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    Friday
    Apr242015

    It took me six tries to log in to my site

    Which means I'm doing a bad job of logging in to my site enough to have instant recall of my ID and password. 

    I've spent the last week or so with a sinus infection and I've been on a computer during the day without Final Draft. This presents a problem as I'm in the final stages of writing a script and kind of need it to make a deadline. 

    My brilliant solution: write everything in notepad, save the file, and copy into Final Draft as soon as it's feasible. 

    Today became the day it was feasible. And now I'm going to wind up spending a day or two going through the whole thing formatting it correctly. 

    You know that thing about how first ideas aren't always good ones?

    Thursday
    Mar262015

    RIP my beautiful disaster

    “Can we get a pug?” 

    My bride-to-be and I had been talking for months about the idea of getting a dog. We were both on the same page as far as having one. We just couldn’t agree on which breed.

    I was a big dog person. I came into this world and under the snout of my mother’s German Sheppard, Smokey.  He wasn’t a big fan of me, and even less of a fan of my brother. We put him to sleep when I was five and even when he bit me right before getting the needle injected I loved him.

    It took six years before we got another dog. Rocky was a six-month-old Norwegian Elkhound and he was a vicious monster to everyone except my immediate family. At eleven he started suffering from a host of illnesses, and I shelled out a lot of money on surgeries to keep him alive. He made it to fourteen and died in agonizing pain in my kitchen one Saturday afternoon. I vowed I would never prolong an animal’s suffering again. 

    Eight months later I found Maverick through Mighty Mutts. After passing a host of rigorous tests of personality and home visits to make sure he’d be a good fit, we adopted him. He was three or four when we brought him home and he lived another eight years before a tumor on his spine robbed him of the use of his legs and necessitated doing the right thing.

    I wanted another big dog. My wife wanted a pug. So for our wedding I gave in and agreed to get her a pug. There was a no-dogs policy in the small family-owned apartment building I lived in, but I spoke with the son of the landlady and explained I was interested in adopting a small breed.

    “Yeah, I don’t see an issue,” he said.

    Before we could finish the paperwork, his mother reversed his decision.

    “Is my building. His say is not enough. I say no dogs. So no dogs.”

    Fair enough, I decided. We moved to a new apartment. And we brought home Pandora.

    She was the runt of her litter, but we watched her attacking her brothers and sisters with a vengeance. When she was taken out to meet us she walked over to my wife and started chewing on her hair. She was ten weeks old and was smaller than my forearm. And she chose us.

    Over the next year we discovered a lot of things. She lived up to her namesake. She chewed through my couch cushions. She ate a hole through one of the apartment walls. She tore through books and comics I’d left behind my art desk. Her tongue popped out when she was four months old, a genetic abnormality, our vet told us. Any time we walked her we’d get stopped by people wanting to take pictures of “that crazy dog with the tongue”. She had a heart shaped pattern in her fur on her forehead.

    She had boundless amounts of energy and was always underfoot. Usually at the worst times, like when making dinner.

    “Get another pug. Then she’ll have someone to occupy her time and won’t always be underfoot,” someone told us.

    Famous last words. 

    We rescued Otis from a neglectful firefighter and his monstrous kids, who had ‘accidentally’ broken his front legs by dropping him on the ground.

    Pandora was not happy with her adopted brother. She bullied him relentlessly, eating both her food and his unless we stood over them while they ate. She terrorized him every chance she got, but she always turned on the charm when one of us grabbed her. A tail wag here, a sandpaper-tongued lick there, and you couldn’t stay mad at her.

    We moved to a bigger apartment. More room to run around for them. More places for them to go off together and do their dog thing. Except they didn’t. Whatever room we were in was the room they were in. Wherever we sat was where they wanted to sit. Pan eventually decided the only way I would be able to write was sitting on the couch, one leg stretched out for her to rest her body on, while her chin rested on my right hand, preventing me from doing much right handed typing.

    She fell asleep in that position and snored, loudly enough that I had to put conference calls on mute if I wasn’t talking. Someone once asked who was running a chainsaw during the call.

    “That’s my dog,” I admitted.

    “How big is that thing?”

    “About twenty pounds. She’s a pug,” I answered to gasps of astonishment that something so small could be so loud.

    Her ears were disgusting. She continually dealt with bizarre earwax that I’d clean every other day. I’ve spent more money on q-tips in the last nine years than clothes for myself. I complained every time I did it but it gave me a chance to hold her close and whisper sweet joking hatreds in her ear.

    “You’re so disgusting. Look at you. All you do is produce yuck. I’m going to put you outside,” I’d joke, mostly because it drove my wife insane. But I never meant a word of it.

    A year ago she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. She developed a limp that eventually started to hobble her. The only thing that got her going was Rimadyl, which only worked in higher doses. Our vet warned us this could damage her liver or kidneys long term, but the alternative was her not being able to walk. We reasoned losing a year or two off her life expectancy of twelve to fourteen years was an okay trade-off.

    Her front paws started to develop arthritis. It became a chore for her to walk, but she kept taking Rimadyl, Cosequin, and Turmeric. It wasn’t easy for her but she made do and adapted. She started spending more time on my lap, still her favorite place in the house.

    Two days ago she started breathing heavily and convulsing with each breath. The immediate fear was the liver/kidney issues surfaced much sooner. Blood work and x-rays were negative, however. Whatever it was wasn’t clear.

    Yesterday she started breathing a bit easier. I gave her a painkiller prescribed by the vet hoping it would help her recovery. By noon she was unable to stand on her own. Reasoning it was a side effect of the medication we went to our vet, who again found nothing wrong. He referred us to an ER when he took her temperature and it was lower than normal. Figuring it was the medication, I figured she’d be held overnight and be back to herself in the morning.

    On the ride to the ER it became clear she wasn’t doing her normal snort breathing through her nose. She was breathing only through her mouth. Not a good sign, but what else could be wrong?

    The ER doctor examined her and burst the positive thought bubble: something, likely a tumor on the base of her skull, was pushing on a nerve. This was causing paralysis of her limbs and chest. This was why she was only breathing with her abdomen and why she couldn’t stand up. An MRI would confirm if it was a tumor, encephalitis, or a disc bulging against the nerve, but they couldn’t do it until the morning. The problem, he said, was that her breathing was becoming more labored and shallow.  She wasn’t likely to last the night unless she was put on a respirator immediately.

    Option one: put her on a respirator overnight and have an MRI in the morning that told us what was causing the problem, which we wouldn’t be able to do anything about since the tumor would be inoperable, encephalitis is terminal and she wasn’t strong enough for surgery on the disc. Option two: do the humane thing. Stick to the promise I made after Rocky.

    We made the decision quickly, through a flood of tears. It was the right decision, the vet told us. She was brought to us for our final goodbyes. She was twitching badly by that point and whimpering, which removed the doubt, if not the pain.

    We asked for Otis to be taken into the next room while it was done. We sat with her as the doctor injected the sedative to calm her. Her body relaxed. He injected the solution to stop her heart. Within a minute he checked for a heartbeat.

    “She’s gone,” he told us. Offering more condolences for our loss, he told us to take our time.

    She’s gone. Just like that.

    I’m going to hear those words and see that face on a loop for a very long time. I wanted a big dog. This little one crawled into my heart via my lap and she’s never going to leave it.

    At some point the tears I’ve been crying almost non-stop for the last twenty-four hours will end, the pain in my heart will lessen, and I’ll think more of the good times. I’ll remember her face pressed against the drywall in our old apartment chewing a hole the size of my arm. Or the BZZT game we’d play, where I’d grab her making a BZZT sound like I was shocking her so she’d run in circles trying to bite my hand. Or the BUFF BUFF BUFF noise she’d make whenever I walked in the door. 

    Until then, I’m going to hug Otis every chance I get. We are a one-dog family now and he needs to know it’s okay. Because that’s what you do with these mini tragedies. You love them until it’s their time, and you stay with them until the end. And then you do it all over again because every dog deserves to live like Pandora did.

    RIP, you stinky little monster. I'll see you again some day. And I'll bring your favorite monkey squeak toy.

    Friday
    Dec052014

    You call him Doctor Jones, doll

    In one of the daily word association games I play with my friend Paul over IM every morning (ideally to keep our minds sharp, but really just because we're both insane), Indiana Jones came up and I was forced to quit. 

    Mostly because I started having an insane flashback.

    The year was 1981. I was a wee lad of six during that summer, and my parents (who never censored anything my brother and I watched) had taken me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark not long after it opened. 

    During the movie, my six year old brain latched onto one thing and one thing only:

    Han Solo was the guy fighting Nazis. 

    More importantly, my six year old brain completely failed to register that his name in this movie was Indiana Jones. Why? Because I had seen Empire Strikes Back in theaters seven times the year before and I knew Han Solo was Harrison Ford. Somewhere along the way, I decided that Harrison Ford was Harrison Ford in any movie that wasn't Star Wars....which included the Frisco Kid, which I'd seen on tv recently. To this day I still have no idea the name of the character he played in that movie.

    Does that makes sense? Six year old me thought it did.

    In mid-August we went to the Carribean. Guadeloupe, if I recall correctly. My parents befriended another couple from France around the same age, and they had a son who was about my age. Because they wanted to enjoy adult time together, they made sure Louis and I became friends and sent us off to play together at the pool.

    Louis (who, as I recall, spoke English better than I did) suggested we play Raiders of the Lost Ark. I agreed, though I don't really know how that was supposed to work.

    "I'll be Doctor Jones!" Louis shouted.

    "I'll be Harrison Ford!" I yelled, completely oblivious to the fact that I had just agreed to be the actor playing the character Louis was going to pretend to be.

    After running around the pool fighting invisible Nazis for a couple of minutes we both realized we were using an invisible bullwhip and came to the same realization.

    "No, I called Doctor Jones!" Louis yelled.

    "His name is HARRISON FORD!!" I yelled back.

    We started to argue over who was going to play the guy in the fedora and leather jacket. The arguing escalated. I don't remember exactly why, but I wound up punching Louis in the face and knocking him into the pool. I'm sure his being French had nothing to do with it.

    Suffice to say, Louis was unhappy. His parents were unhappy. MY parents were livid. Mostly because the cool couple they had been planning to hang with decided we were boorish Americans prone to violence (duh). 

    In the aftermath, when faced down by my angry parents, my father asked why I punched Louis into the pool.

    "BECAUSE HE WOULDN'T LET ME BE HARRISON FORD!!!" I wailed, knowing I was in deep shit.

    I don't remember what the punishment was, to be honest. The real punishment was that I didn't get to be Harrison Ford.

    Thursday
    Oct162014

    A galaxy far, far away...

    Apparently all the leaked Star Wars picutres and news that's been on my periphery has embedded in my subconscious because I woke up this morning from a dream where I watched the new movie. Also there was some Bacardi consumed last night, which may have contributed to this bit of madness...

    In a nutshell:

    - Chewbacca was female, could talk normally, and parted her hair in the middle;

    - Princess Leia was trying to hide the fact that she'd been forced to cut off her pinkie because of a Yakuza debt from Han Solo and was depressed about her age;

    - Bruce Davison was playing Darth Vader, who'd somehow been reincarnated. He wore the mask and a Hawaii'an shirt and spent most of his time alone in a dingy hotel room drinking Maker's Mark;

    - Han was trying to plan a surprise birthday party for Leia in an old Rebel base as a reminder of the good times. Even though Star Wars is supposed to be set "a long time ago", he had a 1950s jukebox and a bunch of "over the hill" balloons. C-3PO was trying to help but kept knocking over the punch bowl, which was spiked;

    - R2D2 was on a secret mission in a cavern. He unlocks an old crashed Star Destroyer and unleashes an army of mutated insect robots which quickly becomes a swarm;

    - Luke learns his father is alive and confronts him about his drinking. Vader decides to try cleaning up his act "for the kids";

    - Leia arrives at the surprise party. Han realizes she's missing her pinkie and demands to know what's happened. Chewbacca, who knows the full story but has been sworn to secrecy, tries to defuse the situation by inhaling helium balloons and singing along with the jukebox;

    - Luke arrives with Vader, further pissing off Leia;

    - The robot insect swarm invade the rebel base and take control of an old giant robot, complete with its own thirty foot lightsaber;

    - The robot attacks the party. Luke tries to fight it but has no luck because he's old and arthritic. Vader removes the mask and throws it at the robot. He still has James Earle Jones' voice without the mask and his face is normal....except for being Bruce Davison;

    - The robot cuts the jukebox in half with his lightsaber and prepares to kill everyone;

    - Luke throws his lightsaber. It cuts off the robot's arm and boomerangs back, but it slices through Vader/Bruce Davison on the rebound;

    - The robot crumples to the ground. Luke laments his father's death (again). Someone sneaks up behind Leia and cops a feel. As the masked perpetrator runs away Han gives chase, gang tackling him on a flight of stairs;

    - The groper is my old friend Doug, who asks what the hell is going on;

    - The dream ends.

    I dunno. I'd rather watch this than Phantom Menace. But that's just me.

    Tuesday
    Aug052014

    A slight hockey thing

    Those who know me know there's only one sport I follow with anything resembling interest (though I've been getting more and more into MMA of late). So this is a hockey entry. Sue me.

    Someone showed me Puck Daddy's new summer time waster yesterday: the 'Summer of Disappointment' (why not 'Summer of Discontent'?) detailing the lows of each of the NHL's thirty teams. I read the Islander entry (with a tremendous amount of glee, since that fan base can never suffer enough) and thought "wow, doing the Ranger one would be an exercise in madness" while reading the questions about the biggest disappointments in franchise history. I started mentally noting my answers until I found someone else already did the Rangers' entry

    I have kind of a policy against critiquing other writers, so I'll just say this. Yeeeeesh. Someone get this kid a spell check program. Oh wait. Word has one built in.

    While some of our answers overlapped, the overall writing is....er....to quote my old professor Klaus Janson, it shows a lot of energy.

    Having a few minutes of free time, I decided to answer the questions myself, being a bit of a history geek. So without further ado....

    Puck Daddy's Summer of Disappointment: New York Rangers (Bootleg) Edition

    Most Disappointing New York Rangers Team: 1992-93 

    Can I say all but one of them in my thirty-five years of watching this team?

    If the goal is to win a Stanley Cup and every year you don’t is a disappointment but you get a banner for those disappointments, Madison Square Garden would look like a fabric store with the amount of material hanging from the ceiling.

    I have to go with 1992-93, if only because that was supposed to be THE YEAR where the curse ended. Instead, we got Brian Leetch injuring a nerve in his shoulder playing on the right side, missing a bunch of games, then drunkenly falling out of a cab fighting with Messier in the street slipping and falling on black ice and breaking his ankle, Messier getting Roger Nielson fired, Doug Weight for Esa Tikkanen, Mike Richter in the minors, Corey Hirsch as the new goaltending savior for five games, Eric Lindros (almost), an entire team quitting and being forced to watch the Islanders knock off the Penguins in the playoffs. On the positive side, newly signed Phil Bourque confirmed Mario Lemieux had faked his broken wrist sustained at the hands of Adam Graves’ ever-so-vicious slash the previous spring. Yay. 

    Most Disappointing New York Ranger: Petr Nedved

    Apparently everyone who writes one of these starts this section with “Having to pick the most <insert team name’s> most disappointing player is like having to <insert geographic reference of something painful and horrifying to think about> so I’ll skip over that and just say this is a really, really, really difficult task for someone who roots for a team that has historically imported past-their-prime players who flame out like the Human Torch in space fighting Galactus. 

    Names like Ken Hodge (more on him in a bit) and Marcel Dionne and Mike Allison and Carey Wilson and Bernie Nicholls come immediately to mind. You could technically kinda/sorta make a case for Gretzky or Lafleur, but only if you were insane and thought that either player was going to perform like they did fourteen years before they were acquired. You could put Barry Beck on there, but then I’d hate you and call you names and remind you it wasn’t his fault his shoulder got wrecked by Pat Flatley. Someone will name one of Scott Gomez, Chris Drury or Wade Redden, but they didn’t disappoint unless you suddenly expected an act of god that would allow them to play to their contracts.

    No. The honor goes to Petr Nedved.

    After escaping the communist bloc in the trunk of a car and being drafted by the Canucks, Petr decided he wanted out of Vancouver and sat out a year until he was dealt to the Blues. A couple of month later, after leading the Rangers to a Stanley cup engineering his way out of town by negotiating a backdoor deal with Mike Ilitch to take over the Red Wings for the to-that-point despised Scotty Bowman alienating everyone involved in the Rangers’ ownership hierarchy suing for breach of contract for a late bonus payment and opting out of his deal with the blessing of Neil Smith, a compensation deal was worked out between the Rangers and Blues. The Blues got Keenan and Esa Tikkannen. The Rangers got Nedved, who figured to be the young, stud scoring center the team hadn’t had since…Bryan Hextall five decades before.

    Alas, Nedved turned out to be Czech for “telegraphing wrist shots while wearing blue” and his indifferent play infuriated both the team captain and the head coach. After a lockout-shortened season with the team, he was sent to the Penguins in a deal that ranks with the worst in team history (mostly because of the other guy he was dealt with), where he promptly turned into the high scoring playmaking center everyone hoped for.

    Most Disappointing Moment in Rangers History: Tie: Ken Morrow/Ron Francis

    Were I an older man, I’d probably say “Dave Schultz punching Dale Rolfe while pulling his hair in a move he must’ve seen in a bad 70s porn flick while Brad Park watched”. 

    Were I an older man that that guy, I’d probably say “Listening on the radio when Pete Babando scored in double overtime of game 7 of the 1950 finals to give Detroit the Cup in a series where the Rangers had no playoff games at Madison Square Garden because of the contract with the circus and because James Norris, the Detroit owner, also had a partial ownership stake in MSG and refused to allow any scheduling changes because the hell with collusion”.

    Instead, I have to go with a tie: Ken Morrow in overtime in 1984, which broke my nine year old heart and ended the Rangers’ best chance to stop the Islander dynasty.

    Ron Francis from just-about center ice in 1992 in the infamous “ADAM GRAVES IS A PROFESSIONAL HITMAN OUT TO KILL ME” series versus noted whiner Mario Lemieux and the Penguins. Anyone who doesn’t think of this as a franchise defining moment isn’t old enough to remember that they were FIFTEEN MINUTES from going up three games to one on the defending champs with a return to the Garden on tap for game five, and matchups with the entirely beatable Bruins and Blackhawks on tap after that.

    Just kill me now. Then skip to 2:27.

     

     Most Disappointing Rangers Transaction: Rick Middleton for Ken Hodge

    Some will say the signings of Wade Redden/Chris Drury/Scott Gomez to insane contracts across the summers of 2007 and 2008. 

    Those people don’t know anything. All that was lost there was money. There were no tangible assets going back the other way.

    Rick Middleton for Ken Hodge. This is the winner (or loser, depending on your point of view). Looking to shake up the fatcat Rangers teams that had hit their apex three years before, Emile Francis shook things up after the 1974 loss to the Flyers. Out: captain Vic Hadfield. That wasn’t enough to prevent the Islanders from knocking the Rangers out of the playoffs in 1975 in an idiotic best of three (????) series. So more changes were on tap: goodbye, Eddie Giacomin. Hello, John Davidson. Then the mother of all bombshells: Brad Park and Jean Ratelle to Boston for Phil Esposito. Why is this relevant? Because a year later, Esposito convinced new GM John Ferguson that he’d put up in-his-prime-type numbers if he was reunited with his old linemate Ken Hodge. Presumably, Harry Sinden put his phone on mute to prevent his laughs from being heard when Ferguson agreed to send Middleton the other way. Hodge played 96 games for the Rangers and scored 23 goals with 51 points. Middleton played 881 games for the Bruins, scored 402 goals and 898 points and part of me just died a little inside, though I’m sure someone with access to advanced stats can make a pie chart showing how Hodge ‘drove the offense’ in 1976-77 that led to a 35 year old Esposito scoring 34 goals and 80 points.

    They seriously traded a guy with an Ogie Oglethorpe face rocking Billy Charlesbois hair....

    ...for this guy.

    Sometimes I just hate this franchise.

    Honorable mention 1: GM Phil Esposito isn’t done destroying young talent on the Rangers. On January 1st, 1987, he decides the ‘potential’ of Bobby Carpenter as a 21 year old 50 goal scorer trumps the ‘potential’ of Mike Ridley and Kelly Miller, two integral pieces of the previous season’s conference final run. After watching Carpenter play, Espo decides he likes the ‘potential’ of 35 year old Marcel Dionne better than Carpenter. So in a nutshell, it’s Ridley and Miller for Dionne, with Carpenter showing up to buy donuts for a couple of months.

    Honorable mention 2: At the trade deadline in 1996, Neil Smith was possessed by the ghost of Ferguson and agreed to trade Mattias Norstrom, Ray Ferraro, Ian Laperriere and Nathan Lafayette to the Kings for Shane Churla, Marty McSorley, and Jari Kurri. To put this in perspective, Nathan Lafayette alone played more games (84) for the Kings than McSorley, Kurri and Churla did combined (78, and only because Churla actually played part of a second season) for the Rangers. Norstrom spent a decade as the rock on the Kings’ blueline. Not that the Rangers needed him, what with Rumun Ndur, Stan Neckar, Bruce Driver, Stephane Quintal, Vladimir Malakhov, Dave Karpa ready to take his minutes. Laperriere spent a decade and a half as a physical checking winger. Not that the Rangers needed players with a little grit to their game considering the amazing successes they had between 1997 and 2007. Screw Ferraro. He was an Islander.

    Honorable mention 3: Doug Weight, a young player with slick playmaking skills, is habitually deployed on a fourth line or scratched by Roger Neilson because Roger believes in matching lines and not playing to a team’s strengths. Eventually, Roger is fired but new coach Ron Smith doesn’t understand playmaking centers or matching lines. Neil Smith does the only sane thing possible: he trades Weight to Edmonton for Esa Tikkanen because it’s all about the rings, baby. Okay, this deal helped cement the cup in 1994, but think for a minute about the Rangers in the latter half of the 90s if they’d kept Weight. And Amonte. And Zubov. And Norstrom. Mix in with Messier, Graves, Leetch and Kovalev. Tell me the Rangers miss the playoffs from 1998-2004 with a straight face. 

    Most Disappointing Rangers Coach/Executive: Phil Esposito (1986-1989)

    Someone out there who has only known Glen Sather as general manager is going to point to ol’ tomato face and say HIM.

    I respectfully disagree because they’re wrong.

    Espo sent a first round pick to Quebec for head coach Michel Bergeron, a coach he fired after not even one full season in an effort to save his job. I don’t even want to mention the players available when the Rangers would have made their pick. Look up the 1988 draft yourself. Hint: they would have had the fifth pick and Jeremy Roenick, Rod Brind’Amour, Teemu Selanne were all on the board. Which means they would have drafted Francois Leroux.

     

    He traded for Bob Froese, which ate into Vanbiesbrouck’s playing time because who ever heard the phrase “Beware division rivals trading goalies to you in an effort to destroy you from within”? 

    Let’s leave it at this: in the summer of 1986, Esposito took over a Craig Patrick-built semi-decent team that had just made it to the conference finals, looked at the roster, decided “I can make this team better by adding guys I played against in the 70s!” and over the next three years made forty-three trades and seventy-six total transactions. 

    Hence Kelly Miller and Mike Ridley for Bobby Carpenter for Marcel Dionne.

    Hence signing Guy Lafleur who’d only been retired for five years previously. 

    Hence Trader Phil’s legacy: Two playoff game wins, 1 playoff miss, 0 series wins.

    Most Disappointing Rangers Fashion Choice: Torch these Libertys

    Fortunately there have been a whole lot of misfires here. I’m more inclined to say the white version of the 1990s Lady Liberty jerseys or the tin foil accented Stadium Series jerseys from last year. Some will point to the Ferguson-designed pajama jersey which he took with him to Winnipeg a few years later. Eh. This is the least of this franchise’s problems.

    NO

     

    NOOOOOOOOO

    DISCO FEVER!!!!!!