Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Back to the Drawing Board

Honestly, in a thousand years, did you ever imagine that the Raptors would be eliminated from the playoffs before the Atlanta Hawks? What kind of odds would you get on that in Vegas? A thousand-to-one? A million-to-one? It's disgusting.

In any event, I have no idea what the answer for this team going into next year is. They obviously need some secondary scoring, and that will probably have to come in the form of a trade involving T.J. Ford (who may have salvaged his value with some decent performances the past 3 games) and an expiring contract (I'm looking at you, Rasho Nesterovic). Will this get them a serviceable 3 in the mould of a Corey Maggette or that-guy-they-should-have-drafted-instead-of-Rafeal-Araujo-who-would-have-been-a-perfect-fit-for-this-team? That will be left to the capable hands of Bryan Colangelo.

I think the Raps also missed Jorge Garbajosa more than they thought they would (he brings the toughness, intangibles, and experience to the team that can't be quantified - like a white, Spanish Charles Oakley). I also think that Andrea Bargnani might want to think about working on his game this summer (even though I'm not ready to give up on a 22-year old 7-footer, I'm pretty sure he got outplayed by Pat Garrity in this series).

But I think more than anything else, it was blatantly obvious all year long that the Toronto Raptors need to be tougher inside. You can't get outrebounded by 18 and expect to win, especially considering that Dwight Howard will be bitch-slapping them around the court for the next 10 years.

To me, the answer is obvious: draft Joey Dorsey.

I know that he's 24 years old and that he might be the worst free throw shooter in the history of organized basketball (he shot an incomprehensible 38% from the charity stripe this year!), but I'm pretty sure that if you were to reach into his back pocket and pull out his wallet, it would have the words "BAD MOTHER FUCKER" burned into it. In fact, the more I think of it, the more convinced I am that Joey Dorsey is the Jules Winnfield of the basketball world. Having him on the roster will make any team tougher. Hell, this guy grew up in the same West Baltimore projects where they film "The Wire". He's not backing down from anyone. He will be the Charles Oakley of the NBA for the next 10 years. He will give Chris Bosh some much needed help on the boards, and he can defend monsters like Dwight Howard and the rest of the dominant big men from the west with his ridiculous athleticism and physique.

Did you see his stat line in the UCLA game in the Final Four this year? 0 points, 15 rebounds. That's what I want. No touch around the basket. No semblance of a low post game. Only bad motherfucker toughness and a knack for grabbing those soul-crushing rebounds that Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis (Rashard Lewis???) were killing the Raptors with all series long.

I was hoping he'd still be available at #47 so the Raps could use their second round pick on him, but apparently the brain trust dealt that pick to the San Antonio Spurs (the rich get richer...) for Giorgos Printezis. And if you're wondering who Giorgos Printezis is, you are not alone. Maybe they can parlay Giorgos and the player formerly known as Joey Graham into an early second rounder and snatch JD before some other team turns him into the second coming of Ben Wallace.

Need more convincing?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Prove It All Night

Just in case there is any lingering doubt about who was the greatest live rock and roll band ever assembled...

This might just be the closing argument in that debate.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Canada On Strike

In case you haven't seen this, this has to be the best South Park episode in the long and illustrious history of this great show. It literally has it all: Canadian stereotypes, YouTube heroes, the World Canadian Bureau (WGA), the best "friend/buddy/guy" argument of all time, and an answer to the age old question of exactly how you get money from the internet.

This is only the first five minutes of the episode, but you can catch the entire episode HERE.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Weekend Links

Here's a little something to pass the time with between picks during this weekend's NFL draft:

This is one of my all-time favourite YouTube clips. I love the guy trying to talk himself into the Ken O'Brien era. "Obviously the Jets know something that the people up here don't". Hey, Ken O'Brien won just as many Super Bowls as Dan Marino. I guess they do know something!

- The only thing more depressing than the Jets draft history? How about the Chargers giving up two first round picks, a second round pick, Eric Metcalf, and Patrick Sapp so they could move up one spot in the draft... to take Ryan Leaf!!! Read all about the incomprehensibly crippling effects of this pick, and how the Chargers loss was the West Texas A&M Golf Team's gain... sort of.

(Thanks to Llibs for the tip)

- The only thing worse than being a Chargers fan during the Ryan Leaf era? How about being trapped in an elevator for 41 hours.

To learn more than you ever thought possible about the entirely underrated invention that is as vital to city life as is concrete and steel, read this piece by Nick Paumgarten:

You go in here and come out there, and you hardly consider that you have just raced up or down a vertiginous, pitch-black shaft. When you’re waiting for a ride, you don’t think that what lurks behind the outer doors is emptiness. Every so often, a door opens when it shouldn’t and someone steps into the void. This is worth keeping in mind.


- The best idea ever for a baseball team's hat.

- The best idea ever for a bar (scroll down {past "Guess That Ass"} to the third article titled: "Bar Revolution: Personal Draft Lines")

- The reason the OTHL Bruins lost game 7 of the OTHL finals (that's your favourite blogger missing the yawning cage in an eventual 3-2 loss... I still say that goalie redirected the puck and in the process made a glorious save, rather than I my simply missing the tap in... I'll probably be in therapy for that one). By the way, I'm pretty sure this video was taken at half-speed, because there's no way we're actually that slow...

- A great short story by T. Coraghessan Boyle which reinforces the importance of always telling the truth... or at the very least, not lying about the death of your baby just so you can take the day off work.

- If there was ever a cartoon which summed up my dad's attitude regarding his move to the wilds of Dornoch, ON, I believe this is it.

- One more tribute to the late, great Danny Federici.

If there is a better version of 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), I have yet to hear it.

Raptors vs. Magic - Game 3 Notes

We were able to score four centre court seats (second last row) for last night's game, so my buddy's Foley, Flats, and DT (my girlfriend's dad) headed down for some roundball action and multiple Delgados at the ACC. Here are some quick thoughts on the Raps first home playoff game of the year:

- I'm still not a fan of the colour-coded T-shirt giveaway. I'll take the free shirt any day of the week (even though I'm pretty sure the guy sitting behind me stole mine and wrapped it around his head), but I think the novelty has long-since worn off. Plus, why do they have to put some stupid slogan on the shirts? Why can't they just give you red shirts that say "Raptors" on them? I guess because they don't want you to ever wear them again.

- After a few pre-game beverages at The Loose Moose, the Delgados were going down like nobody's business, and I don't think the four of us were alone in this endeavour. Believe me when I say that the mass imbibing a great deal to do with the abnormally raucous nature of the crowd. I've always believed that if an organization wanted to truly give their team a home court advantage in the playoffs, all they would ever need to do would be to offer $2 beers like they do on Thursday nights in Nashville. I'm telling you, if we could get as vocal as we did at $40 a round, imagine what that place would be like at two bucks a pop: it would probably feel a little like this.

- Another huge reason for the great Raptors crowds is the demographic of Raptors fans. The difference between a Raptors playoff crowd and a Leafs playoff crowd (insert joke here) never ceases to amaze me. The crowd at a Leaf game is almost exclusively white, middle aged, and wealthy. The Raps fans couldn't be more opposite. I would love for MLSE to do a study on the mean average age and annual income of Leafs vs. Raps crowds. My guess is that the Leafs crowd would come in around 48 yrs and $120,000, while the average Raps fan would probably be in the neighbourhood of 26 yrs and $45,000. Is it any coincidence that the players actually get fired up to play in front of that rabid a crowd?

(Another note on the demographic of Raps fans: my girlfriend's dad lives in a small town in Southwestern Ontario where there is literally one family of visible minorities. So needless to say, he was blown away by the fact that this particular crowd was filled with every conceivable race on the planet. The entire row behind us was a group of teenaged East Indian kids, and the group of us were going to them for high fives all game long. After the game, it was all DT could talk about. He was just astounded by how diverse a crowd it was. I'm telling you, there's no team in Toronto that even comes close to the Raps in terms of representing this city's cultural demographic, and it makes for a beautiful fan experience.)

- Two dudes showed up in our section (321) about halfway through the first quarter, and one of them was wearing a Magic jersey. I've never seen a Toronto crowd go after an opposing team's fan the way these guys in our section did. It honestly reminded me of the time I was in Philly and got a beer poured on my head for singing the Canadian anthem. That's the kind of hostile environment you can be proud of. In any event, after about 5 minutes of razzing, they actually convinced this kid to put on the red Raptors giveaway T-shirt overtop of his Magic jersey! I'd never seen anything like it. Honestly, what kind of a fan sells out his team after only 5 minutes of abuse? There wasn't even any kind of a threat of violence! I think that pretty much tells you all you need to know about the nature of Orlando Magic fans.

(As my buddy Flats pointed out, the poor kid probably got that Shaq jersey when he was a kid and didn't even realize that the Raps were playing the Magic in this series. It was probably the only jersey he owns, so he just wore it to the game without giving it a second thought... But still, you have to stand your ground a little bit, don't you?)

- The spontaneous chant of "HOWWW-WAAAAARRRRRD!!!! HOWWW-WAAAAARRRRRD!!!!" when Dwight Howard got to the charity stripe in the second quarter was one of the greatest things I've ever been a part of, and when he missed both free throws, we were giddily moshing in celebration in our seats. I was hoping he got to the stripe 20 times that game, just so we could give him the business all night long. There are few things better in sports than when a crowd actually manages to alter the outcome of a game, and there is no doubt that the Raps fans got into Superman's dome last night.

- The best part about sitting in the second last row with a group of rowdy teenagers behind you? I didn't sit down the entire game. If I had my way, every sporting event would be attended in this fashion.

- I don't care how well T.J. Ford played last night (and you could easily argue that 21 points with only 3 assists is definitely NOT what you want from your point guard; and the truth is, if his shot isn't falling {as it often isn't}, T.J. can be an unmitigated disaster), Jose Calderon has to be the starting point guard on this team. If this video doesn't tell you about how the Toronto fans feel about him, nothing will (I love that Jack loves it).

- Chris Bosh was invisible in the first half, and the Raps had almost no inside presence at all for the duration of the game. There was one point in the second half where they didn't have a single guy inside the 3-point line when a shot went up. That strategy might work against this Magic team, and it might work when you're shooting close to 50%, but there is no way this team will be able to make any noise in the playoffs if they don't get tougher inside. Bring back Oak. Bring back Oliver Miller. Hell, sign Big Country Reeves if you can... But they need to do something if they ever want to contend, even if that "something" means hooking Andrea Bargnani up with Greg Anderson in the offseason.

- Finally, a note on the urinals at the ACC. I noticed for the first time that each urinal has a ledge above it, presumably to place your beverage whilst relieving yourself. Now, I was never really one to bring my beer into the stinking pisser with me anyway, because as far as I know, you generally don't need to worry about having anyone put ruffies in your drink at a basketball game, but I can see where guys might want to bring their beer with them. To each his own, I guess. But the thing about these particular ledges is that they're HUGE. I'm telling you, these ledges are a good 18 inches long and 6 inches wide, which of course begs the question: exactly what do they expect you to bring into the pisser with you?

How many guys are bringing four beers into the bathroom with them? I'll tell you how many: zero. And I know this because they will only sell you two beers at a time. And I know for a fact that nobody in their right mind is gonna decide to line up for nachos and hot dogs, and then bring them into the bathroom with them. It's absolutely ridiculous, the size of these ledges.

The reason I noticed this last night, and the reason I bring it up now, of course, is because I took a header off one of these ledges between the 3rd and 4th quarters.

There I was, just standing there minding my own business, six Delgados deep... I have no idea why guys feel compelled to look at it while in the act, but we do... so I decided to look down, you know, to see how everything was unfolding, and in the process smashed my head right on this fucking stainless steel ledge... It didn't exactly hurt, but when you're in a bathroom full of drunk guys lined up out the door, they tend to take note when you smash your grill off the piss ledge.

I will be filling out a formal petition to ensure that the good people at the ACC reduce the size of the piss ledges above the urinals in the 300 level... you know... all in the name of safety.

Looking forward to game four this Saturday...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Lazy Sunday

I remember hearing that this was the clip that put YouTube on the map. Whatever the case, I hadn't seen it until recently, and it is fantastic. There are few things in this world better than the self-deprecating humour of white hip-hop parodies. (See: John Lajoie)

"We love the Chronic-(What?)-cles of Narnia..."


I'm trying to decide which is more disconcerting here: the 'Nam-like flashback by the entire notion of the McDLT, or the fact that George Costanza is singing and dancing about "hot beef". Also, is that the same toupee that Elaine threw out the window in the episode with the bald lady?

I really have no idea how Larry David could have seen this commercial and decided that this guy was destined to become the greatest TV character of all-time. Is that ridiculous foresight or just dumb luck? The whole thing just boggles the mind.

Thanks to SP for the tip.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

That Was Painful

I guess the Raps figured that since it was such a nice day in Toronto this afternoon, they wouldn't bother pestering their fans with anything resembling a competitive basketball game, allowing us to head outside to enjoy the sunshine about halfway through the first quarter. Because make no mistake about it: when Keyon Dooling hit back-to-back 3s in the last two minutes of the first quarter, this game was over.

(For those of you that hate sports - and I know there are more than a few - feel free to tune in to this great episode of This American Life, where Alex Blumberg recounts the facsinating life story of Jerry Springer {fast forward to the 3:10 mark}. The fact that Springer was, at one point in time, arguably the most promising politician in the U.S. might strike you as improbable. But what is perhaps even more improbable is not only the fact that he is considering getting back into the political ring, but that by the end of this 35-minute segment, you'll find yourself hoping he does. His speech about the Statue of Liberty is one of the most touching I've ever heard... Back to the mindless sports rambling.)

Here are a few other random thoughts about the Game 1 beatdown:

- I hate the idea of giving the crowd colour-coded T-shirts. Not only does it look ridiculous (particularly when one physical half of the arena gets white, while the other half gets blue), but it completely diminishes what the Jets fans in Winnipeg used to pull off on their will and dedication alone. I'm really hoping the Raps don't go down this road again on Thursday. Let fans wear whatever it is they're going to wear. If we wanted a sea of red, we'd all go out and buy Nesterovic jerseys and do it ourselves.

- I'm having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that the Magic play in Amway Arena... Seriously? Amway? Everytime I hear the word "Amway", all I can think of is that classic scene from GO where William Fitchner tries to get the kids into selling "Confederated Products", and then gets all offended when they call it Amway... Wouldn't playing in a place called Amway Arena be a little bit like playing in the Yugo Coliseum?

- The girl sitting next to Chuck and Leo at the broadcast table looked like Patti Scialfa, and I have no idea who she was.

- Dwight Howard is an absolute beast, and if he continues to play the way he did today (25 pts, 22 boards, 5 blocks {4 blks in the first quarter!}), this will be a pretty short series. Comparing him to fellow first-pick-overall Andrea Bargnani is only slightly depressing.

- What is even more depressing is when you think about what kind of a team the Raps could be trotting out there every night if they'd never hired Rob Babcock as their GM. Or even if they'd hired Babcock, but didn't let him near the war room on draft day. Because if they draft according to every single scouting report, player ranking system, or mock draft on the planet and leave nothing to the incapabilities of Robby B and his proclivity for going 'off the board', they take Andre Iguodala instead of Hoffa Araujo, and they take Danny Granger ahead of Joey Graham (the two picks immediately following Babcock's misadventures)... Go ahead and compare the numbers on those players, provided that there are no sharp objects within reach... Ugh.

And if there are no blunt objects in the room, feel free to peruse this little recap. If there is a worse 365 days (in the year between the '04 and '05 drafts) in the history of professional sports, I'd like to know what they are.

- The one silver lining around this otherwise dismal cloud is that this particular blowout should, in theory, reduce the prices some of the people are asking for tickets on Craigslist. Four of us are supposed to be hitting up Thursday night's game, and this lacklustre performance should go a long way in ensureing there is ample money left over for a few Delgados.

Thanks to Micah for the Springer clip.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Speaking of Ball Handling...

I remember that I was in South America when this happened, and I'd never actually seen the clip until tonight. The only thing better than the reach-around is Kaman's comments after the game:

"...He grabbed my nuts... This dude reached from behind me, grabbed my nuts and pulled them, you know, back towards... he tried to rip' em off basically..."

So good is that quote, in fact, that it gives the following Del Griffith / Neal Page exchange a run for its money:

Del: You play with your balls a lot.
Neal: I do NOT play with my balls.
Del: Larry Bird doesn't do as much ball-handling in one night as you do in an hour!
Neal: Are you trying to start a fight?
Del: No. I'm simply stating a fact. That's all. You fidget with your nuts a lot.
Neal: You know what'd make me happy?
Del: Another couple of balls, and an extra set of fingers?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Which Would You Rather?

My girlfriend likes to play the 'Which would you rather?' game with me.

As in: "Which would you rather: give up writing your blog, or give up sleeping with your girlfriend?"

Which got me to thinking. Which would you rather: be Antawn Jamison the night of April 14th, or be the guy who decides to turn the urinal trough in the bleacher section at Wrigley into his own personal Slip'n'Slide?

(Danny Granger scored a direct hit on Antawn Jamison's testicles last night, and the resulting nut shot isn't half as entertaining as the announcers' reactions, which include laughter followed by "That's not a laughing matter, actually," a perfectly in-unison "OOOOOHHH!" and the shattering insight of "That was a BULLS-EYE!" - WithLeather)

As a side note, we're holding my buddy Foley's stag in that same bleacher section at Wrigley in July, and if you think we're not getting him drunk enough to re-enact this little bathroom plunge, you are sadly mistaken.

Remembering Phantom Dan

This clip was taken from the March 20th show in Indianapolis. It is hard to believe that less than a month later, Danny Federici is gone.

I find myself going back to the lyrics of the last track off the Magic album, a song that was written after the death of Frank "Terry" MaGovern, but which could have very well been written for Dan.

They built the Titanic to be one of a kind,
but many ships have ruled the seas
They built the Eiffel tower to stand alone,
but they could build another, if they pleased
The Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt are unique, I suppose,
but when the built you brother, they broke the mold

The world is filled with many wonders
under the passing sun
But sometimes something comes along
and you know, it's for sure the only one
The Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel,
Jesus, Mary and Joe
and when they built you brother, they broke the mold

When they built you brother
they turned this dust to gold
When they built you brother
they broke the mold

They say you can't take it with you
but I think that they're wrong
All I know's I woke up this morning
and something big was gone
Gone in to that dark ether
Where you're still young n' hard and cold
Just like when they built you brother
and broke the mold

Now your death is upon us
And we'll return your ashes to the Earth
And I know you'll take comfort in knowin'
You've been roundly blessed and cursed
But love is a power
Greater than death
Just like the songs and stories told
And when she built you brother
She broke the mold

A bad attitude is a power stronger than death
Alive n' burnin' or stone cold
And when they built you brother ...

Danny Federici

E Street Band member Danny Federici dies at 58

NEW YORK (AP) — Danny Federici, the longtime keyboard player for Bruce Springsteen whose stylish work helped define the E Street Band's sound on hits from "Hungry Heart" through "The Rising," died Thursday. He was 58.

Federici, who had battled melanoma for three years, died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. News of his death was posted late Thursday on Springsteen's official Web site.

He last performed with Springsteen and the band last month, appearing during portions of a March 20 show in Indianapolis.

"Danny and I worked together for 40 years — he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much ... we grew up together," Springsteen said in a statement posted on his Web site.

Springsteen concerts scheduled for Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Saturday in Orlando were postponed.

Federici was born in Flemington, N.J., a long car ride from the Jersey shore haunts where he first met kindred musical spirit Springsteen in the late 1960s. The pair often jammed at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park, N.J., a now-defunct after-hours club that hosted the best musicians in the state.

It was Federici, along with original E Street Band drummer Vini Lopez, who first invited Springsteen to join their band.

By 1969, the self-effacing Federici — often introduced in concert by Springsteen as "Phantom Dan" — was playing with the Boss in a band called Child. Over the years, Federici joined his friend in acclaimed shore bands Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom and the Bruce Springsteen Band.

Federici became a stalwart in the E Street Band as Springsteen rocketed from the boardwalk to international stardom. Springsteen split from the E Streeters in the late '80s, but they reunited for a hugely successful tour in 1999.

"Bruce has been supportive throughout my life," Federici said in a recent interview with Backstreets magazine. "I've had my ups and downs, and I've certainly given him a run for his money, and he's always been there for me."

Federici played accordion on the wistful "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" from Springsteen's second album, and his organ solo was a highlight of Springsteen's first top 10 hit, "Hungry Heart." His organ coda on the 9/11-inspired Springsteen song "You're Missing" provided one of the more heart-wrenching moments on "The Rising" in 2002.

In a band with larger-than-life characters such as saxophonist Clarence Clemons and bandana-wrapped guitarist "Little" Steven Van Zandt, Federici was content to play in his familiar position to the side of the stage. But his playing was as vital to Springsteen's live show as any instrument in the band.

Federici released a pair of solo albums that veered from the E Street sound and into soft jazz. Bandmates Nils Lofgren on guitar and Garry Tallent on bass joined Federici on his 1997 debut, "Flemington." In 2005, Federici released its follow-up, "Out of a Dream."

Federici had taken a leave of absence during the band's tour in November 2007 to pursue treatment for melanoma, and was temporarily replaced by veteran musician Charles Giordano.

At the time, Springsteen described Federici as "one of the pillars of our sound and has played beside me as a great friend for more than 40 years. We all eagerly await his healthy and speedy return."

Besides his work with Springsteen, Federici played on albums by an impressive roster of other artists: Van Zandt, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker, Gary U.S. Bonds and Garland Jeffreys.

When my dad phoned me about ten minutes ago to tell me the news, he was choked up. It was like a family member had died. And then when I turned on the radio and heard Racing In The Street, with that haunting organ solo, tears began to well in my eyes.

Is it wrong to cry for the death of someone you've never met? It's hard to explain that seemingly irrational emotion that you can't keep buried. But I guess when you follow a band for your entire life; a band as tight as the E Street Band, where the members have been there since the beginning and you know their personalities and their personal lives, to say nothing of how important they are musically; each of the members begin to feel a little bit like distant family members. And the truth is, this particular band has almost certainly affected my life more than any distant family member ever could.

It is a sad day for Springsteen fans the world over, and it is safe to say that the E Street Band will never be the same.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Graph Showdown: Pie vs. Bar


My buddy Richie sent me the Meat Loaf pie graph with the explanation: "Funniest attachment I've seen in a long time. Not because I like the artist, but because I like pie graphs."

Personally, I've always been a fan of the bar graph. And not simply because I prefer bars to pies, but because I believe them to be a better visual representation of data collected for the purposes of showing contrasting values in similar entities.

Shaded maps are also pretty effective.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Monday Morning Reading Assignment

In order to help you get through the early part of the week, here are a few of the best things I've come across over the past few weeks:

Penny Dreadful, by David Owen

Taken from the March 31st edition of the New Yorker, this is a fascinating look into the life of the penny, and the argument for why it should be extinct. Some of the better arguments for the abolition of the penny include the notion that a penny in the 1940s carried more purchasing power than a modern day quarter (meaning that people in the 1940's essentially got by without the equivalent of our penny, nickel, or dime); the reality that the only coin-operated machines that accept pennies are those coin-wrapping machines that people use to get rid of pennies; and the fact that breaking stride to pick up a penny, if it takes you more than 6.15 seconds, pays less than the U.S. federal minimum wage (somewhere out there, Vern Tessio is weeping).

Great Experiment, by Jeffrey Eugenides

I was over at my buddy Rosco's place last night for a couple of belts of Scotch and some fantastic craic in his most excellent parlour, and we got to talking about how there were very few stories about accountants (Rosco is, among other things, a Chartered Accountant). Well, this one is a dandy. One of the better endings you'll come across in the genre (my major complaint with short stories is the way most of them end; or more accurately, the way they fail to end. Not this one.)

You may remember Eugenides from his writing The Virgin Suicides, and I just finished reading Middlesex, upon which I learmed more about hermaphroditism than I ever thought I would.

Mine is Longer Than Yours, by Michael Kinsley

The first half of this article (lightheartedly describing the various ways in which people in America die, and the likelihood of your going each particular way) is much more interesting than the second half (a piece about the author's dealings with Parkinson's Disease). But I like how Kinsley redefines the victor in the Baby Boomers game of life from "He who dies with the most toys" to "He who dies last".

And I love the quandary that he puts forth: "What do you have now, and what do you covet, that you would not gladly trade for, say, five extra years?" Peace in the Middle East? A solution to global warming? A cure for AIDS? Interesting scenarios, all of them, and profoundly affecting for someone who is now (gulp) in his 30s.

A terribly written article demeaning the "new" stats in baseball (must read first), and the beautifully crafted, wittily scathing retort by the guys at Fire Joe Morgan.

(I'll be perfectly honest: prior to reading that second piece, I had no idea what WHIP was. I would always hear people discussing it and I'd nod my head in agreement, but I didn't have a clue as to what the hell they were talking about. But now I do. Thank you Ken Tremendous.)

The People's Republic Learns To Drive, by Peter Hessler

This is a condensed version of the excellent piece (entitled "Wheels of Fortune") that appeared in the November 26th edition of the New Yorker (the New Yorker has only made the abstract available online, although I continue to search the net for a full-length version - I may end up scanning the article and putting it up myself, because it is that good). This version gives you a glimpse into what it can be like learning to drive in China, but unfortunately it leaves out some of the best parts, including an account of a driving lesson that had to be cut short because the instructors and students drank too much at lunch and were therefore too drunk to drive in the afternoon session.

Chateau Scientology, by Dana Goodyear

Everything you ever wanted to know about Scientology.

Somebody Has To Be In Control, by Ian Parker

Everything you ever wanted to know about George Clooney.
Is there anybody cooler than this guy? Maybe Tom Waits, but it's too close to call at this point.

Norman Mailer, Towering Writer with Matching Ego, Dies at 84, by Charles McGrath

I'm not sure why I stumbled upon this six months after his death, but this depiction of the life of Norman Mailer is really quite something. The life of a writer, in all of its misery and magnificience...

You may remember Mailer from his poetic and passionate description of the Ali-Foreman fight in the transcendent When We Were Kings, still one of my all-time favourite documentaries:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Is this the best Break Up of All-Time?

I say yes.

(And I don't care if it's scripted)

News Reporter Mishaps

You'd be hard pressed to find any warm-blooded person who doesn't enjoy a good ol' fashioned news reporter mishap. This is a compilation of some of the best. Some are downright hilarious (Dr. D bitch slapping the reporter to show him how "fake" professional wrestling is; the man-eating lizard; pretty much anything involving snow...), while others are the exact opposite of funny (the girl catching fire when the motocross guy explodes out of the truck; the guy who gets hit by the wing of the airplane...).

But each and every one of them have one thing in common: dedication to their profession, as each is willing to risk life, limb, and dignity, all in the name of bringing us the "news".

Here are some of the other favourites here at SeanMcCallum.com:

(That clip of the lightning lady kills me everytime. When you think about what someone would sound like after getting struck by lightning, that's pretty much it, bang on.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The NHL Playoffs

I have watched a grand total of about 4 periods of NHL hockey this year, and most of that took place during the New Year's Day game at Ralph Wilson Stadium and on those rare occasions when the Ducks were on the national broadcast. I used to be the biggest die-hard hockey fan I knew, but ever since the season was cancelled in 2004-2005, I just haven't been able to put my heart into it. And it has nothing to do with being bitter or begrudging towards the league or its players; the fact of the matter is that in that year away from hockey, I simply found better things to do with my time.

It probably doesn't help that I was in South America when the Oilers made their miraculous run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, or that the Leafs have been so abysmally managed that they've given me exactly zero reason to tune in for even a minute of my time. In fact, if it hadn't been for the meteoric rise of Kent Huskins to hockey superstardom, I don't know if I'd be watching hockey at all.

But not even I, the hockey killjoy that I am, can resist the allure of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It is, hands down, the most gruelling, trying, and exhausting tournament in all of sports. Only March Madness rivals the playoffs for drama, and there is no better scene in sports than the sight of the winning team parading around the ice with the greatest trophy in the world.

So settle in for two of the most exciting months in sports. As for my prediction? As long as the monkey keeps going with Husker and the Ducks, I'll gladly back her every pick.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Katie Melua

Does the fact that this is my favourite song right now make me any less of a man? I think the answer is a resounding "yes", but I think I can live with it.

Anyway, Katie was born in the Georgian SSR and grew up in Belfast and England. She's absolutely loaded with talent and charm, and she's making her North American debut at the Montreal Jazz Festival on June 26th if you're interested.

Here's a link to her site.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


It has pretty well taken me a week to recover from the four days we spent down in Nashville last weekend, and in that time, I've been trying to come up with a new and not-so creative way to depict the events that unfolded. And what I've settled on is a blatant rip-off of the Siskel and Ebert, Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down schtik. I'm pretty sure that it'll work for these purposes, so bear with me as I fumble my way through it.

The 13 Hour Drive - Thumbs Down

Sandra, Little Buddy and I left Oakville shortly after midnight on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, basking in the glow of the OTHL Bruins' gutsy 2-1 elimination game triumph, hellbent on getting to Music City even if it meant driving all night and most of the next day (which it most certainly did). There was a minor incident at the Detroit-Windsor border because Little Buddy has nothing but a British passport (he's under the impression that chicks dig it) even though he was born in Canada, and because he didn't have anything to prove where he was born, he was forced to fill out a 3-month visitor's visa at four in the morning. Luckily for us, we didn't have Sully and his stash of weed with us, so there were no further issues.

It wasn't long after crossing the border that Sandra fell asleep in the backseat, leaving Little Buddy to keep me entertained as we drove through Michigan and Ohio (Little Buddy has to be commended on his refining the art of discourse, as I would have probably driven off the road if I didn't have him to keep me going). By 8 o'clock in the morning, I was absolutely zonked. We pulled over at a truck stop and slept for 45 minutes, and when Little Buddy woke me up to say that he was ready to drive, I was suddenly reinvigorated, rationalizing that if we were going to die in a fiery autowreck, I wanted to be the one behind the wheel (the truth is, I can't sleep when someone else is driving my car, and Little Buddy hasn't exactly been doing a lot of highway driving in the past few years, so I took it upon myself to take us door to door).

After a stop at a Dunkin' Donuts in Kentucky and about 15 work related calls on my cell phone (did I mention that I was technically "working" Thursday and Friday?), we eventually pulled into Nashville at about 2:30 central time. For those of you keeping score at home, that is about 15 1/2 hours after we left. Not exactly record time.

The drive home Sunday afternoon was more of the same (it was only Sandra and I on the way back, with Little Buddy and Ronnie driving back in Blake's Volvo), except we were ridiculously hungover. It was at about hour number ten on the drive home that I finally realized that I'm at the point in my life where my time is more valuable to me than my money. It took countless hours wasted in cars over the years, and it took me until I was thirty years of age, but I honestly feel like I'm there, meaning that I will almost certainly be flying down to NashVegas next time around... you know... if I can get a cheap enough flight.

Southern Hospitality - Thumbs Up

I really can't say enough about how great my sister and her boyfriend Blake were as hosts. When we arrived at their pad, there was a fridge full of beer and a platter full of food, to say nothing of the guest bedroom that I made immediate use of, crashing out for a solid three hours. My sis made us a huge Spaghetti dinner Thursday night, and we felt at home every minute we were down there. We owe you guys huge.

Gary and Steph were also phenomenal, putting up Ronnie and my parents, who came down Friday night. They were kind enough to have us over for dinner and a kegger Saturday night, and managed to put up with the frat-house level of debauchery that ensued.

Tennessee Basketball - Thumbs Down

So, having watched almost no college basketball this year, I based my bracket around our trip to Tennessee, taking three of my final four teams based on geography alone (Tennessee, Vandy, and Memphis). I can't even talk about Vandy's shitting the bed in the first round, but at least we were going to be in-state for Tennessee's run to the final four this year. So we ended up at a sports bar downtown for Thursday night's Vols-Cards game, only to have Bruce Pearl and the boys mail in one of the all-time stinkers. The only consolation was the fact that The Money Shot was sitting next to me and having a tourettic aneurism everytime Chris Loften jacked an ill-advised brick (he was 3 for 15 on the night).

Nashville Nightlife - Thumbs Up

We hit up three fantastic bars in our two nights along Broadway.

The Big Bang is a duelling pianos bar in the ilk of the Ink and Paint Club from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We scored a pretty good table and began ordering rounds of Miller Lites as the two dudes went toe-to-toe, taking an endless array of requests written on napkins. The guys tickling the ivories know just about anything imaginable, but you have a better chance of having them play your song if you include a tip. You also have a better chance of having them play your songs if you don't request any Springsteen, because apparently he's not on their playlist. We requested Thunder Road, to no avail, but the blind guy on the piano more than made up for it because when he wanted "Sean from Toronto" to come up on stage, he responded to my absence by declaring: "He must be up on the Davenport!" How the hell a blind guy from Nashville knows about Davenport Road in Toronto is way beyond me.

The Cadillac Ranch is one of those bars that has something for everyone. We hit it up Friday night with Ronnie and my mom in tow (my dad stayed at Gary and Steph's because he was exhausted from the drive), and had an absolute blast. Sandra and my sister dominated the Karaoke portion of the evening (highligts included You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man, with some crackhead girl getting down and dirty up front and Sandra's last call, showstopping duet of Loveshack with some random dude). The bar also had a mechanical bull which just about every girl in the place lined up to ride (but not my mom or my sister), including one trooper who must have been weighing in at 320 pounds. The fact that she was wearing the most low-cut dress I'd ever seen made her the runaway fan favourite.

The Beer Sellar was a bar that Blake had been raving about for months, with his assuring me that I would absolutely love it. The man couldn't have been more right. The Beer Sellar is located in the bowels of Hooters, and the place felt a lot like The Beacon Hill Pub in Boston, with that same subterranean grungy vibe and an almost identical interior (where do they get those floor tiles from anyway?). The crowd was sparse (it was 2:30 in the morning on a Thursday) but unpretentious, the tunes were solid and came from the jukebox's commendable selection, and there were over 50 beers on tap. But perhaps best of all, you could get yourself 4 pints of Miller Lite for $6. Truth be told, I'm more of a Sam Adams man myself, but my affections can always be bought. And my price is generally in the neighbourhood of $1.50 pints.

Which brings me to my next selection:

Cheap American Beer - Thumbs Up

On Friday night, at the stroke of last call, we stumbled into a bar which may or may not have been the Cornerstone. Feeling pretty good about life and the way the night had gone, I took it upon myself to buy a round of drinks for the group of us. The bartender was from Kansas (and wearing a "Rock-Chalk-Jayhawk!" T) and was kind enough to serve us even though it was after 2:30. So I ordered the round of 7 drinks (Yuengling and Blue Moon), giving her my credit card before she rang them in. When she brought me the bill to sign, I told her that there must have been a mistake, because I was getting their drinks as well (pointing to the group of rowdy drunks behind me). She told me that she knew, and that was the total: $16.75 for 7 pints of beer.

God Bless America.

Hangovers - Thumbs Down

We were too hungover to drive to Memphis on Friday. That sucked. I will be flying directly to Memphis the next time I'm contemplating a trip to the Volunteer State. Come hell or high water, I will carouse on Beale Street, walk the hallowed grounds of Graceland and The Sun Record Studios, and spend an educational afternoon at the Mud Island River Park and Museum. So help me God.

Dotson's Restaurant - Thumbs Up

I was a little hesitant to bring everyone to this little hole in the wall out in Franklin, TN. I'd only ever been there once before, and it's the kind of place that doesn't have anything on the surface to suggest that it's any different from any of the other two-bit diners you come across. But once inside, you can't help but to be captivated by its endless charm. The waitresses are the most friendly I've ever come across, and the people filling the booths will be only too happy to talk your ear off if given the chance. And apparently there are a few country singers who frequent this place, because just about every menu was autographed by someone.

And the food is as down home Southern as it gets. The biscuits and gravy are to die for. The four different varieties of homemade jam on the table are out of this world. The fried chicken is borderline melt-in-your-mouth and unlike any other I've ever had before. And the list of sides is almost endless: fried green tomatoes, mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, fried okra... All of it phenomenal. To top it all off, our waitress hooked us up with a free piece of chocolate pie because she knew we were from out of town. It's just that kind of place. A true hidden gem.

The Pita Pit... In Nashville? - Thumbs Up

Honestly, who would have ever imagined that from the humble beginnings of that first storefront on Princess Street in Kingston, ON, the Pita Pit would have exploded to become the multinational conglomerate that it is today? In talking to the burnout behind the counter, apparently the Pita Pit has a veritable monopoly in Idaho and Montana with something like 10 locations in each state. I have no idea why anyone would pay the franchise fee for a pita joint, but I guess it must be working on some level.

For the record, my falafel pita was out of this world. I could have sworn I'd just stumbled out of The Brass after a night of rocking out to The Foos and The Verve Pipe in first year.

The Piss Alarm - Thumbs Up

So, we were walking along 2nd Avenue on our way back from the Beer Sellar on Thursday night, and Blake and Little Buddy decided to duck into what looked, for all intents and purposes, like the perfect place to relieve oneself. Well, apparently they weren't the first people to have this idea. Because as soon as they stepped inside that dark little alcove, this ridiculously loud and piercing alarm sounded, continuing to scream for a good 20 seconds as the two of them came running down the street trying to pull their pants up, laughing hysterically the whole way down 2nd.

This was obviously too good to pass up, so I made like I was going to find relief in that darkened entranceway as well, only to have that same alarm explode in my ears. It was so loud and offensive that I couldn't help but run away, destroying my original plan which was to sit tight and wait until it ended, and then to come walking out doing up my belt like I hadn't even noticed. But I'm telling you, if you didn't know it was coming, that alarm would be the most terrifying thing that could ever happen to you, and you have to wonder how many dudes actually pissed themselves because of the alarm. (For the record, the little alcove absolutely reeked of urine, meaning that there were more than a few people willing to brave the siren).

Anyway, my question is this: How many times would the building owner have to have his doorway pissed on before he decides, "That's it. I've had it. I'm installing a piss alarm."? A hundred? A thousand? And where the hell do you go about acquiring a piss alarm anyway? I've been searching for days on the internet, and the words "piss" and "alarm" are bringing me no relief.

Phonoluxe Records - Thumbs Up

One of DJ Eric Foreman's favourite things to do in an American City is to hit up their record stores to see what he can pilfer for his collection back home. The stores down in the U.S. always seem to have an abundance of old Soul and Blues records that you have a hard time finding in Toronto (and when you do find them, you wind up paying through the nose) The last time I was in town, we hit up The Great Escape on Division St. and made out like a bandit. This time around, Blake had this new joint picked out, and it more than exceeded my expectations.

My dad, Blake and I spent well over an hour in that place, digging through their supreme collection of vinyl. I was able to come away with something by Elmore James, Dr. John, Sonny Boy Williamson, Percy Sledge, Howlin' Wolf, a rare French pressing of Chuck Berry's Golden Decade, Ike and Tina's Too Hot to Hold, Steve Earle's Guitar Town, Phil Spector's Christmas Album, and an Atlantic Rhythm and Blues Compilation (which includes a version of Ray Charles' Mess Around, made famous by John Candy in this perfect scene). And all of it cost me less than $60. Phenomenal.

Beirut Tournament - Thumbs Up

Have yet to come across one I didn't like.

For the record, Steph's Dad was a force of nature on the dining room table.

Funnelling - Thumbs Up

Always good for bringing a Saturday night house party in the hills of Antioch, TN, up a notch, particularly when it indirectly leads to Ronnie allowing a hyperactive stray dog to run around inside the house, much to the dismay of Steph's three cats. Also a bonus if it leads to a neighbour coming over with a bottle of Absinthe in order to get in on the action.

Arbitrarily Deciding to Funnel Until Somebody Pukes - Thumbs Down

At some point, things just got out of control. I don't think this would have been such an issue if Steph's parents weren't trying to sleep upstairs, we weren't living in an age where everyone has a camera capable of taking video, and I was 10 years younger... Needless to say, the results were ugly.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. Lisa, Blake, Gary, and Steph, we all owe you huge. Looking forward to returning the favour in the near future.

Friday Night (wannabe) Streakers

...Yep, I'd say that's pretty much what I expected.

The only other thing I wish they had video of was the 50-year old lady sitting behind us who got drilled in the head with a full beer thrown from the 500 level. Class acts all around.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Ladies Man

If anyone is in Toronto this weekend and happens to walk past an Eye Magazine box, do yourself a favour and check out the cover. That has to be the best picture of a greasy D-bag I've ever seen. Too funny.

Anyway, if you want to know what it's like to associate with the guys who attend seminars like the one Tom Cruise hosts in Magnolia, feel free to read Portrait of a Pickup Artist in this Week's Eye.

Apparently, respect for women isn't exactly part of the pickup artist's repertoire.

My favourite part of the article is when the "artist" claims to have been a doctor at one point (he says he had to give up his licence after pleading guilty to charges of sexual impropriety during house calls), and follows that up by saying: "for me it was easy to hit on chicks that were patients". Chicks who were patients? My guess is that this guy knows my garbage man, because my garbage man gave up his job in aeronautical engineering to work the truck... allegedly.

(If you think that linking to this article was a thinly veiled excuse to post that clip of Leon Phelps reciting his poetic mastery, you're not far off)

Jays Home Opener

The last time the Jays decided to have the home opener on a Friday night against the Red Sox, the result was nothing short of unbridled depravity. Not since the Cubbies won the NL Central on the back end of a late September doubleheader has a crowd been so blatantly overserved. Slash set the tone by playing the national anthem on his electric guitar, and the Blue Jays brass decided it might be a good idea to hand out large refridgerator magnets with the Jays sched posted on them. Needless to say, come about the 7th inning, the drunkards in the upperdeck were combining these magnets and Manny Ramirez to create a kind of impromptu target practice (let me tell you, those things are heavy and sharp, and when thrown like a frisbee from 200 feet up can cause some serious damage). It was easily the worst/best baseball promotion since 10 cent beer night.

In any event, after leaving the stadium (completely smashed, of course) after the 2005 home opener, I predicted that that would be the last time the Jays ever decided to throw the home opener on a Friday night against the Sox. It was just waaaaay too much fun, and the good people at Rogers, unfortunately, don't necessarily like seeing you have too good a time in their digs.

But lo and behold, it appears as though they've forgotten exactly what degree of gong show the opener was three years ago! Throw in the fact that the people of Toronto have suffered through the longest winter on record, a Leafs team that has been capable of sucking the chrome off a trailer hitch, a Raps team getting jobbed more often than a red-headed ninth grader with a speech impediment, mix in about 15,000 cantankerous Massholes, and what you have is the perfect recipe for complete and utter debauchery.

My buddy Phatty scored 16 seats together down the third base line, with Ronnie managing to score 14 more up in the 500s. Belligerence and throwback unis will be the orders of the day.

Look for something along the lines of this:

(by the way, I draw the line at wasting a $12 beer: that's just sheer ignorance)

For those of you looking to go really old school, check out Tom Henke's Army. Bifocals are so hot right now.

Thanks to Flats for the tip.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tennis Intensity

Admittedly, this isn't the place readers usually come to for their daily dose of tennis highlights, but this was just too good to pass up.

I think El Presidente at Barstool Sports put it best:

Is it any surprise that this dude came back and won the match after freaking out like this? Tennis players are such pussies that the other guy probably pissed himself and lost on purpose so he wouldn’t get beaten up after the match. Anyway now people know how I feel when I have an unforced spelling error.

My OTHL team has it's third and decisive playoff game tonight (Habs vs. Bruins), and all I can say is: I hope we're capable of bringing the same level of intensity.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lenny Dykstra

When my buddy Foley and I took Lenny Dykstra with the fourth overall selection in the first and only fantasy baseball draft I've ever had the pleasure of taking part in back in 1994 (in the years before the advent of the internet, when our poor commissioner, Phatty, would have to compile our weekly statistics by going through the nightly boxscores one by one), we could have never imagined that Nails would become the most successful former athlete this side of Magic Johnson. Not only would this fact have been considered improbable, but I'd be willing to venture that if it were possible to bet on this sort of thing, the only guy on that '93 Phillies team that would have offered longer odds would have been Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams (thrown out of a Catholic Youth League basketball game last month for berating a referee). Hell, even ol' one-nut Kruk would have been a more probable bet to succeed after his playing days.

But against all odds, Lenny Dykstra has become a financial powerhouse. Not only is he a tenacious and ridiculously successful day-trader, and not only does he have one of the best ideas for a magazine I've ever heard of (a magazine appealing exclusively to professional athletes that will not only have articles written about the kinds of things they're interested in {Kyle Korver on video games, Keith Hernandez as food critic}, but it will also aim teach them how to succeed in their lives after sports), but he lives in Wayne Gretzky's old house! Honestly, in a million years, would you have ever imagined the Wayner selling his place to Nails? And Wayne and Lenny are friends and business associates today! It's surreal, the whole thing.

Anyway, Dykstra carries this entire article with his inferiority complex lifestyle and life story, his baseball analogies for the real world, his honesty and candour, his infectious energy, and his abominable use of the English language. It really is one of the best and most unbelievable reads I've come across in a long time, and you really have to read this piece to believe it. It's taken from this week's New Yorker:

NAILS NEVER FAILS: Baseball's most improbable post-career success story, by Ben McGrath

Bonus Coverage:

Needless to say, the junk food and lack of a workout regime has caught up with Lenny Dykstra. I almost couldn't believe I was looking at the same guy who stole 37 bases in 1993.