We the north

Last night the Cleveland Cavaliers finally finished off the Toronto Raptors, after the Raps extended them to six games. I’d hoped for a game seven, but the Cavs just put the hammer down last night, the same hammer I really thought would sweep the Raps this round. But the Raptors are the Raptors, and they don’t go quietly. And that’s why we love them.

Disappointment over getting manhandled by the Cavs aside, no one views this year as anything but a success for the Raptors. They finished second, and made it to the third round of the playoffs, extending a true contender to six games after they swept their first two opponents. And let’s face it: the Raps weren’t considered a true title contender. This team wasn’t built to win a title; after the Raptors were swept out of the first round last year by a weaker opponent, this year’s team was built to not get swept again. The season was a check mark when the Raps won their direct round series against Indiana. It was a bigger checkmark when they beat Miami in 7, Miami being exactly the kind of team they would have folded to in the past.

So now, the challenge shifts to becoming a true contending team. If they can re-sign DeMar DeRozan they’ll have the core every top team needs: 2 all-stars (DeRozan and Kyle Lowry) and a strong third option (Jonas Valanciunas), but top teams surround those guys with strong bit players and good shooters who can extend the opposition’s defense. The Raps simply didn’t have that last night, or throughout the playoffs. Terence Ross disappears in the playoffs. Luis Scola might as well not be there. DeMarre Carroll’s a good defender but probably isn’t a reliable enough outside threat. Norman Powell’s still developing.

The Raps don’t have much cap room, but they do have a high draft pick (thanks Andrea Bargnani!) so I’m hoping they can add a good power forward or backup centre to replace Bismack Biyombo, who they almost certainly won’t be able to re-sign, and manage to sign (or, more likely, trade for) some veteran shooters.

Cover photo by Thomas Riggs, used under Creative Commons license

“We are building the biggest weapon for oppression in the history of mankind.”

Hey, remember last week when I had the flu? I miss last week. Because this week I had goddamn pneumonia. Like I’m some sort of Arctic explorer or something.

So obviously I spent the entire long weekend — the first really nice weekend we’ve had in six months — in bed. And this whole week too…I’ve been able to do a little work from home, but generally speaking this has kicked my ass. I at least got myself some antibiotics, which seem to be helping.

Whilst lying on my ass, drifting in and out of sleep, and coughing up some truly terrifying things, I did watch a few movies:

Moonrise Kingdom (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was classic Wes Anderson. Quirky, hilarious, and this surreal, mildly-alien world made out of the most mundane memories. Seriously outstanding performances from the two lead kids, and you wouldn’t hear that from me often. I can’t believe I waited this long to watch it. Next up: The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Citizenfour (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was a (the?) documentary about Ed Snowden, and how he revealed himself (and his secrets) to journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras. More compelling than you might expect a technical documentary about electronic surveillance to be.

Mean Streets (imdb | rotten tomatoes) is one of a bunch of now-classic films from the golden era of Hollywood cinema (the 70s) that happens to be on demand on Bell right now. I’ve watched that, The Exorcist, All The President’s Men, and others. It’s made me finally take my copy of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls off the shelf to read. Honestly, I didn’t love this one quite as much as those others, but I will say this: Robert De Niro was barely recognizable. Hard to believe it came out only a year before Godfather II.

.:.

Cover photo by Thomas Riggs, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Sandra, used under Creative Commons license

“You had three weeks. The universe was created in a third of that time.” “Well, someday you’ll have to tell us how you did it.”

So, I’ve been sick for almost a week. Full-on flu. I had to cancel a work trip to Barcelona, which fucking sucked. I was on my back for most of the week, watching some old movies, but also a few new (to me) ones.

  • Steve Jobs (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was better than I thought it would be. The construct surprised me too — the entire movie takes places in three parts, just before Jobs goes onstage for three different product launches. In true Aaron Sorkin style it was a lot of walk-and-talks, but I think Danny Boyle added some texture by layering in flashback scenes.
  • I’m not even sure why I watched Machete (imdb | rotten tomatoes). I think I was planning on falling asleep and put on something I didn’t care about. Unfortunately I stayed awake for the whole thing.
  • The Conversation (imdb | rotten tomatoes) is a movie I really only knew because it was the lone film on John Cazale’s resume I hadn’t seen.

.:.

Cover photo by Sandra, used under Creative Commons license

 

Volo

As Ben Johnson reported earlier this week, Bar Volo will close this fall. What a shame. Volo, more than any other place (except maybe the original Smokeless Joe) is where I learned to love great beer after first walking in ten years ago. It’s where I tried Péché Mortel for the first time. Bartenders in Amsterdam asked me about it.

Like Robin Leblanc said in her excellent “An Ode To Bar Volo“, I take comfort in knowing that they’ll re-open in some form or another. For all the great beer joints in this city, it wouldn’t feel right without Volo.

Cover photo by Anigate Cosplay, used under Creative Commons license

“That’s right! You’re about to be killed by a zamboni! You’re going to die…in five minutes!”

Watched Deadpool (imdb | rotten tomatoes) last weekend. It was an object lesson in watching an over-hyped movie too late. I mean, sure, it was good…but it would have been better if I’d gone into it with no expectations. But I’d heard how good it was from so many people (who probably went into it with zero expectations at all) that I was a little disappointed in the end product.

Maybe just…maybe just ease back a little? 8 jokes a minute instead of 10 probably would’ve been okay, and given those 8 some room to breathe. Just an idea.

.:.

Cover photo by Anigate Cosplay, used under Creative Commons license

 

Cover photo by Tom Maglieri, used under Creative Commons license

The second round

The last (and only) time the Toronto Raptors won a playoff series, I wasn’t even writing this blog. And I’ve been writing this blog for almost fifteen years. So.

Actually, the Raps had never won a 7-game playoff series — in 2001 they beat the Knicks in 5 before losing to Philadelphia in 7. Then came a 4-year drought, then 2 straight first-round exits, then another 5-year drought. The last two years have seen hugely disappointing first-round losses to lower-ranked opponents.

This year, finally, and barely, the Raptors survived the first round. On paper they should have beaten Indiana handily, but it took 7 games. You could see this team almost thinking they’re jinxed, but they held on, and the proverbial monkey alighted from their shoulders.

Now, in the second round, they play Miami. Again, on paper, they should win this, but Miami stole home court advantage in game 1. The Raps won game 2 and I’m hopeful that maybe they can regain their regular-season form, but…I don’t know. So far they seem tentative, almost cursed a little. Who knows, maybe they’ll pull out this series too and move on to the 3rd round and we’ll celebrate that milestone.

Right up until they play LeBron and the Cavs.

[UPDATE] They did indeed pull out that series win over the Heat and moved on to the 3rd round, and we all celebrated that milestone.

And then they played game 1 against LeBron and the Cavs.

God be with you tonight, Raptors.

.:.

Cover photo by Tom Maglieri, used under Creative Commons license