Sunday, December 21, 2014

Backstrom Leads in Points, Ovechkin Scores Goal of the Year

Russian Machine:
The Washington Capitals tolerated one period of boring New Jersey Devils-style hockey before they unleashed the fury. Lifted by goals from the Young Guns– Green, Backstrom, and Ovi– the less-boring team won this one soundly.

The Capitals struck twice in the second period, first with a furious slapper from Mike Green and then by Nick Backstrom’s patient wrister set up by Jay Beagle.

Alex Ovechkin scored a career-highlight goal seven minutes into the third period, executing the Ovi Move on two Devils defenders before backhanding the puck over Cory Schneider. Nick Backstrom added an empty netter in garbage time to celebrate his tenth goal — and team-leading 34th point (and he's now fifth in the league with 24 assists).

Braden Holtby earned his second shutout of the season– his first since game two in Boston. 19 saves on 19 shots. He rules.

The goal was only Ovechkin’s third over the past 11 games.

“When you feel good, everything is working well,” Ovechkin said. “Those kind of moments happen. Just [tried] to make a move and it was working, so . . . good play.”

The goal is Ovechkin’s 437th. He’s now tied with Pavel Bure as the third highest scoring Russian, behind Fedorov and Mogilny, whom I bet he’ll catch next season. Ovechkin is now the 66th highest scorer in NHL history (again, tied with Pavel).

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Redskins' Struggles: "It Hasn't Just Been One Player"

Mike Jones:
The Redskins (3-11) enter the game against their NFC East rivals having allowed 53 sacks (second most in the NFL). Meanwhile, the visiting Eagles have racked up 47, second most in the league.

And the Eagles (9-5) will catch Washington at one of its lowest points. The team has allowed at least five sacks in each of its past six games — a franchise record and the second-longest streak in league history.

Following a 2013 campaign that saw the Redskins surrender 43 sacks (14th in the NFL), team officials set out this offseason to upgrade the offensive line in free agency and the draft.

They shifted Kory Lichtensteiger from left guard to center and signed Shawn Lauvao early in free agency and penciled him in at left guard. The Redskins tried — and failed — to add a veteran to upgrade the right tackle position. Washington also drafted tackle Morgan Moses and guard Spencer Long in the third round, hoping to groom them so they could insert them as starters at some point this season.

Things haven’t played out as planned. Lichtensteiger has proved solid in his new position, but Lauvao and right guard Chris Chester have struggled. Tyler Polumbus opened the season at right tackle but got benched after seven games. Moses developed slower than anticipated, so second-year backup Tom Compton replaced Polumbus in the lineup, but he too has struggled. (Moses last week suffered a Lisfranc injury and was placed on injured reserve ).

Long hasn’t managed to satisfy coaches enough in practice for them to feel comfortable starting him over Chester. Third-year pro Josh LeRibeus likewise hasn’t managed to overtake Lauvao.

The line’s issues not only have put the Redskins in danger of setting a team mark for sacks allowed but also have been a major reason for a sputtering offense and a six-game losing streak.

The 1998 team allowed 61 sacks en route to a 6-10 finish. This squad is yielding an average of 3.8 sacks per game, but given that the team has given up 36 sacks over the past six weeks, that embarrassing record could fall.

Redskins Coach Jay Gruden acknowledges the protection issues have crippled the offense. But the coach insists the blame can’t fall solely on his linemen.

Mark Bullock:
The offensive line has long been a problem for Washington. It has struggled to maintain pass protection and give its quarterback the extra second or two to make a pass. It hasn’t just been one player either. Everyone on the line, including Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, has played poorly.

Quarterbacks and offensive lines work hand-in-hand on pass protection. The best offensive lines give their quarterback the extra second or two that he needs for a route to develop; while the best quarterbacks anticipate throws and get the ball out of their hands quickly to keep the blocking time to a minimum. It’s rare that teams have both a great quarterback and offensive line, but the Redskins’ problem is that they have neither. Both are making the situation worse for the other, and will continue to do so unless the problem is addressed.

Thomas Boswell:
Griffin’s team has lost the past 10 games in which he has taken the majority of the offensive snaps — a more meaningful measure than the technicality of who “started” that game. In the past two seasons, he has played the most snaps (by far) in 18 games. Washington is 3-15. His quarterback rating has fallen every season and is now so low (25.5, based on ESPN’s QBR formula) it is possible he ultimately will be no better than Heath Shuler. (I know, unbelievable.)

On Sunday against the Giants, playing after McCoy was hurt, coaches called a high-school-level offense to keep him from being overwhelmed. Of his 27 passes, 20 were thrown behind the line of scrimmage or less than five yards downfield. He completed only 2 of 5 passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield. Two passes with 90 yards-after-catch boosted his stats. Despite minuscule demands, he was overwhelmed anyway, sacked seven times, fumbling twice and generating just 10 points. A depressing desperation dink-and-dunk derby.

Afterward he said “fun” six times. Either he’s in denial or keeps up a brave face for the team or wants the state of his game a semi-secret until he improves. I can sympathize with all that.

In fact, now that it is clear Coach Jay Gruden doesn’t believe he’s yet a competent pro quarterback but a helter-skelter “make a play” guy, I feel little but empathy for Griffin.

Brought in to save a franchise, he was begged to play that role. He went along. His first coach let him play compromised, defenseless, with an injured right knee until the joint collapsed, untouched, and required total reconstruction. Two years later, his speed is not back. So it never will be. With his separate-from-everybody gift gone, he was exposed as a player with big skills but only some of those needed in an NFL quarterback.

Like many college stars and Heisman Trophy winners, he was mis-evaluated by miles. Few things are harder than projecting NFL quarterbacks. It’s nobody’s fault. Provided a modified college offense his rookie year, Griffin’s development was frozen. All were fooled, including him.

More information:
» Video: RGIII Touchdown Call Reversed
» Jeff Fisher Trolls Redskins During Opening Coin Toss
» London Fletcher: Redskins Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett is "Clueless"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Howard Blake's "Walking in the Air" (1982)

"Walking in the Air" is a song written by Howard Blake for the 1982 animated film of Raymond Briggs' 1978 children's book The Snowman. The song forms the centrepiece of The Snowman, which has become a seasonal perennial on British television. The story relates the fleeting adventures of a young boy and a snowman who has come to life. In the second part of the story, the boy and the snowman fly to the North Pole. "Walking in the Air" is the theme for the journey. They attend a party of snowmen, at which the boy is the only human. They meet Father Christmas and his reindeer, and the boy is given a scarf with a snowman pattern. In the film, the song was performed by St Paul's Cathedral choirboy Peter Auty and this version was released as a single on CBS in 1982, and reissued in 1985 (on Stiff Records) and 1987.

Howard Blake developed the melody of "Walking in the Air" from a theme in his 'Lullaby - A Christmas Narrative,' an a cappella choral work commissioned by The Scholars in 1975 and first performed by them at St John's Smith Square, London, on 21 December that year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Live At Paste: Aloft Hotel Sessions

Nashville draws many up-and-coming musicians, including locally-based band Judah and the Lion. The band’s members met at Nashville’s Belmont University, and although they spend most of their time on the road these days, they still have an adoring fan base waiting for them at home. We saw this first hand when the band performed at Aloft Cool Springs, right outside of the city in Franklin, Tennessee. Watch Judah & the Lion perform “Everything Changes” from their recent release Kids These Days live at Aloft Cool Springs in the player above.

At Aloft Arundel Mills, we caught up with Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Dan Mangan, who released his first set of EPs in 2003. Now, with a couple Juno Awards and four LPs under his belt, he’s expanding his sound as Dan Mangan and Blacksmith, a new name that pairs Mangan’s scrupulous songwriting with a sort of synth innovation we haven’t seen on previous records. His latest single, “Vessel,” came through just as powerfully live with two people as it does in the studio version.

Spencer Cullum, Jr. and Jeremy Fetzer have played behind plenty of our favorite musicians, from Johnny Fritz to Caitlin Rose, but their instrumental project, Steelism, has been particularly refreshing. No two performances from Steelism are alike, and any chance to spend an evening with the band’s upbeat music is one we’d jump at. Fortunately, at Aloft Birmingham Soho Square, our cameras caught the band in action playing "Caught in a Pickle".

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Bekoso, Bekiso, Bekaso"

Chicago Tribune:
A Jewish friend -- former rabbinical student, actually -- recently introduced me to a catchy and true Hebrew expression from the Talmud [Eiruvin 65b] that goes something like this:
Bekoso, bekiso, bekaso

Sometimes the order of the three words is different and the spelling can vary depending on who's doing the transliteration, but this is certainly close enough for blog work.

It is a list of the major areas in which a person's character is tested and revealed.
Bekoso -- (b'KOH-soh) by his cup, or metaphorically, how he or she behaves when drunk.

Bekiso -- (b'KEE-soh) by his pocket, or metaphorically, how he or she manages money.

Bekaso -- (b'KAH-soh) by his temper; how he or she acts when angry.

As the adage goes “nichnas yayin yatza sod.” (Wine goes in and secrets come out.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Erik Wernquist:
"Wanderers is a vision of humanity's expansion into the Solar System, based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens. The locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available.

Without any apparent story, other than what you may fill in by yourself, the idea of the film is primarily to show a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighboring worlds - and above all, how it might appear to us if we were there.

VISUALS - Erik Wernquist -
MUSIC - Cristian Sandquist -
COLOR GRADE - Caj Müller/Beckholmen Film -
LIVE ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY - Mikael Hall/Vidiotism -
LIVE ACTION PERFORMANCE - Anna Nerman, Camilla Hammarström, Hanna Mellin
VOCALIST - Nina Fylkegård -
THANK YOU - Johan Persson, Calle Herdenberg, Micke Lindgren, Satrio J. Studt, Tomas Axelsson, Christian Lundqvist, Micke Lindell, Sigfrid Söderberg, Fredrik Strage, Johan Antoni, Henrik Johansson, Michael Uvnäs, Hanna Mellin

NASA/JPL, NASA/CICLOPS, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, ESA, John Van Vliet, Björn Jonsson (and many others, of which I unfortunately do not know the names)."