Wednesday, April 15, 2015

''Fuck Your Breath'' As Nominee For Worst Sentence Uttered This Week

This is how bad shit has gotten in terms of police violence in the U.S.: we're happy that when one deputy murders a man with overwhelming evidence, he's at least getting charged with manslaughter and will have to face the justice system.

And this is how bad it's gotten for me, personally: I'm more outraged at the cop who responds to Eric Courtney Harris' plea of ''I'm losing my breath'' with ''Fuck your breath'' - you can see it at the end of this one-minute clip:

That's the guy who should be facing the harshest punishment, in my opinion.

The deputy was a 73-year-old former cop who paid his way into basically tagging along on joyrides and made a fatal mistake. That's involuntary manslaughter. It's bad, for sure; on a ''humanity needs to improve'' scale, it probably ranks a 7/10, but as a scale of a bad person, it scores pretty low.

The other cop, however, is heard justifying the shooting by saying ''you ran'', excusing a fatal gunshot by means of placing blame on the victim, then adding insult to injury with the order to tie his hands behind his back when he's clearly already incapacitated. On a scale of police corruption, it scores at least an 8/10, and hides a character that could possibly be a 10. Adding the famous last words ranks a 10/10 on the asshole scale.

At the very least, this guy should have internal affairs on his ass for two years, making sure he stays in line. He is the symptom and the reason why all citizens now have a low opinion towards those who are supposed to serve and protect us. If they find anything, he should be stripped of his badge, fired and tried.

The only way to change the culture of the locker-room... is to change the culture of the locker-room. You get rid of the bad seeds, you promote the good guys, and you remember to Hold The Line, 'cause love isn't always on time.

NHL Playoff Predictions: Round 1

Bracket graphic by bbboz
For the first time in forever, I have no clear idea of what I could predict in the Stanley Cup playoffs this year. All 16 teams are very good and pretty balanced, most of them have question marks in net except the New York Rangers with Henrik Lundqvist (because the Los Angeles Kings didn't make the cut this year), and those who are weaker on paper (Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators) have just gone through a stretch run for the ages that could either give them tremendous momentum or have killed off their last bit of energy - only watching the games will tell.

Also, there are incredible Finals match-ups I would love to see, like the Nashville Predators versus the Washington Capitals, pitting the Caps' head coach and goaltending consultant (and former Preds key playoff hero Joel Ward) against their former team and the Preds featuring Mike Ribeiro, one of the two best comeback stories this year, against a team that let him go two summers ago.

I'd also like to see Jaroslav Halak and his New York Islanders shaft his former team the St. Louis Blues - or even the Vancouver Canucks, featuring Ryan Miller in net, the guy the Blues acquired to replace Halak for last season's absolutely disappointing and karmically disastrous playoff run.

Any of the four Original Six teams facing off (the Chicago Blackhawks versus any of the Rangers, Montréal Canadiens or Detroit Red Wings) would also be really cool, as would an All-Canadian Finals (5 of the 7 Canadian teams made it to the postseason this year, but at least two will be eliminated in the first round), and all all-youth Finals pitting the Flames and Sens, though a longshot, would be different.

But first things first, Round 1. And there are interesting storylines here as well.

Anaheim Ducks versus Winnipeg Jets:

The Jets, when healthy at forward, boast one of the league's deepest blue lines (enabling Dustin Byfuglien to play defense), featuring possible Norris Trophy nominee Byflugien, but also Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba, Tobias Enstrom, Grant Clitsome, Paul Postma. Their biggest question mark is between the pipes, where Ondrej Pavelec can be either/both great or awful, and Michael Hutchinson, a rookie, is unproven. Their offense lacks a big-time star to focus on but have two lines of equally-good-if-not-great balanced top six forwards with captain Andrew Ladd, power forward Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Mathieu Perreault. Of course, Anaheim can retaliate with superstars Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but the drop-off after those two is huge, particularly in the wake of Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne retiring. Their defense isn't as stacked as Winnipeg's, but they get the job done, as should their two young netminders. It should be a grind.

Ducks in 7.

St. Louis Blues versus Minnesota Wild:

The Blues were supposed to be heavily favoured but have choked in the past, and goaltending is still causing them worries. On the other end of the ice, Devan Dubnyk has probably been the best goalie (certainly the most impactful) this season, so should his magical run continue, it doesn't matter that the Blues' forwards boast half of Team USA, they won't score on Minnesota's tight defense. And the Wild can retaliate with some star power of their own in Zack Parise, Jason Pomminville, Mikko Koivu, Nino Niedereiter and an overall impressive top12 forwards (now that the easy-to-despise Matt Cooke is sidelined with an injury).

Wild in 5.

Nashville Predators versus Chicago Blackhawks:

Nashville has one of the best goalies in the West in Pekka Rinne. They have the stingiest defesemen in the conference as well, but an aging Mike Fisher who is prone to injury is, unfortunately, a possible question mark in front, or else the fist line of Ribeiro, Filip Forsberg and James Neal is the best trio the team has ever had, talent-wise. The Hawks are the same dynasty as in years past, centered around Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa up from with Patrick Sharp, Brad Richards and Antoine Vermette as a capable supportive cast, and a defense boasting current Norris winner Duncan Keith and his Olympian partner Brent Seabrook, along with my favourite Canadian goalie, Corey Crawford. Logic would suggest ''Hawks in 4'', but with the reigning champs (L.A.) and President's Trophy (Boston Bruins) not even making the cut this year, it could be time for a letdown in Chicago as well. This will be my Big Upset.

Preds in 6.

Calgary Flames versus Vancouver Canucks:

I wish nothing but the best to Alex Burrows - including a Cup. Daniel and Henrik Sedin deserve some postseason success as well, for sure. But I'm not a fan of their goaltending, and it could be their downfall. Also, it's fun to cheer for the Flames, who are balls-out all-effort and no quit. They have guys who could develop into superstars but aren't there yet, so at the moment, their lone ''A'' player is injured captain Mark Giordano, but the rest are all solid ''Bs'', mostly because of their drive and enthusiasm. This one is from the heart.

Flames in 6.

Montréal Canadiens versus Ottawa Senators:

Two teams in the East are built essentially to beat the Habs: the Tampa Bay Lightning and their improve defensive corps, and the Sens. They have that physicality to pound into the Habs' small players, and the speed to catch up to them. Still, #1 seed versus #8 seed, Andrew Hammond's luck is probably about to run out, that's two free games for the Canadiens, which will help Carey Price continue his season for another round.

Habs in 6.

Tampa Bay Lightning versus Detroit Red Wings:

Tampa's GM Steve Yzerman played his entire career with the Wings, captaining the team to two Cups. But Detroit still has the master GM (Ken Holland) and coach (Mike Babcock) to go with a surprisingly deep and never-ending supply of NHLK-ready youngsters coming out of nowhere at all times, particularly come Spring.

Wings in 7.

Pittsburgh Penguins versus New York Rangers:

Lundqvist. An awesome offense. A defense so deep, Keith Yandle is on its third pairing. Versus a five-player team, two of which are injured, missing its top three defensemen. It'll be another short postseason for Sidney Crosby and the Pens.

Rangers in 5.

New York Islanders versus Washington Capitals:

Here again, I wish Alex Ovechkin would win a well-deserved Cup to end the argument that he's not enough of a team player to win a championship. But I never root against Halak. Ever. Halak could play on the Toronto Maple Leafs and be facing my mother, I'd still go for Halak.

Isles in 7.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Video Of The Week: Public Enemy

This week marks the 25th anniversary of one of my favourite rap albums of all time, Public Enemy's Fear Of A Black Planet. It was groundbreaking in its social commentary for kids of my generation (the funk movement had previously done the same for those 10 years older than myself) in regards to the racial tensions still prevalent in the U.S. of the late 1980s and early 1990s - and which are still present today, believe it or not less in the day-to-day activities and behaviours but still ingrained in a systemic bias against minorities and poor people in general, and by extension Black people in particular, who remain 10 times more likely to get arrested and then jailed for minor offenses than White people regardless of income bracket, and the statistic's way worse when wealth is factored in.

Of all the songs on Fear Of A Black Planet, few resonate more with inequality as 911 Is A Joke, a catchy, groovy, incredibly smart Flavor Flav number on how what passes as an emergency service pretty much does its best to avoid servicing inner cities and therefore directly puts Black lives at stake. It's 2015, and the slogan Black Lives Matter is still prevalent in American streets. There has been little progress in how the institutions (schools, police, justice system, hospitals) treat the human beings it is responsible for, this despite individuals' behaviours changing drastically in the past 25 years. People mingle, shop at the same stores at the same time, everyone under 35 has ''a Black friend'', which was a running gag as recently as in 1992, and yet the system is the same, even with an African-American in the White House - in his second term, no less - and another one in charge of the Justice system.

And the biggest problem with that is that American Culture is widely exported and prevalent in most of the Western World; yes, most people can make the difference between their own country's situation and the United States' (and few of them have a spotless race-related record themselves), but there's the inevitable mixing up of the common histories that makes their problem everyone's problem.

Sometimes I like to turn my brain off, but most times, I prefer my entertainment saddled up with a healthy dose of the truth, and this song just might be one of the main reasons why.

Tenth Time's The Charm

A woman from the Bronx seems to have an unusual addiction: marriages. The problem isn't that the 38-year-old has married 10 times, it's that she hadn't divorced them all before getting hitched again. Husbands 1, 2, 5 and 7, for example, were only let go after her marriage to 9.

Furthermore, according to NBC News, ''Liana Barrientos, 38, is charged with offering a false instrument after allegedly obtaining marriage certificates with 10 men between 1999 and 2010.''

Wait, a false instrument? If all marriages were consummated, I'd say the instrument might have been the only truth that was out there (you see what I did there?), but this will be a fascinating case to watch unfold.

There is some speculation that these marriages are for immigration purposes, so, legally, many departments and charges could each have their own say in how the case is handled.

The New York Times had an interesting and sarcastic take on it:
The year 2002 was very busy for a young woman named Liana Kristina Barrientos.
For one thing, she got married - on Long Island, on Valentine’s Day.
For another, she married again, 15 days later, in Rockland County, to a different man.
Thirteen days after that, while still married to at least two men, she wed yet another, back on Long Island.
And then a few weeks later, when the average bride might still be recovering from her honeymoon, Ms. Barrientos was named in a divorce proceeding initiated by a man she married three years before.
By the time 2002 was done, she would marry three more men, each in a different town in New York State. (...)
Friday is also going to be busy for Ms. Barrientos, who is now 39. She will be arraigned on felony fraud charges in State Supreme Court in the Bronx.
 I'm just astounded that this didn't happen in Florida.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Video Of The (Past) Week: Hole

For some reason, I'm still in my Hole trip - it's been a year, these usually last me three or four months at a time, but I'm hearing things I want to hear on every single one of their records these days - well, 1991 (Pretty On The Inside) until 1998 (Celebrity Skin), anyway, I never delve into 2010 (Nobody's Daughter) territory.

This song - Celebrity Skin, the title track off their most commercial release - was co-written by Courtney Love with the band's guitarist Eric Erlandson and Billy Corgan (of The Smashing Pumpkins), whose influence is very distinct (the chord progression is very Siamese Dream, the wordplay very Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness), and the beautifully stylized video was directed by Nancy Bardawil; it's the type of imagery (glowing gowns, bright pink and purple with black) that would also have worked wonders for the band's breakthrough hit Miss World.

The only downer in it is seeing future drummer Samantha Maloney wear a wig to look like Patty Schemel who had not yet been told she wasn't in the band anymore; they didn't even really have to go that route since Deen Castronovo (G/Z/R, Ozzy Osbourne, Bad English, Steve Vai, Paul Rodgers Band) was the actual session drummer they used, but I guess having two men (with Erlandson) appear in the comeback video for what is considered a ''girl band'' - and one that the media put the entire weight of feminism in rock on - may have been seen as a treason of sorts.