Saturday, May 09, 2009

'Munchkin' Mickey Carroll dies at 89

Mickey Carroll, one of the last-surviving Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, died in his sleep Thursday morning in St. Louis. He was 89. The role was the only one he ever had in a film. His height was too much of a barrier so he quit show business.

Bruce Springsteen in Toronto

This week I saw Bruce Springsteen for either the 6th or 7th time. I'm embarrassed to say I'm losing track. I'll never stop coming out to see The Boss. His shows are just so full of energy though you can see how he is beginning to slow down. This September he turns 60. You no longer get the 4-hour concerts. Thursday's show was about 2 hours and 45 minutes with no intermission which is remarkable. He still uses the whole stage but he no longer runs around like a young buck but he is still quite buff.

His voice was gruffer than usual especially in the first 30 minutes of the show. Not sure if it was the sound or Bruce. Clarence Clemons was essentially in the background for much of the show with a very small number of sax solos. Otherwise I thought he spent a lot of time sitting on a chair at the side of the stage. He is now 67 and having undergone double hip replacement surgery is beginning to show his age.

The selection of music was wonderful including some early material like "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and "The E Street Shuffle." He did some great cover tunes including "Louie, Louie" and a spirited cover of the 1967 Eddie Floyd soul hit "Raise Your Hand" in which Springsteen climbed on top of the piano.

Here's the set list:

"No Surrender"
"Outlaw Pete"
"She's The One"
"Working On A Dream"
"Johnny 99"
"The Ghost Of Tom Joad"
"Raise Your Hand"
"The E Street Shuffle"
"Prove It All Night"
"Louie Louie"
"Waitin' On A Sunny Day"
"The Promised Land"
"Racing In The Street"
"Kingdom Of Days"
"Radio Nowhere"
"Lonesome Day"
"The Rising"
"Born To Run"

"Hard Times Come Again No More"
"Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out"
"Land Of Hope And Dreams"
"American Land"
"Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)"
"Glory Days"

Interesting concept - pluck your own

One Hit Wonder

The Kingsmen - Louie Louie (1963)

This one goes way,way back. The governor of Indiana banned the song and the FBI investigated the band because of alleged indecent lyrics. The lyrics were, in fact, innocuous, but the singer's baffling enunciation left teenage fans to their imagination.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Toni Tennille is 66 today

Allison Stokke is still one of the most popular personalities on the Internet

Two years ago while still a high schooler Allison Stokke became viral on the Internet. She was just another good looking athlete that specialized on the pole vault. I posted a number of pictures (and some more) and they still receive more hits than any other post. At the time she was not interested in any the attention and it seems just wanted to be an ordinary high schooler.

Today she is 20 years old and attends university in California and still pole vaulting. She is also up for Spike TV’s Sexiest Athlete Award, and says she will show up and claim the prize if she wins.Hey I'm voting for her.

History backs NHL on an antitrust suit

Jim Balsillie has threatened to file an antitrust lawsuit if he is prevented by the NHL from moving the Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton. The NHL would prefer not to have their bylaws challenged in court because anything can happen there. But history is clearly on their side.

Following expansion in 1967, the original owners of the California Golden Seals quickly soured on the Oakland-San Francisco area and wanted to move the team to Vancouver. The owners led by Barry van Gerbig launch a lawsuit under the Sherman Antitrust Act and the case was finally decided in 1974. The US District Court determined that the Act did apply to professional hockey but that teams were not in economic competition with each other. Therefore the NHL's restrictions on relocation was not an illegal attempt to monopolize trade. Of course the league would not agree to move the team during the period that the issue was being litigated (something Balsillie might want to take note).

However, the NHL thought a team in Vancouver was an excellent idea and added the Canucks as well as the Buffalo Sabres in 1970. In 1976 the Seals were finally moved to Cleveland and renamed the Barons. Two years later the team merged with the failing Minnesota North Stars and eventually moved to Dallas in 1992.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Gary Bettman is Darth Vader in Canada

All eyes in Canada are focused on a bankruptcy court in Phoenix where Jim Balsillie battles the NHL to repatriate the Phoenix Coyotes back to Canada. I refer to it as a repatriation because at one time the Coyotes were the Winnigeg Jets. One of the reasons that Canadians despise Bettman is that he openly dismisses Canadians' claim to their national sport.

His misguided attempts to establish hockey in the U.S. Sunbelt is laughable. He's not fooling anyone down their into thinking its football on ice. Instead he has weakened the financial viability of the entire league. He desperately attempts to keep teams in bad markets while he never once intervened to keep the Jets in Winnipeg or the Nordiques in Quebec City.

If Basillie wins he will be a true Canadian hero and may open the door for more Canadian franchises.

Meanwhile the Toronto Maple Leaf owners are stewing silently. They have relentlessly milked their loyal fans for every dollar they could for decades while providing an inferior product. To publicly oppose Balsillie would only drive a knife in the hearts of hockey fans in Southern Ontario. As they stumble to rebuild the last thing they need is a public backlash for opposing another team in their huge market.

One Hit Wonder

Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Lucky Man (1970)

Statue of the Week


Design for Don Cherry's next suit

In memory of Don DeLuise

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Wal-Mart avoids Black Friday charges with $2 million payment

Nassau County prosecutors announced today that Wal-Mart will avoid criminal charges for any wrongdoing in contributing to the Black Friday stampede inside a Long Island store that left one employee dead and several others injured. Instead the retail giant will pay out nearly $2 million to community programs and create a fund to compensate victims injured amidst the chaos, as well as instill new crowd-control measures throughout local stores.

A rep for Wal-Mart said, "We have never had a tragedy like this happen in one of our stores and we never want to have it happen again. We are determined to learn from it." The company did not admit any fault in the agreement.

While county officials and Wal-Mart may have settled their issues with one another, both are still being sued by the family of Jdimytai Damour, the temporary employee who was trampled to death in the melee.

Afghanistan's only pig quarantined in flu fear

Afghanistan's only known pig has been locked in a room, away from visitors to Kabul zoo where it normally grazes beside deer and goats, because people are worried it could infect them with swine flu.

The pig is a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan and has been in quarantine since Sunday after visitors expressed alarm it could spread the new flu strain.

"For now the pig is under quarantine, we built it a room because of swine influenza," Aziz Gul Saqib, director of Kabul Zoo, said. "We've done this because people are worried about getting the flu."

The knives are out for Miss California

The most villified woman in America right now is Miss California Carrie Prejean. The long and short of it is that she was asked by Perez Hilton (what's a gay dude doing judging hot women?) for her stance on gay marriage.

Instead of telling him what he wanted to hear she said she thinks marriage is between a man and a woman. Now word is out that Miss California USA Carrie Prejean "breached her contract" by keeping semi-nude photos a secret and could be stripped of her beauty queen title, according to a state pageant spokesman.

Prejean said the photos were taken when she was 17 and aspiring to be a Victoria's Secret model. But her real sins relate to her declaration during the Miss USA contest that she opposed same-sex marriage.

The photo showed barely more skin than the bikini Prejean wore in the pageant's swimsuit competition.

Jim Balsillie vs Gary Bettman: Round 3

Round 3 of the ongoing battle between Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie and NHL czar Gary Bettman has officially begun and it will be vicious. Round 1 and 2 were easy takedowns by Bettman.

You may recall that back in 2006 Basillie had put in a bid to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins from Mario Lemieux. However, before the deal could be closed the NHL requested that a number of new conditions be added to the deal including one that would have closed the door on relocating the team. Balsillie walked away. He returned in 2007 to attempt to purchase the Nashville Predators. A tentative deal was reached but suddenly Predator owner Craig Leipold backed away and accepted less money. Subsequently Leipold was able to acquire the more viable Minnesota franchise. In both cases it was obvious that Bettman was pulling strings behind the scene to keep Balsillie from joining his “exclusive club.”

So here we are again but now the drama is taking place in Phoenix. Gary Bettman shows up this week in Phoenix to inform owner Jerry Moyes that he had found a buyer for the Coyotes – it is White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Bettman was shocked to learn that Moyes had been secretly meeting with Balsillie and had filed for bankruptcy. Balsillie then announced that he was offering to buy the Coyotes for $212.5 million and relocate it to Southwestern Ontario.

The Globe and Mail is suggesting that Balsillie has finally got the jump on Bettman. But it’s not a slam dunk. A few hours after the announcement, the NHL removed Coyotes owner, Jerry Moyes, from all decision making regarding the future of the Phoenix Coyotes. Essentially giving the NHL full control over the bankruptcy and purchase proceedings. That might not stop bankruptcy proceedings. However, the Balsillie offer is conditional on moving the franchise to Ontario. How will a judge treat a conditional offer against a clean offer for less money? I can’t see a bankruptcy judge ordering the NHL to allow the franchise owner to move the team. So the judge may decide to go with an offer without any conditions. Now Balsillie has no interest in owning a team in Arizona. Another possibility is that the NHL provide a potential owner with an “interest-free loan” which would allow that person to beat the Balsillie offer.

I believe Bettman has successfully painted Balsillie as a dangerous maverick. His threats to move a franchise even without league approval is a potential threat to all owners. If a court agrees with an unapproved relocation then every owner understands that the next maverick owner might move a team into their territory. The Flyer owner does not want a team move to South Jersey and the Bruin owner wouldn’t want to see another team in New England. So the answer is keep franchises out of the hands of people like Jim Balsillie.

As in the past, the other NHL owners are totally silent which suggests that Bettman continues to run the NHL with an iron fist.

Hump Day Hottie

Rose McGowan

Blue Jay Rotation: Doc, 3 rookies, a reliever and a lot of hitting

The first month of baseball has been a bit of a surprise in Toronto. This city has been the City of Losers - until now. It has been well documented how the Blue Jays were supposed to stink this year but contend in 2010.

Well the Jays haven't run into the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees so those predictions might still come true. Or maybe the Jays intentionally lowered expectations. If that is the case then it may have backfired on them since they have the second lowest home attendance in the AL, averaging just over 22,000 per game.

If you look at the online MLB power rankings, the Jays are getting a lot of respect:
TSN: #1 (ok they are homers)
ESPN: #3
Sports Illustrated: #3
Fox Sports: #1
CBS Sports: #4

Everyone of course is talking about the hitting. They are first in the AL in batting average, hits total bases, runs, RBIs, doubles and walks. They are third in home runs. They have so many hits that they also lead the league in men left on base. But it's not just the hitting. They bandaid pitching rotation is fourth in the AL in ERA (4.29). That is a drop over last year but still respectable. The staff have given up the seventh fewest hits and lead the AL in strikeouts.

So how long can the starting rotation get by with fill ins? Well as long as they have to. Rickey Romero is out with a strained oblique which shouldn't take long to heal. Casey Janssen has been pitching in the minors so hopefully he will be back this month. Jesse Litsch has begun to throw must with a forearm strain, I'm not too optimistic.

In the meantime, enjoy it while it lasts. The Red Sox are coming.

Are the Wild seriously considering Pierre McGuire?

The media has reported that Pierre McGuire has been short listed for the general manager's job in Minnesota. The other candidates mentioned are Pittsburgh Assistant GM Chuck Fletcher, former Leaf GM/Coach Pat Quinn, Nashvillie Assistant GM Paul Fenton and Minnesota Assistant GM Tom Lynn.

Many people I've spoken to are intrigued by the possibility of McGuire managing the Wild. I'm just not one of them. The GM job in the NHL has become very complicated. Just read the collective agreement and you'll know what I mean. It's over 450 pages. You need to be a lawyer to understand it. Actually a growing number of GMs are lawyers (Brian Burke, Scott Howson, Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero and Dean Lombardi) and there just as many assistants who are also lawyers. Meanwhile fewer and fewer GMs have playing experience in the NHL. Twenty years ago most GMs had played in the NHL at one time.

So what does it take to be a GM in the NHL? Well it appears a good business acumen. Many GMs were previously assistants either in their current organization or with another team. A smaller number jumped from being player agents to the front office. But you could argue that they have a good exposure to the business side of the game representing players.

That brings me back to Pierre McGuire. As a broadcaster he gives the impression that he is very knowledgeable about the game. He has seen enough hockey in his life to be an expert but what experience does he have running a business? None. He has had minimal experience on the management side. In 1991 he was hired by Scotty Bowman as a scout with Pittsburgh and the following year made an assistant coach. In 1993-94 he coached Hartford to a dismal 23-37-7 record. For the past 15 years he has been up in the broadcast booth which is miles away from the executive offices of an NHL franchise. Remember the short lived experiment of Barry Melrose as coach of the Lightning. I suspect McGuire wouldn't do much better.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Foul mouthed toy parrot a little too real

Tara Weston says in several newspaper articles that she was stunned when a toy parrot she'd bought for her five year old daughter let loose a string of obscenities and threats. She bought the toy for her five year old daughter Demi as a gift but says she was forced to cover Demi's ears when the toy screamed out "I'm going to rip your head off and shit down your neck" and "bugger off" The manager has apologized for the mistake and removed the toy from the shelves in the children's section of the store.

Meet Polly The Insulting Parrot, the toy which Tara Weston bought for her daughter. Just take a look at that box for a second. The toy's name alone should have rung some alarm bells, one would think.

Happy 63rd Lesley Gore!