Friday, April 29, 2011

MST3K Friday: The Hellcats

"That sounds like Steve's taking a slug from a .30-06."
"What do you think of pointillism, creep?"

Thursday, April 28, 2011

2011 Stanley Cup: Round 2

I think I did pretty well in round 1.  I got all the winners right (except for the Pens/Bolts series) and got the right number of games for each East matchup.  In an odd turn of events, both East and West feature 1 vs 6 and 2 vs 3 matchups.

On to round 2 predictions:

(1) Washington vs (5) Tampa Bay -This one is tough.  Caps are strong and have many offensive weapons.  Michael Neuvirth has been solid (1.38 GAA, .946 save %) in net.  The Bolts are gritty and have several bona fide snipers of their own in Vinnie Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos.  Goalie Dwayne Roloson wasn't spectacular in the Penguins series, but he made the saves he needed to and froze just about every puck fired at him, controlling the pace of the game.  Tampa is 2-4 against Washington (though 2-2 after picking up Roloson) in the season series.  My gut wants to say Tampa will win. Lightning in 7.

(2) Philadelphia vs (3) Boston - Rematch of last year's round 2 fight.  I've been a supporter of the Bruins for most of the season, but they didn't show me too much vs Montreal.  On the other hand, Philly's goaltending is an even worse mess than it usually is come playoff time.  I'm worried about Boston's power play, but Philly's PK hasn't been that great either.  Boston took the season series 3-1.  Am I foolish to bet against the team with the second best record in the East?  Bruins in 6.

(1) Vancouver vs (5) Nashville - These two split their season series 2-2.  Vancouver had a tough time in the first round against perpetual playoff nemesis Chicago.  Nashville won their first ever playoff series.  I'm a big believer in the Canucks, so I'll go Vancouver in 6.

(2) San Jose vs (3) Detroit - This is an intriguing matchup.  The best regular season team of the last couple years vs the best playoff team of the last couple years.  San Jose won the season series 3-1.  This one's tough to call.  San Jose was inconsistent in the first round, having more trouble with a depleted Los Angeles team than I thought they would.  Detroit, on the other hand, steamrolled Phoenix without the services of Pavel Datsyuk.  I might have to go with the old men.  Detroit in 7.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Song of the Week: The In Crowd

Not too much commentary this week. The Ramsey Lewis Trio rocking "The In Crowd":

Friday, April 22, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Ivory Grin by, Ross Macdonald

A hard-faced woman clad in a blue mink stole and dripping with diamonds hires Lew Archer to track down her former maid, who she claims has stolen her jewelry. Archer can tell he's being fed a line, but curiosity gets the better of him and he accepts the case. He tracks the wayward maid to a ramshackle motel in a seedy, run-down small town, but finds her dead in her tiny room, with her throat slit from ear to ear. Archer digs deeper into the case and discovers a web of deceit and intrigue, with crazed number-runners from Detroit, gorgeous triple-crossing molls, and a golden-boy shipping heir who’s gone mysteriously missing.

I like Ross Macdonald. He has the hard, unsentimental characters of Hammett and the lyric turn-of-phrase of Chandler. This isn't supposed to be one of the better Archer novels, but it's still better than most other writers. I'm not sure I understood why the first murder occurred, but as it is with these novels, the first murder leads to another and another and another.

I like this line of Archer describing the night sky after he stumbles upon a house with an obviously deranged man inside:

I looked straight up into its dark blue well, moon-washed and dripping with stars, and wondered what the man at the window was seeing there, or looking for.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunset on Sunset

The other week, Don Winslow, author of The Dawn Patrol and The Power of the Dog, joined Twitter (follow him here). One of the first links he posted was to a comic he did with artist Sean Phillips, of Incognito with Ed Brubaker. You can really hear Winslow's voice here. Check out the strip by following this link.  It's worth your time.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Song of the Week: The Day That Never Comes

Metallica is obviously one of the most successful and famous bands of the last 30 years. They're still making great music, as their 2008 album "Death Magenetic" shows. Included on the album is "The Unforgiven III" (obviously sequel to "The Unforgiven" and "The Unforgiven II"). If you haven't yet, I highly recommend listening to all three songs back-to-back-to-back.

This song is the fourth track from the CD, "The Day That Never Comes":

Friday, April 15, 2011

MST3K Friday: Escape 2000

"If you leave the Bronx, we'll give you fudgicles."
"Is it true? Do you suck?"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Elmore on Raylan

There's a nice interview of Elmore Leonard I read today.  He talks about the TV show Justified and his next book, Raylan.  Check it out and then watch Justified tonight on FX.

2011 Stanley Cup Playoff Predictions

It's that time again.  Time for me to put on the old Swami hat and predict the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Eastern Conference
(1) Washington vs (8) New York Rangers - while I still think the Caps have problems, they've improved themselves this year.  And the Rangers are just not good enough to hang.  Caps 4-1.

(2) Philadelphia vs (7) Buffalo - this one is interesting.  The Flyers most likely won't have Pronger (at least at the start) and they had a poor February/March showing.  They lost something like 16 out of their last 25 games.  The Sabres on the other hand are 28-11-6 since January 1st.  Their offenses are pretty well matched with Philly having 6 20-goal scorers and Buffalo having 4 (plus another 7 who scored at least 10).  Goaltending, as good as Bobrovsky and Boucher have been, they're not as good as Ryan Miller.  I could see this one going upset, but I'll give the Flyers a 4-3 edge.

(3) Boston vs (6) Montreal - This one should be nasty, nasty, nasty.  Two Original Six rivals with lots of recent bad blood between them.  Tim Thomas has been on fire this season, but Carey Price has had a solid run himself.  Montreal one the season series, but got drubbed 7-0 the last time they met.  This one should be a series for fans of old-time hockey.  Bruins 4-3.

(4) Pittsburgh vs (5) Tampa Bay - This should be another highly entertaining series.  Both teams play up-tempo and with a bit of an edge.  They split the season series 2-2 with the home team winning every game.  As everyone says, the Penguins have been without Crosby since January 5 and Malkin won't be back this season.  Despite this, Pittsburgh finished with 106 points, the franchise's second highest points total ever.  I see Pittsburgh pulling this out in six.  Penguins 4-2.

Western Conference
(1) Vancouver vs (8) Chicago - Defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago clinched their spot on the last day of the season with a Dallas Stars loss.  After having to trade many of their key pieces from their championship team, the Blackhawks struggled through stretches of the season.  Vancouver coasted through a large portion of the season, using their excellent depth to capture the President's Trophy.  Could this be the year the Canucks finally get over the hump?  Vancouver 4-2.

(2) San Jose vs (7) Los Angeles - the perennially playoff underachieving Sharks finished the regular season with 105 points. I like the Kings defensive scheme and core of young players, but the injuries to Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams are back-breakers. I could see them winning a game or maybe two, but the official call with be a sweep.  Sharks 4-0.

(3) Detroit vs (6) Phoenix - this is not your father's Red Wings.  The team is getting older and you have to wonder how long they'll continue to play at such a high level.  Jimmy Howard struggled at times during the regular season, but it's foolish to bet against Detroit in the playoffs.  Detroit 4-3.

(4) Anaheim vs (5) Nashville - I honestly don't know much about Nashville.  Anaheim is a good, solid team and they've gotten All-Star quality goaltending from Jonas Hiller.  However, Hiller has missed stretches of the later part of this season dealing with vertigo.  I like the Ducks better, but if Hiller isn't 100% then Nashville has a good shot.  I'm going with the upset:  Nashville 4-3.

There you have it.  I'm pretty confident with these predictions.  Though I do feel the Buffalo/Philadelphia series might end in an upset.  A lot of people are calling for that because the teams spent the second half of the season moving in opposite directions.  I may prove to be wrong, but I think the Flyers can pull it out.  Though I don't think they'll go much farther than the second round.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

FCC Complaints

As you can imagine, a show like The Shield garnered more than its share of FCC complaints over the years.  From violence to nudity to cursing, there was a lot for people so inclined to complain about.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, some of these FCC complaints were made public.  Someone pointed this out to Shawn Ryan on Twitter last week.  He said pages 19 and 35 were his favorite and I have to agree.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Song of the Week: Taxman

April 15th is Tax Day here in The States. For that reason, we feature George Harrison's "Taxman" as the song of the week. The first time I heard this song was from Stevie Ray Vaughan, so that's the version we'll use.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Power of the Dog, by Don Winslow

Art Keller is a brilliant DEA agent who sometimes breaks the rules to serve justice. Adan Barrera is an urbane drug dealer whose charm masks his brutality. Nora Hayden is a high-class call girl whose heart is in the right place. Sean Callan is a taciturn mob hit man, a stone-cold killer who just wants out of the life.

With these four main protagonists, the dozens of people they interact with, and the nearly thirty years covered, Don Winslow's The Power of the Dog is a sprawling epic. In terms of sheer scope, its closest neighbor is James Ellroy's LA Confidential. Starting in the early 1970's, Dog covers the rise, decline, and reinvention of the Mexican drug cartels through the eyes if the US War on Drugs.

It's a good look at how enforcement tactics aren't up to the challenges and how our agents are sometimes undermined by political alliances. We start out in the early 1970's with Art Keller, recently returned from Vietnam, being sent by the DEA to advise a Mexican police operation to take down one of the most powerful dons in the heroin trade. Unknowingly, their actions allow a high-ranking Mexican police officer, Adan Barrera's uncle, to step in and become the head of a new cartel. With the poppy fields destroyed, the drug trade turns to cocaine. By the end of the book (around 1997), the DEA finally gets a hand on the cocaine traffic, only to see heroin come back strong.

It would take me a long time to detail all the ins and outs and relationships between all our characters, so I'm just going to give a quick critique. Winslow obviously did a tremendous amount of research. The tactics by law enforcement and the cartels are true to life. The characters are all well formed with their own unique motivations and worldviews. And as with The Dawn Patrol, Winslow's style is brisk and readable.

The one tiring thing, like with the last book I read, was that the chapters were extremely long.  Not a major problem this time because Winslow did break each chapter into small scenes.  Connelly gave you page after page of intimidating text without a chance to stop for a breath.

Of the two Winslow books I read, I like Dawn Patrol better, but I would recommend Dog to fans of his.

The title of this book comes from Psalm 22:  "Deliver my soul from the sword; my love from the power of the dog."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Song of the Week: Drowning

I first heard of Saving Abel in 2008 when their debut album dropped.  The whole album was great and there were a number of big singles off it.  Their big hit was "Addicted" which hit #20 on the Billboard Charts, but the first song I heard was "New Tattoo".  Their 2010 followup "Miss America" did almost as well on the charts, though I'm not a big a fan of it as their first album.  Rumor has it they're working on a new one for release sometime later in 2011.

Here is "Drowning (Face Down)" from 2008's Saving Abel.