The things I’m loving right now … and the things I’m not

14 04 2011

I’ll be the first to admit that I have pretty selective tastes. I’m a self described geek who loves sports. I’m a gamer who loves to read. And I’m obsessed with television. So I present to you the things I’m loving right now … and the the things I’m not.

The things I’m loving right now:

Northlanders – For as long as I can remember I’ve loved vikings. I love the mythology, I love the imagery, I even love their names. When I was a kid I used to draw norse longboats in the margins of my school notebooks. I even (sadly) went and saw the monstrosity that is Erik the Viking (shudder). And of course I love comics and Brian Wood comics in particular. So Brian Wood’s Northlanders is the perfect product for me. Northlanders consists of short stories set within the breadth of viking history. Sure there are multi part stories but for the most part they are unconnected to one another. This style of writing suits Brian Wood. While I feel that DMZ has lost its way a bit over the course of its 60 odd issues (though I still love it), Northlanders gives us succinct tales that have a real bite.  The latest arc is about a horde of vikings beseiging Paris and comes across as a short form graphic version of Joe Abercrombie. That’s a good thing. My favourite story would be the 8 issues of the Plague Widow arc. Good (if bleak) stuff.

Mad Men – Kirsty and I have always loved Mad Men. There’s just so much to love – the writing is brilliant, the characters are deliciously flawed, the setting is a stylish nirvana for design geeks and it’s set in an ad agency. In a word it’s awesome. Season 4 has featured Don falling apart in an alcoholic fugue, stumbling from one alcohol fueled disaster to the next. He might be a creative genius but that doesn’t mean he’s smart. He has become awfully uncomfortable to watch but that’s okay as the surrounding characters have become the true stars. Peggy and Pete Campbell have become my favourites. Peggy’s recent scene where she was stuck with an art director for days who could not come up with ideas reminded me (sadly) of my own experiences. But the true scene stealer is Don’s new aged secretary Mrs Blankenship – she’s LOL every time she’s on screen, just punishment for Don for sleeping with his last secretary.

A Song of Ice and Fire – I’ve been rereading George RR Martin’s epic masterpiece, partly in preparation for the HBO series, a Game of Thrones (see below), partly because there is finally an official publication date for a Dance with Dragons (yay) and partly just because it is so fucking awesome. I honestly think that this is my favourite series of novels. In the Game of Thrones you can definitely tell that Martin was a television writer. There is an economy in his writing that comes from scriptwriting 101 – he gets in to scenes as late as possible, and leaves at just the right moment. In the early books at least there is a brevity and breathless energy in his writing and while by A Feast For Crows the story does feel somewhat bloated, there is always a sense that Martin knows exactly where this story is going. I’m part way through A Clash of Kings and I’m loving every page, every character and every story.

The things I’m not loving right now:

No Adventures of Merlin, No Game of Thrones and No Walking Dead – Living in NZ sometimes feels like living in a television ghetto. We hear of these great shows and sometimes we even get to see a season (in the case of Adventures of Merlin), or we read endless previews and begin to salivate, longing for the moment that we’ll get a chance to enjoy them as well. Then, in a decision that surprises no one, the powers-that-be decide “nah, no one will watch that” and we don’t get it. Or worse, they simply forget to put the next season on. The three shows that have me worked up at the moment: The Adventures of Merlin, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. We know that tvnz have The Walking Dead but when are they going to screen it? It has been months and months since it screened overseas, but here? Nada. They’ll have screened the 2nd season in the US before we get this. At least we have had the first season of Adventures of Merlin but that was a couple of years ago, there have been two more seasons since. I suspect Prime have forgotten they have this. Idiots. And then that brings me to Game of Thrones. Which no network has bought to screen in NZ 😦 Sigh. I guess that’s what the internet is for.

Warriors Injuries – okay, injuries are a big part of the game but this is ridiculous. Our best player Manu Vatuvei out for half the season, our best attacking centre Jerome Ropati out for the season and now Glen Fisiiahi, the most exciting Warrior since Vatuvei, out for 6 weeks? That’s just shocking. You need ALL your players to compete week in week out, take out your attacking talent and how are we supposed to survive? Injuries, please stop, now.





NBA Season Awards

17 04 2009

Well it’s the end of the NBA regular season so it’s time for my awards:

MVP: LeBron James

Runner up: Dwayne Wade

Most commentators are seeing this as a no contest – LeBron James has been the best player on the best team and at the same time has been utterly dominant. But to me this disguises the fact that he had a pretty good supporting cast. While none are exactly stellar (and yes I know Mo Williams was an All Star) they are all skilled role players and love playing with LeBron. Whether it’s the energetic pesky defence of Anderson Varejao and Delonte West or the spot up shooting of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Wally Szczerbiak this is a team built to complement LeBron. What also can’t be underestimated is having virtually the entire team together for a season and a half. They know how to play together and the results have shown.

But for me what Dwayne Wade has done with the Miami Heat, leading them to the fifth spot in the East is just as astounding. Who else on the Heat is comparable to LeBron’s supporting cast?  Udonis Haslem is capable of accomplishing a Varejao kind of role and Michael Beasley has the potential to be an All Star but there is little else other than those two. You stick LeBron with Wade’s crew and I expect you’d see roughly the same record.

There are other notable candidates, especially Chris Paul with New Orleans who has almost as bad a supporting cast as Wade, Dwight Howard with Orlando, Paul Pierce with Boston (how Boston have been able to claim the second seed in the East with so many injuries is astounding) and of course the perennial Kobe Bryant with the Lakers.

But in the end LeBron wins it. He’s the best player, playing for the best team and doing it in such a dominating fashion – both defensively and offensively.

Coach of the Year: Mike Brown

Runner up: Stan Van Gundy

A few weeks back this award was going to go to Jerry Sloan for the way he got his team to compete despite all the awful injury luck they had. Then they limped their way to the playoffs, losing 7 of their last 10 games. So that forced a rethink and that means, Mike Brown, step on down. He coached the Cavs to 66 wins and a fearsome 39 – 2 record at home. This award should almost be as slam dunk as LeBron for MVP. His runner up: Stan Van Gundy for getting the Magic to 59 wins, about 9 wins more than what many expected.

Rookie of the Year: Derrick Rose

Runner up: Brooke Lopez

Derrick Rose had the pressure of being the number 1 pick AND playing in his home city and he didn’t disappoint. He managed to lead a flawed Chicago team to the playoffs in only his first year. He gave a tantalising preview of what should be a stupendous talent in years to come. In a deep draft Brooke Lopez showed that being drafted 10th was several positions too low. Lopez proved to be the centre the Nets were looking for both the present and the future.

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard

Runner up: Dwayne Wade

With Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan limited with injuries and the catching up of time, Dwight Howard stands out as the obvious candidate in this category. He lead the league in rebounds and blocks and while no one will mistake him for Bill Russell (would it hurt Howard once in a while to block the ball to a team mate?) he was the lynchpin on which the Orlando Magic defence relied. Dwayne Wade had a spectacular season (see the MVP runner up above) on offence AND defence. He was second in the league in steals and an astonishing (for a guard) 16th in blocks.

Most Improved Player: Kevin Durant

Runners up: Rajon Rondo, Devin Harris, Paul Millsap

I don’t know how much of Kevin Durant’s development this season can be attributed to his natural evolution or the firing of PJ Carlisemo. Whatever the case Durant has developed into a stud who will be making All Star games in the very near future. I had a hard time choosing between Rajan Rondo, Devin Harris and Paul Millsap for my runner up so I’ve decided to stick em all in. They all became critical players for their teams.

Sixth Man of the Year: Jason Terry

Runner up: Nate Robinson

Just as much as a foregone conclusion as the MVP. He averaged 19.6 points off the bench for the Mavs, good for 23rd in the NBA. He is the Mavs second best player and a game changer every time he comes on the court. Nate Robinson is a worthy runner up, a spark plug who can change how the game is played. He just wasn’t quite as good as Terry.  

And for interest here are my picks from the beginning of the season. I got one right. Ouch.





double ouch

30 03 2009

Ouch! That result hurt, more so for losing Brent Tate for the season than for the 26 – 10 scoreline. It was apparent early on that the Warriors weren’t in it. They were flat and seemingly without inspiration. It seems that last weeks thriller against Manly in 30 degrees heat wiped them out. Next weeks game is on Sunday so they should be refreshed. The main question is who will play in the centres with Jerome Ropati? The most logical player is Simon Mannering but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Lance Hohaia there when he comes back from injury. Sure he’s undersized but they need to fit him into the team somewhere.

As for the Blues, for the second week in a row they were dreadful. No direction and no true playmaker. they concede too many tries – for a team with two premium All Blacks in Ali Williams and Kevin Mealamu that’s shocking. They were looking promising for a while there but I doubt they’re going to make the playoffs.





2009 = Year of the Warriors

23 03 2009

I have been telling people for months that this year is the Warriors year. Of course I have been secretly hoping that for the last decade and a half but other than a couple of notable exceptions (especially 2002 when they made the Grand Final), I never really absolutely believed they had a legitimate chance to win the title. This year I absolutely believe.

We have pace, power, skill and flair with a perfect blend of youth, (Russell Packer, Joel Moon, Manu Vatuvei etc) and experience (most notably the incomparable Steve Price and Stacey Jones). The Warriors also have arguably the best backline in the NRL: the back three of Wade MacKinnon, Vatuvei and Denan Kemp are a match for anyone, both our centres are world class while in Joel Moon we have one of the best offseason buys – especially when he is paired beside Jones and the ever steady Nathan Fien.  The forward pack is direct and strong with some solid defensive stars in Jacob Lillyman, Michael Luck and Simon Mannering. The one thing the forwards lack is a true ball player like Sonny Bill Williams or Ali Lautiti but they compensate in other ways.

The first two games of the season proved the Warriors are going to be a true force this year. They steam rolled the Parramatta Eels last week, only letting the Eels back into it when the first game of the year style mistakes crept in, while yesterday they outlasted the Manly Sea Eagles (the defending champions no less!) in Brookvale. The Manly victory was especially sweet as they beat us 4 times last year.

Despite the fact that it was riddled with mistakes (it seems that the two referee system is meaning a superfast game that all teams are struggling to adjust to – as evidenced by the numerous mistakes on both sides) the game was a true classic. It was only decided when the greatest Warrior of them all, Stacey Jones, took over the game in the final 10 minutes. Until that point he had been drifting, not making any mistakes but when he flicked the switch and set up Brent Tate with a chip and regather it was like the Stacey of old had returned. It was hard to believe he hadn’t played for the Warriors in over three years, even harder to believe that he hadn’t even played in 18 months! And then he provided the perfect bomb for the match winning try.

With Stacey Jones back and able to drift in and out of games until needed (as illustrated yesterday) the Warriors are truly dangerous. In the NBA players like Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce and Dwayne Wade are regarded as clutch because they take over games when they’re on the line. Jones is the Warriors clutch player and they’re going to be hard to stop as a result.

The one problem I see is the effect he will have on two other integral Warriors. It was noticeable to me that when Jones came on Nathan Fien became skittish. It’s understandable really, Jones has returned to take his spot and while Fien is a more than able hooker he had made the halfback jersey his own. It almost seemed that Fien tried too hard to replicate what Jones was doing when it is not his game. I hope he settles down. The other player is the super sub Lance Hohaia. Hohaia is the perfect game changer off the bench but with Jones back is there room for him, Fien and Hohaia? Or does Ian Henderson, the regular hooker, drop out? Hohaia is injured for another couple of weeks but it will be interesting to see what happens.

Bring on the Broncos next week!





time to panic?

19 03 2009

Well it looks like the Boston Celtics are stumbling their way to the end of the season. They’re still going to end up with one of the best records in the NBA, they currently have a 50 – 18 record and they can probably manage 60 wins and the 2nd or 3rd seed in the East but not too long ago this team looked like they were going to easily win 65+ games. The reason is pretty obvious for the slump: injuries. They’ve got way too many injuries to key players.

The most notable of course is Kevin Garnett. I remember a few weeks back when he first got injured and the team won a few games the PTI crew posed the question that the Celtics were better without him. Uh, I guess you can see the answer now. Without KG the Celtics are not the same – his stats might be down but he is the emotional centre and lynchpin of the defence. Also he gets you about 18 ppg. Without KG too much pressure falls on Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to score.

For today’s game against the Miami Heat, Celtics Blog listed the Celtics injuries as:

Tony Allen (thumb) out
Kevin Garnett (knee) out
Brian Scalabrine (head) out
Glen Davis (ankle) day to day
Eddie House (ankle/heel) probable
Ray Allen (elbow) questionable
Rajon Rondo (ankle) questionable
Leon Powe (knee) questionable
Paul Pierce (flu-like symptoms)  probable

That’s pretty much your defending champions right there. Ouch. The only starter not on that list is Kendrick Perkins.

I’ve been reading stuff about how they wouldn’t mind losing a few games now if everyone is fit for the playoffs. It kinda suggests that Celtics fans shouldn’t panic. That’s all well and good but other than KG, which of the players is being kept out to rest up? Rajan Rondo is playing with a sprained ankle, Scalabrine is possibly out for the season and worse, Paul Pierce is having to play extended minutes. My point is, there is no guarantee any of those guys are going to be 100% fit for the playoffs and with the way the season is going they’re more than likely going to suffer more injuries.

Maybe it is a time to get worried. I know the Celtics are good enough but are they healthy enough?





starbury=iago

6 03 2009

This post on the Onion is hilarious – Stephon Marbury as a Shakespearian villain. As long as it’s not like a prophecy or anything. Because that would be bad, very bad.





saying “yes” to Starbury

4 03 2009

Way back at the beginning of the season I wrote a post titled: Just say “No!” to Starbury. I argued that Stephon Marbury has a caustic personality and that I hoped my teams wouldn’t sign him. And of course last week the Celtics finally signed him. My feelings are ambivalent on this one. I still believe he will be a problematic personality and ultimately will harm this team in some way but I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be this year. Next year he’ll be a problem, without a doubt but this year he’ll be looking to redeem himself somewhat.

Besides, the Celtics really need him. Mikki Moore, who they also signed, isn’t the answer – he’s a garbage time player, too erratic to really help. Starbury though, he can be a game changer. He can score, distribute, hit the big shot and play defence when necessary. We don’t need him to score 20 a game, we need him to score 8 or 9 at a clutch moment. We can’t always expect Allen and Pierce to do it all. I also think he can play with Rondo and take the pressure off him as a playmaker. Look at the way Maurice Williams and Delonte West play together for the Cavs – both can be playmakers and scorers and they take the pressure off LeBron to do everything.

But all this is based on potential. Stephon Marbury has the potential to redeem himself and be known as the guy who helped the Celtics win back-to-back championships. But he needs to want it. He needs to be the perfect citizen. I’m hoping he does.