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.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

BRIDGE: Play for FREE (mostly)

I have been retired from club bridge for most of the last decade except for a couple of times that Ed Hills and I played in preparation for the Canadian Nationals. And bluntly, I've only played a couple of Nationals and one World Championship in the last five years or so.

But, I'm out of retirement and BridgeBase OnLine is the reason. You can find BBO at www.bridgebase.com. You can download a program that will then put you in touch with players of all abilities from all over the world. You can kibitz or play. You can play for free, or pony up a buck for an ACBL-sanctioned tournament. You can play for five minutes or all day long. In other words, like the game itself, BBO will tailor itself to your needs.

One of the true joys of internet bridge, beyond being able to do it while wearing nothing more than PJs, is the global reach of the game. Last time I played, our opponents included a Canadian, three Americans, two Turks, two Italians, a Swede, an Icelander, three Indians and a Georgian. Bizarrely, I had just finished reading a short story by mystery author Greg Rucka that was partially set in T'Bilisi, Georgia the night before!

It has been a lot of fun re-kindling a partnership with the Golden Macedonian, Danny Ioannidis. Better yet was when we hit the winner's circle, although I was still sputtering about being cheated by the Italians an hour after the event was finished. Yes, if two players want to play over the internet and cheat over the phone at the same time, you can't do much. But it was nice to see our names in red ... and THEIR names mired in second. I am a petty little man in such matters.

I don't always have time for a full day or night of bridge. Danny's not always available. But it's really nice to have the option, partner or not, to reach out and push a few digital pasteboards around. The love (and the skills) are coming back.

SPORTS: A Sad Day in Toronto

This space opined some weeks ago that Pat Hentgen was done and would retire before the end of the season. Today, that prediction came true. And that is very sad.

Pat Hentgen is the kind of athlete you want your kids to emulate. Self-effacing and willing to stand up and accept the criticism when he fouls up (even if he was the lesser of the culprits in any sort of mass screw-up), Hentgen was a good man who happened to be one of the best pitchers in baseball in his prime. You could argue his Cy Young-winning season wasn't, but you had to hand it to the summer-time Canadian. He was at least as good as the other candidates, and maybe, just maybe, got the nod cuz he was a prince amongst the swine that too often populate major sporting dressing rooms.

Right after I wrote that Hentgen was done, he went out and clobbered KC a couple of times to ward off the coming doom. But that was the end of it for Hentgen, one of three Blue Jay pitchers to win the top AL pitching prize in the last handful of years. One of the others, Roy Halladay, attributes much of his approach to the game to the time spent swapping stories with Hentgen. And, although he wouldn't admit it, I have to think Roger Clemens is a humbler man today, cuz his arrival came at a time before Hentgen had been cashiered out of town.

The Toronto Blue Jays and their fans owe a tip of the cap to Pat Hentgen today. Nice guys finish last was Leo Durocher's legacy to the field of quips. Hentgen proved nice guys CAN finish first, his contribution to the field of dreams.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

BOOKS: Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich

Today, I am older than I was yesterday. A whole year older. Would be depressing if it wasn't for the folks trying to cheer me up by giving me gifts ... Books ... Books I want to read.

At least one book I have already read. That's cuz I got the number one book on my reading list, Janet Evanovich's latest Stephanie Plum novel, Ten Big Ones, LAST night when I was a whole year younger. The O'Neill clan treated me to supper and a book (plus a DVD set of Smallville Season One), and then had the courtesy to leave. Their excuse was that they had to get up early this morning to fly out to the West Coast for a two-week vacation. My excuse was that I wanted them to leave so I could hit the pages. By the time they arose this morning to drive to the airport, I'd finished the book and headed off to sleep.

Evanovich is the current dean of the misplaced lady sleuth niche of fiction. Nancy Bartholomew's Sierra Lavotini is an ecdysiast who finds trouble and ways out of it. Sarah Stroymeyer's Bubbles Yablonsky is a hair-dresser and journalist wannabe who is similiarly prone to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Call these women accidental Accident tourists.

Stephanie Plum, on the other hand, is a Bounty Enforement Agent, and she actively seeks out trouble. So much so, that when on/off beau Joe Morelli tells her to lay low when a contract is put out on her life, she does just the opposite. And that's KNOWING she's just being contrarian cuz she'd come up with just that idea, moments before Morelli got all uppity and cop-like. No accidental things happen to this girl. She courts trouble as avidly as she plays the romantic triangle game with Joe and the less-enigmatic than usual, but still very enigmatic Ranger.

Add in BEA-in-training/fileclerk/former streetwalker Lulu and Stephanie's Grandma Mazur (think of an old Ma Barker lacking most inhibitions), and you have a modern-day Three Stoogies looking for somewhere in Trenton, New Jersey to do something funny. It starts with Stephanie's first chapter habitual car destruction. It ends with an attempt on Stephanie's life that gets resolved too quickly by half. And then some.

In fact, the whole contract on her life takes 99 per cent of the book to set up, and then is over in two-three pages. A little abrupt.

Stephanie moves out of Joe's house even before the contract goes into effect. She's supposed to be lying low during the hunt for would-be killer. But, like so many kids who discover grounding isn't ALL that confining socially these days, Stephanie spends more time in plain sight than hiding outta sight. Her new car gone, Stephanie spends the rest of the novel tooling around in a big purple Lincoln Continental, a Ford Explorer, a Porsche Turbo, a Cayenne and Grandma's big blue boat of an automobile. Mostly, they all survive her driving them, except the Lincoln.

If you enjoy a smile while reading your mysteries, then this is a book to savour and grin at.

NOTE: http://www.evanovich.com is Janet Evanovich's web site. You can check out the fun section and the suggested movie actors for playing the various lead roles. For the record, I've voted for Lauren Grahan as Stephanie, Hugh Jackman as Joe and The Rock as Ranger. Loretta Devine as Lulu and Estelle Getty as Grandma Mazur are obvious choices. Stephanie's boss, cousin Vinnie, IS Steve Buscemi. I could live with Heather Paige Kent as Stephanie, Jimmy Smits as Ranger and even Jon Bon Jovi as Joe, but the three secondary roles are correct as I have voted for them.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

MOVIES: Catwoman and So Close

I'm dreading Wednesday's release of Catwoman. Despite Halle Berry and Sharon Stone, I fear this has a two-hour Mary Jane smell to it. That's Mary Jane as in the rewritten-badly character of Mary Jane from the Spiderman movies.

Pulchritude aside, what will there be to recommend the movie for? The costume is one of the most ridiculous costumes ever assembled. Every still of Berry wearing it has her leaning back so the suspenders on the front don't billow out. The pants are ugly and the mask/cowl is just plain ugleeeeeee. But hey, Catwoman has changed costumes so many times in the past, it probably isn't fair to single out this Mr. Blackwell dream for condemnation for just being different. Did I mention it's ugly?

But why change Selina Kyle into Prudence something or other? Kyle has been many things in her comic/tv career. A socialite, a thief, an adventurer, a prostitute, a good girl and a bad girl. But she's always been Selina Kyle. This time, she's dead and come back and I don't care. Coming on the heels of what Will Smith et al did to the good Doctor Asimov with the I, Robot butchering, I'm thinking creator rights need a revisit by the big screenwriter in the sky. Please stop them before they revise and rewrite again.

Just an aside, if Akiva Goldsman hadn't somehow penned A Beautiful Mind, would he go down in history as the worst screenwriter ever? Besides 'rewriting' I, Robot, he also penned the two last Batman flicks and Lost in Space, just to mention three other genre films that define dreck. And here's something chilling to consider. He is going to adapt The DaVinci Code for the big screen. Another Raise the Titanic? Probably.

If you are looking for some eye-candy and fancy wire-work fighting, save the big bucks and go rent So Close. This is a Hong Kong mutation of Charlie's Angels and The Punisher. It stars Qi Shu and Vicky Zhao as sisters who make work as top-drawer assassins. Qi is the Asian beauty who helped make The Transporter so watchable. (Yeah, THAT movie would be an even BETTER bet to rent). Qi and Zhao are sort of good girl assassins, who spend the first part of the movie taking out really bad dudes, while leaving their underlings living and cursing their leg wounds.

That action runs them afoul of the police, including Karen Mok, who seems to transmute from CSI lab-rat to Detective mid-movie. She takes up an almost solo chase of the other two babes, helped only occasionally by her geeky partner (who also makes the career leap). She gets close and then REALLY close to the Zhao character and ends up on the side of the angels against the bad guys. You can guess who wins.

This is a goofy movie that has some first-rate martial arts action. The scene where Qi and Mok go at it while handcuffed is worth the rental. Beyond that, if you are a living, breathing, red-blooded male, the eye candy is top drawer. If you don't expect much more from this flick, you'll have an enjoyable couple of hours.

Probably a better time than you'll have sitting in a theatre watching Catwoman and asking, "I spend HOW MUCH tonight?"

Thursday, July 15, 2004

SPORTS: Vince and Zeke the Sneak

I want Vince Carter traded outta town. But if Shandon Anderson is the centrepiece of what comes in return, then count me out as a Raptors' fan permanently. Of course, I could just be over-reacting to stories and rumours planted by New York GM Zeke "The Sneak" Thomas. How Thomas gets supposedly intelligent people to take his chicken feathers for gold trade hopes seriously is beyond me. Anderson. Pfahhh! Allan Houston? Broken down and makes Rose's contract look like a bargain. Dikembe Motumbo? The Nets paid him to GO AWAY last year, he so slowed down the team. Old and slow. A good guy though. Kurt Thomas? Some worth, but coming off surgery.

Nah, if the Raptors want to hook up with Dallas and make Carter a Maverick, then do the deed directly. Contract considerations make a trade a bit dicey to come up with, but how about Carter and my fave, Alvin Williams for Mike Finley and Shawn Bradley. Finley is Carter without the flash. Bradley becomes the centre to tutor Araujo (We still need third centre Jerome Moiso, cuz the NBA limits players to six fouls each. Figure both Bradley and Araujo should average about 5.5 [G]). Dallas gets Williams to tutor kid guards Marquis Daniels and just-drafted Devin Harris. He also can play two-guard.

Don't like that deal from Dallas' end because of the commitment to Daniels and Harris? Here's an alternative. Carter and Donyell Marshall for Finley, Bradley and Josh Howard. This gives Dallas a front-courter with a beautiful contract (one year and not much more than the mid-level exception). Marshall can play a bit of centre and teach Podkolzine how to be a pro. He shoots, which is important in the Dallas perimeter game, and he can be traded in a Dallas deal that dumps Antoine Walker somewhere. Toronto gets the front-court I talked about, plus a real good small forward prospect in Howard. This opens up the possibility of trading Morris Peterson in a sign-and-trade, or just not signing him at all.

What's the downside to the Dallas dealing? Carter will explode down there where he can play second fiddle to Dirk Nowitzki. Long-time Mav Finley will take time adjusting. The resultant criticism might be hard to ride out for all concerned in T.O. Bradley still has four years left on his contract, which isn't overly onerous in today's NBA, but the last couple of years will surely bring comparisons to Yogi Stewart. And Howard might not pan out.

But surely, these risks are better than Shandon Anderson.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

SPORTS: The NBA, the land of the dumb rule

Welcome to today's NBA, where the league office can stick a knife in the back of good guy Gordan Gund, who won't see it coming. Not because he's visually-impaired (he is), but because good guys always fail to see the sneak attack.

Gund's Cleveland Cavaliers are supposed to be one of the good stories in the league. Moribund until last year's draft-winning award of LeBron James, the Cavs have also survived long enough to see Zydrunas Ilgauskas reach his injury-prevented potential and for Carlos Boozer to become the patron saint of second-round picks.

Boozer, a Duke grad (of the basketball program), has become a very good power forward in the NBA through determination and hard work. He was also due to make $700 grand, making him the obviously most-underpaid player in the league. League rules prevented the Cavaliers from rewarding him with any more money this year. All they could do is offer up a good raise, but not an earned raise. So, Gund and GM Jim Paxson told Boozer they'd do him the favour of NOT picking up the club option. That way, they could start the good money (millions of dollars) this year. It was a generous and good-hearted gesture to reward a soldier who'd done more than his part. Boozer and his snake of an agent readily agreed to winning the mini-lottery.

And then Boozer agreed to sign with Utah.

There are words and names to apply to Boozer and his agent. None printable here. But they've been used elsewhere. Suffice it to say, enough furor has been raised that Boozer fired his reprobate of an agent (who should be disbarred from the legal profession) and there's now talk of a rapprochment with Cleveland. Which means he plans to stiff Utah. Heads you're a heel, tails you're a two-time fibber.

All of this goes on under the auspices of the asinine NBA rules that require teams NOT talk to their players, NOT engage in trade talks for several weeks and NOT acknowledge that they HAVE made trades and signed players when guys like Rafer Alston are house-hounting in Toronto!!! And if you violate those rules (and are clumsy enough to actually get caught) then the Timberwolves punishment is hanging over your head.

That's right, Gund and the Cavs are NOW being investigated for having a prior agreement with Boozer to sign him after releasing him. It's oral this time, rather than written, as was the case with Joe Smith. But it was obviously in place until Boozer reneged. The NBA in its infinite lack of wisdom, COULD hammer the Cavaliers while Boozer walks too.

Can you imagine the brain power (or the lack of it) that makes rules that get results like that?

Give Gordon Gund a break.

SPORTS: Clueless Carter

I've stumped for a Vince Carter trade from the Toronto Raptors before. The difference now is that it's pretty close to a certainity that the spineless whiner has to go.

He has some legitimate gripes. Richard Peddie is a first-class failure as Raptors CEO. His dilly-dallying over hiring Rob Babcock as new GM certainly eliminated any chance of trading Carter to Charlotte. And the delay might have prevented Babcock from finding a way to move back a few spots in the draft to take a guy that increasingly looks like a piece of the puzzle in Rafael Araujo. That would have saved a few bucks in salary cap room, netted another resource or two and kept the Raptors out of the Losers division of the recent draft ratings. Peddie's man on the inside at Raptor HQ, Jim Kelly, has done nothing to earn continued employment. So Carter has some nits to pick that we all share.

But the nit with Jack McCloskey, who crosses paths with Carter every decade or so, is idiotic. Demanding all three men be fired is way beyond idiotic. Of course, Carter didn't actually do that publicly. Instead, he had a friend do it. That's where Carter's lack of spine truly becomes gauling.

Whether it's his Mom, an agent or even good friend Nav Bhatia, the Raptors' Super Fan, Carter doesn't speak up for himself. He engages in a war of innuendo. It's cowardice of the worst kind.

So he doesn't have any spine. If he showed it on the floor, we could all live with it. But lack of fortitude extends to the hardwood too. As marvelously talented as Carter is, he is the worst of all NBA insults, SOFT. He is becoming, in too many ways, the Eastern version of Chris Webber, a talented loser who ALWAYS finds the way to lose, rather than the way to win, when the chips are down.

To the soft charge, we now add clueless. He's apparently upset the Raptors didn't sign Steve Nash and trade for homeboy Jamaal Magloire. Hunh? How? League rules forbade the Raptors from offering even half of what Phoenix offered Nash. And short of offering up Chris Bosh (and that wouldn't have been enough in either talent or contracts) to the Hornets, why would New Orleans send Magloire back to his roots? Cuz Carter asked?

Clueless. Spineless. If Seattle is still offering Ray Allen for Carter, do it! I'm tired of this spoiled little mama's boy.

RANT: Comic Book Captions

I've been reading comic books for waaaaaaaay too long. The whole Silver Age on. I've had serious concerns with lots that has gone on in the comic book industry, one that I left nearly 20 years ago. But I still collect and read.

One of the most recent 'innovations' in comic books is computerized-colouring. And that means caption boxes can be made artistically ... and unreadable. The colours, the background blending, the odd shapes ... they've taken a core component of comic books and SCREWED IT UP! Black type looks okay on white, but less so when the caption background blends into emerald green. Is that such a hard concept to understand?

The Teen Titans are in their umpteenth revival currently at DC and a recent issue I read featured NO thought balloons, now considered a corny anachronism. Instead, floating captions serve the purpose, each caption being coloured differently for each character. Most of the captions are blended and tough to read. They'll blame that on the printing. One exception was Superboy's blood red lettering on a black background. Who thinks up this crap? What happened to readability?

A pox on all their houses.

Monday, July 12, 2004

VIDEO: Stargate Season 6 DVD

I don't watch much TV on TV's schedule. I tend to tape just about everything I want to watch and then view it on tape. Other than sports and breaking news, I'm pretty much a tape/DVD junkie. There's six TVs, four DVD players and eight VCRs in the house. And I live alone. Scary isn't it?

Like last-week's rave over the Firefly DVD, I have come to praise Stargate's seasonal compilations, not to bury them. The most recently-available season series is year six and it continues the outstanding work of the previous five years. In this case, I had missed much of the year when it was broadcast (or not broadcast, the station that showed it got sold in mid-season, and many of the episodes were never shown in my area).

I was able to see the last 15 episodes that I missed in that season and almost all of them were enjoyable. Three are great shows, including the first one I missed. The Other Guys features Canadian TV icon Patrick McKenna and John Billingsley of Star Trek: Enterprise fame and was a hoot and a half. I also enjoyed back-to-back episodes Forsaken and The Changeling, the latter written by Christopher Judge, who also stars as Teal'c. Judge is the master of the raised eyebrow, a fitting successor to Spock.

Teal'c (the affectation I hate is Stargate's love of glottal marks in names) plays the straight man for the straight-faced acerbic wit of Richard Dean Anderson's Colonel O'Neill. Whether it's as McGyver or O'Neill, Anderson has always turned in engaging TV performances. Amanda Tapping wasn't MY first choice to play Major Sam Carter (I heard Bobbie Phillips was up for the role), but she's so cemented herself in the near decade-long run of this series that it's hard to imagine her NOT as Carter.

This was the season Corin Nemec gave Michael Shanks a break. Nemec's Jonas Quinn was more fun than the often too-serious Daniel Jackson played by Shanks. Jackson turned up about once a month during season six and was the victim (?) in the season-ending cliff-hanger. It's no secret he came back for the last two seasons. Nemec doesn't exactly become Stargate's George Lazenby, but his brief time was a good time.

The rest of the supporting cast has always been good. Don Davis and Teryl Rothery primarily are always welcome on my screen.

I remember vividly thinking it was crazy to think they could turn Buffy the Vampire Slayer from campy clumsy movie into first-rate TV fare. It was just as baffling when they announced Stargate was coming to a TV near me. Even a year in, I thought to myself that this was a series with a finite life span. One, maybe two seasons.

And here were are watching the season six compilation. Two more seasons in the cans and a spin-off to extend the concept's life. The idea-makers behind Stargete should be quite proud of themselves.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

RANT: Fans out of the stands

Now, I'm not a soccer fan. I watch my neice play. I watch the Canadian Junior Team due to knowing personnel there and one of the players. They're pretty good, too [G]. And I watch major soccer events. Any sport, played at its best levels, is usually entertaining.

So, there I was watching the Euro 2004 championship match when I got to watch some mental midget running out of the stands to bring a slow game to a halt. The prematurely brain-dead jogger is lucky I wasn't in charge of security at the Stadium of Lights in Portugal. HAD I been there, snipers would have been stationed up in the rafters with instuctions to knee-cap any invaders of the soccer soil. Apologies would have been extended upon finding out the cranially-challenged chump wasn't a terrorist after all. But the idiot would have had a reminder of the cost of stupidity.

I'm a bit right of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney when it comes to (usually inebriated) fans invading the playing fields. I think the crap should be beaten out of them at the minimum. You think its a co-incidence that there's been few field invasions in football since Mike Curtis laid out such a adventurer with a bone-crushing tackle lo these many years ago? At least I think it was Curtis, maybe it was Ted Hendricks. At any rate, the right of players to take affront in football has been established. Heck, I'd electrify the seats of any morons who reach OVER the railings for ball STILL in play at a baseball game. Haven't worked out how to prevent injury to the players, but you have the basic idea of what I think about fans interfering with sports I sit and watch at home.

When Tom Gamboa got hurt bad enough to actually end his baseball coaching career by that father-and-son goon tag team in Chicago, I thought something stronger would be done with the laws surrounding making a jackass of yourself at a public sporting event. Maybe charge them with inciting a riot (a riot for THEIR blood, but a riot nonetheless). Whatever. It should say on the back of every ticket sold, and announced early, before the beer starts flowing, that going onto the field during play is subject to a year in jail and the confiscation of EVERYTHING YOU OWN. None of this one night in jail and a wagging finger in the face. Throw the book and everything else at them.

You know you are a moron when ... you find yourself on the field without a uniform, while the game is going on, and you AREN'T one of the officials.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

VIDEO: Firefly: The Complete TV Series

It's odd to write a review that will not change a single person's mind about viewing or not viewing the DVD collection Firefly: The TV Series. But, so be it.

Firefly failed on TV because there just wasn't a large enough target audience. It was too complex for the teen set. It was science fiction, ruling out the mature audience that hates science fiction. And it was almost as much a western for the SF Geeks who wouldn't be caught dead watching a cowboys-and-oaters.

Grown-ups who like a well-told tale, no matter the setting, and were willing to work at the sophisticated patter, were few and far between. Given the high cost of producing each episode, it's a wonder 13 were ever made, 10 getting on air before the plug was pulled. Didn't help that the shows were shown out of order. I remember not liking the debut episode when it aired, not realizing that it was actually the third hour in the real time-line of the series.

The series has been released in DVD form, replete with all 13 episodes in correct order, many with commentaries and a half-DVD with special features, making four discs in all.

Watching the whole 13-episode series, all ten real-time hours of it, makes me sad the series ended when it did. I came to care a lot about the little spaceship called Serenity, its captain Malcolm Reynolds and his motley crew. I found the patois, a combination of western slang, southern gentility, Shakespearean English and more than the odd Chinese phrase, a heck of a lot more understandable then when weeks were going by between episodes. You had to pay attention. The many "Battlestar Galactica"-like allegories for modern swear words made this an earthy series, but I DID say it was for adults, didn't I?

The true opening double-episode, 'Serenity,' might be as good a movie as I've seen this year. It was outstanding. And even the now-renumbered second episode seemed a lot better once viewed with more background.

Without being an outright comedy, every episode of Firefly seems infused with humour. Much of the humour revolved around Adam Baldwin's Jayne, an openly greedy henchman-type with only a loose familiarity with the idea of ethics. In many ways, he became my favourite character.

Nathan Fillion does a solid job throughout the series. It's no wonder that creator Joss Whedon used him over in the Buffy universe when Firefly got cancelled. The same is true of second-in-command Gina Torres as Zoe in Firefly and one of the big baddies later in the year in Buffy spin-off Angel. Neither actor looks unconvincing as ex-Militiary, ex-rebels skirting the letter of the law. Both characters do have a semblance of super-human to them, especially Malcolm who recovers incredibly well from being shot or even being killed (just the once though [G]).

With Zoe married to cut-up Wash, the pilot (played pleasingly as just normal by Alan Tudyk), the key romantic tension is supplied by Mal Reynolds and Inara, played by Morena Baccarin. Baccarin, who looks like a younger Emma Samms, no small compliment that, hasn't appeared in anything else that I have ever seen. Her character, which adds so much to the series, might have been one of the problems with getting the series accepted. There's a whole chunk of the populace that just can't get a main character being a high-class sex-worker. More geisha than call girl, but a sex-worker nonetheless. Role aside, Baccarin is one actress to watch.

The other characters are quirky and memorable. I especially liked Ron Glass's Book, the Shepherd. And Jewel Staite's Kaylee is so darn spunky and likeable that you just feel for her whenever the lout of a doctor, Simon Tam, displays his lack of couthness consistently. Yet, like all the characters, Simon, played by Sean Maher has an up-side, looking after his sister River, played with otherworld weirdness by Summer Glau. She is supposed to have been lobotomized and is on the run after being spirited away from The Academy by Simon. River is the one jarring note in the series, just a little off-putting. But that's her role.

I mourn the passing of the TV series and rejoice in the plans for a movie called, interestingly enough, Serenity, due in the multi-plexes next spring. Where once it would have been just another SF movie to try and find time for, I can assure you that I look forward very much to revisiting my friends on the little Firefly ship.

This is a DVD set that's worth the money. Welcome to Whedon's 'verse. It's a good ride.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


Somebody asked me who'd seen this site what were my favourite songs. M-O-R wasn't going to satisfy their curiosity. So, I made up a list, generally in the order I have them on my favourite songs playlist when I decide to have music playing in the background while working. My one rule was only one song per group or singer. Otherwise, I would have listed the Corrs' discography and been done with it.

You should know that most of my pre-adult years were spent listening to my father and Uncle Doug practice for the band they were in, Ivan Davidson and the IvaTones. It was a dance band and Pops was usually playing every Friday and Saturday for many years. I heard a LOT of guitar practice when I was a kid.

1. Weekend in New England by Barry Manilow. My favourite part of the USA gave birth to my favourite Yankee. I miss her.
2. Wildfire by Michael Murphy. Haunting.
3. Come on Eileen by Dexy's Midnight Runners. The best from the chameleon band.
4. I Honestly Love You by Olivia Newton-John. I believe, I believe!
5. 2 in a Million by S Club 7. Not the first TV group you'll see here.

6. Running Bear by either Sonny James or Johnny Preston. Dad likes country music. A lot. Didn't completely rub off, but ...
7. 99 Red Ballons by Nena. Either English or German, since I spent a good chunk of my baby years in Germany.
8. Honey by Bobby Goldsboro. Well, that's embarassing isn't it?
9. How Will I Know by Whitney Houston. Not THE famous one, but the best one.
10. So Young by the Corrs. A pick'em affair. You cannot go wrong listening to the Corrs. Andrea Corr is this century's Olivia Newton-John.

11. Missing You by Puff Daddy or whatever Sean Combs is going by these days. Better than John Waite's very good song of the same name.
12. Touch of Grey by the Grateful Dead. Biographical?
13. Weak in the Presence of Love by Alison Moyet. An ode to babies.
14. He's So Shy by the Pointer Sisters. My standard excuse.
15. Daydream Believer by the Monkees. I'm a sleepyhead too.

16. Can't Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley. It would be cheating to list the UB40 version here and go with another Presley tune. But this is his best.
17. Graduation (Friends Forever) by Vitamin C. A fond look back at school days.
18. Cherish by Madonna. Oddly enough, just about the only song of hers I like, and I like it a lot.
19. Best of My Love by The Emotions. And you thought I'd have the Eagles here!
20. Centrefield by John Fogarty. I was the player, then I was the coach. I GET this song.

21. Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden. A song you can play back to back ... if you believe.
22. Cruel to Be Kind by Nick Lowe. Hey, I AM a grump after all.
23. Let's Hear it for the Boy by Deneice Williams. The best song from the best movie soundtrack ever, Footloose.
24. Nikita by Elton John. I understand long-distance longing, so this is THE John song.
25. Una Paloma Blanca by The George Baker Selection. I'm scared of heights, but let that dove fly.

26. Thank You for the Music by ABBA. Again, one song from a long list of enjoyable songs. THIS is the band I originally bought a VCR for, to record their Australia special.
27. In a Big Country by Big Country. A booming sound and a BIG concept. Love it.
28. The Most Beautiful Girl by Charlie Rich. I met her.
29. All I Want to Do is Dream by Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell. Many versions, this one's best, I think.
30. In Your Wildest Dreams by the Moody Blues. Actually pretty tame. Nothing wrong with that.

31. What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. Okay, even a grump can get hopeful once in a while.
32. You're My First, My Last, My Everything by Barry White. From growl to velvet.
33. I Get Weak by Belinda Carlisle. Could switch place with Moyet's tune and it wouldn't be wrong.
34. Drive Me Wild by Sawyer Brown. A kickly video, but the music in this one merits top fourty standing.
35. Stand By Me by Ben E. King. More Motown SHOULD be on this list.

36. My Eyes Adored You by Frankie Valli. Nikita's predecessor.
37. Boy From New York City by The Manhattan Transfer. Tough choice over Trickle, Trickle.
38. Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas. You CANNOT get this out of your head when you hear it.
39. These Eyes by Natalie Cole. Again, a tough choice over This Will Be.
40. Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. A whole story in one song.

Well, that's the top 40 on MY MOR station. Ten songs that just missed were Don Williams' I Believe in You, Lace's I Want A Man, Aqua's Barbie Girl, Rickie Lee Jones' Chuck E's in Love, Boomtang Boy's Squeeze Toy, The Tokens' The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Minnie Ripperton's Loving You, TG Sheppard's Only One You, The Spinners' Could It Be I'm Falling in Love and Boy Meets Girl's Waiting for a Star To Fall.

Well, that's the list of what I can spend two, three hours listening to when I'm in the mood.

RANT: You know you are a moron when ...

With due deference to Jeff Foxworthy, I frequently find myself shaking my head at the sheer idiocy of those I meet when I leave my cave. I call them "You know you are a moron when ..." moments.

As previously commented upon, I went to see Spiderman 2 with most of the Movie Mob. That's four kids, ranging from eight to 16. I bought the tickets yesterday and got the mob to the theatre 35 minutes before the stated showtime. Even that early, we had to settle for the fifth row from the back, rather than the normal second-last row. It was a blockbuster movie's opening day. Not surprisingly, each showing was pretty well sold out.

So why were groups of between two and SIX people showing up close to the start time, including one pair of adult escapees from a lunatic asylum, who came up to the top rows looking for seats AS the opening credits rolled.

Forget the fact that even a near-sighted old coot like me can see that complete rows at the back are filled, FROM the walkway at the front. These less-elderly chumps STILL feel obligated to go to the top row, look down at the row of faces focused on the coming attractions (or the opening credits in the one case) and then slowly wander down row by row before settling in the first couple of rows as they were always fated to do.

I've arrived late. I know the penalty. I seat the mob in as high in the lower section as I can find and settle back for a crick-in-the-neck-inducing movie experience. Sometimes, I have to split the mob into more than one row.

You know you are a moron when ... you arrive late to a blockbuster movie's opening day and expect a prime seat while be awaiting you and your horde just because you are so special.


MOVIE: Spidey's good, but ....

The Movie Mob, minus Paige, took in Spiderman 2 today and there were smiles and thumbs up from all, except me, the old grump.

I'll admit this is a good movie, although I am dubious of Roger Ebert's claims that it is the best super-hero movie of all time. Still, it's a solid two hours of fun and action and a lot of romance. Krystal LOVED that! But it wasn't so mushy that AJ didn't give it five stars.

The performances of the movie belong to Rosemary Harris as Aunt May and JK Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. And Alfred Molina was pretty good as Doc Ock, helped immensely by state-of-the-art special effects. You REALLY got the feeling those arms were real, while wrapped up in this movie. Although, the one 'Hunh' question at the end of the movie is why the METAL tentacles don't get drawn into the big fusion ball? Cars streets away were being dragged in, but not the tentacles. Oh well, my lot in life is to be picky.

Tobey Maguire is fine as Peter Parker. My favourite Parker moment of the movie is the incongruous montage played to "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." But Maguire has claimed the role as his own. I no longer think of Nicholas Hammand as the REAL Spidey/Parker. Yeah, I'm that old!

So, what's the problem, you ask? Mary Jane Watson. You know, the model-beautiful red-head who saw enough in Tiger, errr Peter Parker, in high school, to raise him above the geekdom he previously inhabited. The Lady who caught on to the Spidey duality in Petey and let him have his fling with Gwendolyn Stacey before deciding it was time for her and Spidey's alter-ego to settle down. The Model who could stop buses with her long comic-book red hair and stunning looks. The Confident to the point of being cocky, girl next door.

In the first Spiderman movie, they made her a loser from a broken family. They should have renamed the character Diddie Watson (as in Damsel In Distress). It was NOT MJ. And of course, they found an ACTRESS to play the part. And as good an actress as Kirsten Dunst is, she's neither tressed for the part nor knock out gorgeous enough for the part. She's more Plain Jane than Mary Jane.

For this movie, they lost most of the loser background for MJ, tarted up the hair a shade or two and still left her with the Damsel in Distress role. Arrrgghhhh!! Try as I might, I still see Kirsten Dunst, not Mary Jane Watson, even when she pulls out a Tiger reference late in the movie.

Go see this movie. If you're not as picky as I am, and few are, you're probably going to have a good time. Unless you've read 40 years of Spidey and know what I know. In that case, you've been warned.