Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Many Of Donald Trump's 2017 Twitter Attacks/Rants/Spats

Here was Donald Trump's 2017, essentially, considering he and the Republicans passed just one bill of note:

And that's notwithstanding his Twitter was with North Korean President Kim Jong-un.

I'm sure glad he gets along with everybody, 'cause I'd hate to see a world where he doesn't.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Video Of The Week: Temple Of The Dog

In the beginning, there was Malfunkshun. It was Easter Sunday in Seattle, in 1980. They owed a lot to Kiss and T-Rex as far as sound and look goes, perhaps with a bit more distortion in their guitars.

They played for years with such Seattle luminaries The U-Men (est. 1981), Melvins (1983), Green River (1984) and Soundgarden (1984); they were all friends. So much so that Malfunkshun's lead singer, Andrew Wood, started playing with Green River's Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard and formed Mother Love Bone, then moved in and became roommates with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell. The other half of Green River formed Mudhoney, who went on to have some success of their own.

In 1990, Wood died of a heroin overdose, which deeply affected all of his friends - and Cornell in particular; he wrote twelve moving songs in tribute to his best friend, ten of which made it onto Temple Of The Dog's self-titled record, a project he included Wood's Mother Love Bone bandmates in, including a new singer they'd brought in to front their new unit, then-named Mookie Blaylock in honor of the basketball star but would soon be renamed Pearl Jam, a Chicago-via-San Diego surfer/artist called Eddie VedderSoundgarden's Matt Cameron was on drum duty, having done the same on the Gossard's demo that prompted Vedder to move up North to try out for the new band, and PJ's lead guitarist Mike McCready was invited as well.

It was thus no lie when the Temple Of The Dog CD was adorned with a sticker that read "Pearl Jam + Soundgarden = Temple Of The Dog", and the video for Hunger Strike, which remains one of the best songs of the 1990s, made full use of all members sporting plaid shirts and shorts with underalls. It was directed by Paul Rachman and featured such Pacific Northwest staples as a beach, a "forest" and the West Point Lighthouse:

Cornell didn't actually think much of the song originally, until Vedder came along and added his twist to it:
When we started rehearsing the songs, I had pulled out "Hunger Strike" and I had this feeling it was just kind of gonna be filler, it didn't feel like a real song. Eddie was sitting there waiting for a (Mookie Blaylock) rehearsal and I was singing parts, and he kind of humbly - but with some balls - walked up to the mic and started singing the low parts for me because he saw it was kind of hard (and I was struggling). We got through a couple choruses of him doing that and suddenly the light bulb came on in my head, this guy's voice is amazing for these low parts. History wrote itself after that, (and it) became the single.
In music, history is often made accidentally. Lightning in a bottle.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Video Of The Week: Fergie

Unbeknownst to be, I've been following Fergie's career since I was six years old, as she starred in the long-syndicated in the U.S. (but hard to find in Canada beyond 1986) TV show Kids Incorporated as Stacy Ferguson, alongside Jennifer Love Hewitt, Eric Balfour (24), Martika (who sang the theme song, and the mega-hit Toy Soldiers a few years later), Mario Lopez, and Wendy Brainard (who went on to sing with Corey Hart and Donna Summer).

I fucking loved that show so much I'd get up at 5 AM to watch it on Saturday mornings in the second grade; my parents didn't understand what was up with me, but there was something about the five songs per episode (and maybe Hewitt, Ferguson and Martika singing them as well).

Then came the girl-group Wild Orchid, whose records I bought for the album covers (namely the self-titled debut and the Supernatural single) but seldom listened to.

In the mid-1990s (and pretty much my entire life, really), some pop music suited my ears, but rock and rap more so; The Black Eyed Peas' first two records were decent underground fare, but when they hired Fergie and turned pop for Elephunk, their career hit new heights of commercial success... and creative depths that represent pretty much everything that is wrong with modern pop music.

In 2006, she came out with her first solo record, The Dutchess, which was successful, but sounded like it should have been a Gwen Stefani album, what with the reggae-ska numbers, the semi-honest/touchy-feely numbers that hint at deeper turmoil but ultimately fail at being truly poignant. And the insipid pure-pop numbers just didn't make it for me - although they made my then-girlfriend dance and act wild.

Fergie has tremendous skill as a singer, in the upper echelons, but for most of her career, it has felt like she was either holding back or refused to exploit it correctly.

There are two ways to go when you have a voice like that: the Céline Dion/Frank Sinatra/Whitney Houston way, which is to have people write songs for you to belt out like no other, or to bare your fucking soul, which works whether your voice is great or unique (Tori Amos, Charlotte Martin, Joanna Newsom, Björk), "normal" (P.J. Harvey), or awful (Courtney Love, Yoko Ono).

Finally, at age 42, Fergie has chosen the latter, with A Little Work, from the album Double Dutchess, which is a tad cliché'd but still rings true. The long-form video (a.k.a. "short film") by Jonas Åkerlund brings the point home very well:

You may recall Akerlund's work - such as the 2002 indie film Spun, or his videos for Roxette, Prodigy (Smack My Bitch Up), Madonna (Ray of Light), Metallica (Turn The Page, Whiskey In The Jar), The Smashing Pumpkins, Blink-182's I Miss You, and countless others - is among the best in the business.

He was the perfect director to bring to life a story about drug addiction (be it Fergie's documented struggles with crystal meth or the current opioid crisis in America) and mental illness.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Video Of The Week: AC/DC

"In Rock we trust, it's Rock or Bust".

As they've done many times over the course of their careers, when AC/DC opted to have that line open the chorus of the title track to their sixteenth album, they meant it; it was the first record without longtime-riff-writer Malcolm Young manning one of the guitars (nephew Stevie Young filled in), and the video also featured Bob Richards (Asia, Shogun, Man) on drums in lieu of Phil Rudd, who was on trial for murder and drug smuggling in New Zealand (the murder charge was dropped, but the drug-related ones led to his being sentenced to eight months of home detention).

Rock Or Bust was the the 14th of 17 AC/DC songs with the work "Rock" in its title; they also have six with "Balls", so you do with that what you want.

And as he'd done many times for the band before, director David Mallet decided to play to the band's strengths for the video: the raw energy of their live shows, the musicianship, the fun they have playing together, and the riffage, filming at Middlesex, England's Island Studios, on its central stage:

It isn't the best AC/DC record, and thus far from their best song. It's still better than a lot of what's out there, both in rock and beyond.

Hail to Rock! In Rock I trust!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Unnecessary Censorship: Star Wars Edition

Jimmy Kimmel and his staff just keep upping the ante.

This week's Unnecessary Censorship clip is all about the Star Wars saga:

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Video Of The Week: Halsey

Halsey is the stage name of one Ashley Nicolette Frangipan, from New Jersey.

She is a 23-year-old pop artist who is on her second record, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, having released Badlands in 2015. She has toured with Imagine Dragons and The Weeknd, recorded with The Chainsmokers and Justin Bieber, and is emo to the core, citing Panic! At The Disco as her all-time favourite band.

She spent her late teens dating a heroin addict in New York City and dropping out of college, so he had the regular rebellious lifestyle worthy of a TV biopic.

Oh, and she's way more into P!nk than she lets on, as can be attested by the video for Bad At Love, which she co-directed with Sing J. Lee:

There's a lot of Thelma & Louise in there, as well, of course. Because empowerment.

And because watching and getting inspired by Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Gas Food Lodging, Bound, Set It Off, Mulholland Drive, Frida, Suffragette, or Lost And Delirious is not cliché enough for a young soul who only pretends to be interested in cinema.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Video Of The Week: AC/DC

2017 brought about many more celebrity deaths. Most of the cultural heroes from the 1950s and 1960s have passed, and we're entering the realm where those of the 1970s and 1980s are dying "naturally", i.e. of long-term disease.

In the past few hours, the world lost one of rock music's most impactful talents for the second time in five years when Malcolm Young died; it had already been a sad time when he sat out for 2014's Rock Or Bust tour, replaced by his nephew Stevie Young.

But even during the amazing 2008-2010 Black Ice tour, dementia had already kicked in, eliminating his short-term memory and forcing him to have to re-learn the band's songs every night before going on stage.

It got to the point where he had to be put in a nursing home, where he got and defeated lung cancer, had a pacemaker intalled and saw his verall health decline sharply, leading to his death, on November 18th, 2017, at the age of 64.

AC/DC is a hard-rock/boogie band from Australia who is known to the general public via its towering and charismatic leaders - former singer Bon Scott (1946-1980), second singer Brian Johnson, and of course lead guitarist Angus Young, he of the lightning-fast fingers, Chuck Berry-inspired duck walk and perpetual shoolboy uniform.

The thing is, behind the solos and riffs, what drove AC/DC, what made it what it is, is Malcolm's playing and songwriting. Megadeth's Dave Mustaine once said:
I respect James (Hetfield). I’m a better lead player than he is, but he’s one of the three best rhythm players in the world. (The other two being) Malcolm Young [of AC/DC] and myself. Malcolm kept it basic but brought a whole new style of rhythm playing to the world.
We can take that for what it is - Mustaine's insane, he'll never get over being kicked out of Metallica, and he knows Malcolm Young deserves respect. That wouldn't be my personal top-three, because while Mustaine is very good at all aspects of guitar-playing, his rhythm playing isn't "the best" by any stretch of the imagination and Hetfield's pretty god, but there are better talents and beter innovators out there.

I'm sure Malcolm is in my top-three, but I'd have to take a week or a month to listen to Gene Vincent closely, to see if Eddie Cochran's consistency as good as he is with Summertime Blues, Neil Young, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards, and so many others.

Malcolm is on a rare plain where it's his inner understanding of rock, the way he just feels it inside and gets it out so naturally, that makes him unique. He's a lot like Jack White that way - it's always the perfect sound that comes out, the right chord with the perfect strumming, bombastic or quick-pick attacks.

Here's what I mean, in one of AC/DC's most well-known songs, Thunderstruck. They catch your attention with Angus' mixoldian scale to start with, then the crowd chanting "uh-huh-uh-huh-uh-uh-uhn" and "Thunder!", but it's when Johnson joins in and Malcolm's chord comes in that the track hits you in the chest for the first time. Then, at 1:33, the actual song kick in. That's all Malcolm, as is the pounding first bridge a full minute later:

That's what I mean by how he and rock are just one entity. Take those away and it's a pretty naked song, yet it's so good and in its right place that you only hear it if you're looking for it.

Rest In Peace, Sir.

The video was directed David Mallet, at London's Brixton Academy - like many others he did for the band. He has also directed VH1 specials, Cirque Du Soleil show DVDs, and videos for Sarah Brightman (How Can Heaven Love Me, Music Of The Night), Olivia Newton-John (Take A Chance, Soul Kiss, Culture Shock, Emotional Tangle, Toughen Up, The Right Moment), Culture Club (Mistake #3), Blondie (Hanging On The Telephone, Dreaming, Atomic, The Hardest Part, Union City Blue), Peter Gabriel (Games Without Frontiers), Queen (I Want It All, I Want To Break Free, Radio Ga Ga, Under Pressure, Bicycle Race, Who Wants To Live Forever, Hammer To Fall, Heaven For Everyone), David Bowie (Boys Keep Swinging, DJ, Look Back In Anger, Ashes To Ashes, Let's Dance, Wild is The Wind, China Girl, Cat People (Putting Out Fire), Loving The Alien, Dancing In The Street, Hallo Spaceboy), Freddie Mercury (The Great Pretender, I Was Born To Love You, Made In Heaven, Barcelona), The Pretenders (Talk Of The Town), George Michael (Somebody To Love), Tina Turner (Proud Mary, Addicted To Love), Heart (What About Love), Billy Idol (Eyes Without A Face, To Be A Lover, Catch My Fall, White Wedding), The Boomtown Rats (I Don't Like Mondays) and Def Leppard's Photograph.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Video Of The Week: Walk The Moon

What do you get when you mix the worst haircuts of all time, the visual style of 1980s Red Hot Chili Peppers crossed with Aladdin Sane-era David Bowie and ten-year-olds trying their hands at KISS make-up, the musical stylings of Crazy Town, Fun., Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers, and the worst of Walk Off The Earth's originals, and the lyrical genius qualities of Black Eyed Peas?

Apart from a total lack of originality and a dumbed-down version of sub-par imitators, you get Walk The Moon, who recently released their new album, What If Nothing, which is exactly the kind of empty pretend-deep title you thought their record would have.

These assholes have the nerve to call their musical style "new wave", which is an insult to Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Blondie, Devo, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson, The B-52s, The Go-Gos, Adam And The Ants, The Romantics, The Jam, The (English) Beat, XTC, Roxy Music and the like.

Walk The Moon's sound is actually much closer to that of New Romantic acts such as Spandau Ballet, Squeeze, Duran Duran, Simply Red and Thompson Twins, i.e. "shitty male-dominated synth-pop".

Director Robert Hales (Nine Inch Nails, Imagine Dragons, Jack White's Would You Fight For My Love) should have left them to die in the Joshua Tree National Park:

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Poppy Fields Forever

As usual, my friend Mark was on point by sending me this awesome image today:
Poppy fields forever.

Now, Canada, Justin Trudeau and other politicians, make this a paid Holiday all over the country. Our soldiers from WWI, WWII, Blue Berets and the soldiers that we lent to the Crown for wars such as the Korean War deserve the respect.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Top 10s Of The Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. I WAS A FOOL, Sunflower Bean (2017)
9. IT GETS MORE BLUE, Girlpool (2017)
8. NOTHING FEELS NATURAL, Priests (2017)
7. LEGEND HAS IT, Run The Jewels (2016)
5. PA'LANTE, Hurray For The Riff Raff (2017)
4. DUM SURFER, King Krule (2017)
3. CREATURE COMFORT, Arcade Fire (2017)
2. GOOD COP, BAD COP, Ice Cube (2017)
1. WRECKING BALL (Miley Cyrus Cover), William Patrick Corgan (2017)

Top 10 Most Overrated Movies Of The 1980s:

10. AKIRA, Katsuhiro Otomo (1988)
9. ROAD HOUSE, Rowdy Herrington (1989)
8. A FISH CALLED WANDA, Charles Crichton (1988)
7. DIRTY DANCING, Emile Ardolino (1987)
6. TRON, Steven Lisberger (1982)
5. TOP GUN, Tony Scott (1986)
4. FOOTLOOSE, Herbert Ross (1984)
3. SIXTEEN CANDLES, John Hughes (1984)
2. THE BREAKFAST CLUBJohn Hughes (1985)
1. FERRIS BUELER'S DAY OFF, John Hughes (1986)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Video Of The Week: Alex Lahey

Alex Lahey is an independent singer-songwriter from Melbourne, Australia who is on her way to make a junior Jack White of herself, owning all of her art, her image, and in charge of her entire career. She's won a couple of prizes and prestige festival slots in Australia, and is now set on conquering the rest of the world with her fun, smart, poppy indie-rock debut, I Love You Like A Brother.

When I first heard the lead single, Every Day's The Weekend, my first thought was "oh, cool, the generation that grew up listening to The Strokes and that one good song by The Killers is ready to take its place at the podium", and there's nothing wrong with that, although the song does have that very 2017 lack of guitars and overuse of empty-sounding space:

Callum Preston directed the video and made the sets, while co-director Jam Nawaz was also its cinematographer. It stars Lahey's entourage: James & Lloyd, Boo Johnson, Barry Morgan, Megan Quigley and Vicki Lahey.

Friday, November 3, 2017

In Drugs News

What quantity is "too much drugs"? Depends on the drug.

How much is four and a half pounds of drugs? Again, depends on the drug.

Four and a half pounds of marijuana will fill four garbage bags and will last one "real" stoner  two and a half years.

Four and a half pounds of fentanyl could kill the entire city of Columbus, Ohio. You do not want that in the trunk of your car.
From Kaya Pharmacy
Then again, last August, authorities seized enough to kill half of New York City. That's 20 pounds, worth roughly $3M on the market, although I'm unsure if that's wholesale or whether it represents the street-level value that low-level dealers sell at.

And even that's nothing compared to the September bust which confiscated an amount enough to kill 32M people. That's 195 pounds.

That's what the War On Drugs should be after.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Video Of The Week: Wolf Alice

I remember hearing Wolf Alice's Moaning Lisa Smile in 2015 and being slightly impressed with their Veruca Salt/Breeders vibe. Then I promptly forgot they existed, until a few weeks ago, when I fell upon Beautifully Unconventional, a more textured and groovy song, albeit more pop-oriented on the rock scale.

I'll have to buy the record to see if they just took the loudness out of their songs in general or if it's just that song, or if it's more introspective or experimental.

Whatever the reason, I like the song's video, directed by Stephen Agnew:

It's a visual throwback to 1950s, 1960s and 1970s variety TV shows featuring musical acts lip-synching their songs and doo-wop acts' fashion styles. This look is archetypal of what American Conservative voters think "their" politicians mean when they think of the "good old days", when they're actually referring to WWII policies and class rule (men above women, graded highest by lightest skin tone and revenue).

In case you were wondering, Agnew is a British filmmaker who has mostly done Nike ads and videos for Drenge (Fuckabout, Face Like A Skull, Nothing), Royal Blood (Out Of The Black, Ten Tonne Skeleton), Crystal Castles (Sad Eyes), White Lies (Strangers), Fangclub (Better To Forget), The Vaccines (Post Break-Up Sex), All We Are (Honey), Ruen Brothers (Summer Sun), Gabrielle Aplin (Miss You), Spector (Kyoto Garden), and Dogs Trust (We're Here). He really likes bright colours, men in suits and long, classy dresses.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

This Week In Unnecessary Censorship

When I was in film school, I mostly made my mark as writer-director and editor. The film I submitted as my final project was called Le King, and it was a mockumentary about myself featuring real actors, friends from my real life, and stolen clips from TV interviews and other forms of lost footage put out of context to either show me in a positive or very negative light.

Before settling on that idea, though, I toyed around with other concepts, including cutting/mixing clips from one person to make them say something else (still planning on creating a YouTube channel dedicated to just that), or taking words out to give the impression that someone was saying something other than what they were really saying.

And so I really enjoy when Jimmy Kimmel has his "This Week In Unnecessary Censorship" segments, because his crack-team of researchers can find the best clips to do that with, as seen in last Thursday's show:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Monday, October 23, 2017

Thank You, Keith Olbermann

I was going to post about Donald Trump's bullshit regarding the death of American troops in Niger, General John Kelly's bullshit in defending Trump, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders' bullshit in defending Kelly - and how it was all hypocritical.

I had a lot to say, but not only did Keith Olbermann beat me to it, he's so passionate about it that he spits when he talks a couple of times, so I thought I should share his rant instead:

Weird, tough times.

Video Of The Week: CLARA-NOVA

CLARA-NOVA is Sydney Wayser's current electro-pop musical project. I hate 1980s-inspired electro-pop, and I hated it just as much back then. There are bits of this piece that make me want to throw up - this is not a metaphor, the only nostalgia I have for what the '80s were or stood for makes me physically ill. For real.

In this case, specifically, it's the chorus' bass line mixed with the atmospheric keyboards.

But I like the vocal melodies. And I feel like not enough people are aware of this project, that it warrants looking at the bigger picture.

So here's her new video, for The Illusionist, directed by Mimi Cave and starring dancer/choreographer Toogie Barcelo:

It was smart to use drones to film on location in an abandoned warehouse, at night. Indie innovation thinking, right there.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Video Of The Week: The Tragically Hip

Well, it had to happen, and so it has: The Tragically Hip's lead singer and central figure, Gord Downie, has passed away from his incurable brain cancer.

My own personal history with the Hip began with their 1989 "true" debut Up To Here's second single, New Orleans Is Sinking, the first (Blow At High Dough) not making a dent in what I was listening to at the time at 10-11 years old (Guns N' Roses' Appetite For Destruction and GNR Lies, Kiss' Crazy Nights, N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton, Def Leppard's Hysteria, Michael Jackson's Thriller and Bad, Prince's Batman soundtrack, Queen's The Miracle, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Mother's Milk, and Bon Jovi's New Jersey). But New Orleans had something, a feel, a groove that I could deal with. I say "true" debut, by the way, because I'd seen their self-titled Tragically Hip 1987 EP release in stores at that point, but didn't buy it until 1992 or 1993; Up To Here was their first full-length endeavour. I didn't really think much of the rest of that record, so I waited for the second one, 1991's Road Apples, to be very discounted (under $10) to give it a go, and I loved Little Bones, Twist My Arm, and Cordelia right away. I liked the rest of it, too, but not as much as the one-two-three punch at the beginning of the record, which I still go to in order from time to time.

1992's Fully Completely was a whole new ballgame. All killer, no filler. This was what cemented the band as a force to be reckoned with on the Canadian mainstream rock stage, with reason. Out of the 12 songs on the album, only four do not qualify as "hits". They're great nonetheless, but the Big Eight just pack so much: Courage (for Hugh MacLennan), Looking for a Place to Happen, At the Hundredth Meridian, Locked in the Trunk of a Car, Fully Completely, Fifty Mission Cap and Wheat Kings all became staples of their live shows until the very end, and remain in full rotation on Canadian rock radio to this day.

1994's Day For Night was even better, with such classics as Grace, Too, Greasy Jungle, So Hard Done By, the tear-inducing Nautical Disaster, Inevitability of Death, Scared and An Inch an Hour. With sleeker production, this was a band at the height of songwriting genius made to sound like early R.E.M. - and it worked. It felt real, honest, and raw.

1996's Trouble At The Henhouse might be their finest work, with standouts Gift Shop, Springtime In Vienna, and the masterpiece Ahead by a Century. It has a more acoustic feel to it, it seems warmer and softer then their preceding works.

They released Live Between Us, a live album recorded in Detroit, in 1997, containing most hits, then went in the studio to make 1998's Phantom Power, with standout tracks Poets, Bobcaygeon, Something On, and Fireworks. It was a fine record, but nothing original; it was The Hip sounding like The Hip - not as generic as future releases, but there was a comfort level setting, there wasn't much surprise.

The same can be said of 2000's Music @ Work. If anything, even the four singles (My Music At Work, Lake Fever, The Completists and Freak Turbulence) sound almost sarcastically like keeping with the band's signature sound. And titles like Tiger The Lion do nothing to dispel that notion. This is where I moved on from the Hip a bit, so I bought 2002's In Violet Light because I'd bought all the others, but I played it twice in its entirety and never really went back to it. They made videos for It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken and The Darkest One, and that was my lone contact with this album.

2004's In Between Evolution, however, struck a major chord in me. Perhaps it's the fact that unlike others, it's politically-charged, in the midst of George W. Bush's Iraq War, or maybe they just started trying again, but songs like Heaven Is a Better Place Today, Summer's Killing Us, Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park, Vaccination Scar, It Can't Be Nashville Every Night, As Makeshift as We Are, One Night in Copenhagen and Goodnight Josephine really resonated. The album was produced by engineer extraordinaire Adam Kasper (Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Queens Of The Stone Age, R.E.M., winner of two Grammys for his work with the Foo Fighters), which probably helped.

2006 brought World Container, which I remember liking, but The Kids Don't Get It is the only song from that album that's made its way into my Permanent Playlist. It's pretty much the same for 2009's We Are The Same: Coffee Girl, Now the Struggle Has a Name, The Depression Suite, and Love Is a First are all fine tunes, but Queen of the Furrows is the only song off that record that I still listen to on a regular basis.

Then there was the two-album conclusion, Now For Plan A and Man Machine Poem, the latter of which is named after a song from the former. Confused? Good. These are good records, introspective, deep in thought, with dark yet groovy pieces of music. Not what I would recommend for someone who has never heard the band (the 1992-96 output would be a better starting point, in my opinion), but for a casual fan or radio listener who was curious to find out how their 1990s sound evovled with age and technical skill, I'd recommend these two ahead of the previous two.

Pretty much as soon as the cancer diagnosis was confirmed, the band embarked on what doubled as the Man Machine Poem tour and its farewell tour, playing 15 shows in 10 cities - it was originally 10, but controversy surrounding ticket scalpers getting the bulk of the tickets (promoter Live Nation estimates upwards of two-thirds of tickets were purchased by bots, not people) forced the band to add a show apiece in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, and two in Toronto; the tour did not go farther East than Ottawa, meaning Québec (specifically the rather large Montréal market) and the Maritimes drew blanks. The final concert was held at Kingston's Rogers K-Rock Center, in the heart of the group's hometown.

I bring this post home with the song that first caught my ear, New Orleans Is Sinking:

I don't know who directed it, but if I come by it, I will update this post.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pig Of The Day: Larry Nassar

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story, more and more women are coming out to show that this is a society-wide problem, not just something that is found on Hollywood casting couches, Parliament Hill backrooms, and in Fox News offices.

We already knew that 100 women were suing Larry Nassar, the former USA Women Gymnastics and Olympics team doctor, but today, two-time medalist McKayla Maroney came out publicly to say that Nassar began molesting her when she was 13 and repeatedly abused her until she retired.

According to the Buzzfeed article, "lawsuits allege that Nassar sexually abused athletes as young as nine years old, and most of his alleged victims were under 18 years of age."

Not all perverts are criminals, and not all sexual criminals are pedophiles, but those who are put their dirty stamp over so many lives that it should be taken into consideration when evaluating and handing punishment for their crimes.

In Nassar's case, it's hundreds of women, their close relatives and friends, their spouses and their kids - hundreds more - who are affected by and dealing with the trauma that one man's actions, spread over three decades, was allowed to keep making.

On the one hand, I believe in giving second chances for first-time offenders and he hadn't been found guilty and thus hadn't had to "learn his lesson" yet, but on the other, his number of victims is higher than that of military rape squads.

If society were to start over from scratch, this case would be Exhibit A in the argument for prison for life with no parole. As far as our current reality goes, I'm not certain in which State he'll be tried nor under which circumstances/accusations, but hopefully he gets the maximum time and least favorable living conditions in which to serve it when found guilty.

He's the Pig of the Day, and McKayla Maroney is the Hero of the Day.

Monday, October 16, 2017

About #MeToo

You may have seen it, all over your Facebook or Twitter feeds, as I have, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo hashtag with accompanying text:
I have deliberately cut out most of the picture and name to protect her identity for future reference.
Better yet:
The fact that pretty much everyone of my female friends followed suit - some even going so far as detailing when and how it happened - proves this is a generalized issue.

However, I want to point one thing out, for clarification's sake: the results of these stories has to come out for two reasons: 1. in case some people want to prosecute their abusers; and 2. for society to change and build from this for a better future. That being said, we should not, by any means, require victims to share their most intimate secrets in public to get that ball rolling. That's not how it should work.

I'm all for "innocent until proven guilty", I realize some famous folks have been wrongly accused these past few years, that's all good, a crime's punishment should require an actual trial, not an online lynch mob; on the other hand, victims must be believed and protected as well. You can do both in a civilized society. There may even be cases - that's where a true court comes in - where a victim may feel wronged but when the facts come to light, the defense may be able to make a credible case that there was middle ground; in the U.S., that's where civil court comes in, with punitive damages awarded.

Further debate and explanations on that issue, however - as with my own #MeToo because, as a Man, this is not my day to join that side of the argument - is for another day.

Today, my statement is this: I do not consider to have been a torturer in that sense, because just hearing the word "no" calms my manhood down for the rest of the night, as many disappointed role-playing ladies have found out. But there was a time as a child when I was discovering myself and sharing the experience with friends and relatives where now, as an adult, feel were either fucking weird or may have crossed some sort of line, and hopefully I didn't scar anyone for life. I have been told it was "normal childhood behaviour" by professionals, but kids are a mess anyway.

This does not mean I haven't been part of the problem, as an asshole, at an age where I probably knew better and could handle some responsibility.

I try to be a good person, and I try to improve on that every day. Some days I can't. Many times when I can't, I don't cause much damage to anyone but myself, if that.

But I have disrespected women, some of whom I even dated. I have said harsh thing. Terrible things. I even asked someone who had been on my case for an entire night "When will you die?". Jesus Christ. I'm haunted and tormented by the shit I've done - not just to women, to men too; I've said it here before, I've seen both sides, I've been bullied and I've been a bully, but fuck, man.

I'm in my late 30s now. I want kids. Chances are, if I do have some, they'll have some of my DNA. I don't want my kids to do what I did or say the things I've said. And here's the thing: my Mom was an amazing parent. She taught me to want to be - and do - good. She's probably the reason why I didn't turn out a criminal like some of my friends or some of my folk heroes. I don't know if I can do any better than she did, but I know there is shit I've had to learn by trial and error - and ages 8-10, then again around 15-16, I've erred quite a bit - that will look a hell of a lot like History Repeating Itself to me if and when I notice them from my kid(s) or their friends.

Sure, you try to teach them the basics: good, not evil; treat everybody equally, regardless of everything; help those in need. Some of that will have to come with reminders sometimes. Then there'll be the path corrections when they stray.

I have no idea if it'll stick. Because every day, I live with everything I've done in the four decades that I've been on this planet. And today, I'm thinking particularly of what I did and said to one gender. Friends, girlfriends, teachers, strangers.

I haven't always been a part of the solution. I'm trying to be, I really am, because there's only so much weight I can carry. But mostly because it's the Right thing to do.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Eminem (& The World) Vs Trump

By now, you've probably heard Eminem's cypher (freestyle rap devoid of music or even straight beats), but in case you haven't, here it is:

That was first released during the BET Awards, which have made a tradition of releasing some throughout the years. This was Eminem's third or fourth such cypher for the event in the past decade.

What I mostly came to post about was the amount of support Em received by doing so:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Video Of The Week: Zwan

Billy Corgan (who these days goes by his full name, William Patrick Corgan, because he's super-serious as a solo performer, playing piano accompanied by strings and stuff) once said of his Zwan bandmates:
I'll never go anywhere near those people again. Ever. I mean, I detest them. You can put that in capital letters. Bad people. (Original Smashing Pumpkins members) James (Iha) and D'arcy (Wretzky) are good people. They might be misguided people, but they're good people.
There's also this blog post of his. Oh, and this Chicago Tribune quote about the band's demise:
The music wasn't the big problem, it was more their attitude... Sex acts between band members in public. People carrying drugs across borders. (Guitarist David) Pajo sleeping with the producer's girlfriend while we were making the record.
Followed by this Entertainment Weekly quote just four weeks later:
Sex and drugs and junk. Tick off the list: heroin, band members having relationships... You don't trust the person next to you. I'm on the bus. I send an email to somebody and I throw my BlackBerry in my little day bag. The next day, my ex-girlfriend calls me screaming. Somebody in the group went into my BlackBerry and forwarded her an email that another girl sends me. I mean, that's the kind of stuff we were dealing with.
But taking away the psychodrama, Zwan's Mary Star Of The Sea may very well be Corgan's last very good album. It's certainly his most consistent output in the past 15 years (it came  out in January 2003).

The video for the lead single Honestly was directed by Bruce Dickson, featuring some nice harmonies and apparent chemistry between Corgan and bassist Paz Lenchantin, former Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's signature jazz-inspired drum rolls and a bit too much flanger effect on the guitar:

It's colourful and seems more joyous than the tumultuous end(s) of the Pumpkins. Which is the beauty and magic of film, i.e. "make-believe".

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Today's Hypocritical Republican: Tim Murphy

Because of course he did:
Need we say more?

It's always those fuckers who are trying to infringe on people's rights who themselves require exceptions for the very thing they were against the most.

Remember when Florida Congressman Trey Radel, who wanted to force welfare recipients to test for drugs, got caught with cocaine?

How about the list of anti-gay Republicans?

Speaker Of The House Dennis Hastert coached a high school wresting team. And fondled them, too.

Jon Hinson who exposed himself to an undercover cop, and years later was caught having sex with an underage clerk in the House of Representatives washroom, then died of AIDS.

Troy King, former Attorney General, was against the sale of sex toys. Oh, and called homosexuality "the downfall of society", was caught in bed with a male aide by his wife.

California Senator Roy Ashburn, who always voted against LGBT rights, was caught driving drunk coming out of a gay club with a male penis receptacle. He then officially came out.

Washington State Representative Richard Curtis voted against same-sex domestic partnerships and against an anti-discrimination law protecting gay people. He was blackmailed by a male escort. It was found he liked to have same-sex in adult book stores and video stores. A very cultured man.

Representative Ed Schrock was against any gay rights. As a matter of fact, he thought "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was too lenient. Which didn't stop him from soliciting men on a gay chat line.

Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe was for the Defense of Marriage Act but was forced to come out by a full-page ad in the paper telling him to embrace "his true community". Oh, yeah, he liked to go campaign with pages.

The mayor of Spokane, Washington, Jim West, sent two Boy Scouts gifts and money so they'd shut up that he fondled them. That was after he voted for a bill banning any discussion of gay rights in schools.

Pinal County, Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeau was a rising star in the Republican Party, until he threatened to deport a former boyfriend. It was also revealed that he ran a private boarding school in Massachusetts in the late ’90s that had been investigated for abusive disciplinary practices. I'm guessing broom sticks in anuses.

Congressman Robert Bauman was a big "morality" guy. Until he was arrested for attempting to solicit sex from a 16-year-old male prostitute.

Mark Foley also voted for the Defense of Marriage Act and was caught having sex with two male pages. In his defense, when he started sexting with them they were 16 and 18, and he waited for each to turn legal before porking them.

Florida State Representative Bob Allen usually voted against gay rights. He was then arrested for offering a male undercover cop $20 to receive oral sex in a restroom, then claimed he "only did it because he was afraid of black people". Yes, you read that correctly.

Republican mayor of Medford, New Jersey Chris Myers had sex with a male prostitute in a hotel room. He paid $500 for the services rendered and should have been in the clear. Except he promised lavish gifts and a car, and didn't deliver. The prostitute called bullshit. Publicly.

Phil Hinkle, from the Indiana House of Representatives, wanted to ban gay marriages. But he was fine with meeting 18-year-old men on Craigslist for sex.

Bruce Barclay, chairman of the Cumberland County commissioners office, believed homosexuality was a sin. Publicly. Very publicly, and very loudly. In private, however, he was quite the documentary filmmaker, having filmed hundreds of sexual encounters with men in his home, whom he usually met on "rentboy" sites.

Senator Larry Craig was arrested for solicitation in an airport bathroom. That was fucking hilarious.

Senate candidate Steve Wiles had a chance at getting elected... until he was found to have a double life as a drag queen.

Randy Boehning, of the North Dakota House of Representatives, voted against gay rights a lot. That was his daytime job. At night, he was a frequent Grindr user.

Mayor of Kenner, Louisiana Mike Yenni met a 17-year-old boy in a washroom, gave him underwear and kissed him. Then he started sexting him way too much, enough that it freaked the kid out.

Yeah, I mean, hey. Welcome to "your people", Tim Murphy.

If you're curious about this news, you can check it out here and here. This goes beyond lying to yourself and your constituents, it's forcing your own "sin" (abortion) onto someone else to absolve yourself of it, when you also have another, worse "sin" (infidelity).

NHL Predictions 2017-18: Hardware

After going team-for-team with my predictions on the NHL 2017-18 season standings, here are my predictions for all the award winners for the upcoming season:

(First, though, let me toot my own horn for having accurately predicted the Art Ross (Connor McDavid), Hart (McDavid), Vezina (Sergei Bobrovsky), Lady Byng (Johnny Gaudreau), and Jack Adams (John Tortorella) last year...)

President's Cup (regular season champs): Minnesota Wild
Prince Of Wales Trophy (Eastern Conference Cup finalists): Tampa Bay Lightning
Clarence-Campbell Trophy (Western Conference Cup finalists): Dallas Stars
Stanley Cup Champions: Dallas Stars
Conn Smythe (playoff MVP): Jamie Benn

Art Ross (points scoring leader): Connor McDavid
Rocket Richard (leading goal scorer): Alex Ovechkin
Hart (MVP voted by the press): Connor McDavid
Ted Lindsay (MVP voted by players): Alex Ovechkin
Vezina (top goalie): Ben Bishop
Calder (best rookie): Clayton Keller
Lady Byng (most sportsmanlike): Johnny Gaudreau
Norris (best defenseman): Erik Karlsson
Bill Masterton (perseverance/comeback): Brian Boyle
Frank Selke (best defensive forward): Jonathan Toews
Jack Adams (top coach): Mike Sullivan
King Clancy (humanitarian): P.K. Subban
Mark Messier (best leader): Jamie Benn
GM: Jim Nill

In terms of holdovers from my previous predictions, I'm staying put for the Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Hart, Lady Byng and King Clancy.

And, yes, I'm predicting Ovie shuts his critics up with a comeback season, perhaps as the lone 50-goal scorer once more (last year's leader was Sidney Crosby, with just 44 goals).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Video Of The Week: Tom Petty

Tom Petty died last night, but because we live in a 24-hour news cycle where tweets count as "breaking news", the story was ahead of itself, reports of his demise making the rounds on social media while he was still technically alive, angering his family, friends and bandmates:
from Instagram
How sad a world are we living in? TMZ were once again the only ones to get the news right, but instead of leaving it at that, they actually released the audio of the 911 call his wife made when she found his body. For fuck's sake.

This does, as AnnaKim Violette Petty mentioned, overshadow and disrespect the man and the artist's oeuvre. We're talking about a Rock And Roll Hall of Famer (class of 2002), yet another lost member of The Traveling Wilburys (Roy Orbison and George Harrison had passed away before him, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lyne of Electric Light Orchestra fame remain), and a very successful songwriter whose career spanned five decades.

Some of the songs you may know him from include Refugee, Learning To Fly, Free Fallin', It's Good To Be King, Into The Great Wide Open, Don't Do Me Like That, Runnin' Down A Dream, All Of Nothin', Mary Jane's Last Dance, You Wreck Me, and a terrific and perfect cover of Patti Smith's So You Wanna Be A Rock'N'Roll Star.

Oh, and this tremendous piece of 1980s music called I Won't Back Down that I've sung in concert over a dozen times:

Yes, there are a few cameos in the video directed by David Leland, including Lynne (co-songwriter on most of 1989's Full Moon Fever, Petty's first official solo album), Harrison (who played guitar on it), Mike Campbell (lead guitarist of both Petty's band The Heartbreakers and on this record) and former Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who does not play on the actual recording (those are actually Phil Jones' beats). Also missing in the video is Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein doing backing vocals.

Notable covers of this song include Pearl Jam's rendition from the Live At The Gorge set, but young'uns will know it best by Sam Smith stealing it for his Grammy-winning Stay With Me...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Dallas Stars

GM: Jim Nill (since 2013). 8/10
Coach: Ken Hitchcock (second stint, since 2017). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 34-37-11, 79 points, 24th overall, out of playoffs.

Departures: Antti Niemi (G), Ales Hemsky (RW), Patrick Sharp (LW), Cody Eakin (C).

Arrivals: Ben Bishop (G), Alexander Radulov (RW), Marc Methot (D), Martin Hanzal (C), Tyler Pitlick (LW), Brian Flynn (C).

Top forwards: Jamie Benn (75-85 points), Tyler Seguin (75-85 points), Jason Spezza (60-70 points), Radulov (50-60 points), Radek Faksa (35-45 points), Devin Shore (35-40 points), Hanzal (30-35 points), Mattias Janmark (30-35 points), Antoine Roussel (35-45 points).

Must-improve forwards: Roussel was gaining traction when he fell to injury; look for him to take another step up this season. Alternatively, Hanzal was an anchor for the Minnesota Wild, and he likely will be for the Stars as well, possibly forcing Hitchcock to play him alongside Radulov to get some kind of production out of the slow, aging Czech.

Top defensemen: John Klingberg (50-60 points), Esa Lindell (25-30 points), Methot (15-20 points), Stephen Johns (20-25 points), Julius Honka (15-25 points).

Goalies: Bishop (90/100), Kari Lehtonen (77/100).

Top rookies: Honka (21 years old, D, 2014 first-round pick), Miro Heiskanen (18, D, 3rd-overall pick at the 2017 draft), Denis Gurianov (20, D, 2015 first-round pick), Jason Dickinson (22, C, 2013 first-round pick), Riley Tufte (19, LW, 2016 first-round pick).

Like last year's Nashville Predators and the 2013-14 New York Rangers, it will take a few months for this Dallas Stars team to gel and start being consistent, but when they do, it'll be a straight road to the Stanley Cup Final for them.

After dressing the worst goaltending tandem in the league last year, the Stars bought Niemi out and added the best goalie on the market, two-time Vezina finalist Bishop. They also added the best forward on the market in Radulov, but also the most overrated one, Hanzal.

The entire team will be better just for knowing that Bishop will be behind them, adding a layer of confidence and fearlessness unseen in Dallas since the days of Ed Belfour.

Ken Hitchcock - who was also at the helm of the 1999 Cup-winning Stars team and has added two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada since then - will ensure everyone plays up to their usual standards.

I smell another Cup for Dallas.

Prediction: 4th in the Central Division. Top Wild Card spot in the West. Stanley Cup winners.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Ottawa Senators

GM: Pierre Dorion (since 2016). 8/10
Coach: Guy Boucher (since 2016). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 44-28-10, 98 points, 12th overall, Eastern Conference finalists.

Departures: Marc Methot (D), Chris Neil (RW), Viktor Stalberg (LW), Tommy Wingels (LW).

Arrivals: Johnny Oduya (D), Erik Bergdoerfer (D), Nate Thompson (C).

Top forwards: Mark Stone (60-65 points), Mike Hoffman (60-65 points), Kyle Turris (55-65 points), Derick Brassard (50-60 points), Bobby Ryan (40-55 points), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (35-45 points), Alexandre Burrows (30-40 points), Ryan Dzingel (30-35 points), Zack Smith (30-35 points).

Must-improve forwards: Burrows' production took off when he joined the Sens, so hopefully he keeps that going and puts the last few seasons in Vancouver behind him. Ryan and Pageau both had terrific playoffs that bode well for the upcoming season.

Top defensemen: Erik Karlsson (70-85 points), Dion Phaneuf (30-35 points), Cody Ceci (20-25 points), Fredrik Claesson (20-25 points), Chris Wideman (15-20 points).

Goalies: Craig Anderson (86/100), Mike Condon (79/100).

Top rookies: Thomas Chabot (20 years old, D, 2015 first-round pick), Colin White (20, C, 2015 first-round pick), Andreas Englund (21, D), Filip Chlapik (20, C), Logan Brown (19, C, 2016 first-round pick).

The Hockey News didn't just invent that Karlsson should be in the same conversation as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby for the title of World's Best Player - he proved it by being the best player in the postseason last year despite playing on a broken foot. Any roster with Karlsson leading the play has a chance to win the game on any given night.

Add to that last season's Cinderella story, Anderson in net, who has been rock-solid since coming over to the Sens during the 2010-11 season.

Then add three potential (and past) 30-goal scorers on the wing in Stone, Hoffman and Ryan (Clarke MacArthur would have been a fourth, but post-concussion syndrome will probably keep him out of hockey for the time being) and two 60-point centers in Turris and Brassard, and you've got yourself one of the most balanced top-six units in the league, let alone the East.

And that's not factoring in Pageau's development, he of the 4-goal night in the second round last Spring. And Dzingel and Smith by his side. And an effective shut-down unit comprised of Thompson and Tom Pyatt. And a head coach (Boucher) who specializes in defensive systems and has a degree in psychology to tear his opponents apart. Oh, and his assistant, Marc Crawford, is a former Stanley Cup-winning head coach (1996, Colorado Avalanche).

Yeah, these Sens are for real. (At least until Anderson's retirement).

Prediction: 2nd in the Atlantic Division.

Friday, September 29, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Florida Panthers

GM: Dale Talon (second stint, since 2017). 8.5/10
Coach: Bob Boughner (since 2017). 7/10

2016-17 record: 35-36-11, 81 points, 23rd overall, out of playoffs after finishing first in the Atlantic the year before.

Departures: Tom Rowe (GM and interim head coach), Jonathan Marchessault (C), Jaromir Jagr (RW), Jason Demers (D), Reilly Smith (RW), Jussi Jokinen (LW), Shawn Thornton (RW) Reto Berra (G), Michael Sgarbossa (C).

Arrivals: Radim Vrbata (RW), Evgeny Dadonov (RW), Michael Haley (C), Jamie McGinn (LW).

Top forwards: Aleksander Barkov (65-75 points), Jonathan Huberdeau (65-75 points), Vincent Trocheck (55-65 points), Dadonov (50-55 points), Nick Bjugstad (40-50 points), Denis Malgin (20-30 points), Vrbata (25-30 points), Colton Sceviour (25-30 points).

Must-improve forward: Bjugstad lost the 2C spot to Trocheck, but perhaps he can play as a winger on the top-six and get going again.

Top defensemen: Aaron Ekblad (30-40 points), Keith Yandle (35-40 points), Michael Matheson (20-25 points), Alex Petrovic (20-25 points).

Goalies: Roberto Luongo (87/100), James Reimer (76/100).

Top rookies: Owen Tippett (18 years old, RW, 10th overall pick in 2017), Ian McCoshen (22, D), Henrik Borgstrom (20, C), Michael Downing (22, D), Jayce Hawryluk (21, RW).

Two years ago, the Panthers finished first in the Atlantic on the strength of a roster that GM Dale Tallon took five years to build (technically less, because he won the 2012 GM Of The Year award after a strong finish). But the Cats' new owners were convinced they could do even better with the help of analytics, so they "promoted" Tallon to President and named his assistant Rowe the GM. Rowe proceeded to tear the team down, starting with the defense, as Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov were sent away and Yandle, Dylan McIlrath, and Mark Pysyk were acquired.

It'll likely take Tallon a couple of years to rid his roster of Rowe's acquisitions and insert some talent and grit around or instead of guys who can barely "move the puck forward". Case in point: the Vrbata acquisition seems like simple "hole-plugging" to me, as almost everyone in the hockey world knows he is unable to produce outside of the Arizona Coyotes organization. But you need players to fill jerseys and reach the cap floor, and trade deadline bait to stock up on draft picks, right?

It pains me to say this, but they're wasting prime years from the Huberdeau, Barkov, Ekblad, Trocheck, and Bujgstad core, years during which future Hall of Fame goalie Luongo will only get older.

Heck, now that I think of it, perhaps this team should be down in the basement with the Detroit Red Wings. Oh well, I'll maintain my initial gut feeling:

Prediction: 5th in the Metropolitan Division.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

NHL Preview 2017-18: Pittsburgh Penguins

GM: Jim Rutherford (since 2015). 8/10
Coach: Mike Sullivan (since 2015). 8.5/10

2016-17 record: 50-21-11, 111 points, 2nd overall, repeat Stanley Cup champions.

Departures: Chris Kunitz (LW), Marc-André Fleury (G), Nick Bonino (C), Trevor Daley (D), Ron Hainsey (D), Mark Streit (D), David Warsofsky (D).

Arrivals: Antti Niemi (G), Greg McKegg (C), Matt Hunwick (D), Ryan Reaves (RW).

Top forwards: Sidney Crosby (80-95 points), Evgeni Malkin (75-95 points), Phil Kessel (60-70 points), Jake Guentzel (50-60 points), Conor Sheary (50-60 points), Patric Hornqvist (40-50 points), Bryan Rust (25-30 points), Carl Hagelin (25-30 points), Scott Wilson (25-30 points).

Must-improve forwards: Yeah, uh, no.

Top defensemen: None. Just kidding: Kristopher Letang (60-65 points; he could almost be a point-per-game d-man, but gets injured so often you must take points away), Justin Schultz (45-55 points), Ian Cole (20-25 points), Brian Dumoulin (15-20 points).

Goalies: Matt Murray (92/100), Niemi (71/100), Tristan Jarry (75/100).

Top rookies: Daniel Sprong (20 years old, RW), Jarry (22, G), Dominik Simon (23, C), Filip Gustavsson (19, G), Kasper Bjorkqvist (20, RW).

Mike Sullivan is either a magician or a genius, because he took the joke of the 2015-16 playoffs ("How can the Pens win the Cup with just ONE NHL defenseman in Letang?") and doubled down on no-names when Letang couldn't even dress for a single playoff game. And won a second-consecutive Cup, getting outplayed and boxed in their own zone in 90% of the games.

How "no-name" were they? Four of them left this summer, and Pittsburgh is still likely the top team in the East, ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All of that is also a testament to GM Rutherford, whom you may remember as the guy who took the Hartford Whalers from near-obscurity and turned them into the even-more obscure Carolina Hurricanes, lucking out on a Stanley Cup in 2006 and failing to make the playoffs in just about every other season. He then inherited a cap-strapped, underachieving Penguins roster consisting of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury, Letang and 19 nobodies and made them the team to beat again by having each one of his acquisitions and call-ups become important cogs in the machine. Oh, and cash-strapped? Yeah, about that: he managed to add the $64M, eight-year Kessel contract to that roster. Magician or genius or lucky, or all of the above?

There is seemingly no end in sight for those two, who have defied expectations (and logic, and reason). Except for the fact that Letang and Malkin tend to miss a lot of games due to injuries, and that the next time Crosby gets hit hard anywhere or just softly on the head might spell the end of his career. And Murphy's Law being what it is, these things will all happen in the same season. But not before the Pens have a chance to three-peat, right?

Prediction: 1st in the Metropolitan Division.