BAKER STREET

by Eric J Baker

The Pittsburgh Penguins, crowned by most sports writers as presumptive 2012 Stanley Cup Champions, were just smoked by the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening week of the NHL playoffs. Thus proving true the sports writer’s axiom, “That’s why you still have to play the games.” The Pen’s captain, Sidney Crosby, is arguably the best hockey player on the planet. I say trade the bum.

You call that a playoff beard?

In 2009, Crosby led his Penguins to a championship (above) and months later won a gold medal for Canada, all by the time he was legally able to order a Miller Lite in a bar. He is a gifted athlete who can turn crap into a goal while the guys on the other team are standing there wondering who pulled their jock straps over their heads. He’s five seconds ahead of everyone, as only the most elite players can be. He’s tenacious, and he’s a winner.

Oh yeah. Everybody hates him.

People tend to shower love and worship upon a superstar athlete, who, in turn, smiles warmly, is magnanimous, and presents himself as accessible to all. Sports heroes like Michael Jordan, Shaq, Tiger Woods before his scandal, and Wayne Gretsky were ambassadors of goodwill. And, if they were lucky, the namesake of sneakers. These are the humans we’d want space aliens to meet first.

Evgeni Malkin, the fourth gorgon.

Meanwhile, Sidney Crosby has a well-earned reputation as an entitled whiner, and, outside of Western Pennsylvania, he’s almost universally referred to by hockey fans as “Cindy.” He has one year left on his contract at about 9 million bucks. The alternate choice for best player on the planet, Evgeni Malkin, happens to be his teammate and plays the same position, center. You’ll never see Malkin cry to the referee or fall down like he was shot when an opponent clips him. Malkin is a mean, fuck-ugly Russian monster who doesn’t care about referees or getting tripped. “In Russia,” he says, “you don’t beg for favors from the refs. The refs beg YOU!” Or something.

As if that embarrassment of riches weren’t enough, the Penguins have a third center, Jordan Staal, who would be the top guy on most teams. In case you’re wondering how Pittsburgh ended up with three all-star centers, they tanked several seasons in a row and kept getting the first-overall draft pick. It worked for them in the ‘80s when they won the Mario Lemieux sweepstakes, so why not try it again? Of critical importance, Staal’s contract is up next summer, and Pittsburgh needs to free up some cash.

Despite being frontloaded with scoring talent, the Pens got spanked by Philly because of their shoddy defense and goaltending. They may be stacked with centers, but you can only get one center on the ice at a time, and a game is only so long. Unlike P-Burgh, lots of teams have trouble scoring, and some of those teams have plenty of solid defensemen and a good back-up goalie or two lying around. I’d bet that the 29 other NHL franchises would kill to have the world’s best player on their team, and, as crazy as it sounds, the one that has him would improve itself by ditching him.

These Flyers don’t seem so tough. Whattup with dat, Penguins?

One big complication is Crosby’s no-trade clause. But it so happens that the New York Rangers and the L.A. Kings are stacked on the back end yet have trouble scoring. Though the Rangers have good reasons to make a deal, most managers don’t like to trade within their division, so L.A., with its spare high-potential goaltender Jonathan Bernier, could be the ideal destination. Sid the Kid, despite his tarnished reputation, is guaranteed points, which the Kings need to be a top contender. I’m sure Pittsburgh is a great town, but if I’m Sid and I had a shot at remaking my image while simultaneously gaining access to starlet central, I’d waive that no-trade clause faster than a Russian unloads a slap shot.

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Last Saturday our blogmaster, James Killough, made fun of me via e-mail for my feeble attempt to spell the Italian word for “red.” I had just sent him the draft of my weekly PFC story, which made mention of the Dario Argento film Profondo Rosso (Deep Red), but I took the spelling from Anchor Bay’s DVD booklet. They identified it as “Profundo Russo.” Now, I could be lazy and do all my research on IMDB and Wikipedia, but I consider myself a pretend journalist and believe it’s critically important to pick things up and look at them so I can feel like I did at least something to suggest credibility. Can I be blamed for trusting Anchor Bay, a reputable and beloved distributor of European horror movies on DVD?

Rosso’s Deposition (1521)

So apparently “russo” does not mean “red” in Italian, but, rather, “Good grief, you Americans are the biggest bunch of uncultured, classless Philistines since the Visigoths,” at least to hear Killough tell it. I could have responded several ways to his mockery. I could have said, “Sorry, we Americans are too busy ruling the world to learn Italian.” I could have shown my true patriot’s heart and said, “Them there Aye-talians would be speaking Russian right now if we didn’t save their asses at Normandy in World War I.” Or I could have gone with the simple, “Dude, you’re American too.”

Ah, but Killough was on point. Though I do not speak Italian, my oversight was egregious nonetheless. As PFC’s low-rent, yet oddly likeable art historian, whose academic focus was Renaissance and Baroque Italy, I should know the word for “red,” if nothing else. After all, the great mannerist painter Giovanni Batista di Jacopo is known to the world as Rosso Fiorentino, AKA The Redheaded Florentine. Having collaborated with Killough for over a year now, I’m pretty sure he gets annoyed when I blather about art. Thus, I take my vengeance on him for making fun of me the other day by posting this painting by Rosso, whose work was characterized by (bla bla bla bla, snore snore).

By the way, a Swiss friend of mine professes to know nothing about art. He also hates late ‘50s jazz and does not speak a word of Italian. So there.

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Robert Rodriguez continues to serve his purpose on Earth as my personal director. Our relationship is like that of tattoo artist and skin in which the skin says, “You know what I like. Just give me something good.” I trust Rodriguez, and he does not let me down.

How can I not love a filmmaker who wakes up in the morning and wonders, “What would someone who loves ‘80s splatter movies and ‘70s exploitation cinema want to watch?” His 2007 zombie epic Planet Terror is a love letter to anyone who grew up on this stuff. It’s like a ninety-minute trailer with all the good scenes from one hundred otherwise bad flicks cut into one great movie, replete with the pops, scratches, and splice damage I adored in my youth. The only thing missing is a pre-title card saying, “Dear, Eric.”

This Week’s Brunette is Rose McGowan of Planet Terror. Rose, stop messing with your face.

Despite nobody caring about the first entry but me, Rodriguez has announced preproduction on Machete Kills, the sequel to 2010’s faux Mexploitation film Machete, with Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, and Michelle Rodriguez rumored to be reprising their roles. Also alleged to be on board is Mel Gibson, which, if true, is pure genius, equaled only by Rodriguez’s casting of Lindsay Lohan as a drug-addled rich girl turned gun-toting nun in the first film. Let’s hope Gibson plays a lunatic filmmaker who destroys his reputation with an anti-Semitic rant. And then becomes a gun-toting nun.

If that weren’t enough, Rodriguez also recently announced preproduction on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, perhaps aware that fans were running out of patience waiting for a sequel to the über-stylized 2005 hit, Sin City, while he cranked out one CGI-drenched kids movie after another. The first film was a visually stunning, exhausting comic book come to life that resembles no other film before or since, and I hope the follow up can find its own groove. As much as I liked the original, more of the same will be tiring without the accompanying exhilaration.

Just for you, a bonus This Week’s Brunette, Jessica Alba from Sin City. Yeah, I know she’s blond here, but we use DNA testing to certify all our brunettes: