Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thoughts on the NBA Playoffs

I was admittedly sad when my team, the Jazz, didn't make it to the playoffs this year, but after what has happened in the first round I'm not that sad anymore. The 2011 Playoffs have been wildly entertaining, dramatic and surprising to watch. Even though no series went all seven games, the quality of play has been high and most of the games have come down to the wire. Let's recap a few of the highlights, shall we?

In the series I most hoped for an upset, Chris Paul reemerged as a true star, willing the seventh seeded Hornets to the brink of defeating the defending champs. Alas, for me and other Laker haters, it was not to be. However, there were great moments in this series like when Paul and his boys stole game one in L.A., or when my least favorite player, Pau Gasol all but vanished and Phil Jackson called the team 'punks.' I also loved the moment when Chris Paul took a shot to the eye, and kept playing despite looking like Rocky Balboa. This series was almost perfect, I say almost because Kobe and Co. are still alive, but after tangling with New Orleans they might not have enough juice to make it back to the Finals. Let's hope.

Derrick Rose is the MVP. That is what we can take away from this series. If he plays poorly, the Bulls don't look very good. Luckily, he played well enough to take out Indiana in 5 games. Four of the five were too close for comfort, and probably left everyone wondering if the league's new darlings have enough to get to the Finals. I don't think they do, especially since Carlos Boozer is doing his usual playoff disappearing act, and Tom Thibadou seems reluctant to use the best bench in the league. Perhaps this series was just a hiccup and the Bulls will right the ship. They better, because what I think is the hottest team in the playoffs, the Hawks, won't miss an opportunity in a close game like the Pacers did.

The oldest team that needed the most rest got it by sweeping the most overrated team in the playoffs. New York stunk and got roundly throttled by a team that looks hungry, complete and dangerous. Boston, despite their advanced age, is my pick out of the East because they play together and know the territory well. They will need every bit of the rest they earned against the Heat, led by those three guys.

We saw an era end when Memphis upset the number one seeded Spurs in six games. The series wasn't even that close as the younger, quicker, bigger and hungrier Grizzlies mauled the crap out of the aging former champs. It was kind of sad to see, but all things come to an end. Who knows what lies ahead for San Antonio? I know what lies ahead for Memphis, a date with Kevin Durant and the Thunder, who are my pick to come out of the West.

Here now are my picks for the rest of the way-


CELTICS over HEAT in 6
BULLS over HAWKS in 6



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Book of the Month

This month,


By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I have an affinity for historical fiction, and that is why I highly enjoyed this book by one of the all time great authors. Known mostly for his Sherlock Holmes books and stories, one of Conan Doyle's personal favorite works was this novel about English longbowmen set during the Hundred Years War. While this book is not a literary masterpiece, it is an entertaining read and an accurate snapshot of a pivotal moment in history as England struggled for supremacy against its sworn enemy- France.

This book has a colorful ensemble of characters that harkens back to 14th Century. It feels part Robin Hood, part Canterbury Tales. Alleyne Edricson is a naive boy of twenty who leaves the abbey where he has been raised to see what awaits in the wider world. He meets up with veteran archer, Sam Aylward who is on a quest to find men for a reformed White Company, while also attempting to secure the great Sir Nigel Loring as the company's commander. The pair then encounter a hugely strong, but kind man, Hordle John, who agrees to accompany them on their journey. Once they reach Sir Nigel's estate, Alleyne becomes Sir Nigel's squire and they set off for France to join the rest of the White Company.

Conan Doyle embroiders the larger adventure with interesting subplots and humorous moments so that there is always something going on. Alleyene's brief love story with Sir Nigel's daughter Maude, and the ill-fated trip to visit the socman of Minstead are highlights among the rest. The White Company eventually reports to Edward the Black Prince and fights in the book's climactic battle at Najera. I refuse to spoil anything, but you will be taken on a great and thrilling ride if you read this book. Also, if you like this genre and these characters, make sure to read Conan Doyle's prequel- Sir Nigel. It's good too.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Mel Brooks, Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise

While this film isn't the height of Mel Brooks' cinematic work, it has some of the most memorable moments and lines of all his movies. Told in several vignettes, History of the World takes on Ancient Rome, the French Revolution and some Bible stories in hilarious fashion. Using many of his regular actors, Brooks switches from satire to goofball to slapstick and spares nobody in his quest to make his mark as he skewers humanities achievements.

Narrated by the booming voice of Orson Welles, the film begins with a look at ancient man, using the comedic talents of the great Sid Caesar, who had employed Brooks as a writer on Your Show of Shows. While the jokes in this section are a bit on the cheesy side, there are a few real belly laughs that make you grateful for Caesar's participation in the film. Following that segment Brooks does a short Biblical bit where he plays a clumsy Moses. Then the film goes into a lengthy vignette about the Roman Empire that is probably the film's strongest and funniest bit. Brooks is Comicus, a stand-up philosopher, who finds himself playing the main room at Caesar's Palace. Caesar (DeLuise) is a farting, burping treasure bathing pig and his wife, Empress Nympho (Kahn) is a nympho- go figure.

The Roman scenes are full of memorable Brooksian moments, and finish up with a great parody of the Last Supper. A big song and dance number follows, as Mel and friends make light of the Spanish Inquisition. Only Mel Brooks would dare to turn a dark chapter in human history into a hilarious, bubbly musical parody. The film ends with another long story that is set during the French Revolution. Comedy greats Cloris Leachman, Harvey Korman and Spike Milligan guest star in this segment that sees a Piss Boy (Garcon de Piss) step in to double for King Louis as the peasants attack the palace. All you need to know about this part is that it's good to be the king.

Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are better films in almost every way, but there is enough good stuff in History of the World- Part I that it makes you wish that Mel had gone on to make Part II. Oh well, we can only sit around and think about what might have been.

Things to watch for-

A young Gregory Hines as Josephus
My favorite Golden Girl- Bea Arthur
Jesus! What?
Quicktime Harch
Hitler on Ice

"Don't get saucy with me, Bearnaise."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nazi Thesis- Part V

Here is installment five.

Himmler was one of the most diabolical members of the Nazi party. His activities as the head of the SS made him invincible to those who opposed him. A former chicken farmer, Himmler was a very simple looking man who might have been mistaken for a banker. This normal, mundane exterior concealed the cold, ruthless and cruel man who masterminded the Nazi plot against the Jews. Like Hitler and Goebbels, Himmler was a great propagandist, and knew how to gain allies to the movement.

The dual nature of the Nazi personality is displayed perfectly in Heinrich Himmler. He joined the party at the urging of Ernst Rohm, his good friend, and later conspired with others to kill him. At the time he joined the party in 1923, very few would have picked Himmler to eventually be the second most powerful man in Germany. Himmler knew quite early that he was capable of achieving great things as a Nazi. In order to create the post he desired, Himmler would allow nothing to stand in his way. It was this characteristic that gave Himmler the edge over other men in the regime with more flashy credentials and better education.

Himmler represents the great duality of Nazi leaders- a fertilizer salesman who became head of an empire. What he lacked in education and experience, he made up for in desire and ruthlessness. In these respects he was just like Hitler. Hitler prized individuals like himself who would stop at nothing to gain their objectives. This may be the reason that the Nazi personality had such an ambitious nature. Heydrich, Goering and Himmler were all prime examples of ambitious Nazis. Their lust for power called for them to eliminate the competition within the party, SA head Ernst Rohm was that competition. Rohm, forever wanting to create an SA police state, was targeted by these three for elimination. Himmler and Heydrich created reports in their departments to give Hitler the idea that Rohm was a threat, and that he needed to be dealt with.
Himmler (left) and Rohm

Showing the unquenchable thirst for power that is indicative of the Nazi personality, Goering, Himmler and Heydrich through their intervention signed Rohm’s death warrant and snatched up as much power as they could in the wake of “the Night of Long Knives.” No Nazi would allow anyone or anything stand in his way, whether it was a fellow Nazi, political opponent or a racial subordinate. While many might see this maniacal ambition as a horrible flaw, Hitler prized this quality above all, and encouraged his inner circle to jockey for position within the regime. All the while, however, Hitler knew exactly how to use them without giving up any control.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Country Half Full

All I've been hearing from news media the last few weeks is how bad things are and how little confidence people have in the government and President Obama. I must say that even though things haven't been going exactly swimmingly (the Japan nuclear disaster, Lybia, the economy), whining and being apathetic isn't going to accomplish anything. It bothers me that people are so quick to point fingers and throw in the towel. Our country deserves better from its leaders and citizens. I will be the first to admit that Obama hasn't been the force for positive change that he seemed to be in January 2009, but we have nobody to blame but ourselves for that one.

Before the guy had even done anything we filled our glass of optimism to the brim and never bothered to think about the fact that it wouldn't be easy to right all the wrongs of the previous administration and achieve every item in an ambitious agenda. Not to mention that a bunch of other crap came up while Obama was tackling the existing issues. The BP oil spill, various revolutions and this recent tragedy in Japan only heaped more to do items on America's painfully long list. Rather than being so defeatist and negative, the nation needs to regain perspective and think about how unfair we made the expectations. Not even a dream team of leaders like FDR, George Washington and Ronald Reagan could have met the lofty goals we set two years ago. The glass needs to be about half full now, not mostly empty, because that's where we are.

This will be a good test to see if people in this country can see things as they are, without panicking, without getting angry or complacent and with a guarded sense of optimism. I'm not saying the glass won't ever be full, and I'm not saying it will be full soon, what I am saying is that politicians and citizens need to be less ready to build up their leaders, only to tear them down a short time later. If we were in charge we'd kill for that kind of mentality from those that we serve.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Tom Cruise, Max Von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton

This neo-noir, sci-fi thriller is one of the more overlooked and under appreciated films in the Steven Spielberg canon. Not only are the action and special effects first rate, the story is a compelling one that twists and turns and makes you think. There is almost so much to think about it is good to see it a few times so that you can drink it all in. Spielberg does a great job in borrowing from multiple genres for this film, as well as using innovative techniques like desaturating the color of the film to give it a very unique, modern look.

The story is set in the not too distant future, where Washington, D.C. is the hub of PreCrime, a police force that uses the talents of three 'pre-cogs' to see murders before they happen and prevent them. John Anderton (Cruise) is the tortured head of the team who, while good at his job, struggles with an addiction to narcotics after the loss of his son. While Anderton and his team are being audited by the Department of Justice the pre-cogs predict a murder that shows Anderton as the killer. What follows is a furious chase as Anderton tries to prove his innocence while being hunted by his own men and the ambitious Department of Justice representative Danny Witwer (Farrell).

Throughout the frenetic and tense manhunt there are intimate, expository moments that get into the deeper layers of the story. The film's main theme is the question of free will vs. determinism, and whether or not the future can be determined or not. Spielberg wisely avoids directing the viewer toward one point of view or another, and allows the film to play out to its conclusion. Also up for debate is the issue of what role government should play in the protection of its people, as well as the ethics of holding innocents hostage and using their skills for the greater good.

I am reluctant to say much more about Minority Report because the layers are so many that this review could easily get too long, as well as the fact that I don't want to spoil what is a very engaging who done it. Cruise does a nice job as the conflicted hero, as does the always watchable Max Von Sydow as PreCrime's creator. If you plan to watch this film be prepared for a thrill ride, but also be prepared to do some in depth analysis. This is and isn't just an action movie.

Things to watch for-

Peter Stormare's snot rocket
Personalized advertising
Anne Lively
The 'hot' nurse
The Cyber Parlor

"There hasn't been a murder in six years. The system, it is perfect."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Farewell, Captain Crunch

Captain Horatio Crunch, the World War II naval hero and cereal magnate died Thursday at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was 98. A great commander who played a critical role in the defeat of Japan during World War II, Crunch retired from the navy in 1958 and made a fortune as the founder and mascot of the Cap’n Crunch Cereal brand.

Many expected Crunch to throw his trademark hat into the political ring upon his retirement, following in the footsteps of his dear friend Dwight Eisenhower, but he instead opted to take his sailboat The Guppy on a journey around the world with his wife Ramona Crunch. It was on that fateful trip in 1959 that Crunch came up with the idea for a cereal that would maintain its crunch when left in a bowl of milk for a prolonged period of time.

He immediately came back to his home in Lynchburg, Virginia and started working on his new cereal. His line of Cap’n Crunch cereals became a huge success, becoming the most popular children’s cereal from 1965-71. He was very active in the running of the business, appearing in commercials and donating a large portion of his profits to veterans’ causes.

Legal issues took a visible toll on the Captain in his later years, and he turned the business over to his son, Lt. Crunch. Several lawsuits from people who claimed that the cereal had cut the roof of their mouth, sustaining permanent damage threatened the Captain’s fortune. All of these were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts, but it had a profound effect on Crunch’s health and he was forced into a wheelchair.

Despite his failing health, Captain Crunch continued to appear in public to promote his cereal up until this last February when he choked on a crunch berry and needed to be hospitalized. Crunch will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next to his close friend Colonel Sanders.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Fun Facts

Forgive my recent dearth of blog posts, I have been busy with my other love- Boondoggle. I will now enlighten you with some facts, true facts, about stuff.

Comedian and actor Ben Stein worked as a speech writer and lawyer for President Richard Nixon.

April 16 is International Record Store Day. Thanks to NPR for that one.

Sportscaster and former football player Ahmad Rashad's real name is Bobby Moore.

Jimmy Fallon isn't funny.

The first choice to play James Bond was Cary Grant, but he was passed over after he made it clear to the producers he would only do one film and not a whole series.

Ringo Starr is the oldest Beatle.

The Metropolitan Police (London) are nicknamed 'Bobbies' as a tribute to the founder of the police force, Sir Robert Peel.

There is a small percentage of the population that are considered 'short sleepers' who only need 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night and can function as well as those who get 8 or 9 hours a night.

Now don't you feel smarter?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Movie of the Week

This week,


Starring- Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris

The last great western film I've seen was this Oscar winner from one of my all time favorite badasses, Clint Eastwood. Unforgiven is the story of aging bandit and killer, Will Munny who is asked to come out of retirement to hunt some unsavory characters who cut up a prostitute in the town of Big Whiskey. Joining Munny are his old partner, Ned (Freeman) and the Scofield Kid, a young would-be killer who needs the veteran Munny's killing instincts.

The sheriff of Big Whiskey, Little Bill (Hackman), is unhappy about the fact that the ladies of the brothel have offered a reward for the deaths of the men who hurt their friend because he will not allow firearms in his town. Another more famous killer, English Bob (Harris) and his biographer arrive in Big Whiskey, hoping to secure the reward, but Bill savagely beats Bob and arrests him, showing what will happen to men who bring guns and violence to his town. The story then follows Munny, Ned and the Kid as they track the bandits, but eventually they run afoul of Little Bill and his men. The film ends exactly how you would want it to, with a classic showdown between Eastwood and Hackman.

Unforgiven is a tribute to a dying genre, and it captures the raw and visceral world of the western in a way that the films of Don Siegel and Sergio Leone did. Eastwood dedicated the film to those two men, and it is clear that this film was a dark and violent love letter to western films. The story is not particularly new or innovative, but where this film goes to the next level is the acting. Few westerns boast such a strong, veteran cast, and even the supporting roles are filled by solid performers. Saul Rubinek as the weasely writer, W.W. Beauchamp is of particular note. If you enjoy westerns, Unforgiven is a frank and ugly depiction of a world that has not been delved into this well since 1992.

Things to watch for-

Going to the bathroom can be deadly
When Will starts drinking
Little Bill recounts the gunfight at the Blue Bottle
The Duck of Death

"It's a hell of a thing, killin' a man. You take away all he's got, and all he's ever gonna have."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hey, you, Schmohawk!

Try as they might, people keep doing dumb/annoying/lame things and scream to be given Schmohawk status. I must oblige them and put them here for all to see and ridicule.


Wow. I haven't heard such bad things about a musical since I ripped apart anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The Schmohawks behind Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark have taken forever to put together a ridiculously expensive worker's comp lawsuit set to the lameass music of Bono and The Edge. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should- oh wait, nevermind, they can't even get through one performance without some kind of snafu. Julie Taymor and the rest of her Schmohawk buddies need to try something a little less involved next time, like Hawkman.


This Utah Representative, and first class Schmohawk sponsored a Bill to designate a state gun. The Browning M1911 pistol is now one of Utah's symbols along with the beehive and sugar beet. Did this guy miss that whole shooting rampage in Arizona a few months back? What a massive Schmohawk! I can't even put into words how off putting something like this is. The last thing we need is a state gun, but now thanks to Carl Wimmer we wasted precious hours on an inane piece of legislation, when there are sooooo many more important things that our elected officials should be worried about.


I know predicting the weather isn't an exact science, but most of the time these Schmohawks can't even come close. Too many times this winter we were told to brace for "Snowmageddon"and then NOTHING HAPPENED! Yes, it's good to be prepared, but there is such a thing as going overboard. If I was wrong at my job as often as weather forecasters are, I would be fired. A tip for the weather people, just give us the 7 day forecast and we'll move on. With these guys and gals there's a 70% chance of Schmohawkery.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Some More Favorite Salt Lake Places

I have lived in Salt Lake City a long time, and know many of its restaurants, shops and speakeasies well. Here now are a few more of my favorite spots in my hometown.


This place has been a staple in SLC since 1981. I know it well because I worked there for about five years while I was in college. Unlike other restaurants I have worked in, I never got sick of the food at The Dodo. It boasts a very diverse and unique menu, as well as the best desserts I have ever tasted. While the Toll House Pie is the most popular, I prefer the silky smooth Chocolate Almond Mousse Pie or the sinfully rich Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Pie. Also, let's not forget The Dodo's signature item- the Smoked Turkey Sandwich and House Salad. The sandwich comes with a side of barbeque dipping sauce that is good enough to drink by itself. MMMM boy, I could sure go for a turkey sandwich right now.


The oldest restaurant in Salt Lake, Lamb's has one of the best and most affordable breakfasts I have ever eaten. The decor is very old fashioned, but has been kept up over the years, so that it looks the same as when I was a child. The long counter and dark wood booths are the perfect setting for a hearty, perfectly cooked meal that is served by a polite and experienced staff. I haven't ever gone there for lunch or dinner, but if they are anything like breakfast, I'm sure you will leave satisfied.


I must be hungry because I keep listing restaurants, but this one is very worthy of a mention. The original location is on 3rd South and has some of the best Greek food around. I love the cheerful staff and the speed with which they prepare the tasty Gyros, rice, Souvlaki and fries for which they are so well known. There are other decent Greek places in Salt Lake, but this one is my favorite and the most consistent. Yassou!