Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BOOKS: Sitting, Soaking and Reading

I love to read. In bed. In a good chair. At the dining table. While standing in queues. And in the bathtub.

But the latter requires good old-fashioned pulp between two covers. I will not take my precious electronic book reader, my outdated Sony Clie, into that most horrid of all environments for an electrical device. It's not out of fear for my own safety. I doubt I could fry much more than a nerve or two by dropping it into the drink. I'm fearful for my Clie, which they don't make anymore.

Books can get awkward to handle no matter where you read them. Some are heavy. Some are bound such that you have to constantly shift the book to read into what should be a much larger uncluttered gutter. And mastering one-handed page-turning is a task all children should master. Alas, I didn't. At least for bigger books.

That's why I like the feather-light Clie. I can read at a consistent 50 pages an hour with it. Bookmarking is not an issue. I turn off the Clie. I turn it on. I am right at the place I left the book. I can read in the dark and this past weekend's mini heat wave reminded me that my little 7-watt reading light STILL gives off SOME heat, however little. It's nice to sit in the dark and stare at this little screen and continue on my little adventure wherever else my reading takes me. And, if I go overboard and turn the reading session into a marathon, the battery limitations of the device force me to take a break before becoming permanently zombified.

The Clie also works with either hand, preventing the cramp that most people envision having with electronic readers. That's good, because I shift around a lot when reading. I squirm. I'm not proud of it, but sometimes it's the only exercise I get all day.

I've basically run the Clie into the ground once before (It's also my personal digital assistant, holding the usual contact info and a game or two, while also being a database keeper of things like passwords, lists of gifts given and my current book wants). It actually fell into disuse for about three months. But I finally replaced the battery and have since gone back to having five hour reading sessions, if I want to.

Which I do, except for in the bathtub.

There will be a time when I can't breathe life back into the Clie. When that time comes, I will be faced with better choices than what I have today. Sony has a book reader that's so-so from what I hear. Amazon, of course, markets the Kindle. Version 2 of the device came out recently and it's hailed as another step on the road to ubiquitousness for electronic book readers. Too expensive by a factor or two, the Kindle is still too pricey to give my mother as a present. And I love my mother a lot. It's even too expensive for me to buy as a toy (purchase in Canada being a whole other issue).

But there will come a time, say version 5, where a Kindle might just be good enough to replace my trusty old Clie. That's when we will see if it can survive a little water damage.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

SPORTS: Florida Roundball Writers FULL of Hot Air ... and Other Stuff

While the folks in Miami are but a pale comparison to the idiot writers in Orlando, there's something in the Floridian water supply that reduces most, if not all, of the basketball writers in that state to simpletons when it comes to suggesting any and all pro basketball players want to come to their fine state. Regardless of how stupid those projections are.

The latest to wind me up is the usually intelligent Ira Winderman. who wrote yesterday about Chris Bosh and setting up the J.O./CB4 reunion tour this fall in Miami. Won't happen. As much as homer writers want it to be, it won't happen.

Let's discuss why, for the slow students on the keyboards down there. Winderman dismisses the possibility that Bosh will re-up THIS summer with the Raptors. In fact, re-upping this year with the Raptors could net Bosh as much as 30 Million dollars (of the US variety) more than waiting for the summer of 2010. Let's do the math. Bosh already gets about a $18M bonus for staying with his original team on a seven year deal with bigger annual increases than the six year deal awaiting next summer, if he moves on. Secondly, there is a recession and the salary cap, and it's kissin' cousin, the luxury tax threshold, will be down significantly in 2010. So the financial experts tell me. Having two $20M players on the same team means a lot of D-Leaguers sitting in uniforms at the end of the bench. THEN, there's the chance the new collective bargaining agreement is going to reduce pay and pay opportunities even more. How about limiting contracts to four or five years? How about making the pay difference a WHOLE LOT BIGGER for jumping rather than staying? How about a LOWER percentage of revenue for the players? How about a strike, stopping payment completely?

It's not hard to see Bosh, happy where he's at, taking the money.

Now, let's talk teams. Does he want to join Miami this coming season? Not on a bet. He's tried playing with O'Neal. It didn't take. So, he joins Miami NEXT year. Well, he won't be joining them coming off a full season with Toronto. He'll have been traded by then. But let's say he wants to build that fabulous house down the street from Vince and Tiger and whoever else has a lot sitting open beside them. He joins Wade and .... who? Beasley? Sorta plays Bosh's position, doesn't he? A bunch of wannabe's and never-were's? Please! He'd be lonesome for Calderon and Bargnani before November was half over.

If he's going to hook up for less money with anybody that has title aspirations, it's going to be LeBron James or the West Coast Smirk with the Lakers. Otherwise, he's going to be money-hungry.

And, as we've already stated, money makes Toronto look awfully good. Heck, this is the city that reserved judgement after the story came out about him being a deadbeat dad. Turns out that wasn't true. Imagine the reaction to the original story had he been in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles or even Miami. It's not that the press is acquiescent in Toronto, it's just that most of the media up here wait until getting all of the facts.

Furthermore, Toronto does have a chance at being better than Miami. Starting with the first game of this coming season. It was all about the health with the Raptors this year. Sure, Bosh himself is no healthy mule. But it's a better bet that Calderon, Bargnani and Marion's replacement will stay healthier than O'Neal. And Wade's a warrior. And warriors get hurt.

As for the crap that Colangelo likes Beasley, I'll bet an unnamed source told Winderman that. Colangelo never says anything more than platitudes to anybody who could go running to the press or to the commish. Man's a one-man three-letter organization when it comes to telling secrets. The story that Bosh requested a trade was utterly bogus.

In all of the time that the Floridian media has been cracking about Toronto Raptors fleeing the northern climes for the sunny south, TWO Raptors have broken hearts by turning down Toronto contracts. Mike James did the Raptors a favour by taking his me-first game on the road to Houston (and a bunch of other teams since). And Tracy McGrady left for Orlando. How'd that work out for ya' Orlando?

Raptor money is just as green as anybody else's in the NBA. Money talks. Bosh has a good situation in Toronto, with a good salary, a coach he likes, decent teammates that move up a notch when healthy and a place in the top circles of Toronto society. If it wasn't for the odd bit of snow and bad seasons when everything breaks badly, it would be perfect.

And Miami is far from perfect now. And in the future. No matter what the 'journalists' think and write. And dream.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

TV: The Comments I Get ...

I've mentioned this before, but I don't actually believe anybody reads what I write. I do this to vent. Sometimes to document, so that I can look it up rather than shuffling through my voluminous paper notebooks. Sometimes to say I told ya so. Sometimes because I've come across something so wonderful, I have to tell the world. Which basically boils down to me. Since I don't expect people to spend a lot of time reading my long-winded posts.

But, every now and then, I get comments from people who DO read the blog posting of the day. And would you believe I had TWO, count 'em, TWO comments on the posting from earlier today! One was from a rabid follower of Reaper, pointing me to fan support sites for the show. I did, in fact, check out the petition sites and Kristen's ongoing Save One Show project. The only problem I had with the former is that I couldn't seem to find the actual petition to add my e-signature to. The latter project limits me to just one show and I have to disappoint my correspondent by admitting I voted for Chuck. In the battle of the put-upon nerdy guys, I like the one hooking up with Yvonne Strahovski and Jordana Brewster. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

The other reply came from somebody I'd bet large money on that works with the folks that make Gary Unmarried (which strikes a chord with this unmarried Gary for obvious reasons). Nothing wrong with that. In fact, he shared the good news that renewal is looking more possible. And that IS good news.

Gary Unmarried stars Jay Mohr, the modern day Don Rickles, and Paula Marshall. I've been a fan of Marshall since the first time I saw her, which was in a cop's uniform, I think. Quickly followed up by a bikini. She's been my definition of TV sexy for a lot of years. We've sort of grown up together. But her mere presence on the TV screen has spelled doom and gloom for any series I like with her in it. I wailed when she got up close and personal with Veronica Mars' father in one of many TV shows she's 'cursed.' It was soon dead, too.

That said, she's easy on the eyes, plays smart and every, I mean EVERY, producer in town thinks he or she or they will be the ones to break her curse and have her at the head of a long-running show. So she gets chance after chance and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Speaking of playing smart, Kathryn Newton is the brainy little Louise Brooks (Wonder how they came up with THAT name?). She's sort of a younger version of Macey Cruthird, curly hair and all, who was the best thing on Hope and Faith. Anybody who wouldn't want Louise amongst their offspring is a dope. And the producers of Gary Unmarried didn't fall into the obvious trap of having Louise's brother Tom, played by Ryan Malgarini, be a dunce. He's physically klutzy, but has a wit about him, usually with self-deprecating focus on himself.

Like I said, it's a charming comedy that produces grins and a few outright laughs. I sort of miss Jaime King but that was off-set by ditching Ed Begley, Jr., who just didn't seem to fit, other than to be Gary's reverse image. It's not appointment TV, but would fit into the Monday night line-up in place of Rules of Engagement, which will probably be the axed show to give Gary Unmarried renewed life.

As an aside, Rules of Engagement has worth, if only as a showcase for the always funny Patrick Warburton (who always plays Patrick Warburton in any TV show he's on). But any show that continues network TV's seriously-wrong love affair with David Spade is almost beyond redemption.

At any rate, I wish that anonymous poster good luck in getting his show renewed. It'll rate as good news.

TV: Just WHAT Are the TV Execs Thinking?

USA Today has the Early Fall Line out for the various major American TV networks and it contains few, if any surprises. Unfortunately, a lot of decision-makers are having a tough time separating the quality from the crap to bring back in September.

My top twenty list for the 2008-2009 season is already shaping up badly. I could lose as many as three shows that still have life in them. NBC's Chuck, CW's Reaper and NBC's Life are worthy of continued life. Yet the USA Today site basically puts Chuck on the bubble and consigns Reaper and Life to the unhappily ever after. I've already gotten used to the idea of losing Stargate: Atlantis, Kyle XY and The Middleman. Adding Reaper and Chuck REALLY adds insult to injury. And Life should be saved somehow, if only to resolve the coming romantic triangle between the three main characters.

But I know it won't happen. Life's Donal Logue is already headed for a biker show. Ty Labine's bouncing from Reaper to another show. That leaves Chuck with some semblance of a chance to come back. Here's hoping.

As for the other bubble shows I'd like to teeter over into the saved column, CBS leads with The Unit and Gary Unmarried (yet another Paula Marshall show. She's the sexiest series-killer on TV. Ever. And the most successful.) And I've grown to appreciate ABC's Castle. I'm all in favour of smart kids and there's at least one on each of the three shows I've just mentioned here. That's rare enough to preserve. These shows aren't in the top twenty for the season, but they ARE consistently entertaining. And more real in their fictionality than all the reality shows, save for the Amazing Race.

Save These Shows. Chuck, The Unit, Gary Unmarried and Castle. (And suggest NBC do the production sharing on Life that worked so well for Friday Night Lights and Law and Order: Criminal Intent). Please!!!!


I didn't bother posting the picks because the whole NBA playoff is just a month-long exercise in setting up the Los Angeles Lakers-Cleveland Cavaliers final. Does ANYBODY out there seriously think that won't be the case?

Thought not.

I did think the minnows would cause the faves some grief in the first round in the East. Boston's a pretender without Garnett and the hurting shooters in Orlando makes the Magic less wonderful. Win or lose, it doesn't matter. Cleveland crushes them all. And the Lakers will do the same out West. Who cares who loses to them.

The final? The Lakers. Kobe and LeBron off-set, although I think the battle will be entertaining. And Kobe will defend LeBron better than LeBron will defend Kobe. And the rest of L.A. is better than the rest of Cleveland. Six games, with the West Coast Smirk winning on his home court.

Blehhhhh! I can hope for a King James coronation all I want, but it ain't gonna happen. Unless somebody puts a serious hurt on The Smirk along the way. heh, heh, heh.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

TV: Yes Virginia, There IS a Good Primeval Episode

And show four of the third season of ITV's Primeval IS that good episode.

Not as many dinosaurs as I would have liked, but the gigantosaurus was pretty good. Looked nasty. Chomped a goodly number of louts. Managed to survive the predations of the ARC team, which, when you think about it, is standard for the course. Best of all Bad Haircut Man, the reporter with dubious morals, and his witchy boss, both failed to make it through the episode, alive and living in the 21st century.

Actually, the best thing about the episode was no Helen Cutter, despite Juliet Aubrey being listed in the opening credits. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

But before you take heart in that development, the writers couldn't last a week without an idiotic conspiracy. That new government flunky introduced in episode one this year, the one extra brunette we didn't need, has assumed the Helen role as conspiracist thorn in the backside of the ARC team. She's taken all the snark out of Sir James and turned it into sulk, and that doesn't make the show any better. A big part of the charm of the show is Ben Miller's snide throwaways as the stiff upper lip Sir James. Wonder if we can feed her to the mushroom people next week, although they seem to be threatening to do that to Jenny.

Lucy Brown, who's played Claudia/Jenny since the start, seems to be a bit off this year. Took me almost the whole show to figure it out. She's dressing down--jacket, shirt and jeans. No flighty frocks with a penchant for hats and a bit of upper crust upbringing showing. I thought it annoying how she'd take her frilly dress and heels into action when the intelligent and obvious thing would be to give orders from the sidelines. Turns out, I miss the girly girl. Brown looks great in anything, so I'm not complaining ... too much. Guess I can't have my cake of logic and eat it too.

The Connor-Abby-Jack triangle resolved about as obviously as it could. The only question was whether it was going to be older or younger for Jack. And I'm glad our little menagerie additions from last week made an appearance, although I wonder how they handle NOT eating their way through a house, given the hospital burrowing escapades.

All in all, I got enough dinosaurs to give it a straight thumbs up. All quibbles were minor and I'll chance the Pod People episode in a week's time. But if we don't get more dinosaurs and more logical behaviour soon, that damned need by the writers for conspiracies will surely end my watching sooner than later.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

SPORTS: Burke COULD Pull It Off!

A lot of people are pooh-poohing Brian Burke's assertion he will hunt for, and find a way, to make John Tavares a Toronto Maple Leaf next year. I think he can do it.

The key to all of this is the financial straits the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in. I think the Maple Leafs CAN get to that second pick fairly easily. And it will be a trade that makes sense and cents for the Lightning.

Toronto deals the seventh pick, plus Tomas Kaberle and John Mitchell plus a third round pick NEXT year to the Lightning for the second pick plus Ryan Malone plus one more bad contract. This makes dollar sense to the Lightning, who might be able to purge as much as eight million in salary while taking back something close to five. And Kaberle hardly stands to stick around. He could be converted into kids without much difficulty, leaving the possibility that Tampa might very well shed upwards of six million in salary, while bringing in two to four talented kids. Even if the Lightning decides to keep Kaberle and his reasonable salary, exchanging Malone for Kaberle, then the downward drop between Victor Hedman and say Brady Schenn's not all that horrible to think about.

Okay, so now Burke's sitting over Garth Snow's shoulder whispering sweet nothings into his ear. He certainly could offer up Pavel Kubina JUST for the right to flop picks, letting the Islanders have Hedman while he takes Tavares. That gives the Isles Kubina to play in the top defensive pair until Hedman comes across the pond and develops into what I think he is, the best prospect in the draft. Plus Kubina's contract isn't forever, expiring next year. That's a trade Snow HAS to think about, since it's economically viable, improves his club RIGHT now and still leaves him with the possibility at crowing later that he got the Chris Pronger of this draft. Future third round picks (think 2012) might sweeten the pot enough.

And the Leafs simply get worse for next year, making THEM the likely front-runner for the first pick in the draft, Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires. THAT'S when the club starts spending like a drunk to bring in the talent to surround Tavares and Hall and Luke Schenn. Maybe Chris Hanson, Tyler Bozek and the rest of the university free agent clan Burke's assembling will mature at the same time. Say, in about three years.

I see only one flaw in this plan. This is a six-player draft and maybe Tampa Bay isn't enamoured with Schenn the second, or any of the other possibilities here. Maybe the way requires either of the two Swedish kids sitting just behind Tavares, Hedman, Evander Kane and Matt Duchene (from my hometown Brampton Battalion). In fact, Magnus-Svensson Parvijaarvi is the real sleeper of this class. It might be that the Leafs might have to make one more trade to pop up a spot to get Tampa a sixth pick rather than a seventh. That puts Los Angeles in the cross-hairs, and the Kings need veterans who can play, rather than more kids. Would face-off artist Niklas Hagman be enough to effect a swap? Maybe with a fourth-round pick? Something like that might be in order.

With the Leafs on the trading block during Burke's draft-day shenanigans and the willingness to send contracts to the AHL (Hello, Mr. Stempniak and maybe, even you too, Mr. Blake), I could see the Leafs being REALLY, REALLY different next year. Still bad, maybe even horrible. But a plan sometimes needs retreat before an all out assault on the enemy.

And nothing suggest Burke's not a man with a plan.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

SPORTS: You've Been Warned ... My Stanley Cup Predictions

Given my desultory results from the NCAA Basketball Championship Pools (My best ACTUAL finish was a tie for 72nd out of 90,000+ in the WOMEN'S bracket), you can take my predictions for the Stanley Cup playoffs with a grain of salt, aspirin or a shot of your favourite liquor. Warnings made, here we go.

I see two first-round upsides in the East quarter-finals. I think Carolina is better man for man than New Jersey right now (who knew Erik Cole and Paul Maurice were so vital to the Hurricanes?) and right now Cam Ward is in the ball park with Martin Brodeur, who might be having the downturn that happens after the initial adrenaline rush from coming back from a long-term injury. Ward's won it all before, so we aren't comparing apples to jeeps when talking Brodeur vs. Ward. The other upset I see is the Rangers over Washington, simply because I don't think Jose Theodore can do it in the crunch, whereas I'm pretty sure Henrik Lundqvist can. That cagey old Ranger squad is built for the playoffs and methinks Sean Avery vs. Alexander Ovechkin has some entertainment value. If nothing else, we'll see more than a few Capitals in the penalty box for trying to ram their fists and stick down the pest's throat.

Naturally, I would be picking a fully healthy Montreal Canadiens to upset the Big Bad Bruins of Boston, but Les Habs aren't healthy. Schneider's hurting (making Yannick Weber THE sleeper draft pick in pools) and Markov's out for the series. Even without them, I think pride, Alexei Kovalev and a good Carey Price makes Boston sweat big-time. Boston in seven.

Pittsburgh is on a roll (to the Cup) and will beat Philly.

In the semis then, Boston takes on Carolina. Hmmmm. Good series. Boston wins in seven and then has nothing left for the Penguins, who roll the Rangers in five. Pittsburgh wins the East in another five-game series.

Out west, the only thing resembling a first-round upset occurs when Calgary dispatches Chicago in a nasty seven-game series. The Flames then go on to lose to San Jose, while the second-round upset shows Vancouver ousting Detroit, who has more injuries than most people realize, to key players. Besides, Luongo vs. Osgood is not a good matchup for the defending champions.

The West final will be a doozy and it comes down to the fact that San Jose can't beat Luongo when it counts. Mats Sundin gets his reward for putting Toronto behind him and finally makes a Stanley Cup final. Good for him, and for the Sedins and especially for Luongo, who will be Canada's starting goalie at the 2010 Olympics.

As mentioned previously, Pittsburgh wins the Cup this time around, simply because Vancouver can't contain Crosby AND Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury plays well enough in his second straight Cup final to off-set Luongo's brilliance and the Penguins hoist the cup after game six, which I THINK will be in Pittsburgh. But I could be wrong.

Or I could be wrong about the whole thing. You've been warned.

TV: We Have Comedies ... Tragically

Comedies are coming and going right now, and I have more sadness than happiness and chuckles to report.

The big news, at least here in Canada, is the conclusion to the Corner Gas emporium of laughter. Brent Butt's six-year old show goes out on a high note and will be seen 17 times a day on various Canadian cable channels. Forever. There was at least another year of Dog River hijinks left in the show, but Butt's pulled the plug early enough so that we don't see any padding. Good decision creatively, but it would have been nice to get a few more shows. Ah well.

A trio of recently-released American comedies, show that our neighbours down south have lost most of their comedic muscle. Surviving Suburbia is awful. Beyond awful. Even worse than In the Motherhood. Only slightly better than Roommates. For every guffaw in each of these three shows, there's at least one equivalent cringe-worthy moment. At gunpoint, I might watch Suburbia, because Bob Saget's character does ring a little true with me, being a curmudgeonly old coot myself. But I'd seriously consider telling my torturers whatever they wanted to make the viewing stop. As for the 'baby' inspired In the Motherhood and the Young Adult Friends ripoff that is Roommates, well death appeals. The worst thing about Roommates is that its one of the shows the ABC Family Channel decided was better for broadcasting than The Middleman (sobbing sounds start and continue for three minutes) and the just-cancelled Kyle XY (sobbing at the thought of a 10-episode final season to make way for this trash goes on for a minute). The programmer who made THAT decision hates the viewing public waaaaay worse than any Al Qaeda cleric.

Before closing on these sad notes, I should mention not all is tragic in the world of sitcoms. TNT's charming My Boys is back. Jordano Spiro is lust-inspiring and the scoobie gang has had some cute moments so far. The clunker cliffhanger from last year was resolved quickly and left behind. It's not bend-over funny, but it creates a half-hour of grins and smiles.

And I had a chance to catch New Zealand's Diplomatic Immunity and laughed. A lot. It would translate to Canadian TV in a heart beat. It involves an imaginary island nation in the Pacific and its consulate in New Zealand. The spit-of-sand nation basically lives by subsisting on handouts from New Zealand. And let's say the consular staff is more interested in a good life for them, than for their countrymen. The NZ government sends in a 'controller' type to oversea the wastrel spending by the foreigners. And from there, the laughs grow. Lots of women in skimpy native outfits (bikinis) don't hurt. The Canuck version would probably run a riff on those French islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. But I wouldn't mind suddenly adopting a bunch of Polynesian islanders from somewhere in the South Pacific.

Say, close to New Zealand?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

COMPUTERS: I've Decided to Get a Harvard Education

A little late in life, I've decided to get myself a Harvard education.

This from a guy who flitted around the educational universe post high school. I did time at Ryerson Polytech (now Ryerson University) and Sheridan College and have a credit or three from York University. In addition, I contributed to a textbook used at McMaster University. Through it all, I maintained my classification as an unedu-ma-cated (sic) bum. And now, I plan to add Harvard College to the list of schools I learned something from.

And never graduated from.

Okay, the reality is that I have found a most fascinating website. is the site set up to allow the downloading of the full course load for Harvard's Computer Science 50: Introduction to Computer Science I. Every lecture is taped and made available, as are the course notes (compiled by teaching assistants so the students can concentrate on what the professor is saying, instead of scribbling down pearls of wisdom). The problem sets AND quizzes used by David Malan are downloadable, as are the slides he uses during the lecture. It's wonderful. (WARNING: The full set of files runs to about six gigabytes of download)

The course teaches computer basics and then dives right into programming, unfortunately using C, a language only a masochist could love. Luckily, Malan doesn't just jump from 'This is a computer' to debugging C. He at least bridges the gap with an object programming language called Scratch that resembles more a build-it-with-Tinker-Toy-Objects language than an actual programming language. In MY day (I am very old), that pseudo language for getting novices up and running was Turtle, as new programmers learned the art of moving a triangle about a screen. THEN, we moved to Fortran, the C of its time. Thank god for the arrival of Basic while I was STILL in high school!

I find Malan entertaining AND informative. He was a PoliSci major before becoming entranced with programming and his enthusiasm shows all these years later. He loves the 'art' of programming and he passes along that passion from the week's worth of lectures I've seen.

This course is available to any Harvard student, from frosh to fifth-year senior (or even more tenured) or web-surfer who can chance upon it. So, it's fitting for most any teenager and above who is curious about computer programming. Without having gone through all 32 hour-long lectures, I can't promise that it remains viable for a pre-college student. But Malan does go from baby steps to something approaching running in the three hours I HAVE seen. He certainly DOES talk fast. And I can follow him. I think MOST high school kids with an aptitude and an enthusiasm for the subject COULD keep up.

I'm going to get through the whole course. Might take me longer than the allotted 13 weeks a Harvard scholar would have to finish it in. But then again, I never claimed to BE a Harvard Scholar.

Maybe later!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

SPORTS: The Pull Up Jumper

Having watched Andrea Bargnani improve so much over the last three months, I'm struck that the biggest key to the Toronto Raptor's improvement might very well be his new-found ability to pull up on the drive and hoist up a pretty deadly 10-footer.

Look around the NBA. It's not the most common capability out there. Often, players just continue the drive and get called for charging. Others, including Bargnani as recently as the fall, would stop and then throw up some wild under-handed scoop shot ... when not continuing on into the offensive foul. And others still, have perfected the clank, as their shot turns into a slingshot boomeranging into the backcourt. Like I said, it's a talent.

It also made me think back to my days covering high school basketball in town. The best coaches at the time were Gerry Thompson at my alma mater, Bramalea, and Sandy Roland, who bopped around, but came to the forefront at Central Peel. I won't settle the arguement as to who was best. Even in their 70's, I would expect a spirited battle from the one whom I didn't choose. Suffice it to say, both were very good coaches. (I didn't play for Thompson. Doug Patterson was senior coach during my time at BSS. And Patterson's biggest compliment to a player was, "Good hit!" He was a former semi-pro football player [G])

But I wonder if maybe I'm overlooking the man who might have been the actual best coach in town. Al Brown, the principal at J.A. Turner also coached girls' basketball. His squads frequently were in the girls' finals and they weren't always the most athletic team in the division. One of his drills that seemed silly at the time, now makes more sense through the lens of time. He'd have his lay-up line almost never do lay-ups. Instead, the girl would run pell-mell for a spot on the lane just a couple of feet in front of the foul line. Then she'd jump straight up and hoist up a jump shot. Once in a while, they'd actually practice with a player holding a broom stick if they were about to play a team with a tall centre. The girls subsequently made a LOT of those shots come game time. And they didn't get called for charging all that often. He might have been as polite a guy as was ever born, but Brown proved gentlemen made good coaches too. (Again, not to suggest Roland and Thompson weren't gentlemen, they were just a little more competitively demonstrative, if you know what I mean).

We don't see the pull-up jumper on the run all that often anymore. Just like the old-fashioned hook shot, as compared to the running hook in vogue today. It's all dunks (layups for the girls) and three-point shots. Some of these other skills, like making short jump shots without charging, are seemingly forgotten.

Guess it takes an old coot like me to remember when doing like Bargnani's been doing, wasn't all that remarkable.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

TV: Primeval ... Continuing to Suck ... Me In?

I'll hate myself for doing it, but I think there's a light at the end of the current Primeval sucks period. This week's third episode of the third season is clearly a turning point. At least I hope it is. Please!!!

About half of this week episode continues the clueless suckitude that has permeated the first two episodes of this, the probable last season. On the other hand, a return of the dinos was also front and centre, the kind of stuff that made the first season of the show so fondly remembered. A little humour leavened that part of the show, with cute little "ratty chipmunk beaver" kind of things making their way through just about any part of the hospital that they wanted. A couple even outlasted the anomaly's cessation, to join the little brood of prehistoric fauna Connor and Abby seem to be building. The nominal baddie of that part of the show, a reporter with the worst haircut almost ever, was more nuisance than bad dude The coming attractions suggest he becomes more involved next week.

Back to the just plain bad stuff about the episode. Helen Cutter, uber-baddie for two and a bit seasons, becomes almost righteous at her finish line. Mind you, unlike the other character that ends up prostrate on the pavement with a bullet hole to emphasize escape to the hereafter, we don't actually see Helen's corpse. Please, Please, Please let her be dead and gone from this show. Her rationalization for all the mean-spirited acts she's pulled in the past (literally and figuratively) means bupkus to me. IF she genuinely thinks Nick Cutter is the author of future disaster, she should have killed him off, from a distance, someplace more easily accessible than the ARC. Instead, she inveigles him to solve an artifact mystery. When he refuses, she doesn't shoot him. She arranges to blow up the ARC ... with her still in it.

Come on!

On the other hand, if we are now rid of Helen Cutter, I will accept the absurdity with a straight face and chalk it up as one of the lesser stupidities perpetrated this week, Which brings me to my other pet peeve. Clones. Especially the insta-grow kind.

I will accept clones. Physically-similar replicas, minus any environmentally-caused changes over the years. A clone of me wouldn't have the residual problems my fractured shoulder have caused me over the years. A clone of me might not resemble Alfred Hitchcock unless the doctors growing the clone decided to feed it my not-so-smart diet. Most importantly, my clone would NOT have my memories, unless it turns out we store our memories in every cell in our body. Complete copies. Clone stories are usually really bad science, once you get past the conceit of clones existing at all. I hate all stories dealing with clones, with very, very few exceptions.

And this episode isn't one of them.

There IS an effort to deal with my major hates dealing with clones. It's just not all that believable, even within the context of a science fiction show. The clone in the show, at least the newest one, must have taken some time to grow. Helen could have left if to grow and come back 20 (40?) years later to pick up the fully-developed plaything without having actually LIVED those decades. She COULD have popped in, in the morning, to see what Nick was looking like, before going back and fashioning her pet idiot identically, except the clothes were wrong. And with her break-in capabilities shown last week, why would haircut and two-day old beard be easier to reproduce than filching/buying exactly the same clothes? And of course, the speech patterns, while that of an idiot, are enough to fool Laila AND Jenny. Surrrrre. THIS is why I hate clones.

So, how come I haven't pulled the plug on my fatal attraction to Primeval? Again, the coming attractions promises what brought me to the show in the first place. Dinosaurs. Big ones and small ones. Raptors next week aplenty. A change in cast is also imminent, as we gain the cop from episode two to cover the spot left open by this week's death.

Maybe that bright light at the end of the tunnel is my future-self just smiling brightly.

Monday, April 06, 2009

TV: Kvetching for Primeval's Sake

A smart man knows when enough is enough. One little trailer and I'm not going to be smart enough to pull the plug on Primeval, the once-great, now-lousy series from Britain's ITV.

After a lousy, credibility-forsaken kick off to the third season last week, I wasn't exactly looking forward to this week's episode. For good reason. It looked like what it was, a low-cost, logically-flawed horror movie masquerading as an hour-long episode of a TV show. If it wasn't for a trailer that promises something interesting next week, this would have been my last dalliance with a show headed for the chopping block.

According to Rich Johnston's Lying in the Gutters column for CBR, the show won't survive the recession. This will the final series. I would have said, "Too bad," as recently as the end of last year's flawed second series. The memories of that superior first season still lingered and there were enough good episodes in series two to hold out hope. And forgive me my silly delusional optimism, but the coming attractions section at the end of the wasted hour this week gives me hope of one good show before the series dies. (And I've ordered Dan Abnett's series-related book, so it's not like I hate EVERYTHING about the show).

But this week's show continues the trend to think visually, rather than logically. At least the writers understand the idiocy of what they are doing. While Professor Cutter tries to construct a three-dimensional model of his theory of anomalies, at least Jenny has the good sense to mouth the obvious, "Could we have done it on the computer?" The answer is nonsense. Cutter has a Eureka moment pushing rods indiscrimanately into the model and ascertains an anomaly will open up nearby, "It could happen tomorrow, it could happen many years from now?" You thinking he might get lucky and have it open today? Yeah, I thought so.

So off to the haunted house we go. Ooops, by 'we,' I mean Connor, Abby and Jenny. No soldier backup (too expensive to pay the extras). Connor and Abby don't even go spelunking with guns drawn. It's a HAUNTED HOUSE, for heaven's sakes! Best thing about haunted houses? You don't have to show the haunter much ... which is REAL good for the bottom line. And please, the little girl 'zookeeper' with the penchant for quickly scaling trees!?!? Absurd, but in keeping with the spirit of the rest of this brain-dead hour.

The B story in the episode is the continuing jihad Helen Cutter, Nick's ex-wife, has against the good professor and his associates. She sends in the clone, to no good effect, and later steals into, and then out of, Nick's house. Clumsily. This is SUCH a tired story. I do NOT CARE about Helen any more. And I don't care if we ever get a conclusion to the Jenny/Claudia thing, either. Jenny's about to make her move on Nick anyway, so Claudia's return isn't all that necessary any more.

If not for the trailer, I would be convinced that the series had turned into a monster of the week show, with maybe, maybe not having the monster actually show up. The one little toothy chameleon cum batman that hung around this week didn't interest me much. I know the show was originally a dinosaur (era nasty) of the week to begin with, but dinsoaurs interest me, demonic beasts don't. It's like the difference between Animal Planet and Supernatural. Different shows for different people.

The new direction sure feels like it won't have much travel THROUGH the anomaly to speak of. So it's up to the minimal use of creatures coming through it, the overuse of Helen and her cloned sidekicks (and don't think the ending of this week's show is anything BUT a way to get a Nick clone into play), and few if any soldier extras.

Nope, this is a show hurtling towards the curve in the road and nobody seems to be steering it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

SPORTS: This and That ...

ALLAN IVERSON: I never was a fan. He never seemed to catch on to the notion that the people signing his cheques were his REAL team, not the personal posse of boyz from the 'hood he surrounded himself with. He's really just a punk and a convicted thug down deep, and that's all. Sure, you had to admire the way he threw his little body around during all those years in Philly. He was entertaining in a lot of ways. But Iverson never has been a winner, never will be a winner and any team signing him next year is an instant candidate for oblivion. I personally believe he could dunkirk the Lakers, Celtics or Cavaliers if they foolishly brought him on for an inexpensive run for the ring, he's that toxic. His sniffing dismissal of the Pistons' request to come off the bench ("I'd rather retire than come off the bench") wasn't followed by, "And I'll give up the rest of the money they owe me." The mere act of dumping Iverson on Detroit makes the Denver manager this year's version of Danny Ainge. And to think, if the NBA hadn't had that asinine rule preventing the Raptors and the Grizzlies from having the first pick in the draft for the first few years of their existence, Iverson would have been a Toronto Raptor, rather than second pick Marcus Camby. (Toronto actually WON the lottery that year, but slid down one spot due to the STUPIDEST RULE EVER INVENTED). Maybe I should be thanking David Stern for small favours about small-minded jerks.

MINNESOTA TWINS: Picked to win the Central Division by Sports Illustrated. Oh NOOOOOOOO! Curses. Specifically, the Sports Illustrated Curse. Well, at least they aren't on the cover. We can only hope the Twins' kiddie korps on the bump will all mature a bit and be better than last year, when they were pretty good. Some good health from Joe Maurer and my favourite AL team has a chance to beat SI ... and the rest of the central.

NHL, A FORTNIGHT FROM THE PLAYOFFS: They had me worried for a bit. But not now. Alexei Kovalev seems to have the eye of the tiger back and the kids in the net are all right. Again. That means Montreal won't be anybody's patsy in the Eastern Division playoffs. Sure, those early departures for Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider tonight in the romp over the Lousy Leafs is cause for concern. But the win just about punches the club's ticket for the post-season follies. I almost hope they finish eighth and get the big bad Bruins in the first round. Hee, Hee, Hee. You watch, the bottom half of the bracket is going to do QUITE WELL in the quarters.

SORRY: I believed in the Big East. And if you believed in me, then you thought Louisville and Pitt would be throwing down Monday night. But I DID mention that North Carolina with a healthy Ty Lawson might be the best team in the country. If you were smart and respectful of the UNC training staff, then you latched onto that one statement and are enjoying everything. And everything WILL include hoisting the trophy Monday night. Michigan State's had a good run, but ...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

MOVIES: My Favourite 20th Century Movies, The List

Well, yesterday completed the month and completed my list of my favourite movies of the twentieth century. I listed 31 favourites and as many, if not more, honourable mentions. Naturally, there were some oversights (amongst the honourable mentions, not my top 31 list). Maybe another time. Say in 2050, when I go over my favourite movies of the last half-century. Hope I'm still around.

What does my list say about me? It doesn't include such acclaimed classics as The Godfather, Chinatown and Schindler's List. I'm just not into drama as something to come back to time and time again. It doesn't include such SF icons as Bladerunner, E.T. or any of the Star Trek movies (remember, Lord of the Rings came out too late for this list). The first two mentioned didn't work for me and the only Star Trek movie I ever enjoyed start to finish was the fourth one. And it wasn't much more than an extended version of the weekly show. So, I'm fussy about the ideas behind my SF shows. I have Cleopatra in the list, but not Ben Hur or Lawrence of Arabia. I believe I explained that by starting the blog entry about Cleopatra with, "Elizabeth Taylor." Spectacles all, but only one boasted the most beautiful woman in the world, excepting my mom, of course. As far as babes are concerned, especially naked ones, there aren't many on this list. It's not like I'm against Halle Berry dropping her top, but that's not going to get a movie into the list of flicks I will stop what I'm doing and watch again, when surfing the channels.

Nope, I like my movies to have grins, chuckles and a few outright laughs. Oddly enough, comedies aren't exactly in great supply in the list, but almost all of the movies have moments of genuine mirth in them. And action. And cleverness about the plotting of the various characters. And some great music. And moments surrounding the movie that make my viewing of them worth remembering for.

That's why I call this list My Favourites. Not The BEST. Not The GREATEST. Just My FAVOURITES. Here's a list in order, with links to the entries. Hope you enjoyed the ride!