Normally, this goes at the end of my “Week in Review” article that gets published on Sunday nights, but since my week has been filled with so many wonderful things that trump this one (no pun intended), I figured I would just throw out my nomination tonight. Drum-roll please….this week’s ultimate idiot goes to none other than Donald Trump, after President Obama finally released his birth certificate to shut up the egotistical 2012 presidential hopeful. As I said in my manifesto on politics last week, I do not favor one party over the other, but you have to admit, this move by Obama (including his follow-up speech) was nothing short of brilliant in making the “birther” contingent of the Republican Party look like a bunch of fools.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be defending Barack Obama, a president who I vehemently did not want in office last election, but after these last few weeks, I have grown to respect the man little by little. Not to say that I would vote for him in 2012, because as I stated last time, I am done with partisan politics, but I admire how he handled the situation. Had it been me that was being attacked (but I’m white and my name is Greg, so I wouldn’t have been), I would have said, “Screw you. You’re not getting it.” which was pretty much what happened in the last month or so. One would have thought that Trump’s holy crusade would have faded away, but instead, it only grew. He made speeches, appeared on television and radio, unleashing a furor of barbaric absurdity trying to convince people that Obama was not an American citizen. The main reason for this being that no one had ever seen his birth certificate.
When has any other politician been asked to show it? To be honest, I really do not understand Trump’s angle at all. Call me naive, but I am 19 years old and have only seen my certificate once, when I got my driver’s license and needed to show six points of identification. I’ve been best friends with someone since I was four years old, and have never seen his. I also do not know of anyone who carries it around with them in their violin case. This was just Trump and the fringe-conservatives trying to grab whatever little shred of a possibility they could find. There was never any proof of their preposterous claim, so they jumped at this dismal opportunity.
Finally, after months of this nonsense, Obama released it yesterday. It truly was a sad day for America, because this whole situation is testament to how dumb we really are as a country. Then again, half the people here still think he is a Muslim.
Back to Trump, what did he really accomplish here? We have soldiers dying in the Middle East every day, an economy in the crapper, gas approaching $4 a gallon, and you’re worried about a piece of paper, Donald? Have you nothing better to do with your life, one that you remind us every chance you get at how successful it is? This was all nothing but a frenzy stirred by racial unease, I am convinced. If Obama was white, this would not have happened. If Obama’s name was not one letter removed from Snapple investor Osama Bin Laden, this would not have happened.
This country is an absolute disgrace, because we put on this charade in front of the entire world, and Trump is partially to blame. Say goodbye to your chances at the presidency in 2012, if you were even going to run in the first place. Jesse Ventura is right: Donald Trump, you are nothing but an attention whore. Donald Trump, you are an idiot.
In honor of the 150th anniversary, this blog is going to keep the Civil War related goodies coming for the foreseeable future. With the release of Gods and Generals now less than a month away, I envision a lot of discussion on this board about the film we have waited eight years to see, in its entirety. Until then, please load up some photo paper into your printers and enjoy this little feature I was toying around with. How cool would baseball cards of our favorite Civil War generals be? Perhaps a company will produce a special series down the line, but until then, we have these two, of Robert E. Lee and William T. Sherman, both front and back:
In perhaps my favorite quote of the thousands that have echoed to us in the last hundred and fifty years, Lee perfectly grasps how most generals felt during the War. In the glory of his victory at Fredericksburg over Ambrose Burnside’s Union Army, and seeing wave after wave of Federal troops cut down by Longstreet’s infantry at the stone wall of Marye’s Height, Lee uttered his most famous line. Basically what he is saying is that war would be enjoyable (even fun) if so many people did not have to die.
Considered a hero by some and terrorist by others, this quote from Sherman is one of my other favorites. Infamous for his campaign where he marched from Savannah, Georgia to the Atlantic Ocean, burning and destroying everything in his path, he knew what he was doing was cruel, but he realized that this might have been the only way to put an end to the war that claimed over 600,000 lives.
These cards were photo-shopped in a 2.5 x 3.5 inch format, just like sports cards are. If you really would like to print them out and copying from here is not working, please email me and I will send you the file. Gluing the two sides back to back will produce a real card feel. Enjoy!
Another week in the life, and this one I must say was relatively tame. With two all-star games coming up next week, and more classes at Brookdale as the semester winds down, I’m sure we will have some good stories and anecdotes. But for now, this is what my life is like:
Maybe I should just stop getting coffee at places, because whenever I do, dumb things happen. You all remember the Dunkin’ Donuts girl from the first installment of this column? Well this one comes close to, and might even trump that. I was in Quick Chek with my dad on Tuesday morning, and I went up to the counter with our two coffees and a buttered bagel. The older man working there, who I actually feel sorry for because it looks like he doesn’t know where he is half the time, scans the items and asks me, “Would you like a bag for all that stuff?”. I thought for a second, then said, “No”, took my “stuff”, and walked away. I hope to God that by “stuff” he meant the bagel, because somehow, I don’t think those two coffees would have lasted very long being carried in a plastic bag.
On Tuesday night, we held our final practices in preparation for “The Battle of the Bayshore”, which is a three game All-Star series between my Mother Teresa Regional School and St. Mary’s Catholic School. After finishing the junior practice, I was getting ready to just assist with the seniors. Lo and behold, their coaches could not make it, so I ended up running the practice. We did drills for a half hour, which included setting screens in front of the goaltender, something they executed very well, and pretty fearlessly. We then played a scrimmage game for about an hour, with me and five kids on one team, and another assisting coach and five kids on the other. That was the most fun I have had in a while, because it was like a game I would play with my friends. These 8th graders really know how to play, and there was even some light checking, which resulted in no injuries. With quite a few parents on hand, I was thrilled that no one complained about the intensity of the game. There were no major checks or anything like that, but it was getting a little rough. Instead, they just let us play our game and I have no doubt that these kids have gained valuable experience by doing so.
Nothing makes a coach happier than when one of his players goes above and beyond the call of duty. There is a player we have, who is taller than me and built like a tank and is only in 8th grade. Unfortunately, his shot is nothing to write home about. If he were to develop a good wrist shot, then the perfect comparison between him and an NHL player would be Eric Lindros, without the concussions of course. Enter Coach George. After the two worked together in the practice before our last one, about a half hour of just shots, he seemed to be getting better. At the end, I gave him one of our sticks to borrow, and a puck, and told him to find a place in his driveway or garage and just work on stick-handling and wrist shots for ten minutes a day. As soon as I saw him at the practice, he said, “Coach, I practiced for four hours yesterday.” Surprised, I told him to show me his new and improved shot and it was 100x better. He still needs a lot more work, but he is a completely different player, and now a force to be reckoned with.
After wanting one for quite some time, on Thursday night I decided to finally go to Staples and get myself a white board for a wall in my room. A friend has a big one, where he writes his schedule, phone numbers, or anything else important. With such a busy couple of months on my hands, I thought it would be neat to have one, with different things written in different colors. I expected to buy one, and some markers for around $20, but when I got there, I found the cheapest one, the size of a mouse pad, was $10, and they ranged all the way up to $50. I could not believe it, and certainly did not buy one. For something that is only a piece of plastic with a border around it, they are crazy to ask such an asinine price.
Earlier in the week, I found out that we are going to be adopting a cat. We had wanted one for quite some time, because we used to have two that died some time ago. They were two brothers, Stormy and Misty (now you know I didn’t name them), and both ended up dying of kidney failure within a year of each other, the last of which when I was in sixth grade. This one we want now was abandoned where my mom works, and now the SPCA has it. We are going to name it Lawrence after Civil War General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, famous for his, “Don’t call me Lawrence!” quip. The deal is just about done, but we have to go through quite a process that includes a background check, interview, and loads of paperwork—quite an ordeal when you consider that I once bought a sniper rifle in Pennsylvania with a handshake and a smile.
As for today, I just have one thing to say about the Easter Bunny: tastes good!
Did you witness something stupid this week? Have a good story that you would like included in the next column? Email it to me, and if it deals with stupidity in some way, I’ll publish it in the next edition!
When last season ended, New York Rangers’ coach John Tortorella knew he had to change things. The hot-tempered firebrand of a coach, who was used to yelling and having conniptions to get his way, realized that his way of coaching was falling on deaf ears. I once said that Tortorella makes a good team better and a bad team worse, and with the Rangers in the middle of the pack, how would he react? At the end of last season, I would not have minded the Rangers letting him go. He gave it a shot and failed, and although I love the passion he brings to the game, it was not suitable for the type of team the Rangers were going to field, a team loaded with rookies and inexperienced youngsters.
But this season, that all changed. Tortorella morphed into someone a little more coddling, and a little more calm. Though he still kept up his heated, look-of-death exchanges with the media, it seems he took his foot off the gas in the locker room, realizing that he had a hard-working team that bought into his system. Instead, he nurtured and instructed his players, rarely blaming their greenness as a reason for a loss. The result was taking this team that was supposed to finish near the bottom of the standings to a playoff berth, and giving a team they had no chance of defeating a run for their money.
Tortorella was rewarded for this effort, as we have learned this morning, with a three-year extension. The rumor is that the deal was actually signed months ago, and just not announced until today, but that is unconfirmed. All I can say is congratulations to Mr. Tortorella, because he deserves this contract. We are all upset after yesterday’s loss, but it is an important step in the road to building a real team. There was an old saying that a team cannot rebuild in New York, because the market demands a winning team, and rebuilding years rarely give results in the standings to smile about. But this year nixed all of that—I call it a success all the way. The rebuilding Rangers finished with a 44-33-5 record, their most wins since the Jagr/Renney-lead Blueshirts in the season after the lockout.
We got to see the emergence of Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer as legitimate rookie defenders, the confirmation that Dan Girardi and Marc Staal are one of the best shutdown pairs in the league, the advent of Ryan Callahan developing into this team’s next captain, and finally, a breakout rookie season for center Derek Stepan, who put up 21 goals and 24 assists. All this coming during a warlike campaign from October through April that saw injuries and disappointments left and right. One cannot help but think of what this team would have looked like if Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan did not get injured, Alex Frolov found a way to score 20 goals, and if Gaborik repeated what he did last season, with more than 40 goals and 40 assists—these are things that cannot be blamed on the coach.
There are going to be those out there that disagree with this extension, but I must ask you, who would you rather have? Who would be a better fit than Tortorella? The Rangers have a habit of bringing someone in, then after a cup of coffee, getting rid of them. The Rangers had success after the lockout because they believed in and stuck with Tom Renney and played his system. These players are young and wanting to impress, and we know they have already bought into Tortorella’s. It would be extraordinarily detrimental to disrupt that now, and for that, I tip my cap to Rangers’ brass for making the right call.
In three seasons with the New York Rangers, John Tortorella owns a 94-73-18 record, with two playoff appearances.
Another disappointing, up-and-down season of New York Rangers hockey has come to a close. For the second straight playoff year, the Rangers are eliminated by a superior, but beatable, Washington Capitals team. It pains me to say, but for a team that had their backs against the wall this afternoon, they put forth a heartless and uninspired effort (until the final minute), and fell by the score of 3-1. The Rangers failed, all series long, to take advantage of a rookie goaltender, but just like they do in the regular season, they make rookies and journeymen look like superstars. To say the Rangers played bad for the entire series would be lying. The Blueshirts were in every game, for the most part, and the largest margin of victory for either team was just two goals.
For the Rangers, they knew their season was over along with the double-overtime 4-3 loss in Game Four. To blow a three goal lead in the third period is inexcusable, and there was no chance of recovery, despite head coach John Tortorella telling the media that the Rangers would be “ready to play today”.
For the Rangers’ big-money men, Henrik Lundqvist did all he could do to give his team a chance to win. Had the team in front of him been able to clear a puck in Game One, and not totally collapsed in Game Four, then I may be writing about how the Rangers defeated the mighty Capitals as the underdog. If I was him, I would have walked into the locker room and quit. Chris Drury played as well as I expected him to, but Marian Gaborik was a different story. Where was he, exactly? Except for his tap-in goal in the last game, he was invisible. There were really no instances where he was even noticeable, which pretty much went along with his regular season. If this is just one bad year, so be it, but if this is what we can expect for next season to, then I hope to God that this was his last game as a New York Ranger.
As for who stays and who goes, if I had to give you that list now, more than half the team would be on their way out. I will wait, probably until mid-May for that round-up, and my sentiments might not even change that much. These Rangers played hard all season, there is no denying that. With their roster and injury troubles, perhaps it was a miracle they even made the playoffs at all, but they did, and then fell flat on their faces. The one bright side out of all of this is the learning experience for the abundance of youngsters in the lineup—that will be really valuable down the road. So maybe this year was not totally lost after all. As they say, you have to lose before you can win. Even Pierre McGuire said on NBC that though fans may be upset, the future for New York is really bright.
So I will end here, with my last post-game recap of the season. I want to first apologize for the downsizing in hockey coverage, but also thank you all for sticking with me all season long. It was a pleasure getting to writing for you and getting the chance to interact with so many amazing fans. We can only hope for a better season to come, one without so many harrowing disappointments.
I’ve been watching hockey since I was five or six years old, and I still get emotional during the handshakes at the end of an elimination game. For five games, these two teams beat the crap out of each other, then they shake hands and hug. That’s what I love about hockey.
In celebration of Easter weekend, I thought I would give you my favorite religious movies, and believe me, they are more than wide-ranging. Even though I have come to be weary of all religion, my own included, how can we not love a good religious epic from the 50’s and 60’s, the decades that spawned some of the best? If only for some good action scenes and maybe some inspiration, religious movies have a place in cinematic history, and below are my favorites, in no particular order.
Life of Brian
(1979; Directed by Terry Jones) Some call it blasphemous, I call it absolute genius. A true man of religion should be able to step back and make fun of himself every now and then, and this Monty Python spectacle, to which they actually received death threats, does an excellent job at that. Paralleling the life of Jesus Christ with a man named Brian, who is mistakenly thought of to be the messiah, and actually crucified in his stead, this film mocks anything and everything to do with religion. Okay, so the final “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” scene may have overdone it, but this is still a great film that should be enjoyed by all, fanatics aside. The only movie this team of British comedians did better was Holy Grail, but somehow, that does not leave a lasting impression like this one does. And of course, do not forget, “Blessed are the cheese-makers!”. 7/10 stars.
The Ten Commandments
(1956; Directed by Cecil B. DeMille) In a world where television does not accommodate religious themed movies, this epic film finds a way to be screened annually on ABC every Easter Saturday. Not many films from that time period age well, but this is an exception. Aside from Charlton Heston being one of my favorite actors, and Yul Brynner nailing the role of Ramses, the supporting cast of this film is even better. Vincent Price, who I always thought of as typecast, was able to morph his horror/science fiction personality into the role of Baka, while Edward G. Robinson is absolutely superb in the role of Dathan, the slave overseer. And one still cannot watch the parting of the Red Sea scene without wide eyes, even more than fifty years later. 8/10 stars.
(1959; Directed by William Wyler) This film is not one of my favorite religious movies of all time. It is one of my favorite any movies of all time. Period. In the dictionary, next to the term “epic”, you would expect to see this film’s poster. Winning 11 Oscars, this film has everything you could ever want—outstanding performances, breathtaking scenery, and of course, first-class action by way of a naval battle and one of the most exciting scenes ever filmed, the famous chariot race. This film also indirectly follows the life of Jesus through the life of Ben-Hur, as they cross paths several times, including at the crucifixion. The one thing about this movie that always stood out is the fact that the audience never sees Jesus’ face. It is either a shot from the back or from the front at a distance. This was done by the director intentionally, so that the audience could have in their own minds what Jesus looks like, and Wyler felt that he could not do it justice by personifying him. The same thing went for when this was a play, before the film was made—the character of Jesus was represented by a beam of light, that shone down on the stage. 9/10 stars.
The Greatest Story Ever Told
(1965; Directed by George Stevens) I always loved this movie, despite what most of the critics said, who ripped it apart when it first came out. I do understand their concerns, because one is pretty much spot on, and that is the director taking every big name actor he could find, and stuffing them into this movie in some way. That includes John Wayne, whose Midwestern drawl nearly ruins the climactic scene in the film, when Jesus dies on the cross. Nevertheless, if you can get past that, you can see what a beautiful movie this is. Max Von Sydow does an excellent job as Jesus, and gets plenty of supporting help from the likes of Charlton Heston (again!) as John the Baptist, Claude Rains as King Herod, Telly Savalas as Pilate, Sidney Poitier as Symon, and Donald Pleasance as Satan—you could make a who’s who guessing game out of a viewing of this movie. The music is also very good, and for years, I wondered what music was playing as Jesus was carrying his cross through the streets. I searched all over the place, even for the soundtrack of this film, and found nothing. Then one night, I was listening to Verdi’s Requiem, and sure enough, that was it (the opening Kyrie movement)—a truly haunting and appropriate piece 0f music. Every year, I try to watch this film on Good Friday, or at least the ending. That’s my tradition. 8/10 stars.
The Passion of the Christ
(2004; Directed by Mel Gibson) Say what you want about Gibson’s politics and his overuse of violence in this film, but it is still one of the most accurate movies ever made having to do with Jesus. Though I must admit, when I first saw this when I was 13, I was sick to my stomach and never wanted to watch it again. But then I rented it a few years later, and developed an appreciation for it. James Caviezel breathes a breath of fresh air into the Jesus character, as finally we have someone who comes close to looking like him. He is very tan, has long, dark brown hair, and digitized brown eyes—a far cry from the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus that early Hollywood liked to show off. What gets my attention in this movie is not the endless scourging scene, one that makes you want to get up and leave the room, but the opening scene of the agony in the garden. There is such an intensity to this quiet, unassuming scene that gets the film started on the right foot. There is also one more, a little bit later on in the film, where Jesus flashbacks to himself building a table and talking with his mother, who he splashes water on as a joke. This is probably the most humanized Jesus has ever been shown. I only wish we could have seen more of that instead of the violence. 8/10 stars.
The Gospel According to St. Matthew
(1964; Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini) Out of all the films on this list, this is probably the only one where you are going, “I never heard of it.” Filmed in Italian by the legendary and controversial Pasolini, who gave us shocking and depraved films such as Salo, this is probably the most down-to-earth film about Jesus that you will ever see. Filmed using a massive cast of locals and people who had never acted a day in their lives, Pasolini is able to accomplish sheer brilliance. Jesus, played by Enrique Irazoqui, for the first time, is seen as a simple man and not an all-knowing robot. The dialogue is taken directly out of the King James version of the bible, which can lead to some boring lapses over the stretch of this two-hour plus film, but if you can get past the sermon on the mount scene, you are in for a treat. Pasolini even cast his own mother as Mary, because he loved her so much that he equated her to such a high level of standing. Over the years, the Vatican has gone out of their way to support this movie, citing how spiritual it is. At the end, you will sit in amazement at how beautiful a film this is. Then you can amaze yourself further when you learn that Pasolini was actually an atheist. 8/10 stars.
Kingdom of Heaven
(2005; Directed by Ridley Scott) The only film to crack this list where Jesus is not a character, though he is the focal point of the story. Set more than a thousand years after his death, in the middle of the Crusades, we have a fantastic film that examines the life of Templar knights and their allegiance to their religion…and their own conscience. The reason why this film does make the list is because it aligns with my ever-changing view-point of religion. Throughout the film, we are showed these God-fearing knights doing un-Godly things, such as murder, and how those around them react. Balian, played by Orlando Bloom, struggles with his inner longing of wanting to be the perfect knight. In a world where we are surrounded by religious fanaticism, both Christian and Muslim, this is an important film to see. My favorite quotes comes from Hospitaler, played by David Thewlis, when he says, “I put no stock in religion. By the word religion I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of god. I have seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers. Holiness is in right action, and courage on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, and goodness.” Sound familiar? We also have a star-studded cast that includes Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, and Ed Norton. The cinematography and battle scenes are some of the best, and along with the theme of Bloom’s character just wanting to do good for God, even if it means going against his own religion, will really hit home with many viewers. It also tries very hard to show how Christians and Muslims can coexist in peace after all. Perhaps someday, that will be more than just wishful thinking. 10/10 stars.
As an honorable mention, I will throw in the Franco Zeffirelli mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth” as well. I remember the days when the History Channel used to play it every Saturday before Easter, but those days are long-gone. I hope everyone here has a very Happy Easter!
Thanks to a reader named Blake, who passed along this link, we can now watch the official Warner Brothers promo for the May 24 releases of the Gettysburg and Gods and Generals Director’s Cuts. We are now almost one month away, and I don’t know about you, but I am really excited. To think, eight years of waiting is all going to boil down to this. To be honest, I never thought this day would come, but it is, and I’m sure you are all counting down the days like me.
On a bit of a disappointing note, I really am not too thrilled with this promo, which you can view by clicking here, and I think Warner Brothers could have done better, at least with the G & G portion. With over an hour of footage being added, somehow, only five or six seconds worth makes it into the promo. I know it is not really a big deal, but still. There is also another thing that bothers me, and that is the announced billing of Mira Sorvino and Robert Duvall, yet absolutely no mention of Jeff Daniels or Stephen Lang, the latter of which was given more screen time than any other character in both films. Nevertheless, we can see bits and pieces of the fighting in the Miller Cornfield at Antietam and John Wilkes Booth speaking to a group of Confederate recruits. Please enjoy.