Monday, April 24, 2017

NHL Predictions 2016-17: Round Two

So, how did I fare in Round One?

I was better predicting the West, accurately predicting 3 of the 4 winners, usually within a game of the series' actual length, save for the Preds, whom I had winning in seven games while they swept the Chicago Blackhawks in four straight games instead.

I had a tad more trouble in the East, accurately predicting the Caps and Sens winning, but the Rangers and Pens made their way through, with Pittsburgh appearing particularly strong.

So, for Round Two, I thought I'd start out with the West:

Nashville Predators vs St. Louis Blues:

Jake Allen performed miracles for the Blues in the first round. It's entirely possible for elite goaltenders to elevate their game in the postseason (Patrick Roy, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas, Curtis Joseph, Nikolai Khabibulin), and it also happens at times that okay goalies enter a sate of grace they can never replicate in future seasons but actually sustain it for an entire two months one time (Cam Ward, Ron Hextall, Dwayne Roloson). Obviously, I feel like if Allen remains that brick wall, he will be part of the latter bunch. I also think it'll be extremely difficult to do that against this Preds team. I mean, yes, there's Alex Pietrangelo  Colton Parayko and Jay Bouwmeester on defense, but it gets thin past those three. And sure, the offense features super-sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, and Paul Stastny came back from his injury and scored, but Nashville's P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm just shut down the entire Chicago offense by themselves, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews limited to two points apiece - the same amount as the Predators' goalie, Pekka Rinne, who also happened to have two shutouts in four games.

Preds in 6

Edmonton Oilers vs Anaheim Ducks:

Connor McDavid was the best player in the NHL this season, and although his speed confused the heck out of the San Jose Sharks, he has yet to produce at the same clip that saw him be the lone 100-point player in the league. The Oilers also showed some depth in beating the Sharks, with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins raising their level of play, Oscar Klefbom playing like a #1 defenseman and Cam Talbot looking like he should have been a Vezina Trophy finalist. But the Ducks are bigger, faster, meaner, better and deeper than the Sharks at every position; I wouldn't be surprised if they won the Cup. However, I still see the Oilers prevailing here on talent alone, but too banged up to pose a threat against the Preds in the Conference Final.

Oilers in 7

And, in the East:

New York Rangers vs Ottawa Senators:

Henrik Lundqvist was Royal against the Habs, but the Sens have a much more balanced offense - and elite talent that Montréal just cannot match, starting with Erik Karlsson, perhaps the best defenseman in the league. Their offense includes high-scoring wingers such as Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman, as well as power forward Clarke MacArthur to complete centers Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard, meaning the Sens also have the manpower up front to rival the Rags' Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mika Zibanejad, Jimmy Vesey, and Michael Grabner (the only wild-card being rookie Pavel Buchnevich, who could explode at any time); New York, however, has a suspect defense past Brady Skjei and captain Ryan McDonagh. Also, as I said for round one: never sleep on Craig Anderson in the playoffs.

Sens in 6

Pittsburgh Penguinsvs Washington Capitals:

"The Caps have the best goalie in the world in Braden Holtby, the best goal-scorer of his generation in Alex Ovechkin, the deepest core of forwards in the East and a coach, Barry Trotz, who knows what he's doing and has instilled a system good enough for two straight Presidents Trophies, i.e. "tops in the regular season"." All of this still holds true two weeks later. But the Caps are now facing last season's champions, not a bunch of rookies. The Pens were all over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, making likely Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky look like an AHLer in their five-game series. Evgeni Malkin has 11 points (again, in five fucking games), Phil Kessel has 8 and Sidney Crosby has 7, among others. Crosby will lose his cool at least once, possibly costing his team a game in overtime, and Kris Letang's absence will be too much to bear against a team like the Caps. Justin Williams will prevail, scoring the Game 7 winner.

Caps in 7

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bombs Versus Policy Versus Truth

So, Donald Trump told his military chiefs they could do what they wanted, and of course they used their biggest toy (non-nuclear anyway) for the first time. It's as if he's never seen a single fucking movie with enough budget to have a consultant on-set to help tell the truest version of a tale within a fictitious setting, where those guys are usually depicted as "quick on the draw".

Health care is more complex than he thought, foreign diplomacy is harder than he thought, and now he's about to learn that Generals may not be the best people to handle foreign diplomacy - all while he spends every fucking weekend playing golf in his private Florida club.

For fuck's sake.

And that's saying nothing of the Russia connection...

Here's a clip from MSNBC, and this is how their YouTube page describes the video: "The Trump administration dropped a bomb that the Obama and Bush administrations refrained from using as new ties between Trump associates and Russian agents are reported. Malcolm Nance, David Corn, and David Frum join Lawrence O'Donnell."

Read that twice if you need to, particularly the first sentence. Remember how the bombs on Syria a few days ago seemed to just be a decoy for hiding all the shit currently going on on the home front, to say nothing of the fact that they may have been a deception that was acted upon too swiftly by a President who needs to prove his toughness to the world at the beginning of his first mandate.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

NHL Predictions 2016-17: Round One

Every year, I go through this exercise in futility, putting my vast hockey knowledge to the test just to prove I'm as worthless at predicting the outcome of the NHL playoffs as the pundits on TV. For the record, I usually predict at a 60-70% clip, which makes me better than they are...

Here's what the playoff picture actually looks like this year:

Eastern Conference:

Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs:

I thought the Leafs, being the Leafs, would not even make the playoffs, but it seems as though Auston Matthews is "the real thing". However, the Caps have the best goalie in the world in Braden Holtby, the best goal-scorer of his generation in Alex Ovechkin, the deepest core of forwards in the East and a coach, Barry Trotz, who knows what he's doing and has instilled a system good enough for two straight Presidents Trophies, i.e. "tops in the regular season". The Caps being the best, plus "fuck the Leafs" make for a short series in my mind.

Caps in 5

Columbus Blue Jackets vs Pittsburgh Penguins:

I didn't think the Pens would make the playoffs last year, let alone win the Cup. They may be balanced enough to repeat, but they first need to get out of their division, and that includes getting past the Jackets, who are making a case to become their fiercest rivals, to the displeasure of the Philadelphia Flyers. Look for this one to go all the way to seven games, and look for Brandon Dubinsky to get Sidney Crosby off his game at least twice.

Jackets in 7

Montréal Canadiens vs New York Rangers:

The Habs finished first in the Atlantic - as was expected - but still had fewer points than the Rags, who finished in the first Wild Card position and, thus, avoided playing the Caps. I want to say good things about the Rangers, how they have the most consistent goalie of the past decade in Henrik Lundqvist, how well-balanced their offense is, but their defense is laughable and they never seem to be able to beat the Habs when Carey Price is playing. Honestly, I'm not Price's biggest fan, but if he only played the Rangers and Boston Bruins, he'd set the league record for shutouts and be the best goalie of all time.

Habs in 5

Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins:

The Sens may have won the season series 4-0 and the Bruins may be decimated by injuries on defense, but this will be a close one. Skill versus Grit always makes for a tight showdown, particularly in postseason play, when the referees stop making penalty calls and players like Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara can punish their opponents without mercy. Tuukka Rask had a redemption season, but never sleep on Craig Anderson in the playoffs. The difference will be health and coaching, and Guy Boucher has Bruce Cassidy beat.

Sens in 6

Western Conference:

Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues:

This could be the year the Blues finally make it... but realistically, no. The Wild are perhaps the deepest team in the league, without a true superstar at any position but with players who can play at that level for a while, starting with Devan Dubnyk in net, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon on defense and an offense that includes names like Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Charlie Coyle, Eric Staal, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Eric Haula and Chris Stewart. The Blues counter that with Jake Allen in net, Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester on defense, and pretty much Vladimir Tarasenko up front, seeing as Paul Stastny seems to be injured. Oh, and the guy behind the Blues' bench is Mike Yeo, whom the Wild fired just last year.

Wild in 6

Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators:

This could be the one where we see a major upset. The Hawks finished first in the Western Conference after a late-season collapse by the Wild, and the Preds have been looking for their game pretty much all year, trying to fit in new arrival and star defenseman P.K. Subban in their system. Well, they have, and the only question mark they have left is whether Pekka Rinne can get back to the days when he was a Vezina Trophy runner-up instead of an overpaid underachiever. Now, I don't know if he can sustain it for two month, but two weeks? Absolutely. They're a bit of a long-shot, but they're worth the gamble.

Preds in 7

Edmonton Oilers vs San Jose Sharks:

They may have gone to the Stanley Cup Final last year, but the Sharks are old, injured (notably Joe Thornton and Logan Couture), and head coach Peter DeBoer usually has trouble repeating after some team success. And now they're all tasked with stopping Connor McDavid in seven straight games over two weeks? Not a chance.

Oilers in 7

Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames:

If you'd asked me which Western Conference team was the deepest at the beginning of the year, chances are I would have said the Ducks. And I did. I love the Flames to no end, but they don't stand a chance, particularly with having not won a single game in Anaheim in something like 11 years. I would have loved a Battle Of Alberta to close off the Pacific Division series, but it just won't happen. The Ducks are bound for the Conference Finals, at least.

Ducks in 6

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Video Of The Week: Joey Bada$$

Some young fellas get into rap dreaming of jewels, cars and being surrounded by promiscuous women, and those are usually the type who get airplay and have the bumping songs that play in clubs and cars with their windows open; once in a while, though, one of them has a message that needs to be heard, and early this year, that rapper is Joey Bada$$, a 22-year-old from Brooklyn.

He's still young and impulsive, still "reps his crew" Pro Era and claims to be signed to an independent label - which may have been true at the time of his signing, but now fails to acknowledge that Cinematic Records is now distributed by Sony...

Still, his All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ record, which (finally) came out on Thursday after having been announced for last August, seems to be an impactful record, and the current single, Land Of The Free, packs a nice punch in the heart of one of the two issues currently affecting the United States, racial tension.

The video, co-directed by Nathan R. Smith and Bada$$ himself, keeps the focus on the message instead of the packaging, showing him teaching history to children and facing police extremism (we're way past "brutality" when murder's involved):

He still has to perfect his skills (the introductory pre-song statement says "You know" twice in less than ten words), but his mind is clear and delivery is extremely efficient.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Video Of The Week: Cake


With Soul Coughing, they're my favourite band that I always forget exists.

I wanted to add a few of their songs to my phone playlist this week - namely Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps, Never There, Sheep Go To Heaven, Cool Blue Reason, their cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, Satan Is My Motor, She'll Come Back To Me, Open Book and, of course, The Distance:

The 1990s were great about introducing us to acts that didn't all resemble each other, what with the boom in indie labels and the traveling festivals. All bands didn't have to be big at the same level, either; Cake had one extremely successful album - 1996's Fashion Nugget, with their cover of I Will Survive - but also enjoyed moderate success with 1994's Motorcade Of Generosity and 1998's Prolonging The Magic, building a fanbase that would remain loyal to them to this day. Like Pearl Jam, but on a much smaller scale.

In many ways, Cake was similar to Soul Coughing, both containing elements of deadpan-delivery spoken word, rock, humour, poetry, irony, sarcasm; the main difference was the flavouring: Cake was based on country (particularly clearer after the departure of guitarist Greg Brown and his distinctive tone) whereas Soul Coughing's love of jazz was the underlying essence behind the composition.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Luka Sabbat Doesn't Actually Explain Teen Talk

I'll classify this as "comedy" even though I'm fairly certain model and fashionista Luka Sabbat was dead-serious in this piece:

Now's a good time to wrap your face around in your palm. Death to us all.

Added bonus, an actual comedy bit on the subject by Late Night with Seth Meyers:

Video Of A Generation: Pearl Jam

To celebrate the band's upcoming induction in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Pearl Jam's official videographer, Kevin Shuss, compiled 25 years' worth of video material set to the tune of their first single, Alive:

There are tons of special guests in there, from Neil Young to members of The Ramones to every drummer in the band's history to Chris Cornell to Ben Harper to the band appearing with or opening for the likes of The Rolling Stones and The Who... it's a neat little compilation/celebration.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Video Of The Week: 2Pac & James Brown

The only song I've listened to more often than Outkast's Spottieottiedopaliscious this past week (including the hour-long loop of the horn section, which I've listened to at least twice a day, yay unemployment!) is this gem from the Django Unchained soundtrack:

That's a remix that goes by the name of Unchained, which combines the James Brown classic The Payback and 2Pac's Untouchable; the official video is just scenes from the Quentin Tarantino movie (expertly) spliced together to fit the narrative. Officially, Tarantino is listed as the director.

Should you not know who Tarantino is, he's a groundbreaking film director and the best screenwriter of the 1990s. The three films he wrote but didn't direct are True Romance (1993, Tony Scott), Natural Born Killers (1994, Oliver Stone) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1995, Robert Rodriguez).

Perhaps I could rank the films he directed in order of preference:

11. Four Rooms (1994, segment: The Man From Hollywood)
10. Death Proof (2007)
9. The Hateful Eight (2015)
8. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
7. Django Unchained (2012)
6. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
5. Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
4. Jackie Brown (1997)
3. Sin City (2005, segment with Bruce Willis)
2. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

I used to have a lot less love for Jackie Brown, but since it's the last of his more, uh, classic period, it has definitely grown on me. I was always high on Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster Michael Keaton, and Chris Tucker's performances, but even Robert De Niro's and Bridget Fonda's have grown on me since.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why Writers Write

Oftentimes when I'm temping as a proof-writer or copy-writer, I'll be asked why I choose such an unstable job instead of a career where I can be guaranteed hours and a wage, such as the times I've spent as a market research analyst / marketing consultant (2006-2011, and 2016, give or take), and I guess the best answer is the last line in this piece by The late Show with Stephen Colbert:

I basically live to write words that resonate, even when they're obvious like here. And I am far from alone.