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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Full Moon Fever

On top of Tom Petty’s 1989 solo release being one of the first two CD’s I ever purchased- Living Colour’s Vivid album, the one that featured Cult of Personality- I believe that  full moon fever can truly affect some people. Not werewolf affectation, but augmented repressed freaky Id in flavor.  This belief is informed by years of working the 9PM-5AM shift at Jim’s SteakOut, a popular local I am shitfaced and need food destination here in Buffalo.

Just about every individual whom I encountered that was touched by the draw of the moon was also inebriated, high, mentally ill or some mixture of the three; it didn’t change the fact that the behavior exhibited on full moon nights was to 11 as Spinal Tap would say.

An example you say?  Why of course.  I can’t remember whether all of the good stories were on full moons, but this one was.

Around 3 AM one Tuesday night a couple came in asking to order.  Now it should have been apparent that we were a bit swamped at the time, but it didn’t matter to Mr. Important and Ms. Important.  They were hungry you see… unlike every other person in the, um restaurant…

The manager Bob told them just a minute. Mr. Important disagreed. He grabbed one of the new security cameras that was hanging far too low to have been well thought out in placement and turned it to his face telling it what he wanted to order.  In the course of this comedic display Mr. Important broke the camera.

Bob told him he would have to pay for it. Mr. Important disagreed. He also wanted to order.  Ms. Important was backing her man.  Bob figured, sure I will take your order and I will have the cops stop by while we make it.

Halfway into making Mr. Important’s order – A Jefferson sub, no onions (a Jefferson is steak, sausage, onion, cheese and special sauce)- Mr. Important had an epiphany. He wanted his money back.  Bob, a seasoned veteran of absurd encounters, stalled the man, and just as Mr. Important was about to leave, no food and no money, the Buffalo Police came in.

Mr. Important was taken over to the dining area. Ms. Important immediately became loud and belligerent… uh oh… Another car pulled up, then two more after.  There were five officers in the store and they decided to take Ms. Important outside, to a glass alcove on Allen Street that was the front of the store.

Mr. Important looked really nervous. He offered to pay for the camera.  He was on parole.  Ms. Important was getting loud enough that we could make out her words through the glass. All eyes were on the window.  She started backing up and ended up slapping an officer.  She was taken down, her body hitting the glass hard enough to violently shake the heavy duty window.

This ended around quarter to four in the morning when the police cars pulled away with two occupants. I went outside to smoke a cigarette.  Across the street there was a collection of the local crackheads.  They were scoping out a very nice car.  One guy would walk up, try and look in the tinted windows (maybe he had killer vision?) and he then walked away. The next guy walked up and tested the door.  His face lit up.  Over the course of the next 10 minutes they were like sharks in chummy water.  Mr. Important’s ride was stripped clean.

 

The best song on the album Vivid by the way-

 

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Posted by on 08/31/2012 in Weekapaug Groove

 

NHL Lockout- The tides have changed in Sabreland

I remember holding out hope that the NHL would get their act together to hold a season in 2004-2005. The Sabres were an up and coming team and as a die hard fan at the time I was convinced they were on the cusp of greatness. Sure, I had been plenty wrong about this in the past but we had some guys with spirit on the team- Briere and most of all Chris Drury. Drury was on the road to being my favorite Sabre of all time, taking the spot from Pat LaFontaine… of course he bolted to the Rangers.

I remember being relieved at the time of the new Labor Agreement.  The Sabres could now contend monetarily with the salary cap in place.  They could keep their own great players instead of seeing them poached away (or traded away prior to poaching) by other clubs. There were many reasons people didn’t want to stay in Buffalo, but under Regier pre-Frack being undervalued must have ranked in the top three reasons to take notice of the brown grass in Buffalo and see green in other places.

Of course as I previously stated we lost Drury in free agency anyway. Briere too.  As much as I like Briere I remember how stressed out he left me while watching that playoff run in 2007. He had no heart. He had no passion for anything but the pending riches of free agency.  Sure if you look at his stats he was top 10 scoring for that seasons extra session, but it is a case of stats not telling the whole story.  There is no notation of the giveaways, not going into corners, getting bullied off the puck in the numbers.  I remember though and if I were to forget my brother Rob would certainly make sure to remind me.  Briere made him that sick, if not worse.

Still the Sabres were able to retain Thomas Vanek when the Edmonton Oilers put a 7 year 49 million dollar deal on the table for the unrestricted free agent.  The Sabres had to pony up at that point. They didn’t only have egg on their face after losing Briere and Drury, the bird that dropped the egg shit on them.  For PR’s sake as much as anything they matched the offer.

Fast forward past my break from the team to now- Darth Bettman’s lockout.  There seems to be a consensus that a reduced salary cap is a definite.  This gives the Sabres a potential out on some buyers remorse contracts (*cough* Leino *cough*) that polluted land purchased. I heard Paul Hamilton on WGR making the case for an amnesty year.  I can’t imagine him making such a case back in 2004-2005. My memory seems to feel it was almost the opposite as a point of view.

So it goes I suppose.  I follow the Winnipeg Jets fairly closely.  I plan on being fluid and have no allegiance to any team though, I am a fan of the game more than anything now.  A great game, but a niche sport.  The Napoleon of the NHL is gambling the future of a game that just got back  a TV contract that allowed every post season game to be available to a National American TV audience (I believe for the first time).  He is gambling that he can do better.  I wish he would put his dice away.

 
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Posted by on 08/29/2012 in Gamehenge

 

It’s Madden Day

Video gaming football nerds are in their glory today as Madden 13 is officially released. Of course, if they were true video gaming nerds they would have had access to the game since Friday, like me- EA in their money grubbing wisdom (if you need an example of how money grubbing they are look up the story of The Old Republic- a Star Wars MMORPG they rushed into the marketplace last Christmas) decided to offer a premium service that gives you perks, access to web based content and three days early access to the game.

It feels incredibly polished compared to Madden 12, which may be a backhanded compliment. The passing is much better. I still throw a copious amount of interceptions, but routes that have seemed broken for many incarnations of the game, the fade route being one, are functional.  They also have improved on targeting. If you want to throw the ball low where only your guy can get it, you can. If you are like me and think every linebacker is stone hands McGee you can try to lead the target just past his range.

The running is more difficult for me at this point, but I think it is more realistic- that is until you collide with a player, any player.  At that point it looks like the developers took their cue from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Matrix series.  Bodies fly everywhere and in very hyperbole driven fashion.  I have witnessed more realistic physics in the Tekken series of fighting games.

The defense feels improved as well.  If you want to succeed you need to mix your coverages up, much like you have always had to mix up the offensive playbook.  I think they did a solid job with the new skill breakdown as every player seems to be somewhat unique, though I will complain that every left end I have rushed the passer with seems to eat grass courtesy of the right tackle… which makes little sense as the best tackle is usually the left on a team.  That is being slightly picky I suppose.

The best part of the game for me has yet to come.  My twin brother, my cousin and I are playing an online connected career.  We will all be playing in the NFC West and I am at the helm of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  I had first pick.  Yes, I am a glutton for punishment.

To me that makes the game a solid purchase before even loading it into my system. Family time in the 21st century cybersphere.

 
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Posted by on 08/28/2012 in Gamehenge

 

The Padres AAA future in the NL West and Young Out/Jackson In

Writing is a lot like sports- to even do it you have to practice at it daily. I can’t imagine what it would take to turn the corner to great, but I know it isn’t not doing it, which I haven’t been for over a week.

Over the course of this past weekend the Boston Red Sox “traded”  three of their All Star level players to the LA Dodgers for what amounts the hockey equivalent of a used bag of pucks. They received a few of the Dodgers top prospects, a serviceable Major League first baseman and massive salary relief to the tune of $260 million dollars… I laugh at anyone who defends this trade as anymore than it was- a disgrace.

My Padres were starting to look like a functional franchise capable of contending for a wild card spot next year, maybe even a Division crown if I put on my hopelessly optimistic sports fan hat. In the last three weeks the team has swept three of the six series they have played. Two were against bad teams (Arizona  & the Cubs) and a flagging contender (Pittsburgh) but any baseball fan will tell you series sweeps are not easy.

Top that off with the sale of the team to a group including PGA Pro Phil Mickelson and I started seeing a Free Agent or two in their future, probably second tier, but hey hope was around the bend. Then the Magic Johnson led Dodgers started buying up other peoples garbage – underperforming Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins and Shane Victorino from the Phils- and I figured, OK they want to sell tickets for the rest of the season.

Then Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford were given away in a swap that makes Facebook stock look like a profitable and fair deal.  They didn’t want to sell tickets, they want to be the West Coast Yankees. The thought of it all has me ready to walk away from baseball on a Major League level for good. They might as well set up the league like the English Premier League and have tiered divisions based on ability.  It is a joke right now.

—-

Vince Young looked like the kid who thought he could glide through senior year of high school doing no work and still end graduating.  He was making serious errors on the field and pranced off the field like he had less than a care in the world.  Now he has no job and the Quarterback position as a whole is a huge question mark in Buffalo.

Sure, the job is still Fitz’s.  I am glad for that. I like the guy and I think he is a servicable game manager who can pull out a few surprises.  I am not in love with the idea of him throwing 30-40 times a game.  When he was on it was magnificent. When it wasn’t it truly wasn’t. I repeat this so often it is almost a mantra, but Freddy Jackson, Freddy Jackson, Freddy Jackson.  Give him 60 percent of our offense and get ready to participate in Wild Card Weekend.

It is alarming that the team has decided to make the switch the week of the final preseason game, but at the same time perhaps it should be comforting. The powers that be at One Bills Drive want a better solution at backup quarterback. It isn’t the ideal time for it, though it beats them going forward sticking with a choice they were clearly uncomfortable with. I was pulling for Vince before Saturday night.

This acts as sarcasm font.

 
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Posted by on 08/27/2012 in Gamehenge

 

Pangs of Hunger for Story after the Games

.  We rented The Hunger Games  yesterday and while I found bits and pieces of story in the telling it was like watching a giant cliche. The heroine, Katniss is rather emotionless in appearance despite her very emotional reason for being in the games.  I am not sure if Hollywood believes women can only be strong when rigid and stoic in nature, but it is a tired act.

The usual is he/she with me or against me?, hero in an impossible situation scenarios were in play.  The problem lies in how transparent these scenes are.  Immersion was not taking place. I even found myself comparing the movie to a series of books I read as a young teen- Fire Brats (Fire Brats was better.)

I really knew I wasn’t enjoying the movie to its fullest because I was too busy picking apart the obvious turns that were going to take place.  I sat there hoping for better and it kept falling a bit flat. I don’t often critique or engage the costumes in a piece but holy shit the rich/greedy folks dressed like they found Barnum & Bailey’s Clown cars full of costumes..  I get it, fashion has evolved even further away from my grasp- no I didn’t expect that was possible. It was distracting and it felt unnecessary.

There were elements I enjoyed that I am guessing were done better in print.  The Mocking Jays have symbolic importance and a slight role in the film, but felt more empty than I imaged they would. Perhaps it is the presence of that pin on every piece of related merchandise but they didn’t feel fleshed out or very important. Even the explanation of their significance had a throw away feel.

Stanley Tucci did what he does best- elevate or dominate every scene he was in.  Woody Harrelson was a nice surprise. Lenny Kravitz was quite good as well. Donald Sutherland was either the bad guy, disinterested in the movie or both.

I had no plans to read the books but I will give the first one a chance. I am guessing that it will reinforce my beliefs on creative works- 99/100 the written work blows away any filmed version.

 
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Posted by on 08/19/2012 in Dirt

 

The NFL, my Buffalo Bills and the All 22 film

Like the team itself I slept through the Bills preseason opener. I get excited about preseason around June and the excitement ends around halftime of the first exhibition game I watch.

Tonight was no exception. The replacement refs were horrible. The Bills presnap penalties were inexcusable. They looked raw, especially the defense. To be fair the Vikings were digging deeper in their playbook than most teams do in the preseason.

I can’t wait for Opening Weekend when we will see what the Bills are made of.

—-

The NFL has decided to make the all 22 film available to everyone. Previously only NFL coaching staffs had access to the camera angle. My excitement abated when I saw the NFL’s price tag- a penny under $70. I can find no way to justify the expenditure.

I hope they use some of the proceeds to pay the officating crews, but they will get none from me.

 
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Posted by on 08/17/2012 in Gamehenge

 

Favorite TV Show of all time #1 Breaking Bad

Yes, that’s right my favorite TV show of all time is still playing out. Walter White is as Bill Paxton’s Hudson said in Aliens on “One express elevator to hell, going down!”. I have given up any hope of redemption for Walter and I am sure it will be Tony Montoyaesque, given scenes from this season so far. I am just rooting for the safety of a few other parties at this point.

Vince Gilligan has managed to get me interested in something Mrs. Monahan never could- chemistry. The particulars still matter little to me, though the power of the preciseness that is chemistry plays central to the story.  Walt has started to apply the neutrality of science to the rest of his life. Morality plays no part in science and it increasingly has played less of a role in Walt’s life over the course of the series.

To me the show is a cautionary tale against becoming numb to your impact on those around you. Walter White was an educator. Now he makes the most pure meth anyone has ever seen with his expertise. He went from meek man to drug overlord. It is like the movie Falling Down though through a different, larger and more nuanced prism. The One of My Turns Pink Floyd moment in this film is the denouement, not the exposition.

I liked Walter White at the beginning of the show. I can’t stand the character now. It is a testament to the writing team and Bryan Cranston who plays Walter with great depth. I have had a few moments of sympathy for him (the early seasons) and have cringed as he takes steps on his descent into evil. Even though the character is on a downward trajectory he is given powerful statements on life throughout the series-

 

 

Jesse Pinkman is his lab assistant/former student. He still calls him Mr. White.  I get the feeling that a big moment of this final season will be when Jessie addresses Walter as such and not Mr. White.  I am guessing that will be in season 5 part b or part of the end of 5a.

Aaron Paul plays Jesse and not surprisingly he is on an almost opposite trajectory than Walter is on. I have come to enjoy and fear for the character around the same pace as I have come to loathe Walter White.  Jesse still has compassion and empathy for others. It even seems to be growing at times.  When decisions are being made involving life or death Jesse chooses life… most of the time. He still has a shitty streak in him, having set up shop to deal meth at Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

I may find myself disappointed at the ending of the series, which could change its place on my list, but I wouldn’t bet on it. The cast is phenomenal, the writers are sharp and it is produced and directed in intelligent and innovative ways.

The subject matter is dark. The themes explored often repulsive. The characters are deep and gritty. The good guy will not only lose the battle, but himself.  Grim stuff indeed. It is as good a drama as has ever been created for the small screen. In the scope of the current TV environment that may not be saying much, but all time?  OK, its still not saying much.

I couldn’t recommend the show more.

 

 

 
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Posted by on 08/16/2012 in Weekapaug Groove