Kawhi Leonard still hasn’t tipped his hand regarding a possible future in Toronto despite his recent trip to Niagara Falls, taking in a Blue Jays game where he drove most of the attendance, and several blown-out-of-proportion “Uncle Dennis” sightings which reminds me of playing the board game Clue and you just discovered Colonel Mustard in the pantry with a candlestick and oodles of fabricated sports hot air innuendo. The Klaw logo re-design may be red for the time being, along with those spankin’ New Balance Raptors-branded sneakers that are as aesthetically putrid as they are cosmically potent – but no one really seems to know what’s next. Unless of course you believe in TMZ-style “Woj” bombs which have made Adrian Wojnarowski a household name for being that guy on social media who relies on cryptic anonymous sources and an over-sized dart board in his office. A championship will be savoured endlessly, but I’d hate to see this basketball team relegated to a middling power with their dazzling front court still intact (Gasol $25m option, Lowry under contract, and a full year of Spicy P as a starter) but without their existential Napoleon. Sure, the team was a bona fide playoff contender long before Leonard made his presence felt – but it was his influence that galvanized all the pieces to win thereby transforming him into a kind of modern day catalyst/folk hero destined for endless glory wherever he may roam. As much as I’d love to believe that an entire country could leave an impression on an athlete of his stoic nature, I worry about the allure of returning to Los Angeles as a thoroughbred ready to impact the destinies of either the Clippers or Lakers knowing that familial ties are usually the ones that bind us in the end.
Let’s be clear: I was a dungeon master. Yes, that’s right – I played Dungeons & Dragons during the late-1980’s as a teenage boy armed with a wildly fertile imagination. I’ve also seen the movie The Dungeonmaster with Richard Moll, one of the greatest date movies ever made in the history of plush couches. If you aren’t familiar with the name Gary Gygax, I suggest you take a modicum of time and brush up on this terribly important historical figure who sparked an entire generation with endless role-playing visualizations and epic story modules of dice-based forays involving barbarians, clerics, druids, paladins, warlocks and wizards running amok and slaying a variety of monsters as lawfully good, ambivalently neutral, or diabolically evil manifestations (I was always a chaotically good fighter who justified his noble ends with dastardly means). And don’t forget the ADVANCED rules which promptly inspired movies, television shows, tavern gatherings, on-line societies, role-playing games, massively multiplayer online projects and just about anything that we base our modern perception of swords and sorcery on. Although I abandoned my earthly love of this game decades ago, it’s never strayed far from my thoughts – so you can imagine how delighted I was to witness its renaissance at a time when people are ostracizing themselves from personal contact and joyous collaboration with others. Nearly 15 million people played D&D in 2017 and 40% of players are now female. In other words, more players are using their inner creativity to explore the contours of something that goes far beyond pixels or CGI on the screens of the cybernetic extension known as a cell phone.
It doesn’t take an economist to make you appreciate why having less internet service competition is bad for the average consumer, but apparently now our North American politicians have us believing that justifying monoliths is the way of the future. As a Canadian, we’re already subjected to a surreal duopoly that’s Blue (22 million customers) and Red (13 million customers); a harrowing crucible that’s tolerated largely because of our inherently optimistic belief that the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) will safeguard our national interests and stimulate necessary competition (and innovation) where required. Sadly, our neighbours down south refuse to heed the lessons we’ve already learned with our profound lack of competitive pricing, cost prohibitive data usage, and toxic throttling practices galore. What’s worse is that the proposed merger of T-Mobile (owned by the Germans) and Sprint (owned by the Japanese) is a symbolic overture of defeatism for a country that once had to vanquish both as enemies of modern warfare. By having the wormtongue toady that is Ajit Pai and his cronies at the FCC ratify this merger and convince us that it’s being done in the name of fast-tracking their sacred quest for a 5G national network, the country will effectively reduce their number of providers from four to three. No amount of future promises or sweeping incentives or judiciously meaningful discounts from either of them will convince me that the US consumer won’t end up being hosed just like Canadians – and that’s a frightening fate in a world fraught with rising costs and looming unemployment. There’s a reason why at least ten (10) state attorneys are trying to block what will inevitably become a raw deal for the average citizen and something we’ll all regret in the long run. The internet stopped being a commodity a long time ago; as a utility, it’s now being shamefully exploited by unregulated corporations and complicit governments all over the world who continue to treat us all as nothing more than digital sheep.
The older I get, the more I miss Lee Van Cleef. He has always been my theatrical patron saint for bad-ass villainy and fully explains why one of the most defining moments in my childhood was seeing him in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as he mercilessly tortured Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name until even I was ready to confess in my living room. Cleef’s Angel Eyes were literally his most indelible asset, but when one considers the body of his work and the fact that he was in movies with Edward G. Robinson, Rock Hudson, Anne Bancroft, John Wayne, James Cagney, Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, and Chuck Norris (to name but a few), you can’t help but miss this mercurial mountain of a man who once refused a director’s request for a nose job because he simply didn’t look friendly enough. Ironically, it was his wickedly trade-marked shnozz which opened him to a whole new audience once Sergio Leone had his way and cast him in 2/3rds of his vaunted spaghetti western trilogy; performances that have not only stood the test of time but influenced virtually every western baddie that’s ever followed. What I’d give to conduct an interview with Sabata today and ask him about his questionable morals, his adept gun-fighting skills, and how he changed a cinematic archetype forever.