Thursday, December 30, 2010

Seeing 2010 Out the Door

Since this is the last post of 2010, I decided to make it some random thoughts that have absolutely nothing to do with hockey.  In fact, much of it is music related, which if you happen to know me well, is one of my two loves in life.  Where to begin?  Well, if the stars align and things go the way I want them to, I could be writing this little piece while living in a different city at this time next year.  A move West would be the most likely thing to happen, since I don't have to feel the need to rush things, a place like Portland or even New Mexico sound about right.  Musically, it was about the folk and folk metal, but a new entry made its presence felt: dark, somber metal.  Sure, there was doom metal, but there also happened to be the shoegaze metal, with some out there choices thanks to Cosmic Hearse, which is run by an award winning human being and is highly recommended for those who like to think outside the box in their music choices.  Then there's the books; books that I have gone through and read to the point where 2010 was the most that I ever read.  As we all say good-bye to 2010, here are a few books and albums to check out:

Agalloch-Pale Folklore (you already knew that)
Sonata Arctica-Silence
Hardcore Logo by Michael Turner
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Playing With Fire by Theoren Fleury
Inside the Perimeter: Scavengers of the Dead by Alan Spencer

The Winter Classic: Part Quatre

This Saturday will be the fourth installment of the NHL Winter Classic, and when exactly that game will be played will depend on the weather.  The temperatures are slated to be in the 50's and rainy in Pittsburgh, where the game will be played, so ice conditions are a game time decision.  Besides that, the talk of the Classic will be Crosby and Ovechkin, a rivalry that began in 2005 and in essence, has made a major rivalry in the Penguins and Capitals.  And then there's the special sweaters that will be brought out just for this game.  The picture above is what the Capitals will wear, and while that look was truly the only one that could be brought out of the mothballs (the eagle is still too fresh in the minds to be used), Reebok could have found a better way to somehow incorporate the stars and the captain's C onto the jersey without looking cluttered.

Meanwhile, the Penguins will be wearing this style of sweater that Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal (11) are modeling.  This particular design is a conglomeration of the team's early looks.  While it isn't too bad, I wish the Penguins would have gone with the look that they had when Mario Lemieux made his NHL debut.  Seeing Crosby and Co. bring back memories of the early Lemieux years would have been a better treat.

As the second outdoor game nears, I will be discussing the Flames and Canadiens' looks, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year in Review: Music Pt. 2 (aka: the life story)

2010 was a year for live shows...outside of the Midwest.  In spite of the fact that there weren't very many good shows in Kansas City, the live music year was quite good.  How, you ask?  It's this little thing called getting out of town.  While the only real good shows to hit town were the Slayer/Megadeth/Testament billing (which I did not go to, due to money issues) and now seemingly annual trek from North Carolina and Las Vegas, NV by the guys in Widow and Seventh Calling (respectively), the live music scene was full in Portland, OR.  Despite losing a couple of favorite places this year in the Satyricon and Berbati's Pan (the restaurant side of the latter will still be open), it can be argued that the times had in those places were great.  The Spring trip to Portland was to have Ludicra and Mayhem, but circumstances beyond Ludicra's control ended that and the rescheduled tour did not coincide with my time there.  In its stead would be Wolves in the Throne Room, which made everything come full circle, since they were the first band I interviewed.  The Swallow the Moon Troll show at the Satyricon was a big reason for my trip to the Rose City in April, and saw a first in a while: me in the middle of a pit.

In between the two Portland trips this year was the trek to New Mexico, where despite only seeing one show there, it was significant in that some band you may have heard of had a stop there, which meant not having to blow any unnecessary money on hotel.  You know this band as Iron Maiden, and despite playing most of their newer material in the set, it is still something to experience in its full glory.

The most recent Portland trip was deemed Agalloch weekend.  It began with a show on Thursday with some doom metal bands and Buzzov-en at Dante's.  If you want to know the difference between Kansas City and Portland, it takes major prodding for me to even think about going to a show here while it doesn't take too much to decide on a show in Portland.  What do I mean?  Well, consider that there is a show in Kansas City tomorrow that despite being only $5 to get in, it's in a not so good place for music.  Oh, and there's no real place near by to go get food.  Portland has a lot of good places for music, and since the show was at Dante's, which just so happens to be in the downtown area, there are many options for food, including Dante's, which serves pizza.  The only real reason for debating on going to the Buzzov-en show:  having to carry a large book bought from Powell's around, though that book is one of the best ever (for reference, it's Canucks at Forty). Friday was Agalloch in Portland, and that set was better than last year's Halloween show, if only for the sound.  Saturday was the Seattle road trip, which began even before leaving, with an impromptu piano version of "Tallulah" by Sonata Arctica.  Too bad I didn't video record the thing (Note: too bad...for you. :p). The road trip had off-key singing and other shenanigans that are the norm for road trips.  Once in Seattle, the pizza shop down the street from Neumo's was the order of the day, complete with the need for jalapeño pizza.  Before you say anything, it's no different from taco pizza or chicken alfredo pizza (my personal favorite).  The show in Seattle matched the Portland show, save for a song being cut from the set list due to time constraints.

2011 promises to be better, and maybe this coming year, I won't have to travel far for the best shows.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Putting Out Fires

Being a Calgary Flames fan is a lot like being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan in that management somehow, screws up the team, yet the fans show up for every game.  Today's special piece is not about comparing two teams, but a team that is now in transition.  Yes, the Flames are going with a new GM after Darryl Sutter decided to step down from the post.  Replacing him for the rest of the season is Jay Feaster, who oversaw the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning championship team.

For as much as Sutter was a good coach (see the 2004 Flames run to the Stanley Cup Finals), the same could not be said for his general manager skills.  Seemingly, for every Miika Kiprusoff and Rene Bourque, there were quite a few Olli Jokinens and Jay Bouwmeesters to counteract those acts.  In no way does this truly encapsulate the problems that the Flames had since 2004, as the Flames have made historically bad deals in the past (remember the Doug Gilmour trade in 1992?).  The main problem with the Flames of recent years has more to do with the inability to develop talent around the face of the franchise Jarome Iginla.  Other than Bourque, no other Flame has consistently put up offensive numbers and managed to stay with the team for more than a year.  Defensively, the trade for Bouwmeester has not panned out as they have hoped, and to some degree, cost the Flames Dion Phaneuf in January 2010.  Throw in this season's signings of guys like Jokinen (widely panned by everyone except Sutter) and Alex Tanguay (who has only had one great season and a bunch of mediocre seasons) and the Flames have headed towards a disastrous ending the likes that only the Islanders and Devils have felt this year.  The future of the Flames isn't very bright, either, as they don't have much in the way of youth.

The way I see it:  Edmonton stinks, but they will be better because the young players will learn what it takes to win from the handful of veterans that have seen playoff success.  On the other hand, Calgary stinks, and there's not much hope for a turnaround, short of the team blowing it up after the season.  They need to find a way to stockpile draft picks or at least, find a way to shore up the minor league system, something that has been a problem for years.  This will be a clean-up that will take years, since the Flames don't have much in the way of draft picks in 2011, and they didn't get much in 2010.

Year in Review: Music Pt. 1

Today's review is about the year that was in music, and since there is so much to cover, it will be broken into two parts.  Today will be all about the albums that came out this year.  However, since my top ten is not published yet, I cannot divulge exactly what is on the list.  I can, however, give some thoughts about a few releases here.  Another year, another no show from Wintersun, which means that it is dangerously approaching Chinese Democracy levels, where people will soon tune out once the album is finally released.  The new Skyforger was finally mild reactions.  Speaking of hype, the new Orphaned Land album OrwarrioR had a lot to live up to based on the band's previous album Mabool.  Let's just say that it fell way short of those expectations.  There were a lot of middle of the road albums, which as you would expect, made compiling my year end list a task unto itself.  And then there were the albums that truly stood out, and while I can't necessarily say what exactly, perhaps the picture you see with this piece can tell you what stood out the most.

Tomorrow will be a live music review, so don't miss it (or if you do, no harm done).

Monday, December 27, 2010

2010 in Review: Hockey Version

It's only a few more days until 2010 walks away, so this week will be dedicated to some of the year's bests in different categories.  Today, the "best of" will cover hockey (Is there anything else that would begin a "best of" segment for this hockey loving heart?).  The first few months of the year were moving towards the 2010 Olympic Games, one that saw an improbable run by the United States hockey team that many thought wouldn't even finish in the top four, yet were a Sidney Crosby goal away from a gold medal.  Superstars were born that in that Olympics, as the likes of Ryan Miller, Drew Doughty, and Jaroslav Halak made names for themselves while guys like Crosby and Roberto Luongo only made their stars brighter than before.  The playoffs would follow in the Spring, as Halak announced his arrival in leading Montreal to the Conference Finals, upsetting Washington and Pittsburgh along the way.  The improbable Chicago-Philadelphia Finals matchup happened thanks to an even more improbable comeback by Philadelphia in the Conference Semifinals, winning the series against Boston 4-3 after losing the first three games.  I can tell you that it felt good seeing Boston fans in disbelief after the game 7 loss, and after all, they should know first hand this kind of feeling, as their baseball team did this, only they were on the right side of the ledger.  The NHL draft welcomed a potential superstar in Taylor Hall (emphasis on the word "potential") and the free agency period saw a prolonged drama named the Ilya Kovalchuk contract drag on for two months.

Once the season began, the Devils, the biggest loser in the free agency market, hit rock bottom, but not before the New York Islanders, as the Isles had a monumental losing streak that rubbed salt in their wounds (Can these guys ever catch a break?) and the Maple Leafs fans throwing waffles as the on-ice product once again, stinks up the joint.  Maybe it's time the Leafs follow the Isles and Devils' examples and start over in the coaching position.  The Blackhawks have shown some resilience in the wake of trading half of their team away due to salary cap issues while the Canucks are still looking to live up to the lofty expectations set upon them before the season (and believe me, those expectations include a big, silver Cup, and nothing short of that will do).

2011 will see the All-Star game, another great playoff run by some team, and perhaps, Crosby carrying his point streak into the new year.  Time will tell on all of these, but two games sure to generate interest will be the Caps-Pens on New Year's Day at Heinz Field and the Habs/Flames playing in McMahon Stadium in Calgary, and if you couldn't figure out from the above statement, both are outdoor games.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Waffle House, er, Air Canada Center

A few weeks ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs lost (again), but that's hardly the news of the day.  No, the news of the day would be the fans throwing waffles onto the ice after yet another poor performance by the boys in Blue.  Don't believe me?  Here's the first instance:

A few days later, more waffles were thrown on the ice in yet another Maple Leafs loss:

The waffle tossing incidents bring new meaning to waking up with breakfast.  Now, if only the fans would throw coffee beans on the ice, maybe the Leafs would get the message.

And since the Leafs were in Vancouver last Saturday, who better than the resident penalty box entertainment known as the Green Men to offer their take on the waffle throwing incident.  They also proved generous by offering to sell draft picks to the Leafs, too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hell Freezes Over...Again

Few things set off a typical sports fan like the incompetence of their favorite team.  Well, average Joe New Jersey Devil fan, this is your time to go apeshit.  In the last few hours, your beloved Devils have given the axe to John MacLean and in his place for the rest of the season is Jacques Lemaire.  As you will undoubtedly remember, MacLean was hired prior to this season to replace, wait for it, Lemaire.  All of this, combined with the ludicrous contract handed to one Ilya Kovalchuk and the trainwreck that it caused, should all be traced back to the one person who enabled such a thing: Lou Lamoreillo.  The coaching change isn't necesarily a surprise, since he has been known for this kind of thing since 1994.  However, the mind-numbing contract to Kovalchuk, combined with the fact that he hasn't produced his usual numbers since being acquired in February, are all indicators that New Jersey is doomed to be basement dwellers for a long time.  No, they are not even close to Toronto Maple Leaf bad (Hey, I just had an idea for tomorrow's piece) or even New York Islander bad, but as long as Lamoreillo is still running the show, the Devils will be nowhere near their Stanley Cup years.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Canucks at Forty

This past weekend in Portland, I found a little gem at Powell's Bookstore, and as you can see from the picture above, this was a must have, even at $35.  The coffee table style book chronicles the Vancouver Canucks through their 40 years in the NHL, with pieces about the players, coaches, and other people who have helped bring the character that the Canucks are known for.  Significant events such as the gold medal game in the 2010 Olympics and the first ever game in the NHL are also chronicled in the book.  Everything that you ever wanted to know about the Canucks and their history, it's all in this book.  A must for the Canuck fan in your life.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back from the Pacific Northwest

In case you were wondering why there hasn't been a new update since Tuesday (and even if you weren't, you're still going to know), I went to the Pacific Northwest for Agalloch weekend.  Instead of giving out the details here (that will happen soon), I will have to say that things were exactly what I expected them to be: good friends, good music, and getting to see a little of Portland on my own time on Thursday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Fall of the Devils and Islanders

So, two months into the season, and both the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders are at the bottom of the standings.  Normally, I wouldn't say that's really bad, except that it actually is, for they are the two teams that have yet to crack 20 points in the standings.  Now, most people expected the Islanders to be at this spot, but not with the spate of bad luck that they have had this season.  Before the season even began, the Islanders lost their best defenseman Mark Streit for possibly the entire season and one of their young stars in Kyle Okposo for the first two months of the season.  And then there's the epically bad 20 games lost in 21 games, which is still ongoing.  That streak cost Scott Gordon his coaching job and in a recent game against the Atlanta Thrashers, a group of people from Quebec came to see this game on Long Island, which sadly, is the most fans that the Islanders will probably have.  Questions of ownership and possible relocation are swirling, and neither figure to stop anytime soon.

Now, for the not nearly expected fall of the Devils.  If one could point the finger at who's to blame for the Devils' fall from grace, it would actually be towards two people: GM Lou Lamoriello and superstar left winger Ilya Kovalchuk.  Lamoriello deserves blame for even thinking about signing Kovalchuk to quite possibly the most ridiculous deal  in league history.  When you factor in the fact that the Devils had a 17 year deal originally for Kovalchuk, only to have that rejected by the league (they settled for 15 years and a nine figure deal), and the team signing defenseman Anton Volchenkov to a fairly lucrative deal, how would any team begin to fill any holes due to injury during the season?  Well, this became New Jersey's problem for a couple of games, since suspension and injuries had them playing less than the limit.  Kovalchuk hasn't been playing anywhere near the 40 goals scorer levels that he usually does, and that might have a lot to do with the fact that he just simply isn't a good fit in New Jersey.  Oh, and Martin Brodeur has been injured and none of the goaltenders have been able to plug the leak in the dam that has since burst on the team.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spying on Vampires

As you have likely gathered from the movies that I have reviewed on this little rag, horror movies are the general order of the day.  Now, how would that translate over to the written word?  Well, there's The Body Cartel and Inside the Perimeter, both fairly quality books from the rising author Alan Spencer (Incidentally, his latest work Ashes in Her Eyes is now available at Panic Press), and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.  Okay, so that last one is more of a comedy, but it has zombies.

Now, for reading pleasure, I had finished the first in a series from an author named Brian Lumley.  The series, entitled Necroscope, begins with the novel of the same name.  The story behind the first novel is that Harry Keogh has discovered that he can talk to the dead with a talent called necroscope.  This talent would serve him early on in allowing himself to do things that he normally wouldn't do, with some help from the dead spirits.  However, in Eastern Europe, there is a man by the name of Boris Dragosani, whose talent is to steal secrets from the dead, which is associated with the necromancer.  Dragosani also happens to have some Vamphyri in him, thanks in large part to an undead being in the ground by the name of Thibor Ferenczy.  So, what happens when the two super beings get together?  You will have to read on to find out.

The Vamphyri is just another word for vampire, except that Lumley's version of a vampire is far from typical, in that the vampire in this series feeds on live beings for control and has to actually be beheaded to be killed instead of the usual stake in the heart.  If the vampire aspect doesn't intrigue you, then maybe the spy aspect will, as Dragosani has his talents put to use by an underground Russian ESPionage group while Keogh would eventually be applying his talents with the British version of the ESPionage group (and no, that is not a typo).  Lumley builds up both characters to the point where you could relate to either one up until their paths cross.  As slowly as the story may develop, it all ends up into the powder keg that is the ending, which makes the entire story worth going through.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Face of the Raging "C"

In an hour, Markus Naslund night will begin in Vanvouver and feature the number 19 of Naslund being lifted into the rafters alongside the number 12 (Stan Smyl) and number 16 (Trevor Linden).  Given the number of makeovers of the Canucks over the years, it would be as simple as saying that Smyl is associated with the Flying V jerseys of the 80's, Linden is the face of the flying skates of the 90's, and Naslund was the face of the monochromatic Raging Orcas of the early 2000's.  If all of that is considered true, then the possible face(s) of the current design would be the Sedin twins.  So, in an effort to be ready for the event tonight, here is Naslund talking about the Canuck years of his pro hockey life (credit goes to CanucksHD for the video):

Friday, December 10, 2010

Raising Naslund

Prior to the Vancouver Canucks' home game against Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team will have a special ceremony that will see Markus Naslund's number 19 raised to the rafters of the Rogers Center.  Getting to that point for Naslund hasn't always had a clear path, though.

Naslund started his path to the NHL with MoDo, the highest level junior league of Sweden, where he was a linemate of another future NHLer Peter Forsberg.  In 1991, Naslund was drafted 16th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, ten spots behind Forsberg.  However, Naslund would not join the Penguins until after a contract dispute was settled prior to the 1993-94 season.  The Pittsburgh years were difficult, as even with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, and Ron Francis on the team, Naslund could not find much success on the team.  On March 20, 1996, he was traded to Vancouver in exchange for Alek Stojanov, another first round pick from 1991.  As for numbers, he wore number 29 in Pittsburgh because 19 was occupied by Bryan Trottier and wore 22 the first year with Vancouver because Tim Hunter had number 19 at the time.  He would wear number 19 beginning with the 1996-97 season.  The first few years as a Canuck weren't kind to him, as he had still yet to discover his offensive scoring prowess.  The 1997-98 season wasn't helped much by Mike Keenan's arrival as head coach.  Back to back 60 point seasons in the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons would signal the beginning of the light coming on for Naslund.  He was named captain in the Summer of 2000, and the offensive numbers would go even higher.

In 2002, the West Coast Express was born, with Naslund being on a line with Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison.  That union would benefit Naslund greatly, as in the 2002-03 season, he would record 103 points, a career high, and win the Lester B. Pearson award and finish second in the Hart Trophy voting to, guess who, Peter Forsberg.  The 2003-04 season was an up and down season for Naslund, as he recorded 84 points, but lose Bertuzzi in a much publicized incident where he went too far in retaliation against Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche.  The lockout season saw him go back to MoDo for that season, and the 2005-06 season would see him record 79 points for the Canucks, which would be the last time he recorded above 70 points.  Afterwards, his offensive number began to decline, but his leadership qualities did not.  Until he left for the New York Rangers in the 2008 offseason, he had helped fellow Swedes Henrik and Daniel Sedin get adjusted to Vancouver, and his knowledge from being captain would not only help players like the Sedins, but also Roberto Luongo.  Luongo would take over the captain duties when Naslund left after the 2007-08 season, and in 2010, Henrik Sedin would take over the captain duties.  As for Naslund, his year in New York was forgettable, and he retired from the NHL after the season.  He would go on to play one more year in Sweden before retiring for good.

Naslund's impact on the Canucks wasn't just in his scoring, as he was captain when one of the most popular Canucks Trevor Linden returned to the team in 2001.  As Linden did for Naslund, offering some advice and help, Naslund did for the Sedins and Luongo.  Naslund was a captain that led by example, preferring to let his actions on the ice do the talking.  His number 19 is being retired alongside other Canuck greats Stan Smyl and Linden.  While Smyl is in the Hall of Fame and Linden is unlikely to be in the Hall of Fame, putting up the great numbers in Vancouver isn't as important as being the player everyone looks up to, from players to coaches to fans, and that is what connects all three to the city of Vancouver.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What's in a Number

This Saturday in Vancouver, the Canucks will retire the number 19, which was made famous in the city by Markus Naslund.  I will be waxing poetic about Naslund tomorrow, but today is focusing on the number(s) 19 and 91.  Why, you ask?  Well, when you think of specific numbers in hockey, you often associate them with a specific player or position, and those two numbers are no different.

Everyone knows that the number 99 is associated with Wayne Gretzky and the number 66 is associated with Mario Lemieux.  There are others, namely the number 9, which all great players seem to wear (Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull come to mind) and the number 4 (Bobby Orr and Jean Beliveau made this number famous), but two numbers that are rapidly coming into the picture are the numbers 19 and 91, for different reasons.


In the history of the NHL, the number 19 can be seen as a captain's number.  Players such as Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic brought this number into prominence not just for the fact that both were great players, but also as two of the best captains in the 90's and early 2000's.  Both had lengthy runs as captain with their respective teams, which just so happened to coincide with the team's successes in that time period.  Other players have worn number 19 with similar results, including Bryan Trottier when he was with the New York Islanders, and Markus Naslund in Vancouver.  Not surprisingly, all of those teams will have retired the number 19 by Saturday night.  Among the current players to wear the number 19 and represent it well include Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators, Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes, Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks, and Niklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals.  Of the current batch of players to wear 19, Doan is almost certain to see the 19 retired once he retires.


Naturally, when the number 19 is retired or is occupied by someone else, there has to be some way to honor your idol, and what better way to do that than to switch up the numbers, meaning that 19 becomes 91.  The most notable player to wear 91?  Sergei Fedorov, who wore that number for Detroit, Anaheim, Columbus, and Washington before leaving to play in the KHL in 2008.  While the trend isn't as prevalent as some of the other numbers, it does have a decent history.  Consider that when Naslund signed with the New York Rangers for the 2008-09 season, he had to wear 91 because the number 19 was occupied by Scott Gomez.  In international play, Sakic had to wear 91 because Yzerman had more years in the league, giving the option to wear 19, not that either were complaining.  The current group of players to wear 91 include Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning and John Tavares of the New York Islanders.  Both were former first overall picks and both have a bright future ahead of them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Looks of the Outdoor Games

Yesterday, I talked about the Winter Classic and the history of the event.  Today, the looks of the games will be discussed.  Beginning with the 2003 game in Edmonton, the Oilers and the Canadiens went with the old school looks, with the Oilers wearing the early 80's style of jersey and the Canadiens resorting to the earlier years and the laced collar.

In 2008, the Buffalo Sabres hosted the first official Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium and the Pittsburgh Penguins were the opponents that day.  As you can tell, the Sabres went with the original jersey look, the blue and gold complete with the buffalo over the crossing sabers.  The Penguins went with their original colors, which were the two shades of blue and the logo, the skating penguin inside the circle with the PITTSBURGH PENGUINS around it.  The looks eventually became the third jersey for the Penguins and the away jerseys (sort of) for the Sabres.

The 2009 version of the Winter Classic was held at Wrigley Field and featured the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.  Both teams have a lot of history, and since both had some looks to refer to, each went to the early years for their Winter Classic looks.  The Red Wings with with the stylized D inside of a red stripe that went around the jersey while the Blackhawks went with a style from the pre-WWII years.  The Red Wings wore this look only for that event while the Blackhawks went with this look as their third jersey.

The 2010 Winter Classic was held in Fenway Park and featured the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers.  The Bruins went with an early look, complete with hints of brown, since that was their original color in the early years.  The Flyers went with the looks from their inaugural years.  Neither wore their respective style of jerseys for any other game, as each already had alternate jerseys in their closets.

That was the history of the Winter Classic looks.  Some time before the first Winter Classic game, the looks of the games for this season will be discussed.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

25 Days of Hockey

This month marks a very interesting stretch.  In eight days, I leave for Portland, meaning this blog will likely take a break while I'm away for the weekend.  Ten days after that marks Christmas, or the time when normal people go insane for absolutely no reason...oh, wait, that was Black Friday.  Christmas is a time for a lot of things, but just as important is that seven days after that is New Year's Day, and of course, along with the college football games is the NHL Winter Classic.

When the idea for an outdoor NHL game surfaced, it was given a test run in November 2003, when the Montreal Canadiens played the Edmonton Oilers in a regular season game.  The success of that game allowed for the NHL to further explore this option, ending up with it being an annual event starting on New Year's Day of 2008, when the Pittsburgh Penguins visited the Buffalo Sabres at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo.  Before going on further, yes, it was played in a football stadium, and yes, it provided a very interesting dynamic.  The following year, the Winter Classic was held at Wrigley Field and the participants were the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks (see above pic).  The 2010 version was held in Fenway Park and had the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins in that game.  This year, there will be two versions of this game, the first being on New Year's Day in Heinz Field and will feature the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.  This promises to be a great game, complete with Sidney Crosby haters (mainly those outside of Pittsburgh), Ovechkin haters (mainly the old time hockey followers like "Sour Grapes" himself Don Cherry) and regular hockey fans alike tuning in to see this game.

Did I mention that there would be a second game?  Well, that game will be in February in Calgary's McMahon Stadium and feature the Montreal Canadiens and the Ronald, Calgary Flames.  Seeing as this is an all-Canadian fare, it will be interesting to see how much of Canada closes up shop to see this game.

Tomorrow, I will be discussing the jerseys that have been worn during the Winter Classic games, as well as the ones that will be worn for this year's Games.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Rural Misdeeds

It's been a while since I've done something other than hockey on this little blog, and even longer since I've done a movie review.  So, to change that a little, here is a 1972 giallo from...Lucio Fulci?  Before I go on, it should be noted that before Zombi 2, City of the Living Dead, and The Beyond, Fulci started out experimenting with the giallo subgenre.  Two of the movies that he directed can be considered solid works: New York Ripper and the subject of today's piece, Don't Torture a Duckling.

The basic premise of the movie is that a few boys in the rural village are turning up dead, and the people of the village and the police are baffled.  It is up to a reporter (sporting a 70's porn 'stache) and a sexually active woman to find out who is committing the murders.  Unlike most gialli, Fulci relies more on natural lighting to create the desired effect of fear.  The violence level isn't too much, but there are some spectacular moments, such as the Gypsy woman getting beaten with chains, and the end scene.  The overall effect of the movie is far greater than the parts that make up the movie.  Don't Torture a Duckling is a worthwhile movie that is comparable to some of the better giallo movies in that time period.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Time for the NHL Season

This month marks the Christmas season, and already for the NHL season, there are some good teams and bad teams.  So, with that in mind, here is what each of the thirty teams would like to have for Christmas:

Anaheim Ducks: A better third jersey than the one they debuted a week ago: Ducks Third Jersey

Atlanta Thrashers: An actual audience to see the Thrashers games.

Boston Bruins: Offense, offense, offense.

Buffalo Sabres: Offense and  the Tyler Myers of last year.

Calgary Flames: No Sutters.  Brett is already traded to Carolina, and the Sutters in the front office and behind the bench could be next.

Carolina Hurricanes: A reason to be relevant.

Chicago Blackhawks: Goaltending like last year.

Colorado Avalanche: Healthy goaltending and offense.

Columbus Blue Jackets: A good center, though that has always been on the team's wish list.

Dallas Stars: More good luck and Kari Lehtonen continuing to play well.

Detroit Red Wings: Another Stanley Cup.

Edmonton Oilers: An accelerated development of the youth movement.

Florida Panthers: Relevance.

Los Angeles Kings: Offense, and a healthy Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar.

Minnesota Wild: Someone who can score, now that Guillaume Latendresse is out for a few months.

Montreal Canadiens: Continued good play from Carey Price.

Nashville Predators: Possibly a new start in a new city.

New Jersey Devils: A way to undo the Ilya Kovalchuk contract.

New York Islanders: Some good luck, seeing as they lost Mark Streit for the season (possibly), Kyle Okposo for at least another month, and fired the coach.

New York Rangers: Marian Gaborik returning to health and some insurance for Sean Avery.

Ottawa Senators: A redo of the Dany Heatley return to Ottawa with the Sharks.

Philadelphia Flyers: The head of Sidney Crosby.

Phoenix Coyotes: An audience.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury: the 2009 playoffs version.

St. Louis Blues: Well, not so much receive, but giving a Christmas card to Montreal for Jaroslav Halak.

San Jose Sharks: A long playoff run.

Tampa Bay Lightning: New twine for the goal, since Steven Stamkos is setting it on fire a lot.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Something, anything to jumpstart the team.

Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo finding a cure against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Washington Captials: Defense, which may be solved with the Scott Hannan acquisition.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Klimt 1918 Interview from July 2008

The following is an interview with the Italian shoegaze band Klimt 1918 that was originally published on Living For Metal in 2008.

Italy has long been known for many things artistic, from artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci to Michelangelo and wonders such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Music-wise, the range in which the metal scene exists is equally as diverse.  Klimt 1918 is no exception to the rule, with their own brand of music that bands like Anathema and Katatonia are trying to shoot for nowadays.  With a new album in Just In Case We’ll Never Meet Again, the band adds another chapter to their ever-growing musical repertoire.  Recently, drummer Paolo Soellner talked to Living For Metal about some of the things the band did to make the latest release, as well as offer some deep insight into how the band’s connection to art influences the band.

Peter Santellan: For those just getting to know the band, could you give some band history?

Paolo Soellner: Yes sure! My brother Marco (vocals/guitars) and I formed this band in Rome at the end of 1999 from the ashes of ANOTHER DAY, an Italian act dedicated to melodic death metal music. On May 2000, KLIMT1918’s first release Secession makes post modern music was recorded, a 5 song release  that fused together Scandinavian/English avant-garde sonorities and ’80 new wave. Thanks to it, we signed a record deal with the label My Kingdom Music, recording under them our first release Undressed Momento. Good feedback from critics and audience alike let us sign a new and more favourable record deal  with the cult German label Prophecy Productions. On September 2004, we have recorded our second release Dopoguerra (Postwar) that probably signaled the main turn of Klimt 1918 to indie rock sonorities ‘till our new album Just in case we’ll never meet again.  That sums up our evolution from the early beginning ‘til now.

PS: The band name itself is a reference to Gustave Klimt and the year he died.  Who is Gustave Klimt and how was the name settled upon?

Soellner: The name of the band takes inspiration from the painter Gustav Klimt, the maximun exponent of Wien secession. He was the symbol of liberty-style, the point of conjunction between ‘800 and ‘900 art. He died in 1918, when the Asburgic Empire and 1st world war ended. It’s an important year because it represents the start of a new age, just the wanting to start again for millions of people. It represents an elegy for the dying “old” and the excitement for the “new” that comes out.  Our music embodies all these suggestions; songs of ruins and post-war period, full of vitality, homesickness, and a lot of hope. Songs for what has been and what will do.  Painting, carving and composing is a kind a silent conversation between the creator and the piece of art that is growing up.  Gustav Klimt has transmited to the paintings his figure and his ideals during a period of rebirth of art.  His pieces are first of all decorations; hundreds of different parts joined together, a strange mixture of pain and joy, melancholy and stained quietness. That’s the same “postmodern” way we compose our songs, trying to create a new musical background combining together different sounds as we want and following the same suggestions.

PS: What are some of the band’s influences?

Soellner: Our effort in the last years has been that to find a sound that represented us completely. Just in case we’ll never meet again represents more the Klimt 1918 of today. We feel it as a work that finally describes us for what we are: a band that has found its musical and stylistic dimension of his and it doesn't need anymore to be part of a musical scene. Our influences are so various that we worked a lot to mix them. We wanted the album to sound closer to postrock and shoegaze, as Explosion in the Sky, This will destroy you, M83, Sigur Ros or Jesus and Mary Chain; then everything got more powerful and heterogeneous. That’s Just in case we’ll never meet again.

PS: Prior to the release of Just in Case We’ll Never Meet Again, there was a lineup change.  Could you elaborate on that?

Soellner: In 10 years, we changed lead guitar players three times. There are no coincidences about that, just divorces happened on the way from the beginning ‘till now. Alex, our long time guitar player, left the band in September 2006.
It’s been a difficult divorce, when you play together after so many years, you never thought that one day can take two different ways, there was also a lot of complicity in every thing the band did. We have immediately moved to replace him for imminent live shows and to consolidate a new line-up to complete the composition of the new album.

PS: What is the concept behind the album and how does the title fit in with that?

Soellner: A thread conductor doesn't exist this time. Just in case we’ll never meet again is a sad title that my brother chose when he wanted to split the band, which shortly means "That’s our last album together, my friends, in case we’ll never meet again“. That’s so sad to speak about it but it’s the truth.  Fortunately, I changed his idea about that. It essentially concerns a very autobiographic album. In the life of a person the nostalgia, as the loneliness, the happiness and the serenity are present in equal measure. It’s difficult to underline a particular feeling.

The subtitle "Soundtrack for the cassette generation“, it’s a nostalgic view of the past. We’ve always wanted a title like this because our music refers to a past musical taste, '80 music, the first period when we started listening to music. And the cassette was the only support through you could appreciate it. There were magic moments, music and people were different.

PS: Would you give some details of the album production?

Soellner: Well, when you start recording an album, you have in mind how it must come out. So you seek in your CD collection the right references, the bands that have the sound you are searching for, you choose the right instruments, effects, amplifiers, type of drum, etc. to obtain that. It’s a long work that starts months before the recording session, collecting info, making a note of what you see at each shows you go, paying attention to the effects live bands use. Anyway, we worked with amazing producers, Mauro Munzi, who was probably able to fit our expectations during the recording session, and David Castillo, Katatonia’s sound mastermind for the mix. But the album sounds differently than we imaged, it’s probably more powerful, but we got stunning results as well.  We are really satisfied.

PS: There are some songs that best convey what the band shoots for on the album.  I’ll name some songs and you may give some insight on them.  First, Skygazer.

Soellner: Skygazer is a song that speaks of temporary employment, a diffused condition in Italy of these times. It’s devoted to all the people that every day they make an enormous sacrifice accepting to work under difficult conditions, as for instance, in a basement, in an underground place, without windows, without any possibility to see the sky.

PS: What about Ghost of a Tape Listener?

Soellner: It is a song on the loneliness of the adult age. It takes back a dear theme to Klimt’s 1918, about the end of the adolescence and the childish dreams. This time, these suggestions are reported to the cassettes that represent by now a finished season of our lives, to which however we still combine memoirs and important feelings

PS: How about Suspense Music?

Soellner: It’s a love song, it tells the magic moments before the first kiss. The tension that is created among the bodies is describable as a real suspense; safeties don't exist when it is decided to kiss someone for the first time. It’s a risk that we decide to run.

PS: Are there any tours planned in the near future?

Soellner: We want to promote the new album as much as we can, that’s the first plan. So the first steps are live shows, our booking agency is working on a European tour in October/November and we are working to schedule an Italian tour as well in autumn. We got offers also from US, but nothing is confirmed yet. Now, we are performing in single shows and many summer festivals across Europe.

PS: Anything else you want to add?

Soellner: Just wanna thank all the readers of LIVINGFORMETAL.COM, hoping that you like our last effort. I think that the metal audience is probably the most open-minded of the music scene, and Just in case we’ll never meet again is the sum of different styles that aims to move the listeners.