lambs, and later, Clerks II

Quite possibly responsible for both the creepiest and funniest moments in movie history, Q Lazzarus’s “Goodbye Horses” is the best use of music in movies in two very different instances. The song was also used in Married to the Mob and the Maniac remake as further evidence of its number one status on this list. Firstly, I’ll forward this by saying I find the song to be objectively great, both musically and lyrically. The lyrics are wonderfully vague and require explanation. (The song’s about transcendence over those who see the world as only earthly and finite,” according to its writer, William Garvey. “The horses represent the five senses from Hindu philosophy, The Bhagavad Gita, and the ability to lift one’s perception above these physical limitations and to see beyond this limited Earthly perspective.") All things most certainly do not “pass into the night.” Secondly, besides maybe “The Entertainer,” there isn’t a song more associated with a movie than this one -- and this one’s associated with two magical movie moments. Most people are aware of the first. The latest use of “Goodbye Horses” in Clerks II helps a newly sober Jay overcome his urges. The brilliant choice by Kevin Smith to use it allowed the song to reach an entirely new generation, leaving a lasting legacy in pop culture.


 

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There were plenty of NFL teams that made playoff statements in Week 9 -- some good, some bad. No team made a bigger statement than Philadelphia, though.

The NFC road to the Super Bowl will go through Philadelphia

The Eagles (8-1) have been fantastic and should end up the top playoff seed in the NFC. The rest of Philadelphia’s schedule isn’t easy, with two games against Dallas, one at Seattle and one at the Rams. But with eight wins already and a home game against the Bears and the hapless Giants on the schedule, the Eagles should win more than 10 games. If the offensive line holds up and Carson Wentz stays healthy, the Eagles might win 14. As for their opponent in Week 9...

The Broncos will miss the playoffs

The Broncos are a mess when they have the ball, and their defense was picked apart for 51 points by Wentz. Worse yet, the Broncos will take their sixth loss of the season at home against the Patriots next week. The Denver defense can’t carry this team to the playoffs if the turnovers continue, unless Kansas City collapses.

The AFC road to the Super Bowl won’t go through Kansas City

MVP candidate Alex Smith was stymied by an overachieving Dallas secondary and pass rush, and Kareem Hunt was taken out of the game by his own coach. He had just nine carries. The Chiefs were sloppy pre-snap, wouldn’t establish a running game nor stop the run. The Chiefs will make the playoffs, but I like the Steelers’ and Patriots’ schedules (and quarterbacks) better the rest of the way.K

The Steelers (6-2) have the Andrew Luck-less Colts next, the Titans at home, and the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers followed by the reeling Bengals in Cincinnati. The Patriots are the only team remaining that should beat them, but we’ve already seen Pittsburgh fall to the Bears this season and struggle with the really good Jacksonville secondary.

Despite an ugly loss to Kansas City in Week 1, the Patriots could still end up the AFC’s top playoff seed. They play the Dolphins and Bills twice, and the Jets once. The Broncos and Raiders won’t likely pose problems for the Patriots, either.

The Carolina Panthers will win the NFC South

The Panthers’ Cam Newton was better than reigning MVP Matt Ryan on Sunday, and Christian McCaffrey displayed why the Panthers don’t need Kelvin Benjamin, who was traded to Buffalo for third- and seventh-round draft picks. If Newton and McCaffrey stay healthy, the Panthers are champions of the NFC South.

The Panthers (6-3) have just one blemish on their record, which is a home loss to New Orleans. They’ll get a chance to redeem themselves on Dec. 3 in New Orleans, after facing the hapless Dolphins and Jets with a bye week sandwiched in between. The Saints (6-2) have three tough games upcoming: at Buffalo, hosting Washington and at the white hot Rams prior to hosting Carolina. They also have two games against the Falcons, who were a Julio Jones drop away from making a positive playoff statement in Week 9. Instead…

The Atlanta Falcons will miss the playoffs

With losses to the Bills and Dolphins already this season, the Falcons have lost too many of the games they need to win to make the playoffs. Atlanta can still make a positive playoff statement either next week against the Cowboys or the week after in Seattle, but that’s looking less likely with every snap. If the offensive woes continue, the Falcons will lose either one of their two games against the high-octane Saints and/or another against the Panthers, which will make them miss the playoffs.

The Los Angeles Rams will make the playoffs

The Rams (6-2) put up 51 on the terrible Giants, but they also put up 35 on Dallas in a win that could break a tie for a Wild Card spot. The Rams are dangerous on both sides of the ball and on special teams, too. Jared Goff is starting to show why he was selected number one overall now that he has weapons in former Bills Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods. Speaking of the Bills…

The Bills will miss the playoffs

Buffalo’s loss to the Jets on Thursday to kick off Week 9 of the 2017 NFL season was certainly a Thursday Night Football anomaly, but it left the Bills 4-3 with two games left to play against the Patriots. The Saints visit next week before the Bills visit the Chargers and Chiefs. That’s seven losses right there, so the Bills will miss the playoffs.

The Jaguars will win the AFC South

The Bills’ misfortune on Thursday night will open the door for the Jaguars to make the playoffs. Despite a Week 1 loss at home to the Titans, the Jaguars can win their division. They will take their revenge at Tennessee in the final week of the season to win the AFC South -- if they haven’t won it by then already. The Jaguars get the Chargers, Browns, Cardinals and Colts over the next four weeks. Tennessee hosts Cincinnati and visits the Steelers and Colts before hosting the Texans.


This was originally published at GCNLive.com.

In a season that took 2,468 games to decide a champion, it might seem foolish to base any conclusions on the result of one game. But no game is more important and, therefore, more revealing, than a World Series Game 7. So here’s what we learned from the Astros’ World Series win.

1) Veterans and small ball still win championships

The Astros took the lead in the first inning of Game 7 with a leadoff double followed by an error by 22-year-old, first baseman Cody Bellinger, who also struck out thrice in the game and finished the series with a .565 OPS. Alex Bregman then stole third base on Darvish, who seemed to forget about him, which resulted in a second run when the likely American League Most Value Player, Jose Altuve, did exactly what he needed to do -- hit a ground ball past the pitcher. That was enough to win the game.

2) Yu Darvish is a nice, reserved person, but not a reliable ace

Darvish’s thoughtful, Twitter reaction to Yuli Gurriel’s insensitive, racially-charged gesture following a home run in Game 3 was a pleasant surprise in what’s been a year defined by racial divisiveness. But Darvish’s World Series performance might leave some MLB general managers reluctant to sign the starter to a big-money, long-term deal in free agency this offseason. As the moments got bigger, Darvish got worse. He allowed eight runs over three-and-a-third innings in the World Series while allowing just two runs in 11-and-a-third innings in his other two postseason starts. He was responsible for two of the Astros’ four wins.

More importantly to his free agent value, Darvish was either really good or really bad in 2017. In his 10 wins during the regular season, Darvish averaged just 1.6 earned runs allowed. In his 12 losses during the regular season, Darvish averaged 4.17 earned runs allowed. He allowed five or more earned runs five times during the regular season. Including the postseason, Darvish allowed four or more earned runs eight times.

3) Clayton Kershaw still isn’t a pressure player

Kershaw tossed four innings of scoreless ball in Game 7 but blew his chance to shake his bad postseason reputation in Game 5 -- the most important game of the series. He allowed six earned runs over four-and-two-thirds innings pitched, and like Darvish, performed better earlier in the postseason. Kershaw actually lowered his postseason ERA from 4.44 to 4.35. His regular season ERA of 2.31 led the majors. Unlike Darvish, I doubt Kershaw’s postseason struggles will scare away any general managers looking to sign him next offseason if he declines his player option with Los Angeles. He’s still the best regular season starter in baseball.

4) The Astros are going to be good for a really long time

The Astros will likely return their entire roster next season, but the team is built for long-term success thanks to home-grown talent. Altuve won’t be a free agent for another two years, and Carlos Correa won’t hit free agency until 2022, which is the final year of Bregman’s arbitration eligibility. And now Houston has Justin Verlander signed through 2020, so look for the Astros to be perennial contenders for the next three to five years.

5) The Dodgers’ window of opportunity closes next season

Regardless of what happens with Kershaw after next season, the Dodgers aren’t built for sustainable, long-term success. While the Dodgers could have up to $96 million coming off their books after 2018, they would like to stay under the $195 million luxury tax threshold to avoid paying the 50-percent tax reserved for teams exceeding the threshold for three consecutive seasons. So paying Kershaw $40 million annually might not be feasible. The Dodgers will also have to consider signing 25-year-old, center fielder Joc Pederson long-term, who was their best player in the World Series with a 1.344 OPS. He’s eligible for arbitration for the first time this offseason.

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Imagine a world where the winner of an election actually earns a majority of the popular vote. Imagine a world without primaries, and political campaigns without attack ads. Imagine a world where you visit your polling place for your local elections and instead of choosing the lesser of two evils, ranking three to six candidates by your order of preference. This is the world of ranked-choice voting.

In the ranked-choice voting world, it’s less likely a candidate will give up on a voter, assuming they’ll never get their vote because a candidate likely needs both the first-choice rankings from his or her core supporters as well as some lower rankings from other voters to win an election. The result is more civil campaigning by candidates and more discussion of issues voters find important. A Rutger-Eagleton poll found that likely voters in cities using ranked-choice voting in 2013 and 2014 perceived less candidate criticism and negative campaigning and were more satisfied with the conduct of candidate campaigns.

Ranked-choice voting also reduces the influence of money in campaigns because of the elimination of negative campaigning and use of attack ads. A survey of over 200 candidates in ranked-choice voting municipalities found that candidates were less likely to use television or radio ads, more likely to praise their rivals and less likely to report that their or their opponent’s campaign portrayed candidates negatively.

Ranked-choice voting also eliminates the need for primary elections, which saves taxpayer dollars, but it also makes voters feel like their vote has value, which makes them more likely to vote. In Minneapolis, the number of votes cast in the 2013 municipal election were nearly double that of 2009, when ranked-choice voting was first implemented. A study by University of Missouri-St. Louis professor David Kimball and PhD candidate Joseph Anthony found that voter turnout increases by 10 percent when compared to the primary and runoff elections ranked-choice elections replace.

Most importantly, ranked-choice voting makes elections more democratic. It eliminates the lesser-of-two-evils “option” and opens elections up to third-, fourth- and fifth-party candidates, giving America’s diverse populace the diverse electorate it deserves. Even if a voter’s highest-ranked candidate loses, that voter's vote will still count for their second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- or even sixth-ranked candidate.

Passing and implementing ranked-choice voting everywhere is an easy and effective way to make our elections more democratic and ensure that those elected best represent the concerns and values of us.

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Saturday, 28 October 2017 18:52

5 steps to get out of student loan debt

It might be a while before post-secondary education is free for any American accepted to a public college or university. New York has become the first state to offer residents a tuition-free, post-secondary education at community colleges and public colleges and universities, and California could be next. That doesn’t help those of us who have already graduated from college with massive student loan debt, but you can get out of student loan debt without paying it all or worrying about interest accruing. The earlier you take these steps the better.

1) Don’t get scammed by student loan “negotiators”

There are a ton of corporate scammers out there preying on recent college graduates struggling to repay their student loan debt. These companies offer nothing you can’t do yourself from the StudentLoans.gov website but charge a monthly fee for playing middle man between you and your student loan servicer(s).

You should be able to identify these scammers by their too-good-to-be-true offer, but if you ever call any other number besides (800) 557-7394 or (800) 557-7392, you’re likely dealing with a scammer. Keep in mind, though, that these companies already get a bad rep, so if you do end up being scammed, do not hesitate to demand a full refund.

2) Don’t take on new debt

This might sound impossible for an unemployed, college graduate, but it’s essential to improve your borrowing power during the six-month grace period you have before your first student loan payments are due.

What you can borrow depends on your debt-to-income ratio, which is probably pretty terrible for any recent college graduate looking for a job. But even if your income is low (or nonexistent), you can take steps to improve your financial situation by simply moving your debt around. The first step is prioritizing your non-student-loan debt.

Credit cards can be an asset if you use them correctly. If you’re struggling to find a job to improve your debt-to-income ratio by increasing your income, you must improve your debt-to-income ratio by reducing your debt. But how can you reduce your debt without income?

You should know which credit cards are costing you the most in interest. Some of these rates can be upwards of 30 percent, so check to see if there’s an opportunity to transfer your highest credit card balance to a credit card with a lower rate. You might pay a three percent fee on the balance transferred, but if that’s less than you’d pay in interest over the life of the introductory rate, better to pay that amount upfront during your six-month grace period.

The key is to never allow your credit card balance to grow. At the end of every month, your credit card balance should be less than it was when you graduated. That way, when the six-month grace period on your student loans expires, you can work with smaller (or nonexistent) credit card payments.

3) Consolidate your student loans under one servicer

If you are tired of paying multiple student loan servicers, consolidate your loans under one servicer. This will make your student loan payments one payment paid to one servicer. The important thing to keep in mind when consolidating, though, is when asked the question of whether you work for a nonprofit, answer “yes,” even if you don’t. This will assure that your loans are consolidated with a servicer who qualifies for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). So if you end up working for a nonprofit in the future, your loans already qualify for the program.

4) Apply for an income-based repayment plan

You can only pay what you have, so anyone with student loan debt should be on an income-based repayment plan, unless, of course, you make a ton of money. If that’s the case you should just pay off your student loans as quickly as possible to avoid paying interest.

While you must reapply for an income-based repayment plan annually, regardless of your change in adjusted gross income, it will result in the lowest qualifying payment you can make on your student loans.

If your income is low enough, you could end up paying $0 per month, but unless you intend to work for a nonprofit for 10 years and have the remaining balance of your student loans forgiven, interest will accrue at an astronomical rate.

5) Work for a nonprofit for 10 years, or start your own

Under the PSLF program, if you make 120 payments -- even of $0 -- while working at least 30 hours per week for a nonprofit organization, the remaining balance of your student loans after those 120 payments will be forgiven. It will disappear.

You don’t necessarily have to be paid by the nonprofit. If you volunteer for 30 hours per week with a nonprofit or multiple nonprofits, you just need an executive of that nonprofit to verify that you work 30 hours per week for them using this form.

You can even start a nonprofit and have a member of your board verify your work hours. I just found out all the work I did for a nonprofit I started to grow ice sports in my hometown qualifies me for the PSLF program, so if there’s a cause near and dear to your heart that isn’t being addressed by a nonprofit, start one. It’s as easy as raising some money and filing some corporate paperwork with the state to acquire tax exempt status. (Note: partisan political nonprofits and labor unions do not qualify.)

Don’t let student loan debt cripple your economic outlook. Take these steps as soon as possible to get out of student loan debt.

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