Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Power of music

I feel very fortunate that though I am not spokenly bilingual, I can read two languages. The first being English and the second being music. Through music I ... wanted to stay long past the bell in high school (!) because our band was collectively captured in a groove playing Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral; ... met all of my friends in college--most of whom are friends to this day; ... and gotten chills at dozens of concerts while in the presence of something moving or purely joyful.

Since then I've always kept a soft, but scared, part of my heart devoted to music and fine arts in the schools. Soft because it's always open to something new to move it and scared because it's always vulnerable to budget cuts by a sports-overdosed society. Here's a story that ran in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times about a middle school band director who along with his students created a band at a homeless shelter and then took some of the new instrumentalists to perform at Carnegie Hall.

From the Los Angeles Times


Feeling at home in Carnegie Hall

A band teacher and his students first taught kids at a Santa Ana homeless shelter to play, then invited them along on a little gig in New York.
By Seema Mehta
Times Staff Writer

May 29, 2007

THREE Decembers ago, middle school band teacher Ron Wakefield brought his 35-member orchestra to a crowded homeless shelter in Santa Ana. They performed a Christmas concert on a concrete slab in the backyard where some of the families slept.

Tiffany Zoller, a skinny girl with stick-straight blond hair and a crooked smile, listened to them play "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "What Child Is This?"

"I'd give anything if I could do that," said Tiffany, then 9.

Wakefield, a teacher at North Park Middle School in Pico Rivera, was so moved by Tiffany's comment that he began buying new musical instruments for the shelter's children, spending $800 of his own money. He also rounded up volunteers from his band to tutor the children weekly.

The Isaiah House Music Club was born. This year, the Music Club made Wakefield, 50, proud beyond expectation, in a concert setting leagues from the shelter's backyard.

Isaiah House, where Tiffany lives with more than 120 other homeless residents, is a California craftsman bungalow on a residential street lined with camphor trees. It is the last resort for the downtrodden. Each night, the privately funded house overflows with homeless mothers and children who can't afford rent at seedy motels or who have overstayed their welcome at short-term shelters. At Isaiah House they can stay as long as they want.

The residents share two bathrooms, eat communal meals on paper plates in the backyard and wear layers of donated clothing to protect them from the evening chill when they bed down. Families with infants and toddlers sleep inside on thin foam pads on the hardwood floors in the furniture-less living room, dining room and foyer. Those with older children sleep in the backyard, using pads, blankets and tarps to create nests on wooden benches, picnic tables or the concrete.

"When you find you can't borrow another dollar, you end up here," said Dwight Smith, who with his wife, Leia, runs the Catholic Worker shelter. "It's scary to live in a shelter. All these kids feel trapped. After a year or two here, they feel they have no future."

THE first visits by the North Park volunteers — Wakefield, his current students and a former student — were jarring. Adults, virtually all of whom were mothers crammed into tight quarters, were frustrated by their problems and bickered incessantly. One boy lay on the floor barking. A shy girl with a speech impediment hid. Some adolescents, teased for joining the band, balked at rehearsing. Two flutes were stolen. Neighbors called police when the ragtag band practiced on the front lawn.

The parents of some shelter children were in jail. The transient nature of homelessness meant that dozens of children filtered through the band. Some disappeared for weeks at a time, often to another shelter or motel, only to return. One girl snapped her clarinet in half after her father failed to visit on her birthday.

"We end up living through many of their families' tragedies," Wakefield said.

But week after week, the volunteers, just adolescents themselves, returned.

They taught the children how to read music and to understand rhythm. Their students learned to play notes, then measures, then phrases, then entire compositions. The Isaiah House Music Club members practiced on their own nearly every day. They started with "Hot Cross Buns" and worked their way through more challenging works, such as "Mount Vernon March." After about 18 months, the band could make it through "Pieta," their most difficult piece, without tripping over a note.

Not only had the children grown musically, they had matured emotionally.

"When we [first] came, they gave us attitude," said volunteer Beatriz Mercado, 12, who plays the flute.

"Now they have patience," said Inez Franco, 13, a North Park clarinetist.

DURING a recent rehearsal, Inez helped Tiffany practice scales. A clarinet case, dotted with pink and purple hearts and stenciled with her nickname, Tiffers, sat at their feet. Her mother, Karol Zoller, said she and her four children had lived at her grandparents' house in Corona until the grandparents died three years ago. The family has been ricocheting between motels and shelters ever since, with the music club one of the few constants in Tiffany's life.

"It's just something I look forward to every week," Tiffany said.

Jasmine Bush, a 12-year-old, used to keep to herself. But she learned to play the saxophone, and her self-confidence blossomed.

During a recent rehearsal, her laughter rose above the cacophony of instruments being practiced in various nooks of the shelter before she played a rich, soulful "Silent Night."

"The first time it was hard," Jasmine said. "But then it started to be easy."

Jasmine's mother can see the changes in her daughter in the two years since they lost their house in Monrovia and moved into Isaiah House.

When they arrived at the shelter, Jasmine used to cry and complain.

"She was depressed because we were here, " said her mother, Shelby Jimeson, who works nights as a Disneyland custodian and is on a waiting list for subsidized housing. "When the band comes, they go and have fun. They also learn. It makes me happy to see her happy, doing something that she enjoys."

The band is about more than music, Wakefield and other volunteers said. It's about giving the children a constant in their unstable lives.

"When I make promises to … the kids, I've kept the promises," Wakefield said. "They have this treasure in their hearts forever. They've learned there are people in this world that can be trusted, that can be counted on."

THE North Park students, who come from the working-class city of Pico Rivera, bonded with their homeless charges. When they sit side by side in front of a music stand, they joke, trade stories and share secrets. The North Park students have helped in other ways — one night, when no volunteers showed up to make dinner, four girls got to work in the kitchen, cooking, serving and cleaning up for more than 100 people.

The North Park band had a long-standing invitation to play this April at Carnegie Hall from the National Band and Orchestra Festival, a performance of student musicians from around the country. The band invited six of their homeless friends, most of whom had never heard of Carnegie Hall, to join them.

Serena and Jesse Escamilla's mother, Renee Alto, didn't believe it when she heard her children would be visiting New York.

"I knew they were going over there to do something I could never be able to do, and I'm very proud," she said.

The six-day trip cost about $2,000 per child and was funded by donations from community members, band parents and North Park students, who sold snack foods to help raise money.

It was the first time any of the Isaiah House children had flown.

"It was really scary," said Serena, 11, a flutist. "We were really high above the clouds."

The children passed the time dozing, chatting, staring out the windows and watching "The Pursuit of Happyness," the recent Will Smith movie about a single father grappling with homelessness.

After they landed in Newark, N.J., they took a charter bus into New York. They bunked four and five to a room at a midtown Manhattan hotel, visited the Statue of Liberty and Times Square and took carriage rides in Central Park.

The trip was the first time the Isaiah House children, ages 10 to 14, had been separated from their mothers.

"I never went to New York before," Jasmine said. "It made me excited, but I was homesick too."

The trip was capped by the Friday evening performance at Carnegie Hall. After all the boys donned tuxedos and the girls put on black gowns and cubic zirconia earrings — all paid for by donations and theirs to keep — they ventured to the green room beneath the stage, tuned their instruments and rehearsed.

"I was thinking I was going to mess up really bad and make us sound horrible," said Serena's brother Jesse, 14, who plays the trumpet.

The North Park band and the Isaiah House Music Club — Tiffany, Jasmine, Jesse, Serena, Anthony Partee and Tiffany's younger brother Brandon — stepped onto the stage. They performed together for nearly an hour under spotlights in front of hundreds of people. Midway through the performance, the six Isaiah House children slipped from their places in the band and quietly filled seats at the front of the ensemble.

"I felt like all scared, like I was nervous," Serena said. "My heart was beating really fast."

Wakefield hoisted his baton, and the Isaiah House children raised their instruments. Backed by a couple of their North Park tutors, they launched into "Pieta" by Joseph Lawson. The composition begins dolefully, grows calm, then ends in joy and triumph.

When they finished, Wakefield held back tears.

"There are no words to describe that beautiful joy and love that was on that stage," he said. "Some things are best unspoken."


Monday, May 28, 2007

Muggle blog

In prepartion of the release of the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (and also the Order of the Phoenix movie), I started re-reading the series again. This time I charged myself with paying extra close attention to anything that might be a clue as to the ultimate direction of the story and the characters' fates. Of course, thus far my efforts in Sorcerer's Stone have seemed quite fruitless.

We all know that Harry and Voldemort share a wand source. And that Sirius lent Hagrid the motorcycle he used to transport infant Harry to Dumbledore/Dursleys on Privet Drive. And that the Malfoys claimed to be under Voldemort's spell when they went bad back in the day. blahblahblah. Re-reading the book has been very enjoyable, because I love the book, but new insights seemed to be as elusive as a Snitch. But ...

... then I came to pages 258-260, when Harry had his encounter with the centaur Firenze in the Forbidden Forest. Firenze reveals to Harry that Voldemort (or what's left of him) has been drinking unicorn's blood to hang onto the last bits of existence, biding his time to get his hands on the Sorcerer's Stone (and ergo eternal life). By doing this he'll be cursed forever, as well.

At the bottom of page 259 Firenze says: "The planets have been read wrongly before now, even by centaurs. I hope this is one of those times." On page 260 Ron, Harry and Hermione discuss this in the context of the resurrection plot in Sorcerer's Stone—that Voldemort will return and kill Harry and that if they can prevent that in the here and now (Sorcerer's Stone) things should be good to go in the future. But what if this is about the larger Voldemort rising and taking over again plot that is the thread of the series?

And one more thing: what curse could afflict Voldemort that would matter?

OK, this isn't much of an insight/new question ... but I need to feel like my extra-careful reading is bearing fruit.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pay me please

What do Claritin, IcyHot and Febreze have in common? They are all products that I would shill for. We had a bachelor party mishap in the apartment the other night -- someone bonked on the couch. Bonked by the way is Barfed when written in my roommate's chicken scratches.

But quick action by the guys combined with our overloaded cleaning supply cabinet plus Febreze has the living room cleaner now than before it was besmirched.

Lastly, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is not very good and seemingly never ends. SNORE.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Amazing music news

We are responsible for our days and we are responsible for Iraq

A version of that phrase was posted in my middle school hallway. I used to make fun of it most every day. Not that I didn't understand the literal meaning, but honestly I didn't really fathom its truth; for that I blame only the immaturity of being in middle school.

Since then though I've realized that it's one of the truest statements ever, and it extends far beyond single days but our lives as a whole. Learning this has helped cure of me of near-chronic insomnia as I no longer racked my brain trying to figure out problems that had no solutions at 2 a.m. It's helped me realize that as a friend, family member, editor/teacher I can only help others, I cannot make their decisions, live their lives or bear their consequences. (IN this vein, yours truly will NOT be seeing the Pipettes at the Troubadour, b/c yours truly is a fucking idiot who dragged his ass and allowed the show to sell out before he ever went to to actually like purchase them. I'M AN IDIOT.)

It is a lesson though, which to me seems so largely ignored. The Los Angeles Times editorial on Sunday points this out in the sharpest relief. An excerpt:

Of a population of about 27 million, at least 1.9 million are now internally displaced; another 2 million have sought refuge abroad, mostly in Jordan and Syria but also in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere, according to the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Yet this Darfurian-sized refugee crisis, this largest population displacement in the Middle East since 1948, has largely been ignored by a U.S. government whose war created the exodus in the first place.

Even Sweden is doing a more responsible job of absorbing asylum cases than the United States. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt promised last week to resettle 25,000 Iraqi refugees, more than three times as many as the Bush administration plans to accept this year.

And even though Washington promised to take 7,000 asylum cases in 2007, it admitted only 69 from Oct. 1, 2006, to April 30, according to State Department statistics. In March, the U.S. gave refuge to a whopping total of eight Iraqis. In April, we welcomed to our shores just one.

The war in Iraq is one of the few areas in which I deviate from the traditionally liberal left. The United States caused this catastrophic humanitarian crisis and we are responsible for helping to fix it. We cannot leave before we have done all we can to help. Period. This does not mean an indefinite commitment of troops to Iraq. This does not mean a permanent base in Baghdad. This does not mean pouring billions of dollars into American contractors' pockets while roads remain unbuilt, hospitals under-supplied, refineries under-utilized and neighborhoods deadly. It means opening our borders to people we've alleged to have saved from a brutal dictator under whom they ironically enjoyed more freedom--if you define freedom as safety to attend school, cross the street and turn on the air conditioner. It means honoring our international obligations and working with other countries to partner on solutions. It's Jordan, Syria and Iran which have seen the effects of refugees more than we have. To have allowed but one Iraqi into the states in April is shamefully unconscionable.


Here's another amazing piece in today's Los Angeles Times about a Chinese woman seeking the right to die ...

In China, a woman seeks the right to die

A blog and a euthanasia plea to the government thrust a muscular dystrophy patient into the spotlight.
By David Pierson
Times Staff Writer

May 20, 2007

YINCHUAN, CHINA — Confined to a rusty wheelchair and unable to control her muscles below her neck, Li Yan seemed destined for nothing more than a short life of pain and hopelessness.

Instead, the 29-year-old with muscular dystrophy has been catapulted into the center of an ethical debate. Li, fearing that her disease eventually will leave her in a helpless state, used her blog in March to ask the National People's Congress to legalize her right to die.

"I don't want to live with my brothers and sisters-in-law after my parents' death, let alone go to an orphanage or welfare institute," wrote Li, a rosy-cheeked woman with plump lips who can't keep from breaking into a smile even when discussing her most morbid wishes.

"I'd be away from heaven and life would be worse than death for me," she wrote, addressing the congress during its annual two-week meeting in Beijing. "So I would like to apply for euthanasia when I'm still able to sit and talk."

The central government has been guarded, hinting in the state media that China wasn't ready to join the few nations that have legalized euthanasia. But in a country where death shadows the underclass in myriad ways — from coal mine explosions and sickening pollution to earthquakes and floods — many people appear to view euthanasia as an act of mercy.

There is no right-to-life movement here like the one that sought to keep brain-damaged Terri Schiavo alive two years ago in Florida. In China, the one-child policy has begotten institutionalized abortion. Capital punishment is common and swift.

"China's atheism education, people's practical mind-set and poverty all add up to a willingness to accept euthanasia," said Zhang Zanning, a professor of medical law at Dongnan University in Nanjing. "I think the supporting rate for euthanasia is very high. In terms of public opinion, now is a good time for legislation."

A portal to the world

Li, the daughter of a fertilizer factory worker in this industrial corner of northwestern China, had no idea what the rest of the country thought about euthanasia four years ago when her parents borrowed about $500 — the equivalent of three months' wages — to buy her a computer to get online. Li taught herself to type by holding a chopstick in her mouth. In early March, she copied her plea to the National People's Congress and pasted it to a message board belonging to a prominent national television reporter.

Within four days, her story had fanned out nationwide. Four weeks later, 90,000 hits had been recorded on Li's blog, many people leaving words of encouragement and support for her right to take her own life.

"I understand and support you!" wrote a poster named Caihong. "It has nothing to do with courage, but has to do with dignity! I hope everyone can have a dignified life and death!"

There are no definitive national surveys of popular sentiment on the issue, only snippets like Li's blog. More than 90% of 5,456 people in a poll organized by in March supported Li's right to die.

Zhang, who successfully defended a doctor in 1992 who was charged with murdering a cancer patient by lethal injection, conducted a poll of 463 people in 1998. He said 448 respondents deemed euthanasia humane.

Li's appeal has made her a media star. On a recent day, a crew from state-run network CCTV filmed a foreign journalist interviewing Li in her bedroom. The cramped space was decorated with a heart-shaped mirror. Along the window was a queen bed Li shared with her mother, Song Fengying.

The 60-year-old matriarch turns her daughter's body at least 10 times a night to ease the discomfort of staying in one position.

"If I can't sleep, my mother can't, either," said Li, sitting on her plaid-cushioned wheelchair with a red blanket covering her legs. "I explain to people, imagine lying down or sitting stiff for two hours without any movement no matter how uncomfortable it feels. It becomes so painful. Like having a mosquito on your finger and you can't chase it away."

Moments later, Li shouted, "Ma! Move my legs."

Song squatted down and lifted the blanket off her daughter. She adjusted Li's legs just a few inches and clasped her daughter's hands together on her lap. She tucked the blanket back under Li's feet before shuffling away.

Song said it was up to her daughter to decide what she wanted for her future. But it isn't easy for her to accept Li's quest.

"When I take my daughter outside, neighbors and friends say, 'Your daughter's still alive? What will your daughter do after you die?' " Song said.

"I just say, 'We'll see.' I don't think so far ahead. I live day to day. It makes me too sad to think about the future. I know it saddens my daughter to think about it too. She has to suffer this pain. As parents, we couldn't do our job. We couldn't cure her."

Means of expression

Li has tried to make the most of her abilities. The cracked white walls in her tiny home are decorated with colorful fluorescent printouts of drawings Li does on her computer, laborious efforts than can take two months — images of floral bouquets, grapevines and classical Chinese musicians in flowing robes she modeled after characters from the wildly popular TV series "A Dream of Red Mansions."

Li shudders at the memory of life before the computer.

When she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at 6, doctors said she wouldn't live past 18. A year later, she needed wooden boards pressed against her legs to hold them stiff in order to move. By 10, she was in a wheelchair. She was in school for just half a year before being pulled out because her parents hoped to travel to find treatment.

Li was confined to home. Her eldest brother used his old textbooks to teach her math and Chinese. At least she still had control of her hands, Li said. She loved embroidering. But by 15, her hands began to falter.

"I couldn't go out and play with the other kids," she said, her jet black bangs dangling just above her eyes. "My parents had to work and I stayed home alone. I was so lonely and bored. I felt meaningless."

It was around that time that she first learned of euthanasia. She saw a TV news program about a woman in Europe who had her doctor lethally inject her.

"To die without pain. I thought, that doesn't sound bad," Li said.

She didn't pursue the idea until she was 26, when she decided to starve herself to death. She gave up after a day when her mother pleaded with her to eat.

Last August, Li started a blog titled "No Way to Escape." She wrote about her daily life, her solitude and her disease. After seven months, she had 200 hits on her Web page. All of them were by her. She loved it anyway.

"I felt new things open to me," Li said. "I was able to read and see a lot more. It was like a bridge to a new world."

But if the Internet provided catharsis as a form of expression, it also stifled any hope in Li's mind that she could be cured. Her research showed that someone with symptoms as severe as hers had little chance of improving. The family could not afford to see a specialist to confirm it.

But it was enough for Li. After reading those websites she felt like she had let go of any false hope. She believed the pain would soon be too much to bear and that her parents would die and leave her alone.

Now that she was convinced she was going to die young, she wanted to die painlessly and on her own terms.

"I am an atheist. I don't believe in a soul or ghosts. After I die, I will become fertilizer," she said. "I want to donate all my usable organs, such as my cornea, liver, kidneys and even my heart to those who need them."

Li said she does not feel famous. It stings when people accuse her on her blog of seeking fame and fortune. Last week, a foundation offered to pay for medical treatment in Beijing. Li accepted, but she does not think it will make much difference.

A pink gift box rests on her windowsill. It contains a DVD player from a Hong Kong TV reporter who wanted Li to be able to watch the Spanish film "The Sea Inside," about a paralyzed man seeking suicide.

Opened for discussion

No request to legalize euthanasia was ever officially submitted to the National People's Congress, which is the norm for many of the ideas thrust into the limelight during the yearly session. But Li was encouraged that it lingered in the public's consciousness. Newspapers across the country weighed in.

"Life is beautiful, but more important is the beautiful mind," read an editorial in the Shanghai Daily. "If the mind has lost hope for a dignified corporeal life, why not let it go?"

Wang Yuelan, a resident of Li's suburb, said everyone in the neighborhood knew about the disabled woman who wanted the right to die.

"I support her," said Wang, 38, nodding toward Li's building across from her son's elementary school. "People should be able to make that choice. I can imagine it. My father suffered terribly from stomach cancer."

Despite the outpouring of support, Li still says she'll dedicate what time she has left with her faculties intact to gaining the right to end her life.

On a recent afternoon, she signed on to her online instant messaging service linking her to 300 friends. A month ago, she had 15. Her sign-on name is a line from a Chinese poem:

"The fragrance of a plum flower is conceived in the bitter cold."

Its message: To suffer is to grow.

"I feel really close to this idea," Li said.


Btw, I pre-ordered Deathly Hallows today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

L.A. Times Web site does something very right

People love to complain about newspapers. They're too depressing, stories are too long, the Sports columnists don't know anything, they're too liberal, they ignore news in minority communities until it's bad, they're too easy on the President, they're protecting XXXX or out to get YYYYYY.

Well, none of it's true and it's all true, depending on one's point of view. But I want to address a specific complaint about a paper like the L.A. Times: it's too big to care about local news. I've often felt this way since I moved to Los Angeles in August of 2002, as I've seen Venice Boulevard west of the 405 get re-made with new shops and restaurants, many coming from Santa Monica, where they could no longer afford to operate; or when I served on a jury in a murder case but never saw any coverage; but never more so than when my next door neighbor was murdered in his apartment several years ago. Nothing on television, radio, the Net or in the paper.

In Albany this would have been front page news, after all the Capital Region (a four-county area) saw only about 20 homicides per year (MAX). In Los Angeles County we had more than 1,000 homicides last year, which is a typical number, so the murder of one man in his apartment didn't warrant any news coverage. And since L.A., unlike NYC, has a weak local newspaper scene, I think this one went entirely uncovered in the media.

But now the Los Angeles Times has done something about that. They've taken perhaps the worst newspaper Web site in the universe (for a site this large) and added something amazing. It's called the Homicide Report--it's a blog in which reporter Jill Leovy chroniciles every Los Angeles County homicide. It's often a small note with some basic facts about the victim, but it's something. It's letting the world know now and hopefully forever that a person, a human, a father, a son, a mother, a sister, a friend, lived a life and had it taken.

Check it out: it's sobering, heartfelt, modest and important -- all the best things a newspaper can be. Or in this case, a news blog.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The peace of quiet things

I love the new apartment. I like the new neighborhood. Not quite as nice as the old one in Culver City—not as much street parking, denser housing, a little more untamed in terms of look (and that's not a good thing coming from a kid who grew up in the 'burbs of WNY) and also lots of immediately proximal dogs. They've been barking LOTS this night/early morning. Hopefully the current respite is the beginning of the end of the night for them. I always said that I'd avoid blog entries like this, but when shit like this leads to insomnia (that's even hard to read to), blogging is really all that's left.

60 minutes!

Go Sabres!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Music and sports -- finding balance

The Sabres lost game 1 to the Senators tonight by uncharacteristically getting housed in the third period, after staging a steady comeback. The good news, Ryan Miller WILL NOT GIVE UP FOUR FUCKING GOALS AGAIN. The other good news, the Sabres will not be so undisciplined to give up a short-handed goal again or be stupid enough to take two penalties overlapping, ergo giving Dany Heatley-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson and two-man advantage, which is metaphorically lethal.

But now to the truly great news (couresty of Pitchfork) ...

Rilo Kiley's Fourth Album Details Revealed

Under the Blacklight, the fourth album from strident pop sensations Rilo Kiley, will be issued August 20 in the UK, according to and confirmed by Rilo Kiley's label, Warner Bros. (No U.S. release date has been announced yet.)

We don't know too much about Blacklight at this point, but reports that it will feature tracks "Breaking Up" and "Money Maker," and was produced by Jason Lader (Gwen Stefani, VietNam).


Blacklight is the band's first album since L.A. Pioneer Woman Jenny Lewis donned her Rabbit Fur Coat and Blake Sennett's Elected basked in the Sun Sun Sun last year. It's the follow-up to 2004's More Adventurous.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Sabres v. Sens

Buffalo Sabres in six games (max.). After reading the posts from Sens fans on and also after reading Scott Burnside's analysis on, I am feeling ornery. I fail to see why the defensive pairings of Anton Volchenkov-Chris Phillips, Tom Preissing-Joe Corvo and Wade Redden-Andrej Meszaros are soooo much better than our top 6.

AV-CP (the number one defensive pair) are a combined -1 and have just 4 points in 10 games, all from Volchenkov.

TP-JC have played very well. They've combined for 11 points are a +6. And they've taken a combined 2 penalty minutes.

WR-AM are a +14 combined and have 7 points. This is a big reversal from the regular season when Maszaros was -15.

For the Sabres ...

Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman (number one defensive pair) are a combined -2 and have 5 points in 11 games.

Brian Campbell and Jaroslev Spacek are a combined +5 and have 7 points. They've taken 14 PIM. In this case, all the points have come from Campbell, who is proving to be a BIGTIME playoff performer. Spacek led all Dmen in playoff scoring last year, he's due.

Dmitri Kalinin and Teppo Numminen are an are-you-kidding-me +17 with 7 points.

These numbers are fairly comparable 1-6 for each team, so why does Ottawa have a major advantage (Scott Burnside's line: "This defensive depth gives the Senators a major advantage over the Sabres -- at least on paper.") over the Sabres? I don't see it. And to top it all off, the Sabres have Nathan Paetsch sitting on the bench. He's good enough to dress for probably 20 teams in the league right now.

But the biggest advantage the Sabres have right now isn't the misconception about the D, the ridiculous four-line depth or the far superior coaching. It's Ryan Miller in Net. He's got the unshakables going on. While Ray Emery is one nudge away from going WWE.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Flashback to the best of high school

For some reason I can't recall in fourth grade we had to "interview" each other and learn things like favorite singer/band/food of some of our classmates. When I asked my favorite artist, I lied to someone and told her that my favorite band was The Police—I don't think that I could've named a song of theirs, but Michael Jackson was the end all, be all at the time and I couldn't stand him. (Honestly, my favorite song was "Human Touch" by Rick Springfield, but I didn't want to admit to that.) The point here is that I was lucky enough to see The Jackson Five (plus Jackie) Victory Tour and didn't appreciate it. And if I had truly liked The Police back then I at least would have had some musical cred. But I didn't.

Then in sixth grade (I think) Kiss 98.5 debuted in Western New York. Each night at 7:40 there was "Battle of the New Songs." They'd play a new song from two established artists and listeners voted for their fave. At 8:40 they'd replay the winner. Early in the year I voted for a Huey Lewis song ("Hip to Be Square") over Poison (either "Talk Dirty to Me" or "I Want Action"). That was at the beginning of the year, by the middle of the year I'd been introduced to music with a harder edge: hair metal—Bon Jovi (which was more hair metal and less pure rock back then) Poison, Motley Crüe, Cinderella but also bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden. At the time I genuinely liked this music, but I'll concede that I was somewhat pushed toward this genre by the friends in Mr. Kubanek's class in sixth grade at Willow Ridge Elementary School.

A friend of mine, Yasir, who was two years older, was similarly into these bands, especially Metallica and Motley Crüe and Maiden. Oddly, one day after finishing our delivery of the Buffalo News we were talking about music and he told me about how some of his classmates in eighth grade were listening to bands like The Psychedelic Furs (who had one crossover pop hit), The Smiths and The Cure. I laughed at the name "The Smiths" and was incredulous that someone would actually use that band name. I spent the rest of my time in junior high/middle school (we transitioned from 7-8 to 6-8 while I was there) listening to Guns N Roses, Metallica, Poison, WASP, Motley Crue, Tesla, Europe (I once told my sister I wanted hair like Joey Tempest, the lead singer), Bon Jovi (are you sensing a pattern?) and mocking people who listened to U2 and R.E.M. I did discover "Just Like Heaven" by The Cure and was mesmerized.

Luckily in high school things changed. The hair metal momentum died out as the deluge and flood of johnny-come-way-too-latelies snapped American rock music out of its collective stuporworship of aquanet bands. (Btw, I used aquanet.) During my first couple years of high school, I discovered cfny, an alt rock radio station from Toronto. R.E.M. would release Out of Time (in retrospect one of the band's less than steallar efforts), but which contained Losing My Religion, which wowed me. But in the coming year they would release the first album to ever change my life, Automatic for the People. Previous to this album being released I had favorite songs, like Poison's "I Won't Forget You" or fucking David Lee Roth's "Just Like Paradise," but I was an ignorant, foolish child listening to chopsticks compared to what this album did to me. Suddenly after hearing Nightswimming, I was listening to Mozart. And so without further ado ... an amazing live performance of the first song I ever fell in love with.

Continuing ... right around then U2 released Achtung Baby. Shortly after, MTV started a show called Alternative Nation, which essentially was their old 120 minutes Sunday night alternative/college music show but now Mondays - Fridays at midnight. I soon discovered Belly, Curve, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Black 47, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Tragically Hip, Spirit of the West, The Pogues which has ultimately begat who I am today.

The post script is that I've since fallen in love with a new favorite song, "Pictures of Success" by Rilo Kiley. But I'll never stop loving Nightswimming.

As per usual when I post late at night, this one started out much more disciplined with the writing and has petered out. Perhaps I'll revise?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

More reason than ever to fight the good fight

New Paltz Mayor Jason West, the guy who risked jail time to perform same-sex marriages in New York State a few years ago, lost in his re-election bid.

The President has already threatened to veto the House Bill that would add "sexual orientation" to the laws protecting against hate crimes. It's really sad that what is one of the last seemingly acceptable-to-display-in-public -isms (homophobia/gayism -- instead of racism) continues to be endorsed. I can't imagine that Don Imus would have gotten canned had he called the Rutgers women's basketball team members some derogatory word implying that they're lesbians.
The worst part is that the Republicans claim that this legislation is not needed. Why because like 8 people consider themselves Log Cabin Republicans? WTF?

It forces me to recall a story one of my students wrote about guys being afraid to see Brokeback Mountain. In the story she talks about the "brokeback" became yet another perjorative term insulting a guy's perceived sexuality.