Five Halloween photographs taken in the neighbourhood on a gray, pre-Halloween morning:
Shot on iPhone 8 Plus
Five thoughts on the Toronto Raptors’ second straight road win, this time against the Trailblazers in Portland…
Serge Ibaka missed the game with a bad knee, and Jonas Valanciunas remains sidelined with a bum ankle. (Starting to wonder why Jonas came on this trip at all…) Bebe came back from his ankle injury, and it was the usual mixed bag—great, athletic plays off of pick and rolls and lobs, dumb fouls, a three, lackadaisical effort on a loose ball, an offensive rebound tap-out, not paying attention to a Kyle Lowry pass… you just never know what you’re gonna get from this guy. Naturally he finished with career highs in points (17) and blocks (5).
DeMar came out firing; he clearly was feeling it early tonight, scoring 13 of the Raps’ first 15 points on 5/5 shooting with a dazzling array of jumpers, floaters and layups; the Blazers were shooting hot from deep and DeMar kept them in it early. He had a little help from Kyle Lowry, who hit 3 of his first 4 3-point attempts, and the score was tied after 1. Overall the Raps all-star backcourt combined for 44.
Portland scored one (1) (one!) field goal—and it came with 5.4 seconds left, off of an offensive rebound on a broken play. I honestly thought they weren’t going to score a bucket (they had 4 FTs) which I don’t believe I have ever seen before. Part of it was the Blazers missing open looks, and generally looking a bit lost. But you gotta give the Raps’ speed and length some credit. Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Bebe, Delon Wright and OG Anunoby were all getting in passing lanes, bothering shots, and chasing down loose balls. The Raps won the quarter 25-6. Special shoutout to Anunoby who was everywhere on defense (and whose name I shall endeavor to spell correctly going forward).
That second-quarter lead would’ve been even greater had Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet been able to buy a basket. I’ve been patient with Delon’s shooting, but now he’s out here missing layups (two in the second quarter, at least one more in the fourth) as well as threes (he’s 2-19 on the year now). Meanwhile, I’m not sure what VanVleet is bringing to the table. He’s a smart player and, supposedly, a good shooter. But I’m beginning to think he’s too small and too slow to get his shot off. He’s now 6-24 on the year.
Norm had a terrible first half on offense (he was fine on D as usual); his confidence looked completely shot. On one play, DeMar kicked it to Norm on the wing on a delayed break, but he hesitated so long on the J, the D caught up. So Norm drove… right into the teeth of the D… got tied up… jump ball. Gotta shoot that, Norm, I yelled at the TV! (This is a thing I do.) (Often.) The third didn’t start out well for Norm either, as he traveled on his first possession. But then… he hit a three (without hesitation). Missed another. Then hit a drive. Hit another three. Drove and found Bebe on a lob. Could Norm be back? I hope so!
Overall it was an easy win, fueled by defense, and the Blazers didn’t show me much. There are two games left on this trip—tough games at altitude, in Denver and Utah. Can the Raps come home over .500?
Last week I saw the news that Terry Moore will be bringing his romantic comedy / thriller comic Strangers in Paradise back in 2018, with Strangers in Paradise XXV. As a longtime fan, naturally I have a few thoughts (five, of course!) to share on the subject (with minor spoilers if you’ve never read the series):
Strangers in Paradise (or SiP) started in 1993 but it was around 1998 that I started reading it. My then-girlfriend was looking for a comic book to read and I’d heard SiP was a “girl-friendly” comic. So I bought the first trade paperback for her. She loved it, and told me to read it, and I fell in love with it too. After we broke up I needed my own collection, and I opted for the “limited edition hardcovers.” These books were expensive and I could only ever find them at the Silver Snail, but even then, I couldn’t find the final two volumes (Volume 3, part 7 and Volume 3, Part 8) for years after the book’s conclusion. Eventually I spotted Part 8 at Jim Henley’s Universe (or whatever that shop is called now) in New York City; I debated getting it since I didn’t have Part 7 but thankfully, I did. About a year and a half later Part 7 showed up with an Amazon marketplace seller for a decent price so the collection was finally complete!
The strength of SiP is, of course, in its two main characters, confident bisexual Katina (aka Katchoo) and sexually repressed Francine. The sales pitch was always, “Katchoo is in love with Francine; Francine sees her as a friend; will they ever find each other?” but the book was always so much more than that. There’s David, of course, the third wheel who’s in love with Katchoo and who, as it turns out, has connections to Katchoo’s mysterious past, working as a call girl for the conniving Darcy Parker… who in turn has connections to international crime and politics… and the layers keep peeling back. But the book always comes back to Francine and Katchoo and their relationship and that’s what makes it work.
The critical pitch on SiP was always “Moore both writes and draws amazing female characters, who look and act and interact—with each other and the world around them—like actual, real women.” Which is A) totally true and B) such a sad statement, that there are so few comic books that feature realistic women (although we are definitely way, way better off in that regard in 2017 than we were in the mid-1990s). I’d like to think that SiP was one of the books that led us out of the “big boobs/tiny waist” 1990s in comics, and showed publishers that there was an audience for comics featuring realistic women.
SiP ran for a total of 107 issues, and any series that long will have some ups and downs. The story almost completely falls off the rails right around the middle; thankfully, Moore manages to get it back on track—by literally rewinding the story, which I’ve always thought was his own acknowledgment that the book had lost its way. It’s a total deus ex machina that I’ll forgive because the book needed it. Beyond that, at times, some of the thriller aspects of it seem ridiculously far-fetched (the far-reaching influence of the Parker girls seemed unbelievable, and the David-as-teenage-assassin part never sat well with me, to use two examples). But even when the book was floundering, Francine and Katchoo were such wonderful characters that you couldn’t help but keep reading to see where the story would take them.
SiP is a series that’s high on emotion and it can be hard to bring something like that to a satisfying conclusion; you have to wrap up all the plot points and character arcs of course, but you also have to pay off all the emotional investment that readers have made in the characters. Moore manages to do it all in the final few issues, and doesn’t do it in too neat a bow, either, which is appropriate for a series featuring such real, human characters. It’s a “happy ending,” sure, but no one comes out unscathed, and that’s just the way it should be.
That perfect ending is what leaves me with mixed feelings on this announcement. Of course I want to see Katchoo and Francine again (and Moore’s work since, including Echo and Rachel Rising, indicates he hasn’t lost a step); but, you always worry that a new story will take away from the wonderful ending. Ah well, I’m in regardless!
Last summer I read this article in Sports Illustrated on Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors and, from all accounts, an excellent leader and all-around wonderful human being. It’s a great article on leadership, his approach to coaching the Warriors, and how the health challenges Kerr faced last year (complications from back surgery) have forced him to reevaluate things. One part has stuck with me; the author, Chris Ballard, shares with Kerr five practices of exemplary leaders, as defined by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner in their book The Leadership Challenge.
I’ve been thinking about leadership a lot lately as that’s where I’m finding my passion as my career evolves. Here are my five quick thoughts on those five practices:
Leading by example should be the easiest of these leadership practices, but it’s one I see so many managers and leaders fail at. I’m not sure why. I think a lot of it has to do with simply slowing down, and considering your actions and your words and thinking, how would I respond if others acted this way? If your response is negative, then reconsider your approach.
I think a lot of leaders find this one daunting, because they don’t feel they are inspiring and because the word “vision” itself can seem intimidating; after all, most jobs are just that, jobs, and don’t exactly inspire great visions. But succeeding at this one starts with a combination of modeling the way, and of setting team goals, with well-defined objectives and clear expectations for all team members. No grand vision required: just a path to success.
Ah, the one every leader likes to say, and most want, but few can actually do, especially in large organizations. Creating actual change can be extremely difficult, and politics and hierarchies often throw up roadblocks that force people into the same patterns and bad habits. The important thing is for leaders to avoid throwing up their hands in frustration. Do that behind closed doors. When your team comes to you and their struggling to move forward, use the “Yes, and…?” approach to acknowledge their challenge and encourage them to think of solutions.
This is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it’s easy, when you have those go-getters on your team who know exactly what they want and all you need to do is say “yes, go.” The challenge is helping those who don’t know what they want, figure it out. To me, that comes with getting to know people, caring about them, listening to them—even, and perhaps especially, when they’re not talking about work or their career or ongoing development. And then start with providing ownership of little things. Make them responsible for updating a report each month. Have them attend a meeting instead of you. And grow those responsibilities over time.
I am finding that even though organizationally, businesses are getting a bit better at focusing on employees as human beings, in marketing, we might be going in the opposite direction. We’ve placed such an emphasis in the last 10-15 years, with the advent of digital marketing, on data and measurable results that some of the “soft skills” are being ignored. As a leader I think the most important thing you can for your team is have their back. Recognize them when they succeed (especially in front of others, where appropriate) and use constructive feedback and positive reinforcement to put them back on the path to success when they fail.
None of this is rocket science; it usually all comes down to communication and consistency. But I do think it’s important to stop and remind ourselves of these things every once in a while; even the most experienced leader can lose sight of them.
On Friday I wrote a blog post offering five thoughts on the Fantastic Four. I’ve had that one in my head for a while—since I restarted this blog actually. Originally it was going to be four things about the Fantastic Four—which, obviously, makes sense thematically. But I’ve been writing five thoughts about the Raptors every game and I’ve found myself enjoying it; so much so that I’m actually considering writing every post that way.
As a matter of fact… I have five thoughts about it:
Now my next challenge is finding a better way to title these posts! I can’t keep calling them “five thoughts on…” every time…
Five thoughts on the Raptors squeaking out their first road win of the season:
The road trip is half-over! Up next, it’s the Trail Blazers in Portland.
A couple months back, the comic shop up the street from me put a large selection of silver age (1961-1970) Marvel comics up for sale, including a large number of Fantastic Four issues from that era. I became quite nostalgic as Fantastic Four was my favorite comic as a kid, and the title whose back issues I sought out the most. My goal was to one day own every issue of Fantastic Four! Seeing those old FFs at the shop brought back memories of the days of hunting down back issues at shops and comic cons, so I pulled out my old, hand-made checklist and thought, “why not?” And off hunting I went!
More on the outcome of that hunt later, but ever since, I’ve had the FF on my mind. Why has Fantastic Four been my favorite comic for 30 years? A few thoughts…
People cite the reasons above and others when talking about what makes the Fantastic Four distinct from other super-hero teams, and while they’re all true to an extent, it’s really the combination of them all together that makes them work; the whole is greater than the sum and all of that.
I have many more thoughts on the FF rattling around my head these days—more to come!
Five thoughts on the Raptors’ tough loss to the reigning NBA champs:
Let’s see how the Raps do Friday night against the new-look Lakers!
Five thoughts on the Raptors’ first road game, and first loss, of the season:
Let’s see if the team can get more balanced production between the starting unit and the bench Wednesday night against the champs.