Friday, January 30, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Principessa … Sue Kennedy ... Movie Reviews … Deflated Deflategate? … Super Prediction …

Amici:

Happy Anniversary, Principessa Dolcezza!

Susan Kennedy … another SNHU MFA graduate has some good news to share. Her short story Portsmouth Propriety has been published in LOVE FREE OR DIE, the fourth volume in the NH Pulp Fiction series, edited by Elaine Isaak and published by Plaidswede Publishing Concord. A couple of events will be held next month to celebrate the book's publication. Susan will be at the one on February 12 at Gibson's Bookstore at 7 p.m. and would love to see some friendly faces there! 

Movies:


Copenhagen … the first of two movies I wasn’t sure I’d last watching and was more than pleasantly surprised. This one features an angry, arrogant, abusive young man (in his late 20’s) on a European trek with the intention of meeting his grandfather, a mysterious figure from his past. He’s with a friend who briefly abandons him to get married, but returns after he’s jilted. In an effort to read a letter written in Danish, our protagonist meets a mature young teenager (14) … as often as I’d thought I’d close the screen out, I wound up staying with it and in the end very much enjoyed this movie.  


Barefoot … the second of the surprises … another form of arrogance (perhaps a sociopath) always getting himself in trouble (gambling, etc.) winds up working in a psychiatric hospital (mopping floors) where he meets a recent admission, a woman with the mind of a child. There’s a reason for her situation that requires a spoiler you won’t get here. The protagonist is estranged from his very wealthy Dad (a kind of overused theme), but again, it’s the lady in the picture who made this one very enjoyable. Two very good feel good movies for me during the great blizzard that wasn’t. 

 
Deflated Deflategate?

FACT: The NFL has covered up issues in the past, including burning the SPYGATE tapes so nobody could ever see just how much BeliCHEAT was CHEATING … and anyone remember how it handled Ray Rice?

They’re letting this one go just the way everyone assumed they would … because of the BFF relationship between the Cheatriots owner, Robert (I hug wife beaters like Floyd Mayweather in my sky box while chastising Ray Rice AND we signed Aaron Hernandez when nobody else would, Kraft) … NOTHING WILL CHANGE THE ASTERISK LEGACY OF THE CHEATRIOTS, BELICHEAT AND, SORRY TO SAY, SHADY TOM BRADY.
 
Super Prediction … Either the Sea Pigeons bury the Cheatriots, 34-21 … or the Cheatriots earn yet another *ASTERISK* …
 
— Knucks
 
The official song of Malocchio … (for the Cheatriots) …

Thursday, January 22, 2015

SNHU MFA Graduate, Ted Flanagan … Lynn Kostoff … To Catch A Belicheat … In Cold Blood … 2 More SNHU MFA's victories ...

Amici:
 
Ted Flanagan … from the mouth of Best Selling author, Edgar Awardnominee, and Ted’s mentor, Wiley Cash: “Ted Flanagan is one of the kindest and most genuine people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and this would be surprising after you've read his book, Night In The City Of The Hills, before you had the opportunity to know him. The book is a literary novel that combines the best of James Ellroy's noir cityscapes with the deterministic impulses of Frank Norris and Stephen Crane. The story of Thomas Archer, an EMT who's haunted by his past and threatened by those who embody it, is like the dirty, crooked city in which this novel is set: inescapable, pervasive, atmospheric. All of you know Ted as a good friend and a nice guy, and I look forward to the day when everyone knows him as a powerful and undeniably gifted novelist, which is exactly what he is.”
 
 
A little more about Ted … born and raised in Massachusetts, Ted grew up in a house filled with books and newspapers, and fell in love with reading and writing at a young age. After a couple aimless years in college, he dropped out and joined the Marine Corps, signing on the dotted line about 12 hours before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Ted missed the ensuing war (thankfully), but spent four years on active duty as a Recon Marine with 2nd Recon, and then three years in the Reserves as a Scout/Sniper. He eventually finished college, the latest in a long line of Flanagan English majors, worked for a few years as a newspaper reporter and then, because he was attracted to all those flashing lights, a paramedic. Ted has worked in urban 911, as a firefighter and flight paramedic on a helicopter service. All along, Ted says “he’s written thousands of pages that litter compost heaps to this day.” Attending SNHU was a declaration for him; he was going to take his work seriously, and to do that he figured he needed to be around others serious about writing. Ted says he loved every minute in the program. When not trying to write the Great American Novel, he spends most of his time with his wife, Jen, with whom he’s been blessed with three kids - Kevan, Brendan and Ainsleigh.
 
Listen to me, amici: Ted is th real deal. Nicest guy you’ll ever meet and a terrific writer. He’ll be part of our mounting hiking committee on Washington Mountain in June. About the only flaw in this man (at all) has to do with his football team of preference … the dreaded convicts from New England (a.k.a. Cheatriots/Choketriots/Deflatriots) … but we give him a pass and love Ted anyway.
 
I’ve read the start of his thesis/novel, Night In The City Of The Hills, and it’s terrific.
 
Congrats to Ted and the rest of the graduate class!
 
 
Lynn Kostoff … his latest brilliant novel was just acknowledged with a *STARRED* REVIEW from BOOKLIST. Apr 2015. 388 p. New Pulp, paperback, $15.95. Here’s the review: Kostoff’s knockout novel “works on several levels,” as reviewers like to say. It’s a straight-ahead story of a man attempting to do his job while tending to an autistic son and holding together his marriage to a fine woman who is cracking under the strain. Raymond Locke’s job is with a megabucks public-relations firm, which introduces the second level: in a profession that gleefully warps reality, even its smugly world-wise practitioners get sucked in. Locke’s firm represents a fast food king whose chicken put a little girl in a coma. The PR response goes beyond spin. Make the greedhead a victim of his suppliers. The environmentalist? Threaten to expose her bad-girl past. The incorruptible reporter? Try to buy him off with a book contract. The compounding of lies—or illusions—eventually creates an alternate reality, with actors and scripts, that threatens to fall of its own weight when Locke realizes he’s been outmaneuvered. It’s gunplay time. The author’s command of language and narrative keep this from dwelling on its own profundities. It’s a stunning read on any level you like. — Don Crinklaw
 
 
 
 
To Catch A BeliCHEAT … So, let me get this straight. Both teams bring 24 balls total each to the game (12 game balls and 12 backups) … the game balls are tested 2 hours and 15 minutes before kickoff … at the half, based on some prior accusations from 2 teams (Ravens and Colts themselves), the refs tested the balls at the half and found that all 12 Patriot balls were somewhat deflated (1 by less than the other 11 were over what the rules demand in the NFL rulebook) … all 12 Colts balls were fine and dandy (i.e., met the league requirements).
 
So, either 11 balls deflated on their own, which wouldn’t explain why the Colts balls didn’t do the same, and/or somebody let the air out of the Cheatriot footballs before the start of play (or just before the half—for the hell of it?).
 
Wow … to be clear, the accusation is that somebody on the Patriot sideline (or within their organization) cheated. It has NOTHING to do with the outcome of the game. It doesn’t not count as cheating because it was a blowout. It wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) count more if it was a close game. There are rules that were broken … by a team that has broken them in the past.
 
Lord knows Bills fans everywhere are enjoying this latest edition of To Catch A BeliCHEAT, but all the fun we’re having may quickly turn to more anger and frustration unless Robert Kraft’s best friend in the NFL office, Roger Goodell, (at the very least) suspends Coach Belicheat for (at the very least), one year … how about for not having control of what goes on under his leadership (see Goodell’s suspension of Saints Head Coach, Sean Payton).
 
It’s been a great couple of days for me (a Bills fan/Cheatriot hater), and although so many of the Cheatriot loyals continue to live in denial, it can only get better … because seriously, who will ever acknowledge their so-called “championships” ever again?
 
We at Temporary Knucksline say there’s way more that could and should be done … especially to a two-time loser like Belicheat. I wonder if anyone else has considered why, the week before, the Cheatriots only ran the ball 4 times (once in the second half) and were behind 14 points at two different points in the game? Let’s face it, they were probably deflating balls all season long … and once again, their hubris caught them by the short hairs.
 
It’s simple math to me: Cheatriots eliminated from the tournament forthwith; Cravens play the Coltless for the AFC Championship, and the Super Bowl is moved back one or two week(s). Going forward, Belicheat is gone for two years, and the team is fined $1,000,000.
 
What will most likely happen is anybody’s guess. Since Mr. Goodell couldn’t remove his head from Mr. Kraft’s ass and ate dinner AT HIS HOUSE the night before the Championship game, I guess we’ll have to swallow another Robert Mueller-like investigation (meaning a fugazi investigation). As of Thursday, the league hasn’t even bothered to interview either Belicheat or Shady Brady.  I mean, come on!
 
The bottom line is this: Whatever happens vs. the Sea Pigeons, it won’t make a difference. Once again, the Cheatriots lose all credibility. They never won a championship before Belicheat got there, and they haven’t won one since he was FIRST CAUGHT CHEATING in SPYGATE. DEFLATEGATE negates everything and anything moving forward. And let’s face it, the Wes Cravens or the Coltless should be playing the Sea Pigeons anyway.
 
And you gotta love what Hall of Fame Quarterback, Troy Aikman had to say about it: Essentially, Aikman said that Brady had to know and that Belicheat should burn. Personally, I'd rather see them both waterboarded ... but that's just me ... (smiley face).
 
Go Bills!
 
 
In Cold BloodTruman Capote’s 2nd biggest selling true crime book in publishing history. I first read this book when I was young. I revisited this one because of spotting Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s Capote performance on cable last month. The scene in which Capote seemed to be frustrated by the stays of execution left me curious (was Capote really that fucked up?). I still don’t know for sure, but his account of the brutal murder of a Kansas farm family (the Clutters), was very difficult to put down. Capote broke the book into several sections, depicting the movements of both the killers and the murdered family members. Smart plotting, because once the killers strike, the reader is anxious to see them caught (and how they were caught).
 
On the other hand, according to a few sources, Parts of the book, including important details, differ from the real events.
 
Moving from non-fiction to fiction, and hawking it as true crime, detracts the credibility for this reader. And for that reason, TK says: It’s an interesting read, but apparently to be taken with a grain of salt.
 
 
 
 
—Knucks
 
The Ayatollah Freddie Blassie and the Iron Sheik … Come on, it’s funny … think Belicheat and Shady Brady ...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

For Brian ... one more time ...

Amici:

Our dear friend, Brian Riccioni, passed way too young a few years ago. It's around this time of the year when Ann Marie and I most often think about him. Neither of us can do so without shedding a tear. I can't tell you how generous and kind Brian was, except to say there have been very few people we ever met with a heart as big as Brian's.

I used to do the dopey powerlifting in the video below from time to time ... mostly to make believe I wasn't ageing and still had some juice left (not the steroid kind—the life kind). I only lift in RAW meets (drug tested).

It's been a very long time since my last meet. Brian was there rooting me on and filming. I usually missed my first lift because I used it as my last warm-up weight. I simply ignored the command to lift from the judge and whipped it up. I usually made my second lift, and almost always failed on my third (because I just didn't have the stamina for a 2nd strict lift). It was always #2 that I made or bombed out (bombing out = missing all 3 lifts—I’ve done that twice). I missed my third in this meet as well. There were several better lifts than mine the day of the meet below. The applause at the end of the one I made was just other lifters and an audience being very kind. I never lifted for medals and often made (and make) fun of the damn things, because powerlifting meets cost upwards of $50 - $100 to enter, and when you get a trophy or a medal, trust me, you've paid for it. Mine remain in the attic. I enter(ed) the meets to challenge myself. I’ve never been able to beat my best lift of 30 years ago … I doubt I ever will. I can’t lift again until February (my surgeon told me), so I have to wait to begin the climb back to something respectable. I’m almost afraid to see how much strength I’ve lost since before the surgery.

The knees are shot, as is my lower back, but I’m hoping the weight loss will allow me to compete (with myself) on all three lifts again (deadlift, squat and bench, although my deadlift and squat were never very good at all). The wife hates when I even talk about this stuff, never mind write about it. The next big challenge for me is hiking up Washington Mountain in New Hampshire on June 20 of this year. That came about because of a terrific writer, Darren Rome Leo (with a book coming out this year, The Trees Beneath Us). He and some other friends (Rick Ollerman, associate editor and author at Stark House Press), Ted Flanagan (author, EMS professional, and former marine), Patrick Lambe (author and artist). Darren suggested the climb a couple of months ago. I saw it as a challenge I can't refuse. My hiking mates are all good friends and terrific writers/artists. Like Brian, they are also incredibly good people/friends. And make no mistake, they are each professional ball-breakers (just as good as myself at the craft of ball-breaking). These days I’m using that Mountain hiking goal to continue with the weight loss … and to honor my dear friend, Brian. I’ll keep his voice in my ear as I attempt to not make a fool of myself on the mountain. I’m not cocky about this adventure. I’ll be 59 when I try it … (and hopefully another 40-50 pounds lighter) … and I’ll be grateful that Ted (the EMS professional) will be there … it’s also good that Darren, Rick and Patrick will be there, because no matter how much weight I lose, they’ll need help hauling my carcass up (or down) the mountain should I fail.

But there’s no way I’ll fail. I told the wife if I turn or break an ankle, I’ll crawl up that mother----er.

Brian ate dinner at our house a few days before he passed. It was playoff time in the NFL and he was down on his luck. Still, he showed up at our door with a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue. He was that kind of guy.

The Mountain will be for Brian. My next crime novel, Tommy Red, will be dedicated to Brian and another friend lost way too young, Tom Mistretta. Read our tribute to Tommy here.

Brian’s voice …

video


Next week’s Temporary Knucksline will feature an SNHU MFA graduate and all around GREAT guy, Ted Flanagan (my EMS crutch on the mountain).

—Charlie

Thursday, January 15, 2015

SNHU MFA Graduate, Franella Lovie Smith … The Code (book review) … Movies … Bolts Mid-Season Report Card …

Amici:
Franella with Merle Drown ... 
 
Franella Lovie Smith … author/mentor, Katie Towland, summed up Franella’s thesis best: “Franella’s novel, Like Apples on Trees, tells the story of a young woman pregnant with her first child and struggling with her identity as she approaches motherhood.  Add vividly drawn portraits of the main character’s mother and grandmother, and troubles with her pregnancy, and conflicts with her husband who is away on business, and you have a story that beautifully portrays challenges faced by many women. But Franella’s accomplished work takes on more than this plot line suggests, for her book is also about the legacy of slavery and the need for blacks and whites to move beyond the history that has kept them from knowing and loving each other fully.  The vision behind this novel is honest, hopeful and powerful, and challenges us to understand ourselves in new ways.”
 
Some pics of Franella enjoying the moments …

 
Franella at work with Author/Mentor, Ann Garvin and classmates ...

Congrats, Franella … for all you’ve accomplished already!
 
 
The Code, by G.B. Joyce … a cynical proposition is quickly put forth in this crime novel that centers around the ins and outs of hockey, at least as perceived by the narrator (a former 4th liner professional presently scouting for a living). It goes something like this: There exists an extra dose (or 200 doses) of Schadenfreude within the world of hockey; former players, scouts, former players who are scouts, professional players, semi-professional players, owners, GMs, even the guys and gals working the arenas, it seems … nobody seems to care much for one another … and some maybe wish all the worst happens to others. This may well be true in any competitive field (it sure held true on the street), but maybe extra especially when it comes to earning a living. The motive being: when you gotta eat, you gotta eat. That probably does hold credibility in a world as competitive as professional sports. Even in a small school college football environment like the one I attended way back in the day, nobody liked rookies/freshmen, and often the only dopes who didn’t know it were the freshman looking to impress. So it goes. I enjoyed learning a little more about hockey in this story about a very gifted kid (Billy Mays, Jr.) about to be drafted by the LA team. Our cynical protagonist (Brad Shade) has to perform the due diligence, scouting Mays before the big day. The spacing between events is often a bit long and thus awkward, but I was in this for the hockey and not necessarily the crime aspect. If you’re going to buy into a lawyer or journalist or even a private detective solving murder cases, why not a hockey scout? It’s a fast-paced read with some colorful characters throughout (coaches, trainers, former players, GM’s, etc., all of them very concerned about their very vulnerable jobs), and (talk about Schadenfreude), the narration features some razor blade introspection. Shade was once married to an actress turned starlet, immediately thereafter turned ex-wife, and that relationship haunts him from time to time amongst his peers. Not to worry, he’s not a victim. He’ll tell you that throughout. He’s loaded with self-deprecation, which makes him endearing when you don’t want to run in the other direction. It isn’t easy to pull off, but the author does it well. By novel’s end, it wasn’t the payoff I much cared about. It hardly ever is. Most of the time, it’s the trip that makes a book interesting for me, and this was a fun trip. Not your classic mystery novel by any stretch (and those VERY rarely appeal to me), but the ins and outs of the hockey circuit were fun for this novice to visit.
 
The weird thing is that Wednesday night I watched an NHL production called Behind the Bench featuring the Boston Brunettes, and some of it looked very familiar (i.e., the ball-breaking between players, etc., I still remember from both my locker room and street days—and speaking of Schadenfreude yet again, I’ve yet to see it matched on the street) … but back to Behind the Bench, even a guy I’ve hated until last night for all the irritating shit he pulls on the ice (and for which he never seems to get caught enough), Brad Marchand came off as a decent enough guy (and a pretty good ballbreaker). Hearing him praise his linemates the other night, even after scoring against our guys (the Bolts), gave me a somewhat altered perspective. He did what every hockey player seems to do: NOT talk about themselves while praising their teammates. Kudos to the little irritant.
 
Even 6’9” Zdeno Chara, Captain of the Brunettes, came off as a pleasant guy (this after watching him destroy one of our guys the other night).
 
Movies … wow, I really can’t remember the name of the movie I saw this week that I enjoyed (on Netflix), or what it was about ... but that could because I’m getting too old for what my wife often calls my infantile behavior.
 
One I did see and remember the name of was: Behaving Badly … it was petty juvenile … with an all-star cast (you ask me) … but sometimes my juvenile mind requires I let the dark stuff go for a couple of hours and enjoy some slapstick silliness. This one probably qualifies as a guilty pleasure … guilty as charged.
 
Tampa Bay Lightning half-season
Report Card …
 
I’m a self-professed neophyte drawn to the game by a single player a few years ago. I switched allegiance when he was traded. As a new Lightning devotee, I present my $.02 on the first half of our 1st place standing in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division. Forgive me my hockey ignorance … and don’t get me started on the Bills hiring Rex Ryan. Suffice it to say: We’ll blow the Cheatriots out of the water next year!
 
The regular workhorses haven’t let up a stitch and that’s always good to see. Stamkos, Callahan, Johnson, Kucherov, Stralman and Boyle continue to do all the stuff required, like NEVER taking a shift off.
 
The Players (based on last night’s roster)
 
J.T. Brown: I love the way this kid flies all over the place, but we can use a bit more accuracy from his slap shots.
 
Boyle: He’s already put 8 into the net and he’s always hustling and ready to do whatever is necessary (including diving in front of slap shots, 2 in the final minute last night) … another solid veteran with much needed experience for our youngsters to learn from.
 
Callahan: Already has 14 goals (missed a few games early on), but it’s always the intangibles with our favorite player. Icing the puck at the end of a game so the opponent doesn’t get an extra possession, blocking shots, diving in front of shots, diving to make passes, diving to keep the puck in the offensive zone … you name, he does it. Like his former coach (Tortorella) said, “You don’t win championships without guys like Ryan Callahan.”
 
Connolly: Tough player with 8 goals in 32 games thus far. A bit more goal production will help the Bolts remain a playoff team.
 
Drouin: I say he’ll be a superstar in this league over time. The kid has great speed and skill. Why he hasn’t scored more is a mystery to me. He’s gaining confidence and will be a huge asset to this team in the future.
 
Filpula: Just 8 goals thus far, but he too will pick up the pace.
 
The Triplets: Get their own special card. Johnson, Kucherov and Palat: What can you say? They’re also flying all over the place … and scoring. Incredible stuff … Palat’s 2 goals tonight (including the game winner) speak volumes. So far nobody has been able to shut them down for very long, if at all.
 
Killorn: Tough customer with deceptive speed. Will get his share of goals.
 
Morrow: At 35 years of age, he’s still got some gravitas to his game. No pushover and always in the mix.
 
Namestnikov: When we visited Tampa at the start of the season, I couldn’t get over this kid’s speed. He’s up and down with the team because of the overload of forward talent, but he’s gonna make it in the NHL in the near future, hopefully with us.
 
Paquette: You gotta love this kid’s grit, but sometimes question the times he chooses to fire up the team. He’d have more goals with less time in the box. The knockdown he suffered the other night from Chara’s HUGE right mitt will hopefully teach him a lesson. If he can forget the Chara incident next go vs. the Brunettes, we’ll be better off. It doesn’t inspire a team when one of their own gets floored. Nor does it do us any good when he’s in the box.
 
Stamkos: The guy flies all over the place … a speed demon with a wicked hard slapshot (best in the NHL, I think), his goal scoring ability (tied for the league lead with 26) is essential to our success. I’m amazed at least once a game by this guy’s skill, but even more so at his determination. His output and drive are tremendous assets to the Bolts’ overall game.
 
Barberio: Good young talent who seems to need a bit more confidence on the ice. He’s sometimes erratic on defense, but not for a lack of trying. Clearing pucks a bit carelessly at time. He’s got grit and a good slap shot, but has yet to put one in the net. Time will tell.
 
Carle: Is often an enigma to me. Makes some terrific plays but too often gets beat on the wing. Goal production is pretty low, but that may have more to do with opportunity than skill. With Hedman out again, we need him to step up his game.
 
Garrison: Last few games has been terrific on defense. Tremendous slapshot but hasn’t found the net as often as we’d like. Maybe more shots?
 
Gudas: Tough as nails, we’re gonna miss his bulk and his fight. He can often frustrate when he’s slow getting back, but he’s young and essential to our defense. Love his slapshot but it’s usually way off the mark (duck if you’re sitting in the first 20 rows). He straightens that out, Madonna mia! I love the big guy!
 
Hedman: Injuries have kept this key defensive star off the ice. He started off like a house on fire. Just when he was getting back to speed after hand surgery, he was injured again. Come back soon, big guy! Another future defensive superstar.
 
Nesterov: Also filling in, he’s a youngster lacking experience he can only get on the ice.
 
Stralman: He was all world playing in the finals for the Strangers last year and at the start of the season, and he hasn’t dropped off much at all. Tonight he was beat by a former teammate (Benoit Pouliot) but those things happen. It’ll never be for a lack of effort when these veterans make a mistake or get beat. I’d like to see him take more slap shots from the point. It’s not as hard as Garrison’s, but he’s has a deceptively strong one.
 
Sustr: He started off a bit awkward, often losing the puck in our end, especially on the boards, but he seems to be gaining confidence and is letting it fly. Tonight he dove to stop a breakaway and caught a penalty that cost us, but a big A for effort. We can use his help with some defensive scoring. It’ll come, I’m sure.
 
Bishop: Is usually brilliant and we wouldn’t be near the top without him, so keep him healthy this season, hockey Gods!
 
Nabokov: He started off fine, but seems to have slipped the last few starts. I know everyone is calling for the kid. I don’t see how we don’t bring him up if Nabby doesn’t find his game soon.
 
Vasilevskiy: speaking of the kid … he’s been tremendous so far. Let’s hope he stays that way.
 
Overall Offense: Lately we seem to be on the ebb end of the ebb and flow of a game and a season. I’m sure we’ll come out of it with an explosion of goals, but we can’t let the dust settle. Losing can become a habit. I prefer seeing Cally on the same line as Stamkos, but I’m sure Cooper knows better than me. I’m sure mixing lines for effect is a part of the game, but so are the ebbs and flows. Both Stamkos and Cally are scoring of late (last two games before tonight, although Stamkos has scored tonight as well). I like Cally in front of the net catching rebounds and guiding slapshots from Stamkos, but I also love Cally’s slapshot (2 wicked ones tonight). We’re slacking on puck possession, which scares me. Even tonight vs. the speed skating team from Edmonton, we’re a step behind for most of 2 periods). We have to regain that step moving forward. Fortunately, we came alive in the final period and won the game. Go Bolts!
 
Overall Defense: Without Bishop, we’d be in big trouble. Last year I thought we were bad on the defensive end. This year we’ve improved, but we never seem to be fully healthy for very long. Poor puck possession on offense leads to defensive breakdowns. Poor lapses on defense leads to losses that just shouldn’t happen. We’re getting better and I’m sure we’ll be much better when fully healthy. Nabokov can use some help, especially on nights he’s having a tough time.

Power Play: Sometimes magically and lately not so much. I think when teams are aggressive against us on the PP, we're off our game. I definitely prefer Stamkos and Cally on the same PP shift.

Power Kill: This frustrates me more than anything else. I don't like our collapsible defense. I prefer being aggressive. At least I see it working for other teams. Sometimes we give up a goal within the first twenty seconds of a PP and I believe it's because we allow too much space. I'll have to talk to Coop about that ...
 
Prediction: If we’re healthy, there’s no way we’ll be rolled in the playoffs again. Last year the Expos got away with murder when Bishop went down. So far this year we’re handling the Expos, but not so much some of the other better teams in the league. We’re still young, but if we stay healthy and get our mojo back, watch out!

Go Bolts! 
—Knucks

Lightning, Baby!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Charlie Hebdo …

Amici:

Cartoons pissed off Islamic fundamentalists to the point where they felt compelled to kill people for drawing satirical jokes. There’s no explaining the minds of people caught up in zealotry, whether it be religious, nationalistic, and/or sycophantic worship. Humans have been getting brainwashed forever. None of us are any different. Most of us have pledged allegiance to a flag, made the sign of the cross, or performed some other religious ritual. We’ve taken Boy Scout and Girl Scout oaths. Some have joined sororities and fraternities. Mostly, it’s harmless stuff, but not always.
 
It appears that most of the young recruits being sucked into the jihadist movement are disenfranchised, and/or oppressed. Maybe. How they conduct their raids/attacks on those they target is both cowardly and devastating, but our history isn’t so different. The British army wasn’t too thrilled with our revolutionary army. “Whatever their limitations in formal military discipline, most American militiamen thrived in the guerilla warfare of the backcountry: they ambushed their opponents, wore hunting shirts instead of uniforms, and were fairly undisciplined.”
 
Jihadists appear to find a purpose for a holy war that makes little, if any, sense. Die a martyr and visit paradise where 72 virgins await.
 
And I thought parting the Red Sea was a crock of shit.
 
As for which religion is doing more harm to the other ... it's not all as one-sided as FOX News likes to portray.
 
 
I don’t know that the Muslim faith is any more harmful than any other faith, or nationalistic pledge, for that matter. I’m not a proponent of any form of zealotry, to include the absurdity of blood oaths like omerta. The leaders of any movement desire absolute loyalty, usually for their own purposes, but those interests are much easier to disguise, as regards a genuine motive that seeks power, when wrapped in a flag and/or a God. It is a shame that SOME young Muslims have been brainwashed to have zero regard for life. Obviously not all Muslims, young or old, desire paradise and/or the 72 virgins. Whether they have faith or not, they aren’t flocking to the lines where suicide vests are being distributed.
 
 
Both were terrible crimes against humanity and neither can be excused as “collateral damage.” Whether the method of war being fought is a declared war, deemed a police action, labeled guerilla warfare, and/or terrorism, it is killing, and therefore it is wrong. What causes some to accept the dogma they are fed by those seeking to control them probably has more to do with the socio-economic conditions of living under oligarchs and/or foreign occupation than any genuine need to sacrifice themselves for the sake of some mystical being.
 
Yes, “Je Suis Charlie” … of course, and Je Suis the victims at that Muslim wedding as well, because (how’s this for irony), “there but for the grace of God …”
 
Those engaging in surprise attacks to kill anyone expressing their opinions, no matter how foul those opinions may be (and no matter how fearless the attackers are of death), are still cowards. How hard is it to pull off what these murderers did in Paris? How hard would it be to do the same pretty much anywhere? All one would need is a disregard for human life. Nobody is expecting to be gunned down for showing up to work. (See Timothy McVeigh andthe Oklahoma bombing of a federal building there … 168 people didn’t expect todie the morning McVeigh’s bomb went off). 
 
The so-called martyrs in Paris may have been willing to die, but apparently only after a surprise attack they believe will afford them some sense of victory (and their leadership a new recruitment tool). Shooting people at their place of work isn’t an act of heroism. Shooting people who’ve shown up to work is not so different than shooting a deer from a hunting blind, except most of the time the deer are killed for a rational reason (like food).
 
I don’t agree with Bill Maher’s take on this tragedy (i.e., “That is mainstream in the Muslim world. When you make fun of the Prophet, all bets are off. You get what’s coming to you. It’s also mainstream that if you leave the religion, you get what’s coming to you—which is death. Not in every Muslim country… but this is the problem in the world that we have to stand up to.”)
 
I can’t believe for a second that there are 100 million people so gullible they desire killing and/or dying for the sake of some fantasy. I believe what is happening today is what happened during our wind-up toward a war with Iraq. Not that we’re looking to take on the entire Muslim world, but the same techniques are being fostered by the media to generate fear that quickly turns to hate, and ultimately a desire to kill. Once we buy into the fear, we react without regard for a war that will ultimately lead to another vengeance-seeking generation of disenfranchised people.
 
I was a victim of the propaganda after 9-11. Like most Americans, I believed the bombings deserved a military response that would end the threat of terrorism against America, and I willingly supported a second unnecessary war with a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 (not that Afghanistan had anything to do with 9-11), mostly because my blood was still boiling from New York City being hit. I worked across the street from the Twin Towers the morning they were attacked. It took me a few years to realize what a fool I’d been for dancing to those war drums. What a total tragedy both wars have been. Are we any safer? Are native Afghanis any safer? Iraqis? Has terrorism decreased anywhere in the world?
 
After those military fiascos benefitted defense contractors and friends of those in high places, and because I ignored the comparisons being made to our Vietnam debacle, I am now forced to question EVERYTHING my government tells me. I’ve also come to realize how those we went to war with, especially survivors of those we regarded as collateral damage, could not possibly want to understand our why’s and how’s. Why should our national interest be a concern of those we kill by mistake or purposely? Imagine coming home to find your entire family and home has been wiped out by a bomb dropped with the wrong coordinates?
 
Imagine being a family member of one of those killed in Paris this week?
 
As much as I support Israel’s right to exist, if I were born a Palestinian, there’s a very good chance I’d passionately want to harm Israel. Likewise, if I were born in Israel, there’s a very good chance I’d want to hammer Palestine with the same amount of passion. The point being, so long as we blindly cling to nationalism and/or religion, who we support or denounce will always depend on which ox is gored and which side of the fence we happen to be standing on at the time of the goring. America has played both sides of so many fences for so long, it’s become comical to hear so-called patriotic conservatives decry attempts to settle things without the military. Our support of brutal dictators for our own self-interest couldn’t possibly win us fans in Iraq and/or Iran (we supported Hussein against Khomeini, after Khomeini deposed our puppet, Pahlavi … and so on, and so on).
 
So long as nationalism and/or religious fanaticism remains some kind of moral aphrodisiac, we’ll be dealing with this never-ending cycle of irrational violence.
 
What happened in Paris was horrific. If the goal of the murderers was to intimidate, they failed. They failed miserably. Charlie Hebdo will print 1,000,000 copies of their next issue next week, as opposed to their regular 60,000 printing.
 
Booyah!
 
The key for the world now is to handle these types of tragedies as depicted in the pictures above and below. The last thing France should do now is to follow our lead into another war that will accomplish nothing more than perpetuate desires to kill.
 
 

Back to book and movie reviews next week.

—Knucks
 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Slap … Before Night Falls/Playboy Interview with Dan Savage … The Year (2014) in Mini-Review …

Amici:

 
The Slap, by Christos Tsiolkas. A kid is out of control at a friendly barbecue … there are several other kids and more adults in attendance. When one kid, Hugo, age 4 (and still being breastfed), threatens to hit another kid, the father (Harry) of the kid about to be hit (Harry is a known hothead with at least one past wife-beating incident, but not on record), intercedes … and then the 4-year-old kicks him in the shins, which leads to The Slap … and thus the differing perspectives form and align. The kid’s parents call the cops, and sides are drawn; friends of the kid’s mother (Rosie) are mostly set firmly on her side. Friends and relatives of Harry feel obligated to take his side.
 
Interesting dynamics are set up by the author. For one, he tells the story from several different perspectives (each Chapter is the name of the character providing his or her perspective). The characters are further revealed as you learn of their various personalities, histories, politics, social backgrounds, ethnicity, etc. The book takes place in Australia (where the author resides). My cugina lives in Australia and she said her book club read and discussed the book. I already recommended it to a friend’s book club here. It’s an interesting story with interesting twists. Several different social issues are tackled by the author, from corporal punishment of children to a young man’s dealing with his sexuality (he’s gay), adultery, nationalism, race relations, economics, politics, and so on. A very interesting read I immediately passed on to the wife for her enjoyment, consideration and future Saturday morning discussions at Casa Stella.
 

 
Before Night Falls (x2) … I saw the wonderful movie starring Javier Bardem before reading the memoir of Cuban novelist, poet and playwright, Reinaldo Arenas. Both are wonderful, although I can emphatically state the memoir itself is much more revealing and educational. For one thing, something not covered in the movie, was the tendency for young men living in the peasant countryside of Cuba before and after Castro (at least until Castro’s anti-gay policies took hold) to have sex with animals. Although the thought of something so unnatural might make readers cringe, the reality is that Arenas explains it so well, and in such natural narrative, it becomes understandable and less cringe-worthy.
 
The author suffered miserably under both the Batista and Castro governments in Cuba; he suffered for being a poor peasant and then he suffered extra hard for being homosexual. By the time he’s gone through a hellish life as a poor peasant living in the country, a revolutionary accountant, an unenthused soldier (about to fight in the Bay of Pigs), and later a convict of his sexuality (he was jailed for being homosexual in Castro’s Cuba), he wants nothing more than to escape the island and pursue his writing life openly. French admirers have managed to sneak some of his works out of Cuba and had them published in France. The movie doesn’t do the memoir (or Arenas’s story justice) because it only deals with his ultimate hatred of the Castro regime. In his memoir, Arenas admits to being an optimistic member of the revolution in its initial years, but ultimately came to hate what it turned into under the paranoid Dictator, Fidel Castro.
 
A passage I took note of (and marked) was the following: Ours is a national history of betrayals, uprisings, desertions, conspiracies, riots, coups d’etat; all of them provoked by infinite ambition, abuse, despair, false pride, and envy. Even Christopher Columbus, on his third trip, after he had discovered all of America for Europe, was returned to Spain in chains. Two attitudes, two personalities, always seem to be in conflict throughout our history: on the one hand, the incurable rebels, lovers of freedom and therefore of creativity and experimentation; and on the other, the power-hungry opportunists and demagogues, and thus purveyors of dogma, crime, and basest of ambitions. These attitudes have recurred over time: General Tacón against Heredia, Martinez Campos against Jose Martí, Fidel Castro against Lezama Limo and Virgilio Piňera; always the same rhetoric, the same speeches, always the drums of militarism stifling the rhythm of poetry and life.
 
Arenas eventually died of AIDS in the United States back when it was still a medical mystery, but he was writing up until his end, and this memoir begins with his telling his story from the last stages of his illness.
 
 
 
I VERY HIGHLY (EXTREMELY HIGHLY?) RECOMMEND reading this very revealing memoir. I’ve already ordered one of Arenas’s novels as well, The Doorman.
 
 
Dan Savage Playboy Interview … a gay activist, author and political pundit I’ve seen on several shows (Bill Maher, MSNBC, etc.). Savage is an interesting guy with strong and thoughtful opinions. His interview in the recent issue of Playboy was particular timely coming on the heels of reading the Reinaldo Arenas memoir. Prompted by a few questions regarding both gay and heterosexual issues by the interviewer, Savage offered quite a few interesting answers that frankly made some sense (i.e., since young teenagers are going to engage in sex anyway, promoting (at least discussing) oral vs. vaginal and/or anal intercourse seemed more than reasonable. How does one sit-down with their kid and do that? Well, I think that’s the point Mr. Savage was making … maybe it’s time we figure it out.
 
Another salient point made in both the Arenas memoir and the Savage Playboy interview has to do with how each author defined gay men (broken into four types by Arenas), both defined “closet” gays the same. Savage went one further and nailed Marcus Bachmann (yes, that Bachmann, crazy Michelle’s husband, the original “Pray the Gay away” psychotic) to the wall for living in the closet and condemning other gays. It reminded me of this skit:
 
 
The Year in Mini-Review …
#1) One atheist I know (myself) loves much, if not most, of what Pope Francis espouses, and we can only hope he can implement most of what he says before he passes (and the old Vatican guard returns to power). We would like to see him expand the role of women in the church, to include allowing them priesthood. We’d also like to see marriage for both priests and nuns. Not that it would bring me back to the fold, but it would go a long way toward proving to me that religion(s) in general are at least a little bit less harmful than I currently believe. Adding the cause of women to Pope Francis’s crusade for the poor might be too much for the Vatican to chew on all at one time, but we like what this Pope is saying and trying to accomplish. Mostly we hope the old guard Vatican doesn’t have Pope Francis whacked, because we think his ability to teach what the historical Jesus is believed to have taught: mercy, compassion, charity, welfare and inclusiveness, is the right path to take, but also a path that the old guard Vatican fears will interrupt their stranglehold on church progress and power.
 
So, Pope Francis, you rock, my friend.
 
 
#2) The Principessa Ann Marie and I traveled to Tampa Bay, Florida, to watch a few (3) Lightning games. It was our first trip to Tampa and we thoroughly enjoyed our time walking around the area, skipping the diet for a few days, and taking in our first hockey games in several years. It was a wonderful trip, especially at game 2 for us (3 on the Bolts schedule) wherein we (Judy, Andy, Annie and myself) watched our guy Callahan score one of 7 goals vs. the Montreal Expos. We visited with Judy and Andy at their beautiful home somewhere else in Florida (about 40 minutes north of the arena) and I got to play with their two boxers (the younger of the dogs fell in love with me (what’s not to love?) and couldn’t stop kissing my ugly grille).
 
Cally jukes Suban …
Early Sunday afternoon the wife spotted Brian Boyle walking into the sports bar where we were watching the Bills on closed circuit television … Ann Marie asked for his autograph a few minutes later. Later the same night, while enjoying a cigar from Ybor City out in front of the hotel, I came close to smacking a very drunk Baltimore Ravens fan who insulted Buffalo Bills fans everywhere (actually it was fun just to size him up and warn his friend about how the little shit might get himself killed before the night was over). A day or so later we met with Tony and Mike Liberti for a day on the town (Ybar City, which I really liked (the city kid in me) … but the highlight (after seeing the Cally goal above – we were sitting upstairs directly behind the goal) was a surprise meeting (via Tony Liberti) with some of the Callahan crew (Donna (Mom), Mike (Pop) and Ryan’s brother, Mike … we look forward to returning to the Amalie Arena for future Bolts games and the wife is still considering a move south for retirement (although I hold onto hope that she’ll see the light before we retire and accept the wonder of a retirement in the cold, cold north) … I mean, come on, who needs Palm Trees when you can have Moose in your backyard?
 
#3) My beloved New York State Buffalo Bills proved me wrong this year on many fronts. Mario Williams proved he can actually be effective against the run as well as provide a solid pass rush. Marcel Darreus really stepped up his game at Defensive Tackle … and who would’ve thunk it about Head Coach, Doug Marrone? The guy has gravitas … I’m not sure what happens before next season, because we certainly need a #1 QB, and probably another backup, but at least the pieces are in place for a bright future. Kyle “Don” Orton’s sudden retirement was probably a very smart move for him and his family. Thanks to him for performing well above expectations.
 
#4) My Tampa Bay Lightning … I’m learning more and more about the game as I watch more and more, but still consider my comments rather rookie-ish … so here goes: We started like a house on fire and Bolted (see what I did there?) to a big lead in the Atlantic Division. Recently we hit a stumbling block and goal drought that seems to have ended this week as we won our third in a row, 3-2. I understand enough about the game to accept that puck luck works both ways, and I can live without the big scores, but what makes me crazy at times, even with understanding the ebb and flow of a game and/or a season, is when we seem to get outhustled. Nothing pisses me off more than feeling like we’re not giving it our all. Certain players always give their all, but others can’t possibly be doing so when we’re spending so much time in our end of the ice. I’m not talking about a brief minute or two (or three) minutes when another team is applying pressure, but I am talking about losing puck possession for what seems like an entire period at times. Even last week when we finally beat the Pittsburg Pigeons, we started with a hat trick by Tyler Johnson and vaulted to a 4-0 lead, only to surrender 3 goals (none of them our goalie’s fault) and we nearly lost the game (the last goal coming at 1:31 of the third period). My beef was with our play for most of the second period and nearly all of the third period, when I watched from my chair (and couch) as we were trapped in our end over and over again. We simply looked helpless and had that game gone on another minute or so, especially with their goalie pulled, I doubt we would’ve held on.
 
Then last night it was the opposite. The Maple Syrups took a quick 2-0 lead on two terrific plays, but then it was our hustle (for 3 consecutive periods) that did Toronto in. Cally was being Cally, playing 150% all over the place; diving to make passes, diving in front of pucks, making hits, making moves with the puck, scoring one goal and assisting on another. Stamkos, Johnson, Stralman, Hedman, Killorn and Boyle played the same way and the rest of the team seemed to fall right in step behind their leaders. We were wonderful to watch last night and one can only hope we’ve got the magic back as we hit the road for the end of the first half of the season and the start of the second half.
 
 
#5) My favorite picture of the year … it’s me and the Principessa Ann Marie (a.k.a, Nonno and Nonna) walking our granddaughter, Evelyn Amelia Stella, home after breakfast at a diner in Brooklyn.
 
—Knucks
 
For the Pope …