Friday, May 6, 2016

Living Legends

2016 has been an especially rough year for celebrity deaths, and I'm not sure any of us really know what to do about losing so many artists whose work shaped our lives. One thing always crosses my mind when we lose a major player. Did I appreciate them enough while they were alive? The answer, unfortunately, is usually no. I didn't get to see the Beastie Boys before MCA passed, and I missed two opportunities to see Prince in the last 11 months. (And how dare I miss the legendary Queen concert at the Forum, before I was even born?)

I'm making it a point to appreciate the incredible musical artists that I get to listen to in my lifetime (and theirs), and I've enlisted a few friends to make their picks as well:

Janelle Monae
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that Prince worked with Janelle Monae. She's one of the only artists of her generation qualified to pick up Prince's torch. Her sound is timeless and her look is unique - no one wears black and white like she does. (Seriously, I once saw a woman wearing tuxedo pants and heels, with her hair up and her makeup simple and flawless, and I almost cried because for a second I thought I was in the presence of Janelle Monae and was not prepared. It was not her. I eventually composed myself.) She's also unafraid to be herself, in her music and in real life: songs like "Q.U.E.E.N." prove not only her artistry but her desire to speak up, as a feminist, for what she thinks needs to be talked about:

Find me a protest song even half as funky as "Q.U.E.E.N." I dare you. I'm not even sure that we're worthy of her, but I kind of hope that Janelle Monae lives forever.

Alicia Keys
There are so many artists I could be writing about right now, but I only felt one emotion when I remembered that Alicia Keys would be on Saturday Night Live this week: pure glee. Alicia Keys is the rare artist that not only grows with her music and her listeners, but retains a sound that can be relevant to any age. Imagine hearing "Fallin'" for the first time, in 2016:

You'd think it sounded just as good as it did the day it was released. No wonder legions of American Idol auditioners sang it in the early 2000s. None of them can sing it like Alicia does, though. So much emotion, so much vocal power, just enough vocal power. She was 20 when it was released. TWENTY. That means that we've had the pleasure of seeing her grow through a decade and a half of what can be the most fast-paced years of a person's life. (Yes I know I sound like a Millennial when I say that, but you've probably watched or read your share of coming-of-age stories, so let it go.) She might be Clive Davis' greatest signing since Whitney Houston. There, I said it. Listen to the delicate, masterful vocals on "You Don't Know My Name," then follow it up with the pure honesty and emotion of "If I Ain't Got You" and tell me I'm wrong:

She's also tried to diversify as an artist, and it actually works for her better than it has for most: being married to a hip-hop producer has its perks, like the rhythm-heavy songs that made up her performance at the NBA All-Star Game a couple of years ago, and she may or may not have been the only good thing about the second season of Empire. I'll always love the original Alicia (you know, the one with the braids?) but I love seeing her grow, mature, and evolve, and I hope to get to see her do that for a few more decades.

Bryan Adams: by Shannon Penfound, true Canadian
I grew up listening to Bryan Adams and so his music makes me think back to a simpler time in my life. This song in particular reminds me of my grandparents and how if you find 'that' kind of love, to never, ever let it go.

Britney Spears: by Heather Lynn, recovering hockey fan and lifelong champion of pop music
I think death of the famous can strike in such powerful ways is when we realize they were just a quiet and pleasant hum there all along, and now it has gone quiet and you're left with your own thoughts to consider.

Have you heard the word of the Holy Spearit? For me, Britney has been a constant since she came to me in the formative years of nearly teen pop culture obsession. She emerged on the scene with the template debut album and everything else after that shattered the archetype. I've grown with her and she's grown with me. She's evolved from the vision of the pining and pure devoted love:

 to over the nonsense of boys and just wanting to have her fun:

I measure a pop culture item by moreness. Britney has brought me light, happiness, perseverance and the idea of you better work bitch - more than anyone else. And always remember, if Britney survived 2007, then you can survive today.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New to Hockey Guy is the hero we need

I know a thing or two about being new to hockey. Or at least I did, a while ago, back when hockey was like a new TV show for me that hadn't jumped the shark and started recycling plotlines. (I mean, come on, NHL. I might as well start watching Grey's Anatomy again.)

It kind of felt like my hockey fandom needed a boost; something even bigger than an average playoff game could give me. Enter New to Hockey Guy, who had never watched the sport before and immediately took to it:

I've been finding it easy lately to be jaded about the sport that I'm supposed to love, regardless of whether or not it loves me back. (My visual album, "I don't know who this dude kane is but we gotta stop him," drops next month.) Maybe I just need to tap into all those feelings I had when I was really a rookie: the excitement, the desire to watch every second of hockey I could, the idea that watching a game can make me feel like I'm part of something.

Maybe we all need to get those feelings back, and let ourselves love the game for all the joy and excitement it brings.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I Solved The Habs' Coaching Problem

Okay, so at first I meant this as a joke on Twitter, but the more I think about it, the more I think it should happen.
(Oh, crap, that’s what Donald Trump said about politics, isn’t it?)

The Canadiens already announced that they aren’t firing Michel Therrien this season. Not that they should now, anyway, because that would make as much sense as pulling a goalie at the very end of a game in an attempt to score two goals against a stronger team and force overtime – you know, like Therrien did on Saturday. But it looks like the Habs want to keep Therrien around for another year, and I’m probably not the only one who sees another potential team collapse or maybe another midseason coaching change. (Again, Randy Cunneyworth, I’m really sorry, dude.) I know that all of this is hard on Marc Bergevin – I can see it. A few more years of this and he’ll be aging faster than anyone should when they’re as rich as he is. No one wants to see their GM turn into that lemon you forgot you had in your fridge. But if he keeps getting stuck between the angry villagers (us) and whoever isn’t letting him fire Therrien (the Illuminati?), he may just turn into that lemon. (As a sidenote: throw that lemon in your compost pile. It’s not good anymore.)

What Bergevin should be doing is planning to spend the summer with Geoff Molson, luring prospective coaches by taking them golfing or fishing or sampling local beers and then not charging them twelve dollars for those beers. But he probably feels bad firing someone, as would I, because Millennials understand what it’s like to have a shitty job situation. (Though I do wonder how Therrien would fare working in a call center or washing dishes at a trendy restaurant.) And that’s exactly why I think Bergevin should be saved from having to fire Therrien.

TVA Sports should offer Therrien a job and pay him so much money that he won’t be able to refuse.

Think about it. It would work out for everyone – TVA Sports will continue their tradition of overpaying for onscreen talent (with the priceless exception of Dave Morrisette), they’ll add another big name to their roster, and they can use him for insider info. It’ll be good for ratings, which they probably need now that there won’t be any playoff games to profit from. All the people whose love for hockey has waned slightly (hi) will start watching again with a renewed faith in their team. If TVA Sports saved my team from Michel Therrien, I would gladly watch their subpar game broadcasts and even try to pretend that I didn’t miss Pierre Houde. As for the people who don’t want Therrien gone (of which I assume there are still quite a few), they’ll tune in to see him talk about the team and how he would coach them differently. TVA Sports can paint him as a victim, a brilliant man who had no choice but to escape a bad situation. “He’s so wise!” they’ll say. “He should never have been fired,” even though he was never technically fired. Everyone will get what they want – including Michel Therrien, who can buy as many movie gangster suits as he wants with all his TV money.

Help us, TVA Sports. You’re our only hope.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Tries hard, needs to produce more on the ice"

I haven’t written as much as I intended to this season. (That much should be obvious.) I could blame it on my schedule, my increased fatigue due to minor health stuff (which is the same thing that slowed me down a couple of years ago, eventually leading to the demise of my Plus Minus column), or the slow, inevitable decline of my Macbook. All of those are legit reasons (except for the Macbook, because I’m probably to blame for its decline. I was not kind to its battery. I should have done better. I’m a terrible laptop mother. Let’s move on.) But one of the reasons why I haven’t been writing about hockey is that in order to be writing about hockey regularly, I’d have to be watching hockey regularly, and I’ve been watching fewer and fewer games and SportsCentres.

The sport, and the culture surrounding it, have lost a bit of their luster. The newfangled major hockey broadcasts, with their oversized ice-blue sets and laughable analysts (#NotAllAnalysts), just don’t do it for me. It’s like watching a show long after it’s jumped the shark – I still watch, but sometimes it’s a little more painful than I’d like. Hockey culture, among fans, journalists, and players, has disappointed me this year. There were some incredible highs, but the lows just sucked. (If one more man tries to tell me how to feel about the charges brought against Patrick Kane, I’ll… maybe I shouldn’t finish that sentence, because I’m not an elite athlete and anything I do will most certainly have consequences.) It’s been hard to love a sport where the bad gets worse and the good rarely gets better. It’s kind of no fun to not really care that the Habs are on a losing streak even though everyone’s screaming about it as if the sky is falling, as if the team’s MVP is not on IR, as if the players themselves are not people. Sometimes I don’t know what to do or what to write about.

But I guess you can say that about anything, right? Every musical genre had at least one horrible hit song this year. (So many unnecessary throwbacks to the early-to-mid-2000s. So many.) Every TV network had hits and misses. Every stand-up comic had the kind of performance that made them wish they had stayed home. (Or maybe it was just me.)

So I will try to focus on the good that happened this year. On the female hockey players who are finally starting to get the respect, attention, and remuneration they deserve. Or on Spider-Mable, the little cancer patient in Edmonton who rescued some Oilers players from the clutches of an evil villain. Or Mike Condon doing his best to continue earning the NHL ice time he worked so hard for. Or the incredible progress that Max Pacioretty has made, that led him to become captain of the Montreal Canadiens. Or the rest of the world finally realizing that Carey Price is one of the best hockey players on Earth and don’t you deny it. Or the drive, on and off the ice, that makes PK Subban superhuman. Or the enduring legacy left by men like Dickie Moore.
Hockey isn’t all bad. 2015 wasn’t all bad. Let’s focus on what’s good, and work on whatever needs improving, and maybe the hockey world will be a little better for it by this time next year.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What I'd Name My Fantasy Hockey Team, If I Joined a Hockey Pool This Year

Not Tone Deaf

Bunch of Rape Apologists

Voluntary Deportation

Guys Who Need Better Mental Health Professionals

How To Get Away With... okay well maybe a hockey player has never murdered anyone, but the way things are going, let's not count our chickens before they hatch

But They're Nice Guys!

What Happened to "Innocent Until Proven Guil... ajlhwkjhtiuergbkgcbuyrwtbeyu

Listen, They're Really Good at Hockey Pucks, ok

Why Can't My Team Just Be PK, Price, and Pacioretty? No, like, why?

Better Than NFL Players*

Gary Bettman Cares

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Things I'm Too Polite To Tell You At Your Baby Shower

I hope you love your baby as much as I love "Uptown Funk": fully, shamelessly, even if it makes you uncool.

I hope you love your baby as much as I love Beyonce's cover of "Uptown Funk." She hasn't actually recorded one, but I imagined it, and that counts, right?

I hope you love your baby as much as Beyonce loves Blue Ivy.

I hope you love your baby as much as I love Blue Ivy.

I hope you love your baby more than I loved turning my concert ticket money into "piece of fuzzy cloth with a face on it" money.

I hope you love your baby as much as I love being able to drink wine right now. Seriously. This unoaked Chardonnay. You have no idea. I'm going to try pairing it with sushi. I don't know whether or not they'll pair nicely, but how great is sushi? So delicious.

I love you love your baby as much as you love Pinterest.

I hope you love your baby as much as I love going to parties that serve no purpose other than to give you gifts. The baby industrial complex is REAL.

I hope you love your baby as much as I am going to love asking you to buy me things when I have a baby. Even if it's just a toy baby like in American Sniper. You'll throw me a toy baby shower, right?

I hope you love your baby as much as I loved buying a dozen grey onesies for your baby, just like you asked.

I hope you love your baby enough to eventually introduce it to colour, like it's living in The Wizard of Oz or something. I hope you consider synching your labour to some Pink Floyd songs. It'll totally line up.

I hope you love your baby enough to never make it watch that Oz movie with James Franco, but that you also love it enough to teach it about patriarchy and that white men are liars who ruin stuff (just like the Wizard, or Sam Raimi.)

I hope you love your baby so much that you forgive it for being the reason you pooped in front of doctors during childbirth.

I hope you love your baby. Because I do, but not enough to change its diapers. Hope that's okay.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oscar Nominations Are Part of a Bigger Problem

The Academy Award nominations reminded me that I have a lot of films left to watch. They also reminded me that the Oscars can be pretty damn biased.

There were some interesting snubs and surprises in multiple categories, but I think that one in particular is worth discussing. How come Ava DuVernay, generally considered a lock for a Best Director nomination, didn't get that call this morning? She was hand-picked to direct Selma, a film that is socially important (especially this year) and incredibly well-made, despite many struggles to bring it to the screen?

It's not that there was a lack of directing talent this year. Morten Tyldum's work in The Imitation Game turned what could have been just a boring Oscar movie into a layered, engaging, well-acted drama. Alejandro González Iñárritu is an accomplished director and Birdman was highly inventive and just buzzy enough to garner the attention of the right people. Bennett Miller, quite simply, knows how to make a movie that will get noticed by Oscar. Wes Anderson's films have always been critically beloved, and this year The Grand Budapest Hotel is poised to have a hell of an Oscar night. (Or win nothing. There is no in-between.) And Richard Linklater's hard work on Boyhood resulted in a film that was not only original, but that captivated its audience.

Here's the thing about Richard Linklater - he was one of the first directors I learned about when I started studying film. He is talented and has a distinct voice, and Boyhood is an amazing, unprecedented accomplishment. But there is a chance that Boyhood would never have been made if Linklater had not been an established director when he started making it. He certainly worked to become an established director. His breakout film project, Slacker, was a success at Sundance not only because he is a talented director, but because he worked hard enough and was lucky enough to have it screened there. The film industry is a boys' club. It's not entirely closed to women and people of colour, but there does seem to be a certain camaraderie between men and most of them are white. Part of being successful in film is who you know. I loved my experience studying film, but I was taught by a staff that was mostly composed of white men. (Not that they weren't brilliant or good at their jobs, but there was a certain homogeny among the people I learned from.) In fact, a lot of the people I learned from were either white or male. Many of the students who got a leg up from professors were white guys who worshipped white guy directors. (And Robert Rodriguez.) And that's who we learned about, too - in class, I watched so many brilliant films from different eras, but even the modern films I watched (and that were discussed) were mostly made by white guys. I remember watching one film by Wong Kar-Wai. And Lost In Translation, because it was gaining a lot of buzz at the time. That's about it. We discussed Richard Linklater and Jim Jarmusch, but I don't remember talking about Spike Lee. Slacker and Do The Right Thing are completely different films, but they're both fascinating films made by young, ambitious directors.

I'm getting a little off topic. Film school made it very clear that filmmaking is about more than just hard work and creativity. It's about luck. It's about who you know. It's about who believes in you. If Richard Linklater didn't have the good fortune to screen Slacker at Sundance, his career could have been very different, and he might never have had the opportunity to make or release Boyhood on the scale that he did. Bennett Miller is beloved by Oscar voters - and he's talented enough to deserve that love, but there are plenty of talented people in Hollywood who get overlooked for Oscars. (And on the flip side, there are people who Oscar loves. Meryl Streep could probably get a nomination for a message she left on someone's voicemail. I bet she was excellent in that voicemail, though!)

All this to say that the problem with the Oscar nominations isn't just the Oscars. It's symptomatic of the industry as a whole. If more minorities were afforded the opportunities and the approval that people like these Best Director nominees were fortunate enough to have on their way to the top, we'll see more perspectives in feature films and at the Oscars. It won't solve everything, but it would be a good start. Maybe this is a start. Maybe Selma is the career push that Ava DuVernay needed to become a big-name director. But is it? And how many more directors like her will be afforded similar opportunities?