The Doctor's In

I've been reading my daughter a lot of Dr Seuss books to put her to sleep, lately. I'd had a couple of his books for a while, but just got A Baker's Dozen.

It's kind of weird for me, reading them, because I didn't read them growing up, generally. The only time I remember reading them was when I was at the doctor's office, waiting for my appointments.

While those aren't horrific memories, they aren't great ones either (plus, I think I only read a few of them back then), so it feels a bit weird to read them to her. At the same time, the poetry's great, and now I see why a lot of my college friends liked them so much. I suspect I just never got the lyricism reading them back then.


Hershey Bears

I mentioned in my last post that the Bears are tearing up the AHL, which was mostly echoing a comment made in the telecast of one of the last few Caps games. Somewhat randomly, I decided to follow that up today, and found some interesting things.

I knew the Bears had won the Calder Cup last year, and were doing even better this year, but was still shocked by how much so. Last year, they finished tied for third overall in the standings (although only one point out of first); they had, by far, the most goals in the league, but were 24th of 29 in goals allowed. This year, with thirteen games left, they have only one fewer point than last year, have 20% more goals than the second highest-scoring team, and are tied for second in goals allowed. Wow.

And the players that'll be bolstering the Caps? Well, as one would expect, it's mostly guys we've seen in short stints (heck, maybe all of them are, and I haven't noticed some :). The most important ones look to be: Giroux, Bourque, Aucoin, Alzner, Carlson (as noted previously, currently with the big team), Pinizzotto, and possibly Helmer and Joudrey.

I'm not sure about the contract status of most of the Caps, but there seems to be enough talent to not be terribly upset if several of the older guys walk at the end of the year. The Caps, I'm pretty sure, are already a pretty young team, and it looks like they could easily get younger still.

If nothing else, there seem to be an awful lot of trade chips available, although I'm not sure what those chips would go towards. Maybe trying to get high first-round picks? Or just additional first rounders? A top-notch right winger to go with Backstrom and Ovie (or would that just be silly; actually, they probably couldn't afford that, under the cap)?

Odd bit of trivia I finally tracked down. Ovie's only shooting about 10% more than the #2 and #3 shooters in the league, dramatically down from the 42% lead he had in that category last year. I'd sort of noticed that before (not the exact numbers, but it being much closer), but wasn't sure what was causing it. It's basically just a matter of Ovie shooting a lot less (1.5 S/G less).

Oh, and one bit of advice for Ovie: stop the big loops to stay on your forehand. I don't know whether I just hadn't noticed it before, but it's really hit me recently that he's doing a lot of extra work to keep the puck on his forehand side. I can only see that making the defense's job easier, even though he is a lot more effective on his forehand.


Sunrise Waltz

The game tonight was a lot less frustrating than the last several. The Caps dominated from start to finish, ending in a 7-3 victory. It was good to see the results coming with the effort, quite unlike the game against Tampa the other day, where the Caps dominated play, but lost due to some unlucky bounces on shots and great goaltending from Niitymaki.

Is it just me, or does Niitymaki seem to play particularly well against the Caps? His overall stats are very good, but not great, yet the Caps seem to have an awfully hard time against him. Or maybe it's just the selection of games I've seen against him the last couple of seasons.

In any event, tonight was great. They got back half of their gap from 4gpg that they had lost over the prior eight games. It'd be sweet if they could get eleven over the next two games to get back to that mark.

One thing the team did much better in this game was that they were crashing the net often and effectively. If they can keep doing that, and cut down on the odd-man rushes they allow, they'll be unstoppable.

Now we just have to hope that the rest of the team doesn't try to coast when Ovie gets back. And as a side note, that was a horrible call that got Ovie the major/game misconduct and the suspension. Really; it was just terrible. I'm really amazed Campbell was hurt so badly; it looked like he hit about the way you'd want to hit if you're going to crash into the boards and ice. Hopefully he'll recover more quickly than they're projecting.

One other thing I need to look into soon; Hershey is absolutely tearing up the AHL this year. Who's contributing to that who'll be joining the team next year?

Oh, and a nod to Carlson, who's been very good over the past several games.


Waltz Me to the Moon

I first heard about Shall We Dance when it first came out in Japan, and was setting box office records (well, it was a long time ago; I assume that it was, because I can't think of any other reason that I'd've heard of it). My biggest surprise was actually the title. I heard about it in Japanese media, and remember it being called Odorimashou (which is, literally, Japanese for 'Shall We Dance').

But when the movie started, the title shown was 'Shall We ダンス?', that is, the english words 'Shall We' in (script) roman characters, followed by the english word 'Dance' in japanese characters. That's just a weird way to write it, and I have to assume that it was written that way as a deliberate reference to something, although I can only guess what that something was (the song 'Shall We Dance?', from Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'The King and I' was mentioned in the story; perhaps it was written that way when that was first released?).

In any event, I enjoyed the movie quite a lot. As I'd heard, much of it was driven by the social stigma associated with ballroom dancing (perhaps less now? I don't really know) in Japan. I can imagine a number of the scenes being somewhat painful for Japanese people to watch, but it was very poignant overall. And having learned some ballroom dancing since the movie was released, I can appreciate much more of what the characters were thinking while going through their practices and such.

It's decent exercise (actually, it can be damned good exercise, but is rarely done that way, for many reasons (except for jitterbug)), increases your appreciation for music, and is a lot of fun. So I could definitely see why the main characters get into it, even when they didn't expect to do so. Seeing them discretely practicing steps was fairly amusing, too, although their practices seemed to be more on the order of practicing which step to take next, while mine were always more how to take a type of step (stuff like 'rise and fall' in waltz, or using correct cuban motion).

One thing I can't figure out, and I'm not sure that I'll try to find out, is how they thought they could make a US remake. As I mentioned, much of the movie is driven by the stigma attached in Japan. Lacking that stigma here, I can't see how the same story could be at all interesting in a US context. I can't see more than, 'man gets bored', 'man takes dancing lessons hoping to meet pretty teacher', 'wife of man is confused', 'man learns more than expected'. That really isn't much. Not nothing, perhaps, but not much.

But the original was fabulous. It was poignant, as I mentioned, and frequently quietly funny. The relationship between Sugiyama and Mai-chan was deftly handled, and very well acted on both of their parts. The movie is also an interesting window on the Japanese as a people.

I do find myself disappointed that Ms Kusakari hasn't appeared in any more roles, as well as intrigued that she is a ballerina. I'm thinking that she must be awfully tall for a ballerina. But she definitely has the posture and bearing of someone who dances all the time.

In any event, do yourself a favor and watch this one, if you get a chance. You won't regret it.


Thief of Time

I mentioned previously that I read The Lightning Thief. I also mentioned that the movie trailer was giving away quite a bit more than it should. Well, I finally got a chance to see the movie earlier today.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit; it was quite an amusing way of doing an update to the original stories. And the characters were very well-done.

The movie? Well, when I saw that it was being done by Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Harry Potter movies. The reason for that being important wasn't the similarity of the material (which isn't all that great, to be honest, though casual viewers might think so), but, rather, that he did a very good job of sticking to the story that was in the book.

This one, however, he butchered. I just don't know any nicer way to put it. I understand that the story needs to be compressed a bit, but the relationships among most of the important characters were significantly changed. And one very minor change that really bugged me was a line at the beginning that didn't make sense unless Percy's name was no longer a shortening of Perseus (sorry, forgot the exact line).

To make matters worse, there was no subtlety about resolving the mysteries. And to add insult to injury, the heroes are flipping stupid at the end.

"I am the lightning thief!"
"Ok, but I've got the lightning now." ZAP!

Not very dramatic, but that's the only reasonable reaction to what one would expect to be a fight to the death as set up.

And the monologing? I really needed Mr Incredible and Frozone to MST3k the end of that. Egads.

I'm also pretty sure that the changes in the remaining books of the series (presuming they do make movies of them) will also suffer pretty serious changes. Some of the changes they made here will definitely make the future books more difficult. But we'll see.

As it is, about the only positive thing I can say about it is that the scene going to Hades' palace was really cool. That was a treat. But the rest of it was borderline on scholastic abuse.

I'm hard put to say what I'd think about it if I hadn't read the book first, beyond being certain that I would like it more. Would I like it enough more to have a positive reaction, though? I think it's unlikely, but I'm not certain.

If you have read the book, though, definitely spare yourself.


A few thoughts on the Caps

Watching the end of the third period of the Olympic gold-medal game really pushed home a maxim that the Caps have almost always failed to live up to. That maxim is, "Throw it at the net, and good things happen."

I understand why that doesn't happen with the current composition of the team: they just have so many highly skilled players, that they want to score the pretty goal. And make no mistake, "throw it at the net..." does not lead to pretty goals. It leads to goals like the US scored with twenty-four seconds left. And it's true that the current team is not having problems scoring goals, in general.

But those ugly goals count just as much, and it gives a fall-back plan for when the pretty goal plan fails. I wonder if that points to why the Caps have had so little post-season success in their history. The first time they made it to the Conference Finals was a product of them living that maxim for a year. Especially in the playoffs, when John Druce caught fire after learning from Dino Ciccarelli how to screen the goalie.

Anyway, I just have to ask about that. I'm not sure what it is, but it's sure frustrating to watch. Some of it is certainly bad luck/officiating. Losing game seven to the Flyers two years ago falls into that category (seriously, could you have even imagined running over a goalie like that without getting called for a penalty?). Last year, though, was just lack of mental energy.

Lack of coaching? Lack of leadership from the stars? I don't know what it was, but they just looked like they expected to win just for showing up. Ah well, enough griping.

Kudos to the Olympic team for one hell of a try to unseat Canada. I wonder how many years off of Canadian's life expectancies were cut by that one goal.