Ready for Walking Dead

Tomorrow night, AMC’s television version of The Walking Dead, based on the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, receives a Halloween debut.  For fans of horror, zombies, and comic books, this is a much-anticipated and promising development.  AMC has an excellent resume for developing intelligent TV drama, including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Rubicon (the latter is currently a Beemsville favorite show).  High expectations are certainly in order.

We can tell you the graphic novels provide ample source material.  Kirkman’s series is character driven, first and foremost.  The tension of the survivors on the run from the planet’s newest alpha predators drives the interactions and speculation on the strength of the human psyche.  It’s not about the blood and gore (though there’s plenty of that); it’s about adapting to an impossible situation – the good and the bad of people under extreme duress. Continue reading

MLS Curtain Calls

The regular season ended over the weekend, with L.A. beating Dallas to take the Supporter’s Shield and overall top seed into the playoffs.  The MLS post-season ticket looks like this:


1. New York Red Bulls vs. 4. San Jose Earthquakes

2. Columbus Crew vs. 3. Colorado Rapids


1. Los Angeles Galaxy vs. 4. Seattle Sounders

2. Real Salt Lake vs. 3. FC Dallas

With both the #1 seeds struggling somewhat over the last month, the field seems pretty open.  If we were to pick a team from each bracket not to advance, it would be Dallas in the West and Columbus in the East.  Salt Lake has probably played the best soccer the final month of the season, and San Jose has also looked tough.  Should be fun.

But the real news for Major League Soccer is the retirement of a handful of of stalwarts – guys who’ve been with the league since the 90’s.  Start with D.C. United’s Jaime Moreno, who’s been here since 1996 and retires as the top scorer in MLS.  He saw limited duty this year and only scored from the penalty spot, but he’s been a great asset to the league – both in the early days as a dynamic forward and now as an elder statesmen. Continue reading

Fall Reading List

Seems like I’ve been reading Shogun by James Clavell for ages, but hey- the book is like 900 pages.  Enjoying it quite a lot – review should be soon forthcoming.  After that we’ll move on to longtime ally Benjamin Percy’s The Wilding, which has garnered excellent reviews.  By most accounts, this book should both horrify and provoke the intellect, and if I know Ben (and I do), it will have some ambitious, hard-charging language as well.

Next it’s on to John Le Carre’s latest, Our Kind of Traitor. Have’t read a Le Carre book in some time (after devouring seven or eight quickly about ten years ago) but based on the buzz and the synopsis I’m looking forward to this one.  That will get me into winter, and by then I’ll probably be in the mood for something sci-fi/fantasy.  However, with The Walking Dead set to premier on AMC week after next, I may want to revisit Kirkman’s graphic novel series.  Last checked in around trade paperback #7, and to be honest, was starting to get tired of the lack of narrative momentum and higher-level plot ideas.

A short story collection could also be in order, and Dark Futures: Tales of Dystopian Science Fiction (edited by Jason Sizemore) looks promising.  Have also been meaning to look at the latest  Year’s Best Science Fiction, shepherded as ever by Gardner Dozois.

Drop me a line with other suggestions, if you dare.  It’s always nice to have options.

Stretch Run for Politico-Hacks

As we enter the final weeks leading up to the election, our beloved politicians should transition away from the barrage of attack ads towards ads that reaffirm their stance on important issues and policies, trumpeting what good guys/gals they are and what they stand for.  The key word being should.  Most pundits agree that this particular midterm cycle is the most chaotic in years, what with bad economic times and the whole tea party thing.

Republicans don’t enjoy the rigid control over their base they once commanded, and they finally have to deal with the fact that while many voters may agree with them on fiscal issues, a growing number don’t agree on their social/cultural stance.  The Democrats, meanwhile, are faced with their own internal strife.  Their far left base, impatient that not enough has been done to suit their own polarizing special interests, are snapping away, while the vast middle seems to have turned away from the old-school big government stylings of Obama and Pelosi. Continue reading

Pentagram: USA October Matches

Ze German

The October international dates have passed, and the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team moves on with an eye towards next summer’s Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying beyond.  The Bob Bradley era continues, with a couple of new faces and formations thrown in.  The team drew with Poland 2-2 in Chicago, then followed up with a tepid 0-0 draw against Columbia in Philly.  Of course all the soccerati have chimed in with the “results don’t matter,” line – it’s all about trying new guys in new positions with different formations.  But this is America so, yes, results do matter.  And, having watch both matches, I guess I should be happy we didn’t lose one of them, because the team looked inferior in stretches of both contests.

We saw the long-anticipated debut of Jermaine Jones of Germany (his father is American), plus first caps for Eric Lichaj and Brek Shea.  We saw how dependent this team remains on Landon Donovan to generate offense.  We saw an attempt at a 4-5-1, the current ‘in’ formation.  We also saw a lot of the same guys from the previous cycle doing many of the same things.  Five points in your October friendlies’ pentagram: Continue reading

Illini knock on Big 10 window

The victory at State College over the Nittany Lions was impressive.  Sure, Penn State was down a handful of starters, and yes, they were vastly overrated in the pre-season, but for Illinois to go into that immense stadium in its first true road game and dominate the home team has given us all something to consider.  Area scribes have begun to write about readjusting expectations, and shooting for a post-season appearance.

If you would’ve made that assertion in August or even a couple of weeks ago any self-respecting Illini fan would’ve laughed, but after playing Ohio State tough into the 4th quarter and now dominating Penn State, Illinois is looking at a possible upper division conference finish.


Coach Koenning


The two Ronnies (Zooker and Guenther) are looking clever right now for opening up the checkbook and hiring a pair of quality coordinators.  Coach Koening’s defense is so much better than the tepid unit that finished last season it boggles the mind.  It seemed like every blitz he called on Saturday was the correct one, and Illinois hasn’t tackled like this in years.  Coach Petrino has settled his freshman QB into a comfort zone with ball-control, high percentage passing, and big dose of the run.  If we could somehow get the play-action downfield ball in the arsenal, we’d really be dangerous.  Probably the best aspect of these two new coaches is how they’ve significantly raised the collective coaching staff IQ.  This is both a compliment to them and a criticism of Zook’s original staff.  Finally, Illinois looks like it has a solid gameplan and the ability to make adjustments during the game.

Continue reading

Winter is Coming

Over in Ireland, HBO is hard at work on a series adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first book in a long, complex, multi-faceted fantasy series that began back in 1996.  The project had been rumored for years, with fans doing their geeky faux-casting exercises, and Martin, who’s worked in TV before on the 80’s version of the Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast, dropping all kinds of hints and innuendo.

A co-worker and I, both big fans of the books, agreed we wouldn’t get too excited until we knew it was actually in production.  To quote, the incessant new Nike ads, boom.  Follow the link for production diary, interviews, teasers and more. Continue reading

Pentagram – OSU @ Illinois

“Either Ohio State isn’t as good as their rating or Illinois has improved more than we thought.”  This was the common refrain heard as people filed out of Memorial Stadium for the mid-afternoon tailgating.  In many ways, it’s beside the point.  OSU won 24-13.  They won on the road and still control their path to the mythical national title game.  The Illini couldn’t muster enough offense and avoid the dumb mistakes needed to pull the upset.  Still, this was a positive performance in many ways for Zook’s team as they stood up physically to the Buckeyes and didn’t lose any key players to injury.

A look at the stats confirms impressions of the game:  it was a very conservative affair.  OSU got 213 yards rushing, but half of those came on two big plays from Pryor.   Illinois actually outrushed the Buckeyes and were certainly more effective with the  running backs.  Again, the passing attack wasn’t very productive, but it didn’t hurt the offense much either.  If we can get to the point where passing is actually a concern for opposing defenses, we’ll be somewhere.

Five points in the Pentagram… Continue reading