Monday, July 29, 2013

Film Recommendation of the Week...

Beware of Mr. Baker
Release Date-November 28, 2012.
Running time-1 Hour 40 Minutes.

Drum legend Ginger Baker is featured here in all his ragged, self-indulgent glory. As a documentary, this film scores high marks for getting it absolutely right, focusing on the subject without veering into sentimentalist tripe or anarchic chaos. This seemed a tall task given that in the very first scene we are privy to Baker breaking the nose of filmmaker Jay Bulger for having the audacity to tell him he was off to interview the people he's left behind like so much residual dust back in jolly old England.

The human shrapnel from Baker's life is legendary. He has abandoned wives, children, and has been kicked or chased out of virtually every country he's lived in. He suffered years of heroin abuse, grossly mismanaged his money, and at the advanced age of seventy-three, when most people who are fortunate enough to still be alive should be enjoying their golden years, Baker is currently on tour only because he's so fucking completely broke. He suffers from degenerative arthritis and needs medication just to be able to get around. But he still has the energy to piss people off and be a complete and total asshole, which ironically seems to be his only saving grace.

Cream during their heyday-

Baker on the skins-

Baker interviewed for the documentary in his then-home in South Africa-

Baker, despicable character as he is, must be remembered for being the driving force behind the 20th Century's seminal rock band Cream. The trajectory of their meteoric rise and catastrophic fall took a little over two years to complete (July 1966 to November 1968, officially ending with the historic farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall in England on November 26th of that year), but their influence lives on. As it should, considering that the wankers who dare call themselves rock bands nowadays can't hold a candle to bands like Cream. Baker, along with bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton, were rock's very first power trio, the idea behind this concept being you start with three bad motherfuckers and you go out and kick ass. This is exactly what Cream did. During their brief spell, ass was kicked in abundance.

But, like everything in Baker's life, it didn't last long. There seems to be no reason for the cantankerousness except for the obvious fact that homeboy was born with a serious personality disorder. Either that or all those bombs the Nazis dropped on London must have fucked him up as a kid, or the loss of his father during the war. Whatever happened, it's too late to undo all the damage he's done to the people in his life. Still in all, we can still enjoy the music he left behind, though from watching the film one can only be left with a feeling of resentment that he didn't make the slightest effort to get along with some of the people he played with. We can only imagine what Cream would have developed into if they were together just a few more years.

This film captures the man in his entirety-complicated, angry, intelligent, self-absorbed, incredibly kind to animals yet dismissively brutal with his own children, and talented as all hell. Not the complete douchebag we've come to expect, but certainly cantankerous and given to fits of utter meanness that makes an interview with him like bathing in a pool of barbed wire. Whatever you think of the man, you must give the filmmaker props for capturing this genius completely, with all the contradicting traits that make him impossible to define yet fascinating to watch.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Jay Z and the Brooklyn Nets...

There's been a lot of buzz going around over rapper/entrepreneur Jay Z's foray into the sports marketing world. He's signed a couple of important athletes like Robinson Cano, Kevin Durant and others to his newly found Roc Nation Sports Agency. His street-smart ghetto mogul persona is the antithesis of someone like superagent Scott Boras, the prototypical conservative, granite-jawed white man who has reigned supreme in this field since the advent of the sports agent. But the question remains-is all the publicity just smoke and mirrors, or is there any substance to what he's done? What has been his legacy as minority owner of the Nets?

Jay Z's ownership in the Brooklyn Nets has been terribly overhyped. Before he was forced to divest his shares due to conflicting business interests, his stake was 1/50th of 1%. The most valuable part of the deal was the free courtside seats for him and his equally over-hyped, wigged-out, lip-syncing "chica plastica" wife Beyoncé, which he still gets to keep (nothing like mega-rich assholes getting freebies). Before we get into what he's gotten done, let's go over what he HASN'T accomplished as the bulbous-lipped aardvark face of the Nets franchise-

1) Luring A-List free agents to play in Brooklyn-
No. The revamping of the Nets' image, with new uniform colors, a brand new stadium in the heart of Brooklyn (easily accessible via public transportation-not a coincidence) and Jay Z sitting front row has done nothing to lure free agents of any magnitude to the franchise. J-Hova was supposed to get Lebron. That went busto. Instead of Dwight Howard, who had been screeching during his last two years in Orlando that he wanted to play in Brooklyn, the Nets were forced to sign the lead-footed, Frankensteinian Brook Lopez to a long-term contract. That's like getting stood up to the prom by a beautiful babe and having to take Matilda Gorilla as consolation.

They managed to re-sign point guard Darren Williams to a maximum level contract he clearly does not deserve, but only because he was already on the premises via one of the myriad of future-choking trades the Nets have partaken in, in which they have managed to trade away almost all of their first round draft picks for the next twenty five years. Though I'm sure he'll be glad to take all the credit, the only players of note the Nets have acquired were through a trade that netted three washed-up derelicts from Boston-Garnett, Pierce and Jason Terry-three stinking carcasses the Celtics were dying to unload.

Gangster's Paradise-Russian thug Prokhorov and ex-crack dealer Jay Z lunching with the mayor of New York...

2) Creating "Buzz" to rival and supplant the Knicks-
Absolutely not. No one gives a shit about the Nets, and for good reason. Who the fuck wants to watch, much less pay to see, a bunch of tired, perpetually injured veterans well past their best years tank in the playoffs and totally tune out their coach against a beatable Chicago Bulls team totally depleted by injury and illness? Those self-aggrandizing billboards on West 34th street near Madison square Garden proclaiming their arrival in New York City didn't work. The Knicks suck, but the Nets are worse. Message to Mikhail Prokhorov-this ain't Russia. You can't fly over here on your private jet fakin' the funk with your champagne bottles and your $5,000-a-day intergalactic space whores talkin' about competing with the Knicks and usurping their fanbase. Here in NYC you must WIN SOMETHING BEFORE YOU START TALKING THAT BULLSHIT.

3) Being Jay Z-
Egomaniacs don't come larger than those in the rap world, and Jay Z takes the cake like no other. He's modeled himself as a mogul whose mere touch turns everything to gold. First of all, he's lucky to have survived the streets of Brooklyn. He could have easily been shot or done serious jail time for drug dealing, his previous profession that he still brags about both in interviews and on his tiresome rap albums. Second of all, his success can be chalked up to luck more than anything else. If Notorious B.I.G., Tupac and Big Pun had not met untimely deaths all around the same time, Jay Z would have been relegated to the Instructional League of Hip Hop. After those cats died, the door was left wide open and he stepped through due to fortuitous timing. If anything, his career trajectory exemplifies the importance of being in the right place at the right time, which can supersede talent and hard work more than people realize.

See ya in Miami, son-

If it seems like I'm giving this multi-jillion dollar ghetto fabulous philanthropist short shrift, it's not because I'm "a hater", as the denizens of the inner city love accusing people who dare criticize public housing rats who make it big. It's because gangsters like Jay Z and Mikhail Prokhorov are beloved for one thing and one thing only-their lavish lifestyles, fuck how they made their money. Despite all their supposed business acumen, they can't street hustle their way to an NBA championship. Nor can they overspend their way to the top. Just ask the Steinbrenners, who as owners of the New York Yankees have spent over two billion dollars on player salaries over the last ten years and have one championship to show for it. ONE.

Putting together a championship caliber team takes knowledge, patience, the fine art of finagling the salary cap, and a willingness to develop talent. This last and most crucial aspect the Nets have shown absolutely no interest in. Just being Jay Z isn't enough to lure quality ballers to Brooklyn. Hell, I'd rather go to Flatbush Avenue for Junior's cheesecake than to play for the Nets, where I'd run the risk of tearing an ACL on a fast break tripping over Jay Z's humongous lips. The next time you see the Nets it will be exiting the playoffs in the early rounds. They are one injury to one of their aging stars from irrelevance, and given their collective lack of athleticism this will happen sooner rather than later.

Jay Z, the former crack dealer who dodged a major drug trafficking charge after getting pulled over on I-95 by Maryland State Troopers while headed to Baltimore with cocaine hidden in the sunroof of his car because the drug sniffing dogs of that particular police unit were tied up elsewhere, who shot his own brother for stealing his jewelry, whose own father succumbed to heroin addiction, paired with Russian Oligarch Mihkail Prokhorov, a man whose life story is full of the same type of brutish gangster behavior, albeit Russian style, to get the Nets to Brooklyn and have yet to fulfill even one iota of the promises they've made.

Jay Z certainly has done well off the publicity, as he is co-owner of the company that handles the Nets marketing and was allowed to christen the new Barclays Arena with a string of nine consecutive sold-out concerts. Prokhorov doesn't seem to give a flying fuck, either about the team or about how much money he has to pay in luxury tax, the percentages of which are so onerous it makes one wonder how one can spend so much money just to be mediocre. He hardly ever attends games and when he does, he watches from the sanctuary of his luxury suite high above the action like some detached feudal lord observing his serfs from the confines of his castle. But don't blame that on Jay Z. He's just happy being in the right place at the right time.

A young Jay Z during the crack epidemic of the late 1980's, sporting the ubiquitous drug dealer regalia of the time-

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

NBA News and Notes Pt.II...

The Houston Rockets-

Our collective national nightmare is over. We can all sleep now that Dwight Howard has decided to bolt from Los Angeles. What hinders Howard more than anything else is his goofy personality and the perception that he'd rather be having a good time and lose than be miserable and win. This year he was miserable AND he lost. But don't blame him for wanting to get the hell out of Dodge. The mercenary attitude Kobe Bryant exhibits on a nightly basis on the court doesn't translate well to civilian life, and this was never more apparent than last year when he showed the world (again) that he has serious issues playing alongside another player, especially a big man, who has the same talent and sense of entitlement as he does. These two pricks managed to buddy-fuck each other out of what could have been a  formidable team, but I must lay the majority of the blame squarely on the shoulders of Bryant.

He never publicly supported Pau Gasol when Phil Jackson spent their last playoff run of any significance (against Dallas when they won the title), ripping him to shreds for the whole world to see. When Gasol aired a few grievances publicly, Bryant shrieked back at Gasol to "put his big boy pants on". This is what an insufferable prick he is. His abhorrent treatment of his personal staff is well-documented, and like I always say, that rape incident in Colorado was indicative of his personality. If I have a hot Mexican hoochie at home to plow every night, why would I have to go to a hotel to rape a hapless female staff member who was more than likely just looking for a photo and an autograph, and would have happily traded a fat blowjob and some dick up her ass for the privilege? He probably thought she enjoyed getting sexually assaulted, and only sued him to get some money. Well, she got paid lovely in an undisclosed settlement, but life for him arrogantly went on as if nothing happened.

This time, Bryant met up with a dude who wasn't having it. Howard didn't leave because he feared the bright lights of the big city. That happens only when you're a villain. Gangster rapper turned fake tv family man Ice Cube went onstage and called him a coward. If Howard had signed with LA this is the first guy who would have been sucking his cock, so take that for what it's worth. Houston has a bigger upside. They have Kevin McKale and Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon to mentor him, but Howard has to show more of an inclination to get better than just doing shoulder presses in the weight room.

Rockets royalty welcome Howard to Houston-Ralph Sampson, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, Yao Ming and Calvin Murphy-

One thing that Howard has never uttered was his desire to get better. His game over the last nine years has stagnated, and he needs to improve his offense because if all he does is get the ball in the low post just to get fouled, that is a recipe for a quick first round exit from the playoffs. He's got two cats in McKale and Olajuwon who, in their prime as players, were the most sublime scorers of all time in the low post. Howard doesn't even have to go with them to the gym-all he has to do is study their moves via dvd and copy the ones he likes verbatim. That's it. How fucking hard could that possibly be? What the Rockets need to do now is get rid of point guard Jeremy Lin and center Omer Asik. Linsanity is over, and it turned out to be a mirage. He is best suited coming off the bench or packaged like a can of sardines with their other starting bum-ass motherfucker Omer Asik. The point guard who is best suited for this team is Rajon Rondo. the Celtics don't want him, anyway and they are looking to rid themselves of any large contract they can now that they are in full-on tank mode, so this will do nicely.

The New York Knicks-

The pestiferous stench emanating from Madison Square Garden isn't from the renovations. It's from the rotting corpses they've exhumed in order to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks traded away two bums (Marcus Camby and Steve Novak)  in return for seven-foot stiff named Andrea Bargnani. How anonymous is this guy? He was the first pick of the first round in the 2006 draft AND I'VE NEVER HEARD OF HIM, and I follow basketball like a pimp follows his hoes down the street to make sure they're out there making that money. How could this happen, you ask? He played for Toronto, for one. Davis Stern, in his last act as commissioner, needs to make it illegal for the NBA to have a franchise in Canada. It's too cold, the taxes are too high, and the only players who wind up there are from trades and the college draft. No one goes there on their own volition except for Hedo Turkoglu, and that lasted less than one year.

You can bet your ass Bargnani won't be doing THIS for the Knicks this coming season-

Bargnani is such a "muerto", when news of the trade became official his agent called Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx to see if they had any mausoleums his client could convert into a Transilvanian condo-a solid cement structure with no windows and no ventilation. Directly below is a photo of him at the press conference to announce the trade, in all his sartorial splendor. Anyone requesting to be buried in plaid has to be a fucking burger* of epic proportions-

(*For those of you unfamiliar with this term, a "burger" is inner city parlance for someone who can't play basketball but plays anyway, much to everyone's chagrin. The phrase originated in the public high schools of New York City due to the quality of the rubbery, inedible meat substitute used in the burgers served at lunch. A highly insulting comment for anyone who considers themselves a baller.)

And it gets worse. Sources say the Knicks are in talks with Elton Brand, who, at 34 and perpetually hurt, hasn't been an impact players in the league for years. Brand was last seen averaging 6 points and 7 rebounds at a local morgue recreation league, the only league that lets customers leave the refrigerators they keep bodies in and suit up if they don't have enough live players to constitute a squad. Last year Brand received the Golden Cadaver Award for biggest, most inconsequential stiff in the NBA. First prize was a two-week stay inside a crematorium oven with the fire on full blast. Guess who got honorable mention? Andrea Bargnani. To have both on the same team is a mortician's dream come true.

Amar'e Stoudemire has been dead for the last three years, but the resident taxidermists at MSG keep stuffing him and propping him up so well he looks like he's actually running up and down the court. They've even managed to have him in uniform a few times a year and everyone's been fooled into thinking he's still alive, except when he has to play defense. Then the gig is up. But that was true of his game when he was alive, which is why no one has noticed that he's a cadaver. The Knicks are stuck with his contract, which is not guaranteed due to his egregious medical issues, for another two years, while Carmelo Anthony can opt out of his contract next year, which by all indications he's probably going to do and bolt for Los Angeles.

The Knicks have also re-signed Italian hobo Pablo Prigioni, who at 36 years of age is already at the tail end of his career, all of it with the exception of last season having been played in Europe. If you've ever seen him, he doesn't look like a ball player. With his huge Tuscan schnoz he looks like he should be working the counter of an Italian butcher shop serving old ladies slivers of prosciutto. Older and bummier is the Knicks' outlook for the near future, and it makes no sense talking about the rest of their roster. If you want a vision of what they'll look like this coming season, just Google "mass grave" and you'll get the picture.

One stromboli, coming up-

As time goes on, the news gets more absurd. The Knicks have signed Metta World Peace (the artist formerly known as Ron Artest) to a two-year deal. The fumes emanating from this special ed turd's declining skills are Chernobyl-esque, which will make him a perfect fit in New York. The Miami Heat have amnestied Mike Miller, a solid three-point threat who would have come cheaper than Bargnani, and despite being injury-plagued himself, would have been a fine addition to the Knicks' MASH unit. Now that Al Harrington has also been amnestied, maybe he has enough left in the tank to add some sorely needed athleticism to the Knicks front line if he can stay healthy, which was a a major issue for him last year. How many amnestied, retreaded bums does that make? I lost count...

J.R. Smith had off-season knee surgery that was more serious than expected. Not only did he have cartilage damage, but his patellar tendon needed work as well. Did the Knicks not have him take a physical before re-signing him? Regardless, they were competing against themselves for his services due to the abysmal performance on display during the most important playoff series for the franchise in years. The playoffs is when you have to come correct, not be seen partying it up at some nightclub with Rhianna of all women. So when she was blamed for his shooting woes, she immediately took to the internet to get her story out-

Now that's class for you. I'll bet anything Smith hurt his knee doing cartwheels in the bathroom of Rhianna's hotel suite from the excitement of getting all in that ass. Note to anyone who've never slipped and busted their ass on tile flooring-you can't do flips on marble. That's a landing Mary Lou Retton couldn't stick. Regardless, Rhianna is a cross between a piranha and a bronco bull-all titties, ass and an attitude to match. You can't ride her without risk of getting catapulted through the air like a rodeo clown. And if you don't handle your business (and even if you do), she's the type that will diss you in the worst way possible for the whole world to know.

J.R. Smith (right) and Rhianna on the night in question-

Smith has never met a party he didn't like. In fact, he's the type of cat that would stand in front of a new club until it opens, just to be the first one inside. There's a price to be paid for that lifestyle. Because of his horrific shooting during the playoffs, in combination with the injury and his relentless ass-chasing, he cost himself millions of dollars in a free agent market woefully bereft of perimeter scorers. I don't think he cares. At least the Knicks re-signed Kenyon Martin. Martin on fumes is better than Smith shooting 7 of 35 any day of the week.

There are rumblings that Sebastian Telfair would also like to join the team for the league's veteran minimum. This I'm in favor of. I've always been a Telfair fan, and believe he's one of the most storied players ever to waste his talent by going to the pros way too early. It must be tough for him knowing his best days as a professional athlete occurred between the ages of 13 and 18, but he still has plenty left in the tank. He's been woefully underutilized during his time in the NBA, never garnering starter';s minutes for some pretty bad teams and he's never suffered a major injury. The clock on his potential is soon running out. If he doesn't do something within the next two years to break out of his funk, he will forever be remembered as a marginal journeyman talent who too much too soon and lost it just as quickly.

The Oklahoma City Thunder-

They made one mistake, and it cost them dearly. They will probably never win a coveted NBA title because of it. They traded one of the best perimeter players in the league a year before his contract was up in James Harden. If they would have kept him, they could have utilized him as a starter when Russell Westbrook went down with a knee injury. The biggest piece of the trade for Oklahoma, three-point shooting specialist Kevin Martin, just signed with Minnesota as a free agent. So they got absolutely nothing for one of the best players in the league.

They also have not amnestied Kendrick Perkins, who is considered by many pundits to be one of the worst centers in the NBA. I have no idea what happened to this guy. He was supposedly a defensive anchor brought in to deal with the Andrew Bynams and Dwight Howards of the world, but because the center position has changed, a player who has no offensive skills and cannot hit an outside shot is basically redundant. They must get rid of him to clear some salary cap space to see who becomes available during this coming season. If not, they can very well say good-bye to Kevin Durant, who just signed with Jay Z's agency and will probably tell his client that he needs to go to a bigger market when he becomes a free agent. Way to go, OKC. You guys fucked up so bad your franchise may never recover from this series of idiotic moves.