Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday nights.

The odd thing is, I'm good with dates.

I've been on vacation this week.  Used the time to get some writing done (70,000 words on one project? WooHoo!  Even if it's drivel, WooHoo!).  I'd asked Shyam if she'd be interested in heading to Huntsville to fart around there for an evening, and go see a hockey game in another SPHL city.  It just so happened that Knoxville would be visiting Huntsville.  It seemed like a natural.

Then?  I realized that our local area arts council was bringing a really cool band into town as part of their concert series.

And if I can give you a Big Stupid Tommy recommendation?  It is St. Paul and the Broken Bones.  Just a good show, all around.  And they were coming to Athens.  Tonight.

Well.  Me wanting to support the local arts scene, and keep more acts like St. Paul and the Broken Bones coming locally, I said we'd look at another night for Huntsville, and go to the concert.

And then I didn't buy tickets.

I assumed that the show would have tickets left.

I was a wrong-ass asshole.

Good on the Athens Area Council for the Arts.  Good for selling out.

Keep acts like this coming.

I didn't go because I wasn't on the ball.

I also didn't head out of town to watch hockey.

Oh well.

Live and learn.

I did watch Twilight Zone until a creepy one came on and weirded me out.

Minor League Hockey, and whatnot.

Big news from the AHL this morning.  It's an interesting move that's been rumored for a while on all the messageboards I'll wander through once a week or so.  It'll be interesting to see how it all shakes out, especially down in the Southern Professional Hockey League, the league I take interest in, as we wander up to eight or ten Knoxville Ice Bears games a year.

The SPHL finds itself with an opportunity to grow, as well, and I'd be surprised if they didn't pick up on the overtures to other similar level teams to look to expand a bit more.  In the opportunity to grow, they've found themselves having to evolve the way the league plays hockey.

A lot of teams in the league still rely on an enforcer-heavy, near-outlaw style hockey.  Lotta rough and tumble action, and the teams rely on that as a pillar of their sales pitch.  You don't get to see fighting in the other major sports like baseball or football, anymore.  And, though it pains me to say it, hockey is still not a natural for a lot of the folks paying to buy tickets in this neck of the woods.

This is not to say that there isn't a tremendous level of knowledgeable fans in every market the SPHL operates in.  There absolutely is, in every town, but you'd have a hard time convincing me that a lot of kids in Knoxville, Tennessee, or Tunica, Mississippi, or Columbus, Georgia, grew up playing and following ice hockey.  Some, maybe, but I'd say it's a long fifth behind soccer, baseball, basketball and football in those necks of the woods and others in the league.  The biggest part of your potential fanbase still needs to be sold on some of the extracurricular action, in the form of a fight or two.  Knoxville actually had it's Guaranteed Fight Night last Friday (a guarantee shoddily fulfilled, by the way...there were a couple of scrums behind the net that resulted in a roughing penalty on each side, but nobody got five for fighting...)

Back to the point.  The problem it finds itself with?  There are teams that play a faster, scoring oriented style of hockey, focusing on fundamentals and growing players.  Teams like Pensacola and Peoria lean on that heavily.  It's paid off for them in one respect--Pensacola is the defending league champion this year, and Peoria found itself near the top of the standings this and last year.  But that's not without perils, since higher level teams, mostly in the ECHL,  maintain rights to some players within the league, and sign others, if their needs so demand.  If you have a high performing player, there's a very good chance you won't keep them a whole season.  Pensacola, Peoria and Knoxville have all been hit hard by that this year.  Peoria and Knoxville have fought through--those two have traded first place a few times this year.  Pensacola, you might argue, has suffered, as the defending champs are in a three-way tie for fourth, they they only find themselves six points behind first place Knoxville.

And two of the teams that lean most heavily on that enforcer-style hockey, Fayetteville and Huntsville?  They inhabit the last two spots in the ranking.

I should mention something here.  Behind Fayetteville and Huntsville, Knoxville is perhaps the next most enforcer heavy team in the league.  Names like Corey Fulton, Brad Pawlowski and David Segal bring a lot of weight around the league.  They've added another name, lately.  Long time enforcer David Segal played his last game a couple of weeks ago (something I was sorry to miss, to be honest).  Knoxville traded for journeyman Dennis Sicard, which is a move I had trouble swallowing:  more on that in a second.  Segal still brought a lot of hockey talent to the ice, and his leadership was evident from the minute he stepped onto the floor.  Still, he was there mostly to protect the shooters.  He knew that, and it was a position he took strongly.  He stated that he likely wouldn't ask for a trade, as his family is rooted in Knoxville, now.  It wouldn't surprise me to see Segal put on the suit and act as a coach soon.

Sicard was a tough pill to swallow.  I've been watching Knoxville for six or seven seasons, now.  Knoxville is the eighth team in the league for Sicard (including three teams no longer playing in the league:  Richmond, Bloomington and Augusta).   I've rooted against Sicard for a while.  I feel like he instigates fights that don't need to be fought, that he gets penalized stupidly, and too much.  Still, it was interesting to watch him on our side of the ice, last week.  He's like a cannonball out there.  We'll see how he shakes out.

Another thought:  I'm not against fighting.  I'm not against the Enforcer.  I think the Enforcer still plays a valuable role.  Yeah, there should probably be less fighting in hockey.  But there shouldn't be no fighting in hockey.  It's a physical game, and sometimes, you need to be able to push back.  There should be a balance.  And at risk of sounding like a homer, Knoxville seems to have a decent balance...they're in first place, even with a roster a bit heavy with muscle....

Anyway.  I've rambled.

We tried to hit the game last night, but got a late start, and were made even later by a wreck that stopped us on the interstate in a place where we couldn't get off to head up the highway.   Since we wouldn't have gotten there until near the end of the first period, we opted instead for Indian food and a trip to the bookstore.  The Ice Bears won, to take first place.

One last addendum to my hockey post.  If you're a hockey fan, NHL or any other league, and you don't follow Dave Eminian on Twitter, you should.  Probably the most outspoken journalist covering an SPHL team (one of the few with a dedicated beat...I know Pensacola gets good coverage, but everybody else, even Knoxville, is somewhere between average and "Huh?  We got a hockey team?")  Eminian is a little bit of a homer for Peoria, but beyond that gives a lot of good commentary on the state of hockey in the some places, it is not good, and if the league is going to grow, those needs should be addressed.  Some teams do just stage games, with little outreach to fans, journalists--seemingly running their hockey club as a hobby, instead of any kind of labor of love.  He is also rightfully critical of SPHL officiating, which can be atrocious...I've seen SPHL officials look right at penalties, and ignore them, which makes you wonder if it's just ignorance of the rules, or some other vendetta being carried.  I've long said an SPHL official is going to get somebody seriously hurt.  Anyway.  Eminian's a good read just for the state of minor league hockey on our end, and I recommend his columns and his Twitter.....

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I listen to books during my commute to work.  All told, I spend somewhere between an hour and fifteen minutes and an hour and a half in the car every day.  Thanks to the folks at, I've always got a book going when I'm in the car.  Without the service, I'd have come nowhere close to the 52 book goal I've set for myself the last couple of years.  (I still haven't reached that goal...reading or listening to something like 48 in 2013, and 51 in 2014).

The one I've just finished listening to is a reading of John Kennedy Toole's Confederacy of Dunces, a book I've long listed at the top of my ever-changing list of favorite books.  It's a mainstay of that list, and usually hovers in the top three or four, along with Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird and (occasionally) The Stand.

I've read it twice before.  Once as part of an American Humor class in college.  And again about 10 years ago, shortly after I moved back to East Tennessee.

Thoughts on this reading (or listening, as it were)?

  • The narrator was grade C.  This is a pitfall of listening to books.  Occasionally, you're stuck with a rough narrator.  I don't think Barrett Whitener did a bad job, necessarily.  I think he didn't have the tools to do Ignatius justice.  The accents didn't flow (they weren't bad, but they felt forced).  And his vision of Burma Jones and mine didn't see eye-to-eye at all.  
  • As an aside, a bad narrator can ruin a book: Will Patton, a favorite actor of mine, completely ruined a reading of Annie Proulx's stories for me, and I had to opt to eventually read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, since that narrator just wasn't hitting the right notes.  That said, the converse is true.  I've decided I could listen to Scott Brick read the telephone book after his readings of Justin Cronin's Passage books, as well as a reading of Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust. Euan Morton completely saved Christopher Moore's Sacre Bleu for me by having a completely different (better) voice for Henri Toulouse-Lautrec than the one my internal narrator had.
  • I had a whole new picture in my head for Ignatius, in terms of mental casting, based on personal experience with a certain person.  I texted Shyam with the name of the person I'd cast in my head, noting that he didn't even do Ignatius justice, considering his lack of wherewithal to even pick up a Big Chief tablet.  Still, the "Blame the world, the cops and the Wheel of Fortuna" leaning made me think very much of this person.
  • Had a friend once who offered the theory that much of what goes on is hallucination for Ignatius, and the only truth in the novel is when Minkoff arrives, and Ignatius tells her he's been holed up in his room for weeks.  I still think it's another bullshit line he gives Minkoff, but an interesting thought, nonetheless.
  • Had forgotten how many masturbation references are in the book.
  • In the movie in my head?  I cast Paget Brewster as Lana Lee in my head, though I also enjoyed the thought of somebody of the proportions of the wrestler Chyna playing her.

  • Synchronicity being what it is (Wheel of Fortuna, Tommy?), I also read Patton Oswalt's memoir about being a movie fiend in Los Angeles in the late 90's.  One of he last sections features his listing of flicks that would exist in his heavenly moviehouse marathon he would hope exists for his dead friend.  Among these was the Hal Ashby filmed version of Confederacy of Dunces, starring Jon Belushi as Ignatius (whose Ignatius would nearly match Toole's version in pomposity and fervor, despite his never having read the book), Richard Pryor in an expanded Burma Jones part and Lily Tomlin as Ignatius' mother.  I've long held that Confederacy is a sacred cow for me, and nothing anybody could do would match the magical version I've got in my head.  Still, Oswalt made me wish that I did indeed live in a universe where that movie was filmed, and stood proud on the list of achievements for Belushi, Pryor and Tomlin....

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Tommy's Mindlessly Stupid Project, Volume 9

Well, that corridor from Thanksgiving to Christmas is a big old heaping bunch of bullshit.  Doing my damnedest to get my writing project back on track, and though I was able to spit out 800 words tonight, it felt mechanical, and my feeling afterward was that it was just no damn good.

I also lagged behind on this part of my project.

I'm still ridiculously behind where I am viewing (I'm nearly up to the H's), but I did spend a good bit of December re-watching Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, Elf and March of the Wooden Soldiers.

Anyway.  Just a few thoughts on flicks I own.

Cold Mountain    (2003, D: Anthony Minghella)

I think I own this owing to my love of the Charles Frazier book, which is up there among my favorites.  The movie itself is not bad.  It's actually pretty good.  But the book is poetry.  And while I initially hated Renee Zellweger's Ruby Thewes, it's actually the performance I enjoyed most this time around.

It made me miss Philip Seymour Hoffman, too.  I don't know why I like him so much as Veasey, but I do....

The Conspirator    (2010, D: Robert Redford)

I just like this flick.  I'm not going to tell you it's a great flick.  In fact, it's a bit of a galumphing mess.  I watched it originally because the husband of one of my workers is big into the re-enactment scene, and got to go be part of the filming.  I ended up liking the flick enough to pick it up in a $5 bin, he said, trying not to damn with faint praise....

Contact    (1997, D: Robert Zemeckis)

I love this movie.  Every time I watch it, I like it a little more.  It's a story of faith.  Religious fervor isn't limited to the religious.  Somehow, after seeing the flick a dozen times, I found myself laughing at the irony of Ellie's fate at the end, the lone recipient of a message from a higher power, with no scientific means of proving her statements.  Previously, I'd found it sad for Ellie.  Don't know why it hit me different this time....

Contagion    (2011, D: Steven Soderbergh)

Another movie that is something of a mess, yet it works on the frightening level I need it to.  This flick makes me want to rethink a career working with the public.  Makes me wonder, if and when such an event takes place, whether I'd be one of the first exposed to a virus.

Crazy Heart     (2009, D: Scott Cooper)

Beautiful flick.  One of Jeff Bridges's finest roles.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is great, but the real miracle of this flick is making it so that I don't pass out when I roll my eyes every time Colin Farrell speaks.  He is actually believable in this.