NFL Week 1 Picks

For the last couple of years, in addition to playing fantasy football for a little scratch among friends, I’ve thrown some money around betting spreads/futures on the NFL and gradually expanded to homer baseball wagers, the World Cup and a little on fights I’m interested in. During the 2018 NFL season on Saturdays (or Wednesday depending if I’m into the TNF game) I’ll be having a little Degenerate Gambler’s Column where I show you my picks and you can tail or fade at your own risk. If you’re not familiar with the unit betting concept, 1 unit (1U) is generally between 1-10% of your bankroll. If you want to bet but don’t have an online book, I can’t say enough nice things about Bovada and you get some nice bonuses if you use my referral code. Without further ado, here’s my picks for NFL Week 1, along with my logic behind them.

NFL Week 1 Picks

NFL Season Record: 0-0

Minnesota Vikings -6.5 1U – At home against the 49ers and I think Kirk Cousins has something to prove. The Vikings are a little banged up or else I think this line would be substantially higher. Even seeing Jimmy G go on a tear at the end of last year, I don’t see the weapons that can take on a formidable Minnesota. The Elo has this for the Vikings at -8, so I think a -6.5 is a bargain.

Jacksonville Jaguars -3 1U – A road favorite but playing in a house divided, JAX has arguably one of the best defenses in the league and should keep this pretty low scoring against the Giants. It’s going to be tight and competitive in regards to covering, but the Jaguar offense is being a little underestimated as an anemic unit and against a dysfunctional Giants team, I think this might be easier than how murky it looks.

Denver Broncos -3 1.5U – Kind of a homer bet, but an opener at Mile High is like getting balls off the table. Seattle is a straight up shell of itself, losing so much veteran talent in the offseason that I can’t believe the juice is as good as it is and that there’s been little-to-no line movement since I bought this last week. I wish I got it at -2.5, but I think the Donkeys are going to dominate.

Los Angeles Rams -4.5 1U – Fade the Gruden Raiders all day long, doesn’t matter if they’re at home. It’s a coach that hasn’t been in the league for fifteen years on a team with more internal strife and drama than probably any other team in the league. The Rams franchise turnaround since moving to LA is insane.

I’m staying away from the Pats until some of their injury problems work themselves out. Brady is sorely lacking targets against a Houston team with offensive and defensive assets that I think are going to trouble them with -6.5 points to cover. I also put 1U on Colorado +4 against Nebraska just for rivalry funsies, and with the weather apparently looking terrible for the Steelers v. Browns, it might be a little interesting to throw money on the under, although the books are already adjusting downwards from a o/u of 44 so it might be too late. Lots of tight lines opening week, and obvious stuff like Detroit -7 against the Jets or the Packers -7.5 against Chicago seems a little trappy to me. A virtual pick ’em in Miami, with the Titans -1 is something else I’m staying away from, despite some confidence Tennessee walks away with it handily.

Good luck!

It’s the Spring/Summer Television Review Guest Starring the Fall Television Preview as ‘Cousin Oliver’

As the leaves begin to change and it starts to get darker earlier, fall feels nearer and nearer which means it’s prime television season. So we find ourselves once again looking back at the last several months of stuff I watched and stuff I might watch in the coming months. Looking back at my spring and summer lightning round, I’ve been putting off trying to wrap my head around what was evidently an extremely confusing second season of Westworld and even Jessica Jones can’t draw me back into the Marvel universe. Everything I did watch was mostly miserable or paranoia inducing.

It Sure is Tough Being a Lady: The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 and Sharp Objects

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After a promising and critically-acclaimed first season, The Handmaid’s Tale returned to Hulu at the end of April with enough piss and vinegar to fill three quarters of a fourteen episode bottle. Despite possibly proving to the rest of the streaming services that releasing all of your episodes at once might not be the best idea when you’re trying to keep a viewer’s head in the long-term buzz game, I’d say my biggest complaint with the second season was that it suffered from wheel-spinning endemic of a show with too many episodes ordered by the network. Plot threads went nowhere or consistently stalled and started, MacGuffins were abound, and while wishy-washy emotional decision making might let a show feel more “true-to-life”, it makes for infinitely frustrating television watching. While remaining almost oddly politically prescient from a writing perspective, it’s a show carried primarily by fantastic acting from the cast and was a great week-to-week watch I scheduled my Tuesday nights around. Generally, unless I thought about plot holes and character motivations for more than ten or fifteen minutes after it was over, it was riveting. With the longer season issues and a lack of real concrete “wins” for the oppressed women in a United States overtaken by right-wing religious fundamentalists, I fear unless some aspects of the plotting are changed, it will devolve into a feminist version of The Walking Dead: circular, aimless misery porn disguised as prestige TV. June and escaping Gillead is the new Sam and Diane. (Pam & Jim?) 7/10

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Personal bias: watching Amy Adams drive around in a shitty Volvo, smoking Parliaments and drinking vodka out of a water bottle while listening to moodier, late-period Led Zeppelin is my idea of a good television show regardless of where it’s set or what the story is. Based on the debut novel by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), Sharp Objects was about a St. Louis reporter returning to her small hometown to investigate a murder. Criticized for pacing issues, which I considered interesting scenery chewing and some creative if-at-times confusing editing tricks, it was a fairly straight-forward character study about toxic femininity, family dynamics, Southern manners, substance abuse and mental health issues. Like the first season of True Detective, the show kept you invested enough in the mystery’s red herrings as a procedural, but ultimately was anchored by wonderful performances from Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Eliza Scanlen. Mercifully, it’s been marketed as a miniseries, ensuring that it likely won’t return for a second season and suffer a loss in quality with no source material to draw from. Cough. 7.5/10 Continue reading →

Please Call the Epic Pass Something Else

Anyone functionally literate knows that in our modern parlance, there is possibly no word more overused than “epic.” Even the original internet curmudgeon who only writes like twice a year anymore took time to put his stamp on it eight fucking years ago. It’s like “awesome” but never quite casualized down to the point where it sounds nonchalantly correct when somebody says it. For it to be the defining word of the Colorado ski industry’s season pass advertising campaign, which is seen on billboards all over town and heard on radio spots constantly it can be an aggravating experience, especially for those of us who don’t understand or will never reap the tangible benefits. Mountain sports aren’t really for me, I don’t like being recreationally cold and a ski lift is basically a ferris wheel it’s easier to murder somebody on. The Epic Pass makes Colorado feel like living in a state populated entirely by 14 year-old boys playing Fortnite, another thing I’ve never participated in but I’ve about had it with all the same.

Costing nearly $1000 but available in a variety of restricted tiered flavors, the Epic Pass is probably an objective bargain if going down a hill screaming “wheeee” is your thing. Maybe you’re one of those jackasses that leaves them clipped to your snow jacket, desperately inviting conversation at a Starbucks from some other guy in pants everyone can hear when he walks. It’s fine. That’s your thing. I hope both of you end up like Sonny Bono, or Liam Neeson’s wife, whichever celebrity ski death reference is going to track, but it’s your stupid thing and everyone has one. For the rest of us, if as a society we could just rename it that’d really be great. I’ve got some suggestions!

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Double down on the irritating and obviously dated cool-guy lingo and let’s just go with Tubular Pass! Embrace snowboarding’s awkward DayGlo roots, rock a Wyld Stallyns t-shirt, and hit the slopes with a pass good all season in Colorado, Utah, and Lake Tahoe for one low price! You’re so cool. You bought a fanny pack before the ironic phase, drunkenly cut your own Trevor mullet after Charlie Blackmon decided on turning himself into the walking embodiment of a Duck Dynasty season 4 DVD, and you’re just 2 blazed 2 care. Get up to the timeshare, pound some natty ice, stash that vape pen, hit the lift, and go fuck yourself, brah.

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People like truth in their advertising, so this rebranding campaign would emphasize the nearly three hours in traffic you’ll spend getting from the gentrified, traffic-clogged hellscape of Denver to Silverthorne, a 65-mile drive. Sunday, after you’re hungover from lodge drinking, you’ll have another three hours of mind-numbing traffic to nurse your sore body and ruminate in contemplating suing a child for running into you at 10AM on Saturday. Leave your yuppie LoDo condo life behind for a weekend so you can huff Suburu exhaust fumes until you get so hungry you settle for the seventh Burger King you see in Frisco instead of the planned family meal at Beau Jo’s Pizza (it’s Colorado style!), which you could’ve just gotten in Arvada on the way up. You could take the ski train from Union Station to Winter Park, but you paid almost $1000 for this experience, you’ll be damned if you’re not going to resort-hop in your own Porsche Cayenne. You can’t listen to Imagine Dragons and get all pumped for the slopes on a shuttle! BELIEVER!

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Perhaps I’m being unfair in characterizing people who have hobbies that cost upwards of $5000 a year as resort-dwelling snobs or the type of pampered rich kids that fly in and rent RVs for music festivals. Maybe it was my young California upbringing, where for the base payment of a surfboard and some training in creative parking you could have a lifelong pastime that connected you to nature and a whole community of people in your area. In Colorado, nothing is affordable anymore, and if you work for less than $60K a year, forget being able to live in anything less than a two bedroom house with eight other people you met on Craigslist. Who has Breck condo money these days? This pass reflects the realities of being working class in Colorado while still trying to engage in some kind of recreational activity so you don’t blow your brains out all over the Fryolator. For the low cost of $450 on the season, pick one mountain to ski all winter long, and we’ll throw in your lodging: a futon in a trailer we’ve euphamized as a hip “tiny house” built for resort staff. You’ll be sharing it with a lift operator that’s been addicted to percocet since he blew out his knee in 2007 or a ski patrolman that targets Chinese tourists indiscriminate of gender for his sexual predilections. Bring some kush and craft beer, it’s used as currency in the employee “villages.”

Aaron Boone Suspended for Today’s Game

Friday night, Aaron Boone was ejected as the Yankees were being no-hit by the Tigers for arguing balls and strikes. Nic Lentz, a substitute homeplate umpire, had established a low strike zone early in the game but it was evidently not very consistent between Detroit and New York hitters. Jawing from the dugout, Boone was thrown out with very little hesitation by Lentz, and enraged, Boone stormed out from the dugout where he gave Lentz a quick strike zone lesson from behind the plate and got in his face. Apparently, hat bill contact is an offense worth suspending for in the MLB. If you haven’t seen the ejection and subsequent exchange, it’s something to behold from a manager that has been criticized by Yankee faithful as being a little too mild-mannered and working too close to a sabermetrics book in his debut season as the New York skipper.

Yankees like a pugilist at the helm (see: Martin, Billy; Girardi, Joe) and you can’t argue with results. In what felt like blatant retaliation, the Yanks came up in the next inning to hit three homeruns after being no-hit for 5 innings, taking the lead 4-3. I had been in the shower at the time, but I had the game turned up and heard each of Michael Kay’s calls. My reaction could only be described as “Ray Liotta in the shower after the airport heist in Goodfellas” while I slammed my hand on the tile and yelled “WIN IT FOR BOONIE!” enough times to probably disturb my neighbors. New York went on to win the game 7-5 in a goddamn late-season nailbiter for the ages.

Today’s game against the Tigers hopefully keeps the momentum going after the reunification of a sorely missed Gary Sanchez and debut of Aaron McClutchen in a 2-1 victory yesterday. I took the Yanks at a -1.5 spread on -135 juice for 1.5 Units this afternoon, tail or fade at your own risk. I think Lance Lynn is due a good outing today on the mound, the lineup is tightening back up as something a little more threatening, and although Stanton is having a much-needed day off, the outfield has enough depth both defensively and at bat to give him the rest. You can find me in the reddit Game Day Thread, where I would please urge the board to stop the Chicken Little posting on every piece of the other team’s offense or Yankee fielding miscue. It’s been a rough but ultimately successful season and I think any fan should be optimistic about the playoffs, especially if this team can get and stay healthy. I miss Aaron Judge and Sir Didi so much. Nic Lentz is a baby and Reagan should’ve busted up the Umpire’s Union.

Arvada’s Response to the G-Line Tests Illustrates How Astonishing it is That Anyone Here is Even Able to Put on Pants in the Morning

Without a doubt, and it has been said before, my favorite ax to grind is Colorado’s Regional Transport District. Seemingly resolute in their determination to prove that contracting out what should be a public utility to the lowest bidders actually undermines the lauded efficiencies of capitalism, they almost stand in direct defiance of America’s predominant worldview. It’s a case study as to why certain industries should never be run as a profit-motivated business.

It’s like a satire of a transit agency. Their trains are better vessels to commit suicide with than commute to work in. I’ve met heroin addicts more punctual than the overworked and underpaid operators and the construction and opening of new lines goes about as smoothly as rubbing your cock on a belt sander. It’s trash. It’s for the birds. Their board of directors ought to be flayed to ribbons, smoked and cured, and then turned into birdcage liner. A loosely-affiliated network of Romanian gypsy cab dispatchers could replace them with better results, a higher level of customer satisfaction, and less life-threatening stab wounds.

But in regards to the citizenry of Arvada complaining about the long-awaited, infinitely delayed G-Line testing process, for once I’m going to do the unthinkable and defend the absolute bane of my existence. My unyielding, vicious crusade will briefly take a knee to concentrate on the flank of another front, a group so vile I hate them even more than the tax scam artists at RTD: the people of Arvada, Colorado.

If you’ve never lived or worked in Arvada, let me break it down for you: everyone here is either 91 years-old with completely nothing to do or 12 and-a-half with completely nothing to do. They roll up the sidewalks at about ten at night, making the only people still awake in town cops looking for the seventeen drunk white supremacists driving around after hanging out at a strip-mall dive bar that is named after the shopping center it’s nestled into. There are no jobs outside of short-lived retail stores run by former stay-at-home moms needing a pet project, the corporate service industry (or smaller restaurants barely fighting off their seventh sexual harassment lawsuit), or wiping the shit out of the asses of the generation that ruined this country (but somehow still own every rental property in the metro area not gobbled up by some Air B&B Techbro from Riverside, CA or scummy housing flipper) in the various retirement and nursing homes that dot the post-farming community landscape. Any quaint charm said farming industry might have had is disintegrated by the view of four starving, token horses the property owner keeps alive while he waits for a development company to buy him out and build a new gaudy subdivision with substandard building materials. If you’re a licensed EMT, you can work for one of the 30 private urgent care facilities, where you drive an ambulance around town annoying everybody while you cart out the aged dead at rates unseen since the Black Plague. Continue reading →

First Reaction: Eminem – Kamikaze

Just a few hours ago, basically with zero promotion or fan knowledge that he was working in-studio on anything other than possibly a track for the upcoming Venom film, renowned Rap God Eminem dropped an album called Kamikaze out of absolutely nowhere. Available in the usual places you can listen to stuff, I’m going to give it a spin and give a first reaction after just a little background.

His last effort, the Rick Rubin-produced Revival, was largely underwhelming to critics and fans alike. This is chalked up in some part to Eminem wanting to sort of please everyone in a comeback phase of his career, as well as Rick Rubin being an expert producer capable of being a mainstream hit factory. That’s not a dig against Rubin, although he’s had hits and misses in his career, my favorite album of all time is his work with The Mars Volta’s first record De-Loused in the Comatorium, on which both founding members claimed some of their wilder ideas were reigned in to make it more palatable. Someone as aggressive as Eminem who is probably at his best in a rawer form might not come out as interesting or appealing after being refined through Rubin’s major-label sensibilities.

Despite being in the right age demographic, Eminem has never clicked for me beyond the bigger hits and heyday stuff. I’ll own that much-maligned “backpack rap” label, socially-conscious “hip-hop” like Talib Kwali or anyone that’s ever appeared at an Adult Swim-affiliated live event, that’s probably closer to my bread and butter on this end of the musical spectrum. Eminem is undeniable, however, and any release shouldn’t be ignored. On a technical level, he’s easily within the pinnacle of his genre in terms of skill and creative risk. In a scene that relies so much on promotion and hype for releases, it’s pretty gutsy on his part to drop this without any warning, especially when right off the bat most people are talking about it being a return to form. Reunited with mentor Dr. Dre as a producer, it immediately sounds angrier and harder than Revival. Continue reading →

US Prisoners Strike Against 13th Amendment Sanctioned Slavery

“The degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”

-Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Today, after months of preparation, many prisoners in the United States will go on an unprecedented work strike in protest of inhumane treatment and exploitation within the penal system. Starting today and ending on September 9th, the anniversary of the 1971 Attica uprising, it’s likely that many inmates will face absurd and unjust retaliation for their organizing work (some already have), supported primarily by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a branch of the IWW, which I was a member of for several years. It’s important that the public is aware of the gravity of this situation, the issues being raised, and that as “citizens” we turn as much focus as possible towards this struggle in an effort to protect some of the least visible human beings in society from further violence at the hands of the institutions that hold them. Their demands are not lofty:

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human
    shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count.

In Colorado, several inmates at the Sterling Correction Facility reported to the Denver Anarchist Black Cross (disclosure: I was also a member of this organization, a prisoner support group, for a number of years) that they have begun a hunger strike in response to punitive policies that have placed several dozen prisoners in administrative segregation in a collective punishment practice. Inmates are citing a settled case that is supposed to place restrictions on solitary confinement in Colorado, as well as demanding crucial commissary restitution after prison-issued tablets were recalled and outstanding subscription money wasn’t refunded. The men in Sterling are also fighting for correspondence courses to strengthen ties with family on the outside.

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Eric King

I’d also like to use this space to bring attention to the case of Eric King, incarcerated for actions taken in support of the Ferguson Revolt and sentenced to ten years in federal penitentiary. Eric was moved to a Secure Housing Unit (solitary) last week and then transferred to the high-security SHU in Florence, Colorado. The reasons for this punishment is unclear, and it remains to be seen if this is connected to the larger prison strike struggle, as Eric is a vocal political prisoner, but has also been put in the SHU before after filing complaints about a guard who threatened Eric and his partner’s children during a visit, and the authorities blamed his correspondence with people on the outside. You can learn more about Eric King here, and he loves receiving mail! His updated address is posted here alongside guidelines for writing him. His partner was recently in a car accident and is fighting health issues. She is a friend of mine, and if you feel so inclined, please donate to help offset the costs of her medical treatments and automobile repairs.

On the outside, active solidarity to support prisoners is springing up across the United States and the world. It’s Going Down is constantly updating a page with news and ways to help, including call-in campaigns, rallies, and other actions to take to support the strike. The despicable “Silent Sam” statue was toppled last night at UNC-Chapel Hill in North Carolina and demonstrators held banners in support of the strike. Widespread graffiti murals have been reported and photographed as far away as Lisbon, Portugal and Indonesia.

I’ll be writing as much as I can about the strike as news breaks, likely trying to keep my focus on local facilities and solidarity actions here in Colorado in the next few weeks. Until all are free, strength to the prison rebels.