Wednesday, November 10, 2004

SPORTS: Raptors titilate

For the first time this year, the fourth quarter of a Raptor game has provided me with enough dead air to do other things. Tonight, the Toronto Raptors got rolled by the Sacramento Kings, a winless congregation with twice the talent. And the result was a perfectly predictable result. The last two years, Toronto couldn't keep within 30 of the Kings on their court.

Still, the Raptors have turned in three entertaining, full game efforts at the House Vince Carter Constructed. Each game has featured an energetic second unit that has made the 40-minute starter game a distant thought. The backup quintet for the Raptors of Donyell Marshall, Morris Peterson, Milt Palacio, Lamond Murray and usually Matt Bonner has been a revelation. There's scoring from all five spots, continued Point Guard energy from Palacio and a surprisingly effective rebounding duo in Marshall and Bonner. Until the Kings' beheading, the second team had been the difference in each game. Even in a night Sacramento dominated the second quarter was a saw-off, largely due to the efforts of the non-starters.

The difference, as was almost true Sunday against Portland, was the lack of game from Chris Bosh and Loren Woods. The Raptor front-court had been the difference-maker in season-starting wins over Houston and Detroit. Bosh will return to form soon. He's got too good of a game. But Woods is a hit or miss player with few hits on his resume. Still, if he can keep Marshall in a backup role and Bosh out of the middle, even a pointless, 10 board performance makes him a worthwhile starter. Still, a few games closer to the double-double he turned in against the Pistons would go a LOOOOONG way towards making the Raptors a competitive team.

Toronto is just starting a six-game, nine day trip through the wild, wild west. A couple of wins would give the Raptors a winning record upon the return to the now freezing Great White North and would be a shock to most pundits. The same pundits who had trouble deciding between predicting a 1-8 or 2-7 start to the season. This team can be a decent squad. It will take a 10-man effort most nights, but coach Sam Mitchell has shown early that he's got just that plan in mind. The Woods situation is the key. If he, or Jerome Moiso (or some combination of both) could be an 8 and 10 player, the Raptors might just have the material to surprise folks.

On the other hand, one Carter injury and the delicate balance built up early will crumble. Should be entertaining watching regardless.

TV: Premiere WindUp

While work commitments have intruded, I have had a chance to catch more of the debut shows for new shows this fall. And hallelujah, there is some good stuff worth watching.

Best of the shows I've seen thus far has been Lost. But a close second is UPN's Veronica Mars, starring Kristen Bell as the cute and sassy social outcast daughter of sheriff-turned-PI Enrico Colantoni. Veronica was formerly belle of the ball before her father tried to down the town's leading light for murdering his daughter, Veronica's best friend, Lilly. Money won out and Veronica was soon on the outs with the elite set. That gave her time to become a present-day Nancy Drew. The stories are entertaining and Bell, who reminds me of a spunky geologist I know, is a break-out star.

I wish I was about a generation younger. I'd lust after Veronica Mars but understand life as we know it's cast of characters more. It's all youthful hormones, including the hoary "student's hot for teacher" cliche. And, like Dawson's Creek, said student gets his heart desire. Enough already. But this show is worth watching for one thing, Kelly Osbourne. She's comfortable in her skin and sassy (there's that word again) and a revelation. e.e. cummings' affectations aside, I do think you have to be a certain age for this show not to come off as a waste of time.

The series you HAVE heard about, Desperate Housewives, has a through-line that reminds me of Veronica's "Who Killed Lilly" thread, while populating a street right out of Knots Landing with Twin Peaks wannabes. I can watch Terri Hatcher and Eva Langoria for a long time, but I'm put out with many of the other characters, including Nicolette Sheridan. Say, wasn't she in Knots Landing? Yep, still the man-killer. I know folks have jumped on this show as an ode to the better half, but I have to think this show only goes so far. Flavour of the month feeling. It will fade as soon as Hatcher has her Sam And Diane moment with affable Mike, played by Jamie Denton ... who might not be as friendly as he appears.

Flip the channel. Do it again. Surely, by this time, you've passed some channel showing a poker tournament. Celebrity Poker takes all the game out of Poker and injects it with some truly inane conversation between Hollywood's C List of actors. Fold.

The names and the talent that populate The Centre of the Universe should make for a good show. But when you spend the big bucks for the likes of John Goodman, Jean Smart and Ed Asner, you might be a little tight in the writing budget. Sure shows. Yet another Goodman show that shows he can't front a sitcom. A great character actor, but he needs a bigger light to take the spotlight away.

Well, that's the end of debut season. Time to take a second look at second episodes since I last wrote about the shows. Next entry, promise. And it won't be a month from now, promise.

Monday, October 11, 2004

TV: A Keeper, A Sleeper and A Sweeper

The videotapes presented three more new shows for first viewing and the results are mixed. One, Boston Legal, is a keeper. CIS New York is a sleeper with a chance to match the success it's going to get no matter what I write here. And the third? Complete Savages. Complete Review? Yuck.

Boston Legal, is of course, the phoenix that has arisen from the ashes of David Kelley's The Practice. It actually debuted last year as the final few weeks of The Practice. But a change or two amongst the carryover characters and the addition of a couple of new ones gives this show the chance to proclaim newness.

There's lots to like including carryover James Spader's Alan Shore, a lawyer with a self-aware lack of ethics and more than a hint of a heart of gold. You WANT to cheer for him, but he's just a little too smirky to get completely behind. Rhona Mitra and Lake Bell are associate lawyers drawn like moths to his flame and that is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. Monica Potter has jumped over from the sadly-missing (but still undead) Tru Calling to replace Rebecca DeMornay as the witch of the law firm. I like looking at Potter more, but DeMornay was VERY, VERY good in the part last year. Truly hateable. The other returnee from last year is William Shatner as the over-the-top Denny Crane. He's losing it, knows it, and has decided to enjoy the ride. Denny Crane, too.

The most welcome addition to the crew playing all new is Mark Valley's lawyer take on his Keen Eddie character, Detective Eddie Arlette. He and Spader bump heads immediately. Good Stuff.

Kelley normally gets two good years out of each show. This looks like a something to savour for at least that long.

CIS New York is the third in the icky innards franchise and there's a distinct lack of humour in the show thus far, even when the B Plot centres on a rat-opsy. And that's what worries me. Bill Peterson's humour is what drove CIS, the original, to its position atop the ratings. It was drier that the Las Vegas air, but it was there. Death requires humour to be palatable.

When the Miami branch of the show debuted, you'd get more than the odd shot of its lead David Caruso, smiling at least. And given the presence of Emily Procter and Sofia Milos, that was enough to buy the time to watch the show. Which brings up the coast to New York and the supposed coup of casting Gary Sinise. His character, Mack Taylor, is supposed to have the depth of Peterson's Gil Grissom and Caruso's Horatio Caine, but other than a religious fervosity, he just seems grim. As do the rest, spear-headed by Melina Kanakaredes, NY's doppleganger of Milos' Yelena Salas, hair and all.

If NY can lighten up, then it's worth watching, regardless of the lemming race to watch anything with CSI in it's title. If not, it will prove their IS a finite limite to just how much tissue damage a human brain can take (watching).

Sunday, October 10, 2004

SPORTS: A rose by any other name ...

Say it with me .. The American League Divisional Championship Series. Just trips off the tongue doesn't it? Euccchhh. To be followed by the American League Championship Series, the ALCS, cuz the real name stinks.

The problem is 'Championship.' It COMPLETELY misrepresents the first round and only slightly is more meaningful after that.

Now, let's try ... The American League Pennant Semi-Finals. Then the American League Pennant Series. Now THAT sounds better, doesn't it? Leads right into the World Series.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

TV: Calling dr vegas ...

Well, this was a week of work and not much passed by on videotape that I hadn't seen before. The exception was dr. vegas, Rob Lowe's latest attempt to prove what a good supporting character he can be. Too much screen time is NOT good for Lowe and he gets WAAAY too much time as the lead in this latest Las Vegas-set TV hour.

Lowe's Dr. Grant, Billy to all of his friends, is flawed, but good-hearted. Need to read any more? Laurence Olivier couldn't make this role sufferable. And that sinks the show. I know Joe Pantaliano is over the top as the casino owner, but I forgive Joey Pants just about anything. He's watchable. Tom Sizemore is intriguing as a casino host. Amy Adams is presentable as the other doctor in Grant's office at the Casino. And Sarah Lancaster, the lust-object last year in Everwood, surfaces here as the dealer with the heart of gold. Oops, there's that good gold-hearted description again. Arrrrgghh!!!

Watching Lancaster beam only goes so far. Eventually, Lowe's mug comes front and centre and stays too long. Thankfully, dr. vegas won't be staying all that long.

Maybe Lowe can get his old West Wing role back after proving the Peter Principle is still alive and kicking.

POLITICS: My Kerry Speech

As a Canadian, I watch the American presidential debates with a growing sense that our neighbours to the South are getting ready to make the most important vote ever held when it comes to Canadian interests.

It has been billed as the vote for the better war-time president. The candidate best able to extract the USA from the Iraq quagmire. And some people believe that. I don't. Nobody is getting out of Iraq easily or in the near future. What this vote is for is how readily America will enter its next war.

As such, the world trembles at the thought of another Bush term. Failing by virtually any other measurement, Bush can only rule by continuing fear-mongering. And it's a sad fact that effective fear-mongering requires the odd war to keep the bogeymen as threat to the mental peace of the citizenry.

Politicians lie. They lie to themselves. They lie to us. I hope those lies have a bit of non-self interest to them. In light of my expectations of fudging on the part of all politicians, the shenanigans of 30 years ago hold no interest to me. Based on what I believe is close to the truth, I would have admired the young Kerry and pilloried the party-boy Bush at the time, had I known them. But they've changed since then and neither one is to be measured completely on the youth-time exploits. The fine shadings of words taken out of context three decades later? Not interested.

If that takes the only peg leg out from under Kerry, so be it. But he is MORE than that, despite his campaign's unflagging dependence on his military exploits. Too bad they don't point more to his socially-conscious record and true international statesmanship. That said, the same mistake about Kerry is being made by Karl Rove and his cabal of Bush and Dick Cheney supporters.

Flip-flopper. Wilting in the face of the enemy. French flunkie. Repeat ad nauseum, only variating the commentary by using euphemisms.

So, if I may, let me write the speech I wish John Kerry had given early and often.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, children and any pets that might have made their way here to this event. My name is John Kerry and I am running for the Presidency of the United States of America.

I have ideas I think you will be interested in, for making America as great as it can be. I plan to stop expatriating jobs overseas to save a few bucks, only to see service diminish and dispirited ex-employees look vainly for new work. I will stop kowtowing to big drug, chemical and oil companies who are making profits at the expense of lowering the standards of living for all of you. I say all of you, because you can be sure that the fat cats enriched by the current administration have no time to stand out there listening to what I've got to say. I've got more to tell you, but let me take a few minutes to comment on the one thing that seems to be dominating the news.

My opponent, the President of the United States, has no plans to make your life better. His only plan, the one plan he has used to maintain power, is to keep you fearful. He and his Attorney General John Ashcroft, have imported the Singapore governing model intact. By chipping away at the very core of the values that make America great, he has moved us too closely to a Police state. He has used the criminal actions of 19 terrorists, 16 of them Saudis, none of them Iraqis, to curtail the personal freedoms that separate America from the rest of the world. He has waged legitimate war in Afghanistan to attack the safe harbour of those terrorits. But on the cusp of victory over terror, he invaded a country that had nothing to do with September 11th. None. And no broadly-hinted collusion charges changes that fact. He invaded a country with NO weapons of mass destruction. He invaded a country with no ability to harm American interests save for paying the families of suicide bombers in Israel. An odious practice, for sure, but does it raise the bar to the level of invasion? We had more cause to invade Saudi Arabia than Iraq.

A vote was taken before we went to war with Iraq. The Congress was asked to vote in favour of giving the President the option of going to war. We were giving information by the President that made it obvious that this option had to be made available to our Commander-in-Chief. I take the President at his word that the information we were given was the same information he had. All of it. Had we suspected at the time that the information was as error-filled as it was, as idealogically-biased as it has proven to be, as bereft of opposing points of view as were out there in large number at the time, we would not have voted for the option of war to be made available to the President.

The OPTION of war. An option to be used as a last resort. And, within weeks, without the exhausting of all political alternatives, the President gave up the focused war on terror in Afghanistan and sent the troops to Baghdad. Thousands injured. More than a thousand American men and women killed. Uncounted Iraqis dead and injured. That might not be a story here in this country where the name of every combatant killed in Vietnam is engraved in granite in Washington and the names of every lost soul in New York is read each anniversary of September 11th. I mourn for the soldiers we have lost in this needless conflict. And I mourn for the innocent lives lost in Iraq too. I wish I was confident everybody in this political arena did too.

I later voted, on first reading, against the expenditure of 85 billion dollars in Iraq. This vote was a protest against this war and its obscene profits for certain companies, and I said so at the time. I later voted for a measure that featured less pay-offs for friends of the Vice-President's former firms, and put more of that huge sum of money directly in the theatre of combat. A sum that we were later to find is one-half to one-third of the money we will be shipping to Iraq rather than spending it here at home.

These two votes are the complete focus of my opponent's campaign to be elected President of the United States of America. He has no plan to make your life better. He only wants you to fear the flip-flopper, a man he claims will wilt when faced with the most horrendous decision a President can face. War. And he claims I will bend to the will of the French and to the international community if ever faced with war. He wants you to be afraid of me.

But fear not, as you can see, I'm nothing to be afraid of. Yet, I HAVE killed. People have tried to kill me. I was wounded in action and returned to battle. I have ordered others to shoot at and presumably kill the enemy. And I have done so in a split second. In battle, you have to make those decisions. In statesmanship, you have more time to gather information, listen to all points of view, and proceed with calm determination that what you are doing is right for America.

Gathering all information, allowing dissent to be heard, allows you to learn something that permits you to change your mind. How often do we believe somebody is guilty of a crime before evidence of innocence is found? To forbid yourself the ability to change your mind is a character flaw I find unfathomable. If changing one's mind is flip-flopping, than I wear the label with pride. I assume the President does too. How else to explain his change in positions on the creation of the Department of Homeland Security or the creation of the bi-partisan September 11 Commission. His initial opposition was wrong and he changed his mind. Good for him.

I won't wilt under pressure. I won't cling to ideas and concepts proven wrong over time. And no amount of saying so by my opponents will ever make me put American self-sovereignity in the hands of non-Americans. Name-calling doesn't impress me much. I have too much hope for America to let that get to me. I hope you don't let it get to you either.

Now, back to what I plan to do to make YOUR life better ....

Sunday, September 26, 2004

TV: Comedy and SF and Middling Reviews

If somebody set out to write a sitcom JUST for me, Listen Up might very well come close to being that comedy. In other words, it doesn't have a chance of success.

Actually, ten minutes into Jason Alexander's latest attempt to wipe out the Seinfeld Curse, I was sure I was witnessing the latest two/three episodes and out sitcom. Alexander epitomizes what's wrong with today's comedies. SHOUTERS as central characters fail. You can have the odd loudmouth in a supporting role. Three of them if your lead is as strong as our old friend Jerry. But the lead can't shout, if his name isn't Jackie Gleason.

But, before Listen Up had used up the allotted 30 minutes, I started to realize I LIKE everybody on this show. The kids are cute and waaaaay less bizarre then usual. I swear the girl, Daniella Monet, is a full-scale swipe of my neice's life. Wendy Makkena proves very likeable as the wife and Malcolm Jamaal-Warner has a sense of humour (Jeremiah aside) that was honed by Bill Cosby.

And short, pudgy scribes resonate here at this computer. I've got more hair than Alexander's take-off on famed sports hack Tony Kornheiser. But I AM LOUD, too much of the time, too.

The quiet moments make Listen Up worthy of your attention. If Alexander can respond to stress with humour rather than decibel levels, than this comedy can work. I hope it does. It gives guys like me hope for the future.

The second debut to make it to the top of my tape pile was Rodney. I've never heard of Rodney Carrington before. By Christmas, I won't remember him again. The show has no future. Rodney is likeable and his wife, Jennifer Aspen, has the Okie accent that I love and have missed on TV since the days of The Torkelsons. Good-looking too. But the kids are brats, the friends' circle barely better and there isn't much to pin hope on for the future.

Moving to SF, I caught Lost and The 4400 first episodes. Both had been reviewed better than I felt about them, but were good enough to warrant continued watching.

Lost features a cast of thousands ... well at least 48 PLUS the island itself ... and as such is tough to get a handle on. In fact, as I understand it, the pilot was 90 minutes and has been chopped into two episodes. That explains a feeling of incompleteness that permeates Lost. It's from the same folks as Alias, so this feeling of uncertainity promises to last the season. Charlie Fox's Jack is fine as the lead viewpoint character. Properly heroic with a touch of everyman, as he explains an earlier near-failure to foxy Kate, played by Evangeline Lilly. The hint is that the wayward flight has landed on a dinosaur-infested isle, but the late captain looked more chewed-on than chomped. (And the web is rife with denials by JJ Abrams that this is Jurassic Park redux) My one complaint based on the limited view is the treatment of Daniel Dae Kim and his wife. Racist or Survivor? Or both? Not sure I know at this point, but I don't like the potential answer.

My main worry? Amazon. That show had a plane crash with a disparate group of survivors. Lost without hope of succor. Tropical setting. Middling star list. And it didn't pan out.

The 4400 feels like a combination of PJ Farmer's Riverworld (books and movie) and JM Straczynski's comic book series, Rising Stars. The Riverworld-like beginnings are obvious: People snatched from various periods, all put together into one group and placed in a strange place (albeit that place is current-day Earth) and finally, the group is immediately segmented. The Rising Stars reference is the powers, probably unearthly-given powers, that the group exhibits. Oh yeah, and the group is treated like freaks even before they start proving it.

Both ancestors have good pedigrees and this mini-series shows promise. Some of the actors are effective, most are neither good nor bad. The best of the lot is the little girl seer Maia, played by Conchita Campbell. She plays the part calmly rather than "Woe is me, I see the future." A neat choice. The cat-and-dog Homeland Security team played by Joel Gretsch and Jacqueline McKenzie work, although neither is completely likeable. The 4400'ers you want most to see end up well are Lily and Richard, the inter-racial couple played by Laura Allen and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali. 'Cept Lily's pregnant and that's close to impossible, even give the impossible surrounding circumstances. Lily's ex-husband is a lout who was out of town during the time when 'it' happened. And how can the kid NOT be an IT at this point?

I will stick with Lost and The 4400, hope for Listen Up to smarten up and forego any further Rodney's.

Monday, September 20, 2004

BOOKS: Jody L. Nye and The Taylor Medicine Show

Jody Nye is a favourite author of mine, usually in partnership with other authors. I first read her works in the Brawn and Brainship books co-authored by Anne McCaffrey. I put her works on my book list that I give out to the family for birthdays and Christmases and ended up with the second and third books in the series, Medicine Show and The Lady and The Tiger. I couldn't get the first book, Taylor's Ark, for ever so long. So the other books gathered dust on the reading pile.

Then, about a month ago, I happened upon Taylor's Ark at a book and software blowout store. What a happy happinstance.

Taylor's Ark proved to be a medical mystery thriller in outer space with a decided humanistic approach to its lead character, Dr. Shona Taylor. There's murder most foul in the book, a corporate baddie who is despicable, medical puzzles and a series of supporting animal characters to make Shona's life an abosolute joy to read about. Chief amongst the animals is a sentient cross between an otter and a turtle. I LOVE otters. I LOVED Chirwl, the ottle. He injected that little bit of humour that HAS to be part of any medical story about life and death.

Shona's husband, Gershom was largely absent in this book, but somehow was still all too real. By book's end, there was an addition to the family, if a little extra-legally. And the good guys did win out in the end, as all good trilogies demand.

The second book, Medicine Show, brought Gershom closer to the action, while moving the villain from the first book, off-stage, where he manipulated making Shona's life miserable. The setting of the book was Chirwl's home planet and picture the Ewoks in costume and you have a good idea what Shona had to deal with. Shona and Gershom solved the problems with adoption and ended this book with an addition to their family of their own.

Like the first book, which I passed along to doctor-wannabe Krystal from my Movie Mob, this book was a joy to read.

Alas, the third book, The Lady and The Tiger, just peters out. Each of the first two books took about fice days to read, mostly during the pre-sleep period I reserve for reading each night. I was mostly reluctant to put the book down each night.

It took almost three weeks to get through the third book. Mostly, I'd get a chapter in and then call it a night. The joie de vivre from the first two books was missing. Gershowm, so important a character in the first two books, just wasn't around much in this third book. Shona's brood had grown yet again and now she was playing harried mother more than infectious disease problem-solver.

The setting didn't help the book. Unlike the multi-planet tour of the initial volume and the Ewokian-like setting of the middle book, this book was set on Jandidor, a planet of rich, elitist, lazy, mostly contact-phobic snobs. It doesn't work. You just don't care if Shona saves this group or not. And there's no death threats hanging over her head from the second book.

My recommendation is that you get and read the first two books in the series. Leave the third book for when the reading pile has nothing else in it.

MOVIE: Sky Captain

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is an interesting picture to look at. It's all black and white and washed out earth tones. The only sight of primary colours is Polly Perkins' red, really red, lipstick.

Perkins, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law's Sky Captain share the (blue) screen for most of the movie. It's the blue screen that makes this movie a must-see, even if it's only eventually on the small screen in your living room. The movie was shot in a room painted blue, with the odd blue painted box to sit on. The rest of the movie was digitally created. Many, many shots feature LAYERS of special effects. You will see blimps against a background of New York City with snow falling in the foreground. There's all kinds of skylights lighting up the night sky and you sit there and wonder what the film budget must have been.

In reality, it was less than $70 million, a mere pittance in today's film-making mega universe. But it took about eight years for creator/director Kerry Conran to finish the movie. Most of it was doing the animation, some of which started life on a Macintosh computer waaaaay less powerful than the computer you are probably using right now to read this.

The wonderment of all of this, plus the resulting visuals, are the reasons to someday watch this movie. I look, very much, to buying the DVD with its extras.

How was the movie, other than as a spectacle? So-so at best. The film lags in the third half-hour. Characters impossibly survive and scene transitions don't make sense all the time. Paltrow doesn't do much for me. Neither does Angelina Jolie, who crops up about the time the movie let me nod off for a bit of a catch-up on the night's sleep. Disclaimer here: It was a late-night screening and I have been working hard at pretending to work hard.

Bottom line, you SHOULD see this movie at some time. It's not for kiddies, despite its comic book roots. But any adult with any kid left in them, will find it a useful waste of time.

TV: Heather and the Flame-Haired Youngster

As work permits, I get to catch up with the new TV shows courtesy of videotape. This weekend, the debuts were LAX and Canadian rock half-hour Instant Star.

LAX tries hard. There's more than a few wacko moments that strike one as trying too hard. Especially the complete Serbian crew who gets drunk and then tries to hijack the plane they are supposed to be flying home, but have been prevented from doing so thanks to the usual serendipity. They are stopped when a heroic LAX exec drives her car up against the wheels of the soon-to-depart jet.

The car is driven by an adrenalin-junkie character played with her usual relish by Heather Locklear. From our first sighting of Locklear stumbling out of a car after a night partying to the finish shot where Locklear races through the airport with the ladies' hubba-hubba, Blair Underwood, she is the ONLY thing worth watching intently in this show. Underwood plays unlikable with some relish. He'll obviously have to have a heart of gold. But it doesn't show right now.

Others populate the show, but owe their continuing jobs to Heather. Pretty good job insurance, if you ask me [G].

Instant Star debuted with a double-episode hour after the Canadian Idol final and it felt like a musical Degrassi High spin-off. And that's pretty high praise. Alexz Johnson, she of the strange name-spelling (even her character's name is missing letters- Jude) and Mary Jane Watson-like long, red hair, is a likeable kid too young for the cut-throat world of rock-and-roll music, but out there too much on her own. She has a Lizzie McGuire-like family, replete with mostly antagonistic sibling and two parents too wilfully unaware of what's happening with their darling girl.

What I like about the show is how Kris Turner's Tommy 'Q', the former boy band crooner turned record producer is a little more complex than the usual adult. He's smart enough to squash the inevitable immediate crush Jude develops, but not too nice. He seems to be settling into the role I would envision a producer would fill.

This show is from the folks who have churned out Degrassi material for most of the last two decades. It's almost always quality stuff. Now, if I can only get my neice to watch it ...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

DVD: Keen Eddie- The Complete Series

The joy of watching collected series of television shows, is watching them in order. To watch FireFly or any of the Stargate years, is to watch a gigantic story being laid out in its intended order by the creators. Frequently, it adds a whole different layer of understanding.

AND cliff-hangers don't bug you nearly as much!!! AND you get to see episodes you missed or were never broadcast. Watching TV on DVD on your TV is a good thing.

AND it gets better with the release this month of the much lamented Keen Eddie series from Fox a couple of summers back. I caught eight of the 13 episodes the first (and second) time around, as a local station blew out its inventory in a post-midnight two-week marathon after Fox cancelled it. I got them onto tape, but kept gnashing my teeth over the missing episodes.

Now I have them. The smile should be visible from low-space orbit. This is a FUNNY cop show. It mines territory explored years ago by the wonderful Dempsey and Makepeace, starring Michael Brandon and gorgeous Glynis Barber. Take a New York cop, plop him down in good old London town, and watch the sparks fly.

Keen Eddie's titular star is Mark Valley, playing Eddie Arlette. Mind you, his mutt Pete, is equally Yankee in tone of behaviour. Team Eddie up with randy Brit partner Pippin, played with hilarious kinkiness by Julian Rhind-Tutt, and you have the makings of a good show. In keeping with Dempsey and Makepeace, the tortured commander Keen Eddie reports to is neither friend nor foe, which is the usual way of handling the dynamic. Colin Salmon plays the role with intensity and submerged personality.

The ladies in the show include Carol Ross, played by Rachel Buckley, and Fiona, played by Sienna Miller. Fiona is Eddie's unwilling flatmate and Miller has the same fiesty attitude and stunning looks as Barber's Makepeace. Had the show continued, Eddie and Fiona would have had their Sam and Diane moment (or two). But we can only imagine at this point. Carol, dubbed Moneypenny by Eddie, serves the purpose of erotic foil, having one dream sequence each episode where Eddie fantasizes that the cool and collected secretary of the commander has said something totally inappropriate.

There were more than a few recurring characters in the short-lived series. None was more seen than Alexei Sayle's Drug Chemist/Dentist/Actor/Informant. You'd have to watch the series to understand the reference, although all shows Sayle is in features the deadpan delivery of the vaunted Brit commedian.

This DVD is very competitively priced, but features NO extras. I mean NONE! It's a menu and three or four epsisodes per disk. That's it. I would have paid extra for SOME extras, but boy is it refreshing to get just the stuff I want most and to get it for two thirds the price I pay for season sets of other shows.

If you are an adult (the shows do have more sexual innuendo than is appopriate for a youngster) and you have a pulse and a brain, then Keen Eddie is a worthwhile use of your DVD player.

TV: Yawn! Hold on! There IS TV worth watching!

The TV season is off to a colossal yawn. Well, it was until I finally caught a new show worth catching.

That show is Jack and Bobby. Here in Brampton, I watch it on CKVR channel 20 on Sundays. It's worth seeking out. The show is told in flashback form, the interviewees all in 2041, talking about an ex-president, his early days, his interesting family. The talking heads set up a variety of scenes that help you find out just who Jack and Bob McAllister are, shown in their high school years in the present. It takes a whole first episode to tell which one becomes the future president. It does so with finesse. You almost miss it.

The show, which features Christine Lahti as the scenery-chewing mother of the boys, is a treasure for the language. The show is wordy. Sometimes wordy to the point where I fear less-literate viewers might tune out. But give it a try. Please. PLEASE!!!! This is a series worth watching.

As such, it stands out amongst the new entries in my video-tape library. Joey? A laugh or two, and I really quite like Drea DeMatteo. But there seems to be too many dim-wits in this group for my liking. The rocket scientist nephew doesn't exhibit smarts. Even the next-door potential love interest lawyer seems less than forceful. (And I already miss Ashley Scott, the former Dark Angel/Birds of Prey hottie, who piloted the role, but didn't make it to primetime) It has to grow to grow on me. Maybe, maybe not.

Medical Investigation also suffers from the (lack of) pulchritude factor. Neal McDonough might catch the ladies' eye, but he doesn't do much for me. It's a humdrum medical show with not one thing to make it worth watching instead of something else average. Not bad. Just not better than average.

Same thing goes for Hawaii. Maybe the show would look better if North Shore hadn't gotten to the 'Bra' beat first. That's 'Bra', as in the Hawaiian corruption of Brother, not the bikini top. There's a good Hawaiian show out there. It's called Magnum PI re-runs. The eye-candy is a bit hit and miss in both island shows. Tamara Craig Thomas, the Canadian cutie, has never looked better in Hawaii. Nikki DeLoach and ex-OC siren Amanda Righetti light up the increasingly dull North Shore. But where are the island girls? Lots of beach shots, but no starring roles. Both shows can be watched. But why?

The last of the debut shows I've seen is Father of the Pride. An adult animated show. And the effort is wasted. Ralph Bakshi proved long ago that smutty cartoon animals are just as boring as witless humans working with boring scripts in live action fare. The animation is very good, but familiarity breeds contempt. And after a while, you forget just how miraculous such animation is, technically. With the cost of this show, I'd expect an early cancellation and a release on DVD of the complete series in time for Christmas 2005. But the nine-month lead-time for each episode might mean we are stuck with this stinker for the season.

Let's take a brief moment here to say a sad farewell and R.I.P. to the one decent summer-time series. The Days was the rarity amongst family shows. The kids were all likeable, although imperfect. And the parents were likeable too!!! Shows about pregnant teenagers and pregnant 40-year old mothers don't survive. But they should have. I will miss The Days.

NOW, go set your VCRs for the double-episode of Jack and Bobby on Sunday if you have other plans for the early Sunday evening.

SPORTS: Good bye Vincent Lamar Carter

At this point in time, Vincent Lamar Carter is a Toronto Raptor. He doesn't want to be. And the feeling is SOOOOO strong, that this little mama's boy FINALLY worked up the gumption to say it out loud, within hearing distance of more than friends, family and stooges.

Is Mr. Carter growing a spine? Nah. He waited for the CBA lockout and went public figuring he wouldn't be public enemy #1 when there were so many hockey players and NHLPA union leaders around to excoriate. Like Baron Davis, who I wished ill health, I hope Carter suffers every indignity possible, short of life-threatening.

Carter had a case against Richard Peddie, the meddlesome corporate PITA. Had he come out and stated his case, there would have been immense support for him, including from here. But Carter proved gutless, while a string of syncophants and stand-ins whined for him. And gutless was followed by being clueless. The reputed demand for the Raptors to chase after players it couldn't LEGALLY afford (Steve Nash) nore REASONABLY trade for (Jamal Magloire) only revealed his intellect for what it is: small and hard to notice.

Vincent Lamar Carter doesn't get it. There will come a day, now closer than it was before, when he no longer a Raptor. To that day, we look forward.

Good bye Vincent Lamar Carter. I hope we get a basketball player when you leave. I DO know we will have one less crybaby when you are gone.

SPORTS: What else, the NHL Situation

In my misspent youth, a union came to my aid. I was stringing for a major Toronto daily, covering the local minor-league basketball team. I had worked for the team as an announcer, but at this juncture, was back to being an ink-stained wretch. At one point, my editor informed me that the space allotted to the team would be cut in half, immediately. I mentioned that to the team's GM in my daily discussion with the man. He phoned his owner who phoned my boss who phoned me to tell me my services were no longer required.

As it turned out, the journalist union came to bat for me and got the firing reversed. Without my asking. I didn't figure I had done anything wrong at the time. But when the wheel of phone calls finished, I knew I'd screwed up. So, even though I wasn't fired, I never worked for that editor again. Indeed, I only did a few more articles for the paper before deciding I didn't want to work for them ever again. It was a mutually happy parting of the ways.

Going back into my family history, which has a predominantly British background, I have been assured that unions were helpful on the odd occasion. Indeed, unions have been very helpful to those who find themselves in an easy-to-exploit situation where repetitive task labourers were (and sometimes still are) liable for replacement.

Many unions are good things. Many unions are not. As a rule, I think they are anachronistic dinosaurs. My father was a victim of a union where he got the worst of the scheduling because he didn't play party politics. Union bosses have frequently replaced hellish owners as the worst thing that could ever happen to a worker. As such, I have a dim view of unions. And in places where the talent of the individual SHOULD be the work guarantee that is basically the sole raison d'etre of a union, the union is a pain in the butt to all, workers, owners and third parties alike.

Welcome to the mess that is the NHL. The union lives in a fantasy world, claiming it will NOT give up the free market evaluation of salaries. It will NOT partner up with the NHL and accept an in-toto percent of the revenues. It will sit on the sidelines and NOT play hockey this year, members NOT making money, rather than accept the fact that owners, unwilling to continue losing money to let the fat cat unionistas live life large, need a change in the system. The union wants the ability to pig out at the owner's trough, no matter how unhealthy the situation comes for them and for the owners. This group-think is mostly associated with lemmings. I don't think the union is that smart.

For those of you amongst the lower-paid ranks of the NHL, let me tell you the union is bartering your jobs away. Jobs will be lost in the reconstituted NHL when you come back to play after a long stoppage. Tenuous franchises in the American south will be folded or merged. Roster sizes will be decreased. And those lost jobs, which might be as few as 30 and as many as 250, will come from the ranks of the lowest paid. Are YOU willing to risk that cushy livelyhood (approximately a half million dollars a year) so that the best-paid of your brethren have unlimited access to some owner's ego?

Right now, the NHL is committed to a system that saves all the jobs and assures a reasonable amount of money for all players. It does nothing to prevent individual players from getting silly money. You can dream of the REALLY BIG payday, still. IF you EARN it. This is the plan your union refuses to even listen to or negotiate over.

Wow. You've been told you can win this fight. You can keep the unreasonable system that makes losers out of badly-run franchises (Rangers) and well-run ones (Devils). The owners will cave because the fans will demand they throw in the towel as they have done so many times before. The owners, who will lose money during the lockout, will reach a point where they will decide they want some bang out of their bucks and just say "one more year under the old agreement." That that agreement was working in the last two years (thanks mainly to the looming CBA expiration, which the union won't mention). And, most importantly, so that the next generation of NHLers don't look back on your time in the Big Show and curse you for being lily-livered wusses.

Your union lies to you. The fans will NOT fight for you to get on the ice no matter the cost. We, the fans, are tired of paying through the nose, just so you can thumb your noses at us. The fans side with the owners.

Make a deal now. Save the season. Save all your jobs. Else be prepared to be forgotten in America and reviled in Canada. THAT is what your legacy will be.

Friday, September 03, 2004

RANT: Baron Davis

Hey Baron, break a leg. Really. Break a leg. Your agent's would do. And while you're at it, check the mirror and see if you are looking back from the glass.

A year ago, you signed a contract with the New Orleans Hornets. Guaranteed money, no matter if you stunk the joint out, got hurt or otherwise embarassed the club for maxing you out. You've chosen door number three. You want, no DEMAND, a trade to a contending NBA club.

You ungrateful snot. You selfish SOB. You could play like a max player, a first-team all-star and try to drag your club up like lesser-paid Chauncey Billups does. But you don't play that well. You're not a first-teamer and you've only got an injury complaint of some sorts as a fig leaf of dignity.

You, sir, are an honour-less cretin. And the shyster you call an agent is only better in terms of being an educated honour-less cretin. Your word is worthless. Your cowardice when faced with the challenge of making N.O. competitive should mean any self-respecting NBA contender should want nothing to do with you. The Hornets' bad result last season was as much YOUR fault as anybody's. Why would anybody want to trade a decent, hard-working player or two to New Orleans for you?

There is some solace for you. You're not the only village idiot in the me-first, show-the-world-the-NBA's-the-best league. Oh, that's right. It's players like you that made the USA what it has become. A first-rate school for troubled children, a first-rate hi-lite reel show and a third-rate show of basketball.

The just result would be a stint riding the bus in the minors. The contract you signed, that New Orleans will honour, won't permit that. Aren't you lucky OTHERS feel honour-bound to back up their signature with action?

Break a leg Baron.

Monday, August 30, 2004

COMEDY: I Like Kevin Smith, dagnabit!

Comedy is always a personal thing. The list of people that make me laugh isn't long. Mostly because I rarely enjoy raunchy, silly or slapstick humour. For me, the ability to tell a joke without offensive language is a skill to be treasured.

I grew up with Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and George Carlin as the holy trinity of laughter. Hope was always about one-liners, Carson about the setup and grinning punchline and Carlin the thoughtful comic. Indeed, I learned what the words you can't say on TV were from Carlin. At the same time, the single funniest spot I have EVER seen a comedian do featured Carlin coming on-stage and NOT SAYING A SINGLE WORD! He looked like he was going to start about a dozen times. Each time, he sighed, shrugged in defeat and tried once more to summon the courage to say something. I convulsed when he left the stage, still having not said a single word.

Over the years, other comedians joined my little class of must-see comics. I like David Brenner. And Bill Maher joined the conclave about a decade ago. He's the 'new' Carlin, the comic with an idea that jokes can inform as well as entertain. Jay Leno, more Hope than Carson, also has been worthy of my nightly night-time watching. Maher's the closest to raunchy on that list, but he's smarter when he works clean.

Shockingly, the must-see list now includes a truly smutty comic. And he's the funniest man alive, to boot. I talk here about Billy Connelly, the Scottish comedian who even has a routine called "Effing this, and Effing that." His take on the self-absorbed American makes him consistently funny, despite the foul language.

Which finally brings me to Kevin Smith, who ISN'T a comedian. I had occasion over the weekend to watch "An Evening with Kevin Smith." Smith is the director of such movies as Clerks, Mallrats, Saving Amy, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back! Truth to be told, I only enjoyed Chasing Amy from that lot. He's written those movies and more and appeared in most of them too. He also writes top-calibre comic books (albeit without regard to a publishing schedule).

And he is very funny, if possibly the foulest-mouthed person I've listened to in a while.

An Evening is a long college concert show (almost four hours) pieced together from five shows at various US schools. It's slow to get to the parts that make it worthwhile--Smith's meeting his wife, his dalliance with Prince over a would-be documentary and his utter dismissal of Tim Burton and Jon Peters as anything other than visitors from another planet. Those parts are brilliant story-telling. Up until then, you have to wade through Smith's obsession with ... penises. He rarely puts two sentences together that could be clipped for TV. But I laughed, despite myself several times. Still, if he hadn't started with the longer-form stories, I might not have finished the documentary.

But I'm glad I did. I had actually used the Smith break to try and get over a programming problem that I had. I was stopped cold, couldn't see the solution for the obstacles stacked up in my brain. Watching Smith swear for three hours plus shook loose the cobwebs. Another day's work got the problem solved, and Mr. Smith bears some credit.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

SPORTS: Lies, statistics and BIG WHOPPERS

There is going to be a strike in the NHL this fall. Hardly profound, but tis the sad truth. During the week or two before the insanity begins, both sides will attempt to convince you and me that their side is right. A pox on their houses.

Let's talk about some points that will be whined about. The players will say business with any restraint on the free market economy is wrong. Well, sports is NOT business. As Microsoft and many others have proven, the role of most businesses is to strive towards a monopoly position. Sports teams NEED competitors. A couple of years ago, George Steinbrenner was moaning about less than a full house at Yankee Stadium where the locals were hosting the inconsequent Kansas City Royals. He used THAT as a reason for needing a new stadium. That's the equivalent of the murderer of parents asking for sympathy as an orphan. HE spent the Royals into trivial status and his fans knew it and stayed home.

Furthermore, many, many sports owners operate their sports teams as vanity businesses. Mark Cuban comes to mind, until this year. Guess all that money he used to lavish on the Dallas Mavericks is now going to go to make really bad TV.

When gigantic egos are involved, then you get inane decisions. Again, Steinbrenner was once reputedly a star. Over-hearing two scouts raving about a player of moderate ability playing for the Angels (Spike Owen), he decided to tell his GM of the week (this was before Cashman) to go get the player, offering up two million reasons why the player should jump to the Yanks. Since that almost TRIPLED the salary he was ready to accept from California, you shouldn't be surprised at the result. A new well-paid Yankee. A year later, every banjo-hitting infielder, including Toronto's Alfredo Griffin, had that contract starred and at the top of their arbitration data book. Steinbrenner's idiotic contract cost many, many clubs millions of dollars immediately. And since the Griffins of the world were worth more, than the REALLY good shortstops were worth even MORE.

And to think, arbitration was an OWNERSHIP idea!!! Yes, these titans of industry and neophyte sports owners, conjured up the WORST SINGLE IDEA in the history of sports ownership. And it wasn't just baseball. Hockey followed suit just as disastrously. All in a lame attempt to end holdouts. Take the current labour agreements of both hockey and baseball, eliminate arbitration and set restricted free agency to a certain age and then unrestricted free agency thereafter, and the sports would get healthy that much quicker.

Arbitration is impossible, with apologies to those who try each off-season. In baseball, when Baltimore gives Cal Ripken a huge contract for what he means to the local community, the value of the contract should have NO bearing on contracts to other players who don't share a similar career-long importance. Ripken, at the end, was making two-thirds of his money on his service to the organization, not what he was doing on the field of play. But that sentimentality doesn't show up in the raw numbers.

Another whining point I've heard, most recently from Chris Pronger, is that hockey players don't get unfettered free agency until age 31. He points to the earlier free agency of football players making it sound like hockey slavery that football players get unrestricted free agency as much as nine years earlier. Chris, and the rest of you who point to football and basketball--STOP using examples from games with salary caps. They all claim they can't make the big money until they're almost ready for retirement.

So what? Where is it written that a professional player must be rich beyond all belief before becoming middle-aged? They play a sport. I hope they get compensated for it. Compensated to the extent that they don't ever have to work another day in their life? Doesn't interest me a whit. Today's population will AVERAGE three careers in their lifetimes. Most everyone will change jobs about every 12-15 years, on average. Few are narcisistic enough to believe they only need to put one good decade in and park the butt permanently.

Which brings me to another plaintive whine from the players. "Well they OFFERED us the money, we didn't demand it!" That's like my mother denying me food cuz I looked forlornly hungry rather than saying, "Ma, I'm starved!" Beyond that, if anything has become obvious in the last five years, is that eating everything that comes your way is NOT HEALTHY. There's nothing wrong with leaving some behind. Those leftovers might make another meal, or feed another family. Being a pig when led to the trough isn't something to claim loudly, it's something to clam up about.

Next season, when Peyton Manning has one fewer weapons (either James or Harrison will leave as a Free Agent next summer because Manning's status as the most-highly paid player in football doesn't leave money in the kitty for both), do you think he'll wish he WASN'T the richest dude in football. One day, he'll be looking up at the roof of the Indianapolis Dome when some second-rate running back or lineman missed a block on a blitzing defender that crunched him and he'll say to himself, "I wished I'd given some of that money up for better guards!"

Some things are mysteries that need millions of man-hours to solve. Say, the long-lasting light-weight battery. Other mysteries are only mysteries to fools with an inability to look past their own nose. Ownership in ALL sports have a workbook for success. It is called the NFL. It has a cap. It doesn't hand out guaranteed contracts (although some of the bonuses are getting baseball-like silly). And it's owners share their money. Ergo, Green Bay plays with the big boys. Everybody makes the playoffs every couple of years, unless management REALLY hires a series of screwballs. In which case, they SHOULD be lost in the wilderness.

The NFL wasn't alway first. Baseball was America's game for about a century. Football built slowly, creating a fair field for all teams. Each team was guaranteed profit, LOTS of it if the team did well. THAT'S the kind of franchise that makes owners think about investing in. Football teams don't get put up for sale and last years on the market. Football teams don't declare bankruptcy. Football teams aren't threatened with folding by commisioners of their sports. Football just does things right (mostly).

The owners in hockey have to share revenue. Within a few percentage points of completely. If the NHL owners don't, hockey NHL-Style won't be played for another couple of years. A new logo will be about the only news coming out of the NHL.

Auditors are going to have to be brought in from third-party firms to determine all revenue. One of the great lies in today's sports is Rogers' Toronto Blue Jays losing 30 and 40 millions of dollars in recent years with a $50 million payroll. Of course, the Jays weren't getting much in property rights from their broadcasts given that their broadcaster were their PARENT corp. Don't even get me started on ad revenue.

Okay, enough of MY whining. Here's how we settle this thing.

The ownership revenue-sharing will be phased in over a period of three years. Let's call it 75, 88 and 95 per cent shared. There WILL be a salary cap with a salary floor. It too comes in in a three-year span, with a luxury tax the first two years while operating with a bigger cap. The tax will hurt, but not cripple, the Maple Leafs of the world. Contracts will be limited to four years, with only the first year able to be fully guaranteed. The succeeding years can only be guaranteed to 50 per cent. Players injured in play or organized team traning are fully guaranteed only one succeeding year. Career insurance is a player's issue.

Free agency is restricted for players to the age of 27. Unrestricted after that. No arbitration. Players who hold out with valid contracts in an effort to renegotiate will be fined by the NHL itself when they miss their FIRST regular season game. Such players will be barred from rewriting or otherwise altering their current agreement for the length of the contract.

The world-wide entry draft will be changed to five rounds. Each draftee will IMMEDIATELY be treated as a restricted-rights free agent. The only difference will be that the player who decides to sign elsewhere BEFORE playing with the original drafting club has enhanced compensation. In addition to the draft-pick compensation option used currently, which will be reduced in severity, the team losing the draft pick can take the indicated draft-pick package, match the offer, OR pick a player from the other team's roster, who's upcoming salary for the next season is LESS than 90 per cent of the average value of the contract the player is signing with the other team .

Oh yeah, contracts will specify a salary and that's it. No bonuses that are not team-oriented. No contract riders that end the contract prematurely. No no-trade provisions. Simple is better. The NHL contract comes into effect as soon as the player plays five games for the NHL team. The bouncing player between the NHL and the AHL team will at least get paid for the yo-yoing, as long as he dressed for at least five games.

Active rosters will be reduced by one player, hopefully each team's designated goon.

And finally we come to ticket prices. ALL ticket prices will be rolled back two percent for each month missed until there is an agreement. The players' contracts will be rolled back 1.5 per cent on the same basis. And when the game returns, teams will be limited to cost of inflation increases each year for the first three years of the agreement, and double it, thereafter, unless moving into a new arena. There ain't going to be much of THAT for the next while.


Sunday, August 22, 2004

SPORTS: Canada's doing OK

I know, I know, I know. The medal count is not up to snuff. Heck, I'm going to lose a pool I might have won had Canada gotten the 14 exected medals instead of the 17 I hoped for. The final count is going to be maybe eight. Yeah, that's disappointing.

But you know, I've been there and as lousy as fourth (or even lower) feels, sometimes that's the best that you can do. We are not a sports factory in Canada, discounting hockey players. Take one of the sports I got involved with at the worlds level: Softball.

I was still coaching boys rep softball when the first world junior championships were given to Edmonton Alberta to hold. As it turns out, the local junior girls were a good bet to win the Canadian championship (we hosted it) and earn the right to go to Edmonton the following year and wear Canadian colours. And, despite a spirited challenge from the Richmond BC Skunks, the Chinguacousy team did win that right. Many of the girls had trained with me and I couldn't have been more proud. Naturally, I tagged along to broadcast the Canadian games and act as a sounding board for my coaching mentor GrandPa Bob Sorenson, the team's pitching coach.

We landed in Edmonton augmented with three pitchers, one of whom was Lori Sippel, the colour analyst in this year's Olympic broadcast by the CBC. Otherwise, we were a town team. The Americans were the California team from their championships, with a few added players. And Japan, China and Chinese Taipei each sent national squads. Was this ever a set up to play the dutiful unoffensive host or what?

But a funny thing happened. We made it to the medal round. We'd lost three games early against the US, China and Japan, the latter in extra innings. We kept winning "or else" games until we MADE the playoffs!

In the playoff, we extended Japan to extra innings again. We had the potential winning run tossed out at home. The umpire's name was Oscar Romero. You remember calls like that for a LOOOOONNNNGGGG time. Eventually we lost. We felt horrible, just as many of the 'unsuccessful' Canadians do right now over in Athens. It helped not a bit at the time that Japan went on to upset China in an extra-inning semi-final and then the mighty Americans in a 1-0 gold-medal shocker later that day. I had been so sure that the Americans (not my favourite group of athletes) would win, that I turned down the offer to do the announcing for that game. That Japanese loss hurt too much.

Later the next day, a realization started to creep over the whole Canadian contingent. "We finished fourth. We finished fourth IN THE WHOLE BLINKETY BLANK WORLD!"

Somebody somewhere decided three places were all that were important. Gold, Silver and Bronze. What about fourth? What about a Copper medal? Is somebody's decision somewhere else, some other time, proof of invalidation of effort? Of course it isn't!! There's a WHOLE lot of people on this planet. To be fourth-best ... or seventh-best ... or just a competitor among the elite, is cause for celebration. Not repudiation.

I want Canadians to win. I want them to do their best. If it happens somebody from some sports factory nation is better, so be it. It truly is the effort against one's self that is the mark of the Olympian. To succeed there, is to win it all. The medals are just for the knick-knack shelf and the grandkids.

Congrats to ALL the Canadian Olympians!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

BOOKS: A Reading List of Authors

I like books. Not all books. And many so-called classics just bore me to tears. I don't usually want to read books that make you work, unless they are technical books about computers. Avant garde Science Fiction, aka New Wave, is of no interest. But I LOVE space opera. Not much interested in bodice-rippers (my mother's area of specialization). Just good ol' page-turners.

So, who do I recommend? Glad you asked, because that's what the next twenty paragraphs or so detail.

Comic Faux Holmes

Right now, I have to admit that I like a splash of humour with my mysteries. In times gone past, I'd be reading the adventures of Nick and Nora Charles. But now, it seems only women are willing to make fun of their heroes as they write about them. The grand damme of this group is Janet Evanovich who has written a series of numbered mysteries featuring Jersey Girl and bounty hounter Stephanie Plum. Each year, a new Plum adventure arrives in June. Each year, I get the new release as a birthday present. Each year, a day past my birthday I'm finished reading Evanovich for the year.

In between Plum books, I make do with what I think of as Evanovich Lite. Sarah Strohmeyer writes about Bubbles Yablonsky, a combination of hair-dresser, would-be journalist and trouble-magnet from the hard-scrabble mine towns of Pennsylvannia. Nancy Bartholomew's heroine is stripper Sierra Lavotini. She's the least 'charming' of the lot, the most hard-boiled, yet the one that comes by the most straight-forward mysteries. In fact, she's a lot closer to the next section than this one. It's been awhile since Sparkle Hayter did a Robin Hudson mystery. That's too bad, because the ex-CNN staffer knows how to spin a humourous yarn.

Clint Eastwood Crafts

Mysteries and Thrillers. If I had to read only one genre, this is the one. In fact, outside of the sports books I read, many have facets of this category. Right now, the writer I look most forward to new books from is Greg Rucka. Rucka has been penning tales of a personal bodyguard named Atticus Kodiak for awhile. There's been a spin-off and enough happening in each book to highly recommend the whole series. Start with Finder. Moving closer to legit police work, you can find the Lincoln Rhymes novels by Jeffrey Deaver and John Sandford's 'Prey' books featuring cop/troubleshooter Lucas Davenport. In each case, there's enough cat-and-mouse interplay to make the reads worthwhile. Sandford also has a secondary series that's good, featuring computer hacker Kidd. Deaver had a three-book run with a character called Rune, but hasn't added to the series since 1991. Still, worth looking for those books.

Heironymous 'Harry' Bosch
seems like a friend of mine. Michael Connelly has made him so with the various books detailing the LA cop's toils and troubles. Possibly the most imperfect of the heroes in the previously listed series. In other words, he could be you. And vice-versa.

Clive Cussler is this generation's Edgar Rice Burroughs, a prolific chronicler of somewhat formulaic adventurers. In addition to the Dirk Pitt adventures that include Raise the Titanic!, Cussler has also got a series going with Kurt Austin. In both cases, the James Bond-esque Pitt and Austin spend a LOT of time in the water. Cussler habitually writes maguffin books and trying to outguess what the misdirection is has become distracting of late. And Cussler's insistence on placing himself into Pitt's stories to offer up key help or info is even MORE distracting. But, if you are new to Cussler, you are in for a treat.

Dan Brown is currently the HOT writer, having penned Angels & Demons and the mega-selling The DaVinci Code. While both books were flawed, both are worth reading, if only for the conversations they will engender. It's better to be informed when caught at the water cooler.

Fantastical Futurists

Speaking of formulas, Burroughs churned out books and books of it. But with GREAT characters. Tarzan is best known, but John Carter of Mars might be best-loved by those who have read the complete canon. Myself, I tend to the Carter novels with a nod to the sea-faring Carson of Venus stories too. A fun romp is assured for the evening it will take you to get through any one of most of the books. Concurrent with my discovery of Burroughs, I also found the works of Andre Norton. Specifically, Time Agent, the first book in the adventures of Ross Murdock. I was seven, pushing eight, when I happened upon the book in what passed for the Bramalea Library at the time. What a wonderful book. I read it again just last year. Fourty years had dimmed my memories a bit. It wasn't as good as I remembered it. But it was still pretty good. And it fostered a love affair between myself and Ms. Norton. I never cared much for her fantasy, but her SF was always welcome in my book bag. I might have learned my racial (and species) tolerance from reading her books.

I read the expected greats list of SF authors as I was growing from boy to man. No need repeating them. But some of the other lesser-known authors would be worth your looking up. A. Bertram Chandler wrote about the Rim of Space, introducing me to naval life as lived by a spacer of the future. Eric Frank Russell wrote one of my favourite books Next of Kin, aka Plus X aka The Space Willies. Think of it as a science fictional Hogan's Hero. I guarantee a delightful time reading it. Russell was a master of the short story as well. Try to find Allamagoosa. Gordon Dickson wrote great stories of the Dorsai, including possibly my favourite book, Tactics of Mistake. The Dorsai were mercenaries, frequently imperfect and often naive about the politics of others without honour. Still, each book and short story in the series made me wish for more. And lastly, in this group of secondary reps and primary talents, I offer Lester Del Rey, the man behind the book imprint bearing his name. Nerves reads like a script for a modern-day blockbuster of a movie and yet it is decades old. Not everything Del Rey wrote was as good as this, but I think it's one of the great un-made movie properties out there.

That's not a bad list of writers who's career peaked before I left school. Of the 'new' generation, writers I like to tout include Rick Cook, S. Andrew Swann, Elizabeth Moon and Robert Asprin. Cook's hero is a computer hacker named Wiz Zumwalt, combining Burroughsian sensibilities, magic and an understanding of the modern-day computer programmer. Need I write more? Swann has taken the writings of HG Wells to heart in penning the adventures of Nohar Rajasthan, who combines the nobility of the tiger and man's cunning, literally. Moon would have A. Bertram Chandler as a stylistic antecedent, telling stories of the future's space navy through the eyes of the Serrano and Suiza clans. Asprin is my new Andre Norton, with his Time Scout adventures. Doesn't hurt that Asprin can also claim the Phule's Company books that offers up militiary adventures that Eric Frank Russell would be proud of.

Although Asprin has truly channeled Norton's spirit in his Time Scout books, Norton's modern-day equivalent would be Alan Dean Foster. Foster's principle series involves Flinx and his pet mini-dragon and it's a good series. Yet Foster could have written only the Icerigger series and would still make this list. The Icerigger series, with heroes Skua September and Ethan Fortune, remains three of my favourite books. And did two characters ever have better names?

Asprin also must share the humour mantle with Canada's own Spider Robinson. Be aware, however, that the residents of Callahan's Cross-Time Saloon and it's associated houses of somewhat-ill repute, delight in puns. Pages and pages of them. Enjoyment will be as much in the reader's ear as in their eyes. If hilarity is still needed, any of the Retief books by Keith Laumer will likely fill the niche.

The complex de-coding that is a feature of the Dan Brown books has a science fictional equivalent. Jack McDevitt, James P. Hogan and Robert Sawyer each spin tales of scientific curiosity. McDevitt is an across-the-board SF Mystery writer, a genre that Isaac Asimov once opined was the most difficult in literature to write well. Since being able to pull a raygun out of your back pocket or do something almost as magical at a moment's notice is considered cheating the mystery reader, I can agree with Asimov. Still, McDevitt rarely disappoints. Hogan's nowhere near as consistent. But the Gentle Giants of Ganymede series is fabulous. Inherit the Stars, which spins from the premise of finding a corpse on the moon that isn't contemporary, makes for a wonderful night of reading. Canadian Sawyer doesn't always write mysteries in his SF, but he always 'Asks the big question!' Most times, he's successful in answering it. Amongst his works, the most enjoyable are the Quintaglio trilogy, featuring intelligent dinosaurs at work and play. That said, he won more awards with his more-recent Neanderthal Parallax series.

Moon's my favourite combat SF writer right now, but David Weber and John Ringo both have as many hits as misses in the category. Their teaming up on the Prince Roger series that started with March Upcountry is a great hit, and one I'm happy will expand a lot from the original trilogy length. Although he's veered into fantasy of late with great writer and friend Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle has many solid books out there to read. And seek out William C. Dietz. You'll be glad you did.

Niven, is sort of an oddball. He's very hard-SF-grounded, but he shows a flair for the inventive that takes him out of territory mined so well by Hal Clement and Robert Forward. In doing so, he joins the likes of Charles Sheffield and Ben Bova as good reads, with a hefty dose of science thrown in. Best of all, Niven puts out a new Ringworld book every decade or so.

When I was still a lad, I read the Robert Heinlein juveniles (The Man Who Sold the Moon is FAAARRR better than the usually-cited best, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel). Wasn't much competition at the time. Today, kidlit is a whole category worth exploring. Sure, you can't go tooooo wrong with the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowlings, especially the first two. But the gem you should search out is Eoin Colfer, the genius behind the Artemis Fowl series of books. All are uniformly good. The best approaches the initial Harry Potter book in quality. The worst is no worse than the second Potter book. Excellent stuff.

Scratching the Jock Itch

Two authors wrote sports fiction I found entertaining, when I was the youngster described above. I might be a Canuck and have great respect for Scott Young, the author of the seminal A Boy At Leaf's Camp. But the wordwright I consumed back then was Joe Archibald. In particular Old Iron Glove, a book that made spectacles an important plot point. I've had to wear glasses since before I started school. It really hit home.

Later, I discovered the autobiographical writings of Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel and Bill Veeck. As much as I respected the first two, I devoured all of the Veeck books. Veeck as In Wreck and Thirty Tons a Day by Veeck and Ed Linn, should be mandatory reading for EVERY sports executive. Sports as ENTERTAINMENT! What a concept!?!

Sports as humour was an obvious theme of the Stengel bio, as well as books by Ron Luciano and Bob Uecker. But if you want funny, then Loose Balls by Terry Pluto chronicles the zany goings-on in the old American Basketball Association. Great stuff.

The sports book with the most commentary in recent money was Michael Lewis' love-poem for Billy Beane, Moneyball. As a resident of Toronto where Beane disciple J.P. Ricciardi reigns, it is mandatory reading. Turns out, its worth the time spent reveling in Beane's tweaking the nose of baseball's old practices.

And finally, the creme de la creme of sports writing can often be found under Thomas Boswell's name. Why Time Begins on Opening Day is mandatory reading every ten years. In fact, I think it's about time to re-read it again.

Hope some of the preceding steers you towards an enjoying day or three. Comments and suggestions gratefully received.

SPORTS: Iverson and his prop

The more interesting verbal sparring I heard today was Chuck Swirsky, the new afternoon host at the Fan 590 radio station, coming down on Doug Faraway for 'dissing' Allen Iverson for his press conference theatrics the day before in Athens.

Faraway commented, that Iverson should have had a soother, at the least, for his kid, while standing up before the world's press. It was at the conference coming a day after the historic US loss to Puerto Rico in the Men's Basketball lid-lifter at the Olympics.

Swirsky, a softie, decried his fellow worker. "How can you criticize Iverson for having his kid up there?"

"We want our athletes to be more human and here you are calling him out."

I think those are accurate quotes, but I was on the road at the time I heard them and I might have only got them approximately right. The sentiment is correct.

Chuck, you are wrong.

Iverson had no business bringing his kid to work. He's been doing it for a while and nobody's called him on it. But the kid's a prop. Who's going to ask the nasty question of Iverson (who's done enough regularly, to get asked HARD questions) when his adorable little tot is right there, looking all googly-eyed and happy at the whole world? Iverson has a thug mentality. It landed him in prison. He hasn't left it behind, either. It takes a thug to hide behind a kid.

Doug, you are absolutely correct.

But should we really be surprised? Iverson treats the press with the same distain he treats Larry Brown's coaching. That would be world championship, NBA-winning and NCAA-winning coach Larry Brown. Iverson? He carries HIS trophy around like so much body armour.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

RANT: Kneecap the numbskull

A while back, I described my plan for spectators who invade the field of play. Snipers as a first choice. But hurt the twits, drunk or not, who can't keep their seat in the stands.

Yesterday, of course, a Canadian once again proved a horse's patootie in jumping into the pool during the Olympic men's synchro diving final. He did it as a publicity stunt for a casino in Quebec. He's the same lamebrain who pulled the same crap during the World Figure Skating Championship. He got paid after the fact by the casino, who shall remain nameless here, lest they derive more publicity.

So, here's the plan to handle the situation. First, the Greek police, hopefully helped the twit fall down a few sets of stairs. Something permanent, maybe a badly dislocated kneecap? Then, they should throw the brainless boob into the worst prison Greece has for a year. THEN, they tattoo "I'm a MORON" in big letters on the guy's chest. THEN, and this is the good part, they deport the guy to Baghdad International Airport with a fake American passport. Maybe nature will take its course and we'll never hear from the nebbish ever again.

Oh, I also tell the folks at the Indian casino owners that paid off the mook the first time, that any financial dealings with him this time will result in the forceable closing of the casino permanently.

Lastly, but not leastly, the Canadian diving coach and the head of Canadian security at the Games, who both blithely suggested the whole thing was no big thing, should both be bopped over the head with a tutu. They SHOULD have been angry and embarrassed.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

SPORTS: Wouldn't it be neat if ...

This is not going to happen. But wouldn't it be neat if Carlos Delgado let it slip to a writer buddy (there are many) that he'd like to sign a contract extension to stay in Toronto for $8 million a year for the next three years?

That would shove a dagger perilously close to JP Ricciardi's heart. It might be the reason Ricciardi's been so frantic to create a situation to get Delgado to waive his no-trade provision. Ricciardi wants no part of Delgado next season, at any price. He feels Delgado is a relic of an earlier era and contributes far less than we deluded fans thinks he does. He can't offer him arbitration for fear Delgado would say yes. So, he's in danger of letting Delgado walk for nothing at season's end.

But does Delgado want to go? Certainly, he keeps saying not. There isn't an American city that Delgado would find as hospitable as Toronto, given his anti-American positioning on many things relating to Puerto Rico. It might actually be that Delgado loves Toronto and has no interest in using it as a stepping stone for something nearer and dearer to his hometown. That's a statement Ricciardi would be hard-pressed to make with a straight face.

Without a single first baseman of any prospect status in the minors, Ricciardi dealt Josh Phelps this weekend for Eric Crozier. Phelps was leading the club in RBIs, playing less than half the time. Crozier wasn't listed amongst Cleveland's top prospects. But he IS a first baseman AND he's close to ready for the bigs. Ergo, he's the heir apparent. That most analysts think he's a Four-A guy, somebody who's good, maybe too good, for Triple-A, but nothing more than a spare at the Major League level, seems not to phase the Blue Jay GM. This smacks of an Anybody But Delgado strategy at first.

Given all of that, we KNOW Delgado won't throw a bit of excitement into the dreary days ahead by making a public play for a reasonable contract offer. But wouldn't it be neat if ...

SPORTS: Carlos Canned

The sound you hear is the crackling and breaking of JP Ricciardi's reputation. The Toronto Blue Jay GM tied the can today to Carlos Tosca as he gets an early start to his plan to de-Carlos the Toronto operation. He's days away from ending the Carlos Delgado era too.

Ricciardi's rep in town has never been lower. The loss of Josh Phelps for a prospect that most minor-league viewers has as a suspect, has been sharpening the focus on what has been a year of failure for the fair-haired GM (colloquially, not cosmetically). For the second year, Ricciardi has assembled a pitching staff that has failed. Batista and Lilly are probably better than their roles have indicated, but are still mediocre at best. Frasor was a nice pickup, but it cost the club Jayson Werth, who might have found regular playing time in a devastated Blue Jay outfield, rather than being a key part in the Los Angeles drive for a divisional championship. The vets brought into 'improve' on last year have uniformly been horrible.

What has become a bitter reality is that Ricciardi doesn't have the smarts and/or counsel to sign and/or trade for pitching. He's been wrong with just about every move. Even this year's Frasor acquisition feels a lot like last year's 'find,' Aquilino Lopez. Despite having Frasor on a roto team or two, let me tell you Frasor has an abnormally huge heaping of luck, as his hit rate is incredibly low. That means only one in five balls hit against him become hits, as adverse the league average of one in three, or thereabouts.

Ricciardi does have an eye for the fill-in scrub. He finds guys who can play a day or two a week and contribute. But where's the trade to steal a great starter (any position)? He's living off Hinske's rookie year, but doesn't that long contract Hinske signed last year look JUST as bad as any of his predecessor's excesses?

The Blue Jays play boring baseball at the command of its GM. The Jays were also playing uninspired baseball, and that was partially Tosca's fault. Tosca was always as clueless about handling pitchers as his boss was at procuring them. In many ways, Tosca had to go at the end of the season as he'd proved to be a good lieutenant, but not much of a manager. It's the timing that invites introspection.

Mr. Ricciardi. You've tied the can to this Carlos. You're going to usher the other Carlos out of town less than two months from now. Your cover will be gone. It's time to do something right. Starting with the new manager. He'll be your guy. Again. Think long and hard. If that decision goes south, it's back to Boston for you, too.

MOVIES: Jack's Never Coming Back

Over the years, I have assembled a list of actors and actresses who's mere presence means I can watch the movie they are in, or that I can't. For example, I watch everything Sandra Bullock is in and enjoy most. Even the duds are usually so-so at worst. Adam Sandler is a guy who (Wedding Singer aside) is usually a GIGANTIC SIGN that any movie he's in is unwatchable.

Prior to the last month, I placed Jack Nicholson in the former category. But now, I wonder. In a spate of used DVD buying excess last month, I purchased three Nicholson titles. About Schmidt, Something's Gotta Give and Anger Management. Yes, I'm aware that the last title has the dreaded Adam Sandler. But hey, it has Nicholson and Marisa Tomei. But enough of that, until later.

I watched About Schmidt first. I 'thought' it was the Sandler title and kept waiting for the bumbling pipsqueek to show up. Despite quite good reviews for Nicholson, I found the movie depressing and was glad when it was over. I kept thinking as the first hour passed and no Sandler was there, that he might have actually livened up the movie. For the folks who thrilled to Nicholson's performance in this piece ... LIGHTEN UP! Who needs to leave the theatre depressed? A swift kick in the backside to the critics who sold me on getting this movie.

The critics were back at it for Something's Gotta Give, a grown-up romance. It pokes fun at the bizarre notion that men of Jack's age (mid 60's) always have a twenty-something on their arm, rather than giving into the obvious intellectual charms of somebody closer to their own age. In this case, Nicholson plays a not-too-obnoxious lecher who 'meets cute' with Diane Keaton while currently squiring her daughter (Amanda Peet in yet ANOTHER fully-clothed role. What has this world come to?!?). Nature actually follows its expected course and there's a happily ever after moment despite a heart attack or two later.

What's wrong with the movie? Keaton's been a pet hate of mine since Annie Hall days. There was a missed date with a hot cheerleader that night (and not too surpringly, no followup) and I ABSOLUTELY HATED Annie Hall on its own merits. Switch Keaton for a sexy Frances McDormand, who plays her sister in this movie, and I could warm up considerably. But who believes Keanu Reeves as the doctor leg of the triangle? Reeves, who hails from just up the road from where I sit typing this, is a good guy. But his blank-faced demeanour requires the right role ... say a witless slacker or a perpetually confused SF movie construct. A doctor smitten by a woman twice his age? Too much of a stretch.

Jack's just okay in this movie. He still plays too self-involved to really catch a bright lady like Keaton is supposed to be playing. But the flaws in this movie really kill the victory age and treachery should have over youth and inexperience. Thumbs down.

Which brings me to Anger Management. This is the movie that got me out of bed and working this weekend, ending a week-long involvement in bemoaning my plight. This movie is SOOOOOOOO bad, that rather than continue viewing past the first half-hour, I had to do ANYTHING other than watching this train wreck. I actually worked, getting in a solid day and a half of programming, just to wipe the memory of that awful half-hour of video from my eyes.

Adam Sandler has drawn Jack Nicholson to the dark side. I can no longer trust Jack to provide intelligent entertainment. Now, you've been warned.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

HEALTH: And how to handle the lack of it

The Clan Mugford treats the common cold and the odd bout of flu as something to be handled in anything but the common manner. "Take two aspirin and goto bed?" Pshawww!

And almost none of the males in our family handles it the same way. My Dad heads for the cabinet where he keeps packets of NeoCitran stacked like so many bars of gold bullion. My brother Wayne immediately downs a Gravol from his stash of motion sickness pills. From my extended family, Nick, mostly at the urging of his better half, Genie, reaches for ever-ready bottles of echinecea and Zinc tablets. My brother Rick might be the lone Mugford holdout for aspirin.

Now, myself, I have dabbled with all of the above. They seem to help. But my remedy is Vick's VapoRub, heaping gobs of it, smeared all over my chest. Like most things, I don't do it lightly. I stink of menthol feet away. The advantages of living alone is that I don't care [G].

For too many years, I dug my VapoRub out of a big blue ceramic container. It was big enough that you couldn't hide it in the medicine cabinet. It variously resided in the upstairs closet or on the back of the toilet, depending on how many people were using simultaneously. Once I started living on my own, it moved permanently to a ledge in the bathroom, especially-built to hold the multifarious pills, inhalers and huffers I have to put up with each day.

Then, the unthinkable happened. The container was empty. Off to the local Shoppers Drug Mart I went, looking for the familiar blue container. I couldn't find it!!

I hunted down a store clerk and asked where the VapoRub was. How could I miss a honking big blue container?

Turns out, they don't make those containers any more. Haven't for years! VapoRub comes in these little ittie bittie jars. Plastic jars. Dark blue jars, not the cerulean ceramic I've grown up with. I was stunned. But not so stunned that I didn't observe the family tradition and buy five jars. I'm glad that I did.

I've spent most of the last two and a half days contending with a cold (teach me to let people in my house) that I'm sure I got by playing host early on the weekend to a friend needing help with a computer problem. I've gone through a half-jar of my preferred remedy. And here I find myself feeling good enough to do some typing.

Remember, I only play a doctor in writing. Do not follow the medical advice typed above without consulting your personal physician.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

SPORTS: Vinsanity

It's been days since I wrote about Vince Carter. And I do think the time is passing in the career of Vincent Lamar Carter, Toronto Raptor. He's been in town getting ready for Friday's charity game for his foundation. In that time, he's done nothing to calm the troubled local waters. We might be as little as four days away from his exit.

What's changed is that Dallas made a trade in the last 24 hours to add another centre, sending Danny 'Almost a Raptor' Fortson to the Seattle Sonics for Calvin Booth. That gives Dallas five centres, with Booth, Shawn Bradley, Christian Laettner and a couple of rookies including Pavel Podkolzine all standing tall in the middle. AND Dallas head honcho Don Nelson is stumping for a veteran guard to 'help' out rookie Devin Harris and sometimes point Marquis Daniels, a sophomore.

Doesn't that sound like a Bradley/Alvin Williams deal makes sense? Want to toss a little more sugar into Dallas' cup of contemplation. Throw in Jerry Stackhouse for Lamond Murray. Dallas gets a shorter contract and the odds are that Murray will be more motivated than Stackhouse. But the deal that makes the most sense is one that gives Dallas the big upside ... Adding Carter and Michael Finley into the trade.

On the face of it, Carter has another level to go, Murray is an underacheiving 20-pt scorer just three years ago and a healthy Williams is a BIG asset, an unhealthy one a small asset. Dallas could win this trade big.

Why would Toronto do this trade? Carter has to go. The task is to find value and Finley represents that value. He won't score 50 any time soon, but he's going to defend and throw in 20 regularly. Stackhouse is poison, a pill to be absorbed. But he can't be any more poisonous than Murray and he's a 20-point threat (offensively and defensively) any time he plays. Frankly, in a non-Carter screwup universe, the trade that makes sense is just Williams for Bradley. Bradley comes over to be the fourth man in the power rotation and to be a mentor of sorts for another man/boy out of Mormon country, Rafael Araujo.

The Raptors could start Rafer Alston, Finley, Jalen Rose, Chris Bosh and Bradley and then come in with a second unit of Milt Palacio, Rose at the two-guard, Stackhouse, Donyell Marshall and Araujo. Jerome Moiso, Roger Mason and an unyet unsigned wingman would fill out your bench. Dion Glover, who I was once told would never play in the NBA, could fill that spot. If new coach Sam Mitchell wants a ten-man rotation, the tenth guy would have to be a shooter. Hubert Davis might be a fit.

What kind of team would the Raptors be post-Carter? Stackhouse and Rose are not defensive wonders and Alston isn't much either. Bradley is nothing BUT defence. This team would contend for a middling visitor's playoff seed, maybe even a #5. There's downside curves on the careers of Finley, Rose, Bradley and Stackhouse. Marshall would have to be traded to get some value late in the season. But by then, hopefully Bosh and Araujo would be the power guys with only a little help needed from Bradley and Moison. Making the playoffs would mean no draft pick come next summer. Thus, this would be a team that would have to basically play for the next two years as is.

What's the alternative? Not much of anything.