Thursday, January 28, 2010

COMPUTERS: The iPad ... Meh!

Okay, after two nap-breaking phone calls and two emails, I'd best get this out of the way. There is no need for the iPad that I can think of. At least in my life.

In fact, Paul Thurrot savaged the product in his blog. Thurrot's a Windows guy but he certainly has more than his share of respect and support for Apple's various platforms. His Windows Weekly show on can often be confused with an apple-centric show like macbreak weekly. And, if you look around, you'll see he's not in the minority on this point of view about the iPad. Technologically, it's just an oversized iPod Touch.

I don't own a mobile phone nor any 3G device that serves as a music/video player. Basically, I don't roam much, so I don't need one. And if I DO find myself somewhere outside the cave, my trusty Sony Clie PDA still does everything I need. I can read books on it (happily and even without leaving the house) and I have all kinds of databases that I access regularly ... shopping lists, company passwords, etc. So even if they gave me the high end iPad (which will hit $1200CDN when you add the accessories and service contracts ... before tax), I wouldn't use it. It offers me nothing I don't have here at the Castle of Confusion. And the low-end price-point version can be replaced by a 70 buck video player and a decent smart phone. That'll be about half the price of the entry-level iPad.

That said, and everybody agrees, the things will sell like hot cakes to the Apple Sheep. There's a cachet to having the latest niftiest bright shiny toy. And I'm okay with that.

There will be some benefits that will then accrue to me and mine. First, when v2 of the iPad comes out and corrects the lack of flash video, the lack of a camera, the idiotic non-16x9 ration display, the plan to make just about all the software an extra added cost and the current lack of software especially developed FOR the larger-than-iPod Touch screen (Doubling (really quadrupling) the smaller device's graphics will get old ... and complained about real quick), that's when the device will merit notice for buying. You can't have a v2 until after the first version has come out. Evolution needs time.

Also, the iPad's ability to be an eBook reader introduces more competition into THAT particular field. I was most interested in the iPad in the week's leading up to yesterday as a potential eReader for my mother. It's her turn for a decent birthday present this year and the family has ofted talked about getting her one. I was hoping that a colour-screened iPad would be just the right fit. Although I expected it would cost the better part of a grand to get one. Mom has an iPod Touch now, but finds the screen too small to read on. So, I had my dreams. I think at 1.5 pounds, it's a little heavy for her. So the iPad is out as a solution and we go back to deciding between a Sony product or the international Kindle. BUT, the best part is that pricing on those products will have to drop, albeit not dramatically, because of the new gorilla in the room.

A penny saved...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SOFTWARE: Printliminator and Nuke Anything Enhanced

I've been called cheap. Penurious. Tight with a penny. Miserly. Compliments all.

Paper costs money and effort to trash. Really, it's the latter that gets to me, but the paper and laser printer toner also is something that adds up over the amount that I print. So, I go to SOME lengths to limit just how much printing I do. With Firefox, two of the greatest aids are Printliminator and Nuke Anything Enhanced.

I use Printliminator a LOT. It allows me to click on parts of the web page I am looking at and make them go away (not permanently, you can refresh/reload the page and you get everything back). I use the ALT key to delete everything BUT what the current red selection box shows. And then I can print quickly from a handy button right there. AND there's an Undo button for those moments when I move the mouse just a hair and it selects something other than what I wanted targeted JUST as I click the delete button.

Go to the web-site and follow the very simple instruction. Note that I didn't say instructions. It's THAT simple!

Now, Printliminator is good for getting rid of broad swatches of the page you are looking at. If you just want to delete a little something here, a little text there, then it's good to have the Nuke Anything Enhanced add-in loaded. Using the mouse, highlight text or simply point at an 'object' you want removed and right click. NAE will have available Remove This Object or Remove This Selection (and Remove Everything Else) available to you in the context menu. It's handy and if you are going to just do a little delete, this is the way to do it. Printliminator has to be loaded and that takes a second or two some nights. If you know what I mean.

In either case, stop printing out that extra page with the useless bottom footer of the web-page and the big menu on the left (or the right, GRRRRR!). Just chop out the text that you want to save and print to paper. Or, even better, a PDF file.

Your accountant will thank you. Oh, and however is responsible for hauling the recyclables to the curb.

Monday, January 18, 2010

TV: Jay Leno Vs. The Rest

I am a Jay Leno fan. I was a fan of Bob Hope, Johnny Carson and George Carlin. I still am a fan of Bill Maher, Jerry Seinfeld and, although he's largely gone from the public conscious these days, David Brenner. I enjoy Steven Wright, Lee Mack and I think Lewis Black is consistently funny, although not as funny as the funniest man alive, Billy Connolly. Those are my comedic sensibilities.

Not David Letterman. Not Conan O'Brien.

My comedy is verbal. Set-ups, punch-lines and jokes. I'm not big on sight gags and I think stupid (fill in the blank) tricks are ... stupid. And stupidity isn't funny. Now, I know YouTube has made a business (according to Mark Cuban, a bad business) out of videos of stupidity. And America's Funniest Videos have been going on forever, although fading now that people can get their acting-silly videos on YouTube anytime.

My theory about the popularity of Letterman and then O'Brien in the collegiate crowd is that a great number of collegians watching TV around the midnight hour are either drunk or buzzed or both. In that state, verbal comedy is wasted. But dropping watermelons off roofs? Sticking people in velcro suits against walls of velcro? Big-breasted women with metal bikinis running grinders against their, er, outstanding assets? Hilarious. In the sober light of the following day, Hunh?

Look, Leno is not perfect. At the best of times, Leno would fawn over the worst artistic excesses of actors and actresses out stumping for horrible work. He fell in love with his own brand of stupidity, showing American youth as completely clueless (although NOBODY could be as clueless as some of his putative university-educated Jaywalk All-Stars. Always thought some were bad thespians). But he did a monologue every night, two, three, five times longer than Letterman and twice as long as Conan. When he was yakking with somebody he shared interests with, he'd light up with joy at doing a job he really, really loved. He did great with kids and octogenarians. He was interested in his guests even when they didn't love cars or weren't long-time vets of the comedy circuit. Or at least he faked it.

Letterman wasn't. He wasn't interested enough in learning about what the guest was on to promote. Ever. Sure, there WERE guests he was interested in. And those made for good TV. But he knew he wasn't really much of a comic and he didn't let that stop him in any way. He created a show about other people doing comedic schtick. He was like a general manager of a successful sports franchise. He managed rather than performed. And if he gave the college crowd enough easy-for-besotten-brains pratfalls, he could be successful. And he was. But he has always been guest-driven watching. If the guest was somebody you wanted to watch, you did. Otherwise, why bother? He wasn't interested in the vast majority, why should you?

Conan took the Letterman model and ran with it. Unlike Letterman who had a decent stage act before coming to Late Night TV, Conan was a writer of cartoons. He thought visually and almost all of his comedic is visually-driven. Not all of stuff follows directly on the schtick model Letterman perfected. He was willing to go with clever lines ... providing they were given with some semblance of a visual cue. Cut to Conan for a shudder of the body and attempt to shake that great red shank of straw he calls hair. THEN the joke. In some ways, Conan tries to drive the middle lane between Letterman and Leno. That's cutting it awfully close and, in the final analysis, the fact that's Conan's not a comedian by training, is why he comes across as silly more often than funny. And silly is just a more polite way of saying stupid. And you know how I feel about that.

In a way, it's too bad Conan fails at being actually funny. He's the best interviewer of the three, although he has a limited range of who he can interview. Oddball celebrities outside the normal entertainment media spectrum are like black holes to Conan, whereas Leno loves them. And makes them entertaining interviews.

Leno's pre-news show was disappointing. First, he tried to break the Yogi-ism. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. He SHOULD have done the Tonight Show at ten, rather than trying to do a nightly Saturday Night Live. His name was on the show, he shouldn't have surrendered huge chunks of it to people not named Jay Leno. The "Earn Your Plug" segment was simply Stupid Actor Tricks and we ALL know how much I think of anything that starts, "Stupid..." And the car-race segment was the single worst use of TV time in history. Wasn't bad. Just wasn't... anything. A moving test pattern. Plus, there seemed to be a nasty edge to Leno that I didn't see before. Nothing overt, just a feeling. The interviews were more kvetching than interesting, bland when not kvetching. The only thing after the monologue and certain Tonight Show-retained bits that was successful was the ten@ten thing. It was awkward, but funny for being awkward, what with the delay in communicating, even if the quizzee was within spitting distance of the studio. I'd bet a lot of the responses were scripted, but some weren't and there were legitimate laughs each night.

I'm not displeased at all that Leno's headed back to familiar territory. I haven't been watching Conan except on nights where I want to see a specific guest. I'll record Leno schedule unseen, knowing I'll get a good half-hour, if not more. I think the various media people and the assembled Late Night community that has had the long knives out for Leno are wrong. Besides having agendas aplenty and most of the critics being former drunken university followers of Letterman, the Leno jihad is nauseating.

Mark Evanier has a very interesting essay on the whole thing at his blog today. He sums it up pretty well. I would have sent you there at the beginning of this, but there would have been a good chance you might not have come back. It's that good.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

SPORTS: Feschuck On the Turk

Usually, Dave Feschuk and Hedo Turkoglu irritate me. Feschuk because he's seems to be the unhappiest sports reporter I've ever read. And no, I've never talked to the man in person, ever. All I know is through his writing, which is forever gloomy. And Turkoglu, as we all now, is the underperforming Toronto Raptor small forward with the big contract.

I could write lots about Turkoglu, but Feschuk has used his gloomy force for good, detailing almost EXACTLY what I dislike about Turkoglu's approach to business here north of the border. Since he says it so well at the Toronto Star sports site, why bother repeating it? Worth a read.

About the only thing I would add is that I bet the Raptors' management would love it, if those pizza ads with the laconic Turk stretched out on a coach scarfing down pizza and pop could get pulled. It can't help that Hedo's shown mindlessly saying 'Yes, coach' as whatever Jay Triano is saying to him goes in one ear and out the other. Not a good image. And one that's too close to the truth for comfort.

Or so I've been told.

INTERNET: Tracking My Random Postings

Okay, so I don't exactly post on schedule. Today's Thursday and yesterday was Wednesday and I 'could' post my promised Wednesday Fall TV review. But I'm busy, tired and cranky (what else is new?). On the other hand, I DO know one or two of you check in here semi-regularly and I'm doing you a disservice. So how about some service instead?

Copy the url link from the box above (the one that says or just copy what you just read) and then go to When you get there, you will have to set up an account for this first-time use. Easy as pie, just follow the instructions. Paste in the mugshots url into the field for it and then put in your email address. You will eventually have to verify that you want this service and you'll have to put in a password to log back in for further changes. Pick daily (I wish!), weekly (more realistic) or monthly (come on, I'm not THAT bad!). Based on what you pick, you'll get an email telling you it's worthwhile to come a-visitin' here at this blog. You might also want to set it up to ignore small changes. I tend to explode verbally, so small changes will be rare. BUT if I get spammed by a blog comment blogger, you won't get signaled if it only means a change from 0 comments to 1 comment.

This is a WHOLE lot easier than RSS Feeds. I've got 15 sites monitored now and have taken them off the daily list. I'll get one nice little email at my gmail account when any of them change and will only go see them if there's something new to go see. That cuts down my daily load list from 147 to 132.

And you can cut down fruitless, frustrating visits here when I've nothing to say in print.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

SPORTS: Speaking of Kicking the Dog

In my post yesterday, I talked about kicking the dog, which is really a heinous thing to do. So, it comes as no surprise that I'm not working up a great big excoriation over Mark McGwire. Why bother? He's never getting into the Hall of Fame, no matter how much scheming Tony LaRussa and his 'support' group do.

First, let me say that pre-retirement Mark McGwire was an outstanding citizen off the field. A nice man with an understanding of civic responsibility. It's THAT aspect of him that has anybody with any moderate knowledge of baseball considering putting his name on the ballot. What keeps him off the ballot are the facts, the ones agreed to even before be bared his ever-lovin' steroid-fed soul.

He hit home runs (see Maris, Roger for what that's worth in Hall of Fame freebies). He had a year early in his career where he won a Gold Glove in a bad year for first basemen. After that, he ranged from adequate to really not adequate at all. His life time average of .263 included three years of walking the Mendoza Line pretty well. In fact, LaRussa once kept him out of a season finale for fear he would end up below .200 for the season. His on-base percentage was below .400, despite being a feared hitter worthy of intentional walking for much of the last decade of his career. He wasn't much on the basepaths, as attested to by his once every three years triple rate and less than a stolen base a year rate. Basically, he was a more successful Dave Kingman. But he had that magical year.

McGwire shouldn't be enshrined for that year anymore than Maris has been (and you can add Paul Henderson to the lot of good players with one starring moment, as passed over would-be hall-of-famers). He was a good player who hit prodigious taters. We all 'suspected' he was juiced, so our sense of awe and wonder has been cooled over the years. We know now that our suspicions were right.

Despite all of that desultory stats-repeating, the fact is that McGwire would be in the Hall today if he'd been a better man. Fact is, he might very well have equaled his feats juice-free. Even he understands today that his overly-muscular build, fueled by steroids, probably led to more injuries than he might otherwise have endured. Ironic, given his defense that he used steroids to get OVER injuries. A LOT of people think he had that capability. And even after the career was kaputsky, he could have solidified his reputation on that day in Washington when he had the chance to come clean. He could have blown the whole steroid era to pieces by telling the truth. He could have become the anti-steroid crusader that kids could believe in. He carried all of the baggage of Jose Canseco without the slime that stopped too many people from believing Canseco, the patient zero of the insidious infection that was steroid use in major league baseball.

So, Monday's self-serving statement does nothing to revise the facts. Mark McGwire was a deeply flawed man and baseball player. And Cooperstown will always be a place he can only visit.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

TV: The Tuesday Review for Fall 2009

Ever have that day where you feel like kicking the dog. That's been my day today. I love dogs and I love my job ... but every now and then, stupid people and stupid software get to me. So, here's me taking a break to continue my series of Fall TV mini-reviews. For the full preamble, check back to the Saturday review.

Okay, Tuesday is actually a good day to take your dog for a walk. If it wasn't for CBS and their NCIS-heavy sked, you might not turn on TV OR recorder at all!

NCIS, the original (actually a spin-off for you late joiners), continues to be rather above-average, It was the best hour on TV two seasons ago and wasn't bad last year. The puzzles this year have been good and the show will contend for a top-ten spot again. It IS actually, the most watched hour on TV now, I believe. At least until American Idol gets really going, not that I watch those early humiliation episodes of that show.

The spin-off's spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles, isn't really following in the footsteps of its forebearer all that well. Linda Hunt's reasonably entertaining as the West coast Gibbs allegory. She's in full Billy Kwan/Yoda mode that's become her character part for the ages. She gives good, if rare, grin, as they say. Chris O'Donnell has the Tony equivalent part as the one-named Callan. Just doesn't quite have the same entertainment value. And neither does the usually good LL Cool J. And nobody else has enough quirk in their characters to make them memorable. Think of the NCIS cast and you get a group that is nothing BUT quirk. It's enough to make you think NCIS: LA might have been adopted. I record it because I watch NCIS and the night finale, The Good Wife.

I was quite prepared to not like The Good Wife. Julianna Margulies has always struck me as ... harsh. She's undeniably beautiful, but her face seems permanently frozen in frown-mode. She smiles occasionally, but that smile seems so rarely reaching the eyes, that you never believe it. At least in her TV characters. This show's no different. But there seems to be a reason for the stern facade. She's fighting upstream against a tide trying to take her down to the levels of her dirty pol husband, played with usual greatness by Chris Noth (and yes, I know I originally typed Mike Noth. One of these days I will get that one-time scourge of the sports reporting scene out of my memory bank). The kids are good and the hectoring mother-in-law (Mary Beth Peil) is outstanding. Which brings me to the workplace characters. I like pretty well all of them, especially investigator Kalinda, played by Archie Panjabi as one tough broad. Christine Baranski's an even tougher head of the firm. Interesting group of power women. Josh Charles and smarmy (as usual) Matt Czuchry try to hold the testosterone fort and succeed to a degree. So, while I rarely come down on the side of a Margulies show, this is the happy exception.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit has been a Tuesday staple, but I think it's being shipped off to Wednesdays here in Canada. I like that Christopher Meloni is playing less crazed this year. It's still a show to record, because some episodes are about subject matter that I find too distasteful to watch, no matter how tasteful they make it. In losing SVU for the night, at least the evening is getting White Collar from Friday nights (to be discussed in the review series finale). Good trade. NBC's night concludes with Leno, as do the rest of the weeknights. That was discussed in the Monday review and no need to repeat it here.

ABC's night-capper is a surprise. Not appoint TV or anything, bu the forgotten works most weeks. Christian Slater hasn't had much luck on TV and the fact that the audience hasn't found this show is yet another indicator he'll be available again come pilot season, but he does good work here. The guest star is always dead, but the crowd trying to give the corpse an identity and some dignity all seem earnest and individualistic. All the shows come awfully close to being one-and-done's, so jumping in at any point is doable. But there have been slowly-evolving back-stories for the regulars that make the whole season worthwhile watching.

Speaking of back-story, the season's over for such stalwarts as CBC's Being Erica and the cable show Sons of Anarchy. I rather like biker drama Sons of Anarchy better this year than the angsty and frothy Being Erica. I KNEW a second season of Being Erica was going to be really, really difficult to maintain at the levels of the first season. But the producers seemed to think creating a romantical triangle and minimizing the screen time for Michael Riley's Dr. Tom was a good idea. They were wrong. I just never warmed to Sebastian Pigott's Kai at all. Ah well.

Science Fiction had good and average coverage of Tuesday's. BBC's Paradox was brilliant, if short, at five episodes. Looking forward to a second series. On the other hand, ABC's V seemed long and plodding at four episodes. Still, Morena Baccarin makes up for a LOT of not-good when it comes to doling out watching time. It'll be back in March to finish off the mini-series. The last pre-break episode gave me hope that investing a further four hours will be worthwhile.

Lastly, I normally download TWiT (This Week in Technology) on Tuesday's. This is the current platform to watch Leo LaPorte, who's been Mr. Computer to a lot of people for a looooooong time. The 90-minute (or so) show usually has entertaining guests. Wish the video feed didn't take so long to appear for downloading, but I'm used to the schedule now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

SPORTS: Just a Thought About Bosh

Chris Bosh has been one of the top dozen players in the NBA this year, the key player on a middling Toronto Raptor team. When he's completely on, he's the best power forward in the league. And the numbers suggest strongly that he's been on, on quite a few nights.

He's in the top ten in scoring and rebounding. He's improved immensely as an offensive rebounder and isn't too shabby under his own hoop either. He's stronger and takes less guff from the thugs that inhabit other teams' front lines this year.

And he's got walkaway rights at the end of this year. And a LOT of people think he will exercise them. That lot includes just about everybody south of the 49th Parallel. And there are a few of the believers in and about Toronto too. They KNOW that Bosh can maximize his NBA income by staying with the Raptors for a max contract. They KNOW he makes a fair bit of tucker off the court here, although it would be more in some American cities. They KNOW he likes Toronto, a city that didn't jump on him when stories about supposedly being a dead-beat dad surfaced last year. When all the facts were exposed, it turns out Bosh is what we think he is, a very good man, a great athlete and nowhere near being a 21st century Shawn Kemp. And they KNOW Bosh wants to be THE MAN on his NBA team.

All things that point to staying in T.O.

On the other hand, Bosh wants to win, and this collection of Raptors might not have being better than above-average in them. The Hedo Turkoglu experiment has been more REALLY bad than good. You can count on the fingers of one hand, the number of games were the Turk has been a positive difference maker. DeRozan is a kid and he's a year, maybe two from being a positive force. Bargnani has awoken lately, but we've seen these spurts before. Does the tow-headed Italian really get it? It's not hard to picture the three just-mentioned players suddenly playing to their potential and Toronto being a tough out against anybody but Boston (who's just plain tougher than Toronto). Or things can continue to plod along.

And speaking of plodding, let me point out the defensive effort of Bosh, who always escapes notice while the Raptor points, especially Calderon, are accused of being turnstiles. He's undeniably the best defender on the team. But he's frequently NOT. And that's not good from a max-paid Leader. Sure, he comes off his man to participate in the defence with decent regularity. But there's a lot of shots of Bosh watching some other big lay the ball up from waaaaay tooo close. Best standing room only seats in the house. Not that he's the only Raptor guilty of doing it. Nor is he the worst, although Bargnani's commitment to D over the last while is starting to show Bosh up a bit. And Bosh has been awfully casual with the ball and with passes the last little while. Is he tired? Looks like it. Nothing like last year's December swoon after an MVP-like November, but he's in better condition.

There are other things about Bosh that keeps GM Bryan Colangelo awake at nights. Bosh isn't the kind of guy who will take the contract that pays him the extra dime, no matter where that might be. He wants to win and will be willing to give up money to do so. Just when you need your star to be a typical NBA mercenary, he ends up having principles that don't have to start with the principal. It's unlikely he'll go somewhere to play second banana, but the Lakers and whoever ends up with LeBron James or Dwyane Wade DO have inducements. I think those two stay, as will the West Coast Smirk in Los Angeles. But New York might have enough bright lights and pay packages to combine Bosh with Joe Johnson. And, by New York, I mean Brooklyn. As in the Nets. They will have the top pick (John Wall?), more cap space, a RICH Russian owner, and Brook Lopez, Yi Jianglian and Devin Harris. Lopez, Bosh, Yi, Johnson and Harris, with Wall and a group of kids coming off the bench isn't a bad makeup of a team.

Previously, I've said I would deal Bosh in a second, if Golden State would give up Andris Biedrins, Anthony Randolph and another piece. Last year, that piece would have been Jamal Crawford, who had fallen out of favour in the Don Nelson leaky boat. There would have been other bits and pieces involved, to meet trade regs. I still think there might be a trade there, but I suspect Monta Ellis and Biedrins wouldn't work out for either team. Golden State has to move Ellis and possibly Anthony Morrow, too. But they would just have to know Bosh wouldn't re-sign. So the whole trade is moot.

BUT, and you knew there HAD to be a but, I've got an idea. A three-teamer yet. Toronto would hook up with Houston (so near to Bosh's Dallas home, but far enough away not to be a distraction) and Minnesota. Both teams have a surfeit of point guards, which is unfortunate, because it would be nice to divest the team of Marcus Banks, but I can only do so much plotting. Here's the key players and their end addresses:Houston ends up with Chris Bosh.
  • Toronto ends up with Al Jefferson, Luis Scola and Chase Budinger.
  • Minnesota ends up with Trevor Ariza, Carl Landry, Brian Cook and Houston's #1 pick in the 2010 draft.
Okay, why does each of the teams want to do this deal?

Houston ends up with Bosh. End of discussion. That's why they make the trade. Heck, they might even throw in money AND some second-round picks to do this deal. Pairing Bosh with a true centre like Yao Ming next year would take a lot of the beating off Bosh's body that he currently suffers. He can't hate that. He's going to be a quickie plane ride away from Mom's cooking. Happiness could very well ensue.

Toronto gets out from under the "will Bosh stay?" cloud. And Jefferson's a beast who does a LOT of what Bosh does and is signed for three more years. IF he can stay healthy. That's the rub. He's an injury risk. But then again, Bosh hasn't been a paragon of health over the last few years either. I think Jefferson's got another level, if playing on a good team. And the reduced scoring capability could be covered by the other four starters. Luis Scola gives them a complete front-court rotation of bigs, moving into the third slot, after Bargnani and Jefferson, ahead of Amir Johnson. He's on an expiring contract. So if the mix doesn't work, then he goes, to be replaced next year by somebody similar. He's also sooooo smart and that isn't something we've seen a lot of in Toronto. Besides I think Reggie Evans could be spun in a package for an upgrade on the wing. Budinger is cut-bait, although I AM intrigued by his capabilities as a passer and as a shooter. He's just too slow for small foward and not big enough to play in the frontcourt.

Which brings us to Minnesota, the team without the star attraction after the three-way. Well, it appears that Jefferson and last year's wunderkind rookie, Kevin Love, can't co-exist afterall. Is it better to try and play Love and/or Jefferson out of position, or to get a young, rising small forward in Ariza to pair with Love. Landry is a lot like Love too. But he's used to being a second banana and won't cause much trouble. Cook is strictly an expiring contract. But then there's that number one pick, ex of the Rockets. Will be somewhere around 22, which isn't a jewel in the making. But gems have come from that point. There are all kinds of big men projects available around them. Wouldn't Greg Monroe of Georgetown look good to the Wolves? In essence, this trade boils down to that draft pick and Ariza, who's got talent, youth and a financially sane long-term contract for Jefferson's big ticket and chemistry problems.

Anyway, just a thought I had. Truth be told, Colangelo is riding the Bosh Express to the end of the line. He'll hope to ink Bosh to a six-year contract and be done with the whisper campaign out of Miami and places south of the Mason-Dixon Line. If he can't keep Bosh, he'll hope for just the kind of trade I've outlined in a sign-and-trade.

But I can dream.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

TV: The Monday Review for Fall 2009

A week late already. Oh well. Head back to the Saturday entry for the preamble.

CBS is winning everything and Monday nights aren't the exception. In fact, you can argue that CBS Monday night might be the strongest three-hour block from any network, any night. As usual, the boys at The Eye have decided not to be as strong as they could be, hummocking in Accidentally on Purpose between comedic heavyweights How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men, but I still record and watch it, although more out of ennui than real interest. Jenna Elfman is usually comedic gold. And this show would work, if only they got rid of the cast of idiots around her. She plays pregnant (although she got pregnant in real life) with goofy charm. It's just that the baby's father, a younger man taking advantage of a cougar on the prowl, and all of his friends, are just plain stupid. Elfman's office environment is a tad bit better in the brain department, but she also has a dopey sister and a best friend, horribly under-used Ashley Jensen. Jensen's REALLY, REALLY pregnant and can hardly move around without the cameras catching it. Her physical comedic skills are canceled out as a result. Move this comedy anywhere else on the schedule and I'd give it the boot. Here. it is too easy to set the recorder to CBS, 8-11. NOTE: Accidentally IS switching nights. The sound you hear in the background is Bruce the Shark, from Jaws, getting ready.

How I Met Your Mother made the creative decision to break Robin and Barney up, so that the show can return to the old formula, but I wish they'd delayed it a bit longer. On the other hand, getting to the putative title idea is getting on my nerves. Still, the jokes remain ... wait for it ... awesome! Most nights. Not keeping pace with The Big Bang Theory, but most shows aren't either. The creators of that show are also having some wavering moments, giving Howard and Raj too much screen time for fear of burning out the star that is Jim Parsons' Sheldon. But you can never have enough Sheldon. Mathematically impossible. Going in the opposite direction, the decision to keep Leonard and Penny together has worked. The other comedy in the quartet of week starters is the venerable old Two and Half Men, which rarely surprises. It seems to be completely formulaic, but the reactions of Charlie Sheen et al still make me laugh. That Sheen's actual home life seems inspired by his comedy is just the note of tragedy that any comedy needs. As for the night-capper, CSI: Miami, things have changed very little on the junior edition of the CSI franchise. Out went Adam Rodriguez, in came Eddie Cibrian. But really, the most interesting newcomer is the technician Walter, played with smarter-than-you-think charm by Oliver Benson Miller. Looks like a walking mountain looking for a football game, but thinks like a nerd. An interesting, new character.

Fox, when they aren't out doing bad things to Josh Whedon, occasionally lets quirky shows grow and flourish. As evidence, I present House and Lie to Me. I don't think all Englishmen, whether paying faux Yank doctors (Hugh Laurie as Gregory House) or punks who've pulled themselves out of the muck (Tim Roth as Doc Cal Lightman) are all basically jerks. But the sheer in-your-face political incorrectness of both make their shows work. I'll be unhappy with the creative decision to drive Cameron (Jennifer Morrison) away from House, but at least the brought back PI Lucas Douglas, as played by Michael Weston. Lie to Me has ditched the cheating husband storyline for co-star Kelli Williamson's character and that's enriched the show immensely.

ABC's anti-Gregory House is Richard Castle and Castle, the show, is getting better as it moves along, despite a saccharine level too high for a diabetic like me. Yes, it's all Moonlighting-ish with sexual tension aplenty between Nathan Fillion's Castle and Stana Katic's hotter-than-hot police detective, but the key to turning this show into something more than a rehash is the smart-as-a-whip Castle kid, played by Molly Quinn and his loopy mother, played with hammy largesse by Susan Sullivan. (I'm old enough to remember Sullivan as a sexy young thing. And she still is). I'll slip an admission here at the end of the paragraph that I also record Gossip Girl, hoping you miss it. I don't understand the popularity of some of the young ladies in the show, but I just love watching Kelly Rutherford perform. It's a remote control on fast-forward kind of show, but I do record it.

Which brings me to NBC and the two most confounding shows on any night (and we still got Canada and cable still to go). Heroes and The Jay Leno Show. What to say? The first season of Heroes was brilliance that actually started to dim about the time Malcolm McDowell came on board. The decision to keep Sylar around was the wrong one, just about eliminating any actual character development. It was just the same old, same old. And the rot hasn't let up. We are in the last season for the show, but I still watch it. Because I have to. Not because I want to. But boy that first half season ... As for Leno, I still record and watch the monologue. There are some canned bits I watch too, Ten@Ten works mostly, with the delay in responses actually part of the comedic charm. Any bet whatsoever that the writers have fed the subjects to the people? Didn't think so. The car race thing might be the worst use of TV time ever. It's not infuriatingly bad, just totally irrelevant. I get more enjoyment out of that new cable channel that just shows a fireplace. The interviews are mostly miss than hits. And the nightly Saturday Night Live rejected ideas segments have generally been lacking in funny. Maybe one in four are worth watching to the end. Methinks Leno is also a little nastier in this incarnation and that doesn't wear well on him. Honestly, I wish he'd swap places with Conan and go back to doing the Tonight Show. I could record him there happily, while continuing to ignore O'Brien, who's talents I have never, ever appreciated. NOTE: And movement is afoot. The days of pre-nightly news Jay Leno is going, going soon to be gone. Whether he takes back the old slot or does a half-hour (my choice) before the midnight hour, Leno's going to be Late-Night Leno again. A qualified Yippee! depending on what NBC fills the five hours with.

Canadian content lets me point out the always funny Little Mosque on the Prairie continues strong through this, it's fourth season. And I'm already on board with the new comedy, 18 to Life, which started last week. Over across the pond, we've seen Life and Trinity come and go. I really liked Life because David Attenborough and gorgeous nature filming is an impossible to screw up combination.

The weblets that came and went during the time period include Greek, Rita Rocks and the final three episodes of The Closer. Greek still entertains me, but I do wonder where we are headed post graduation for everybody but Rusty. Hated the departure of Johanna Braddy who strikes me as this century's Cheryl Tiegs (take a closer look). But am glad the romantic triangle between Cappy and Rusty's big sis Casey and whoever she was trysting with has been resolved. At least I think it's been resolved. Rita Rocks is a traditional sitcom that's sort of the anti-Two and a Half Men. No smarm at all and a good dose of usually funny Nicole Sullivan. As for The Closer, three episodes to wrap stuff up was more a taste than a full meal, but the show continues to be great TV.

What's left? One Tree Hill, getting tired and ready for retirement. But after six seasons, it's hard to stop recording. Secret Life of an American Teenager. Still record it to compare with Degrassi. Makes me proud to be Canadian. And Men of a Certain Age. Not a Ray Romano fan, but Andre Braugher can do no wrong. So, I record and watch and cringe and then enjoy some of the other stuff.

And lastly, but actually firstly, I make sure to record At the Movies in the wee hours of the morn. The Ben-Ben Disaster that was last season has given way to two adults, Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott, talking movies. Each has a writing pedigree, a love of film, and entertaining personalities. A refreshing return to the days when both subbed frequently for Roger Ebert when the show was being co-hosted by Richard Roeper. Pros doing good prose on TV. Who'd a thunk it? Recommended. Again.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

TV: The Sunday Review of Fall 2009

See the Saturday Review for all the preamble. No sense re-typing it.

Sunday is 60 Minutes. Even when football runs long on CBS, SunTV is showing it at 7pm in its entirety, which is a boon for those of us who record the show. Don Hewitt's legacy wasn't always a Sunday staple. Back in the last century when I was still a teenager, 60 Minutes cropped up during the week! Don't know if they were repeats or whether the show actually shifted mid-week (I think Tuesday's but I could be wrong), but this was the flagship show, not the late, unlamented 60 Minutes II. (Well except for introducing me to Charley Rose). I distinctly remember the segment that made me a 60 Minutes fan for life. It was on William Stephenson and the cracking of the Enigma Machine. I haven't stopped watching the show since. Although, to be honest, I'm usually watching the end of the football game, while the recorder does its duty.

The two new shows that joined 60 Minutes on the disks were Three Rivers, also from CBS and The Battle of the Blades from our own CBC. Three Rivers was a goner before it ever aired. In fact, I'm shocked I managed to get through even one episode about the Pittsburgh-based organ transplant team. But I did and it grew on me. Figures. A medical show I like and the rest of you hate it. I would have preferred somebody keep Alex O'Loughlin on the air with his vamp show, Moonlight, a one-and-done 2008 gem that people also didn't care for. Idiots. But he'll eventually find a vehicle you and I will agree should stay on the air.

The Battle of the Blades was one show I only watched on Sundays, the day of the actual competition. I skipped all the Monday shows AND forgot to record the finale, having to watch it over the net at the CBC site. I enjoyed watching some of the hockey B-listers make the switchover (eventually) to figure skates. But like all reality shows, the public voting was nonsensical. Thus Craig Simpson and Jamie Sale were rewarded for a season's worth of excellence rather than their performance in the denouement, where they were obviously third-best behind Claude Lemieux/Shae-Lynn Bourne and Stephane Richer/Marie-France Dubreil. Simpson, a CBC celebrity and non-francophone and reigning Olympic gold pairs medalist Sale were good, just not good enough. But it, like American Idol and others of the ilk, was a popularity contest. Ahhh well.

The recording centre is also busy Sundays recording CTV's seminal high school drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation (Two back-to-back episodes each week) as well as the early-morning sports reporter gab-fest The Reporters on TSN. I've had my personal differences with Dave Hodge over the years, but he runs a usually entertaining half-hour with regulars Damien Cox and Steve Simmons.

Which brings me to the Sunday-night cable hits. Dexter, Californication, Bored to Death and the end of the summer season of Drop Dead Diva. All are finished now, so nothing I'm going to say is going to affect your decisions to have watched them, or to go out and get the DVD set. You either like the killer in Dexter or not, the sex-addict in Californication or not or the obsessive dreamer in Bored to Death or not. I like all three. But I really loved all of Drop Dead Diva, surely one of my top 25 shows when my birthday rolls around in July. Brooke Elliott is a star. A plus-sized star for sure. But a star nonetheless. This is one DVD set worth getting. And the second season makes this summer something to look forward to.

Tomorrow (maybe), the problem (even with three recorders) that is making decisions on Monday night TV.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

TV: The Saturday Review of Fall 2009

I'm going to attempt to do a TV review for each night of the week of the shows we were exposed to during the 2009 Fall season. I have two TVs in the TV room, a fair cable package, three DVD recorders working full-time and a connection to the internet. So, here's what I watched/recorded/whatever over the last four months. (I'll try to get each night covered over the next week, earning a week off after that)

The easy one, Saturday. Nothing new during primetime worth watching, save for Hockey Night in Canada as far network broadcast TV is concerned. Being a Canadian, HNC is a birthright and a requirement. On the other hand, it's often shunted to the smaller TV while I catch a basketball game on the main screen. Comes from not being a Toronto Maple Leaf fan. But I do tend to watch Don Cherry's segment in the first intermission and the Hot Stove Lounge in the second intermission. Just like a million or so Canadians. Even when the Leafs are stinking the joint out. Which is frequently these decades.

November saw something crop up in afterhours to join HNC. The Wanda Sykes Show on Fox makes one wonder if the news guys at that net actually watch the non-news shows on their own network. A black lesbian comedian with a decidedly liberal bent? If they so much as surfed ove there for five minutes, some Fox News natterers would die of apoplexy. Not that that's a bad thing. Regardless, Sykes is one of the funniest people on TV and her one hour late night show is different enough and funny enough to merit skipping the better known Saturday Night Live to watch. Do I record SNL? Depends on the host.

Syndicated TV does have a couple of Saturday keepers. Merlin from Britain just finished, but the teen take on the old Arthurian wizardry legend works. The second season is in the can, but you can pick up season DVD's at an electronics super-store near you. The other syndic show that makes the grade here is Legend of the Seeker, which I only caught the first season of, after the fact on DVD. Now, it's a weekly staple for recording myself. It's from the same folks that brought the sublimely sly Xena and Hercules shows to us in decades past. Gorgeous New Zealand scenery combined with an attractive bunch of actors makes this show rather better than the Xena/Herc rip-offs we've seen since those shows completed their runs. And there's always a chance creator Sam Raimi's brother Ted will pop up to add some tongue-in-cheek mirth to the occasion.

Lastly, I also admit to recording the early Saturday morning showing of Food TV's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives featuring Guy Fieri. Say, I think I need a snack.

Friday, January 01, 2010

LIFE: Happy New Year

Okay, the project from hell has descended to the fifth circle of Dante's favourite concentric construct. I think. Might be the eighth. Haven't read the book nor the Pournelle/Niven SF update(s) in years. So take my placement with a grain of salt.

At this point, meeting my latest deadline isn't going to happen and I've decided to stop stressing and admit I'm incapable of predicting when the project will be ready to go. That's my one and only resolution for this year. No more ego trips predicting I can churn out code fast enough to match my mouth. The client needs it. I want it done and out the door and get in some reading from a hefty reading list turned out during Christmas. And I am still watching TV recorded from the first week of November. That's a serious deficit.

I'd LIKE to announce here that I will be writing daily. That's a lie. Won't happen. But I think I can hit the once-promised three times weekly target. It's a goal, not a promise.

Thanks for stopping by. And you have a HAPPY NEW YEAR! ... starting now.