Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hollywood + Middle America = Uh Oh

I have two thumbs and thus two rules of thumb about movies. Thumb one, when a movie is a surprise hit and they make an unplanned sequel in response, the sequel will always be atrocious. Because, you see, nobody writes a movie and withholds good jokes and ideas just to save them for an unplanned sequel. So the filmmakers end up trying to copy the first movie with some new twists and turns. This always ends up working out non-beautifully, like in the case of The Spy Who Shagged Me or MIBii. Or is it MibII? Or MIB:II. Either way.

Thumb two, when a script is about either politics or Hollywood itself and it attracts a large cast of stars who all "loved the script", it will probably be terrible. Like, say, State and Main. Or now, Swing Vote. Kevin Costner putting up $21 million of his own money to portray an average, beer-swilling American slob? George Lopez, Dennis Hopper, Kelsey Grammer, Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci. Oh gosh. Oh dear. Gee, I wonder if Stanley Tucci will play a slick and slimy Republican operative.

He does.

Stanley Tucci:Oily slicksters::Jeff Goldblum:Crazy scientists.

The trailer has it all! A guy who likes fishing more than politics. The proverbial having a beer with a candidate, which doesn't go as well as you might think. A sassy 12-year old who is wiser than people three and four times her age. Nathan Lane acting like a fussy gay. Broad portraits of saturated media coverage. Oof.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This Total Maverick Will Say Anything!

John McCain needs those bedrock Republican votes, so he has long promised to never, ever raise taxes, not even to pay down a half a trillion dollar national debt. Taxes suck, man! You want me to pay taxes? Then tax pussy! Oh man, I'd be paying sooooooo much tax on a pussy tax! Hooo!

Indeed, Mr. McCain frequently has promised not to raise taxes. At a July 7 town-hall meeting in Denver, he said voters faced a stark choice between him and Democrat Barack Obama. "Sen. Obama will raise your taxes," Mr. McCain said. "I won't."

In a March 16 interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity, Mr. McCain said he would cut taxes where possible, and not raise them.

"Do you mean none?" Mr. Hannity asked.

"None," Mr. McCain replied.

So there you have it. John McCain will never raise taxes. Except for when he does. For instance, he's now open to raising payroll taxes to keep Social Security going.


McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds has clarified on Fox, "He hasn't reversed themselves because he's always been in support of lower taxes. He's never voted in favor of a higher tax. He's said again and again that he's not going to raise taxes."

"But when you're talking about the Social Security debate, you're really talking about a different type of debate... if you want to make an honest effort to try and fix Social Security, you're going to have to put everything on the table... John McCain is absolutely for maintaining Social Security benefits," Bounds said.



Everything is on the table. Like raising taxes. Which is fine. I don't mind paying taxes because I like fire departments and paved roads and such and such. But I'm not the one running for President with grand promises of no taxes.

Anyway, Tucker Bounds - has there been a whiter, more Republican name ever? - seems to do a lot of clarifying after McCain speaks these days. This time, he's making it clear that although McCain has said again and again he's not going to raise taxes, he's going to raise taxes to save Social Security. I don't think that's what Tucker set out to do, but it's what he did.

And...fine. Really no surprise there, since McCain is such a staunch supporter of Social Security. Always has been. Can't wait to start collecting his own checks come November, in fact. Except for that time he called Social Security a disgrace. Although he loves Social Security, he hates how current workers pay for the benefits of past workers. Even though that's the way the system was set up, how it's supposed to work and always has worked. In McCain's defense, maybe he just never looked into it before. In McCain's prosecution, maybe he's just a bargain basement idiot.


So McCain is going to fix Social Security for the young woman in the above clip. He developed an instant crush on her because she was the only person under 60 at his campaign rally and he would love to help solve her problems. Also because Cindy is getting kind of wrinkly and it might be time to trade her in on a newer model.


And how's he going to fix it? By raising payroll taxes on younger workers to help pay for future retirees, keeping the system alive. Good plan! Unless you're courting the conservative vote, of course.

Summer polls seems to show that most voters prefer Obama, although they consider McCain to be a safer choice. Which is odd, because there's absolutely no way to tell what McCain believes or what he would do in office. Not by his own words, at least.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Professional Media Insight

Professional football writer and renowned Favreophile Peter King traveled all the way to Mississippi on horseback this weekend to find out where Brett Favre may or not play football this coming fall.

Peter King is paid a lot of money by both NBC and Sports Illustrated to provide viewers and readers with insights on the NFL. Inside information that football fans can't get by themselves or from blog, bloggers and blogging. So some corporation paid for a round trip plane ticket, a hotel room and a food per diem so Peter King could break some news. Maybe they saved on the hotel if Favre let King spend the night in his garage with his beloved riding mower. About $600 later, here's what professional football Peter King was able to come up with:

...none of us in the media really, truly knows where Favre is going to end up.

Okay, not off to a great start. King follows that up by saying he doesn't think Packer GM Ted Thompson would release Favre because if Thompson did, King's best guess is that Favre would sign with Minnesota. His best guess! He spent an entire day with Favre and came away with no idea where he wants to sign if released. Me, that would've been my first question. Also, I know fans care about rivalries much more than players do, but does Favre really care that little about Packer fans, the people that were with him through thick and thin for over a decade, that he would go straight to playing for one of their most hated rivals?

Favre is not going to stop demanding his release, at least not now. Thompson asked Favre for a list of teams he'd accept a trade to on Saturday -- for at least the second time -- and Favre would not give him one. That's because the minute Favre gives Thompson a list, the Packers will get a deal done with one of the teams on the list.

Boy, it really sounds like Favre wants to play for Minnesota. And also, it really sounds like he is a complete dildo. And also also, for King to know this, Favre would've had to tell him something like, "I don't want to give him a list of trade teams, cause then he'll trade me there." Apparently, King did not end the conversation right at this point with the declaration, "You know what? You're an idiot."

I think Thompson would like to have Favre in reserve in case Aaron Rodgers gets hurt -- imagine what Monday-morning-quarterbacking (hey, King, stop stealing your own line!) would ensue if Thompson traded Favre and Rodgers went down for the year the next day with a torn hammy -- I think he believes it'd be better to just let him go somewhere else now.

Favre? Brian Brohm is the backup if Rodgers gets hurt! And, judging from his one appearance last season, Rodgers will get hurt. Also, if Rodgers did get hurt and Thompson had traded Favre, why would fans care if the trade was in July or September?

And then King got quotes from Favre that were generally of the "I wasn't sure what I wanted at the time, they asked for a decision, I could've lied..." variety. That's true. Except Favre - or King - doesn't mention that the reason Ted Thompson wanted a final decision so early in the offseason is that Favre went back and forth the previous two offseasons, leaving the Packers to spend all summer wondering what just might happen with their team.

So when professional football writer Peter King travels to Mississippi on the company dime to interview his good friend Brett Favre for a mainstream media publication, what do we learn?
  • Nobody knows where Brett Favre will end up this fall.
  • Except that it won't be Minnesota.
  • Maybe something will happen later this year.

Great! Thank you for the insight, Sports Illustrated! It's not possible for me to read an article and know less than I did before I read it, but this is as close as you can get! Where can I sign up for a five-year subscription?

John Bolton Thinks Things Are Going Super

Let's say for most of your adult life, you believed in an idea. Let's call it Idea A. For nearly two decades, you extolled Idea A to nearly everybody you came across. Finally, when your hair was gray, one of your friends came to power and you soon found yourself in a position of power. After so many years of just talking about Idea A, you were finally able to enact it. And when you did, it was an out and out disaster. Everything about it went wrong, every outcome Idea A predicted went awry.

So after another man gave a speech saying that he believed Idea B was the right path, what would you do? Would you quietly think Idea B isn't well-founded? Would you realize your Idea A was wrong and Idea B did have some merit? Or would you loudly denounce Idea B n a public forum and continue to espouse Idea A before the flames on it were even out and you could sift through the ashes?

Well, John Bolton scribbled an editorial for Saturday's Los Angeles Times in which he called Obama's recent speech in Germany radical and naive.

Now, I might argue that invading another nation on the flimsiest of evidence is radical. I might argue that still believing in the domino theory and thinking that it applies to the Middle East is naive. Or that we would be welcomed as liberators is naive. Or that thinking other countries will do what the United States tells them to do just because we said so is naive. But that's just me, a rational person, speaking.

It would be one thing if this was 1997 and Bolton was talking about a Bill Clinton speech about Bosnia. But in 2008, every pet neoconservative theorem and hypothesis - foreign and domestic - has been implented, tested and failed miserably. The only way Bolton's most cherished ideas could've failed more spectacularly is if his pet theory was that he could jump Snake River Canyon on a rocketbike. And yet the Times wants to know what he thinks about things. Interesting.

Differing opinions are fine, of course, and the Times is probably just trying to temper charges of Obama love. But to run a column from a man whose principles and thoughts are completely irrelevant and obsolete to how the world works is real fun. While we're at it, let's find out what the inventor of the 8-track thinks about his audio format versus mp3.

Bolton school where might makes right and other countries should simply heed all U.S. demands, at best, worked for one month in 2003. At worst, it never worked and never will work. At very, very worst, that idea ends up with our strongest ally issuing a proclamation in their House of Commons that our government's word is not to be trusted. Like we're Zimbabwe.

But by all means, Mr. former Ambassador, please continue de-illuminating us!

But there are larger implications to Obama's rediscovery of the "one world" concept, first announced in the U.S. by Wendell Willkie, the failed Republican 1940 presidential nominee, and subsequently buried by the Cold War's realities.

In American history, only two people have ever espoused working with allies. Wendell Willkie and Barack Obama. They both have silly names. No wonder they both loved Europe so much! But more importantly, we get our first Cold War reference only one-quarter of our way into this enlightening piece. The Cold War is over but Bolton, Cheney and their ilk have never stopped living it, never stopped reacting to it and their Cold War-influenced policies are why we're so screwed up on the world stage today.

The successes Obama refers to in his speech -- the defeat of Nazism, the Berlin airlift and the collapse of communism -- were all gained by strong alliances defeating determined opponents of freedom, not by "one-worldism."

Bolton has taken Obama's belief that the world can and should stand as one against great problems and dangers, declared it "one-worldism" and decided that it has nothing to do with strong alliances. One world working together on an issue is not an alliance. Alliances and the world standing as one are somehow completely opposing concepts. Even if the world is standing as one in an alliance against the Nazis. If you are lost by that line of thinking, sorry, you're just not John Bolton.

On top of that, our strongest alliance in defeating both Nazism and the Berlin Airlift and the Soviets was Great Britain. A country which, again, just issued a proclamation saying they don't trust the word of our government, thanks to the influence of people like John Bolton on our policies. It all comes full circle, right before that circle rolls into a dark pit of despair.


Although the senator was trying to distinguish himself from perceptions of Bush administration policy within the Atlantic Alliance, he was in fact sketching out a post-alliance policy, perhaps one that would unfold in global organizations such as the United Nations.

There is nothing John Bolton fears and loathes more than the United Nations. Not even a 5-foot long tarantula. His brief tenure there, granted by recess appointment so Congress shouldn't shoot it down, was the most harrowing time of his life. He almost died of an anxiety attack one day after talking to a man who didn't know English for four seconds. One time at lunch, an aide brought him a pizza with two toppings on it and they had to break out the heart paddles to shock Bolton back to consciousness.

Second, Obama used the Berlin Wall metaphor to describe his foreign policy priorities as president: "The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."This is a confused, nearly incoherent compilation...


If Bolton thinks that metaphor is incoherent, I'm surprised he can find his way to work every day in only one try. All those incoherent street signs with different messages on them everywhere! Here's a metaphor Bolton has no trouble cohering: "U.S. good, everything else bad." THAT he gets! So does Frankenstein's monster. Also, Bolton LIKES walls. He wants to build a wall around the entire perimeter of the United States. And that is not a metaphor. He wants a literal brick wall, 76 feet high.

But beyond the incoherence, there is a deeper problem, namely that "walls" exist not simply because of a lack of understanding about who is on the other side but because there are true differences in values and interests that lead to human conflict.

Yes, and sometimes the people on one side of that wall absolutely refute to budge from their position even one millimeter. Sometimes people on one side of that wall even refuse to discuss what they're willing to negotiate. Sometimes those people are named John Bolton. Although even Bolton's demi-god, Ronald Reagan met with the Soviets. I guess he was soft after all.

Intentional or not, we're more or less following Bolton's cherished unilaterism in Iraq. Our current alliance there is basically the Army and Marines because every other country has bailed. One other alliance we actually tried, Pakistan, was and is an out and disaster. An article in Sunday's Los Angeles Times discussed this and how the "war on terror" in Pakistan is no longer making progress. Partially because Pakistan barely has a government and partially because they don't care what we tell them to do, no matter how much money we give them for planes and missiles. That's an effect of the Pakistani general populace having split feelings about the U.S. and al Qaeda. In Pakistan, we poll even with terrorists. Nice world image we've cultivated there. Experts feel that when Bush leaves office, Pakistan will be like Afghanistan was when he entered office. The net effect of seven years of Bolton and Bush's beloved tough guy, unilateral, do what we say policies with be that Osama bin Laden had to move 50 miles west. I know people that commute 50 miles to work.

If we didn't waste the universal goodwill we had after 9/11/01, the one world feel good vibe if you will, maybe a multilateral force could've stayed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the frontier region and we'd have bin Laden by now. Or, at the very least, the tiniest inkling where he might be hiding. But we had to do it Bolton's way. Now it's us against the world and the world is winning.


What's more, our unilateral approach to Iran has made Iran stronger and more influential in the region. Bolton's approach has had the exact opposite effect and this White House intended. Tough to do. Bolton, ever the tough guy, criticizes Obama for saying he'd meet with Iran. Not meet Iran's demands, meet with Iran. Clearly, Bolton feels his policies on Iran have been a runaway success and they should be continued. Clearly, Bolton has no idea what he's talking about. He apparently can't tell the difference between demands and negotiations. He wants Iran to cease their nuclear program, then says the U.S. can't meet with them until they do. That's the entire point of the meeting! If they cease the program, we don't need negotations! "Mr. Bolton, we like your resume and we'd think you might be a good fit for company comptroller. Would you be available Tuesday at one for an interview?" "Oh no. No, no, no. I'm not coming in for an interview until you give me the job!"

Here's a man whose sole guiding principal in life is completely wrong. Quickly becoming totally irrelevant on the world stage. A man who might be all too happy to let the missiles start flying since we have the biggest and best missiles and then the United States will control the smoky, rocky, ashen husk of what used to be Earth. A man who, come January 2009, will never have even an ounce of influence on U.S. policy again. And the Los Angeles Times wants to know what he thinks about Obama's speech.


I'm looking forward to relegating Bolton and his ilk back to the foundations, think tanks, small publishing houses and op-ed pages, away from government levers where they can actually institute their myopic and idiotic policies, much to the suffering of other people.


I'm also looking forward to next Saturday's Times editorial from GM CEO Rick Wagoner discussing how they're building a bigger and heavier Hummer because Americans want a car that gets four miles per gallon. It will share a page with an opinion piece from Angelo Mozilo opining that the alternative mortgage market is a strong investment, just above a piece from Robert McNamara arguing that we can still win in Vietnam if we just bear down and try.

Friday, July 25, 2008

John McCain Literally Doesn't Know What's Going On

While people are starting to debate whether McCain is too old or too regular dumb to be President, I have moved past such hair splitting to a different camp. I don't particularly care why McCain struggles to grasp various facts and details, I just don't want him making decisions about anything ever. I don't even want him ordering lunch for me because, at this point, I would end up with a pancake sandwich on rye with lettuce and syrup.

McCain's most recent mistake came during a vigorous defense of our troop surge, which he credits for the Anbar Awakening. In that series of battles, a group of sheiks and their respective tribes decided they had had enough of Al Qaeda and banded together to chase them out of Anbar province. That success story would give great credit to the surge strategy except for one small problem. Just a tiny issue. It's hardly anything, really. You see, the Anbar Awakening happened BEFORE the surge started.

If that's not enough for you - and if it isn't, I'm not sure what would be, you greedy bastard! - McCain went on to say that Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Rishu was protected by the surge. The glorious surge. Sattar is the one people credit for influencing Sunni leaders to fight back against Al Qaeda in Iraq. McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds added, "If Barack Obama had had his way, the Sheiks who started the Awakening would have been murdered at the hands of al Qaeda."

Daaaaaaammmmmmmmn! Burn, Obama! You're so naive about the world, Barack. Except...hang on. What? Sattar was assassinated by Al Qaeda in September 2007? During the surge? I...hold on. Let's step back here. So far McCain has claimed something in 2007 caused something in 2006, and then he said the surge protected a man who was killed during the surge. Do I have that right? I do. Oh God.

Boy, I can't even imagine a way things could get worse for McCain regarding the surge. No, wait, I can. That's right. That's why I'm still writing. As Joe Conason points out, after the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, Iraqis thought we'd be leaving and started pulling things together.

In other words, Obama's plan for withdrawal is not only endorsed by Prime Minister Maliki and most Iraqis, it's actually an effective threat that helps unify Iraqis.

I'm as prone to exaggeration as anybody else, but quite literally, John McCain has no idea what he's talking about when he mentions Iraq. Or, come to think of it, foreign policy. Or domestic issues. Or the economy. Pretty solid candidate you have there, GOP!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

McCain Campaign Releases New Poster

Riding high on the success of this glorious imagery, the McCain staff has released a new poster. Personally, I think it's even more beautiful and effective at getting its message across. That message being, John McCain will bring peace no matter what the cost.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Old Man Tired Brain

John McCain is starting to complain that the media is in love with Barack Obama, which is a bit like Bush complaining that Cheney doesn't care about the environment. Of course, this media favor dust up has nothing on the time Obama hit his wiffle ball over the fence on to McCain's lawn. Oh my God, was McCain mad that day. He still hasn't given Obama his ball back. Anyway, the media are the ones who have advanced the theme that McCain is some maverick with foreign policy expertise when everything seems to indicate otherwise, so how biased could they be? (Side note: Do you think McCain has voted for his own video, since he's admitted he doesn't know how to use computers?)

Yes, the media seems to favor Obama's radical "I probably won't bomb anybody in my first 100 days" policy over McCain's sensible "I will bomb everybody immediately just to be safe" plan.

And yes, lately the media is writing more pieces asking whether McCain is ignorant, senile or a combination of both. But is that reflective of an inherent bias or just some actual reporting? Let's take a look at the latest of these articles and McCain's comments therein to see just what's going on here.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said "Iraq" on Monday when he apparently meant "Afghanistan", adding to a string of mixed-up word choices that is giving ammunition to the opposition...McCain appeared to confuse Iraq and Afghanistan in a “Good Morning America” interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, who asked whether the "the situation in Afghanistan is precarious and urgent.”
McCain responded: “I'm afraid it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border," McCain said. The ABC posting added: “Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border. Afghanistan and Pakistan do.”


Oh, come on! No, Iraq does not share a border with Pakistan, but India does and that's another I country. Iraq does share a border with Iran, yet another I country. And we have combat zones in both Iraq and Afghanistan right now. You can see how confusing this gets, even for a foreign policy expert like McCain. He never said he was a geography expert! Besides, not knowing Middle Eastern and Central Asian borders just makes him like 80% of American voters. Lastly, people who are concerned that McCain wants to bomb Iran can rest easy. He doesn't even know where it is! Bias!

McCain aides point out that he spends much more time than Obama talking extemporaneously, taking questions from voters and reporters. "Being human and tripping over your tongue occasionally doesn't mean a thing," a top McCain official said.

Right! Anybody can read off a note card and get things right. You try getting things right off the top of your head when you don't know what you're talking about in the first place. Bias!

Among the other lapses: “Somalia” for “Sudan”: As recounted in a reporter’s pool report from McCain’s Straight Talk Express bus on June 30, the senator said while discussing Darfur, a region of Sudan: "How can we bring pressure on the government of Somalia?" Senior adviser Mark Salter corrected him: “Sudan.”

Come on! Black people are in both of these countries! And black people have been killed in both countries! What's the damn difference? If you want to argue that these are two entirely different countries with two entirely different set of challenges, that Somalia is becoming a haven for Al Qaeda and Sudan is being overladen with guns from China, you're just splitting gray hairs.

Oh, and calling McCain staffers "senior" advisers? Bias!

A YouTube clip from last year memorializes McCain referring to Vladimir Putin of Russia — following a trip to Germany — as “President Putin of Germany.”

Germany and Russia were both in World War II. Just because they fought against each other doesn't mean they aren't basically the same country. Bias!

This spring, McCain said troops in Iraq were “down to pre-surge levels” when in fact there were 20,000 more troops than when the surge policy began.

Look, McCain supports the surge. So what if doesn't know every tiny manpower detail about troop strength related to the position he supports? Bias! Just because those 20,000 troops have at least 100,000 family members hoping they come home soon doesn't mean McCain is just another old guy who's bad with numbers. Bias!

In perhaps the most curious incident, McCain said earlier this month that as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he had tried to confuse his captors by giving the names of Pittsburgh Steelers starting players when asked to identify his squadron mates. McCain has told the story many times over the years — but always correctly referred to the names he gave as members of the Green Bay Packers.

That's the most curious incident? Anyway, both Green Bay and Pittsburgh are small cities with NFL teams, and both teams wear gold pants. Just because McCain was a POW from 1968-1973 and and the Steelers didn't win their first Super Bowl until 1975 doesn't mean he's old and confused. He made that comment in Pittsburgh. It wasn't a slip, it was pandering! Come on! Bias!

Also this spring, McCain twice appeared to mistake Sunnis and Shiites, two branches of Islam that split violently.

Listen, if he can't even tell Germans and Russians apart, how in the world do you think he's going to tell brown people apart? Just because every single Iraqi conflict stems from this fundamental religious difference and McCain claims to be a foreign policy expert doesn't mean he's senile. So what if the Shiites in Iraq identify with fellow Shiites in Iran more than Iraqi Sunnis, influencing every policy we try to enact in Iraq? McCain is old, but that schism happened 800 years ago. He's not that old! Bias!

Voters, thinking about their own relatives, can be expected to scrutinize McCain’s debate performances for signs of slippage. Every voter has a parent, grandparent or a friend whose mental acuity declined as they grew older.

Oh nice. Pointing out that McCain is like your grandpa who falls asleep at the Thanksgiving table after yelling that he hates gooks and those slopes poisoned his potatoes? Bias!

I tell you what, if this media bias in favor of Obama keeps up until November, this country is going to end up electing a young, energetic, intelligent President who knows what he's talking about. Is that really what this country needs?

John McCain is a maverick! Sure, it's in the same way the guy who begs for change on the freeway on ramp is a maverick, but still. Maverick!

Addendum! This poster, incredible as it is, is not more evidence that McCain is senile. Yes, it has McCain floating in the clouds, watching over us all, and it has fighter jets and the word "Peace" right next to each other, but it's not like McCain designed. Remember, he can't even use a computer!

We Have A Boarder

It's just so quiet in our house with only a single 2-year old running around, so we decided to bring in a boarder. A tenant. Her name is Eudora. Although we thought she would add some energy to the homestead, she is very quiet and private. She stays in the garage all day and when we go in there, she usually scrambles out of sight. Here's a picture of her.


Look at the size of that black widow! God, how many past mates has she eaten? That thing is big enough to start charging it rent.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Elevate Your Heart Rate, Mate

Medical types advise elevating your heart rate three to four times a week, ideally for at least 30 minutes, to maintain vim and vigor. There are a wide variety of ways you can do it. A brisk walk. Pickup basketball. Frantic sexual activity. Though doing that three to four times a week is stretch for even the best of us.

Or you can try a new method I discovered Saturday last. Accidentally knocking somebody else's child into the pool.

Okay, the long version. We were at a party and Abby wanted to go into the pool. I made the proper trunkatory preparations and dived in. At which point she no longer wanted to go into the pool. But a 3-year old at the party did, so I boated him around on a raft for a bit. He didn't have much pool experience, but he did have a floaty vest on, so I was not the most concerned. Also, I had just consumed three tacos and four beers, so I was in great pool shape.

After some raft boating, I got bored and decided to switch things up a bit. One thing Abby loves is when Daddy jumps over her and into the pool, so I thought I'd try that with young Will since we were down in the deep end. Young Will is not as adventurous as Abby, or perhaps his father is not as childish, so even though I cleared him by a good two feet, he ducked out of the way. In doing so, he fell into the pool. He was now the only other person in the pool besides me.

As I jumped over Will, I looked back to see what he thought. Before I hit the water, I saw him go in. If it was a Tom and Jerry cartoon, I would screeched to an air stop and then sprinted across the water. But, being human, the best I could was hit the water, spin around and furiously swim back to young Will, who had by this time bobbed to the surface in his vest. Face down.

I quickly hoisted him out of the pool on the ground and wiped the water from his face. He quickly calmed down, I quickly calmed down, the party quickly calmed down. Then he wanted to get back on the raft.

It was a great workout. And I got my heart rate high enough that I don't need any more exercise for the rest of the week.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Which Side Am I On Here?

The View is always good for tender and educational moments, but there was a discussion this week that made me lose all sense of the world. Oh sure, I'm used to Elisabeth Hasselbeck making convoluted arguments and breaking down in tears, but this time I don't know what to think!

I mean, which side am I on here? Am I with the white conversative Republican who loves President Bush like a brother and is crying because the word nigger exists in the same world as her children? Or am I with the liberal old black lady who thinks the word is no big deal?

Listen people, if we're going to stay a polarized society, we need to keep clear sides on these matters.

A Primer On Apostrophe's

I have a problem. That problem being that I am naturally pretentious. As such, it drives me right up to the edge of insane when I see typos on menus or road side signs. Yes, I realize that there are people in the world whose main daily problem is mere survival, but I've got that issue licked, so I can focus on the trivial.

It's about standards, and this country is reaching a point where we have none. We've gone from a society in which the dumb are feared and mocked for their ignorance and unpredictability to one in which the intelligent are mocked because of their smarts and demand for standards. I'm not sure about you, but I don't like being smarter than the President. I find it to be awkward. Incidentally, how the dumb flipped the conventional wisdom on intelligence around on the smart is one of the great paradoxes in American history.

With the dumb now prevailing, making mistakes is no longer a shameful act, as it might be in Europe, India or Asia. Rather, it's commonplace. The general reaction is "Whatever". With a modern generation beginning to assume more positions of influence, we're even seeing typos and apostrophe mistakes turn up in commercials and television graphics. Not because people missed it, but because they can look at it and not even realize there is a mistake.

Right now, if you're thinking "Who cares? It's just an apostrophe. It's not like the end of world." congratulations. You are officially part of the problem! Feel shame! Feel shame now!

Here's a fun little game that will bring the whole family together around a roaring fire. I call it, Spot The Incorrect Apostrophes In The Following Paragraph. Or, STIAITFP. Say it, STEE-aye-tifp.

The Capicola family passed through Ellis Islands' gates in the 1920's. They were a family who's appetite was renowned and the Capicola's had the Italian's love of pasta. In the 70's, Andre' Capicola gave up growing tomato's and canteloupe's on it's families' farm and invented the VCR. Since then, they have sold millions of VCR's and Capicolas money let's him play bocce every day.

If you answered "They're all wrong!" hurrah for you! You're smart enough to be scoffed at by McCain voters. The plural of acronyms do not get an apostrophe, it's VCRs. Decades get the apostrophe in front, as in '70s. And for some reason, people think when a word ends in a vowel, the plural form needs an apostrophe. How this started is beyond me. And when you have a word ending in a vowel that is plural possessive, forget it. All bets are off. I'm surprised people don't write Capi'co'la's' just to play it safe. The Capicolas' farm, that is correct. Andre Capicola's VCR wealth, that is correct.

We just have to care, everybody. We just have to care. Let's start caring together, you and me!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

John McCain Doesn't Know What Year It Is

On Monday, McCain was giving a speech and trying to show that he'll continue Bush's foreign policy stance of not caring what any other country thinks about anything ever because that's what appeals to the Republican base. John Wayne!

"I was concerned about a couple of steps that the Russian government took in the last several days. One was reducing the energy supplies to Czechoslovakia. Apparently that is in reaction to the Czech's agreement with us concerning missile defense, and again some of the Russian now announcement they are now retargeting new targets, something they abandoned at the end of the Cold War, is also a concern."

The problem is, Czechoslovakia dissolved into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Fifteen years ago! That was so long ago that John McCain was still with it. Though, in fairness, he was speechifying about missile defense systems against Russia, and that's an idea that hasn't been relevant since the end of the Cold War sixteen years ago.

But hey, old people say weird things now and then, right? You have to cut them a break, even if they're competing to run the entire country. Even if they do it twice.

"I've suggested a long time ago a League of Democracies and it's very clear that Russia and China and especially Russia will veto significant measures, which would impact the behavior of the Iranians. And I regret that and I regret some of the recent behavior that Russia has exhibited [...] including reduction in oil supplies to Czechoslovakia after they agreed with us on missile defense system, et cetera."

Mind you, McCain is running on his foreign policy expertise. ! !! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"I'm so old. My back hurts. Music these days, I don't unnerstan it. These computer boxes with the online, what's that for? In my day, Czechoslovakia was a country and we liked it!" Incidentally, that clip there is so old that when it was first aired, Czechoslovakia was still a country.

Anyway, rest easy, Iran. Even though John McCain talks a tough game against you, if he somehow manages to get elected, he's going to invade Prussia first and show that Kaiser a thing or two.

Dear Oh Dear

A benchmark was passed yesterday evening. The first Krogmann Farms figs of the season were harvested. Four big, plump, purple beauties just hanging there. These first four were like the tallest boy in a 7th grade class, the one who hit puberty first, in that they were ripe and ready when 99% of the tree was still hard green buds. And also that the taste wasn't fully sweet yet. Still a little bitter. Still in that gangly, awkward phase.

We are only weeks away from Uncle Mike's 2008 Country Figjam, people!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Head To Toe Eating

I've said for a while that America is the only country in the world that dines only on prime cuts. Except for hot dogs and sausage, of course, the most exotic part of the animal we usually eat is the ribs. I guess that's what happens when your country is founded on shooting buffalo for sport and leaving the carcasses to the vultures. Except for black Americans, who have always eaten chitlins and pigs' feet. You go off and have you own social conversation about black people being more like poor Europeans or Asians than Americans because of two centuries of institutional racism. That's not what I'm interested in today.

However, the trend of using the whole animal is growing among white people who can afford to eat out and wish they lived in Europe. Or, at the very least, among the restaurants these people go to and pay $6 for water at. As this post would have it, the wife and I went to just such a place this weekend for our fifth anniverary, Osteria Mozza.

If you live in Los Angeles, you know who Nancy Silverton is and you know this is her place. If you don't, you at least know who Mario Batali is and I can tell you he is a partner in this establishment. Although he is never, ever there, except maybe to eat twice a year.

I started off with the crispy pigs trotter. To make this, they boil the pig's feet, skim the meat pieces out of the water and bind the bits with gelatin. This is actually the same method used to make head cheese. Then they bread it into a puck and fry it. It was like liquid pig. Jelly pig. The meat was so soft that chewing was superfluous. I pressed the meat to the roof of my mouth with my tongue and it was simply absorbed into the bloodstream.

The wife's main course was calf's brain ravioli. They were good, but brain doesn't taste like much. It is soft. The pasta was good and the butter sage sauce was good. Mostly, this tasted like the sausage type spices they use in it. Unless they don't season it and brain is naturally peppery. That is unlikely, however.

My main was crispy sweetbreads piccata. It was one of the greatest things I've ever eaten. White like chicken breasts, soft and squeezy like tofu, these glands secreted deliciousness straight down my gullet. Rich, sweet, buttery, so incredibly flavorful and tasty. Fried perfectly. All i can say is, if you have hangups about this and can only eat chops, if you were served this without knowing what it was, it would instantly become your favorite dish. I swear to you on all that i believe in (which is about nothing), if they weren't so expensive (only one thymus per animal) fried sweetbreads could be dipped in ketchup or mustard and eaten at sporting events. A paper cup of fried sweetbreads. They are incredible.

I'm not telling you this because I think I'm better than you, though I most definitely do think that. I didn't do anything different than what somebody's Tuscan uncle has done once a month for all 70 of his years on this globe. All I'm doing is catching with non-English speakers. But man oh man, you gotta try it some time.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What Did You Do This Weekend?

I don't care, you didn't do as much as me. For starters, I moved 6,590 pounds of sand, rock and brick from the driveway to the backyard. I can be precise with that figure because I have it right here on the bill of sale from Balboa Brick and Supply Corporation. That's enough sand to cover 250 square feet of dirt two inches deep and 1,205 bricks. I could take 24 bricks in a single barrow load, so I made 51 trips from the driveway to the backyard. I wore a path in the yard so deep you could swim in it. Fill it up, use it as a slip and slide.

In 30 combined man/woman hours, the wife and I converted this:


Into this:

And eventually into this:

Then when we were done on Sunday, I was so hungry I came up with a new dish for dinner. I call it Buffalo Legs. Grill up some chicken legs, then slather them in Buffalo sauce (1/3 cup melted butter, 1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot). It's like eating some nuclear wasteland chicken wing. Dunk the whole damn leg in blue cheese like it's sunburned and the blue cheese is aloe. Oh man. So good. Buffalo Legs! They go great with fries and three beers.Meanwhile, you were sitting around eating frozen grapes and watching NASCAR. You no good layabout! You're why America is falling behind China and India! I was toiling! Trying to keep us on top for at least two more years!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer Chicken

I've come up with another new recipe. I'm calling this one Summer Chicken. It's pretty light and refreshing, just what you want in the summer. Eating this dish automatically knocks the humidity down 10 points.

  • Put 2 cups of chopped watermelon in a medium-sized bowl. Get those seeds out of there! God, what's wrong with you?
  • Halve two peaches, remove the pit and brush all over with oil. Put on a hot grill until nicely browned, about 3-5 minutes per side.
  • Let the peaches cool a bit, then chop 'em up and add to the watermelon.
  • Add about 4 tablespoons of chopped mint and 4 tablespoons of chopped cilantro, then stir it all up. You could substitute basil for cilantro if you like Italian people better than Mexicans. Personally, for me it's a draw. They're basically the same. Catholic, chubby and swarthy.
  • Grill two chicken breasts in your own personal style. If you're a simpleton, salt, pepper and olive oil. If you're more exotic, maybe some chili powder or a citrus marinade.
  • Put the grilled chicken on a bed of rice and then top with the fruit. You could also skip the rice and take this dish to taco town.
  • Drizzle the whole thing with some creme fraiche. If you can't find creme fraiche at the grocery store, you are a bad shopper. But if my pull yourself up by your bootstraps advice there doesn't help you find it, you can always cheat some creme fraiche with sour cream and milk. Just mix the two together until it will pour without being too runny. I'm sure there's a French for that state of solidity, but damn if I know it.

This dish will not revolutionize the culinary landscape. If you switched out chicken for snapper or some white fish, it's basically a 1988 Miami-style hotel dish. But whatever. It's good and refreshing and nice for summer.

Oh, Come On

One of McCain's advisors was on NPR this afternoon discussing the proposed budgets of Obama and McCain. In McCain's budget, we will begin significant drawdown of our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2013 and that will save us "mad loot, y'all." These insane savings will help balance out McCain's massive, untenable tax cuts and start to erase the deficit.

2013!

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "By 2013, this war will be 10 years old. It will have lasted almost 1/8th of John McCain's long, long, long life. Shoot, by 2013, John McCain might be dead of a stroke after clenching his jaw too hard upon hearing the new Miley Cyrus single."

But here's the takeaway. Basically, McCain's proposes to start removing our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan in the first year of his second term. He doesn't propose to do it in his first term because if it didn't happen for some unknown reason, maybe he wouldn't be re-elected.

He truly is a maverick. It's hard to figure out why people don't like politics.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

C.R.E.A.M.

Who could ever forget my fantastic recipe for summer tuna pasta? I'll answer my own rhetorical. Nobody could. But the other night, I came up with a creamy alternate that could possssssibly be better than the original. Onward and upward!

Here's what you'll need to greatly impress your dining companion(s).

- A box of pasta. It should be shells or rigatoni or orrechiette or something that can scoop up sauce in its li'l pockets.
- Two cans of good tuna in olive oil
- Grape tomatoes
- Chopped fresh basil and italian parsley
- Shredded parmesan
- Chili flakes
- A can of white beans
- Three cloves of minced garlic
- 1/4 cup of diced yellow or white onion
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- A bottle of nice white wine. May I recommend the Beaulieu Vineyards Pinot Grigio? I may? Oh, thank you.

Okay, here's how you make the magic happen.

- Open the wine and pour yourself a glass. Personally, I like to drink when I'm cooking. I also like to drink when I'm not cooking. I enjoy drinking in general.
- Boil some water and make the pasta.
- Drain the beans, then season with salt and pepper.
- Open one can of tuna and pour the oil into a pan that isn't non-stick. A stick pan, I guess. You know what I'm talking about. Heat it up. Drain the other can of tuna.
- Add the diced onion to the oil and sweat over medium low heat until it softens. That'll be about 6-8 minutes. Don't let it brown.
- Add the garlic to the pan, let it soften for uno minuto o dos minutos.
- Add the chopped basil and parsley to the pan and stir.
- Pour the cream into the pan. We've gone over how to reduce cream into sauce before, but you probably don't remember since you never listen to me. Basically, moderate the heat and keep stirring. If it bubbles up and over and the fat separates from the liquid, it's goodbye nice dinner. If it's bubbling like racial tension in the '60s, either turn down the heat or remove the pan from the flame until the scene cools down.
- Probably need a second glass of wine by this point. I know I would. Don't be shy. Wine is good for you.
- Chop up the tomatoes and add them to the pan. As many tomatoes as will suit your tastes. At least a cup, though.
- When the pasta is done, throw it in a large bowl.
- As the sauce thickens, add 1/4 cup of the shredded parmesan. This will thicken it even more. Ladies like thick more than long from what I hear. Too bad I'm long.
- Keep working that sauce until it's as thick as you want. Taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. You know sauce is thick when you drag your wooden spoon through the sauce and a trail of bare ass pan is left behind.
- Throw the beans over the pasta, then both cans of tuna, then the sauce and finally sprinkle the whole hot mess with chili flakes. Again, as much as will suit your tastes.
- Mix the whole thing up, portion into bowls and let the compliments roll in. If the compliments don't roll in, screw it, you have a nice wine buzz going. Don't let those dead tongues knock you off of your cloud, just don't invite them over to dinner again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Draft Arcana

In looking up NHL draft notes on Owen Nolan and spinning that off into its own thing, I kept going further and further down the hole until I had another entirely new post. So, since Owen Nolan entered the league in 1990, who are the worst top ten picks, who are the best late rounders and what other draft oddities could I find? (NOTE: No, I am not the first person to ever think of this.)


The Worst of the Best
Who were the worst top 10 picks of the last two decades? Not surprisingly, it's a pretty long list.

2006 - #10 - Michael Frolik - Florida
Mainly because he's the only one of the top 13 picks that year to not play an NHL game yet.

2005 - #2 - Bobby Ryan - Anaheim
Jack Johnson, Carey Price, Anze Kopitar and Marc Staal all were drafted after Ryan, who has shown nothing during his 23 early season NHL games.

2004 - #6 - Al Montoya - New York Rangers
It's been three years and this alleged University of Michigan superstar hasn't seen a single second of NHL action.

2003 - #12 - Hugh Jessiman - New York Rangers
Breaking my own rule and stretching it to the 12th pick here, but it's warranted because Jessiman is the only one of the top 33 picks to not play at least 6 NHL games. Top 33! Guys taken after Jessiman include Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Stever Bernier, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards and Corey Perry. Two whiffed first round picks back to back. I guess that's how a team ends up signing Gomez and Drury for $15 million. We'll be returning to the Rangers' colorful draft history later.

2002 - #9 - Petr Taticek - Florida
Weird how we keep seeing a top notch franchise like Florida on this list. In fairness, they did draft Jay Bouwmeester #3 in 2002, so maybe their were still celebrating when the 9th pick came up. Taticek played 3 games in the NHL, many less than Alexander Semin or Cam Ward. Though he did have a #1 disco hit in the Czech Republic with "Klad Syzk Muzik".

2001 - #3 - Alexander Svitov - Tampa Bay
Kovalchuk, Spezza, Svitov. Those top three picks have a nice ring to them.

2001 - #5 - Stanislov Chistov - Anaheim
Not every Ducks fan thinks this was a bad pick.

2001 - #10 - Dan Blackburn - New York Rangers
Though, really, around this time, the Rangers did on their research on free agents and former Oilers, not draft picks.

2000 - #1 - Rick Dipietro - New York Islanders
Probably shocking to see this one since DiPietro is so good, but the Islanders already had Roberto Luongo. So instead of trading Luongo and Olli Jokinen to Florida for Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha, Mike Milbury could've kept Luongo and taken #2 pick Dany Heatley, #3 pick Marian Gaborik or even #10 pick Mikhail Yakubov. Because as good as DiPietro is, Luongo is better and Jokinen is better than Parrish and Kvasha combined. Mike Milbury is such a bad GM he should've been working for the Rangers. He is also NBC's lead NHL analyst.

2000 - #7 - Lars Jonsson - Boston
And on drums...Lars Jonsson.

2000 - #8 - Nikita Alexeev - Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay again! It's almost like some teams have just been poorly run! So, so odd. 37 points in 159 career games is a good way to get on this list.

2000 - #10 - Mikhail Yakubov - Chicago
With back to back picks, Chicago netted Yakubov and Pavel Vorobiev. They combined for 37 points in 110 total games. Honestly, it would be hard to do that badly if you were trying to.

1999 - #1 - Patrik Stefan - Atlanta
He just got another concussion reading this.

1999 - #4 - Pavel Brendl - New York Rangers
What can you even say about the Rangers any more? A lot, trust me!

1999 - #6 - Brian Finley - Nashville
The 2nd first round pick in Nashville history is also the worst.

1999 - #7 - Kris Beech - Washington
Was once traded for Jaromir Jagr. Not straight up. Charlie Stephens was the only one of Washington's first four picks in 1999 that wasn't included in the package for Jagr. But that's mainly because after being drafted 31st by Washington in 1999, he stayed in the OHL and then was drafted 196th by Colorado in 2001. Double draftee!

1998 - #6 - Rico Fata - Calgary
Fata has played more games in the minors and Europe than the NHL. No doubt Calgary's scouts fell in love with his wheels and figured they could teach him scoring touch in camp. They figured wrong.

1998 - #7 - Manny Malhotra - New York Rangers
Oh hello, Neil Smith. Welcome back! In 133 games for the Rangers, Malhota tallied 11 goals and 14 assists. Low return on investment. But now the Rangers have New Jersey's first rounder from 1998, Scott Gomez.

1997 - #6 - Daniel Tkaczuk - Calgary
Tkaczuk apparently wasn't enough to keep Calgary out of the top 10 picks in 1998.

1997 - #10 - Brad Ference - Vancouver
Since 2004, Ference has played for four different AHL teams and one French team. He also had five games with the Flames in that span, five more than he ever played for Vancouver. The Canucks maybe should've gone with 1997's #12 pick, Lord Marian Hossa.

1996 - #2 - Andrei Zyuzin - San Jose
The second pick? Jesus.

1996 - #4 - Alexandre Volchkov - Washington
Yeah, well, at least he wasn't picked second.

1996 - #5 - Richard Jackman - Dallas
Most people would believe he was picked in the fifth round, not fifth.

1996 - #6 - Boyd Devereaux - Edmonton
Um...

1996 - #7 - Erik Rasmussen - Buffalo
Here's the good thing. At least no team got better in the 1996 draft, so it all evens out.

1996 - #8 - Johnathan Aitken - Boston
I've used up all of my comments for 1996. But this must be it, right?

1996 - #10 - Lance Ward - New Jersey
Hot gravy. What a top ten. The #1 pick was Chris Phillips, the best is probably #3 J.P. Dumont, and #9 Ruslan Salei is only the third non-bust of the whole group. Hard to believe Jaroslav Svejkovsky didn't go until #17 this year.

1995 - #3 - Aki-Petteri Berg - Los Angeles
One of the following statements is true: Aki Berg went on to a wonderful career in F1 racing after flaming out of the NHL. Aki Berg played 606 games in the NHL.

1995 - #4 - Chad Kilger - Anaheim
It might seem like I'm being extra hard on 1995's picks. At least you've heard of Aki Berg and Chad Kilger, right?

1995 - #6 - Steve Kelly - Edmonton
There are 11,492 guys in Canada named Steve Kelly. None of them should ever be picked in the top 10 of anything.

1995 - #8 - Terry Ryan - Montreal
Terry Ryan played 8 NHL games, amassing 0 points and 36 PIMs. Jarome Iginla, Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Petr Sykora and Martin Biron all went later in the first round in 1995 and had slightly more success.

1994 - #3 - Radek Bonk - Ottawa
Teams still think he's heading toward a breakout year.

1994 - #4 - Jason Bonsignore - Edmonton
Not sure what Edmonton saw in Bonsignore that they didn't see in Ryan Smyth, but they took Jason Goodmister (Italian translation) 4th and Smyth 6th.

1994 - #7 - Jamie Storr - Los Angeles
The goalie of the future is now the goalie of the past.

1994 - #8 - Jason Wiemer - Tampa Bay
I'm sure Koules and Barrie will turn around Tampa's draft issues. They seem pretty level headed, with an eye on the future.

1994 - #9 - Brett Lindros - New York Islanders
The Islanders tried trading Brett Lindros for Daniel Forsberg, but the deal was shot down.

1993 - #1 - Alexandre Daigle - Ottawa
There aren't as many flat out #1 overall busts as people like to think, but Daigle is definitely king of the hill, top of the heap, A #1.

1993 - #5 - Rob Niedermayer - Florida
You know...

1993 - #7 - Todd Harvey - Dallas
...Niedermayer and Harvey had long careers as useful third liners, but they were top 10 picks in a year when Brendan Witt, Adam Deadmarsh, Jason Allison, Saku Koivu and Todd Bertuzzi went in the first round.

1992 - #3 - Mike Rathje - San Jose
A guy in your third defensive pairing shouldn't be your third overall pick.

1992 - #4 - Todd Warriner - Quebec
Four years of high Quebec picks went Sundin, Nolan, Lindros, Warriner.

1992 - #7 - Ryan Sittler - Philadelphia
Never played a game in the NHL, though in 1995-1996, he played for Raleigh, Mobile, Hershey and St. John's. In four season of minor league hockey, he played for nine teams. But Bobby Clarke would never have drafted Euro like Sergei Gonchar or Martin Straka that year.

1992 - #8 - Brandon Convery - Toronto
The meat in a bad pick sandwich.

1992 - #9 - Robert Petrovicky - Hartford
Don't mix him up with Ronald, the good Petrovicky.

1991 - #2 - Pat Falloon - San Jose
It's frightening how many top 10 busts ended up playing for the Penguins in the first half of the '00s.

1991 - #4 - Scott Lachance - New York Islanders
Bill Torrey was the Islanders' GM from 1972 to 1992 and built a team that won four straight Cups in the 1980s. Three of his last draft picks were Scott Lachance (4), Scott Scissons (6) and Dave Chyzowski (2). He did not go out on a high note.

1991 - #7 - Alek Stojanov - Vancouver
Luckily, four years later, the Canucks managed to trade this guy for Markus Naslund.

1991 - #9 - Patrick Poulin - Hartford
He's the reason Hartford moved to Carolina.

1990 - #6 - Scott Scissons - New York Islanders
The top eight picks in 1990 played a combined 7,549 NHL games. Scott Scissons contributed 2 to that total.

1990 - #9 - John Slaney - Washington
John Slaney of the Newfoundland Slaneys? Why, yes.


Let's Party Like It's 1999 (Actually, Let's Not. This Year's Draft Sucked.)
It's possible early Y2K troubles screwed up every team's computerized database at the draft and GMs had to just wing it, but 1999 was a fairly atrocious draft year all around. In the entire nine rounds, 272 picks, the only players who are decent or above are the Sedins, Tim Connolly, Taylor Pyatt, David Tanabe, Barrett Jackman, Nick Boynton, Martin Havlat, Alex Auld, Mike Commodore, Jordan Leopold, Adam Hall, Niklas Hagman, Frank Kaberle, Niclas Havelid, Mike Comrie, Chris Kelly, Ryan Malone, Ryan Miller, Martin Erat, Radim Vrbata, Radek Martinek and Doug Murray. Oh, and Henrik Zetterberg, who was selected 210th. That's it. 24 useful guys out of 272. 25 if you count the 240th pick, Jeff Finger. What a year.


What's The Deal With The Rangers In The First Round?
You'll probably find this hard to believe with their free agency acumen, cap management, two Cups in 58 years and seven straight season out of the playoffs until 2004, but the Rangers have not always had a great time at the NHL draft. No, really!

Neil Smith was the Rangers' GM from 1989-2000, then Glen Sather took over and he's still in charge. Sather's best pick was Henrik Lundqvist, the 205th selection in the 7th round. That was in 2000, when he took Filip Novak with the team's first selection, which didn't come until the 64th slot. His other find with Brandon Dubinsky, taken 60th overall in 2004, aka the Al Montoya year. Sather's first rounders have been Novak, Dan Blackburn, Hugh Jessiman, Montoya, Lauri Korpikoski, Marc Staal, Bob Sanguinetti, Alexei Cherepanov, and Michael del Zotto. The last three came in 2005-2007, so the jury's still out on them. However, the jury is long back on the other picks and the verdict on every one except Staal is Terrible in the First Degree. Staal has played 80 NHL games, Blackburn actually got through 63 and that's it. In 2002, the Rangers didn't have a first round pick and opened up their draft with Lee Falardeau in the 33rd spot.

When he was hired, Sather promised Rangers fans he'd live up to the high standards Neil Smith set. He knew it would be hard to flame out in the first round every single draft, but so far he's doing a decent job of it. Smith's last first round picks were in 1999, when he took Pavel Brendl 4th and Jamie Lundmark 9th. His other first rounders include Manny Malhotra, Stefan Cherneski, Jeff Brown, Christian Dube, Dan Cloutier, Niklas Sundstrom, Peter Ferraro, Alexei Kovalev, Michael Stewart and Steven Rice.

Out of 13 first round picks, Kovalev has been a star, Sundstrom was decent and Cloutier suffered his way through 351 games. Brown and Cherneski never saw an NHL game from ice level. Back to back first round picks that didn't make the league. No wonder Smith had to keep importing old Oilers.


I Know He's Old, But How Old?
Chris Chelios was drafted 40th overall by Montreal in 1981. He is 46 years old and still playing. He has played for so long that his fellow Class of '81ers Dale Hawerchuk (#1), Ron Francis (#4) and Grant Fuhr (#8) are all in the Hall of Fame already. Mario Lemieux was drafted three years after Chelios, is in the Hall of Fame and owns the team that faced Chelios' squad in the finals.


With The Steal!
It's so karmically damaging to harp on the flops, the busts, the coulda beens and never weres, the flame outs. Let's look at the best picks from the inward half of the draft since 1990.

2004 - #262 - Mark Streit - Montreal
Had a great year with Montreal last season and got a big free agent deal from the Islanders.

2003 - #205 - Joe Pavelski - San Jose
He's not a world beater, but he gets some top line time with Thornton and has shown some promise.

2003 - #245 - Dustin Byfuglien - Chicago
One of Chicago's top defensemen after Brian Campbell. On draft day, he was most likely called Dustin BIFF-you-gleen.

2002 - #183 - Paul Ranger - Tampa Bay
Basically, any guy picked in the second half of the draft that ends up playing regular minutes is a steal, but Ranger has been pretty decent for the Lightning. With Boyle, he's in one of Tampa's top two pairings.

2002 - #234 - Max Talbot - Pittsburgh
A good third line cog and a fine actor.

2001 - #151 - Kevin Bieksa - Vancouver
Big hitter and key to Vancouver's blue line.

2001 - #176 - Marek Zidlicky - New York Rangers
A good producer from the power play point, naturally he never played for the Rangers. They can't even take advantage of their good picks.

2001 - #192 - Jussi Jokinen - Dallas
A shootout assassin on par with Jaarko Ruutu.

2001 - #214 - Cristobal Huet - Los Angeles
The Kings have been looking for a good starting goalie every season since 2001. Why can't they ever find one?!

2001 - #227 - Mark Svatos - Colorado
If Joe Sakic ever retires, which may actually be soon, Svatos will be one of Colorado's young leaders.

2000 - #159 - John-Michael Liles - Colorado
The anchor for the Avalanche on defense.

2000 - #205 - Henrik Lundqvist - New York Rangers
Quite possible the best Rangers draft pick of the last 20 years, which is like being the best carcinogen.

1999 - #138 - Ryan Miller - Buffalo
Did you know he earns money in the offseason doing snap battles in Vietnam? In full goalie gear!

1999 - #191 - Martin Erat - Nashville
When you take Brian Finley 6th and Erat 191st in the same year, is that draft still considered a success? Do you just remember it like you took Erat 6th?

1999 - #210 - Henrik Zetterberg - Detroit
Maybe you've heard of him. The Bizarro Daigle.

1998 - #162 - Andrei Markov - Montreal
Tough and talented, he took over the Montreal power play after Sheldon Souray went to Edmonton. Montreal's #1 defenseman right now.

1998 - #171 - Pavel Datsyuk - Detroit
In consecutive years, Detroit got Datsyuk and Zetterberg after 379 other players had been selected. Although Detroit's first two picks in 1998 were Jiri Fischers and Ryan Barnes, so they're not total evil geniuses.

1997 - #137 - Mike York - New York Rangers
Had a couple of really good seasons when lined up with Lindros and Theo Fleury.

1997 - #156 - Brian Campbell - Buffalo
Now one of the richest players from this draft.

1997 - #177 - Ladislav Nagy - St. Louis
He should be so much better than he is, but he was picked in the seventh round. So maybe he is living up to expectations after all.

1996 - #204 - Tomas Kaberle - Toronto
Highly, highly underrated. Naturally, Toronto discusses trading him every year.

1994 - #219 - Evgeni Nabokov - San Jose
These Russian scouts for NHL teams in the '90s, I can only imagine what they went through. "Trust me, this guy will be our goalie for a decade!" "Okay, okay. NAB-oh-koff. I got it. I'll see if we get around to him."

1994 - #233 - Steve Sullivan - New Jersey
Drafted by New Jersey, traded to Toronto, didn't really start putting up points until Chicago and Nashville.

1994 - #257 - Tomas Holmstrom - Detroit
I always feel like he should have more points each season than he does, but he always steps it up in the playoffs, to use a phrase.

1994 - #286 - Kim Johnsson - New York Rangers
The very last pick in the draft was a solid pro.

1993 - #151 - Darcy Tucker - Montreal
For a mid-round scrapper and grit player, he's had a long career.

1993 - #174 - Andrew Brunette - Washington
It feels like he's 100 years old, but he didn't even find his groove until 2000.

1993 - #227 - Pavol Demitra - Ottawa
Once had 93 points in a season for the Blues.

1993 - #250 - Kimmo Timonen - Los Angeles
Will make $8 million this year. On another note, do the Kings draft around 25 players each year and then just seed them around the league. Every guy on this list picked by the Kings got good for somebody else.

1992 - #204 - Nikolai Khabibulin - Winnipeg
Won a Cup for Tampa, don't you know? And has now been a highly-paid goalie that his team desperately wanted to trade in both Tampa and Chicago.

1992 - #220 - Anson Carter - Quebec
Pretty solid career for a guy who must've had the first dreadlocks in the league. In a side note, I was once at a Kings/Oilers game where Carter beat up Kelly Buchberger like he was a child.

1990 - #133 - Robert Lang - Los Angeles
Justin Azevedo, you were drafted 153rd by the Kings this year. You will be good in the NHL one day, but for another team.

1990 - #156 - Peter Bondra - Washington
Banzai!

1990 - #252 - Ted Miskolczi - Boston
Never played a game in the NHL, was not signed by Minnesota this weekend, but was the last player selected in the Owen Nolan draft.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Footnotes On Owen Nolan

When he went #1 in 1990, Jaromir Jagr went 5th. Darryl Sydor went 7th. Martin Brodeur went 20th. Pittsburgh's second pick was Joe Dziedzic, #61 overall in the 3rd round. For some reason (trades?), the Flyers had eight picks in the first three rounds. Their haul was Mike Ricci, Chris Simon, Mikael Renberg, Terran Sandwith, Kimbi Daniels, Bill Armstrong, Chris Therien and Al Kinisky. Minnesota did not sign any of those guys this weekend. Though they do have Chris Simon.

From 1987 to 1994, the Nordiques were out of the playoffs six times and lost in the first round once. They had the #1 overall pick in 1989, 1990 and 1991, pulling in Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros. Lindros was immediately turned into Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Steve Duchesne, two first round picks that became Jocelyn Thibault and Nolan Baumgartner and $15 million. In 1989, they added Adam Foote in the 2nd round. In 1987, their first pick at #9 was Bryan Fogarty, but they bounced back at #15 overall with Joe Sakic.

In 1994-1995, the improving Nordiques lost in the first round of the playoffs and then lost their home arena. In a way. They moved to Colorado and won the Cup. After years and years and years of suffering in Quebec, after back to back to back #1 overall picks, after having such a goofy front office that they traded Lindros to both Philadelphia AND New York (
an arbiter awarded Lindros to Philadelphia, cancelling out New York's trade of Doug Weight, Tony Amonte, Alexei Kovalev, John Vanbiesbrouck, three 1st round picks and $12 million) Quebecois watched their team move away and win the Cup the very first year. Like the citizens, Owen Nolan missed that Cup too. He was traded to San Jose after only nine games.

So when Pittsburgh selects #1 overall, #2, #1 and #2 in consecutive years and hauls in Fleury, Malkin, Crosby and Staal, then manages to sign a new lease and avoid going to Kansas City...maybe Marian Hossa going to Detroit isn't the worst thing that ever happened.

9:46am - The Ducks have signed Brendan Morrison to a one-year for just under $3 million. With the preponderance of one- and two-year deals, the NHL is starting to resemble the NFL. Lock up your stars long term and then shuffle cap pieces in and out every summer. As for Morrison himself, he is more or less stinky. He had a good season centering Naslund and Bertuzzi, but that's it. Whereas a winger like Sykora can be good with the right center or invisible without one, Morrison needs good wings to help him put up points or he's invisible. Normally, see, you like your center to be the one making plays, not coattailing.

9:49am - The Lightning signed Mark Recchi. I could not even begin to guess why, except that he also played forward for the Penguins at one point. Next up for Tampa, Rico Fata.


2:55pm - Jason Smith signed with Ottawa after being rumored to go to Tampa, Pittsburgh or four other places. I guess now Mike Richards can be the Flyers' captain of the future today. Jason Smith used to be pretty good. Maybe since Tampa missed out on him they'll be more amenable to trading for Darryl Sydor. Maybe something like...Sydor and Scuderi for Malone and Roberts.

2:56pm - The Lightning signed Brandon Bochenski to a one-year deal. Not sure why they were interested because he's never played for the Penguins. Bochenski has been expected to be good for about four years and four teams now. He's had good weeks here and there, but seems to be completely reliant on his linemates to produce. Of course, by my count, Tampa has 16 forwards now under contract, so Bochenski has plenty of potential linemates to try and click with.

2:59pm - The Canucks signed Pavol Demitra to a 3-year deal worth about $4 million per year. Over the course of this contract, they should get about a year and a half worth of games out of him between injuries, so that's good. I assume Demitra will skate with the Sedins because if you only have three guys on your entire team that can score, you might as well put them on the same line. All of that talk that Naslund and Demitra wanted to make sure they signed with the same team this summer went nowhere in a hurry.