Saturday, October 25, 2014

Top 10 Songs This Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. MORNING, Beck (2014)
9. TWO COFFINS, Against Me! (2014)
8. SHARP, Red Mass (2014)
7. THE TITAN ABOVE US, Moloken (2011)
6. FIRE, A Devil's Din (2014)
5. LAZARETTO, Jack White (2014)
4. NOT UP TO ME, Kandle (2014)
3. DEMON, Kandle (2014)
2. CONTROL ME, Kandle (2014)
1. RIGHT TIME, Nikki Lane (2014)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Video Of The Week: A Devil's Din

With their most recent song, A Devil's Din are trying to make lemonade out of a tragedy - the fire of the building that housed their jam space - by writing about their misfortune, and making a video asking for donations so they can re-equip themselves:

Obviously, being gear-less makes for a sound that isn't stellar (and the video even pokes fun at that), but you can definitely feel their hearts in the right place, and trying to make do of a shitty situation.

In just 8 hours, they came up with decent riffs and (perhaps obvious) lyrics, and a song was born. Good work, all told.

Feel free to help their cause, by Paypal-ing

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Weirdness Of The Week: Poodle Workout

Ah, Japan!

(Technically, this was made by Panasonic for the Beijing Olympics, but still...)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Video Of The Week: Nicki Minaj

If only because it dethroned Miley Cyrus from a YouTube record (most views in its first week), this song is totally worth featuring. Of course, it's basically just replacing one twerker with another, but at least Nicky Minaj has talent something.

Sir Mix-A-Lot might say that something is a ''big butt'', hence the sampling of his classic ode to derrières, Baby Got Back, throughout the song, which both emphasizes Minaj's own, but also reverts it back to her appreciation of large penises, hence Anaconda.

The metaphors are obvious, the visual aids are sophomoric, the idea is funny yet unsophisticated... but it works. Better and more subtle than Black Eyes Peas, anyway.

As in many Nicki Minaj videos, director Colin Tilley put forth a dazzling array of colours to catch the eyes of those less enthused with the singer's silhouette, and even added eye candy for fans of the other gender with the cameo by Drake, seen getting a lap dance at the end of the video.

It's hyper-sexualized candy for teenagers and young adults, and fodder for critics of sexism and the depiction of women in our era. And for ''concerned parents who'd want to hide this from their kids'', but really, 1. the lyrics have enough swear words to make those people kill themselves anyway, and 2. if you can't control your own kids, don't try to control those of others.

A quick word about Drake: after seeing him in this and Anchorman 2, I have concluded he's better when having fun in small doses than when actually singing. Please: more cameos, less singles.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Scorching Flame-Out

If you had never heard of the AHL's Adirondack Flames before this week, you were... well, normal. They are the seventh incarnation of a franchise that started out as the Maine Mariners in 1977. Their NHL affiliation has been with the Calgary Flames since 1993, but it had previously been the farm team for the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. This year is their first in Glens Falls, NY after relocating from Abbottsford, B.C.

It is not the first AHL team to be based in Glens Falls, though, as the Adirondack Phantoms (Flyers affiliate) and Adirondack Red Wings (Detroit's affiliate) had ensured a continuous presence in the area since 1979.

But two games in, and a player by the name of Trevor Gillies has already been suspended for 12 games (for attempting to seriously injure youngster William Carrier).

The ''worst'' news, though, comes from having to can their mascot, Scorch - if it ever really existed - because in addition to looking like a red turd villain from the Power Rangers, this was its unveiling, ''overpowering a fireman'':

And, of course, post-9/11, you can't have fire winning against firemen. Though this one was an actor. From Glens Falls, the hotbed of acting. Which probably means both he and the teenager inside Scorch will ''never work in that town again''.

A mascot taking the fall for the team losing its first two games and coming as a distraction from the Gillies assault? That's new. Free publicity for a new team in a specific market? Now, you're talking!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We Will Become Unicorns

There's a unicorn at the end of every rainbow, and to ride it one must follow the rain to the exact spot where it meets the sun. It's an oasis in a sandbox, atop a mountain and overlooking the ocean. It's where birds sing instead of chipping, where bears hibernate even during the summer, and squirrels help young girls braid their hair.

And the unicorn stands tall and majestic, living proof that everything eventually falls into place, like a reward for good behaviour and effort.

I have been that unicorn for some, and others have been it for me. But to be your own unicorn, for yourself, is a gift only you can strive for.

It was Thanksgiving in Canada yesterday, and while it's good to be humbled by where we have come as a species, to look back and be grateful for all the help we've received in our accomplishments, it's also good to keep in mind the work that still lay ahead.

Some of us are zebras, some are studs, some are ponies and many are donkeys. Becoming unicorns might require some help, a little bit of input from the outside world, but it's also work one has to do on their own.

I want to be a unicorn again. For someone else, maybe, but mostly for myself.

And, yes, someone dared me to write something with unicorns as the main subject matter. Doesn't make it any less true.

Funniest And Most Honest Video This Week

Once more, courtesy of Cassetteboy, this time with a remix of BBC News footage:

Prime Minister David Cameron once again made the cut.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014-15 NHL Season Preview: The Awards

And so I went with my Eastern Conference and Western Conference predictions... might as well dig myself an even deeper hole and try to predict the various award winners.

President's Cup (regular season champs): Chicago Blackhawks
Prince Of Wales Trophy (Eastern Conference Cup finalists): New York Islanders
Clarence-Campbell Trophy (Western Conference Cup finalists): Los Angeles Kings
Stanley Cup Champions: Los Angeles Kings
Conn Smythe (playoff MVP): Jaroslav Halak

Art Ross (points scoring leader): Alex Ovechkin
Rocket Richard (leading goal scorer): Alex Ovechkin
Hart (MVP voted by the press): Steven Stamkos
Ted Lindsay (MVP voted by players): Steven Stamkos
Vezina (top goalie): Ben Bishop
Calder (best rookie): Johnny Gaudreau
Lady Byng (most sportsmanlike): Martin St-Louis
Norris (best defenseman): Shea Weber
Bill Masterton (perseverance/comeback): Nathan Horton
Frank Selke (best defensive forward): Tomas Plekanec
Jack Adams (top coach): Lindy Ruff
King Clancy (humanitarian): P.K. Subban
Mark Messier (best leader): John Tavares
GM: Garth Snow

NHL Preview: 2014-15 Season: Eastern Conference

The power structure hasn't really changed in the East, compared to last season. Most teams remain with the same question marks, despite minor roster changes - barring an Ottawa Senators-type exception here and there.

Eastern Conference:

The Atlantic Division:

1. Boston Bruins

Perennial contenders, the Bruins have lost Johnny Boychuk and Jarome Iginla, but had the means to replace them internally, which might mean some adjustments for 10 or 15 games, but once they've settled into their groove, they'll be back on track. They can surely afford testing stuff out because they have Tuuka Rask, the reigning Vezina trophy winner and definitely a top-3 goalie. I see Loui Eriksson come back to his usual 60 points per season with more ice time and no injuries, though the Bs just might have trouble adjusting to the NHL's crackdown on diving this year.

2. Montréal Canadiens

Their Final Four finish was no surprise, really, if only a year ahead of schedule. Carey Price no longer has the burden of trying to be the best goalie in the league now that Dustin Tokarski can step in at any time - the future is also bright with Zach Fucale waiting in the wings. With Price concentrating on just being the best he can be (a guy who stops 91% of shots faced), Norris Trophy winner - and possibly next captain - P.K. Subban can lead the team like he did in the playoffs. Sniper Max Pacioretty is barely 25, and Alex Galchenyuk is a superstar in the making. The present's not bad either, with one of the best and most consistent two-way centers in the world in Tomas Plekanec and one of the league's top-5 defenders of the last decade, Andrei Markov. Nathan Beaulieu makes for a very reassuring insurance policy should Markov or Subban get injured - or tremendous trade deadline bait.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

Forget the 4-game sweep at the hands of the Habs - they didn't have Ben Bishop in nets, and the Vezina nominee is the real thing. Steven Stamkos is one of the two purest goal-scorers in the game, and likely a Hart nominee for years to come. Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Ryan Callahan, Nikita Kucherov and Valtteri Filppula make for a strong supporting cast, and Jonathan Drouin might win the Calder this year. It looks like Victor Hedman is becoming a Norris trophy contender, and I like the addition of Jason Garrison for the powerplay. They will need more help on the back end, though, as the rest of the D isn't all that mobile nor physical.

4. Detroit Red Wings

Never count the Wings out. They played half the season without their first line, their starting goalie, and maybe even their whole defense, but still managed to squeak into the playoffs on the strength of Gustav Nyquist and the rest of their AHL affiliate's contributions.

5. Ottawa Senators

Ha! Here's how I started my post on the Sens last season: ''How do you replace the team's heart and soul when the captain decides to leave as a free agent?'' Well, the same can be asked this year, only the answer is clear (Kyle Turris), and so will the end result be: a step back. Goaltending will be a strength with Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, the defense will have improved after a year's experience kicking in, and Clarke MacArthur might score even more goals with actual first-line playing time, but part of acquiring experience is growing pains, and this year will hurt a little bit.

6. Florida Panthers

Roberto Luongo will be back in Vezina-nominee form, and the future looks bright with Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad and Erik Gudbranson; there is veteran leadership in Stanley Cup winner Willie Mitchell and, to a lesser extent, Brian Campbell and Shawn Thornton, but it won't be enough to make the playoffs. Perhaps in a couple of years... when they're playing out of Québec City.

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

Oh, look, the Leafs are into ''fancy stats''. By the time the playoffs start, the team will have fired their coach and GM, and the ''new era'' will be ushered in... with the same results. There are keepers on this team: Phil Kessel is a heck of a scorer, and Jonathan Bernier might be that goalie. Nazem Kadri's cool, but tainted by the Leaf Stink. That's about it, though.

8. Buffalo Sabres

I hate to be like everyone else and put the Sabres behind the Leafs, because I like their young crop of kids, and the veterans they brought in to keep the ship afloat until the youngsters are ready are trustworthy and reliable. There's something about having Jhonas Enroth as the #1 goalie that scares me, though.

The Metropolitan Division:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

''The Pens have the actual best player in the world (Evgeni Malkin) as well as the guy most people think is the best in the world (Sidney Crosby)'' - that much remains true from last year's post. Pittsburgh now have a new GM (though they chose the wrong one), a new head coach, and pretty much a new bottom-6. I am under the impression that Marc-André Fleury will either leave town or share the net with the Carolina Hurricanes' Cam Ward before the end of the season, but that won't make much of a difference. The Penguins' fate rests in the hands of Crosby, Malkin, and Kristopher Letang - three guys who have a tendency to get injured and/or almost die.

2. Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom are tremendous offensive weapons, the likes of which new head coach Barry Trotz has never led before. There'll be growing pains, but they'll work around their differences and make it work. I see them winning their division in 2015-16 when they are familiar enough with each other, but for now, a second-place finish seems reasonable. Brian Holtby needs to find consistency, and having Justin Peters as the backup might put him in confidence - though if I were Trotz, I'd be having nightmares already. The defense improved by 50% just by stealing Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen (as well as their defense coach) from Pittsburgh, enabling John Carlson to keep developing at his own pace.

3. New York Rangers

So they won't have their top centers for a third of the season... with Henrik Lundqvist in nets and a defense comprised of Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi, Dan Boyle and Kevin Klein, they'll be able to win their fair share of 2-1 games. They still have the ageless Martin St-Louis, Derick Brassard, Rick Nash and Chris Kreider to hold the fort until Derek Stepan comes back. I'm not worried about the Stanley Cup finalists.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

Ok, so they're the opposite of the Rangers: a devastating offense led by Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and perhaps Vincent Lecavalier, but a defense that was already thin when Kimmo Timonen was signed - and now he's probably out for the season, slotting Braydon Coburn, Andrew MacDonald, Mark Streit, Luke Schenn and Nicklas Grossman in positions they might not be comfortable with. Oh, and kudos to goalie Steve Mason for getting back on track, I hope it lasts.

5. New York Islanders

GM Garth Snow may just have sent his team straight to the playoffs by adding Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk to his other summer acquisitions, star goalie Jaroslav Halak and forwards Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Cory Conacher. They already had MVP candidate John Tavares and linemate Kyle Okposo to build on, and coach Ted Nolan is a great motivator.

6. New Jersey Devils

Exit Martin Brodeur, enter full-time Cory Schneider. That's the storyline, but that's not the right one. No, the real story is how the once offense-starved Devils now have a legitimate top line with the ageless future Hall Of Famer Jaromir Jagr now joined by 30-goal man Mike Cammalleri to play with Travis Zajac. Stefan Matteau might put his ego in check and eventually make a decent NHL player, Martin Havlat may still have gas in the tank, Patrik Elias and Adam Henrique may remain consisent, and the nameless defense might hold up. That's a lot of ''ifs'' - too many to slot them in the division's top-4 teams - but enough positive answers to those interrogations will at least make the Devils watchable, which I don't think has ever been said about this franchise.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets

I don't see them regressing too much,but the early-season injury bug and the drama surrounding RFA Ryan Johansen will prove to have been too much to bear. If the Jackets have any sense, they'll get rid of Johansen and move forward without him, even in exchange for another ''problem child'', such as Winnipeg's Evander Kane (and a draft pick). Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, Scott Hartnell, Jack Johnson and Nick Foligno have enough heart to keep as a core, it's just a matter of adding two 60-point players to the mix to bring Columbus back into (playoff) contention.

8. Carolina Hurricanes

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst team in hockey. Not just that, but they lost half their scoring in the pre-season when Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner fell to injury. The fact that they only have two ''guys I would want on my team'' (Andrej Sekera and Justin Faulk, and not as first-pairing defensemen) speaks wonders.

The playoff picture:
Boston (1A) - NY Islanders (8)
Montreal (2) - Tampa Bay (3)
Pittsburgh (1B) - Philadelphia (7)
Washington (2) - Rangers (3)

NHL Preview: 2014-15 Season: Western Conference

Almost every team in the NHL has improved this off-season, whether by adding players from other teams (via trades or free agency), or promoting younger talent in-house. Talent-wise, the NHL has never been better. Which means that while some teams may have improved, they could still drop in the standings because the opposition got even better. This is the case in the West, what with the veritable arms race at the center position this summer.

Western Conference:

The Central Division:

1. Chicago Blackhawks

One of the two best teams in the league - with the Los Angeles Kings, both vying for ''dynasty'' status - although Chicago usually has better regular seasons. This is the last season before Jonathan Toews' and Patrick Kane's monster contracts kick in and may force the team to liquidate more assets than just Nick Leddy, so this might be their last ''window'' to a Stanley Cup... though with their development system, I can see them contend after a short two-year ''experience-building'' drought. Corey Crawford is a top-10 goalie. The defense corps is second to only the Kings'. Having the choice between Brad Richards and Teuvo Teravainen to center the second line is a luxury no other team - save L.A., again - has.

2. St. Louis Blues

As it was last season, this is Ken Hitchcock's Moment Of Truth with the Blues, except this time they attempt to win with Brian Elliott manning the net rather than Jaroslav Halak - a step back. Except they have finally brought in a legitimate #1 center in Paul Stastny, slotting David Backes where he should be, at #2. The rest of the cast is similar to last year, with the Big Three of Alex Pietrangelo (now paid like a Norris winner), Kevin Shattenkik and Jay Bouwmeester (three 2014 Olympians) on defense, and Vladimir Tarasenko, T.J. Oshie and Alexander Steen to help Stastny out up front. I predict another strong showing in the regular season, but the West is so competitive that they won't make it far in the playoffs.

3. Minnesota Wild

If the Wild didn't have so many question marks in net (Josh Harding's health, Niklas Backstrom's consistency because of health and age, Darcy Kuemper's lack of experience, Ilya Bryzgalov waiting in the wings), I might have been tempted to slot them in first place. Adding Thomas Vanek to an already-scary and proven top-6 (Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niedereiter) makes for an offense that very well could finish first in the league in scoring. Their defense is steady, and any one of the kids they have down in the AHL could fit on their bottom pairing - and the same can be said for the 12 guys that could play on their third line, let alone the fourth. The Wild are the deepest team in the league.

4. Dallas Stars

The Stars moved from just outside the playoff picture to second-round playoff talk just by hiring Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky (a.k.a. last season's top line for the Ottawa Senators) to their second line, behind Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. It wouldn't even matter who the other wingers were if they weren't Valeri Nichushkin (a first-line talent) and Antoine Roussel (a bruising winger who could develop into a 30-goal, 100-PIM power forward). Their defense isn't as proven as the top three in their division (Sergei Gonchar is particularly long in the tooth), but Kari Lehtonen is a world-class goalie - provided he stays healthy.

5. Colorado Avalanche

The Avs surprised a lot of observers by winning their division last year, but they will not be able to repeat. Not because ''advanced statistics'' will bring them back to earth, nor because they lost Paul Stastny - Nathan MacKinnon will replace him in no time. Semyon Varlamov will have another terrific season, and Tyson Barrie will keep improving as their leader on defense. Adding veteran help in the form of Jarome Iginla and Daniel Brière will also help Alex Tanguay steer youngsters Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog in the right direction. Ryan O'Reilly might be on his way out, but even that's not a deterrent. It's just that all teams will be prepared for the Avalanche now, and Patrick Roy's squad will take no one by surprise; that, and the fact that the division leaders are so strong will relegate the Avs to ''wild card'' status... which is fine, and probably perfect for Roy, who will use their ''underdog'' status as a motivational tool come playoff time.

6. Nashville Predators

The Preds are the most improved team in the West, because they went from having Mike Fisher as their #1 center to slotting both Mike Ribeiro (an All-Star-caliber pivot) and Derek Roy (who might no longer be the player he once was) ahead of him. And how do you help a pure passer and playmaker like Ribeiro? By giving him 40-goal man James Neal (Evgeni Malkin's former linemate) to play with. That, to me, sounds like two guys producing 70 points each that weren't there last year. Add that to a superb defense corps led by Shea Weber (perhaps the most well-rounded defender in the game) and Seth Jones, and a comeback performance by Pekka Rinne and, should the Blues falter, the Preds could move up in these standings.

7. Winnipeg Jets

Ondrej Pavelec's game has fallen a lot, but even if he suddenly stopped 92% of all pucks going his way again, the Jets just aren't deep enough to even put a dent in the strongest division in hockey. Andrew Ladd's a fine leader, Dustin Byfuglien's a force wherever he plays, Evander Kane is a sniper (though troublesome at times, and he might not finish the season in Winnipeg) and Blake Wheeler is a legitimate top-line winger. Mark Scheiffle might turn into something, but even then, that's the extent of their offense. The team's strength is on D, with Byfuglien, Tobias Entrom, Jacob Trouba, Zach Bogosian, and Mark Stuart. They might need to trade one of them to improve their offense, and another to solve their goaltending issues.

The Pacific Division:

1. Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks got younger by allowing/forcing Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu to retire.They may have solidified their second line for the present by trading Nick Bonino for (the oft-injured) Ryan Kesler, and Dany Heatley's a cheap gamble to complement Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on the top unit. Can youngster Cam Fowler run the defensive unit for a top contender? Can the young tandem of Frederik Andersen and John Gibson get the job done in nets? Can coach Bruce Boudreau get enough out of this team to finish atop their division? I believe the answer to those questions is ''yes''. Are they / can he make them Stanley Cup contenders? No.

2. San Jose Sharks

Let me copy and paste my intro to last year's post: ''I could totally live in a world without the San Jose Sharks. Even the Stanley Cup wouldn't see a difference.'' This is probably the year they implode for good. In a weak division, though, they can still finish second - in the regular season.

3. Los Angeles Kings

For once, I'm not worried about the Kings' offense, what with Marian Gaborik playing with Anze Kopitar. A healthy Gaborik gives you 40 goals, an injured one rests for the playoffs - I see that as win-win. Superstars Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick have a habit of half-coasting through the regular season and turning the switch on come playoff time, and two Cups in three years with a Conference Finals in between them tells me that could be the right thing to do. It'll mean cold sweats to their 25,000 fans from January to April (they have no idea hockey starts in October, either), but another Conference Final finish in June will forgive all.

4. Edmonton Oilers

This is the year the Oilers almost make the playoffs, probably losing out to the Avalanche in the wild card race, by a point or two. Their offense is stacked, their goaltending in finally stable, their defense and breakout will vastly improve, and they've added expensive experience in free agency, with Cup winners and finalists to lead the way. The Great Leap Forward has begun.

5. Calgary Flames

I like how they're rebuilding, I like Jonas Hiller in nets, I like that despite their brand of truculence, they still kept the diminutive Johnny Gaudreau to woo the fans, I like having Bob Hartley around to teach the kids how to play, I love Mikael Backlund and the slew of talented forwards in the pipeline. This will be a fun team to watch in the playoffs... two years from now.

6. Vancouver Canucks

John Tortorella
wasn't everything that was wrong with this team. Not having up-and-comers to fill in for the aging players getting injured was mostly it, coupled with the worst-trading GM of his generation. Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin still have some magic left in them, and Alexandre Burrows still has gas in the tank; the uneven Radim Vrbata will score 30 and still frustrated fans, and the defense will miss 200-man-games to injury. What sinks this team is, essentially, the trade-off in nets: present-day Ryan Miller is no Roberto Luongo. I'm not even sure he's better than backup Eddie Lack.

7. Phoenix Coyotes

''The Seattle Portland Québec Phoenix Arizona franchise isn't done going through harsh times.'' I wrote that last year when I predicted they'd finish 6th in their division. They'll contend for last-place overall - in the NHL - this season. If the bottom teams could be relegated to the AHL like certain European leagues do, the Coyotes would be fighting it out with the Jets (ironic, isn't it?) and Carolina Hurricanes to stay alive... and they might lose. Beyond Mike Smith, Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, all I see are question marks, some I don't mind (Sam Gagner, Antoine Vermette, Mikkel Boedker), others I'd avoid at all costs (Martin Hanzal, Shane Doan's age, Martin Erat).

The playoff picture:
Anaheim  (1B) - Dallas (7)
San Jose (2) - Los Angeles (3)
Chicago (1A) - Colorado (8)
St. Louis (2) - Minnesota (3)

Gold Lion

I thought I was among the only households with a pet lion:

Turns out some Hollywood types have the full-size versions of them in their homes:

That's the home actress Melanie Griffith grew up in, with mother (actress) Tippi Hedren and father (director) Noel Marshall, and lion Neil, as the family was ''researching'' living with large cats.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Video of The Week: I Am Snow Angel

I Am Snow Angel is Julie Kathryn's project-without-her-own-name,  shock-full of synths and lash production interspersed with 8-bit sounds; this would not have been out of place 10 years ago, when The Postal Service were making a huge splash within the indie-rock/soft electronica scene.

Directed by We Are Films and Patrick Ermlich, the video for Crocodile is just as the song is: lavish, polished, beautiful and soft, full of blue and white and pretty boy Hardy Winburn.

It works well in the middle of a sad night, at the top of a sad week. It's a ray of light with a dark message to contrast with the black heart of a good soul.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Funniest And Most Honest Video Of The Week

Courtesy of Cassetteboy:

Ironic that it comes right after Prime Minister David Cameron (the subject of the video) made video parodies legal and protected speech...