Game Preview: Knicks at Raptors-01/22/23

On Sunday, the New York Knicks (25-22) head to Scotiabank Arena for a rematch with the Toronto Raptors (20-26). The Knicks would love to avenge their Martin Luther King Jr. Day overtime loss to the Raptors. Life without Mitchell Robinson is tough, though, as the Knicks learned in their Friday loss to Atlanta. At least the Raptors are playing the second of a back-to-back, lost yesterday, and, according to the injury report, will be without OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet.

Currently sitting eleventh in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors have had three of their last four games decided by two points, including that B.S. 123-121 win at MSG. The Canadian Club leads the season series 2-1 and won the last matchup. Both teams have lost consecutive games, with the Knicks dropping three and Raptors two.

Maybe we’ll see some small ball? Eh? Tip-off’s at 6 p.m., EST, Spielbergians.


With VanVleet out, Toronto spreads the ballhandling duties around. They were lively passers against the Celtics yesterday, and head coach Nick Nurse rolled out Gary Trent Jr.Scottie Barnes, and Anunoby in the starting five. Without Anunoby tonight, who’s next? Maybe Malachi Flynn? Whoever starts will face a trio of Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimesand RJ Barrett

In the frontcourt for Toronto, Precious Achiuwa  (6’8”, 225 lb.) and Pascal Siakam (6’9”, 230 lb.) will clash with New York’s Julius Randle and Jericho Sims, presumably. Siakam, particularly, is a pest and has averaged 30 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists in three games against the Knicks this season.


The Knicks haven’t matched up well against Toronto in the previous three games. One wonders if Cam Reddish might be helpful against these rangy Raptors, but it’s verboten to suggest that he play because the front office doesn’t want their top trade chip damaged. Such is business.

Toronto makes me nervous. Even without VanVleet, and missing O.G. for part of the game, the Raptors hung with Boston until the end. Still, Jalen and the Knicks are hungry for a win, it’s the weekend, and I’m trying to be more positive in 2023. Knicks by deuce (but not by McBride.)

Toronto, Canuckland. 6:00 p.m., EST. Go Knicks, eh!


Young actors astonish in EPAC’s Waiting for Godot

Street parking came shamefully easily on Friday night in downtown Endicott. It was a shame because Washington Avenue and EPAC’s Robert Eckert Theater should have been overfull with people coming to this season’s thrilling production of Waiting for Godot.

Samuel Beckett’s absurdist allegory, written in 1949, is alive and well under the care of director Patrick Foti and some tremendously talented young actors. Tickets remain available for Saturday’s show and Sunday’s matinee

The play tells the story of two hobos waiting in a desolate spot (not unlike purgatory) for a God(ot) who never comes. They could pass their time creatively, or philosophically—or romantically, one supposes—but in typical Beckett fashion, they mostly natter about the mundane or body aches while they “pass the time.” Occasionally they consider hanging themselves from the scenery’s solitary tree, but even that task is too daunting for this pair.

The slightly smarter of the slow-witted duo is Vladimir, portrayed by Matt Gaska. The actor avails himself wonderfully in the role, as does Dustin Hirthler, who plays Estragon his trusty dusty sidekick. Both young men are thrilling talents and destined to go far beyond the streets of Endicott.

These thespians modulate their voices with masterful appropriateness and comport their bodies with precision. Like me, you may be surprised to find that WFG is a much more physical play than you remember, with dashes of almost Marx-bros-level shtick and some wince-inducing tumbles. These fine actors, especially Hirthler, who is a pliable noodle, can do whatever the stage requires of them.

The quiet touches, though, are where Gaska and Hirthler truly shine. The former uses subtle movement—the fingertip twirling, the bit of pigeon toe—to imbue his role with vibrant life. Both he and Hirthler have excellent voice and face control, and there are moments when the desolation demonstrated by the latter’s frown moved an emotion in this reviewer’s heart that is too often obscured by a crusty boulder. Well done, lads.

Eventually in the play, someone else does arrive, a Falstaffian figure named Pozzo (POZZO!) who keeps another, exhausted human as a slave, leashed by a rope around his neck. Here Beckett hits his point squarely on the nose by naming the latter character Lucky. Interpret that as you will.

More amusing nonsensical dialogue ensues, while our initial hobos struggle to make sense of and converse with the blustery master who mistreats his ward. Eventually, they persuade Pozzo to allow Lucky to “think”, which unleashes a tour de force torrent of uninterrupted, bombastic speech that lasts for minutes while the hobos roll around in apparent discomfort. First, be careful what you wish for, bums. Second: How remarkable it is that the oppressed man had so much to say, but sadly, when finally given the chance, he says it all at once and it comes out as blithering nonsense.

Here, one must stand and applaud the talent of newcomer Nicholas Dabbracci.

As Lucky, Dabbracci spends much of his stage time bent-backed, breathlessly obeying his master’s commands, lugging bags, and near death, mostly. His two big moments in the play come when he is permitted to dance and then think. The dancing is a histrionic performance of explosive spastic movements that, as Beckett intended, startles the audience after so much aimless dialogue.

When Lucky is ordered to think, boy does he have stuff on his mind. Unfortunately, given the chance to finally express himself, all he can do is spitfire, micro-machine-announcer style, a diarrhea dialogue that prattles on forever, signifying nothing. While Dabbracci is mid-rant, after what already feels like minutes, one asks oneself, “How is he doing that?” And by the rap’s conclusion, when his counterparts and his audience feel obliterated by words, there comes an audible sigh of relief from the crowd and an urge to give Dabbracci a standing ovation. It’s a stunning stage debut.

The play continues. Pozzo exits, intending to sell Lucky at the market. A child messenger (played by the winsome Ciaran Kane, who does his damndest to keep a straight face, God bless him) arrives to relay the news that Godot, while not busy, will not be visiting today. Please try back tomorrow. 

And so the hobos do, and once again wait. Pozzo and Lucky return, the same but different, what with the master being afflicted by sudden blindness and therefore even more dependent upon his servant.

Brett Alan Dewing plays the part of Pozzo and was more settled into the role in the Second Act. Physically he is perfectly matched, but he lacks the vocal command of his play partners. His yelling at Lucky in the First Act is too loud, as though he’d been directed to go to the top of his register, a Spinal Tap 11, when a nine or even eight would suffice. Still, he fits the Pozzo costume perfectly, and it can be hard to find nuance when playing smarm, which he lays on thick. He’s a one-man marching band, blaring through a dust bowl and a perfect foil to the faded Vladimir and Estragon.

Finally, Pozzo and Lucky depart again. The messenger boy returns to announce: sorry, no Godot today, but try again tomorrow. The play ends with our hobo heroes exactly where we found them, still waiting for Godot.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see these excellent performers delivering the goods in a great play at EPAC this weekend. To do so would be not so lucky.

Blur > Oasis

Most popular songs follow a I-IV-V or I-V-IV chord progression. An example of the first is “Blowin’ in the Wind”, and the second is “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. Or, see anything by The Ramones. The chords in these progressions cooperate so harmoniously and resolve so pleasingly back to the root that they can easily become earworms.

From my limited understanding, Oasis wrote those kinds of songs. My understanding is limited because I’ve only ever heard the hits, and my one or two dives into this or that album were aborted due to boredom. Still, I’ve endured the same handful of Oasis songs so many times—in stores, passenger seats, sporting events—that like you perhaps, I can recite their lyrics from memory. That means I’m no expert in their catalog, but I do hold opinions about their most popular half-dozen.

On the planet of Gallagher, they just want to fly, they don’t want to die. They walk down halls, faster than cannonballs. The girls are named Sally. Usually, Oasis would prefer that you stop doing something, whether that be looking back in anger or crying your heart out. It’s totally fine that they love to rhyme and whine all the time!

As for the music, their backing tracks are the kind of polished, sweet lozenges that Jeff Lynne might manufacture just for fun on a lazy Sunday and file away in his vault for posterity. Maybe that sounds harsh, so let me clarify: 1) Jeff Lynne is a master, and 2) Oasis creates very palatable soundscapes that are just a little too unadventuresome for my taste.

Yet, some days, I just want a bland, melodic song to fill in the background while working, and, sure, Oasis can provide that—not that I ever think to listen to them in those instances, but, in theory, they could. And truly, some Oasis songs are bangers despite their insipid, inane, idiot, stupid, maddening words. 

OK, here is an ad hominem objection, separate from the quality and competency of their product: I might like Oasis more if Liam Gallagher had stage dived to his death during their first tour. I must admit that his well-documented shitty personality does factor into my assessment of his band—which is a bummer because I probably could appreciate his mastermind brother’s songcraft if I gave it an unbiased chance. But there are still a million bands I haven’t heard yet, and so many other listening experiences to be had, that when I see the Oasis sign on the side of the road, I get a mental flash of that dickhead Liam and drive right past it to the Love Shack, baby!

And, another admission, I haven’t tried N.G.’s High Flying Birds because I’m disinterested in Noel’s vox, which can be fairly described as adequate. Let’s say, less bono than Bono.

If the boys in Blur aced their SATs, those Oasis lads would cheat off your paper. Noel Gallagher writes (still does, I assume) catchy chants that are perfectly suited for a daisy-chained crowd of drunken football fans. Maybe that’s why I’ve always considered them a quintessentially British band, whereas while Damon Albarn’s crew possess some of that same Brit-snottiness, I would expect them to be delighted to travel by bus to Wall Drug, where they could amuse themselves by deriding Americana tchotchkes.

Blur tested the limits of traditional song forms and eventually attempted to eschew them completely. Like The Beatles, they had the chops and the looks to be an enormously successful band, and asked, “But why?” Their first album Leisure predated Oasis’s Definitely Maybe by three years, but its lead track, “She’s So High” sounds not dissimilar to a Noel Gallagher ditty. By Leisure’s second song and subsequent songs, Blur had already grown bored and begun exploring, bravely throwing in the odd flat note for tension’s sake, or playing with speed. Comparatively, I can’t imagine Gallagher ever deviating from key or allowing his drums to sound like anything other than a metronomically precise machine.

Like the Beatles, Blur would jump all over the musical timeline, leaping from a throbbing discotheque to an old ragtime hall, with a melancholy hike along the White Cliffs of Dover in between. With each successive album, they progressively deconstructed their music—and, in the case of startlingly handsome Albarn, themselves. (Seriously, I always thought Damon could have a profitable career as an actor playing whatever parts Jude Law declined.) 

Per Wikipedia, sometime around 1996-97, “Under the suggestion of the band’s guitarist, Graham Coxon, the band underwent a stylistic change, becoming influenced by American indie rock bands such as Pavement.” I can see that. I listened to Blur in real time, buying every album upon release and listening all the way through that day, and upon finishing 1999’s 13, I was convinced that a) Damon needed a script for Zoloft, and b) this band gave zero shits about their bank accounts.

And yet, amidst their experimentation, Blur would occasionally toss off a rocker like “Song 2” to remind you what they COULD do but chose not to. That’s a perfect example, actually: “Song 2” may have the most intentionally dumb lyrics of any anthem played at modern sports arenas. American sports arenas. Their hit “Girls & Boys” is still played at dance clubs, and it’s another instance of them taking the piss out of a conventional form.

Truth: If I were in a band, I’d want it to be Blur-like, but with Oasis money.

Another truth: I dislike Liam & Damon almost equally. Arrogant shits, both. The difference is that Albarn has genuine talent to back it up, whereas Gallagher can merely sing a small range of notes in key and is stranded without his brother (or another songwriter) to hand him a lyric sheet and a bottle of claret.

A decade on, you’ll still hear “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Wonderwaaaaall” sung by the inebriated rabble around a soccer pitch, which is a testament to Noel Gallagher’s particular genius. Maybe you’ll still hear “Song 2” during time-outs at Lakers games, too. Between these bands, though, Blur will be the one respected by listeners who appreciate traditional pop/rock groups that attempt to test the limit of their art—and try to make art—and, most days, I am such a listener. Hence, for me, Blur is >.

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