NHL Playoff Predictions 2013 Edition

Categories: Hockey, Playoffs, and Sports.

As usual, here are my fairly out-to-lunch annual playoff predictions. East First Round Penguins vs. Islanders: Penguins in 4 if Fleury plays alright, if he doesn’t then Pens in 6 or 7 Habs vs. Senators: Habs or Sens in 7 completely depending on who has the better goaltender. I will go with the Habs for the moment. Caps vs. Rangers: Rangers in 6 Bruins vs. Leafs: As much as it pains me to say this, Bruins in 5. Boo. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the reason why I was after Burke for so long. Because when the Leafs made the Read More

Your 2013 Toronto Maple Leafs

Categories: Hockey and Sports.

The Leafs have mercifully made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. There are those out there who are very excited about this – I am more cautious in my enthusiasm – and many are thinking that those of us who often criticized former GM Brian Burke’s “plan” should eat our own words. But I think that’s ridiculous. Here’s why: Have you actually watched this team? So in my annual assessment of the Leafs’ season I will hopefully make a case for why the Leafs still are a long, long way from being a contender, and why this playoff Read More

The Traveller’s Tale (1990) by Marty Ehrlich

Categories: 1990 and Music.

This is a really inventive and interesting album that helps develop the sound of ’80s “New York” jazz (for lack of a better term). It’s certainly as accessible as anything “avant garde” could be. It’s interesting how there is a very faint hint of Klezmer but for the most part it is more of a tinge than an obvious reference point. 9/10 Read More

Heaven Up Here (1981) by Echo and the Bunnymen

Categories: 1981 and Music.

This is very strong early ’80s British post-punk. They sound a lot like some their contemporaries – albeit rawer – which isn’t really a good thing, but the thing that, to my ears, distinguishes them from the pack is that they have way better lyrics on the whole. I don’t have to worry about listening to these lyrics, which is nice and a relatively rare thing for a young band. The strong lyrics helps elevate the music, which is often more creative – or at least more forward and backward looking – than their contemporaries. To explain the forward / Read More

Brooklyn Babylon (2012) by Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

Categories: 2012 and Music.

FYI, I haven’t seen the accompanying visuals, so this is a bit like judging a soundtrack without seeing the film. Alas…I don’t believe this is actually jazz, though it is clearly heavily influenced by jazz (I figure much if not all of it is written out ahead of time) but that really doesn’t matter. This is a great album, even without whatever narrative is supposed to be conveyed by the visuals, especially for lovers of big bands. There is a lot going on here, almost too much to take in after only a few listens. There are numerous ideas and Read More

A Drummer’s Dream (2011, John Walker)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

Unfortunately, I saw an abbreviated version of this on TVO, so any thoughts I have about it aren’t exactly fair. This is an interesting movie, even if you are not the world’s biggest drum fan (I am not). I hadn’t actually heard of any of these guys, though all are clearly near the top of their profession in terms of one or more specific skills. Funnily enough, the guy who has been regularly rated the fasted drummer in the world is far less impressive than “El Negro”, because “El Negro” plays far more complicated music. It’s nice that they’ve done Read More

Timing is Everything

Categories: 2013, Politics, Religion, and Society.

When the RCMP announced they arrested two suspected train bomber the other day, many people questioned the timing. They claimed they had been following them for a year, and yet there was no immediate danger to public safety. Announced in the week following the Boston Marathon bombing, many suspected the RCMP were either just trying to prove that they were doing their job too or that they were getting pressure from above to at least give the public some kind of show, to show that they were supposedly doing their job. Either way, the timing seemed odd. Read More

Conan the Barbarian (2011, Marcus Nispel)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

There is really no reason to recommend this. It’s disjointed, the acting is pretty mediocre and even the gore is pretty tame. It doesn’t look good on the small-screen, moreover. The climax in particular is difficult to see, which seems to be a common problem for these new 3D films. I feel like the original at least had some unique set-pieces (even though I haven’t seen that in forever). 3/10 Read More

Terra Nova (2011)

Categories: 2011 and TV.

I haven’t made it through the entire series and I doubt I ever will, because this thing is horrible. I can imagine the conversation that started it… “You see, we put these future humans back in times, on an earth with dinosaurs. And then we introduce standard TV drama cliches into every episode – murder mysteries, parenting challenges, alpha-male head-butting – instead of building drama out of character development and the real challenges that people would face, were it ever possible to be in that situation. And of course the cliche plot devices will be resolved within 44 minutes. They Read More

2012-13 NBA Awards

Categories: Basketball and Sports.

A little belated, I know. Best Player LeBron: 1st in field goals 1st in PER 1st in offensive win shares 1st in win shares 1st in win shares per 48 minutes 2nd in effective field goal percentage 3rd in points 3rd in true shooting percentage 3rd in offensive rating 4th in points per game 5th in field goal percentage 5th in usage rate 6th in free throws 6th in free throws attempted 8th in assists 8th in minutes per game 10th in assist percentage 10th in defensive win shares 11th in assists per game 12th in steals 12th in steals Read More

I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (2011) by Steve Earle

Categories: 2011 and Music.

Earle is apparently reaching farther back here than he has on some other records. It suits him, I think. I found his earlier alternative country stuff just not that convincing – in the sense of it being “alternative” to anything. Here Earle feels part of something bigger, and the songs he has written are more poignant than others of his I’ve heard. It’s affecting and well arranged. 8/10 Read More

Townes (2009) by Steve Earle

Categories: 2009 and Music.

I can’t say that I am much of a fan of Earle at this point, as most of his stuff I’ve heard I’ve found underwhelming. And I can’t say I am much of a fan of van Zandt either; the only album of his I’ve ever heard was horribly – perhaps even offensively – over-produced making it hard to really listen to the songs themselves.But this seems to be a match made in heaven. Van Zandt appears to be a much stronger songwriter than Earle himself – though this could be because this is a sort of Earle-curated Greatest Hits Read More

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010, Eli Craig)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

This is an entertaining-if-dumb one-joke movie where the joke works pretty well. The problem is that it is just a one-joke premise and they don’t do enough with it to make it deeper or funnier. If you don’t like the joke – or if you don’t find its constant repetition funny – you probably won’t find it funny. I think that better filmmakers would have taken this joke and added to it or, better, yet structured the film in such a way that the joke wasn’t revealed in the first scenes, it might have been far funnier that way. 5/10 Read More

You Knew (2013) by Mother Falcon

Categories: 2013 and Music.

I certainly like the idea of bands having extensive instrumental palettes; it adds to the range of sounds available which should be a good thing. And I’m (mostly) glad that post rock encouraged a lot of more mainstream-inclined bands to expand their instrumental palettes. But at some point it gets kind of ridiculous. And it gets ridiculous when bands who would normally be writing pretty straightforward pop rock, power pop, folk rock or arena rock dress up their songs with orchestras. And that’s what we have here. This band could easily exist with its anthemic songs and just a few Read More

Transcendental Blues (2001) by Steve Earle

Categories: 2001 and Music.

I can’t say I know Earle’s oeuvre enough to judge how much of a departure this is for him, but it sure sounds like one compared to his early output. This album is filled with the sounds of pop rock and alternative bands who have embraced “eastern music”. Sometimes these touches are subtler than others – and there are a couple songs where they are totally absent, and not coincidentally those are the strongest – but for the most part this record reeks of “expanding” his sound. So much so that on the title track his voice is nearly unrecognizable Read More

Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now (2012) by Justin Townes Earle

Categories: 2012 and Music.

I don’t like the aesthetic. That wouldn’t matter if Earle was a great songwriter. However, he just an above-average songwriter. Everything is impeccably produced and arranged; although the different genre homages hit the right notes. And that’s probably the problem. Unless, those genres are your thing, it’s hard to love this: he doesn’t exactly bring anything knew to them. It would be nice if he had found a better, more consistent aesthetic to match his songs. Or, if he was truly committed to this genre-hoping aesthetic, it would be nice if he had written better songs. 6/10 Read More

Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator (1991) by Steve Earle and the Dukes

Categories: 1991 and Music.

The opening radio / tv snippets make this sound like we’re about to listen to a concept album. Of course, we’re not; it’s a live album. The songs I know sound pretty much like their studio equivalents – save for his voice which, as others have noted, is shot – and though the band shows some impressive versatility – particularly Earle himself – when they stretch out on the odd track they don’t sound much better than the average bar band. That’s not what I want out of a live album, personally. On the other hand, because of his voice, Read More

The Violent Bear it Away (1955) by Flannery O’Connor

Categories: 1955, Books, and Fiction.

It took me a long time to get into this. Though I found the initial pages interesting, soon it became tough slogging. But once Tarwater and Rayber meet things really pickup. There is a sort of majesty to this part of the book and the subsequent part. It is really impressive and admirable how O’Connor tells her protagonist’s story and doesn’t worry about the stories of those we the reader might want to follow. Tarwater’s transformation is powerful and incredible and makes the novel worth reading. However, I am not sure this is one of the great novels of the Read More

Chimes of Freedom: the Songs of Bob Dylan (2012) by Various Artists

Categories: 2012 and Music.

This is, I guess, a fitting tribute to the greatest English-language singer-songwriter of the second half of the twentieth century (of the whole century? of any language?). It is extremely vast, though that is appropriate, as there are over 70 songs. The problem with all tribute albums, but especially one that attempts to deal with so much of such a large oeuvre, is that this is really hit and miss. The music falls into several categories: Decent performances that fail to move beyond the original or the definitive version (not necessarily by Dylan): The Belle Brigade: “No Time to Think”  Read More

Your 2012-13 Toronto Raptors

Categories: 2012, 2013, Basketball, and Sports.

I think this year has to be viewed as a major disappointment for Raptor fans. Though I didn’t watch nearly enough games to properly judge this team I will do so anyway. I think the slight uptick in winning percentage (from just below .350 to .415) has to be viewed as a pretty big disappointment given the expectations going into the season. The Raps were an average offensive and defensive team this year (by PPG not by PP-100-possessions) but the more in-depth stats suggest that they weren’t very good defensively (surprise surprise) and they were worse than last year. They Read More

Brief NBA Playoff Predictions

Categories: 2013, Basketball, Playoffs, and Sports.

I have watched very little NBA this year, I regret to say, but I’m still going to be stupid and try to guess the impossible, as usual. Here goes… East Round 1 Miami vs. Milwaukee: Heat in 4; frankly I can barely imagine the Bucks winning a game at this point New York vs. Boston: This is an interesting one. I think the Knicks win this easily in 6 but part of me thinks that somehow the Celtics will surprise them and stretch it. Indian vs. Atlanta: Pacers in 5. NJ Brooklyn vs. Chicago: Chicago in 6 or 7 Round Read More

Goon (2011, Michael Dowse)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This film is fairly unbelievable (a grown man who can’t skate learns how to skate? the obligatory romantic subplot) and, worse, it glorifies fighting in hockey, something I am personally wholly against. But, it gets a lot of things right: the players and fans really are like this (I know a few people who could fit easily into this film; Stiffler is believably dumb) and it is really, really funny at times (especially if you know hockey players). It also features some of the funniest Turandot uses I have ever seen in any movie. So I want to dislike it Read More

Funny or Die Presents (2010)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

I was under the mistaken impression that this was a collection of the best of Funny or Die. However, upon watching the show, it feels like much of this content was either made exclusively for the show, or was made for both the show and site, regardless of how well it did on the site. I say that because I feel like there is no way most of these reached “Chosen One” status online; too many of them are simply too hit and miss, or in some extreme cases, not at all funny. In particular, there is too much Mike Read More

The Queen of Versailles (2012, Lauren Greenfield)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is a near-perfect analogy for what happened to the US (and world) economy in 2008: David Siegel had lots of money. However, he wanted more. So he mortgaged what he had to expand his business. Then the housing crisis hit and he lost a lot; not everything, but a lot. Sure, the average American had not even a tiny percentage of what Siegel had. But compared to the rest of the world, they still had a lot. And many wanted more and were convinced by predatory lenders to borrow against what they had. Siegel is different because he had Read More

Drive (2011, Nicholas Winding Refn)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

Holy Michal Mann, Batman. is an over-stylized crime thriller that feels like both an homage to what we might call the “California” crime movies of the late ’60s and early ’70s, and to any number of ’80s films, but particularly the work of Michael Mann (both his ’80s work and later) and his interest in contrasting the soundtrack with the scenes. The movie gets off to a great start with an extraordinary heist but it soon becomes clear that style and mood are more important than plot, character motivation and internal coherence. For an example of the latter: the entire Read More

The Old Patagonian Express (1979) by Paul Theroux

Categories: 1979, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is Theroux’s second excellent train travel book. In it he travels from Boston to Patagonia, mostly by rail (with the odd flight involved). As usual, he is astute, he is observant and, perhaps above all, honest. One of the engrossing – and I must admit frustrating – things about this book is how honest he is about his feelings. Other writers might have censored themselves when editing, but he lets us know when he dislikes a somewhere or someone. It doesn’t take away from the trip though; rather it humanizes it. We are more in his head as a Read More

50-Odd Dollars (1999) bty Fred Eaglesmith

Categories: 1999 and Music.

This continues the obvious alternative rock influence that was all over the previous outing. Only this time it seems Eaglesmith is consciously trying to bring back some of his country roots to mediate that alternative rock thing. The fiddle, mandolin and pedal steel are all more prominent this time out. It adds enough of a new-old element that we don’t mind so much that this isn’t his greatest set of songs. 7/10 Read More

Push the Sky Away (2013) by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Categories: 2013 and Music.

I greeted Grinderman with a fair amount of joy. Though it certainly seemed a little as if they band was trying to relive the past glories of the Birthday Party, enough of it felt different to let myself go with the renouncing of decades of personal musical history. But when it came to the Bad Seeds’ last album it seemed like it had been infected by Grinderman (which makes sense, given the presence of all of Grinderman in the Bad Seeds). Though the writing process was supposedly entirely different, the musical results weren’t so different – though different enough – Read More

The NHL needs to scrap Division-based home ice advantage and add a crossover rule

Categories: Hockey, Playoffs, and Sports.

Here are the standings as of this morning. Now, check out how the teams are actually performing: Rk Team GP W L OL PTS PTS% GF GA SRS SOS TG/G PP PPO PP% PPA PPOA PK% SH SHA 1 Chicago Blackhawks 36 27 5 4 58 .806 122 80 1.11 -0.06 5.61 21 122 17.21 16 107 85.05 4 4 2 Pittsburgh Penguins 38 28 10 0 56 .737 125 94 0.76 -0.06 5.76 30 130 23.08 27 135 80.00 2 3 3 Anaheim Ducks 37 25 7 5 55 .743 116 92 0.64 -0.01 5.62 23 98 23.47 26 Read More