Friday, April 29, 2016

NHL Predictions 2015-16: Round Two

'Tis the year where I'm wrong about hockey a lot, but that won't stop me from predicting Round Two of these NHL Playoffs...

Eastern Conference:

Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins:
The difference between these Caps and those of years past, say 2009-10, is Barry Trotz behind the bench. Sure, like Bruce Boudreau, he's never gone far in the playoffs, but that can be explained by the fact that Trotz' Nashville Predators usually barely made the cut, whereas Boudreau's Caps and Ducks would win their division and be heavy favourites. Trotz learned what he needed to last year, told his GM he needed a Game 7 leader just in case, and he ended up with the best in the business in Justin Williams. Braden Holtby, Alex Ovechkin, and the deepest core of forwards in the East will roll over the Pens and bruise them good while they're at it.

Caps in 6

Tampa Bay Lightning vs New York Islanders:
What I said in my Round One Predictions reads even truer here: the Isles have no chance against the Bolts without Jaroslav Halak. Tyler Johnson seems to have found his groove again, Alex Killorn is providing terrific secondary scoring, Victor Hedman is a top-10 defenseman and Ben Bishop was just nominated for the Vezina. I don't think the Isles have the depth to take on Tampa, but if any team can try, it's one with Halak stopping 40 shots per game and John Tavares scoring the lone marker in four 1-0 games.

Tampa in 6

Western Conference:

Dallas Stars vs St. Louis Blues:
I love Brian Elliott, but, really, fuck the Blues. Fuck their defense-minded coach, fuck their Big Three that has a habit of choking in big games, fuck their All-American offense made up of half of Team USA. Vladimir Tarasenko's cool, though, so I really wish he was on another team. Oh, and while the Blues will struggle to score 2 goals per game, the Stars have Jamie Benn, last year's Art Ross winner. Oh, and Tyler Seguin. Oh, and Jason Spezza. Oh, and Patrick Sharp. Oh, and among their sleepers, Valeri Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky, potentially 30-goal scorers.

Stars in 5

San Jose Sharks vs Nashville Predators:
Speaking of blue-wearing teams choking in the West, the Sharks are now clearly led by Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and probably some other forward - let's say Logan Couture. That's not enough to counter a rebounding Pekka Rinne, and I really think the Preds - who I really think have the best defense corps in the league - can match San Jose player-for-player in a best-of-seven series. I'm not sure Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Mike Fisher make for a Stanley Cup-winning offense, necessarily, but beating the Sharts is definitely feasible.

Preds in 6

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Video Of The Week: Beyoncé

So, uh... Beyoncé's Lemonade has caused quite a stir, eh?

While she hasn't yet released any individual videos yet, there are three songs that deal with infidelity, which of course the media treats as the main story line (not empowerment, which comes through in every fucking song) and most of the official coverage has been about Jay-Z's alleged infidelities.

Which of course got me thinking about Drunk In Love, when Bey wanted to ride Jigga's wooden surfboard and get drunk, and the black-and-white video, directed by Hype Williams, is a great watch:

I hate to agree with Kanye West, but Queen Bey still reigns in the pop game. She just rules this current decade, both in the quality of her output and artistic merit - and that's saying nothing of her business savvy; this is, after all, the second straight time she releases a #1 record without either any publicity or even announcing it firsthand.

By the way, she released Lemonade on Tidal first, Jay-Z's music service. Why would she do that if she really did have beef with him? Pundits should let art be art and only analyse it in the end.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Video Of The Week: All Angels

As many of you probably know by now, Prince was found dead this morning at his estate/studios, likely the result of a life-long use of opiates. He was nothing short of a musical genius, a terrific songwriter who could master the guitar like maybe ten people per decade can.

Not all of his songs were great, because he did release a lot of his output in the god-awful 1980s and he had a knack for releasing records that were too long or too many in too short a time frame, but all told, in my opinion, judging by his 35 years or so of releasing music, he still has more good (and great) songs than, say, Neil Young.

And although he was the very first artist to sell music online in 1997, he did a complete 180 shortly after and even took out his catalogue from such sites as YouTube, which is one of the reasons why I will feature one of his finest compositions from the 80s, Nothing Compares 2 U, in the form of this cover by All Angels:

All Angels are a British vocal group whose range goes from classical to opera to pop. It consists of Daisy Chute, Rachel Fabri, Melanie Nakhla and Charlotte Ritchie - and formerly Laura Wright. The song can be found on their 2007 release Into Paradise, which also includes versions of Coldplay's The Scientist and Simon & Garfunkle's The Sound Of Silence.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cameo Of The Day: Me, In An Orkestar Kriminal Video

I won't classify this officially as a Video Of The Week because it's not English-language (it's yiddish), but you might notice a tall bald man watching Orkestar Kriminal play (and, ultimately, dancing to the beat) in this video:

All of those musicians are in other bands (many of them very fine acts I have actually enjoyed seeing and listening to), but you might remember lead singer Giselle Webber from such terrific Montréal rock bands as Hot Springs and Red Mass.

This video was directed by Bruno Goulard.

Dildo Drone

At this point in my life, the burger's the only thing of interest to me in this lady's "top three", but whatever rocks your boat or finds your lost remote, I say...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

NHL Predictions 2015-16: Round One

I didn't get around to posting my predictions for the 2015-16 NHL Regular Season because by the time I'd gotten around to it, we were over 10 days in and I felt some might consider it cheating.

Instead, I'll contrast them herein with what ended up happening and go with my Round 1 Predictions for the 2016 Playoffs.

First, what I thought would happen:

Metropolitan Division:
1. Washington Capitals
2. New York Rangers
3. New York Islanders

Atlantic Division:
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Montréal Canadiens
3. Florida Panthers

Wild Cards:
1. Detroit Red Wings
2. Ottawa Senators

Outside Looking In, in order of worst:
16. Toronto Maple Leafs
15. New Jersey Devils
14. Carolina Hurricanes
13. Buffalo Sabres
12. Philadelphia Flyers
11. Pittsburgh Penguins
10. Boston Bruins
9. Columbus Blue Jackets, probably through a tie-breaker

Central Division:
1. Nashville Predators
2. St. Louis Blues
3. Chicago Blackhawks

Pacific Division:
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. Anaheim Ducks
3. Calgary Flames

Western Wild Cards:
1. Colorado Avalanche
2. Dallas Stars

Outside Looking In, in order of worst:
14. Arizona Coyotes
13. Vancouver Canucks
12. Winnipeg Jets
11. Minnesota Wild
10. Edmonton Oilers
9.  San Jose Sharks

There were three Stanley Cups Finals I was rooting for:
(in bold the team I was rooting for)
Caps vs Preds (former coaches, former players, etc.)
Isles vs Hawks (my two favourite goalies, Hawks with a chance to repeat)
Bolts vs Kings (the two best American goalies, two terrific teams)

So, uh, yeah. So much for that.

Here's what the playoff picture actually looks like:

Eastern Conference:

Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers:
I thought the Fyers, like the Oilers, were a year away from making the playoffs, but Shayne Gostisbehere has decided otherwise. However, the Caps have the best goalie in the league this year in Braden Holtby, the best goal-scorer of his generation in Alex Ovechkin, the deepest core of forwards in the East and a coach who actually seems to make it all work for once. Philly only wins two out of sheer emotion and grit.

Caps in 6

New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins:
Look, it's not just that the Pens have been choking constantly since 2009; both of their amazing goalies are injured to start the first round, and Henrik Lundqvist, the best in the game, is in the other net. I don't believe a Rangers team led by Eric Staal and Rick Nash will advance past the second round, but they can beat Pittsburgh, though.

Blueshirts in 6

Florida Panthers vs New York Islanders:
The Isles have no chance against the Cats without Jaroslav Halak. Florida has injuries too, but way too much depth on offense, with six All-Star caliber forwards, Aaron Ekblad on the back end, and possible Vezina nominee Roberto Luongo in nets.

Panthers in 5

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings:
My heart is pulling for Detroit for the romanticism of seeing Pavel Datsyuk finish his North American career on a high note, but logic dictates that the Bolts will win this one. Tampa's had an up-and-down season, but it will boil down to Ben Bishop against Jimmy Howard, and Bishop wins.

Tampa in 6

Western Conference:

Dallas Stars vs Minnesota Wild:

I stand by my early-season stance that the Wild do not belong in these playoffs, and certainly not against the Stars, who have the most dangerous offense in the West. Sure, they lack goaltending and will win these games 5-4, but they will win them all. They might not make it past the second round, however.

Stars in 4

St. Louis Blues vs Chicago Blackhawks:

What's great about the Western Conference is that we know from the start all teams wearing blue will choke and fail at some point, and the Blues are no exception. It'd be nice if the Hawks could repeat, too. This could be the one "upset", where the Champs could very well lose, either in 6 or 4 straight overtime games. Still, I'll go with my heart on this one.

Hawks in 7

San Jose Sharks vs Los Angeles Kings:

Speaking of choking in the West, the Sharks were fine with the Kings' former backup Martin Jones in nets, then decided to screw with that by bringing James Reimer in. But not much can stop the Big Black Machine of Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty in the playoffs, and certainly not a team with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton in their top-six up front.

Kings in 5

Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators:

Many (if not most) pundits predicted the Ducks would make it to the Stanley Cup Final this year; I was not in full agreement, though they have top-end talent on offense and two very good goalies. Their coach has just never been able to win despite stacked line-ups, and history should repeat itself when he starts juggling his goalies in and out of the crease. The Preds lack the depth to make any kind of noise - particularly in an off year for Pekka Rinne - but they might be able to make this interesting.

Ducks in 6

Monday, April 4, 2016

Harvard's Human-Bound Books

I know a lady who's obsessed with Harvard University; she dreams of attending it, she used to go there to read on her breaks from Boston U and attend their parties; I guess it's the Good Will Hunting thing.

But when it isn't about their fraternities and secret societies (Skull And Bones is my favourite one to read about, though they're Yale-based), or how athletes get a pass in most classes because they're on scholarships, it's the fact that since it was founded in 1636, it's got quite a few fucked up things happen there over the years.

Today's fun tidbit: its library has at least three books bound by human flesh and skin. Yay!

10 Hours Of Puddi Puddi

Whether you have a toddler that you need to park in front of a screen before you turn crazy of you just want to go insane yourself, here's a good option:

At heart, contrary to what your brain may be telling you, Giga Pudding/Puddi Puddi is not a Japanese brand of pudding; it is, in fact, custard.

It is also the street name for a new drug that is making the rounds in American elementary schools, mixing pudding mix with such known downers as Nyquil, Advil and Vicodin, as well as anti-freeze and Drano. Cool enough to give you a soft buzz with a sweet taste, but in the wrong dosage, very deadly and/or able to cause permanent damage.

S it's no surprise places like 4Chan went nuts with in this winter and it became a meme.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Video Of The Week: Cowboy Junkies

As I've mentioned previously when featuring Joseph Arthur a year and a half ago, covering Lou Reed in a straightforward, stripped-down manner can prove to be a great idea.

The first ones to be extremely successful with the idea were the Cowboy Junkies - technically from Toronto, though all four band members were born in Montréal - when they covered the Velvet Underground classic Sweet Jane:

I won't go as far as saying it's better than Lou's or the Velvets' versions, but it is certainly on par with it, which is still saying quite a lot.

The song is from 1988's The Trinity Sessions and is based on the Velvets' moody 1969 live version. Margo Timmins' vocals are on full display, as is the subdued-yet-consistent playing of her brother Michael; third sibling Peter Timmins plays drums, while childhood friend Alan Anton handles bass duties.